by Delta Story
“Captain! A little while ago when the Pathfinder channels were opened for our monthly communications, you received a letter.” His face beamed as he handed her a chip. “Here – Seven downloaded it for you rather than send it via the computer. Maybe it’s something officious – maybe a commendation from Starfleet or…”
His mood was infectious and Janeway’s face radiated with a big grin as she took the small object from him. “Thank you, Neelix; I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough,” she smiled as she inserted the chip into her computer.
Neelix didn’t bother to move. “I’m sure it’s good news, Captain!” he nodded. “What does it say?” He strained his neck, trying to peek around to her monitor.
Janeway’s smile faded almost immediately; her eyes blinked a couple times as she reread the words, not realizing that Neelix was still there.
“Captain?” he suddenly asked, noting the abrupt change in her demeanor. He began to walk around her desk.
She looked up at with a glazed expression, wondering why he was still there and waved him off with her hand. “It’s… it’s all right, Neelix. I’ll be okay.”
The little man was not to be moved. “I hope it isn’t bad news, Captain,” he said, nervously licking his lips.
“Well, let’s just say that it isn’t the best news I’ve ever received. But it’s something that I suspected might happen before we made it back to Earth.” Janeway’s eyes glistened with tears but she quickly brushed them back. “It’s just… life.”
Neelix slowly sauntered to the doors of the room, calling over his shoulder. “Well, if you need anyone to talk to, Captain…”
Janeway looked up, smiling through her held-back tears at the ship’s self-appointed morale officer. “Thank you. Neelix – I’ll keep that in mind.”
As soon as he disappeared behind the closing doors, she opened a drawer in her desk and rummaged around in its contents. Finally she pulled out what she was looking for: a framed picture, long buried and forgotten. She stroked her fingers across the picture and then the tears fell.
As Neelix crossed the bridge to the turbolift, he uncharacteristically said nothing to anyone. Chakotay noticed the somber mood of his Talaxian friend and called to him. “Neelix – is everything all right?”
Neelix stopped in his tracks and skittered over to the ship’s XO, sitting at the con. His eyes darted around, making sure no one seemed to be eavesdropping. “Actually, I don’t think so, Mr. Chakotay. I just delivered a letter to Captain Janeway that came through from Earth and I don’t think the news was good – she appeared… well, she was rather upset when she read it.”
“Who was it from?”
“I… I really don’t know,” Neelix answered rather nervously. “She didn’t seem to want to share that with me.”
And no wonder, Chakotay thought. The news would be on deck fifteen in three minutes if she had. But he didn’t bear any malice towards Neelix – it was just his way.
“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll give her a little time then check on her,” Chakotay nodded.
Neelix let out a breath that he seemed to have been holding. “Thank you, Commander. I do worry about her at times.”
“We all do, Neelix – we all do,” Chakotay responded. More than she’ll ever know.
Chakotay didn’t have to contact the captain after all. About fifteen minutes after Neelix’s departure, she buzzed him on his commbadge. “Commander, may I see you for a moment?”
“Of course – I’m on my way.” He looked over his shoulder as he got up. “Mr. Kim – I’ll be in the captain’s ready room; you have the con.”
“Yes, sir!” Harry beamed as he quickly made his way to the command area.
The doors to the captain’s private area opened as Chakotay approached them, as if Janeway had the timing down pat for how long it took him to reach the area from his chair on the bridge. He walked into the room and noticed she wasn’t at her desk, but on the upper level, looking out at the stars streaking by at several warps. She held a steaming mug in her hand and its robust aroma told him that it wasn’t her usual coffee.
“Cinnamon tea, Kathryn?” he asked as he walked to her side.
“Yes,” she answered, turning her face to him, a face containing eyes red and swollen from a good cry. “I thought I needed something more soothing for right now.” She took a couple of sips through a couple of sniffs.
Chakotay wrapped his arms around her, careful not to spill the warm contents of the cup. “What has you upset, Kathryn? What could bring you to the point of tears?”
“I… I got a letter from Mark,” she mumbled into his chest.
“Mark?” Chakotay exclaimed, backing up but still holding her arms. “Why would he be wanting anything more to do with you?”
“It’s… it’s not that at all, Chakotay. It was about Molly – remember? She was our… my… dog when I left the Delta Quadrant. Mark kept her, you know – through her pregnancy, the birth of her puppies… and then she became his family dog when he married…”
Chakotay could tell where her conversation was heading. He took the cup from her and put it down, pulling her close. Then he uttered the words for her, so she wouldn’t have to say them. “Molly has died – that’s what he wanted to tell you, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said, a flood of warm tears coming again and soaking into his jacket. “Oh, Chakotay – we are so close to getting back, and now I won’t be able to see her again – to run with her, play ball with her, takes long walks with her… She was such a wonderful dog, but I know she wasn’t getting any younger and now…”
“Shh… shhh,” he whispered into her hair. “Just remember the good times you had with her… and I’m sure Mark and his family loved her, too.”
“I had only three years with her – they had seven,” Kathryn mumbled. “I know she was well taken care of, but… oh, I’ve missed her so much, Chakotay – I wanted to see her again! But now, that’s never going to happen.”
“So you only had three years with her, Kathryn – but at least you got to share that time together. She knew you loved her and cared for her… and I’m sure there are a lot of stories of good times you had together.”
Kathryn sniffled a bit and pulled back, her eyes still brimming with tears but now with a bit of brightness to them. “Oh, yes – that we did! She was an Irish setter, and, although they’re wonderful, playful dogs, they aren’t always the brightest ones.” She pulled away and picked up her tea, taking a sip as she sat down on the sofa beneath the long window.
Chakotay knew that this was good – that the healing had begun. He sat down beside her and leaned forward. “So… tell me one of those stories.”
Kathryn brushed away a few errant tears and wiped her nose with her sleeve. “Well, there was the time when my neighbor had planted some tomatoes right by the fence between our two yards. A couple of times, when we were playing catch with a ball, the ball sailed over the fence. Since the fence wasn’t that tall, Molly leaped over it to retrieve the ball. As the summer progressed, the tomatoes grew and began producing some gorgeous tomatoes… which Molly decided were balls, and she would jump over the fence, grab a tomato and bring it back to me!”
Chakotay couldn’t help but smile at the images Kathryn’s story painted. “That’s one way to get fresh tomatoes for supper,” he grinned.
“Yes, but it almost cost me a neighbor,” Kathryn smiled. She leaned back as the memories appeared to float through her mind. “Then there was the night when she must have thought she was running in her dreams – you know how dogs move their legs sometimes when they dream – and somehow or another scooted herself underneath my bed. Then she woke up and couldn’t get out! Poor thing – I had to lift the bed up so she could come out. And she looked so embarrassed about it all!”
Chakotay could tell that the stories were helping; Kathryn’s eyes now gleamed with the happy memories. He leaned over to her and brushed back a shank of hair stuck to her face with dried tears. “Someday after we’re back, you and I will have to get a dog, Kathryn. I always had one when I was a boy and hearing your stories about Molly have made me want to experience that time again.”
Kathryn sat back, her face contorted with a quizzical expression. “Together? We could have a dog together?”
“Of course we could,” Chakotay smiled, continuing to run his fingers along her cheek. “After all, we are going to be able to be together after we get back to Earth, aren’t we? And I think a dog would seal the deal for sure.”
Kathryn took his hand in hers and leaned towards him. “No, I think this is what will seal the deal.” And with that, she kissed him.
Two years later… Earth
“Is this the way you envisioned this?” Kathryn asked, snuggling a bit closer to Chakotay.
“Us together? Of course!” His smile gave off more warmth than the sun.
Kathryn nudged his arm. “Well, that’s a given – no, silly; I meant about the two of us… with a dog – with Kelly here!” At the sound of her name, the dog barked and began running circles around the couple.
Chakotay stooped to rub behind Kelly’s ears – he knew what she wanted. “Everything and more.” He stood up and held Kathryn close. “I don’t know what has made you happier, Kathryn – our finally being together or being able to have a dog again.”
“Could be a bit of both,” she smiled back. It was her turn to kneel and pay attention to their canine buddy. “All I know is that I love you both.”
“But sometimes I think you love her more,” Chakotay laughed. ‘Love me, love my dog.’
“That’s our dog,” Kathryn countered. She stood and assumed that hands-on-hips position she took when she wanted to make a point. “Besides, she seems to obey you better than she does me.”
“You mean that she obeys me better than you obey me!” Chakotay’s comment earned him another firmer jab on the arm. “Ow – that hurt!” he said, his voice feigning pain.
“Serves you right,” Kathryn snorted. Her voice turned more serious. “You know, it was two years ago today when I got the news from Mark that Molly had died. And it was two years ago today that we made the promise to each other that we would be together for always. I guess in a way, we have Molly to thank for that.”
Chakotay pulled Kathryn to her feet. “You’re so right about that. In that way, we know that she was a very special dog.”
Kelly started barking and hopping around again, not willing to be abandoned so quickly. Chakotay reached down into the dried grass and found a stick. With a wide arc, he tossed into the distance and Kelly happily took off after it. “Now – I can finally do this,” he smiled and pulled Kathryn into a long, slow kiss.
After a couple of precious minutes in which they became lost in each other, motion around them and a tail thumping against their legs told them that Kelly was back. Chakotay reached down to get the retrieved stick from her mouth, only to be surprised when she presented him with a dried up, shriveled tomato, obviously not in very good shape.
Chakotay looked up at Kathryn, his face punctuated with puzzlement. “Now I wonder where she got that?”
Kathryn took the piece of decimated vegetable from him and started laughing. “I don’t know the answer, but I’m beginning to think that we might have a reincarnation of Molly here!” With that, the dog took off again, heading towards an old fence covered with dead tomato vines.
“Here we go again,” Kathryn laughed, pulling Chakotay behind her as she trotted after Kelly.
“Only if you take me with you,” he called out, following them.
Molly might not be with them in person, but she would always be with them in spirit.
Fiddle by cuteasboo – many thanks!
May they all be frolicking across that Rainbow Bridge!