Chakotay stood outside the auditorium, half-hiding in the shadows cast by the main arch, watching the parade of mourners leave the memorial service.
Tuvok, he knew, would have been discomfited by all this attention; from the looks of it, half of Starfleet was here. On the other hand, after 80 years in the ‘Fleet, he deserved some kind of send-off.
He however, felt slightly guilty about being here. It had been years since he had seen the Vulcan. But when B’Elanna had told him, he’d felt a stirring .. a need to come here.
Maybe it was because he felt the passage of time more acutely these days; maybe he needed to see the Voyager crew one last time.
Bull. Maybe it was because he really needed to see someone else.
He’d been mesmerized by seeing her again; as she gave the eulogy, all he could think of was how much she looked like that other Admiral Janeway – the one from the future, who so many years ago now , had helped them get them home.
He knew he shouldn’t be surprised that Kathryn had aged … when he saw her on the news vids … when was it .. yes, during the Borg incursion of ’90 … her hair was beginning to gray. And you, he told himself, are no spring chicken, either.
But somehow, his mental image of her was frozen in time … specifically the day she stood in front of him on the new Voyager .. and told him that she loved him -- but he was too late. – she had a husband, and wasn’t about to leave him.
“There you are … “ B’Elanna’s voice knocked him from his reverie. “I wondered where you’d gone off to….”
Chakotay grinned. “I’m not so used to crowds any more,” he said.
“If you’re trying to avoid Seven … I hear she went to the service on Vulcan. She’s not here,” B’Elanna said.
He shrugged, remaining non-committal. What his ex-wife did stopped being important a long time ago. He scanned the assemblage for a moment, as much to kill time as anything, then leaned in. “Is my eyesight going, or is the doctor getting older?”
B’Elanna snorted. “No, your eyesight’s fine. I think the doctor’s feeling guilty about not getting older .. he asked to me tweak his programming – to age him a bit.”
“I wish someone could tweak my programming to make me look younger,” he retorted, as she laughed sympathetically.
“So what’s he going to do now that you’re retiring?”
“Oh, Reg Barclay’s still around. And Sam’s pretty proficient at holographic engineering. So I think the doc will be around for a good, long time.”
Chakotay’s mind raced for a moment … “Sam?”
She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Yeah .. Sam MacLeod … as in Samuel Janeway MacLeod,” she said, poking him in the ribs for emphasis.
“Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Well, he was just a baby when I saw him.”
“Well, he’s definitely grown up,” she laughed, then nodded toward the auditorium stairs. “In fact, here they come now.”
He looked up, but in truth, he barely registered the red-haired young man in Starfleet uniform. All he could see was Kathryn, still straight and proud, though he noticed she kept a grip on the railing.
“You are going to see her, aren’t you?” It wasn’t so much a question as a command.
He shrugged again, not taking his eyes off Kathryn. “It’s been a long time.”
B’Elanna sighed. “You know, Chakotay, I’ve been the go-between for you two for a long time. I’d like to retire from that, too.”
He spun around to face her, so quickly that B’Elanna instinctively stepped backward. “What the hell are you talking about? What go-between?”
“Take it easy; it’s not a conspiracy,” she shot back. “Look, it’s simple; when we talked, I always caught you up on what everyone was doing … I just made sure to mention the admiral. And I made sure to bring your name up in conversation with her. Neither of you seemed to object.”
He thought about that for a moment, letting his mind wander over all those years of conversations. She was right; he may not have seen Kathryn, but he knew about her life – at least some of it.
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “We shouldn’t have asked that of you.”
“You didn’t,” she retorted. “Neither did she.”
Apparently he was slow on the uptake, he decided, because she merely snorted at his puzzled look.
“Look, I know something happened between you two the last time,” she said raising her hands to ward off his protest. “Don’t lie to me, and don’t tell me the details, either.”
She shook her head. “Whatever it was, it put a dent in her marriage. Whatever she felt for you, she wasn’t going to risk losing Michael.” She paused for a moment to digest his grimace. “He was good for her, Chakotay,” she said softly. “She’s always been Starfleet; hell, she still is. He understood that better than we ever could. But you two had something, too. And I wasn’t going to stand by and let you lose each other.”
“Well, thank you for that,” he said quietly.
“She was happy for you, you know, that you found Sarah. And she was always delighted to hear about Taya. I think she secretly hoped she’d join Starfleet so she could meet her.”
“That might have been awkward,” he allowed.
She shrugged. “I think you underestimate both of them.”
He sighed. “I’m not sure that this changes anything.”
She shrugged again. “Things have changed, old man. You just haven’t thought about it yet. I think it’s time you found each other again.”
Try as he might, he couldn’t keep the emotions off his face. “I don’t know,” he whispered.
“It’s been a tough year for both of you,” she whispered back. “I think you could both use a friend.”
His reply stopped as B’Elanna’s gaze shifted, and a look of affection crossed her face. He turned, expecting to see Tom …..
And came face-to-face with Kathryn.
Her expression was neutral, but she couldn’t hide the warmth in her eyes. “It’s been a long time,” she said softly.
“Hello, Kathryn,” he managed before that damn lump formed in his throat.
B’Elanna saved him for the moment. “I have to go,” she said. “I promised Miral that I would get Owen from school.” She patted his shoulder. “I’ll see you later,” she said to him, then squeezed Kathryn’s hand as she walked by.
They stood there for a moment, both feeling as awkward as a couple of teenagers on their first date.
“You’re looking well,” he allowed, his voice coming back. She merely arched an eyebrow. “I .. I’ve been thinking how much you look like the other Admiral Janeway.”
She smiled a bit ruefully. “I do tend to be reminded of her … every time I look in the mirror, in fact.” She paused, and said softly, “I wonder sometimes how she would have felt about the way things turned out.”
He thought about that for a moment. “Well, I think she would have been pleased,” he said, giving her his best grin.
“I hope so,” she laughed, then sobered. “I wanted to tell you … I was sorry to hear about your wife. Are you doing all right?”
He nodded. “Taya is staying close … trying to mother me.”
She snorted. “Tell me about it. I get it in triplicate from my children.”
Chakotay remembered then … “I’m sorry about your husband. I know it’s hard.”
She nodded, her face softening. “Thirty-five years is a long time,” she began, but stopped. She looked at him and smiled, and in that moment, the years dropped away, and he saw the Kathryn he knew …
She looked down, then back up at him, her eyes gleaming. “I promised Sam that I would have lunch. There’s a little pub, just on the other side of campus, that makes a pretty good shepherd’s pie. Would you like to join me?”
She picked up on his hesitation. “Bet you haven’t seen this place for a while. You’d be surprised at some of the changes. … and we could go visit Voyager if you wanted.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Voyager?”
She nodded, grinning. “They made a museum out of her. That much of the Admiral’s future came true.”
He relaxed then, and laughed. “Well, this I have to see.” He swept his arm out in a grand gesture. “After you, Kathryn.”
The Doctor, standing at a distance, watched as the elderly couple walked arm-in-arm toward the administration quadrant. He was nodding in agreement with his own thoughts when his wife walked up.
“You look satisfied about something,” she remarked.
He arched an eyebrow. “Oh, I suppose you could say I am,” he said jauntily.
It was her turn to arch an eyebrow. “And what are you so satisfied about?”
He smiled as he took her arm, and began walking toward the gardens. “I was just thinking … about how sometimes, things come full circle.”