by Myu

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and everything associated with it is owned by CBS/Paramount.
Notes: Written for Mizvoy as part of VAMB's Secret Santa 2007, who wanted "[A] story told from the point of view of Naomi Wildman as an adult looking back on her relationship with Janeway, and especially her duties as Janeway's 'captain's assistant'".    
Rating: Universal


Naomi Wildman's Personal Log
Today Naomi Wildman was made Captain's Assistant!  This is a Very Important news item and Miss Wildman herself is here to report on it.  
But it will have to wait, because Neelix says it's bedtime.  Special Correspondent Wildman's report will come at a later date.

I never finished that log entry, but it never mattered - I still remember everything about that time and I smile because it's a happy memory and I recorded that entry while I was giddy with excitement.  Captain Janeway had agreed to let me assist her for a day and I spent an evening quizzing Neelix and my mother on the Captain's occupation and personal tastes.  I wasn't allowed to read Captain Janeway's personnel file, but they told me that she liked dogs and drinking coffee.  I thought that this seemed very trivial and went back to the story I was looking at.
"Is she married?" I asked a moment later, looking up from the padd.  
"I don't think so," My mother answered, yawning a little.
"Don't you know?" I asked, surprised.
"I think she might be engaged," Neelix offered.
"Do you want me to find out tomorrow?" I said eagerly, once the concept of being engaged to be married had been explained to me.
"No." My mother's voice became firm, "You shouldn't ask the Captain a lot of questions about her life."
"Why not?"
"She might want to keep some things secret because she has a very important job and has to set an example to her crew."
I nodded knowingly.  I liked secrets a lot, but wasn't very good at keeping them yet.  The following morning I practised my "Yes, Captain!" in front of the mirror and for my mother before we set off for the Bridge.  I felt about ten feet tall as I strode through the corridors and I nodded importantly to the other crewmembers on the way.

At the time I felt like Captain Janeway was one of the nicest and most important people in the world, but now when I look back and examine my memories carefully I realise that there was a lot about her that I imagined and accepted blindly as fact - for instance, I took for granted that she liked the colour yellow because she once complimented me on a cream-coloured blouse I was wearing.  It wasn't until years later that she revealed she hated yellow because it reminded her of scrambled eggs, one of her least favourite foods.  I found out gradually that there were many dead ends and false assumptions in my perception of Captain Janeway.  There had been so many subtle reinventions, renouncements and changed traits over the years that they all blurred together and I was never sure of what was real and what wasn't.  She could always surprise me, yet still was probably one of the most dependable and steadfast people I've ever known.
For me personally, Kathryn Janeway was a person somewhere between a distant relative and a teacher.  She had known me my whole life and was a dear friend, but still stayed one invisible step back and kept her distance.  Tom Paris had held me in his lap behind a navigational console ever since I learned to press buttons, but the Captain rarely did so much as touch me on the shoulder.  She also didn't seem to alter her manner when she was around me and would never evade questions with the usual weak "Why would you want to know that?" prattle that some others used.  I used to like to think she preferred to speak to me as an adult and it made me feel very grand and important, but this distance would prove to me in later years that large parts of her life and character would forever be hidden from me under an invisible shroud.

On one of my visits - I've forgotten which, but it wasn't my first - I noticed a neatly-wrapped gift in a corner of the Captain's ready room. 
"It's a present for Lieutenants Torres and Paris," Captain Janeway explained when I asked about it, "They got married yesterday, but I didn't get the chance to give it to them." She fetched the gaudy box and returned to her chair.
"Lieutenant Torres and Lieutenant Paris got married?" I was astonished.
"Yes.  They had a very quiet, very small wedding in the Messhall."
I considered this while the Captain straightened the ribbon on top of the gift.
"Are you going to get married?" I asked.
"I don't have any plans to at the moment, no," She answered, stowing the present in a drawer in her desk..
"I think you should.  You're pretty," I said seriously.  The Captain smiled gently behind her hand.
"Thank you."
"Maybe you could marry Commander Chakotay," I suggested.  Captain Janeway's eyebrows shot up.
"Crewman Wildman, I think that's a little out of line," She said quietly, a hint of warning in her voice.
"I'm sorry, Captain," I answered quickly, biting my lower lip.  Her expression softened slightly.
"That's quite all right, Naomi.  But - no matchmaking, all right?"
I nodded and gave her a timid smile before returning to my homework.
"Answer me one question, would you?" The Captain added about a minute later, her voice carefully neutral.
I looked at her expectantly.
"Why Commander Chakotay?"
Despite her supposedly indifferent tone, her eyes betrayed her interest.  I thought for a moment and shrugged.
"I don't know.  Just seems right."
The doorchime sounded and Commander Chakotay entered with a padd for the Captain to look at.  She beckoned him round to her side of the desk and he bent down to look at her computer display, resting one hand on the back of her chair and the other on the desk next to hers.  I glanced at the two of them and smiled meaningfully at Captain Janeway, but she gave me a look that clearly said "Don't even think about it".  I suppose that Commander Chakotay noticed something, because he then gave a nervous cough and took a step back.  I sighed and went back to my padd. 
That night I recorded a solemn-sounding log about how, as Captain's Assistant, I was bound to keep my employer's secrets even if it meant compromising my principles.  I wished that everything would work out nicely for the Captain and her First Officer and resolved to keep an eye on the situation, but I forgot all about that day until I came across that log entry years later. 

At such social gatherings I remember telling myself that part of being a Captain's Assistant was to keep an eye on the Captain at all times and make sure I was aware of her movements in case I was needed.  This seemed a good rationalisation for covering the fact that I was curious about Captain Janeway to the point of being incredibly nosy and I consolidated myself with that white lie for a good few years on Voyager until I grew out of my infatuation a little.  Since then I've found out that such fascinations are fairly common in young children and I'll admit to it more easily now.
We were all gathered in the Messhall at some sort of celebration that had been going on for a while.  It was almost past my bedtime and I was getting sleepy, but my mother was busy talking to someone and it was only a matter of time before her Naomi-radar (as I liked to think of it) kicked into gear.  I scanned the crowd of people and noticed Captain Janeway standing in front of one of the viewports with Commander Chakotay.  It wasn't so much the fact that they were standing together that struck me, but rather the way Captain Janeway appeared - granted, she was relaxed and leaning contentedly against the bulkhead adjacent to the viewport (whereas I was accustomed to seeing her hard at work in uniform) but her manner seemed completely different.  The Captain I was used to was standing with her eyes downcast demurely, one hand hovering around her mouth and the other supporting her elbow.  To me she looked much younger and a little vulnerable.  About a minute later the Commander left the Messhall quietly and Captain Janeway was left by herself.  She downed her drink, thanked everyone for coming and wished them a good night.  When she left I caught sight of Commander Chakotay waiting for her and I distinctly remember them walking off arm in arm before the doors closed behind them.  
Ever since I was old enough to reflect on the things I'd seen and try and find new meaning from them, I've wondered if I misinterpreted what I saw.  At first I was convinced that the Captain and Commander would be announcing their wedding the next day, but later on in the week I persuaded myself that the idea was completely preposterous.  Years later I wondered why I had dismissed my first idea so quickly - while they may not have exactly been at the marrying stage, when I think back to Captain Janeway looking up through her eyelashes at her first officer I find it hard not to question whether they were indeed just friends.  Even though I thought of almost everyone on Voyager as a friend, I knew even at a young age that I would probably be the last person Captain Janeway would confide in.  
As much as I liked her, I could depend on that emotional distance of hers to know that she'd give me an honest, objective opinion.  I knew that I could ask her about almost anything I didn't feel I could discuss with my mother and that she would take me seriously.  There was only one time where I felt she didn't treat me like an adult, and I've regretted it ever since.

I was a teenager and had started reading through some of Voyager's records for a history project.  The class was made up of pupils from a variety of races and backgrounds and we had been told to use our skills in retrieving information to write a report about the world as it was during the early years of our lives.  Most of my classmates had planned to interview their families and look at media articles from the time reluctantly, whereas I was excited about researching Voyager's travels in a time period I couldn't remember.  I found out that when I was born, however, Voyager had entered some sort of plasma drift and the ship and crew had been duplicated.  The Voyager my mother had been on was heavily damaged and there was a 'Baby Wildman' death report before 'Naomi Wildman' was officially registered on the crew manifest.  I was initially shocked, and then angry that my mother had never told me about any of this.  The next day I went to the then-Admiral Janeway's office and exploded in front of her.  She listened silently to my furious tirade about clones and starships and whether my mother was really my mother at all, and then when I was reiterating my annoyances she held up one of her hands.
"That's enough."
The tone of her voice was enough to stop me mid-sentence, mouth half-open.
"You are Samantha Wildman's daughter," She began quietly, but her words held a poisonous edge to them, "No doctor or biologist in the galaxy would dispute that.  If anything, you could even be the 'real' Naomi Wildman - no-one knows which was the original ship and crew.  Your mother probably didn't tell you because it doesn't make any difference to her - she was given back a child she had watched die a few hours previously.  It's no wonder she doesn't want to talk about it, because to do that would mean having to remember what it was to lose a child.  Can you imagine what that's like?" The thunder was still in her voice, but some of the rigidness was gone from her expression and her hand shook a little on the table.  At that point I realised that I had touched - or rather, punched - a nerve in Admiral Janeway and I excused myself, apologising profusely.  I chose to walk most of the way home and when I thought about what she had said something clicked into place...

One memory of Captain Janeway that particularly stands out is from when I was about six years old.  My mother was on an away mission and, as a special treat, I was allowed to visit the Captain's ready room.  I hadn't seen her for quite a while and was particularly eager to find out if there were any new interesting objects on the shelf at the back of the room.  I was so busy examining a gaudy polished gemstone that I didn't really notice the Captain much until she called me over to her desk and asked me if I had had any lunch.  She told me I could have anything I wanted from the replicator, so I chose soup and a sandwich because it seemed very grown-up.  The Captain came around and helped me carry everything to her little table and I noticed that she was wearing a different kind of uniform.  The jacket was longer and looser than usual, but when she stood up I could see that it sort of needed to be bigger because her tummy was very round.  I didn't say anything because I guessed that it might be rude to comment, but I couldn't help stealing curious glances when she wasn't looking.  It didn't really appear to bother her - she seemed to be in a very good mood that day and she smiled a lot.  She had just suggested that we have ice-cream when she was called to the Bridge over the com system.  While she was explaining to me that someone would come to collect me from her ready room there was a loud smashing sound and a rocking that almost threw me off my feet.  Captain Janeway caught hold of the back of my jumper before I toppled over and muttered something about weapons fire under her breath.  Parts of the lighting fixtures began to rain down from the ceiling, there was a loud rumbling and before I knew what was happening there was a loud screech, the Captain had pushed me away and a large part of the overhead bulkheads crashed down to the floor.  I cried out and lay curled up with my arms over my head until the thuds from falling debris stopped. 
When I opened my eyes and sat up the room was in semi-darkness, there was a stinging on my left arm and I couldn't see the Captain anywhere.  After a moment I spotted one of her legs sticking out from under the fallen bulkheads and crawled around the other side.  She was lying on her side, but her face was turned in to the floor and was hidden by her hair.
"Captain...Captain Janeway..." I patted her outstretched hand.
"Chakotay..." She murmured weakly.
"No, it's Naomi," I answered patiently.
"Naomi?  Are you all right?" Her voice immediately became firm and business-like, but still sounded strained.
"Yes, Captain."
"Naomi, I want you to go to the Bridge and get Cha - Commander Chakotay.  Can you see a safe way out?"
"Yes.  I'll go to the Bridge and get someone."
"Commander Chakotay.  Get Commander Chakotay," She corrected urgently.
"I promise I'll get him."
"Good girl.  Be very careful."
The doors opened slowly and the air was filled with smoke and shouts.  I saw a strip of red to my right and ran to the Commander, who was crouched over a console.
"Naomi?  What are you doing here?"
"You've got to come quickly - Captain Janeway..." I barely started and he was off running, pulling me along into the ready room by the hand. 
"Kathryn - " He gasped as he took in the scene.  Before then I had never really thought of Captain Janeway having a normal name like me.  It sounded strange - the same as when I heard people call my mother 'Samantha'.
"Kathryn, I'm here," He called loudly, "I'll get you out of there."
"Hurry," The captain's muffled voice sounded faint.
After some poking around the Commander fetched another officer from the Bridge and Captain Janeway groaned as they lifted the heavy bulkhead off her.  He knelt next to her and I looked on as they whispered to each other.  I knew I wasn't supposed to listen to them, but I kept hearing them in short snatches:
"'Have to get to Sickbay." The Captain tried to heave herself up.
"Transporters are down - the Bridge turbolift is down - don't try to get up so quickly..."
"No - why is this happening...?"
"We can try the other turbolift at the end of the deck.  Easy, Kathryn."
Having not quite mastered the art of not listening in on conversations, I tried hard to appear oblivious.  Captain Janeway eventually got to her feet, albeit shakily and with a lot of support.
"Naomi," The Commander said to me finally, "We're going to go to Sickbay now and we'll find someone to take care of you.  Stay close to me."
I nodded and sprang up.  He had his hands full with the Captain, so I held onto his trouser leg with one hand and sucked my other thumb to make me feel better, even though my mother had told me not to.  We started walking out of the other door to the ready room and down the corridor, but Captain Janeway couldn't move very quickly.  With every step she clutched at her middle and her eyes were pinched tight shut as though she was crying, but there were no tears on her cheeks.  The scattered debris created some sinister bloodied shadows in the flicker of the red alert lighting and I tiptoed after the Commander, still clutching the side of his trousers and nervously chewing on my thumb.
After what seemed like years of slow baby steps we got to the turbolift, the doors opened easily and the inside looked fine.  By this time the Captain's breath was coming in short gasps and she leaned into the Commander, burying her face in his neck as he commanded the lift to go to deck five.  After about five seconds the lift juddered to a halt and the lights dimmed.  I skirted back against the wall and wished that I could fall asleep in the dark and forget about this messy day and all these things I didn't know enough about.
"" Captain Janeway mumbled over and over, seizing a handful of the Commander's uniform jacket in her fist.  He made shushing noises and kissed her hair and I forgot about manners as I stared at him blankly.  My mother kissed me - usually at night as she tucked me in - and had explained to me that kisses were for showing people that you love them but, despite my conversation with the Captain a few months back, I still couldn't quite comprehend at that point that anyone working on the Bridge had a life beyond the command centre.
A moment later the turbolift started up again and the doors opened on deck five.  We had barely managed to get out of the lift when the Captain's knees started to buckle.  I noticed that there were dark splotches of something up and down her uniform and there were a few drips on the floor.
"Kathryn, I think I'm going to have to carry you the rest of the way.  I'll try and be as gentle as I can."
The Captain nodded faintly and the Commander bent down and hooked one arm underneath her legs.  Her lips went pale as he hoisted her up into his arms and I could see the whites of her eyes as they rolled back in her head for a second. 
After seeing the fairytale holovideos with old-fashioned princesses and knights I had thought it looked like it would be quite nice to be carried away into the sunset, but I changed my mind after seeing Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay hobble down the corridor on deck five.  The Captain looked like she wasn't enjoying it at all - more like she was about to be sick - and the Commander was sweaty and out of breath by the time we reached the Sickbay doors.  Inside Sickbay everyone was dashing about and I started feeling a bit sick myself, so I sucked my thumb harder and stubbed the toe of my shoe into the carpet.  The Commander had lain the Captain on a biobed and the Doctor was rushing around, passing little strange-looking objects over her.  They seemed to have forgotten about me and I suddenly wanted my mother very much.  Tom Paris came out of the Doctor's office at that point.
"Hey, Naomi!" He greeted me cheerfully.  I began to cry.
"What kind of hello is that for your old buddy Tom?  Here, let me take a look at you."
He guided me over to a biobed and lifted me up onto it while I sniffled.
"Does it hurt anywhere?"
I held out my arm mournfully.
"Ouch!" Tom exclaimed good-naturedly as he pulled up my sleeve gently to reveal a red welt, "I'll get that cleared up for you in a jiffy."
After he had healed my wound with a dermal regenerator (plus a lot of exaggerated sound effects) and replicated me a lollipop to suck instead of my thumb, I was smiling again - until I looked across the room to the Captain's bed.  Her eyes were squeezed shut like they had been before, except that she was crying real tears now.  The Commander was next to her looking very pale and there were shiny tear tracks on his cheeks, too.  I remember thinking in passing that they looked like they had lost something dear to them.  At the time I didn't realise that I had guessed the truth.

The next day Commander Chakotay found me and told me I had been very brave, but he didn't smile the way he usually did when he talked to me.  I asked him if Captain Janeway was all right and he hesitated a little before telling me that she would get better soon and that she sent her thanks and best wishes. 
The Captain took some time off work after that.  When I saw her a month later she was back in her old uniform and she didn't smile much, either.  Ten years later - the day after I had spoken with Admiral Janeway - I looked up the records about that battle and read that Commander Chakotay and Captain Kathryn Janeway had taken two weeks' compassionate leave after the incident and that the latter was granted an additional week for medical reasons.  Admiral Janeway's face swam before my eyes and I felt very young and a little sick in the same way as I had on that biobed ten years previously.

Today I thought about those days on Voyager - my earliest memories - as I put flowers on her grave.  It still doesn't seem quite real yet, for all the obituaries I've read and the funeral I attended.  Some sources reported it as 'sudden', others claimed 'peacefully'...with Admiral Janeway I learned a long time ago to keep an open mind when it came to the truth.  The truth as I knew it was that she was a successful, well-liked woman who captained a vessel stuck in the Delta Quadrant for seven years and went on to pursue a Starfleet career.  None of the newspaper articles written about her noted that, after Voyager, she never served on a starship again.  Nobody else wondered why she was the last to arrive and the first to leave at every Voyager crew reunion.  No-one ever seemed to care that, on the rare occasion that she attended a Starfleet function, she would always turn up alone.  At the infrequent Voyager reunions I stand and try to fathom if I was the only person who ever wondered about Captain Janeway.  As I aged the attendance at the reunions dwindled, but the questions grew in number and got mixed up with each other - puzzling over what she thought of me turned into my questioning whether she had kept me at a distance because I reminded her of the children she never had and the family she pushed away.
Captain Chakotay happened to be there as well - I laid his flowers in front of the stone for him, as his knees are getting bad.  His bouquet was slightly smaller than mine but I somehow knew instinctively that the species had been her favourite flower and my bunch of boring, traditional white lillies immediately seemed to pale in comparison, even after I had spent a good ten minutes choosing the nicest ones.  We didn't talk much at all, apart from a few questions posed by the Captain.  It was the kind of awkward conversation you have with people you haven't seen since you were a child - when they aren't really sure how old you are now or how to talk to you now that you've grown up.  The sunlight kept flickering out from behind a cloud and I caught sight of our shadows stretching across the grave to rest on the grass behind it.  Mine was long, thin and poker-straight while Captain Chakotay's appeared more hunched and bloated around his rounded shoulders and stomach.  While he was talking to me there was a faraway, wistful look in his eyes.  Decades' worth of hurt has been carved crudely into his face and he's aged much more quickly than he should have - it was the same for both of them.  He'll probably always think of me as little Naomi Wildman, but for once that doesn't bother me...I'd prefer for him to think of a time when he and Captain Janeway were both happy and my age was still in single digits.  Better that than have him dwell over what went wrong and have me remind him of the passing of time.  
You really loved her, didn't you?
, I wanted to say when his face crumpled as he read the inscription on her gravestone, but I didn't.  It would be too painful for him and, in any case, I think I already know the answer.  There were hundreds of questions I wanted to ask him, but there would never be a 'right time' or an appropriate way of phrasing everything.  The answers were all hidden in the shadows of memory and intuition and the facts shrank away from the harsh light of day like a small child, a lifetime of secrets lost in the darkness of time.

- End -

Additional notes: Penumbra: a) A partial shadow; b) An area of obscurity or uncertainty (Concise OED, ninth edition (OUP 1995)).
This is the ninth Voyager fic I've completed.  Thank you very much to Mizvoy for requesting the story and to Shayenne and Sira for running the exchange.  I wouldn't ever have tried to write a Naomi piece, but it was really nice to try something new.  The story turned out more or less as I originally imagined it (well, sort of...) so I don't really hold any negative feelings about it, although I would consider editing it in the future.  Comments, questions etc. to miss_myu(at)hotmail(dot)com.