“Engines at 88 percent capability, Admiral. Everything looks normal,” Harry announced.
“Holding at Warp 3, all systems normal,” Tom agreed. “We are at the assigned coordinates in … Three, two, one … Now!”
Good. Now I could relax. “Very good. Tom, take us out of warp, and proceed to the next coordinate point.”
“Yes Ma’am,” he said jovially, as he punched the console. That done, he spins around in his chair to face me. “Looks like our little family reunion is going well,” he said
I have to laugh at his observation. “I’d say so. The tests are going well … and we’ve yet to kill each other.” I glance toward my first officer. “Wouldn’t you agree, Tuvok?”
He merely quirked his own eyebrow. “Logically, one would expect some differences after five years apart. But homicide would not be called for, I believe.”
Ah, yes … It was nice to be on Voyager again, even if it wasn’t the original. This Voyager, officially NX74656, was the first of the new Pacific Class, using the transwarp technology that I stole from the Borg . Come time for the shakedown cruise, I had to be the one to take her out. So I pulled a few strings.
Then I had to pull a few more. Once word got out, Harry, Tom and B’Elanna, all lieutenant commanders now, wanted to come aboard. Tuvok, now a captain, agreed to serve as first officer. Icheb, a newly-minted lieutenant, asked to run astrometrics, and the doctor pestered me until I agreed to let him run sickbay.
Tom was right in another way – this was a family trip. He and B’El had brought Miral and young Alex; my family’s here, too. But just in case, Tuvok and I had made sure all the weapons and shields were operational before this baby pulled out of spacedock.
Speaking of family, there’s someone I need to check on. “Tuvok, you have the bridge. I’ll be in the ready room. Call me when we’re ready for the next test.”
The ready room doors open to reveal my husband draped on the couch, feet on the coffee table.. Then again, I learned long ago that Michael MacLeod wasn’t much on formality – admiral’s bars or not. He had a PADD in one hand, and the other hand protectively resting on our youngest son’s backside.
Michael looked up and grinned. “Engines sounded good from here,” he said.
“Uh, huh,” I murmur. I walk over to the sofa and pour a cup of coffee from the service before settling in beside him. “So Sam finally agreed to a nap?” I say, nodding toward our perpetual motion machine.
“Exhaustion forced him, I think,” Michael said. “Tests go OK?”
“So far, so good. You getting any good information?” Officially, Michael was on leave; unofficially, he was gathering intelligence. Briori, an unaligned world in the sector, was in the midst of a civil war; unfortunately, Starfleet had reports of Romulan involvement. Voyager’s testing in the area allowed for a closer, if discreet, look.
He nodded. “The sensors are picking up all kinds of trails. Romulans are out there, all right.”
Even with the latest in weapons on board, this makes me uneasy. “By the way, where’s Edward?” I ask.
He grinned. “On the holodeck with Miral, playing Flotter.”
I have to laugh. “Five years old and he’s jaded on space travel.”
Michael pokes me. “You’ve only been hauling him to the shipyards since he was what? Two? He thinks everyone does this …he’s going to hate staying on Earth. Jenna, by the way, is in Astrometrics, allegedly helping Icheb.”
I take this in, then decide to tell him. “You should know, Jen’s talking about taking the Academy exam.”
Michael was quiet for a second. “Well, that’s fine with me. Her mother, though, will have a fit.”
He has my sympathy; Michael’s first wife was part of a Starfleet family – her father had served under Daddy. But after she lost her brother at Wolf 359, something changed. When Jenna was born, she demanded that Michael resign. His refusal cost him the marriage. Thirteen years later, the relationship was still frosty – and dipped to new lows when Jenna announced that she wanted to join us on the cruise.
“Well, she has a couple of years to change her mind,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “But she’s her father’s daughter; I doubt any of us will have much say in whatever she decides.”
Michael quirks an eyebrow at me, and I elbow him with my left arm. He grunts and goes back to his PADD, I lean my head back on the sofa. Sam’s not the only one who needs a nap.
No wonder I was tired. Life had moved at warp speed since Voyager’s Dickensian return. There was much to settle; the Maquis question; the doctor’s status. In the meantime, I had daily debriefings and cases of reports. All I wanted was to quit being captain and go home – wherever the hell that might be.
And then it arrived: Formal notice of a Board of Inquiry regarding my actions as Captain of Voyager.
A formality, my advocate said. Perhaps, but I did things out there that could cost me the pips: giving technology to the Hirogen; the Equinox …
At least I had one happy duty: I hosted a dinner for Icheb, a send-off as he formally entered the Academy. I looked forward to seeing the crew, especially Chakotay, who I suddenly realized, I hadn’t seen in several days.
The look on the doctor’s face when he arrived at the restaurant didn’t bode well. “Seven and Commander Chakotay have married, and left for parts unknown,” he said bitterly. “She told me this morning.”
I couldn’t understand why I was surprised. I knew this would happen. My future self ... my ghost of Christmas Future, sacrificed herself, blew the prime directives out the airlock to allow them this happiness.
They may be happy. But I felt abandoned. And it hurt.
Try as I could, I couldn’t shake the despair. My advocate, misunderstanding the situation, tried to help.
“Come with me to the reception for the new faculty?” Beth Martin asked. “At least I know you’ll eat.”
My refusal didn’t stop her. “Come on. A little politicking wouldn’t hurt right now,” she said. “Besides, the Academy receptions are hotbeds of gossip – or have you forgotten?”
So, I was making small talk with one of the engineering professors when I heard Beth exclaim, “Michael, you look wonderful with Admiral’s bars. Congratulations.”
I turned, nearly colliding with a good-looking man in dress uniform; 40-ish, medium build -- but the coat couldn’t conceal his broad chest and shoulders – sandy hair, graying nicely at the temples.
The sight of him left me speechless …. Did he remind me of Mark, or was it Jaffen?
I came back to reality in time to realize that they were expecting my reply to something. But what?
I flushed. “Sorry,” I stammered
He grinned and fixed me with the most intense gray eyes I’d ever seen. “Michael MacLeod,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m flattered, Captain, I don’t usually have this effect on people.”
“Told you; it’s the bars,” Beth quipped.
“Great,” he shot back. “Next you’ll be telling me that I scare little children, too.”
He excused himself and moved on, leaving me feeling slightly exhilarated -- and foolish.
“Devastating, isn’t he?” Beth asked. “Single, too, by the way.”
“After my performance, that won’t matter,” I said sardonically. “How do you know him?”
“I was advocate at his board of inquiry. He’s a genuine war hero, Kathryn, captain of the Anchorage. He won the Pike Cross for saving most of his crew from the Jem’Haddar.”
I nodded absently, still feeling a bit foolish. Could have been worse, I decided later. If he’d said his name was Sullivan, I probably would have spit my drink on the poor man.
The next day, the vid screen in my office chirped; Michael MacLeod appeared on screen, in shirtsleeves, hair tousled.
After a bit of small talk, he hesitated. “I was wondering … if you were free for dinner.”
“Did Beth put you up to this?”
He grinned. “Sort of. She said you could use some distraction. And to be honest,” he picked up a PADD and waved it, “if I have to read any more reports today, I may do something drastic.”
So we met. We circled each other a bit, looking for common ground, taking each other’s measure. At some point, we began to talk about command, about Voyager and the Anchorage. And somewhere in that conversation, I looked at him and realized we were the same – two battered captains who loved their ships, and were struggling to put that part of our lives behind us.
We talked past dinner, past coffee ... until the waiter petulantly told us that the restaurant was closing. He walked me back to Officer’s Quarters, demurred my invitation to come in. He seemed about to leave, but then he hesitated, and leaned against the doorjamb.
“Have you ever sailed?” he asked, shyly.
I told him about Lake George, trying to ignore the memories of my sails with Chakotay.
Michael seemed pleased by this. “I have a small boat … my one indulgence these days … would you like to go sailing this weekend? There’s a couple of small coves along the Bay …..”
“I’d love to,” I interrupted, surprising myself.
He chuckled, then before I realized what he was doing, he leaned in and fastened his mouth on mine. It was quick and warm; and over before I could respond properly. He left, and I staggered in the door, feeling distinctly like I’d been hit by a shuttle.
We went sailing that weekend – and a good many afterwards. Michael was funny, protective of my feelings, easy to talk to. In some ways, he did me more good than the Fleet therapist: at least he understood my pain, my guilt at losing so many crew members. He’d been there – and beyond, I was to find later.
And maybe it was those seven years of near-celibacy, but he also was nudging loose some rather carnal ideas. I tried to hold off on that, though. I barely knew him... my life was still too much in flux to get involved.
Not that he was dissuaded by this: he kept himself in my life; dinners, sailing, even hauling me off to see his daughter’s science fair project. He remained a gentleman, but his goodnight kisses were becoming more intense, his touches more intimate. I knew, soon, I’d have to decide….
When the decision came, it wasn’t particularly romantic. I’d had a horrendous day before the board, trying to defend my actions with the Hirogen, trying to make an idiot admiral understand what it was like to be a human pincushion.
Both Michael and Beth tried to persuade me to eat; have a stiff drink. I shook them off and went back to quarters. I sat in the dark and drank through a bottle of brandy, trying to exorcise the anger and emptiness. It wasn’t working. I thought about opening another bottle, but in a moment of alcohol-induced clarity, I realized the problem: I was alone, or perhaps just lonely. Either way, I was sick of it. I needed, at that moment, to be held … and more.
Apparently, clarity wore off quickly. I opened the next bottle anyway, and it took another couple of belts before I realized I was a fool. There was someone out there more than willing to hold me tonight – provided I had enough sense to let him.
I made it to Michael’s house in one piece – sort of remarkable considering how much I’d had to drink. He was on the porch, polishing something from his boat. “Hey,” he said, looking up at my approach. “Change your mind about dinner?”
I tried to say something, but my mouth wasn’t working too well right then. “Kathryn, are you all right?” he asked as he stood up. My “No,” brought him to me in one step, and he pulled my body against his. “I don’t …. I don’t want to be alone tonight,” I whispered into his shoulder, saying what I should have said to someone else many years ago.
His breath caught, and his arms tightened around me. I felt him kiss my hair, then my earlobe. “You aren’t alone, Kathryn,” he whispered.
I shivered at the memory those words invoked.
But for the first time, I believed them.
Five weeks later – a record for Starfleet, the inquiry ended. Chakotay’s non-participation may not have helped my cause, but apparently, it didn’t hurt, either. I was cleared. A set of Admiral’s bars and my pick of assignments awaited me after leave. Add friends, family, a new, passionate relationship – it was all a comfortable little package.
And I was scared to death.
It was all much too tidy. I had to step back, analyze my feelings. My anger with Chakotay was still there, bubbling below the surface; I had to deal with that before I moved on…. At least that’s what I thought.
I needed a couple of weeks away, I told Michael. Time to visit Indiana; look up some friends; get away from Starfleet. Wisely, he didn’t argue the point; he just put me on the transport and kissed me goodbye. Much later, he told me how afraid he’d been that I wouldn’t return.
I lasted about a week.
It came to me one night at my mother’s house -- the person in my thoughts the last few days was not Chakotay, but Michael. I missed him; it was as simple as that. I missed his laughter, his touch, his quiet, steady breathing next to me at night.
The realization rattled me, though not half as much as the realization that whatever I still felt for Chakotay no longer mattered. He had moved on – his choice, his chance, perhaps. Despite my regrets, I couldn’t change the past, but someone had changed the future for me. That was my chance….
My decision came as dawn broke …. I went to the study, and keyed a message to Michael’s office. Then I went upstairs to pack. I could catch the transport after breakfast…..
Michael and I both jumped at Harry’s call. “We’re picking up a distress signal.”
Hadn’t bargained for this. “Go to yellow alert; on my way.” Michael was already out the hall door, a startled Sam slung over his shoulder.
“I’m trying to clean up the signals now … video’s still a bit weak,” Harry reported as I walked onto the bridge.
“Try it,” I said … “Unidentified vessel. This is Admiral Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager….”
“Kathryn?” came the static-filled reply … I stood, stunned, for just a moment … could hear Paris’ gasp as he too, recognized the voice.
The video confirmed it …. Chakotay. His image was streaked with dirt and static, but I’d know that look of controlled panic anywhere.
“Kathryn! I don’t know if you’re real, but I could use some help here.”
“We’re real all right. We’re on the way. What happened?”
“Under attack.” The feed was breaking up … “Romulans.”
The connection broke … I looked over at Harry, who shook his head.
“Tom, how long till we get there?”
“Fifteen minutes at maximum warp.”
I had to grin. “No time like the present to test it,” I say, as I prepare to contact B’Elanna.
We came out of warp to find, not a ship in distress, but a Romulan warbird. “Oh, shit,” Tom exclaimed.
Tuvok and I both rose out of our seats. “Red Alert, shields up,” he ordered.
“Looks different than the birds I remember,” Tom mused.
“They rebuilt their fleet after the war,” said Michael, who was now standing next to Harry at tactical. “Borrowed a bit from the Klingons, I hear.”
“Their shields are up,” Harry said. “They’re scanning us.”
“Scan them back, Commander,” I order. “You’ll make my husband a happy man.”
“We’re being hailed,” said McKenzie over at communications.
I nod, and a young Romulan appears on screen. He sees me, and appears startled.
“It’s Admiral Janeway. Of the Federation Starship Voyager, “I reply coolly. “Have we met?”
He regained his composure. “No. I am Subcommander Pauth of the Vreenak. I am honored.”
If I remember my Dominion War history, any ship named Vreenak is no run-of-the-mill warbird. Careful here, I tell myself. “We came here in response to a distress call. You wouldn’t know anything about that?”
The Romulan considered for a moment. “We too were answering a distress call. However, we found nothing, either.”
“I see. Well, then I suggest we both continue our scans. Perhaps we could combine efforts to find the ship in trouble.”
Pauth stiffened. “That should not be necessary,” he assured.
I shrugged, deliberately playing it cool. “Why not?”
“The Briori may not approve,” Pauth replied.
I give him my best glare. “We are not in Briori space, I believe. We are not in Romulan space, either.”
“Nor are you in Federation space,” came the frosty reply.
I’m out of patience. “Subcommander, I have no quarrel with you, or the Briori, or the Romulan Empire. But I’m not leaving. And I’m not asking you to leave. Do we understand each other?”
“As you wish … Admiral.” The screen went blank.
I’d just turned to Tuvok when the Doctor’s voice broke in. “Admiral, could you come down to sickbay? There’s someone here who wants to see you.”
When Tuvok and I hit sickbay, I’m startled to find a Bajoran male, dressed in tattered civilian clothes. “This is Kalen Pak,” the doctor said by way of introduction. “He’s a hologram transmitted here through the EMH channel. Impressive.”
I look at Tuvok and he’s thinking the same thing: Design flaw.
“Sorry for the intrusion, Admiral,” Kalen said. “My ship was one of those in distress, and I didn’t want the Romulans to pick up our transmissions.”
Well, he gets points for being ingenious. “Where are you?”
“We’re behind the third moon. The radiation levels are high enough to provide some cover while we make repairs.”
Kalen shook his head. “His ship went down. I don’t know if he’s still alive. … Is there any way you can find him? We can’t.”
My stomach’s turning somersaults at this, but I put my captain’s face on. “Maybe, but it won’t be easy with our friend out there. How many on his ship?”
“Three. That includes him,” Kalen said.
“Is Chakotay’s wife among them?” I ask softly.
Kalen is clearly puzzled. “Wife? He’s never said anything about a wife.” He laughs. “I know someone who won’t be pleased to hear this.”
Can’t say I’m pleased, either. Tuvok’s eyebrows are in his hairline, and the doctor looks absolutely disgusted.
“It’s probably none of my business,” I say, “but you look more Bajoran than Briori. What’s your story?”
He smiled wearily. “Let’s just say we’re freedom fighters. For a price. Thanks for the help, Admiral. We’ll be on our way shortly.”
He winked out, leaving the three of us staring blankly at his now-empty space.
“Sensors show debris along here,” Tuvok said, pointing to the map. “As far as we can tell, the area nearby is unpopulated.”
“Of course, we can’t tell much,” Harry interjected, “because of this energy field that’s emanating from the capital city.”
“One, so far,” Tuvok says.
“Well,” I say, “we’re out of transporter range, and we can’t get much closer – not with the Romulans out there. Options?”
“Simple, take a shuttle,” Tom said.
“And risk the Romulans opening fire?” B’Elanna asked.
“Perhaps we should take our cue from our Bajoran friend, and launch from behind the third moon,” Tuvok said.
“But once the shuttle is clear of the moon, it’s fair game for the Romulans,” Tom pointed out.
B’Elanna leaned forward: “We remodulate the shields to match the radiation signature, or something close. That should scramble the Romulan sensors.
“What about any ground sensors?” Harry asked.
“Then you set the trajectory to come in at the top of the atmosphere, enough to evade any ground-based sensors. Skim to your target, then punch in.” Michael added.
“Sounds tricky,” Tom said, though he was clearly intrigued.
“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “But I’ve done it.”
It hits me: Michael’s done this all right, trying to save his crew after the Anchorage was destroyed; the stuff of the nightmares that still plague him.
I’m considering this when McKenzie breaks in. “Admiral, Starfleet Command has an urgent message for you … and Admiral MacLeod.”
I look at Michael and shrug. “In my ready room, Mr. McKenzie.”
Charlie Neal did not look happy.
“Kathryn, what is going on? We sent you out there to do engine tests. Now the Briori government is complaining that you’ve invaded their space!
I spread my hands. “Charlie, I assure you that Voyager is not in Briori space, nor has it been. We are only here in response to a distress call.”
Unconsciously, I set my hands on my hips. “When we came out of warp, we damn near hit a Romulan warbird. Named the Vreenak.”
Charlie’s eyebrows would have hit his hairline – if he’d had hair. Michael leaned in: “We may have shaken hands with a flagship, Charlie. This thing’s a lot more sophisticated than the birds we saw during the war.”
Charlie shook his head. “A warbird…. That complicates things. Especially since the Briori government claims it’s asked the Romulans to act as observers.”
We both snorted at that. “Charlie,” Michael said, “if the Romulans are observing, I’m a Cardassian Gul. We have Romulan weapons signatures, several warp trails – which tell me big boy out here has plenty of company – and they’ve thrown up an energy shield over the capital city.”
Charlie looked down. “Perhaps the safest course would be for Voyager to withdraw.”
“I have a problem with that,” I say. “We still have a distress call to answer.”
“Did you find who …?”
I cut him off. “The call was made by a Federation citizen. Former Commander Chakotay – my first officer.”
Charlie closed his eyes for a moment, then leaned in. “You realize that if you go after him, you’re provoking the Romulans.”
I lean in, too. “But Starfleet has a duty to assist Federation citizens in danger, does it not?”
Charlie straightened up. “I see. I can’t sanction this, you know.”
“Sanction what? Engine tests in an unaligned area of space?”
He looked at Michael for help. Michael shook his head. “It’s her ship, Charlie.”
Charlie looked defeated. “All right Kathryn. We’ll tell the Briori there must be a misunderstanding. I look forward to your reports. Neal out.”
After the screen goes blank, Michael looks at me. “Now I know why your board of inquiry really ran five weeks.”
“Next one will be eight,” I quip, squeezing his hand. “Come on … I have to go save someone’s backside.”
“Planetary dawn in 20 minutes,” the shuttle computer intoned.
“Should give us enough time,” I tell Michael, who’s doing pre-checks in the co-pilot’s seat. He nods, and I rest a hand on his shoulder. “I appreciate you being here; it’s not your obligation, though.”
“Tom’s going to need some help going in,” he said as he reached for a switch. He turned to look at me. “If it were my first officer, wouldn’t you come along?”
I think of Paul Stewart, to whom Michael feels closer than his own brother. “I’d be there. Though frankly, I think Paul would have more sense than to get involved with this.”
The ride down is rougher than I expected. Tom and Michael fight the controls as the shuttle dances its way down. Finally, we hit the atmosphere’s edge with an oomph that nearly knocks me and Harry from our chairs.
“Still one life sign from the wreckage area. Let’s hope it’s Chakotay,” Harry said.
“If it’s not, we still bring back his body,” I say grimly. He nods, and we’re quiet for a second before he starts punching the console. “Looks like we’ve got company! Six life signs nearing the wreckage site. They’re Briori.”
We put down a half-kilometer farther than planned, and hiked our way to the site. It was a mess, all right. The ship disintegrated as it came down, the pieces gouging holes in the ground. Two bodies were thrown to the side; thank the gods, they don’t look familiar. “Something here is interfering with the tricorder,” Tom mutters as he searched for life signs. I spot the ship’s front section, buried nose-first in a mound of dirt. “Check that section just in case,” I tell Tom.
He runs over and looks inside. He straightens and shakes his head, then ducks as phaser fire cracks above him. “Company’s here!” Harry mutters as the three of us begin returning fire. I get a glimpse of them – they’re wearing uniforms. No help there.
During a lull, I begin sweeping the tricorder in back of our position, looking for more soldiers. Instead, I get the faint beep we’d been tracking before. Maybe?
“He might be back here,” I tell Michael, pointing to a thicket behind us. “Cover me.”
I crawl through, gashing myself on something. In the back, huddled, is a very familiar figure. With a phaser barely trained on me.
“Kathryn?” He’s incredulous. Probably thinks he’s hallucinating.
“In the flesh,” I crawl over to him and take his hand. He’s a bloody mess. “Can you walk?” He shakes his head. “My leg …”
I hit the comm badge. “Harry, Tom, I found him.”
“Can’t help you,” Harry replied. “We’re being overrun. Beam out…”
I hear commotion in back of me … only one thing to do. I throw my body over his, and yell for the shuttle computer to beam us out.
We skedaddle back to Federation Space. Chakotay’s injuries are serious, but not life-threatening. We’re about a week from spacedock, so I decide to leave him alone for a bit while we pick up the pieces of our engine tests.
“What lesson is the Doctor giving? Botany? You’ll need a double dose of Flotter to counteract that,” I tell Casey, my nanny, as we walk to sickbay to retrieve the children. We slip in the door, and to my surprise, I see Chakotay is awake, and surrounded by an audience of young Parises and MacLeods. Miral is giggling; I can see he has her charmed. Chakotay turns his attention to Edward, looking puzzled. I suspect my son is giving him the look he saves for truly fascinating things – like bugs.
“You’re in the pictures with Mama,” he announces.
“I am? And who is your mother, son?” Chakotay asks.
My cue. I clear my throat and walk to the biobed. “That would be me.” I stop and look at him, and for a moment, I’m overwhelmed. All those years …. I shake myself loose. “My sons, Edward and Sam MacLeod.”
He looks a bit shocked. I guess he didn’t know…. Casey calls for the children to go, and all of them scamper, except Sam. He’s attached himself to my leg, and he’s looking at me with those blue eyes – echoes of my own – just challenging me. Oh, hell, Chakotay can wait one minute.
“Oh, you’re with me, eh?” I ask as I bend down to tickle him. He collapses on the floor in giggles, and I continue my gentle assault until he wriggles free and runs off to join the big kids.
I’m still laughing as I walk to the biobed and take his hand. “You gave us a scare, you know.”
He squeezes my hand. “I’m grateful. …. I assume my ship…?”
“In pieces, I’m afraid.”
He shrugged, “Guess I’ll start over again.”
I look at him closely. “How did you get involved in the Briori’s civil war?”
He decides to ignore me. “I should have known those were your boys, with that red hair,” he said. “What’s their name?”
“MacLeod,” I say patiently. “My husband’s an admiral in Starfleet Intelligence; he’ll be by later to talk to you about Briori.”
He nodded. “I’d heard you’d married. I guess I just assumed you’d gone back to the man you were engaged to.”
Actually, our friends, who should have been used to wartime romances, were taken aback when Michael and I married, oh, seven weeks after we met. Of course, we got more than a few knowing winks when Edward arrived just short of nine months later.
But they were wrong. I wasn’t pregnant when Michael proposed. What drove me – rightly or wrongly – was the memory of my future self. I didn’t want to be that sad and lonely woman.
Chakotay doesn’t seem too talkative, and I have to get back to the bridge. “Look, I’ve got quarters for you when you’re sprung from here. Maybe we can have lunch, catch up?”
He smiles, and for a moment, we’re back in the Delta Quadrant. “I’d like that Kathryn. I’ve missed you.”
It’s funny, but as I leave sickbay, somehow I feel more whole than I have in years.
With Chakotay’s arrival, the family reunion kicks into high gear. Most of it is group activities: dinner, pool tournaments at Sandrines (should have known Tom kept those old programs). But five years apart does change things.
“He’s different,” B’Elanna says to me during one of my stops in Engineering. “He’s more like the Chakotay I knew in the Maquis. And he hasn’t said a word about Seven.”
My Angry Warrior has returned, I think. But B’El’s right. He’s not been forthcoming about Seven; he won’t talk about why he’s involved in the Briori mess, either. Michael’s attempts to talk with him have been for naught.
Fortunately, Chakotay has developed the habit of dropping into the Ready Room for an afternoon cup of coffee. So on one of those visits, I call him on his reticence.
“You know,” I say evenly, “I could face court-martial for pulling you off that planet.”
“You won’t,” he replied.
“Oh? An illegal incursion? Firing at soldiers from the lawful government? Possibly provoking a confrontation with the Romulan Empire? Hell, Chakotay, I’d court-martial me.”
He smiled again. “You’ve brought back enough intelligence on the Romulans.”
“So is that what you’re looking for, more information from me?”
“What I’m looking for,” I growl, “is why you were involved in the first place. Chakotay, we’ve been friends for too long … if I’m going to risk my rear end for you, I’d appreciate knowing what’s going on. And while you’re at it, I’d like to know where your wife is – if she’s still your wife. I care about her, too!”
He looked at me for a long moment, then put the coffee cup down. “She’s still my wife, but I don’t know where Seven is, Kathryn. We lasted about six months. We went to Dorvan for a while to help with the rebuilding, but she told me it wasn’t intellectually stimulating.
“We went back to Earth, and she signed on to an astrometrics project at a university in Australia. A couple of months later, she told me I wasn’t intellectually stimulating, and moved out. “
“I’m sorry.” It’s all I can say.
He shrugged. “I went to Europe, did some work on an anthropology degree. I don’t know. Guess I was just too restless. Bought a ship and did some traveling. About a year ago, I ran into a couple of former Bajoran freedom fighters. They told me about Briori, how the Romulans were manipulating the government. I went down there … it just reminded me too much of what the Cardassians did to my people. I had to help them.”
“As a mercenary?”
“I only took what I needed to keep myself and the ship going,” he said pointedly. “I wasn’t in it for the money.”
That answers that, I suppose, though I suspect this is an edited version of the truth.
But there’s one other thing I need to know.
“Why did you leave so suddenly?” I realize my voice has taken on an edge.
He looks at the floor. “Seven was uncomfortable with the attention. Especially from Starfleet Medical. I was uncomfortable, too. We should have said goodbye.”
“You’re damn right you should have.” I’m being a bit hard here; but that resentment has been festering for a long time. “You walked out on me right when I needed your help. I had to go through the board of inquiry without my first officer’s testimony. Might have made things a lot easier if you’d stayed. I couldn’t understand how you got off planet, anyway.”
“You obviously came out all right though … am I right?”
“Yeah, I did. But what you hurt – still hurts.” My anger, released, is starting to fade.
He looked up at me. “I did come back after Seven left. I wanted to talk to you. I’d heard you were married, and I decided I should leave you alone. I’m sorry.”
I looked at him and shook my head. What else could I do but forgive him?
That dust-up aside, it was amazing how quickly we picked up the pieces again, fell into the familiar rhythms and jokes, and touches. It was exciting, like I’d found a piece of myself that had been missing. However, in the last few days those feelings of regret have resurfaced, too: that Chakotay and I never took the next step in our relationship; that maybe I’d adhered to protocol a little too closely.
Those feelings, I realize, will only cause trouble. Especially since there’s a storm cloud over this little parade. Michael and Chakotay have not warmed to each other – and though he doesn’t say it, I get the feeling my husband is not thrilled with the amount of time my former first officer and I have spent together.
“You’ve been awfully quiet tonight,” I say when we get back from another pool tournament. Actually, Michael hadn’t said six words all night, didn’t play pool, just made sure to keep his hands on me when I was near.
“Guess I’m feeling a little left out,” he allowed.
This, I know isn’t quite true; from the beginning, he clicked with everyone from Voyager – well, almost.
“You mean Chakotay?”
He looked busted. “Yeah, I guess. You two were pretty close out there.”
“Yes, we were … we went through a lot, Michael. You of all people should understand that.”
He closed his eyes. “I do, really, but ….”
“But you’re still jealous?” I ask playfully.
“Yeah, I guess I am. I’m pretty territorial when it comes to you.”
“I’m flattered,” I say as I push him back on the bed. “You won that territory a long time ago, but I’d be happy to help you restake your claim….”
We’re a day out of spacedock; this time tomorrow, we’ll be on the transport to home. The children, and the crew are getting restless as we head back to real life. I’ve promised Michael a romantic dinner, and perhaps a bit of, oh, dessert on the holodeck.
I’m getting ready to leave the bridge when Chakotay hails me. ..
He’s waiting for me outside the holodecks. “I found some of my old programs in the database. You didn’t download them?”
“Nope, Flotter’s more my speed these days,” I joke. I’m just hoping no one thought to download Fair Haven. I may have to shoot them – and Tom.
We step in, and, oh gods. It’s worse than Fair Haven. It’s New Earth.
The memories come flying back as we walk through the woods, and the long-forgotten shelter. I look around, expectantly. “I left out the monkey,” he deadpans.
I laugh, but have to shake my head. “We’ve come so far, haven’t we?”
I feel him behind me, stroking my hair; part of me screams to walk away, but my feet won’t move. “Sometimes,” he whispers, “I think we would have been better off if we’d stayed here.”
“I don’t think so,” I try to joke. “I wasn’t much of a roommate.”
His voice is raspy. “I don’t know, I think we would have been very good together.”
I catch his meaning. “Don’t make me talk about parameters again.”
He spins me around, catches me in his arms and pulls me against his body. “Chakotay, don’t do this.” I warn. “I’m a married woman.”
“And I’m a married man,” he says as he begins to kiss my face. “Have you considered that we married the wrong people?”
“Kathryn, I love you. I’ve loved you for years,” he whispers ferociously. “I let protocol stand between us; then I walked away. I regret that. I know you regret that, too.” He’s holding me so tightly I can hardly breathe. “We can fix that mistake, be with each other….”
“You’re asking me to leave my family?” I’m so shocked, I can’t move.
“Yes, come with me,” he says, and crashes his mouth on mine.
I should push him away; scream for security … but the gods help me, I respond. His kiss has unleashed every pent-up emotion I have for this man, and we’re devouring one another. We sink to the ground, and he’s fumbling with my uniform, working his hand under the turtleneck and over my breasts. I’m working my hands under his shirt when a voice stops me:
“Tuvok to Janeway….”
His voice snaps me back to reality, and I start to push Chakotay off. He’s having none of it. “Ignore him,” he hisses.
“I can’t … he’ll come down here. Do you want that?”
Somehow, this gets through, and he rolls off, eyes blazing.
I finally answer Tuvok on the third hail and agree to come to the bridge. I can’t look at Chakotay as I pull myself together. As I turn to leave, he grabs my arm again.
“Come back to me, Kathryn, We belong together. It’s that simple.”
I manage to get out of there, and flee to the bridge.
I take care of business, and walk back to my quarters. I’m late for dinner … and how in hell am I going to spend a romantic evening with my husband when I’ve nearly shoved my marriage vows out the airlock?
The door opens, and, damn, this place smells like a bar! Michael is sprawled on the couch, glaring at me. To my amazement, he has a bottle of whiskey in hand. The real stuff. I don’t know where it came from; hell, I’ve never seen him even drink whiskey. His taste runs more to beer.
“I’m sorry I’m late for dinner,” I begin.
“Where have you been?” His words are slightly slurred, but icy.
“On the bridge,” I begin
He shakes his head. “Don’t bullshit me, Kathryn. You neglected to mention that you’ve been with Chakotay on the holodeck for the past hour.”
Great. Just great. “That’s right. I was. He found an old program from Voyager.”
“And just what were you doing in that program?” He’s sneering. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was in an alien possession.
“Not what you’re implying,” I say, my temper starting to build. A half-truth, but to admit anything else would be a bad idea right now.
“Yeah, right,” he said. He’s half out of the seat, and I suspect he’s much too drunk to stand.. “Tell me the truth; were you two screwing for old time’s sake? Or did you decide to pick up where you left off in the Delta?”
“Michael, you’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I should have let that bastard die down there. He’s not taking you away from me,” he roars as he jumps to his feet --- and promptly passes out. He falls over the coffee table, and lands face first on the floor.
I reach him and gently lift his head. His face is bloody; his nose is likely broken. I put his head back down, and put my face in my hands for a moment. I honestly don’t know if I should laugh, or cry.
“Men!” I finally exclaim as I prepare to call sickbay.
The doctor’s incredulous as he examines Michael. “He’s dead drunk!”
“He certainly is,” I agree. “He passed out the minute he stood up.”
“Well, I certainly won’t have to anesthetize him while I repair his nose.” He looks at me, concerned. “This isn’t normal behavior, I take it?”
“No, it’s not,” I emphasize. “He usually takes out his frustrations on the Velocity court, not a bottle.”
“Hmmm,” he says as he runs a regenerator over Michael’s nose. “That frustration wouldn’t have something to do with the commander’s return, would it?”
I sigh. “It’s that obvious?” He gives me a sympathetic look. “Well, as Mr. Paris has said, it has put a bit of a crimp in the reunion.”
I suddenly feel very tired, “It’s a long story, Doctor.” He rests a hand on my shoulder. “I have time, if you’d like to talk about it.”
I had thought about going to Tuvok, but he and Chakotay have a history, too. And the doctor and I have had this kind of conversation before …
“Tell you what … I assume you need to keep Michael here?”
“I’d say so. I can give him something now, but he’s still going to have a nasty hangover.”
I nod. “Meet me down on the holodecks when you’re ready. I think that Buenos Aires café may be in the database. It’s been a while since we’ve had a cup of coffee together.”
“I don’t want to leave my marriage,” I tell the doctor after giving him the salient facts. “What scares me is that I truly considered going with Chakotay.”
His eyebrows work a bit. “Well, you did commit an indiscretion,” he admits. “On the other hand, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It’s only natural that you and the commander should have unresolved feelings for each other.”
Guess I look puzzled, so he pounces on the opportunity to elaborate. “Voyager was not your normal starship mission, correct?”
“That’s an understatement.”
He smiled. “You started out as adversaries, then formed a very close bond, probably the closest of anyone on the ship. Actually, you two were quite devoted to each other. It was touching, even though it certainly was annoying for me when one of you were injured.”
I’m laughing at this point, remembering. He laughs too, then sobers. “Then this relationship with Seven appears,. and you two never had a chance to sort things out.” He shrugs. “And with the commander’s history, it’s probably understandable that he, oh short-circuited a bit. You and Voyager probably were the last stable things in his life.”
I sip my coffee and consider this. “Makes sense. But I still suspect part of the problem is that I regret not furthering my relationship with him … even though I know damn well it was the right thing to do out there.”
He arched his eyebrow again. “I’ve learned through my programming that humans have an amazing capacity to torture themselves with ‘what-ifs.’” He put a hand on my arm. “You’re right. That kind of relationship could have been detrimental to your command, and our survival. I know it was lonely, but you did the right thing.”
“Thanks for that,” I say, then grin. “Does this mean you never entered any of the betting pools?”
“Errr … I think I’ll avoid self-incrimination on that one, thank you.”
I pat his arm, and he smiles and looks at me again. “Actually, I’ve always suspected that your decision not to get involved, was, shall we say, also fueled by a dose of realism.”
Now I’m really puzzled. “How’s that?”
“Well, you were – and are – a Starfleet officer. You always knew that Starfleet would welcome you back, that you’d have your career. The commander had no such guarantee.”
“True, though he could have stayed.”
The doctor leaned in. “True, but what if he hadn’t been allowed to? Would you have left Starfleet to go with him? And now? I doubt he’d come back --- would you leave Starfleet to go with him now?”
I sit back for a minute, half-stunned. “I’d never considered that; I don’t know why,” I finally say. “But you’re right. I’m not sure I could leave Starfleet.”
“Also,” he continues, “there’s the fact that you and the commander are very different people. Your ways of seeing the world, your belief systems, are opposite.”
“Actually, it was a good balance,” I retort. “And I do respect Chakotay’s beliefs.”
“I’m sure you do,” he said, soothingly. “But are you teaching your sons how to access their spirit guides?”
Checkmate. I put the cup down. “No,” I said simply. “Michael and I are on the same page when it comes to such things.”
“I’m sure you’re on the same page in a lot of other areas, too,” he said kindly.
I decide not to sleep in my quarters; I don’t want to be accessible to anyone right now. I check on the kids, and head to my ready room, where I put security locks on the doors and restrict communications to emergency messages only.
I figure I’ll be up for a while, but to my surprise, I fall asleep easily….
The next morning, I’m looking at overnight reports, when I hear the unmistakable sound of a transporter, and a dozen white roses appear on my desk. I’m a bit afraid to look at the card, but I do ….
I’m sorry. Can we talk about this?
A second or two later, a slice of Parra Crème cake appears, with fork. I have to laugh. My husband seems to be experiencing remorse along with his hangover. On the other hand, I have something to be remorseful about, too.
I haven’t had breakfast yet, so I replicate a fresh cup of coffee and dig into the cake. Thus fortified with sugar and caffeine, I begin to set things right.
Chakotay gives me that full-dimple smile when I come in. Somehow, though, it doesn’t affect me the way it used to. I hug him, and kiss him back, but manage to pull away before things become too heated.
“We need to talk,” I say gently. His eyes darken; he knows me too well.
“I love you, and I always will,” I say simply. “But I am not leaving my family for you.”
“You don’t have to leave your boys …” he begins.
“It’s not just my boys,” I say, stopping him. “Chakotay, you and I shared something extraordinary for seven years. You’re part of me.” I move back to the dining table, leaning against it for support. “But Michael is very much a part of me too, now. He’s the one who supported me through the Board of Inquiry; he’s the one who comforts me when I have nightmares about Borg cubes.” I ignore the wince this brings, and continue. “And most importantly, he gave me my sons…..
“Maybe, if you’d waited, we could have shared some of that; guess we’ll never know.” I realize I’m unconsciously backing toward the door, so I force myself to stop. “Then again, I remember from New Earth that you were more interested in the here and now, while I tend to look toward the future. Guess that’s just one of the differences between us.”
I expect him to argue, try to force his point, the way he did on Voyager. Not this time. He’s stunned, sad. My heart aches for him, but I don’t dare try to comfort him.
He finally looks at me. “The barriers we never cross.”
“What?” I’m confused.
“Can’t tell you,” he retorts. “Temporal Prime Directive.”
Oh, gods. “Please don’t start that. I already have a headache.”
I pull the PADDS I’ve brought from my uniform pocket. “We have something for you. “This,” I say, holding up one PADD, “ has some credits. Not enough to buy a ship, but it can get you passage to wherever you’d like to go.”
“I won’t take your money,” he says, somewhat testily.
“It’s not just mine,” I reply, trying to keep things even. “It’s from all of us. Tom, B’Elanna, Harry, Tuvok.”
I throw the PADD on the table, and follow it with the other. “The other one is Seven’s current address. I did some sleuthing. What you do about it is your choice, but at least you’ll know.”
His face is impassive, but his voice betrays him. “Is that all, Captain?” he says sadly.
I think I’ll ignore the underlying insult. “No, that’s not all. When you get settled … please, let one of us know where you are ... how you are. You do have friends here."
No response. Not that I expected one. Not much left to do, so I head for the door. As it opens, I turn back to him. “I’m sorry, Chakotay. For what it’s worth, I didn’t want things to work out this way. “
“Neither did I, Kathryn.” His back is toward me, though, and I can’t see his face.
I stop off in Sickbay for an analgesic; I wasn’t lying about that headache. Again fortified, I head back to my quarters.
Michael’s lying across the bed; when he sits up I see he looks like death warmed over.
“How’s the head?” I ask noncommittally.
“Better than when I woke up,” he said, quietly. “The doctor filled me in … I got the impression he knew more than he let on.”
“We had a little talk … I was upset, too,” I admitted.
He squeezed his eyes shut. “I don’t know who that guy was last night. I …. I was an ass, Kathryn. I’m so sorry.”
This is a significant admission, I know. Michael’s as stubborn as I am, and apologies don’t come easy. But I’m not letting him off the hook just yet. “Yeah, you were,” I say, sitting down so I can look him in the eyes. “I’m not happy about your behavior. It’s a good thing the children were in another room, I would have hated for them to see you like that."
“No more … I promise,” he said.
He looks miserable, but as much as I’d like to tell him his instincts were right, I don’t dare.
“Look,” I say as I slide over to him. “There are some things you have to hear.” I pause for a moment, not sure on how to begin. “First, Chakotay and I have never been sexually involved. We did not have sex on the holodeck last night. Got that?”
He nods, and reaches for me. I lean us back against the pillows. “Secondly, Michael MacLeod, I know I don’t tell this often enough, but I do love you. You and our children are the greatest gift I could ever receive. I won’t jeopardize that by breaking my marriage vows,” I emphasize, though I’m making this vow more to myself than to him.
His eyes look wet, though it’s hard to see through my own tears. “I know, I know,” he whispers. “I love you, Kathryn. … I was just scared of losing you.” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, I just don’t trust him.”
I pull him a bit closer. “You’ll have to trust me, then.”
He nods and leans in to kiss me; his mouth is soft and gentle as he caresses my lips, then moves up my jaw. “Katie,” he whispers, “you don’t have to be on the bridge right away, do you?”
I know where this is headed – when he starts calling me “Katie,” things are about to get intimate. I doubt this will cure his headache – but it might do something for mine.
“No,” I laugh as I gently kiss his newly-repaired nose. “For the next couple of hours, I’m all yours.”
We’ve been in spacedock a couple of hours now. I’ve finished my reports and downloaded the data I need for the propulsion team back at headquarters. The engineering teams are eager to come aboard and start tearing things apart. All that’s left to do is meet my friends and share a transport ride down to Earth before we go back to our separate, but still connected, lives.
I take a last look around the bridge; she’s a good ship, this Voyager. She’ll serve her crews well, though frankly, I’m just as happy not to be responsible for her.
I decide to check Chakotay’s quarters before I leave. I really don’t expect him to be there, and I have no idea what to say to him if he is, but ….
As I expected, he’s gone. I look on the dining table, and I see the two PADDS. “Damn stubborn man,” I think as I switch the first one on.
It’s Seven’s address. I shake my head and put the PADD in my pocket. I think I’ll have to manufacture some business in Toronto very soon. It’s been too long already. I switch on the other one, expecting to see the credits.
But no, it looks like a report. Damn. It’s information on the Romulans’ setups on Briori. Everything Chakotay knew, but wasn’t telling.
Peace offering, perhaps. I don’t know. Maybe someday he’ll tell me….
I put the PADD in my pocket, too, and head out the door. My family is waiting….