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It had happened so damn quickly. Even before he had been beamed to sickbay she'd known that the Doctor could do nothing for him. But she needed to believe that something could be done. She needed to believe that he would live.
How foolish she'd been.
How many times had she pushed him away? She'd lost count it had been so many. So many light touches, teasing remarks. And for what? To uphold some old-fashioned Starfleet principle? No. Even by suggesting that she was lying to herself.
The truth was she had been obsessed with getting back to Earth. Getting the crew back to Earth. She'd been so blinded by her own desperate need that she'd overlooked so many things. Like the fact that no one would be waiting for them back home; that they would have grieved and moved on. Or that relationships and families were being forged on Voyager.
She hadn't been so far gone to not notice the couples springing up over the ship. How could she completely ignore it? She'd certainly performed enough marriages. But each one had held a strange kind of detachment for her, as if it wasn't really happening. It was too bizarre. They weren't really in the Delta Quadrant. They weren't really separated from their families by thousands of light years. It just couldn't be possible. No, it all had to be some kind of galactic joke. Maybe Q needed some amusement at their expense.
Of course the crew didn't know this about their Captain. She was confident, yes. Brave, a natural leader, and eager to get back to Earth. Maybe a little too eager, but who was going to blame her?
Only one of them would have known the truth, and he was dying in sickbay.
How naïve she'd been.
Did she really think she could have held him away forever? She'd certainly given it her best shot. She looked over the past ten years, at everything she had sacrificed. Had it really been worth it? Had trying to get this crew back to Earth truly been worth their personal lives? He loved her, that she knew without question. And she felt the same. Why had it been so damn hard for her to be happy?
If there were a smooth road or a rocky road you'd pick the rocky one every time.
She'd never heard anything to sum up her situation more perfectly. Ironic that a comment from an alien being trying to kill her actually made her realise how to start living.
But it would be without him. Without Chakotay. The only one who truly understood her, and he was lying on a biobed with the Doctor working over him. She watched him die with the same detachment as when she performed a marriage ceremony.
It couldn't possibly be happening. He couldn't be dying. He was too important. It was too bizarre.
She realised then that she was crying - that she had been since the panel exploded on the bridge. But she couldn't make a sound. Tears were pouring down her face, her throat was constricted in grief, and her heart felt like it was being flayed apart, but she couldn't make a single sound.
Then she heard it. The electronic beep that she'd come to hate vehemently since she joined Starfleet. The beep that ensured what she knew was true. He was dead.
Kes hugged her and Kathryn sobbed, her grief finally finding its voice. Her mind screamed and Kes could hear every word.
No. NO. It can't end like this, I won't allow it. I'm the Captain for God's sake, I'm not going to let my crew member die. I'm not going to let Chakotay die.
Chakotay. Gods…there were so many things I should have said and done that I never did. That was my fault. Always my fault. You were always there. Sometimes questioning, sometimes doubting, but always always by my side.
No! It can't end like this! You never had a chance to tell me you loved me. I never let you. I knew I could never tell you, and I couldn't allow you to tell me. It would have complicated matters. It would have been inconvenient.
Shit! Listen to me! You're dead and all I can say is that your feelings for me were inconvenient. I despise what I have become.
I should never have shut you out. You were the only one who could have made this journey wonderful for me. The only one who could have gotten close enough to make a difference. Dammit you should have pushed harder! I would have acquiesced. Didn't you realise how much I love you? But no, that's not your style. You had to wait for something from me. A granting of permission as it were. A sign. Well what was I supposed to do? Fling myself into your arms? That's not my style either.
So we became isolated. I used your feelings for me to my own advantage, and that causes me almost as much pain as your death. How could I have used you like that? How could I have used your love as blackmail to try and ensure your trust when I was risking everything - our lives, our very individuality - just to try and get to Earth? No, it wasn't worth it. It was never worth it, and it was certainly not worth your death. You paid the price for my own arrogance. My own obsession.
I am not sure what to do. I could kill myself, but I don't deserve the right to deny myself the pain of going on without you. I owe you so much that I will keep going. No matter how hard I will push on. But not toward Earth, no, I should have given that up a long time ago.
Wherever that is. Probably somewhere on this ship. Probably wherever you are. Well I may never get home but I will get my crew home. I will make sure that they lead the fullest most worthwhile lives possible. I will continue the work you started since you first stepped aboard as my First Officer.
Dammit this isn't fair! You should be with me. You should be here, sharing a nervous joke about how close that one was, that you'd have to be more careful next time. It should never have been you. Never you. You.
She felt something then, stirring in her mind. Unknown but not unwelcome. Kathryn sobbed again on her next breath, still trying to contain her shock.
Yes Kathryn, it's me. Do you know where you are?
Of course I do. I'm in sickbay…no, wait. I was there but…I can't see anything. I can't see anything!
It's okay Kathryn, just try and calm down. Concentrate on what you can feel physically.
I can't feel anything.
Nothing at all. It's as if I don't exist. Kes…wait, I'm seeing something.
What is it? Kathryn? Captain?
I'm gliding somehow, moving forward toward the figure. And I know what’s waiting there for me. Home. I'm going home.
I finally see his face, but he's not smiling as I imagine he would be. He's frowning heavily and I somehow find it odd that even in death he still has the tattoo.
You shouldn't be here.
Your time isn't up yet. There's still so much for you to do.
You're dead. I might as well be.
Don't say that. Don't even think that.
Why should it matter?
Thoughts have incredible power Kathryn, especially here.
You're as cryptic as my spirit guide.
Well I learned that from my own.
Why do I have to go?
Because I'm asking you to. Will you accept that as a decent answer? Here I am, the man who loves you and I'm asking you not to die. Will you please do this for me?
It's going to be so empty without you.
Aren't you being a bit of a hypocrite? Just a few seconds ago you were thinking about how you would go on without me, that you'd survive for me. I want you to do that.
But it's so hard. It's so damn hard.
I know. That's the challenge. There's no need to worry Kathyrn. I'll still be here, waiting for you.
Just as you always have been.
True. I never fall for women who are any good for me. It's always the heartbreakers.
Well at least your taste has improved over the years.
I'm not getting into this now - you're stalling.
Of course I am.
At least you admit it. That's a step in the right direction. Now go. Or do I have to make it an order?
She woke then, shivering as she sat up in the biobed. She must have passed out but she didn't remember. Wiping her eyes she ignored Kes and the Doctor and hurried over to his body which was still lying on biobed one.
Leaning down she kissed him on his tattoo, exhaling a shaky breath as she did so. She would do this. She could do this for him. She owed him that.
Pulling her head back up she absently fiddled with his hair as she started crying again.
"Dismissed," she whispered before raising her chin and walking regally out of the room.
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