Summary: A Janeway family portrait, on a Beach. Experimental time shifts. Confusing. If you can read it all the way through, I applaud your valor.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Janeway family and Kathryn's boyfriends, alas. I'm not making money off of them either.

Rating: PG

Abbey Carter,

Thanks to Kim for the Beta and Caitlin, Corrie, Sarah and Mrs. Sopher for the advice.

And she walks along the edge
of where the ocean meets the land
just like she's walking on a wire
in a circus.

-Adam Duritz

The waves are so cold they feel hot. All the air around her seems to reel from the shock. Kathryn doesn't like her bikini. She picks at the wedgie and hopes Justin doesn't notice. The new scar on her hip has faded slightly, and it's made a twisted shade of red by tightness of the suit. Her younger sister Phoebe is lying back on a blanket, long lacquered legs pawing the sand.

Phoebe races out of the waves, and picks up the bucket, which is now full of water. She pours the water into the hole Kathryn's been digging for the sand crabs. Kathryn's pruney hands are sure on the sand. Phoebe glances at her own hands. Chipped red nail polish. Mom had let her hold an end of the year sleepover for the girls in her first grade class. Among other things, the girls had loved her brownies. Kathryn is intent on destroying the sand, and she grabs big handfuls of it like she's plowing to the center of the earth. Kathryn has a fresh scar on her calve, from Parises Squares. Phoebe runs to the water again.

Mark is talking about nothing, again. He isn't comfortable when faced with concrete truths, and tends to talk around them, or worse, talk about things totally unrelated. "So as I was saying, Kath, the recent budget cuts at the Academy have forced the philosophy program to pare down. In a crisis, the humanities are always the first to go. It's horribly illogical, given the nature philosophy and principled decision making play in any crisis situation. When you went to the Academy, for example..."

Kathryn considers Phoebe in the open water. Her sister is being carried back to the shore, and her face is a comical mixture of terror and pride. Phoebe is riding the wave to entertain her. And for a moment, she has succeeded.

Justin has his hand on the small of Kathryn's back. Kathryn does not flinch. Phoebe raises her head from the blanket and watches the waves lick at their feet. Justin rescued her sister from a Cardassian prison camp eight months ago. And now Kathryn tries to smile from her exposed gut, but winds up pulling the suit up, willing it to cover her slender hips. The effort is futile and she laughs helplessly, dragging Justin into the surf with her.

Kathryn's hands scull the sand. The hole is almost complete. Kathryn gently drops the sand crabs into the hole. The water is deep enough for them now. The hole seems to be holding.They tickle her pale fingers. Phoebe waddles over to the umbrella and picks the sand out of her suit. Mom rubs more lotion onto Phoebe's back, and Daddy gets up from his chair and begins to pace towards the hole. Admiral Janeway walks like he's headed to a briefing, and he is, in truth.

"Building something, Goldenbird?"

"I'm observing the sand crabs in a habitat similar to their natural one." She smiles crookedly and he brushes the sand off of her jawbone.

"Any findings?"

"They're similar to the early Chordates found on Mars. Same basic shape and anatomy. I wonder where they branched off."

"Perhaps the next time we visit Mars, we can examine some of those caves."

"I'd like that a lot Daddy." She quirks a pleased eyebrow at him and they peer into the hole, searching.

The counselors have told Kathryn not to blame herself. Phoebe drags herself out of the water and briefly considers trying to drown Mark. Her sister catches sand in her toes, raises her calve so it's parallel to the beach, and drops the grains in soft flumps. Again. And again. And... Phoebe watches as Kathryn slowly runs capable fingers along the scar now slicing her right knee. When the shuttle drowned, it was assumed that Kathryn had gone with it. That she had been in the front portion of the shuttle and had received the water with Daddy and Justin, had grabbed at bulkheads, at Justin's shoulders, had jerked at the consoles, begged for computer response, had lifted Daddy to the Pilot's chair with her own broken leg. Had received the water with them, before the ocean was one strong lull buried underneath sheets of ice and memories.

Kathryn lets the water shock her skin. It is a great paradox, the numbness that comes with too much sensation. Justin follows her in, and scans the horizon for suitable waves. This one is coming up too fast to prepare for, Kathryn knows it. Justin clasps her Ulna tightly and they rise together to the top of the wave, striking the crest with joined arms and limbs wailing in every direction. Phoebe shakes her hair out and stands. The water pulls at her too. Kathryn gestures with her hand, and Phoebe wets her leg, grins and splashes out towards them.

Phoebe loves the umbrella. She spins it around in the sand until shadows whir above her head. Kathryn and Daddy have their heads in the hole, and Mom looks up from her reading.

"Everything alright dear?"

"Yeah. Me and Kathryn were making this hole. To put sand crabs in. You know; the little ones that pop up when a wave hits." Phoebe grins. "But Kathryn has some big idea about them. Why they're like that, I guess. Maybe they just don't like fast water."

" You're right dear, they don't. But Kathryn wants to find out why they don't. She's a scientist. Like her Daddy was. Come here. You're going to get burned."

The scar is too short. It doesn't give her enough time to remember the pain. Kathryn humors Mark and nods carefully. It seems that just beyond that wave there's a half-burned fuselage bobbing in the water. If she could swim...If she could pull it out...If she could dig all of the sand out of the ocean...The transporters...would not work. Would not safely pull two bodies from a vessel slipping into the ocean. Is it better, then, that she attempted to fight the system? Was it intelligent to beg the computers, to reroute the powers, to rig the joules, to try and transport two life signs? Is it just that two people are dead?

Phoebe stares out at the crashing waves. The water scuttles further up the beach and fills Kathryn's hole. She appears to be pleased. Daddy appears satisfied for the moment. They stand and face the ocean. Phoebe sees Kathryn's shoulders shake with the sudden apparition of the wind. Daddy puts an arm on Kathryn's hand as she bites her lip.

It occurs to Phoebe that Kathryn wishes she could plow to the center of the earth.


(Voyager Index)