The door was open and they walked into the house. Kathryn was surprised to see a small view screen in the corner of the central room. When Chakotay saw what she was looking at, he smiled at her. “Poketay likes to keep in touch with all aspects of this world.”
A deep voice from the other part of the house interrupted them. “Of course I do, Chakotay, and you will do the same.”
A tall proud man stepped into the light. His hair was stark white and his face showed the lines of a long life. “Welcome to my house, Kathryn of Earth, I am glad to finally meet you.” He took her hands in his and bent over to kiss her forehead.
“The pleasure is all mine, Poketay.”
“Don’t be polite with me, Kathryn. Say what you really mean.”
She smiled, “Are you sure? You might not like what I have to say.”
Poketay led them to the central part of the room, “Why don’t we have a seat, while Kotay makes himself useful.”
Looking around Kathryn saw an enormous diversity of artifacts. “My sister would love it here. All these different pieces of different civilizations. How did you collect all this?”
Pleasantly surprised by her honest observation, Poketay went over to one wall and took down a small painting. “Contrary to what some people here want to believe, I haven’t spent all my time on Trebus. This is an icon from 19th century Russia. It was given to me by my roommate on Earth.”
“You’ve been on Earth?” Chakotay joined them, “Why did you leave Trebus?”
Kathryn nudged him with her elbow. “Don’t make it sound like a mortal sin please. I happen to like traveling around our quadrant. Poketay, did you go to a school or university there?”
Poketay leaned back into his seat, “Lets see, I left Trebus right after my Coming of Age, so I must have been 18 or 19. I left, Chakotay, because I wanted to explore the universe to discover my purpose in life. I went to Starfleet Academy to see if they would offer me what I wanted.”
A short gasp followed by raspy coughing and spilled tea pulled Poketay from his memories. Kathryn was patting Chakotay on his back, while he tried to gain control of his breathing after he had choked on his tea. “You went to the Academy? Why did you never tell me?”
“My dear Chakotay, you never asked me. Remember what I told you when you came to me after your 10th Spring? The key to getting to know someone is to ask them the right questions.”
Kathryn had to laugh at Chakotay’s amazed expression. “I personally think it’s wonderful. And I still believe you would have fit in too, Kotay. Did you retire from Starfleet, Poketay?”
“I never retired. That’s one of the reasons I have that view screen and workstation. I still keep in touch with most of my friends from the Academy. That’s why I knew you were given permission to come here even before you sent the final application to Kolopak.”
“Amazing. How many people know this, Poketay?” Chakotay had recovered enough to join the conversation again. He was in a way reassured, because from the moment Kathryn came into his life his interest in science and in life away from Trebus had peaked again. Finding out the man whom he had always looked to for guidance and advice had been at Starfleet was a most welcome revelation.
Poketay grinned self-consciously, “I must confess not many know. Your father does, so I assume your mother knows too, but I think they are the only ones. You see, you try to keep things like this in your family, especially since the growth of more traditionally minded families. But you didn’t come to talk about me. I bet Mika is preparing a feast as we speak, so we’d better hurry.”
~ * ~ * ~
As he got up, Poketay could hear his muscles and bones protest. He walked over to a finely decorated cabinet near the front door. Opening it, he took out two packages. One was made of an old hide with many rough patches. The other was much smaller and flatter and made out of a black and red fabric. He came back and handed the small one to Kathryn.
“Recognize the fabric, Kathryn?”
She felt the course but pliable fabric. “It’s Starfleet! How did you get this?”
“Remember my connections to Starfleet? Well one of my trainees still owed me a favor and he was able to get it for me. Why don’t you tell us what it is?”
Kathryn hesitated, because as she let it slide through her hands, she found the tiny golden pip, which was all scratched. “It can’t be! This is my father’s first pip, which he gave to me when I was promoted to Lieutenant j.g. Poketay, this is mine, isn’t it? Someone gave you my old uniform.”
“Yes, it seems Admiral Paris and I both agree Command Red better than Science Blue.”
Now it was Kathryn’s turn to be shocked at Poketay’s admission. “Admiral Paris?” She slumped back into the couch, “When did you do all this? And why? And before you say anything, contrary to Chakotay, I do not believe in destiny!” Chakotay patted her knee to calm her down, but it didn’t help. Especially not when she looked at Poketay’s smiling face. “I feel like people are manipulating me. Paka, Mika, Sini and now you! And I don’t like it.” She got up and paced the room.
Poketay got up as well and put his arm around her shoulders. “Kathryn, no one is trying to manipulate you into something you don’t want. Let me tell you what happened. About three years ago, Owen told me about his star pupil who changed from Command to Science after a tragic accident that turned her life upside down. He contacted me for advice, and all I told him was to let that officer lead her chosen life. Now, three weeks ago, I received another message from him saying that same officer had requested a position at Kolopak’s lab. When I told him I would probably meet her, I asked him for something that was hers and that might help her to find the inner peace she was looking for. He sent me the fabric, which is not from your uniform but a brand new one, and the lonely pip. It wasn’t until Paka told me about your almost instant connection to Chakotay that I made the fabric into a Medicine Bundle for you.”
Kathryn had visibly relaxed and she was once again seated next to Chakotay, who slowly rubbed her back. “Thank you for telling me, Poketay. It means a lot to me. See, I’m used to having full control over my life. When Justin died, I lost some of my control.” The smile came back to her face as she turned to Chakotay, “And meeting you certainly messed up my careful control.”
Relieved Kathryn was all right again, Chakotay laughed, “If you think you lost your control, what about mine? For the first time in years I’m actually anxious to go out into space again.”
“Two control freaks: what did the Spirits think when they put you together? Lets get down to business. Kathryn, has Chakotay introduced you to your guide?”
~ * ~ * ~
After witnessing their joined quest, the actual Bonding Ceremony was a simple formality for Poketay. But as he asked Chakotay to repeat the Bonding Vows, the younger man surprised him when he said he wanted Poketay to read a poem instead.
“Kotay, you realize this is highly unusual?”
“I know, but I can remember you once told me the unusual isn’t necessarily bad.”
Poketay smiled at the couple before him and read out the poem Chakotay confessed having found on his father’s workstation.
~ * ~ * ~
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his heighth be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
~ * ~ * ~
“I wonder what is keeping them?” Mika looked around at the gathered crowd in her house and garden.
As soon as Gretchen and Phoebe had unpacked and freshened up, they had discovered Mika in the kitchen preparing enough food to feed planets. The three of them even managed to come up with the right ingredients for making Kathryn’s favorite caramel brownies.
Gretchen was standing next to Mika, “When did you expect them to come? Knowing my daughter, Chakotay probably is having a hard time prying her away from the lab.”
“To be honest, their stomachs should be letting themselves heard by now. Chakotay knows we’re expecting him for dinner.”
“And Kathryn can’t cook, so it’s highly unlikely she’ll have made him supper.”
Just then the kitchen door opened and the couple entered behind Poketay, who was sporting a large smile.
“There you are we were beginning to wonder if you had decided to skip dinner.”
Gretchen, who was partially hidden behind Mika, stepped away, but it took Kathryn some time to register her mother’s presence.
“Mom? How? What?” and she ran into Gretchen’s outstretched arms. “Mom, what are you doing here?”
~ * ~ * ~
Gretchen observed Kathryn as she greeted Phoebe. She felt as is she was missing something in Kathryn’s behavior. Her daughter was positively sparkling.
Kathryn introduced Chakotay to her sister and Gretchen immediately noticed the way she held her hand on his arm. Almost as if her eldest daughter knew of the youngest daughter’s interest in the handsome man. Kathryn’s message was clear to her sister, because Phoebe unnoticeably stepped back from Chakotay a little. Still Kathryn didn’t move her hand. She even tightened her hold on him when she slipped her arm around his waist unconsciously.
As Chakotay turned his face toward Kathryn, Gretchen was shocked by his expression. She figured out what forces were at work here. One look at her oldest daughter was enough to make Kathryn leave Phoebe and Chakotay alone, and she came to stand with her mother.
“He is certainly very handsome.” Gretchen was pleased to see Kathryn look back at the man they were discussing. When she turned back to face her mother, she knew she was caught.
“Alright mom, do your worst.”
“My worst? Why would I do that? There’s no need to become all defensive with me, young lady. I am still your mother.”
“You are, and I’m sorry. What do you want to know?”
“If I knew what to ask for, I would ask you. Honey, I just noticed how happy and peaceful you look. What happened? The last time we spoke you were close to a deep depression and now, well you look like a woman in love.”
Kathryn heaved a big sigh and took her mother to a more secluded spot in the garden. “Mom, I know this might be hard to believe, but you’re right. I am a woman in love. You know how I felt after Justin’s death, and now, even though I will always miss him, I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. Or maybe even a first chance at finding complete happiness.”
“You noticed? Why is it everyone notices except me?”
“Sweetheart, it was hard not to notice. If your connection to that man is as deep as I hope it is, please don’t let anything stand in your way.”
“I won’t, but don’t you think it’s all happening too soon? I mean, we’ve barely known each other for two days.”
“Whether you know someone your whole life or not, the moment you discover you’re supposed to grow old together, these things are no longer important. It’s not the time you spent together before you acknowledge your mutual love that counts, but it’s the time you have after that declarations that matters.”
“Mom, why didn’t you tell me when I married Justin?”
“Kathryn, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. Your father and I knew that, although Justin at the time was who you needed and wanted, you are one of the few lucky ones destined to find their soul mate.”
“I’m not. I’m also not claiming your life’s path has been carved out for you since your birth, but each person has a few universal stabilities in their lives. And yours appears to be Chakotay.”
Kathryn was too amazed to speak. All the loose threads in her life were coming together here with this man. It was an unexplainable phenomenon, but the scientist in here for once didn’t care about a solution.
~ * ~ * ~
Phoebe and Chakotay made their way over. Gretchen took Kathryn’s hand and squeezed it once.
“Mom, Chakotay and I were talking about late Minoan art and he told me Poketay had some. Is it okay if I visit him tomorrow?”
“Of course it is, honey.”
Kathryn seemed to have returned to this world and she was smiling almost shyly.
“Chakotay, could you give me your hand please.” Both daughters looked at their mother wondering what she was going to do.
Taking Chakotay’s left hand and Kathryn’s right, she held them together in her hands. “Now, I don’t know anything of this planet’s customs, but I do believe it is customary for a couple to receive both parents’ blessing for their wedding. Kathryn and Chakotay, may all the joys of living together guide you on your joined path.” Gretchen kissed her daughter’s cheek and turned to Chakotay, “Welcome to our family, Chakotay of Trebus.” And she pressed a kiss on his forehead. “Of course, I want first dibs on my grandchildren and I will expect you to come to Indiana soon. The house is simply dying to host a large party again.”