Commander Chakotay stood in his quarters relishing the sight outside the view screen. Earth. Seven long years and they were finally home. He recalled the moment when they had burst out of the borg sphere and into the Alpha Quadrant. He'd been standing next to Seven - his Seven. He liked the sound of that. Afterwards they'd gone back to his quarters, just the two of them, and had deactivated the comm. She'd gone to file a report now but had left with the promise to return quickly.
Therefore he was not surprised to hear his door chime. He strolled over to it and paused momentarily - enjoying the anticipation - and then opened it. The sight that greeted him was not the one he'd expected to see.
Instead of Seven, B'Ellana stood in his doorway. She'd given birth a mere 6 hours ago and frankly he was surprised to see her. That was when he noticed the tears streaking down her face and the ocean of pain in her eyes. "B'Ellana," he cried, "what's wrong?!"
Her voice, despite her distress, had a nightmare calmness. "Chakotay, it's the Captain. She... She's... I think you better come."
And his world came crashing down.
They were running. If B'Ellana was feeling any discomfort after her labour she certainly wasn't showing it now. He hadn't needed to ask her what had happened to his Captain - the look in her face said it all. Taking a deep breath in he tried not to remember all the times he'd found himself doing this. Running down corridors chasing Kathryn's life. It happened far too often but just as he'd begun to let go of the constant demand of being ready to lose her - that his job as her First Officer brought - it had happened again. Just as they were safe. Just as they had accomplished their goal. Just as she'd achieved her redemption. Just as he'd begun to move on. They entered sickbay.
Chakotay took in the scene infront of him and his last desperate hopes died. There was Tom, the smile of new fatherhood wiped clean off his usually upbeat countenance. He held his daughter in his arms staring at her beautiful infant face and wondering how a place of birth could so quickly become a place of death.
A stricken Harry stood, shaking, beside his friend. Not able to get the image of his Captain's limp form,on the ready room floor, out of his head. Not believing that this had happened. Not now. Not here.
The Doctor had an arm around Seven's shocked frame. He'd tried. He really had. Harder than he'd ever tried before. He'd fought for every forced breath: every attempted heartbeat. But it hadn't been enough. He'd been too late.
Seven stared numbly into space. Captain Janeway was gone. The concept seemed impossible to her. Although logic dictated that everyone dies at somepoint. She hadn't felt this alone in years. Not since she was cut off from the collective. Her protecter was gone. She was vunerble and - as the Doctor had enabled her emotional human responses to re-assert themselves - she felt dejected. Crushed. Imperfect. Upon seeing her that emotionally unstable, Chakotay felt the lump in his throat choke him but it was Tuvok's reaction that made him want to sink to the floor and never get up again.
The Vulcan stood beside his fallen friend, one hand was clenched into a fist. His breathing was coming in short sparodic gasps as he battled for control. The disbelieve in his eyes was waging war with his logic and his composure was being massacered by emotion. Tuvok was a mess. Only one situation, Chakotay could think of, would cause that. Only one terrible nightmare that hunted him in his sleep. Kathryn's death.
He walked up to the biobed, staring at its occupant. She looked as beautiful as ever. Her face was turned to one side as if she had been watching the Doctor's futile attempts to save her. Loose locks of red hair cascaded around her head and brushed lightly against her pale cheek. She could have been sleeping. For a moment he almost believed that she was. But she wasn't.
"What happened?" He didn't quite register that the speaker was himself.
"Internal bleeding." The Doctors voice was sad and heavy. "She must have fallen on something with quite some force. I don't know why she didn't report here. I don't know how no-one noticed..."
Chakotay's eyes squeezed shut and his jaw clenched. Someone *had* noticed. Him. He'd thought nothing of it. The impact of breaking into the Alpha Quadrant had knocked most people off their feet. The Captain had fallen onto a railing. She hadn't cried out. She'd seemed fine. No Chakotay, he thought, not fine. 'Fine' was the word she always, had always, used when she wasn't anywhere near the definition. He hadn't been able to escape the niggling feeling that that hand on her stomach wasn't usually placed there. That the wince as she sat down on her chair, and the sharp intake of breath, might not have been gestures of shock at there sudden homecoming.
Kathryn would never come home. She would never meet her 18 month year old nephew. She would never tramp through the mud of the Indiana farms. She would never wake up to the sun shining through her curtains or go to sleep with the stars gleaming on the inky black blanket of Earth's night sky. She would never see the Northern Lights - something she'd always told him that she regretted not doing. Oh God, he'd promised to take her.
"I noticed." He said, his shaking voice, barely audible even in the dead silence of the grieving room.
"What?" B'Ellana choked. She knew Chakotay. She couldn't have heard him right. If Kathryn Janeway had so much as grazed her knee, Chakotay would be beside her in seconds with a band aid.
"I saw her fall, on the railing, just as we broke through."
"But you would have said something... You always notice these things when it comes to her." B'Ellana's belief in her friend was strong but as she looked up she saw the pain on his face.
"Chakotay...no. But you always... Why didn't..."
"Shall I tell you what else he didn't do, oh angry Klingon?" A voice came from the corner of the room.
All heads snapped around. Q.
"What are you doing here?!" Chakotay growled. Q would not be here to make a mockery of their goodbyes to Kathryn!
"What are you doing here, Chuckles?!" Surprising everyone in the room - Q was not being flippant or annoying - he was genuinly angry. "I certainly have more right to be here than you do after your actions today!" The omnipitant raged on. "How do you feel, Chuckles? Proud of what you've done? Happy at the fact that you've finally gotten rid of the women who has been distancing herself from you recently?"
"Hey!" B'Ellana lept to Chakotay's defence. She may have been shocked at her friend for failing to mention the Captain's fall but he would be going through enough hell over the coming months without the blame of her death too. "It's not his fault! It was an accident! Besides there were any number of people on that bridge - Chakotay wasn't the only one who failed to notice! He didn't do anything different from anyone else in that room!"
Q studied her for a moment and then said in a menacing voice. "How about you and Chuckles come with me and I show you *exactly* what he did?"
Before either of them had time to protest, the omnipitant clicked his fingers, there was a blinding flash of blue light and sickbay was gone.
They found themselves standing on the bridge. Beside the Captain. She was just walking towards her seat, her eyes focused and her expression determined.
Chakotay almost looked away. He knew what would happen next and didn't want to see it with the knowledge he had gained since that moment. But he had no choice. His eyes were drawn to her, feasting on every detail that he would no longer see. The way she clenched her jaw as their gamble reached its climax, the way she held her head high not willing to accept defeat, and those eyes... Her bright blue eyes flashing dangerously. Eyes that would never again read him; eyes that he would never read again.
Suddenly, the ship jolted and the majority of the attending crew were thrown off their feet. The Captain included. She slammed into the railing, letting out a gasp as she did so. Staggering backwards, one hand on her stomach, she looked up - evidently to see if any crew-members had been hurt. Satisfying herself that everyone else was fine, she focused her gaze on the blue orb dangling on the viewscreen.
Straightening up, she relieved Tom and ordered Chakotay to the helm - almost as if she was surprised that he wasn't already beside her. Chakotay watched his younger self with loathing as he did a slight eye-roll in Kathryn's direction (obviously intended to amuse Seven). Had he known that those were the last moments he would ever spend with Kathryn...if only he'd known.
He watched himself pass her on his way to the helm. He watched as a flicker of uncertainty appeared in the man's eyes as he noticed those anomalies in his Captain's expression. He watched himself ignore them.
B'Ellana had bittersweet triumph in her voice as she turned to Q. "See, he didn't do anything!"
"No," Q corrected, "he hasn't done anything...yet."
The omnipitant played the next hour in fast forward. Chakotay watched himself leaving with Seven as Kathryn dealt with a horde of Admirals. Alone. He watched as she smiled and laughed. Alone. He watched as she exited to her ready room. Alone. Then Q slowed things down to their real speed.
The three of them followed Kathryn into her ready room, all fully aware that this was where she'd be discovered - dying on the floor. They watched as her composure slipped and as she,once again, pressed her hand to her stomach and closed her eyes in brief acknowledgment of the pain. Sighing she turned to her desk and they heard her make a note to call the Doctor later. They watched her as she communicated with yet more Admirals and conversed with yet more starfleet officials - blissfully unaware of her time running out.
As she finished, what they knew to be her last conversation, she leaned back in her seat - suddenly seeming exhausted. Inwardly, Chakotay started screaming. Then she stood up and made to cross the room.
She stopped. Time stopped. Then she vomited a fountain of blood. Wiping a shaking hand over her mouth, she doubled up again, clutching her stomach and barely suppressing a scream. Chakotay was beside himself. Seeing another life in this much pain was unendurable. Seeing Kathryn in this much pain...he didn't know how he was still standing.
Q then addressed B'Ellana. "And here is the moment, Klingon, where your precious Chuckles kills Kathy."
They all watched as Kathryn's knees buckled and she fell to the floor. More blood as her head banged against the desk. Her eyes were only half open, she seemed barely conscience. But somehow, from somewhere, she mustered the strength to hit her comm-badge.
"Janeway to Chakotay." Her voice was shallow and growing weaker by the minute but it was steady.
"Chakotay here. What is it, Captain?"
"I need some help."
"Can it wait?" B'Ellana's eyebrows shot up at that one but she made no comment.
"I'm afraid not. It's urgent." The Captain's voice was strained and barely coherent but still steady. She had complete trust in him. He would come and alert the Doctor. They'd both laugh about it later - how she had to make their homecoming even more dramatic. But she got no reply. "Chakotay, are you there? Chakotay, please respond!" Still no answer. It took the Captain a moment to realise that this time he really wasn't coming, before her eyes closed and she breathed, "Tuvok, help." Before her body slumped and she was still.
"That doesn't prove anything." B'Ellana stated quietly. "A comm malfunction...there could be any number of reasons."
"Shall we see?" Q said, relishing what he was about to reveal to B'Ellana.
Chakotay didn't join in the conversation. Call him stupid or slow but he hadn't connected that conversation with Kathryn's death. He felt numb. Shocked by his own words...the last words he'd said to her.
There was a blue flash and he found himself where he expected Q to take them. He heard her plea and his own cruel and selfish words. And then he did it. He deactivated the comm.
B'Ellana actually gasped beside him. He watched himself kissing a woman passionatley - she no longer had a name - while the one he loved lay dying. Alone.
They got back to sickbay and B'Ellana felt herself explode. "You stupid! Stupid! Selfish! Ignorant! Ball of Targ Shit! How *could* you! You deactivated the bloody comm! She was *dying* and contacts you and you DEACTIVATE THE COMM!!! Was it worth it, Chakotay?! Is Seven such a good kisser that you would leave the women you love to die so that you could go uninterupted?!"
Chakotay stood taking her angry words like punches but not flinching. He knew he deserved them - every last one. "I didn't know she was dying, B'Ellana..."
"Targ Shit! She asked for your help! It was obviously an emergency regardless of wether you knew she was dying or not and you ignored it! If she had turned to any other person on this ship, she wouldn't have been lying there for an hour! If she had turned to any other person on this ship, the Doctor would have been alerted in time to operate! If she had turned to any other person on this ship, she would still be alive! But she turned to you, Chakotay, and now she's dead."
The others stood, shocked by B'Ellana'a revelation. Tom wordlessly wound his arms around his wife and she took their child in hers. She sobbed into her babie's mess of curls and felt the warmth of Tom's tears dampen her hair. The others just kept staring at Chakotay. Harry then walked up to him and punched him hard in the jaw. Chakotay's vision exploded in pain but he could see well enough to see the tempest of tears overwhelming his attacker.
Suddenly, Q snapped his fingers and the silence was replaced by the 'beep beep beep' of a console.
"If you do anything to harm her again, Chuckles, you will have the wrath of the Continum making your life miserable for the rest of your days. I like, Kathy, if anything happens to her I'll only have Picard to annoy and as much fun as that is it's nice to have a bit of variety. Anyway, must dash, I think I've left junior unsupervised for longer than is deemed safe." And with that the omnipitant disapeared.
It was only when Chakotay heard the Doctor order Paris to get some cortrazine that he registered what was going on. Taking Kathryn's hand he begged her. "Please, Kathryn, come back. I need you...we all do." He felt B'Ellana elbow him. He looked at Seven who smiled a knowing smile and nodded. Taking a deep breath he begun. " I need you back, Kathryn, because I love you - even if I haven't shown it lately. I want you to wake up so that we can start this over and finally figure out what it is that we feel and what we should do about it. I need you to get back, Kathryn, please. If not for me I'll understand but..."
A hand raised itself and placed its fingers on his lips to silence him.
"Always for you." She whispered, her eyes still closed.
He smiled and she opened her eyes a crack. "Hey."
What happened to your face?"
"Harry punched me."
"Don't worry, he had a very good.reason."
"What was that?"
There was a slight pause before Chakotay said. "Killing you."
"Chakotay," her eyes were now fully open, boring into his and bathing him in their light, "it was my own stupid fault for not reporting to sickbay."
She shushed him again. "No, no 'buts'. Besides I don't know why I contacted you anyway. I mean, it's not as if you're a trained medic."
"Maybe it's because I should have been there..."
"Fine, you should have been there. That means that your only crime was your absence. Which I am ordering you not to repeat."
"Yes, M'am!" He mock saluted. "You aren't going to be able to get rid of me now!"
"I think I can live with tha..." She was cut off as his mouth descended on hers.
Everyone else descreetly left the room and smiled brightly at each other. Finally was the word on everyones lips.
Sickbay was not completely private though. Q and Junior stood in the Doctor's office observing.
"You may have got lucky this time, Chuckles, but I agree with the Klingon - you'll always be a stupid Targ to me."
"I'm bored." Junior complained. "Can we go?"
"Wait a minute, you might pick up some tips."
"What? From *him*?" Junior snorted and Q tousled his son's hair, laughing at the joke, as they disappeared in a flash of blue light.
"Did you hear something?" Chakotay asked.
"No, only Earth calling." Came Kathryn's reply.