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Absent Friends

By Voyfan

 

Third in the Revenge series

 

 

  The rain was still falling out there – coming down pretty good, too, if the spattered windows were any indication.

 

      Lousy weather for Christmas Eve, Kathryn thought. But after seven years in Voyager’s artificial confines, even San Francisco’s winter rain wasn’t so bad.

 

    Besides, the house was bright and cheery, with the sound of voices wafting from the kitchen and the happy “clack-clack” of the billiard balls mixed with laughter from the impromptu pool tournament going on downstairs.

 

      She saw him when she glanced into the living room. Icheb was sitting on the window seat, looking out at the rain. Lights from the massive tree – Michael’s fancy for their first holiday together  --  reflected off the window like so many raindrops.

 

        “I thought you were playing pool,” she said lightly.

 

         He started – he must have been lost in thought – and smiled sheepishly. “We were, but Admiral MacLeod and Captain Stewart are a bit more experienced that Lt. Kim and I are.  I believe the Doctor and Lt. Barkley are playing them now.”

 

         That piece of news made her laugh out loud. “That should be interesting. I suspect the Doctor has upgraded his program since he played Michael last.”

 

         Icheb cocked his head. “Why haven’t you played tonight? Lt.Kim tells me you’re quite good.”

 

         “Thanks,” she laughed again and patted her swollen abdomen. “I’m afraid I can’t belly up to the table too well. Maybe in a few months.”

 

         He smiled gently and turned to look out the window again.  “Not quite like Christmas on Voyager, is it?” she asked.

 

          He shook his head. “No snow.”

 

          Kathryn nodded. For Christmas, Tom had co-opted one of her holonovels, creating  a 19-century English country home … complete with a snowstorm outside. Most of the crew – even the ones who didn’t celebrate the holiday – would stop by. And at some point, someone would instigate a snowball fight.

 

           “Well, cheer up, you may see some yet,” she told him. “My mother’s threatening to bring some

tomorrow from Indiana.”

 

         He smiled again, still looking out the window. “I wonder if Seven is celebrating Christmas,” he said wistfully.

 

          The words hit like an unexpected punch, and Kathryn closed her eyes quickly so he wouldn’t see the tears.

 

         “I don’t know,” she said quietly, surprised that her voice hadn’t given her away. “Chakotay’s people didn’t celebrate the holiday.  I suppose it depends on where they are.”

 

         He turned to look at her, but said nothing.  “You miss her, don’t you,” she asked, although she already knew the answer.

 

          “I … I do not understand why she left,” he said, the bewilderment still fresh-sounding after all these months.  “Weren’t we … a family?”

 

        Her heart ached for him.  She remembered how he risked his life to give Seven his cortical node; how he had argued with her, persuaded her to take it. For her to walk away from him – of anyone – made no sense.

 

        “I don’t know, Icheb,” she said honestly. “Maybe … sometimes people have to leave to find themselves. But Seven … and Chakotay are still part of the family. Even if they’ve flown the nest.”

 

          She laid a hand on his arm. She’d told him this before, but it seemed important he hear it again. “The rest of us are always here for you, you know.”  He nodded, and she had to smile.

 

         “Good,” she said, squeezing his arm affectionately.  “Actually, I’m glad you’re spending the holidays here.  It’s so different this year .. anyway, it’s nice to have you around.”

 

 

         He smiled again, then suddenly turned pensive.  “Do you think we should try to contact Seven?”

          She’d forgotten. When Icheb set his mind to something, he didn’t let go.

         Kathryn sighed. “I don’t know, Icheb. When someone leaves without a forwarding address, they usually don’t want to be found.  And I’m not sure I should be the one to do it.”

 

          He looked puzzled. “Why?”

 

          Her back was starting to hurt; she lowered herself next to him on the window seat, a bit less gracefully than she would have liked.  “Guess I’m afraid my contacting them would seem like I was interfering.”

 

           That puzzled look returned.  “But you rescued her….”

 

           How could she explain this?  “Well, maybe she’d like to not be reminded of that,” she offered.  An excuse, perhaps, but how could she tell Icheb that there were things she didn’t want to be reminded of, either.  She shrugged. “It’s possible my actions could be misunderstood.”

 

           He looked slightly shocked, as if something had just occurred to him; Kathryn’s instinct told her she might not like his revelation.

 

            She didn’t.  “You … you don’t mean that Seven could see you as a rival for the Commander.”

 

            “All things considered, Icheb, I’m hardly a rival for anyone right now,” she quipped.

 

            He smiled shyly, picking up her meaning. But he wasn’t going to let the matter drop. “But you and the Commander weren’t….”

 

            “No,” she said firmly. “We weren’t.”  She gave him her best Captain’s look, though at half-strength. No sense in scaring the boy…   

 

              He dropped his head, and she reached for his arm again.  “Icheb, if you feel the need to contact Seven, then maybe you should do that.  Her aunt may know how to contact her. And that number should be easy enough to find .. or Michael, or Harry or B’Elanna would help you.  Though frankly, I would not ask the doctor.”

 

              He looked at her and smiled again. “Perhaps I will do that,” he said, though she couldn’t tell from his eyes whether he actually would.

 

              She laid her hand on his cheek. “If you do, give her my regards. I do think about her.”

 

              Any reply Icheb might have had stopped when Harry burst into the living room.

 

               “Icheb! You have to come see this. The Doctor is cleaning the Admiral’s clock at pool …. Er, sorry, Admiral,” he stammered, catching sight of Kathryn.

 

               She laughed.  “That’s all right, Harry. Michael richly deserves it … but don’t either of you dare tell him I said that!” she said, ending the sentence with a wink.

 

                The two young men went back to the basement, leaving Kathryn alone in the room.  She stood, watching the Christmas lights dance on the window, wrapped snugly in her new life …

 

                 She laid her palm on the window, and looked up to where she knew the stars were, behind the clouds.

 

                 “Merry Christmas, Chakotay,” she whispered.

 

   

           

           

 

        

          



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