Chakotay walked through the park’s garden house, stopping to have a bit of conversation with his former crew and their families. He was enjoying the Voyager reunion/celebration of Harry’s promotion to commander, but he really wasn’t here to see Harry.
It had been five years. Five years since he walked away from Voyager, essentially walked away from Kathryn.
Seven had been an excuse; they’d barely lasted two weeks before she dumped him. Afterward, he thought it best to get away, to start his new new life without the presence of a certain redhead.
But exorcising Kathryn was easier said than done.
Several times, he’d considered going to her, only to talk himself out of it. Too much time had passed. Too many things had happened. She wouldn’t – likely couldn’t – welcome him back into her life. Deep down, he also knew that Kathryn likely would have moved on – given the effect she had on men, she would have had her pick of suitors.
But when Harry had tracked him down, he discovered that a few things had changed ...
He was at the bar when he finally heard it: that low, smoky laugh that he’d know anywhere. He followed it out to the patio, where he saw her talking with Sam Wildman.
She looked … wonderful. Even in civilian clothes, Kathryn was commanding, but she also looked relaxed and happy; it seemed that losing the burden of Voyager’s command had taken off 10 years.
She was still talking to Sam as he approached. “I’d never spent much time in Spain, but …” her thought trailed off as she noticed him standing there. Sam whispered something in Kathryn’s ear before she walked off, leaving them to face each other across a table.
“Hello there,” he opened.
“Hello yourself,” she countered. “It’s been a while.”
“I wanted to congratulate you on making admiral, but it sounds like it didn’t agree with you.”
She snorted. “The rank is still handy for some things, but most days, I’m Dr. Janeway.”
“I was surprised to hear that you left Starfleet.”
She shrugged. “There was nothing left for me,” she said softly, and he could hear the underlying sorrow. “I wanted a tech spot, but after the war ... you’ve probably heard that all the design and R&D were outsourced to private firms. I tried teaching, but all I could see were endless semesters of telling Voyager stories. So I retired.”
“And from what I’ve read, made a very lucrative jump to Gravix Technologies.”
She laughed. “Those stories make it sound like I had it all planned. I wasn’t even looking for work at the time. A friend introduced me to Sil Gravnar and Mika Vixson, who had just acquired the rights to most of the technology that we brought back. I liked them; liked their ideas. Long story short, after a few weeks of talking, they offered me a directorship, and I moved to Brussels.”
She finished with a raised eyebrow. “By the way,” she said, “I wanted to invite you to my retirement party, but I couldn’t find you.” It was more a statement than an accusation.
“I’m sorry,” he said, deciding not to mention what he was doing then.
“Too bad; it was a hell of a party,” she said, giving him the lopsided grin that made his heart melt. “So what have you been up to?”
He gave her his best smile. “Most recently, I’ve been on Trebus. As for the rest, that’s a long story. Perhaps I could tell you over dinner.”
Her eyes flashed a moment of regret before her attention was drawn to something else, rather someone else, given the broad smile on her face.
The someone, as he feared, was a man … late 40s, brown hair, athletic build, whose smile mirrored hers. “There you are,” she said affectionately as he came to her side. As she reached up to touch his arm, Chakotay saw the glint of gold on her left hand, and his heart sank.
“… someone I’d like you to meet. This is Phil … Dr. Phil Brayden, my fiance. He’s head of the mathematics department at the University of Brussels.”
Chakotay managed to shake Brayden’s outstretched hand and offer his congratulations. Odd that no one mentioned this to him, he thought.
“So how did you two meet?” he asked, feigning interest.
“My mother,” Kathryn said, laughing,
“True,” Brayden said, grinning at her. “I met Gretchen at a symposium in New York. She told me about Kathryn; said I should take her out for a coffee. But I put it off. Figured she’d take me for a creep if I just called out of the blue.”
“I probably would have,” Kathryn interjected. “Mom hadn’t said a word about meeting him.”
“Anyway, some of my students are interns at Gravix, so I was there for a reception ...
Kathryn took up the story. “He bumped into me; nearly knocked me over. After the apologies and introduction, he said, ‘I’ve met your mother, and she insisted that I take you out for coffee.’ That was the most original pickup line I’d ever heard, so I let him take me to dinner that night. We’ve been together ever since.”
“When are you getting married?”
“Haven’t decided,” she replied with a secret smile. Chakotay had the uncomfortable feeling that it didn’t matter; he wouldn’t be getting an invitation.
Brayden slid an arm around Kathryn’s waist. “Not to be rude, but we need to go if we want to catch that shuttle.”
“Better find Harry; I’ll be along in a minute,” she said as she patted his shoulder.
After Brayden left, they stood for a moment in silence. “Sounds like things are going well,” Chakotay finally offered.
“It took a while, and I had to let go of some things, but yes, finally, life is good.” She studied him for a moment. “You really weren’t going to tell me what you’ve been doing,” she finally said, her eyes daring him to disagree.
“Like I said, it’s a long story.”
“I know about some of it. I would like to hear your side.”
“Someday,” she agreed. “Well, I do need to go. Take care of yourself,” she said softly as she started to walk away.
She turned and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her blazer.
“Do you miss it?”
She nodded. “Some of it. You?”
“Some days, I’d do it all again.”
She smiled wryly. “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”
He let out a sigh as as she walked away, watching until she rounded the corner of the garden house. Then he shrugged and went back to the party.