Chakotay twisted to the left, precariously balancing a tray of shish kebab, as a gaggle of youngsters barreled past him in the yard.
“Sorry!” Six year old Harley Paris apologized with a wave.
Chakotay shook his head as he continued toward his original destination.
“Great save, old man,” B’Elanna said with a grin as she took the platter.
“It took Kathryn half the night to slice and skewer those. I'm not going to be the one to tell her I dropped them,” he said with a chuckle.
“Oh, I can hear that conversation now.”
“Hey, am I cooking those or what?” Tom asked from his position in front the grill.
Chakotay shook his head as he eyed the loud shirt and obnoxious apron the former pilot sported. The shirt was bad enough, and yet the apron was even worse with its scrawled message of: ‘If you like My Meatballs Wait Until You Try My Sausage,’
“Do you have to wear that thing every year, Tom?” he asked.
Tom looked down at his worn apron and grinned.
The men laughed as Tom placed the kebabs on the old fashioned grill. Chakotay couldn’t help the broad smile that stretched across his face, as he watched what Kathryn called the Voyager Generations roam the Janeway farm. Thirteen years. Had it really been that long since Voyager reached the Alpha Quadrant?
And yet as he watched twelve year old Zoe and thirteen year old Miral playing together, he knew the passage of time was true. His thoughts drifted back to what he’d predicted early on in Voyager’s exile: that the crew would begin to pair off during their journey; but he hadn’t realized that they would continue to pair off once they arrived home.
Chakotay watched as Mike Ayala spun his daughter in circles while his wife Julia, formerly Ensign Brooks, helped their son toddle around the garden. Close by he spotted Angelo Tosoni, Jonathon Rollins and their spouses Jenny and Megan Delaney playing a heated game of couple’s volleyball. The Doctor and his date, whose resemblance to Seven of Nine was uncanny, were engrossed in conversation with Reg Barclay and Mark Zimmerman. One couple that surprised even Chakotay was Susan Nicoletti and Vorik. Never in a million years would he have suspected that those two would get together. Tuvok and Harry Kim sat locked in an intense game of Kalto, while T’Pel and Tal Celes cradled Caitlyn and Caylen, Harry and Celes’ twin daughters.
Now there was another anomaly that baffled half the medical and science communities. More than a third of the crew were parents of twins; Harry and Celes, Mariah and James, Noah and Marla, in addition to he and Kathryn, just to name a few.
Chakotay smirked as he watched his five year daughter, Keagan, chase her younger brother Kol across the yard. Those two were always getting into some kind of trouble.
Without warning, someone bellowed “Kath-ryn!” across the property. Chakotay laughed out loud as nearly a dozen children of all ages snapped to attention.
Over the years there were more than two dozen or so babies born into the Voyager family named after the ship’s former captain. Then again, there were a number of children named Jack and Taye as well.
The screen door slammed for the tenth time in the last half hour.
“Addison Montgomery Grayson!” Phoebe bellowed as her six year old son barreled down the back stairs and out the back door.
"Sorry!" Addison waved as he and Harley Paris fled the house.
“Some things never change.”
Chakotay shook his head as he smiled at his sister in law.
“Have you seen Kathryn?” He asked, suddenly realizing he hadn't seen her in nearly an hour.
“Last time I saw her, she was taking K’Lhari from B’Elanna to put him down for a nap,” Phoebe said over her shoulder, as she neared the edge of the wraparound porch.
"She said 'this damned heat is driving me crazy' and left for the cooler indoors." Phoebe chuckled as she caught a wayward baseball, before it collided with the bay window.
Chakotay shook his head as he watched her toss the ball back out toward the group of kids playing baseball.
"I tried to tell her that it really wasn't that hot out here, but of course she took it the wrong way and stormed into the house."
"It's not you, Phoebe. She's been having hot flashes for months now. I cannot tell you the number of times I wake up in the middle of the night freezing because she's taken a sojourn to one of her mini tropic vacations, as she calls them. I get the frostiest glare if I even suggest that it's cold in the room. I've learned to just wear layers for now when going to bed."
Phoebe laughed out loud at the mental image, "She's my sister and I love her, I really shouldn't find amusement at her expense, but I have to say the memory lapses have been damned hilarious!" She said with a laugh before turning to address her son. "Addison! You do it, and I'll skin your hide!" Phoebe yelled across the yard. "I better get over there. He's got Mrs. Wilson's cat. The last time he nearly drowned the poor animal," she said with a shake of her head as she descended the porch steps.
On his way back into the house, Chakotay spotted a young couple kissing under the old willow tree that edged property. So that was where Naomi and Icheb had disappeared to.
In the living room, photos were displayed on every table surface. There were photos of Gretchen and Edward; as well as, an assortment of shots chronicling Kathryn and Phoebe's childhood, including photos of a young Kathryn winning a tennis tournament, and of Phoebe’s accomplishments in horseback riding.
New additions to the collection included snapshots of the crew throughout their journey in the DQ, evidence of the Doctor's shutterbug days aboard ship. There were images of Kes and Neelix, the senior staff on Ancestor's Eve, Kathryn and Tom in Sandrine’s; there was even a very well hidden photo of Kathryn dressed as Queen Arachnia. An assortment of photos featured Voyagers Command team, a picture of them on the bridge doubled over in laughter, another of them in the mess hall, with him looking at Kathryn and her gazing at the crew with a mischievous smile on her lips. His favorite was the picture he'd snapped of Kathryn on New Earth. She was completely unaware of him, as she lay on her side, tending her tomato seedlings, with her ever present coffee cup sitting in the dirt next to her.
There were photos of Phoebe and her husband with Sidney and Addison, Tom and B'Elanna with Miral and Harley, and a smaller baby picture of their young son K'Lhari. Mixed in where also pictures of his family. Snaps shots of Sekaya and her children; his cousin from Ohio, and of course several of Zoe throughout her childhood. It surprised him the first time he saw them, but the photos of Seven and Zoe seemed to naturally belong amongst the many images starring back at him.
Chakotay turned to make his way upstairs and paused as his eyes alighted upon another photo. This one was safely held within a decorative silver frame. He picked the frame up and cast his mind back to when the photo had been taken. Kathryn had been more beautiful that day than any other time he’d known her. It was the day she agreed to be his wife. Chakotay sighed as he placed the photo back on the mantle. That day very nearly hadn’t happened.
After the abduction he and Kathryn resumed their lives, albeit slowly. It was over dinner one night when Zoe was at B’Elanna’s, that he finally asked Kathryn to marry him. He hadn’t expected her to say ‘no’. Kathryn told him that she was happy with their lives as they were and that she didn’t need a ceremony or piece of paper or a PADD to prove her love for him.
That didn’t stop him from asking her again. He asked her at least twice a year. And each time her answer was the same. But something just didn’t make sense to him. Kathryn was the type of person who needed permanence in her relationships. That much was proven by her two previous engagements. So why was she so adverse to the idea?
They’d been a couple for nearly three years when she fell pregnant with the twins. No one was more surprised than Kathryn herself. She wasn’t unhappy about the news, just surprised. Her boosters were up-to-date after all. Chakotay was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming a father again. Kathryn, he knew was pleased as well, if not a bit worried. When she was four months into her pregnancy he asked her to marry him again. He watched her eyes pool with tears as she shook her head. That night they argued.
They argued for well over two hours until she finally whispered “I can’t, Chakotay. I just can’t. Especially, not now.” It took some time but he finally learned why she’d been so adamant that they not get married. She was afraid.
Kathryn confided in him that although if it made no sense at all, she was afraid that something would happen to him if she agreed to marry him. She said that she’d already had two fiancés in her life and neither of those relationships had worked. Her first fiancé had died and she’d been torn away from the second. She said that she couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to him and especially not now that she carried his children.
Chakotay’s answer was simple. They eloped.
He smiled at the memory as he ascended the stairs to the second level of the house. He recalled when Gretchen signed over the deed to the house. It was right after the twins were born. She’d said that the house was simply too big for her anymore and insisted that Kathryn and Chakotay take the house and raise her grandchildren here. Kathryn had protested the idea, saying the house should go to Phoebe, but Gretchen was firm in her decision. Besides Phoebe and her husband were happy with the house they currently resided in; whereas Kathryn’s Starfleet townhouse was too small to raise a growing family with three young children.
Chakotay’s thoughts wandered back to his conversation with Phoebe on the porch and he smiled as he shook his head. The doctor had warned him that Kathryn would likely experience a wide range of symptoms. They included dizziness, mood swings, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, weight gain, breast tenderness, and increased libido.
He finally found her in the guest room. Chakotay leaned against the door frame as he watched her. Kathryn sat in the rocking chair he’d carved for her some five years ago. She was asleep with baby K’Lhari held securely against her chest.
Chakotay pushed himself away from the doorframe and quietly made his way toward her and the baby. Gently, he reached out to take the baby from her, but his movement caused her to tighten her hold instinctively as she woke.
“It’s just me.” He said and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
“I must’ve dozed off.” She let him take the baby from her and leaned back in the chair.
“You have every right to be tired.” Chakotay said as he placed the baby in the nearby crib.
“It’s a good thing we still have Kol’s crib.”
“It has come in handy over the years, with all the babies in the family. You never know when someone will need a nap.” He smiled as he caressed the baby’s cheek, before turning back to Kathryn.
Chakotay walked back to the rocking chair and knelt beside her.
“How are you feeling?” He asked as he placed a hand on her swollen middle. “Is Caylem, behaving himself today?” He rubbed her belly lovingly before placing a kiss against her lips. “The doctor wanted to come up and check you over, but I persuaded him otherwise.”
“Good.” She shook her head as she caressed her belly.
“Kathryn, it’s been seven months, let it go.”
“I know it’s been seven months, thank you kindly.” She sighed. “I still can’t believe I’m doing this again.”
“We’re doing this again.”
Kathryn raised an eyebrow at his statement.
“You know what I mean, Kathryn.”
“Menopause my ass.” She shook her head again and leaned back against the chair. “How could he have misdiagnosed pregnancy, Chakotay?”
“He didn’t misdiagnose it. You know how this works. There’s always a slim possibility for pregnancy. And you know what an over achiever you are.” He chuckled at her mock glare.
“Oh, you’re one to talk.” Kathryn pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes playfully. “This is your fault anyway.”
“You didn’t exactly say ‘no’, Kathryn. As I remember it, you were a very active participant.” His voice dropped an octave as he spoke.
Kathryn’s eyes darken with what he recognized to be desire as she looked at him. He smiled like the cat that got the cream as he remembered that night...and the following morning.
“Truthfully, are you upset about being pregnant?” He asked as he caressed her belly once more.
Kathryn threaded her fingers through his hair as he bent to kiss her stomach. “No,” she whispered with a smile. “It’s a wondrous surprise.”
Chakotay smiled when he felt his son kick in response to his caress. He bent forward and spoke to Kathryn’s belly. “Caylem, how about I tell you a story to help you sleep. It’s an ancient legend among our people….”