For the love of Mona
by Jinny W
Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all, except Mona, Henry, and my endings.
Summary: This story began as I was musing on some recent flames I'd received (thank y'all so kindly) and turned into something completely different and much more cheerful. Such is life. In which Chakotay demonstrates that endings can be rewritten to be, if not "happy", then at least much less maudlin.
This version has a slightly revised ending. Thanks to those - including Mary and Jo - who pointed out so nicely why I'd confused them. Cheers.
"I don't believe it!"
Kathryn jabbed a button on her padd to scroll the text upwards, then reread the final paragraph. As she shook her head in frustration again, the door chimed.
"Come", she called out, tossing the padd down on the couch beside her.
Chakotay strode into the ready room, but stopped short at her expression.
"Am I early?"
He waved his own padd in the air.
"We were going to discuss these crew reports. But if it's a bad time..."
Kathryn made a face. "When is it a good time for crew reports?"
"When some one else has to do them?" he suggested.
She grinned at the thought. "Tea?"
As Kathryn poured him a cup she added, "That's not a bad idea. Who should we delegate to?"
"I'm sure we could dig up some ambitious crewman to do the job."
Chakotay took the proffered drink. As he sank onto the couch beside her, Kathryn's discarded padd jammed under his thigh. He frowned and pulled it out, reading the title aloud.
"For the love of Mona..."
He raised an eyebrow at Kathryn.
"A romance novel?"
She shrugged and snatched the padd back, pitching it onto the coffee table.
"Just some escapism."
"So why did you throw it away? No good?"
"I've finished escaping," she said.
"Alright, I finished it and hated the ending," she admitted.
"Why is that?"
"Henry went to Paris," she said simply.
He blinked slowly. "Okay. And that's bad because..."
"Because Mona didn't go," she said, as though that it explained it all.
Chakotay nodded. "I see. Not a happy ending then."
"No". She snorted derisively. "Mona stayed in New York and went to work for the museum. They both decided their careers were more important. After all they'd been through! With her father, with the time Henry caught that fever and nearly died."
Kathryn rolled her eyes, trying to ignore Chakotay's amused smile. "It was such a waste," she added.
"I see," he said again. "I wouldn't have picked you as the 'happily ever after' type. Maybe the author thought this was more tragic and romantic". He gestured at the padd. "Two lovers, separated by destiny."
At Kathryn's skeptical look he added, "Well by their work anyway. It's an age old story."
She sighed. "I suppose so. But there was a good 350 pages of angst and tragedy and romance before the ending. And then no catharsis at all. Nothing. Zip. He just left."
Chakotay couldn't help grinning at her indignation. "You feel ripped off."
She smiled wryly. "Let's just say there tends to be enough separation and missed opportunities in real life. I don't need to find it in the fiction I read for distraction as well."
Chakotay's eyes seemed to flicker momentarily at that. Kathryn bit her lip and looked down at her lap, thinking that perhaps the conversation had strayed onto dangerous ground.
"What was in Paris?" he asked instead.
"The French," she replied lightly. "And someone called Simone. "
Kathryn drained the last of her tea.
"I suppose we should get to work," she said, changing the subject.
Chakotay smiled and nodded, but as they began working she could feel his speculative gaze brush against her when he thought she wasn't looking.
So Kathryn wants a happy ending, he thought to himself. Interesting. Now that open up a few possibilities...
Kathryn sank into her chair and took a deep draught from her coffee mug. If there was one thing worse than spending the afternoon working on crew reports, she reflected, it was not getting them all finished, and having them swamp your evening as well. She grimaced at the sight of the padds that were scattered around her quarters. It would be a long night.
She sighed and activated her terminal. A flashing light told her that Chakotay had sent her a text message just a few minutes earlier. She pushed a button to call it up. It read:
I know you won't leave the rest of the reports until tomorrow as we agreed, so I thought we could finish them over dinner. My quarters? By the way, I've attached a file for you to read before hand. I apologize in advance for my lack of writing ability. This wouldn't win any literary prizes, but it's the thought that counts, right? And I did write it surreptitiously when you thought I was reading B'Elanna's engineering summary. That has to count for something.
She smiled and opened the text of the attached file. It was headed "For the love of Mona - an alternative ending". She raised her eyebrows in surprise, then sank back into her chair to read what Chakotay had written.
The scene: Mona and Henry meet up again at a café in Paris. Six months have passed.
Mona stirred her coffee distractedly and watched the passers by. She seemed uncomfortable and restless. Her hair, long when Henry had left her, was now closely cropped, revealing her delicately curved ears and accentuating her strong chin.
Henry found himself captivated by her once again. It was one thing to think about Mona from a distance, but when in her presence, the sensation felt completely different. She was overwhelming. All his carefully thought-out sentences slipped from his mind. Consequently they had spent the past thirty minutes speaking of nothing but little things.
"Why didn't it work out for us Henry?" Mona asked suddenly.
He shrugged. "Geography."
She shook her head. "I don't think so. Other people make it work. Other people move, they compromise, or have long distance relationships. They work things out. We didn't."
"No, we didn't."
She seemed to be waiting for a response, so he added, "Perhaps we didn't try hard enough."
Mona sighed. "I suppose so." She shrugged her shoulders. "It's too late now anyway."
Henry frowned. "Is it ever too late?"
Somehow he knew the question was rhetorical, but Mona answered him anyway.
"Yes, sometimes", she said. "Too may harsh things are said. Too many opportunities to say sorry passed over. Too many nights not spent together. Too many regrets."
(Kathryn's breath caught in her throat as she read Mona's reply. Was this what Chakotay was trying to tell her? That he had given up on her altogether? With some effort she pushed the thought away and read on.)
"I'm sorry Mona." Henry couldn't think of anything more to add.
"I'm sorry too."
They sat in silence for a few minutes more, until he asked, "Whatever happened to your boundless optimism?"
At that Mona laughed a little - a short, whimsical laugh.
"It's still there. It's just not directed towards us."
Henry found himself smiling for the first time that afternoon.
"Prove it. Tell me something optimistic."
Mona pursed her lips for a moment. "Alright," she said. "Do you know they say that less than a third of relationships ever work out, long term? Past about seven or eight years I mean."
Henry stared at her. "That's awful. Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Mona shook her head. "You said something optimistic. Not something to make you feel better."
"What's optimistic about that?"
"You have to learn to look on the bright side Henry," she said. "Think of some other couple. Maybe them over there." Mona pointed to two young men who were holding hands across their table.
"Maybe because of us, their odds are better. They have more of a chance of being part of the third who do make it. Or somewhere else, out there," she waved her hands, "some other pair of lovers are deciding to stay together. To work it out. Whatever the challenges are."
Henry shook his head. "You do beat all, Mona."
Mona was watching the young couple with a smile. "Well, good luck to them, whoever they are."
She sighed and turned back to her companion. "I have to go Henry."
He merely nodded, and this time, Mona walked away.
Kathryn's face broke into a broad grin as she came to the end of Chakotay's story. He may have claimed to be a poor writer, but she had known for years that he was a master story teller. And she thought she liked what he was trying to tell her now.
"Computer, locate Commander Chakotay."
"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters."
She scrolled upwards to his short introductory message. Her eyes lingered on the words sitting there side by side, "Yours, Chakotay", then darted to the title of his tale, "an alternative ending." Kathryn fingered the padd and smiled again. Perhaps she should check she wasn't jumping to the wrong conclusion...
Kathryn typed Chakotay a quick message, then transferred in to the terminal in his quarters. It read:
Thankyou. But is this an analogy?
Kathryn (or should that be Mona?)
She stood and headed for the replicator.
"Computer. I'd like a bottle of Semillon. A young vintage."
As she picked up the wine and tucked it under her arm her terminal beeped, letter her know a new message had arrived. She strolled back to the desk and read Chakotay's reply with a chuckle. Then she hefted a pile of padds in the other hand, and strolled through the doors, humming. They swished shut behind her, leaving her room silent and empty.
On her terminal, Chakotay's message still remained:
Kathryn (who I hope isn't Mona),
We're actually another couple, at another table, in another coffee shop, in another city.
Maybe trying for that lucky third.
Chakotay (who's hoping he's not Henry).
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