A ‘Homestead’ episode addition. Chakotay finds Kathryn in the mess hall after her talk with Neelix.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
Many hugs to Kat Lady for the wonderful beta.
“Kathryn?” Chakotay peered into the shadows as he entered the darkened mess hall. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust before he found her standing in the dark by one of the view ports.
He watched as she hastily wiped her cheeks and turned to him with a smile. He stifled a sigh, but marvelled once again at her resilience. She was a fine actress and he wondered how many of the smiles over the years had hidden this sort of sorrow. Many, he imagined. Far more than he’d ever given her credit for. A small knot of irritation gripped his insides. Why did she have to do this? Especially with him. After seven years, surely they were past the need for this sort of charade.
He was tired. Worn out in fact, and didn’t feel like playing the game tonight. The ‘let’s pretend everything is just dandy’ game. Not tonight. He was thoroughly sick of the pretense, and the barriers of contrived conviviality.
The darkness made it easier. He walked up close behind her, and stood only inches from her. He could feel the warmth of her body and breathed deep the subtle scent of her perfume.
Without his usual preamble he spoke. “Kathryn, I just saw Neelix. He told me what you did. He’s over the moon.” Laying his hand on her shoulder, he felt her body stiffen, but also felt a shiver run through her. It always did. “Kathryn, you’ve done a very good thing.”
Her eyes were cast to the floor. “He’ll be happy here with Dexa and Brax. I couldn’t in all conscience take him with us when his heart is here with them. I’m very happy for him.” She looked out the viewport towards the asteroid field and Chakotay could see the tears shimmering.
“Ah huh? Then why are you crying?” He stepped around and brushed the remnants of tears away with his fingertips. She stared at him wide eyed for a moment and took a small step away.
“No you’re not, Kathryn.” The irritation was quickly turning to exasperation. He tamped down the negative emotion. “You’re tired. Exhausted, I’d wager. And you’re sad. We’ll be saying goodbye to Neelix. He’s been with us for seven years, since the very beginning, and we love him. Kathryn, you’re allowed to feel sad about him leaving. I know I am.”
She gave a strange hiccoughing laugh and a tear spilled down her cheek. “You know what the stupid thing is? I know I’m going to miss him terribly, but all I can think of is who is going to make me my ‘better than coffee’ substitute. I’ll have to make it myself and I don’t want to be reminded of him every time I have a cup of damn coffee. I’ll miss him all over again and it will break my heart. That’s such a stupid and selfish thing to think, but I can’t help it.” She was trying to laugh, but the tears were forcing their way through.
“Tell you what, Kathryn. I’ll make your coffee for you? Do you think that will help?”
She stared at him again, hardly able to breathe. Oh God, it was too much. He was too much, and she loved him too much. The emotions surged, rushing to the surface like an erupting volcano and there was nothing she could do to stop them. She sobbed, slamming her hand over her mouth as she tried to stifle the sound, but to no avail. Damn him. Her shoulders hunched under the weight of sorrow and another sob escaped. Before she could crumple further she found herself wrapped in his warm embrace, and unable to hold the anguish at bay any longer, she cried. For the first time in almost seven years she let herself go completely. Great wracking sobs tore through her. Tears poured down her face and she hung on to Chakotay for dear life. Her body heaved and shuddered in his arms and all she could think was she was so grateful he was here, and knew what to do.
He held her small body as it was shaken by monstrous sobs. He realised this was probably the first time in years that she’d let herself feel like this, giving in to the pain and raging emotions. Holding her tight, he wrapped his big arms around her and held her securely against him, gently stroking her back and arms, just letting her cry. This was long overdue and he knew she would feel so much better afterwards.
After several minutes she started to quiet, but every now and then she would hiccough and draw a ragged breath. Pulling one arm from around him she swiped at her face. “I’ve made your jacket all wet. Sorry.” She slipped out of his arms and walked across the room. “I need a tissue.”
The replicator produced a small box and she turned to him and gave him a lopsided grin. “I might need them later. I’ve got a feeling the flood gates have been opened.” She dabbed at her eyes and blew her nose and then walked back towards him. She tossed the box on the table and moved, without hesitation, back into his arms. He smiled to himself. Typical Kathryn. Just when he thought he had her pegged, she turns around and does something unexpected like this. He kept a firm hold of her as she snuggled into him. “Thank you, Chakotay. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“I’m sure you’d do just fine, Kathryn, but I’m glad to know that you want me around.”
She spoke into his chest. “You have more faith in me than I deserve and I most definitely want you around. I’d be lost without you.” She wriggled closer and spoke with her head resting against his shoulder. “It’s not going to be easy without Neelix, you know. He fills a lot of shoes, but I couldn’t ask him to stay.” Her voice caught. “It will be like saying goodbye to Kes all over again. He’s family…and I’m going to miss him.” She sniffled and drew a shuddering breath. “I’m so sick of saying goodbye to people I love.”
“Hello. Some of us who love you are still here.”
“Amen to that.” He was delighted to feel her tug him closer. “Oh, and Chakotay. I love you too.”
“I’m pleased to hear it.” They stood quietly for a time just letting the moment sink in, then Chakotay pulled away slightly. “Um, Kathryn?”
He placed his fingers under her chin and tilted her head back a little. Leaning forward he touched his lips to hers. He pulled away and looked at her, pleased to see her eyes were clear and she was looking at him steadily. He smiled. “I thought we should mark this occasion with something… and a kiss seemed appropriate.”
“Something a little more auspicious than you with a wet jacket and me with a red nose and puffy eyes? You may have a point.” She grinned up at him and cupping his cheek, leaned up and kissed him back. Then frowning slightly she cocked her head to the side. “You know, I expected when this moment came that there would be some sort of cosmic backlash. An epiphany of sorts, and I’m a little surprised that it’s all happened so smoothly.” She chuckled. “I don’t know quite what I expected.”
“The universe to gasp or something?”
“Yes, I think it was something like that. I’ve kept the truth inside me for so long that I figured when I spoke it there would be thunder, hull breaches or some sort of cataclysm.”
Chakotay had a look around and shrugged. “Nothing. We’re still going at warp, the deck plating is intact and there are no ruptures in space, time or the ship. I think we’re safe to do it again.”
“Oh good.” Kathryn stared at his mouth and her hand drifted up to his face, her fingers tracing the outline of those beloved lips. He shivered at her touch and she smiled. “Your touch does that to me too, you know.” She stood on tiptoes and her hand slid around to the back of his head, pulling him towards her. Their lips touched and a tremor ran through her. She dragged her lips away a touch and whispered against his mouth. “See.”
His hand slid into her hair and pulled her back to him. Their lips moulded together in a warm caress. Mouths opened and tongues delved and tasted. Arms grasped and grabbed, and finally, when breathing became imperative, mouths slid away and lips travelled over necks and faces in soft wet touches. Kathryn clung to him. “Oh god, I love you so much.”
He held her tight to him and buried his face into her neck, her hair draped over his cheek. “I love you too Kathryn, with all that I am.”
They stood together, wrapped in each other’s arms, whispering heartfelt words of love and devotion, their silhouette bathed in starlight in the dark confines of the mess hall.
Neelix was almost all the way to his quarters when his pace slowed, and a small worried frown worked its way across his forehead. He’d met Chakotay a few minutes ago on his way from the mess hall and had told him excitedly about his plans to stay with the Talaxian colony and the new assignment the captain had given him. The Commander had been most impressed, and offered his congratulations. Neelix accepted with blustering good humour and told him that he couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the crew. Chakotay had asked of the captain’s whereabouts and excused himself. Neelix had continued on his way, thrilled at the prospect of the captain speaking to Starfleet on his behalf. Her faith in him warmed his heart. The appointment would be a considerable responsibility and he intended carry out his duty with the utmost care and dedication. He was so deeply touched by her trust in him that he would be forever grateful and never forget her kindness.
Ambassador and Delta Quadrant Federation Liaison. Dexa would be so proud.
He’d reconciled himself with the thought of leaving. Naomi didn’t need him anymore. The crew would survive without him, and he was sure they’d find someone to take over in the kitchen. It was a pity that Mr Tuvok couldn’t be persuaded; the Vulcan had such a flair for the culinary arts.
He was preoccupied with thoughts of the crew and his kitchen, but then another thought occurred to him. What about the captain? She relied on him for so many things and he’d been so caught up in his own good fortune that he’d not really thought about the impact his absence might have on her. He was so happy with the prospect of his new life that he’d been remiss and failed to consider her needs. He muttered to himself. “Neelix, what were you thinking?” It wasn’t like him to neglect her wellbeing; it was always something that had taken top priority and been foremost in his mind.
His oversight was something he would remedy immediately. He wondered if she was still in the mess hall. It was important she understood that if she ever needed to talk, he was only a subspace call away and that he’d leave all his recipes and coffee substitute programs here for her, with instructions for his successor.
Turning around, he headed back to the mess hall. He was worried now that she would be lonely without him. How often had he found her sitting on her own in the darkened mess hall late at night? He would miss their talks and he imagined she would too. She led such a solitary life and that concerned him greatly. An idea struck him – he would speak to the commander. That’s what he’d do. He would leave instructions with Commander Chakotay to ensure that he was aware of her needs. The captain and the commander were good friends and Neelix was sure Chakotay would be happy to look after her in his absence.
Now that he had some strategies in place he felt much better about his obligation to the captain. She’d been such a wonderful friend and inspiring leader during his years here on Voyager, and he would miss her.
He entered the mess hall through the kitchen and after quickly checking on his pot of slow broiling pleeka rinds, he moved to the counter. Peering into the darkness he opened his mouth to call for the captain but realised that yes, she was still here, but she wasn’t alone. Moving back into the shadows, he held his fists to his chest.
His heart was overwhelmed. The captain and the commander were over by the view port and they were together, holding each other tightly. Their arms were wrapped around one another in a loving embrace. Neelix wanted to dash out and give them both a hug and congratulate them, but with great effort, he held himself in check.
A tear or two shimmered in his eyes as he heard their whispered words of love, and his breath caught as he watched the Commander lovingly wipe the tears from the Captain’s face and kiss her forehead.
The commander stepped back and crooked his arm. The Captain smiled up at him. It was a smile that Neelix had never seen before. She looked so happy. The happiest he’d ever seen her. Tears of joy tipped over his lashes as he watched them walk, arm in arm, out of the dark mess hall into the light of the corridor.
With a hiss the doors slid shut behind them and Neelix stood for a moment in the dark. He was so happy for them, but especially for the Captain. He could now leave and not worry. The commander would take good care of her and he was so glad that there was someone here to love her. It was the most important thing, to love and be loved.
It was a time for new beginnings.
He wiped his eyes and looked around his kitchen. Seven years. It had been wonderful, frightening, enlightening and terrifying, but most of all it had been a time that he would cherish until his dying day. He’d met and come to love some of the finest people in the entire galaxy. It had been the adventure of a lifetime.
He turned and gave his pleeka rinds one last stir and then walked out of the mess hall. As he made his way back towards the turbo lift, he thought of the captain’s smile and smiled to himself. She was going to be alright. They would be all alright.
With a heartfelt sigh and a little skip, he strolled merrily back to his quarters, thrilled with the thought of Dexa and Brax and that tomorrow he would begin his new life.