Mail Call

A rare occurrence, that's what it was. But why? Why had someone gone through all the trouble of sending her a handwritten letter by mail? Especially since the postal service in its old shape had ceased to exist 125 years ago. To send a letter nowadays was nearly impossible. Only one family still carried the torch. They still delivered mail, sure, but it was an exclusive service and only for those who could prove the more ordinary means were not fit for the mailed item.

Disclaimer: well, I used to own my muse, but she left/died - do you really think I want to be bothered with trivial things like Paramount?? *grin* guess again!

To KateF: chatroom buddy extraordinaire, keeper of the faith, and good friend :)

* ~ * ~ *

A rare occurrence, that's what it was. But why? Why had someone gone through all the trouble of sending her a handwritten letter by mail? Especially since the postal service in its old shape had ceased to exist 125 years ago. To send a letter nowadays was nearly impossible. Only one family still carried the torch. They still delivered mail, sure, but it was an exclusive service and only for those who could prove the more ordinary means were not fit for the mailed item.

Rumour had it that some of the most secretive dealings during the recent war were carried out via this means of communication.

The family never was one for ordinary messages, and convincing them of the importance of the letter was difficult. And tedious. And you could be sure that whatever you wrote would not be a secret to them. They held the exclusive right to read the letters when they sought fit to do so. Only very few people ever received a "hand"mailed letter, and those who did were usually the envy of the community. Whenever a letter was delivered, it meant the entire town would know even before dinnertime. And the receiver would have to get used to constant visitors all wanting to see this piece of evidence of times gone by.

Was she at all happy with the letter? After returning she had successfully disappeared out of the public spotlight. She still received numerous requests for appearances, but she was certain they would forget her, even though it had only been six months since their arrival back in San Francisco.

* ~ * ~ *

"...and on your left you will see the old Burrough, placed on the man-made hill - the castle was built in the 1200-s under order of the viscounts..."

Of all the things she had imagined, this wasn't one of them. For the past hour she'd been forced to listen to the Mayor and his guide. It wasn't that she wasn't interested but she had never envisioned having to parade around the Federation. But Starfleet had asked her, well they really almost ordered her to go, and in return they mostly left her alone.

The group made their way through the historic part of town.

"Captain, over there in the middle of the street you will see a blue stone: the Blue Stone actually. It's an old remainder of a Roman road that marked the northern boundary of the ancient Roman Empire."

The guide droned on about something and didn't notice he had lost his audience.

The day after she had received the letter B'Elanna had stopped by. Of course she claimed she didn't know about the letter, but her arrival was too much of a coincidence. Within five minutes of B'Elanna's entrance, Kathryn's mom called: all under the guise of seeing how her daughter was doing.

"...it later became a prison and it is presently still part of the Law School of the University. Many protestants were martyred here under the Inquisition. Captain, you have been quiet. Are there any questions you might want to ask at this point of the tour?"

Argh... questions, just when she hadn't been paying attention. If only ... no don't go there. It's no use, you are here alone trying to bluff your way through a tour that you're not even interested in. Now what had the guide been saying? Yes, something about the Inquisition. All she needed now was a proverbial lightbulb and come up with an intelligent question.

In the past she wouldn't have had to worry about planetary dignitaries and their questions. She'd always had her backup. Today however she was alone.

"Mr Jansen, was the Inquisition a real threat to the more liberal Republic?"

Well, she managed, somehow. Her guide went into a detailed description not noticing he had once again lost her.

He had promised never to leave her alone. He would always shoulder her burden. But he wasn't here. Her mother would accuse her of pouting, Phoebe would say she was just being herself, B'Elanna would say she was feeling sorry for herself, Tuvok would say she was acting illogically, Tom would tell her to get her act together and do something about the fact that she was alone. She grinned to herself, hoping her hosts wouldn't notice. She was alone, and she was damned if she was just gonna sit still and let it ruin her life.

"Excuse me, I don't want to interrupt you, but I can remember you mentioning something about pigeons just now."

"Why yes, Captain, indeed. I was saying that although it isn't used anymore, the family who during the Siege in 1573-1574 used pigeons to send and bring messages between the people inside the town and the navy of William of Orange, are still on a very small scale using their services for very special mail calls only."[1]

* ~ * ~ *

It had been a surprise. Incessant ticking on his window had woken him up. It reminded him of a woodpecker let loose on a glass tree. It didn't stop, and getting up he walked over to the window to see what was making this noise. There outside, sitting on the ledge was a pigeon: a plain grey and white pigeon. The bird looked at him almost accusingly for being left unnoticed for so long. He opened the window and it flew in silently, landing on the dresser. Only now did he notice the small container attached to one of its paws. Inside he found a small note saying he was the recipient of a letter.

It took him more than three weeks to trace the letter. Each time he arrived at the next Office for Interplanetary Carrier Pigeons, a clerk would hand him a new address. What started out as a simple mail call had now become a quest of sorts. Of all the things he never expected to find on his home planet Dorvan, the local Office was actually run by an old schoolfriend. The only thing he could tell him was the next address to pick up his letter. He explained it was fairly normal for carrier pigeons to be kept on starships and freighters nowadays, creating a network far more reliable than Federation Subspace.

During his search, he discovered a subculture within the Federation only few people knew about. By the time he arrived on Earth, he had seen close to 17 Offices, each more exotic than the previous. The most extraordinary one was run by a Ferengi, an honest Ferengi it seemed, because he had not charged him for sending a subspace message to B'Elanna and Tom telling them he would probably arrive in time for their engagement party.

When he finally arrived at the Office his letter originated from, the clerk just looked at him and handed him the letter. Opening it, he couldn't help noticing the clerk's obvious curiosity. He looked at him questioningly.

"Sorry, sir, I didn't mean to stare, but well, you see, this is the longest run a CP Package has ever made and for a while there we were worried it wasn't going to reach you on time. It seems CP#5 had some trouble when it accidentally landed on an Ambassador's shoulder, and well, uhm, you know — Cleaning services are all part of the deal, no extra charge." The clerk looked proud when he made his last statement, hoping he had secured another customer. "Will you be using a CP yourself, sir? To reply to this message?"

Chakotay read the message.

And smiled.

* ~ * ~ *

He'd be the first one to admit his letter had been highly unconventional. It took him close to two weeks to even get his request looked at, but once he was through the primary selection committee things went pretty fast. When he finally handed his letter over, the secretary looked at and smiled.

"Is this all, sir?"

"Yes."

B'Elanna called him nine days later telling him the letter had arrived. She was more than curious to find out what he'd written, and she had even tried to get Tom set him a trap so he would spill the proverbial beans.

But it seemed now he had been outsmarted by a master. He first heard of the mail service through Admiral Paris one evening when he told them about the Dominion War. At the time he thought it was a nice and quaint custom. After he'd send the letter he actually thought he'd been a pretty smart man for using it. However, having read his CP Package letter, he knew he was doomed.

* ~ * ~ *

Just as she was zipping up her dress, the doorchime rang. "Damn", she ran down the stairs when it chimed a second time. "Hold your horses! I'm coming!" Slightly out of breath she signalled for the door to open.

"Hello Kathryn."

He stood in front of her not sure he would pass her scrutinous inspection of his outfit. When he arrived in San Francisco he'd gone straight to a replicator, ordering himself a new tuxedo. He knew he had to hurry if he wanted to pick up Kathryn before they were expected at Tom and B'Elanna's party.

Kathryn looked simply dazzling in her dark green crushed velvet off-shoulder dress. There was something awkward about it though. "Want me to zip you up?"

She grinned, "Please." Of all the things they could have said to each other, this one actually revealed more than passers-by might have thought. He stepped inside and turned around to fasten the dress. He swirled her around, enjoying the way she looked. When she came to a halt in front of him, she looked him in the eyes.

"Did you mean it?"

"I am here now. And I am not leaving."

She leaned forward and stood on her tiptoes to press a chaste and shy kiss on his lips. Before he could return the favour, she pulled away from him. "Sorry, can't ruin my makeup." Chakotay laughed at that. She was right, if he got a chance now he would certainly ruin her makeup and a lot more.

"It will only take me five more minutes or so and then we can leave."

"Leave? But it's only 8 o'clock, we're not expected at the party till 9:30."

"I know, but I, well, we need to cash in a favour before we go to the party."

"We do?"

She just smiled and went upstairs again. Chakotay followed her up.

* ~ * ~ *

"B'Elanna, they're still not here."

"I know Tom, I find it odd too that both are missing, but there's nothing we can do."

Harry came up to them, "Any sign of either one of them yet?"

"Nope, Harry, still no Captain or Chakotay."

The three of them walked back to the living room where most of the guests had assembled, all waiting for Tom to make his speech.

"Tom," he looked around at his father, "We can't wait any longer. Your guests are getting restless."

"Dad, I know, it's just, I want to wait a little longer."

"Son, that's what you said 30 minutes ago."

"But I have a feeling they'll be here any minute now. I mean, the Captain isn't the kind of person to be late, is she? And neither is Chakotay."

"Why are you so sure they're together? After all, the last thing I heard, the Commander had taken a leave of absence to go back to Dorvan. And Kathryn has almost locked herself up in her house."

"Don't we know, Dad. B'Ela and I have tried both of them, but they won't say anything. Did I tell you about the strange message Chakotay left us four days ago?"

"B'Elanna told me he'd been in touch, but nothing more."

"Well, we'd gone shopping and when we came back there was a note from Chakotay saying he would be able to make it tonight. Before we could reply there was another message, again from Chakotay: he said he felt like one of the medieval knights going on a quest looking for the Holy Grail."

"What did he mean?"

"We don't know, we still haven't figured it out. That's part of the reason why we're so anxious for him to come. B'Ela and I even have a bet going: she claims it has something to do with the Captain, but I don't believe in that fairy tale anymore, I think he's on some tribal quest, you know, to honour his people or something."

"Are you sure you are my son Thomas Eugene Paris?"

"Dad?"

"If I have to believe all the wild stories your crewmates have told me, you are Kathryn and Chakotay's biggest supporter! I can't see how you could have started doubting your feelings?"

"But Dad, it's too late. I mean, we've been home for close to 9 months, don't you think something would have happened between the two of them by now?"

"They have been busy with all the briefings. I know the Voyager Committee wouldn't have appreciated a budding romance between the ship's Commanding Officers. And don't you think that after more than seven years of fighting for a cause, they maybe needed some time to regroup? To see who they had become, and to see if they even liked that new person, without having to put valuable energy into a new relationship with someone so very close to you?"

"I hadn't looked at it that way. Do you think that's what happened?"

"Tom, I really have no idea, but I think you shouldn't close your betting pool just yet. I've known Kathryn Janeway for a long time now, and she is certainly full of surprises."

The two men walked into the hallway.

"There you are, Tom, I was afraid you had disappeared."

"Why, what is it, B'Ela?"

"Guess who just came waltzing in, slightly out of breath, apologising profusely?"

"The Captain? She's here?"

"She is, and — she brought a date!"

"She did?" Tom's face suddenly dropped, "What are we going to tell Chakotay?"

A large form loomed up behind Tom, "Yes, what are you going to tell me?"

Tom swivelled around, "Chakotay? You're here? I mean, you're late!" He looked helplessly at B'Elanna. "What my Helmboy is trying to say is he's pleased you managed to make it tonight."

Chakotay laughed at Tom's expression, "Tom and B'Elanna, we wouldn't have missed it for the world, isn't that right, Kathryn."

Only now did Tom notice the Captain standing slightly behind Chakotay and B'Elanna.

"Hello Tom." She smiled and put her arm through Chakotay's, "We are really sorry we're late, but we got held up."

"You mean, you held us up, don't you?" Chakotay grinned at Kathryn, "After all, I was ready at 8, but you had some trouble locating your shoes: it took you almost 10 minutes finding one and another 15 minutes for the other one."

Tom was speechless and B'Elanna was laughing, at him but also at the antics of Kathryn and Chakotay. "Will you two stop it. Sheesh, you're almost behaving like an old married… Kahless!" Before she could finish that thought she caught Kathryn's look at Chakotay who broke out in a grin so wide it would crack his face.

"Oops."

Kathryn just laughed and hugged Chakotay's arm, "Hey, it wasn't my fault, I didn't say anything."

"Well, neither did I."

A loud thud interrupted their bantering: Tom had fainted and landed awkwardly on his back. B'Elanna was at his side immediately and Chakotay looked around for the Doctor.

* ~ * ~ *

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 apologise 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 two weeks to even get heard, but then the things was posted soon enough."

"And?"

"And after about nine 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 three 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 recognise 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 two 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 realised 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 four 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 recognise 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 honour 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.

"Ms Torres?" One of the Doctor's assistants came up to their table, "Mr. Paris is asking for you."

"Thank you, can you tell him we're on our way?" Looking at Kathryn and Chakotay she got up, "It seems my Helmboy is awake again. I'd better go rescue him before the Doctor sedates him. Will you come up too?"

"We'll be there shortly."

B'Elanna almost ran out of the cafeteria.

* ~ * ~ *

Tom was no longer strapped into a brace, but sat up, half-reclined on the bed. "Doc, I swear, I didn't know."

"Are you sure, Mr. Paris. It seems you were the only one to rival my knowledge of relationships aboard Voyager. I find it only 'logical' you would know about the Captain and the Commander."

"Retired Captain, you mean. Hi Tom, how are you feeling? Doctor, how is he?"

"'He' is doing fine, aren't I, Doc? What do you mean retired?"

The Doctor simply ignored Tom, "B'Elanna you don't have to worry. Mr. Paris is indeed doing fine, in fact, as soon as he is dressed he is free to go as he pleases."

"Thank you, Doctor. Tom, will you please never ever do that again!"

"B'Elanna! It wasn't my fault. Blame the Captain, no wait I forgot, blame the retired Captain and Chakotay."

She smiled, "I already did."

"And? What did they say?" He got up, looking around for his clothes, "Well?"

B'Elanna was quietly gazing at something on the wall. Tom came up to her, "Hey, it's alright. I'm all right. Nothing happened, at least, nothing the Doc couldn't fix."

"Eh? What? I'm sorry Tom, I was just thinking."

He grinned, "About me, right?"

She had to smile at that, "No actually, I was thinking about Kathryn and Chakotay."

"And? Don't keep me in suspense. What did they tell you?"

* ~ * ~ *

"She didn't?"

"She did."

"You're making this up!"

"Tom, I'm serious. That's what she said."

"We are talking about the same person, aren't we? Kathryn Janeway, former Captain of Voyager? Wherever-I-go-I-take-my-replicator Kathy, right?"

"Yes, the same. You forgot one though: I-only-go-camping-because-I'm-in-love-with-Nature-Boy-but-I-won't-tell-him Janeway. Seriously, I had a hard time believing it too."

"But?"

"But it makes sense. We both know Kathryn and Chakotay are very competitive. Well, Chakotay contacted her in a highly unusual manner. She had to reply in an even stranger way. I guess using a carrier pigeon was exotic enough."

"I'd say. They still exist? Wow."

B'Elanna grinned, "The only thing she didn't expect was for it to take four weeks."

"What happened next?"

"I don't know, we were interrupted."

"Too bad, I'd like to know the rest of it. So, what's this about the Captain retiring."

"I have no idea, I don't know the details. She just told a waitress who she was, and she said she wasn't Captain Kathryn Janeway, but that she was ..."

"Retired Captain. Hello Tom, how are you feeling?"

"Sheesh, don't you people knock, or something?"

"I'm sorry Tom, we didn't mean to disturb you. We just thought B'Elanna would like to hear the rest of the conversation we started downstairs. I assume she has briefed you by now?"

Kathryn walked over to the bed and hopped on, sitting next to B'Elanna, "Well, it's Chakotay's turn again."

Tom and Chakotay took the two bedside chairs closer.

"Because I hadn't heard from Kathryn in close to one-and-a-half months, I assumed she didn't want to reply. It was around this time I send you the message saying I wasn't going to make it for your party." Chakotay grinned self-consciously, "You could say I was moping and sulking."

Kathryn leaned over to tap his nose, "You? Moping? Never. Sulking? Most definitely."

He grinned again, "Anyway, one morning I woke up to a very strange noise. A pigeon was ticking on my bedroom window. I let it in and noticed the container with the message. When I opened it, it just read 'Please contact your nearest Office for Interplanetary Carrier Pigeons'. Little did I know this note would take me on a voyage throughout the Federation."

"What? Kathryn's letter wasn't in the container?"

"No, just the note. And for the next three weeks I traveled from one CP office to the next, each time receiving the address of the next office."

"Amazing."

"Chakotay, we wanted to ask you - before Helmboy lost consciousness - what did you mean, when you said you were on a 'quest looking for the Holy Grail'? Tom said you were on some tribal quest, but I didn't believe that."

He smiled, "Yeah, I remember sending that message. I was chasing a message send by the woman I love; it resembled those quests in that the medieval knights were looking for an ultimate truth, and I found myself looking for my own ultimate truth."

They were silent; knowing full well that Chakotay wasn't joking.

After some time, B'Elanna started laughing, "That's another 20 replicator rations you owe me, Tom. I was right: it did have something to do with the Captain, I mean Kathryn."

"You placed a bet on my message?" Chakotay looked stunned.

"Yes, even Dad didn't understand the message. Next time please tell us what you're doing, okay? It'll save me a fortune on rations. And before you say anything, yes, I'm well aware we don't need them anymore now that we're home. Just think of them as the matchsticks we used when we were little, they're easier to count."

"Then what happened?"

"Well, this is about it, really. Except if you want to hear how it took Kathryn almost half an hour to find her shoes. You wouldn't believe how nervous I was when I rang the doorchime. I wasn't even sure if it was the right house, let alone whether or not I wanted to stay around to find out."

"You discovered it soon enough, you must have heard my yelling when I came down the stairs. I didn't believe my eyes when I opened the door." Kathryn blushed slightly, "I fell in love with you all over again."

Chakotay smiled at her public admission, "We were quite the pair, both oblivious to what was happening outside. All I could see was a vision of beauty."

"Even though this is just too cute and adorable, it still doesn't explain why you were late for our party."

"Kathryn told me she only needed five more minutes to finish getting dressed."

Tom nudged Chakotay, "And you made her late, didn't you Big Guy?"

"Actually, it was my fault. I really couldn't find my shoes, but in the end we were ready to go. I'm afraid you're going to have to blame your father's old friend Admiral Rosen for making us late, Tom."

"Why? What does he have to do with all of this?"

"By the time Kathryn was finally dressed, we found ourselves chasing the elusive Admiral around the Academy Grounds."

"But why were you looking for him?"

"Apparently he needed to do us a favour."

"He did?" Tom just looked at them, "What kind of favour?"

Kathryn shifted on the bed, not sure she wanted to continue, but looking at Chakotay, she made up her mind, "I wanted him to marry us."

After she dropped the bombshell, she jumped off the bed and stood behind Chakotay's chair, her hands on his shoulders, gently squeezing them.

"So I was right. Kahless!" B'Elanna looked dumbfounded.

"What exactly was in those letters you send to each other?" Tom scrutinized the pair before him.

Grinning broadly, Chakotay sat up straighter, "I though you would never ask. Before I wrote mine, I thought about its contents, and I realised I had said and shown it all during the past seven years. There really was nothing more for me to declare, but one thing."

B'Elanna sighed and looked at Kathryn, "He told you how much he loved, didn't he?"

"Not exactly, and I fear my reply was even shorter. It took longer to be posted, but it wasn't really a letter, more of a note: a confirmation to Chakotay's note."

The End


  1. Now for those of you who are interested, Kathryn is being taken on a tour of all the Pilgrim Fathers' things that can be found in Leiden, the town I live in. ↩︎

Show Comments