Hey, what up? So I'm currently working on a bigger fic at the moment, but I guess this is my first official story that I'm posting on FFnet. I've never really done anything like this before, so I'm hoping it doesn't suck. Let's get one thing out in the open right now. I love the Doctor. (Voyager's Doctor, that is. Not Doctor Who... although he's not bad either.) He's pretty much been my favorite character since time immemorial, or at least since the series started. He's snarky and brilliant and sweet and soulful. As if I needed to list my reasons. Unfortunately, there aren't nearly enough stories about him, and that's really a shame. So I'm here to hopefully institute a holographic rights movement. Anyone and everyone who loves the Doc is free to join. Let's get more Doctor-centric fics out there, shall we? He deserves nothing less.

Anyway, as I'm sure you didn't come here to read my ramblings, on with the story. But first,

A Disclaimer: I do not own Voyager. It belongs to Paramount. Any weird pairings, such as Chakotay/Seven, are entirely not my fault.

Hypothetically Speaking

A Star Trek: Voyager fic

by Bad Octopus

Kathryn Janeway was beginning to think she'd die of old age before she would ever get where she wanted to go.

Even if this little visit — which she had planned to make much sooner — had not been embarrassingly overdue, she doubted that she'd be any less irate. She tried valiantly to maintain her detached professional air and cool half-smile, but inwardly, she was nearly to the point of kicking something over: a chair, a potted plant... for that matter, anything or anyone who happened to be near her.

First and foremost on Janeway's list of current gripes was that the layout of the Starfleet Medical Center in San Francisco made it virtually impossible to find the specific room one was looking for in less than half an hour. She fully intended to lodge a formal complaint to whichever committee approved the design of this baffling conglomeration of corridors; clearly it was a violation of fire and safety protocols. In the time since she had arrived, she'd taken at least a dozen wrong turns and seen several things she probably would have been better off not seeing. She half-wished that she'd brought bread crumbs with her.

If that had been the only reason for Janeway's annoyance, that would have been enough. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of her unintentional meanderings was that she had been bombarded by Starfleet Medical staff and visitors every step of the way. It seemed everyone was eager to speak to the famous Voyager captain who risked all to get her crew home from the Delta Quadrant. Of course, Starfleet regulations prohibited her from disclosing any privileged information, but that was no excuse to be impolite or ungracious. So she weathered the publicity, at least for as long as she could. Finally she fell back on her standard response for dealing with any unwanted interest: "It's good to be back, but I really must be going."

At last, after twice stooping to the point of asking directions, Janeway found exactly what she was looking for. She paused outside the door of the maternity suite, smoothing down her auburn hair and allowing her forced smile to be replaced by a genuine one. Finally she lifted a hand and pressed the door chime.

A familiar but unexpected voice answered, "Come in!"

Janeway strode in to find a spacious, comfortable suite nearly overflowing with flowers, stuffed animals, and other gifts. At the window overlooking Golden Gate Park, a tall, trim man with an outdated medical officer's uniform and an extremely receded hairline stood holding a blanketed bundle in his arms. At her entrance, the man turned and smiled affably.

"Captain, I'm so pleased you came," he said in a hushed but enthusiastic voice. "I'm afraid you've just missed the proud parents. I told them I'd look after Miral while they took a stroll through the courtyard."

"Well, I certainly hope they find it," she replied with a dry chuckle as she came to join him.

"I hope you're not disappointed."

"Not at all, Doctor," said Janeway, placing a reassuring hand on his holographic shoulder. "It's been far too long."

"Captain?" The Doctor smiled at her quizzically. "You do realize it's only been two days since our return to Earth?"

She nodded vaguely, clearly distracted by the bundle in his arms. "Two whole days," she said, smiling down at the sleeping form of Miral Paris. "Practically an eternity from her viewpoint."

The Doctor must have noticed her flagging attention, because he shifted slightly to allow the captain a better view of the baby. "She's beautiful, isn't she?" he said softly.

"She certainly is," she murmured. "She looks just like her mother."

"Unfortunately, she has Mr. Paris's ears," the Doctor remarked. "Of course, if anyone teases her about them, she'll be sure to counter with some fiery Klingon retorts." Janeway chuckled again. "And if not, she'll still have two very devoted parents... and one very overprotective godfather."

Janeway barked a laugh. "Don't tell me Harry's already turned into a mother hen."

"Mr. Kim?" The Doctor looked surprised. "No, I... I thought you knew. B'Elanna asked me to be Miral's godfather."

She tore her gaze from the sleeping baby and met his expressive brown eyes. "No, I didn't know," she answered honestly. "But that's wonderful, Doctor. I can't think of anyone more deserving."

She wasn't sure if her Chief Medical Officer had been programmed with algorithms that allowed him to blush, but she suspected as much when he busied himself with fastidiously arranging the infant's blanket. "Not at all, Captain," he said, his light tone belying his sudden discomfort.

Janeway watched him with growing concern for the Doctor's abrupt change in manner. It wasn't like the effusive hologram to brush off compliments, especially sincere ones. She knew how much it meant to him to be acknowledged and appreciated, and she couldn't really blame him, considering the way he had been treated by the crew when he'd first been activated, herself included. She felt a twinge of shame when she thought of all the times she had deactivated him in the middle of a sentence. Admittedly, that was back when she had thought of him as a piece of technology rather than a valued crew member and friend. All the same, she couldn't help but regret the Doctor's poor treatment in the past, and do her best to make up for it. God only knew how accessible he was on the side of flattery.

Which was why it was all the more disconcerting to see him behave as if she'd said nothing at all.

Still watching him carefully, Janeway put a hand on his arm to get his attention. "There wouldn't be anything bothering you, would there, Doctor?" she asked quietly.

His dark eyebrows climbed toward his hairline; quite a reach indeed. "Bothering me?" he echoed. "No, of course not." He cleared his throat, which always made Janeway wonder why he did it, if he had no literal throat to clear. "I'm sorry, where are my manners? Would you like to hold her, Captain?"

Now it was Janeway's turn to raise her eyebrows. "Me? Hold her?" Her smile quickly returned. "Yes, of course."

She held out her arms and gently took the sleeping baby from him, being careful not to bump his mobile emitter. As she held the warm bundle, she couldn't help but remember the way her parents had bickered continuously during the beginning of their journey in the Delta Quadrant. If someone had told Janeway back then that her two most difficult senior officers would someday have a child, she would have collapsed a lung from laughing.

Somehow the Doctor must have sensed her thoughts, because he said wryly, "Her full name should be Miracle Miral, considering her parentage." He reached up and smoothed the feather-soft hair that covered the baby's forehead, and Janeway was struck by his tenderness. That in itself was a miracle, given the less-than-desirable bedside manner he'd been programmed with. When was she ever going to stop underestimating him?

Janeway cast a glance at him, and was worried to find that that pensive, discomfited look was in his eyes again. She'd allowed her attention to be absorbed by the baby, which she suspected had been his plan to begin with. Worry was swiftly replaced by irritation. He thought he could distract her, did he? Well, it wasn't going to work.

"Speaking of her parents," she said, keeping her tone casual, "how are they holding up under all this attention? I hope the public hasn't bothered them too much."

"No, not excessively," the Doctor replied, still gazing down at the sleeping child. "The majority of their visitors have been family and friends, and of course fellow crew members. It's all been a little overwhelming, I daresay. That's why I prescribed a little quiet time alone together for them." He rolled his eyes. "Unfortunately, I can't say how long it will last before they're accosted again."

"Well, lucky for them, they have a godfather who's available twenty-four seven," she said brightly.

The Doctor turned away from her and stared out the window, sighing almost inaudibly. "I suppose so."

"All right, Doctor, what is it?" Janeway asked in a low voice. "We may be back on Earth, but you're still my Chief Medical Officer. I wouldn't be a very good captain if I didn't ask what was bothering you."

He didn't turn. "It's nothing, Captain," he said after a short pause. "Nothing I can easily express in words, anyway."

As Janeway studied his tense form, her worry increased. It was probably no secret to her crew that she had a bit of a soft spot for Voyager's EMH. She was more tolerant than most when it came to his annoying little quirks, and she had no doubt she could have been much less soft on him on those rare occasions where she'd been forced to administer discipline. The simple truth of it was that despite the fact he was a hologram — or perhaps because of it — the Doctor was more intensely aware of his own failings than the rest of the crew. And she had a sneaking suspicion that that awareness had something to do with his current distress.

With infinite care not to wake her, Janeway gently placed the baby in her crib. Then, taking a deep breath, she came to stand by the Doctor and placed her hands on her hips. "Try me," she said, quietly but firmly.

A brief, wan smile touched the corners of his lips. "I suppose I should know by now that I can't hide anything from you, Captain," he said in that voice that somehow managed to be sardonic and warm at the same time.

"Damn right," she said, smiling back. "Now tell me," she continued as she placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him to the suite's little sofa, "why you seem to view the title of Miral's godfather as such a dubious honor."

The Doctor sighed again as they sat down. "It's not that I don't think it's an honor," he said sincerely. "In fact, I'm more moved by it than I can say. But the fact is, it's more than just an honorary title... much more." He leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. "And I'm afraid I didn't stop to consider the implications when I accepted it."

Janeway frowned at him. "What do you mean?"

"I'm sure you know," he said, staring down at the hands which had been instrumental in performing countless delicate procedures, "that there are many different responsibilities a godparent may take on. For instance, they may be viewed as a positive role model, someone besides the parents who would take an active interest in the child's well-being. Of course, that would also include instilling in them good morals and standards." Janeway nodded patiently, knowing that if she waited long enough, the Doctor would come to the point eventually. "I'm quite prepared for all of that. But the chief purpose in one's selecting a godparent is to ensure that in the unlikely but possible event of both parents' demise, the child would be cared for."

At last she could see where he was going with this. "And you're afraid that if something ever happened to Tom and B'Elanna," she suggested gently, "you might not be the best choice to take care of their daughter?"

He darted a quick glance up at her, but said nothing. Bingo.

"Oh, well, I don't think you have to worry about that," she assured him. "I've seen you around children, Doctor. You were always wonderful with Naomi. I have every confidence that you would make a fine guardian."

"Of course I would," he said impatiently, causing Janeway to raise an eyebrow. Some things never changed. "I don't doubt my parenting skills, Captain. After all, I did..." He stopped abruptly and straightened in his seat. He met Janeway's concerned gaze, and it appeared to her as though he was experiencing some kind of internal conflict. After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke again. "I never told you this before," he said in a low voice, "but when I spent three years on that time-displaced planet, I... I had a son."

Janeway stared at him, her blue eyes wide with shock. "A son?" she managed to croak. She could hardly believe what she'd just heard. "But how—"

"The woman I told you about, Mariza," he explained. "She wasn't my 'roommate', as I'm sure you must have suspected. She was my wife. A year before you beamed me back to Voyager, we decided to adopt." For a moment, it almost seemed like he didn't trust himself to speak. "His name was Jason," he said softly.

Janeway felt a lump form in her throat. To think that all this time, the Doctor had lived without his family — a family that he had been taken from after he'd returned to Voyager. Not only that, there was no way he would ever have been able to see them again, because they had already been dead for eons. And he'd never said a word about it.

Very lightly, she laid a hand over his. "Doctor," she whispered, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea."

He took her hand and briefly squeezed it before rising to his feet. "Suffice to say, I know what it's like to be a father, scraped knees and all. Heaven forbid anything should ever happen to Tom and B'Elanna, but if it did, I'm fairly certain I would be a capable guardian to Miral." He cast his eyes toward the crib, and his jaw tightened. "What worries me is that the law might not see it that way."

Janeway drew in her breath sharply. Of course, why hadn't she considered that? Much as she tended to forget from time to time, the Doctor was a hologram, and under Federation law, holograms had no rights. That had been made all too clear during the hearing that was held to determine whether or not to grant him artistic license for the holo-novel he'd written. Thankfully, he was given creative control in the end, but ultimately it was decided that despite his creativity, ambition, and even fallibility, the Federation did not consider him a person, as Voyager's crew did. To them, he was just another piece of technology, with no more rights than a tricorder.

"You know all too well exactly how much freedom the average hologram is entitled to," the Doctor was saying bitterly. "If a judiciary committee decided that, because I'm not a person, I was unfit to be a guardian, there would be nothing I could do to prevent Miral from being taken from me." His fists clenched at his sides. "I can't bear to think of what would happen to her."

One could argue, Janeway thought, that the mere fact that the Doctor was going through so much emotional turmoil about a hypothetical situation was proof enough of his "personhood", that his anguish made him just as real as anyone. It was possible, of course, that Janeway was a little biased.

"Doctor, I'm not going to lie to you, or sugar-coat the truth," she said quietly. "At the moment the odds are against you. Somehow I don't see a Federation committee granting custody to a hologram." She stood and gazed up at him earnestly. "But we have no idea what might happen in the future. The Arbiter at your hearing admitted himself that we haven't seen the last of the holographic rights issue. Maybe someday—"

"Someday, someday, I don't care about someday!" he burst out. Then he winced and remembered to lower his voice. "I'm sorry, Captain, but this is a very real problem now. It can't wait until someday."

"—Maybe someday," she continued, as if she hadn't been interrupted, "the Federation Constitution will be amended to include holograms along with all sentient life forms. I understand your frustration, Doctor," she said as he sighed irritably, "but changes don't happen overnight. The point is, we have to be patient, and try not to assume the worst all the time. The law may not be on our side right now, but that could change. And maybe a lot sooner than you think."

She stopped, suddenly aware that the Doctor was smiling at her strangely. "What is it?" she asked.

"You said 'our side'," he explained. "Not 'the law may not be on your side.' 'On our side.'"

Slowly, she returned his smile. "Of course," she replied. "Haven't we always been on the same side?"

Too moved to speak, the Doctor continued to smile down at her. Janeway couldn't help but marvel at how deep and soulful and real his eyes were, and wonder how anyone could be able to honestly say otherwise. Quite unexpectedly, she began to feel a curious tightness in her chest.

She cleared her throat quickly. "Besides," she continued, wondering what the hell had come over her just now, "all this is pure speculation. Tom and B'Elanna are both alive and well, and with any luck, they'll live to be a hundred. So try not to make yourself sick over what might happen, all right, Doctor?"

He chuckled quietly. "Yes, ma'am. Although technically I don't get sick over anything."

"Semantics, Doctor," she said dryly.

"Of course."

She walked over to the crib, where she was amazed to find Miral still sleeping. If she was anything like her father, Janeway mused, they'd have a hard time waking her up for school in the mornings.

As she stroked the baby's dark hair, the Doctor came to stand beside her, and she could feel the hologram's eyes on her. "Suppose, if anything were to happen to her parents... hypothetically speaking, of course," he added hastily as Janeway fixed an exasperated glare on him, "and my guardian rights were called into question." He hesitated a moment before asking almost shyly, "Would you support me, Captain?"

She patted him on the back and graced him with a lopsided smile. "Doctor," she said fondly, "I'd fight them tooth and nail every step of the way."

A/N: Janeway touches the Doctor a lot. Have you noticed? I have. I'm just saying. Anyway, this is a friendship fic, but if you want to read more into it, feel free to do so. I certainly won't mind. Thanks for reading! Don't forget to review, if you'd be so kind.

—Bad Octopus