Kathryn raised an eyebrow as her secretary announced the call. “This should be interesting,” she thought as she answered.
The young man on the screen was the spitting image of someone she once knew well.
“Admiral, I am Kolopek, leader ...”
“I know who you are, son,” she said quietly. “And I’m happy to finally meet you. How are things on Dorvan?”
“Not good, Admiral. I’m formally asking for your organization’s help.”
Dorvan’s struggle to recover from the Cardassian occupation and the Dominion War had been slow and painful. Then, four months ago, the planet was hit by a series of earthquakes that had decimated the settlements.
Kathryn sent the FRO’s offer of immediate aid. Voyager was at the ready; a team was on standby.
The answer from Dorvan’s leader — Chakotay — came in one word: “No.”
She and Trey were incredulous, though she suspected there was a more personal reason involved.
Trey tendered the next offer, pointedly mentioning that Admiral Janeway would not be part of the team.
The answer was the same. The FRO’s hands were tied; without permission, there could be no aid.
“What does your father have to say about this?” she asked
“My father is too ill to lead,” he replied. “We … we have removed him. I was chosen to replace him.”
“All right, then,” Kathryn said, snapping into business mode. “I’ll have my secretary send the forms we’ll need. We can get a team out as soon as we hear back from you.” She paused. “I assume your father is receiving medical care.”
Kolopek nodded. “He is, but …”
“Voyager’s former doctor is available. He is familiar with some of your father’s medical history. With your permission, I’d like to bring him along.”
“Of course, I appreciate your help,” he said.
Later, she pondered the irony. When she decided to retire, she’d scheduled her last mission on Voyager to be a routine stop at one of the Beta Quadrant colonies. She never expected that this last trip would take her to Dorvan instead. Then again, maybe it was fitting, given that Chakotay was so much a part of her life on the ship.
“Oh, God, it looks worse than the images,” Alex breathed, as the looked on the remains of the settlement. “The Romulan and Klingon aid teams did a good job of clearing out the rubble, but … they’re going to need everything we have, and more.”
“It has to be the illness; I cannot imagine Chakotay allowing his people to remain like this,” Lewis said.
“Let’s hope that’s what it is,” Kathryn murmured.
“All right,” Alex interrupted as she looked at a PADD. Mom, you and Uncle Lewis are going to meet with Kolopek and the Council. Lewis, do you need any equipment?”
“I believe he’s stashed it in my office,” Kathryn said. “I’ll draft my darling grandsons to help carry it. And send your dad with the folks setting up the clinic; he wanted to help with that.”
“You know, I haven’t seen Chakotay since we left Voyager,” Lewis admitted as they left the ship.
“Makes two of us.”
He raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. “He and Annika left quickly, as you remember. After that …” She shook her head. As far as I know, B’Elanna is the only one he’s kept in contact with. And he stopped talking to her over his refusal of FRO aid.”
After their meeting, Kol brought them to the tent where Chakotay was.
“Gentlemen, I think it’s best if I go in first,” she said. Kol nodded and returned to his work. She gave Lewis a sidelong glance. “I suspect you should have some blood pressure medicine ready.”
“For you, or him?”
She slipped into the darkened tent. Chakotay was on a cot, propped up so he could breathe more easily.
Her heart contracted at the sight of him. He looked old and worn. Not that she was a young woman … but this …
Well, might as well announce her presence. “Hello, Chakotay,” she said quietly.
His eyes popped open and fixed her with a fierce glare.
“I didn’t ask for you,” he accused.
“No, you didn’t,” she said evenly. “Kolopek did. He asked for the FRO’s help, and I’m bringing it.”
He spat something in his native language that likely was a curse. She just waited.
“Get out!” he ordered. “Stay out of my life.”
“Oh, go to hell,” she replied. “It’s been more than 30 years since we’ve seen each other, and let’s face it: We may not have another 30. So let’s get this nonsense hashed out now.”
He continued to glare at her, and she returned the sentiment.
“So let me get this straight: Your home is in ruins; your people still need food, water, shelter, medical care and more. But you wouldn’t allow the FRO to come in.
“I don’t doubt you are ill, but from your reaction, I suspect you refused because you’re holding some decades-old grudge against me.” She leaned in and looked him in the eye. “Chakotay, what the hell did I do to make you punish your people … to put your son in an untenable position?”
He took a breath. “You should have been his mother.”
She took a step back. “Kol’s mother? What a disrespectful thing to say about your late wife.”
Chakotay’s eyes were blazing, but she wasn’t backing down.
“Come to think of it, you weren’t terribly respectful to your first wife, either.”
“She was unfaithful,” he growled.
“Like you weren’t? From what I hear, you were indulging in more biology than anthropology. The only defense for Annika is that she was too emotionally immature to understand the concept of fidelity. You had no excuse.”
She lowered her voice and growled at him. “You weren’t very respectful to me when you took up with her. Go ahead and say it to my face: you only married her to hurt me.”
His response was to spit at her, though he was too weak to hit his mark. She just shook her head.
“This is sad,” she whispered. “From the looks of it, you’ve spent a good chunk of your life trying to punish me for not bedding you. Instead, you’ve dumped your childish anger on innocent people.
“Meanwhile, I’ve been just fine. I continued my career; I’ve celebrated the children and grandchildren of our crew; and by the way, I married a wonderful man. He gave me a daughter and she’s given us three grandchildren. I have regrets about those years on Voyager, but they don’t involve you.”
She turned around and marched out of the shelter, nearly colliding with the Doctor.
“Are you finished?”
“More or less,” she replied.
“Well, while I can’t disagree with what you’ve said, especially about his treatment of Annika, this may not have been the time to say it.”
“Well, time isn’t the luxury it used to be, Lewis. I just wish I’d said something a few decades ago. Might have saved some lives here.”
It was nearly two weeks before she saw him again. She was sitting outside the command tent, looking over a PADD, when she felt him behind her. Even after all these years ...
Chakotay was standing upright at least, though leaning heavily on a cane. She sighed and waved him over to a chair.
“I never thought I’d see her again,” he said.
“Voyager? Well, you might not recognize her inside; she’s been refitted. But she’s held up well; Miral has a hand-picked team assigned to maintenance. And when we get back, she’ll be first on board to get a performance report from the chief engineer.
“But when I’m on board, I still see all of you. It’s a standing joke with the helm officers; if I’m on the bridge, they answer to ‘Tom’ or ‘Mr. Paris.’”
He regarded her for a moment. “You look like her, you know.”
She snorted. “No kidding. I grew my hair longer so it wouldn’t be so shocking to look in the mirror. But still ...”
They sat in silence for a moment. “Since you’re sitting here, I take it you’re feeling better.”
“Yes … I came to apologize for my behavior.”
“I was pretty rough on you … I’m sorry about that.”
“I deserved it. You were right, I was being childish and irrational even before my illness. Kol likes to blame it on that, but I let my people down. It’s time for me to step back and let him lead.”
Kathryn just nodded. “And you’re right; I didn’t treat you or Annika with respect. When you talked about your husband … it finally hit me: I was angry that I couldn’t have your love, but it wasn’t mine to have … it was his.”
“You always had my love, you know. But by the time you could claim it, you had moved on.”
He said nothing, just looked at the ground.
“But as for Ben and our family … it’s been a wonderful adventure. We’re ready to step back, too. We’ve both decided to retire at the end of the year. I don’t know what the next chapter will be, but I look forward to sharing it.”
He just smiled. “For the record, I did love K’eava; we were suited; she certainly put up with me, and I miss her. But I was truly sorry to hear about Annika.”
“Vulcan always suited her best. She was content; I suppose that’s what counts.” She looked up at the sky. “You know about Tuvok.”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“His family is at peace; I am not, and I’m not sure I ever will be. Our bond was quiet, but I always knew he was there. Now there’s a hole.”
They talked a bit longer … she caught him up on their former crew, those living and those who had passed. But he grew tired, and she recruited some help to get him back to his tent.
“Get some rest,” she told him before she left. “We’ll talk again.”
She was finishing her briefing when Lewis came into the Ready Room.
“The Connaught is about a half-hour out. It’ll take time to get the long-range team settled and briefed, but we’ll be able to leave by the end of the week,” she said.
“Is this still your last trip?” he asked quietly. She just nodded. “I’m going to miss her; she’s been such a big part of my life,” she said, not bothering to keep the emotion out of her voice. “But it’s time.”
Kathryn fell quiet, and Lewis looked at her with concern.
“Are you all right?”
“When I was talking … rather when I was yelling at Chakotay … I lied about something. Or maybe I lied by omission.”
“I told him that I had regrets about Voyager, but not about him. I do have a regret: that I didn’t try harder to repair our friendship.” She sighed. “We spent a lifetime together … and a lifetime apart.”
Lewis considered for a moment. “From what I understand, you did all that you could do.” She just smiled in response.
“Besides, now that you two have reconnected, perhaps you’ll be able to share the next chapter of your lives. I’m told the communications array will be up soon.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I hope you are right, but Lewis, do you really think he’ll be around long enough to share much?”
“I don’t know,” he said sadly.
“Neither do I. That’s why I made arrangements for B’Elanna and Miral to come out on the Connaught. At least they’ll have a few days to share with him.”
When Voyager finally took off, she expected to be somewhat melancholy. Instead, she felt lighter, as if a weight had finally lifted.
A message from Ben flashed on her console: “We’re hiking the Oregon coast on the holodeck. Come join us. Clothes in quarters.”
As soon as Voyager had set course, she left the bridge to her first officer, who reminded her a lot of Harry. “Who am I kidding?” she thought on the way to quarters. Harry was graying now, and his oldest was getting married in a couple of months.
Ben was waiting for her near the entrance, keeping an eye on the three children playing on the shoreline. “Where’s Alex?” she asked.
“She went to Engineering with Miral and B’Elanna.”
“Oh, God. Lt. Merrick will have a stroke,” she remarked.
Ben leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms. “So, did this turn out the way you wanted?”
She considered her words. “I believe I’ve done all I can.” On many levels, she silently added.
They regarded each other for a moment, then on impulse, she leaned in and kissed him.
"There a reason for that?" he teased.
"Oh, I was just remembering the handsome fellow who my dog and I once bothered at a coffee shop," she said with a grin,
He grinned back, "You weren't a bother. And meeting you and Bart made for one of the best days of my life.”
"Mine, too," she said.
“Nana!” They looked down to see their granddaughter, Kate, standing in front of them, hands on hips. “Are you coming?”
"She must get that from her mother," Kathryn muttered as Ben just laughed.
"I think the boss has spoken," he said, holding out his hand, "Ready for another adventure?"
She smiled and took his hand, "Always. Let’s go."