Summary: Kathryn's husband is jealous. That's about it.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Paramount except the bits I put in and the title which comes from Tori Amos' song.***
Kathryn is my second wife. By the time I met her I was well past believing in abstract ideas like 'forever' and 'one true love'. Joan - and a few years therapy - had cured me of that. But I believed in her, I believed we had some sort of future together. Playing second fiddle to the shadow of someone else wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
We met at an art class, a long way from all of the places that two 'fleeters usually encountered each other. She was hiding in the back corner, maybe hoping that no-one would notice her. As though Kathryn Janeway could ever hide in a room like that. Although it had been five years, I recognized her face - the media had adored Voyager's brave captain - but I was also fascinated by the shadowy charcoal sketch on her easel. A man's face stared back at me, dark, with intense eyes and a strange tattoo. He looked familiar, but I couldn't place him.
'Your boyfriend?' I joked, as the class paused for a coffee break. Almost immediately I regretted it. Her eyes became guarded, but only for a moment, then she gave me a small smile.
'No. An old friend.'
Later of course I learned that it was Chakotay, the first officer I had seen standing beside her on the holovids after the Starfleet inquiries. The sketch was a pretty good likeness too, considering Kathryn's professed modesty about her art.
Later I learnt many other things about Kathryn. She loves dogs. She hates small talk but she's very good at it. She's the best kisser I've ever known. And I shouldn't ask about her first officer.
Later, I wonder about him still. . . Chakotay. She says there was nothing (but she has drawn him five times in one sketch book, I want to say - but I don't. In the end we have argued about him five times anyway.) They were friends, nothing more. But she says it a certain way. Like she says his name a certain way, very carefully. Cha-ko-tay. Wrapping her lips around each syllable, careful not to break it. Careful not to let it break her.
After eight months I moved into her house - a cozy apartment by the beach in California - a year later we married. I wondered at times whether I should have insisted that we move somewhere else, to a new house, one that was just ours, and hadn't been just hers for five years first. Something we could share. I even brought it up a few times.
'I like beaches much more than I used to', she told me once.
'Because it's so different to space?'
'Yes.' She smiled at my understanding. 'When there's sand beneath your toes, and you're staring out at all that water, it feels so very real.'
After that I stopped asking about her moving.
I met most of her Voyager command staff of course. They came to visit her periodically in ones and twos. They joked and shared stories - old and new - with an easy intimacy I'd never seen in a Starfleet crew before, although I had served for my fair share of years. I guessed that it came from the amount of time they had spent in unfamiliar territory, turning to each other for company, for family. Kathryn seemed surprised when I mentioned it.
'I hadn't thought about it,' she said.
There was Tuvok, the impassive Vulcan, who raised an eyebrow when she told him we would be getting married. Neelix, who insisted for some reason on a tour of Kathryn's tiny (and barely used) kitchen. Tom and B'Elanna, Harry, Seven, and later Chakotay.
They sit on the balcony together, heads close, talking quietly. Careful not to touch. There is a familiarity in their gestures, in their conversation that makes my stomach clench. It's like a dance they have practiced for years. After a few minutes watching I can imagine them sitting together in her ready room like this, drinks in hand, talking about nothing, about everything. Feeling both invisible and an intruder I make my excuses and walk off alone down the beach.
Later she comes after me with other practiced steps.
'Do you want to talk about it?'
'Why? You keep telling me there is nothing to talk about.' I hate the way I sound, so bitter.
She touches my shoulder gently and I turn to face her. 'There isn't. But there's what you feel.'
'This isn't about me.'
'Isn't it? Then why do we keep having this conversation, Stefan?'
'What do you think?'
She regards me silently for a moment. 'I think you're seeing ghosts where they don't exist.'
Kathryn sighs. 'Are you going to answer everything I say with a question?'
I poke irritably at a pile of sand near my left foot. 'Maybe.'
'Well, what do I think?' She turns her head and glances back at the house, then back at me.
'We were never together. Not on Voyager, not afterwards. And we never will be.'
'You've said that before.'
'It was true before. It's true now. I don't know what else to say to convince you.'
For some reason I feel like a petulant child, but I don't move towards her.
'Tell me something you haven't said before.'
She looks at her bare feet for a few seconds before answering. 'I'm not sorry.'
'That he's here? That I'm here?' Hoping for the first, half expecting the latter.
She meets my eyes. 'About either of you.'
I shake my head. 'I don't understand.'
'I'm not sorry that he and I,' Kathryn gestured back to the porch where Chakotay sat watching the ocean, studiously not looking our way, 'were never together. And I'm not sorry that I married you.'
We both watch the sea, both waiting for me to answer.
'Okay.' I say eventually. Because I have to say something. Because I want to believe her.
I think about the way we talk. How our conversations are usually casual, friendly, rarely intense. I think about the way she touches me. Carefully, deliberately, not out of habit, not because she needs to.
I poke my toe deeper into the sand while she watches me, silently. I think about our own habits. This conversation, the fight we'll have later over something ridiculous that's really about my jealousy. The time we'll spend making up later, in bed, moving together - the one kind of communication we're really good at. How she will walk alone on the beach afterwards when she thinks I'm asleep. I'll wonder whether it's regret, or whether she always does that. I'll wonder why they were never lovers when they are obviously more than friends.
I look up and she is still watching me, eyes unreadable.
'Yes, it's alright.'
She reaches over to squeeze my hand, throwing me a half-smile. Then she turns and walks back towards the house. I think about whether I should follow her. There will be another twenty minutes of polite conversation, then Chakotay will make some excuse and say he has to leave. Kathryn will ask him to stay longer.
'Stay for dinner. I'll even cook.'
He'll smile at that, pleased that she asked, but will go anyway, with a polite nod in my direction. Sometimes a polite handshake. A practiced joke about her cooking.
As I watch her back steadily moving towards the house, towards him, the breeze blowing off the water turns noticeably cooler. I shiver in my thin shirt, thoughts of staying outside for a protracted sulk forgotten.
'Kathryn!' I call out.
She slides to a halt and turns towards me, the wind whipping her hair across her face. I jog up to her side. She frowns as she scoops the hair backwards over her forehead.
'It's getting cooler again', she says, with a wry smile.
I nod and take the hand she stretches out to me. I don't know what else to do.
So then Love walked up to Like and said
"I know that you don't like me much, let's go for a ride."
This ocean is wrapped around that pineapple tree
and is your place in heaven worth giving up these kisses
and I know I have been
driven like the snow, oh but
this is cooling faster than I can.
This is cooling. . .
from "Cooling" by Tori Amos
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