A Perfect Moment Ė part 9

Janeway

I thought I was prepared for this, I thought I knew what to expect. Iíd convinced myself that Iíd built my barriers up so damn high over the last six years that there wasnít anything that could penetrate them. Nothing could touch me I fooled myself into believing, let alone send those self imposed battlements crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust and agony. I donít know why it unsettles me so much to realise that Iím a victim of my own delusion.

Surprise rips the gasp from my throat, the response I was so determined I wouldnít give. But the Earth is there, right in front of me after all this time, like a glittering prize waiting for me to reach out and grasp it with all the confidence I have left. And it matters far more than it ought to that this time I have been in control every step of the way and I know itís not a mistake that we are here, not part of a game played by a malevolent omnipotent being with time on his hands. We have done this ourselves with enterprise and hard work Ė itís the Starfleet way.

Iíve been so in control this last week, urging caution when others have been overwhelmed by excitement. Experience has made me wary, disappointment taught me caution, failure tempered my optimism. I was so determined that I wasnít going to invest all my hopes into this experiment, Iíve hardly given myself time to consider that it might actually work. Iím not normally the sceptic, Tuvok pointed that out to me last night. How could I tell him that my already battered psyche couldnít cope with anymore disappointment and not have him find me derelict in my duty?

Control falters here though, and then leaves me completely like a spirit condemned to wander the Universe for years before finally finding itís escape and slipping away Ė or is that me? I donít think Iím sure anymore. I could comfort myself that I am not alone in my awe, we have all stopped dead in our tracks. The Bridge is unnaturally silent as we just look at Earth. Each seeing our own visions, each swept away by our own desires. The Planet undoubtedly means different things to all of us. It seems to be something that has been more prevalent as we came closer to our goal, the acknowledgement that there are things to face here that may bring us pain in the long run. Pasts, memories and disappointment sometimes cause more damage than phaser burns, who knows that better than I do? And then there is the future.

Something else Iíve carefully not been thinking about, or not in terms of what will happen to me. Despite my denial about this really being journeys end I have worried about everyone else and their fates, discussed the crew in individual detail with both Chakotay and Neelix, tried to make sure everyone who wants it has somewhere to go, or someone to go to. My family will be taking in Seven, not that they know that yet, it should be an interesting surprise, but I have a feeling my mother will have room in her heart for quite a few of my Voyager family. Neelix will be going with Sam and Naomi Ė Iíve been concerned about how thatís all going to work out, but I havenít interfered, Sam seems to know what sheís doing. Everyone has been talked to, everyone has been planned for, a final reminder that families in general and this one in particular take care of their own Ė whatever that might mean.

I suppose Iíll go home to my mother, sooner or later, even though I canít imagine myself there as yet, canít imagine myself not waking up on Voyager tomorrow if Iím honest. I canít imagine not walking into the mess hall and having breakfast, getting my first report from Chakotay as I grab a cup of coffee and he teases me about my addiction. Another thought Iím not ready for, what am I going to do about him? Now that weíre here how much longer can I go on convincing myself that not thinking about something makes it less of a reality? Itís never been the most compelling piece of reasoning.

Perhaps he knows what Iím thinking, or maybe he just has the best judgement in the Universe. He doesnít touch me often, decorum and discretion have to be complied with after all Ė and we wouldnít want anyone to think that we hadnít sorted this out years ago, but he chooses his moments well. The moment Harry tells me that there is a contact from Earth I feel his presence close behind me, know without needing to look that Chakotay has stood up and stepped towards me. Itís as the face on the viewscreen appears that I feel his touch, gentle but deliberate, his hand on my back. I could interpret it a thousand ways, take it as proof of his commitment to me, of how well he knows my needs, even the ones I hardly know myself Ė I choose however, perhaps the simplest of interpretations that it simply means that we are ending this journey together. That I am not, have never been and I hope, oh how I hope, never will be, alone.

The Admiralís reassurances quiet my fears that there would be battles still to fight here. Itís strange, Iíve been away for so long Iíve forgotten just how pragmatic Starfleet can be. Oh, theyíll take a close look at what happened to us, at the decisions that I made, but there will be a chance for me to justify those decisions, to explain, to make them see the context. If I canít then the only person to suffer will be me and Iím prepared to accept that, itís a pretty good deal for a crew interspersed with members of the Maquis and a former Borg.

I donít mean to look around at Chakotay but somehow I canít help myself, certainly canít stop once Iíve turned in his direction. It doesnít occur to me, until I look into his eyes, that he made his gesture of solidarity blind, without knowing how I would react and Iím just about blown away all over again. To offer unconditional support to someone who might still walk away, might after all not be in love with you, takes nerve and an honesty I can only aspire to.

And we look at each other and we look at each other and there is only he and I and the space between us. The mantra begins then, fuelled by uncertainty and the pain I know I have caused him for all this time. The voice I recognise as mine, the emotion it is replete with unfamiliar and a little frightening, but the sentiment is true and I know I mean it. ĎPlease still be in love with me. I want to be happy, I want to make you happy.í I wrench my gaze from his and the voice goes on. I step forwards to Tom who is looking as dazed as the rest of us and still I hear it. As I tell him to place the ship in a standard orbit I hear the words again and finally realise what they are. They are the words Iím going to say to Chakotay the moment the turbolift doors close behind us.

ĎPlease still be in love with me. I want to be happy, I want to make you happy. Please still be in love with me.í

TBC