The Four-Legged Matchmaker
Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.
Kathryn stretched and slid further into her bubbles. She really should get out. The water was starting to get cold and her fingertips were going all pruny. Anyway, the bath wasn’t working. She’d been trying to relax but her thoughts kept turning to the past. Sighing, she stood and stepped from the tub. Perhaps a coffee would help.
Ten minutes later, coffee in hand, she sat in a chair supposedly enjoying her garden but her mind still kept flashing back. She had thought after the Delta Quadrant when she had in effect been Starfleet and all the decisions had been hers to make, that here it would be easier.
She had been very surprised after her promotion when she was offered the Romulan desk, well not offered because she couldn’t really refuse, but it was a high profile job and not one she expected to get so early after her promotion. Then had come the Shinzon affair and she had been forced to order Captain Picard and the Enterprise into a situation that had cost a lot of lives and the loss of a senior officer, one of Picard’s closest friends. Of course on top of that the whole thing was classified so she couldn’t talk it over with anyone. Not that at the minute she had anyone to talk to. She had missed the last monthly dinner with her old Voyager command team. She hadn’t realised how much she enjoyed their get togethers but it had happened right in the middle of the debriefing so she couldn’t make it.
Part of the trouble of course, was that she was bored, and had too much time to think. Think about Picard’s situation, the break up of his team and his loss and hers. After the debriefings she had been given leave and now at the end of her first week she was bored stiff. She really didn’t do ‘doing nothing’ well.
The welcome chirp of the communicator broke her gloom.
"Hello, Kathryn. I’m rather hoping you can do me a big favour and be a Good Samaritan at the same time," her mom said.
"Anything, mom. You know you only have to ask."
"Good, well then that’s a weight off my mind. I can go to your sister’s today without that to worry about. Thank you, Kathryn."
"Err…………. Mom! You haven’t told me what you want me to do yet!"
"Oh, sorry love. I’m in such a hurry. I’m being picked up in five minutes. Your Aunt Martha has hurt her back and can’t manage the smallholding. She was a bit sceptical when I said you would help, but I told her about your ‘conversion’ to gardening and she said okay. You have her new address, haven’t you? Well, must dash. Thanks, Kathryn, and enjoy yourself."
"Mom, mom don’t you dare…………….."
Oh damn, damn, damn. Me and my big mouth.
I woke to the sound of a demented cockerel that appeared to be going for the sound barrier. Dawn had barely broken and even for me this was early.
I had arrived the night before. Following my mother’s call I’d gathered up all the clothes I owned that were remotely suitable to work on a smallholding, made a couple of calls and left to catch the shuttle to Ohio.
Aunt Martha’s greeting when I arrived had been typical. She had a reputation for being blunt and acerbic.
"I’m glad you’re not dragging that boring man along with you any more."
Aunt Martha had never been keen on Mark, much to his amusement, and made it quite plain.
It was the first time I’d seen her since I got home, therefore the first chance she’d had, to have her say. No ‘how’s your broken heart?’ ‘Had a nice trip?’ ‘Congratulations on your promotion.’ Not even embarrassment that everyone had obviously been discussing my love life, or lack of it, behind my back.
Another ear-splitting shriek rent the air reminding me that its owner hadn’t been fed yet.
Much later after feeding ‘Fred’, don’t ask, I haven’t a clue why he’s called that, and his harem, and opening up the greenhouse, I turned the corner and discovered the pig. I shot back into the kitchen.
"Aunt Martha, you have a pig," I accused.
"How observant of you, Kathryn" Aunt Martha quipped.
"I don’t know anything about pigs," I wailed.
"You don’t know anything about chickens either," she pointed out, "but you’ll manage. Just feed her, scratch her back with the scrubbing brush and that’s about it, dear, now off you go."
Much, much later after reluctantly dealing with the needs of the pig, I was back in the kitchen for toast and coffee. To tell the truth I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I had managed quite well, despite the pig, and looking at Aunt Martha it was obvious she needed help. She looked tired and drawn and I guessed she had been struggling on with the pain for some time.
"I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit dull here for you, Kathryn, on your own."
"Not at all, Aunty. It’s just what I’m in need of at the moment. A complete change. It’ll do me the world of good."
I caught her looking at me speculatively. Aunt Martha, despite her rough exterior, was an inveterate matchmaker and I could see a lonely, single neighbour appearing on her scheming horizon at any minute….. and I was right.
"We must invite a few young people around to keep you entertained while you’re here."
"Aunt Martha! I am no longer young," I could have bitten my tongue off at that one, "and I most definitely do not need entertaining."
"Nonsense, Kathryn. Now the nice man down the road has his cousin staying with him. He’s a stranger in these parts and Rob reckons he’s just had a lucky escape from a ‘strange’ woman." She emphasized the ‘strange’ making commas in the air. "Though mind you, he looked fine to me. Not in the least broken hearted………………."
I drank my coffee and let her voice drone over me, half listening. I knew it was a waste of time arguing. According to the commercial I was getting, the cousin was gorgeous, talented, single and a total paragon of every virtue. Consequentially I decided to hate him on sight and vowed to do my best to dodge at the right times.
A couple of days passed quietly and Aunt Martha began to lose the drawn look around her eyes and I realised I was enjoying myself. Another quick round of the animals and I arrived back at the house to hear her on the comm. unit.
"Good. I’ll see you Friday then!"
"I was serious you know, Aunt Martha. I really don’t want you to invite the local bachelors for my inspection."
"Kathryn, what do you take me for? Of course I wasn’t," she huffed. "I was arranging for someone to come to do some repairs to Rosemary’s pen. You know that fence is a bit rickety and I’m still not well enough to fix it myself."
Rosemary was the name of the pig and her fence certainly needed fixing. Nearly every day she had escaped and had to be coaxed back into the pen. She usually made a beeline for the dustbin and it took ages to clean up after her.
Friday afternoon rolled round and with it a large lorry loaded with wood and pig netting.
Once in the yard, the driver jumped down and unloaded what seemed like enough equipment to build a house, never mind fix a pigpen. Aunt Martha, who had been up since the crack of dawn baking for the occasion, brought out slices of cake and cups of tea.
The driver’s name was Tom and in no time she had found out his life history, likes, dislikes and marital status. Single, as it happens. She was a bit put out to discover he was only dropping off the gear and that the joiner was delayed on another job and would be along in the morning to rebuild the fence.
The day passed quietly and we were just sitting down to supper when the comm. unit rang. I was nearest to it.
"Hello!" a male voice said, "do you have a pig, whitish, large brown patch on the back?"
The voice was agitated and barely waited for me to agree before continuing.
"Well I think you’ll find she’s escaped and is nearly through the vegetable patch or what once was our vegetable patch and heading for the flowers. Could you collect her before she reaches the roses? Rob will go crazy if she gets to his roses!" The voice sounded quite panicky.
I apologised profusely and said I would come straight away.
I gathered up a bag of pig nuts and a torch and set out to round up Rosemary. Aunt Martha volunteered to come but her back had been worse this evening so I just said I would manage.
"You just stay here and get better!"
I was a little surprised at how annoyed I sounded and of course I was. Annoyed with Aunt Martha for not getting the fence fixed earlier. Annoyed with the joiner for not coming when he said he would. Annoyed with Rosemary for not staying where she belonged. Annoyed with the visiting cousin, who I was going to be forced to meet in unflattering circumstances, for having no sense of humour – after all it was only a few vegetables.
I mentally ticked them off as I walked down the lane. But most of all I was annoyed with myself because my heart had leapt when I heard the voice on the phone. It had sounded so like Chakotay and I realised at that moment that he was what I was missing and why I felt at such a ‘loose end’.
The ‘paragon of every virtue’ cousin was waiting at the gate at the end of the lane, and it was…………….. CHAKOTAY.
I could hardly believe my eyes. It was he who had phoned only a few minutes ago sounding so cross.
"Good God, Kathryn! What are you doing here?" he said running his eyes over the jeans and boots.
"At this very moment" I said "rescuing you from a large and hungry pig."
I was still a little angry and his greeting hadn’t helped. But I was also calm and determined. I would show ‘Mister Macho Make Us a Home’ Chakotay that a large hungry pig was not a good reason for panic, even if she was getting very close to the roses, and that I was totally capable away from my replicator.
I explained, with deliberate patience, that pigs cannot be driven with a shove to the shoulder like a cow. Well, not unless you are two feet tall. And that it was a waste of time showing her the bucket like a goat because with her head down her ears flopped over her eyes like blinkers.
Rosemary’s attention was fully focussed on eating so I told Chakotay to follow behind her with a sack to throw over her in case she lifted her head to go for the roses. I then moved as quietly as I could up to her head and started to lay a trail of pig nuts out of the garden and down the lane. It worked perfectly. You’d think Rosemary and I had been practising for weeks. Soon we had her safely back in her pen.
Chakotay had the good grace to be very impressed.
"Now Rosemary and the roses are safe, come along to the bar and let me buy you a drink Kathryn. I owe you an apology for being so rude when I phoned you. I hope you’ll take a healthy fear of my cousin into account as mitigating circumstances."
"He can’t be that bad, Aunt Martha sings his praises."
"Oh he’s not normally but those roses are his pride and joy. He’s been babying them for years and he’s sure that this year he’ll win a first prize with them."
"Well……………" I deliberated. I thought I’d spin out his punishment a bit longer. "You interrupted my dinner so buy me a sandwich as well and I’ll think about forgiving you."
"She eats! We’ll have to bottle whatever it is in this country air!"
Kathryn chuckled and pushed him playfully. She was so glad they had dropped into their normal banter without any awkwardness.
"I’ll just pop in and make sure Aunt Martha is okay."
But Aunt Martha had gone to bed. "Have fun, Kathryn, and don’t forget your key code," she shouted down.
Chakotay put his arm around her shoulders and they strolled down to the bar.
"Let’s sit outside. It’s a beautiful evening and I think the landlord will be grateful not to get a whiff of ‘eau de Rosemary’ if we sit out here." I didn’t mention the fact that the evening light was much more flattering to my working clothes.
We talked for ages over several drinks and the promised sandwich. Once again, I was falling under Chakotay’s spell and this time neither of us appeared to be hiding it.
I told him about the delivery of the pig wire and the problem with the joiner and immediately Chakotay was asking whether I needed an extra hand with the repairs.
We made a good team, the two of us, but this time it was him in charge, at least of the repairs. But it was me who arranged for the work to run into the Sunday.
"Has she always been this fussy?" the joiner asked. "I was hoping to finish today."
"Fussy? Bossy? Who, Kathryn?" Chakotay laughed. "Look, there’s hardly anything left to do. I’m sure I could manage to finish off, if that’s alright with Miss Fussy?"
I tried hard to pretend to look affronted, but of course, I graciously agreed and so Chakotay finished the work and came on the Monday to help with the egg collecting and harvesting the vegetables. Along with the work, we did a lot of talking. It was like we were two new people, strongly attracted to each other, but comfortable and sure in the knowledge that this was right, inevitable even.
"I was wrong about the fussy;" he said taking my hand "you weren’t too fussy about getting involved with a fugitive and renegade terrorist.
"Well, needs must," I ventured "and it wasn’t too much of a hardship really. You were wrong about the bossy too actually," I said, pulling his hand to draw him closer. "I can be quite compliant given the right inducement."
"And that would be?" he said, putting his free arm around my waist and lowering his head slowly to mine.
"Chakotay" I grumbled impatiently.
"See, I was right about the bossy," he said and then there was no need to talk.
I arrived late for our monthly dinner. B’Elanna, Tom and Harry had come early to celebrate properly, Tom said. Harry’s promotion had come through and he was being transferred to the Enterprise. Well, well, I thought, Picard recovered fast and obviously knew where to look for the best. I congratulated him and ordered another bottle of wine to celebrate with. Chakotay was already there too.
I don’t know if Tom really forgot, didn’t want to remember or was just winding me up, but I let it go. I usually do.
"What have you been up to?" he asked.
"Oh nothing much. A bit of leave. Visiting family. That’s all."
"What about you, Chakotay?" B’Elanna said.
"Oh, this and that. I met a young lady called Rosemary. She introduced me to my wife!"
A stunned silence fell across the table. I raised my glass, "I’ll drink to that," I said, wondering if they would notice the ring.
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