Heaven only knows how she had managed to get up there, Chakotay wondered as he climbed the last steps of the ladder. He could hear the birds singing and the sea in the distance. Saturday evening. A gentle summer breeze. She had invited him to dinner, a last meal in her old quarters on Voyager before teams would arrive on Monday to start with their task of turning the ship into a museum. Voyager would remain standing here, on the grounds of Starfleet Presidio, right where Tom Paris had sat her down five months ago. After he had declined their offer of Voyager’s captaincy, Starfleet had decided that the ship would become a symbol of hope after all the tragic losses the Domimion War had brought. Against all odds, the lost crew had managed to reach this blue jewel amidst the stars.
Debriefings had been finished three days ago and Kathryn had asked him to join her one last time on their old ship. To celebrate their success in private without the prying eyes of crew, Starfleet or reporters. “Something special”, Kathryn had said, “to celebrate the end of one journey and the beginning of another.” Hope had flickered in his heart when he had heard her words. Maybe…maybe it wasn’t too late for the two of them… maybe she had finally decided to throw protocol, parameters and regulations into the recycler where they belonged now that they were home. Years ago and half a galaxy away they had made promises towards the other, promises of a shared life once they would be in the Alpha Quadrant. “Something special…the beginning…” Her voice still rang in his ears. This would be their beginning. But when he had reached her door on deck three, all he found was a note pinned on it that said ‘Deck Zero’. Wondering what she had meant with this message, he had turned around and entered the waiting turbolift. Unsure what to do next, he had requested this strange “Deck Zero” he had never heard of. “Acknowledged”, had been the computer’s monotonous reply. After a short ride the lift had stopped on what Chakotay assumed had to be the bridge, but instead of the door, the computer had opened a hatch in the ceiling. Sunlight had streamed through the opening and a ladder had sunken towards the floor.
And now he stood here, on Voyager’s hull and watched in awe. Kathryn sat ten metres in front of him on a blanket, clad in the blue dress she had worn on New Earth and enjoyed the last sunlight of the day. Some pillows lay around and their food was lovingly arranged on her white porcelain plates. A bottle of Chardonnay waited in a cooler nearby. Candles provided the scenery with their soft flickering light. He felt returned to that day so many years ago when they had had their last meal on their little paradise planet. Where they had promised to wait for each other.
“Kathryn…”, was the only word he could manage. But it was enough to gain her attention. She looked up and smiled. “Hi…you’re late, Chakotay. Come and have a seat, dinner is ready.” Chakotay nodded and came over to her. Something had definitely changed. Her blue eyes were sparkling and she couldn’t seem to stop smiling at him. “You meant it when you said you planned something special for our dinner, right? This is really a surprise.”, he continued between two mouthfuls of the delicious food his former captain had served. Kathryn nodded and smiled once more. “This is after all, a special occasion. We are home. Everyone is free and gets paid back for seven years of service. We are free. No command structure. No protocol.” They clinked their glasses. “To the future…and the freedom to decide how to live in it.” “To the future.”, he answered, “To our future. May it be filled with happiness.” “And love.”, came Kathryn’s reply.
Chakotay held his breath. This was it. This special moment he had dreamed of for so many years. He would grasp it and never let go. “I love you, Kathryn. I always have and I always will.” She smiled with tears in her eyes. “I know. I love you too, Chakotay. And I can finally show you.”
Their lips met halfway and the rest of the world was forgotten as the two people sat kissing on top of the starship.
The last light of the day faded away and the stars began to twinkle.
Life was good.