Disclaimer:   Paramount’s, Paramount’s – nothing’s changed

Rating:   PG-13

'This story is archived at JCFicHaven without the author's permission'
 


ANOTHER CHANCE

By Mary S.
 
 

           Captain Kathryn Janeway strolled leisurely across the great plaza in front of Starfleet Headquarters.   Today had been the last official day of her debriefing.   Oh, no doubt she would be called back to answer additional questions, probably more than once, but the worst of it was over.  For all intents and purposes, she was a free woman.

           She felt odd, almost light-headed.   When was the last time she had actually had nothing to do and no one to worry about?   Not in the last seven years, certainly.    Day in, day out, she had fought to get her ship home, her life spent jumping from one crisis to the next.

           Her memory flitted to the void where Voyager first encountered the Malon.   She remembered how, with nothing to keep her occupied, she had spent hours staring out the viewport, her mind seething with guilt and recrimination.   She still cringed as she recalled how she had decided that the only way to atone for her mistakes was to go on what was, in effect, a suicide mission.     If it hadn’t been for the senior staff refusing point blank to obey her orders….

           It had been something of a turning point, that day; when she had finally realized that, come hell or high water, they would continue their journey as one crew – including their captain, whether or not she felt she should lead them.

           Her people’s actions had also reinforced her determination to get them home.   When she looked back, she knew she never would have found the courage to voluntarily undergo assimilation by the Borg if her crew hadn’t already demonstrated the depth of their commitment to her.   Damn, they’d been good together!   All of them!

           She discovered she’d meandered into the rose garden bordering one side of the plaza.   The profusion of scent awoke more distant memories, of  Boothby admonishing her when, as a young cadet, she’d dash past him towards her next class.    “Slow down and smell the roses, Katie J.,” he’d call to her.   Occasionally, when she wasn’t so rushed, she did.   And every time, before she headed back to her studies, he would give her a rose.

           The captain looked about her absently, feeling his presence still, even though he had died a year earlier.    A convenient bench caught her eye and she wandered over to sit down and relax in the sunshine.   Tilting back her head, she closed her eyes, enjoying the rare feel of sunlight on her face.  She had missed this far more than she had realized.   Her thoughts roamed at random, eventually recalling another spot where a garden had played a role in her life – New Earth.

           Kathryn sighed.   She had expended a considerable amount of energy trying not to remember all that had occurred there, as well as ruthlessly suppressing any speculation about what might have happened if Voyager hadn’t returned.    She started to chastise herself yet again for indulging in useless ‘what-ifs’, then thought ‘what the hell!’  It was so long ago, circumstances had changed so much and besides – she didn’t have anything else to do at the moment.   Her mind turned inward, as she let herself remember.

           Chakotay.   His smile, his chuckle, those strong brown hands that worked such miracles.   His constant care and attention to her every need.   He had been so focused on her, so…loving.   She bit her lip as a lump rose in her throat.  And what had she done?   Pushed him away, ignored his feelings, always taking but giving nothing in return.    Her heart constricted with sorrow.   She missed him so much.    And there was nothing she could do about it.   On the eve of her greatest triumph, she had suffered her worst defeat.

           Chakotay was with Seven.   Kathryn could only hope he was happy.

           She remained sitting with her eyes closed, until a polite cough brought her attention back to the present.   She blinked and looked up to find a nervous young ensign standing in front of her, trying not to stare.

           “Captain Janeway, Admiral Paris sends his compliments and would you please join him in his office, ma’am!”   The ensign rushed his words, obviously afraid he might forget something if he paused for breath.

           Kathryn waved a hand idly.  “At ease, Ensign, before you sprain…”  Her voice trailed off as she remembered another raw young officer to whom she had once said the exact same words.   She took a deep breath, steadying herself as another wave of nostalgia caught her off-guard.    Slowly, she rose to her feet.   The ensign wore a very worried expression.

           “Ma’am?  Are you all right?  Can I get you something?  Or…?”   He paused, clearly unsure what to do.

           She glanced at him, her captain’s mask once more firmly in place.  “I’m fine, Ensign.   Shall we go?”

           “Yes, ma’am.”  He turned to accompany her back across the plaza.

           She debated whether to tell him not to call her ‘ma’am’ but in the end, couldn’t be bothered.   Suddenly she felt tired and – old.    As soon as she was finished with the admiral, she decided, she would go home to Indiana.    She needed to relax completely, away from all cares and responsibilities.   Her mother’s cosseting would be just the ticket.   An image of herself in the old swing on the front verandah, feet up, a glass of nice cold lemonade to hand, flashed into her head.  Yes, Indiana was where she wanted to be, and the sooner, the better.   Her pace quickened as they entered the main lobby of Headquarters, the ensign hurrying to keep up.

           Less than five minutes later, she entered Admiral Paris’ office, a smile of delight breaking across her face as she saw who else was there.   Miral Paris, six weeks old, lay beside her grandfather’s desk in a portable bed.   Her little mouth twitched, trying to suck even while sound asleep.   Her tiny hands rested on top of the blanket, one open with fingers relaxed, the other clenched into a fist.  Kathryn chuckled as she saw her, distracting the admiral as he started to greet her.   He glanced to where she was looking and grinned.

           “Those Klingon genes kick in early, don’t they?”

           “She’ll be a warrior like her mother, Admiral, I have no doubt of that.”

           “She can certainly sound like one when she wants to,” he replied with feeling.

           Kathryn smiled at him sympathetically.  “Keeping you awake at night, is she?”

           She knew that Tom and B’Elanna were staying at the elder Paris’ home until they could find a place of their own.   She had wondered more than once how the older generation was managing, having to deal with the constant motion and perpetual turmoil that were Tom and B’Elanna, never mind a young baby.

           The admiral shook his head.  “We’ll survive.  It’s just – I’d forgotten how demanding babies can be.   And, well, Tom and I are still getting used to each other again.  Don’t get me wrong,” he added hastily, “I love having him, them, with us.  I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance…”   He paused, searching for the right words.

           Kathryn patted his arm.  “Admiral, you don’t have to explain.  I lived with them for seven years.  I know exactly what it’s like.”

           He smiled down at her.  “I guess you do, at that.   Which brings me back to why I wanted to see you.  In all the uproar since you came back to us, I never had a chance to thank you for all that you did for Tom.  I don’t like to think where he’d be, or me either, if you hadn’t taken him in hand.   I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

           Kathryn blushed.  “I think your daughter-in-law deserves most of the credit, you know.   I just put his feet on the right path.   She’s the one who made sure they stayed there.”

           “I know I have much to thank B’Elanna for, but you were there first.  He looks up to you, he always has, I suppose because I used to talk about you so much….   Well.   I just wanted you to know that Doris and I are both very, very grateful to you.   You’ve done your father proud, Kathryn.  I wish he could see you now.”

           Unexpected tears sprang to her eyes, and she found herself momentarily bereft of words.    She swallowed the lump in her throat and took a steadying breath.   “Thank you, Admiral.   That means a great deal to me.”

           He patted her hand, understanding her feelings very well, then leaned back against his desk.   “So, have you decided what you’re going to do next?”

           “Yes, actually, I have.  As soon as I leave you, I’m packing my bags and going home to my mother’s.   And then – I’m going to do absolutely nothing.”  Her voice ended on a dreamy note.

           Paris chuckled.  “Sounds like a good plan to me.”  He extended his hand to her, then gave her a quick hug.  “Keep in touch, Katie.   Don’t let the grass grow too high between your toes.”

           She grinned at him.  “Thank you, sir.  I’ll try to take your advice to heart.”

           She turned on her heel and headed out the door.   Yes, the sooner she got out of this uniform the better.
 

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

           Commander Chakotay was also finding himself at something of a crossroads.   Pardoned by the Federation for his activities as a Maquis, nevertheless he was encountering considerable resentment among quite a few members of Starfleet.   Many of them regarded him as an out and out traitor, an officer who had turned renegade.   No matter the circumstances, or the fact that he had spent the last seven years loyally serving the Federation, they believed that he should stand trial for treason and if convicted, be sentenced to life imprisonment.   Others went even further, saying that traitors like him should be handed over to the Cardassians.

           Chakotay had been disheartened to discover that while the Dominion War had exposed the Cardassians for the enemy they were, some attitudes hadn’t, and wouldn’t, change – he had betrayed the uniform he wore and should be punished to the full extent of the law.

           His first reaction was one of anger – who were they to arbitrarily pass judgment when they had no idea of what he’d endured?   But then he decided he simply couldn’t be bothered to fight anymore.    After all, on Voyager, his loyalty had been to Kathryn Janeway, not Starfleet.   He’d held no illusions about what to expect on their return to Earth.

           Therefore, on the day after he was officially reinstated into Starfleet, he personally delivered his resignation to Admiral Nechayev, the head of Starfleet Command.   She stared at him in some surprise before nodding her head thoughtfully, then asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this.   He replied that he thought it would be easier for all concerned if he simply left.   She looked regretful, saying she understood, although she was genuinely sorry to be losing an officer of his caliber.  Chakotay thanked her for her kind words and departed.

           As he sauntered across the great plaza for the last time, he let his mind wander.  What should he do first?   Get out of this uniform, he chuckled to himself.   Then, go and see Seven in order to sort out their relationship once and for all.  In the back of his mind lay an unacknowledged desire to find Kathryn.  At this point, he had very mixed feelings about his former captain.

           When Seven had openly indicated her attraction to him less than three months earlier, Chakotay had responded immediately.   He hadn’t hesitated to become involved with her, although he had been careful to keep their liaison a secret from the rest of the crew.    He wasn’t sure why – he had nothing to hide after all.  But every time he opened his mouth to tell Kathryn, he found he couldn’t do it.    By the time they returned to the Alpha Quadrant, he knew she had found out, anyway.   Perhaps the admiral had told her.

           In the last moments before they had been separated, as he gazed at Kathryn across the console between them, he had seen sorrow and regret flash across her face.   She had reached over to lay her hand on his chest, as she’d done so often over the years, but this time, she’d snatched it back as if she no longer had the right to touch him.     He’d stared at her as a nasty suspicion settled in his stomach.    What if he had misread her all these years?  What if she did feel more than just friendship for him?  What if…she felt the same as him?!

           The leap of joy his heart took at that thought caught him completely off-guard, and made him think he must be out of his mind.   He was falling in love with Seven – Kathryn was no longer a part of the equation.   Before he could speculate further, Starfleet’s finest were on the bridge and hustling him off it.

            In the month following, kept isolated from the rest of the crew during his debriefing, he finally found the time to carefully analyze his feelings.  What he learned surprised him.   He was fond of Seven, certainly, but he wasn’t in love with her.  He had mistaken the boost to his self-esteem for love, an error he told himself he should have seen right away.  What was the adage – no fool like an old fool?  Well, he certainly qualified on all counts.

           He sighed as he entered the temporary quarters he’d been given.  Time to get his old life sorted out before he started a new one.   Most of his possessions were still crated – he had been reluctant to unpack until he knew what his future would be.   For the moment, he should probably put them in storage until he decided where he was going to live.  He shook his head as he realized that this was possibly the first time in his adult life that he hadn’t had to do something or be somewhere.   He stood in the middle of the room, feeling absurdly light-hearted.   He could get used to this…
 

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

Three weeks later:

           Kathryn was out walking her newest acquisition, one of Molly’s grandpups, when Gretchen received a short message from Voyager’s former first officer.   It was in text only and merely said that he would like to pay a visit; would tomorrow be convenient?   Gretchen replied that tomorrow would be fine and sent it off, before forgetting all about it as she suddenly smelled the cake in the oven starting to burn.

           It was only when Kathryn mentioned late that evening that she rather thought she would head into town for a bit of shopping the next day, that Gretchen remembered to tell her that one of her old crew would be dropping by.   This was by no means unusual – it seemed that someone or other was always popping in, wanting to touch base with their captain.

           Gretchen had quickly understood that Kathryn’s crew had been much more than just a crew – they had been a family.   And like all families, they liked to keep in touch, especially with her.    She found it rather amusing, as she pointed out more than once, that her daughter, the quintessential career officer, had ended up mothering nearly one hundred and fifty people for seven years.

           In vain, Kathryn had protested that she had been their captain, not their mother.   Gretchen would have none of it.   After all, she argued, if that were true, why did they keep turning up on her doorstep with such regularity?   By her own count, she must have met nearly a third of the crew by now, and Katie had only been home a few weeks.

           Kathryn had smiled a bit ruefully.  “For so long, you see, we shared everything, the good and the bad.  I guess it’s become a habit for them, needing my approval.”

           Gretchen had hugged her.  “I’m glad to know you weren’t alone out there, Katie.  That you had people around you who cared about you.”

           Kathryn stiffened slightly, as pain flitted across her face.   Gretchen picked up on it immediately.   “What?  What is it?”

           Her daughter had tried to brush it off as nothing, but her mother knew her too well.   She took her hands and sat her down at the kitchen table.  “Tell me!” she demanded.

           Kathryn swallowed, then bit her lip and tried to smile.  “Really, Mom, it’s nothing.   You worry too much.”

           Gretchen had stared at her, but said no more on the subject, realizing that Kathryn would talk only when she was ready and not before.

           Now, over a week later, she still had learned nothing directly, although she knew that her daughter was hurting.    Kathryn had taken to going on long solitary rambles with only the dog for company, and her eyes were shadowed with sorrow when she thought no one was looking.   Gretchen bit her tongue, telling herself she must be patient.

           At the news that there would be yet another visitor the next day, Kathryn sighed.   Much as she loved her crew, the constant visits where she had to keep up a bright, cheerful façade were becoming rather tiresome.

            She paused on the stairs, asking who it was.   Gretchen concentrated, trying to remember.   “Let me see.   The cake was about to burn and – oh, I remember now!  Your first officer!  That’s who it was!”

           Her voice trailed off as she realized Kathryn was frozen in place, hand clutching the banister, her face white.   “Chakotay?!” she was able to get out after a few seconds, her voice barely above a whisper.

           “Yes.” Gretchen was puzzled.  “Why, what’s the matter?  You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”

           Kathryn took a deep breath, swallowed and shook her head, as if to clear it.   “I…just didn’t expect him to come here.   I…oh dear!”

           Gretchen was becoming very worried.  “Katie, dear!  Don’t you want to see him?”

           “Yes!  I do, but…”  She paused, then looked intently at her mother.  “Did he say if he was coming alone?”   ‘Oh god!’  she thought.  ‘Don’t let him bring Seven here, please!  I don’t think I could bear it!’

           “He didn’t say anything.  The message was text only.  Katie!  Tell me what is going on!  Now!”

           When Gretchen Janeway used that particular tone of voice, there was no denying her.   Slowly Kathryn sat down on the bottom stair and began to tell her mother about the complicated relationship she’d had with her first officer.

           Gretchen let her talk uninterrupted, believing that if she could get it all out, she might feel a little better.   However, as the story unfolded, she became caught up in the tale of a love affair that had never quite happened.   As the wife of an admiral, she knew all about protocol, and understood at once why Kathryn had felt conjoined not to indulge in a personal relationship with any of her crew.   At the same time, reading between the lines, she could see how very difficult it had been at times.  She was sure there had been more than a few nights when her daughter must have nearly gone crazy with loneliness.

           When Kathryn came to the last part, about Chakotay embarking on an affair with Seven, Gretchen knew she had found the cause of her unhappiness.

           She waited a minute after Kathryn had finished before venturing a question.   “Did you ever tell him how you felt?”

           “He knew I considered him my best friend and confidant, if that’s what you mean.”

           “No, it isn’t.”  Time for some plain speaking.  “Kathryn, it’s pretty obvious that you’re in love with him.   Now, did you ever tell him?”

           Her daughter hung her head.  “No,” she whispered, “not in so many words.”    She sighed heavily.  “I wanted to, Mom, so many times, but…I couldn’t, I just couldn’t.”  She gestured rather helplessly, unable to find the right words to describe the complexity of her feelings.

            Gretchen nodded.  “I understand that part of it.   Obviously, you couldn’t become personally involved with a member of your crew.   But you were in an unusual predicament, Kathryn, stuck out there so far from home.  It wasn’t as if you could take leave or request a transfer.   It seems to me that Starfleet’s protocols could have been relaxed a little bit, so that at least you could have an ‘understanding’, if you will.   From what you’ve told me, you would have saved yourself, and him, a lot of heartache.”

           “I suppose…”  Kathryn sounded unconvinced.   Her mother, like most planet-bound civilians, didn’t really understand just what life on a starship entailed, especially one in Voyager’s situation.   She tried to explain.

            “We didn’t have a lot of time for heartfelt confessions, you see.  Mostly, we were either fighting off hostile aliens, or preparing to fight off hostile aliens, or trying to repair the ship after the most recent battle.  When we weren’t doing that, we were searching for food and supplies.   We were constantly trying to find ways to keep the ship going, to keep from starving.  I was on duty all the time, every day.   I very rarely had any downtime, and when I did, usually I went to the holodeck by myself so I could escape to a different environment.    The last couple of years, I didn’t even bother doing that, well, except for Fairhaven.   But even that didn’t work out once the characters became sentient.”

           Gretchen was appalled.   “You mean you never got to rest at all?!  No wonder you were so exhausted when you first came back!  What was the matter with your crew?!   Surely, they could have taken some of the load from you, given you a break now and then!   I’m going to have a word with this first officer of yours when he comes tomorrow!”

           Kathryn held up her hands, trying to stem her mother’s outrage.   “Mom, please!  It wasn’t their fault!   I did it to myself.   Please, don’t blame them and especially, don’t blame Chakotay!   For years, he did everything he could to make things easier for me, or he tried to anyway.   Most of the time I wouldn’t let him.   Please!  Don’t be angry with him, it was my own fault.”  She smiled deprecatingly.  “You know me, Mom, I always have to be on top of everything.”

           Gretchen peered at her.   “Yes, I do know.   Although I would have hoped that Starfleet training had broken that habit.  When are you going to learn, Kathryn Janeway, to delegate?!  Why do you think you have a crew?!  Well?!”

           Kathryn didn’t answer.

           Gretchen’s eyes softened as the angry look left her face.   She sighed and stroked her daughter’s hair.  “It’s late, we should go to bed.   But Katie, I want you to promise me one thing.   If nothing else, you tell this man tomorrow exactly how you feel.  No more dodging the issue – you tell him!  Understood?!”

           Kathryn’s eyes flew up to her face.  “But what if Seven’s with him?  What if they’re coming to tell me they’re getting married?!  I can’t…!”

           Her mother was implacable.  “Don’t jump to conclusions.   All we know for sure is that Chakotay will be here tomorrow.  He gave no indication he would have anyone with him.”  She paused, debating whether to say more, then added.  “Katie, for your own peace of mind, you have to tell him.   You can’t let this drag on any longer.   And you may find, well…let’s not speculate just yet.   One step at a time, I always say.”

           She pulled her up.  “Off to bed now.  You want to get lots of sleep and look your best, don’t you?”

           Kathryn smiled up at her affectionately.  “Yes, Mom,” then added with a rueful chuckle.  “If my crew could only see me now, they wouldn’t believe their eyes!”

           Gretchen smiled back, and started up the stairs.   “Goodnight, darling.  And don’t worry, it will all turn out for the best.”

           “ ’night, Mom.”
 

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

           Kathryn stood before the mirror in her room, feeling absurdly nervous and not a little foolish.   She had spent nearly an hour primping, fussing over her clothes and her hair.

           ‘This is ludicrous!’ she told herself for the tenth time in as many minutes.  ‘It’s Chakotay, for heaven’s sake!  Your best friend!  Someone who has seen you under the most appalling conditions when you looked like hell!  You never cared then about your appearance!’

           ‘But then there was no Seven in the picture’, she argued with herself.  ‘I knew he cared for me.   Now…well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we…’

           She sighed heavily, then sat down on the bed, picking up a picture from the table beside it.   It was a holoimage of Chakotay and herself at one of Neelix’s parties.   Must have been in the luau program, judging from their tropical dress.   They both looked so happy and relaxed – her face hadn’t yet developed the permanent lines of strain around the mouth, and his eyes were focused only on her.

           She continued to gaze at the image for another minute before putting it down.   ‘Feels like another life,’ she thought to herself.  ‘I don’t know if we can go back, recapture what we felt then…’

           Her head came up as she heard the dog start to bark.  She hesitated, then chastised herself again for feeling so nervous.   ‘Showtime!’ she told herself and headed down the stairs and out the front door onto the porch.

           The dog had raced down the lane and was now dancing around a figure walking towards the house in a leisurely fashion.  Kathryn shaded her eyes against the bright sun.  Yes, it was Chakotay, she’d know that slightly rolling gait anywhere.   She looked more carefully, searching for anyone else but he appeared to be alone.   She breathed a sigh of relief and stepped off the porch to greet him.

           Chakotay had slowed as he neared the house, partly because of the setter bouncing around him, but also to give himself a bit of time.   He was uncharacteristically nervous, not at all sure what kind of reception to expect.  At this point, he only felt safe in the assumption that Kathryn was willing to see him – other than that, he had no idea.

            His heart did a flip-flop as he spotted her standing at the top of the steps.    The sun shone full on her, lighting her hair like a halo of fire.    His eyes drank her in from head to toe – the erect posture, the hesitant half-smile, her white summer dress that subtly outlined her figure.  He hadn’t realized he’d stopped moving until she came down the stairs and walked toward him.  He remained still, watching her, a slight smile on his face but also a hint of wariness in his eyes.

           Kathryn realized that he was just as nervous as she – the thought gave her courage.  She let her eyes run over him, relieved to see that this was still Chakotay, his face, his every expression very familiar to her.

           “Chakotay,” her voice was soft.  “It’s so good to see you.”   She held out her hands to him as she spoke.   He took them carefully, looking down at her intently, searching her eyes.  What he saw there made him breathe an audible sigh of relief.    He closed his eyes briefly, thanking the gods for giving him another chance, then broke into a huge grin and swept her up into his arms.

           He breathed in her scent, closed his eyes in sheer bliss, and promptly fell in love all over again.   “Kathryn,” he whispered into her hair, “I’ve missed you so much!   I…” he stopped, at a loss for words.   His feelings at that moment were indescribable – relief that she hadn’t rejected him outright, joy that she seemed as glad to see him as he was to see her, and overlying everything else, a familiar sense of peace that he hadn’t felt in far too long.   His doubts were resolved – he belonged with her.  There could be no other woman, now or ever.

           Kathryn was lost in him, her arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, her face buried in his neck.   Her eyes were closed as she relished the feel of his body pressed tightly to hers.   She had waited so long for this moment, and then had lost hope when he’d turned away from her.   But now he was here, and she knew they had another chance.

           Gretchen watched them from the kitchen window, as a slow smile spread across her face.   There was no doubt at all in her mind that this man would be joining her family.   The hug they were sharing was far more than one of friendship.  In fact, she thought as she peered more closely, they seemed to be trying very hard to climb into each other’s skin.  She sighed with relief and went to the console to call Phoebe….
 

 The End                                                                                     Return to index

 EMAIL