Rating : PG-13
Disclaimer : Paramount owns the names, but the story is mine :)
Chakotay glanced up as the door chime sounded. “Come in.” His voice sounded dry and devoid of emotion.
Tuvok entered the Captain’s ready room and quietly waited for his new Captain’s acknowledgment. Chakotay looked a mess. His hair was peppered with gray and there was a thick accumulation of stubble along his jaw line. His eyes were red and unfocused. When he received no response, Tuvok pressed on. “Captain, it has now been twenty-eight days since Captain Janeway’s disappearance. The crew morale is extremely low and I am concerned that your unwillingness to move on may be the cause of their distress.”
Chakotay ordered himself a mug of hot coffee from the replicator and, nestling it close to his body, turned to perch himself awkwardly on the edge of the ready room desk. Tuvok noted his reluctance to use the Captains chair. He wore the four command pips with equal reluctance.
“What do you suggest, Tuvok?”
“I feel it my duty to recommend that you get some food and rest and that Voyager resumes her course to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“You want me to set a good example for my crew?”
Tuvok paused to reconsider his approach. “It was the Captain’s wish that in the event of her loss, we proceed without undue delay.” He now had Chakotay’s attention.
“I was unaware of any such request, Tuvok.”
“That is because she had not told anyone. As you are no doubt aware, Captain Janeway and I shared certain confidences as a result of our long friendship and also because of our mind-meld. It is fair to say that this has given me an insight into the Captain’s motivations and inclinations. This is not a reflection on your own relationship with her. I believe that I can say with some confidence that she valued you also as a close and trusted companion.”
Chakotay heard the slight hesitation in Tuvok’s voice as he said the word ‘trusted’ and it shook him. The entire situation felt surreal and insane to him. How could he be expected to accept Kathryn’s loss and move on when he had no closure? How could he leave her behind, lost and alone, having betrayed that trust he had held so dear? In the end he had proven a poor friend indeed. Once again his thoughts returned to that morning three weeks ago.
The Captain had been in a foul mood that day.
As he watched her pace the length of the bridge he supposed that it was that familiar restlessness that came with calm space. She was bored, perhaps and looking for a challenge. One day that restless spirit of hers would get her into trouble. It came as no great surprise to him when she told him that she would be taking the Delta Flyer out for a training run. She was keen to sharpen her piloting skills, and had ‘had it’ with sitting in the big chair. The bridge was his and no, she didn’t want Tom Paris along for the ride. He did the mental equivalent of a shrug. She would be back when she was ready.
“Holy Cow!” Tom watched on in a kind of fascinated horror as the Captain put his baby through her paces. She flew like a woman possessed, diving and spinning, stalling and flipping left, then right. She weaved and spun around the mother ship like a moth around an open flame. The stabilizers were taking a beating. Chakotay saw Tom’s knuckles whiten as he gripped his workstation. Gods, he thought, she’s brilliant. You had to admire this kind of talent when you saw it. She would have made one hell of a Maquis pilot. If Paris thought her a demon at the pool table, he was surely learning another lesson here. Chakotay prayed they didn’t meet any Borg cubes, he didn’t know if he could protect them.
“Something’s really put a bee in her bonnet,” Tom sighed as she dropped a target buoy and phasered it into its component atoms.
“Indeed,” responded Tuvok, who heard everything.
Harry Kim dragged his eyes from the air show and glanced down at his console. “Commander, I’m reading a subspace disturbance a couple of thousand k’s off the port nacelle. Should we alert Captain Janeway?”
Anxious for something to do, Chakotay rose and headed over to study the display. He was no scientist. He understood the theory behind warp technology, and was clear on how space-time could be distorted to create the transition into subspace but he was left cold when it came to transwarp theory. The idea that subspace itself could be folded over to create conduits...well, frankly, it worried the hell out of him. As did the idea that they may have to rely on this kind of Borg technology to get home again. He placed a reassuring hand on Harry’s shoulder ; just who was being reassured he wasn’t clear on.
“Open a channel. Delta Flyer, this is Voyager. Do you read me?”
“Like a book, Commander. What can I do for you?” She sounded breathless. Any wonder.
Chakotay sucked in a deep breath of his own. Tom was right on the money, she was pissed and he had begun to suspect that he was the object of her anger. Gods! He had forgotten dinner last night! Damn Seven. She had smiled at him in that way of hers and before he knew it he had been dining with her in the mess. Date number four ; dining in a social setting. He winced. There was something about Seven that turned his mind to mush. He had started to sweat.
“Captain.” He schooled his voice to Starfleet Standard, knowing she would respond in kind. “I think you had better be getting the Flyer back to Voyager. We are detecting tachyon emissions close by.”
“Acknowledged, Commander. Send me the coordinates,”
“Aye Captain.” Keep it professional. Surely there was more to it than a missed dinner date? Did she know about Seven? What if she had tried to find him and caught them together, laughing and holding hands?
“Yes, Mister Paris?”
“The Flyer has altered course, but not for home. She’s headed straight for the anomaly.”
And that was that. He had hailed her and argued, pleaded and generally debased himself in the eyes of the bridge crew but she had remained obdurate. Captain Janeway had a way of ignoring protocols when it suited her. Chakotay saw red. This was sheer madness. Why the hell wouldn’t she listen to reason? In the end it was Tuvok’s level gaze that kept him in line, without it he may well have lost control. What he wanted to do was shout, I’m sorry Kathryn, I was an ass. Come home and we’ll talk. I can explain... please let me explain!
Instead he had calmly requested a transporter lock and had not been at all surprised when informed that the interference was too great. It always was. Just about the entire crew had looked on in horror as the resonant oscillation created by the tachyon particles formed itself into what appeared to be some sort of subspace fracture.
“If she doesn’t get out of there she’s going to be pulled in!” And then there was a blinding flash and she was gone. Chakotay blinked and turned to Harry.
“I wish I could tell you, Sir. It’s just disappeared. That flash we just saw may have been the warp core. Some of these readings indicate an anti-matter explosion.”
“What are you saying Harry? That the Flyer was destroyed? I need to know if she made it through that wormhole in one piece. Someone tell me what the hell’s going on!”
The bridge was suddenly silent as everyone tried to make sense of what they had just witnessed. All hands had turned to Chakotay for directions and he had squared his shoulders and battled on, well beyond the call of duty. Scans were taken, sensor readings analysed, meetings convened. Every conceivable angle was considered and then some. Nearby planets were searched, alien governments contacted, even passing ships were hailed and questioned. They had failed miserably. The universe had simply opened up and swallowed their Captain whole, and then just as quietly closed over again.
“Commander?” Tuvok’s voice recalled him from the nightmare.
“This was all my doing, Tuvok. You don’t have to spare my feelings, I’m not that fragile. Not yet. I betrayed Kathryn’s trust. She went out that day because she was angry and disappointed, and that clouded her judgment.” He rubbed his sore eyes as he tried desperately to come to terms with the enormity of his failure. He had said that he’d always be there for her, that she was not alone. They had been words straight from his heart. And now, if she were still alive, she was most certainly, horribly alone, in a small shuttle with limited supplies and no back up. He shuddered.
“You must not blame yourself for the Captain’s actions. It is time you released your guilt. I have requested a clean up crew to clear Captain Janeway’s quarters. When this task is completed there will be a short memorial service, and then Captain, we will leave.”
Chakotay stared at Tuvok.
“It is curious,” Tuvok began again, “that you and I have not formed a closer bond in the time we have served aboard Voyager.” He deliberately steered away from talk of his time as a Federation spy on the Maquis vessel Liberty, more precisely, on Chakotay’s ship, under his command. “We have much in common. We two are both vegetarians by choice, and we both meditate regularly in order to maintain our mental and emotional stability. Also, we have acted as unofficial ship’s counselor to various crewmembers at different times. Above all else we shared an admiration for and loyalty to Captain Janeway. A close friendship forged through the years.”
“She died hating me.”
“It is by no means certain that the Captain is dead. We may yet be reunited. This is the Delta Quadrant, stranger things have happened. However, I can tell you and with total confidence, that whilst she may have been momentarily upset by your actions, her feelings towards you were always invariably positive ones.”
“How can you know that?” He knew that he was pushing, and yet the Vulcan was almost willing him on, he thought. There is something I am not asking. What is it that he’s trying to tell me?
“When we shared the Vulcan mind-meld I was privy to the Captain’s innermost thought and feelings. All of her dreams, her hopes and her fears were revealed to me. I only mention this now because it is clear to me that you are searching for inner peace, for a calm centre from which to work. Kathryn Janeway was in love with you, Chakotay. You meant everything to her. Do not doubt that. It was this love that sustained her when the pressures of command became intolerable.” His voice softened. “Now it is up to us to fulfill her greatest ambition ; to get Voyager and her crew home.”
“You’re right, Tuvok. I did need to hear that. Although it’s not quite as I imagined it, coming from your lips, that is.” He moved to stand so that he faced the windows, his back towards his companion. “I loved her too.”
“I believe that there may be an ensign assigned to cleaning plasma conduits on deck twelve who is not aware of your feelings for the Captain.”
“A joke, Tuvok?”
“Merely an attempt to lighten the mood.”
“Ah, I see. Thank-you, I think. Look, the clean-up crew isn’t a bad idea. We can put her belongings into storage and the extra space would come in handy. Just let me take a look around her quarters first. Perhaps there is something we have missed.... maybe in her logs? It’s a long shot but right now I could use something to do.” He straightened his uniform and attempted a smile for Tuvok’s benefit. “And then I promise I’ll clean myself up and get some rest. Thank-you again, my friend. Dismissed.”
Tuvok turned to exit the ready room and nodded to Seven of Nine who stood in the doorway in her customary non-relaxed way.
“Captain, may I have a word with you?”
“Of course, Seven. Come in.”
He watched as the doors closed behind her. She was a vision of perfection, clean, unruffled as always, immaculate, like something from the cover of a glossy 21st century tabloid. She was all curves and angles, a study in contrasts.
She approached him confidently and ran her index finger seductively along his rough jaw line. He realised he must look a mess. “It’s been a long time, Chakotay. I have been planning our fifth date, you look like you could use some special attention.”
His skin crawled. Was it his imagination or did she sound just like Seska? Was she crazy? He silently berated himself. She’s just an innocent. How is she to know how I felt about Kathryn? I suppose I should feel flattered she’s still interested in me. A romantic liaison with the Borg bombshell was the last thing on his mind. He just couldn’t get past the vision of Kathryn’s body spinning away into the cold vacuum of space.
He cleared his throat. “Well, that’s very flattering, Seven. I have been rather distracted lately and it has caused me to neglect you. And I’m sorry, but right now I am not in the mood for dinner by candlelight.”
“Oh, but I had something else in mind. Since the Doctor has removed my cortical fail-safe device I am free to pursue intimate relations with you. I am eager to consummate our union.”
“You what? Er, well that’s great...good for you.” He backed away from her probing hands.
“I can see that you are still upset by the Captain’s disappearance. I will give you more time to become reconciled to her loss. Please contact me when you are ready for a sexual encounter.”
He shook his head. Innocent or not, she was going too far. “Seven, how can you say that? ‘Reconciled to her loss’? She was your friend, your mentor. Don’t try to tell me you’re not hurting too. With your fail-safe gone you can experience your emotions more fully, right? You know, when others on this ship wanted you gone, it was Kathryn who fought for you, protected you.” He couldn’t believe her cold expression. He reached over and grabbed at her arm, a little more roughly than he had intended. “Damn it, Seven! Do you miss her at all?”
“I have observed the required period of mourning, Chakotay. I believe your reactions to be excessive and irrational.” She pulled her arm free of his grasp. “Captain Janeway would not have wanted us to be sad, but to celebrate her life.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. There was a time when this gesture would have reminded him of Tuvok, but Tuvok, he knew, missed Captain Janeway like hell. What he saw in Seven’s eyes left him cold. It was the look of someone who saw what they wanted and took it, whatever the cost. And she wanted him.
“She loved you, Seven.” He struggled for air. “You were the daughter she never had.”
“Naturally. I will now return to my duties. Good-bye, Captain.”
“Dismissed,” he muttered under his breath.
An hour later he stood inside Kathryn’s quarters taking silent inventory of her final hours on Voyager. The familiar sights and smells brought a fresh surge of grief with them. The table had been set for dinner, presumably the night before the shuttle incident. The food was still there, untouched but had been dried by the air recycling systems. Candles had been lit and then extinguished. He struggled to remain calm and clinical. He needed to be more like Tuvok. If there were anything to be found here at all he didn’t want to miss it. Truth be told, he wasn’t sure what he was doing in her quarters. Tuvok’s words had scared him; he hadn’t wanted strangers in here going through Kathryn’s things, touching her clothes, cataloguing her life, packing it away into sterile, airtight containers. But that was what he was doing now, wasn’t it? He had no reason to expect to find anything and Tuvok had known this. Chakotay realised that the security officer was merely humouring him by acceding to his request, and the thought was a little humiliating. He had better get on and find something.
He knew she had been expecting him for dinner and she had clearly gone to considerable trouble even though nothing had been eaten. There was an empty bottle of chardonnay there also. Kathryn must have opened the bottle whilst she waited for him to arrive, and when it became clear he wasn’t coming, she had finished it by herself. Alone.
Turning away hurriedly he sat himself down at her desk and activated her personal logs. All ship’s overrides had been transferred to him when he had assumed the Captaincy. His eyes softened as he saw her familiar face come to life before him. She was so beautiful, more so than he remembered. She was wearing her pale blue dress, which he remembered from those precious weeks they had shared together on New Earth. Her burnished auburn hair was styled slightly differently, looser and softer somehow. His heart contracted painfully. This was not to have been one of their routine meals together. What was it that she had planned for them that night? It felt wrong to be accessing her personal log entries but it was something he was compelled to do.
She smiled wistfully up at him. “Chakotay,” she began. Gods, did she always address her personal logs directly to him? “I have just heard the happy news! At first I was disappointed that my lovely home-cooked meal had gone to waste but I can always whip up another in a jiffy! Congratulations! You and Seven make such a wonderful couple and I am all for you settling down and starting a family some day. Perhaps I could even perform the wedding ceremony for you?” Something was wrong here. Chakotay shook his head and replayed the recording. It just didn’t sound like the Kathryn Janeway he knew and loved. Since when did Kathryn ‘whip up’ a home-cooked meal? Did she really say ‘jiffy’? He paused the recording and returned to take another look at the abandoned dinner table. Sure enough, there was a small, portable cooking device set up nearby. Possibly one from the galley. The meal was most definitely hand made. He smiled when he noticed the telltale scorch marks around the edges of the vegetable patties ; definitely hand made by Kathryn Janeway! She had really made an effort to please him.
He resumed the log entry. “I must say, you could have told me sooner, Chakotay! Why the deception? You must have known how pleased I would be to know that my two closest friends have found happiness in each other’s arms. If we ever get back to Earth, we can all go out together, you and Seven, myself and Mark! I can hardly wait!”
“Computer pause!” Mark? You must be joking! This was getting stranger by the minute. And talk about sickly sweet, ‘happiness in each other’s arms’! Yurk. They recalled his own words to Seven not so long ago, something about wanting to stay within transporter range of her. He shuddered. But, Mark Johnson? He knew, and Kathryn knew, there was no Mark waiting for her at home in the Alpha Quadrant. Unless he had divorced his new wife? Chakotay doubted it. No, he knew a rat when he smelled one. There was no way this was Kathryn’s personal log. Someone had seen her photos of Mark and Molly, their red setter, and had incorrectly assumed that he would be waiting for his fiancee, and maybe that Kathryn was still carrying a torch for her lost love.
He let out a low whistle. Someone had corrupted the Captain’s logs. What could anyone possibly hope to gain by tampering with Kathryn’s logs? How could they have known the logs would be accessed? Not just accessed, he thought grimly; accessed by someone other than the Captain. It was a safe bet that whoever had done this thing had known the Captain would not be around to find out. Now that he had found what he was looking for, what else might be uncovered? “Chakotay to Lt. Tuvok.”
“Tuvok, are you alone?”
“Affirmative. I am in my quarters.”
“Can you meet me in Kath...in Captain Janeway’s quarters?”
“Of course. When would you like me there?”
“Now, Tuvok. Now.”
After watching the suspicious log entry Tuvok sat back in his seat and raised both eyebrows. He was quite clearly thunderstruck. He and Chakotay quickly agreed upon a plan of action. Chakotay’s discovery called for secrecy. It was decided that they proceed as though nothing out of the ordinary had been noted. A clean up crew was duly called for and most of the Captain’s belongings were packed away into storage containers to be returned to the Janeway family if and when the occasion arose. Chakotay kept a couple of small items for himself, a hairbrush and a worn copy of Dante’s Inferno. Tuvok warned him against getting his hopes up and he was right. Although Captain Janeway’s logs had clearly been tampered with in some way, it did not necessarily follow that the culprit was also responsible for the Captain’s disappearance. Nevertheless, keen observers would have noticed a small spring in Chakotay’s step that night that had been absent for the past month. This was the Delta Quadrant, stranger things happened daily. He thought it an unlikely coincidence that the Captain was lost the day after recording a log that was subsequently altered.
When next they met, Tuvok had the proof Chakotay was looking for.
“It is as we had surmised. The Captain’s log was tampered with. Very little of the file that you showed me was original. That file was a composite created by utilising fragments of previous entries and sophisticated holoimaging that made the whole flow together seamlessly. I was able to restore over ninety-seven percent of the original log entry and its contents differed significantly.”
“Can I see it?”
“Certainly, Captain. If you require my assistance I will be on the bridge.”
Chakotay waited until he was alone before accessing the restored entry. Her image had not been altered at all, just the content. “Well, that’s it then, he’s not coming.” She paused to take a sip from her wineglass. “Ironic, isn’t it? The first successful home cooked meal I’ve made and Chakotay’s off quaffing some awful Leola root concoction in the mess hall with Seven.” Her eyes misted over. “Oh Chakotay, what’s happened to us? Have I been so insufferable? You know, I never told you this but Seven had a holographic First Officer she had been practicing her relationship skills on. He was nothing like you. I met him once, accessed her program whilst she regenerated. He was far too gushy and sentimental, no trace of Maquis warrior there, I can tell you! And he ate meat, which is a small thing to pick on, but I found it irritating nonetheless. And now I think I should have given you fair warning but I guess I just didn’t believe that she would move on to using those skills on you.
"Bah! Who am I kidding! Of course she wanted you! Who wouldn’t? After all these years your smile still takes my breath away. The sad thing is that I really can’t blame you for being interested in her too. She’s young, intelligent, and those damned bazookas! You have been so patient, waited for so long. Well damn Starfleet and damn protocol.” He looked on in horror as she began to weep. “That ridiculous spirit guide of mine kept insisting that we were soul mates, that nothing could keep us apart. Stupid little lizard, what the hell would she know, anyway?” She sniffed and wiped her eyes. “I’ve got to pull myself together, can’t have the Captain fall to pieces like.... Hang on I’ve got a message coming through.” The recording blurred as it was paused and when it resumed Kathryn looked the way she had on the bridge that morning. Angry.
“I just got your message Chakotay. So nice of you to send me a warning. But don’t I even get a right of reply? And what the hell do you mean you don’t care for me anymore? Since when? She’s half your age for chrissakes! What is it with men? I just don’t understand. You know what really gets to me Chakotay? How could my best friend calmly sit there and record a message telling me to stay out of his life? It’s like I don’t know you, like I never really knew you at all.... Unless... hold that thought, I’ll be right back.”
Chakotay reached up and brushed the darkened screen with his fingertips. “You are the only one who did know me, Kathryn. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you when I had the chance. Forgive me.” There was now no doubt in his mind that it was Seven of Nine who had manipulated the log entry. The whole thing was a nightmare. First Seska, now Seven. He had lousy taste in women. Mostly. He couldn’t begin to understand why anyone would go to these lengths in order to pursue a relationship with him. It was insane. He sat back and gazed out at the stars. Why? Why would she do such thing? There was only one way to find out.
All eyes turned to him as he arrived on the bridge. “Tuvok, I want her in the brig, now.” He waited for Tuvok to leave and then turned to face his crew. “I know this is going to be hard for you all to believe but I have evidence that implicates Seven of Nine in Captain Janeway’s disappearance. I’m not prepared to show it to you just yet. It’s a little too personal. I am hoping to get a confession from her first. And I’d like to apologise to you all for behaving so badly over the past few weeks. I know it has been hard on us all, coming to terms with the loss of our Captain. You have all continued to perform your duties in an exemplary manner and it will be noted in your service records. If there is any chance that Captain Janeway is still alive, I promise you that we will find her. If she is not, then I intend to honour her memory by getting you all home. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a Borg to interrogate.”
He met Tuvok outside the lock-up. “Tuvok, old friend, I may need you to do the talking.” He took a deep breath as Tuvok nodded his assent. Chakotay was tired, bone weary, and he knew his emotional control was balanced on a knife-edge. Tuvok took his arm to steady him as he swayed on his feet. “I just can’t believe she would do such a thing. It seems incredible to me.”
“I am afraid that from my perspective most human actions appear illogical. Try to remember that Seven has only recently had her fail-safe device removed. The intensity of her new found emotions may well have been too much for her to control. I was remiss in not offering her the benefit of my tutelage. I have noticed that her companions were all most willing to help her explore the more positive aspects of human emotion ; love, friendship, respect. But what of the darker side? When she became romantically involved, she would have been exposed to fear, jealousy, envy, and insecurity. It could be said that we all have a share in her failure.”
Chakotay smiled. “Was that supposed to make me feel better? Don’t answer that! Let’s get it over with. After you, Commander.”
“Chakotay, Tuvok...why am I being detained?” Seven was attempting to bluff her way out.
“You are under arrest for tampering with Voyagers logs.”
“You have no evidence that it was I who altered Captain Janeway’s logs.”
“I never mentioned Captain Janeway. Why would you assume it is her logs to which I refer?”
Seven’s clear blue eyes flickered from Tuvok to Chakotay, attempting to assess the situation. Her bluff was not working.
“Please do not attempt to deny the accusation. You are the only member of the Voyager crew with the technical ability and the motive to commit this crime. I must also warn you that you are implicated in Captain Janeway’s death.” Seven dropped her defensive posture. It was pointless to continue her denials.
“That was an accident. I never meant her to die, I merely wished her out of the way.”
“I was able to create a conduit just large enough to draw in a federation shuttlecraft. I had run several holodeck simulations and none of them resulted in the conduit collapsing or the destruction of the shuttle. I am at a loss to explain what happened that day.”
“You say that it was not your intention to harm Captain Janeway? What precisely were your intentions?”
“I suggest you access my simulations and analyse them for yourself. I had intended the Delta Flyer be drawn into the conduit and safely transferred to another sector of space, far enough away to prevent its contacting Voyager again.”
“I am curious to know how you could be so certain that the Captain would be aboard the Flyer that Day.”
“She was upset, having received a message from Commander Chakotay the night before indicating that he no longer cared for her. It was a message I had created, of course. Chakotay would never have sent it. The next morning I suggested to her that she take some time to herself, and indicated that the Flyer was due another test run. She seemed eager to comply.”
Chakotay stepped forward and leant his tall frame against the cell doorway. “Another sector, you say? Where Seven? Where would you have sent her? Vidiian space? Kazon? Maybe fluidic space? You say you had no intention of harming her, that you didn’t want Kathryn to die, but how long would she have survived out there, alone?”
“The Flyer was well provisioned and stocked with extra medical supplies. Kathryn Janeway is a strong, resourceful woman and more than capable of forming alliances that would keep her safe and well.”
“I don’t understand, Seven. Why? Why would you do something like this?”
“I am neither as blind nor as naive as you seem to think. It was obvious to me that you were in love with her. Have you any idea how it felt knowing this? And then there were the helpful suggestions from Torres, Kim, Ayala, and even Naomi Wildman.... leave him alone Seven, choose someone else, you have your pick of Voyager’s crew. The Doctor was most willing to be a substitute. It was humiliating. I loved you. I wanted you, Chakotay, not some holographic replacement.” Her speech struck a chord with Chakotay. In his opinion too many of the crew had resorted to holographic partners rather than face the pleasures and the pains of a real relationship. Captain Janeway included.
“That’s true, Seven. A real relationship with a breathing, feeling human being is one of life’s greatest gifts. But sometimes things can go wrong and misunderstandings occur that may be hurtful. That’s the price we pay. Seven, if you were hurting, confused, angry even, you could have come to me. I thought you trusted me. Instead you have destroyed any chance the two of us had of finding happiness together. Whatever you may believe about my feelings for Kathryn Janeway, I would have listened to you. We could have worked through this together, as a team. And if it hadn’t worked out for us then we could have parted amicably, remained friends. And Kathryn would still be alive.”
Seven did not blink as she watched the tears begin to gather in his dark eyes. “There is nothing you can say that I wish to hear. I believed that with Captain Janeway gone you would have finally been free to love me the way I deserve to be loved. Not in half measures. I see now that I was mistaken. You will never be free of Kathryn Janeway. Alive or dead you will always belong to her. I could have made you happy, Chakotay. There was no pleasure that I would have denied you. I would have been your wife, the Mother of your children, your lover and your best friend. Many men would value this gift. You could have had it all ; it was yours for the taking.”
“I would have liked that, had I been given a choice. If you had had the decency to allow me to choose, I may have chosen you. As it is we will never know.”
“You say that but you would never have given me your heart.”
“You don’t know that. In time ...”
“Enough! I saw Captain Janeway’s logs. She would never have stood by and let me take you for my own. Not without a fight. And she always got what she wanted, didn’t she? Well this time it is I who have won. Maybe I can’t have you, Chakotay. But neither can she.”
Tuvok took Chakotay’s arm and guided him away from the cell door. “And you are certain that the Captain is dead?” He would never understand the value humans placed on their emotions. The cost was quite simply too great. He had lost a friend also that day. They all had.
“Even the almighty Kathryn Janeway could not have survived the collapse of that rift. The Flyer would most certainly have been pulverised and sucked back into subspace.” She paused, and for the first time she appeared uncertain of herself. “May I inquire what it is you intend doing with me?”
“What would you have us do?”
“It is my wish that I be put off Voyager at the next suitable M-class planet we encounter.”
“It may be possible to accommodate you. You will be informed of the Captain’s decision.”
With Tuvok’s gentle guidance, Chakotay made it back to his quarters. Whilst he seated himself Tuvok moved to the replicator and ordered two Vulcan spice teas. “In view of Seven’s confession I would like to access her holodeck simulations with Lt. Torres.”
“Captain, may I offer my condolences? If I can be of any help, you have only to summon me. We could both use the benefits of meditations at this time.”
“What good would it do, Tuvok? Will it bring Kathryn back?”
“The Captain spoke of her spirit guide in her log entries. This is part of your belief system, is it not? Then perhaps it would comfort you to contact her guide and attempt to convey your final farewells.”
“Yes. You’re right. Why didn’t I think of that? It may be possible to get a message to her. I have found great peace and wisdom in my conversations with my Father, Kolopak, even though he has long since left this life.”
“I wish you luck. Please convey my regards if you are able and also my deepest regrets that our journey together has ended.”
“I’ll do that Tuvok.”
Chakotay wasted no time in locating his medicine bundle and spreading it out upon the floor before him. Placing his hand on the Akoonah, he began the ritual chant which would take him into the deep trance like state which allowed him access to the realms of his ancestral spirits. When at last he looked up, he found himself seated before an open fire, the night noises of the desert soothed him and if he looked up he could make out the familiar constellations of the Alpha Quadrant.
This place had always brought him peace. It was good to return here to be reminded of the indestructibility of the human essence. However fleeting our earthly existence, we would all find a home here; an eternal peace. He reflected on his tumultuous relationship with Kathryn Janeway. They had always been more to each other than just good friends. There was always the promise of something more. It seemed that now his most sacred of dreams was never to become a reality. He would never again hold her in his arms, would never know the secret thrill within when she finally declared her love for him.
He awaited the arrival of his own special spirit guide with patience. Time had little meaning for her. When eventually she did arrive, the beautiful gray she-wolf sat on her haunches and studied him awhile. He greeted her in the formal manner of wolves and then made his request. He wished her to contact Kathryn’s spirit guide, a lizard of some sort, and request she carry a message to his Captain. She had simply smiled and nodded, then turning, loped off into the darkness. He returned his gaze to the fire and tried to focus his thoughts and feelings. Freed from the restraints of his physical form he no longer experienced the various aches and pains that had haunted him now for weeks. There remained the same sense of grief and a heightened awareness of his own mortality. What was it that he most wanted to tell her? That he loved her, that he missed her, or that for him the long voyage home to Earth had lost its meaning? Words could not convey the enormity of his loss. He was incomplete without her.
“Well hello there.” He felt a hand on his shoulder and lifted his eyes from the dancing flames. He would know that voice anywhere. Her guide had not come. It could only be Kathryn herself who now stood behind him. He found he was unable to turn around, unwilling to confirm, finally, that she was truly gone. “What’s wrong, Chakotay? No words of welcome for an old friend?”
Chakotay closed his eyes at the bittersweet sound.
“Chakotay?” He felt rather than heard her circle around to face him.
“Forgive me, Kathryn. It’s more painful than I imagined. If only it was me who had died, instead of you...” He felt her take his shaking hands in her own.
“Dead? What makes you think I’m dead?”
When he opened his eyes he saw that she was squatting down between himself and the fire, her head slightly titled to one side, a sad smile playing across her features. Unexpectedly, she was still wearing her red and black uniform. “Hello again,” she whispered. “You know, I’ve missed you, Chakotay.”
His eyes watered. Now he was unable to look away. Those brilliant blue eyes held him immobile.
“I swear it, Chakotay. I am as alive as you are, just meditating here aboard the Flyer. I was sitting on the shore of Lake George when this adorable wolf came to me and asked me to follow her. Who would have thought they were so polite?”
There were souls, he had heard told, who were lost, unaware that they had passed over. If he could help her find her way he would. It was the least he could do.
“Listen to me Kathryn. There was a shuttle accident, you were aboard the Flyer. You were angry with me and flying dangerously.”
She held up a hand to stop him. “I was teaching that smart-ass flyboy at the helm a thing or two about evasive maneuvers. My apologies, please continue.”
“Ensign Kim detected a subspace rift forming and we tried to warn you but you wouldn’t listen. Gods Kathryn, one minute you were on our screens and the next ...” He couldn’t finish.
“Now you listen to me, Commander. I know what it looked like. But that is not what happened. You have to believe me. I wasn’t angry with you that morning. It was all an act. It was Seven, Chakotay. I know that you will find this hard to believe, I did too at first. I knew that she was up to something as soon as I got that ridiculous message from you. And I had to find out what it was, so I played along. It was she who suggested I take the Flyer out that day so I was expecting the unexpected, you could say. As I neared this rift, as you call it, it had already begun to collapse and it would have pulled me in if I hadn’t jumped to warp speed and then ejected the core. The core blew, there was an almighty flash and when I came to, Voyager was gone.”
“So you’re alive? You actually survived the collapse? I don’t know what to say...I know all about Seven, she has confessed to wanting you gone and I’ll let you decide what to do with her just as soon as we get you back. Can you give me your location?”
“I wish I could! I lost sensors along with most of the Flyer's systems, including communications. Luckily life support is still online or I really would be talking to you now from the other side.”
“But that’s no better. Kathryn, we may never find you.”
“Never fear, Janeway’s here. I took along a viridian patch, just to be on the safe side. Tuvok will understand. It’s the same technology Captain Kirk used to bust himself off of Rura Penthe. Tuvok will know how to locate me, trust me. With any luck I didn’t get too far. The Flyer has plenty of rations remaining. It seems Seven has a conscience after all. But, Commander, and I want you to understand this in no uncertain terms, if I have to go another month without a hot bath and a decent cup of coffee I will not be answerable for my mental stability. Do I make myself clear?”
“Aye Captain.” He smiled his first real smile in a long, long time. He hadn’t realised just how much he had missed being called Commander.
“That’s more like it!”
“Kathryn, you can’t know what it has been like without you.”
“Hey! I’ve been pretty lonely myself you know.”
“All I could think about was how stupid and selfish I’ve been. I betrayed you, Kathryn. You trusted me and I let you down. Can you ever forgive me?”
“I can see that we have a lot to talk about and I don’t know how long we have left here, so I’ll be brief. You did not betray me. I don’t hold you in any way responsible for Seven’s actions. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing for me to forgive. It is I who should be asking your forgiveness, Chakotay. There’s simply no excuse for the way I’ve treated you. At the very least I have taken you for granted all these years. There’s not a protocol I haven’t thrown out the airlock when it suited me. I’ve been a coward and if I ever make it back to Voyager, that’s going to stop.”
“What are you saying?”
“I guess what I am trying to say is that I am tired of being alone. I have had a lot of time to think over things lately and if you’ll still have me I would like to take the time to get to know you again, and to rebuild our friendship. I love you Chakotay. Please don’t tell me that it’s too late for us.”
“Tuvok said that you loved me. I could hardly believe it, after all this time. Then I saw your logs.”
“You did what?”
“I thought you were dead, remember? Actually, Seven had been there too. She corrupted the last entry. That’s how we discovered something was wrong.”
“What made you suspicious?”
His eyes twinkled with mischief. “That bit about you cooking a decent meal.”
She laughed and stood up. “You’ve got some nerve, Mister! I’ve a good mind to cook you another.”
“I’ll alert sickbay!” It was just like old times.
He stood and moved to her side and they remained this way in silence, staring into the fire. After a time he turned and pulled her into his arms. “We’ll find you, Kathryn,” he whispered into her hair, “and when we do I am going to show you exactly how much I have missed you. Your guide was right, Kathryn. We are destined to be together, and there’s no power in this universe that can keep us apart.”
As he awoke and his mind began to clear, Chakotay realised that he was no longer in his quarters. The smells, the sounds, the low lighting, and the feel of the hard bed beneath him all confirmed for him that he was in Voyager’s sickbay. Something wasn’t right, he knew. There was something he needed to do, urgently. His pulse began to increase in speed, causing a series of small warning bleeps to issue from his bio-monitor. What is it? I had a message to give to someone…something important…Tuvok….Kathryn!
“Kathryn!” He shouted and his sat bolt upright in bed. Almost immediately he felt the room start to spin and fell back down against his pillow, battling a sudden wave of nausea.
“Hello Again.” Turning his head to one side, he found that he was not alone.
“Kathryn? Please don’t tell me this was all a dream, I don’t think I could stand it. How long have I been here?” As bad as the past few weeks had been, he wouldn’t have wished them gone.
“Just relax, Commander. I assure you, this is no dream. Tuvok got your message right before you blacked out. Seems you’ve been neglecting yourself lately. You know, just because you’re the Captain, it doesn’t mean you can go without eating or sleeping, and I should know, I’ve tried it often enough.”
Chakotay closed his eyes and waited for his heart rate to steady. He became uncomfortably aware that he was clad only in a thin sickbay sheet.
“How long have I been out of it?”
“Well, let’s see now…. It took Tuvok sixteen hours at Warp Eight to collect me, and I’ve been back now for at least twenty-odd hours. That would make it nearly two days.”
“Some of that time you were kept sedated so that the Doctor could keep you under observation, and pump you full of vitamins and nutrients too, I guess. You gave me quite a scare. Here I was expecting you to be there to greet me with open arms…. So much for the romantic homecoming! I don’t understand it, Chakotay. When I met you beside the fire that night you looked fine.”
“Actually, you were a sight for sore eyes! Despite the brave face, I had almost given up hope of a rescue. I could have kissed you when I saw you sitting there.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Sorry, I had other things on my mind.” She smiled. “It won’t happen again.”
“Are you sure about that? How do I know you haven’t changed your mind?”
“I could show you.” She slid her hands across his chest and onto his shoulders, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on his. Her warm smile and sudden proximity were making him dizzy.
“Chakotay, it’s important for you to keep breathing. This is going to be a very short first kiss if you’re going to black out again.”
He drew in a shaky breath and smiled up at her. In the subdued lighting of the sickbay’s night-cycle, she looked like an angel hovering above him. And then her lips touched his. He wrapped his bare arms around her waist and drew her in closer to him. He just couldn’t seem to get her close enough. All of his senses went into overload; registering the silken texture of her lips, the gentle puffs of her breath against his open mouth, and the familiar musky scent of her hair as it fell about her face. The urgency of their kiss picked up a pace and she dropped her hand and allowed it to slip beneath the light hospital sheet which lay across his stomach. The touch of her cool hand on his heated flesh was unbearably exquisite. He could feel himself begin to lose control, and not wanting to embarrass them both he broke off the passionate kiss and pulled her hands away from him. Kathryn sat back and glanced up at his monitors. “What’s wrong? I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have assumed… “
He lifted a large, bronze hand to her face and smiled a beautiful smile, like the sunrise. His skin was flushed and his eyes were so dark they almost looked to be black. “Kathryn, it’s OK. You can assume anything you want any time you want. It’s just that… It’s been so long, I don’t know how to say this…”
“Just spill it, Commander.”
“As you say. I’m not going to last much longer.”
Her eyes widened in understanding and she followed his gaze back to the crumpled linen. “Well now, that’s not necessarily a problem, Chakotay.”
“Kathrynnnn…. You’re not thinking of…”
The words died on his lips as she proceeded to pull back the bed linen and demonstrate exactly what it was she had just been thinking of. It was an exceptional demonstration, although brief.
When Tom and B’Elanna entered the sickbay moments later Captain Janeway was to be seen quietly sipping her usual cuppa with not a hair out of place. Chakotay lay on his bed with his eyes closed and a look of supreme peace on his face.
“Ah, Lieutenants Paris, good of you to pay us a visit.”
“Say, where’s the Doc?”
Chakotay opened an eye and watched Kathryn Janeway closely. She had nerves of steel.
“Something came up and I had to take him off-line.”
Shrugging, Tom stepped up to the bio-bed and began to study the readouts.
B’Elanna came over to get a better look at Chakotay. “How’s he doing?”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
“Sure, just playing possum. Wake up Commander, you have visitors. That’s an order.” He smiled and slowly opened his eyes to greet his friends.
“B’Elanna, Tom, it’s good to see you.”
As they spoke, Tom double-checked the Commander’s bio-readings and scratched his head. “You know, “ he interrupted, grinning in his disarmingly boyish way,” if I didn’t know better I’d say ….” The words died on his lips as he realised the full import of what he was about to say. Nah.
Kathryn gave him a look of innocent curiosity. “Yes, Tom?”
A blush slowly crept across his face as he recalled her words, something came up … He shook his head. Couldn’t be.
“Nothing Captain, must be losing my mind.”
“Have you had a blow to the head recently?” Was it his imagination, or had she just winked at him? He looked from the Captain to the Commander and back again. Chakotay was trying hard to keep a straight face.
“Ah … B’Elanna … I’ve just remembered, I was supposed to be going over those fuel consumption reports with you before Alpha shift starts.”
“Can it wait Tom?”
“No. I don’t think so.” He took her arm and began to drag her away.
“What on earth’s gotten into you flyboy?”
“Good to see you both doing so well Captain, Commander. We have to have dinner some time, catch a movie. Bye.”
“You want to tell me what that was all about?” asked Chakotay, still smiling.
“Just giving Mister Paris a chance to get his bets in order. It’s the least I can do, he’s just about the only one who hadn’t stopped betting on us getting together.”
“It certainly took us long enough. Personally, I think a ship-wide announcement is in order.”
“Oh you do? Well, Commander, I’ll have you know that I have every intention of informing everyone about our relationship; when I’m ready for it to become common property.”
He laughed,” and just when would that be, Kathryn?”
“All in good time Chakotay, all in good time.”
She leaned forward and they shared another kiss.
“Tuvok to Captain Janeway.” The Captain sighed, some things were just universal constants.
“Yes Tuvok. What can I do for you?” She gave Chakotay’s hand a squeeze.
“If you are free, I would like to discuss the issue of Seven of Nine’s relocation with you.”
“Actually Tuvok, the Commander here owes me one home cooked meal and his, shall we say... undivided attention, and I’m not leaving until I get his answer.” Then she noticed the look of horror on Chakotay’s face. “Tuvok, you didn’t have me on loud-speaker just then did you?”
“My apologies, Captain. Perhaps you would care to rephrase your last statement?”
“Yes, thank-you Tuvok. What I meant to say was that I am not anticipating an evening of Curried Leola-sausage and Consumption Reports. We’ll schedule a meeting to discuss Seven’s fate tomorrow, say 0930 hours.”
“Very well, Captain. Please enjoy your meal and give my regards to the Commander.”
She turned to Chakotay and shrugged. “Well, I think that went well, don’t you?”
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