Disclaimer: Paramount claims to own them, care for them. But they didn't read the proper care instructions on the box and there for should have their toys taken and given to those who can treat them right. The title of this piece comes from a favorite author of mine as a child, Richard Peck. The poem is also partially from the same book.
Dedicated to Suz for her birthday...Happy Birthday, Suz...(big 'ole hug)
I don't know what was worse. The pain or the release from it. As my mother would have told me, "Chakotay, it's a choice. Half a dozen of one, half a dozen of another. Only you can choose." Thing was, I didn't get to choose.
I suppose the last thing I saw would be the image to imprint on my brain, something to take with me where ever I ended up. I vaguely recall the dematerialization of my body from the shuttle, then seeing the concerned face of the EMH. And I can remember thinking, 'this isn't the last image I want to see, take with me into the unexplored after life'. Then she appeared, like some guiding force, an angel, if I believed in such things.
My hearing was fading as she came into view. I just stared at her, knowing this was it. No miracle cures, no resurrection from the dead. I never believed in a James Kirk philosophy; fly by the seat of your pants and live on the edge. Cheat death and never face it head on. By my own admission, I had cheated death. But facing it head on was the one thing I was coward facing.
But here she was. Blue eyes sparkling more then usual. Hair immaculately combed. . .not a strand out of place. I just looked up at her, wanting to say what I had wanted to for years, and not being able to. To me, that was the worst. I never got to breach the parameters she set up so carefully all those years ago.
I wasn't going to get to now.
The light seemed to get brighter and brighter. It outlined Kathryn and I could see her and only her. I tried to read-hear her voice. Just once more. And as I felt my life drain from me, I could read her lips, and hear her voice, but not with my ears.
"Hold on, Chakotay. Just hold on a little longer." A pause in her speech, her eyes filling with moisture. "Stay with me."
stay with me. . .stay with me. . . stay with me. . .stay with me. . .stay with me. . .stay with me. . .
Then for a brief moment, I did hear. I heard the flat line of death. I opened my eyes one more time and I was across the room, watching. The EMH valiantly was trying to get my heart started. But I knew it was useless. I had no desire to return to my body. Knowledge told me my life as a mortal being was over.
Kathryn stood there for the longest time. Like she was silently urging me to return. The EMH looked at her and shook his head, then reached out with his hand and touched her upper arm. It was weird, seeing the from a far. She nodded her head once, then bent over and kissed my lips. How I wished then I could feel them for real. She left the room as Doc pulled the silver blanket up and over my face.
I followed her.
I wasn't sure how long I was going to stay. Would I be taken away? Would I be encouraged to move on? I didn't want to leave. I had made a promise a long time ago that I would stay with her, by her side. I would now.
It was strange being with her in this guise. An apparition with no real sense of reality. But I learned so much about her in that time. I found the longer I stayed, the more to her-attached you could say, I became. I couldn't stand to be more then a few feet away at any one time.
I learned that Kathryn was always there, that she, after grieving; which she did for quite some time, began to show everyone someone beneath the captain's exterior. I would smile at the thought that she did that.
Kathryn would bathe in candlelight. A glass of melancholy wine in a long stemmed glass, precariously perched on the edge of the tub. Her head would be back against the edge of the tub, her hair upon her head with strands escaping confines. I would watch as her hands would glide over her soap covered skin. She always looked a million miles away. Her eyes would half close, then she'd smile. It made me wonder what she dreamed of.
She slept, always elegant. Her legs would be bent, one hand across her waist and she would have one arm tucked under her head. Her chest would rise and fall with gentle breathing. I could-and did, sit and watch her forever. I never tired of it.
What I wasn't sure, was I wanted her to know that I was there with her, always standing behind her left shoulder like I always did. I saw the way she looked at the empty chair to her left when she came onto the bridge everyday. How she looked up when the door chimed to her ready room. How when she was hailed, her eyes lit up momentarily.
I wanted her to know that I hadn't forgot.
Time continued without me and after a few days, I lost track of it. I couldn't tell you the stardate, the month. After a while, I knew where time was with the celebration of certain holidays we'd adopted, like Prixin. Kathryn kept her distance, but mingled more. I guess some habits are hard to break.
I kept wanting to let her know I was there. Just to keep myself in her mind. I didn't need to worry.
She'd been getting ready for something. An hour in the bath, an hour getting ready. She had just pulled her dress over her head and had scrutinized her image. I saw her look herself up and down, looking, analyzing. She reached out and touched the mirror.
"Oh, Chakotay," she whispered. "If you only knew how lonely it's been without you. You understood and kept telling me I wasn't alone and I never listened. I know the true meaning now."
My heart beat, if can call it that. And I reached out to her as her hand reached out to her image.
"You're not alone," I said, wishing she could hear me.
Then the most amazing thing happened. Her eyes widened and I wondered why. I looked into the mirror and I could see myself in the reflection, standing behind her left shoulder as I once had.
"Chakotay," she said.
I smiled at her and she turned around.
"It's been five years to the day you died and left me," Kathryn said, trying to touch me.
"Kathryn, I never left you. I've watched you sleep, watched you on the bridge. I couldn't leave you, not when you still have so much to accomplish," I said.
"But why now? Why come back to me now?"
"I can't answer you. But keep the knowledge that I kept my promise to you. To remain by your side. I can't make your burdens lighter, I can't keep you from loneliness. But I wait for you."
She reached out. I could see my reflection fading and I remembered a saying my mother had taught me as a child. I reached out, my hand trying to caress her cheek.
My reflection disappeared. But after that, she seemed to always have a secret smile and she always directed it over her left shoulder. Where I stood silently. Where I waited. Where I stood guard.
Until the day she dies.
A ghost I have been. . .and will continue to be.