By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: No Endgame in my universe!
Kathryn looked up as the door chime sounded. “Come in.”
The door opened and Chakotay stepped inside. “Are you busy?”
“Aren’t I always?” She smiled as she shoved a pile of PADDs off the sofa.
“I’ll go.” He said quietly.
“Chakotay? I was joking!" She noticed for the first time that he wasn't smiling as he usually was. "What’s wrong?”
“I – I – “ He searched helplessly for the words.
Rising from the sofa, Kathryn moved to where he stood by the door. “What is it?” His arm was tense under her hand. “What’s wrong?”
“I should go. I’m sorry.”
“Wait, what’s wrong?” She caught his arm as he turned. “Chakotay, tell me what’s wrong.”
He handed her the PADD he had gotten from the monthly Pathfinder transmission.
“A report?” Her forehead creased as she read the display. “This is a letter. Is it bad news?”
“I haven’t read it.”
“You haven’t – “ It dawned on her suddenly that Chakotay was afraid to read the letter. “Commander Akayda? Is this a friend?”
“I – yes – I – “ He looked down at the floor and a soft sigh escaped him. “I don’t know.”
Tipping his face up, she was surprised to see fear in the black velvet eyes. “Oh, Chakotay.” Wrapping her arms around him, she pulled his head down to her shoulder. Maybe he was afraid this would be another letter like the one he’d gotten telling him of the murder of the Maquis. “Everything will be all right.”
Chakotay buried his face in her neck, breathing in her soft rose scent. For the last hour he had been telling himself that what happened in the Alpha Quadrant didn’t matter. The past was the past and couldn’t be changed. For the last hour he hadn’t worked up the courage to read the letter.
He was trembling, clutching her tightly, and Kathryn wasn’t sure how to comfort him. He was the strong one. He was the one shouldering the burdens and helping everyone deal with their problems. Had anyone asked him if he needed help? Had anyone even thought to ask? Guilt burned her face. “I’m sorry, Chakotay.”
“For what?” He whispered into her neck.
“Anything you want.” When Harry found out that his fiancée had married, Chakotay had helped him. When B'Elanna was killing herself with her guilt, Chakotay had helped her. To the best of her knowledge, no one had ever helped Chakotay with anything.
Giving his back one last pat, Kathryn stepped back. “Do you want me to read it? Tell you if it’s bad?”
“Please.” He let her lead him to the sofa. “We – were friends – we fought – “
“And now you’re afraid to see what’s in this letter?” She patted his leg. “Was he a good friend?”
“She, and yes she was.”
She? Kathryn looked at the PADD again. Was this Commander a former lover?
Sensing her sudden hesitation, Chakotay reached to take the PADD. “You don’t have to read it. I’ll look at it later.”
“No.” Pushing down the jealousy, she keyed open the letter. “If it’s good, I’ll give it to you.”
“And if it’s not?”
“Then you don’t need to read it.”
From: Commander Akayda
To: Commander Chakotay
USS Voyager NCC 74656
I hope this finds you in good health and all goes well with you. I’ve started this letter over several times, not sure what to say or if you’ll even read it.
When last we spoke, we both said things in anger. I regret the things I said to you. At the time I didn’t understand the true scope of the Federation’s betrayal of the border colonies.
Yes, I said betrayal – I do believe now that you were right. I still believe you could have done a greater good from within Starfleet than without. But you have your own path to follow and I shouldn’t have judged you for following that path.
“Here.” Kathryn smiled and handed the PADD back to Chakotay. When he didn’t take it, she nudged him. “It won’t bite; it’s good news. Read it.” She assured him.
Taking it, he looked up to see the humor in her smoky blue eyes. Slowly he started reading the letter. By the second paragraph his vision blurred. “We fought.” He whispered.
“About your leaving Starfleet?”
“Yes. We met on Acturus. I was angry at the betrayal of Starfleet and the Federation.” He rubbed his eyes. “I said terrible things to her. I called her a Starfleet whore and a traitor – horrible, awful things.”
The angry man she had met when they were first thrown into the Delta Quadrant appeared in her memory. There were probably a great many things that Chakotay had said and done that he wished he could take back. Biting her lip, Kathryn rubbed the taut muscles at the back of his neck. As much as she hated to see him hurting, it was best to let him get it out.
“She has – had – family on Trebus and Dorvan. I thought she should join the Maquis, come with me and avenge our people’s murder.”
“And she wanted you to come back to Starfleet?”
“Oh, it was too late by then. I was already a wanted criminal. That’s what she called me. A criminal. She told me I was throwing my life away on a worthless cause.” Chakotay closed his eyes, hearing again the hateful words they’d used against each other.
Taking the PADD from him, Kathryn began reading aloud.
When I found out what had truly happened, I tried to contact you and apologize. At that time, I believed your sister was dead – I assume Starfleet has told you she’s alive and well. Mutual friends put me in contact with a woman in your cell group – Seska – and I gave her a message to give to you. When she told me that you didn’t want to speak to me, that it was over between us and you never wanted to see me, I accepted it. My heart shattered, but I accepted your decision.
Kathryn patted Chakotay’s leg as he made a soft sound of denial.
But as time passed, I doubted her. It’s possible she felt that I was a spy for Starfleet and she was protecting you. I’ve thought on it and know now the words she gave me weren’t yours. Even as angry as you were, I can’t believe you would harden your heart against me. Before I could try again, you were gone and presumed dead.
Chakotay, I can’t tell you the anguish I felt that our last words had been those of hate and anger, and that I would never see you again in this life to beg your forgiveness.
Tears began to well up in her own eyes, and Kathryn blinked them away. Even if this woman wasn’t Chakotay’s lover, it was obvious that she cared for him and had been hurt by his loss.
I looked for you in visions but could never find you. Now I understand my spirit guide’s cryptic comments about your ‘being on a journey’. It would be so much easier if he’d just say what he means!
A laugh escaped Kathryn. How many times had her own little friend talked her into verbal knots? A watery chuckle from Chakotay told her his guide was no different.
The news that you were alive came at a time when I needed all the good news I could get. The end of the war landed me in regen gel for several months. They say people in the gel don’t dream – well they are wrong! I had dreams that rivaled my most intense vision quest. Crazy things that I have to wonder where they came from!
No sooner did they scrape the gel off me than this sadistic person began to torture me for several hours a day. Admiral Paris says she’s a wonderful, highly recommended therapist. But I think she’s a refugee from the Obsidian Order.
“Admiral Paris?” Chakotay’s breath on her neck made her shiver, and she nodded wordlessly. Owen Paris seemed to be anywhere there was a connection to Voyager.
Learning to walk again is humiliating and depressing when you were once able to run for hours without stopping. During a pity party for one, your sister called me to tell me you were alive. She also told me you would be ashamed of me for being a ‘whiny bawling baby’ and she’s right. She also has a tongue like a rattlesnake.
So… I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself and begun working harder. When you come home – and I have no doubt that you will – I’ll be able to walk to you and tell you that I love you.
“I shouldn’t read this.” Kathryn choked out. It was hard to talk with the stake through her heart.
“Please, Kathryn, I don’t know – if I can.” Chakotay wiped at the tears that had flooded out to cleanse the old wound. “Please?”
I have no reason to be jealous. She’s thirty years from here. And he doesn’t love me anyway – and I don’t love him! Resolutely, she began reading from the letter again.
Starfleet has offered me your old position at the Academy. I believe I may take it. I’ve seen more death than I ever care to see again. Life aboard a ship no longer holds the same excitement it once did, and I have no wish to ever take to the stars again. I have many medals that I keep in a box. Too many of our friends died for me to sell my soul for shiny trinkets.
The cleanup of Wolf 359 was horrible – the Dominion War was far worse. The dead piled up until we gave up and phasered them out of existence. There were simply too many to take home for burial. Ships were destroyed and people thrown away. There was no plan, no strategy – only slaughter and survival. In the end, we were no better than the Cardassians.
Crazy as it sounds, lately I’ve begun to think about family. A child or two. But where will I ever find a man that compares to you? You’re a tough act to follow. I hope your Captain Janeway knows what a jewel she has in you. I’d ask her to hug you for me, but I hear she’s a real hard ass.
“I am not!”
Chakotay laughed at Kathryn’s outraged expression. “Of course not.”
“My crew loves me!”
“Yes, yes, we do!” He bit back a laugh as she arched an eyebrow.
If you choose not to answer, I won’t contact you again. If you’ve truly turned your face from me, I understand. Know that I love you and wish you safe journey home.
PS: your sister gave me the recipe for your mother’s sweet rolls. If you want it, you have to write me. Not that I would ever attempt to bribe or blackmail a man of your integrity.
Laughing softly, Chakotay took the PADD from Kathryn and scrolled back through it.
“Do you love her?” She asked softly.
Not even a moment’s hesitation in his answer. The pain in her chest grew until she could hardly breathe. Chakotay loved this woman. No matter how far away Akayda was, she still held his heart.
“We met at the Academy. Almost everyone else had left for the holidays, so we spent the holidays together.”
Chakotay smiled as he remembered the first year cadet who had signed up for his second year Battle Tactics course and defiantly told him not to slow down, she could keep up. “We were both a bit contrary – only a bit. You’d like her.”
“I’m sure I would.” Only if she’s fricasseed on a bed of rice!
“Really, you would.” How could he explain how he’d come to care for Akayda as if she were his own child? “We were both on our own – separate from our people. We wanted to belong to the here and now, not in the past.”
They were a perfect pair. “I’m sorry you’re so far apart.”
“We’ll be together. I can’t wait for you to meet her.” Rising from the sofa, he leaned down and kissed her cheek. It wasn’t something he would normally consider doing, but it felt right. “Thank you. Don’t tell anyone what a coward I am.”
“You’re not a coward, Chakotay.” Kathryn smiled despite her heartache. “It’s not easy opening what may be a Dear John letter from 30,000 light years away.”
Laughing, he left her quarters, clutching the precious letter.
After the door closed behind him, Kathryn let her tears free.
“Come in.” Kathryn looked up from Seven’s Astrometrics report as the door chime sounded.
“Got a minute?” Chakotay was smiling as he entered her quarters.
“Well, I do have Seven’s report to read.” She threw it in the general direction of her desk. “But if it’s important…”
“It is.” He sat down next to her on the sofa. “I need you to read something.”
“Oh, no! Not another report!” She covered her face.
“No, it’s a letter.” He laughed as she peeked at him from between her fingers. “I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it. I’m nervous about sending it.”
He wants me to proofread his letter to his lover? A hateful remark almost made it out before she choked it down. “Sure, what are friends for?” Taking the PADD from him, she started reading.
From: Commander Chakotay
USS Voyager 74656
To: Commander Akayda
C/o Starfleet Headquarters
I hope that you are in good health and all goes well with you. I’ve started this letter over several times. Your letter filled me with joy and sadness. Joy that you forgave me my angry words and sadness that my disappearance caused you pain.
I never received the messages you sent through Seska. It seems she was a Cardassian altered to look Bajoran. She revealed her true self by betraying us here in the Delta Quadrant. She no doubt kept your messages from me out of jealousy rather than any desire to protect me. At the time we were lovers and she resented any woman who so much as spoke to me. Foolishly, I believed that to be a good thing.
“Are you sure you want to tell her that much about you and Seska?”
“Of course.” Chakotay looked puzzled. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, there’s such a thing as too much honesty in a relationship.”
“It’s important that she understand what happened.”
“If she gets mad, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” With a shrug, Kathryn turned back to the letter.
I’m ashamed to admit that I was too much of a coward to contact you when I came to my senses. Each time, I would find an excuse to put it off. And then I was here and it was too late. Selfishly, I put what we have in jeopardy. Being too cowardly to apologize, I caused you pain – something I never meant to do. At the time, I was being eaten by anger and hatred and I took that anger out on you -- saw you as a symbol of everything I hated. I too thought never to be able to beg your forgiveness and tell you that I love you still.
A tear rolled down Kathryn’s cheek. “This is too personal, Chakotay. Are you sure I should read this?”
“Kathryn, there’s no one I trust more than you.” He wiped the tear from her face. “Not even B'Elanna. You are my truest friend.”
Friend? Well, it’s your own fault for being so damned stubborn! The letter swam back into focus.
I’m glad I was able to cheer you with the news that I’m alive. When I first asked about you, I was told you had perished in the final attack on Cardassia Prime. My heart broke. My sister sent me a letter the following month that told me you were alive and at Starfleet Medical in serious condition. I fasted and made a sacrifice to wakan tanka for your recovery. I had nothing of value to offer, so I offered my flesh. As the cuts on my arms healed, I imagined you healing as well.
“You did what?” Kathryn frowned at him.
“It’s a common practice to offer a tribute. I had nothing else to offer, I have very few possessions.”
“So you cut yourself?”
“I don’t expect you to understand.” His jaw tightened.
“Let me see.” She tugged at his jacket.
“Kathryn, there’s nothing really – “ He pulled his jacket off under her glare. Rolling up the sleeves of his turtleneck, he showed her the pale scars.
A row of small, neat marks marred the bronze skin on the inside of each forearm. “Why would you do such a thing?”
“Because I’m a primitive savage with the ignorant belief that offering my blood and flesh to the Father Spirit would help a friend recover.” His words were harsh and angry.
“No, I didn’t mean it like that.” Kathryn touched the scars. “I don’t like to think of you hurting. For any reason.”
“It didn’t hurt that badly. The knife was very sharp.” His anger cooled as quickly as it had flared up as he realized why she was upset.
“Don’t do it again – “ She shook her head. “I don’t care who’s hurt or what you believe. I would rather spend an extra day or two in Sickbay than have you hurt yourself to help me.”
“I don’t think getting you out of Sickbay early requires any sacrifice on my part.” He teased. “All you have to do is drive the Doctor crazy.”
No doubt you’re shocked. Is this Chakotay, the contrary who turned his back on his people’s primitive pagan rituals? I’ve been rediscovering the things my father and grandfather taught me. I have assembled a medicine bundle. Small and rather pathetic, but as time goes on I’ve been able to add items of strong medicine. I have even begun to seek visions. Since I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I always yearned to contact my spirit guide again, but would crush it down as it didn’t fit my view of the 24th century man.
Kathryn bit her tongue firmly to keep from telling him that he was the perfect 24th century man. Civilized but with a savage edge.
The problem with spirit guides is that they do say what they mean. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand. I had a vision the night I received my tattoo, it made no sense until I found myself in the Delta Quadrant. Now I understand why I was repeatedly told I was ‘starting on a journey’. I had just returned home! Disturbingly, I was also told that I’d be ‘tested’ – I hope I have already been tested and passed. She only grins when I ask. No need to wonder about the woman of fire – it’s no accident my Captain’s hair is red.
“Woman of fire?” An auburn eyebrow arched up in question.
“There was a woman amongst the stars. She was made of fire and her hair flowed around her naked body – “ Chakotay ducked his head, embarrassed.
“No wonder you were upset when I cut my hair.” She tugged on her shoulder length tresses. “I didn’t think you were supposed to talk about your visions.”
“A vision can be shared in some circumstances. Especially once the events have come to pass.” A frown creased the tribal markings on his brow. “Except, possibly, the testing.”
“I’d like to think we’ve been tested enough, thank you.” She said dryly.
My sister wrote that you’re now taking short walks. I have no doubt that on the day I return home, you’ll walk into my arms.
Friends with an Admiral now, are you? Thrown over a mere Commander and moved up? Seriously, I know Admiral Paris is heavily involved with Pathfinder and anything related to Voyager. His son, Tom, is here on Voyager with us. Tom didn’t get a letter from his father in the first few packets, but I suspect his father was as cowardly as I was when it came to mending fences. You might tell Admiral Paris that his son loves him and fears he’ll never make his father proud of him. Tom is a good man, very much changed from the shallow boy he was when he was in the Maquis. His father has every right to be proud of him. And I’ll deny ever saying that if you tell anyone!
Looking up, Kathryn smiled. “And if I tell Tom?”
“I’ll put what really happened between you and Tom when you were lizards in my next report to Starfleet.”
“You – “ Her eyes narrowed. “I won’t if you won’t.”
I urge you to take the position at the Academy. You were my best student and were practically teaching my first year courses in your final year. I have no doubt you’ll do well. And I can sit back and take all the credit for your brilliance! Remember to look for the defiant child like yourself and nurture them.
My rattlesnake tongued sister tells me that you were quite the hero in that last battle and a maneuver has been named after you. How do you wrap a Starfleet ship’s shields around a Klingon Bird of Prey and blow up the enemy, anyway? She said you saved many lives and should be proud of your shiny trinkets. Just don’t fall for the beads and blankets scam.
Kathryn couldn’t help the giggle that burst out of her. Chakotay had a sense of humor that still took her by surprise even after seven years.
I understand your feelings. If Voyager were to return home tomorrow – I’d never set foot on a starship again. The day we return home is my last day among the stars.
I read the reports on the war. The numbers were overwhelming. So many lost in the carnage. War is not glorious, as they’d have us believe. Our family and friends died for nothing more than invisible lines on a map. I try hard not to be bitter when I think how the Federation is helping Cardassia rebuild. I try to let go of the hate I feel for the Cardassians, but I fear I never will. Even with the peace I have found here with Voyager and my Captain, I still dream of murder some nights.
Kathryn shivered at the image. The few times she’d seen Chakotay truly angry were enough to make her feel sorry for the Cardassians he had gotten his hands on while he was in the Maquis. Then she remembered her own experience with Cardassian hospitality. She almost felt sorry for them.
The dreams from the regen gel must have affected your mind! Why would you want a man like me? And how hard can it be to find someone who’s pigheaded and stubborn? Just look for the man who’s contrary enough to run away from the things he should embrace – and there you have me. Then get as far away as possible! Find a good man.
Chakotay grunted as Kathryn elbowed him in the ribs. “What was that for?”
“For not realizing what a ‘jewel’ you are.”
I could not love you more
Kathryn stopped and blinked away the tears. Can I skip this part? His undying declaration of love for another woman was too much to bear.
“Kathryn?” He wiped away the tear that trickled down her cheek.
“I’m fine.” Patting his leg, she forced herself to read on.
I could not love you more if you were the child of my body and not just my heart. I can’t wait until the day I can hold you and tell you these words instead of putting them into electronic bits. At the rate we’re coming home, I may get to hold my grandchildren as well.
“Grandchildren?” This last part wasn’t making sense to her.
“We could be home sooner, but realistically – “
“She’s your child?” New hope flared within her heart as the passage sunk in.
“In a sense, I adopted her.” Kathryn was staring at him as if he’d suddenly sprouted another head. “Her mother is… not of the People and her father has – had – gone to Dorvan and immersed himself in the old ways. Akayda refused to leave Starfleet and he turned his face from her.”
“He turned – he disowned her? And her mother doesn’t want her?” Her own family ties were so strong that she couldn’t imagine such a thing.
“She’s a reminder of a bad marriage.” He smiled sadly. “She was a defiant child, spirited and willful – “
“And contrary?” She teased.
“Exactly.” Dimples flashed as he laughed. “It’s not the type of official adoption that Starfleet or the Federation would recognize, but my people take it very seriously.”
“And so do
Chakotay frowned suddenly. “What were you thinking?”
Did she think Akayda was my lover? Ducking his head, he smiled again. And was that why she was crying?
I should be more optimistic. We started our journey seventy five years from home and now we’re down to thirty. A couple more lucky breaks is all we need.
Captain Janeway opened and read the beginning of your letter when I didn’t have the courage for fear you were still angry. Then she read it aloud to me when tears filled my sight. And gave me the hug you wanted her to give me, as well. She also says she’ll ‘deal with you when we get home, Commander’. Hopefully, you’ll be able to run by then.
Incidentally, Captain Janeway is a hard ass
Chakotay yelped as Kathryn elbowed him again. Harder this time.
But Kathryn Janeway is a warm and loving woman. Kind and gentle. My soul found peace the moment I moved to her side. I’m not supposed to, but I love her. To her, I’m just a good friend, but maybe someday that will change and she will come to love me.
The PADD almost slipped from her numb fingers. He loves me? He loves me? Kathryn’s throat was tight and her eyes burned with tears. “You – you love –“
“I meant to delete that.” In his own embarrassment, Chakotay didn’t see the fresh tears spill down her cheeks. “It occurred to me that Starfleet might read our letters – Kathryn? Why are you crying?”
“You – don’t know I love you?”
“How can you not know?” Her voice was a teary croak.
“Let me see… I was the only man on the planet with you for over twelve weeks and you didn’t so much as kiss me.” There was no way to keep the bitterness from his words.
“I’ve tried to show you as best I can. I never meant to hurt you.” She hugged him. “Chakotay, I love you, I do.”
“And I love you.” He kissed his way across her salty, streaked cheeks to her lips. After a too brief kiss, she pulled away.
Resting her head on his shoulder, she laid a hand on his chest. His heart beat comfortingly under her palm.
“So the letter? Is it okay?” It was an inane thing to say, but he wasn’t quite sure what else to say.
“Oh, I need to finish it.” Wiping her face, she picked up the PADD again.
Cross your fingers for me that we come home soon. Because as soon as we hit the Alpha Quadrant, I’m through with rank and protocol and asking her to marry me.
Know that I would never harden my heart or turn my face from you.
PS: your next letter had better include my mother’s recipe or you’ll deal with me when we get back.
“It’s perfect, Chakotay.” Humor glinted in Kathryn’s eyes. “You just need to change one line.”
“Where are they?”
“There!” Aylian spotted her brother’s raven hair and broad shoulders. Pulling Akayda by the hand, she worked her way through the crowd.
Kathryn turned when she heard someone cry out Chakotay’s name. He was being embraced by two women, both of whom were kissing him and crying.
“Wait, wait!” Chakotay kissed his sister’s cheek. “Let me breathe!”
Wiping her eyes, Aylian stepped back but kept ahold of one of his hands. The other woman kept her death grip around his shoulders, crying onto his neck.
Meeting Chakotay’s eyes over the woman’s dark head, Kathryn saw he was blinking back tears of his own. His free hand was rubbing her back and he was murmuring soothingly to her. “Akayda?” She asked and he nodded. Kathryn had written to Akayda, a passage here and there in Chakotay’s letters over the last year, but had never spoken to her.
“I’m sorry, so sorry, forgive me.” Akayda was sobbing.
“Akayda, I’ve already forgiven you. And you’ve forgiven me. The past is the past.” He gently pushed her back a step. “Now, let’s see you walk.”
Grinning, she walked around him, holding tightly to his other hand. A slight limp was the only sign of the severe injuries and long recovery. She stopped when she saw Kathryn. “Captain Janeway.”
“Please, call me Kathryn.” She handed the bundle in her arms to Chakotay’s sister.
“Oh, Chakotay, he’s beautiful!” Aylian kissed her nephew’s forehead.
“I had to pry him out of my mother’s arms.” Kathryn slid her arm around Chakotay’s waist. “If we don’t watch out, she’ll try to keep him.”
Akayda brushed her fingers over the raven hair. “Hey, little one. I’m your aunt Akayda ”
“No.” Kathryn told her. “No, you’re not.”
Akayda’s eyes widened, and she shot a glance at Chakotay. “I – I thought – “
“You’re his sister.” Kathryn pulled the younger woman into a hug. “Chakotay says you’re the child of his heart, so you’re my child as well.”
Chakotay hugged both of them, dropping a kiss on Akayda’s cheek. “We want to thank you for helping us.”
“Happy to help!” Akayda grinned, remembering Chakotay’s first letter to her explaining how her letter had brought him and Kathryn together at last. “If I’d known you needed help with your love life, old man, I’d have written sooner.”
Kathryn giggled as Chakotay heaved a sigh. “Is it too late to disown her?”