A/N: Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed and enjoyed. I'm always sad to come to the end of a story but I'm sure the lives of Kathryn and Chakotay and even the Doctor will be visited again someday.Epilogue
Chakotay sighed as he looked up at the chronometer and then back out at the sandy pathway that led up to the front door of the house, still unable to see any evidence of anyone heading home from the nearby transporter station. He turned his attention back to the PADDs piled up beside him, his class only a week away from their final exams and submitting their final essays to him. He wanted to give them his full attention, knowing how crucial every mark was to a student graduating from Starfleet Academy but it had long since passed the customary time for his wife and son to return home from San Francisco and he couldn't help the worry that accompanied the growing hours.
He shook away the thoughts, knowing that there had been nothing on the Federation news channel to cause him concern and that of all people Kathryn could be relied upon to have any situation under control. He had finally trained his mind back to his task when he heard a commotion from the back of the house, Kathryn's two shaggy red setters rushing into the room, barking wildly. He got to his feet, calming them as best he could before he went to the back door, making sure his voice preceded him.
"For someone who was too ill to go to school today you're doing a fine job of winding those dogs up S.B," he said, walking out into the warmth of the Arizona sunshine.
He looked over to where he had left his daughter at play with her dolls, quite aware that the illness that had rendered her too unwell for school had been false and brought on by her overhearing him speaking to her mother about remaining home for the day to mark his students' work. He had willingly been her co-conspirator, enjoying her innocent chatter after Kathryn had left for San Francisco. He was constantly amazed by the intelligence and resilience of the six year old, seeing much of Kathryn in her but counterbalanced by the contrary nature he'd always been famed for.
He would usually allow himself a moment of watching her but the figure beside her had a panic rising in him and he swiftly crossed the lawn to sweep her away from danger.
"Who are you and what…" he began, looking down at the man sat cross-legged on the large woven blanket amongst the scattered dolls, recognition coming to him as he met a pair of familiar dark eyes, "Doctor?"
"Guilty as charged," he said getting to his feet and returning his dark rimmed glasses to his pocket, "Forgive me for not knocking on your door but I was summoned to assist in a matter of great urgency."
Chakotay smiled as the Doctor held up one of the dolls, the fastening on its dress having torn free from the material and being half way fixed but a hand unused to sewing.
"I told her she'd be better off waiting for her mother," said the Doctor, "But you weren't having anything of it were you young lady?"
"Mommy says that you can fix anything," said the young girl in her father's arms, "The Doctor made Merlin and Mab bark, Daddy, not me."
"They didn't like the TARDIS," said the Doctor fussing the little girl's dark hair, "She recognised me from a holo-image, or so I'm told."
Chakotay smiled, "Kathryn has some about the house," he said, "And the children have been brought up on our stories. Doctor its good to see you, its been too long."
"I know and I'm sorry," he said, "How long has it been?"
"Nine years," said Chakotay, "Hence the grey hairs and the added mini humans. S.B. here is six and we have a son, Edward, he's eight."
"S.B?" said the Doctor, "Is that short for something?"
"Starfleet brat," said Chakotay, sharing an indulgent smile with his daughter as he set her back on her feet, "A nickname, her real name's…"
Any further conversation was halted as the Doctor bent double in agony, clutching his side as Chakotay moved to hold him up. He barely kept him on his feet but managed to get one of his arms around his shoulders, glad the Time Lord was so light and barely a weight to him as he led him towards the house.
"Come inside," he said, "Voyager's EMH is programmed with the ability to manage a site to site transport to all the houses of the crew who are still on Earth. I can get him here in a moment."
"No point," said the Doctor as Chakotay helped him into a chair, "I'm what you would call terminal. Don't look so concerned, I've still got a couple of regenerations to go."
Chakotay frowned, taking his daughter's arms from around his leg as she clutched to his trousers, "Baby go and put your dolls in your room before Mommy gets home," he said ushering her to the door, "I need to talk the Doctor."
"But I wanna…"
"S.B go and put your dolls away, you can come back when you're done," he said, ruffling her long black hair as she headed obediently away.
"Good kid," said the Doctor.
Chakotay smiled, "When she wants to be but she seems to have all the best parts of both Kathryn's and my stubbornness in her," he said, "She'll be an Admiral by twenty-five."
"You both must be so proud," said the Doctor, his pain clearly easing but Chakotay remained concerned.
"Are you sure there's nothing I can do? You'd be amazed at the developments in medicine. We picked up a young woman a few months after you left, she was Borg. Seven could help you, she's used Borg nano-probes to cure all manner of things."
The Doctor smiled mournfully, "Even the infamous Seven of Nine couldn't cure the massive dose of radiation I received four days ago," he said, "You forget I read Kathryn's book, I still know your history Chakotay. I've accepted that this body is dying, I'm just making sure I say some goodbyes and fulfil a few promises."
Chakotay rubbed a hand over his eyes, "When you said we'd see you again Doctor, this was not how I imagined it," he said before he got to his feet, "I should call Kathryn, she'll want to be here."
The Doctor reached out and caught his sleeve, "I won't have time," he said, "I've not got long and there's another stop I have to make before…well before it happens. I wish I could have seen her, from the photos you have around it seems my girl grew into a beautiful woman."
"She won't hear a word of it though," said Chakotay sitting back down, "The Admiral may have every confidence in her career but she's the same Kathryn when it comes to everything else. She'll be broken hearted to know she missed you."
"I know she'll be in good hands to help her recover from it," said the Doctor, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a sealed envelope and a rather crumpled rose, "Will you see that she gets these. She'll know what they mean."
Chakotay took them from his hand and set them on the coffee table between them, "Of course I will," he said as his daughter bounded back into the room, leaping with little care onto her father's lap.
"Are we going in the TARDIS Daddy?" she said.
"You've got school in the morning," said Chakotay, "And at the moment you're too young, you've got to be at least ten to travel in the TARDIS."
The little girl pulled a face and looked set to launch into an argument until the Doctor laughed.
"There's no denying her mother, not with that look," he said stroking a finger over the little girl's cheek, "Believe me young lady, the future holds much more than a battered old TARDIS for you. You're going to make your Mum and Dad even more proud of you than they already are."
"You're not going to take Mommy away are you?" she said, "I don't want Mommy to go away."
"Your Mum will stay right here, believe me," said the Doctor, masking another wave of pain, "I need to get going."
"Is there really nothing that I can do?" said Chakotay.
"Just what you're doing now," said the Doctor, "Raise your children, love your wife. We fought to get to Voyager home to make sure the Federation remained safe but we did it for the small things too. It's always about the small things. I've seen friends these passed few days, friends I last said goodbye to a long time ago and some more recently. I saw our Donna get married, she's so happy. Dippy as ever but so happy."
Chakotay smiled, "Voyager was never quite the same after she left," he said, "It was quieter…well until Kathryn gave birth to Edward."
"See," said the Doctor, "The little things. It brings me more peace than I can even put to words to know that you and Kathryn have made so much out of your lives."
"Who would have thought we'd have the Borg and the Delta quadrant to thank?" said Chakotay, keeping his daughter in his arms as he joined the Doctor in standing, "I wish you didn't have to go so soon."
"I have a few hours at most and one more stop to make," said the Doctor, "And you never know, we may meet again, I just might look a little different. Maybe I'll take a leaf out of B'Elanna's book and go for some sort of forehead decoration. Walk me to the TARDIS?"
"Gladly," said Chakotay, following him to the garden, Merlin and Mab happily dancing around their legs as they headed down towards the bottom of the garden where the TARDIS stood amongst the knotted branches of the sparse trees, "I can't believe I didn't hear you land."
"The dogs were kicking up a ruckus," said the Doctor, taking out his key and opening the door, "You will see that Kathryn gets those things?"
"You have my word Doctor," said Chakotay, "As soon as she's home."
"Then it's guaranteed," said the Doctor, shaking Chakotay's free hand, "Goodbye Commander."
"Actually its doctor now," said Chakotay, "I'm a professor at the Academy."
"You'll always be Commander Chakotay to me," said the Doctor chucking the little girl once more under her chin, "Do you think you can take care of your parents for me?"
"Aye sir," she said with a salute.
"Oh she's Kathryn's alright," said the Doctor, "Take care of her."
"I will," said Chakotay, stepping back, "Good luck Doctor."
The Doctor smiled before he stepped into the TARDIS, the door closing behind him. Chakotay struggled to hold onto the collars of both dogs while he kept his daughter in his arms, the TARDIS dematerialising before them. They stood watching until it had faded entirely from view, the ground unmarked as though it had never been there.
"Daddy why are you sad?"
"Because its always sad to say goodbye," he said letting the dogs loose.
"But you say goodbye to Mommy every morning and you don't look sad."
"That's because I know Mommy will come home, however late," said Chakotay shifting her onto his back, "Think you can set the table for me while I get dinner on."
"Yes sir," she said as he carried her back inside.
Barely half an hour had passed by when the front door finally opened, Chakotay only just managing to catch his whirlwind of a son as he ran into the house, trailing his school bag behind him.
"Daddy, we saw a mad man today?" he said causing Chakotay to laugh.
"A mad man?" he said, "Kathryn where have you been taking my son?"
"What can I say?" said Kathryn, "San Francisco is full of characters. Eddie take your books to your room."
"Yessum," he said, leaping down from Chakotay's grasp, chasing his sister upstairs to the rooms above.
Kathryn shook her head, "Eddie's not joking, we managed to blunder right into a Klingon festival," she said, "Even I was terrified and they were being friendly. I…"
"Kathryn wait," said Chakotay, "There's something I need to tell you. We had a visitor today, a very old friend."
"Really, who?" she said before she reached up to cup his cheek, "Sweetheart you look sad, what happened? Is S.B. ok?"
"She's fine," he said taking her hand and leading her into the living room and picking up the rose the Doctor had left, "I was told you would know what this meant."
"A rose?" said Kathryn taking the crumpled bloom, taking in a shuddering breath as realisation came to her, "The Doctor? Is he here?"
Chakotay shook his head, "No, he was but he had to go. He was sorry to miss you," he said sadly, "He was dying Kathryn, the body we knew at least. He was making his peace, he brought the rose and the envelope for you to open."
Instead of the tears he had expected, Chakotay was shocked to see his wife smile as she held the petals of the rose against her cheek.
"He found her," she said softly.
"The Doctor, he loved a girl, she was called Rose but he lost her," she said, "When I was on the TARDIS, we spoke every night. He told me about Rose, the woman he'd lost. It brought he and I closer because he knew the pain I was feeling being away from you. When I got home to you, I wanted him to know the same happiness as I did and I made him promise before he left that he would let me know if he ever got back to her. The man we knew might be dying but he'll regenerate and he found her."
"You never said," said Chakotay, folding his hands in hers, "But if he was feeling the pain I remember from when I was missing you, I'm glad he found her again. Are you going to open the envelope?"
"Curiouser and curiouser?" she said playfully but she picked up the envelope all the same, breaking the seal pulling out the letter and the photograph within, opening it to read, "My dear friends, I thought it would only be fair to give you a little glimpse into the future. Or more the future of certain two children when they are Admiral and Captain, celebrated of Starfleet. They're amazing kids. Live long and prosper."
They both looked down at the picture, seeing two dark haired people in Starfleet colours stood before the TARDIS, the Doctor stood between them.
"They can't be…" said Kathryn.
"The children?" said Chakotay.
"Grown up and having their own adventures," said Kathryn, tears in her eyes, "Oh Chakotay what a wonderful gift."
The thunder down the stairs announced the arrival of their young brood, both of them stopping in the doorway as they saw their parents' faces.
"Mom are you alright?" said Edward, holding his younger sister back.
"I'm fine, darling," she said, "I've just been reminded of a very dear friend and how lucky I am that he gave me the chance to have you both."
"The Doctor was here wasn't he?" said the boy, as Kathryn sat down on the sofa, beckoning her children to her.
"He was," she said, "But he couldn't stay long though I'm sure you'll get a chance to meet him one day. Come here."
Edward went straight to her, hugging her tightly but her daughter remained in the doorway, her eyes downcast to her toes.
"What's the matter baby?" said Kathryn.
"Mommy are you going to go with Doctor again?" she said, "I don't want you to go away."
"Oh of course I'm not, come here," said Kathryn, holding out her hand, glad when the child came over and took it, "I promise that I will never leave you, any of you. I love you, Eddie and Daddy too much for that. You're too small to understand but you're my daughter and even the TARDIS couldn't tempt me away from you. I'll never leave you Donna."
The little girl smiled, knowing her mother meant every word as she gave her name rather than the common nickname, "Never ever?"
"Never ever ever," said Kathryn, kissing her cheek, "You're stuck with me."
Donna hugged her mother tightly, the youthful turn of temperament having her comforted as soon as she was done and dragging her brother towards the garden with her once more, the sounds of them chasing the dogs around the grounds echoing through the open doors.
"Do they ever sit still?" said Kathryn as Chakotay raised her back to her feet.
"They're explorers," said Chakotay, "And I can't remember when you and I ever sat still."
Kathryn wrapped her arms around his middle, looking up at him, "When did they grow up?" she said.
Chakotay kissed her softly, "They're not yet," he said, "They're still babies."
Kathryn raised herself on her toes, kissing him once more, old memories of their time apart making her crave his comfort.
"That's so gross," came the exclamation from the back door.
Kathryn smiled up at her husband, "We have the Doctor to thank for that," she said.
"And we wouldn't change it for anything," said Chakotay as they both turned to the door, seeing the cheeky faces of their young children before they disappeared outside once more, "Do you want to go for Eddie or for S.B?"
"Whoever's closer," said Kathryn, the pair of them heading out in pursuit, the photo the Doctor had brought laying forgotten for the time on the coffee table. The future a time to be considered when it finally arrived.