In the End

 

by Cath

Rated G

Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

Kathryn’s eyes flew open! She sat up abruptly, the force of the thought that sprang into her mind nearly catapulting her from her bed.

She was in love with Chakotay!

As absurd as it seemed, she had somehow managed to fall in love with her best friend. How it had happened didn’t matter in the slightest she realised, because she had left it too late.

The fact that it was barely dawn never crossed her mind. She couldn’t stay in bed a moment longer so she jumped up and drew the curtains. It was the same Indiana scene from her window as far as she could make out in the half light, the same flowers, the same trees, the same fields, and the same road. In fact everything was the same, but at the same time everything was different. She was different.

She drew her brow together in a frown. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t possibly have fallen in love with Chakotay – he was her best friend. You don’t fall in love with your best friend. You love them but you definitely don’t fall in love with them. Well at least not at her age. Good God, she was old enough to know better than to do something quite as juvenile as that.

Their relationship had always been strictly platonic. Well on board Voyager given the command structure it couldn’t be anything else and as far as she could remember they had never thought it anything else. Thank God we don’t fancy each other, she had thought many times.

"It’s nice to have such a good friend, Kathryn", he had said just the other day when they were sitting on her mother’s back porch, drinking coffee.

She had understood exactly what he meant; no pressure, no strings, just two good friends sharing time together. The two of them were living proof that it was possible to have a relationship with a member of the opposite sex without sex actually rearing its head. There had never been any suggestion that either of them wanted to turn it into something else, except……. she turned her thoughts back to five years earlier and the neck rub he had given her on New Earth……….but no that was only because they were the only two people there and as yet unused to living in such close contact with each other. In fact, it was the time spent there together that had started them on their close friendship.

She needed a cup of coffee, she also needed to think, and in peace. Her mother would be getting up soon and she would be sure to notice Kathryn had something on her mind and she certainly was not ready to talk about it yet, if ever. She made her way down stairs and into the kitchen a little dazed by her revelation and the lack of sleep.

She took her coffee and wandered out into the garden. The sun was rising, the birds were in full song and it was already apparent that it was going to be another scorching day. But all she could think about was Chakotay and what had happened last night.

Chakotay had come over to do some repairs for her mother, something he had settled into doing since they had returned home, and everything had been normal giving not a hint of what was to come.

**********************************************

"Dinner is nearly ready," her mother had called from the kitchen as she arrived home from headquarters.

There had been an off world delegation visiting and she had been rushed off her feet at work. Her status as ‘Hero of the Delta Quadrant’ meant that naturally she was the one that had to be on hand to answer questions, the same old questions, again and again, always the same. She was thinking of having a hologram installed and programming it with the answers.

"I’ll lay the table, Mom," she had called back going through into the kitchen.

"Already done," her mother replied. "Why don’t you get changed while I dish up?"

She had settled in at home following their return from the Delta Quadrant and as yet had not given much thought to finding a place of her own. They got on well together, her mother liked her Voyager ‘family’ and they both managed to give each other space to lead their own lives. Her mother worked from home and Kathryn spent most of her time between Headquarters and the Academy, so things worked well.

Chakotay had been working at Headquarters too since their return and they saw a lot of each other. He came to their home often to help with things around the house and on the occasional evening like this one just for a home cooked meal and some company.

They had eaten their meal – a pasta bake, one of her mothers’ specialities – and Chakotay had gone outside to see to something in the garden while she tidied away the dishes. Nothing odd there, she thought.

Kathryn frowned, remembering she had finished the work she had brought home and had just decided to go up for an early bath when Chakotay had come in and suddenly nothing was the same any more. Kathryn could tell there was something up from the way his hand went up and he pulled at his ear. He always did that on the ship when he was unsure how she would take something. This time it seemed as if he couldn’t wait any longer to tell her his news.

"Admiral Jellico called me to his office today. He offered me a position in the diplomatic service," he said.

"Well that is good news!" her mother cried at once. "Well done, Chakotay. They must think highly of your work."

Kathryn was surprised. She had heard nothing of this in the office and for a moment wondered if that was deliberate, but even she had been pleased at first. She knew that Chakotay was very conscious of his position as ex Maquis and pardoned fugitive and was still finding his feet back in Starfleet.

"There’s more to it, actually," Chakotay continued, looking a little awkward.

Kathryn’s heart was sinking already. It was almost as if she had a premonition of what he was about to say.

"There’s a position opened up on Bajor, and he’s asked me if I would like to go. I could hardly turn him down. I’m sorry Gretchen – it means I won’t be here to help as often as I have been."

"Oh, don’t worry about that Chakotay. You just take your chance. If this is the job you want, please don’t think you have any obligation to help me. I love your company and am so grateful for what you have done for me, but you have worked hard for your chances. I mean it, well done. How long is the posting for?" Gretchen asked.

"A year at least. It’s working with some of the returning colonies along the old demilitarised zone. The position is actually a Starfleet attachment to a Federation Team. They seem to think my history will help make communications with the colonists easier."

Kathryn hadn’t spoken yet. She had been too busy trying to take in the fact that he was going, and wondering exactly why she felt so upset about it.

"What do you think, Kathryn?" Chakotay asked at last.

Kathryn had been standing by the window, gazing unseeing over the garden. She turned slowly.

"I’m pleased, of course, if you are that is. I’m glad they understand how valuable you and your experience can be to them." She half smiled at him. What else could she say?

He watched her with an odd look on his face.

"Thank you," he paused………"Well I’ve finished outside," he said "I’d better be getting off." He gathered his things and left and that had been that.

Chakotay was a Starfleet officer so she always knew a posting like this could come up, but she never expected it to be so quickly and off world, and she certainly never expected her reaction to it.

**********************************************

Kathryn looked down. Her feet were soaking wet. She sighed heavily, finished her coffee and went into the house to get ready for work.

Chakotay was leaving – and with no idea how she felt about it or him for that matter! Wasn’t being in love supposed to make you feel happy and that all was right with the world?

She could hear her mother moving about in her room and knew that she’d have to hurry if she was to get away without the inquisition that would surely follow her arrival downstairs.

"Mom, I’m going in early. I’ve got loads to do today," she called as she went downstairs. Well, that was true she thought; she always seemed to have a lot on her desk.

"Have you had something to eat, dear?" her mother called down.

"No Mom, but I’ll get something at work. Bye." She laughed as she slipped out of the door and made her way to the transporter station. 44 years of age and her mom still treated her as if she was a teenager.

Sure enough, when she arrived at work, early as she was, there was still a pile of Padds in her in-tray and the message light blinking on her console. She was kept busy all morning and it was only the pangs of hunger and the fact that B’Elanna commed her to remind her about their lunch appointment that took her away from her desk.

"A bit distracted today, aren’t we? Are you all right Kathryn?" B’Elanna said as they sat down at their table.

"Of course I’m all right!" She took a bite of her omelette. "A poor night, an early start, and too much work, that’s all."

B’Elanna began to eat. "A bit of a surprise about Chakotay, isn’t it? Miral is really going to miss him, and so am I.

B’Elanna was going to miss him! Kathryn took a sip from her mug. It was so hot that she slopped coffee on the table.

"Do you want to tell me what the matter is?" B’Elanna had long been able to tell when something was wrong with her Captain and something was wrong now, it was written all over her face. "I’ll expect you’ll miss him too," she prompted.

"I suppose I will," Kathryn said, trying to appear indifferent, but fooling no-one not even herself.

"Maybe more than you realised?"

Kathryn stopped, put down her cup and nodded silently.

"Chakotay, has no idea how you feel?"

"Of course he hasn’t."

"Then you should say something, Kathryn!"

B’Elanna had always had trouble keeping quiet when she felt strongly about something. She was a Klingon, used to speaking her mind. Mind you, she was hardly an expert on the subject of falling in love. Look what it had taken to get her to open up to Tom, and anyway, even he had given up on the idea of Chakotay and Kathryn ever being more than friends.

"How can I say anything, B’E?" Kathryn asked, groaning as she let it all out at last, "Chakotay and I are friends."

She couldn’t get around this simple fact. When she thought about it, everything else came to an abrupt stop. They did all the things friends did, went for a drink together, helped each other with shopping or sometimes just simply went out and had a laugh together. He made her take a break from work occasionally. They even went away and did things at the weekends together sometimes. Hell, he even kept a brotherly eye on the few dates she had since she got back and told her what he thought of her partners. Kathryn liked men slightly on the serious side but with a sense of humour, a total change from the military and political people she worked with every day. She sighed. Chakotay was serious, academic, and thoughtful and with a wicked sense of humour, all the things she liked in a man.

Chakotay, however, liked tall blondes. She’d known that for years, and he had worked his way through a series of stunners since his relationship with Seven had broken up on their arrival home. Tall, leggy, busty blondes, the total opposite of her. In the general way of things, he’d never give her a second look.

"It’s hardly rocket science, Kathryn. Just look him in the eye and tell him," B’Elanna said.

"I can’t do that, and don’t you say anything either. Promise?" she asked quietly. How awful it would be if she embarrassed him. She didn’t want to see the pity in his eyes when she explained how she had somehow been stupid enough to fall in love with him, and she couldn’t bear the thought of him pulling away from their friendship at her revelation.

"So, you’re prepared to let him go without giving him a clue how you feel?"

"He’s hardly going across the galaxy, B’Elanna."

"It’s far enough away." B’Elanna pushed her plate away and shook her head sadly, "I don’t believe it, you’re scared! I really thought you had more spirit than that, Kathryn!"

She had a point, Kathryn thought. Was she really taking the cowards’ way out? Keep quiet and you won’t get hurt, but the truth was she was hurting now. But, and it was a big but - if Chakotay had any similar feelings, surely he would have said something before now.

Later as she sat at her desk, she had an awful thought. When Chakotay reached Bajor he’d be surrounded by beautiful women. Bajor had an imbalance of men to women, owing to the number of males killed during the Cardassian occupation. He was very good looking in a dark, craggy, surprisingly sensuous sort of way. Now she gave it some real thought. Why had she never taken much notice of it before? He had a lovely personality, everyone liked him. He was bound to meet a woman and fall in love! Chakotay was always falling in love, his visits back to Earth would tail away and…………

The beep of her consol broke her train of thought. She looked at it blankly. The really stupid thing was she couldn’t understand why it had taken her so long to realise what was right under her nose.

"Are you alright Admiral? Your 2pm appointment has arrived. Shall I show him in?"

Acknowledging her aides enquiry with a nod of her head, she gave herself a firm shake. She would have to summon up the courage to have a talk with Chakotay.

Somehow the day passed. She transported home hoping that Chakotay would have called in, but he wasn’t there. Either he hadn’t finished work yet or he was still at his apartment at the other end of their small town. Her mother was visiting with friends, but had left a meal for Kathryn to heat up. She ate it hastily, and decided to take advantage of the balmy evening weather to take her mind off Chakotay at least for a few hours. She got her sketch pad and was just walking through the door when there he was. She had been half expecting him, but all the same she was surprised.

"Sorry I didn’t mean to make you jump."

She looked up. Now was her chance to tell him exactly how she felt. Kathryn put her pad down on the table and suddenly her stomach seemed to be twisting in panic. Get a grip woman, she said to herself. This is Chakotay for goodness’ sake! There he was, tall, handsome, and brown from working in the sun. It felt as though a hand was squeezing her heart.

"I can’t stop," he said "I’ve just popped down to tell you I’m leaving tomorrow. There’s a ship going out at lunchtime and I may as well take the chance and get settled before I’m due to start."

"Tomorrow?" she stared at him like an idiot.

"I didn’t want to just go………."

"No, I understand… eh….. Moms’ not here. She’ll be sorry she missed you."

There was an awkward pause. Neither of them knew what to say. The conversation was not going how she had intended. News of his imminent departure had thrown her completely. How could she just say she loved him? It wasn’t something you could abruptly throw into the conversation. It needed working up to, something about how feelings change with circumstances without you even realising it. At this minute the idea of having a conversation like that was like tackling the highest mountain. Perhaps she should throw caution to the winds, and just say it. Chakotay was looking at her, a little puzzled. She closed her eyes, got ready, and……………..

"Hello Chakotay, what brings you around this evening?"

She stood quietly while he told her mother his news, trying not to feel upset but failing miserably.

"Please take care of your self," she heard her mother say.

"I will. Don’t worry. I’ll keep in touch Kathryn. I’ll miss you when I’m gone!"

"Me too." She replied sadly.

He opened his mouth as if to say something else, then with a frown shut it again, gave her a strange look, turned and left.

Her mother looked at her and opened her mouth.

"Don’t! Just don’t say anything mom!" she turned on her heel and went upstairs to her room.

*********************************************

"That’s me sorted then." Chakotay pushed some more clothes into the small bag on the bed.

"That can’t be all you’re taking" B’Elanna said. She had come with Miral to see Chakotay before he left.

"No. I’ve packed what I need into a trunk to follow later and the rest of my stuff will go into storage until I come home."

"You are coming home then?"

"Of course I am."

He fastened the bag and bent over Miral as she sat on the bed sucking her little fist. "I’m going to miss you sweetheart" he said as he tickled her. He bent to kiss her and she poked her tiny finger into the dimple on his cheek. He picked her up and cuddled her to him. She giggled and squirmed in his arms and he handed her back to B’Elanna. "You’d better take her B’E. I think she’s getting a little too lively for me."

B’Elaana stood and looked at her friend. They had been close for years and despite the calm front he was trying to show to the world, she knew something was wrong.

"You don’t have to take this job if you don’t want it you know," she prompted. "You could go to the Academy. They said they would hold a place for you for the new academic year. You always did like teaching, well you said you did."

"I did………do, I mean. Look B’E it’s not that, Oh, never mind OK."

"Well if it’s not that, what is it?"

"Nothing, it’s nothing. There’s just nothing here for me," he cried impatiently. "I just need to be off."

If it was only as simple as staying and taking the job at the Academy! Chakotay ran his fingers through his hair and stared at his friend. He thought back to Kathryn standing by the open window when he told her his news. The way the light had shone on her hair and had lit up her face. She was so beautiful, huge blue eyes, freckles. He had thought he had been over her for years. They had developed a wonderful friendship so what had happened that had changed things so drastically?

Was it just because he had told her he was leaving and realised as he said it that he wouldn’t be able to see her any time he liked? He’d been in a turmoil ever since. He thought back to years before when she had been the one who had said "I can’t imagine a day without you!" Now he was the one who couldn’t and it had turned his world upside down.

She was his best friend. How could he begin to tell her what he was feeling after all that had gone before? What a fool he’d be to spoil what they had. He had to go before he blurted it out and ruined everything.

"It’s Kathryn! Isn’t it?" B’Elanna cried, reading it in his face, "I don’t believe you. I thought you would never get around to seeing what was right under your nose. Have you said anything to her?"

"Of course I haven’t said anything. There isn’t a lot of point anyway. We’re just friends she doesn’t think of me like that."

"How in the hell do you know, if you haven’t said anything? You’ll lose her, Chakotay if you don’t tell her how you feel. She’s a very attractive woman. There are plenty of men out there just waiting to snap her up."

Chakotay shook his head miserably. "Oh I know, believe me I know, but I could easily lose her all together if I do say anything!"

If Kathryn felt anything like that for him she’d have said something by now. It was a good job he was going away. It would give him a chance to get over her and he wouldn’t come back until he’d talked some sense into himself.

*******************************************

Kathryn lay in bed staring into the darkness. There had never been any chance she was going to be able to sleep. She tried to console herself with the thought that Chakotay was only going to Bajor. It was only a week away by shuttle. There would be other opportunities to tell him how she felt. It might be easier if she visited him and then told him. That way if he didn’t feel the same they would have some space between them to get over it.

God that was so cowardly she thought. So what if she told him she loved him and he didn’t feel the same. Chakotay was far too kind to laugh in her face, he’d let her down gently, and anyway if she told him, at least she’d know where she stood. Anything had to be better than churning herself up like this. She’d go to see him in the morning before he left.

Now she had come to a decision she managed to sleep and woke startled, later than usual. She jumped out of bed, pulled on some clothes and ran down stairs. Please, please she said to herself, don’t let him be gone yet.

She arrived panting at his door, and knocked. Nothing. She knocked louder. Nothing. She had missed him, missed her chance. Her face fell. It served her right. She turned and walked slowly back the way she had come, in a daze. Chakotay had gone! She wouldn’t see him for ages. He’d be busy, get caught up in his new life – at least that would give her time to pull herself together. The next time she saw him she could look him straight in the eye and discover her feelings were perfectly normal again.

How hollow that sounded – and how untrue she thought.

She rounded the corner to her house, tears already starting to prick her eyes.

"Kathryn! Are you alright? What’s the matter?"

Blinking she wiped her eyes. Chakotay wasn’t meant to be here. He was well on his way to Bajor by now.

"Nothings the matter! I’m fine!" she cried untruthfully. "Why have you come back?"

He’d got as far as headquarters before he came to his senses, miles of misery, that’s what had brought him back, the thought of not seeing Kathryn for a year. He’d talked the transport operator into sending him directly to her house but she hadn’t been there. Her mother had told him she had dashed out but she didn’t know where to.

He had to know how she felt. Even if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, it had to feel better than it did now not knowing.

"Why do you think I’ve come back?" he asked slowly, his heart hammering hard enough to burst out of his chest. He was surprised he could hear his own voice.

Kathryn shook her head, unable to speak. She looked up into his eyes. They moved towards each other.

Arms became entangled, lips met…………………….After all it hadn’t needed words. Neither of them had said a thing.

Gretchen looked out of the window and smiled at the sight that greeted her. It had only taken them seven years to see what she had seen the moment they landed, but never mind, at least they had got there in the end.

28/07/04

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