“Sorry, ma’am, your transport will be delayed a bit longer, until the repairs to the line are finished. Shouldn’t be too long, though.”
Well, at least the young man had the good grace to look apologetic. Twenty-fourth century and they still can’t find a reliable transportation system – or at least one that doesn’t leave you stranded in say, Kansas.
Oh, well. Not much to do but wait. I’ve already called Kathryn and told her not to go to the station; I’ll just take a hovertaxi to her house.
The station is crowded – the delay has stranded a lot of folks, it seems. So, I amuse myself by people watching. Most of the folks here seem to be human, definitely different from the San Francisco station, where every other being seems to be another species.
As I scan the crowd, my gaze keeps coming back to a dark-haired man sitting quietly in the corner. Bronze skin, dark eyes … a very distinctive tattoo on one side of his face. Funny, but he looks familiar.
Just to satisfy my curiosity, I decide to go sit nearer to him. Perhaps a closer look will jog my memory – besides, I doubt he’d find an older woman to be that threatening.
I find a seat, and sneak looks at him from time to time. I still can’t place him, and frankly, it’s beginning to frustrate me. I’m about to go over to him, when he notices my staring.
Well, might as well go. I shift to the seat next to him, and while he doesn’t move, I can see the change in his eyes. He’s instantly wary; unsure of what I want.
I give him my best smile to put him at ease. “I’m sorry to stare. It’s just that you look familiar to me, and I can’t remember where we might have met.”
His first reaction is “oh, sure, lady.” But then something flickers in his eyes, and he looks closely at me. “Well, you look familiar to me, too. But I can’t remember meeting you, either.,” he says, giving me a dimpled smile. If I were only 20 years younger …..
I hold out my hand. “Gretchen Janeway.”
He tries to stay polite, but I can see the emotions dance though his face and eyes. Shock, delight and sorrow – all in the space of a second or two.
“Ah …. Kathryn’s mother?” I nod, surprised at how softly he pronounces her name.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” he continues. “I’m Chakotay. I was Kathryn’s first officer on Voyager.”
It was my turn to be surprised. I’ve met most of Kathryn’s crew, but not him. If he looks familiar, it’s only because I’d seen him on the vids, standing next to my daughter.
“No, you’re right; we haven’t met,” I say, recovering. “I see you’re stranded, too.”
He gave me those dimples again. “Fortunately, I’m in no hurry.” I noticed he didn’t mention where he was going.
I laugh. “I’m on my way to San Francisco, to see Kathryn, as a matter of fact.
He’s trying to keep his face neutral, but I can see his eyes light up. “Is.. is she all right?” he asked, and again, I’m amazed at how softly he speaks about her.
“She’s fine … busy. She needs to slow down a bit.”
He laughed delightedly. “She won’t.”
I’m about to reply when the young ticket agent comes by, holding a tray of steaming cups. “Coffee?” he asked. “I figure it’s the least I can do, since you all are stuck here.”
We both took cups, and I notice him chucking again. “I see where Kathryn got her caffeine habit.”
“The doctor’s after her to cut back, I hear,” I retort. He just nods knowingly.
I sit back and look at him. Should I ask … “You know, I’ve been curious about you..”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Well, forgive me, but in one sense, you altered the course of my daughter’s life.”
“That wasn’t completely my doing,” he protested, then looked at me. “I know that must have been difficult, losing her like that.”
I consider a moment. “I don’t like to remember that day when the counselors showed up at my door. … No more than I like to remember that memorial service. To be honest, I was angry at Starfleet; at you.”
“I’m sorry for that,” he said, looking down at the cup.
“On the other hand,” I continue, perhaps I should thank you.” He lifted his head quickly, clearly puzzled. “If Kathryn hadn’t gone after you, she most certainly would have been in the middle of the war. And frankly, I think your odds out there in the Delta Quadrant were a bit better. At least my daughter came back to me; I have friends who won’t have that luxury.”
He shrugged a little and gave me a half-smile.
“Do you have family?” I ask.
“Just my sister, some cousins,” he said. “I’m pretty much on my own.”
“I’m sorry,” I reply, but something about his answer doesn’t seem right. Then I remember … this seemingly nice man broke my daughter’s heart.
Not that I knew it at the time …after the initial euphoria of seeing Kathryn again – our reunion had to be the teariest one on the planet – I noticed she seemed sad, upset. She put me off, saying it was the stress of all the briefings ... and the board of inquiry.
Over the next few weeks, however, she seemed to recover … helped no doubt by the fellow whose name kept popping up in conversation. Not yours, though, I silently tell my new companion. Nope … it was Michael MacLeod, the man who is now my son-in-law.
I didn’t find out the true story until she came home after the inquiry. I was expecting her to be on top of the world. She was home … had a set of Admiral’s bars, and a man who appeared to be crazy about her. What more could she want?
But after days of watching her sit in her father’s study … I confronted her.
It came out then. Yes, she was falling for Michael … things were serious between them, though they hadn’t been together for long. She suspected he was going to propose sooner, rather than later.
But there was a problem. And it was you, my tattooed friend.
After spending seven years with you, facing who only knows what horrors – not that she’ll ever tell me – she’d fallen in love with you. You seemed to feel the same way, she said. Unfortunately, captains don’t bed their first officers – at least wise ones don’t, my Edward once told me. And when she was finally free, you were gone, run off with that Borg girl she’d rescued.
I was stunned, and saddened. My eldest has had more than her share of heartbreak when it comes to men. I groped for something comforting to say to her.
“Sweetheart,” I finally sighed. “I can’t tell you how to feel about this fellow, or about Michael. Though you know, loneliness has a way of coloring your feelings. I know you had to be lonely out there, so far from everyone you loved.” I waited for a moment as she nodded in agreement. “I’m sure your first officer was lonely, too. Maybe that’s why he took up with your Borg,” I said, ignoring her dirty look.
“Yeah, I’ve told myself some of that, too,” she admitted. “I suppose I’m not quite sure what to do next.”
“I think you already know,” I said softly. “Either wait to see if your first officer gives up this girl and comes back to you, or go on with your life, and see what develops with Michael – or someone else, if you have doubts about him.”
She just smiled at me and squeezed my hand. Figuring I’d said enough, I left to begin dinner. We didn’t talk much that evening, but Kathryn seemed easier, more at peace. I think she’d already made her decision – even if she wasn’t ready to tell me. Or even herself.
I was right. The next morning, she came downstairs, bags in hand. She was going back to San Francisco, she told me. She’d sent Michael a message. What could I do but wish her luck?
Must have been one hell of a reunion, though – a week later she calls to say that she and Michael had eloped. It sent Phoebe and her Aunt Martha into near-hysterics, but somehow, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
His voice knocks me from my reverie. “I’m sorry, my attention’s drifting. What did you say?’
He looks at me, clearly amused. “I see where Kathryn got that from, too,” he teased. “I asked you how she was doing – really. I .. I didn’t have a chance to see her after my hearing.”
The concern in his face is genuine, I can tell. But I see something else mixed in, and I’m not sure how to read him.
“She’s fine. Really. She’s an admiral now, you know,” I begin, and he grins and nods his head. “Life is still busy for her, but I think she likes it that way.”
“Did she move back to her old house?” he asks quietly.
I’m not sure where he’s going with this line of questioning. “No, we sold that when … well, anyway.”
He nods with understanding. “That was the last address I could find for her,” he said. He noticed my puzzled glance. “I was hoping to visit her when I got to San Francisco … I just wasn’t keen on visiting her at Starfleet headquarters.”
Uh, oh. Maybe it’s a good thing I met you, my friend. I’m not quite sure what kind of reunion you intended, but somehow, I doubt that Kathryn wants to find you on her doorstep just now. Though, I think wickedly, I’m not sure which one of you would be more surprised.
No matter. You need to be set straight.
“Well, actually, she’s moved recently. They bought a house off the bay…”
His head jerked sharply. I could read the confusion -- and shock – in his face.
“They?” he asked.
I give him my most innocent look. “I’m sorry. I guess I thought you’d heard. Kathryn’s married.”
I was almost sorry to tell him; the poor man actually looked stricken. “Nine months ago,” I offer, doubting it would help much.
“I see,” he said quietly.
I was saved from having to say any more by the station announcer. The transports were running again, and mine was leaving.
“That’s me,” I say. “Are you on this one, too?”
He didn’t answer for a second, then he shook his head. “No, not mine.” I had the feeling he wasn’t telling me the truth; frankly, I didn’t want to know.
He stood with me, and offered his hand. “It was nice to meet you, Mrs. Janeway. Please give Kathryn, and her husband, my regards.”
“It was nice to meet you, too,” I said sincerely, and shook his hand. I headed for the transport, but stopped and looked back just before I got to the platform.
He was sitting again, staring out the window.
I wasn’t exactly proud of myself … I could have handled this a bit differently. On the other hand, he had to be told; things could have been embarrassing for everyone. A pity though; he did seem like a nice man in many ways. Perhaps if things had been different……
It wasn’t until the transport pulled into San Francisco station that it hit me: My friend must have been shocked. He never even asked whom Kathryn had married.
Michael came out the door to greet me as the hovertaxi pulled away.
“So, how’s our Kathryn?” I ask after I recover from his hug.
He grins a bit, his blue eyes twinkling. “A bit antsy, and slightly grumpy today. She didn’t get much sleep last night.”
I have to laugh. “Comes with the territory. Though I don’t wish my daughter’s moods on you,” I say conspiratorially.
He merely grins again and shrugs. “Comes with the territory,” he laughs as we walk into the house.
She comes into the front hall, though her usually military walk is slowed a bit, courtesy of the very pronounced swelling of her abdomen. From the looks of things, I’ll meet my new grandson very soon.
“You look wonderful,” I tell her, gathering her into an awkward hug.
“Even if I am as big as a shuttle,” she retorts, though her grin belays the sarcasm.
“Well, only a one-man shuttle,” says Michael, who has slipped up behind her. She turns and tries to give him her best captain’s look, but he’s immune – simply leans in to kiss her before escaping upstairs with my bags.
“I’m sorry about the delay on the transports,” she said, taking my arm to lead me to the living room. “Do anything interesting during your wait?”
“Oh, just talked to …..” I begin, then think better of it.
“To who?” she asked, puzzled at my hesitation.
Should I? And the answer comes back as “No.” Perhaps I’m just meddling here; she did spend several years with Chakotay. Perhaps she’d like to know.
Then again, what good would it do to resurrect a ghost? Especially now.
No, I can’t. Maybe someday she’ll cross paths with him again; she can deal with him however she wants. But for now, he made his choice. And Kathryn has her own life– and no one is going to intrude on her happiness, at least not if I have anything to say about it.
“Oh, just another traveler, dear,” I tell her quickly. “We were just chatting – in fact, I don’t even know where he was going.”