Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and all of its characters are the property of
Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Part of the Glory Days Universe. This story takes
place 2 weeks after the events of "Act of War" by Seema, and "Empty Sky"
by Seema and yours truly. It is recommended you read those first.
Many thanks to Seema for her excellent beta, and for her vision and
help in shaping this series.
Warning: This story features violence and/or drastic events that
may be disturbing to some readers.
STAND BY ME
The door to the ship's observation deck opened. Tuvok turned from his solitary
contemplation of the stars as Admiral Janeway entered. She slowly made her
way toward him, leaning heavily on a duranium cane, her face set in grim lines.
Tuvok made no move to assist her, knowing how much the Admiral valued her
independence--and how it would gall her to rely on others.
Janeway awkwardly lowered herself into a nearby chair. Her breathing rate
was accelerated, her face flushed. She shifted her position, trying to get
comfortable, and winced slightly as she did so. Fixing him with a baleful
gaze, she lifted her hand in warning. "Don't say a word."
Tuvok raised an eyebrow, but remained silent.
"I mean it--not one word about how I'm not supposed to be out of bed, that
I should be resting. I know my body isn't entirely healed, and that by all
rights I should still be in that hospital on Vulcan."
"Since you have presented the case for me," Tuvok said mildly, "I clearly
do not need to say anything further."
She shot a look at him, as if gauging how much sarcasm was behind his words.
"Don't play the innocent with me, Tuvok--I know you're on this ship in the
capacity of my keeper, to ensure I stay out of trouble."
"That would be an unenviable, if not impossible task," he said, "but fortunately
I am not acting as your 'keeper.' I am merely traveling with you, as I too
wish to return to Earth."
"So we can both attend the memorial service," Janeway acknowledged quietly,
all irritation dissipating from her voice. A spasm of pain washed over her
features; Tuvok knew it had nothing to do with any physical discomfort she
was experiencing. "I can't believe he's really gone."
"Indeed," he said, watching her closely for any outward signs of emotional
distress. She had not cried when he first broke the news of Harry Kim's death
to her; as far as he knew, she had not shed any tears since. For a person
who normally felt things so deeply, her control troubled him.
Tuvok himself had not been unaffected by the loss of a former colleague--and
a friend. Immediately upon being notified of the events in the Neutral Zone,
he had performed the ritual of kayl m'aleh in the privacy of his own
home--a rite of closure, and of farewell--before hurrying to the hospital
complex in ShiKahr. The needs of the living took priority, but that did not
mean the dead were any less important.
And now he was less than 72 hours away from Earth, where another ceremony
would take place, this time in the company of the deceased's friends and family.
Unbidden, an image of Harry Kim rose in his mind--the eager young ensign
on Voyager's bridge. The Ops and Tactical stations had been situated
near each other; over the years Tuvok had become familiar with Harry's habits
and mannerisms, the smooth rhythms of his hands, the frown of concentration
as he performed his duties. And always his boundless enthusiasm.
Perhaps he had been wrong about the tears; Janeway passed her hand over
her eyes. "Would it have been too much to ask for Harry to have survived
too?" she asked with more than a hint of bitterness. "After being pulled
from the wreckage of the Minuteman just minutes before it exploded--why
was he rescued only to die shortly afterwards?"
"His injuries were too severe," Tuvok said, aware of how inadequate his
answer was, but not knowing what else to say. Of the dozen individuals--out
of a crew complement of 60--who had been beamed to safety by the Livingston
, two had been pronounced dead upon arrival. Three others, including Harry
Kim, had died before receiving any medical treatment, their status having
initially been deemed 'less critical' during a hurried triage. It was not
entirely the fault of the doctors--the medical staff of the Livingston
had already been overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties sustained
in the battle; neither of the other ships, the Concord or the Ticonderoga
, had fared any better. But Tuvok did not repeat this out loud, not wanting
to add to the guilt Janeway must be feeling.
Janeway gave a short, humorless laugh. "I suppose we'd already used up our
quota of miracles?"
"Some might say it was nothing short of a miracle that you and B'Elanna
Torres--as well as the other five crewmen--survived when so many others perished,"
Tuvok pointed out.
Her expression softened. "Yes, thank God B'Elanna survived, even though
she..." Janeway's voice trailed off and then her lips tightened. "Why didn't
the doctors put Harry in stasis, until he could be transferred to another
ship, instead of just leaving him alone to die?" she demanded.
Tuvok turned to face her squarely. "Stasis tubes, along with other medical
supplies, were in short supply. Only the most critical cases were consigned
to them--those whose injuries were clearly beyond the capacity of the ship's
sickbay, even if it were operating under optimal conditions."
She was silent for a long moment. "I know, Tuvok." She closed her eyes wearily.
"Just like I know I was given the last stasis tube the Livingston had
Tuvok leaned forward and said urgently, "It was a question of need, Admiral."
Was she under the impression that her life had been saved at the expense of
someone else? That it was because of her rank? "You must believe that there
was no other consideration involved." He waited until she slowly nodded, then
added, "And even a stasis chamber does not necessarily guarantee survival."
Tuvok waited patiently while the Vulcan Healer, T'Mol, finished making
an adjustment to one of the consoles next to the Admiral's bedside, and then
watched while she pressed a hypospray to the patient's neck. "Has there been
any change in her condition?"
T'Mol did not look up from her task. "Admiral Janeway is beginning
to respond to the treatment. Her cardiovascular system is now functioning
within normal parameters. However, there is residual damage to her neurological
system. This was not an entirely unforeseen possibility, though it is still
"Are you saying that she may not recover?" Tuvok was careful to keep
his voice level, though inside he felt a current of alarm.
"The long-term prognosis is still unclear. As you are aware, the
Admiral's injuries were nearly fatal." T'Mol's eyes met his. "There is no
question that she would have died within minutes had the physicians on the
Livingston not had the foresight to place her in stasis until she
could be transferred to our facilities here in ShiKahr. But even stasis is
not a panacea; though the body's metabolic activities are halted, any circulating
toxins--released at the moment of injury--are still present. Once the patient
is 'revived', the rate of cellular decay is vastly accelerated. That is what
has occurred in the Admiral's case. We are endeavoring to repair the damage,
but the rate of progress is slow."
Tuvok bowed his head. "I see."
T'Mol paused by the door. "The Admiral may regain consciousness sometime
in the next 24 hours. We will have a better understanding then of what to
expect in terms of recovery." She left quietly, her movements unhurried.
Tuvok sat down once more by Janeway's bedside, arranging his crumpled
robes as best he could and settled down to wait. He had hardly stirred at
all for the past three days, ever since the Admiral had first arrived at the
hospital complex on Vulcan. A total of ten days had passed since the battle
in the Neutral Zone; the Admiral had spent seven of those in stasis. Even
now, her hold on life was still tenuous at best.
Tuvok glanced at Janeway's pale, wan face, at her dark-lashed eyes
which remained closed. Her chest rose and fell with regularity under the thin
silvery sheet, assisted by the mechanical ventilator hissing softly near
the head of her bed. A monitor opposite emitted a series of muted beeps and
then quieted once more.
Tuvok reached out and gently smoothed her hair back from her forehead.
Her skin felt cold to his touch, cold even for a Human. With a repressed sigh,
he brought his hands together, closed his eyes, and began to meditate.
"I've been going over the battle again and again in my mind," Janeway said
now, staring out the main viewport. A silvery-blue nebula was spread out before
them, obscuring many of the stars. "What I should have done differently. After
Captain Phillips was killed, I ordered the crew of the Minuteman
to abandon ship. But by then there was so much debris, so many blocked passageways,
it was virtually impossible for them to get to the escape pods. The ship had
become a death trap. If only I had known--I should have overridden Phillips
and ordered everyone out much sooner."
"Even if the crew had abandoned ship earlier, there is no certainty they
would have survived," Tuvok said. "As you are undoubtedly aware, the Amherst
managed to launch their pods, but many of them were caught in the backwash
when their ship exploded. Other escape pods were destroyed by the Romulans;
fewer than one in five were recovered by the Starfleet 'search and recovery'
vessels." He waited for her reaction, but she was quiet. He hastened to reassure
her. "Regardless, it was Captain Phillips' decision, not yours. He believed
the ship could still be salvaged, until the very end. Before his death, your
only priority was negotiating with the Romulan commander--trying to stop the
battle, not command a starship."
"Yes, negotiations." She grimaced. "After two months' worth of effort--empty
talk, as it turned out to be--to avoid ending up in that precise situation,
we still had an outbreak of hostilities."
Tuvok shook his head. "You were making excellent progress, Admiral. The
Romulans had finally agreed--in principle--to allow Starfleet to deal with
the Ponzi, instead of continuing to take matters into their own hands. It
was not your fault that events conspired against you that last day."
Janeway exhaled slowly. "No, I suppose not. Though doubtless now that all
the excitement has died down, Starfleet is going to launch a very thorough
investigation." She fell silent. Tuvok wondered if she were thinking about
how the whole thing had begun.
For months, tensions had been escalating between the Federation and the
Romulans over the issue of the Ponzi indiscriminately attacking colonies
along both sides of the Neutral Zone. The Romulans' insistence on personally
dealing with the raiders had brought the fragile peace with the Federation
close to the breaking point. The current crisis had been precipitated when
the Amherst, one of the ships on patrol in the vicinity, had fired
a warning shot at a Ponzi ship. Somehow, a Romulan freighter was struck instead.
Claiming a deliberate provocation, the Romulans had promptly retaliated;
the Amherst was disabled, as was the Minuteman who had moved
in to assist. Further complicating the issue had been the fact that the
Amherst and Minuteman had crossed into the Neutral Zone. Before
the battle ended, both ships had been destroyed. The three other Starfleet
ships in the vicinity had sustained severe damage as well.
"I would be surprised if the investigation has not begun already." Tuvok
stood. "Would you like something to drink?" he asked. At her quick nod, he
went over to the replicator and moments later, handed her a steaming cup.
Janeway took a sip and then made a face. "That's not coffee."
"You are correct, Admiral. It is a non-caffeinated herbal tea." As she started
to object, he continued, "The Healers were quite firm that you should avoid
all caffeinated beverages during your recovery period."
"Then it's a good thing I'm no longer on Vulcan--even if I am on a Vulcan
ship. Hopefully Starfleet Medical treats its patients in a less draconian
fashion," Janeway said, putting the cup down on an adjacent table with a look
of distaste. "Though the Doctor will no doubt have restrictions of his own
for me to follow--he promised as much when I spoke to him before my release
from the hospital." She forced a smile. "He can be very stubborn, you know."
"Indeed. Though no more stubborn than you are."
"Your refusal to leave the bridge of the Minuteman while you believed
there was still a chance--however remote--you could solve the crisis," Tuvok
said, leaning forward. "Even though you were injured when the console next
to you exploded--killing Captain Phillips and severely incapacitating his
first officer--you still clung to your post while ordering the others to safety."
If Tuvok had been Human, he suspected he would have been unable to
say those words so calmly. Even after many years of serving with Kathryn Janeway,
he still found her almost cavalier disregard for her own personal safety
"Yes, and I'd do it again in a minute if the situation were the same," Janeway
shot back. "You know as well as I do what was at stake."
Surprised, he raised his eyes to meet her defiant gaze. "Your willingness
to sacrifice your own life in the pursuit of peace did appear to make a favorable
impression on the Romulan Commander," Tuvok conceded. "It may have also contributed
to your ultimate success in convincing him to stand down."
"I just hope Admiral Nechayev doesn't screw things up now that she's taken
over the task of negotiations," Janeway muttered under her breath, adding
sardonically, "So it was a happy ending after all."
Tuvok frowned. "'There are no happy endings in history, only crisis points
that pass,'" he said, quoting an ancient Terran writer. "But for now, it does
appear that war with the Romulans has been averted, and the situation with
the Ponzi raiders dealt with as well." He took a sip of his own tea, which
had grown cold in the meantime. "It was also fortuitous that near the end
of the battle the Livingston was able to move in close enough to the
Minuteman to beam out any life signs they could detect. At least a
few more lives were saved that way." Including hers.
She did not answer right away. "But so many still died, Tuvok," Janeway
said at last, her voice breaking. "So many who had the rest of their lives
ahead of them." The expression on her face was identical to the way she had
looked when she had heard the news the first time.
Janeway's eyes fluttered open and she took a long shuddering breath.
"Commander?" she called, in a weak voice. Her fingers plucked at the bedsheet,
as if seeking something--or someone.
Tuvok was at her side in a second. "I am here, Admiral." He moved
in closer so he was in her field of vision.
Her eyes focused on his face in bewilderment. "Tuvok? Where is--where
am I? What happened?"
"You are in the ShiKahr medical complex on Vulcan, Admiral. You were
injured..." He attempted to fill her in on the situation as succinctly as
possible, but she interrupted.
"War has been averted, Admiral," Tuvok reassured her. "You succeeded
in your mission."
Janeway struggled to sit up. "But the ship, the Minuteman--"
Tuvok exchanged glances with the Healer as they attempted to get
her to lie back down. "Admiral, you must rest--"
"No! I have to know!" Feeble though she was, urgency lent strength
to her movements. "Tell me--what happened to the Minuteman?"
"It was destroyed," Tuvok said reluctantly.
Janeway stopped struggling at once. With a terrible certainty, he
knew what was coming, though he wished he could forestall any further questions
on her part.
"Any survivors?" Janeway asked, a note of hope--or was it desperation?--in
"Only a few," he said, quickly adding, "B'Elanna was one of them."
She swallowed. "And Harry?"
"Admiral--Kathryn, I am sorry."
Her face contorted and for a moment he thought she was going
to burst into sobs or screams. But all she did was close her eyes and turn
her face toward the wall.
Watching her now, Tuvok reminded himself that she was a strong woman. She
would recover from this blow, just like her body would recover from the physical
wounds she had sustained. But the eyes that met his were still full of pain.
"There's no getting away from it, is there, Tuvok?" she said, a note of
defeat in her voice.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Janeway sighed. "It's just like it was in the Delta Quadrant."
He was beginning to understand. "Are you referring to the responsibility
for the lives of those under your command?" At her terse nod, he said, "Of
course it is, Admiral. That would be true of any command, be it a ship in
deep space, or a station in a well-traveled sector."
She waved his words away impatiently. "That's not what I meant. I meant
once more having to play the role of savior, presenting the outward image
of infallibility, all the while knowing that so many lives hang in the balance
based on what I do or say." Her shoulders slumped and even with his acute
hearing, he had to strain to catch her next words. "The fear of playing God,
deciding who lives and who dies--it's something I still can't get away from,
even after all these years."
Tuvok shifted in his seat. "I do not deny that it is an often uncomfortable
position to be in," he said sternly, "but you do bring a great deal of the
onus on yourself, Admiral."
Janeway looked up, startled. "Excuse me?"
"You hold yourself to impossibly high standards, when in fact you are not
perfect and have made a number of mistakes in every command you have held."
A wave of anger crossed her face and then she relaxed with a visible effort.
"I can always count on you, Tuvok, to help me retain my sense of perspective,"
she said dryly.
He refused to allow her to sidetrack him. What he needed to say to her was
long overdue. "You have made a consistent habit of this, Kathryn, and of making
things much harder than they need to be. Your penchant for self-sacrifice,
for isolating yourself from those closest to you, are just a few examples
of this behavior. You tell yourself you are doing it for the good of those
under your command, yet the reality is that they would be better served by
a commander who understood and accepted her own limitations." She opened her
mouth to object, but he pressed on. "Not only your crew would benefit.
You cannot deny that you are lonely--that your life consists of Starfleet
and your work, nothing else. You lack inner peace."
Janeway didn't dispute the issue. Instead, she gave a slight smile. "You're
right, Tuvok." She sighed again, her eyes once more on the stars outside.
"I don't have any peace, not really, except for what I feel sometimes when
I'm out in space. Delta Quadrant, or Alpha--it doesn't seem to make much of
a difference. But this is what I know. And after so long, I can't even imagine
what it would be like to leave this all behind, truly start over, as you
have." She gave him a sidelong glance. "But I do envy you, for the
peace you've obviously found."
Tuvok thought of his present-day life--the long silent hours spent in meditation
on the edge of the desert, interspersed with the time needed to care for and
nurture his orchids. Each day was very much like the one before, with the
certainty that tomorrow would be more of the same. So different from Voyager
, where it was virtually impossible to predict what would happen in the next
hour, let alone the next day; nothing certain except the steely determination
with which his captain would face the unknown, coupled with his own resolve
to remain by her side no matter what.
He maneuvered his chair so he was once more in her direct line of vision.
"To find something you must first acknowledge that you are seeking it. And
may I remind you that inner peace, even for a Vulcan, is hard-won."
"I didn't mean to sound condescending or to belittle your choices in any
way," Janeway said swiftly. "But what has obviously worked for you--"
"I understood what you meant, Kathryn." Tuvok refrained from mentioning
that he would not take offense in any event, as that was an overt emotional
response. "Just as you understand that no choice is without regrets--nor
is any decision irrevocable. It is one thing to bemoan loneliness and another
matter entirely to refuse to accept it as an inevitable or permanent condition."
He paused, considering his next words. "That is the way you used to meet
challenges. This one should be treated no differently."
Janeway shook her head. "It's not the same thing, Tuvok." A few strands
of hair escaped from the knot at the nape of her neck; she pushed at them
absently. "I did what I had to do, because I had no other choice."
"There are always alternatives," Tuvok objected. "When stripped of its emotional
overtones, every choice can be viewed the same way--an individual always ends
up doing what he wants, what he considers to be the more palatable option
open to him. Or to avoid something he fears. It is skirting the truth to simply
say, 'but I had no choice.'" He exhaled sharply. "Kathryn, for as long as
I have known you, you have never hesitated to go your own way, forge a new
path when necessary. You have also never been one to shy away from harsh
Her eyes narrowed. "You certainly don't believe in mincing words, do you?"
"It is my belief you need a friend who will be honest with you more than
you need a sycophant," Tuvok said simply.
"That's true," she admitted. "I have enough of those at HQ." She hesitated,
then took his hand in hers. "I've missed you, Tuvok, your wise counsel." Her
lips quirked. "You've never been afraid to tell me what you think I need to
hear, and you've always been there for me when I need a friend. We go back
a long way, you and I. Even before the Delta Quadrant. But I don't know how
I would have survived those years on Voyager without you."
He did not remove his hand, finding comfort of his own in her touch. "It
has always been an honor and a privilege to be your friend, Kathryn. I cherish
our relationship." It was his turn to hesitate. "But I am not the only person
you turned to for help on Voyager."
A series of emotions rapidly played across her face, too quickly for him
to identify. Tuvok had not meant to make her uncomfortable, but this was something
else he felt she needed to hear.
An awkward silence fell as she let go of his hand.
Janeway rubbed her face wearily. He noticed again the fine lines around
her eyes and mouth. He suspected that they would not go away any time soon,
even with rest and returning health.
"Are you in pain, Kathryn?" he said softly.
"It's probably time for another dose of pain meds," she said. "At any rate,
I said I would return to Sickbay by 1600. What time is it now?"
Tuvok glanced at his chronometer. "It is 1555."
"Then it's definitely time."
She picked up her cane and caught hold of the armrest of the chair, bracing
herself in preparation of rising. Tuvok caught her arm gently beneath the
elbow and helped her to her feet. She stiffened, and then relaxed against
him. Neither one of them said anything further.
They left the room together, with him supporting her all the way.
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