|The Kings of the Hill own Voyager, her
crew and all things Trek.
What Comes First and Second Chance provide the background for this story but this story can stand on its own as long as you trust me on the numbers and know that Eugene Robert Paris is a few weeks older than the Command Team's daughter, Alexandra.
Chakotay's voice ended Kathryn's conversation with B'Elanna and drew her attention back to the activities in front of her. They were all sitting on some makeshift bleachers along a sandy stretch of ocean shore near the finish line. They were waiting for the start of the fifth heat of the five hundred meter run.
"There's Robbie, too." B'Elanna spoke up pointing out another runner settling in for the start of the race.
Chakotay grinned and shook his head. "Xandra must be really irritated. She was counting on an easy win in the first heat."
"Well, if she's smart, she'll settle for second and save her energy for the next heat." Kathryn spoke the words hoping to make them true.
"She's too much like her mother. It wouldn't matter whether he's two centimeters taller or twenty-two, she'll try to beat him." Chakotay ignored Kathryn's glare and just smiled at her as he put his arm around her. "That determination has served you both well over the years."
The race started and everyone was on their feet cheering on one or more of the competitors. Chakotay had been correct. Alexandra was trying gamely to keep up with Robbie even though she had to take two steps for every one of his. His stride and her determination were rewarded as they crossed the finish line ahead of the others and earned a place in the next round.
Kathryn sighed and leaned against Chakotay with the easy familiarity of many years together as they settled back down to wait for the next heat. Chakotay brushed his lips lightly through her hair. "Remember the first time we all did this?"
"Seems like only yesterday."
The door to the ready room whisked open and closed. One look at Kathryn's face as she walked toward him told Chakotay that it was not a particularly good day in the nursery. He stood and went to the replicator before joining Kathryn on the couch. He handed her the coffee before he sat down.
Kathryn breathed in the aroma before taking a drink then sighing and leaning back. She put her feet on the table and tilted her head back closing her eyes. "Remind me again why we are doing this."
"Do you mean trying to get back to the Alpha Quadrant or raising seventy-three children on a ship that was never designed for families?"
"Both." Kathryn lifted her head. "Never mind. I know why we're doing it. There are just so many of them. I don't know how their teachers manage day after day."
"It's probably the change in the routine that made them so dynamic today. Maybe we should reconsider whether a monthly inspection during class hours is a good idea."
"You mean stop checking up on them?" Kathryn finished her coffee.
"That or making it a weekly inspection so it's not such a novelty." Chakotay took her empty cup and handed her the one he had been holding. Kathryn smiled her gratitude. "How did Xandra react?"
"She looked like she was afraid to breath." Kathryn sighed. "She is so afraid she'll let us down."
"She just wants us to be proud of her."
"I know but she's not even five years old yet. The teachers told me she only gets like that when one of us shows up."
"Another reason to reconsider the monthly inspections." Chakotay smiled as another option occurred to him. "Or maybe we should ask Tuvok to make those inspections."
"Good idea. Put it on the agenda for our next senior staff meeting."
"That reminds me. We have the preliminary reports on that planet along our course. It's class M and uninhabited."
"Really?" Kathryn was genuinely interested. "Maybe we can stop and replenish airponics and pick up some fresh food. Are we close enough to detect any minerals we could use?"
"Not yet. We won't be close enough for that much detail for another week."
"How far are we from this planet?" Kathryn was puzzled that they had such limited information.
"A little over three weeks at our present speed." Chakotay waited for Kathryn to comment but she sipped her coffee.
"What are you thinking?"
"I'm not. I'm just enjoying the peace for a minute."
"It's been a rough few months for all of us." Chakotay smiled at Kathryn. "First that group that never did tell us what they wanted or who they were, then this latest stretch with no habitable planets and no place to give the crew a break."
"Tell me about it." Kathryn just smiled wearily at Chakotay.
"The entire crew needs a break and I suspect that the kids are feeling the stress even if they don't know why."
"Ok, out with it. What do you think we should do that I won't like?" Kathryn glared at Chakotay for playing games when she was tired.
"Oh, you'll like it. I just don't know if you'll agree with it." Chakotay stood. "Do you want more coffee?"
Kathryn passed him her cup. "You trying to get me to agree before you tell me what you want?"
"Can't blame a guy for trying." Chakotay smiled and moved toward the replicator. He deposited the two cups in the recycler and requested another cup of coffee and a cup of tea. He refused to meet Kathryn's eyes as he returned to the couch. "Can you?"
"Certainly I can. I'm the captain. Now what is it you want?" Kathryn accepted her cup but continued to stare at Chakotay.
"We know we're going to be taking on whatever we can at this planet. Well, instead of just staying in orbit a day or two, let's land the ship and take a week or ten days." Kathryn opened her mouth to protest but Chakotay motioned her to wait. "Robbie's birthday is in three days. In two weeks, we enter birthday month. Why not make it a special treat for the kids and the parents. If we land, everyone can attend one big party for all the kids. We can't do that in orbit."
"Any more reasons?"
"Well, B'Elanna has some exterior repairs that she's been putting off. Those can be done more easily on the surface."
"It's been a long time since we landed the ship." Kathryn thought back five years when Voyager had last landed. "I didn't want to listen to you then either."
"Are you sorry you did?"
"No. Some part of me knew you were right." Kathryn sipped her coffee. "But there's a part of me that is trying to make up all those months we lost."
"They weren't lost, Kathryn." Chakotay's voice was gentle.
"I know, but I still feel like they were when I think how far we still have to go." Kathryn sighed and looked at Chakotay. "I wouldn't change a thing even if I could, but sometimes I can't help but wish I didn't have to worry about seventy-three children in addition to the crew."
"We all wish that once in a while when we're tired. That's why I think landing Voyager for ten days or two weeks would be a good idea."
"How do you think the children will react?"
"Honestly?" Chakotay glanced at Kathryn. She nodded. "I think it will be at least two days before they venture more than ten meters from Voyager. They won't know what to make of the open sky above them. All they've known is the ship and the holodeck and it really isn't the same."
"Another reason to land, right?" Kathryn just stared at her cup. "All right. Provided everything checks out, we'll land. Now what kind of location do you recommend?"
"I thought for once Tom's favorite would be a good idea. A stretch of beach along a coastline, either ocean or freshwater, would be a nice place for the kids. If we give the teachers some warning, they can make plans to take advantage of being on a planet."
"I can just see the classrooms as soon as the kids all hear about this." Kathryn practically shuddered in sympathy for the teachers.
"I don't think we need to tell the kids for a while. In fact, until we know for sure the planet has a suitable place to land, I'm not sure we need to tell very many people we're planning to land the ship."
"How long have you been thinking about this anyway?"
"Two or three days, ever since we knew there was a planet around the main sequence G type star in that cluster."
"Save me asking the questions and tell me the rest of 'my' plans." Kathryn patted the seat next to her. "And don't be a stranger."
Chakotay chuckled and slid closer stretching his arm across her shoulders. He held out the padd while he spoke. "I thought Tom could plan a party for all the kids this year. Make being five something special for the group. And before you ask, I think if you tell Naomi and point out that she always gets her own party, she won't mind too much. We can ask Tom to include her in setting up for it. They won't need gifts at the big party. They can all have a private party with their parents and a few friends; we'll leave that up to the parents."
"Sounds like it should work. Are you going to let Tom pick a theme?"
"I was, but I'm rethinking that now. What do you think of a sports day?"
"Hmm. Like a track meet?"
"Yes, but not necessarily only track and field and definitely not all track and field events. Some races and a ball toss, maybe a standing and running broad jump. They've started gymnastics in school, so maybe some demonstrations of what they've learned so far for their parents. What do you think?"
"Sounds good to me. Do you think you could get some volunteers to start them on water safety or even give them swimming lessons if we can find a suitable location?"
"I'm sure I can. Tuvok could arrange that as part of a survival skills module for school."
"Doesn't sound much like a volunteer to me."
"I'm in charge of the duty roster. I don't have to ask for volunteers; I just make assignments." Chakotay started to stand. "Well, that's all I needed. I'll keep you posted on this."
"Wait, don't leave yet. It's been too long since we just sat and enjoyed being together." Kathryn reached out to keep Chakotay seated. "Stay just a few minutes."
Chakotay smiled and settled back as Kathryn leaned her head against him and drifted to sleep. He pulled up the plans on his padd and made some notations about their conversation, then turned to the duty roster. Kathryn needed a day off and tomorrow would be as good as any other.
Five weeks later Voyager was restocked, repaired and refueled. The dilithium they found on a small moon orbiting the planet had been a very pleasant surprise. Tomorrow would be their last day on the planet and the captain wanted to be out of the system before lunch the following day.
Today was the big birthday party and it found most of Voyager's crew in shorts and tee shirts enjoying a picnic lunch, the sunshine and the competitions. Tom had added a few things to Chakotay's original list of activities, like a water balloon toss that paired a child with one parent. Without actually getting permission, Tom also scheduled a three-legged race for the couples on the ship. He simply announced it making sure all seventy-three children heard it.
Kathryn had tried to get out of it, but the children had clamored for her and Chakotay to participate. Like many of the other races, there were several heats. Kathryn made sure those in their first heat knew there would be repercussions if they didn't beat them and get her out of later heats. Chakotay smiled and was satisfied that she at least finished the first heat. They crossed the finish line amid cheers from all the children.
Chakotay wisely volunteered to be in the water balloon toss with Alexandra. They did quite well, until she under-threw the balloon and he had to lunge to reach it but dropped it. As the winner was being announced, a water balloon hit him on the side of the head. Everyone turned to look to see who had thrown a balloon at their first officer. They saw the captain standing next to a box filled with water balloons and surrounded by half of the security department. Their chosen targets were the people who had not gotten wet – yet.
The children were involved as soon as Tom and Neelix pulled out two equally large boxes and told the kids anyone was fair game for the next ten minutes. Kathryn thought she was safe and watched with pleasure as security proceeded to drench Chakotay before turning their attention to a few other senior officers, notably Tom, and then the children.
Ten minutes later, the captain was still dry. Chakotay signaled Alexandra to bring him a balloon and then he approached Kathryn. She saw him coming and tried to back away but he grabbed her wrist and tucked both hands behind her back with one of his. She tried to break away but wasn't quick enough. Chakotay held out his hand and a giggling Xandra put a balloon in it. Quite deliberately, Chakotay broke the balloon on top of Kathryn's head sending rivulets running down her face. He released her wrists smiling and daring her to get angry. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she feigned anger and indignation. The effect was wasted though when she broke out in laughter.
The battle ended on that note and it took the children about five minutes to gather up the balloon pieces. Ten minutes later, Tom had the first of the more serious competitions underway. Parents cheered on the eager five year olds as they ran, jumped and threw their way through the afternoon. The last event was the five hundred meter run. It was a very long race for young children and Tom suggested shortening the distance after the first round, but the children would not even consider it. They had started with five hundred meters and they would finish with five hundred meters.
The sun was approaching the horizon as the final heat started. The eight children who had earned their way walked slowly back to the starting line along with three adults who would supervise the start. A few adults were beyond the finish line around the bonfire that would be the focal point of dinner. They weren't going to try to cook over the fire but it would keep the chill off after the sun set. The treat for the evening was an old campfire favorite – s'mores. It would be a fitting end to a wonderful day.
Kathryn and Chakotay sat as they watched the eight children walk away from the larger group. Xandra was in the group. Although none of the children was particularly tall, it was already clear that she would have her mother's height, not her father's. She had made it to the final heat because she also had her mother's determination. Both her parents knew that she wanted them to be proud of her. They also knew she desperately wanted to beat Robbie Paris.
The children lined up. The parents near the finish line couldn't hear the start of the race, but they could see it. Suddenly the eight children were running as fast as they could toward the finish line. Two slowly dropped back while four struggled for the lead. Finally, two pulled ahead and two more started losing ground. Robbie and Xandra struggled to keep up with the two ahead of them but just couldn't. They were next to each other as they approached the finish line behind the other two.
Later Chakotay swore he could see her reach down inside herself to find more speed. Xandra was just starting to inch ahead of Robbie when she tripped and fell about three meters from the finish line. She was back on her feet and across the line in only a few seconds but he had beaten her. Kathryn and Chakotay made their way toward her but she didn't see them approach. Xandra had made her way to the winners and was congratulating them. Then she sought out Robbie and walked over to him.
"Congratulations, Robbie." She held out her hand to shake his.
Robbie looked a bit surprised but took her hand. "Thanks, Xandra."
Alexandra turned then to search for her parents and saw them standing nearby. She carried herself with dignity but they could see the tears in her eyes. Chakotay picked her up and hugged her. "Your Mom and I are so proud of you, Kitten."
"For losing?" Xandra's voice was raspy but she refused to cry.
"No, for trying your best and being a good sport when you didn't win." Kathryn's voice was soft but even Xandra could hear the pride in it.
"Really, Kitten." Chakotay affirmed Kathryn's words. He hugged her before he set her on her feet. "You want to scout out good seats for us or shall we look together?"
"Let's go together." Xandra seemed content to walk with her parents until she saw the food. "Want me to go scout out the food, Dad?"
"Sure, get going."
Xandra dashed off and Chakotay put his arm around Kathryn's shoulders. "Maybe it's because I'm her father, but I think someday she'll be a fine officer."
Kathryn sighed and wrapped her arm around his waist. "I think you're right."
The second round had started and Robbie and Alexandra were in this heat. Chakotay and Kathryn were again on their feet cheering on Xandra. Except for the identities of the other runners, it was the same as the first heat. Alexandra gamely kept up with Robbie and again they crossed the finish line ahead of the others and earned a place in the final round.
Kathryn sighed and leaned against Chakotay as they settled back down to wait for the next heat. He got up to get them something to drink and managed to get back in his seat just before the next heat started.
"It's not like the second time we had this competition." Kathryn's comment brought back memories for Chakotay and B'Elanna.
"Is there anything else we need to discuss?" Kathryn stared around the table at her senior officers.
"Yes." Chakotay spoke up, surprising Kathryn. He normally discussed everything with her before staff meetings. "But it's not exactly ship's business."
Only one thing could be important enough for a senior staff meeting and not be ship's business.
"What have they done now?" Kathryn wasn't sure she wanted to hear the details.
"Nothing new, at least not that I've heard about." Chakotay smiled at Kathryn response. "In case any of you haven't been reminded in the last fifteen minutes, there are seventy-two soon-to-be ten year olds on board. It's been a long time since any of us spent more than a few hours off the ship so I thought…"
"Don't tell me, Chakotay. Let me guess." Kathryn interrupted. "You want to land the ship for a week, do a few repairs, restock plants for airponics and have a huge party for the children. And to make this really simple, there just happens to be a likely class M planet about two weeks from our present location at our current course and speed."
Kathryn turned to stare at her first officer while the rest of the room tried not to laugh. "Am I right?"
"Well, it's closer to four weeks, but otherwise, yes." Chakotay was watching Kathryn closely to see how she felt about him bringing this up with so many others around.
"What do the rest of you think?" Kathryn turned to the rest of her senior staff.
Their heads were all nodding but only Tuvok managed to speak. "It is a reasonable proposal, Captain. Replenishing our supplies and providing the crew with a break from our usual routine will prove beneficial. Spending several days on a planet will also allow me to schedule some additional survival training for the children. I propose that they camp out and prepare their own food for several days."
"Well, at the very least they might appreciate Neelix a bit more after that." Kathryn's comment triggered another round of chuckles. "Does anyone have any comments against the proposal?"
No one responded. "All right, Commander. Work out the details of the survival training with Tuvok. Tom, you can plan the party again. I liked the way things worked out five years ago. If you make any major changes, make sure you get Chakotay's approval. B'Elanna and Neelix, make a list of supplies that we need or could use."
"Could I make a suggestion, Captain?" Tom spoke up having finally controlled his laughter. "Until we're ready to land, I think we should make the party sound like it's going to be held in the holodeck again this year."
"Good idea, Tom. I'm sure the teachers don't need the children anticipating more than usual." Kathryn glanced around the room. "All right, people, dismissed."
Chakotay started to stand but Kathryn clamped her hand on his arm. "Not you, mister."
When the door closed behind the last of those leaving, Kathryn stood forcing Chakotay to stand as well. She stared him in the eye.
"I want to warn you never, ever to do that again."
Kathryn's voice sounded ominous. Chakotay had not expected this reaction. "I'm sorry, Captain."
"Shh. I'm not finished yet." Kathryn glared at him. "If you so much as touch a water balloon, you will be sleeping in the brig for a month. Do I make myself clear?"
Chakotay relaxed and smiled. When Kathryn returned his smile, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her. "I'll do my best. After all, we can't have the captain sleeping in the brig for a month."
"Me? You're the one who would be in the brig."
"But I wouldn't be alone, would I?"
Kathryn sighed and shook her head. "Probably not. Ok, so maybe the brig is a bad idea but I'm serious about those water balloons."
"Then don't make me your target. Besides, the kids loved it."
"They did, didn't they? We do a lot for them."
"And it's worth it." Chakotay kissed the tip of her nose. "Now, I have to get back to work before I get in real trouble with the captain."
Six weeks later Voyager was restocked and the children and those from the security department had all survived four days and nights camping out. Tomorrow would be their last day on the planet and the captain wanted to be out of the system before lunch the following day.
The day of the big birthday party again found most of Voyager's crew in shorts and tee shirts enjoying a picnic lunch, the sunshine and the competitions Tom had planned. Swimming races had replaced the balloon toss on the schedule but he had retained the three-legged race.
Kathryn had tried to get out of it again, but the children had clamored for her and Chakotay to participate. This time the others in their heat knew they were expected to cross the line ahead of the captain. They crossed the finish line amid cheers from all the children and then returned to their seats to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
Kathryn and Chakotay cheered on all the children in every race but were understandably more attentive when Alexandra was running. She was in several other events but both knew that she was concerned only about the five hundred meter run, specifically that she wanted to finish ahead of Robbie.
The starting draw had kept them in separate races until the final heat. As the sun approached the horizon, the eight in the final heat made their way to the starting line. The parents near the finish line saw the children moving before they heard the sound of the starting gun. Slowly but steadily, Robbie moved into the lead with Xandra right on his heels.
Just as she had five years earlier, Xandra found something more deep down inside and started to inch past Robbie. This time Xandra stayed on her feet but Robbie gained back a few inches. They crossed the finish line so closely together that it required the computer to tell them Alexandra had won.
As Kathryn and Chakotay made their way down to the finish line to congratulate their daughter, Xandra turned and walked over to Robbie.
"Congratulations, Robbie." She held out her hand to shake his. "You ran a great race."
Robbie looked a bit surprised but took her hand. "Thanks, Xandra. You deserved to win today."
"Next time though, I'll beat you." Robbie's smile was friendly. "You know the worst part of losing?"
"No." Xandra was curious. "Tell me."
"My dad will never let me forget it."
They were both laughing as they went to meet their parents.
"Well, Xandra handled her nerves better than Robbie and it paid off in the last heat. What was the time difference again?" B'Elanna remembered that year quite well. Tom had teased Robbie for months.
"Less than a tenth of a second." Kathryn remembered even if B'Elanna didn't. "Xandra was one determined ten year old."
"It paid off for her but the year they turned fifteen was Robbie's year."
Chakotay smiled. "You mean the year after he grew about sixty centimeters."
"Commander, in my ready room, now!" Kathryn stepped off the turbo lift and headed directly for her ready room not even looking to see whether Chakotay was following her. He stood and moved to follow her with a puzzled look on his face. He nodded to Tuvok that he had the bridge.
He found Kathryn at the replicator sipping her coffee. She turned to look at him. "Tea?"
Chakotay nodded and moved forward to accept his cup. Kathryn motioned him to the couch and sat down. Chakotay sipped his tea wondering what was going on. She had sounded like something urgent was going on, yet she was sitting and drinking her coffee like it was a typical afternoon.
"You wanted to talk to me, Captain?"
"Yes. In a little over a month, seventy-two mouths controlled by rampaging hormones will be fifteen years old."
"They're not that bad, Kathryn."
"They were this afternoon."
"It's exam time. They're all under a lot of stress."
"So are the rest of us, which is why I wanted to talk to you." Kathryn took another drink of her coffee and sighed forcing herself to relax. "Have you found a M class planet to use as bait for landing the ship in the next month or so?"
"Well, now that you mention it, there is one that might be suitable."
"Good. Get a proposal written up along the lines of what we've done before. I don't care what you, Tuvok and Tom plan but when we resume our journey, I want those seventy-two adolescents too tired to talk for at least a week."
Chakotay chuckled. "We'll do our best, Captain."
"Now, if you want me to approve that proposal of yours, you can plan on giving me a neck rub tonight and fixing something special for dinner."
"And if I get Alexandra invited to spend the night with a friend?"
"I might not even read the proposal before I approve it." Kathryn smiled at him. "Seriously, can you work on this on the bridge?"
"I could use about half an hour down in Astrometrics but other than that, I can work on the bridge as easily as my office."
Kathryn stood. "All right. Go on down and get what you need. I'm good for about half an hour before I'll need another cup of coffee.
As they approached the door, something else occurred to Kathryn. "Oh, try to give the teachers some extra time off if you can."
"I think that can be arranged."
Smiling, they both left the ready room.
Three weeks later Voyager was restocked and had completed minor repairs. The children had spent most of the week hiking, swimming, and generally helping out around the ship. Tuvok had conducted proficiency tests of their swimming and survival skills in addition to a thirty-kilometer run early one morning, all in addition to their regular class schedule.
Tomorrow would be their last day on the planet and true to past practices, the captain wanted to be out of the system before lunch the following day.
The day of the big birthday party again found most of Voyager's crew in shorts and tee shirts enjoying a picnic lunch, the sunshine and the competitions. This year they had chosen a stretch of beach along an ocean and the surf was high the morning of the party. The children were taking advantage of their free time that morning to try to learn to surf. A few insisted on using surfboards but most settled for success on a boogie-board rather than constant defeat on the larger board.
After lunch, the events opened with the now traditional three-legged race. Kathryn and Chakotay participated in the opening heat then took their seats. Rain threatened off and on all afternoon, but not enough to cancel any events. The surf was too high for swimming events so Tom had added some shorter races and a tug of war. The tug of war pitted the fathers against the sons and the mothers against their daughters. The men managed to drag their sons over the line in fairly short order. The women struggled for nearly fifteen minutes before their daughters finally won. Kathryn walked stiffly back to her seat next to Chakotay.
"We're not doing that again." Kathryn sat down carefully and took Chakotay's hand. "I get a back rub tonight."
B'Elanna sat with Kathryn and Chakotay. All three knew that Robbie had no intention of letting Alexandra beat him again. They also knew that being more then twenty centimeters taller made it very likely that he would succeed.
This time, the draw put them in the same heat in the second round. They lined up with the others and everyone waited. It was no secret that there was a rivalry of sorts between Robbie and Xandra in this race. The race started and just as she had the year before, Xandra took the early lead. It was only a matter of seconds before Robbie had caught her. One of the boys fell distracting the others. Xandra was the only one who didn't slow briefly. She gained back a few precious meters on two of the boys. Robbie was running a close second and Xandra refused to be left behind, but this year she could not catch him. She crossed the line third in the heat but it was not enough to advance to the final heat with Robbie.
After she caught her breath, Xandra walked over to say something to Robbie. Kathryn and Chakotay saw her shake his hand before she turned to join them for the final events. She was on her feet cheering him on as he came in second.
"What did you say to him earlier, Kitten?" Chakotay was curious.
"Nothing much, Daddy." Xandra smiled. "I just told him that if he didn't win that last heat, he'd better not stop because I'd be after him." She shook her head ruefully. "Didn't do much good did it?"
"No, but why did you tell him that in the first place?"
"I don't like getting beat by losers."
Kathryn, Chakotay and B'Elanna were all still laughing when they joined Tom and Robbie to make their way to the bonfire for dinner.
"It was never about winning for those two. I don't know how it got started but in this one event, it was a personal challenge for them both." Chakotay brought them all back to the present with his comment. "How does Robbie feel about it today?"
"Well, he knows this is probably going to be the last year we can all do this so I think for once he'd like to win this year. What about Xandra?"
"Oh, I think she knows she can't beat Robbie but she isn't about to admit it to any of us." Kathryn's pride in her daughter was clear. "How long before the final heat?"
"About half an hour. I think they are going to finish the other races first." Chakotay glanced toward long stretch of beach along the Pacific. "Did either of you ever think we'd be holding this event for the last time on Earth?"
Kathryn glanced toward the water and back at the man by her side and slowly shook her head. "I never did. When I thought about Earth, I was always worried how the Council would view the Maquis."
"Well, after twenty-five years they had pretty much forgotten about us." Chakotay nodded his head to indicate he was talking about the people seated behind them. "I just wish a few more had forgotten about us today."
"I know. I suppose we're lucky there aren't news commentators down at the finish line." Kathryn was resigned to their presence. "At least they are staying out of the way."
"Well, I'm glad the kids decided to invite their friends to watch. We must have half the Academy down here." B'Elanna smiled as she watched the younger group of people enjoying themselves.
"It's a good transition for all of us. We know this is the last time we'll gather like this for their birthdays and we are sharing it with people who are part of their futures." Chakotay acknowledged the changes this gathering represented. "It was a good idea to do this one last time."
"Yes, it was. Our children were born while Voyager was on a planet and we've taken a few days every five years to remember that and celebrate their births. It's good that we do that one last time on Earth. It's why they spent nearly twenty years on a ship – to celebrate here." Kathryn's voice was starting to tremble just a bit so she made one final comment. "I'm glad I thought of it."
B'Elanna and Chakotay both laughed.
"You thought of it?" Chakotay was smiling at her in disbelief. "That's not how I remember it."
Kathryn tilted her head up just a bit. "I was the captain of the ship. I get credit for all the good ideas."
"Fine, it was all your idea. You can have the credit." Chakotay lowered his voice so only Kathryn could hear. "That reminds me of something. About twenty years ago, you agreed that I could be part of Xandra's life and we'd raise her as a family. I'd say that we've pretty much fulfilled our agreement. Are you going to toss me out or can I stick around a while longer?"
Kathryn stared at Chakotay for a long time the shook her head. "No, I think you'd better stick around a while longer. I've gotten used to your cooking… and a few other things." Her whispered response changed to a normal level. "Now stop distracting me. It's time for the last heat."
Far down the beach, eight of Voyager's children lined up on the sand. Alexandra and Robbie were in the middle of the group. Tension was high among the parents and other children but only a few of their visitors were paying much attention. It was getting late and this was just one more race to them. Most of them were heading for the food line, hoping to avoid the rush.
The race started. Xandra took the early lead because she was quicker than the rest to reach her best speed but her lead was small and quickly eroded as the longer legs of her competition settled into their stride. Slowly Robbie pulled ahead of the others but he could only get about a stride ahead of Xandra. Watching from a distance it was almost as if he were pulling her along with him.
As they passed the halfway marker, Robbie had managed to get a meter ahead of everyone else. Xandra was right on his heels. Then it happened. Xandra's ankle turned and she went down. She didn't get up immediately. Instead she kept her face down and pounded the sand once with her fist.
Kathryn was on her feet and ready to go make sure Xandra was all right when Chakotay's hand on her arm stopped her. "I don't think she needs us, Kathryn."
Kathryn looked back down the beach and saw Robbie helping Xandra to her feet. Xandra tested her ankle then started walking toward the finish line. He tried to stop her prompting a short heated exchange before Xandra continued down the beach. Robbie caught up with her as he responded to her comments. Xandra paused briefly and looked up at him. He held out his hand. She stared at it then grasped it with hers. Together they walked toward the finish line.
Near the finish line, Alexandra motioned toward her parents who stood arm in arm with their heads together whispering intimately, oblivious to the people around them.
"Are your folks like that, too?"
Robbie looked toward Kathryn and Chakotay. "Yeah, they are, just not out in public so much. It can be embarrassing, can't it?"
"Yes, but it's nice, too. Maybe it's because they were the captain and first officer, but no matter what was happening, when I saw them standing together I always knew I was safe."
Kathryn's hand closed around Chakotay's and she squeezed gently. "She might not need us right now, but in a few years she will."
"Why do you say that?"
"Don't you remember the one thing we never had enough of on Voyager?"
Chakotay shook his head having no idea what Kathryn meant.
"Babysitters." Kathryn smiled at Chakotay's expression. "I have no regrets about the last twenty years but I must admit I'm looking forward to a few years where it's just the two of us."
"It does sound pretty good
doesn't it?" Chakotay kissed Kathryn gently before they turned to make
their way down to the finish line.
Return to my Home Page Words of Encouragement are Welcome