Warnings: Character death.
Categories: Ship, Het, Angst, Episode Tag
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: Here's assuming that the time-displaced Admiral Janeway told the truth. (I still refuse to believe her. For what I do believe, go here.)
Credits: This one's for Katrine, who asked the question no one wanted to answer.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe and its occupants, and has thus tortured them in an unforgivable manner. It is up to us to find a way to heal some of those wounds.
Chakotay was going to die. The pain brought by that knowledge was unbearable. Life hurt; she should have gotten used to it by now. But somehow, this was different. This was worse even than all the horrors that had gone before.
It shouldn't have been worse. Chakotay had no fear of death. After so many years of loneliness, he probably welcomed it. Yet she feared his death as she had thought she could never fear anything again.
She had watched Chakotay die already, of course. More than twenty years ago, that spark within him had died when his wife had died in his arms. Still, even in his grief, he had remained by her side. Her loyal friend. Her trusted first officer. Yet he had never been the same.
His grief for the wife he lost had not been what had consumed him. He had loved her; he missed her. But that wasn't what had shattered him. It was the guilt that did it; guilt which she shared. Neither of them had been the same after Seven's death.
They were no longer free to enjoy each other's company, after that. Their friendship hadn't died. They still cared deeply for one another, and were there for one another. But the promise of something more had died with his marriage, put out of its misery by their mutual, unspoken agreement.
The loss had hurt; she wouldn't lie to herself and pretend now that it didn't. But she hadn't disagreed with his decision to move forward. They wouldn't be home in time to be together. He deserved a life. She had wanted that for him, and didn't want to be the cause of his loneliness. She wanted him to be happy.
Yet the marriage had hardly been ideal. "She's not you," Chakotay had admitted in a moment of weakness. They had stared at each other then, shocked at a revelation that had been buried for nine long years.
Then Seven had died in Chakotay's arms.
Died, second in his heart. The Doctor had loved her, and yet she had married a man who loved another. One life, tragically cut short. Three others, never to be fully lived.
It hadn't been Seven's fault. She had been too emotionally young to make such a decision. It hadn't been Chakotay's, either. She had practically pushed him into the relationship, thinking at the time that it was for the best. The fault was hers. She had never stopped to consider Seven's lack of maturity, or the Doctor's feelings, or even what was ultimately best for Chakotay.
She had forced her best friend to live a lie, and all for nothing. No one at Starfleet had questioned for a moment whether she and Chakotay had ever been intimate. The Maquis were pardoned without any sort of fuss. They could have been lovers from New Earth on, and it wouldn't have mattered to Starfleet.
Would the command relationship have suffered? Looking back, she didn't believe it would have. Their biggest trials had already been complicated by their emotions; a few might have even gone more smoothly if they hadn't been fighting to hide them.
They could have been lovers then, but they hadn't taken that step. Protocol. Parameters. And they couldn't have come together after Seven's death. Protocol had ceased to matter by then, but they couldn't be together, knowing that they only could be because someone they both loved was gone.
And now? He was dying. She'd be alone as she had never been before. Whatever horrors the future held for her, she'd face them alone. Any future joy would be further muted by this loss, as Seven's death had cast a shadow over the last twenty some years.
"Kathryn." He took her hand. "I'm glad you're here."
"Where else would I be?" She fought against tears. The thought stole through her mind that she should be here as his wife; they should be reliving fond memories of a life shared. There should be children, grandchildren...
"Go ahead and cry. You know I won't tell anyone."
With those simple words, the dam burst. She was crying as she hadn't since the day Seven died. "I love you. More than thirty years, and I've never said the words. I should have, so long ago. It should have been different for us."
"We were what we had to be, Kathryn."
"We should have been more. I was wrong to push you away all those years ago. We should have been lovers."
"We were more than lovers. It would have been nice if our relationship could have had a physical side; more than nice. But in the end, it was our friendship, our closeness, that I cherish. I have always loved you, and will always love you, and that is what matters."
"Answer me this: If we had gotten home sooner..."
"Kathryn - "
"No, be honest, Chakotay. Please."
"You're asking if I would have married her. You know the answer, Kathryn, don't make me say it."
"Why? Because you don't want to say it was all my fault. Because you don't want to point out that I passed on our last opportunity to get home quickly? Because you don't want me to take the blame for so much unhappiness?"
"Kathryn - "
"Libby waited eight years for Harry. Did you know that? They could have had a chance. We could have had a chance. Doc and Seven could have had a chance. Tuvok could have been cured. Seven might still be alive. So many others - "
"Or we all could have died that day. The whole crew, the children. Icheb, Naomi, Miral...everyone. You had to do what you thought best for the crew."
"That's just it, Chakotay. I didn't do what I thought was best for the crew. I did what was safe. I'm not talking about the safety of the ship against all of those cubes, I'm talking about what was safe between us. I didn't want a fight just then, Chakotay. I didn't want to have to fight you over the risks. There was some little thing wrong between us, and I didn't know exactly what, but I just didn't want the fight."
"It was me."
"Yes, it was - "
"No, I meant the little thing wrong between us. It was me. That's when it started, with Seven, and I felt guilty."
"I felt like I was cheating on you."
"I had no claim on you."
"But you did. We may not have been intimate, but we were us. And my being with Seven hurt that. I wish - "
"Ssh, don't say it. You were right, before. You'll hate yourself if you say it. We can't change the past."
"No, we can't."
"I wish we could. Oh, how I wish that we could."
"I thought temporal mechanics gave you a headache."
"Oh, Chakotay." She laughed, and found herself sobbing again. "It would be worth a thousand headaches, to give us all a chance again."
Months later, she stood on his grave, and promised him that he wouldn't have to live all those lonely years without her. Without the Kathryn Janeway who had ceased to exist the day Seven had died.
She'd go back and fix it, for all of them. For Seven, who deserved a better chance at life; for Harry, who had become a captain, but had never married; for the Doctor, who still bore the scars of Seven's death; for Tom, who had never had the chance to reconcile with his father; for Tuvok, who had lost his grip on logic; for Naomi, who had never met her father; for all of them.
She thought about gathering them together, asking them for help. But no, if she failed, at least they'd be safe. This, she had to do alone.
Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, July 2002.