Living the Dream

Summary:Post endgame. Kathryn tries to find her feet after their return. Entered in the 2005 PPP contest.

PG13

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.


It was early evening at Lake George, the most beautiful time of the day. The coolness of the coming night was settling over the land and mist was rising off the lake. There was almost an air of enchantment, the quiet sounds of the birds as they settled for the night and the muffled scurrying of the night animals as they began their hunt for food.

An elderly couple sat in the dimming light on the porch swing of the timber cabin. He sat with her tucked under his right arm, her head resting on his shoulder and their hands clasped between them. She looked down at the weathered hands, and ran her thumb over the wrinkled knuckles of the man at her side. Those hands were her history. They had tied her to this man for more than half her life.

She closed her eyes and remembered those same hands from all those years ago, tapping at the console between their command chairs on the bridge of Voyager. How many times had she marvelled at the dexterity of those fingers as they skimmed over their shared console? Those same hands reaching down to help her to her feet after she had been knocked over in battle, or wrapped around her hand as she woke in sickbay. So many years and so many memories.

Those same hands had saved her life on many occasions. They had fought her enemies and protected her. Once they had kept her heart beating, frantically pumping her chest so she would not leave him. His hand had been the last human touch she had felt before being assimilated by the Borg and it had been her first connection with humanity after her rescue. Those same hands had reassured her with a touch, had at times clenched in anger at her stubbornness and had shaken with frustration at her wilfulness. But those hands would always again reach out in friendship and then in love.

Eventually those same hands had caressed her body, brought her joy and release. Their touch had enflamed and aroused and soothed and comforted her over their many years together. She could see those hands clasping hers as he declared his undying love, then again as he slipped the gold ring on her finger that still resided where he had placed it so lovingly almost 50 years before. She could see those same powerful hands caressing her swollen abdomen as he whispered secrets to his unborn child. Then remembering those hands gently holding their first born son, cradling the tiny body as they marvelled at the life they had created. Again a few years later holding the precious creature that was their daughter. She was so small and fragile she could be held in the palm of one of her father’s hands. Those marvellous hands that could protect so fiercely yet be so tender and gentle.

She remembered those hands holding smaller ones as he showed his children the wonders of the world. Those hands had bathed them, and soothed them, wiped their tears and carried them high on his shoulders. They had built sandcastles and mud pies, buried loved pets and planted seeds and flowers, those hands had encouraged and applauded, consoled and comforted, and eventually they had been the hands that had given his little girl to the man she loved. They had been the hands that had clasped his son to him as he embarked on a life of adventure and discovery, his mother’s son. They were also the hands that helped bury that same son when the adventure had turned to destruction. They were the hands that held her in her grief and had clung to her in his despair.

Those hands had kept her strong and proud and had always been there to support her. Today those still powerful but gentle hands had held another tiny life, that of their first great grandchild. It was a day of new memories and new beginnings, the eternal cycle repeating again. As their life came to its close, a new life had begun. She held his precious hand between her own. She loved him more today than yesterday and would love him more tomorrow. These hands held her heart. He smiled down at her with love in his eyes. “Kathryn, Kathryn…….Kathryn, wake up, Kathryn. You’ll catch your death sitting out here. You’ve fallen asleep again. What are we going to do with you?” Kathryn Janeway jolted up from the garden seat. She’d fallen asleep in the afternoon sun again.

“Oh, Mom, I’m sorry, um… I must have dozed off.” She wiped the tears from her face. She was momentarily disorientated. He wasn’t here. It was just a dream, one that had seemed so real. “I was dreaming, and I… it was…oh God, it seemed so real. Excuse me.” She rushed inside, tears streaming down her face. This was becoming a huge problem and her mother wasn’t going to stand for it much longer. She had been home for three months now and Kathryn was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Starfleet had insisted on 6 months leave with compulsory counselling. Nothing seemed to be working though. The counselling sessions were next to useless. The experiences of the Voyager crew and especially their captain were so unique that the counsellors had no frame of reference to deal with the traumas of their journey and the shock of their precipitous return. The more she tried to distance herself from Voyager and her memories, the more they encroached on her life. She’d had dreams, many of them in fact, but none had been as vivid as this one.

She was truly shaken. This dream had completely discomposed her. She looked down at her hands and the image of their old and weathered hands clasped together flashed through her mind. She shook her head to clear the image. It had been worse than some of the nightmares she’d had and some of those had been horrific. The sense of peace and comfort she’d felt in her dream only amplified the sense of loss and loneliness she felt when jolted awake. She kept telling herself she had to move on. Chakotay was with Seven now and probably married if what her future self had said was true. She had to get over this and over him.

She hated herself when she was like this. It was self indulgent and weak and there was nothing she loathed more than weakness. She went into her bathroom, washed her face and steeled herself to go and speak to her mother. She took a couple of deep breaths, tidied her hair and made her way downstairs. This was not the first time in her life she had been depressed. She didn’t think she had the strength this time to get over it on her own, but she had to do something. If she didn’t look like she was improving she knew Phoebe would descend on her and she was sure she wouldn’t cope with that. Phoebe was a force to be reckoned with and the thought of a two pronged attack with her mother and Phoebe on each flank was a daunting thought. She just had to get it into her head and then convince her heart that Chakotay was gone. He had made his choice and she had to live with that, as difficult as it may be. She would get over it in time, and time, it would seem was something she had in abundance.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs the doorbell rang. It was probably one of the neighbours dropping by to visit her mother and to surreptitiously catch a glimpse of the famous and heroic Captain Janeway. She would smile and be gracious and then run away and hide. She was thoroughly sick of the whole thing. She pulled the door open with her best returning hero smile in place and froze. There before her was Seven of Nine, the last person she expected to see and if she was honest the last person she wanted to see.

“S…Seven, what are you doing here? I didn’t expect…. I’m sorry umm…please…please come in.” She held the door open and ushered the tall blonde woman inside. She took a quick look outside dreading that Chakotay might be with her but thankfully there was no-one. Seven stood looking at her, obviously very ill at ease.

“Good evening, Captain. I am sorry for coming to your home unannounced. I hesitated in contacting you as I was not sure you would want to see me. My visit was a spur of the moment decision.” She looked very worried. Kathryn closed the door behind her, afraid Seven might bolt if given the opportunity.

“Seven, I am always glad to see you. I’m sorry if it appeared otherwise. I just wasn’t expecting you, that’s all. In fact, it’s a lovely surprise. Come through to the living room where it’s warm. This way.” She moved through the adjoining doorway and motioned for Seven to take a seat. “How have you been, Seven, and how’s Chakotay?” Best to get the obvious hurdle out of the way as soon as possible.

“I am very well, thank you, Captain, but I cannot say the same for the Commander.”

Kathryn’s heart hammered in her chest. “What’s wrong, Seven? He’s not sick is he, or injured? God, don’t tell me someone gave him a shuttle. I’ll kill them.” Her heart was pounding with the thought of him being hurt or worse.

“No, Captain. Physically the Commander is fine. It is his mental state that concerns me.” Seven was clearly uncomfortable and this in turn was making Kathryn uneasy. Relieved he wasn’t hurt and trying to lighten the mood Kathryn offered Seven some refreshments. “Thank you, Captain. A cup of tea would be beneficial. I have been travelling for several hours. Civilian transport systems are extraordinarily inefficient.”

Kathryn excused herself and went into the kitchen. Gretchen was there preparing dinner.

“Who was that at the door dear?” Gretchen was chopping vegetables.

“It’s one of my crew, Seven Of Nine, the Borg drone we rescued several years ago. You wouldn’t have met her. She left the city almost as soon as we arrived.” Kathryn turned the kettle on and fussed with the cups and saucers. His mental state. What on earth did she mean by that? There was only one way to find out. “Mom, I’ve put the water on for a cup of tea. Would you mind making it? I don’t like leaving Seven alone. She seems a little upset.”

Gretchen looked up at her daughter. “Seems to be going around, doesn’t it?” Kathryn looked at her crossly. “Alright, don’t look at me like that, young lady. I’ll bring the tea in when it’s ready. You go and speak with her.” Kathryn stomped out of the kitchen feeling about 12 years old.

Seven was sitting rigidly on one of the sofas looking into the fire. She looked up at Kathryn as she walked into the room.

“Now, Seven, can you explain to me what concerns you about Chakotay? Is he not happy to be home? He seemed fine when he left Voyager.” Kathryn was in her best captain mode, compassionate but aloof, just the right amount of detached concern. She really didn’t want to hear about their relationship or have to be the one to give Seven advice about her love life. It would almost be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

“The Comm… Chakotay is unhappy. He hides it well and thinks I do not know, but I am very aware that he is distressed. Our relationship is not what I expected. I care for him, but I do not love him and I know he cares for me, but he cannot love me.” Kathryn cringed inwardly. This was exactly what she had wanted to avoid.

“Seven, all relationships go through times of turmoil. It’s the nature of relationships. If you give it time, I’m sure you’ll be able to fix the problems you’re having. Have you spoken to Chakotay about your worries? He’s a very understanding and kind man. I’m sure if you talk this through with each other, things will improve. Do you want me to speak to him for you?” Please say no, please say no. Kathryn didn’t think she would be able to do it if she said yes.

“No, Captain. That will not be necessary but thank you for offering. I don’t think you heard me properly when I said that Chakotay cannot love me.” She looked at Kathryn slightly challengingly.

“You’re not giving yourself enough credit, Seven. You’re a beautiful woman. I’m sure Chakotay feels very strongly about you.” Please let this be over soon. It was the worst type of torture. Kathryn moved over to the fire place and stood with her back to the fire. All of a sudden she was cold.

“No, Captain. That is not the problem. He cannot love me because he is in love with someone else.” That was just typical, thought Kathryn. Could life be any more ridiculous? He wasn’t in love with Seven, but someone else. What a pathetic irony. She felt so sorry for the young woman before her. She knew how she felt. She and Seven should form a club. She focused on Seven again, about to offer her sympathy when Seven continued. “Captain, he cannot love me because his heart already belongs to you. It has for many years and I am certain that if he and I had not been involved, he would have come to you on our return to Earth.” Kathryn was stunned. Quietly ecstatic but stunned.

“Seven, the Commander and I have never…”

Seven interrupted. “I know you and Chakotay have never had a physical relationship, but you had a bond that transcended that and my actions interfered with that bond and as a result, Chakotay is suffering.” Seven looked down at her hands then back at Kathryn. “And Captain, your appearance also indicates that you are not happy either.” She stood up and walked towards Kathryn.

“I came here tonight to ask you to go and see Chakotay. If you return his feelings, please mend the rift that our relationship has caused. I also wish to apologise for causing you pain. I was unaware of the subtleties of relationships. I assumed because you were not together that he was free. Chakotay has not been free for many years. Captain, you own his heart. Please go to him. He needs you and I think you need him. You both mean a great deal to me. You are my family and I wish to see you happy.” Kathryn was overwhelmed at the generosity and depth of this young woman whom she had nurtured all those years on Voyager.

“Seven, I don’t know what to say.” Kathryn ran her hand through her hair. This was more than she could have hoped for, but there were still so many unanswered questions. Did he still love her after all these years? Could he possibly still care after she had pushed him away so many times and treated him so poorly? She knew without a doubt that she loved him. Maybe it was time for her to swallow her pride and go after him. She looked up at Seven. She was smiling at her ex-captain, and Kathryn had tears in her eyes. Just at that moment, Gretchen Janeway appeared with the tea.

“Good evening. I’m Gretchen. Kathryn’s mother. You must be Seven Of Nine.” She placed the tray on the coffee table and then extended her hand to shake Seven’s. “How do you have your tea, dear? I’ll pour, shall I?”

Gretchen noticed her daughter’s preoccupation, and the young woman’s intensity. Something significant had happened. She hoped that it meant an improvement in Kathryn’s mood. She’d been so worried about her eldest daughter, but at a loss as to what to do.

Seven turned her attention to Gretchen. “How do you do, Mrs Janeway. I am very pleased to meet you. The Captain has spoken of you many times over the years. Your house is lovely.” Gretchen poured a cup and handed it to Seven.

“Thank you, dear. Help yourself to milk and sugar. Kathryn, would you like a cup?” She looked at her daughter, noticing she had a slight smile on her face, a sparkle in her eye and a calmness about her that had been lacking since her arrival home. She was enormously relieved and grateful to the young blonde woman. Obviously something she had said had lifted Kathryn’s spirits. She would wait until later to find out what it was.

“Here’s your tea, Kathryn.” She handed the cup to her daughter and then turned to Seven.

“Should I make up the spare room? You’re most welcome to stay. There’s a standing invitation to all of Kathryn’s crew.”

Seven placed her empty cup on the tray. “Thank you for you kind offer, Mrs Janeway, but I have a transport booked later this evening. I am going to Norway to visit my father’s sister. I have not seen her since my return to Earth and she is eager to meet with me.” She stood up and made her way to the hall. “Captain, I hope all goes well. I am sure you will find what you have been looking for and I will look forward to seeing you at the next reunion.” She reached into a small satchel she was carrying and handed a padd to Kathryn. “This has all the relevant information you may need. I wish you every happiness.”

Kathryn held the padd against her chest. “Thank you, Seven. You don’t know how much this means to me.” She reached up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Is there some way to contact you at your Aunt’s?” She waved the padd in question.

“Yes, Captain. Her comm. address is on the padd. I must hurry. My transport leaves soon. Goodbye, Captain. Goodbye, Mrs Janeway.”

“Good bye, my dear. Have a safe journey.”

“Good bye, Seven, and thank you.” Kathryn waved her off and closed the door gently after she had gone, still clutching the padd to her chest.

“Mother, I’m going away for a few days. I’ll call you when I know what I’m going to do. You might want to fix up the spare room. I’ll hopefully be bringing someone home to meet you.” Gretchen opened her mouth to ask the obvious questions, but Kathryn cut her off. “Mom, I’ll explain everything later. Just trust me, OK?” She gave her mother a quick peck on the cheek and then ran up the stairs taking two at a time.

She threw some clothes and toiletries into a bag, jumped in the shower quickly, dressed and dabbed on a bit of makeup. She checked the address on the padd then called Headquarters and asked for a beam out to the closest transport station to Chakotay’s house.

She checked the address on the padd for the sixth time and walked up the stairs of the modest dwelling. There was a rambling garden next to the path and a hand-hewn chair next to the front door. She took a deep breath and rang the chime. She was terribly nervous, excited and terrified. What if Seven was wrong? What if she had assumed that he loved Kathryn but didn’t? Too bad. It was way past time that she told him how she felt. Time to put her heart on the line for a change.

Where was he? She took a step back and rang the chime again and waited. He wasn’t home. She had been so excited and keyed up and now she felt so deflated. It was something she hadn’t taken into consideration. It hadn’t occurred to her that he wouldn’t be home. She had envisaged their emotional reunion, throwing themselves into each others arms and declaring their undying love. She hadn’t reckoned on such an anticlimax. She leant her forehead against his door and her shoulders slumped in resignation. She hoisted her bag over her shoulder and turned to go.

She jumped back with a start. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at her. “Oh, Chakotay, I umm…I’ve errr… come to see you.”

He was just standing there staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face. He was so still he seemed to be barely breathing. His look was so intense.

“I needed to see you. I hope you don’t mind?” He still hadn’t moved but his eyes were suspiciously bright. Her voice was starting to fail her. The next words came out in barely a whisper. “I’ve missed you”

That was the trigger. He leapt up the stairs and caught her in a rapturous embrace. “Oh Kathryn, Kathryn.” He enveloped her small body in his, inhaling the sweet smell of her, mumbling her name and endearments over and over. He pulled back a little from her and placed his hands on either side of her face.

“I’ve missed you too. Spirits, it’s so good to see you.” He began stroking the side of her face. He took another step back and held her upper arms looking her up and down. “How are you? Have you been looking after yourself? I know what you’re like. You’re staying with your mother, aren’t you? She’d be making sure you’re eating and sleeping, wouldn’t she?”

He was babbling as he caressed her face and tucked her hair behind her ear. His fingers were touching her ear and neck in a gentle caress. “It’s so good to see you.” He hugged her to him again, picking her up off the ground and swinging her around. He gently set her back on the ground, and again pulled back a little. He was shaking his head and smiling. “I can’t believe you’re here.” Kathryn was beaming from ear to ear. They stood there looking at each other. All of a sudden, he jumped back a little.

“Shall we go inside?” He stepped away from her, bent over and picked up her bag. Keying open the door and taking her arm, he led he into his house. He set her bag down in the hall and led her into the living room. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He had missed her so much and her presence was a balm to his soul. He hadn’t realised until he was separated from Kathryn how much he needed her and how much she had become part of him. Being away from her had literally torn him apart.

Kathryn took a quick look around his living room, noticing some of the things from his quarters on Voyager. She looked at him and smiled. She reached up and touched his face. It felt so good to touch him and be close to him. They stood smiling at each other for a full minute before he shook himself out of his stupor.

“Would you like a drink Kathryn?” She nodded her head

“Please.” He gave her hand a squeeze before he let it go and moved into the kitchen.

He returned with an open bottle of wine and glasses. He poured them both a glass and handed one to Kathryn. She lifted her glass and touched it to his. “To home.” They both took a sip. Kathryn set her glass on the table and turned to Chakotay taking both his hands in hers. She ran her fingers over his knuckles and the image from her dream of his old hands flashed through her mind.

“I had a visit from Seven this evening. She was worried about you and asked me to come and see you.” He was disappointed. He had thought she had come of her own volition but she’d only come because someone had asked her. He tried to hide his dismay.

She looked up at his face. “I’ve been miserable since we got home. My mother has been very worried about me. You remember the Void?” He nodded his head, sorry that he hadn’t been there for her.

“This afternoon I dreamt one of the most comforting and peaceful dreams I’ve ever had. I’ll tell you all about it later. It was the most vividly realistic dream I’ve ever had. It was mostly about you, and I awoke from this wonderful dream to the reality of my life, which in some ways has become a living nightmare. I decided there and then that I had to do something about moving on with my life. Then out of the blue Seven of Nine turned up at my door.” She took another sip of her wine.

“She was very nervous. She thought I wouldn’t want to see her. To be honest, I was surprised and somewhat uncomfortable. She spoke to me about your relationship. She told me it was over because you were in love with someone else.” Her voice became a husky whisper.

“She said you couldn’t love her because you were in love with me.” She looked at him open faced. “Do you, Chakotay? Do you love me?”

“Oh God, yes, Kathryn. I love you and I have forever, it seems. I’ve been miserable too. I couldn’t see how I could live my life without you. It wasn’t until we were apart that I realised how much I needed you. I love you, Kathryn, and I’m so sorry.”

She leaned forward and lightly touched her lips to his. “I’m sorry too Chakotay. I should have told you how I felt years ago. I could have saved us all this pain.” She took hold of his hands and kissed each palm before wrapping her arms around his neck.

He leant forward and took her face in his hands and brought his lips to hers. This kiss was longer and deeper and when they pulled apart both were a little breathless. “Kathryn, will you stay with me?” She leaned forward and mumbled against his lips.

“I packed my toothbrush.” She kissed him deeply again, and from that moment instinct took over. She vaguely remembered at one point being carried to his bed before experiencing one of the most blissful nights of her life. The most vivid memory of the evening was when she looked down and watched those beautiful hands caressing her body, touching and stroking her until she exploded in ecstasy. The life she had dreamt of had begun.

Epilogue.

The early evening at Lake George was one of the loveliest times of the day. The elderly couple sat on the porch swing on the veranda of the cottage watching the mist rise off the water in the fading light. She was tucked under his right arm with her head on his shoulder and their hands clasped between them. She remembered this moment from a time in her dreams. The dream that had led her to this life and love that she cherished. She looked down and gently caressed the weathered hand of her husband. She had always loved his hands, so strong but so tender and caring. They were like the man himself, a dichotomy of strength and gentleness. Just today those still strong hands had held the newest member of their family. Their first great grandchild, a beautiful little girl with hair the colour of fire. He was so proud. He rubbed his hand up and down her arm. Looking down at her, he smiled at his beautiful wife. She reached up and touched his cheek. “Shall we go in, grandpa? They’re all waiting for us.” He nodded his head.

“Let’s go, grandma. If you’re lucky, you might get another cuddle with that great granddaughter of yours. She has your hair you know.”

“Yes, she does. Let’s just hope she’s not as stubborn.” They stood up together. He still had his arm around her shoulders and bent down to give her a lingering kiss. “I love you, my Kathryn. More than ever.” She took his hand and kissed the palm, softly stroking her fingers over the knuckles.

“I love you too, my gentle warrior.”

They entered the room to be greeted warmly by their family; their son and daughter and their families. They were surrounded by joy, the wonderful sound of laughter and the happy banter of people who love one another. With hands clasped, they moved into the room.

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