Mom and I were walking along the pier, going nowhere in particular... just browsing.
She doesn't get back to Earth often - Starfleet keeps her and Dad occupied on Cador now - but she had some business at HQ, and I had a break from school ... so here we are.
We chatted as we walked; about her projects, what Dad was doing... about my courses, my boyfriend .... not really talking about anything of consequence.
Then again, we never do.
In many ways, I really don't know my mom. Never did.
She was never one of those traditionalist mothers - no baking cookies for her, though she did teach me how to garden and bought me my first set of paints.
And its not like she was unavailable. She always made it a point to get home for dinner; to say good night by vid call if she was off-planet on business.
But somehow, I've always had the feeling that I was only seeing one side of her - that the real Kathryn Janeway was not allowed out for public viewing.
Dad tells me I'm being overly dramatic. But he admits that he really doesn't know her either - and they've been together for almost 20 years. Maybe that's the attraction.
He'd tried to explain things to me. She'd been through a lot, he said, and I guess she has. Losing Grandfather and her first fiancÚ in that shuttle accident, Cardassian Wars, getting lost in the Delta Quadrant for six years .. I suppose that would warp you a bit.
"Besides, " he shrugged," she was a captain. They're trained to be a bit aloof."
I guess he would know. He's been in Starfleet for years himself. Maybe that's what it takes to understand.
We were still walking along the pier, and she was making some remark about the ocean when she stopped in mid-sentence and stared. I followed her line of vision, and there he was....
Tall, graying hair, caramel skin ... and that odd tattoo on his face. Actually, he was good-looking, in the distinguished way that Dad is good looking.
What was fascinating, though, was watching the range of emotions play out on Mom's face. Joy ... longing ...maybe a flash of anger.
He saw her then, and came toward us. And damned if I didn't see the same range of emotions play across his face, too. Who the hell is this guy?
"Kathryn" he said breathlessly.
"Hey, you," she replied playfully, as if she'd seen him just yesterday, her hand reaching for his.
He realized where he was, and turned to me with an amazed grin. I thought for a moment that I saw regret in his dark eyes. Regret that I was there ... or something else?
"Kara?" he asked.
Mom grinned sheepishly - which I didn't think she was capable of - and nodded. "She's grown a bit since you last saw her" she said, then turned to me. "Baby, you probably don't remember him, but this is, Comm ... sorry .... Ambassador Chakotay from Dorvan."
Him, I really didn't remember. But I knew the name. I remember it from the news vids about Mom and Voyager. It's also the name that comes up whenever Mom talks to B'Elanna or Harry ... always spoken tentatively, as if it would evoke a bad memory.
He gives me a megawatt smile, and I began to understand why my mom was acting like a schoolgirl. "I understand you're an art student," he said. "My son is about your age. He's studying engineering on Bajor."
From then on, though, I might as well have been invisible. They only had eyes for each other. So I stepped back by a food stall and just watched.
It was amazing. They were flirting like hell .... wrapped up in each other .... laughing. I'd never seen Mom behave like that ... she certainly never acted that way with Dad.
Their talk, while entertaining, was brief. He squeezed her hand, nodded to me, and left. I had the distinct feeling she'd be seeing him again, later.
Mom and I resumed our walk, but she was half-distracted. I finally left her at her hotel, making plans to meet her tomorrow for lunch.
I don't know why I went to her room that night. Maybe it was looking at the key she'd given me; maybe it was morbid curiosity. I now know I shouldn't have done it.
I let myself in quietly; if she was asleep, I'd just stretch out on the couch. We'd have breakfast instead.
The lights were on. And the room was a mess. The remains of two replicated dinners on the table. Two sets of clothes on the floor. One set was hers. The others - I remember them from earlier that day.
And from the bedroom, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a sexual encounter.
"Oh .. god ... Chakotay.... you feel so good" He answered her in low tones, almost growling. The creaking of the bed increased in intensity then, and I heard them both scream out their release.
Now, I'm not stupid. I realize Mom had to have sex during her life. I wouldn't be here otherwise. Guess I can't quite believe she'd still be doing it. But I also wonder if she had ever been so .... abandoned .... with Dad.
I stood there frozen, not sure what to do. After a period of silence, I heard her speak.
"God, that was wonderful. I think we've set a record here .... " she said, huskily.
He chuckled in return, and I heard the sound of some rather wet kissing.
More silence, then, "Chakotay, I've really made a mess of things. I never should have let you go."
"Kathryn," he said, quietly, gently. "It's my fault too. We can't change that."
"Hell of a life ..... " she replied. "Letters and vid calls to our offices. Meeting when we can."
My God, I was right all along. There is another side to my mother. One in which she'd been having a secret love affair ... My mind was reeling. Those nights when she was off planet ... did she say goodnight to me, then go to his bed?
"You know," he said, "we can change things. Our children are grown. Maybe it's time we thought of ourselves."
She snorted. "What are you suggesting,? That we run off together?"
"Something like that. How long have you been in Starfleet?"
Silence for a moment. "Forty... more than forty years, god help me...."
He chuckled. "Well, I think you're due for retirement. I know I am. " I could hear him shift positions. "Look Kathryn, a friend of mine has a shipyard. He'd give me a deal. We could travel, find a place to settle down when we were ready."
Silence again, then her whisper. "Do you think we have the guts to do this? Walk out on two marriages?"
He sighed. "I can't say I have much of a marriage. Tali and I have very little to say to each other. I think she knows."
"Yeah," she replied softly. "Jack knows, he's known from the beginning that I loved you. But then Kara surprised us.... "
Dad knows? How could she? How could he? I wanted to go in there and slap some sense into her..
"How do we explain this, Chakotay? I don't want to hurt Kara. She means too much to me. And Kol?"
"I don't know if we can explain it, Kathryn. I wouldn't have understood at their age.... But I know I don't want to get any older without you..."
She chuckled, and I heard rustling. "It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But I think we need to sleep on it. We can work the details out soon enough."
I sat, stunned, on the couch for a while, trying to comprehend what I had heard. Finally, I realized I couldn't be found here. I got up, and quietly left.
I tossed and turned all night, wrestling with my feelings of betrayal. I certainly had learned something about my mother:
That she was capable of deceit. That I was an accident, for God's sake.
But I'd also seen something else - for the first time, I'd seen her happy. Unabashedly, unashamedly happy. It was nice to know that she was capable of that....
Maybe if I talked to her, I could understand. ..... I wanted to understand.
When I arrived at her hotel room, everything was back in order. She was dressed and looked, well, radiant.
"Late night?" she asked, looking at the circles under my eyes.
I nodded, and she shook her head and chuckled. "You take after me. I was queen of the all-nighters."
Lunch was pleasant, and full of inconsequential chatter again. On the way back to her hotel, I decided to broach the subject. She was leaving that afternoon, and I might never have another chance.
"The ambassador, he was your first officer on Voyager," I asked.
"Mmm hmmm," she said, her eyes holding that far away look.
"You were pretty good friends, huh?"
She smiled, "Yes, we were,"
"You see much of him now?"
She looked sharply at me, and I saw fear, a bit of panic.
She wasn't going to tip her hand. She began to shut down in front of me, the mask sliding into place. I realized then, we wouldn't be discussing the subject today. Or ever, perhaps.
Whatever her reasons, my mother looked at me and lied.
"He's just someone I know, dear. Someone I've known for a long time....."
I guess I wasn't surprised when the vid call came a few weeks later. It was Daddy. The plan had gone down. Mom was leaving ... leaving Starfleet, leaving us.
He was so calm. I was a mess. "How can you take this so well? Doesn't it hurt?"
He looked down for a moment. "Yes, it hurts. But baby, I've known for a long time that this was coming. Your mother is a remarkable woman, and we had some good times. But we never should have married. We had you, though, and we tried to make a go of it. It just never worked."
An hour or so later, the vid screen chirped again. I knew who it was, so I didn't answer, and kept on not answering, letting the messages pile up on my screen.
After three days, they stopped. Somehow, I was disappointed. I figured she'd try harder.
I was sitting in the student center, sipping coffee - another habit I'd picked up from mom - when I felt someone standing behind me.
"Figured I've have to track you down, " she said, sliding into the seat next to me before I could protest.
"Could have saved yourself some time," I half-growled.
I looked at her closely, though. She looked apprehensive, holding on to her cup for dear life, it seemed. On the other hand, she looked younger, more relaxed, as if something had been lifted from her.
She shrugged. "We're leaving tomorrow, and there were some things I wanted you to hear - even if you aren't quite ready to hear them."
She didn't have to mention who her traveling companion was - I could see him sitting at a table by the door, looking at us - at her- with concern.
My turn to shrug .... "Such as?"
"That I may have left your father, but I haven't left you. I'd like to be part of your life, if you're willing. Which reminds me." She took a PADD from her jacket pocket and laid it on the table. "We'll be traveling, but this is an address that you can send messages to. I promise to call back."
Great, just great. "Oh, so you can tell me all about your adventures with the man you've been sneaking around with?"
She flushed and looked down, obviously struggling with something. I thought for a moment that the mask would slip down again. But she surprised me.
"Look ..... a long time ago, I made a very bad choice. I let go of Chakotay. It hurt him - and me - terribly. And then I dragged your father - and you - into the mess. I can't change that, but at least I can stop making myself and everyone else miserable. "
"I don't understand ... I'll never understand," I said.
She looked me square in the eye. "I hope you never have to. I hope you make better choices than I have."
She put down her cup and stood up. "I should be going..."
I reached for her arm to stop her. She looked surprised, then slid her hand into mine. We stayed still, just looking at each other for a moment.
"Just .... just tell me one thing. I gather that I was an accident. Do you regret having me?"
Her faced softened then, and she was as close to tears as I'd ever seen her. "No, baby," she said, squeezing my hand. "I regret a lot of things, but not you. Never you."
She leaned over and kissed my forehead. "I do love you. Try to remember that."
She left then, and headed for the door, where he was waiting. They stood there for a moment as he tilted her face to his and said something. She answered, and he nodded. They walked out together, his arm wrapped around her waist.
I sipped my coffee again, and fiddled with the PADD containing her address. I still didn't understand, and I was still angry.
I should be heading to history class, but I think I need to take a walk. I got up, and for a moment considered chucking the PADD into the trash. But something told me to wait.
As I slipped the PADD in my pocket, the thought occurred to me.
Today, I finally met my mother.
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Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: Paramount owns j/c ... but the other folks are mine. I'm just getting them together for a bit.