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Disclaimer: All things Voyager belong to Paramount. I gain no profit from this...other than the fact that Kathryn and Chakotay behave the way *I* want them to behave, not the way TPTB think they should act!

 

Decisions - Part 3

"That was fabulous! Voyager's replicators simply can't do your cooking any justice!" Kathryn commented as she and her mother walked out onto the front porch.

"I'm glad to hear you say that. I only wish it hadn't taken a journey to the Delta Quadrant for you to realize it," Gretchen teased, seating herself on the swing.

Kathryn stood a few moments longer at the railing, looking out across the fields. Breathing in the sweet, fragrant Indiana air. She was particularly happy to have had this quiet evening at home alone with her mother. No media. No Starfleet admirals. No one whatsoever.

"It's a beautiful evening. So peaceful...I never knew how much I missed it until just now..." she muttered, listening to the blessed silence of the night.

It hadn't taken her long to remember exactly how much she hated crowds while they were at the Welcome Home party earlier. There was a sea of media and well-wishers all around. The entire crew had scattered in an attempt to avoid them. For the most part, it had worked. For the lower ranked crewmembers of Voyager, an escape was simple. Unfortunately for Kathryn, everyone seemed to be seeking out the now-infamous command team and their senior staff. Looking for a great quote for the morning news.

No matter how many corners she ran to, the reporters always seemed to find her. So Kathryn finally gave them what they wanted...a monologue about how adventurous their journey had been, recounting how many friendly alien races they had encountered as well as all the enemies they made. But most importantly, she told of how she and Commander Chakotay made their partnership of Starfleet and Maquis work. If only he had stayed to retell the tale with her...there was so much she still needed to say to him.

Mark had hardly left Kathryn's side since she stepped off the ship. A part of her was glad to have him there...but another part of her was beginning to feel smothered. She breathed an audible sigh of relief when he was called back in to work. Mark apparently didn't notice, quickly giving her another kiss...causing a burst of camera flashes...before leaving her alone. Just the way she had always felt...

"You've been thousands of light years away all evening, Kathryn. Why don't you try staying here on Earth just a little longer?"

"Hmm?" Kathryn mumbled, rousing from her fixation on the night sky.

"A proverbial penny for your thoughts, dear?" Gretchen asked as her daughter finally joined her on the swing. Kathryn took her mother's hand as the tears began to trickle down her cheeks. She had no idea where to begin. So she asked the question that had been burning in her all night.

"Is it really possible to be completely in love with two wonderful men at the same time?"

Gretchen began to chuckle as she wrapped her arm around Kathryn's shoulder. "I do suppose so. It happened to me once."

"Really?"

"Really. Before I married your father, I dated a young man named Jonathan...now what was his last name? Oh...McCary. Fine boy. Extremely handsome. Polite, funny, generous. Not much of a kisser, but he had a great as-"

"Mom!"

"Sorry, dear. Anyway, I thought I was absolutely, positively in love with him. I would have been a fool *not* to love him. I just knew that I had found the one. Until the night we went out for a movie. When we were leaving, Jonathan ran into one of his old friends who had been out of town for several months. The more they reminisced, the more I fell head-over-heels in love with Jonathan's friend. He was just as polite, just as funny, just as handsome. But there was something else about him that set him far above Jonathan's qualities."

"What was that?" Kathryn asked, gazing at her mother.

Gretchen smiled. "Edward Janeway had a great spirit."

Kathryn gasped. "Jonathan's friend was...Daddy?"

"The one and only. I was immediately drawn to him. His voice...it was so sweet and gentle. It seemed that I was no longer in control...as if fate had taken over my heart." She paused for a moment, allowing her daughter to absorb everything she had told her. "Is that what happened with you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You said you were in love with two men. I know who one of them is. May I presume the other man is that strikingly handsome man with the tattoo on his forehead?"

Kathryn cut her mother a sly glance. The woman knew too much for her own good.

"Do I have a sign around my neck declaring 'Captain Janeway fell in love with her First Officer'?"

"You say that like it's such a bad thing. I can't say that I blame you. I didn't even get to meet him, but I could tell by the way you were looking at him that he must be a wonderful individual."

"But I shouldn't have fallen in love with him. Our relationship was supposed to remain professional. Friendship is fine, but love is not an option in a command structure. He was my trusted friend. If only we hadn't been stranded alone on that planet-" Kathryn stopped, hoping that her mother had not heard the last part. Judging from the look on Gretchen's face, she quickly realized that was not the case.

"What...planet? When? How long?"

Kathryn rolled her eyes. This was the part of their journey that was supposed to remain hidden. She had intended for New Earth to stay between her and Chakotay. Of course, Starfleet would review the reports, but there wasn't enough there to warrant any concern. And as long as the media didn't get wind of it, things would be fine. Except now, her mother knew.

She told Gretchen about all the events leading up to her and Chakotay's mysterious illness, which led to their three month "vacation" on New Earth...a virtual paradise. Kathryn talked about how she searched desperately for the insect that infected them, in the hopes that she could create an antidote. She told her about the curious primate who warned them to all the impending dangers. And she finally got around to discussing the bathtub...and the ancient legend.

Gretchen had nodded her head throughout the entire tale, not saying a word, to Kathryn's surprise. When Kathryn had finished, her mother began to shake her head.

"So let me get this straight. Two years after you left, you and Chakotay were left behind, on a deserted planet...probably for the rest of your lives. He declares his undying love and devotion for you...woven into a beautiful story...and you *still* didn't sleep with him?"

"Mom! I can't believe you! Were you drinking Romulan ale at dinner tonight?!?"

"I'm just trying to understand. I mean...you *must* have felt something for him."

"Well...yes, I guess I did. I mean...I *know* I did...I..." Kathryn stammered, not believing that she was actually having this conversation...especially with her mother. But it definitely was making her feel better. "There was always that chance that we would be rescued, or that we would find the cure and set out for home. I was afraid...that if anything happened, and we were placed back in a command structure...I just don't think things could have possibly worked out."

"But you never gave it a chance, either."

Such a blunt statement. Blunt...but absolutely true.

"It's more complicated than that, Mom...today, when Mark pulled me into his arms..." Kathryn paused to collect her thoughts. "All the memories of the past came rushing back. It was like I was falling in love with him again. It all felt so wonderful...but I also felt a sense of regret...for not taking that chance with Chakotay. He's been there for me for the past eight years. But Mark...has been there practically my entire life."

"Did you ever tell Chakotay that you loved him?"

Kathryn shook her head. "Not in so many words. I said I was considering a relationship with him once we got back...but that was just before I got Mark's message. And now I feel like I've betrayed him."

Gretchen pulled Kathryn into her embrace, softly stroking her hair. She felt so sorry for all that her daughter had been through...and all the trouble she was having to deal with now.

"You know, Mark isn't really ready to pursue a long term relationship."

Kathryn looked up at her mother in confusion. Gretchen continued.

"That poor fellow's heart has been through so much lately. He waits for you all through your academy days and when he finally wins your heart, he has to wait until you're ready to get married. Then you get lost in space, presumably dead. Then he finds someone else...only to find out that you're alive. Then his wife leaves him..."

"Mother..."

"All I'm saying is that you have plenty of time to make your decision. He needs some time to heal...and to make some decisions of his own."

Kathryn couldn't argue with that.

"Excuse me, ladies. Mind if I join you?"

"Mark!" Gretchen exclaimed, jumping up from the swing, clearly startled. "How long...I mean...please...have a seat. I was just about to turn in for the night." She turned to Kathryn, giving her a wink before holding out her arms.

Kathryn gave her mother one more hug, whispering into her ear. "Thanks...for everything."

"That's what I'm here for," she whispered back. Gretchen looked around at Mark, who was watching the touching scene with a grin. She smiled at him before finally leaving them alone. Kathryn took her seat in the swing once again as Mark reached the top step of the porch.

"I didn't mean to interrupt..." he started.

"Itís OK. My mom and I were just catching up."

"I'm sorry I had to leave you this afternoon. Things have been rather busy lately."

"It's fine, really. I'm glad..." Kathryn began, about to say that she was happy when he left. Probably not a good idea. "I'm glad you came back."

Mark sat down beside her. He took her hand and squeezed it gently. They sat that way for a while, staring out into the darkness, neither of them saying a word. Finally, Mark broke the silence.

"Kathryn, I know thereís something bothering you. In all the years that Iíve known you, Iíve never known you to *not* have anything to say." He paused, glancing over at her. "Is there someone else?"

Without looking up, she sighed. Kathryn had never been able to hide anything from Mark. But then, there were some things that *were* necessary to hide.

"Itís not what you think...please donít take offense. I guess I had just gotten used to you not being there by my side...especially when I found out you had gotten married. I wasnít prepared to suddenly be able to have you back in my life. It was just so..."

"...overwhelming," he finished, offering her a smile. Mark took her other hand and bringing both of them up to his lips, placed a light kiss on her knuckles. "We can take this as slow as you want...or as slow as you need. We have nothing but time."

Kathryn tried to smile, feeling the tears welling up in her eyes again. He leaned in to place a gentle kiss on her cheek. Rising from the swing, he started down the steps. Looking back briefly, he said, "Call me when youíre ready to talk."

Kathryn nodded, waving as Mark walked away. Why did she have to find the two most caring and loving gentlemen in the universe to fall in love with? She leaned her head back, attempting some meditative breathing. Hoping that it would help to clear her mind. After a few minutes, Kathryn realized that it wasn't helping.

"Well...if I can't find my answers in the real world, maybe something will come to me in the dream world," she thought, finally leaving the Indiana evening to the singing crickets.

Kazon, Borg, Malon, Ocampans, Species 8472, Vidiians, Krenim...dozens of hostile, as well as hospitable alien species. Q...moving on. Spatial anomalies, chaotic space, temporal disrupters, living nebulas...enough to make any scientist's head spin. Briefings with Neelix in the mornings, logical discussions with Tuvok in the afternoons, dinner with Chakotay in the evenings...

Chakotay. The day she first saw him on her viewscreen. The anger he felt at being fooled by a Vulcan spy. The hurt on his face when Seska betrayed him. The pain in his eyes when he felt it necessary to disobey her direct orders. The disappointment at her actions against Captain Ransom. The happiness he exuded on New Earth...

New Earth. A place where Kathryn thought she had found true happiness. A chance to relax and enjoy the rest of her days...to live the remainder of her life with Chakotay. She could see him working in the distant, probably building something else for their shelter. Or maybe he was building the boat he promised her so they could explore the river. She began to walk towards him. This must be her future. Just within her reach. A future with...

Mark. He stepped out of the woods in front of her, crushing her in his embrace. Totally blocking her path. A flood of memories entered her mind as she relived the night before she left for Starfleet, when Mark came to wish her good luck and farewell. She remembered seeing him after graduation. The day she realized that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with only him. The way he kissed her before boarding Voyager on that fateful trip...

Two men now stood before her...both representing memorable events from her past and present. But she knew that only one could represent her future...

She awoke from her dreams the next morning with a slight headache...and a feeling of peace that she had never known before. She didn't need any more time. All of her troubles would soon be behind her. The answers she had been seeking had come to her in her dreams.

Kathrynís decision had been made.

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]
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