Disclaimer: Paramount owns characters. The title is derived from a Richard Peck novel. I lay claim to neither.
Sequel to "Ghosts I have Been"
I’ll never forget the day he left me. After all was said and done, all I could remember was his promise of so long ago.
"I’ll be with you, Kathryn," his voice echoed in the empty chambers of my mind. "One way or another, I will be at your side."
It was a freak shuttle accident. I laugh at the irony. . .he wasn’t even at the helm. Ever the man—or gentleman, he took the blast that would have deprived us of our chief engineer and Tom Paris of his wife and child.
I can remember talking to her, her hair disheveled, her dirty face stained with tears.
"He-he said th-that he could be a sacrifice. He was only th-the first officer."
God, how that struck me. ‘Only the first officer.’ I would have liked to think in over seven years together, he would have thought of himself as more.
The proverbial slap in the face. A sacrifice for a long time friend and a woman who carried life.
It’s still fresh in my memory; looking down at him. His eyes stared, bore into my soul, but that soul wasn’t long for this world. I saw the glaze of death claim those soft eyes and I knew that he was gone.
No great last moment, no words, period. A lifetime unanswered and left unsaid. Too much, not enough.
I stayed a long time after he was gone. I let myself see what I had denied myself in life.
Hands that no matter how hard they worked, remained soft to the touch. Black hair that was always combed the same way, yet was decidedly cute when disheveled; especially when he had been awakened in the middle of the night. The kind face, that even then had a smile gracing the lips, the smallest amount of dimples in view.
All I had wanted was for him to stay with me.
Yet so much was left unsaid. It was hard to stand there, not seeing him breathe, his eyes moving behind lids. Never again would I get to lean over that center console and share some observation. Nor would I have my weekly dinner meeting, my favorite masseuse or my best friend. In the drop of a tear, I’d lost my best friend forever. And out here in space, this far from home, forever is forever.
The EMH did try, but soon, like it had been when I dreamed of my dying, he had to stop. I know he watched me, and soon, I felt his hand on my arm. It was his way of telling me it was time to let go. I nodded my head once, acknowledging his request, then I did something I should have done in real life.
I kissed him.
Seven years. A good six of them he spent quietly watching over me. Never once did I act on any of my desires to touch him beyond professional means. It was strange, yet comforting. His lips were still warm and soft and at that moment, I knew what I had thrown away.
I’d thrown away yet another opportunity at happiness and the devotion of an unrequited love. I had never told him ‘thank you’ for any and all he had done. Now, I never would have the chance.
I stood up and looked at him, my fingertips brushing over the face and features. I knew this would be the last time I would see him in this life. It’s so hard to describe, but I felt strangely empty and lacking at that very moment; that the greatest part of my existence, and indeed my goal, had fallen in intensity by half.
As I approached the door, I heard one of the coldest sounds one could hear. The sound of the silver blanket covering Chakotay’s face.
I grieved for a long time after his death. Oh, I took care of the initial needs of my crew; appointing Tuvok as the new first officer. But the bridge lacked the same warmth and humor. The camaraderie we had seemed different.
But something began happening to me. I began coming out of my shell more, something that Chakotay had always fought with me about. "Come out more, Kathryn. Show your crew you are human and you are alive and vibrant. Don’t become an illusion." I finally understood his words.
Again, I began doing things that I hadn’t in a while; bathing by candlelight, drink wine from one of my elegant long stemmed glasses while I soaked. There in my reprieve I could recall all the good things. I would look up at the ceiling, watching how the flames of my candles danced upon the cream color. There, I felt the closest to him. I would lie my head back and drift my fingers over my skin; a thigh, my stomach, my arms, over my collar bone.
It was then I realized I wished it was his touch.
Yet it was during these times that I felt he was by me. That those gentle eyes were watching, that grin smiling, the arms across his chest. The feeling that invoked was the most powerful and beautiful to me.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all was the fact that I slept—after his death—better then I had before. I remember a tale of dream keeper in my English classes. . .and I never had a nightmare.
Somewhere, though, I let it show more. My eyes went to his chair in the morning. I looked up with anticipation when my ready room door opened.
I hadn’t forgot.
I just missed him.
Years passed. Many years. The pain never lessened and each morning I would awake and think of something I had to tell Chakotay and then realize he was no longer there. It was the same the day I was dressing for Naomi Wildman’s fifteenth birthday.
I spent an hour soaking in the bath, then spent another getting ready. Tonight, I planned to make Naomi a cadet and make her my official assistant. It was my gift.
But as I pulled my dress over my head and scrutinized my image, I felt melancholy, thinking of days past. I reached out and touched the mirror. Fingertips meeting finger tips and I thought of that night years ago…where he’d told me the most beautiful story.
"Oh, Chakotay," I barely could say aloud, "if only you know 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."
Then, something happened. I heard his voice and I saw a hand…a familiar hand reach out to me.
"You’re not alone."
My eyes widened. I knew that voice. I knew that hand. I looked into the mirror and behind my left shoulder, he was there. Chakotay. My other side…
"Chakotay." I said and turned around. God, how I missed that smile. "It’s been five years to the day you died and left me," I said, reaching up to try and touch him. But I couldn’t.
"Kathryn, I never left you. I’ve watched you sleep, watched you on the bridge. I couldn’t leave you when you still have so much to accomplish," he said.
"But…why now? Why come back to me now?"
"I can’t answer you," he said, "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 will wait for you."
I reached out and I could see him fading from my sight. My comfort…if only I could touch him again. He reached out, his hand trying to caress my cheek. He then spoke words I never thought of.
His reflection disappeared, but it did something to me. I knew I smiled more. And I looked over my left shoulder more. I knew he was there, silent, that he waited…that he stood guard.
I knew until the day I died he’d be with me. That one day, I would be with him and I could feel his gentle touch again. This time, I wouldn’t deny him.
How could I?
After all, the ghost belonged to me.
**End**Return to Index