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Story Notes:
They belong to Paramount, or maybe it's CBS now ... 

The message is still blinking.

It’s been there since this morning, when my office forwarded it to me.   Not that it matters; I know who it’s from. I’ve been expecting it since my conversation with B’Elanna.

But I’m feeling a bit guilty about not opening it, so I take a sip of my coffee …

Chakotay’s looking older, a bit more careworn.  But when he flashes that full-dimpled smile, I’m back on Voyager again, talking to him in my Ready Room, or on the bridge. 

“Hi,” he says. “I’ve been really bad about keeping in touch … though I have to say you aren’t the easiest person to reach.”

He pauses for a moment, and snorts softly at what must be a private joke.  “Anyway, I just wanted to say hello.  I’ve been thinking about you lately … wondering how you were … wondering how we got off track.

“I hope you’re well. Give me a call when you can.”

I switch off the vid and sigh.  The game begins again.  His latest relationship has gone south, so he calls me, alluding to how things went wrong, or in this case, how we got off track.  I don’t answer until an appropriate amount of time has gone by. By then, the subject is forgotten.

Though the last couple of times I’ve called back, the line’s been disconnected. He moved on to another planet, another reclamation project, I suppose.

I’ve never quite figured out what he wants from these calls.  Comfort in an old, if now somewhat distant friendship?  Absolution from the one that got away? 

Ah, I’m flattering myself.  What I’d really like to know is if he makes the same calls to Seven.

As for how we “got off track,” he knows.  Hell, we both know. Though with hindsight, I see that we probably were on the wrong track to begin with.  Or more likely, we were just meant to share that track for a time, until we split off for other destinations …

 “Mommy, did I hear Daddy on the vid?” my younger daughter calls as she and her sister bounce into the room, followed by our two dogs.

“No, Claire.  Daddy’s still on the shuttle.  He’ll be here in about an hour.”

“Remember?” Abby says as she pokes her. “We’re going to meet him at Spaceport and then we’re going to dinner.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Claire says. “Can I wear my new dress to show Daddy?”

Her sudden seriousness makes me laugh. “Yes, sweetheart, you can.  But come help me feed the dogs first.”

Claire bounds back out of the room, followed by the dogs.  Abby, who can be a bit too perceptive for her age, looks at me closely.  “Who were you talking to, Mommy?  You look kind of sad.”

“I was listening to a message from someone who used to be on my ship,” I tell her.  “I just worry about him sometimes.”

“Why?”

“That’s a long story,” I say.  And she’s much too young to understand it. “Why don’t you help Claire with the bowls, and I’ll be there in a minute.”

Abby disappears into the kitchen, and I walk back over to the vid.

“Computer,” I say softly, “delete last vid message.”

 



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