They were standing in front of a magnificent tree, just on the edge of the garden.
"So, how are your tree climbing skills?" Without saying another thing, Kathryn skilfully climbed up into the tree, and within seconds she was seated on her favourite branch.
Chakotay was still at the bottom, when she looked down at him.
"Don't tell me: you're also the only Indian who can't climb a tree?"
Before Kathryn could make another comment, however, Chakotay was already up in the tree sitting beside her.
"You were saying? I am perfectly capable of climbing trees, as you can see. So, this is your tree, then?"
"Yes, don't you think he's gorgeous? I've spent so many hours in here, I can't even recall not sitting in it. Whenever my parents were upset with me, or when I'd had another fight with Phoebe, or when I was just feeling bad, I would come here, climb up and just sit and think about stuff."
"Now I find myself sitting here with someone whom I owe an explanation. Maybe even several."
"Why are you here, Kathryn?"
"Two days ago, I found out that mom had sold the house, so I contacted Phoebe. I was pretty upset about it, because I had always assumed that either Phoebe or I would end up living in this house: you see, it really is our house. I told her that I couldn't believe they had just sold it without telling me, but then Phoebe told me that I was so busy with Starfleet that they didn't want to disturb me with this. I guess I realised that my childhood dream of living in my house had disappeared together with the house itself. Phoebe made me promise not to bother mom with all this, because apparently she too was pretty shaken up by the move. I came here today because I didn't want to just leave and never see my home again: I had to say goodbye to it, and maybe even explain to myself and the house why we would not be together anymore. That's when you saw me."
"You did seem to be faraway just then. And, have you said goodbye?"
"No, I think I just said hello again."
"I thought you were going to give me an explanation, yet you keep speaking in riddles."
"I'm sorry, Chakotay, but you see I came here today to say goodbye to my house, and now, well, I guess, I'd rather say hello to her again, and I'm going to need your help for that."
"Kath, what are you saying?"
"Chakotay, do you think that we could still, you know, be a couple?"
He took her hands in his, and squeezed them gently. "Kathryn, there is nothing I'd rather be, but you need to be sure of this. I'm not going to step back this time if things become too tricky for you. It's either forward or nothing at all."
The smile on Kathryn's face would have charmed a thousand Kazon. She moved towards Chakotay and placed a chaste kiss on his lips. "I love you, Chakotay."
Now it was his turn to smile, and Kathryn was once again swept away by the power of those dimples. "I love you too, you know."
They kissed again, this time with less restraint and the tree became a dangerous place to sit in, because their movements were becoming more and more frantic. Sensing their imminent danger, Chakotay pulled away. He looked at Kathryn, afraid that this was all a dream, but she was still there looking ravishing.
"We'd better go down again."
"We should. I can tell you that it's not pleasant to fall out of this tree, believe me, I've done it before, and I'd rather not experience it again. Didn't you also say earlier that you still had some shopping to do?"
Carefully they made their way down, and Chakotay caught Kathryn as she jumped the final couple of feet. She enjoyed the feel of his hands on her hips, and turned around in his embrace. They kissed again, but this time Kathryn was the one to pull away.
"Let's go and create some new rumours."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, considering the fact that we were the most popular topic to bet on on Voyager, I thought that we might as well continue the tradition."
"I still don't know what you're getting at."
"Well, you were planning to get your groceries at Mr Rogers', right?"
"Yes, where else would I get them here."
"Okay, now, what do you think will happen if we enter Mr Rogers' hand in hand?"
She could see his face light up with mischief, as the scenario she pictured him became clear. One of the reasons he liked this town was because of its close knit community. But he remembered from his own town that communities like these would also show a remarkable tendency to gossip, just like on Voyager. Now, what better gossip would a town want than its hero daughter to turn up linked to the 'new' (single) man in town!
"Ms Janeway, I like the way you think." And with one last kiss, they were on their way to Mr Rogers' store.
~ * ~ * ~
They had indeed created some rumours, because it so happened to be that most of the towns inhabitants were in the centre of town, and they could be seen talking about the couple that just passed them. Of course, they all knew Kathryn Janeway; ever since she was a little girl the Janeway's had been an important part of the community. Of course, they also recognised Chakotay. He was after all new to the town, and upon arrival he had been 'questioned' by the town's most active busybodies.
Kathryn and Chakotay simply ignored the stares and whispers, they knew who people were talking about and they were enjoying it thoroughly. They had bought all the things they needed and they were on their way back home again. When they got back there were several messages waiting for them, one from Tom and B'Elanna. Kathryn's mother was looking for her, but couldn't reach her, and she'd asked if Tom knew where she was.
Kathryn hoped Phoebe hadn't contacted their mother over her earlier disappointment. That was all in the past, and now she happier than she'd ever been before. Sitting behind the desk in the study, Kathryn contacted her mother. She wasn't sure what she was going to say, she'd think of something.
"Hello mom. I'm sorry you had such a hard time reaching me."
"It's okay, Kathryn. I was worried about you, Phoebe told me this morning that you were quite upset over the sale of the house, and I just wanted to make sure that you were all right."
"Mom, please don't worry, I'm all right, really."
"You don't look too upset. So, have you managed to say goodbye to the house?"
"Yes, and I think I also said hello to her again!"
"What do you mean? Kathryn, where are you now?"
This time Chakotay had walked into the room, carrying two coffee cups. Kathryn looked perfectly at home behind the desk; her legs propped up over the armrest, and running her hands through her hair. "Mom, I would like you to meet someone." She motioned Chakotay over to stand beside her, "Mom, this is Chakotay. Chakotay, this is my mother, Gretchen Janeway."
Gretchen was not surprised to meet her daughter's XO, after all, he was an important figure in all the stories she had told about the Alpha Quadrant. She was just glad that Kathryn had finally come to her senses. When she contacted Tom and B'Elanna, they had already hinted at something like this, but they hadn't told Gretchen what exactly to expect. And here she was, looking at her daughter and the man who obviously made her very happy. Kathryn was simply beaming.
"It's nice to finally meet you, Chakotay."
"The pleasure is all mine, Mrs Janeway."
"Please! Mrs Janeway was my mother-in-law, call me Gretchen."
"Gretchen it is. You know, you're easier about your first name than that daughter of yours. It took forever before she let me use it. Still, I wish we'd met sooner, and in person." Both Chakotay and Gretchen were looking at Kathryn, who all of a sudden remembered that she had to be somewhere else. She practically ran from the study, and left a confused Chakotay behind.
"Don't worry about her, Chakotay, she's just a prime example of a Janeway-escape-ism: 'Run when you can't explain'. She'll come back."
"She must, her coffee is still here, and I believe it's fresh: she'll be back." And before he knew it, she was back, this time carrying a plant. Seating herself on Chakotay's lap, she showed it to her mother.
"Mom, I can't believe you left this one behind. Chakotay told me it was almost dead when he found it. How could you? It's the monster plant aunt Philippa gave you years ago."
"Kathryn, there's a reason why I left it behind: I don't want it!"
"Really, mother, it was a gift, and you always told us to cherish all gifts even the ones we didn't like."
"What is that plant doing there? And where are you?"
"Mom, are you planning anything tonight?"
"No, why, should I?"
"We were just wondering if you'd like to come over for dinner, that way you and Chakotay can finally meet in person."
"I'm not really doing anything tonight. I'd love to come for dinner, as long as Kathryn isn't the cook."
"Gretchen, don't worry. Kathryn is allowed near the replicator, but not the stove."
"Good, for a moment I was worried. Cooking never was her forte, I hope you know that."
"Can you come over around 6:30?"
"Of course, but you still haven't answered my question: where are you?"
"You'll find out when you get here. I'll just transmit the co-ordinates and then you can beam over."
"You really don't want me to know where you are, do you? Okay, Kathryn, I'll bite. This time only! I'll see you two later. Gretchen out."
~ * ~ * ~
Kathryn was trying to sit still, but she couldn't. Her mother had not contacted them when she received the co-ordinates, and Kathryn thought that she must've recognised them. You don't live in a house for over 40 years without knowing the co-ordinates. Still, Kathryn was nervous. She always was when she'd introduced boyfriends to her parents, but this was different, this was special. Chakotay was not just a 'boyfriend', he was her soulmate. How do you tell your mother that you have found the person your heart has been looking for all its life? Hopefully her mother would understand without too much explanation. Chakotay was busy in the kitchen and he wouldn't even let Kathryn near the door, let alone help him, so here she was: a complete nervous wreck. And why? Her mother obviously liked Chakotay, and she was sure the feeling was mutual; they were already ganging up on her.
Before she heard the actual transporter signal, Kathryn already knew that her mother was on her way. She'd expected her to be early, so she wasn't too surprised when the transporter was activated at 6:15. That was one of the benefits of the house that had attracted Chakotay: it came with its own transporter pad. She walked to the transporter just as her mother became visible. If only she could control her nerves for the next 10 minutes, then everything would be fine.
"Hello Kathryn. Interesting transporter co-ordinates you gave me." She walked up to her daughter and hugged her. "I wasn't going to tell you, but when I received the co-ordinates, I actually checked them several times to see if they were the correct ones. I can tell you that I was highly surprised."
"Mom, I can explain, but I'm not sure if I believe it myself yet!"
"Explain later, first, I'd like to meet your Chakotay. Where is he?"
"In the kitchen, where he's been for the past hour. Can you believe that man: he won't even allow me near the door, let alone help out!"
"It seems to me that he's just taken precautions. I read the report on when you 'accidentally' almost burned down the kitchen. No, he's just making sure you don't ruin dinner."
"Mom, I can't believe you. You've never met Chakotay, and already you're siding with him."
"I've never met him, because you never introduced us before, but I have the utmost respect for him, after all, he took care of you for almost 6 years. That takes a lot of patience."