Disclaimer: the characters and the ship belong to Paramount, the rest is the author's
Time crawls slowly past me in the darkness of his quarters. I watch the stars streak past the view port from my position curled up on his couch, and wonder at the infinite possibilities this Universe is capable of producing and the course that led me here, tonight, to wait for him so that I can finally confess how I feel. We have travelled a winding path and what at last has brought me here to him is not drama, or disaster but a few lines of ancient poetry I came across a couple of hours ago.
'I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.'
What spoke to me, across a vast distance of time and space was the idea that I could, someday be telling the story of our odyssey without a happy ending for Chakotay and I. Without ever saying that we lived and loved as best we could amongst these distant stars, and that would truly be a tragedy.
So, here I am alone in the dark, in his quarters, waiting for him to come off duty so I can blurt all of this out without first knowing how he feels - uncertain if he still harbours those feelings that once used to blaze in his eyes whenever he looked at me. It wouldn't surprise me if he had moved on, I have hedged and prevaricated and backtracked for so long now that it is surely unrealistic to expect anyone to put their life on hold on the slim chance that I might change my mind and allow myself to love him. For two years I have defined the limits of our friendship with precision and he has adhered to them without question. We have never recovered the level of intimacy we enjoyed just prior to our encounter with the Borg. I have never repeated the words I spoke to him in my Ready Room when we were still friends, never told him how much he means to me. I don't know what I am doing here - facing almost certain rejection and humiliation. But that's not true, I do know why I'm here, it's that element of doubt, the one that never quite left me no matter how hard I tried to dispel it; a tiny piece of hope that if he can't accept my feelings now, he might in time.
My mind strays to what has made it so difficult, for all this time to believe in our feelings, to act upon them. There is, of course, Voyager, our unique situation and my promise to the crew. I was a very different person when I made that vow; I still hope, I still believe, but I can no longer put my life on hold because we may find our way home at any moment. There has to be a way to combine the captain with Kathryn for the good of both sides of myself.
It is, I realise now the harder path - to allow myself to become close to the people on board Voyager means that I will have to accept the prospect that I may lose them; that we live inherently dangerous lives. I can't allow the deaths of my father and Justin to haunt me any longer - can't operate according to the fear that should I lose someone that close to me again I will succumb to that crippling depression and no longer be able to function. I have to trust myself and the person that I have become, and take the first steps out of the darkness.
There is also the question of protocol, that reliable old chestnut. In the Alpha Quadrant the answers would be simpler, someone would be transferred to another ship and the relationship would be able to continue, with only the problem of serving on different ships and perhaps not seeing each other for several months at a time to contend with.
But, out here there is nowhere to go - and I need Chakotay by my side, we are stronger together, our experience and abilities complementing each other perfectly. It has taken me some time to, if not recognise that, then at least to accept it. Now I see us as two pieces of an intricate puzzle which exist independently but which, if fitted together properly make something altogether more complex, multi faceted and splendid.
That potential combination alarms me as well - I have never felt like this before about a lover, or a potential lover. Justin consumed me, he was the most important thing in my life, but I never felt so cherished as I do with Chakotay sometimes. Mark was my best friend, our friendship grew out of adversity and over time I came to love him with a depth that astonished me - but he couldn't make my stomach turn over just by looking at me.
For so long every other doubt has been resolved in my mind that it is only this that has kept me distant. This feeling that if I allow myself to fall in love with Chakotay it will be overwhelming, overpowering, uncontrollable - and I have always needed to be in control. And yet, isn't it that feeling that I have been waiting for? I am not naive enough to believe that I would have put my life on hold, given up on Mark in search of something so intense, but now that I have the chance of it ... I have never been one to baulk at taking a chance. But who will I be afterwards? I am afraid that I will forget everything but him, lose myself in the life that we could have together, that I will take my responsibilities less seriously, that I will overcompensate and treat him differently. It is these fears that I can not answer, which make me think suddenly that I am not ready, that I have made a terrible mistake, that I need to think this over somewhere where his scent does not distract me, somewhere that does not have a lingering sense of him.
I push myself up from the sofa, take a step towards the door, on my way back to my quarters, to good sense and security and a life I can understand and manage. But the door opens before I can proceed and for a moment he is silhouetted in the doorway, the darkness of the room masking his expression. The door slides closed behind him and I raise my hand to my cheek out of some instinct that I could not name if my life depended upon it and I find that my cheeks are wet, I am crying. I never cry.
He speaks three words, 'I love you,' and then without explaining my presence, my tears, the meaning of the universe and other momentous theories we are both on our knees holding each other tightly.
I am here at last, a little the worse for the journey, tired, weary, battle fatigued, but I have found my safe harbour.
(The poetry is of course, Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken)