Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all, except the lyrics at the bottom and the happy ending which is mine, all mine.
Summary: Chakotay has a chat with Kathryn's mother and learns a few interesting things.
Kathryn turned her head automatically at the sound. After all, she was used to being the only Captain within earshot since Chakotay had given up his claim to the title seven years before.
A young ensign bustled past her in pursuit of Captain Archer who was strolling further along the corridor. Chakotay smiled at her, noting both the reaction and the face she pulled afterwards.
"Since when did ensigns get so young?" she asked rhetorically.
Chakotay shrugged. "Don't ask me. I still think Harry looks young."
"So we're the old guard now, huh?" Kathryn held up a hand. "Don't answer that."
They walked in companionable silence through the corridors of headquarters. Both were relieved, and both a little exhausted now that the last of the Starfleet hearings were finally over. Today they had attended a private meeting with Admiral Paris to discuss the future careers of their crewmembers. In particular, Kathryn wanted to ensure that those who wished to stay in Starfleet wouldn't suffer because the Delta Quadrant had cut them off from opportunities for advancement, transfers or training over the past seven years.
Chakotay watched Kathryn out of the corner of his eye as he reflected on the events of the past few weeks. She had said many times to him, and to the other former Maquis on Voyager, that she was not going to stand by and let any of them pay for old mistakes. Still it was one thing to be comforted by the words and yet another to see Kathryn Janeway in action. She was formidable. He remembered during the first day of the hearings how she had thrown aside the padd containing her prepared speech and passionately orated, describing the trials that her crew had been through. How they had all exonerated themselves ten fold by now. He had thought, not for the first time, how glad he was not to be one of her opponents.
"What are you smiling at?" she asked.
"I was thinking about the expression on Admiral Nechayev's face when you used the term 'witch hunt' during the first hearing."
She laughed. "You'd think I had actually called her a witch the way she reacted."
He chuckled. "I don't think you would have been the first."
As they stepped through the doors Kathryn blinked in the glare of the late afternoon sun light. She turned to Chakotay, feeling uncharacteristically shy.
"Are you doing anything now?"
He shrugged. "I didn't have anything special planned."
"How about dinner?"
"Are you offering to cook for me?"
She laughed. "No. But my mother is. She's curious about you, she wants to meet you."
She crossed her arms to hide her uncertainty. "Unless you have someone else to see..."
Chakotay smiled. "What exactly have you been telling her about me?"
"Nothing really", Kathryn lied. "Well, a few little things," she added. "She came along to the hearings every day. She knows we're friends."
"Alright, she's being nosy", she admitted. "But in a nice way."
He laughed. "Well, as it happens, I'm not doing anything, and yes, I would love to join the Janeway women for dinner."
She grinned. "My sister had other plans tonight. But I think two Janeway's should be enough for you. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the nosiness."
By the time they transported to the yard of Gretchen Janeway's home in Indiana, her dinner preparations were already well underway. Kathryn sniffed the air appreciatively.
"Oh, I can smell her gravy from here."
Chakotay looked dubious. "I can't."
She laughed. "Years of practice at guessing what was for dinner."
"If your mother is such a wonderful cook, I can't believe none of it rubbed off on you."
Kathryn screwed up her face. "I think we've had this conversation before. But believe me, she did try."
A gust of wind caused her to shiver, and she looked up at the darkening sky.
"We should go inside. I think it's going to rain."
Chakotay smiled. "Is that your local knowledge at work?"
"No. An old war wound is playing up," she chuckled. "And I checked the weather net before we left San Francisco."
Before Chakotay had time to respond, the front door was flung open and a head appeared around the corner.
"Kath! What are you doing out here in the yard? Don't you know it's going to rain soon?" She gestured at the sky which was getting darker by the minute, then glanced at Chakotay who was beginning to shiver a little in his uniform. "Bring your friend inside before he catches his death of cold."
Kathryn grinned and took Chakotay's hand to lead him inside. He looked at her in surprise at the gesture but didn't pull away. Gretchen raised an eyebrow slightly, watching them from the doorway, but merely stood aside to let them past. Once inside, Kathryn dropped his hand and enveloped her mother in a quick hug.
"Oh I've missed coming home for dinner like this."
Gretchen smiled into her daughter's hair. "And I've missed making sure that you get a decent meal every now and then."
She rubbed Kathryn's back, then let her go and turned to Chakotay.
"So, you're my daughter's first officer."
Her blue eyes radiated amusement. "You know, Kathy's been bringing home boys for years now, and for some reason, they all feel the need to make me feel about a hundred."
Chakotay looked at Kathryn, who just rolled her eyes.
"Please", her mother went on, "call me Gretchen."
"Alright Gretchen", he said holding his hand out for her to shake. He could see traces of Kathryn in her - she had lovely eyes and the same confident bearing. Where Kathryn's hair was straight, her mother's fell in curls down her back. As she brushed aside his hand and gave him a quick hug, he tried to ignore the nagging suspicion that she had already measured him from head to toe.
After twenty minutes of polite conversation they ate. Kathryn had not been exaggerating about Gretchen's cooking skills. The meal was wonderful. Despite Kathryn's warning about her mother's nosiness, their talk was mostly light. Gretchen seemed fascinated with stories of how their two separate crews had managed to integrate over time.
When dinner was over, they sat in comfortable chairs clutching cups of steaming coffee. Kathryn appeared contemplative and said little. Gretchen talked quietly to Chakotay about his family's history.
"Oh listen", Kathryn broke in at one stage. "It's raining."
Gretchen stared absently at her daughter. "Yes dear, I told you it would."
Kathryn put her cup down on the table.
"It's been a long time since I've heard rain on the roof," she shifted in her chair, then changed her mind and stood up.
"I'm going to go and sit on the front porch and watch it for a while. Want to come sit with me?" She directed the last remark at Chakotay.
"I -" he was about to agree, then glanced at Gretchen to see how she would react to their departure.
"Actually, Kath, I'd like to talk to Chakotay for a little while longer", her mother said. "He can come join you in a few minutes."
Kathryn raised an eyebrow but didn't protest. "Alright".
She grabbed a crocheted blanket that was draped over the back of one of the sofas and headed out for the front porch.
"I hope you don't think I'm being rude", Gretchen said, as Chakotay sank back into his chair.
"No, not at all. I just haven't seen any one order Kathryn about in a while."
She nodded. "It's good for her soul."
He smiled politely and waited for her to begin.
"I know it's ridiculous, but I can't help thinking that you've been monopolizing my daughter's company for the past seven years."
Chakotay stared at her, wondering where this conversation was going.
"I would have thought that would mean you'd want me out there and her in here."
She laughed lightly. "No. We've done most of our catching up already. I suppose I wanted to talk to you without her around," she went on.
Chakotay nodded and took a deep sip from his cup.
"And here you are", Gretchen continued, "the man my daughter is in love with."
Chakotay nearly choked on his drink.
"Did she say that to you?" he asked.
Gretchen laughed softly. "No of course not, she's Kathryn. But I do know a thing or two about her. And I know a thing or two about love."
"Uh-huh". Chakotay found himself lost for words.
"Did she warn you about me and my directness?"
"Well, she did say that you would probably be -" he hesitated for a second, then decided on honesty "- I think she used the word 'nosy' actually."
Gretchen laughed again. "Well, yes I am. It's probably gotten worse too. All this time without her, now she's back I can't help feeling that I want to grab onto her and hold on tight before she disappears again."
"I know that feeling," Chakotay said unthinkingly.
"Oh?" She looked surprised.
"Whatever you're imagining, Gretchen, Kathryn and I... we're not together. Not like that. We're good friends, but that's all."
Gretchen nodded slowly. "May I ask a personal question then, while I'm being nosy."
Chakotay couldn't help smiling. "Of course."
"How long did it take you to fall in love with her? Out there, in the Delta Quadrant."
He shook his head. "Not very long. Falling out of love was the hard part."
He tried to say the words lightly, without bitterness, but ended up sounding tired instead. Gretchen watched him closely for a moment before she replied.
"I do know what it's like being in love with a Starfleet officer, you know. I don't just mean someone who wears the uniform, not even if they do the job well. I mean someone's who's so committed."
She set her empty mug down on the table.
"If I know my daughter, she would have pushed aside anything that she wanted for herself in order to be the best captain she could be in that situation."
He looked up at her quickly.
"I mean anything that she wanted Chakotay," she repeated. "No matter how much she might have wanted it, in here," she said, tapping her chest.
Chakotay put his coffee down and sighed. As strange as it seemed, perhaps Kathryn's mother was the best person to have this conversation with.
"I guess part of me always knew somehow that nothing would really happen between us while we were on Voyager," he admitted eventually.
"Even when I was first in love with her and I knew that she felt something for me. I didn't want to admit it. I just kept hoping that she'd change her mind. It took me a long time to realise that she wouldn't."
Gretchen smiled wryly. "My daughter could be the poster girl for stubbornness, once she's made up her mind about something."
Chakotay grinned at that. "Yes, I did notice that over the years."
Gretchen smiled again. "You two must have had some arguments then."
He nodded. "One or two big ones", he said softly. "But we worked things out eventually."
"So, nosy question number two. Did you really stop loving her?"
He shrugged. "I've been telling myself that for the last few years."
"I see". She paused as if wondering how much to tell him. "Well, if you'd like a mother's opinion-"
"Give her a chance. Even if you've waited so long that you swore you'd give up waiting. Things will be different now, here."
"I was never sure what she wanted, actually," he remarked.
"She watches you, you know. All of the time. When you're not looking, when she thinks no one else is. I haven't seen her do that for a long time."
Chakotay was quiet, thinking over the words. "I'm not sure what that means."
Gretchen smiled gently. "I think it means that my daughter is ready to stop being 'the Captain' all the time and start living like a human being again."
She nodded in the direction of the front of the house. "Don't let any more time slip away. Go talk to her."
"Yes ma'am", he said, smiling at her.
She rolled her eyes in a gesture that seemed very familiar. "Those dimples of yours must have come in handy when you two were arguing and you wanted to be persuasive."
"Actually", he said as he stood, turning serious again, "Kathryn never seemed to have much trouble resisting me".
Gretchen turned penetrating eyes on him. "I don't believe that for a second."
She met his serious expression with her own. "Don't mistake skill at concealing feelings for lack of emotion. I think that's something the Vulcans say," she added.
He nodded slowly, and went out to find Kathryn.
Chakotay smiled at the sight of Kathryn bundled up on the two-seater sofa that rested on the front porch, staring at the rain as though she was hypnotized.
She looked up, startled. "Hi".
He sank down on the seat next to her.
"I forgot how beautiful rain is", he admitted.
"It's like the water's dancing", she said softly, then blushed. "I'm sorry, that sounded stupid."
"No, it didn't."
"Want some blanket?"
She unwound herself and passed Chakotay half of the rug. He pulled it up over his legs and let the fabric fall against his chest.
Kathryn stretched contentedly. "So what did my mother want to ask you?"
"She wanted to talk about you actually", he replied, supplying half of the truth.
"It's nice that she worries. I missed that."
He nodded. "We missed a lot of things."
"Yes we did."
Chakotay glanced at her. "You don't find it odd that she wanted to talk one on one to a complete stranger?"
Kathryn met his stare. "You're not a stranger. She's been hearing about you for a while."
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh?"
"I might have mentioned you in some of my letters."
"Mentioned me, huh. I thought you said you only told her a few little things," he reminded her.
"I was lying", she admitted.
"I thought so."
Kathryn smiled. "She likes you."
"You're changing the subject. But that's good to hear."
"Yes, it is good. She seems to have changed her tactics though," she said, shifting under the blanket to get more comfortable. "She didn't stuff you with brownies. She usually does that to favoured guests."
Chakotay grinned slyly. "She promised to give me some when I leave."
Kathryn laughed. "Then I take that back."
"What do you mean by tactics?"
"She always knew how to get what she wanted from a conversation. Phoebe got that talent from her."
"What would she want from me?" he frowned.
"I don't know, you talked to her."
He was silent, unsure how to broach the subject.
"She said that sometime soon you would stop being 'the Captain' and start being Kathryn again", he said eventually.
"Oh". She didn't seem surprised.
"What will you do now, Kathryn?" he asked, suddenly and awkwardly aware that they hadn't really talked about it yet.
"I don't know," she admitted. "I need to take some time off and think about it properly. It will be nice not to be the centre of attention. To not have so much pressure on me for a while."
"Will you have counseling?" he asked softly.
Kathryn sighed. "I doubt my mother really meant me leaving Starfleet though, did she?"
He shook his head.
"Once I thought I could do it", she said quietly.
"Do what? Leave Starfleet?"
"No", she shook her head, "be the Captain and still be Kathryn," she swallowed hard. "I always believed in keeping the right distance from my crew, but I never thought that I would ever lose myself that way. In the Alpha Quadrant keeping the balance didn't seem so difficult. In the Delta Quadrant," she expelled a breath, "that was a different story."
"You did alright".
"No", she said, taking his hand in her own and holding it firmly, "I didn't."
He sat quietly, enjoying the feel of her skin pressed against his, her smaller hand cupped within his larger one.
"So what will you do now?" she said.
"I honestly don't know."
She giggled. "We sound like a couple of directionless teenagers."
He nodded. "I guess we do."
"It's nice, isn't it?" She squeezed his hand. "Not having the future all planned out. Not having it all leading towards the one far off goal."
"You mean like 'getting home'."
"Yeah, like getting home."
"Well", he said, glancing around him, "I'd say you made it."
She smiled, but shook her head. "This is my mother's home. It isn't mine any more. Hasn't been for a long time really. And my old apartment in San Francisco just wont do. It feels like a hotel, all cold and sterile."
"I have no idea where my home is", Chakotay said quietly, studying her hand.
She looked at him quickly, her eyes flickering speculatively over his face.
"What did my mother say to you? Honestly?"
He looked up at her. "She wanted me to know that she understood how hard it was for me to love you. To still be in love with you. After everything we've been through," he said slowly.
"Oh. Is that all." She smiled. "She always could read me like a book."
He wasn't sure how to respond to that oblique reply.
"So," Kathryn went on, "you're looking for a home, I'm looking for a home. That sounds like an happy coincidence."
"Is that a proposal of some kind?" Chakotay asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
"No. It's just an idea."
"Oh." He thought about that for a moment. "It sounds like a good idea."
"I thought so", she agreed.
"Would I be looking for a home with Kathryn or with 'the Captain'?" he said, finally understanding what Gretchen had been telling him.
"Kathryn, I think. I hope," she added, resting her head on his shoulder.
Chakotay let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her. She snuggled into him, pulling the blanket up a little higher around them.
In the kitchen, Gretchen Janeway smiled with satisfaction, and began mixing up a batch of brownies to give Chakotay tomorrow.
And the rain continued to fall softly around them.
"Rain falls on everyone
the same old rain
and I'm just trying to walk with you
between the raindrops
I send my echo out
to get your love without
obscured reflections of my love
rain falls on everyone
the same old rain
and Iím just trying to walk with you
between the raindrops
Iíll save a prayer for you
so lost and longing to be dragged through dirty streets
wrapped up in clean white sheets
and if you think theyíll watch you now
you should know they wonít..."
(Billy Corgan from "Raindrops and Sunshowers")
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