Chakotay gave in to the mist surrounding him, floating freely, finding peace in the quiet.
He could feel the currents change as the wind began to stir. It murmured to him at first, than grew louder and more distinct.
"Go to Venice."
His eyes snapped open, breaking his meditation. Where in hell had that come from?
Venice. The very word tore at his soul. The place in which his life had shattered. He never wanted to hear the name again, let alone go back there.
He shook himself and began his day of homesteading. It brought him purpose, and kept him tired enough so that he wouldn't think ... or dream.
He took up his bundle the next morning, half afraid of what he might hear. To his relief, his vision took him to a desert vista, familiar, yet foreign.
He felt, rather than heard, the presence behind him.
It was his spirit guide. The wolf stood quietly without acknowledging him.
"Good morning," he said.
She cocked her head, listening to something he couldn’t hear. Then she stepped aside, revealing a rock ... on which a lizard sat.
His heart leaped. "Kathryn!" he cried.
The lizard didn’t answer, just stared at him intently.
"Is Kathryn trying to find me?" he asked. In reply, it flicked its tail and scampered off.
But it left him one thought: “Go to Venice.”
The vision stayed with him as he worked that day. Was Kathryn's spirit trying to contact him? It would be ironic; she had never accepted the idea of an afterlife.
But why go back to Venice? And was this all wishful thinking?
He had just finished his evening meal when the vid chirped. It was the Doctor, looking oddly uncertain.
"What can I do for you, Doctor?"
The hologram hesitated for a second. "You should know that Seven came to see me a few days ago."
"Is she all right?" he asked anxiously; her mental state was fragile.
“Physically, she is. But she told me something that I think you should hear. He nodded, and gently led Seven to the camera.
The ex-Borg was near-distraught, her eyes red-rimmed.
“Seven,” he asked gently as he tried to mask his alarm. “Are you all right?”
She nodded. “I thought perhaps my cortical node was malfunctioning. But the doctor tells me it is intact.”
“I ... I have been having dreams about Admiral Janeway.”
“I understand. I have them, too,” he soothed.
She looked at him strangely. “These are specific dreams. She asked me to contact you.”
He sat back, surprised. “Why?”
“She says that it is important for you to return to Venice.”
Chakotay stared out the aircraft’s window without seeing, coming out of his thoughts only when his seatmate dropped her bag.
"Thank you," she murmured as he retrieved it.
"There's not a lot of room to move in here," he replied, wishing he still had use of Starfleet transportation.
The woman, who seemed old enough to be his mother, looked at him closely. "If you don't mind my asking, you seem terribly distracted, especially for someone going to such a romantic city."
Normally, he would have deflected the question, but something about her …
"I'm not really sure why I'm going," he answered.
"A lover's quarrel?"
He shook his head sadly. "I was very much in love with someone; for many reasons, it took years for us to finally get together. We were going to meet in Venice."
“I was there, waiting for her. That’s where I got the word that she had been killed.”
"I am so sorry," she said, briefly laying her hand on his arm.
They fell silent as the aircraft began its landing. When it was time to disembark, she turned to him.
"Perhaps you'll find what you're looking for at St. Mark's Square," she said. She was gone before he could ask why.
St. Mark’s? Well, why not, he decided as he made his way there. It’s not like he had anything planned. He hadn’t even bothered to book a hotel room.
He scanned the square, looking for something, anything. Though what -- or who -- he really wanted to see wouldn’t be there.
“It’s about time you arrived,” a familiar voice said.
He whirled. “Q! What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you,” Q replied impatiently.
“You … you were behind those messages to come here?”
“Yes, though it certainly took a while to get through to you.”
“You sick bastard! How dare you use my relationship with Kathryn to manipulate me … manipulate Seven.”
“Oh, do be quiet,” the Q spat. “You’re not the only one who loves Kathy. Though why she bedded you is beyond even me. Nevertheless, I’m willing to help you … for her sake.”
“I don’t need your help,” Chakotay spat back.
“The Q looked at him closely. “I beg to differ. It’s a shame that I couldn’t do this earlier; but the timing wasn’t right.”
“Do what?” Chakotay asked, thoroughly confused.
Q smiled and snapped his fingers.
When he regained his senses, Chakotay realized he was on the Bridge of Sighs. “Now what?” he demanded.
“Turn around,” Q commanded.
He obeyed … and froze in shock.
Impossible. It couldn’t be. But there she was. She was wearing a blue dress; her auburn hair was down around her shoulders. She stood, hand to her mouth as if she couldn’t believe she was seeing him, either.
And in the next moment, she was in his arms, fiercely hugging him, burying her face in his neck.
This has to be a hallucination, he thought. But yet, she felt solid; her lips were warm and soft; her tears wet on his shoulder.
“Kathryn ... gods, Kathryn … are you real?” he whispered.
“Until this moment, I wasn’t sure myself,” she whispered back.
He pushed her back a bit and looked into her eyes. He knew then; this was his Kathryn.
“What happened? We thought you were dead.”
“The female Q. She took me to the Continuum.”
“Where she made quite a pest of herself,” Q interjected.
“If you had sent me back when I asked …” Kathryn began.
“We’ve been over this, Kathy. We had our reasons,” the Q said, shaking his head.
“You mean you were having a marital spat.”
“Yes, well,” Q said, looking embarrassed. “But some events had to be allowed to play out. Timelines and all that.”
“Timelines, my ass,” Chakotay growled.
“She had to go out to that cube to protect you. And everyone else on Voyager, and beyond,” Q admonished. “And you had to finish the job."
Memories of his talk with the counselor, Cambridge, flooded his mind. “It’s true, isn’t it?” he whispered to Kathryn. “You knew about the project.”
She closed her eyes and nodded. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t want to go. I'm sorry that things were so hard for you."
He pulled her close. “I’ve let go of you twice now. There won’t be a third time.”
The Q cleared his throat.
“What!” Chakotay snapped.
“There’s a … complication,” Kathryn said.
He looked at her, then at the Q. “What complication?”
“This reunion only lasts one night,” the Q said matter-of-factly.
“You son-of-a ….” Chakotay swore as he tried to swing at the Q. His fist would have connected, too, had Kathryn not grabbed his arm.
“Chakotay … love ... it’s not what you think,” Kathryn said quickly.
“Tomorrow morning, Starfleet will receive a message from Admiral Janeway; that she is alive in the Delta Quadrant,” Q said. “Voyager will change course to rescue her.”
“It has to be this way, Chakotay,” she whispered urgently. “I have to be on board Voyager for its mission.”
He could see the sorrow in her eyes, but her chin was slightly lifted – which meant he wouldn’t be changing her mind.
“It’s part of the deal with the Q for rescuing me," she said quietly.
"And just what is this deal?" Chakotay growled at Q.
"Sorry, can't tell you," Q chirped. "That's between Kathy and us for now."
He stifled a curse and turned his attention back to Kathryn. "Then why come here. Why not go straight to Voyager?"
“Because I promised to meet you,” she said as she gently stroked his face. “And you know that I keep my promises.” She smiled wryly. “Besides, this is my part of the deal.”
Q interrupted. “I’d suggest that you not waste any more time.” He swept his arm toward a hotel at the end of the bridge. “You two kids have fun.”
He was gone at the end of the sentence.
Kathryn was eying him hungrily. “It occurs to me that this meeting is long overdue. And I think,” she said as she ran her thumb across his lips, “that we should make up for lost time.”
Chakotay stirred, reaching across the bed to pull Kathryn close. His hand met nothing but mattress, and he snapped awake.
He looked around the strange room, trying to get his bearings. Images of the night that had passed flooded his mind. It was real? Wasn’t it?
“Kathryn?” he called hopefully.
He got out of bed, steadied himself and walked to the bathroom. “Kathryn?" he called.
He walked back to the bed; the sheets were in disarray. Both pillows, both sides of the mattress held the indentation of the night’s occupants. On the table, two empty coffee cups sat alongside the remnants of a meal for two.
He sat heavily on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands. She had been here. He was sure of it. At least he thought he was sure … at the moment, he surely doubted his sanity.
He looked up and gazed at the window, squinting as the sun streamed in through the blinds. A glint on his bedside table caught his eye, and he looked down.
Four pips and a combadge, still bearing bits of dirt, sat next to the lamp.
In front of the pile was a small mirror. A circular mirror edged with polished stones, like the one he had dropped and shattered when he learned of Kathryn’s loss.
He picked it up with trembling hands and turned it over to read the inscription.
“I will always be with you."
It was hard to see now through the tears. He closed his eyes as he brought the mirror to his lips.
Behind him, the vid began to chirp.