AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a sequel to “A Mother, Her Daughters, Their Lovers and Coffee Talk”, which was a sequel to the two “Ankle” series by Suz Voy. Paramount owns the regular characters; everyone else belongs to Suz and myself. Feedback welcome at Andra1101@aol.com
“A Wedding, The Reception, An Uninvited Guest and An Unexpected Gift”
By Andra Marie Mueller
He awoke to the feel of his wife’s body pressed to his, the even rhythm of her breathing telling him she was still asleep. Smiling to himself, he lifted a hand to lightly caress her cheek, relishing the surge of love merely watching her produced.
Amazing that something as simple as waking up beside her can bring me such joy, he mused.
The couple had been together for six weeks and was now living together aboard the Excalibur. Despite the skepticism they had received after literally falling in love at first sight, Phoebe and Stephen had continued to grow closer during their time together and had made it official by eloping the previous day.
As if sensing Stephen’s scrutiny, Phoebe began to stir, releasing a small sigh before opening her eyes to discover her husband watching her. “Hi, Handsome,” she greeted sleepily.
They exchanged a light kiss.
“How long have you been awake?” Phoebe asked.
“Only a few minutes,” Stephen answered. “I was watching you sleep.”
“Must be a slow morning,” came the dry response.
“Don’t do that,” Stephen said sharply.
“It was only a joke, Stephen.”
“I don’t find it funny. You have every reason to be proud of who you are and what you look like.”
Phoebe flashed him a warm smile and lifted her hand to place her palm against his cheek. “Have I mentioned lately that I love you?”
He smiled back. “Just remember that when your mother slaps us both silly for getting married without her there,” he responded.
Phoebe groaned. “Don’t remind me,” she replied. “Our only chance of survival is if she is so busy helping with Kathryn and Chakotay’s wedding, she’s grateful to us for not adding to her stress level.”
Stephen’s smile widened. “And what are the odds on that?”
She sighed. “About on par with the odds that I’ll give up coffee for the rest of my life,” she muttered.
He chuckled, then idly began to run his hand up and down her arm. “You know, we really should find a more…practical…outlet for your passion for coffee,” he said casually.
“Really…what do you have in mind?”
“Why don’t I show you?”
In the kitchen of the Janeway family house that he now shared with Kathryn, Chakotay was helping Gretchen make dinner. Kyle was on Mars conducting a tactical seminar and Kathryn had vanished earlier in the day to take care of some business at Starfleet Headquarters. On the floor by the entrance to the room, Kathryn’s Irish setter Bear was sound asleep, her large frame sprawled in the doorway.
“Old fashioned formal wear.”
“Just the Best Man and Maid of Honor.”
“Only family and a few close friends.”
“Grandchildren?” Gretchen pressed.
“Working on it,” Chakotay assured her.
Kathryn chose that moment to make her appearance, carefully stepping over her dog and acknowledging her mother with a brief smile before greeting Chakotay with a passionate kiss.
“What was that for?” he asked when they finally parted.
“Just because I love you.”
He smiled. “Good answer.”
“So what were you two talking about?”
“I was just telling Chakotay what I want for Christmas,” Gretchen answered.
“Isn’t it a little early for that?”
“Not if my gift takes nine months to arrive.”
Kathryn shook her head. “Again with the request for grandchildren,” she muttered.
“I’ve been waiting close to thirty years for you or your sister to give me grandchildren,” Gretchen declared. “I’m not going to live forever, you know.”
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay. “And I suppose you’re encouraging her?”
He shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t enjoy the practice.”
She paused. “You have a point there.”
The doorbell interrupted the conversation and Kathryn glanced at her mother. “Are you expecting someone?”
Gretchen shook her head.
“Actually, it’s for you,” Chakotay interjected. “It’s your wedding present.”
Kathryn sent him her infamous ‘death glare’. “I thought we agreed we weren’t going to exchange gifts.”
“I never agreed to anything,” Chakotay countered. “I merely said that you were under no obligation to give me anything.”
“No, what you said was that we were under no obligation to give each other anything except ourselves.”
The door chimed again, waking Bear and prompting the aging setter to let out a half-hearted bark as she ambled toward the door.
“Stop arguing semantics with the man, Kathryn and just answer the door,” Gretchen instructed.
Shooting her future husband a final suspicious glance, Kathryn made her way to the front door, where Bear stood growling at the unknown visitor on the other side. Chakotay arrived a moment later, coming to halt just behind her. Placing a hand on Bear’s head to silence her, Kathryn swung the door open and froze at the sight in front of her.
“Surprise!” six voices chorused.
Assembled on the front porch were Seven of Nine, now known as Annika Hansen; Neelix; Harry Kim; the Doctor and Tom and B’Elanna Paris.
“Where did all of you come from?”
“If you have to ask, Kathryn, then your mother’s chances of getting grandchildren have just dropped dramatically,” Chakotay quipped from behind her.
The door swooshed open and Will walked into Deanna’s office. “Hello, beautiful,” he greeted, and gave her a light kiss.
“What can I do for you, Commander?” Deanna inquired with mock formality.
“I come bearing glad tidings, Counselor,” Will returned. “I got a message from Kathryn this morning. She and Chakotay are finally getting married next week and we’ve been invited to attend.”
“Is it going to be a double wedding with her sister and Chakotay’s cousin?” Deanna asked dryly.
“I’m only half-kidding,” Deanna responded. “From the looks they were exchanging the night we had dinner at your parents’ house, it was perfectly obvious they were crazy about one another.”
“Love at first sight is a nice theory,” Will countered, “but it stands to be proven in practice.”
Deanna folded her arms and shot him a knowing look.
“Then again, maybe it already has been,” he amended swiftly.
“Um-hmm. So where’s the wedding going to take place?”
“At their house in Indiana.”
Deanna nodded. “Have you cleared our off time with Captain Picard?”
“Yes, ma’am. And he’s asked us to pass along his best wishes to the bride and groom.”
“Speaking of which, when do you intend to tell everyone about our engagement?”
“Let’s keep it to ourselves for a little while longer,” Will suggested. “I don’t want to take anything away from Kathryn and Chakotay.”
“And you don’t want Kyle, Gretchen and my mother harassing us for grandchildren,” Deanna added wryly.
After docking their shuttlecraft at Earth Station McKinley, Stephen and Phoebe had transported down to join their family at Kathryn and Chakotay’s house.
“You realize, of course, that if Mom doesn’t kill us Kathryn and Chakotay will.”
“Not everyone needs seven years to figure out they’re in love and just as many weeks to plan a wedding that will take all of twenty minutes.”
“The pomp and circumstance is part of the whole process,” Phoebe countered. “I used to fantasize about what my wedding would be like; the groom, the guests, the ceremony.”
Stephen shot her a curious look. “Are you sorry now that we eloped instead of having a traditional ceremony?”
She smiled. “No. Your surprise wedding was a beautiful gesture and I was delighted to marry you in any way, shape or form,” she told him. “But underneath her Starfleet exterior, Kathryn is as old fashioned romantic at heart. She will only get married once and its forever, so she will do whatever is needed to ensure the ceremony is everything she wants it to be.”
“As long as Chakotay is there I’m certain it will be,” Stephen responded.
Bear was resting on the front porch when they arrived and thumped her tail in greeting, but otherwise did not stir. Phoebe reached down to give her a quick pat before they approached the door and rang the bell. A moment later the door swung open and Annika stood in the doorway.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“I’m looking for my sister,” Phoebe answered. “I’m Phoebe Pap…I’m Phoebe. This is Stephen. ”
“A pleasure to meet you both. I am Annika Hansen.”
Phoebe and Stephen exchanged a look at the name and both silently mouthed “Annika?!”
To their credit they recovered immediately and walked inside as Annika stepped aside to allow them entry.
“Captain Janeway is in the kitchen arguing with Commander Chakotay,” Annika revealed. “Do you wish for me to interrupt them?”
“No thanks,” Stephen said quickly.
“What are they arguing about?” Phoebe asked
“The captain was displeased when the commander chose to reveal that he issued his marriage proposal while they were swimming in the pool at Starfleet Academy.”
“Why is that a problem?” Stephen queried.
Annika glanced at him. “According to Commander Chakotay, they were not wearing clothing at the time.”
“Ah. That explains everything.”
Having heard Phoebe’s voice, Gretchen entered from the living room. “Hello you two,” she greeted. I’m glad you finally made it.”
“Hi, Mom,” Phoebe greeted, and the two exchanged hugs, as did Stephen and Gretchen.
“If you will excuse me,” Annika said, and made her way into the living room.
“So, how are you two doing?” Gretchen asked. “Everything on the Excalibur going alright?”
Husband and wife exchanged a glance before Phoebe responded.
”Now that you mention it, there is something we have to tell you. We’re married.”
Gretchen’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re what?”
“Stephen threw me a surprise wedding on Benecia three days ago,” Phoebe clarified. “It was very beautiful and romantic and I am happier than I have ever been.”
“I see. Well, in that case, there ‘s only one thing I have to say.” She turned to Stephen. “Welcome to the family, Stephen, and hang on for the ride.”
Phoebe and Stephen exchanged relieved smiles before Gretchen gathered them in her embrace.
“Are you still mad at me?”
“Do you want me to sleep in the guest bedroom?”
A pause. “I’m not that mad.”
Chakotay smiled and wisely changed the subject. “I must say I’m surprised Gretchen took the news of Stephen and Phoebe’s elopement so well.”
“I’m sure on some level she expected it,” Kathryn replied. “Phoebe has never been much of a traditionalist, and her entire relationship with Stephen seems to be based on spur of the moment decisions.”
“True, but it seems to be working. They’re very happy.”
“Yes, they are.”
“I wish we had been there to see their expressions when Annika answered the door,” Chakotay remarked. “I imagine they were pretty hilarious.”
Kathryn smiled. “No more so than our expressions when Boothby caught us skinny-dipping,” she returned.
“I suppose not. So what were you doing at HQ this morning? We still have another month of leave left.”
“I wanted to get a progress report on Voyager’s retrofit and find out if Admiral Morgan had made a final decision regarding my requested crew manifest for our senior staff. He seemed a little reluctant to approve you as XO given that we’ll be married by the time the ship is space ready again.”
“I thought we’d already jumped that hurdle when we originally met with him to tell him we’re engaged,” Chakotay said.
Kathryn shrugged. “I don’t know that his problem is our personal relationship so much that it is you as my First Officer means there’s one less qualified candidate for the command positions that are still vacant after the casualties we suffered in the war.”
“I certainly sympathize with their position, but my stance of ten weeks ago remains the same,” Chakotay responded. “When it comes to you and our relationship I intend to be totally indulgent and somewhat selfish.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“As long as we’re on the subject, I have another surprise for you.”
Tossing aside the covers, Chakotay got out of bed and held out a hand to Kathryn. “Come with me.”
She shot him a suspicious glance. “Don’t tell me you’ve stashed the other 135 or so members of our former crew in the backyard?”
He smiled. “No, I haven’t. But I guarantee you’ll like the surprise just the same.”
Suspicion shifted to curiosity and Kathryn placed her hand in his, then allowed him to lead her out of the bedroom and downstairs. Crossing through the kitchen, they reached the back door and he pushed it open, gesturing for Kathryn to step outside. She took two steps onto the back porch and promptly stopped at the sight in front of her. A large wooden bathtub was positioned on the far side of the porch, hidden by the house from outside observation but affording any occupants an unencumbered view of the grove of tress and adjacent cornfield bordering the Janeway property.
“Oh, Chakotay…” Kathryn whispered reverently. “It’s beautiful.”
She walked over for a closer look, running her hand along the polished wood and inhaling the faint scent of cedar that was still present. The tub was clearly handmade and built to hold two comfortably, and a small pipe running from the base to the house served as the source of the water.
“I know how much you regretted having to leave behind the tub I made you on New Earth and after nearly six years of suffering through sonic showers I decided you were more than ready for a replacement,” Chakotay said. “But this one doesn’t come with a monkey.”
“How did you manage this without me finding out?”
“It was easy,” Chakotay answered. “While your mother kept you busy with wedding plans, I was at Stephen’s parents’ house making this.”
Kathryn snorted. “I should have known my mother was involved,” she stated. “She seems to delight in conspiring with you.”
“Not all Janeway women take close to a decade to respond to my charm,” he quipped in reply.
“Why don’t you turn on the water and climb in? I’ll go back upstairs and retrieve one of your bottles of bubble bath.”
She flashed him a warm smile and crossed over to slide her arms around his neck and press herself against him. “Unless you want to smell like strawberries tomorrow, don’t bother.”
He smiled back. “Are you propositioning me, Captain?”
His smile widened ever so briefly as she pulled him down to meet her kiss.
“Mind if I join you?”
Seated on the couch in the living room of his parents’ house, Stephen glanced up at the question to see his mother hovering beside him.
“Have a seat,” he invited.
Alicia settled herself on the couch beside her son. “So where’s that charming bride of yours?”
“Phoebe’s asleep. Between worrying about Gretchen’s reaction to our marriage and enjoying marital bliss, she hasn’t been sleeping much the past few days, so when she fell asleep while I was talking with Dad I decided to stay out here for a little while so she could rest.”
Alicia smiled. “Married all of three days and already you’re overprotective,” she teased.
Stephen shrugged. “I enjoy taking care of her,” he said simply.
“So how did Gretchen react to the news of your marriage?”
“Better than I expected. With all of the chaos planning Kathryn’s wedding to Chakotay is producing, I imagine she was secretly relieved not to have to go through it all again for Phoebe and me.”
“Frankly I’m fairly certain she was relieved that you actually got married at all after she walked in on the four of you at Phoebe’s apartment,” Alicia replied casually.
Stephen shot her a sideways glance. “How did you find out?”
Alicia chuckled. “I’ll give you one guess.”
“Chakotay told you.”
Stephen shook his head. “I’m almost afraid to ask, but why?”
“You know as well as I do that your cousin cannot lie save his life when it comes to his family,” Alicia declared. “He brought Kathryn to the house several weeks ago to introduce her to your father and I, and while I enlisted her to help me in the kitchen, Talon interrogated Chakotay about their relationship and yours with Phoebe. Chakotay explained how the four of you wound up together, and that was that.”
“Just out of curiosity, what would you have done in Gretchen’s position?” Stephen asked.
“Taken both you and your cousin over my knee and then forced you to make honest women out of Phoebe and Kathryn,” Alicia answered.
Stephen chuckled. “Might have been worth it just to see you try,” he allowed.
“Are you happy, Mijo?” Alicia asked suddenly.
“Blissfully. Phoebe is everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“I am pleased she has brought you such joy. I only hope that Kathryn does the same for Chakotay.”
He smiled. “How can you doubt it after seeing them together?”
She smiled back. “Point taken. Your cousin has traveled a long, painful road to reach his happy ending, Stephen. I regret that Kolopak and Running Deer could not be here to share in it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Mama. Wherever they are, I’m sure Chakotay’s parents and Edward Janeway are all smiling down upon us.”
Alicia’s smile widened and she leaned over to embrace her son in a fierce hug. “I love you, my son.”
“I love you, too.”
Two days before their wedding, Kathryn and Chakotay had been required to undergo a complete physical examination and a final interview before the Admiralty – both together and separately - before Starfleet Command would issue final approval on the couple’s reinstatement as Voyager’s command team. They were now at one of the shuttlebays at HQ, awaiting the arrival of their final guest.
“He’s not coming.”
“Of course he’s coming. He’s giving away the bride.”
“Vulcans are never late. He’s not coming.”
“Don’t argue with me, Chakotay. And while you’re at it, why don’t you tell your new number one fan that the next time I catch her making eyes at you, I’ll make sure she gets a job treating coal miners on Bretha Prime.”
“And just who might my ‘new number one fan’ be?”
“Doctor Philips. She was checking out the merchandise during your entire exam.”
“You’re imagining things, Kathryn.”
“Was I imagining it when she asked if you had a twin brother? She has a thing for you, Chakotay, and she was probably plotting my demise the entire time we were there.”
Chakotay stifled a sigh. Kathryn’s behavior had altered radically over the past few days, as evidenced by her frequent mood swings, and what he assumed to be pre-wedding jitters had been manifesting itself as persistent nausea. Sending a silent prayer to the Sky Spirits to give him enough strength and patience to get through the next forty-eight hours, Chakotay returned to the original subject.
“If it will make you feel better, I’ll double check the flight schedule with Lieutenant Parsons and find out if there was a delay in their departure from Vulcan or somewhere along the way here.”
“That will not be necessary, Commander,” a familiar voice replied from behind them.
The couple turned to see Tuvok standing a few feet behind them, accompanied by T’Pel. Inwardly sighing with relief, Chakotay smiled warmly in greeting as Kathryn spoke to them.
“Tuvok, you made it!” she exclaimed in delight.
One eyebrow rose upward. “Of course, Captain. I am uncertain as to why you harbored any doubt that I would.”
“Don’t ask,” Chakotay interjected quickly.
Kathryn shot him a quelling look as Tuvok made the introductions.
“Commander Chakotay, may I present she who is my wife, T’Pel. T’Pel, this is Captain Janeway’s bondmate, Chakotay.”
“An honor to meet you, T’Pel,” Chakotay said.
“And you as well, Commander,” T’Pel returned.
“Do you have any luggage?” Kathryn asked.
“A small satchel containing our personal effects has already been delivered to Voyager,” Tuvok answered. “We felt it best that we stay aboard the ship in order to avoid interfering with your wedding preparations.”
“Worried about getting recruited to help?” Chakotay prompted lightly.
“On the contrary, Commander, experience has taught me that once united, there is little you and Captain Janeway cannot accomplish.”
Chakotay smiled. “If I didn’t know better, Tuvok, I’d think that was a compliment.”
“Indeed it was.”
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged a smile.
“I have to admit, I never thought I’d see this day come,” Tom said. “After everything they went through in the Delta Quadrant, I didn’t think Chakotay and the captain would go the distance.”
“Did you sleepwalk through the last six and half years?” B’Elanna responded. “I saw the writing on the wall as soon as he agreed to serve as her First Officer.”
“Actually, I always assumed they had something going after they were stuck on that planet together for three months,” Harry replied. “It was right after they got back that he started calling her ‘Kathryn’ when they were off-duty.”
“How did you know he called her Kathryn?” B’Elanna asked curiously.
“Everyone knew he called her Kathryn,” Tom answered. “Until we got home, he was the only one who ever did.”
The group was gathered at the coffee shop across from Phoebe’s apartment in San Francisco, which she had yet to relinquish despite her move to the Excalibur with Stephen. She had, however, given her sisters’ friends permission to use it while on Earth to attend the wedding and Neelix and Harry were staying there while Annika, the Wildmans and the Paris’ lodged at the house Kathryn had occupied until moving into her mother’s home with Chakotay.
“I do not understand the significance of Commander Chakotay’s form of address for Captain Janeway,” Annika interjected. “They have stated on more than one occasion that they are best friends; it is not standard practice for friends to address one another by first name?”
The trio exchanged a look and by unspoken agreement Tom answered her question.
“Normally that’s the case, yes, but given that Captain Janeway is Commander Chakotay’s commanding officer, Starfleet prefers that protocol be observed at all times. By granting him the use of her given name, she was conceding that their relationship went beyond professional.”
Annika frowned. “In light of their impending wedding, is that not obvious?”
Tom stifled a sigh. “Never mind.”
“So what do you guys think the story is with Captain Janeway’s sister and Commander Chakotay’s cousin?” Harry inquired of everyone. “Seems awfully coincidental that they ‘found each other’ at almost the same time as Chakotay and the captain.”
“What’s the matter, Harry?” B’Elanna prompted. “Don’t you believe in love at first sight?”
“Only if it involves blonde ex-Borg drones,” Tom replied dryly.
“Very funny,” Harry returned with light sarcasm, then suddenly shifted his attention to a point above and beyond the helmsman. “On the other hand…”
The others turned to follow Harry’s gaze and spotted a pair of striking young women in their early twenties – obviously sisters - approaching the coffee bar.
“The one on the left is a little young for you, “ B’Elanna observed, “but her sister looks to be about right.”
“If you’ll excuse me, I suddenly feel the need to get a refill on my coffee,” Harry said, and standing up, began weaving his way through the tables toward the counter.
“Twenty replicator credits says he gets shot down by both in less than ten minutes,” Tom replied once his friend was out of earshot.
“Make it twenty-five,” B’Elanna returned.
“Annika?” Tom prompted.
She fixed him with an icy glance. “Placing wagers on the outcome of Ensign Kim’s romantic endeavors is both useless and juvenile,” she declared. “Nonetheless I will raise your bet to thirty rations.”
B’Elanna shot her a surprised look as Tom chuckled out loud. “Annika, there may be hope for you yet,” he said gleefully.
“You miss him, don’t you?”
“He’s only been gone for a couple of hours.”
“Well, by my count that’s the longest you’ve been separated since you got together.”
“We agreed to spend tonight apart, but we never said it would be easy.”
Phoebe smiled and settled herself on the porch beside her sister. She was spending the night with Kathryn to help her prepare for her wedding the following day, while Chakotay spent the night with Stephen and his parents. “So…any second thoughts about wanting a big wedding?”
Kathryn shook her head. “No. Chakotay and I made a conscious decision to take as much time as we needed to do this the right way. We’re only going to get one shot at our wedding day.”
“Speaking of which, I hope you’re not upset that I didn’t wait for mine until you could be with me. I know we promised to stand up for one another, but my wedding to Stephen wasn’t exactly planned.”
“It’s alright. I’m happy for you and Stephen. You seem to be very good for each other.”
“I could say the same about you and Chakotay,” Phoebe returned. “Aside from his ‘aesthetic value’, as you so quaintly phrased it, he obviously adores you.”
Kathryn smiled. “It’s entirely mutual,” she replied. “He’s the best thing to have ever touched my life.”
“I imagine it’s a little odd for you, loving someone who by rights should be your adversary.”
The captain chuckled at that. “He is sometimes,” she allowed, “but I can’t imagine what I would do without him. He makes me laugh and cry; we fight as passionately as we love; and underneath his tough as nails ex-Maquis terrorist exterior, he has the gentlest heart I’ve ever known.”
“Must run in the family,” Phoebe replied. “So, since your almost husband covertly rounded up your former crew and built you a bathtub as wedding gifts, how do you intend to reciprocate?”
“Actually I intend to kill two birds with one stone,” Kathryn answered evasively.
“Which means what?”
“You’ll find out tomorrow.”
“Should I be worried?”
Kathryn just smiled.
Chakotay awoke early the morning of his wedding and quietly slipped into the backyard for a brief meditation, giving thanks to his Spirit Guide and asking for her blessing on his impending union with Kathryn. Returning to the house, he discovered his uncle bustling about the kitchen.
“Good morning, Uncle,” he greeted.
“Good morning, Chakotay,” Talon returned. “Shouldn’t you be upstairs getting ready?”
“I needed some time with my Spirit Guide. I had a lot to thank her for.”
“I imagine so. Do want some coffee?”
“No, thanks. I’m nervous enough without adding caffeine to the mix.”
Talon smiled. “Worried that Kathryn has changed her mind?”
Chakotay smiled back. “She hasn’t.”
“Quite a handful you’ve entangled yourself with,” Talon replied. “Kathryn’s strength of will seems to be as formidable as her temper and addiction to coffee.”
The younger man chuckled. “At least I’ll never be bored.”
“Mind a piece of advice from an old married man?”
“Not at all.”
“Whatever else happens, end each day with ‘I love you’. It will ensure that you never doubt your feelings for one another.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“You’ve come a long way from the angry young man who denounced his heritage and fled Dorvan V for Starfleet, Chakotay,” Talon remarked. “With age has come wisdom and experience – some good, some bad – and they have molded you into the man I see before me. You have survived against the odds and won the heart of a noble woman who will grace your life and fill the rest of your days with peace and joy. Your parents would be proud.”
“That means a lot coming from you,” Chakotay responded. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now go upstairs and get ready; I don’t want to be on the receiving end of your lovely lady’s temper should we be late for the ceremony.”
The two exchanged a hug, then Chakotay headed out of the kitchen. Once he was gone, Talon spoke aloud to the empty room.
“Wherever you are, my brother, I hope you are smiling down upon your son today and know what a fine man he has become.”
“Kathryn? May I come in?”
Opening the door to Kathryn’s bedroom, Gretchen stepped inside and smiled at the sight before her. Her daughter was attired in a dusty rose satin and lace wedding g gown, the scoop neck revealing the pearl choker borrowed from her sister. A small spray of miniature flowers was threaded into her hair, and her lightly tanned face radiated joy.
“You look beautiful, darling,” Gretchen said at last. “Your father would be so proud.”
Kathryn smiled. “I hope so. Is everyone here?”
“’Everyone’? Or someone in particular?”
“Relax, Kathryn. Chakotay arrived a few minutes ago and looks positively dashing. Of course, he always does. He and Stephen should come with warning labels.”
Kathryn laughed at that, and Gretchen’s smile widened as she crossed over to stand in front of her. Lifting her hands to gently cup Kathryn’s face, her expression grew serious as she spoke again.
“He’s a fine man, Kathryn. Be proud, and be happy.”
“I am,” she responded with quiet conviction. “I love you.”
“I love you.”
They exchanged hug just as Phoebe entered the room, brandishing her and Kathryn’s bouquets and dressed in a sea green silk dress. “Sorry to interrupt, but everyone is downstairs and ready to go,” she said
“Well, I guess this is it then,” Gretchen said. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
“Thank you, Mom. For everything.”
Mother and daughter exchanged another hug, then Gretchen exited the room as Phoebe addressed her sister. “You look amazing, Kath,” she said.
“You do realize that after today, things between us will never be the same,” Phoebe replied. “It won’t just be the two of us against the world; we’ll have husbands to fight our battles for us.”
Kathryn gave her sister an affectionate smile. “You will always be my baby sister, and my best friend, whatever our future holds.”
Phoebe smiled back. “I may not get another chance to say this, so I’ll say it now. You are my hero, Kath; you have been since I was old enough to follow you everywhere like a second shadow. And without your example with Chakotay, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to accept my love for Stephen. I want you to know that despite our ups and downs, I have never regretted being Kathryn Janeway’s little sister. I love you.”
By the time Phoebe finished, tears were streaming down her sister’s face and Kathryn lifted a hand to wipe them away. “Thank goodness for waterproof mascara,” she quipped. “You and I haven’t always been fair to each other, but there’s no one else I would have wanted to have as my sister and my friend. It’s an honor to be Phoebe Janeway’s…or rather Phoebe Paprika’s…big sister. I love you, too.”
They exchanged a hug just as a knock on the door signaled the arrival of Tuvok, attired in his white and gold Starfleet dress uniform. “Forgive the intrusion, Captain, but it is time,” he announced.
“Last chance to change your mind,” Phoebe taunted.
Kathryn smiled serenely. “Never.”
“Worried that Kathryn has changed her mind?”
Stephen smiled, amused with himself at his unsuccessful attempts to rattle Chakotay’s composure. His cousin had been unflappable from the moment he came downstairs at his family’s house, dressed in his tuxedo and emanating happiness. As Talon had quipped, he was “a walking promotion for the benefits of true love.” They now stood before Admiral Ross at the end of a makeshift aisle, centered between two dozen chairs on either side. The setting was Kathryn and Chakotay’s backyard, which thanks to Neelix had been transformed into a plethora of streamers and flowers. The first row was occupied by family and former crew, with various other friends and acquaintances disbursed in the remaining seats.
“So where did you decide on for the honeymoon?”
“That’s confidential information.”
Stephen smiled. “Planning on keeping a low profile?”
“We’re hoping to,” Chakotay allowed. “Since we’re scheduled to report to Voyager as soon as we return, this will be our last chance for some time alone for quite awhile. I intend to make the most of it.”
“From what I’ve seen, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Stephen replied dryly.
Chakotay shot him a look of mild annoyance just as the music signaled the arrival of the Matron Honor, and the cousins turned to see Phoebe appear at the head of the makeshift aisle, located directly at the base of the back porch. She acknowledged Chakotay with a small smile, which widened as she shifted her attention to Stephen, and she started up the aisle. The music shifted to the bridal march as Kathryn and Tuvok exited the house, and Chakotay felt his heart swell with pride as he glanced at his bride.
She is perfection personified…
As she started up the aisle, Kathryn locked her gaze to Chakotay’s, the silent gesture telling him and everyone present that she was proud to be coming to him. At last arriving at her destination, Kathryn shifted her gaze to Tuvok and gave him a brief hug, then he relinquished his hold on her and settled next to T’Pel.
“You look beautiful,” Chakotay whispered.
“So do you,” Kathryn responded.
Exchanging a smile, they turned their attention to Ross and he began the ceremony. Once they had finished the opening commentary and exchange of rings and traditional vows, Ross addressed the crowd.
“Having exchanged the traditional vows of matrimony, Kathryn and Chakotay would now like to share a few personal words with one another.”
At Ross’ nod, Kathryn turned to face Chakotay, her elegant features radiating bliss. Making an effort to keep her voice steady, she began.
“Seven years ago, I was given orders to track down and capture an ex-Starfleet officer who had resigned his commission and become a prominent member of the Maquis rebellion. What was supposed to be a routine assignment turned into the greatest adventure of my life, and the man who was supposed to be my enemy turned out to be the other half of my soul. Chakotay, we’ve been adversaries and allies, friends and foes. But through it all you have stood by me and done it with the grace and dignity that are inherent to who you are. I love you. Always.”
Kathryn finished her vow and fell silent in anticipation of Chakotay’s. The brief pause in between was filled with muffled sniffles from the onlookers, and she and Chakotay exchanged an amused smile. Making an effort to keep his own voice steady, Chakotay spoke again, joy etched in his handsome face.
“From the moment I met you, I knew that my life would never be the same. A woman who represented everyone and everything I had learned to despise became the one person who could quench the fires of hate in my heart and restore my soul. It’s been a long journey, and the road has sometimes been painfully rough, but I have never and will never regret travelling it with you. I pledge to you this day that whatever our future holds, you will never be alone again. I love you, Kathryn Janeway. Always.”
By the time Chakotay finished his vow, Kathryn and the entire female contingent of the audience were in tears. Flashing her a warm smile, he lifted a hand to gently wipe away hers as Ross concluded the ceremony.
“Having exchanged their vows and declared their intentions in front of this assembly, it is my pleasure to declare Kathryn and Chakotay husband and wife. You may kiss the bride, Commander.”
His smile widening, Chakotay cupped Kathryn’s face in his palms and pulled her to him for a gentle kiss. He pulled back a moment later, and before he could so much as blink Kathryn declared, “I’m pregnant.”
“So, Captain, how far along are you?” Tom asked.
“Almost seven weeks,” Kathryn answered, and glanced at Chakotay. “From what Doctor Philips told me, the date of the twins’ conception coincides with our little ‘adventure’ at Starfleet Academy.”
He smiled. “Does that mean I’m forgiven for contributing to your reckless behavior?”
“Not entirely, but you can make it up to me later.”
A snort sounded from behind them. “Now there’s a visual image I can do without.”
Instantly recognizing the voice, Kathryn closed her eyes in silent mortification. “Please tell me I’m hearing things.”
“Now, Kathy,” Q chided, “After five years I would think you could at least muster up a cheery ‘hello’ for an old friend.”
Releasing a resigned sigh, she turned around to see Q standing a few feet away, dressed as always in a Starfleet uniform. “Q,” she greeted simply. “Dare I ask what you’re doing here?”
“Do you honestly think I’d miss the chance to witness your marriage to Chuckles?” Q returned. “Though frankly I still don’t know what you see in him.”
“Then you’re blind as well as rude,” Phoebe interjected.
Q turned to face her. “Ah…you must be the little sister. Phoebe, right?”
“That’s right. Who are you?”
Phoebe frowned. “Your sole identity is a single letter?”
“I’ll explain later,” Kathryn said.
“I’m sure you have more important things to do than hang around with mere mortals, Q,” Chakotay prompted. “So why don’t you do something useful – like go away.”
Q smiled. “All in good time, Chuckles,” he assured him. “First I see some familiar faces that I need to reacquaint myself with.”
“Don’t cause any trouble, Q,” Kathryn warned.
Kathryn and Chakotay fixed him with a glare.
“Very well. For old times sake, I promise not to disturb any of these shiny happy people.”
He glanced at Chakotay. “With your permission, Commander, I’d like to share a dance with the bride before I go.”
Chakotay shot him a suspicious glance before shifting his attention to his wife. “Kathryn?”
She shrugged. “He did ask nicely.”
Chakotay glanced back at Q. “One dance, and then you’ll leave?”
“Cross my heart.”
The XO snorted. “As if you have one.”
“Chakotay…” Kathryn cautioned.
He released a resigned sigh. “One dance.”
“Excellent,” Q declared, and with a snap of his fingers, he and Kathryn disappeared.
“So what you’re saying is, that Kathryn could literally be anywhere in the universe and completely at the mercy of this ‘Q’ entity?” Phoebe asked.
“Better your wife than mine,” Stephen muttered under his breath, earning him a glare that could curdle milk from his cousin.
“Thank you so much for that statement of support, Stephen,” he snapped. “I am overwhelmed by your compassion.”
Phoebe sent her husband a glare of her own before addressing Chakotay. “From what you’ve told us about him, I don’t think Q would harm Kathryn. I think he’s just having fun toying with you.”
“I don’t doubt her safety, Phoebe,” Chakotay allowed, “But having my wife taken out from under my nose at our own wedding reception doesn’t exactly thrill me.”
“What about the female Q?” Paris interjected. “I imagine she would be interested to know what her mate is up to.”
“Well its not like I can just call her up on a commline and ask for her help.”
As if to speak of the devil, there was a sudden flash of light and the female Q appeared, also attired in a Starfleet uniform. “Fret not, Commander; the cavalry has arrived.”
“Who are you?” Phoebe asked. “Q2?”
The female Q afforded her a brief glance. “Human humor,” she replied. “So archaic.”
“May I assume from your presence here that you know what’s happened?” Chakotay asked.
“Yes, you may. How long have they been gone?”
“Close to twenty minutes.”
“Not even an eye blink,” the female Q said. “What did Q say to you before he took the captain?”
“He asked me if he could have a dance with her, then when I gave my consent he snapped his fingers and they were gone.”
The female Q rolled her eyes. “I really wish he would get over his fetish for melodrama,” she mumbled. “Not to mention his crush on your wife.”
“Can you find them?” Chakotay pressed.
The female Q gave him a smug smile. “Of course I can, Commander. I’m omnipotent, remember?”
Chakotay offered no response.
“Are you going to keep wasting time rubbing our noses in your superiority over Humans or are you going to bring back my sister?” Phoebe demanded.
The female Q glanced at Chakotay. “Are all Janeway females equipped with an attitude?” she asked.
“Yes,” came the simultaneous response from Kyle, Stephen and Chakotay.
“And an addiction to coffee,” Annika added innocently.
“Well, I think its time we turned the tables on my lesser half,” the female Q replied. “Commander Chakotay, you’re coming with me. The rest of you can do whatever it is Humans do for entertainment. We’ll be back shortly.”
“We’ll look forward to it,” Stephen said sarcastically.
Both the female Q and Chakotay ignored him as the former snapped her fingers and they vanished in a flash of light.
At the far end of the Delta Quadrant seven years into the past, Q and Kathryn stood behind the center chair on Voyager’s Bridge, invisible to others as the captain took in the long forgotten sight of her battered ship and crew. It was clearly the day that the Caretaker had flung them to the Delta Quadrant, shortly before she initiated contact with the Maquis ship.
“What are we doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“If it were, I wouldn’t have asked.”
Q sighed. “Honestly, Kathy, you really do need to keep a leash on that temper of yours,” he said. “We’re here because I thought you might like to see how it all started.”
“How what started?” Kathryn asked.
“Your little love fest with Chuckles, of course. You see, the dance I intend to share with you is metaphorical, not literal. I intend to help you ‘waltz’ in and out of your own past and relive your relationship with Mister Dimples.”
Kathryn forced herself not to smile at Q’s new nickname for Chakotay. “Why?”
“Contrary to appearances, Kathy, I’m not really such a bad guy.”
Kathryn snorted. Q ignored her.
“I like you, and since I owe my own happiness to you, I wanted to repay the favor.”
“And you think taking me on a stroll down memory lane to relive my history with Chakotay will accomplish that?”
Q smiled. “Come now, Captain; surely you’re curious to see it all again from an outside perspective.”
She shot him an assessing glance. “Maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean I want to risk altering the timeline and what I have now to revisit the last seven years of my life.”
“Don’t worry your pretty head about the timeline; I assure you no one will ever know we were here. Now if you’re though fussing, sit back and enjoy the view.”
Q gestured toward the viewscreen just as Kathryn’s ‘counterpart’ addressed one of her officers.
“Hail the Maquis.”
The screen flickered to life to reveal the image of Tuvok, Ayala and Chakotay inside the Maquis ship’s cockpit.
“Commander Chakotay, I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway.”
Chakotay cast her a suspicious glance. “How do you know my name?”
Q snapped his fingers then, and with a flash of light he and Kathryn were suddenly in her Ready Room three years later, again invisible observers as the other Kathryn and Chakotay conducted a quiet conversation by the window.
“You’re never alone, Kathryn,” Chakotay declared. “Whatever happens, we’ll face it together.”
Kathryn gave him a loving smile as she gently placed a hand on his chest. “Three years ago I didn’t even know your name,” she whispered. “Now I can’t imagine a day without you.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” the ‘original’ Kathryn said to herself.
Q afforded her a brief glance. “You were already in love with him then, even if you weren’t able to admit it.”
“If I had, it wouldn’t have survived what came next,” Kathryn responded.
Q smiled at that. “The two of you put quite a chasm between yourselves after the Borg incident, but I don’t think it came as close to breaking your bond as the Equinox incident.”
With a snap of his fingers, Q transported Kathryn and himself another three years into the future, their destination this time being the conference room. Positioning themselves in a far corner, they watched as the thin thread still tying her heart to Chakotay’s was stretched far beyond its breaking point.
"I don't give a damn about your log! This isn't about rules and regulations! It's about right and wrong, and I'm warning you... I won't let you cross that line again!"
“Then you leave me no choice,” Kathryn returned coldly. “You’re hereby relieved of duty until further notice.”
Chakotay sighed. “What’s happened to you, Kathryn?”
“I was about to ask you the same question.”
A single tear trickled down Kathryn’s cheek and she wiped it away as she addressed Q. “If this is your idea of making me happy, you’re not as intelligent as you think you are.”
Q’s only response was a snap of his fingers and he and Kathryn materialized in the shelter she and Chakotay had shared on New Earth. “I trust this setting is more to your liking?”
The other Kathryn and Chakotay sat on opposite sides of a small table, exchanging a warm smile as their eyes met and held.
“Is that really an ancient legend?”
“No, but that made it easier to say.”
“As much as I hate to admit it, Kathy, he really is the right man for you,” Q said.
Kathryn was prevented from responding by the arrival of the female Q and Chakotay, and the latter quickly crossed over to embrace Kathryn. “Are you alright?”
Chakotay shot Q an angry glare. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, Q, but did it ever occur to you that playing galactic hopscotch with Kathryn might be harmful to the babies?”
“Relax, Commander; I assure you that little Kathy and Chuckles Junior are just fine.”
“I thought you promised that you were going to leave the Humans alone,” the female Q directed at her mate. “I sincerely hope you weren’t less than honest with me.”
“Of course not, my love,” Q assured her quickly. “I merely wanted to repay Kath…Captain Janeway…for bringing us together.”
“News flash, darling,” the female Q responded. “It’s blondes that are dumb, not redheads.”
Chakotay smothered a laugh as he and Kathryn exchanged an amused look.
“Well, this day certainly hasn’t lacked for drama.”
“I’m beginning to believe our lives never will.”
“Was that a complaint?” Gretchen asked.
“Not at all,” Kyle assured her. “Just an observation. First Kathryn and her crew make a miraculous return home, then we get married without telling our children, who in turn manage to entangle themselves in their own romantic dramas: Stephen and Phoebe elope without telling anyone, Kathryn and Chakotay manage to make it to the altar only to have Kathryn announce she’s pregnant, and to top it all off they wind up playing hide and go seek with those Q entities at their reception.”
“Look on the bright side,” Gretchen said. “After everything my girls have put us through, getting Will and Deanna married should be a walk in the park.”
“From your lips to God’s ears,” Kyle replied. “So, Grandma, how does it feel?”
Gretchen smiled. “It feels wonderful. I am so delighted that Kathryn will finally be able to experience the joy I did while raising her and Phoebe. And if the way he treats Kathryn is any indication, Chakotay is going to be a fabulous father. I have never seen a man dote on a woman quite the way he does her, and she practically glows with love whenever she’s with him.”
Kyle smiled. “The night we had everyone over for dinner, Will made a comment to me in passing that just hearing their tone of voice when they address one another by name gave him goose bumps,” he revealed.
Gretchen snorted. “If he wants goose bumps, have him be forced to hide in the bathroom while my daughters and sons-in-law play musical bedrooms,” she remarked. “Definitely one of the more…enlightening...afternoons of my life.”
Kyle chuckled. “I wish I had been thee to see their faces when they found you.”
“Chakotay found me first, and he actually handled it quite well. Phoebe and Kathryn, on the other hand, were only a few degrees away from complete panic attacks.”
“Well it all worked out in the end,” Kyle responded. “Stephen and Chakotay made honest women out of the girls, and in just over seven months you’ll have the first round of the grandchildren you’ve been begging for.”
“Not to mention that with my daughters happily wed, I’ll be able to devote more time to my own husband,” Gretchen added.
“I like the sound of that.”
“I thought you might.”
“I love you, Gretchen Janeway-Riker.”
“I love you, too.”
“Leave it to Q to upstage Commander Chakotay and Captain Janeway at their own wedding reception,” Harry said.
“He was only trying to aggravate Chakotay,” B’Elanna responded. “And from what I saw, it worked.”
“Chakotay’s always been over sensitive when it comes to the captain,” Tom returned. “Now that they’re married and she’s pregnant, he’s only going to get worse.”
“I think he’s more than earned the right to be overprotective,” B’Elanna countered. “And the captain’s earned the right to be doted on. With everything they’ve been through over the last seven years, they deserve to be happy.”
“I suppose so.”
“Looks like you’re going to have to come up with a new betting pool, Tom,” Harry replied. “Now that Chakotay and the captain are married, all those wagers on whether or not they’re sleeping together are a dead issue.”
“We can always take bets on how long its going to last,” Tom suggested innocently.
“P’Tak,” B’Elanna spat at him. “That’s not funny.”
“I am curious, Lieutenant,” Annika interjected. “Why is placing wagers on the duration of the commander’s and the captain’s marriage less…amusing…than placing wagers on the outcome of Ensign Kim’s romantic endeavors last night?”
Harry’s eyes widened in surprise. “You guys were betting on my love life?” he asked.
The Paris’ exchanged a look that clearly said ‘busted’, then Tom said, “It was all in good fun, Harry.”
“Uh-huh. Just out of curiosity, what was the bet?”
“The wager was thirty replicator credits that both of the young ladies you approached in the coffee shop would reject your advances within ten minutes,” Annika informed him.
“Ten minutes?” Harry echoed incredulously. “Come on, guys. Give me a little bit more credit than that.”
“So just how did you do with the fair maidens?” B’Elanna asked. “The three of you looked pretty cozy when the rest of us left the restaurant.”
“The older one is engaged to a professor at Starfleet Academy, but her sister is single and interested,” Harry answered. “I’m meeting her for lunch tomorrow at the coffee shop.”
Tom shook his head. “That coffee shop is like a magnet for romance,” he remarked. “Every one that goes there comes out with a significant other. Must be something in the coffee.”
“Why do you think it’s called Cupid’s Cafe?” B’Elanna asked rhetorically.
“I fail to see the logic in intimating that an ingredient in the coffee is somehow responsible for instigating the romances of those individuals who drink it,” Annika replied.
B’Elanna smiled. “Annika, someday you will fall in love and realize that it has nothing to do with logic,” she said. “It just feels good.”
“Amen to that,” Harry replied.
“Do you think we did the right thing by eloping?”
“I thought we settled this issue.”
“We did,” Phoebe assured him. “But after helping Kathryn prepare for her wedding, and seeing how much joy it gave my mom, I’m wondering if maybe we should have gotten married the traditional way.”
Stephen flashed her a knowing smile. “Our entire relationship has involved going against the norm, my love; our wedding was no different. However, it was also romantic, intimate and original. If I had to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Traditional or not, I am married to the woman I love and intend to spend my life with. Nothing else matters.”
Phoebe smiled back. “I love you, too.”
“As long as we’re on the subject of your sister, did you know she was pregnant?”
“No, though I suppose I should have figured it out given her behavior over the last couple of weeks. Adding a fluctuating emotional state to an already formidable temper doesn’t bode well for Chakotay’s life expectancy over the next seven months.”
“He’ll be fine,” Stephen responded. “I just wish I’d had a holoimager to capture the look on his face when Kathryn told him the news. He went from total shock to utter joy in the space of sixty seconds, the fastest shift of emotion I’ve ever seen.”
”I thought his expression was beautiful,” Phoebe countered. “So reverent and full of love…it brought tears to my eyes.”
“I thought our parents were going to spontaneously combust with their excitement,” Stephen remarked. “I imagine they’re already conspiring about convincing us to start our own family.”
“All in good time,” Phoebe replied. “I want you all to myself for a little while.”
“You’ll get no argument from me…provided, however, that we can still practice the conception.”
She laughed. “Absolutely.”
He found Kathryn on the beach, staring out at the sea as the breeze rustled through her hair. Coming to halt behind her, Chakotay slid his arms around her waist and pulled her to him, then placed a light kiss on the nape of her neck.
“Waiting for your ship to come in?” he prompted lightly.
“That sounds dangerous.”
She smiled. “Very funny.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Kathryn shifted in his arms to face him. “It occurred to me today that you and I never discussed having children,” she said. “We joked about it, with each other and my mom, but we never made a firm decision one way or another.”
Chakotay lifted his hands to cradle her face in his palms. “Kathryn, nothing would make me happier than having you bear my children,” he replied, “but if you have any doubts about this, tell me now.”
She lifted her hands to cover his. “No doubts,” she assured him. “Now that I really am pregnant, I realize just how badly I want children. Your children.”
“Our children,” Chakotay corrected gently.
“Our children,” Kathryn amended obediently.
“So now that Q has let the cat out of the bag and told us we’re having a boy and a girl, we should start thinking about names.”
“I’m open to suggestions for first names, but can we agree to give them my surname?”
He chuckled. “Don’t want your children going through life being identified by a cooking ingredient?” he asked wryly.
“Isn’t that the reason you dropped the name?”
“Point taken. Janeway it is.”
“You’re welcome. So are you in the mood for a swim, or do you want to go back inside and continue the honeymoon?”
She smiled. “Neither, actually. I’d rather just stand here for a little while and enjoy the feel of being in your arms.”
“Your wish is my command, milady.”
She turned back around and leaned against him as he wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his cheek against her head. They stood that way in companionable silence for a long while until Kathryn spoke again.
“I am truly blessed to have you in my life; I don’t think I’ve told you that.”
“You don’t have to,” Chakotay responded. “Just being here with you is enough.”
“No, it’s not,” Kathryn countered. “I love you, Chakotay; with all that I am. Never doubt that.”
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “I love you too, Kathryn.”
“Promise me something.”
“Promise me that when our daughter is old enough to date, we’ll forbid her to hang out at Cupid’s Café.”
Chakotay let out a hearty laugh.