Rated PG
by Delta Story
August 2013


Author’s notes & spoiler alert: This story alludes to events found in Kirsten Beyer’s Star Trek novels (to date! ;-))but takes place at least twenty-five years after those actions.


Written for VAMB’s Secret Summer 2013 story exchange


~*~

“It’s not fun any more.”

Chakotay looked up from his PADD in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”

“It’s just not fun any more,” Kathryn reiterated, rubbing her eyes.

Apprehension swept over Chakotay’s face. He dropped the PADD and hurried to the desk where Kathryn sat, working on her own PADD. “What’s happened? Did I do something?”

She smiled wearily and placed a hand across the one he that braced him against her desk. “No, no; it isn’t you, Chakotay. If it’s anyone, it’s me. And it isn’t us – it’s just life. Starfleet life in particular. I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I think it’s time for me to call it quits. It’s been twenty-five years since my experience with the Borg and the Caeliar and the Qs… and twenty-five years since Starfleet was also reborn.”

“And twenty-five years that we’ve been together,” Chakotay added.

“That’s been the best part of those years,” Kathryn answered, her eyes and words reflecting her love and devotion. “We’ve been a good team.”

“We still are.”

“Yes, we are,” she nodded. “But for all the time we were together on Voyager in those early first years, we weren’t really… together. Then, as soon as we made our personal commitments to each other, our different assignments and responsibilities separated us more than we were together.”

“That’s made our times together all the better,” he said. “We knew how to better appreciate each other.”

Kathryn rose from her chair and walked over to the replicator. “Two coffees – one Janeway, one Chakotay.” The steaming cups appeared; she handed him the one adulterated with milk and sugar, just as he liked it.

They slowly walked over to the sofa in the living area of their apartment and settled into the well-used cushions.

“I’m not disagreeing with you, Chakotay,” she continued. “We both knew that our duties would be following different paths and we accepted that. But I’m now sensing a redundancy in the missions. I’m sure that my superiors are trying to not so subtly tell me that it’s time to move into a permanent desk job and leave galactic exploration to younger people.”

“You mean like I agreed to do a decade ago?” Chakotay asked.

“Well, a starship captain is more or less a cowboy role,” Kathryn quipped while sipping her coffee. Irish mischievousness twinkled in her eyes.

“So you’re saying I’m no longer a cowboy?” Chakotay retorted with mock injury.

“My dear, neither of us is. At least in my official position as an ambassador and negotiator, as my years accumulated I could bluff my way through as a person wise to the ways of the galaxy. There truly are times when age and experience outflank youth.” She couldn’t help a small chortle. “Besides, you didn’t really give up being a cowboy – you’re certainly not stuck behind a desk in some dark back wing of Starfleet headquarters. You’re well respected in the planetary archeology department of the Academy and as such, do your fair share of space hopping. Not a bad trade-off, if I recall when you made the switch.”

Chakotay put his mug down on the low table in front of them and turned to lean into his partner. “Kathryn, I’m sure that Starfleet can arrange something new for you that will – how did you put it? – ‘make it fun’ for you again. You’ve done far too much and are too valuable for them to be without your expertise.”

“Now who’s taking the company line?” Kathryn scoffed. “If I recall, over the years you’ve chafed with Starfleet regulations much more than I have. Besides, if it’s the almighty corporate history they’re afraid of losing, they have enough logs and reports from me to fill the Osana caverns of Vulcan.”

Chakotay studied Kathryn’s face. “What has brought all this on? It seems rather sudden and you haven’t even hinted at anything like this.”

Kathryn rubbed her temples, her fingers inching back to pull through her short, now gray-streaked faded auburn hair. “I guess it really hit home when I was on that most recent trip to Arakis Prime. Although it had been almost thirty years since Voyager was there, it seemed like yesterday. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had passed and how much more quickly it seems to pass every day.”

“That happens for all of us. It’s just a fact of life that as we get older, our sense of time speeds up.”

Kathryn leaned into his chest, sighing softly. “As do our bodies. And that leads to thinking about our regrets." To prove her point, she stretched her legs with a slight groan.

Chakotay kissed the top of her head. “Is that what this is all about? We all have regrets. The secret to not succumbing that is not to dwell on them, to find new things to replace these thoughts.”

“It’s not the regrets per se as much as it’s the lack of newness. I’ve seemed to have lost my passion – my zest, if you will – for performing as I should. I feel that I’m losing my edge. Oh yes, I still have that sense of duty will persevere with my tasks. But it’s the loss of adrenalin and the thrill of new discoveries that make me feel deflated and listless.”

“Aha!” Chakotay drew back and smiled at her. “I always knew it wasn’t just the coffee that kept you going – you’re an adrenalin junkie, aren’t you? That explains a lot of your actions over the years.” His tone was light and teasing but even as the words came out, he realized that he had hit upon a truth.

Kathryn jabbed him playfully. “Okay, so now you know my secret. You won’t report me, will you?”

“Only if you won’t report my hidden addiction,” he said.

“You? Whatever would Mr. Perfect have as such a deep secret?”

“My addiction to you,” he answered, gently kissing her. “I’ve had that addiction for longer than you know.”

She brushed back a few gray tresses from his forehead. “I think we both share that long-standing habit. I’m glad that love has never been declared an illegal substance.”

Kathryn chuckled, obviously thinking about that “addiction”. “You know, when my mother first saw you after those first seven years in the Delta Quadrant, she studied you for a several seconds longer than acceptable for polite society. I asked her why she was scrutinizing you so hard. She looked at me, without blinking an eye and asked me if you and I were ‘involved’.

“I recall the shock I felt from such a question, especially her. ‘Of course not, Mom – he’s my first officer!’ I said. Then she looked at me with one of those wicked grins of hers and she said, ‘Well, protocol be damned. He could put his slippers under my bed anytime he wanted.’ She patted me on the arm and said ‘Any fool can see that you two want each other.’ With that she walked away. I guess we were the last to know, weren’t we?”

You were the last to know,” he smiled.

Chakotay leaned back, caught up in thought. Kathryn resumed her position within the crook of his arm. After a brief silence, he spoke.

“Maybe your discomfort with work is similar to love in a long term relationship. Things become routine, habitual. There’s little challenge to stir either emotions or intellect. If a relationship becomes routine, emotions stagnate and wither. Oh, I’m not talking about the physical passion of any initial period – that is bound to flame out. But a solid relationship will always have embers there, ready and willing to be stirred up into being useful and productive.

“Same thing comes with a job. We’re never going to have the almost daily problems and tensions of those days wandering through the Delta Quadrant. Let’s fact it – we… okay, you… had that driving obsession of making it back to the Alpha Quadrant come hell or high water.”

His statement earned him one of Kathryn’s formidable glares.

“Now hear me out,” he continued before she could inject any comments. “That fervor can’t last or its very source will be burned up and the flame is lost forever. The trick is to learn how to control the fire, to be able to add new fuel to it to keep it going. What you need to look for is a new fuel for that fire that struggles to re-ignite within you, Kathryn.”

Without speaking, Kathryn arose, picked up their empty mugs and took them over to the small sink by the replicator. A brief spritz of water, a quick bath of ultraviolet to cleanse them and a curtain of infrared beams made short work of the clean-up process. She placed the mugs on a snug shelf, their obvious home.

Her chore completed, Kathryn turned towards him. “I’m not young anymore, Chakotay, and I won’t pretend that I am. Although my spirit might be rekindled, my physical energies and mental enthusiasm are waning. I’m afraid my fires are dying out. It’s not that I love Starfleet any less or that I’m not one-hundred percent for continued exploration of the Delta and Gamma Quadrants, it’s that with this… time… passing so quickly that I’m afraid of not being able to do all I can or should do in the time I have left.”

Kathryn walked back to the sofa and sank down into its cushions, her small frame becoming smaller as she sank into their softness. “I see Tom and B’Elanna doing things with Miral and Owen and their families. Jean Luc and Beverly spend more and more time in the vineyards in France and Will and Deanna are on Betazed for months at a time. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m tired of living, breathing and bleeding Starfleet.”

Chakotay said the words that she could not nor would not say. “You want a life.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” she responded. “Not that we haven’t had a wonderful life together,” she hastened to add, taking his face between her hands. “Chakotay, you were my savior when it came to learning to accept and reshape my life after my… death and reincarnation. How many nights did you rock me back to sleep as the demons of that experience screamed through my mind and my dreams?” She choked on the words as her face reflected as a deluge of memories from that horrendous period almost three decades earlier rolled over her; she shook with the chill of ghosts that still haunted her.

As he done many times before, Chakotay took her into his arms and massaged her back and shoulders, softly humming a chorus of “shushes” into her ear until she calmed. The scene did not reflect the image that the public had had of the great Admiral Kathryn Janeway over the years: the image of a strong, valiant woman who had overcome multiple enemies and finally death itself. Only Chakotay knew of this dark side and only he could ease her pain.

He knew that her pain wasn’t about herself as much as it was for the hundreds of other lives lost, too. Her renewed fervor and dedication to her duty with Starfleet over these many years might be her way of atoning for those losses, just as her sacrifices during Voyager’s initial sojourn in the Delta Quadrant were expiation for her fateful decision that stranded them there in the first place. Kathryn’s cruelest enemies had never been external but rather the internal demons she created for herself.

However, the statement that started this most recent regression was a new one, at least in this current incarnation. He heard wistfulness and almost envy as she had described how their friends seemed to be backing away from a total dedication in their professional duties. For years, he had hoped she would do likewise but there was always another treaty to be negotiated or Delta Quadrant planet to be wooed into the fold of the Federation. Certainly Kathryn had the rank and expertise at this stage of her life to set her own agenda but she continued to plow away like a young lieutenant commander trying to make points with her captain.

Chakotay also knew that they had been together long enough not only to finish each other’s sentences but also to read each other’s thoughts. He didn’t need to repeat his current ones to her but, sensing her return to a calmer state, he said, “Why now? Isn’t this rather sudden?”

Kathryn sat up, stretching and taking several deep breaths as she spread her arms along the back of the sofa. “Let’s just say I’ve had an epiphany. I don’t want to fizzle out, only to end up in some subterranean section of Starfleet and cadets whisper about that crazy old woman down there who stared down the Borg. Words from a poem a few centuries ago keep going in my head:

    ‘This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.’*

“I’ve never been one for big hoopla celebrations or wanted all that fame that some Starfleet senior officers crave but neither do I want to just ‘fade away’, so to speak.”

“Do you really want to leave Starfleet?” Chakotay gently asked.

“I’m not sure. But for right now, I’d like to back off for awhile. Maybe I could take a sort of sabbatical or something and explore my options, although at our age I know there aren’t many choices. I suppose I’m not ready to call it quits completely, Chakotay, but neither do I want to keep on galloping all over the place. Sometimes when I return after a mission, I feel that I’ve been the only ball used in a long tennis match. However, Starfleet in its wisdom would probably respond to such a request with a permanent assignment in a small room with one door and no windows. You and I each know that a desk job would be the second death of me.

“Perhaps it’s wrong but I’ve always prided myself in having a firm grip on my own destiny. Even with my resurrection, if you will, Q Junior made it clear that I had to do the actual work. He may have told me how to do it but it took my own volition and efforts to do the job. It’s with that same resolve that I want to make some sort of change now. I’ve never backed off from a challenge.”

Chakotay stifled a grin but words slipped out to betray his thoughts. “That’s for sure! At times, I think you may have added your own seasoning to spice up those challenges.”

Kathryn’s response was a huff followed by a silent glare; her arms crossed into an immediate defense gesture.

“Wait a minute before you do something you might regret,” Chakotay grinned, feigning dismay. “I’m stating the obvious in a constructive way. Probably the main reason you’ve lost interest in things is the very fact that in your years of experiences you’ve seen and done more things than most people could expect to accomplish in a dozen lifetimes. You’re like the proverbial cat who has nine lives – I’ve literally seen you through a couple.”

“So you’re saying that I need to die yet another time in order to find purpose again?” Kathryn asked.

“Let’s not get that drastic. But you need to shake things up, to get something into your life other than Starfleet… and let’s face it, probably me. After all, we’ve been together for a long, long time,” he winked.

Kathryn vehemently shook her head. “Not for a nanosecond! As it is, we tend to be apart more than we’re together. That’s part of this life-speeding-up feeling that I dislike so much. And even though you said earlier that I needed adrenalin to keep me going, I think there’s been enough of that in our lives over the years.”

Silence spread over the couple, enveloping them in the customary comfort of two people who have long loved each other for a long time. Separate solitudes yet one spirit unified them.

With a sudden burst of energy, Chakotay broke the tranquility. “I’ve got it! At least I think it will be a complete change of pace for you… and for us.” He pushed himself off the sofa but with a hand on Kathryn’s shoulder urged her to remain there. “Stay here until I get back.”

He shook off the stiffness from sitting and walked over to the bedroom door. “This might take a few minutes,” he smiled back at her. His eyes twinkled.

“Chakotay, what…” But the door swished closed behind him before Kathryn could pose her question. She ambled over to her desk and picked up the PADD she had been staring at when this conversation had begun. She tried to concentrate on the screen but the words on it didn’t register any more than they had earlier.

Almost thirty minutes later Chakotay emerged. A beaming grin brightened his entire face and his step had a new spring to it. “Kathryn, what is the one thing neither of us has really had the chance to experience?”

Her face contorted with a quizzical expression. “That’s a rather wide-open question. I thought you said not too long ago that I’d done more than most people over several lifetimes. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Chakotay pulled the PADD from her hands and tugged her to a standing position. “I’ve just been talking with our division heads and managed to get us two weeks off at the same time to do something that I guarantee will give you that jump start you need.”

Kathryn scowled at him. “Not a trip to Risa, is it? I think we’re both a bit old for that sort of thing.”

Chakotay shook his head and continued gleefully. “Nothing that mundane or predictable, my dear wife. I contacted Phoebe…”

“My sister? Why would you need her advice?”

“Not advice, just information about Elizabeth and her family.”

“Elizabeth… my niece? Phoebe’s daughter?”

“That’s the one! You know we only get see her a couple times a year, at the Janeway reunion and maybe the holidays,” Chakotay continued. “We’re lucky to see them even then, with our schedules.”

Kathryn sighed. “I’m just glad that she keeps in touch with us to let us know what all is going on with them. Her children are now – let’s see – Jemma is eight and Geoff is almost six. My word – it seems just like yesterday that they were born!” A look of horror spread across her face. “They’re all right, aren’t they? There’s nothing wrong?”

“They are all fine,” Chakotay reassured her. “In fact, they’re more than fine. And guess what? I asked Elizabeth if Jemma and Geoff could come visit us.”

The color drained from Kathryn’s face. “Two children? With us? Alone? With us?”

Chakotay’s exuberance continued. “Won’t it be great? Kathryn, that’s what we’re missing in our lives – children and grandchildren! This is our chance to fill those spots with our grandniece and grandnephew. School doesn’t start for them for another month and Elizabeth was more than happy to let them come.”

“I’m sure she was.” Kathryn was now glowering. “Chakotay, what will we do with them? I’ve never had any experience with children. I don’t think I have a single maternal gene in my body!”

“Nonsense. You were a mother to most of Voyager’s crew during those long, dark years – don’t deny it. And I’ve seen you around Miral and Owen as they were growing up, along with all the other children and grandchildren of our friends. You’ll be fine… we’ll be fine!”

“Chakotay, you’ve always been better with children than I have. Maybe I can handle them in small doses of a few hours. But for two weeks? Twenty-four hours a day?”

“You wanted an adrenalin jumpstart, Kathryn; this should do it just fine. And remember – you won’t be alone; we’re in this together. There’s all sorts of things we can do with them: make a trip to the snow volcanoes on Vega II, sail a solar ship to the moon, fish in the crystalline lakes of Iblora. Why, we could even go to that old amusement park here on Earth called Disney World.” Chakotay couldn’t contain his excitement.

Kathryn let out a nervous laugh; she knew she couldn’t win this discussion. She circled his neck with her arms, drawing him down to her. “I think one reason I never needed a child is because I have one already – you.” She kissed the tip of his nose and sighed. “All right, I guess it worth a try. But we can send them back if things don’t work out?”

“That’s part of the deal I made with Elizabeth.”

“Children. That should put some zest back into our lives.”

“That’s my plan,” Chakotay said.

Kathryn walked over to the long window that was the outer wall of their living room. She became lost in her thoughts but managed a smile on her face. After a minute of looking out into the cloud filled skies, she turned back to Chakotay. “This is all fine and good but the next time I talk about change, let’s make it a puppy.”


~ The End ~


*The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot


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