Disclaimer: See part 1
Lulu to the Rescue
The first thing I had to do was make sure Birdcage was out of the picture. I knew there was an annual counselor's conference on Betazed that he seldom missed, one of the "perks" of being Starfleet's counselor deluxe, and it didn't take much effort to discover that he was on his way there, available to his patients only if they had a serious issue that couldn't wait for his return.
He might think it worthy an interruption, but Janeway would never bother him for something as seemingly inoffensive as the sudden appearance of Lulu Powell's name on her appointment book.
Secure in the knowledge of Birdcage's absence, I called Janeway's office and talked to her yeoman, asking for an appointment at the earliest convenience.
"What is the subject of this meeting, Admiral Powell?" she asked me, and I could see her eyes focusing elsewhere, waiting to fill in the subject line on Janeway's daily calendar.
"I'm doing some research into the psychological affects of long-term deep space duty," I answered in all honesty. "I was hoping to get her insight on the issue."
"Well . . .," the yeoman hesitated, no doubt trying to think of some reason to say no. "The captain has an hour available late Friday afternoon."
"That would be perfect." And it would. Janeway would have no later appointments that would cut our meeting short, so we could talk as long as we wanted.
"Friday at 4 p.m.?"
"I'll be there."
I really didn't expect the process to end there, and so I wasn't surprised when, about an hour later, I received a call from Janeway's administrative aide, Lieutenant Commander Hoover. Or was it Hooper? Hooker?
"The captain wanted me to confirm the subject of the appointment," the aide told me, although we both knew perfectly well that she hadn't actually "wanted" him to do any such thing. She had no idea that her yeoman had set up my appointment a scant fifty-three minutes earlier, nor did she know that her aide was following up on who, exactly, this Admiral Luann Powell was. But, I can play that game as well as anybody else.
I restated the same line on researching deep space duty that I'd used with the yeoman and waited for the other shoe to fall.
"You have research credentials in this field?" he challenged me.
There is something comforting about how predictable Starfleet officers are. "Did you think I might be an octogenarian news reporter trying to sneak in an interview with Captain Janeway on the Delta Quadrant?"
He frowned at my non-response. "The captain is a busy woman."
I could tell he was serious about my qualifications, so I pulled out all the stops. I said I was Admiral (retired) Luann Powell, PhD, former chief of Starfleet counseling and, before that, director of starship counseling at Starfleet medical. Author of sixteen books, two of which are still required reading at Starfleet Academy, writer of hundreds of articles in dozens of professional journals, and inventor of three innovative hastasi drinks still served at Rudy's Bar on Risa. Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Academy, ship's counselor extraordinaire with nearly fifteen years of deep space duty, one-time bridge champion of the Beta Quadrant fleet, and generally a fun person to have around.
"They call me the 'Captains' Counselor,'" I concluded, giving Lieutenant Commander Hoo-ever an exaggerated wink, "but you can call me Lulu."
The poor man stared at me for a moment in absolute astonishment and then nodded, all business at last. "Yes, ma'am. I'll make a note for the captain."
I laughed when he broke off the link and wondered what that particular note would say. He would probably warn her that a retired nut of an admiral wanted to swap space stories with her over a mug of coffee. But, since he was a dutiful aide, I was also sure that he'd follow up to make sure I was who I said I was. I didn't tell a single lie about that.
I arrived early that Friday afternoon with the intention of watching Janeway's staff at work. I've found that I can learn a lot about a captain's character by watching the way his or her staff behaves while the boss is away. I settled into a comfortable overstuffed chair and pulled out a PADD, only to notice that the yeoman was looking at me with concern.
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
"The captain has been detained at her meeting," she reported. "Would you like to reschedule your appointment for next week?"
"How late will she be?"
"That's hard to say, Admiral. However, she said that if you were willing to wait, she'd meet with you no matter how late she is."
"Then I'll wait," I said, holding up my PADD. "I brought some reading, just in case."
What I had brought were the notes I'd made of my meeting with Chakotay, and I spent the next hour pouring over them again in great detail, trying to get a clear picture of Janeway from his point of view.
I realized, again, that Chakotay thought of the captain in what could only be called a string of contradictions, reflecting his two-faceted perception of her as both his commanding officer and a woman he found nearly irresistible: feminine and petite, yet powerfully commanding; kind and considerate, yet relentless and demanding; open to suggestions, yet completely sure that she was right; outgoing and friendly, yet aloof; direct and honest, but also discreet and multifaceted; tolerant, yet difficult to please; patient, yet anxious and tenacious. Janeway, I decided, was going to be a very interesting person.
Then I noticed a pair of legs standing in front of me and looked up into an unfamiliar face.
"Hello, Admiral. I'm Pete Hoover." Or did he say Hooper? Although he was smiling, his eyes bored into me.
Ah, yes.The Lieutenant Commander who was Janeway's aide. I should have known that the captain's aide would want to make sure I wasn't a few sandwiches short of a picnic before he turned me loose on her. "Of course. We spoke earlier in the week."
"The captain is looking forward to meeting to you." He glanced at the yeoman, who was pretending not to listen. "I had no idea you were such a renowned counselor, but the captain recognized your name right away."
I inclined my head. "I'm flattered to know that."
"I wanted to let you know that her meeting has ended. She'll be here shortly."
"Thanks for the warning." I watched him disappear into her office and listened for the sounds of Janeway's arrival through the back entrance or "escape hatch," as we called it informally.
A few minutes later, I was escorted into her empty office and took the opportunity to look around. There were a few tastefully selected mementos lying about and a few stunning paintings on the wall, all of which I would love to study in greater detail.
"Make yourself comfortable, Admiral," came Janeway's voice from the private alcove. "I'll be right with you."
"No hurry," I replied as I selected an overstuffed chair beside the floor-to-ceiling windows instead of the straight-backed chairs in front of her desk. I sank into the cushions, but my usual groan of satisfaction was interrupted by the beautiful view of headquarters' renowned rose garden. "You have a lovely view here."
"Sometimes the view from a lower floor is worth the loss of prestige." She stood before me with a tray that held a pot of coffee, two cups, and an assortment of cookies. She set the tray on the table that had been strategically placed in front of the window and sat down in the other chair to my right. "I thought we might have a snack, if you don't mind? My mother baked these cookies, and if I don't share them I'll need to replicate a larger size uniform."
"Perfect," I said, meaning her deportment, not her offer of food. I knew at once that this would be a challenging interview and that Kathryn Janeway was the Captain Personified. Luckily, Lulu is not easily discouraged.
"Haven't we met before, Admiral?"
I should have expected her to remember our brief encounter at the Night Owl. "Yes, we did, just last week for a brief moment. Your sister shared her table with me."
"Starfleet is a small world," she commented, and I could see suspicion in her eyes.
"Like a family. And, since this is an informal meeting, please call me Lulu."
Janeway, who had been in the process of pouring our coffee, looked up at me in surprise and, for the briefest moment, I saw the more personable "Kathryn mask" slip into place. "Lulu?" her mouth quirked as she repressed a smile and quickly recovered her composure. "Short for Luann?"
"I was named for my maiden great-aunt, Luann Bontecou, a woman who was about as warm and inviting as the Breen home world. No one who knew her wondered why she was an old maid, and I didn't want to be anything like her, so I took a more enjoyable nickname. In time, I came to embrace the connotations of the word 'lulu,' as well."
At this, Janeway produced a genuine laugh, and I was thrilled to hear it. She handed me my cup and saucer and said, "Well, I must say that my aide thinks of you as a 'lulu' based on your first conversation with him."
The coffee was rich and dark, and I knew I'd be awake for hours because of the stiff shot of caffeine it sent into my system. I rolled my eyes at the mention of the Lieutenant Commander. "I'm afraid I toyed with the man a bit. He came across as so . . . ."
"Stuffy?" she suggested with a wicked grin. She gestured at the cookies as she picked up one for herself. "The iced oatmeal is especially good with coffee."
She was right, and I enjoyed the pleasant burst the sweet cinnamon made against the bitter coffee aftertaste. "Delicious."
The captain was back, I noticed, as she regarded me with an icy shrewdness. "I'm familiar with your work, as you could probably guess. In fact, I read The Captain's Mask in my pre-command class and found it very instructive."
"You specialize in counseling captains."
"I do. I've spent my whole career fascinated by the people who hold your rank. I've known hundreds of them, and I like them better than almost any other species known to the Federation."
"Species?" she narrowed her eyes. "I don't understand."
"Well, the dictionary calls species a class of individuals grouped according to common attributes."
She snorted in disgust at my pedantic response. "I know what a species is, Admiral, I just never applied the term to a rank."
"Lulu. Please call me Lulu." I was actually pleased to have upset her scientific sensibilities. I hoped I could get past the formality she hid behind, and irritation was a good start. "Starfleet captains have many qualities in common. They're extremely independent and self-assured, cool heads in the midst of disaster, able to think clearly when everyone else is frozen in place by fear. Most of them have internalized the values of the Federation so completely that the ethic is almost a religion to them. And they work harder than anyone else on the ship, without exception." I gently placed my cup on the table before I looked up at her. "And often, maybe even usually, they are very much solitary and lonely individuals."
She regarded me coolly. "The problem with stereotypes is that they can often mislead us in our evaluations of others."
"True," I shrugged. "But these qualities are so common that I find them to be a good starting place. I admit that I look forward to meeting a captain who has accentuated the positive while avoiding the negative." I selected another cookie, chocolate chip this time, and studied its surface a moment. "It's just that I've never met a captain who's accomplished it without help. A lot of help."
She studied me for a few awkward moments, trying to unsettle me with silence, but I am very serene while eating cookies, especially homemade ones, and I am impervious to the infamous "captains' glare." Finally, she sat up and reached for the coffee pot, refilling her cup before sitting back and changing the subject. "I'd imagined that you would be in on my debriefing, to tell the truth. You are the 'captains' counselor,' right?"
I smiled. "Well that's what some people call me, although Picard prefers to call me the 'captains' pest.'"
"Picard? From Enterprise?"
"I know most of the captains, Kathryn. I even knew your dad, when he was a captain, and I served briefly with one of your grandparents, Admiral Kiernan, before she retired. You were named after her, I believe?"
She nodded. "My maternal grandmother. I didn't know her very well."
"No, I imagine not, because she worked too hard. She was a nice person, really. Not nearly as bad a namesake as mine was." I leaned forward, forcing her to look at me. "I wanted very much to be part of your debriefing, Kathryn, but Admiral Birdcage and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. He didn't want to share."
"Birdcage?" she smiled. "Do you call him that to his face?"
"Not that I recall, although I may have slipped once or twice." I grew thoughtful. "How did your psych debriefing go?"
"He's cleared me for duty." She looked away, but I thought I saw doubt in her eyes. "That's what I wanted."
"That's what the captain wanted," I corrected her. "What did Kathryn want?"
She whispered, "That's of secondary importance."
Bingo. Those words told me all I needed to know. She was struggling to acknowledge her individual needs after years and years of habit that pushed them aside, ignored them, discounted them as unimportant. "The truth is, Captain, that Kathryn's needs are the only ones that matter right now."
She looked up at me in surprise, suddenly realizing that this wasn't an interview that was relevant to my "research" as much as it was a counseling session. She had revealed a personal demon to me, and she wanted very much to pretend she hadn't. "I think you should leave."
"I probably should." I took a deep breath before I plunged on. "But I care too much about your well-being to lie to you. Nobody can help you recover from seven years as a captain in a couple of weeks, Kathryn, not Birdcage and not me. In fact, if you ever recover, it will more likely take months or years."
"Recover from being a captain?" I could see her struggle to maintain the captain's façade. "What are you talking about?"
"Captains develop bad habits out there, Kathryn. They consciously repress their feelings and their desires in favor of the demands from the ship and crew until they do it without thinking. They work ungodly hours as a matter of course, without realizing that they've lost their personal lives in the process. They get used to distancing themselves from their staff and crew, and then do the same thing to their friends, and finally their family, because they believe that their feelings cloud their judgment. Eventually, nothing is left but that species of captain I mentioned earlier, and their individuality and their unique personality become just a fond recollection of the people who knew and loved them."
"Oh, God!" she said as she collapsed into the cushions. "You sound like my mother."
"Your mother wants her daughter back."
She sighed. "That's more or less what she's said."
"And Birdcage didn't address this with you? He didn't ask you about how you're adjusting to non-Starfleet life? How you're getting along with your family and friends?"
"What does that have to do with my work?"
"What, indeed! The fact that your job affects all parts of your life is one thing Birdcage and I don't see eye-to-eye about." I took a moment to rein in my temper, not wanting to antagonize the captain at this critical moment. "Let me ask you a question. In those first weeks and months on Voyager, were you conscious of 'becoming the captain' when you left your quarters? Did you worry about gaining the trust of your crew? Or of masking your emotions from them? Of playing the role to perfection?"
"Yes, I . . . I remember worrying about that for awhile. But then being the captain became second nature to me, and I didn't have to worry about it any more."
"Second nature? Or first nature?" I let that thought sink in, moving on when I saw her eyes widen in recognition. "Kathryn, it's perfectly normal for you to consciously become the 'captain.' In fact, I'd be worried if it didn't. But, over time, those feelings get reversed. You begin to feel that your private self is the assumed role. You stop putting on the captain's mask when you step on the bridge and start putting on Kathryn's mask when you enter your quarters."
Her eyes were troubled. "During those last years, I did feel that way."
"And there were probably times when you wondered if you would ever be anything other than the captain again."
"Oh, yes. There were many times I worried about that."
"Wasn't there someone you trusted as your confidante, someone who saw the real you after hours? That person can be instrumental in helping you reverse this process."
She stood up and walked to the window, keeping her back to me. "Not at the end, no. But, before that, for a long time . . . ." She buried her face in her hands, unwilling, or unable to say his name. When she finally turned and faced me, she was once again in perfect control of her emotions--except I knew better. "He's busy elsewhere, Lulu, with someone else. I let him go. I practically pushed him out an airlock because I thought he made me weak."
"You felt weak because you fell in love with him. Right?" She stared at me, too distressed to speak. "It's all right. You can tell me. I won't tell anyone else."
She shook her head. "Rumor and idle speculation."
"Where there's smoke, there's fire." I said his name for her. "Chakotay. You loved him, but you knew it was a mistake to admit it, even to yourself."
"I fell in love with my first officer," she whispered, crossing her arms and leaning back against the window. "And I knew it was a recipe for disaster."
"If you felt is was a mistake, then I have to agree. You know better than anyone what you could and couldn't handle out there."
She was anxious to move on to a less emotional topic. "Does this mean that I still need counseling? That I'm not ready to return to work?"
"I think you're fit for duty, if that's what you mean. The problem isn't work, it's after work. You need help if you want to break the habits you've formed over the last seven years. We need to find a way to bring Kathryn back to the forefront and make the captain take the back seat for awhile."
"Will you help me do that, Lulu?"
Hearing that question made me want to jump out of my seat and give her a gigantic hug, but I restrained myself. I would find a way to celebrate later when I wouldn't scare her half to death. "I was hoping you'd ask me to help you, Kathryn, but we'll have to do it unofficially and off-duty. I don't want Birdcage to think that I'm undermining his position."
She smiled. "All right. We can say I'm helping you research the long-term impact of deep space."
"There is one other condition you must agree to. I will gladly be your counselor as you work through this adjustment, but there is someone else you need help from, as well."
She frowned. "Someone else?"
I stood up and started for the office door. "Just a minute."
I wasn't gone long, but by the time I came back, Kathryn had turned to look out the window with her back to the door, and I'm pretty sure I saw her brush tears from her eyes. "Lulu, I'm just not sure about this . . . ," she began as she turned to face us, stopping in mid-sentence when she saw who was following me. She was so pale that I actually thought she might faint.
"I believe you've met," I said as I gracefully stepped aside.
"Chakotay!" she whispered, putting a hand against the glass to help her keep her balance.
Have you ever become invisible? As far as those two were concerned, there was no one else in the room. I was little more than a fly on the wall, but I was a very observant fly, and what I was about to observe was going to restore my belief in the power of love.
Chakotay, in contrast to the captain, was blushing. "Hello, Kathryn."
"You're with . . . Lulu?" I really didn't mind that she smiled at my name. "I thought you were in Arizona."
"I was." He gave her a nice view of his dimpled grin. "Let's just say that she recruited me before she came here."
Kathryn seemed to realize where she was and regained her composure. I slowly backed into the shadows by the door. "Won't you sit down?"
He took the seat I had vacated, and she returned to the one next to it. "This is a nice view of the rose garden, Kathryn."
"One of the perks for being promotable to admiral, I guess." She reached for her coffee cup and then remembered that the other one was mine, not Chakotay's. "Let me get you some tea."
"No. Thanks." He grabbed her wrist to stop her from rising. "I just want to talk to you."
She relaxed and smiled at him—and I recognized another appearance of the illusive Kathryn. "What have you been doing in Arizona besides trying to stay cool?"
He was facing away from me, but I'm sure he smiled. "I've been catching up on current events, sleeping about twelve hours a day, and visiting with my sister and her family and with my cousin and his family in Ohio. What about you?"
She blushed and looked down at her uniform. "Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it?"
"Haven't you taken some leave?"
"A few days here and there." She sighed and rubbed her forehead with her fingers. "There's so much to do."
"And so much time to do it in." He leaned toward her and took her hand. "We're home, you know."
"I'm sorry I haven't stayed in touch with you since the debriefings ended. I intended to, but then Seven and I broke up, and I needed some time to think."
"Don't apologize. I haven't kept in touch with you either."
"Why haven't we talked?" he wondered out loud. "Of all the people on the ship who were close, I thought we were the closest. I thought we would stay in touch."
"I think I'm out of practice when it comes to friendship." She laughed at the ridiculousness of the comment. "Really, I haven't had to think about being a friend for seven years. I've forgotten how to do it."
But Chakotay, with his natural instinct toward counseling (how we missed recruiting him into the counseling ranks, I'll never know), replied, "That's perfectly understandable. Most captains don't have friends on board ship, not really."
"Weren't we friends?"
"I'm not sure 'friends' describes our relationship." He studied her, and she nearly squirmed under his steady regard. "Do you think we were?"
"You were the closest thing I had to a friend on Voyager. You and Tuvok."
"Maybe, but the rank and the responsibility kept getting in the way." He dropped her hand and sat back in the chair with a sigh.
She changed the subject. "How has it been with your sister?"
"Awkward. We were pretty close as kids, but . . . I don't know. I'm having trouble fitting in."
"I know how it is. My family thinks I should be able to step off of Voyager's bridge and right back into my life without a moment's hesitation. They have no clue about what I've been through, how hard it was, how lonely and weary and afraid I was out there."
"How could they? They weren't there." He paused a moment to let her think. "But I was."
"Yes," she whispered. "You were there and you understand. I should work harder at being your friend."
"Friendship takes time and effort. You have to be willing to separate from your work and think about the other person."
Her eyes widened slightly, and she got up and walked to the window. She stood there awhile, her hands clutched behind her back, and then she said, "I'm more than ready to get away from work and think about someone else."
He joined her at the window, placing his hands on her shoulders as he stood behind her. "You know, it's occurred to me that there's only one time I've actually seen you off duty for any length of time."
She thought a moment, and then leaned back into him, her head on his shoulder. "New Earth?"
"New Earth. And it took you nearly five weeks before you stopped being the captain."
"That was because I still felt responsible for the crew. I was determined to get off that planet so I could keep my promise to them."
"You'd only been captain two years then. It's only natural that it would take longer now, after seven years."
"I wonder if I can do it."
"Lulu is great at this stuff, Kathryn. And I'll be here for you, too."
She turned slightly to look into his eyes, and I sensed a sudden increase in tension between them. "That could be a dangerous, Chakotay. Do you remember what was about to happen on New Earth when Voyager returned for us?"
"Yes, I remember quite well." He dropped his hands, but remained at her side, his face near her hair, his voice barely a whisper. "I've been haunted by what almost happened on New Earth every day since."
She turned her face toward his and whispered, "So have I."
He took a deep breath, and then turned her to face him, his hands on her upper arms. He smiled down at her, and I could see her relax slightly. I may be over eighty years old, but I was pretty sure I recognized what was happening between them. "I'll help you through this. I miss the Kathryn Janeway I knew on New Earth, and I'm willing to wait as long as it takes to get her back again."
They stood there gazing into each other's eyes, and for a moment, I thought he might kiss her. It occurred to me that these two needed to continue their chat--or foreplay--in private, so I cleared my throat and moved into the room making as much noise as I could in the process. "It's getting late, so if you two don't mind, I'll grab my things and get out of here."
Chakotay stepped back as Kathryn turned toward me, both of them looking more than a little embarrassed to be caught in such an intimate pose. Janeway said, "I'm sorry, Lulu. We were so busy talking that we forgot you were there."
"Don't apologize. Ignoring me is exactly what I'd hoped would happen." I gave them a reassuring smile. "I want the two of you to reconnect with each other this weekend, and I'll be in touch with you Monday, okay?" I gathered my things and then stopped to look at them fondly. "We'll be seeing each other on and off over the next few weeks. Like Chakotay, I'm looking forward to watching Kathryn re-emerge from behind that captain's alter ego."
"Thank you, Lulu," Kathryn said, giving me a hug. "Thank you for caring about Starfleet captains, even the ones you've never met before."
I hugged her and gave Chakotay a wink over her shoulder. "Just get me your mom's oatmeal cookie recipe and we'll call it even."
I began a series of routine "research" sessions with Kathryn, meeting with her after duty hours during the week and on weekends whenever her schedule permitted it. Once in a while, Chakotay joined us, but most of the time we met alone.
My job was to keep her focused on the bad habits she'd developed on Voyager and help her break them, while Chakotay's job was to help her rediscover the off-duty hobbies and passions that could lure her away from work. You wouldn't be surprised to learn that spending time doing anything with Chakotay seemed to be enough of a lure for her, would you? I know he would've been a sufficient lure for me.
Birdcage was livid when he got wind of my "research" with the captain. I received a very terse, no-nonsense order to appear in his office "as soon as possible" to discuss my meddling in the treatment of active duty personnel. I wasn't very worried about it; I'm retired, after all, so what could he do to me?
Kathryn, however, reacted quite differently.
"Let me handle Birdcage," she said when I told her of my command performance. She attended the meeting in my stead and, I understand, had a very informative and enlightening discussion with the poor man. Once Birdcage recovered, he modified his stance toward my "holistic" approach to counseling and even let me see other Voyager crew members, including an adorable human/Katarian girl and a couple of former Borg drones.
My greatest pleasure, however, had to do with Captain Janeway herself. There was no discernable change in her deportment or efficiency in her daily work. She remained the same controlled, brilliant, and tenacious officer she had always been on the job, and she was soon selected for promotion to admiral. The change occurred after hours, as the captain's mask gradually disappeared from her personal, private interactions and was replaced by the charm and warmth that made her a special and unique individual. I was privileged to watch this gradual transformation, and the sight was as breathtaking as watching a rare flower blossom from its bud.
However, the most magnificent spectacle was the simultaneous development of a love affair between Kathryn and Chakotay. No longer inhibited by a command relationship or by Kathryn's adherence to protocol, they quickly explored the depths of their love for each other, expanding what had been a remarkable working partnership into an even more intimate emotional bond. Of course, most of this happened during their private times together, but I had the privilege of seeing glimpses of it during our joint meetings and at other informal gatherings.
Let me give you a quick example of their relationship.
Kathryn was suffering from a recurring nightmare that stemmed from a trauma she experienced as a six-year-old child. Chakotay sensed correctly that this nightmare was an important clue to her recovery and insisted that she share it with us during one of our joint sessions. She'd refused to tell him the details, and he thought that it might be easier to tell us both at the same time.
Kathryn reluctantly recounted the event with a trembling voice, starting with the real memory. She had been spending a few weeks of her summer vacation on her grandparents' farm when a terrible thunderstorm hit the region. A lightening bolt split the huge tree she loved to climb in the back yard, and then a second bolt struck their ancient wooden barn nearby, starting a fire that quickly spread through the old building's dry tinder. She joined her grandparents as they dashed into the smoky interior to let the two horses into the pasture, to chase the chickens out of the coop, and to grab what they could of the tools and supplies before the entire building went up in smoke. Once the fire had progressed too far for them to continue their efforts, they stood together and watched the flames leaping a hundred feet into the sky, grateful that it was only the building they were losing.
Then Kathryn noticed a gray blur streak across the barnyard. She realized at once that it was the mother cat that had disappeared earlier in the week to give birth to her litter of kittens in some secret location. Moments later, the cat emerged from the barn with a mewling newborn kitten in her mouth, dropped it by the fence, and then dashed back into the inferno. Kathryn tried to capture the mother cat the next time she returned with a kitten, but the cat, its fur smoldering with fire, refused to be caught. When Kathryn tried to follow it into the flames, her grandparents held her firmly in their grip.
She watched with tears flowing down her cheeks as the valiant mother brought five kittens out of the barn; the sheer courage and love the mother cat had for her beloved kittens was an awe-inspiring sight. Once the last kitten was rescued, the mother collapsed beside her litter near death from smoke inhalation. Kathryn had been haunted by dreams of the traumatic incident for the rest of her life, nightmares of fire and rescue that left her drenched in sweat and gasping for breath.
"And you've been having this dream again?" I asked her. "Your experience in Voyager has triggered this traumatic memory?"
She buried her face in Chakotay's neck and mumbled, "Not exactly."
"Tell us, Kathryn," he insisted as he gently rubbed her back. "If you get it out in the open, you can begin to put it behind you."
"He's right," I agreed, realizing that this could be the turning point in her recovery. "Telling the dream reduces the power it has over you."
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. "The fire is on Voyager this time, on a lower deck that we've worked hard to make sure has been properly evacuated. We just barely get out with our lives and are looking back in relief when I realize that I've left something personal and private on the deck, something I can't live without.
"I try to go back, but the others stop me, telling me that everyone is safe, that I shouldn't risk my life for something that isn't essential. I fight and struggle, I plead with them to no avail, until I am so distraught that I collapse in hopelessness and despair.
"Later, I wake up to find the doctor leaning over me. Although I'm fine, I can tell that he's terribly upset. I'm suddenly frantic to find out whether the ship has suffered permanent damage from the fire, but he assures me that repairs are already underway. The problem is that we lost a crewman in the fire. He glances toward a neighboring biobed, and then he helps me get up and walk over to it." At this point, she buried her face in her hands, too upset to continue.
"Did you see yourself on the biobed?" I wondered, guessing at the shock she might have experienced. "Were you the one who perished in the fire?"
"No, Lulu," she sobbed, shaking her head. "It's Chakotay." She raised her head and wiped the tears from her eyes with her fingers. "I look down at his face and am unable to breath or move. He's wearing civilian clothing, and he looks as if he's sleeping, without a visible mark on his body.
"I turn to the doctor and demand that he explain how this happened. How could we have missed the first officer's biosigns during our evacuation of the deck? The doctor explains that the first officer is fine; it's Chakotay who's died. I'm confused by what he says and ask him to explain, but then . . .
". . . suddenly, I'm back in my grandfather's barnyard holding the half-dead mother cat in my arms. She looks at me with loathing in her eyes and says, 'How could you let him die, Kathryn? If you really loved him, nothing would have stopped you from going back for him.' I try to explain that my duty to the ship comes first when I realize that my grandmother and grandfather are watching me with obvious disapproval, and then my parents are there, and Phoebe, all of them telling me that I failed him, that I should never have left him to die." She buried her face in Chakotay's chest as tears streamed from her eyes.
I was so stunned at the details of her nightmare that I hate to admit that I was momentarily at a loss for words. It occurred to me that Kathryn's dream was an elegant example of the captain's divided loyalty between official duties and personal desires, the tortured split between the obligation to the ship and the love for their family and friends. By the time I realized that I needed to comfort and reassure her, I was too late. Chakotay, with his instinctive counseling abilities, had taken matters into his own hands.
"Kathryn," he murmured, holding her close as she cried. "That's behind us now. You aren't the captain of Voyager, and you don't have to hide your feelings any more." He went on talking to her, and I watched in rapt fascination at the way he slowly soothed her tears away and helped her regain her composure. When she finally calmed down, he gave her an affectionate look and said, "There's a problem with your nightmare, you know."
"There is?" she looked up at him expectantly.
"You would've gone back into the fire for me or for anyone else on the crew. You would have been as unstoppable as that mother cat."
Her mouth quirked into a tiny grin. "You're probably right."
He laughed and pulled her into an embrace. "You know I'm right."
When they "surfaced" a few minutes later and remembered that I was watching them, I said, "You know, Kathryn, your dream wasn't just about leaving a member of the crew behind or saving them from danger. It was about how you've had to split yourself in half over the last seven years. You've had to put aside your personal feelings for so long that you feel they're dead and gone forever."
We talked for awhile, and then I told them that our sessions would shortly come to an end. "You've made great progress in an amazingly short period of time."
"Thanks to you, Lulu," she said. "You rescued me when I didn't even know I was in trouble."
"'Lulu to the Rescue!'" I cried, waving a fist triumphantly in the air. We had a good laugh and then spent an hour just talking as friends. The comfortable chat left me with a good feeling, although I knew I would miss being around these two people when the time came to move on.
"I've been a minor part of this whole process," I told them as I gave Kathryn a wink and nodded toward Chakotay. "Love still has the greatest healing power in the universe."
When I left Earth in late July, I was secure in the knowledge that Kathryn Janeway was back on her feet again, happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, and I never thought I'd hear from her again. Counselors are used to watching our charges spread their wings and fly, never thinking to look back, and, frankly, we move on, as well. It's the nature of the job.
However, I soon learned that I'd underestimated Kathryn. She called me in September to tell me that she and Chakotay had found a house in Marin County and to offer me a room whenever I had occasion to visit the area. She called me again in November when her name appeared on the admiral's list at the same time that Chakotay's appeared on the captain's list.
And then, one evening in March as I was preparing for bed, I received a priority call from her. As I settled into the desk chair to activate the computer screen, I noticed that it was very early in the morning on Earth, and I worried that her nightmares had recurred or some other disaster had befallen her.
I was relieved to see a smile on her face. She was wearing a lovely lace negligee and robe, and I could hear Chakotay's voice in the background as he talked to someone else.
"Kathryn! What a delightful surprise!"
"I can't talk long, because we're getting ready for work, but we wanted you to be the first to know." Her eyes were sparkling with barely-restrained joy. "Chakotay and I have decided to adopt."
"Really!" I replied, unable to hide my surprise. "So soon?"
She nodded and glanced over her shoulder. "Chakotay, bring her here." All at once a wriggling ball of black hair landed in Kathryn's lap and began to lick her neck and face.
"You've adopted a puppy?"
"A female black lab." Chakotay knelt behind Kathryn's chair to smile a hello, putting a hand on Kathryn's shoulder for balance as he scratched the puppy's ears. As Kathryn spoke, I took in the whole picture, two wonderful people deeply in love, and I knew that they had always been destined for each other. "My mother's neighbor runs a kennel, and we made the mistake of going to see the newest litter."
"She's adorable! When did you get her?"
"Last night. She's been a real pest, too, howling until well after midnight and then getting us up before dawn."
"Well, I'd say it's time for a little discipline." I laughed as the puppy crawled over Kathryn's shoulder and leapt into Chakotay's arms. "She seems to know a quality man when she meets him!"
Kathryn winked and picked up a huge mug of coffee. "Lulu, I'm also calling because Chakotay and I want to get your opinion on something important."
"Well, I have an opinion on just about every issue, so ask away."
"You were instrumental in helping us adjust to home, and we've come to think of you as an integral part of Voyager's family. We won't do this if it's an insult you, but we'd love to name our new addition Lulu, in your honor."
For a moment, I stared at her, thinking that I should be offended to have a dog named after me, but then I thought better of it. I had come to love these two and was honored to have the treasured pet of the most famous couple in Starfleet named after me. Besides, I'd made use of enough dogs in my counseling career to realize that they were much more than just pets. In time, my namesake would likely become their surrogate child.
What else could I do?
I replied with a chuckle, "Insulted? Kathryn, I've never been more flattered."