Disclaimer: Voyager still belongs to Paramount. Emma and Teresa and their biographies are mine, though.
Author's note: This story is based on the out-dated rumour of a main character's death, but written on the basis of actual spoilers about "Endgame". I've written this for The Fatal Finale Contest, so this is how I think about dealing with B'Elanna's death. The title is taken from the poem mentioned below.
J/C, J&P (P/T)
Written: 29 April 2001
And Afterwards Remember, Do Not Grieve
"The shockwave has hit her severely. I am sure she did not feel any pain," the Doctor was saying to Tom when the doors slid open and admitted Chakotay to Sickbay. The hologram touched the pilot's arm in a compassionate gesture. Tom squared his shoulders.
"Thank you, Doc," he said, his voice almost not quavering at all. He turned around, and Chakotay was surprised about his calm. "B'Elanna is ..." Tom began, but his voice betrayed his feelings.
Chakotay already knew. No one had told him yet, it was just a feeling. B'Elanna was dead. She had not survived their journey home. They had finally made it, but it had cost B'Elanna's life. The emptiness a lost friend leaves behind groped for Chakotay's heart to hold it in an icy grip. The pain at her loss was almost physical, and he could already feel it, this illusion of being abandoned by her.
"I'm sorry, Tom."
"Yes, I'm sure you are," Tom replied, protective sarcasm flashing in his eyes. "Thanks."
"The captain is over there. She has suffered --" the Doc started, but Chakotay cut him short. Even after the display of compassion he had still not learned the art of sense of tact.
"Please, Doc, can I see her?" Chakotay cut him short. He started towards the biobed Kathryn was occupying. From the corner of his eyes he noticed Tom's flashing him a grateful smile. It was just not fair that Tom should be reminded of what he had lost by observing another man's relief that his love had survived.
Tom felt numb. He had to force his limbs to heed his command and cross the space towards the surgery area, where B'Elanna lay out. Her face was a mask already, a mask of beauty as Tom remembered from watching her sleep. The mask, however, bore marks of the explosion that had hurled her halfway through Engineering. Tom knew without being told that the silver material that covered her body also covered the area of her body that had borne the full brunt of the bursting console.
He found a dermal regenerator on a nearby table and started to run it over the lacerations and cuts on B'Elanna's face. They were only minor, yet he didn't want to see her like this, and it had to be done quickly before it was too late. One by one the wounds were replaced with new skin, already taking a little longer than normal.
Having put the instrument aside, he caressed B'Elanna's face one last time, kissed the ridges on her brow and promised that he and Miral would always love and remember her. "I love you, B'Elanna. You have done so much for me, thank you for --" he forced back the painful lump in his throat, "for loving me." He kissed her again.
Tom never returned to Sickbay.
"What have I done?" Her voice quavering, Kathryn stared at the ceiling of her bedroom. The dampness on her body had long since dried from her skin, and her breathing had calmed.
That was the quiet after the tempest, when the world seemed still in turmoil and yet was pacified; when the debris the torrential rain and punishing wind had produced littered an oh so carefully landscaped world of your own creation. Sounds of intense, angry lovemaking were ringing in her ears, and the taste of her words to him still lingered on her tongue.
Yet, the rush of adrenaline had left behind an almost overwhelming feeling of relief. Both of them had felt the urge of feeling alive after they had lost B'Elanna. Her loss clouded over their joy at finally being home, it was a price too dear to pay. Had Kathryn had the choice, she would have preferred to wait.
Kathryn groped for the sheets and wrapped herself in them, curling herself into a ball to hold on to the feeling of Chakotay with her for a little bit longer. Dwelling in it like this would make the memories of it clearer, so they accompanied her everywhere that day; comforting rather than distracting her, leaving her for once in the certainty that she had done the right thing.
He had been crying when he accepted her offer of comfort. The crying had drained his body of his conflicting emotions, by both driving himself into her body carelessly and by screaming his pain out loud. Kathryn had only been too glad to bear the erupting force of his body, it had not really been a punishment. She didn't know what it had been. An act of passion certainly, pent up passion finally having its way. It had also been an act of love.
She felt him slide back under the covers behind her, his arms around her as he pulled himself as close to her as possible. "Are you okay, Kathryn?" he whispered in her ear.
"Yes, I am."
Chakotay strengthened his grip around her. "I--"
"Don't." Kathryn turned in his embrace. The glacier in her eyes was thawing, and she didn't trust herself to survive this. "Please don't."
Chakotay kissed her gently but with all he was worth. Getting lost in each other was just what they needed right now, even though -- or just because? -- he knew that maybe they did not have the abundance of time lovers usually had.
"So, how long have you been here?" Tom asked while pouring them a drink. Miral was sitting in Kathryn's lap, completely absorbed in the toy her daddy's friend had brought her.
"A couple of days. It's amazing how much the city has changed," she said for lack of anything else. There was so much she wanted to tell Tom, but it just didn't seem right.
"It's been seven years, captain," Tom pointed out. He put the carafe on the glass-top table and handed Kathryn her glass of fresh orange juice.
"I'd rather you called me Kathryn," she offered.
"Like in the old days," he remembered, the hint of a smile flitting across his face.
The old days, the days of his childhood, when he had met her in his parents' hall for the first time. The chemistry had shown almost instantaneously between the teen and the cadet. It had been a stolen kiss, in the hall again, but several weeks later. Tom had nurtured on this kiss until his first girlfriend, Kathryn had felt flattered. It was all there had ever been to it. It became a secret shared between them, a fond memory that strangely enough never left more to the imagination of either of them. It just was, until then.
Sipping her beverage, Kathryn smiled. "Yes." She was still smiling when Tom shifted to sit next to her and pulled a surprised Miral into his lap. His hand caught Kathryn's when she handed Miral her toy, and before either of them realised what was happening, they were kissing again.
It was the same kiss they had shared about two decades ago. Back then, Kathryn had been too surprised to give in to the pressure on her lips -- had Tom had the guts to deepen the kiss. Both of them had been taken off-guard.
Just as they were now. Tom flashed her an apologising smile, this irresistible, boyish grin of his. "Are you staying for dinner?"
"I'd love to," she said, "but Mark and Hana have already invited me to a dinner party."
"Maybe next time."
"Are you all right?" Kathryn turned her hand in his so that is was her holding his hand. She gave him a squeeze.
"I guess so. Thanks for stopping by."
When Chakotay returned from his mission three days later, this last sentence of Tom's was still ringing in Kathryn's ears, just like the sounds of the night of B'Elanna's death. Chakotay was lying with his head in her lap, his eyes closed, and enjoyed her toying with his hair. Contrary to him, she still was in Starfleet, and at the moment she was enjoying some time off to settle back in. He had left Starfleet, and was now catching up on his doctorate in archaeology. This last mission had taken him no farther than Egypt where a new technique of preservation was being tested, and which had required his presence around the clock.
How much had he missed her these past days, but even if she had come as she had offered he would not have been able to enjoy her stay, much less than show her around. But the next time he had to go, he swore to himself to make up for the lost days.
He rose to have a drink from his wine. When he turned back to look at Kathryn, he noticed her faraway glance. She looked absolutely beautiful in the warm light of the lantern. A couple of moths that were circling the light cast flickering shadows on her face, and the crickets had lulled her into some kind of a trance. Her caressing him had been an absentminded motion, not that he minded. Yet he wondered what was on her mind. She looked worried, the soft space between her eyebrows was divided by two stern lines.
Chakotay touched her cheek with his fingertips ever so softly, then kissed the corner of her mouth. Kathryn returned the caress, and after a quick kiss she said: "I went to Tom's."
"How is he?" Chakotay asked, folding his left leg underneath him.
"Not too well I'm afraid. He said he is all right, but I don't believe him."
"Nor would I," Chakotay commented, not out of spite but rather because he knew what his friend was going through. His friend. He smiled at the thought that Tom Paris had become his friend. What with the things that had happened back in their Maquis days, he hadn't so much thought as their being able to be in a room without killing each other off. Both of them had been very angry, very tense men back then.
"It's a good thing Miral is with him. In a way, she's making things easier for him," Kathryn mused.
Both Kathryn and him were still missing B'Elanna a lot, and it was hard for them to let her go and live in their memories in peace. She had been a very dear friend for them, but she was Tom's wife, and the loss of a love was a bereavement beyond comparison. This, both Kathryn and Chakotay knew as well.
"I'm sorry for that night," Chakotay murmured out of the blue. Kathryn knew exactly what night he meant. The night they had lost B'Elanna. It was by that name that they referred to it, rather than the night they made it back to the Alpha Quadrant. Ever since that night he had had a bad conscience, because he had the impression as though he had used Kathryn for his own comfort, neglecting her pain altogether.
Kathryn smiled and snuggled up against him. "That's all right, Chakotay." His relentless passion had driven any sane thought from her mind, at least for a little while, which was priceless to her. "That's all right. I love you."
Chakotay tightened his grip around her and hugged her ever closer to him. "What are we going to do about Tom?" His voice reverberated pleasantly in his chest.
"He asked me to stay for dinner, but I had already promised to go to Mark and Hana's," Kathryn told him. "I should have stayed with him." At that thought, she almost blushed. Tom and her had kissed a minute before his invitation, who knew what would have happened had she stayed. Yet her conscience insisted that dinner with Miral and her Dad would have been better than the strange atmosphere at the Johnson's house.
"Hold his hand?"
"Maybe," Kathryn replied softly. And after a pause she added: "You wouldn't mind, would you?"
"I would if you were my wife." He had intended for his answer to sound humorous, but the pain at her denial was still raw. Maybe he was too good a man, but he could see why she had said no to him when he had proposed to her before he had left for Egypt. Anything to keep her happy -- as long as she didn't use him. They both were once bitten, and despite all the trust they shared, this was the only don't in their relationship. He should have known better than to ask her. "I'm sorry."
"No, don't, that's okay," Kathryn hurried to counter. "I'd be jealous if it was you, too."
"You would?" Anything to keep both of them happy.
Kathryn pursed her lips as though thinking hard. "Yes, definitely."
She shifted in his embrace, her head in the crook between his shoulder and neck. "So you don't mind?"
"Of course I do!" Chakotay protested in mock-surprise.
A pang of guilt raced through her. She had kissed Tom. She had kissed him. It had been a chaste peck, all right, but a kiss was a kiss was a kiss was a kiss. "What about a kiss, then?"
"You kissed him?" His surprise was genuine this time.
"Like this." Kathryn pressed her lips on his in a sisterly fashion.
Chakotay caught his breath. A couple of days ago she had decided not to marry him, and then she went off to kiss her former, widowed pilot. What was he to make of that? Was this just one of Kathryn's incredible ways with people, showing compassion on the one hand and testing herself on the other? He had known Kathryn for seven years, had got to see many sides of hers, but this was certainly the strangest thing she had ever done.
"Are we talking about seducing or comforting here?" Chakotay asked.
"The one doesn't exclude the other," Kathryn replied calmly.
"I know. But I love you, Kathryn."
She sighed and smiled. "It was comforting for me, too. I am grieving for her no less than you are." She grasped his hand and squeezed it. Then she whispered: "I'm sorry, Chakotay." Kathryn stood and turned to leave. On her way in she ruffled his cropped hair and kissed the top of his head. "I really am."
When Kathryn woke later that night, she -- to her great comfort -- found Chakotay lying next to her in the bed. He was keeping to his side, the pose of his body not indicating any attempt at invading her space or having done so without her noticing it. His cool, blue-hued face bore the innocence of relaxed sleep. Despite the ending of the previous evening he looked peaceful, however not really contented.
Kathryn propped herself up on an elbow and watched his slumber by the moonbeams that were filtering in through the slats of the almost ancient shutters. She knew in her heart that she would never have given in to the momentary gust of Tom's nostalgia. However, there was no way denying that she was not tempted. Kathryn Janeway had always been a very physical person, knowing that her best way to comfort people was gathering them in her arms. Words were hard to find sometimes, her compassion at a loss for the right words. It stemmed also from the limitations of her rank. As a captain, she needed to maintain a façade of professionalism, something which did not correspond well with her need to care for those very dear to her. Body language was the only means by which she could convey what was on her mind. A gentle clap on the shoulder here, a reassuring touch there worked wonders, and she knew that her crew were able to understand her thus.
It was not professionalism, however, that had kept her strong. She had always related to Tom on a sisterly basis, particularly after his mother had died. It had been her back then who could understand him best, and she was fairly certain that it was not physical comfort he sought in her company.
Which was not what he was seeking now, either. The time he had spent with B'Elanna as partners for friendly quarrel, then as friends and later even as lovers had changed him profoundly. His anger was gone, and it had made way for the Tom Paris that had kept his true self to himself, locked away securely behind a protective mask of sarcasm and bitterness. B'Elanna and Tom had revealed the chocolate sides in each other, and had done this on such a deep level that nothing would have them revert to their hidden selves easily. They had come a long way and felt so much better in their true ways that it was too precious to them as though they would give this up.
Something similar had happened to Kathryn herself, too, although maybe on so deep a personal level that it was not easy to be recognised by others. Chakotay, however, was the only one who knew her well enough to know this. It was for him that she had thought about herself, and had carefully, slowly and very cautiously changed the one or the other thing about her, keeping, however, true to herself.
She knew, then, that she had to go to Tom's, and comfort him in her own way, which was physical, yet not in the least erotic. Chakotay knew that, but he also knew her well enough to have her ponder her decision in this regard.
"Why, I don't know you at all, Chakotay," Kathryn whispered, and gave in to the temptation of caressing his hair again. He was even more adamant about keeping to himself than her -- and yet he was an outgoing person, very open-minded, honest and frank, ready to offer his help. At the same time, he amazingly managed not to let others get closer to him than he deemed necessary or prudent. She could understand him, though, relate to the degrading feeling of betrayal. His emotions and feelings ran very deep, thus worsening damage beyond measure.
"Yes, I shall marry you, Chakotay," she decided, not upon her musings, but because she knew it in her heart, had known it long before he had proposed to her.
She wrapped herself around his nearly naked form, and soon fell into the most pleasant sleep in ages.
"It's Egypt again," Kathryn told Tom upon his question. She gently nudged the teat between Miral's lips. The baby girl had seemed drowsy and not very hungry until then, but when the first drops of the liquid seeped onto her tongue, she began to drink eagerly. Kathryn settled back into the cushions of Tom's sofa.
Tom watched his former captain with a wistful smile. He had seen B'Elanna with Miral, and had wondered why he had been unable to imagine her as a mother. The same thought flashed into his mind now, a little bit more painful than déjà vus usually were. It ought to be B'Elanna sitting there, not Kathryn, however grateful and pleased he was about her stay. "Are you going to see him in Egypt this time?"
Kathryn grinned at him like a child. "Yes. My transport leaves the day after tomorrow, and we'll have almost one week together."
"Are you staying for dinner tonight?" If it hadn't been for Kathryn's plan to do so anyway, she would have cancelled any dinner with the Johnsons on the spot. There was so much pain in his eyes, mixed with the dread of spending yet another night alone that she simply couldn't say no.
"I'll stay tomorrow night, too, if you'd like to have me," she offered.
The corners of Tom's eyes almost exploded into the myriad of tiny wrinkles which Kathryn found so gorgeous. His tone was perfectly wry, though, when he retorted: "What would Chakotay say?"
Kathryn gave a laugh. "He doesn't mind as long as it isn't the floor in front of the fireplace."
Tom grinned. Banter like this was what he seemingly could do with Kathryn Janeway only. This time, however, he was aware of an undercurrent in it, the retorts weren't as spontaneous as usual. There was some tension to it, an erotic dimension they had lacked thus far.
He sat next to Kathryn on the sofa and watched Miral nurse on the bottle. The little one noticed his gaze and averted her concentrated glance from the bottle to look at her daddy. Nothing but trust was in the dark pools of the irises she had inherited from her mother, and contentment. She swallowed, then flashed him a smile before resuming her meal.
Tom cupped her head, the dark downy curls of her rapidly growing hair so very soft underneath his palm. "I have told him about the kiss."
The pilot looked up. "I think it was okay with him in a way."
"I hope so," Tom eventually said, somewhat uneasy. "I'm sorry for kissing you -- not that I didn't enjoy it -- I just didn't and don't mean to compromise you."
Kathryn did not touch him this time. "Thank you. But I don't usually give more than I'm ready to. Please don't apologise, it is perfectly all right." And yet an image of them in front of the fireplace flashed up for a split second.
Tom had obviously noticed the nature of the blink the image had evoked, for he smiled. "It is strong, isn't it?"
Kathryn answered his smile with one of her crooked I'm-not-really-sure ones. "I guess so."
"I wouldn't want it to happen, though. It would be wrong. I need you as a friend, and I'm absolutely sure that we wouldn't be friends after ... it."
Miral had finished her bottle off, and Kathryn lifted her to sit up so she could do a burp. Kathryn was still smiling contentedly, rather to herself and to Miral. "But," Tom resumed his musings, "I guess a hug wouldn't do any harm?"
"Not at all."
On the following evening Kathryn volunteered to clean up the kitchen. The three of them had spent a lazy day together, with a lot of talking. It had not always been easy for them, rather because of the pain than any unresolved feelings between them. They had had wine to go with their dinner, nearly two bottles of Barolo, a heavy, DOCG Piedmontese red wine, which together with the emotional stripping had left them drowsy. So when Kathryn returned from the kitchen to the living-room she found Tom and Miral fast asleep on the sofa. The music compilation had ended a couple of minutes ago, and Tom had probably initiated another program in this comfortable state between waking and dreaming when it wasn't so easy to discern between the two worlds any more. Only the crackle of the fire and the sounds of San Franciscan nights filled the airy living-room.
They had talked about many things that day, but only very little abut B'Elanna and how he was coping with her loss. Obviously, caring for Miral was what helped him stay focused rather than revert to the old habit of frequenting a Marseille bar. Kathryn shook her head. No, even without Miral Tom would not seek comfort in promiscuous sex with strangers. He was beyond that now: he had friends to talk to, and he had a good conscience. Of course there was the survivor's guilt, but there was nothing he could have done to prevent the accident. The overload in the console had nothing to do with his manoeuvres at the helm, and he knew that.
Maybe that would have made it easier for him, knowing that it was his fault, finding someone to blame. Who knew?
Kathryn made herself comfortable in the other corner of the sofa, with legs tucked under. The fire was still crackling away, radiating its light and warmth into the cooler night of Indian summer. She hadn't known Tom to be a romantic, so she was quite surprised that he had bought this old house in the old part of the city rather than one of the modern apartments near Starfleet Academy campus.
The television set B'Elanna had given him stood left to the huge fireplace, on whose mantelpiece were arranged countless frames of all sizes and designs. They held memories of his life with B'Elanna, and there were quite a few souvenirs from Voyager. Tom had told her during dinner that he wanted to continue his medical training and teach piloting at the Academy until Miral was old enough for life in space.
How lucky he was! He, at least, knew what he wanted to do once he deemed himself fit enough to return to active duty. She, on the other hand, did not really know what she wanted -- except for marrying Chakotay. Chakotay didn't know about her decision yet, or at least did she think he didn't. His sleep had been very sound the other night, and she doubted that he had heard her promise back then. Tomorrow, she was going to tell him in Egypt.
She smiled. She was going to marry Chakotay, the notorious Maquis rebel she had been sent after. In a way, she had caught him, and his loyalty towards her and Voyager was what had Starfleet pardon him. Kathryn had been surprised that their trial had been that easy, and Starfleet court that lenient. Maybe it was because of the public, to whom they were heroes, or because of the intelligence and research data they had collected in the Delta Quadrant.
If truth be told, she didn't want to know. For the first time in seven years, her life was hers alone, and she revelled in her freedom. Despite her devotion to her captaincy, the past seven years had tried her hard, and there had been very desperate times. Chakotay and the crew had got her through them, and for that she would always be grateful.
Miral stirred, and alerted Kathryn back to the present. It was time for yet another bottle and for bed. As comfortable as Tom's chest probably was, there was nothing better than your own bed. It took Kathryn about half an hour to get her ready for bed. When she returned to the living-room, Tom was still asleep. She put another log into the fire, and sat in silence, her thoughts wandering in peace this time.
His former captain was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't notice Tom's gazing at her. He sat up carefully so as not to frighten her. All this time she had spent with him was beyond appreciation to Tom. Her unobtrusive, natural comfort was more than he could ask for, miles better than the helpless, anxious inquiries of other friends and family. His sisters and father felt awkward around him, he could tell. They certainly hadn't expected him to return a married -- if widowed -- man, much less a father or even highly commended member of Captain Janeway's crew.
Despite his better intentions, he moved to sit next to her and pulled her into a tight embrace, hugging her close to him and planting soft kisses into her cinnamon hair. Kathryn, startled at first, soon began to return the gesture and strengthened her hold around him.
"Thank you, Kathryn," he whispered over her right shoulder, "thank you for everything you've done for us."
Harbingers of unbidden tears made Kathryn's nose tingle and her chin dimple. "It's okay, Tom."
"If it weren't for our ... parameters, I'd make love to you on the spot. But I guess Chakotay wouldn't approve of the scenery," he retorted, and elicited a crimson blush from Kathryn, which he fortunately didn't see. His words flattered her despite everything, more than this kiss in his parents' hall had decades ago. To cover this, Kathryn chuckled.
She loosened her hold around him, and he let her go. "I always seem to have parameters, even with men."
Tom grinned at her. What was there to add to this? This woman spoke the truth.
"And they're of absolutely no use!" she added. "I tried it on Chakotay -- but I'm afraid I'm going to marry him."
"I know I should have proposed to you straight away," Tom heaved a mock sigh. "Damn lucky he is, Chakotay. Congratulations!"
"Now, now," Kathryn dampened his delight with gestures of her hands, "he doesn't know yet, and it's absolutely top secret."
"And there I saw myself paying off creditors. You grudge me even the simplest of pleasures."
Chakotay was on his knees at the site. He was wearing a protective bandana on his head, and the arms of his shirt were rolled up, revealing even darker skin than since Kathryn had last seen him. For a while she watched him work, and the movements of his muscles under his shirt and -- more sensually -- skin. She couldn't help smiling at the thought of telling him about her decision.
"Chakotay, are you there?" she called on him, reminiscent of their time on New Earth.
Chakotay stood almost immediately to enfold her in his arms. He smelled divine of dirt, sweat and his shower gel. Kathryn nestled up against his body and didn't let go of him until she had kissed him breathless.
Chakotay's colleagues did their best to hide their amusement at this ardent welcome. They certainly had not thought the famous Captain Janeway so passionate and quite physical.
"No, I left an hour ago," Chakotay continued their private game after he had excused himself from the site. Kathryn touched his chest to support herself as she laughed. Arm in arm they went to the camp where the archaeologists and other scholars stayed for the duration of the excavation. The camp consisted not of comfortable shelters such as had been their home once, but of a group of small and large tents. If it hadn't been for the excavation site per se, Kathryn would have felt as if she had been transported to the early twentieth century.
"So tell me, how's Tom?"
"I think he has got over the worst by now, but let's not discuss this here."
Chakotay agreed by way of nodding. "I'll have a shower before we leave for dinner. You don't mind, do you?" Actually, Kathryn did mind a little bit, because she liked him as dirty as he was, even the slight stubble in his face. What with Starfleet's perfection it felt good every once in a while to be reminded of one's humanity.
The tents only looked early twentieth century, but they weren't. Not only had the technology improved comfort and stability of the tent, but there was also a tiny wet cell in the tent that operated on the basis of space technology. Chakotay's tent wasn't far away, and after he had made sure that Kathryn was comfortable with a drink he hopped under the shower.
The tent looked just as his quarters had back on Voyager. It hadn't been that long since they were living in normal apartments or houses again, yet Kathryn was surprised how quickly she had got used to earthbound life. Chakotay's quarters were neat and tidy, as long as you didn't leave the living area. His bed-room had been a complete mess, although he -- to his credit -- never left his bed in a rumpled mess of sheets, pillows and pyjamas, like she so often did. His tent looked just the same. His notes and books and padds were neatly organised on the only table in the tent, and his clothes were in a more or less tidy heap on one of the two folding chairs.
Kathryn sat on his bed and drew lazy patterns on the rough carpet with the toes of her shoes. Somehow she had a bad conscience for having left Tom. Chakotay had reminded her of him, and now she couldn't stop thinking about her friend. Tom still needed someone around him, but he had to get used to being on his own at some point of time, hadn't he? Caring as Kathryn was, she couldn't help herself. She heaved a sigh.
She hadn't realised Chakotay had finished his shower, so when he padded towards her, leaving a trail of wet patches on the floor, wrapped in a towel and his hair dripping wet Kathryn didn't notice him at first. "Kathryn?"
A little bit startled, she looked up, then flashed him a smile. "Sorry, I was --"
Chakotay knelt, supporting himself on her knees. When his face was at one level with hers, he kissed her gently. "We'll talk about it in a minute, love, then you can tell me everything about Tom and Miral."
This man was simply amazing. One should think him jealous, but Kathryn knew him better as though she'd jump to conclusions. She caressed his unshaven cheek. "May I?"
Chakotay's chin and cheeks exploded into dark dimples. "I was just about to ask you."
Kathryn took good care not to cut Chakotay as she scraped the sharp blade over his skin. They had made a bit of a mess with the lather, and Chakotay looked like Santa, but that was part of their ritual. Just as much as Chakotay loved washing her hair she loved shaving him. It was an absolute matter of trust, and she was very concentrated when she performed this little duty for him. They were in the wet cell, and Chakotay watched her work in the mirror. He smiled inwardly at her stern expression, her lips slightly pursed and the eyebrows drawn together. It was a pity she was wearing her hair in a pony tail, because he loved seeing her hair fall over her face when she bent her head. Her fingers were gentle but firm when she motioned him to bend his head this way or that for better access.
"Done," Kathryn declared with a satisfied smile after she had applied some after shave to his glowing skin.
"Thank you, sparrow."
"Don't call me that!"
Later they were sitting on the top of a hill that looked out on the site, and, farther west, the Nile. A gentle breeze stirred the cooling air. The stars were glittering in the sky above them, and they both still delighted in the fact that the stars were not just dots of light scattered across the dark of the universe unblinking to any passer-by. Kathryn sat reclining against Chakotay's chest, cradled between his legs. She tried to breathe so her rhythm matched Chakotay's, which worked quite well for a minute or two, but as soon as her thoughts started wandering her breathing resumed its own rhythm.
"So," Chakotay's voice reverberated comfortably through his chest, "tell me about Tom and Miral."
Kathryn sighed. "He seems to be doing fine, and I couldn't imagine a better father than him. Would you have thought Tom daddy material?"
Her companion laughed. "No, certainly not."
"But he is. It's amazing how he's with Miral."
Chakotay shifted to lean against a tree, then wrapped his arms around Kathryn as she made herself comfortable again. "He's said the same about you."
She turned in his arms, surprised. "He has?"
Chakotay didn't reply. Kathryn knew how much he wanted to have children of his own, and that he wanted to marry her. She ached to tell him right then, but it wasn't the right moment. Please just wait a little more, please, she thought at him.
"He sent me a communiqué before you arrived, to say thank you for sparing you that long."
"I'm afraid it wasn't long enough," she replied, having him quiet by touching her fingers to his lips. "He seems quite cheerful as long as he's in company, but, Chakotay, I've seen him on his own. At night, when he thought me asleep. He's shattered, Chakotay. He cries every night, I've seen him in the living room, and heard him through the wall. It's chilling, all you want to do is go to him and hug him and tell him everything's going to be all right but you can't, because ... it's not true and he has to get used to being on his own at some time. The next day, he's just as cheerful as ever, pretending to be strong behind that mask of his."
Kathryn shivered involuntarily. Chakotay held her closer. He kissed her part and rested his chin on the top of her head. "I can't believe there isn't anyone else who takes care of him. Don't get me wrong, he's my friend, too."
"Owen is too busy, and ... he can't deal with this very well. When Emma died it seemed as though ... I don't know."
"His sisters do have families of their own I guess."
"Kathleen is on a mission somewhere in Sector 221-G."
They were silent for a while. "He wants to resume his medical training and teach piloting at the Academy as soon as he's found a suitable nanny," Kathryn told him. "I wish I knew what I want to do."
"You'll be an admiral one day, just like your father. There have always been Admiral Janeways, and there will always be," Chakotay whispered. "Provided, of course, you marry me, because they will have brown eyes."
Kathryn didn't move. "What if I said yes?"
"Would you say yes?"
"Then I'd get more than I bargained for."
"How's your father?" Kathryn gestured for Miral to have a seat on the sofa. The admiral had got so used to the idea of having a sofa in her office ever since her Ready Room on the Voyager, that she had always had one in her offices since. Miral Paris sat and accepted the replicated drink, whereas Kathryn treated herself to cup of freshly made coffee. Miral grinned as her eyes settled on the huge monster of a coffee maker her father had given the admiral for a present on her fiftieth birthday.
"Better than ever. He's sending you this," Miral handed Kathryn a book.
"Oh, is it the book he's been writing for ... how long?"
"Ten years," the young woman chuckled. She was so much like her mother. Kathryn wished Miral had known her mother. "It's hot from the press."
"I'll read it straight away. Thank you so much."
"Have you heard anything from Teresa?"
"She sends her love," Kathryn said, sipping at her coffee. "She's just very busy right now with her research project."
Miral Paris smiled. "I wouldn't expect anything less from your daughter. But ... is she any better now?"
Kathryn tensed only a little bit, but it was enough for Miral to see that she should have avoided that topic. Her father had told her, however, that it was quite okay with Kathryn. She hadn't left him alone either in this year after B'Elanna's death. Miral never referred to B'Elanna as her mother; this was not out of disrespect, she had simply never grown up with a woman close enough to her to deserve this term. Kathryn Janeway was the closest she had for a mother, but that was more than enough to her. Her father had never married again, and soon had given up on finding someone, why, Miral couldn't really tell.
"She's better now, thank you. The work is keeping her occupied. The doctor said she'd be able to have another baby," Kathryn told her. Miral and Teresa were very close to each other, so close that people would ask them if they were sisters. Then Kathryn laughed to relieve the tension. "You don't believe just how mad Chakotay is about the thought of being a grandfather."
"Isn't he on Vulcan right now?"
"Yes, there's this lecture, and he wants to pay Tuvok a visit."
"Why don't you come over for dinner, then, and celebrate Dad's novel?"
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
(from Christina G Rossetti, Remember )