“I’m in complete control; just don’t tell my wife.”
Kathryn sat rooted to the spot, her shock evident. What in hell did he mean by that?
“I was never in control when it came to you, though, was I? Until now.” He looked up and they locked eyes over the table. “I never pushed. I was patient and waited for you. I knew it had to be on your terms - when you were ready.” He shook his head. “How many wasted years?”
His words felt like a slap across her face and knowing they were true didn’t help. It had never occurred to her that he would question her decisions from years ago, or that he’d be so resentful, still, after all this time. Inhaling slowly and deeply, her nostrils flared as she fought the sting of tears that threatened. Holding her breath helped and she waited for the urge to subside. Painfully, silently, she exhaled, but continued to stare into his eyes. How could she have misjudged him so? Had it been a mistake to come?
What was she looking for? Understanding? Those eyes seemed to belong to a stranger. She saw only contempt and anger. This was not the image she’d carried with her for years and she shook her head slightly, as if to remove the offending vision.
“You don’t agree?” His laughter was unpleasant and grating and she winced at the sound.
“What did you expect, my dear Captain? You come to me, after all this time and practically throw yourself at me. I’m shocked, really. But it’s too late.” He paused for a moment, studying her face intently. “For anything.”
Kathryn most certainly had not ‘thrown’ herself at him. She hoped to mend the rifts in their friendship and had come tonight to talk. Embracing him as she’d come through the door had obviously been a mistake. How could she have misread their last few communications so badly that she failed to predict his response? Janeway was seething at his audacity. Her glare should have reduced him to a fine dust, but he merely smirked and cocked an eyebrow at her. Just for the moment, she was glad she wasn’t armed.
Again, his bitter laugh broke the uncomfortable silence. “You really are something else. I...”
She’d had enough. Kathryn stood abruptly, and he stopped speaking. She made her way around the small table to his side, never taking her eyes off his. He watched, amused, while she bent down to face him at his level.
“I am very sorry that things happened the way they did. And I’m also very sorry that you feel the way you do. I can’t change either of those things. I just wanted to see you again. I do regret that our friendship didn’t survive, because you meant a lot to me at one time and I’m pretty sure I meant something to you. I’m truly very sorry.” Straightening up, she added, “ I... I’ll go.”
He couldn’t fault her sincerity, and his smug expression diminished by the time she’d finished speaking. How long had it been since he’d studied her face so intently? She was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. There was no guile, no misrepresentation. There was just ... his Kathryn. The honesty of her words shamed him, and he looked away suddenly, embarrassed by his own childish behaviour. Her unfailing integrity shone through as he realized the extent of his pettiness.
Heaving a long sigh, he turned back to her with troubled eyes. “No, damn it. I’m sorry too. I thought I was completely over you. I thought I could see you tonight and ... feel nothing.”
Her look softened, and she smiled, sadly, relieved that his angry words weren’t true.
He huffed out a small laugh and shook his head. “You do know I didn’t mean any of that. It was ... just self-defence, I guess. ‘If you don’t want me, then I don’t want you’, that kind of thing.”
Nodding, she turned back to her seat. “I felt like that for a long time too. When I knew you’d moved on, I was heartbroken. Eventually, though, I was happy you’d found someone. I was glad you were living again.”
Grimacing, he commented, “Can we talk about this, finally, face to face?” At her nod, he continued. “You know I held on for as long as I could.” After a moment, he added, “I thought I would die of loneliness without you.”
“Me too. I am sorry.” Tentatively she reached out and took hold of his hand.
He squeezed her fingers in reassurance. “So am I.” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “Look, I know I really messed it up before. Can we try this again? All of it?”
Kathryn’s eyes lit up as she nodded, “I’d like that.”
They smiled at one another and began to talk. At first, their awkward conversation was more general, but they eventually returned to more personal concerns. After an hour or so, she rose and began to collect her things. He also stood but his hand on hers made her stop, and she looked up at him.
“My wife will feel better now, because she’ll know I am in control. She was worried about me and I think a little worried about how our marriage would survive with you in the picture. I was so angry at you for putting us through that.” At her look of dismay, he hurried on. “It wasn’t your fault. She knew how I felt, better than I did. I am sorry for lashing out earlier. I thought I’d feel better to get that off my chest, but of course I didn’t.” He paused again, then added, “I do love her. She’s not you but... I do love her. She’s good for me; we’re well-suited.”
“I’m happy for you, I really am. Chakotay has been after me to come and see you almost since we got home. It might have been easier for all of us if I’d taken his advice and come sooner, but to be honest, part of me was afraid to face you.”
“I think I needed some time to deal with the reality of seeing you again, too.“ Mark smiled at her. “Chakotay is a very lucky man.”
“He’s a very patient man!” Kathryn laughed. “He waited for me for a long time.”
“I can’t imagine what it was like, being beside you day after day, watching you take risks and getting yourself half-killed more than once... I’ve followed the newsvids.” Swallowing hard, he continued. “I’m not Starfleet material. I had an idea, but I never really knew... well, I could never do that. I know it’s better this way, but...”
Kathryn half-smiled at him, and reached up to touch his face. “It was very difficult, on many levels, for both of us, for everyone, really. But his friendship got me through. I honestly don’t know how I’d have survived if I lost him along the way.”
Reaching up, Mark covered her hand with his own, and brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. “He makes you happy?”
“Very much so,” she whispered, surprised to feel the sting of tears again.
Mark’s arms encircled her lovingly for a brief hug, before he pulled back to look at her. “I’m very happy for you, Kath. “
“Thank you. That means so much to me.”
He smiled at her, and nodded. “I’d like to meet this Chakotay, to thank him for helping to bring you home. Even if you didn’t come home to me, I owe him a debt of gratitude. ”
“I’d like that.” Kathryn hadn’t realized how much Mark’s approval had meant to her until she thought it had been denied.
“How about dinner for the four of us, one night next week?”
“I think that would be a lovely idea. Just be sure to keep this Friday night open.”
Mark’s face broke into a big smile, the first genuine smile she’d seen from him tonight. “I guess I didn’t answer that earlier, did I? Yes, we would be honoured and pleased to come to your wedding.” Chuckling quietly, he added, “Especially my wife.”