“You want me to do what? You’ve got to be kidding, Ama. She’d never agree!”
Mika regarded her son. He was pacing back and forth in his kitchen. She thought he took his father’s idea fairly well and it was a good sign he was thinking of Kathryn’s reaction.
“Kotay, please sit down. Your pacing is making me dizzy. It’s just an idea, and you don’t have to agree.”
The look he gave his mother was bordering on insolence, “Ama, you are far too intelligent to think I would not agree to Father’s crazy scheme. You know I’d love to become Kathryn’s equal, but I don’t want her to agree just so she can work here.”
“I understand, but what will you do if she does agree?”
Apparently Chakotay hadn’t thought of that possibility, because he sat down and slumped in his chair. To Mika he looked like her 5-year-old son again, whose dream came true when he was allowed to go on a Vision Quest with Poketay.
“Will you accept her as your equal?”
He sighed and a full-scale smile slowly crept up his face, “Spirits! Do you think she will?” But the next moment he was frowning again, “Ama, she won’t accept. I mean, if she would I’d be the happiest man in this universe, and probably in the next one as well, but we hardly know each other. Just because we spent one night together talking doesn’t mean we can spend the rest of our lives together, as equals.”
Mika got up and ruffled her son’s hair. “Whether you know someone from the days when you were both young, or whether you know someone barely one day, your heart will always recognize the one who is destined to be your equal. Think about that okay? I will see you tomorrow for breakfast. Now I have to go home and see if your father hasn’t scared our guest away.”
~ * ~ * ~
Seeing his mother leave, made Chakotay want to run after her. How could she leave him like this? He still had so many questions for her. Instead he searched around his house looking for his medicine bundle. He’d probably not be able to contact his spirit guide, because he was in more turmoil than he’d ever been, but he could at least give it a try.
~ * ~ * ~
Sitting in the middle of the house on the floor, he spread out the contents of his bundle. Ever since he was a young boy, his parents had given him treasured objects and he himself had collected a few too. He put his hand on the akoonah and closed his eyes.
“Akuchi moya, living on the land of my forefathers, I seek the guidance you can give me …”
~ * ~ * ~
The scenery around him surprised Chakotay when he opened his eyes again. Instead of the familiar pine forest, a few birch trees, scattered in a valley now surrounded him. Green slopes of grass encircled the beginning of a large lake that stretched out into the distance. He looked around trying to find his guide and he saw her, lying near the edge of the lake, next to a large rock. As he got closer he could see her head moving as if she was speaking to someone, but he was still too far away to see who or what it was.
Sensing his approach, she lifted her head, “Well met, my friend.”
Just as he crouched down, he saw a small gecko move to the space between the wolf’s front paws. He stroked his guide’s fur, making sure he scratched her behind the ears. It might make her more understanding of his situation.
~ * ~ * ~
All those years ago when he had first met her, he had discovered his guide was anything but meek and susceptible. She had her own thoughts and ideas, and she was quite happy sharing her opinion with him. He had thought his parents had somehow tapped into his guide’s mind, making her say the things they would have said, but after each vision quest he had found she was often right. He had come to depend on her counsel, and he was quite anxious to hear her opinion on his father’s harebrained plan.
~ * ~ * ~
“Sister, I need your guidance.”
“Tsk, tsk, Chakotay. Where are your manners? Your parents did not raise you to ignore a new guest.” And she pointedly looked down at the gecko. The small animal came forward again, away from the wolf’s protection, and it climbed up the rock. Staring at Chakotay for some time, it turned its head towards the wolf, “So this is him.”
The wolf nodded, and nudged Chakotay with her snout.
“I am honored to meet you.”
The gecko looked at him again, “As you should be. Cha-ko-tay, you are a lucky man. This time you will receive both our guidance, simply because you will need it. Your equal is a stubborn one, but she is worth all the trouble you will ever have to go through for the rest of your life. Pay attention to what we’re going to tell you, and you should be able to succeed. We only need to know one thing: do you love her?”
~ * ~ * ~
On the other side of the village, Mika was greeted by and icy silence as she entered her house. She found Paka sitting at the kitchen table looking dejected, Teresini was hanging upside down on one of the couches, and Kathryn was nowhere to be seen. Straightening her back, she went to make some coffee. She was going to need it just to survive the next couple of hours.
“She’s upstairs, but when I listened earlier I couldn’t tell if Kathryn was packing or not.” Sini was now almost falling off the couch, looking at her mother. Kolopak was still silent.
“Thank you, Sini, but no more eavesdropping, understood?”
The girl nodded and joined her parents in the kitchen.
“How did Chakotay take the news?” Paka looked up at his wife.
“Considering the circumstances and the nature of the idea, he took it quite well.”
“That’s good. I’m afraid Kathryn wasn’t as open to this bond as he is. She accused me of manipulating her feelings.”
“Father, but you did! You told her you knew she was in love with Kotay. Spirits, she hadn’t even realized herself!”
“Paka? Is it true what Sini says?”
He looked uncomfortably from one to the other. “I didn’t exactly put it that way. I was very subtle about it.”
Sini snorted, causing her mother to glare at her.
“Sorry Ama, Father. But you don’t understand. Kathryn is scared. The last thing she expected to find here was her equal!”
Coming back with a cup of coffee and two teas, Paka sat down and looked at his wife with pleading eyes. Mika sighed, “I guess I will go check on her. Later. After I’ve had my coffee.”
~ * ~ * ~
Kathryn felt bad sneaking out of the house, but she needed the fresh air. She also needed to talk to someone badly. She had tried to contact her mother and sister earlier, but they weren’t at home.
She wandered around the village, noticing how some houses were pitch dark except for small oil lamps casting their glow and other houses were clearly lit by the energy network. She didn’t have a specific goal, but unsurprisingly she found herself in front of the house of the one person she knew she could talk to. Problem was he was also the one person who was constantly in her thoughts. Knowing she’d never find the peace to sleep tonight if she didn’t talk to him, she knocked on the door. She could see a small oil lamp lighting the central room, but it didn’t give her enough light to look inside. After knocking on the door several times, she decided to let herself in. Inside, the lamp cast more light and she saw Chakotay sitting in the middle of the floor, deep in trance. Not knowing if she could disturb him, she took a seat on the couch across from him and indulged herself by studying him carefully.
~ * ~ * ~
When he slowly came back from his vision quest, he realized the smile which had adorned his face when he was in the other world, was also on his face here in the real world. He opened his eyes and he was struck by the sight in front of him. Kathryn Janeway was sitting on his couch, staring intently at him. He couldn’t quite shake the feeling that maybe he had fallen asleep during his quest and that he was now dreaming she was here.
“We need to talk.”
Her brusque comment immediately made him forget that idea. He got up stretching his muscles and walked into the kitchen area.
“I’m going to make tea. Would you care for some?”
She had gotten up too and walked over. “I guess you don’t have any coffee here?” The hopefulness of her look made him smile. She realized how desperate she sounded and grinned too.
“If you want coffee you’re going to have to ask Ama for some ground beans. But I bet I can make your tea extra strong you’ll like it too.”
Kathryn mulled it over, “Coffee or extra strong tea – going back to the house I secretly snuck out or staying here. Chakotay you drive a really hard bargain, you know. I guess one cup of tea isn’t going to make me forget about coffee.”
The smile he send her made her insides turn all mushy and her knees buckle.
“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable, and I’ll bring the tea once it’s done.”
She walked back to where his medicine bundle was still spread out on the floor. Sitting herself down next to it, she studied each item. Chakotay brought the tea over and joined her on the floor. He busied himself with plucking non-existent lint off his trousers, while Kathryn had found her nails to be extremely interesting.
Finally he gathered enough courage to continue what she had started earlier.
“I’m sorry my father placed you in the middle of his crazy idea.”
She looked at him surprised, but understood his apology. “You know, the idea isn’t all that crazy. I guess only the people involved are an unlucky choice.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Just that there’s obviously something between us, and for your father to suggest this plan was an unlucky choice. You see, if he had suggested Suttonay as my equal for instance, it would have been completely different.”
“Are you trying to say you’d rather bond with him?” Chakotay stiffened.
“No! That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just trying to explain it might not be a good idea for us to rush into something. We’ve only known each other 24 hours.”
“Don’t remind me. But we also know much more about each other than anyone else. I’ve told you things I haven’t told anyone else.”
“Same here. But I still think it’s going a little bit too fast.”
He looked at her and grinned, “Just a little bit?”
She had to smile at that, “It surprises me too,” and she took one of his hands in hers. “But it truly is only a little bit. It’s strange but I feel we have know each other for years. And just look at how different we are!”
The look he gave her made her blush, because it was telling how much he appreciated their difference. She bent her head, “Stop that. You’re making me uncomfortable.”
He lifted her chin with a touch of his finger, “Are you really that uncomfortable in my presence?”
The insecurity reflected in his eyes warmed her heart. “No, I’m not.” She leaned towards him “In fact I would have to say your presence makes me quite comfortable.” He met her halfway and kissed her. “I will even go as far as saying I have finally come home.”
She looked him straight in the eyes and smiled, opening up her soul for him to see her feelings.
He gently caressed the side of her face and she leaned into his touch, closing her eyes.
“Kathryn, will you do me the honor of becoming my equal.”