Note of What Has Gone Before: Captain Janeway is given her first official assignment in seven years; locate the probe Friendship One, launched centuries earlier. An Away Team lands on a radiation scarred planet, and is taken prisoner by survivors who blame Earth for their planet's fate. As Janeway negotiated for the hostages release, one of them, Lt. Joe Carey, is shot dead by their captors.
Lieutenant Carey had been gone for a week when I received the invitation from crewman Tonia Barrows, EEH. It read:
I was struck by the gesture. I knew that Mistress Barrows had cultivated friendships as the EEH, but I hadn't realized that she felt strongly enough about Carey to throw him a wake. I found myself wondering about that and wondering if I weren't remiss about memorializing him. My musings turned to wandering and soon I could myself in front of the Holodeck.
Barrows was reclining on a day bed reading a book while being fanned by a hologram who was the image of Berthold. She smiled readily then scooted over so that I could sit beside her.
"I received your invitation," I said.
"Splendid. Can you attend?"
"Of course, Mistress," I replied. "I'm just curious as to the reason for a wake. We had a fine memorial service."
"I know, pet," Barrows said. "It was very reverent and dignified and paid proper respect to his service and his rank. But I want to honor the man Joe was. Then there are the regulars of the Ox and Lamb to consider. They wish to toast him as well."
"I had no idea he was such a regular," I commented. "I didn't know you were either."
She shrugged. "Oh, yes. Once the obsession with the place subsided, I would go there to unwind and watch people on occasion. Joe was popular with the regulars. They were shocked to hear of his passing."
"I see... Mistress, permission to ask a frank question," I asked with some hesitation.
"I sense that you do not approve of our handling of Lieutenant Carey's death," I said.
"You know better than that, my Dear," Barrows replied. "I would never question how you handle your crew."
"Yet something troubles you."
"It's no one's fault, Child. This is just what Starfleet service is and why I left it," she said. "A career gets sidetracked through a situation that no one could foresee. Sometimes, a person can cope and still rise to their full potential. Sometimes, they never really rebound from the set back. And then there is sudden death. It all seems like a waste."
"Side tracked?" I exclaimed. "I suppose I never thought of it that way. Did Joe feel that way?"
"He never used the term, but I could hear what he was saying," she replied. "I felt the same way when I got on the wrong side of Kirk. If you transfer from a ship like Enterprise without being promoted, the next command always looks at you more closely. None of it is malicious, but careers have been ruined by just a cloud over ones service record."
"I never thought of it that way. Joe was a fine officer, but B'Elanna is the better engineer," I said a little defensively.
"I know that, Dear. Joe knew that."
"And he had his rank. I would have recommended him for any post he chose," I said.
"Yes, I know you would have," Barrows said.
"But... there would have been whispering about how he lost the position," I muttered. "And it didn't help that he became a mere cog in the machinery instead of the leader he might have been."
"That was his choosing," Barrows said. "He was a fine man, but he chose to wallow rather than make a place for himself. No one can help that."
"I suppose," I replied feeling very tired. "How is Michael?"
"You know, melancholy, poetic," Barrows said with a shrug. "Irish."
"Does he ask about me?"
"Now and then. Well, actually, he makes statements in the general direction of Voyager's crew like 'true friends come to visit now and again' or 'true friends drop a line to let a body know she's alive,'" Barrows said.
"Oh, dear," I replied. "Well, it's my own fault. I've behaved very badly and for very shallow reasons."
"Kathryn, it just can't be helped. You're accustomed to a certain level of equipment," Barrows said. "Besides, a holoprogram like Michael cannot provide the constant delights and surprises that your beautiful Chakotay can."
"True," I admitted. "Especially since we've been allowed to be more open. He's been amazing in bed and in public. It's hard to compete with that. It'll be awkward at the Ox and Lamb though."
"Are you bringing Chakotay?"
"I imagine so."
"That'll be interesting," Barrows smiled.
"That one term for it," I sighed. "But what's an Irish wake without controversy?"
"Are you okay, my Dear? I didn't mean to upset you."
"You didn't, Mistress," I said. "And you said there are things that cannot be helped."
"But sometimes they get tiresome."
"Go and get pampered and rest, Dear," she said. "Come to see me before the wake."
"I shall, Mistress. Goodnight."
My plans for pampering were something along the lines of retreating to my quarters and wallowing in guilt with a glass of wine. However, Chakotay had other ideas. He was waiting for me. I was in his arms before the doors shut.
"What are you doing here?" I asked sighing into his body.
"I got the invitation and figured that you had worked yourself into a guilt trip over Carey and his death," he murmured into my hair.
"Am I that easy to read?"
"No, Kathryn. This took years of careful study," he replied. There was a smile in his voice.
"It was sweet of you to worry, but I'm fine."
He pulled back to really look at me.
"Oh, yes, I can tell by the tired, world-weary gaze that you're just fine," he said with an arched brow.
"Okay, maybe I am weary, but there isn't any thing that can be done about that," I said.
He smiled beautifully then. "Oh, but there you're wrong. Come with me."
In short order, I was in my tub reclining in hot, sudsy water on top of a marvelously naked Chakotay. As always, the diabolical man was right. I was feeling much better.
"Have you heard anything about Seven's plan for our date?" He asked after a long period of blissful silence.
"Not really. She asks me the occasional question about your preferences, but will not tell me a single thing," I said. "And you know how tight lipped she can be."
"Have you tried to find out or do you enjoy my torment?"
"Yes and yes," I said with a chuckle. "I did try, but I can't get all Mistress-y on her. This is a difficult situation."
"Really?" He murmured nuzzling my neck. "I suppose I'll just have to be patient."
"You are known for that," I said tilting my head back to allow that mouth to roam my neck. "You are the most patient being I've ever known."
"Hmmmm," he replied against my skin. "But will I live up to all that preparation?"
The way he felt against me at that moment, I couldn't imagine him falling short of anyone's expectations -- especially someone as primed and ready as Seven.
"Seven is very astute in her assessment of people. I'm certain that she sees you clearly. I don't think she has unrealistic expectations for this date," I said reaching back to caress his hair. "It's the perfectionist in her. She's probably more afraid of falling short of your expectations."
"Just showing up would work for most," he laughed. "Including me. But as patient as I am, I'm more pragmatic."
"I've got a bird in hand or in lap," he whispered. "I think I should take advantage."
Chakotay moved then with thrilling strength leveraging us out of the water. He dried us with surprising care considering the fire in his eyes. I had no idea what to expect -- ravishment or tender love making. I knew by his kiss which one he chose. It was a gentle sweet kiss while wrapped closely against his warm body. And when my knees weakened, he lifted me gently in his arms.
Chakotay was kissing me before we reached the bed. I felt my back settle onto the mattress then I was covered with his heavy warmth. He kissed me for a very long time slowly and tenderly. I was still breathless when he pulled out of the kiss to explore my sensitized skin. The Commander roused me slowly with his hands and his mouth until I was writhing against him, opening for him. He pressed inside me. I wrapped my legs around his waist and moved in counter rhythm with his. It was so gentle but so powerful, it filled me with such joy I wanted to weep. I came crying out against his kiss. He growled his against the curve of my neck. I was still tired when I fell asleep in his arms but I was not so weary anymore.
The next day I had lunch with Seven in the Mess Hall. It seemed she had questions about proper deportment at a wake. I chose a table that was away from the other diners but not obviously so. I had questions about her date. Chakotay would wait, but I didn't want him worrying about it longer than he had to.
"Basically, at a wake you gather around, drink a great deal and tell tall tales," I said.
"How is that different from any other night at the Ox and Lamb?" Seven asked.
I smiled at that. She sounded arch and dry, but it was a serious question.
"The difference is all the stories are about Joe Carey," I replied. "It's a custom that centers on the celebration of the life as well as remembrance."
"I have no stories about Lieutenant Carey. I had no opportunity to interact with him," Seven said. "Would it be appropriate for me to attend?"
"It's up to you, of course," I said. "But Joe was a fellow crewman. You can come and listen to stories about him."
"And add his memory to the collective?"
"Exactly. Well put."
"I shall attend," she said with the usual Seven decisiveness.
"Wonderful. Barrows will be pleased," I said. "Now, on to another matter. How are your date plans shaping up?"
"They are nearly complete. I have several minor details that require attention."
"You are working very hard on this date," I said. "Try not to put too much pressure on yourself."
"I know that you seek perfection in all of your endeavors, but in human relationships, it's nearly impossible," I replied. "At some point, you have to just relax and just let things run their course."
"I find that difficult to do. This date is very important to our future relations," Seven said.
It's important because we'll be getting on with it, I thought.
"And this methodology has been successful for me in the past."
Seven glanced about before responding in a very quiet tone. "I allocated many hours of research and planning before our first encounters."
"I am aware of that. And I am appreciative of the effort," I replied. "But I can tell you now what I couldn't tell you then. Your place with me was assured very early on. I merely waited for you to realize it."
"And it is the same with Commander Chakotay?"
Is it ever, I thought.
"He is quite ready to welcome you into his life."
She considered my words for a moment.
"I could reduce the number of details," she said. "That would accelerate the time table."
"I think that would be a good idea," I replied. "Now, I must get back to the Bridge. I'll see you at the wake."
I arrived at the Ox and Lamb after the appointed hour. My tardiness was caused in part by a last minute course adjustment. Part of it was to give the proceedings time to get underway so that my arrival wouldn't be so keenly noticed. I was only partially successful. The wake was in full swing when I arrived. However, Barrows was holding court at the bar with Michael nearby. She looked up immediately and motioned me over to join her.
Vorick was seated beside Barrows. They stood close together which in Vulcan body language meant they were very close friends. I did not believe that they had been physically intimate. Barrows would not keep that kind of coup from me. But it touched me that she had developed some very close friendships amongst the crew. I had not been privy to the Mistress' private life at the Club. I was aware that she remained close to Doctor McCoy and it was said that she was great friends with Sabisat. It was logical that someone who could engender such trust that they were willing to give themselves physically and emotionally to her could form strong friendships.
Vorick was hoisting a glass but I doubted that it was any sort of alcohol. Michael could be very accommodating to varied tastes. I worked my way to the bar after a deep slow breath.
"Order please, Captain," Barrows said. "We're already one up."
"I'll try to catch you. Hello Mr. Vorick."
"Good evening, Captain."
"What'll you have, Katie," Michael said in that quiet, intense voice.
"I'll have what Tonia's having," I said. "Make it two. It seems I'm behind."
"Two porters it is," he said mildly. "You look well."
"Overall, I am."
"I was concerned because it's been so long since you were by or even sent word," he said. "I thought you may have been ill."
I blushed while taking a long pull on my drink. "My apologies, Michael. I should have sent word. I haven't had time for a proper visit."
"It's a shame to be too busy for a drink with friends," Michael said. "But it's grand to see you whatever the reason."
Thankfully, someone got his attention and called him away. The turn out was very large and raucous. There was a lot of laughter in the room. I think Joe would have been very pleased.
Seven appeared at my elbow about the same time the second porter kicked in. She ordered one as well. I forbade her to try to catch up with me. My cheeks were already warm and I doubted the men could handle a tipsy Seven. I was drinking too fast. Michael's constant stares were unnerving me. And Chakotay was due at any moment.
"Captain!" Barrows smiled. "Tell us your favorite tale of Joe Carey."
Chakotay walked in at that moment with Tom, B'Elanna and Harry as the room quieted down. I waited until they had their drinks then dramatically cleared my throat.
"It was during the time when we were abandoned on that accursed rock by the Kazon," I began. "We were low on supplies and lower on morale. Joe found a hot spring in one of the caves where we'd sought shelter. Somehow, he managed to set up a shower with what he could scrounge together. It was wonderful to have a hot shower and wash what was left of my hair (I stared pointedly at Chakotay) after all those hours in the heat and dust trying to survive. Now, whether his ingenuity was the act of a wonderful gentleman or the desperation of a man who couldn't bear to look at all those dusty hostile women, I'll never know. But I choose to forever think of him as a genius and a gentleman. To Joe Carey!"
There were cheers and hoisting of glasses. Chakotay gave me a mirthful glare. He pulled me into a brief hug before settling down next to Seven. Of course, Michael noticed that and the very warm smile he bestowed upon Seven. I sighed and drank my beer.
Tom Paris told a bawdy tale of Joe's prowess with limericks while under the influence. I was utterly appalled that I had been unaware of this very interesting talent. His had been a creative and very naughty mind -- very admirable. I also planned to use whatever means necessary to find out the nature of the limerick about me. I knew there was one by the way Tom blushed at me when they asked for Joe's worst. Tom never stood up well under my kind of pressure.
B'Elanna did not look as relaxed as her two men. She managed to avoid telling tales herself, but showed sincere enthusiasm in the toasting. Barrows noticed as well.
"She never really got to know him," she said quietly.
"I know," I sighed. "She must have remained insecure where he was concerned. It's unfortunate and unprofessional."
"I believe she understands her error."
"Yes, I do too," I replied. "Perhaps there will be something promising out of this loss."
I glanced over and noticed that both Chakotay and Seven had empty glasses. That puzzled me as I had not seen them slamming back their beverages.
"Michael, would you be so kind as to refill my friends' glasses?" I asked with a smile. "They're falling behind."
Michael motioned for me to lean in closer to hear him over the ruckus.
"Katie, is that man something to you?" He asked.
"Yes, we are very close."
"Then, I apologize for saying this but you should know he plays you false," Michael said.
"I don't understand."
"Katie, open your eyes. He's spent nary a moment with you. But he can't keep away from that lass," he muttered hotly.
"Michael, it's not at all what you think," I said with a reassuring smile. "As Captain, I have to be at the center with Tonia who is throwing the wake. This is Seven's first wake. I'm certain that Chakotay is merely explaining how things work."
Michael looked at me with a mixture of incredulity and pity. I found that annoying. Fortunately, he didn't challenge me. He went to serve them. It wasn't very cordial service, but their drinks were refilled. Chakotay gave me a quizzical look after the glasses were slammed down in front of him. I shrugged and rolled my eyes.
"Tuvok to Janeway."
"Yes, Mr. Tuvok."
"Incoming message from Starfleet."
"Understood. I'll be right there."
"Excuse me, Tonia. I shouldn't be long," I said to Barrows. I noticed that Michael was engaged in conversation at the far end of the bar. Chakotay was still with Seven, but Tom and Harry had joined them.
"I don't think they'll get into any trouble," Barrows said. "You go on."
Torres joined me at the door. She was supporting the small of her back with her left hand.
"Tired?" I asked as we exited the program.
"Oh, yes," she said. "Tom and Harry are getting started, so I thought I'd turn in."
We were silent on the way to the turbolift.
"B'Elanna, we all could have done better with Joe," I said. "And he could have met you half way."
"Maybe. But I didn't even try to notice," she sighed.
"Yes, you screwed up. We both did," I replied. "What do we do about it?"
"Feel awful for a while. Then, I'll make some changes. I know I'll never make another person under my supervision feel that they can't come to me. And I will make sure that I know each of them," she said resolutely. "I'll have stories to share about them and they will about me."
I gave her a hug before she stepped out of the turbo lift. "No sad thoughts tonight, B'Elanna. This night is to celebrate. Now, get some rest."
I was gone only fifteen minutes from the time I got Tuvok's message. But when I got back to the tavern, it was nearly deserted and most of the furniture had been upended.
"What has happened here?" I demanded of the lone porter who was trying to straighten the room. "Where is everyone?"
"In the hoosgow, ma'am."
"They're all in jail?"
"Not all. One went with the priest to the fairy hospital. The others went to post bail," he said.
"Janeway to the Doctor."
"Who was hurt in the fight?"
"Mr. Kim got the worst of it trying to get between Chakotay and Michael."
"What?" I nearly shouted. "I was only gone fifteen minutes!"
"It wasn't the Commander's fault. Michael was intent on spilling beer on him each time he passed. Tom intervened which lead to an exchange that included insulting Seven. Chakotay merely stood to defend her. Then, Michael took a swing at him."
"...and most of the bar joined in," I sighed. "Thank you, Doctor. Janeway out."
"'Twas a fine wake, lass," the porter said with a smile. "The best since Shamus O'Leary passed. God rest his soul."
I left the tavern.
"Janeway to the Doctor."
"Go ahead, Captain."
"Why didn't you or someone just end the program when the fight broke out?"
"We wanted to be good visitors and respect the laws," he said. "And as I understand it, this was the traditional ending of a wake."
"Where's the jail?"
The entrance of Fair Haven's jail was jammed with townspeople and my crew. I had to really push my way through.
"Anyone who belongs on Voyager that is not under arrest, go back to the ship," I shouted. "I will handle this."
That cleared the room and lowered the volume considerably. That was when I noticed Seven. She was disheveled and exasperated.
"I'm sorry, Captain."
"Why, Seven? From what I've been told, this was hardly your fault."
"I should have stopped them, but the townspeople kept getting in my way... trying to protect 'the little lady,'" she muttered. "I couldn't get near them."
"It's good that you didn't," I said. "Mr. Kim being injured is quite enough. Once that testosterone starts flying, there is little mere women can do. Go regenerate. I'll get Chakotay and the others out."
Seven looked doubtful.
"Go rest in my quarters. I'll let you know when he's out. Then you regenerate."
After Seven left, I approached the desk where Milo Flynn was acting as magistrate. He had a spectacular black eye.
"Milo, I understand that there has been a problem," I said trying not to be arch.
"To be sure! It was the best fight since..."
"God rest his soul, yes," he said.
"Well, I'm responsible for my people," I said. "I came to pay their fines and get them released."
"You mean bail?"
"Oh, Katie, that won't be necessary," Milo said with a smile. "They just need a few hours to cool those hot heads. Then, I'll send them home."
He was giving me that kindly face. There would be no getting around that even if I did feel like being charming. I did not.
"Can I see if they're alright?"
He considered that for a moment. "I suppose that would be fine. Right this way."
There were four cells around the room in the back. Each held two people. Michael and another Seamus character were in one. Two other characters were in another. Barrows and Vorick were in the third. Chakotay and Paris were in the fourth which was next to the door. I glared at Michael, gave Barrows a curious look, then turned to Chakotay and Paris. Both of them were black and blue with black eyes and bruises along their jaws.
"I'm rethinking the relaxed safety controls on the Fair Haven program," Tom said.
"I think that would be wise," I replied. "And wiser still if you saw the Doctor before you go to your wife."
I looked at Chakotay who was finding the floor quite fascinating. "Chakotay, are you okay?"
He could tell by my tone that the Captain was not speaking. He looked at me with a wry smile. "Yes, Kathryn. I'm fine all things considered. Tell Barrows I'm sorry the fight busted up the wake."
"I don't think that was a problem," I said. "The residents of Fair Haven and our crew will sure remember it and talk about it for years to come. I think Joe would appreciate that. As for you..."
"Hey, I was not defending your honor or squabbling over you," he said with hands raised. "I know better than that. Tom and I were trying to defuse the situation."
"I know. I'm not angry at you. I just don't like my favorite faces all bruised up," I said. "And I'm vexed that I can't be there to soothe the bruises."
Chakotay smiled then winced. "I'll still have bruises when I get out."
"I'll be ready for you," I said. I kissed him gently on a purple-free area of his face. Then, I patted Tom's shoulder.
Michael was also fascinated with the ground when I approached.
"Are you alright?" I asked.
"Aye, your Chakotay has a hard head though," Michael said with a weak chuckle.
"Don't I know it," I replied. "I'm very sorry for not being completely honest with you Michael. My behavior was inexcusable and I deeply regret causing you pain."
"'Twas my own hard head as well, Katie," he said. "I'd been told that you had another love. Many of your mates gave me a talkin' to. I didn't want to believe it. Then, when I saw how he was actin' all night..."
"You charged in to defend my honor."
"Aye," he sighed. "And I know better than that, too. I know I can't understand life in your world and I shouldn't interfere. I guess I've had that beaten into me."
I hated to say the words, but I had to. I knew that there was a chance that I may be in Fair Haven again and it was only right. "I hope we can remain friends, Michael."
He looked at me intensely. I was relieved to see no anger there. "I would be honored to call you friend, Katie. Thank you."
I had to leave him then. There wasn't much more I could say. And there was Barrows to talk to. I found her swigging from a flask while leaning on Vorick.
"Mr. Vorick kindly packed away a flask," she explained. "We've continued the wake. He was about to tell me his story about Joe Carey."
I looked at him expectantly.
"On one occasion as the shifts changed, Mr. Carey drew me into conversation about Crewman Barrows," he began. "He had noticed that we had struck up a friendship. And it was about our relationship that he wished to speak. He asked if I found the EEH to be a real and sentient being. I said I did and that I considered her to be a wise council and pleasing company. Carey concurred. But he appeared to be distressed by this feeling. I inquired if I could assist him in any way with his distress, and he said no. From my observations of human behavior, I determined that he wanted to talk about it, but didn't know how. Further inquiries revealed that he had been considering having relations with one of the holocharacters in Fair Haven, but getting to know Crewman Barrows changed his mind. He could no longer look upon the characters as a means for release. They would be real relationships, and that would be infidelity to him. I encouraged him to enjoy your friendship as I have. Shortly before his death, he told me that my advice had been sound. He treasured your time together talking and playing darts. You had made him feel much less lonely. He thought of you as 'quite a dame.'"
"Here, here," I whispered.
Tears slipped down her face as she raised the flask. "To Joe Carey and the privilege of being called his friend."
She took a swig then passed it to Vorick who passed it to me.
"Are you okay, Tonia?" I asked as I returned the flask.
"I'm fine, Captain. Thank you for coming. This was a fine wake. I think Joe would approve," she said.
I left her then. She was right. It was a fine wake. It was certain that neither that night nor Joe Carey would be forgotten.
59: Before We Conclude...