"Can't Escape The Ghost Of You"
"Computer, locate Captain Janeway," he asked.
"Captain Janeway is in her quarters," the female computer voice told him. Just as she said she would be. He remembered coming into her ready room, earlier today.
"Kathryn? Would you like to join me for dinner and a holodeck program?" he had said, leaning against her desk. She looked up at him with the same look she had given him when they had discussed her letter from Mark and the Hirogen.
"No thank you. I think I'm going to turn in early tonight. I'm really quite tired," she said. Chakotay noticed the faint lines around her eyes. She smiled at him. "Another night, okay?" Her voice hopeful that this would not be a one time offer.
"Raincheck accepted," he said with a smile. His dimples absolutely floored her. Chakotay turned to leave. "Sleep well, Kathryn."
"Thank you. Enjoy your evening."
Chakotay left the bridge, informing Tuvok he had command. Entering the lift, he sighed heavily, as if there were something on the horizon that the sun rising made impossible to see.
How was he to know that was the last time he'd see Kathryn alive?
0600 hours and the chronometer went off. Chakotay rose slowly and quietly ordered the computer to reset time for tomorrow morning. He showered, changed, and went to the mess hall for a quick bite to eat. He was surprised that he didn't see Kathryn, as she usually stopped by for at least a cup of Neelix's coffee substitute. He ate hurriedly and went to the bridge, where he relieved Lieutenant Abrams from command.
Chakotay was surprised that Kathryn hadn't reported in yet, as it was her custom to be on the bridge or least her ready room by at least 0730 hours. Tuvok hadn't reported in yet and he thought he'd check on the captain, just to be on the safe side.
"Bridge to Janeway," he said. In most instances, there was an instantaneous reply to his hail. There was none. No pleasant voice responding. "Chakotay to Janeway, please respond."
Again, no answer. "Computer, locate Captain Janeway."
"Captain Janeway is in her quarters." Same answer as the night before.
"Are there any blocks on communications?" he asked.
"Negative." The one word that meant something was desperately wrong.
"Chakotay to Tuvok." This was a last resort.
"Tuvok here, Commander."
"Captain Janeway has yet to report to the bridge. The computer reports that she is in her quarters, but she hasn't responded to my hails," Chakotay said, pacing across the back of the helm.
"I will go there myself. Perhaps she has overslept," Tuvok said. "I will advise you momentarily."
Chakotay continued to pace the bridge like a caged animal. His gut told him something was extremely wrong--he felt it to his core, to his soul. Kathryn always answered, was never late for duty. Why now, all of a sudden?
"Tuvok to Chakotay. I think you better come down here." Tuvok's voice sounded off, like something was the matter. Vulcan's never gave rise to their suppressed feeling, but Tuvok's voice sent off the alarm bells in Chakotay's brain. He quickly gave the conn to Kim and sprinted to the turbo lift.
It seemed to take hours for the lift to reach the level of the senior officers' quarters. He jogged past the door to his own to the ones next door. The door opened for him and he stepped inside.
Kathryn's quarters were at 25% illumination, quiet. Too quiet for Chakotay's liking. Tuvok emerged from her sleeping area, his shoulders hunched.
"Commander," he said solemnly. "I regret to inform you that Captain Janeway has died." Chakotay's mouth dropped open at his words.
"No," he whispered, shouldering his way past the Vulcan and into her bedroom. The sight of his captain, his friend, his Kathryn, was unbelievable. Surely, Tuvok had been wrong. Death was dark and foreboding. It set in gray and didn't let color in. Everything was the opposite. He walked over to the side of her bed and looked at her.
Kathryn looked so at peace. She lay on her side, the blanket coming up as far as her waist, revealing the coral satin night gown above it. Her knees were curled up and her right arm lie casually across her stomach. Her left hand loosely clenched a Peace rose, one grown in Kes' garden. A vase of them sat on the ledge at the head of her bed. It looked to Chakotay that she had been smelling it when she fell asleep.
But her face, for as long he would live, he would never forget her face. Even in death, she looked the picture of the vibrant woman that had led them four years. Her lips carried a smile that she didn't reveal nearly enough. However, the most important thing was there was no worry etched across her brow. Her forehead was smooth. Her cheeks even retained the soft color that always highlighted them.
In shock, Chakotay sat beside her. There was no soft rise to her chest, no gentle breath or sigh. Nothing. He put his hand on her arm and was shocked by how cold and stiff it was. Truth was before him. Kathryn was gone to him; gone to Voyager. He swept his fingers, through her hair, tears forming within his eyes and falling silently.
"You forgot your promise, Kathryn," He choked back a moan. "You promised you'd see this crew home. You promised you'd lead the way." His tears wet the satin of her night clothes. There was no shame now, nor would there ever be. "Kathryn, you promised." Tuvok stepped away from the door as Chakotay laid down behind her; holding her lifeless body against his.
There were no miracles. No Borg ingenuity. The doctor's report was plain and simple. Kathryn Janeway hadn't been killed, poisoned or anything out of the ordinary. Her heart had simply stopped beating, her body just finally wearing out. The doctor almost seemed overcome with grief himself. As hard as it was to get the captain into sickbay, and occasionally, once she was there, keeping her there, the doctor regarded her with the highest respect.
"Make a note in the medical log. Death of Captain Kathryn M. Janeway, Stardate 51987.5, 1735 hours. Cause of death: natural causes." He pulled the zipper of the bag over the body and closed his tricorder. With a sigh, he turned his attention to the man sitting in his cubical. He entered quietly.
"I'm sorry, Commander. There was nothing that could be done." He noticed the way that Chakotay just stared at a non-existent spot on the wall. "Commander, shall I make the announcement, or would you rather do it?"
Chakotay looked up at him, his face clearly revealing that he hadn't heard him. "I'm sorry Doctor, I wasn't paying attention."
"No need for apologies. I just wanted to know if you wanted me to make the announcement or would you prefer to do it?"
"I'll do it." He tapped into the communications channel and received Harry. Harry's voice sounded far away, about as far removed as Chakotay felt emotionally as well as physically. "Harry, open a ship wide channel."
"You're on, sir," Harry said.
"This is Commander Chakotay. I have the unpleasant task of reporting the news that Captain Janeway passed away last night in her sleep. She felt no pain and was at complete peace at the time of death. She wouldn't want us to stop for her, or wallow in grief. She'd want us to go on...to make it home. As per regulations, effective this stardate, I have assumed command of Voyager. Though Captain Janeway is no longer with us, we will carry her spirit with us back to the Alpha Quadrant and make sure she is remembered for being the warm, loyal, caring commander that she was. I personally, will fulfill the promise she made all of us at the beginning of this journey... to find a way home. Time and place of service to be announced later." He took a deep breath. "Chakotay out."
He looked one last time at the covered body of his other half and quietly left sickbay.
He stepped back into her quarters. There was no evidence that she knew the end was coming. A coffee stained mug sat at her desk, PADD's scattered over the surface. Her command pips sat in a neat little row, as if she had maybe been playing with them earlier. He looked around and noticed how much of this was really her. A part of herself that Chakotay had never been allowed in to see. He fingered the desk, in a soft caress, feeling it's smooth surface and coolness. He noticed two messages on her monitor. He brought them up and sat down. Both were from Kathryn.
When her face appeared on the screen, he almost lost it. It was like she was in the other room, playing games with him. She seemed alive and vibrant.
"Hey there. If you're watching this, Chakotay, it means that the doctor has entered into the computer, my death. Isn't that strange? My death. I sometimes feel so--immortal. Like death is impervious to me. Or I to it, I'm not really sure." Her image looked around, then back at him, as if she could really see him. "You know, I realize that you've never been here in my quarters, except when we have had those special dinners with special people. I should have let you in more often, Chakotay. I really should've.
"But now, it's time for a talk. Just you and me, like it should have been. No interruptions, no arguments, no me throwing you out. It's funny, but it seems that in these last four years, I've done all the talking and none of the listening. I suppose I would be neglecting tradition if I let you talk. So hear me out, okay?
"First off, I have never regretted making you my first officer. I can't tell you the number of times I patted myself on the back for that move. You've always stood by my side, helping me through the best and worst of the last four years. You endure so much, but you never let it show. I admire you for that. When I think back to the beginning of this mission, when Cavit occupied your chair, I don't think he would have made it.
"You opened my eyes, Chakotay. In so many ways. I'll never forget the way you stood up to me in the beginning of this journey, when we were debating about whom to put in charge of engineering. 'I refuse to be your token Maquis officer.' That was good. I wanted to kill you for saying it, but you did. You were honest and up front from the beginning. And you want to know something; putting B'Elanna in charge of engineering was the best thing I could have done for this ship. You were right, you know.
"Chakotay, you were right about so many things. You were right that I didn't know when to step away and back off. You saw through me and to be honest, that scared the hell out of me.
"Did I ever tell you that I'd cry myself to sleep at night? I did. Some nights, it was because we had lost yet another crew member. Other nights, it was because of some problem I couldn't solve. But most of the time, it was because I felt alone. Yet when I think about it, you were always telling me I wasn't alone. I wish I had seen what you meant and really listened to you. You were telling me then, weren't you? Telling me that you loved me?"
Chakotay nodded his head at her words. He'd never come out and directly said it. He always managed to hide it behind other words and phrases. "I know that. Do you know what its been like for me, having to shut out everyone and be the martyr? I felt I had to. Command leaves no room for the personal. How many times have I thought about throwing caution to the wind and acting on my emotions? More times then you know, Chakotay. Do you know how close I came to letting you in? I was ready to admit it when we entered Borg space. But what did I do? I threw it all right back at you.
"I blackmailed you. Outright, emotionally, blackmailed you, based on your feeling for me. I gave you the ultimatum; if you loved me, you'd back me. And what did you say, 'You're the captain. I'm the first officer. I'll follow your orders.' That cut deep. You've said that since the beginning, 'I'm the captain'. Why didn't I listen to you? Pride, stubbornness, 'my way or the highway'? Did I tell you they almost assimilated Tuvok and me? They did. That in itself should have made me more aware of what you had argued. And in sickbay, after I had recovered from the attack, I did it to you again.
"Why didn't I listen? You laid it all out in front of me, begging me to take a closer look. You knew. You'd been there. But I chose not to see it, acknowledge the fact, because it brought up too many painful memories. Dammit, Chakotay, I almost lost you, and I still didn't see it, want to accept it. I was so damn jealous when you brought Riley up here, trying to talk me into helping her. Oh, I had a good idea what had went on down there. For pete's sake, it was written all over your face. The way you looked at her. And what did I do? After everyone had left, I stalked you like hawk, a vulture. She had seen a part of you that I never could. You understood her more then you could ever understand me. I wanted to hate you, yet I would do anything to that would make you happy, even if that meant bringing her aboard.
"In the end, when you and I were in sickbay, and we realized that they had used you, I couldn't look you in the eye. I couldn't let you see the pain I felt, not only at your expense but mine as well. I wanted to hurt myself for letting myself feel that way, for letting the jealousy burn. Neelix once told me what you had told him, the time the ship was twisted, remember that? He told me that you had said that 'jealousy is about the fear of losing someone we love, that there was no pain greater then that. Nothing makes us more vulnerable then when we love someone.' I wish someone had told me that years ago. It could have saved me from so much heartache and bitterness. Your wisdom is so rare; I wish I had time to learn it.
"And was I ever jealous. I never wanted to admit that I loved you. Didn't want you to feel that it was because you and I were the only two that could possibly 'be' for each other. Can you believe that I dreamed of you all the time? Actually, yes, I bet you do believe that. I'm sure you even dreamed of me. Fantasies, Chakotay, were the only things sometimes that kept me from going crazy out here. I always wondered if you were as good in reality as those fantasies. I would being welling to wager all my replicator rations that you would have been my greatest love. No, I won't bet; Chakotay, you were.
"It's hard, even now to admit how much I love you. I told you we had all the time in the world. We didn't. That's why I'm offering you a gift. Chakotay, I regret never giving myself to you; body, mind, soul and heart. But I can give you a part of me, for you keep and nurture until the day you die. Something to keep me alive and with you. A part of me I so wish I could give you in person.
"It's your choice and I'll understand if you decline. When we first began this mission, I had some troubles that I won't go into detail about. In light of these problems, I had the doctor remove some eggs. God, doesn't that sound clinical? It was a 'just in case' measure. I've always wanted children, but the further this mission goes on, the less likely it seems it will ever happen. Chakotay, they're my gift to you. That way, should you decided to go through with it, you'll always have a part of me with you, even if I can't be there.
"I'm hoping you'll accept. I've seen and heard about the way you are with children. What a wonderful father you'd make. I only wish I could be there to help, watch, lend support. Maybe in some way I will. Think about it. Take your time. You once said we have all the time in the world. Maybe not in this reality, but we do have all the time."
Kathryn leaned in close to the screen, as if trying to look into his eyes, search their depth. "There are a few things I want you to do for me: My will and last instructions are on my personal data chip. Treat this crew as I did. They respect you a great deal. Get this crew home, finish my promise. I guess that about covers it. Except - Chakotay, don't forget about me. I'll be with you always. Don't mourn me. Remember, I've loved you a long time, and will continue. I may never have spoken of it openly, but I did."
Kathryn raised a hand to the screen and Chakotay reached out as well. "I'll wait for you. Then we'll truly have all the time in the world. I love you." Her image disappeared from the screen.
"Chakotay to sickbay," he said after staring at the blank screen for an unknown amount of time.
"Yes, Commander. I assume you've heard the captain's last message?"
"I'll be coming by in a few minutes to discuss this matter."
After much consideration, Chakotay decided to fulfill Kathryn's last wish. The procedure was done in secrecy. Only the main staff knew about what happened. They didn't want to have hopes raised then dashed.
For nine months, the child grew in an artificial womb. Chakotay had asked for a daughter, hoping that she'd look like his Kathryn.
On May 20, on what would have been Kathryn's forty-third birthday, Katarina Cerys Janeway emerged from her artificial home, to the welcoming arms of her father. The crew was happy to have living reminder of the captain that had sacrificed much of herself for them.
Ten and a half years later:
"Daddy!" Katarina yelled, coming out of her room when she heard the doors open, revealing the figure of her father.
"Hey," he said, picking up the girl and twirling her around the room. Her arms circled his neck and squeezed. "How's my little Kat today?"
"I'm fine, Daddy. You didn't forget, did you?" Her face took on a look of seriousness. Her emerald eyes flashed with the passion and love new things, reminding him of a woman who should be seeing this girl grow.
"No, I didn't. Let's have dinner first, then we'll start." Katarina grabbed her father's hand and took him into where they had their eating area was set up.
"You made dinner?" Chakotay asked, looking at the little girl. A crooked grin crossed her face, revealing the only thing he saw of himself in her, his dimples.
"Yep. No replicator rations either. I followed your recipes to the letter." She blew at a stray piece of hair that had fallen into her eyes. "You work too much, Daddy."
"If I didn't, we'd never get anywhere." Katarina pulled out a chair for him to sit in and served her father. Chakotay had to admit that dinner looked good and smelled even better. They ate, talking about any and all things that came to mind. After they'd cleaned up, Chakotay took his daughter into the living quarters and sat her on the floor. He brought out a box.
"You've asked me about your mother. I think your old enough to understand."
"I know Daddy. You weren't married and she died before I was born. I grew in an artificial mother."
"Your mom was very complex. Part of the reason I loved her." The first thing he pulled out was a picture of Kathryn. It wasn't one Katarina had ever seen before. Her mother was in a white button down blouse, with a form fitting black skirt that went down to almost her ankles. Her short brown hair was held back at the sides with clips.
"Oh, Daddy! She was so pretty. I see the life in her eyes." Katarina held the picture to herself in a hug. "Can I have it? Can I put it beside my bed so I can see her when I go to bed and wake up to her in the morning?"
Chakotay choked back his tears. After ten years, her death still hurt him. He reached out and ran his fingers down her face, a face so much like his beloved's. "Yes, honey. You can keep her picture."
The next thing he brought out was a yellow/pink swirled rose, held in a stasis box. "I gave this to your mother when she almost died."
"Why not a red rose Daddy? Red roses are the roses of love. Harry told me that."
"This is a peace rose. It had a meaning for your mother and I that a red rose could never convey." She put it next to her mother's picture.
Chakotay pulled a locket on a delicate chain out. "This had originally belonged to Kes."
"Neelix and Doc told me about Kes. They said she was like a fairy."
"She was. When she ascended into a higher plane of life, she left this locket for your mother. I've never opened it, myself." Chakotay handed his daughter the locket. She carefully opened the clasp and squealed with delight.
"Daddy! Look what's inside." She handed the open locket to Chakotay. He didn't say anything for a moment. Inside, was a picture of each of Katarina's parents. He handed it back to his daughter who put it around her neck.
He pulled out Kathryn's precious hair clips, her favorite novels. A necklace he knew a man named Caylem had given her. A pocket watch that he'd given her the year before she died as a birthday present. The little girl stacked the treasures around her on the floor. Chakotay saved the best for last.
"Your mother started this long before she even considered having you." He gave her the datachip and the little girl went over to her father's terminal and inserted the chip. Chakotay had never looked at it himself, respecting Kathryn's last wishes.
Kathryn's image came alive on the screen. This was Kathryn after the bun of steel hairstyle but before the haircut.
"If you're watching this, that means I've either died before your arrival or when you were too young to remember me. I'm your mother. Your father, who I'm betting is Chakotay, has probably told you many stories about me. He's not one to exaggerate. You'll have a better idea who you are if you know who I am." Chakotay watched his daughter as she intently studied the image on the screen.
"My name is Kathryn Marie Janeway. I was born on May 20, 2331, in Indianna on Earth. I was the oldest of two children. . ."
Twenty four years later:
Katarina sat on the chair near the bed. She kept a quiet vigil over her father. For once, there was no miracle to help him out of the sickness that ravaged his body. Only medication to help with the pain.
"Daddy," she whispered.
"Kat?" he asked. She took the hand within her own. Her long fingers gently caressing his.
"I'm here." She tried to keep from crying. Long ago, her father had told her he rarely ever saw her mother cry. Katarina didn't like crying.
"It's all right. It happens to everyone," he said. His voice still soft after all these years. Not at all raspy.
"You always give of yourself, Daddy. Why did you always have to give and ask for nothing in return?" Katarina said.
"It's my nature, Kat. I could do no less. Your mother once asked me the same question. But I did get something in return." Chakotay grasped her fingers in his. "I got you. Your mother's gift to me."
"She should have told you to your face, Daddy. How can you love someone and not tell them?"
"We were even," he said, remembering a night when he'd told her an ancient legend. He hadn't told her in the exact words then, either. "Promise me, Kat. Don't ever hold back your feelings. Don't be afraid to love, afraid of the consequences. There's nothing like a lost opportunity."
"Do you have any regrets, Daddy?"
"One," he said, his eyes lids becoming heavy. "I never got to hold your mother in my arms and wake to her smile."
Katarina watched as he fell asleep. She soon followed him.
As Katarina slept, a pinpoint of light appeared at the foot of Chakotay's bed, growing by the second. He lifted himself slightly to the disturbance that had wakened him.
"Kathryn?" he whispered. An elegant, slender arm reached out to him. As his soul reached out for her, his withered and bony hand began looking again as it had when she left him. He grew younger, following her.
"We now have the time," she whispered. She looked at her daughter, sleeping in the chair. "She's so beautiful. You did a beautiful job raising her."
"It's time?" Chakotay asked, looking at the physical part of him.
"You made her understand that which I never did. She'll never feel the same pain we did."
Chakotay pulled Kathryn into his embrace, holding her as he wished he could always. "I've missed you, Kathryn."
"I know. I've missed you too."
"What do we do now, Kathryn?" Chakotay asked.
"Whatever we want, for we have all the time in the world. I don't intend on spending this life wasting it. All time is precious."
As they began disappearing, Katarina began waking, never believing what she saw. The portrait of truly matched pair, young as she wanted to remember them.
As they walked into the spirit world, Chakotay turned to his beloved. "I couldn't escape the ghost of you."
"I didn't want you too." Kathryn guided him through mindscape of their vision. "And you did."
"You held me in your arms every night. You woke to my smile. I never left you."
"Goodbye, Daddy. May this night see you home to where you belong." Katarina looked at the picture of her mother, beside his bed. "In her arms, as you always wanted to be. Take care of him, mom."