She looked over at the body, not believing
her eyes. Indeed, if she hadn't been viewing the body herself, she
wouldn't believe it. But it was reality. He was dead.
Her mind was in turmoil; he wasn't supposed to die. He himself had never envisioned his death, so how could he die? She knew that she had to alert someone else to his death, for his preparations into the next world, but she found herself unable to act. Neither on his behalf or hers.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned, slowly. A familiar face, male, greeted her. "Kathryn," he asked. "What's wrong?"
Kathryn looked away from the face and turned her gaze to the body in front of her. She didn't need to speak.
"Gods," the voice that belonged to the face said. "Is he...?"
She nodded, then turned to the face and buried her head on his shoulder. Normally, she wouldn't let anyone see her in any normal human emotional state, but this face didn't just belong to anybody. This face belonged to Chakotay, her best friend, her most trusted advisor- besides Tuvok anyway. Who in hell could argue with his Vulcan logic?
The person the body had belonged to could have. Except now he was dead. Dead meant he would never come back. He would never toss a flippant comment to the wind; would never smile that cocky grin of his; would never fly the ship again; would never hug B'Elanna when she most needed it....
B'Elanna. She was going to need one of his hugs now, except he couldn't now. He was dead. Gone. She was going to be devastated. Kathryn hoped the half Klingon wouldn't slip into the depression that seemed to come easy to her again. Chakotay had told her a long time ago that when he and B'Elanna had talked on the holodeck, he had told the engineer that she wasn't going to get rid of any of them that easily.
Now that Tom was dead, though, she might feel that there was nothing keeping her to this reality. Well, Kathryn Janeway would make sure that B'Elanna would be all right.
"Kathryn?" Chakotay wasn't used to being let in on her emotions. This was very new to him.
She took herself out of his embrace and wiped away the tears that had started to fall. "We should call someone. The Doctor should start establishing a cause of death. And B'Elanna should be told."
Chakotay nodded. "I'll do it. You go get some rest."
"I'm fine, Chakotay. I'll do it," she argued.
"Kathryn, now is not the time to disagree with me. Just go and get some sleep. Please. You haven't been sleeping very well lately."
"This isn't going to help me sleep, Chakotay! And how the hell do you know that I haven't been sleeping?"
"Just go. Please." His eyes pleaded with her silently and begged her not to resist.
How could she resist such an expression like that? "All right, Chakotay. If you need me for anything, though, promise you won't hesitate to call me."
She nodded, only half believing him. Then she left, feeling a little less whole.
She managed to get to the couch in her quarters before collapsing with grief. It shouldn't have hurt her this much to lose a crewmember; it never had before. Yet something was different. Something had changed in this Odyssey, and she had never liked change.
There was a pain in her stomach, though she knew it was only an emotional pain and not a physical one. After wrestling with it for a while, it disappeared. She stood up and managed to stumble into her bedroom, where she changed and slipped under the covers.
It was no good- she couldn't sleep. She padded into part of her quarters which was like a living room, and sat on the couch. There she stayed, staring out at the stars, until the door chime rang.
"Come," she called, not really caring who it was.
Chakotay entered, looking more haggard than he had before. Before he could speak, however, she stopped him with words of her own.
He shook his head and went to speak again. Again, she stopped him.
"What?" The shock in his voice didn't even come close to the shock she saw in his eyes.
"I want to be alone. Leave."
He opened his mouth to argue, then decided to honour her wishes and left. She stared once again at the stars, until morning came, and with it, more mourning.
It was time to make the announcement, but before she could, she had to find out exactly what Tom had died from. A visit to Sickbay and the Doctor was not what she had previously planned for her morning.
The Doctor was not his usual cheerful self. For all his griping about Paris and his inefficiency, the EMH did have a certain holographic soft spot for the pilot. "Ah, Captain. What can I do for you this morning?" he asked, as if he didn't already know.
"I'm here to find out what Tom's cause of death was." This wasn't going to get easier with time, as she had told herself with previous crewmen's deaths. If anything, it was going to get harder.
The corners of the Doctor's mouth sagged even more. "Of course. Well, from what I can tell, he died from an aneurysm."
She nodded. "Thank you. I have to go make an announcement now."
The Doctor nodded back. "Give my regards to B'Elanna if you see her."
"I will," she called as she walked out of the room. She nearly broke into a run for her quarters.
Once there, she calmed herself down enough to tap the comm badge that was pinned to her uniform. "Captain to all hands. I regret to inform you that last night, one of our distinguished crew passed away. Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris died late last night of an unfortunate aneurysm. Funeral services to be announced at a later time. That's all. Janeway out."
She crumpled up on the couch. The emotional pain in her stomach finally became too much for even her to ignore. Great, wracking sobs came out of her heaving body in torrents, the tears rolling down her cheeks like a flood she had no power to stop. Kathryn had dealt with death and loss before, so she didn't understand why this was affecting her so much. It shouldn't have- normally it wouldn't have. She would miss Tom like one of her own children, had she had any, but she shouldn't have been affected like this. And that disturbed her.
The door chimed. She took a moment to gather herself up, then said, "Come."
Chakotay walked in again. "I know you wanted to be alone last night, Kathryn, but I heard your voice when you made that announcement, and you're not okay."
"Why would I be okay, Chakotay? I've just lost the best damn pilot I've ever had," she retorted, trying not to sniffle and clue him in on her emotional state.
He looked closer at her and saw it anyway. "Kathryn, it's okay to let your feelings out once in a while. You're only human. I know Tom was much more than just a good pilot to you; he was also a friend. We're all going to miss those spiked punches of his." His eyes begged her to let him in.
This time she did resist those eyes. "Chakotay, please, I'd like to be alone right now. I don't feel well." At least that was partly true; her emotions were doing numbers on her stomach.
"Oh? Is that so? Perhaps we should get you to Sickbay."
"No!" The Doctor wouldn't be able to do anything for her. "I'd just like to get some rest."
"That's a good idea, since you have dark circles under your eyes from the no sleep that you got last night. Tell me, Kathryn, this is bothering you more than you'd like it to, isn't it?"
Kathryn glared at him. He didn't shrink back like he usually did when she glared the Janeway glare 'o death. So she chose to remain silent instead.
"Why, Kathryn? You refuse to let me in now. You let me in last night, when you found Tom. Why not now? Are you just realizing that your grief has been magnified because you let yourself get too close to Tom, to the rest of the crew, to me, and that you think if you just don't get too close you'll be fine the next time someone dies? When you love someone, you run the risk of getting hurt. Hasn't that risk always been acceptable before? Or have you never been so close to someone that when they died you didn't grieve so badly?" He paused in his tirade. He was angry, tired, grieving himself for the Tom that would never again be the comic relief, and he was letting himself vent on Kathryn because she wouldn't let him in on her own grief. "When you figure everything out, Kathryn, I'll be waiting for you. Just don't take too long. When you love someone, you can only wait so long for them to love you back before you begin to die inside."
Her eyes squeezed shut in an attempt to blank out the image of his angry figure, shoulders squared and back retreating silently to the door. It didn't work. Her mind's eye projected the same image. It wouldn't go away. The last words he said to her before he left kept replaying. Apparently, he didn't know about her father and fiancé, and how they died. Apparently, he didn't know about the depression she had entered in. Apparently, he didn't know that she loved him already.
Standing, she gathered herself again and began to head for the holodeck. Once there, she set a program she had only played once for a very short period of time and had set out of her mind forever. Or so she had hoped.
Entering, she felt the cool salty breeze hit her face first. Then she saw the great expanse of the cliff and the huge blue ocean below it. The sun, if one could see it peeking above the storm clouds, was just about to set. She walked to the edge and sat down.
"Computer, disengage safety protocols."
"Warning. Disengaging safety protocols presents-"
"Override. And play Janeway-Music-0329."
The computer beeped its reply, and soon the soft, soothing melody of a twentieth century song began to play through the holodeck. It took the illusion of the seaside cliff, complete with sharp rocks below, away and added almost a cinematic-like quality to the scene.
Kathryn sighed. She didn't feel the point of anything anymore. Chakotay didn't know how she felt about him, and if he couldn't read that emotion as well as he could her other ones, then he couldn't be truly in love with her. And without love, there was no point to anything. Perhaps she should just shove herself off this cliff, let herself fly free through the air for a few precious seconds until her body hit the rocks, where the water would quietly slap her broken bones and wash away the crimson blood from her wounds.
Maybe it was something she should do, to ease her own suffering. But then that would be selfish of her, wouldn't it? What about her responsibilities as captain? What about her crew? They would be devastated, wouldn't they? Suddenly Kathryn wasn't so sure that her crew loved her as much as she did them. She had given away a little piece of her heart to each and every dedicated crewman, denying it to herself every step of the way, and, reflecting on it now, had she gotten anything in return? Maybe she should take the plunge.
She stood and looked over at the wide holographic expanse. It was Earth- nearly all her programs were. But this was her favourite program and her most depressing one. She had only been to this place once in real life; it was where Admiral Janeway's ashes were scattered. Kathryn wondered if she should fly on the wind like he had done, then sink down into the depths of the ocean and float with those ashes. She stepped closer to the edge.
What did she have to lose? If she succeeded, only her life. And if she could gather enough strength to jump, it must not be worth living. If she failed, but no one knew, absolutely nothing. If she failed, and someone should discover her activities, she could lose her captaincy. If she succeeded, she'd lose it anyway. She decided the risks were too few not to try.
Closing her eyes and taking one last breath, she edged one foot over the escarpment. Before she could plunge, there was a shout from behind her.
"Kathryn!" It was that voice again. Chakotay.
She didn't turn around, but she did take her foot away from the edge. "What is it, Chakotay?"
"Were you about to jump?" he demanded to know. She turned and looked into his eyes. She was surprised when she saw fear instead of the anger she had been expecting.
"What's it to you? You don't seem to care," she spat out, turning back to the water.
He hesitated, then moved closer to her. "Kathryn, is that what you think? I came to your quarters this morning to tell you that you didn't have to be alone in your grief; that I did care and would help you. I came to your quarters this morning to tell you something important, and I... I chickened out. And then I got angry, because you wouldn't let me in."
"Is that your excuse?" Her voice was bitter acid, meant to shoot straight through his chest and eat away at his heart.
"No. It's not an excuse or a justification. It's an explanation for my behavior earlier. And I'm sorry."
She continued to stare out at the ocean, not bothering to reply. She didn't think it was worth the effort.
"What I came to tell you before, and what I came to tell you just now, was that.... well, I love you." He gulped and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, hoping the physical contact would bridge the miles long emotional gap. "And I'm sorry for what I said before. I didn't mean it."
"I'm sorry too, Chakotay," Kathryn replied after a few moments. "But you have to let me do this." With no other warning than that, she stepped over the cliff.
Chakotay's hand tightened its grip on her shoulder, while his other arm snaked around her waist in an attempt to pull her back. "Nooo!" she screamed, fighting him. Her hands went up in defense and scratched his face.
"I won't let you kill yourself, Kathryn!" he replied. "I can't!" He disregarded the hot blood that dripped down his face like the warm drizzle that had started.
Her Starfleet defense training kicked in, and she launched a series of attacks to help loosen his grip on her. Struggling so close to the edge, she failed to realize that any movement on her part to counter his would land him on her opposite side, where the cliff face watched, eager for someone to fall and feed its vicious appetite.
The first thing she realized after she gained her freedom was the fact that the rain was coming down full force now. The second thing she realized was that she actually was free to jump the cliff. Leaning in to the edge, Kathryn prepared to dive. She was startled by her third realization.
Chakotay stared at her from the edge, dangling from a precarious handhold on the rocks. His mouth formed the word, "Help", but she was so terrified for his life that she was frozen in place. His empty hand clawed for another handhold, while his feet kicked in the air in a desperate attempt to gather enough momentum to swing himself back over the edge. The hand that held him to the cliff's surface started to slip, and it was only minutes before that one, too, was clawing at air.
He didn't scream; instead, he just stared up at Kathryn, his eyes full of love and pain, as his body fell through the air and hit the jagged rocks below. His heart was the first thing to break, but his bones followed soon enough. Blood welled out of the corner of his mouth, and his eyes, once so filled with expression, were now blank, staring up at the cloud-filled sky. Crimson dripped from various cuts all over his body and mingled with the salty sweetness of the sea.
Kathryn couldn't speak, couldn't move, couldn't hear or see or feel anything other than the breaking of her own heart. It was much like the sight and sound and emotions that Chakotay's body had made upon impact of the rocks. She had intended to kill herself, but had wound up killing the love of her life instead. Now she had no idea what to do; the logical part of her told her to go get help, maybe he wasn't dead. The more romantic part of her, the one that made her watch all those romantic movies and the rest of the sap, told her that he had died of a broken heart even before he had hit the ground, and she had better throw herself off the cliff because that was the proper thing to do after one killed one's loved one.
She wanted to listen to the logical part of her, but today it sounded too much like Tuvok to be of her liking, and so her romantic part took control. First one step, then two. A third step would take her over the cliff.
A lone gull cried in the rain, the only witness to mourn their love.