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Tom was sleeping, finally comfortable in his spinal brace: an old-fashioned method still used on highly agitated patients.

The Doctor’s patience with him ran out when Tom once again asked him if he could remain conscious during surgery to question the Captain and Chakotay.

“So, care to explain what that was all about? I think I have a right to know exactly what happened, after all it’s my fiancé who is now out cold.”

B’Elanna looked menacingly at her former Commanding Officers.

The three of them were sitting in a secluded corner of the hospital’s cafeteria.

“B’Elanna, there isn’t much to explain. We thought we could keep the secret a little longer, but you’ve already guessed it.”

“Chakotay’s right. It is really very boring.”

“Boring? You show up almost 45 minutes late at our party! Together!”

Kathryn put her hand on B’Elanna’s arm. “Try not to shout, we don’t want to attract too much attention. Before you know it we’ll have Federation Tonight at our table asking annoyingly personal questions.”

That seemed to calm the younger woman down a bit.

“But I guess we could tell you what happened. Chakotay?”

“Why am I always the one who has to tell stories around here? Can’t you tell one for once?”

Kathryn rolled her eyes at her husband. “Because, dear, remember? You send me a letter.”

Chakotay smiled sheepishly. “Right. B’Ela, it all started when Owen told us about the Dominion War. I’ll have to apologize to him — remind me — because at the time I had to laugh at his anecdotes about the Federation Postal Service. Well, about a week later I found myself at their office in San Francisco with a letter of my own. It took me almost 2 weeks to even get heard, but then the things was posted soon enough.”

“And?”

“And after about 9 days you called to tell me it had arrived.”

“That was an amazing day,” Kathryn looked at B’Elanna, “I was still in shock of having received a letter: all day I was trying to keep people away from my house, when all of a sudden you dropped by. Unannounced.”

“Captain …”

A mini glare from Kathryn made her rethink what she was saying, “Kathryn. Sorry, I still have to get used to it. Did you seriously expect me to stay away from you? Owen practically flew me himself, telling me to do something about your self-imposed isolation. The letter was just a bonus. As was listening into the conversation you had with your mother.” B’Elanna laughed, “Chakotay, I hope you’re prepared.”

He looked at B’Elanna and Kathryn, “Prepared? For what?”

Kathryn smiled, “Prepared for my mother. But don’t worry, she’ll like you, in time, I think 3 grandchildren should do the trick.”

A waitress came by, asking if they wanted anything. She looked at them suspiciously, trying to determine if she should recognize these customers.

“One coffee for me, black please. B’Elanna? You could use it. And one herbal tea.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll be right back with your order – two coffees, black, and one herbal tea.”

“What happened next? That was almost 2 months ago.”

“Nothing much really. Remember I told you about the absolutely horrid tour I had? Well, at one point the guide told us something about the Spanish Inquisition and I suddenly realized I had to reply to Chakotay’s letter — soon.”

“Soon?” Chakotay looked questioningly at Kathryn.

“Okay, I replied immediately. It’s not my fault those animals take 4 weeks to reply.”

B’Elanna sat back, completely confused, “Animals? What did you do? Use your animal guide?”

“Animal guide? What are you talking about, B’Elanna? No, I used carrier pigeons.” Kathryn looked miffed.

“Carrier pigeons! Of course, why didn’t I think of that?” B’Elanna snorted, “Of all the people I know, you truly are the only one I could always rely on to applaud modern day technology, and who would simply look down on the old-fashioned things. As for Nature Boy sitting next to you, yes, I can imagine him using FPS or carrier pigeons, but you? Kathryn Janeway, poster child of the 24th century? I thought you had more sense!”

Halfway through B’Elanna’s tirade, Chakotay got up to avoid breaking down in tears of laughter, especially after he saw Kathryn’s carefully schooled expression. Of course, she had to blow his cover, because when she looked at him, obviously trying to keep from laughing herself, he lost it.

B’Elanna was simply looking at her Captain, not believing her story about carrier pigeons.

The waitress came back with their drinks. “Can I get you anything else?” She looked at the trio and almost began to laugh when she heard Chakotay’s contagious laughter, followed by Kathryn’s very un-captain like giggling. “Are they okay?”

“Give them a minute. As a matter of fact, could you get us some water, thanks.”

The older couple seemed to have regained control over their laughter again, and Kathryn gratefully accepted Chakotay’s handkerchief.

After she handed them their water, the waitress looked at them again. “I’m sorry to bother you, but you seem awfully familiar. Should I recognize you?”

“I hope you don’t, but I think you will. Let me introduce you, this is B’Elanna Torres, soon to be Paris. And this extremely handsome man sitting next to me is Chakotay …”

“and you are Captain Kathryn Janeway,” the woman finished in awe.

“Actually, I am not. I am retired Captain Kathryn Janeway, wife of Chakotay.”

“Retired? Kathryn, did you say retired? Chakotay, did she say retired?” B’Elanna couldn’t believe it.

“It is an honor to meet you, all three of you. But after hearing about you in the press almost daily, I can understand why you want to be left alone.” She walked away again.

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