Disclaimer - Paramount own the characters.
Okay, I've had this DAMN SONG stuck in my head. This is my attempt to get it out.
And ignore the grammar in this one.
There are certain memories I will carry with me always. There are the ones I don't want to remember but have never been able to exorcise. The ones that I have only learned over time that I must keep. I mustn't lose them, or I would lose myself.
There are a few moments of true hilarity and friendship - I will never forget B'Elanna, or the time she dyed Tom's hair bright green.
Then, there are *those* moments. The moments of absolute and all-consuming bliss, where you hadn't thought that anyone was capable of feeling so much all at once, where you have no chance whatsoever - no matter who you are - of hiding your reaction.
Hence, it's usually very embarrassing at some point, but it really doesn't matter because it was one of *those* moments.
It was...I'd say about eight years since we'd joined forces and started our journey back to the Alpha Quadrant.
And you know...after everything, after all the time spent thinking about it, I don't actually remember what we were celebrating. A birthday, Prixin, a pregnancy? Maybe a religious celebration from the Alpha Quadrant that Neelix used to insist we had to celebrate.
He was always so eager to keep everyone happy.
I miss him.
Whatever it was, I don't think it really matters. The point of it is that one of those moments was about to occur.
I remember that most of the senior staff had congregated together next to a table. Tom was dubiously prodding the food on his plate, not really sure if he wanted to eat it and slightly less worried about offending Neelix.
I remember something...something about The Doctor and Seven having their picture taken together by Harry.
I remember the click of the holo-imager.
I remember that you hadn't arrived yet.
Just a few seconds later, you did.
The dress was very simple - black, knee-length and sleeveless was just about all that registered in my mind.
You stepped in confidently, and yet - to me at least - a little nervously. You hated these things. Hated them because even more than usual you had to balance precariously on the line between command and friendship.
Glancing around for a moment, you clasped your hands behind your back, nodding at the occasional crewmember who acknowledged you.
Then your gaze finally found us. Me.
And you smiled.
It was almost my undoing.
I tried to comprehend it later - why such a reaction now? I've certainly been closer to her elsewhere, most notably New Earth. I've shared things with her and done things with her there that I know I'll never do again.
It doesn't matter.
I didn't know the reason then, nor do I know it now. Perhaps it was my good mood, your dress, your smile, the music, the decorations - whatever the Hell they were. Perhaps it was all of these and none of these.
Perhaps I'd drunk a little too much synthehol.
Perhaps it was because you were simply Kathryn.
Still smiling, you walked towards us. Me. You headed straight for me. I was certain of it.
It was only then that the rest of them noticed; both that you'd walked in and that I couldn't keep my eyes off you.
"Careful, Chakotay. You're drooling," B'Elanna teased in a voice that was half-joking and half-meant, although it would be several days later that I'd actually be able to decipher what she had said through the fuzz in my brain.
I didn't know if anyone else had noticed. I didn't even - honestly - know that B'Elanna had noticed at that point.
My Universe was exclusively you.
That's such a terrible cliché but so utterly fitting for the moment.
Still walking, your hair seemed to glimmer in the lights (where is the light coming from? No, no don't look away. If you do it will end, it will end. You know it will. You've been here before.)
(Yes I have.)
(I am certain I will be again.)
It was one of the rare moments in my life where I was unable to breathe without being injured.
I couldn't...the breath couldn't come out. I could feel it locked inside my chest, wanting so badly to escape but terrified that if it did it would somehow ruin it, that it would end.
You came to a halt next to out little group, making small talk with Tuvok about...something...security? Bananas? Inconsequential.
Moving your head back to me, you smiled.
Perhaps it was because you were simply Kathryn.
(I must be breathing, I must be. I would have passed out by now, wouldn't I?)
Your face was without its usual edge, its harshness that you wore when you were in uniform. Or, at least, it seemed that way. I understood...understand why you had to do that, and I understand that if you hadn't you would have been something less. That came part and parcel of being you.
Then...it was just dulled? Or maybe it was just the moment I was experiencing. Maybe that made everything seem different.
You said something to me and I could feel the pressure in my chest even more, wanting to come out, and I knew I was going to say something right then - in front of everyone - and I'd be mortified and you'd be horrified but there was absolute no way in a million different versions of this moment that I could stop it from escaping.
"I'll never forget this," I blurted out in a single breath, the words almost falling out of me but the pressure in my chest remained, almost getting worse. (I can't breathe. I can't breathe. Gods, why doesn't someone stop me?)
"Forget what?" You asked carefully, studying me with interest.
And I did it, again, in front of everyone (My heart is going to coming catapulting out of my chest, I know it is.)
"The way you look tonight."
Their reaction - humour, surprise, chuckles, giggles, raised eyebrows, holo-imager clicking.
And your reaction - shocked, red-faced, wide-eyed, horrified, terrified, eyes closing, mouth smiling, eyes opening, cheeks pink, tucking hairs behind ears, accepting, "Thank you," "Excuse me," leaving, quickly.
We never spoke of it again.
And even knowing that...even knowing that I had long accepted that we would never be together, that I had finally discovered that I couldn't and didn't want to get over you by throwing myself at other women - if I did fall in love with someone else, fine. If I didn't, fine - I had decided that I was simply going to enjoy you, and the friendship you gave me.
And the gifts that came with that friendship.
B'Elanna told me - the next morning when she found me smiling like an idiot to myself in the mess hall - that she thought she had seen you exercising in the holodeck, muttering my name like a curse.
Typical Kathryn Janeway.
Why am I thinking all this?
We're home. We made it, and I wish so much that you could be here to see it even though a part of me believes - knows - that you're aware of this moment.
Paris moves us into position and I close my eyes, feeling the slight thump as we connect with the space station.
Then, we are still.
It takes a few moments for it to settle in. Opening my eyes I study the face of the woman whose hand I'm holding; smiling, loving, concerned.
"We made it," She whispers.
Nodding, eyes moist, I release her hand and rise from my seat.
Looking at each of the bridge crew in turn, I know that they're all thinking of you.
My lover takes my hand again, and squeezes it.
I lived and loved because of you, Kathryn Janeway.
I hope you know that, and I hope I never forget it.
e-mail // voyager fic