Disclaimer:  Paramount’s forever

Rating:  PG-13

Notes:  set after “Endgame”
 
 

THE BRUNETTE, THE BLONDE AND THE REDHEAD
 

By Mary S.
 
 

           Kathryn Janeway sat on the front porch of her mother’s house, wrapped in a large shawl, gazing across familiar fields, which rolled for as far as the eye could see.  Beside her lay her old Irish Setter, Molly, her fingers absently stroking the long, silky ears.  She still found it hard to believe that the view in front of her was real, that the air she breathed was not recycled but the actual fresh air of home.   No holodeck program, no matter how accurate, could quite capture that indefinable tang of rural Indiana.  God, how she had missed this!

           Her eyes roamed across the landscape, then the sky.  Heavy white cumulonimbus clouds were piled up here and there, blocking the intense blue.  There would be a thunderstorm before too long, if she remembered her weather patterns correctly.

           Her mind flashed back to a conversation in her quarters.  She could remember talking about the violence of a prairie thunderstorm.  Her memory groped for the occasion – and then it all came back to her.  It had been nearly a year ago.  She had been drinking Antarian cider with Chakotay right after he had burned out the deflector dish and then wouldn’t tell her why, citing the Temporal Prime Directive.  She couldn’t recall now exactly how they had gotten on the topic of thunderstorms, but she clearly remembered telling him about the tree in her grandfather’s yard which had been struck by lightning not long after she had climbed it as a small child.

           She tugged the shawl a little more snugly around her, as if warding off unhappy thoughts.

            Chakotay.  He seemed to keep popping into her head, no matter how hard she tried to keep him out.   He had been such a constant in her life for so long that even now, three months after Voyager’s return to Earth, she still found herself looking for him at odd moments, wanting to share something she’d just thought of.  She sighed heavily, and told herself yet again that this time, he was gone for good and the sooner she got past him, the better.  Despite all her hopes, he hadn’t waited for her.  Well, tough.  It happened.  She would just have to deal with it.

           She wondered how he and Seven were getting on.  No one from the crew had seen them since they had all separated after the final debriefing and the last ‘welcome home’ party.  She had been keeping in fairly regular contact with Tom and B’Elanna Paris – if he was in touch with anyone, she knew it would be B’Elanna.  They had been best friends for years.  Of course, she told herself, she had been his best friend for years, too, and look how far that had gotten her.

           She sighed and climbed off the porch swing.  Enough already.  She was in danger of moping and she didn’t want her mother to find out.  Gretchen was still so delighted to have her long-lost daughter home at last, that Kathryn didn’t want to jeopardize her happiness in any way.  Chakotay was gone.  Period.  End of subject.  She headed into the kitchen.  Time to make a fresh pot of coffee.

           Barely half an hour later, as she was just polishing off her second cup, she heard Molly bark.   Getting to her feet, she glanced out the window just as a knock came at the door.  When she opened it, her mouth gaped in astonishment.  There stood Seven of Nine, looking slightly apprehensive.

           “Captain.  I hope I am not intruding.  I wish to speak with you.”  Seven’s  voice was calm as always, giving no hint of her mood.

           Kathryn couldn’t resist peering around the door – to her relief, the woman was alone.

           She found her voice.  “Seven!  Come in!  This is a surprise!  I thought you and Chakotay were off – somewhere…”

           She led her into the kitchen and indicated a chair.  “Sit down.  Can I get you anything?  Water?  A caramel brownie?”

           Seven looked momentarily puzzled.  “What is a…caramel brownie?”

           Kathryn pushed a plate of brownies towards her.  “Here.  Try one.  My mother makes them and believe me! no replicator can do them justice!”

           Seven took one, tasted it carefully, then ate it delicately.  “You are correct, Captain.  It is delicious.”

           “Have another, then tell me why you’re here.”

           She helped herself, then took a deep breath and looked her former captain in the eye.  “I have decided to end my relationship with Chakotay.   I have made a rather unsettling discovery.  Despite his denials, I have learned that he is not in love with me but rather with someone else.”

           Kathryn stared at her, shocked into silence.  Splitting up?!  They were splitting up?!  Good lord!  Despite herself, she could feel her heart leap for joy.  She made a desperate attempt to keep the elation off her face, trying to assume an expression of commiseration.

           “I’m sorry to hear that, Seven,” she replied automatically.  Liar! she thought to herself.  She wasn’t sorry at all!  Then the rest of what Seven had said sunk in.  “What do you mean – he’s in love with someone else?!  Who else is there?!”

           “He is in love with you, Captain.”

           “What?!  You’re joking!”

           “I assure you I am not.”

           “But…but… how…when?!”  She leaped up and began to pace.  “This doesn’t make any sense!  I haven’t seen either of you since we all went on leave!  How do you know?!”

           “Several times in the last month, he has murmured your name in his sleep.  At first, I thought it was just because he was dreaming about you, which would not be surprising considering your friendship.  But lately, he has become increasingly withdrawn and quiet.  He denies anything is wrong and makes an effort to be cheerful, but his eyes are sad.  I believe he misses you.”

           Kathryn shook her head.  “Seven, that’s hardly surprising.  We were in constant contact for seven years!  He got used to being around me – I got used to him.  It’s to be expected that he would miss seeing me.  Don’t worry.  He’ll get over it.”

           “At first, I thought that as well, but now, I’m not so sure.  He may be having second thoughts.”  She hesitated, then continued with a request.  “Captain, would you come and see him?  Please?”

           Kathryn backed away, not able to hide her reluctance.   “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea right now.  Why don’t you go back to him and try again?  Give yourself some more time.”

           Seven stared at her intently.  “May I ask you a personal question?”

           Kathryn cringed, pretty sure what was coming, and with no idea how to answer.  She nodded and gritted her teeth.

           “If I had not begun a relationship with Chakotay, would you have – when we reached Earth?”

           Well, there it was.  She took a deep breath.  “To be honest?  I don’t know.  It was something I considered on occasion while we were in the Delta Quadrant, but not very seriously.  Our situation there precluded any involvement with him or anyone else in the crew.”  She hesitated, not sure what else to say.

           Seven stared for a moment longer, then rose to her feet.  “I will not impose on you further.  I merely wanted to tell you.  You and Chakotay have been friends for a long time, and I thought…” her voice faltered for the first time, but she swallowed and straightened her back.  “It occurred to me that you would be interested.”

           Kathryn tried to think – her brain seemed to have suddenly turned to mush.  “Uh, what are you going to do now?”

           “I am returning to San Francisco.  I wish to see the doctor and get his advice.  In the past, he has proved very helpful.”  She shrugged her shoulders.  “After that, I don’t know.”
 
           “I know this situation is rather awkward right now, but please believe me when I say that you’re always welcome here.   Don’t hesitate to come and see me if you need someone to talk to besides the doctor.”

           “Thank you, Captain.  I…appreciate your offer.”
 
           “Goodbye, Seven.”

           After she had left, Kathryn sat down again, picking up her cold cup of coffee.  Well, well.   Perhaps she better put in a call to B’Elanna and Tom, see if they had heard anything.  Then she would consider her options.
 

                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           It was Tom who responded to her message an hour later.  “Hi Kathryn.  How are you?  What’s up?”

           “Tom, thanks for getting back to me.  Has B’Elanna talked to Chakotay lately, do you know?”

           “Not since he left here, no.  She’s still pretty mad at him.  Said she’d have to calm down some more before she could hold on to her temper long enough to speak to him in a civilized fashion.  She figures she isn’t at that point just yet.  Why?”

           Kathryn drew a deep breath.  “What I’m about to tell you goes no further than B’Elanna, okay?  I mean it, Tom.  There could be a lot at stake here.”

           His eyebrows went up as he stared intently at her.  “Okay.  Spill it.”

           “I had a visit earlier today from Seven.  By herself.  She told me that she is ending her relationship with Chakotay.”

           “You’re kidding!  Good lord!  Wait ‘til I tell B’Ela.!  She’ll be ecstatic!  Did she give a reason?”

           “Yesss,” replied Kathryn slowly, suddenly reluctant to divulge just what Seven had said.  However, his curiosity was piqued now, she knew, and he would badger her until she told him.  Might as well get it over with.  “She says that Chakotay isn’t in love with her and never has been, because he’s in love with someone else.”

           “Well, of course he is.  I’m glad they finally had the sense to realize it.”

           Kathryn stared.  It seemed this day was full of surprises.  “You knew about this?!  And didn’t say anything?!  I thought you said you hadn’t spoken to Chakotay since they left San Francisco.”

           “I haven’t,” he replied smugly.  “Kathryn, everyone on Voyager except you, knew how he felt about you.  And I always thought you did know but just didn’t do anything about it because of command protocols.  That’s why B’Elanna got so mad at him.  She couldn’t believe that he would just give up when he’d waited so long.  And then, of course, getting home so soon afterwards was like rubbing salt in the wound.”
 
           He grinned cheerfully.  “So when do I get to wish you happy?”

           “You don’t!” she replied emphatically.

           Tom’s face creased into a scowl.  “Kathryn, don’t be a damn fool!  The man loves you.  Even his girlfriend figured out that one.  Now go and get him before he really does give up on you.”

           “It’s not that easy, Tom!  I mean, what she said, well, it wasn’t exactly conclusive evidence.”

           “What do you mean?”

           “She said that lately he’s been more withdrawn and quiet although he’s tried to keep up a cheerful façade.  And several times, he’s spoken my name in his sleep.  She thinks he misses me.  And, although she didn’t say it, she also implied that he was regretting his affair with her.  I’d hoped that maybe one of you might have talked to him recently, and have a better idea of what’s going on.”

           “Well, you already know the answer to that.”  He stared at her.  “You really need to go and see him.  It’s the only way.”

           “I’m a little hesitant to do that.  I…Oh hell!”  Unable to keep up the mask of indifference any longer, she suddenly blurted out her feelings of the past three months.  “Tom, it hurt.  It hurt a lot when he took up with Seven.  I blame myself.  I kept pushing him away all those years.  I couldn’t fault him for finally looking elsewhere, but I really was hoping he would wait.”  She scrunched up her face, trying to find just the right words.  “You know, ever since I came back here, I’ve been trying my very best to get past him.  Telling myself again and again that it’s done, finished, over.  I have to get on with my life.”

           Tom’s voice was very gentle.  “Have you succeeded?”

           “No, damnit, I haven’t!  It’s extremely frustrating!  I think I’m doing much better and then some little thing will bring back another memory and I have to start all over again.  I’m going crazy!  I don’t know what to do anymore!” she ended almost in a wail.

           “Maybe, you should start by admitting to yourself that you’re in love with him.”

           “I can’t!”

           “Oh for god’s sake!  Of course you can!  Look around you!  There’s no ship, no crew!  You’re free to do whatever you want!  Starfleet’s out of the picture!  The only people you have to worry about anymore are you and Chakotay.  Now go and get him!”

           Kathryn stared back at his face, the intensity coming through loud and clear.  Finally, she looked away.  “I’ll think about it.”

           “What?!”  Tom was outraged.  “That’s it!  Don’t move.  We’ll be there in half an hour.  Where did Seven say she was going?”

           Kathryn was nonplussed at his sudden change of topic.  “To see the doctor.  Why?”

           “I’ll tell you when we get there.  See you soon.  Paris out.”

           He was gone before she could reply.  She sat there, quite mystified at his sudden departure.   Tom had something up his sleeve, she knew from the look in his eye.  And she also knew she probably wouldn’t like it.  But a Paris at full bore was a force of nature unto itself and she knew better than to get in the way.  There were some things even she couldn’t withstand.

 
                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           True to his word, half an hour later, a shuttle landed in the driveway.  The very fact that it dropped cleanly out of the sky to be parked neatly beside the barn proclaimed who the pilot had to be.  No one but Tom Paris could have pulled off such a tidy bit of flying.

           Kathryn rose from her seat on the porch and stepped down on to the lawn to greet her visitors.  “Tom, B’Elanna, Seven – again.  And Doctor!  Dear me!  How did you get dragged into this?”

           “Captain,” replied the EMH.  “I wasn’t dragged at all.  In fact, I insisted on coming.   I have something of a vested interest in the outcome of this – whatever it is.”

           “’Farce’ might be the best word,” responded Kathryn dryly.  “And there’s no rank here.  ‘Kathryn’ will do just fine.”

           “Now, now,” remonstrated Tom.  “This is your happiness we’re talking about here.  You can’t classify that as a ‘farce’.”

           Kathryn tried to glare at him, but found that either its potency was diminished or he had become immune to it, because it had no effect on him whatsoever.  Tom had taken her hand and was leading her to the shuttle.  Before she knew it, she was strapped in with the rest of them and he was powering up the thrusters.

           “Where are we going?” she called out, suddenly getting a nasty feeling.

           “To see Chakotay, of course, and get this all sorted out,” he replied cheerfully.

           “No!  You can’t!  I mean, I don’t want…”

           “Kathryn!”  B’Elanna spoke for the first time.  “Quiet!”

           “But…”

           B’Elanna rounded on her, teeth bared, in full Klingon mode.  “Enough!!”

           Kathryn sat back in her seat, so surprised at this sudden defiance that she obeyed.  B’Elanna returned her gaze to the viewport until Seven indicated to Tom that they were nearing Chakotay’s home.

           The shuttle landed in an open field behind the house, which was sited near the edge of a deep canyon.  Kathryn realized she didn’t even know where they were, but it looked like somewhere in Arizona or maybe New Mexico.  It was only later that she would discover they were actually in the northwestern part of Mexico, in an area known as Copper Canyon.

           The view was absolutely spectacular.  She stopped to stare in wonder across a great expanse of chasms and gorges, a whole series of canyons, which fell away below them.   This was unbelievable, she thought!  How did Chakotay ever find this place!  It must have been since they’d gotten home – she was sure he’d never spoken of it on the ship.

           Tom’s hand on her arm brought her attention back to their immediate situation.  “Come on, Kathryn,” he was saying.  “There’s Chakotay.  Let’s get this done.”

           She turned to see her former first officer walking slowly toward them from the house, clearly puzzled at the sudden visit.    They moved in a group, surrounding him.   His face twisted a bit at the sight of Seven, but otherwise he seemed pleased.

           Kathryn hung back a bit, then chided herself for being silly.  Whatever else he had or hadn’t been, Chakotay had been her best friend for seven years.  Without his unfailing support, she would never have had the courage to see their journey through to the end.   Drawing on some of her command authority, she stepped forward confidently.

           Chakotay’s face lit up before he could stop himself, but then he looked down, biting his lip.  When his eyes came back to hers, they were guarded, revealing nothing.

           “How nice to see you all,” he began.  “However, I suspect this is more than just a casual visit.  What’s going on?”

           Tom, the self-appointed spokesperson, stepped forward.  “It’s simple.  Seven tells us you two have split up because you’re unhappy.  Kathryn here has been miserable ever since we got back to the Alpha Quadrant.  The reason is obvious.  So – we’re here to fix that.  Well, B’Elanna, Seven and I are.  Kathryn didn’t know where we were going.  And Doc’s just along for the ride.”  He paused, thinking, then nodded decisively.  “Yeah, that about covers it.”

           Kathryn had started to protest at Tom’s description of her emotional state, then given up, shaking her head in resignation and turning away.  B’Elanna and Seven stood shoulder to shoulder, both looking at him in a very firm sort of way.   The doctor had found a spot just behind them, nodding his agreement at Tom’s words.

           “You must admit, Chakotay,” added Tom, “that it’s not very often that B’Ela and Seven agree on anything!”

           Chakotay nodded vaguely, but his eyes were on the figure beyond them.  He walked slowly over to her, touching her shoulder to get her attention.

           “Kathryn,” he spoke softly.  “Is it true, what Tom said?  Have you been miserable?”

           She looked up at him, startled, then turned away again.  He thought at first she wouldn’t answer, but finally he heard a low ‘yes’.   He stayed still for a moment longer, but when she wouldn’t turn around, he walked away towards the house.

           “Chakotay!” yelled Tom.  But Chakotay kept walking.

           Tom swore and swung around to the others.  “Get her and go wait somewhere.  I’m going to talk some sense into him if I have to pound it into his thick head!  You do the same with her!”

           B’Elanna nodded, and started towards Kathryn, Seven and the doctor following.   Seven directed them to a large patio on the canyon side of the house where they could sit in some comfortable chairs while they talked.

           Meanwhile, following hard on Chakotay’s heels, Tom entered the house, walking down a hall and into a large living room, which opened onto the same patio.  The entire outer wall was made of glass, allowing him to feel as if he were outside.  He was so stunned by the panorama spread out in front of him that for a minute, all he could do was stare, the purpose of his visit forgotten.

           Chakotay moved to stand right in front of him, blocking the view, a very unhappy expression on his face.  Before Tom could say a word, he lashed out at him.

           “You know, Paris, you’re as bad as the doctor!  Interfering in something that is absolutely none of your business!  I can run my own life, thank you very much, without any help from you or anyone else!”

           By the time he’d finished his tirade, Tom had found his feet.  “Oh yeah?!  Well, it sure doesn’t look like it!  You know what Seven told Kathryn?  That she left you because you’re in love with someone else!  And she made it pretty plain who that someone else was!  For crying out loud, Chakotay, the whole damn ship knew how you felt about the captain!  No one could understand why you suddenly took up with Seven – it didn’t make any sense!”

           “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I got tired of waiting, that I wanted a life now – not in the possibly thirty years it could take us to get home?!  Seven offered me a chance and I took it.”

           “And when we got back a month later?  How did you feel then?”  Tom’s voice had dropped, the accusing tone gone.

           Chakotay turned away to look out the window.  “Not very good,” he admitted.  “But I was willing to stick it out with Seven, to try to make it work.  It wasn’t her fault, after all.  I’m still willing to do that.”

           “But she isn’t.  She won’t settle for second best and I don’t blame her.  Chakotay, the woman you love and who loves you is standing right out there, waiting for you to sweep her off her feet.”

           “Is she, Tom?  She sure doesn’t act like it.”

           Tom swung away, exasperated, trying to find the words to get through, to convince him that all he had to do was take a chance.   He followed Chakotay’s gaze, looking at the four sitting out there.
 
           A thought struck him and he started to laugh at the irony.  Chakotay turned to stare at him, his eyebrows raised.  Tom waved his hand toward the patio.

           “Looking at them, it just hit me.  Each of those women out there is, or has been, in love with you!  No other man on the ship can make that claim!  Just what the hell is it about you, anyway?!  I mean, those are strong, intelligent females, the cream of the crop, and yet every one has fallen for you at one time or another.”  He shook his head in amazement.  “It’s unbelievable, when you think about it!”

           Chakotay looked embarrassed.  “Not all of them, Paris.  Not B’Elanna.”

           “Oh yes, B’Elanna, too!”

           “When?!”

           “In the Maquis, when she first joined your cell.  She had a huge crush on you!  Don’t tell me you never saw it!  Although, maybe at that point, you were too infatuated with another redhead to see beyond the end of your nose.”

           Chakotay cringed slightly at the oblique reference to Seska.  Tom was right, though.  He had been oblivious to anyone else for quite a while there.   He shuffled his feet, knowing Tom was right about Kathryn, too.  If he could just be sure that making a life together was what she wanted as well.  He looked up at Paris, smiling ruefully.

           “I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah, I guess you’re right.  Tom, I’ll handle this now.  Go talk to Kathryn and Doc and B’Elanna for a few minutes, would you?  I want to speak to Seven.”

           “Sure.  No problem.  I’ll send her in.”

           “Thanks.”

           A minute later, Seven walked inside to face him.  He took her hand, leading her to the kitchen where they could have some privacy.  His eyes were intent on her face.

           “You didn’t say why you left this morning.  I didn’t realize you weren’t planning to come back,” he began.

           “I was going to contact you tonight, when I was quite sure of my intentions.”

           “Are you sure now?  Because if you’re not, Seven, I want you to stay.  I’m willing to try to make this work.”

           Her eyes were a bit sad, he thought, but she didn’t hesitate to look straight at him.  “I am sure.  You are in love with the captain.  You always have been.  I was merely a ‘diversion’.”

           “No, Seven, that’s not true!” Chakotay protested.  “I loved you.  I still do.”

           “But not the way you love her.”  She let her hand rest on his cheek.  “Chakotay, I saw your expression when you first became aware of her.  You have never looked at me or any other woman like that.  And I believe she feels the same way about you.  It would be very wrong of me to come between you, and that is what I would be doing if I stayed.”

           She reached forward and kissed him gently.  “Have a good life, my love.”  Then she turned and walked back out to the patio.

            A moment later, Chakotay saw her start for the shuttle, the doctor beside her, Tom and B’Elanna behind.  Kathryn remained sitting in a chair, a bemused expression on her face.  He walked out to join her as the shuttle’s thrusters engaged.

           Kathryn looked up as he came around the table.  “It would seem that I’m to stay with you, or so I’ve been told, anyway.”

           He smiled down at her.  “Do you want to?”
 
           She stared up at him, letting herself drown in warm, brown eyes.  “Oh yes,” she breathed, her voice dropping to a husky purr.

           He stretched out a hand, taking hers, and pulling her up to face him.  “Good,” he replied simply.

           Her gaze slipped slightly to his mouth and she unconsciously shifted a bit nearer to him.  He needed no more encouragement, bending his head to just touch her lips with his own.  The brief contact was enough to make their passions flare.  He tugged her close to him, wrapping his arms tightly around her, pressing his body against her as he deepened the kiss, searching out her favourite spots and letting her do the same.  They separated only when they had to come up for air.

           Kathryn leaned her head on his chest, revelling in his solid warmth and the scent of him.  It felt as if her life had become complete, like a puzzle with the last piece in place.  She belonged with him.  It was as simple as that.

           Chakotay lifted her chin with one finger.  “Happy?”

           “Very,” she whispered.  “And you?”

           “Yes.”  He hugged her tightly.  “We’re going to have a good life, Kathryn, I know it.”

           She tightened her grasp around his back, and replied in her best command voice.  “You bet we are.”
 
 

 
The End
 

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