Summary:A post Endgame companion piece to Chakotay’s POV story, “The World Sighed”. This is written from Kathryn’s POV.
(They do not need to be read in any particular order. )
Fic 101 prompt: 36 Blink.
Rated PG 13
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
Kathryn waved goodbye to her mother and watched as the ground vehicle turned onto the main road and disappeared into the distance. With a heavy sigh, she made her way down the path at the side of the house towards the back yard and kicking a pine cone a couple of times across the lawn, she meandered through the lush grass towards her tree.
Kathryn stood and looked at her faithful friend and with her fingers dragging over the rough bark she did a lap around the base before she leant back against the trunk and whispered. “Hello, old friend. Have you got any sage advice for me today? I could use some.”
There was no answer.
Thank goodness, Kathryn thought, and huffed out a laugh. She was having a few doubts about her sanity these days and a talking tree would be just about the final straw. Turning to face the tree she placed her hands on the thick trunk and looked up into the branches. They swayed gently in the breeze, the leaves bustling together in a merry dance as the sun strobed through the gaps making her blink rapidly.
On a whim, she hoisted herself up onto the lowest branch and settled herself in the crook of that sturdy limb. From where she sat she could see out over the cornfields and pastures that surrounded her Indiana home.
Bathed in speckled sunlight with her legs swinging freely, she leant back against the rough bark and let her mind wander.
She was home. That bright light that had beckoned to her for over seven years had finally enveloped her in its warm embrace.
Never was there a word so sweet.
Voyager had burst through the exploding debris of the Borg sphere into the midst of an armada of startled Starfleet vessels. For several seconds no one on Voyager’s bridge could quite believe what had happened and where they were. Kathryn had even muttered a disbelieving. “We did it.”
She really hadn’t thought they would.
For the benefit of the crew she’d maintained a positive front, but deep down she felt that they’d tempted the fates too many times and that their luck probably wouldn’t hold out. The plan had been brazen and very dangerous, but despite her misgivings, they’d succeeded and they were back in the Alpha Quadrant, thirty thousand light years from their last position and in one piece. She was astonished.
Her older self had tipped the scales in their favour and Kathryn whispered a quiet thank you to the Admiral.
Emotions were raw and labile, no one was really quite sure how to react. The tension was dispelled for a moment by a hail from Admiral Paris and, after a few brief words with him, the next sound they heard was a baby’s cry. All eyes turned to Tom.
With the sound of those newborn whimpers, joy burst like supernova inside Kathryn and she beamed at Tom, sending him immediately to sickbay to meet his daughter.
They were home, and they were safe, at long last.
She turned and met Chakotay’s eyes. He was standing by Seven’s side on the upper deck and the moment of joy was suddenly swallowed by this new reality. A look of surprise passed over his face as their gazes met. Kathryn’s smile faded and she choked back her disappointment. She was alone in the centre of the bridge, he wasn’t by her side as she’d always imagined he would be, but in a way it seemed fitting. She’d begun this journey alone and she would finish it in the same way.
As graciously as she could, she ordered Chakotay to the helm. As a final homage to what might have been, she would give him the honour of piloting Voyager on the last leg of their journey.
Taking her seat she stared out at the familiar constellations and ordered him to “Set a course, for home.”
The silence had been deafening.
Things had moved at a frantic pace from there. Within a few hours they were in orbit around Earth with orders to land Voyager and disembark into the waiting arms of delighted family and friends.
Kathryn had been keeping her distance from Chakotay and Seven since the Admiral had given her the news of their relationship. Ship business and official matters she dealt with in a kind and courteous manner, but there was a barrier there now. No more coffee breaks with Chakotay, no more spontaneous meals together and no more games of velocity with Seven.
A big part of her wanted to be happy for them. They were the two people most dear to her, but she was afraid that if she got too close they would see her disappointment and she couldn’t bear their pity.
So instead of the congratulatory glass of champagne that she’d always imagined sharing with Chakotay when they finally arrived home, she’d holed up in her ready room and spent those final hours negotiating terms for the Maquis. Fortunately Starfleet were willing to concede to all her demands and in her last few hours as their captain, Kathryn had managed to ensure her whole crew’s employment and financial futures.
Her job was done.
The crew had gathered in the cargo bay prior to their debarkation and Kathryn had been busy reassuring the Doctor that he would retain his autonomy and that the mobile emitter was to remain his and his alone, when she’d felt Chakotay’s gaze. This was the moment of truth. Time to say goodbye. She’d been coaching herself through this scene from the time she’d found out about his and Seven’s affair.
It was time to call an end to what they had been and allow Chakotay to move forward with his life, unshackled by promises made long ago and unfettered by imagined loyalties.
Taking a deep breath she turned to him and smiled warmly. Her gaze encompassed both he and Seven and she nodded slightly in affirmation. Her intention had been to look away at that point but his eyes held hers and in those few heartbeats, unable to contain them any longer, her feelings spilled forth and she watched as his eyes widened in surprise. Smothering the errant emotions, she tried to smile, but she was unsuccessful and dragging her eyes away, she turned her back on him. Her responsibility to Chakotay and Seven was at an end and they could now follow their dream of love and marriage. She didn’t expect to see them again.
Now, as she looked out over the green fields of Bloomington, that uncomfortable surge of anger visited again. It was the same one that had lived inside her since the moment the Admiral had told her of Chakotay and Seven’s relationship.
She had no right to feel this way. She knew that. But obviously someone had failed to mention that to her heart. The feeling of betrayal was acute and biting.
The sensible and stoic part of her, berated her and shook its head in dismay, but there was a large piece of her that mourned what she had lost.
How could one lose or grieve for something that had never really existed, except in her dreams?
Only it hadn’t been a dream. There had been something between them. Something precious and unique, and she only had herself to blame that it hadn’t lasted the distance. How many times over the years had the opportunity arisen for her to take that one small step towards what her heart desired, but guilt and duty had stayed her. They had seemed like such viable excuses at the time – the ship, the crew and her commitment to get them home, but in hindsight it just seemed pretentious and self sacrificing.
She thudded her head softly against the trunk of the tree and sighed. What if she’d just told him of her feelings? There was nothing compelling them to act upon them. She thudded her head a little harder against the rough bark. Fool! If she’d breathed a word of how she felt, there would have been no going back. She’d loved and desired him almost from the moment she’d laid eyes on him, but she’d made a decision right at the beginning of the journey that, more than a lover, she needed a stalwart friend and support, and Chakotay had been that and more.
There was no doubt that she, in part, owed her survival, both physical and emotional, to Chakotay. She was humble enough to acknowledge that she wouldn’t have made it home without him and for that she would be forever grateful. As a First Officer he’d performed his duties diligently over the years, and as a friend she couldn’t have asked for better, but she certainly hadn’t made it easy for him – her stubbornness and wilful ways dogged him at every turn. It was no wonder he’d chosen to move on. There was only so much one person could tolerate. Kathryn sighed. Even though she knew the reasons why it had all gone sour, all the logic in the world couldn’t numb the hurt. And it did hurt. But in typical Janeway style, she turned that hurt inwards stifling it and burying it deep.
Her feelings for him obviously hadn’t diminished over the years either. Her older self’s mission and motivation for wiping sixteen years from the timeline, spoke volumes. In that other timeline, Kathryn Janeway had loved him too, for all her life.
And that was the crux of the matter. Kathryn loved Chakotay and it appeared that she always would.
He’d contacted her on several occasions since the debriefings had ended, but she hadn’t returned his calls. How could she? She didn’t know what to say to him. She’d been such a fool and was thoroughly ashamed of herself. Anger, remorse, self recrimination all warred within her and she wasn’t quite sure where to begin her emotional purge.
She had much to be sorry for and so many regrets that she just hadn’t been emotionally equipped to deal with him, or them. But she knew she had to find some sort of resolution if she was ever going to move on with her life.
‘Move on with her life.’ She hung her head and huffed out a bitter laugh. The stupid thing was that Chakotay had been the lynchpin on which she’d hung most of her dreams of her future life. It had never really occurred to her that she might have to live the rest of her life without him by her side. How presumptuous she’d been. What a complete fool.
She really did have to get things straight in her mind and she decided that today was the day.
The house was empty. Her mother was in town shopping and then going to Phoebe’s for the evening, so she had hours of solitude to try sort out her life and formulate a of plan of action. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and stared at the horizon. The world was filled with possibilities and she just had to open herself to them. A small smile played around her mouth. Having made a decision to do something, she felt a little better about things already.
Her working life was secure. An Admiral’s chair had been offered, which she would take after her leave was finished. Owen Paris had taken great delight in handing over her orders and promotion. Another Admiral Janeway… her father would have been proud and she was also pleased. So with all that in place she could put her career to the side and concentrate solely on her disastrous private life. Her brow knitted in consternation. It had always been her weak point.
A breeze rustled through the branches of the tree, shaking several leaves loose and Kathryn watched as they tumbled haphazardly towards the ground. They were at the mercy of the eddies and currents of the wind – their final destination a mystery and she felt something like those leaves just at this moment. Life in free fall. It wasn’t her usual style but in its own way it was invigorating. She’d spent the last seven years so intensely focussed on her goal that everything else had fallen by the wayside. Perhaps now was the time to try to recapture those parts of herself that she’d let wither during her time in the Delta Quadrant.
Her sense of humour could certainly do with a revamp. Phoebe had already chastised her for being too dour. She needed to let go. Now that she was free of the constraints of command she could be herself… if she could only remember who that was.
It was important to be realistic. There was no way that she could just turn around and be the same Kathryn that she’d been before she left Earth seven years ago. Too much had happened to change the mould, but there were facets of that Kathryn Janeway that could be recaptured. With that thought in mind she tilted her head back and looked up into her tree, then standing, she hoisted herself up another three branches.
From this vantage point she could see for miles in all directions and much like the vista before her, her life from this point on was a wide open plain. Each point along the vast horizon was an opportunity. The choices were endless and diverse and all it took was for her to take one step in a direction of her choosing.
But which direction should she take?
She delved into her heart. What was it that she truly desired? That question was a simple one to answer.
Like most people she wanted a happy and fulfilled life. And without too much soul searching she knew that a big part of that happiness and fulfilment was tied to Chakotay and his being a part of her life.
Oh, she’d survive without him and probably be reasonably satisfied with her existence, but Kathryn had the advantage of foresight. She’d seen what would become of her without his presence in her life. The cynical and austere Admiral Janeway had been a strident wake up call and as far as Kathryn was concerned, she didn’t want to become that woman.
It was time for some soul-deep honesty. She could at least be truthful with herself for a change. Having spent so many years pretending that she was fine and putting on the resilient mask of Captain Janeway, it was time to let Kathryn have her say. And what did Kathryn want?
Oh, she wanted him. She wanted Chakotay. Badly. But not just him. She wanted a life with him. To wake up beside him every morning, to go to sleep in his arms at night, to share the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow that life would invariably bring. She wanted to have a family and grow old with him. Was she asking too much? Did she dare presume once more?
B’Elanna had told her weeks ago that Chakotay’s relationship with Seven had ended – almost as soon as they’d arrived in the Alpha Quadrant – and she also knew that he was living in Oregon on a small farm.
She’d had regular visits from many of the crew and they’d kept her up to date with who was where and how they all were faring. Not surprisingly, Chakotay was often the main topic of conversation. It seemed that most of the crew were aware, to some extent, of the unrequited feelings between the command team and each, in their remarkably unsubtle but sweet way, were trying to manoeuvre Kathryn and Chakotay together.
She smiled as she thought of them all. Dear to her heart as they all were.
Kathryn looked up into the branches of her tree again. The decision was a simple one in the end. She had little to lose. If she did nothing she would finish up lonely and alone and he had already made the initial overtures of contact. It was now time for her to put herself on the line. The breeze picked up a little and the leaves swished together as if applauding her decision. She took a deep cleansing breath. It felt good. Now all she had to do was implement it. There was no time like the present.
She patted the trunk of her tree. “Thank you, old friend.” There was still no answer except for the rustle of the leaves. She grinned and shimmied down from her high perch, landing with a soft thud on the grass below.
Taking off at a jog, she barrelled through the back door and took the stairs to her bedroom, two at a time. Excitement was started to build.
Today would signal the beginning of a new life for her and, hopefully, for Chakotay. It was a risk, but risk-taking was a trait of the old Kathryn that she was glad to revive.
Shedding her clothes as she walked through her bedroom to her bathroom, she jumped in the shower and when finished wrapped herself in a towel and scoured her wardrobe for something to wear.
Too preoccupied to be worried too much about what she was wearing she chose a simple pant suit and dressed quickly. She threw a few clothes and toiletries into a small overnight bag and then with a little dab of makeup, a brush of her hair, she was ready. It was getting dark outside but the sun set a little later in Oregon. For once time seemed to be on her side. She took that as a good omen and she headed downstairs to the library.
After a quick check of the co-ordinates she took a deep breath, stood tall on the transporter pad and said with conviction. “Energise.”
Kathryn materialised on the side of a narrow paved road just shy of the gate that led to Chakotay’s homestead. The position was slightly elevated and taking a moment she looked around her. It was a restful and pretty part of the world. There were fields filled with various grain crops surrounding the house and from where she stood it looked as though a patchwork quilt had been thrown over the undulating landscape. A balmy breeze was blowing. It rifled through the fields of tall grain and they moved against one another with a quiet susurration. The wind was whipping small wisps of hair around her face and, swinging her bag over her shoulder, she swept her hair from her eyes and moved towards the gate.
The sun was setting behind her. The bright orange orb was melting into the horizon and she could feel the warmth of it on her back as she moved down the path towards the homestead. Her steps faltered momentarily when she saw him sitting on the top step of his house.
He hadn’t noticed her yet, but she could see him concentrating intently on something in his hands. A small smile tugged at her lips when she realised what he was doing. He was whittling. He looked very at home here and very much the part of the country homesteader. The golden glow of the sun highlighted the warm umber of his skin and the dark contrast of his hair. He was a sight to behold.
Kathryn was getting closer and she watched closely as he stilled and looked up squinting into the sunlight. She knew he wouldn’t be able to see who it was yet, she would be just a dark silhouette against the bright sky, but he was must have had some sense of her presence, because he sat as still as stone staring in her direction.
She was nearly there. It was so quiet. There was just the gentle whoosh of the breeze and the scuff of her feet on the pathway but both were all but drowned out by the pounding of her heart.
She came to a stop in front of him, her eyes almost level with his where he sat on the stoop. His face was composed, but his eyes were wide with wonder. It looked almost as if he didn’t believe she was there. Kathryn supposed that her appearance was something of a surprise.
She was so pleased and relieved to see him that she had to stop from throwing herself into his arms. But he was so still. It looked like he was barely breathing.
Taking a tentative step forward she looked into his warm brown eyes and in that moment all the love that she felt for him bubbled to the surface and her face softened into a beaming smile. She watched him as he read her features and a look of profound relief lightened his eyes and smoothed his knitted brow. He took a deep breath and waited.
Taking another small step forward and with her eyes riveted to his, Kathryn spoke from deep in her heart. The whispered words squeezed past the tightness in her chest. “I’ve come home, Chakotay.”
Her heart wanted to burst as she watched his face come alive with joy. His shoulders relaxed and he took a shuddering breath. Her heart was hammering in her chest and her breaths were coming in shallow gasps. The moment, so sweetly intense.
The air was electric but in true Chakotay style he brought a breath of levity to the intensity. He shuffled over on the top step and held out his hand. His eyes were lit with love and he said with a gentle smile. “I’ve been saving you a spot.”
Without hesitation, Kathryn dropped her bag and let him grasp her hand tightly in his. She stepped up and sat beside him. He on the left and she on the right, just as it had always been. It felt so right and this time they were sitting so close that she could feel the heat of him sear into her from where they touched. Shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. It felt so good to be near him again.
Turning towards one another they smiled. There was no need for words and no need to hide what had been in their hearts for so long. She took her fill of his eyes and then turned slowly towards the setting sun and watched as the last of its golden light washed over the landscape.
Chakotay picked up his pocket knife and began to whittle again. With the hypnotic flick of the knife on the wood and the soft whisper of the wind they sat surrounded by a cocoon of love.
Kathryn watched his hands as he honed the piece of wood to a point and then after a quick look at his serene face, she moved sideways and rested her head on his shoulder. In slow measured movements he closed his knife and placed it, and the wood, on the floor beside him. He draped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, kissing her head.
His breath whispered through her hair as he spoke. “Welcome home, Kathryn.”
She nodded but didn’t look at him. How could she explain…? “I always was home, Chakotay. I just couldn’t tell you.” Now she turned to him.
He looked deep into her eyes and she watched as they clouded with sadness. He whispered. “I’m sorry.”
She knew what he was talking about, but today was not for sorrow or regrets. There was too much joy to be had so, with shake of her head, she smiled. “No apologies or we’re both going to be here for a week. There are too many regrets and I refuse to be ruled by them anymore.” And she really meant this. The past was the past. Mistakes had been made by both of them, but all that really mattered now was the future. Their future and she refused to let it be tainted by things that they could do nothing about.
Swinging around to face him, she placed her hand on his chest in that wonderfully familiar gesture. She could feel his heart thudding against her palm and she lifted her other hand and stroked her fingers over his beautiful lips then down and over his chin. Her heart was so full. “I love you, my friend. I should have told you years ago.”
His expressive brown eyes, that she knew and loved so well, shimmered with unshed tears as he cradled her face in his large hands.
Kathryn shivered as he leant forward and his lips met hers for the first time. It was a gentle, sweet kiss. A promise of things to come and of love fulfilled. He pulled back and whispered. “I love you, too.”
No other words were needed, and with a contented smile, she snuggled back into his side and together they watched the world turn from day to night.
Kathryn and Chakotay sat together on the stoop as the moon rose over the horizon. A giant golden orb casting is light over the land. And as the first few bright stars of the evening glittered in the heavens, Kathryn looked out into the dark blanket of space and felt truly at peace for the first time in years.
She took a deep breath. It was time. Almost in unison they rose to their feet and together, wrapped in each other’s arms, they made their way into the house.
The wind whispered through the fields of wheat and rye. The moon shed its golden light over the land and in the quiet of the house, the lovers sighed.