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Would it change anything? Would you still chose her if you knew? I have hidden behind this mask for so long that I don’t know if I could tell you if I wanted to. Our journey has not been easy.

Fear has been our constant companion, though for different reasons. The first time we met, you were so volatile. I knew I would have to tread carefully. It wasn’t hard at first. Business was all we spoke of. The crew, the ship, the mission.

Then you smiled at me. For days, all I could see was the pure joy on your face. I felt the first traitorous trembles of desire. I kept Mark as an excuse, even knowing that I would probably never see him again. I knew if I reminded myself that I belonged to another, I would not give in to the passion I felt.

And I got to know the man underneath the uniform. Caring, warm, but always at arms length. Then those damn letters came. Mark was married, he had moved on, but you stayed by my side, offering friendship. My control almost broke. But I had to be a Captain first. I had to get the crew through the pain and disappointment. That worked for a while.

Then New Earth. When you went your own round-a-bout way to tell me that you loved me. The feel of your hands on my body scared me and excited me so terribly. I had decided to give in. There were no more rules, no more regulations, no more uniforms. No excuses. But as we began to move towards it, Tuvok returned for us. Damned Vulcan. I had to leave those thoughts and feelings behind with my tomato plants. I turned to you and had to fight myself for control as I saw the regret written on your face.

Back to business only. I had to distance myself. I would not be an effective Captain if I could not push back the personal feelings that had been released. After so many close calls with death, yours and mine, I got used to hiding my feelings. So much so that I began to lie to myself.

Then she came on board. I saw the interest in your eyes the first time you saw her transformed. And I watched it grow slowly. I should not have blamed you, but I did. I tried not to, but in the end I lost the battle. So I made the biggest mistake I had ever made in our relationship. Michael.

I needed to feel like I mattered and I wanted you to feel the betrayal that I felt when I saw you with her. You said that you were just friends, but I did not believe it. So I threw myself into a make believe world where I did not have to be in command. Where I could let my passion out.

And you were happy about it. Couldn’t you tell that it was you I wanted? That it was you I needed? You never even asked me why! You just accepted it and moved on. And after that damn storm I was alone again.

It was so much harder then, to deny what I felt for you. I actually went to your quarters to tell you everything, but when I came around the corner you were with her. I watched you brush the hair away from her face and place a gentle kiss to her lips before you stepped out of the turbo lift. My heart broke there, but then you smiled at her. You gave her MY smile, the one you saved for me. I couldn’t help it, I ran before the turbo lift doors closed on her departure. I could not let you see that you finally broke me.

Thus I put on the mask again. A mask that I wore until we returned to the Alpha Quadrant. The first sight of all those Federation ships was a joyous time. Home. But not a happy ending for me. I turned to look for you, my best friend, my first office, my love.

But it was her hand that you held. Not mine. So I directed you to the helm and held my mask as tight as possible. Seven years had left cracks in that mask. Tears threatened, thickening my voice as I gave the command, again, to set a course for home. Alone on a ship full of people.

If I had given in sooner, if I had walked around that corner and told you that I loved you, would it have made a difference? If I had taken the mask off more, would you have turned to her? If I had let go of my control, would your decision be different? Or have my fears left me with nothing more than an empty chair beside me?


9/21/09 CaptKJaneway

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