Disclaimer:    Still Paramount’s, both characters and specific dialogue.

Rating:   G


By Mary S.

           She sat on a bench in a park, shaded by tall, leafy elms, her eyes focused on the large group of people in front of her.    Old, young, men, women and children – she knew nearly every one.    Talking, laughing, running, organizing a game of ball or just sitting, these faces were inexpressibly dear to her.    Nearby, to one side of the main group, sat a haphazard circle of some twenty people, voices rising and falling, sometimes bursting into roars of laughter, at other times barely audible.    She knew every nuance, could almost make out what story was being retold, just from the rhythm of sound drifting past her.

           She sighed and leaned back, her head resting on the top of the bench, eyes lifting to take in the glorious blue of Earth’s sky, visible here and there through the green leaves of the tree above her.    Her mind floated randomly, the cadence behind providing a soft background of noise, leading her to remember other circumstances when she had heard the same voices.

           “Will you tell me something?   If we were on the Maquis ship now instead of Voyager, would you have served under me?”

           “Have you ever been in love, Captain?  Seven of Nine…Seven of Nine!  told me love’s like a disease…”

           “Who is she to make these decisions for us?!”    “She’s the captain.”

           “Anything else you’d like done while you’re gone?   Gravity plating recalibrated?   Carpets cleaned?”

           “This activity is truly unproductive!   The end result has no use…”

           “Captain!   Try this!   It’s a new recipe I found during our last shore leave…”

           “Here we go…”

           “I will come and join you, and share a glass of wine.”

           And very faintly, like an echo, “My gift to you…”

           She smiled at some, frowned at others.    For seven years, she had been so absorbed in one goal, to get them home, that she had rarely paused to think about what they meant to her.    It was only after she had spent a few months on her own, with solid ground under her feet, that she realized how close they had all become, how much of a family they were – and how much she missed them.

           “I can’t sacrifice the present for a future that may never happen.”

           She chuckled softly, remembering the time and circumstances of that one.    She had always been impatient, she knew, always looking ahead to the next obstacle, the next challenge.   She wished now she had taken time to enjoy the moments here and there, to focus more on the present and less on the future.

           “‘In that book which is my memory
            On the first page of the chapter
            Which is the day I first met you…
            Appear the words…
            Here begins a new life.’”

           It was still one of her favourite quotes from her favourite book – ‘La Vita Nuova’.  She remembered when she had first found it, about the same time the doctor had discovered his erased memories.    She recalled thinking how aptly it fit the situation – in a way, the doctor was a new person after that experience, a person, not just a hologram.  And that had been the moment, when he had vehemently protested her reprogramming of his memory engrams, that she had finally and completely accepted him as an individual, with all it implied.    This thought recalled another, when she had defended that same definition to Starfleet’s arbitrator nearly two years later.    The jury was still out on that one – however, the doctor was confident that eventually, he would succeed in his quest for recognition of holograms as sentient beings, with all the rights and privileges therein.

           A movement nearby caught her attention and she looked up to see the love of her life approaching, his face creased in the special smile he kept just for her.

           He settled down on the bench next to her and eased his arm around her back, tucking her head into his shoulder.    “Tired?” he asked softly.

           “Hmm, a little.”   She sighed happily and snuggled closer into him.    “I’ve been sitting here, thinking, remembering.”

           “Happy memories?”

           “Mostly.   I was thinking, too, how right you were all those years ago when you said I should take time to enjoy the moment.   I did try; I just wasn’t always very successful.”

           “I know you did.    And I know it wasn’t easy for you, always having to think ahead, to plan for every possibility when you had no idea what our circumstances would be in a day, an hour, or even a minute.”   He chuckled gently.   “It’s kind of hard to enjoy the moments then, I guess.”

           “There you go again, making excuses for me when I’m the one who should have made more of an effort.”

           His voice grew stern.   “Get off the guilt trip, Kathryn, we’ve been down that road too many times.    What’s done is done, the past is behind us, let it rest.”

           She sighed heavily.   “You know me too well.   It’s hard to let go sometimes.”

           He sat up and turned her to face him, gesturing towards the group beyond.    “Kathryn, look at them!   You did it, you got us home!   They’re happy!”

           She gazed up at his earnest face, then nodded.   “We got us home, Chakotay, it wasn’t only me.”

           His voice was exasperated.   “Fine, we all did it.    My point is you need to look around now and let yourself enjoy your accomplishment.    Don’t sell yourself short.  I know, and every one of those people would agree with me, that without your drive and determination, we would still be in the Delta Quadrant.   You led us, Kathryn.   Through good times and bad, you were there, commanding, cajoling, doing whatever was needed; you were the catalyst that kept us going for seven years.”

           She stared at him, seeing the truth of his words in his eyes.   Well, she thought to herself, she had ignored Chakotay’s advice in the past and paid dearly for it – perhaps she ought to listen to him now.    She let her face relax into a smile and nodded, murmuring.    “All right, if you say so.”

           He wrapped her in his arms and hugged her tightly, whispering in her ear.    “Trust me, Kathryn, I know.”

           They were interrupted by shouts.    “Kathryn, Chakotay!   What are you doing over there all by yourselves?!   Come on, it’s time to cut the cake!”

           He rose to his feet and extended a hand to her.    She took it, easing her bulky body up carefully until she was standing.    “Ohh, I’m going to be glad when this baby finally arrives!   I feel like a whale!”

           He laughed.   “From what B’Elanna tells me, this is the easy part!   At least we can still sleep through the night.”

           She scowled at him.   “You can, maybe…”

           Her head lifted as she looked at the scene before them, then began to walk slowly forward, still holding his hand tightly.    A warm sense of pride and accomplishment suffused her.   Yes, she had done it, led them home, given them back their lives and families.   But, quite unexpectedly, in the process, she and they had created a new family, bound by the shared experiences of seven years.   And that was the best memory of all, she thought briefly, before a tide of laughter and noise engulfed them.


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