He was new to town but even in this small nondescript village he wasnít unknown. Though they were far off the beaten path and old fashioned in many ways they werenít so far out of touch that they didnít recognize the famous ex-Maquis with the dark blue lines on his forehead. In the year since Voyagerís triumphant return from the Delta Quadrant, his face and that of many of the crewmembers had become familiar around the world. His fate especially had been in question. He was the outlaw captain, the ringleader, could even his exemplary service on Voyager out weighed his crimes? There were long debriefings and public hearings dragging on for months until finally satisfied, Starfleet had concluded that the Maquis were indeed freedom fighters and not the terrorists they had been purported to be. Their loyal service on Voyager did indeed out weigh any indiscretions in their pasts. They were all heroes and life should return to normal, but for some there was no normal.
Chakotay moved into a small cottage on the outskirts of the village. He lived a quiet existence, not bothering anyone. The cottage had been abandoned for many years but slowly it began to show signs of life. The yard was cleared of debris, the lawn manicured, a garden sprouted in the backyard and the structure was slowly repaired. He enlarged only one of the rooms and curious neighbors watched when a truck arrived to deliver a very large bathtub. Chakotay kept to himself, only nodding politely to passing neighbors, as he worked on repairs and never ventured beyond the small supply store on his occasional visits to town.
One day after he had lived there for almost two months, he showed up in the café and took a small table against the wall. He ordered tea and a sandwich with an extra plate and a cup of coffee, both of which he placed on the table across from him. He finished his meal alone, left his money on the table and walked back to the cottage.
Many people wondered about him but no one asked. His visits to the café became a ritual. For the next six months, he showed up regularly. Once a week, on Sunday afternoon and took the same table. He no longer even needed to order. The waitress just brought his usual sandwich, coffee, tea and an extra plate. Every week he placed half the sandwich on the plate next to the coffee and ate what was left himself. Every week he ate alone, placed his money on the table and walked home.
People in town never bothered him, they respected his privacy, but it didnít keep them from speculating. Why was he here alone, who was he waiting for and how long would he wait? Some thought he had simply lost his mind and he was dining every week with an imaginary partner. Others thought he was mourning the loss of someone and some thought it was an invitation to join him, but no one ever did. They merely stood back, allowing him his quite ritual, no matter what the purpose.
It was a particularly hot and dusty Sunday afternoon, the café was more crowded that usual with people seeking refuse from the blazing sun, but no one sat at the little table against the wall. It was the unspoken rule that at this time, in this place, that space belonged to the quiet man from the edge of town.
He came in from the heat, smiled at those that looked his way and took his usual seat. The waitress delivered the hot tea and coffee; the weather never changed his order. She placed the extra plate across the table from him and the sandwich next to his tea; he smiled his thanks.
When the door opened everyone one but the quiet man at the table turned to look. A tiny woman in a light sundress and large brimmed hat stepped into the darkened cool of the café. She took off the hat, shaking out her long auburn hair as she glanced around the room. It only took a second for the smile to cross her face as she quickly crossed the room and slipped into the empty chair across from him.
Slowly he raised his head, his eyes meeting hers; they smiled but didnít speak. She drank the coffee and nibbled on the sandwich and never took her eyes from his. He placed the money on the table and took her hand. Together they walked the dusty road toward home.
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