When Kathryn got up, she felt the warmth radiating from Chakotay who was asleep next to her. She took a moment to study him as he lay sleeping. She recognized that his face was twisted a bit in pain and she carefully got up so not as to wake him and dispensed his medicine. She sat in her armchair and watched as his breathing became regular and his face looked calmer. She rearranged the sheets and fluffed his pillows and enjoyed just looking at him for a little while longer. Then she got up and left the bedroom.
She made her way into the kitchen, made a cup of tea and headed out on to the back porch. Night had fallen as she settled in a chair and covered herself up in blankets. She looked up in the sky at the stars. She had decided a long time ago to make her home up there, but after twenty three years of being lost between them, she had done something that she never thought she would, she became land bound. She inherited her parents' home in Indiana and she settled in there with a vengeance. She spent the minimum time necessary in space and had been known to turn down assignments if it meant going back up there among the stars too far away from Earth. But now she looked at them and felt a pull that she hadn't felt since she had first set foot on Earth a year ago. The pull to be back among the stars again.
She turned and saw that he had bought out their dinners out.
"For the first time, in a year, I can say yes."
"You know," Chakotay said as he settled the food in front of them. "For twenty three years, this was the home that we were sick for."
They ate in silence and when they had finished. Kathryn took the dishes out to the kitchen. She came back with a cup of tea for both of them.
Chakotay had positioned himself on the bench that she had been occupying and when she came back she sat down next to him. He seemed to be as lost in thought as she was and she realized that she was right to make a detour and go into her living area to obtain an object. She produced that object along with their mugs. It was penny.
His smile was a large one.
"If you must know, I was thinking about the time when the Doctor programmed himself to daydream."
Kathryn's tea came spewing out of her mouth as she choked, laughing so hard. Chakotay grabbed a couple of napkins as Kathryn tried in vain to control her coughing. When she finally did get her passages to clear, she started laughing hysterically.
"What about the time that he programmed himself with the Levoidian flu?"
"And the time, he was beamed out into space during the battle with the Kazon."
"And the time that he introduced music to that alien culture who thought they were so superior to us, what were they called?" Kathryn asked Chakotay. His head was furrowed in thought.
"The Qomar." Kathryn said suddenly as she remembered.
Incoming communiqué, incoming communiqué
The internal communications system was activated by the receipt of an outside message.
"I wonder who that could be?" Chakotay mused as Kathryn got up to see.
When she tapped the consul a familiar face filled the view screen.
"Harry. You're a sight for sore eyes."
"I just heard, is Chakotay alright?"
"Yes, he's just outside. In fact let me carry this out there as it may take some time for him to get back in the anti-grav chair in order to come inside."
"Admiral, it's good to see you again." Harry talked as she walked.
"Likewise, how's the Rhode Island?"
"She's good but she's not Voyager."
"Harry?" Chakotay said as he heard the familiar voice talking to Kathryn.
"Chakotay, how are you?" Harry fixed his eyes on the older man, but Kathryn didn't miss the hesitation he made at seeing Chakotay in an anti-grav chair.
"I'm OK," However towards the end of that statement, Kathryn heard Chakotay gasp and she knew instinctively what it was. She rose from the bench that she had been sharing with him and went inside to get his medicine. She knew that he should have been resting and maybe his needing so many doses today showed how weak he was getting and how much emotional strain that he was under. But she knew better than to suggest that he should retire now to him. Especially with Captain Kim on the Com. line.
"Are you sure?" Captain Kim was asking when Kathryn came back with the hypospray. She pressed it to his neck as he was about to reply.
"Give him a minute, he'll be alright." She said in response to the Captain's question.
"That's right, trust me my nurse knows more about treating these attacks than I do."
"Nurse?" Both Kathryn and Chakotay shared a chuckle at that, he sounded so much like Tom when he first found out about Kathryn's current assignment. Chakotay visibly relaxed after a time and both Harry and Kathryn knew that the drugs had done their magic and began working.
The door bell chimed before Chakotay could give an answer.
Kathryn got up to see who it was.
"How are you Harry?"
"How's the ship?"
"She's only as good as her crew and even though they haven't been tested in the fires of an uncharted quadrant, I believe they're one of the best."
"They can only be if they are taken through the right paces by their Captain."
"And shown how to do that by the right First Officer." Harry smiled and Chakotay looked with pride at the young man who had stared off their journey trying to emulate him but had fallen into his own style and his own grace.
"I'm proud of you Harry. You were an exceptional officer on Voyager and you'll be an exceptional Captain to the Rhode Island. Your grace and your style are your own, I'm proud of the part I've played in fostering it"
Tom and B'Elanna stood outside of the door.
"Admiral. Sorry for not calling ahead and we were in the neighborhood, so we just dropped by to visit. If Chakotay is not feeling up to it…." Tom had began but Kathryn waved them inside.
"Come in," She gave them both fierce hugs. Again, Tom was concerned. Admiral Janeway had not been this tactile with anyone for a long time.
"He's outside taking to an old friend."
"Thank you sir….for everything." The Command look on Harry's face dropped and Chakotay could see the Ensign that had been with him through the first ten years of their journey. He looked lost and sad.
Coming from the living area, with the computer facing them, Kathryn caught the look on Harry's face. Tom and B'Elanna heard the tone of the conversation and they were silent, waiting. They knew what was going on outside and they didn't want to intrude, to spoil the moment.
Harry's command face came back on momentarily. It was then that Chakotay found voice to continue.
"Ayala and the other ex-Maquis came by the other day and they brought all of their grandchildren. If you see them, they've grown so much now. And Ayala himself; the same quiet man he always was….."
"On duty." Both of them finished the sentence laughing.
"But off, oh Chakotay, that man could talk up a storm. …" Harry was continuing.
"And sing up one too." Tom finished the thought for the both of them as the trio stepped out onto the porch.
"In the flesh"
"Man, it's good to see you. Where's that woman of yours?"
"Right here Starfleet, how are you?"
"Couldn't be better, now that I get to tell the Engineering Chief what he can and cannot do. I think he almost fainted the first time I told him that if he didn't do what I wanted I would rip out his heart and drink his blood in Klingon. You know I never had any problems after that."
"Glad I could teach you something in the years that we were together." B'Elanna said and Tom laughed out loud. It was music to Kathryn's ears.
The door chimed again. "Must be the night, but everyone seems to be in the neighborhood." Kathryn muttered as she rose to get the door.
She admitted the Doctor.
"I needed to program the replicator to refill the medication."
Laughter filled the house as he said this.
"Come in Doctor, join the party."
The Doctor frowned. "I thought I told you not to let him exert himself, he could accelerate the progression of the disease."
"Doctor, do you think that I could dissuade Chakotay from doing anything that he set his mind to do?"
"Actually, Admiral, if anyone can get Chakotay to change his mind about anything, it's you." And as he said it, a sad look crossed his face. At once Kathryn knew what he was referring to, or rather who he was referring to. Kathryn hadn't had an easy time at it, but she had changed Chakotay's mind about her to the point that he fell in love and he married Seven.
She pushed those thoughts of loss firmly out of her head.
"Come in and join the party." She ushered him in to the porch where the others were.
"Doc." Tom got up and clasped the hands of his friend. The Doctor also gave B'Elanna a quick hug.
"That's Captain Kim to you now."
"There's something we thought we'd never see. Beam any smart bombs over to your ship lately?' The Doctor asked his face a picture of innocence.
"Oooh, funny" Harry retorted.
They all chuckled at that.
Kathryn got up slowly after she realized what was happening in the room.
"What would everyone like to drink?"
"Coffee for me," Tom said. "I have a ton of work to do tonight."
"Racktagino, for me. So do I." His wife followed him.
"I'd ask for coffee, but my Doctor is here, so rather than go into an argument I'd take another cup of chamomile tea."
"I'd like to have a cup of coffee myself, seeing that's the preferred choice of beverage." The Doctor chimed in.
"How's the modification to your eating subroutines holding up?" B'Elanna asked.
"OK. But I did have one accident, when we were working with an experimental form of radiation and it destabilized my matrix momentarily. I had just had a glass of champagne with the research group and it was being held in my holocavity. When the force field was disrupted, I leaked. It looked as if I suffered an unfortunate accident."
"It looked as if you wet yourself?" Tom was in tears and so were the rest of them. They could see that Harry was crying, he was laughing so hard as he ordered a cup of coffee from the replicator behind him in his quarters on the Rhode Island.
Kathryn excused herself to get their drink order. Before she gave the individual orders, she gave one general one to the replicator. Kathryn paused as she was about to go to the back porch. They were there, the surviving members of the original Senior Staff of Voyager. The ones who had stood by her through everything, the ones who had given their lives to fulfilling Voyager's mission as surely as those who had died along the way. They hadn't been all together since they disembarked from Voyager one year ago and by what she was seeing now, maybe it was something that they should do regularly.
As Kathryn gave everyone their drinks in the standard Starfleet issue grey and black mugs that they had all drunk out from of at one time, they fell silent. It was as if they knew what was going to happen so that they all gave a drink order. And what was going to happen was something that would commemorate the greatest voyage that they have ever been on in their lives.
Kathryn raised her cup and gave the toast,
"We have journeyed 70,000 light years and made it back, we have stood with each other through all good times and all the bad during that journey, and what we have learned from that long star trek, is the most fundamental of all human values. That love between family members, binds us and heals us. It empowers us and enables us to realize that together we are a lot more than any of us have could have ever imagined. We use what we've learnt to help us on our journeys right now, in whatever we are facing, even if we are coming towards the end of one journey. We know that it's the journey, not the destination that's important. We learnt that who we are and who we become as we travel through life is the most important.
To the journey."
"To the journey." Each one of the members intoned in turn.
"And to those who are not here to share it with us." Chakotay added.
They were all silent as they took a sip.
"I would like to ask one favor. Please do this for the rest of the crew, as many people as you can gather every year. If there is one thing that Neelix had imparted on us, is that we should always have a party every year." Chakotay looked around as he spoke. He received nods all around. They had received the news that Neelix had died three years ago, and they knew that doing this would not only honor Chakotay but the Talaxian as well.
"Twice every year, three times year, every month, every week….." The Doctor was droning on in a monotone.
That brought a fresh round of laughter.
"Remember how he used to dance?" Harry asked.
Kathryn had tears of joy in her eyes as the night went on.
It was short lived.
When she got up the next morning, she looked out the window and noticed how bright it was. She must have overslept and had forgotten to set the alarm. Rising from her bed, she noted that Chakotay hadn't gotten up either.
"Computer, what is the time?" Kathryn put on her gown and went over to his bed side
"Wake up sleepy, head. If you're going to be like this, there'll be no more late night guests."
She walked over to his bed and instantaneously she knew that something was wrong. He was so still.
She felt his neck and was relieved that she got a weak pulse.
"Computer, medical emergency." The Admiral barked, the Captain not being able to deal with what she was seeing now.
Instantaneously, the computer alerted Starfleet Medical and found the Doctor in his lab. His combadge chirped red alert. He dropped everything he was doing, literally, and hit his combadge. His hypospray hit the table.
"This is the Doctor, what's happened?"
"He's in stage three." Came the Admiral's voice over his combadge.
"Lt Randy. I'm leaving. You're in charge until I get back." He pulled up the medical emergency transporter systems and started punching in codes and destination coordinates.
"But sir, you have a class in ten minutes and you're in the middle of an experiment, it will take us a month to start it up again."
"It can wait." The Doctor disappeared in the blue haze of a transporter beam.
Admiral Janeway was pacing outside waiting on the Doctor to finish his examination. Finally he did after 10 minutes and she knew because of the time he spent in there, it was bad news.
"He has about an hour." The Doctor said solemnly.
"What happened? How did stage three come on so suddenly?"
"If I were to speculate, I'd say it was stress and fatigue, but I don't believe so." Came the reply, and after a pause the Doctor continued.
"This disease has been held at bay by Chakotay's mind and his soul for want of a better term. I believe that Chakotay is ready to go now, so he has stopped fighting. Everything that he needed to get done has been accomplished and now he is ready to leave."
"I won't accept that." But she knew that she had to, because as soon as she realized what was happening, she figured out what Chakotay was waiting on to die. He was waiting to talk to Harry. The Admiral moved past him and went into the bedroom.
She pulled the chair nearest to Chakotay's bedside and took his hand. He was asleep and he looked almost gone. Where was the man who was laughing with all of them last night?
"He can't move anything from his neck down." Kathryn nodded. It was time to let him go. She would never ask him to continue living like he was now.
Chakotay's eyes fluttered open. "Kathryn?" She supposed he said it when she saw the pattern his mouth had made, but she could hardly hear it.
"I'm here Chakotay."
"How should I proceed?" Kathryn didn't turn at the sound of the Doctor's voice.
"Contact everyone who was here last night.' The Admiral ordered.
The Doctor left to fulfill the order as the Captain turned once again to her friend.
As gently as she could, Kathryn climbed into Chakotay's bed. She gathered him in her arms and shifted his weight so that he could be comfortable. She knew that he couldn't feel anything from his neck down and that his head was the most important part, She wanted him to feel her physically, mentally and spiritually with him when he passed over.
His eyes fluttered open again and shifting his head a bit he smiled when he realized where she was and how he was so close to her now.
He had trouble swallowing, but he seemed determined to tell her something.
"I loved Seven… with all my heart and I lost it…when I lost her in the Delta Quadrant." He gasped out in pain…..then swallowed as he willed the disease at bay just to say what he was going to now. Kathryn felt the tears falling down her face as she held herself still, in this great moment of sadness, in this the moment of his passing.
"But my soul….my soul was never lost…Kathryn, you….." He swallowed again and she could tell that it wasn't going to be long now. She stroked his hair and placed her hand gently at the side of his cheek. She felt tears falling out of his eyes. She wiped them gently as she had done for him in the past, as he had done for her countless times before, and as his words were wiping the tears falling down her check right now in a real way.
"…you have always…..held my soul." And with that, his head rolled back and the light went out.
A scream ripped from Kathryn's throat at his passing. On hearing it outside, the Doctor left a gaping B'Elanna on the viewscreen and ran into the bedroom.
The Captain was inconsolable. She was holding Chakotay's body and bawling. The sobs permeated the doctor's holomatrix and radiated outwards. He too felt as if he could shed tears over what he was seeing, over the pain that the damn journey that they had celebrated so much last night had caused. He would trade everything he had gone through in the last twenty-three years, just so that the Admiral would not be grieving as much as she was. Almost. His subroutines reminded him of what he was doing before he came in. He ran a quick scan on his tricorder discretely a few paces away from the bed and after obtaining the time of death, he left the Admiral to her grieving.
When he came back to the communications consol, he saw that B'Elanna and Tom were holding each other in front of the view screen and B'Elanna was shaking with silent sobs.
He tapped the viewscreen silently and went back to his task of notifying people of the Captain's passing.
When Harry answered the signal, he heard the Admiral in the bedroom from afar. He did not utter one word by way of greeting. He and the Doctor stood looking at each other from five light years away with tears rolling down their cheeks.
After a time, the tears stopped, and she knew that it had forever. But the pain had made its home deep within her soul and she doubted that anything could uproot it. Kathryn let go of Chakotay's body and arranged it on the bed, folding his hands across his chest. She then got off the bed and sat on the chair looking at him and saying goodbye silently. She wondered idly if she should say goodbye to the best part of herself, because she knew at that instant, that it was as dead as her best friend lying posed on the bed, but his promise called out to her. She couldn't just shut herself down; she had to try to live for him, even though right now, she saw no reason to. She had made a promise to him, even though she hadn't spoken those words, and she knew that she had to honor that promise, but she didn't know where or how to start. All she knew was that Captain Janeway was in too much pain right now and she needed the Admiral to get through the next couple of days.
Admiral Janeway, composed and dry eyed, stood up and went into the next room and to find the PADD that contained Chakotay's last will and testament.
He was concerned about the Admiral. She was looking a little thin and her eyes were dark, as if she hadn't slept in a while. But she was on top of everything and in charge of it. She had the funeral organized in two days. In the other three days before the actual event, she had hired a team of movers and had sorted and packed Chakotay's house and put it on the market for sale. She said that it was easy because all Chakotay's final instructions were laid out and clear.
But what concerned the Doctor was the way in which the Admiral was holding herself. She was there, but not in the way that she was on that fateful night before he died. She was a lot colder and on the rare occasions that she did laugh, the light did not reach her eyes. She also took no part in the official ceremony. She had B'Elanna give the Eulogy and all the surviving former senior officers of USS Voyager spoke, even Tuvok.
Ever the Vulcan, he had recorded farewell messages to be played incase he was "not of sound mind" should he be alive when one of the senior staff passed on. He had wanted to lend his voice to the others. It wasn't logical to him, but he knew that it would be something that the crew who he had served for years would appreciate, and that made it necessary. That's what he had said in the communiqué that found its way to the Admiral when she was making the funeral arrangements. Tuvok had made the logs in the early stages of his illness and had The Doctor download them in the surviving senior officer's databases on Voyager. When Kathryn left the ship, she downloaded her personal database and it downloaded the logs.
All of the former crew members who were anywhere within three days travel of Earth came and the Admiral had cashed in a good portion of her savings and a lot of favors to get them home on time. The others who were within range were watching the ceremony via com link and the rest would be sent a copy of the funeral recording if they wished to say goodbye that way.
To everyone else, she was the picture of strength during this time, but the members of her former senior staff who knew her well, were worried. The Doctor had seen her break down, Tom and B'Elanna and Harry had heard her when he contacted them. But he had waited until she settled down before calling the former Maquis and the rest of the crew. He wanted to keep her grief within the immediate family of the senior officers.
When the ceremony was finally over, everyone climbed on the special hovercrafts that had been hired to transport them to the Voyager museum for the reception. The Admiral remained and the Doctor went up to her as the last group was leaving.
"Admiral, we're ready to go."
"I'm not, I have a site to site transporter, I'll beam in there in a minute."
The Doctor clasped his hand on her shoulder. She smiled at him and again, and again he noticed that the smile did not reach her eyes.
"As you wish Admiral."
Kathryn stood watching the stone that she had etched for him in the ground. She fought back the irrational feeling to push aside that stone and dig with her hands until she got to the box, open it up and demand that he live again; that he not leave her. She was overwhelmed during the last five days by that loss that she had suffered, and the regret that she had put aside when she found out that Chakotay was ill in order to tend to him, came back to her in full force. She tasted the bitterness of loss on her tongue constantly and she knew that her closest friends, those that were left, were worried about her. But she didn't care because now she had a new mission.
She placed her hand on the Chamousi that she had inscribed on the stone. Chakotay had once told her that it was a mark left by his people as a blessing to the land. It was fitting that it be on his headstone as he was such a blessing to her.
And with that action, Kathryn knew what she had to do. Not for a former drone who became her adopted daughter, not just for a young woman who should know the joy of motherhood over again, not only for the man who was her oldest friend, but first and foremost for the man who had stood at her side through everything for the last twenty three years. For the man who had known her better than she knew herself, for the man who touched her soul, and for the man whose soul that she had held. For that man's sake she must act. For that man she must make up for what time, the journey and the bad decisions that she had made, even through ignorance had taken away. For that man, she must be true to the promise that she made long ago in response to his,
That she would be for him
Distance would never again be a factor
Death would not break their bond.
Time would not stop her from what she had to do.
Part 26: The Beginning of the End.