Contact: janezy (at) yahoo.com
Codes: K/f, C/7, J/C
Summary: This one is all over the map. Mary Sue does comedy, tragedy, angst, existentialism, and a wee bit of action, if you know what I mean.
Some people talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed, like it’s a bad thing. Well, believe me, it’s nothing compared to waking up in the wrong bed, in the wrong universe, about 375 years after you went to sleep.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Introductions first. I’m Jane Graves. I was born in Wisconsin in 1974. I lived a pretty boring life, in general. Somehow, when I wasn’t quite paying attention, I managed to become a Trekkie. That is, someone who is consumed by a love, bordering on obsession, of all things Star Trek.
I’ve always considered myself to have a non-addictive personality. But, I’m beginning to see how I fooled myself. Sure, I’ve managed to be mostly uninterested in the typical addictions — drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. But, I blatantly ignored how watching eight hours of television a day as a high-schooler could be seen as a bit compulsive.
I guess it all boils down to this: I’ve been routinely disappointed with my everyday life, but television never ceased to educate me in a realm of fantasy or to allow me, at least, to forget my mundane reality. No show quite captured that spirit like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Set in a world I could only hope would one day exist, I daily wished for the technology that would allow me to transport somewhere instead of drive, or replicate meals and clean them up without any trouble, or take my escapist bent to the extreme on the holodeck. I watched TNG for years without consciously thinking these things. They just played themselves out in the back of my mind and added to my general sense of displeasure with real life.
Several years and two series later, I continued my fascination with this universe, created by Gene Roddenberry, but fueled by thousands more. It became so much more than I’m sure even Mr. Roddenberry dreamed of.
And now, it’s much more than I dreamed of. Or it’s exactly what I dreamed. Or am dreaming. I’m still not sure.
Confused? So was I. One night, I went to bed in my own apartment. When I woke up, I realized I wasn’t in my bed. At least, I didn’t think I was. This place was so much darker. There were no windows and I was immersed in total blackness. I reached out to the area around the bed, hoping to run into a lamp or something. Finally, out of frustration, I yelled out loud “Aren’t there any lights in here?”
And there was light. I almost wished there weren’t. I was right; I wasn’t in my bed. I wasn’t in my apartment. I wasn’t anywhere I recognized. But, this place was still oddly familiar. There was something about the walls, the carpet, everything that just struck a chord. I knew I had never been here before, really, but it was almost like deja vu.
I walked around the small room trying to get my bearings. I found my way into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face. I looked at myself in the mirror and was gratified to see that, at least, I still looked like me.
I walked back out into the main room and started looking for clues as to where I was. The place was pretty sparsely furnished, but was cluttered nonetheless. There was a pile of clothing on the floor. That certainly seemed like me. That’s when it caught my eye. On top of the pile was a piece of clothing I’d seen many times, though not in real life. I bent to pick it up and ascertain that this one was real. It was a Starfleet uniform with the blue-green shoulders indicative of the sciences. I continued to rummage through the pile and found what I was looking for — a turtleneck. I ran my fingers along the neckline to find the pip. One pip. An ensign.
Obviously, this was a dream of some sort. It was the most realistic dream I ever had, but a dream nonetheless. Still, I’d always fantasized about living in the world of Star Trek. Now was my chance. Dream or no dream, I was going to make the most of this opportunity. I picked up the pieces of the uniform and put them on.
I went back into the bathroom to check out my reflection. Wow. This was much better than the uniform I wore for Halloween one year. Of course, that uniform looked like the Next Generation ones. This one looked like the ones from Voyager. Which made me think, where am I? I could feel movement, so I was pretty sure I was on a ship, even if I didn’t have a viewport to look out.
It always worked when they did it on television, so I thought I would try it myself. “Computer,” I said tentatively, “what is the name of this ship?”
“The U.S.S. Voyager,” was the disembodied response. That made sense. That is the show I’ve been watching the most as of late, I thought.
“And, what is the stardate?”
“The stardate is 57349.2.” Now that didn’t make sense. As far as I recalled from the series finale, they made it back to Earth well before now. Unless I somehow made it into the first timeline — the one that created the admiral who came back to convince the captain to use the Borg transwarp conduit to get home sooner. But why would I do that, I thought. If I’m dreaming, wouldn’t I stick to the familiar? In fact, I’d probably rather be in the earlier years of the journey. I always did prefer Kes to Seven.
Stop it, I thought to myself. This is silly. You should be happy you’re here at all. Stop analyzing the situation or you’ll waste all your time and wake up without ever making it out of these quarters.
I walked to the doors and they slid open to admit me to the hallway. I looked left and right. Both ways seemed to look the same. I really needed to figure out where on the ship I was so I could get somewhere good. I turned to reenter the quarters for that purpose, but the doors had closed behind me. I stepped away and back in front of the doors to try to get them to open. Nothing.
“Computer, open this door.”
“Please state your security code.”
Ah, the code. I looked at the keypad to the left of the door. I had no idea what to press to get the doors to open. I started randomly pressing keys in the hope that something would work. No such luck.
Well, I guessed I could just wander around until I find someplace interesting. Where would I go? Most people used the holodecks for fun. Since I was trying to explore the ship, though, they didn’t seem quite appropriate. If I showed up on the Bridge or in Engineering, I might seem a little out of place. The mess hall. That’s where I’d be most likely to run into someone I knew. I walked around the corridors, trying to find a turbolift.
Finally seeing one, I entered. What deck was the mess hall on, anyway? Not sure, I just said “Mess hall.” The lift started to move and soon deposited me on a different deck. This one was more populated. I had only run into a few people on the deck where my quarters were. There were tons of people here. I followed a couple, thinking they would lead me where I wanted to go. And so they did.
Soon I was in the mess hall, in line for what appeared to be breakfast.
“Good morning, Ensign Graves,” said Chell in a chipper voice.
“Good morning,” I replied. I was entranced by his blue skin. It was one thing to see all those different species on a 25″ television. It was quite another to be face to face with one. Fascinating. I looked away quickly when I saw him looking at me oddly, as if trying to figure out if I was okay. I grabbed a bowlful of the first thing I saw and turned to sit down.
Harry Kim was in the corner, and he appeared to be waving to me. I quickly looked around to make sure that Tom Paris or someone wasn’t behind me and decided that, yes, he was waving to me. And why not, I thought. It’s my dream. Why wouldn’t I make myself friends with the stars?
I navigated through the full room to his table and sat down with a smile. I noticed that he now sported two pips on his collar. “Good morning, Lieutenant Kim.”
He smiled himself. “Are we using titles today?”
“Sorry,” I said. “Harry.” I couldn’t seem to get this ridiculous smile off my face. I’m a huge geek, I thought. He didn’t seem to notice. I took a bite of the food I had picked up and was immediately rewarded with a burning sensation. I coughed and some of the food went down the wrong pipe, so I started coughing even more.
Harry’s smile turned to concern. “Are you okay?”
I couldn’t talk through the coughing, so I just nodded and picked up a glass of water. Finally, I felt I could breathe again.
“What was that all about?” he asked, standing slightly so he could look into my bowl. “Breakfast Curry? Why did you pick that? You know you hate spicy foods for breakfast.”
“I must have been distracted,” I said.
“Hmm,” he answered, unconvinced. He glanced up at the chronometer on the wall. “You’re going to be late for your duty shift.”
I turned to look at the clock myself. It was almost 8:00. Or, I guess I should say 0800, I amended in my head. If I’m on a military vessel, I should go by military time.
“I guess I’d better go,” I said, rising. Harry got up too and picked up my tray for me. We walked toward the door and he put both trays in the recycler.
“See you later?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “See you later.” He headed quickly down the hallway.
Now where the heck was I supposed to go? I suppose it would have looked odd if I had asked Harry that. I was going to be late for work and I had no idea how to get there. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea what I did and, since I didn’t have the education of a 24th century Starfleet graduate, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t know how to do whatever it was that was expected of me. I probably wouldn’t even be able to use the computer.
This was starting to not be as much fun. It reminded me of the dreams I used to have in college. I would be late for a test and would run in to the classroom in the middle of the final exam, with all the students and the teacher turning to gape at me. Somehow, I’d missed the entire semester of classes as well, and was totally unprepared for the test. I was destined to fail.
I was a fraud. I didn’t belong here. I started to panic, but curbed myself. Don’t be stupid. It’s just a dream. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Fine, enjoy it. I just have to figure out where I’m supposed to be. I felt more than a little foolish, but I decided to ask the computer. There were people everywhere, so I ducked into a corridor.
“Computer, what is my position on this vessel?”
“You are assigned to Stellar Cartography.”
Great, I thought. I hate maps. “And where is Stellar Cartography?”
Okay, deck eight. I headed back to the turbolift and stated my desired location. Darn if every one of those hallways didn’t look just like the next. I was never going to find my station at this rate. I looked down the hall and saw a computer console on the wall. I walked to stand in front of it.
“Computer, display a map of this deck.” A map appeared. “Display my location.” A red dot appeared on the map. “And display the location of Stellar Cartography.” Another dot appeared. I studied the map and tried to memorize the path I had to follow by running my finger along it. I was so absorbed, I didn’t notice someone come to stand next to me.
“Are you lost, Ensign?”
I jumped back guiltily, like I had been caught doing something wrong. I was faced with Seven of Nine. She glared at me, waiting for a response.
“No,” I stammered.
“Then why were you looking at a map of this deck?”
Why indeed. “I was . . . running a diagnostic. We’re installing some new on-board mapping systems for visitors. I was just testing them.” There, that wasn’t so hard. I could lie here, right? I mean, they’re just characters.
Seven quirked her eyebrow, but turned to resume walking. I moved in the other direction, in search of Stellar Cartography. I had to stop twice more to ask directions from the computer, but eventually made it there.
“You’re late,” said the woman who must have been in charge. Two pips. Lieutenant. Ridges on the nose. Bajoran.
“Sorry, Lieutenant.” I waited for her orders as to what I was going to do. She looked at me expectantly.
“Take your station,” she said.
“Right,” I replied, looking around. There were several unoccupied stations. Which one was mine?
“Over there,” she motioned, obviously irritated. I walked to where she pointed and stared at the computer console. Now what? I’ve always considered myself computer literate, but this is ridiculous. These keys aren’t even in English. Well, I’m probably not tied into any essential systems, I thought. I started pressing keys at random, to see what would happen.
“Warning,” said the computer, “you are about to delete 30 teraquads of data. Do you wish to continue?”
The lieutenant’s head popped up and she walked briskly over to my console. She punched a couple of buttons.
“What are you doing?” she asked in an accusatory tone.
“I’m sorry,” I stuttered. “I’m not feeling well. Permission to go to sickbay?”
Her face softened. “Of course.” She rubbed my arm and looked in my eyes. “Andrew,” she said, and motioned another ensign over to her. “Take Jane to sickbay.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. I was quite happy I wasn’t going to have to find my own way there.
Now, this was beginning to border on the inane. Why would I give myself such a stupid dream? I wake up on Voyager as myself and have to walk around like an idiot all day. Wouldn’t I also give myself the knowledge to fit in? Come to think of it, I seemed to have complete consciousness. If I know this is a dream, can’t I make it do what I want? I’ve done that a couple of times before. Directed dreaming, I think they call it. If you’re in a dream and have knowledge that it’s a dream, you can direct it in whatever way you want. I remember the first time it happened. As soon as I realized I was dreaming, I tried to fly. It worked, but the dream quickly destabilized and I woke up. I guess that it’s really hard for your subconscious to maintain a dream state if your consciousness gets involved.
So, what the heck was I still doing here? I squinted my eyes shut and envisioned myself waking up in my own bed.
“Are you okay?” asked Andrew. I popped my eyes open. I was still here. I nodded and we started walking to sickbay. By the time we got there, I was getting very concerned. I thought it was time to fess up. If I was to be stuck in this dream, I had to get out of my regular duties. I couldn’t perform them, anyway.
“Computer, activate Emergency Medical Hologram,” said Andrew. The doctor shimmered into view.
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.” He looked at us expectantly. Andrew was also looking at me. I was feeling embarrassed.
“I don’t think I belong here,” I said. The doctor began scanning me.
“I would agree. You appear to be in perfect health.”
“No, I mean I don’t think I belong on Voyager.”
The doctor looked at me quizzically. “What do you mean?” Andrew was looking at me like I’d gone out of my mind. Maybe I had.
“I mean, this is a dream. I’m not sure why, but I can’t seem to wake up. But, this isn’t real.”
The doctor looked over to Andrew. “Return to your station, Ensign Talbot,” he said. Andrew nodded and headed out, throwing me a backward glance.
“I assure you,” the doctor continued, helping me up onto a biobed, “that this is very real.”
“No, it’s not.”
“What makes you say that?” he asked, continuing to scan me.
“I went to bed last night on Earth in the year 2001 and woke up here. If that’s not a dream, you tell me what is.”
“Please, lie down. I’d like to perform a more complete scan.” I did.
The doctor moved to a computer console and pressed a few buttons, closing the biobed over me. After fifteen minutes of scanning and prodding, I was beginning to get frustrated.
“What is going on?” I asked loudly. “Why can’t I just wake up? Wake up! Wake up!” I started screaming. The doctor looked concerned and walked to me, putting a hypospray to my neck. My body felt instantly light.
The next time my eyes fluttered open, I was staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. I looked around to see I was still in Voyager’s sickbay.
“Damn it,” I said quietly.
“Ah,” said the Doctor, coming to hover over me. “I see you’re awake. Feeling better?”
“I feel fine,” I said, sitting up. “I just don’t know what I’m still doing here.”
Another figure walked toward the bed. It was Captain Janeway. “The doctor tells me you think this is a dream,” she said.
I decided to give up trying to be polite. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. I stood up next to the captain and we were eye to eye. “You’re shorter than I thought.”
“New boots,” she replied dryly.
“So, what are you doing here? Doesn’t the captain of a starship have better places to be than sickbay?”
“I was worried about you.”
“Why? None of this is real, anyway,” I said, a bit of anger entering my voice.
“It’s real to me,” she said, staring me down. She reached out and pinched my arm.
“Ow!” I said, taking a step back and holding my arm.
“And it appears it’s real to you, too.”
I never fully appreciated that stare until I was faced with it. I’ve never so completely wanted to melt into the floor before.
“Was that necessary?” the doctor asked the captain, coming to scan me again.
“Yes,” she said to him. She looked back to me. “Do you feel pain in a dream?”
“Not usually,” I said, “but this has been a very unusual dream.”
“I seem to have retained my waking consciousness throughout the whole thing.”
“So, if you’re conscious and feel pain, what makes you say this is a dream?”
“Because the consciousness I feel is telling me so. I’m from the 21st century. I don’t belong here.”
“Then how is it you know so much about Voyager?” she asked. She was quite intrigued. I know how much Captain Janeway enjoyed puzzles. This one might be her best one yet.
“It’s a television show,” I said, exasperated. “You’re an actress. Kate Mulgrew. Sound familiar?”
“Television,” she said, turning the word around in her mouth as if it were exotic. “Oh, yes. I think Tom and B’Elanna have one of those. So, you know us because you’ve seen us on this television?”
“Yes.” I knew I probably shouldn’t use that tone of voice with the captain, but I really didn’t care anymore.
“Listen, Ensign,” she said, coming to stare into my eyes. “Dream or no dream, this is my reality and my ship and you’ll treat me with respect. Understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said abashedly. Even my own mother never made me feel so guilty.
“You say you’re from the 21st century. What year do you think it is?”
“2001. What year do you think it is?”
“2380.” She looked at me for a long time and seemed to believe that, at the least, I believed what I was saying. “Lieutenant Kim said you didn’t seem to be yourself this morning, and Lieutenant Marda said that you almost deleted 3 months of data.”
“Well, I don’t know how to run these computers.”
“You did yesterday.”
“Yesterday I was on Earth,” I countered.
“So you say. I clearly remember you being here. We had lunch together.”
“I had lunch with you?” I said in disbelief.
“Why do you find that so hard to believe? We often have lunch.”
“You’re the captain. You’re too busy to have lunch at all, much less with an ensign.”
“I’m busy at times, yes. But space can be pretty boring sometimes. We go for months without running into any inhabited systems or interesting stellar phenomena. I use that time to keep myself acquainted with the crew. In fact,” she said with a sly smile, “you’re one of my favorites.”
I reddened slightly. She continued, “Oh, I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, and I’ll deny it if you say it to anyone else. But it’s hard not to feel protective of the youngest member of my crew.”
“How old am I?”
I did some quick calculating in my head. “Voyager’s been in space for what, nine years now? How did an eighteen-year-old get on board?”
“You were a Starfleet cadet and were assigned here to observe. If I recall correctly, you were trying to decide between and career in the sciences and a role on a starship.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why an eighteen-year-old would be allowed on a potentially dangerous mission. Apprehending Maquis doesn’t seem like something Starfleet would approve of for observation.”
She smiled. “I think that was your mother’s doing. She wanted you to think about command and thought this mission would spark your interest.”
“What does my mother have to do with it?”
“She’s a commodore,” she said, looking at me with concern. “Don’t you even remember your mother?”
“Of course I do. My mother is in Human Resources.”
“This is quite the puzzle.” She looked to the doctor. “Have you been able to find out anything, Doctor?”
“Nothing, yet. She appears to be completely normal. All scans match up to her last physical. She has a bit more adrenaline than usual, but I think that’s to be expected.”
The captain nodded. “Does she have to stay here?”
“No, but I wouldn’t recommend she return to duty, either.”
“I agree. But maybe walking around the ship will spark some memories.” She turned to me. “I’ll have Harry come escort you.”
“Harry? Why him?”
She looked like she was trying to decide whether or not to tell me something. It appeared she opted to do it. “You are very. . .close.”
She sighed. “You’ve been dating for almost two years.”
She nodded and activated her comm badge. “Janeway to Lieutenant Kim. Please report to sickbay.”
“On my way, Captain.”
She looked back at me. “I know this must all seem very strange to you, but I’m hoping we’ll figure out what the problem is and get you back to your old self in no time.” She gave me a comforting smile.
“Thank you, Captain. But, you know, I feel like my old self. If I gain any memories, I’ll be a new self.”
“Another one of those paradoxes to give me a headache,” she said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I definitely need some coffee.”
Harry walked into sickbay and the captain moved to intercept him. She led him into a corner where they talked privately for several minutes. Harry shot me several worried glances over the course of the conversation. Eventually, the captain left and Harry came to stand by me.
“Ready to go?” he asked. He was looking at me like he was afraid I would crumble into a million pieces at any second.
“Sure,” I replied, trying to sound casual. “Where are we going?”
“I thought we’d start with your quarters and go from there.”
“Oh,” I said, remembering the last time I was there. “I forgot my security code, so we can’t get in.”
“That’s okay,” he answered, blushing. “I know it.”
“Okay,” I said, a bit taken aback. “My quarters it is.” He looked at me expectantly. “You lead the way. I’ll just get lost.”
We started walking in silence. I really didn’t know what to say to him, and he seemed to be having the same problem.
“Do you have any questions for me?” he finally asked.
I had tons of questions, but I wasn’t sure if any of them were appropriate. I had been wondering about the timeline we were in.
“Did you pass a nebula hiding a Borg transwarp hub about two years ago?”
That question took him by surprise. “Only senior officers are supposed to know about that. We just figured it out a couple of weeks ago. The rest of the crew still thinks it was just wormholes.”
“Well, you’d be surprised by what I know.”
“I was more surprised to hear what you didn’t know.” I looked at him expectantly, so he continued. “How can you not remember us?” He looked hurt.
“I’m sorry. Don’t take it personally. I don’t remember anything about my life here.”
We had reached my quarters. Harry keyed open the lock and entered. I waited outside.
“Coming?” he asked.
I looked from him to the security panel. “Could you show me how to do that?”
“What, open the door?”
“I guess so,” he said, coming back into the corridor. He showed me the order to press the buttons and I tried it myself. I smiled widely at the doors as they wooshed open.
“Whoo-hoo!” I exclaimed.
Harry shook his head. “I’ve never seen someone get so excited about opening a door.”
“I’ve been feeling the need to celebrate the small successes.” I walked into my quarters and looked back at him. “Coming?” I asked, mimicking his tone from moments before.
He smiled and entered.
“So, I said flopping onto a small couch, “these are crew quarters. Mostly I’m just familiar with the captain’s.”
“What do you mean? I’ve never even been in the captain’s quarters.”
“Oh, I’ve never been in them,” I assured him, “I just know what they look like.”
“From seeing them on television?” He looked at me curiously.
“Am I on that television, too.”
“Actually,” I smiled, “you are. That’s how I knew you this morning. I’m familiar with the senior staff, and some other people, but I didn’t recognize anyone in Stellar Cartography.”
“Not even Lieutenant Marda?” he asked in amazement.
“I know. I think so, too.”
He looked at me for a while, then started to get uncomfortable. He moved to my pile of clothes and started putting them away. I laughed.
“What?” he asked defensively.
“How does a neat freak like you keep ending up with messy women?” He questioned me with his eyes, so I continued. “This just reminds me of the episode with Lindsay Ballard.” He stopped folding and moved to sit on the couch, looking more than a little depressed. I felt awful. “I’m sorry,” I said, reaching out to stroke his arm, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“No,” he said, “it’s just that I haven’t thought about her in a while.”
“Sorry,” I said again. “Tom Paris always said that you were unlucky in love.”
He looked up at me, eyes filled with hurt. “I thought my luck had changed.”
Well, I must say, Harry Kim was never my favorite on the show. But at that moment, things started to change. And I started to realize I was having a real effect on the crew and the shape of their journey. I had to stop being so flippant and take this seriously. I might be here a while. I couldn’t alienate everyone around me. And I didn’t want to. I mean, it makes me feel bad to make other people feel bad, you know?
With Harry looking at me like that for so long and me having no idea what to say, things started to get a little uncomfortable. I was happy to hear the door chime.
“Come in,” I said.
The door opened to admit B’Elanna Torres. “What’s this I hear about you losing your memory?”
Harry looked at her in surprise. “It’s out already? I’m going to kill that Doctor.”
“Easy, Starfleet.” she replied, “I think it was Andrew Talbot, actually.”
Harry looked confused, so I stepped in. “He brought me to sickbay.”
“So everyone on the ship knows?” he asked.
B’Elanna nodded. “Andrew told Chell and I think you know how it spread from there. Tom’s already taking bets on how long it will be before she remembers.”
I chuckled sarcastically. “I wouldn’t pick anytime soon if I were you.”
She ignored my comment. “I just came to see if you guys wanted to come to dinner.”
“It’s dinner time already?” I said. I must have been out in sickbay for a while.
“Yeah,” she said, giving me an odd look. “So what do you say?”
Harry seemed glad for the opportunity to be with more people. Being with me alone must have been very unsettling for him. “Let’s go.”
The three of us left my quarters. Harry and B’Elanna started moving to the turbolift, but I was staring at my door. I was trying to memorize the room number so I could find it again if I had to. Harry and B’Elanna had stopped and were watching me, whispering something to each other. Finally, I felt I knew where I was and quickly jogged to them to catch up.
Everyone we passed in the hallways was pretty obvious about staring at me. It was even worse when we got to the mess hall, where everyone was pretty obvious about staring at me and talking about me. We picked up our food and B’Elanna led us to the table Tom had been saving.
It’s funny that as I started to feel this was less of a game, Tom jumped in and made it into one again. He instantly started quizzing me about my life in the 21st century.
“So, where are you from?”
“Wisconsin, originally, but I live in San Francisco now.”
“That’s weird, don’t you think Harry?”
Harry nodded his agreement.
“Why is that weird?” I asked.
“Because,” Harry offered, “that’s true. You really were born in Wisconsin, but your family moved to San Francisco when your mother made admiral.”
“Hmm. That is weird,” I replied.
“So you don’t remember anything about your family?” asked Tom.
“I remember a family. Just not the same one you all think I should.”
“But you know us?”
“Yes. I probably know things you never told me. But, there’s probably also a lot about you I don’t know that you think I do.”
“Like what?” asked Tom, obviously intrigued.
“I don’t know when your birthday is. I’m not even sure how old you are. But, I know everything that happened on that planet when B’Elanna was in pon farr.”
B’Elanna reddened slightly, but Tom continued excitedly. “And do you know things about . . . other people,” he asked quietly, his eyes filtering around the room.
“Hey,” said Harry protectively, “she’s not here to decide all your bets for you.”
“I know some things,” I said suggestively. “But, I probably shouldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t want to contaminate the time line, you know.”
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. I hated that series finale. I hated that the admiral seemed to have become so bitter. It seemed rather not in keeping with her character that she would stubbornly ignore the temporal prime directive to come back. She’d had plenty of chances to get her crew home earlier if she would sacrifice her beliefs.
Plus, I didn’t quite understand why she came back to the point she did, seven years into the journey. If she were so interested in saving the lives of her crew, and damn the consequences to others, why not just go back to the Badlands and prevent Voyager from ever entering the Delta Quadrant? She would have saved dozens more.
I could only see one reason why she came back when she did, and it was tied in directly to the reason I hated that finale most of all. Chakotay. I’m a devoted J/Cer, that is, someone who thinks Janeway and Chakotay should take their friendship to the next level. In her heart, Janeway had already done that.
What I just realized, sitting in that mess hall, was that it was Janeway’s love that drove her to choose the time she did. If she had opted to stop herself from going to the Badlands or from blowing up the Caretaker’s array, Chakotay would have been arrested and she would never have had the opportunity to fall in love with him. The next viable opportunity to get the entire crew and ship back was that transwarp hub seven years later.
In the finale, Chakotay ended up with Seven — a possibility that left me slightly nauseous — but she died three years later. Janeway told Chakotay’s grave that she was going to get Seven back for him. In spite of her love, or perhaps because of it, Janeway was driven to do what she thought would make Chakotay happy. She wasn’t as bitter as I thought. She was still the same somewhat idealistic woman who was very much into self-sacrifice and self-punishment. She was willing to forgo her own happiness for his, probably because she felt herself unworthy of it.
“That’s it!” I exclaimed.
“What’s it?” Tom asked.
This whole prospect was very exciting. “I know why I’m here!”
“Why?” asked Harry.
“Because I know things.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I know things about the future, your future. I . . .” I stopped talking when I saw the eyes of all three of my dining companions turn into saucers. I was probably starting to seem even more crazy. “I have to go,” I said briskly and jumped out of my seat, with Harry following on my heels.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
“I have to talk to the captain.”
He grabbed my arm and turned me around. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why? Because you think I’m crazy?”
“I don’t think you’re crazy,” he said calmly. “You’re just not feeling well, and I don’t think you should bother the captain right now.”
“And who says I’d be a bother? I bet she wants to hear what I have to say.”
Tom thought this was a good opportunity to put his two cents in. “Why don’t you tell us, and we’ll decide whether or not to tell the captain.”
They were all just trying to pacify me, to deter me from my goal. “No way.” I wrenched my arms from Harry’s grasp and hurried out into the hallway. I hit my comm badge. “Graves to Captain Janeway.”
“Janeway here. What is it?”
“Captain, I need to see you right away.”
“Alright. I’m in my quarters.”
“I’ll be right there.”
It was pretty easy to find her quarters, since there weren’t many rooms on the deck containing Officers’ Quarters and hers were clearly marked. I was actually feeling proud of myself for getting there without having to ask the computer for directions. I rang her chime and the door slid open.
The captain had removed her jacket and was sitting in a chair reading a book. She rose to greet me. “Did you remember something?”
“No,” I said, “but I figured out why I’m here.”
“Oh?” she said with a smile. “And why’s that?”
“I don’t remember my past, but I do remember yours. And, more importantly, I know your future.”
The smile slipped from her face. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I know several key things about what’s going to happen to Voyager in the coming years.”
“Well, you should keep it to yourself.”
“What?! You think I’m crazy, too, don’t you?” I had to get someone to listen to me.
“No, I don’t. Funny as it seems, I actually tend to believe your story. It’s just too odd to make up. But if it’s true that you know about my future, I don’t want to learn anything that might pollute the time line.”
“Even if it might prevent something awful from happening?”
She looked torn, but said in a resigned voice, “Even then.”
She had to listen to me. I had to make her see. I racked my brain for precedents, for other times she had dealings with time travel. T’Elek Rmor. No good; she didn’t tell him anything and wouldn’t let him alter her time line. What about when Voyager ended up on Earth in 1996? No, she went to great lengths to prevent anything from happening there, too. It came to me.
“Kes,” I said.
“What about Kes?” she asked, obviously unable to follow my train of thought.
“When she was able to give you information about the Krenim, you took it.”
“What’s the Krenim?”
Shit, that’s right. When she blew up the Krenim timeship, that whole timeline disappeared. Damn the Star Trek reset button. And I suppose she wouldn’t remember needling Chakotay for information about the future in Shattered, either. I tried to formulate an answer to her last question.
“Jane, I’m sorry, but the temporal prime directive is clear. I know I occasionally play a little fast and loose with the regulations, but unless you can offer something specific that would save someone’s life, I can’t see my way around this one.”
Shit again. I didn’t know anything specific about any of the 22 deaths that would occur between now and the time they got home. I couldn’t prevent any of that, unless she wanted to bar Seven from going on away missions. This was so frustrating, so disappointing. I knew, absolutely knew, that I was here to change things. I was here to make life better. And she wasn’t going to let me. I wanted to scream at my failure. I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. But, most of all, I wanted to cry.
She placed a comforting hand on my arm. “I appreciate that you want to help, but who’s to say the future you create will be any better than the one we’re headed to now?”
“You are.” She didn’t stop me, so I continued. “You are going to hate this future so much, that you’re going to go to great lengths to prevent it from happening.”
“And do I succeed?”
“I guess so,” I conceded. I may not have liked the end very much, but I guess the admiral did do what she wanted.
“Then I wouldn’t worry about it. It will be okay in the end.”
I could see that she wasn’t going to budge. Typical Kathryn Janeway. Of course, that’s one of the reasons I liked her so much. She had high ideals and stuck to them. “Thanks,” I mumbled, and headed for the door.
When I got back to my room, Harry was waiting for me. “Well?”
“Well what?” I asked, a bit more tersely than I intended. I was tired. This whole experience was very emotionally draining.
“Did she listen to you?”
“Yes and no. She wasn’t mad at me or anything, and I think she believes me, but she refused to let me tell her anything about the future.” I sat down on the couch. He went to the replicator and ordered something, which he handed to me.
“Herbal tea,” he said. “It’s your favorite blend.”
I was going to tell him that I don’t drink tea, but it just seemed like too much effort. So I thanked him and took a sip. It was good. Excellent, actually. I’d never tasted anything like it, but I could see why it was my favorite. And it was the perfect temperature, too.
He sat on the couch next to me and put an arm around my shoulder. That was good, too. It felt nice to be wanted and comforted. I was just so tired of arguing with everyone. I leaned closer and put my head on his shoulder and the next thing I knew, I was being put gently into bed.
When I woke the next morning, I managed to still be surprised at my surroundings. But, I was a lot quicker to figure out where I was than the morning before. I lay in bed for a while trying to decide what to do. If the captain wouldn’t listen to me, maybe someone else would. I ordered the lights to 50% and got out of bed. It was then that I noticed Harry asleep on my couch, still in uniform. I watched him for a couple of minutes. He looked so peaceful. I wondered if I looked that good when I was asleep. Somehow I doubted it, considering how awful I look when I wake up.
I moved to the couch and shook him gently. “Hi,” he said groggily.
“Hi,” I replied. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” he said, sitting up. He gave a sharp cry of pain and moved his hand to his neck. “Except for my neck. You have one of the least comfortable couches I’ve ever encountered.”
“You didn’t have to stay,” I said a bit guiltily. He was massaging his neck. “Here, let me.” I moved behind him and began massaging a very large knot out of his shoulder.
“No, I wanted to. Just in case.”
“Afraid I wouldn’t be here in the morning?”
“Maybe a little,” he admitted.
“Well, here I am. How’s that?” I asked about his shoulder.
“Much better, thanks.” He turned to face me. “Remember anything?”
I shook my head. “Can I ask you something?”
“How long have we been, you know, dating.”
He smiled. “It will be two years next month.” His smile faded a little. “We were going to take a few days leave on the holodeck.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’m ruining everything.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“So how did we meet?”
“Well, we met the first day we were on Voyager, but we didn’t have a whole lot of contact until your Ops rotation.”
“My Ops rotation?”
“Yeah. When we got stuck in the Delta Quadrant and it became apparent we weren’t going to get back anytime soon, you approached the captain and asked her what you would need to do to complete your Starfleet studies and become an ensign. You took classes from several people over the course of a couple of years while doing duty as a crewman in Engineering. Then you did a three-month rotation in each of the departments.”
“Oh, it was, or so you’ve told me. You said that you never imagined working so hard in your life, but you’re very determined. It’s one of the things I love about you.” He got a faraway look.
“So, we started dating during my Ops rotation?” I prompted.
He quickly snapped himself out of it. “Oh, no. That was years ago now. You were reporting to me, so we couldn’t date then, anyway. It was over three years later. You approached me and asked me to do a duet with you at the next talent night. You have a wonderful voice. We started practicing together and one thing led to another and . . . here we are.”
There we were, at yet another awkward moment. I looked at the chronometer. “Do I have to be somewhere today?” I asked.
“You’re off duty until further notice, but I really should get going. Are you going to be okay?” he asked. That look of concern he kept giving me made me feel guilty. Guilty that I didn’t share his memories and that I wasn’t the person he wanted me to be. And I didn’t think I could ever become her.
I nodded my head and put on a happy face I really didn’t feel. “I’ll just go exploring. Try to get used to the ship.”
“Okay then.” He stood. “See you later.” He was walking slowly to the door, but seemed reluctant to leave.
“I’ll be fine, really. Go.” I said, motioning to the door. He gave a wave and left. In a way, it was a relief. I couldn’t help but feel that I was being watched and evaluated every second. It would be nice to have some time to myself to sort this all out.
I got ready to meet the world, or the ship as it were. It took quite a while. I even had to ask the computer for a tutorial on how to work the sonic shower — which was quite an odd feeling. And I couldn’t figure out how to work the clothes washer thingy for the life of me. So, I ended up not wearing my uniform, which was also a bit of a relief. There’s a whole set of ideals and priorities attached to it in my mind and, frankly, I didn’t feel I could live up to them. I mean, I probably couldn’t do the basic trigonometry everyone else on the ship learned when they were ten. I’m just not that smart. If it came down to an emergency situation, I knew I would let everyone down — no one more so than Captain Janeway. I don’t know why, but I felt I really owed her something, something better than my usual self, that’s for sure.
Once I finally felt presentable, I started touring the ship. I started with deck two and worked my way down, looking in every nook and cranny that wasn’t restricted. I was in awe of just how big the ship really was. And this was a relatively small vessel. I remember how tiny it looked next to Borg cubes. I shuddered a bit at that thought. In my past life, as I was beginning to think of it, the Borg were entertaining. They were a challenge to the Starfleet officers. But I knew, in the end, Starfleet would always triumph. Here, the Borg were a very real threat. Just the thought of those assimilation tubules piercing the delicate skin of my throat like vampire’s teeth made my blood run cold.
All that walking was beginning to wear me out, so I returned to a room that had been abandoned when I passed it last — an observation lounge on deck three. It was fairly spacious and had quite a bit of comfortable furniture, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was used much. I guess when you’re trapped in an unfamiliar part of space, 70,000 light years from home, the last thing you want to do is stare at the stars and remind yourself. As for me, I found them fascinating. I wondered how many inhabited worlds we warped by. That kind of thinking can make one feel insignificant, but since I was already feeling that way, I decided to wallow in it.
“The computer said I would find you in here.”
I must have jumped three feet in the air. I was so absorbed in my own thoughts that I hadn’t even heard the doors open. I spun to see Commander Chakotay standing, watching me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” he said.
“That’s okay,” I said, willing my heart to slow, “I didn’t hear you come in.”
He looked out the windows and we shared the silence for a while. I’m not sure if he was waiting for me to speak first or if he just enjoyed the silence. It made me uncomfortable.
“So, you said you came to see me,” I prompted.
“Yes,” he said, smiling. “I thought I’d come see how you were adjusting. You’ve been through a lot the last couple of days.”
“Fine, I guess. I just don’t get it.”
“You don’t get what?” he asked, his brow crinkling slightly.
“Why I’m here. First I thought it was a dream and it was all just for fun. But, I’m definitely not having fun. Then I thought maybe it was because I know things.”
“You know things?”
“Yeah, about this ship and its past, and its future. But Captain Janeway wouldn’t listen to me. Maybe you . . .” I looked to him hopefully.
“If the captain doesn’t want to hear the things you know, I’m sure she has her reasons and I’ll have to stand by her judgement.” I tried not to let this disappoint me further, but Chakotay is pretty perceptive.
“If it’s any consolation,” he said, trying to cheer me up, “she really wants to hear them. She just doesn’t think she should.” That was not very helpful. It just added to my frustration. All of the emotions I’d been bottling up over the past day started to bubble to the surface. I could feel I was just about to cry, and I didn’t want anyone to see me.
“Anyway, I’m okay,” I said and sat down to stare out the window. Maybe if I ignored him, he’d go away.
“Alright, then,” he said. I could tell he was not convinced, but was going to play along. He lifted his hand and I noticed he’d been carrying a padd. He punched a few buttons. “I’m putting you on the duty roster for tomorrow.”
That definitely got my attention. I stood again. “You’re what?!”
“I’m putting you on the duty roster –“
“– I heard you.” I interrupted. “I just don’t understand. I can’t go back to work. I don’t know how to do anything. It took me twenty minutes to figure out how to use the sonic shower this morning.”
“And did you figure it out?”
“What?” I was a bit thrown by that question. “Yeah. I mean, I’m clean, aren’t I?”
“Yes you are. So, it looks to me like you’re trainable. This is a small ship and we need everyone to pull her weight. We’re a team. Report to Lieutenant Torres at 0800 tomorrow. Understood?”
I nodded mutely. I was dumbfounded by this whole concept. What could I possibly do for B’Elanna? He took my silence for agreement and left. I sank back down to the couch and finally allowed my tears to come. And did they ever. I don’t cry very often, so I must have been storing them up or something. I cried for what seemed like forever, until I just didn’t have any tears left.
I wiped my face with my sleeve and walked into the hallway cautiously. I couldn’t stay in the lounge forever. I had to get back to my room. I just hoped that I didn’t run into anyone on the way there. The few crewmembers I passed looked at me sympathetically while I tried to direct my attention to the floor. At least I didn’t recognize any of them.
I keyed the security lock to admit me to my quarters and went straight to bed. I didn’t even change my clothes.
“The time is 0630. The time is 0630. The time is 0630.”
I groaned. I must have slept for twelve hours. And I didn’t recall setting an alarm. Chakotay must have done it, I guess so I couldn’t say I forgot to get up.
“Computer, shut up!” The alarm stopped. The nice thing about the computer is that you don’t have to be polite to it. I groaned again and got out of bed.
The instant lightheadedness I felt almost put me right back in bed, but I grabbed on to the wall. When it passed, I remembered that I hadn’t eaten at all since dinner two days before. Good thing Chakotay gave me enough time to get to breakfast.
After fifteen minutes of struggling, I conquered the clothes washer thingy, which I found is properly called the refresher. By the time I emerged from the sonic shower, I had a neatly pressed and fresh-smelling uniform to don. I still didn’t quite feel up to seeing people in the mess hall, so I went to the replicator.
“Two eggs, over easy, bacon, toast and orange juice.” I was excited at the prospect of my first replicated meal. Normally, I don’t eat meat, but since it was just rearranged particles, I figured I could indulge. No pigs died in the production of this breakfast.
A plate appeared with my food and I moved to the couch to eat. There wasn’t a desk or a table in the room, but I was used to eating on the couch in front of the television. The food was okay, but not anything to write home about. I guess real food really is better than replicated food, although the whole not having to cook or clean up thing is still a plus.
Once I had some food in my stomach and my headache started to subside, I started to panic about this work I was supposed to do that morning. I had a feeling I was going to screw up royally and get yelled at. Again. I hadn’t been in Stellar Cartography for five minutes before I managed to make a mistake. And now I’d be in Engineering, a much more vital part of the ship.
Well, if I messed up, at least they’d stop trying to make me work. It was 0745, leaving me plenty of time to get to make my way to Engineering.
I stood in the middle of the large room and watched the people move from station to station. They all had a purpose. They knew what needed to be done and they did it. B’Elanna looked up from the station she was working at.
“Ensign,” she said, waving me over. “You’re prompt. That’s good.”
“I don’t know what I can possibly do in here,” I said.
“Oh, you’re not going to be in here,” she replied. “Vorik,” she called, and the young Vulcan moved to us. “Ensign Graves is going to be on Maintenance Crew B today. Will you take her and make sure she’s settled?”
“Of course,” he said to B’Elanna, then directed his gaze to me. “Come with me.”
I followed him through several back corridors in Engineering I hadn’t explored the day before. Soon we were in front of an opening to a Jeffries tube.
“We’re going in there?” I asked. I wasn’t claustrophobic, per se, but I could think of several places I’d rather be than a Jeffries tube.
“Yes,” he replied simply. “You are assigned to clean the plasma manifolds of the starboard nacelle. The Jeffries tubes are the only access port.”
“Alright,” I said with a shrug. As we crawled down the small passageway, I noticed the temperature rising. By the time we reached the spot Vorik led us to, I was already sweating.
Vorik turned to me. “This is a plasma manifold,” he said. “When dust particles accumulate on it, the engines become less efficient. The more dust, the more energy must be expended to keep Voyager at the same speed.” He raised a small tool and turned it on. It glowed blue. He passed it slowly over the walls. “This is how we remove the dust. Start here and work your way up the tube until you encounter a wall. When you are done, call me on the comm system and I will come to retrieve you.” He turned the tool off and handed it to me.
With that, he crawled past me, back the way we came, soon vanishing around a corner. I held the unfamiliar tool in my hand. The walls didn’t look dirty, but I guess the point is to clean them before they look like they need it. I turned the tool on. I could feel it slightly vibrating in my hand. I passed in slowly over the wall the way Vorik had showed me. It was hot in the tube and my knees were getting sore, but the work wasn’t difficult. In fact, it was nice to have something to keep my mind off my predicament. It’s hard to wallow in self pity when you’re concentrating. Before I knew it, I was at the wall. I hit my comm badge.
“Graves to Vorik. I think I’m finished here.”
“Acknowledged. Please wait there.” After a few minutes, I heard the sound of fabric against floor grating and Vorik emerged from behind the corner. He took out a tricorder and pressed several buttons. “You have made good time,” he said, “and done a passable job. The walls are 73% free of dust and engine efficiency has increased by .023%”
“That’s it?” I said. “All that work for .023%?”
“That may seem insignificant, but keeping engines at peak efficiency is one of the reasons we are able to continue on this journey without the benefit of more regular overhauls.”
“I guess,” I shrugged. “So, what now?”
“Now it is time for lunch,” he replied.
“It is 1320 hours.”
“Wow, time sure flies when you’re on your knees,” I said, trying to make a joke. It wasn’t a good joke, I’ll admit. But it was probably Vorik’s Vulcan training which made him able to give absolutely no reaction to it. He merely turned and started crawling up the tube. I followed.
When we reentered the corridor, my knees buckled. Vorik caught me before I hit the floor and straightened me up.
My cheeks reddened slightly. “I guess I’m not used to being in that position so long,” I said apologetically.
“Indeed. You may also wish to outfit yourself with knee pads. I will see if I can secure some for you.”
“Thanks,” I said, rubbing my knees.
“Please report back at 1400 hours.”
I nodded and headed to the mess hall. Since it was a little late, not many people were left — and not much food either. I took the last sandwich and sat down alone, facing the viewport. I ate quickly and slid out the door before anyone could start a conversation with me.
The afternoon was pretty much the same as the morning, although I was getting used to the temperature and the knee pads helped keep me comfortable.
When I returned to my quarters, I half expected to see Harry had let himself in again. But, he wasn’t there. Good, I thought. It’s better for him if he gives up on me now.
I was quite tired, so I decided to turn in. I couldn’t remember the last time I got so much sleep. But, I figured I wouldn’t sleep that much if my body didn’t need it.
The next days and weeks followed in much the same pattern. I’d get up, go to work, sneak food from the mess hall when I could, and sleep. Lots of sleep. I rarely saw anyone I knew, except B’Elanna, and that was always in an official capacity. She was much different when she was in Engineering than when she was off duty.
One night, after a hard day of cleaning the conduits, I returned to my quarters and ordered a glass of red wine from the replicator. Something was missing, I told myself. I was lonely.
Sometimes, when I was on Earth, I was lonely. I would stand on my deck and drink some wine. I would imagine someone coming behind me, stroking me. I would look up at the stars, and know my place in the universe. I would turn, and kiss him, and be assured. Of course, it was just a fantasy. Real life never offered me such pleasures. But, life on Voyager could be different. I hit my comm badge.
“Graves to Lieutenant Kim.”
“Kim here.” He seemed startled. We hadn’t really spoken in weeks. I had been avoiding him. No more.
“I need to see you. Are you alone?”
“Yes. Meet me in my quarters?”
“On my way.”
I quickly changed into something less constrictive and made my way to his quarters. They were larger than mine, but not as large as the captain’s.
He was waiting, expectantly. He wasn’t sure what I was up to. Frankly, I wasn’t too sure either. I moved to stand directly in front of him.
“Harry,” I said, moving my palm to his face, “I don’t know where I belong anymore.”
He closed his eyes and sighed, then encircled my waist. “You belong here,” he said, his voice cracking slightly. “With me.”
“Show me,” I said.
He laid tender kisses along my cheekbone. Finally, he captured my mouth. I parted my lips to allow his tongue to ravish mine.
He stopped suddenly, seeming to remember the past weeks. “Are you sure?” he asked. His eyes told me that he was certain. He wanted my verification.
“I don’t remember,” I said. He looked hurt. “Help me. Help me to remember.”
That was all the verification he needed. He undressed me slowly, always replacing my cast off clothing with the heat of his lips. When he reached my breasts and gave some attention to my nipples, my eyes almost rolled back in my head. That man could do some amazing things with his lips and tongue. All those years of playing reed instruments, I guess.
I’ve never known much pleasure at the hands of others. I’ve never allowed anyone to know me well enough to figure out how to truly please me. But he knew. He knew my secret spots, my secret desires. He stood behind me and whispered in my ear. His hot breath excited me. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, but it didn’t matter. He kissed my neck. He held my breast in his palm and roughly moved the heel of his hand over my nipple. He spread my legs and touched my folds as he kissed his way down my back. My knees began to buckle at the sensations he was arousing in me. I’d never in my life been so aroused by another person. He sensed my weakness and steered me into the bedroom.
When his face hovered over mine and he looked into my eyes intensely, I resisted the temptation to look away. When he stroked my hair and told me I was beautiful, I wanted to believe him. I’m not beautiful, but maybe he saw something I didn’t. When he entered me fully, I forgot all the reasons I wasn’t to listen to him. It didn’t matter whether or not I was beautiful. It only mattered that I was there and he was there. We were there, together. We could have been in any place, any time. I didn’t know for sure, and didn’t care. Had anyone asked me right then, I would have been hard-pressed to remember my name.
So it was that Harry helped me, not to remember, but to forget. I forgot that I was really centuries behind the time. I forgot that my current assignment was as a glorified cleaning lady. The only thing I could remember was instinct. The instinctual rhythm he began. My hips flew up to meet his and soon I was screaming. Not his name, or anyone else’s. Just screaming. And crying. And he was wiping away my tears and whispering in my ear again.
I awoke the next morning with a smile on my lips. I was actually happy. At least, I thought I was. It was kind of a new sensation for me, but I thought it was happiness. Whatever it was, I liked it.
Harry had his arms wrapped around me, and I nestled closer to him. He groaned slightly.
“Good morning,” he said in a voice I had never heard from him before. It was gravelly and sexy. Usually he’s all dewy and crisp. That made me smile more.
“Good morning,” I replied, turning slightly so I could see his face. He looked happy, too. I leaned in to kiss his cheek.
“So, did you remember anything?” he asked hesitantly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“No.” His face fell. I lifted a hand to his cheek. “But I definitely had a good time. I can see what she sees in you.”
He looked confused. “What who sees in me?”
“The other me.”
His confusion cleared, but he seemed to disagree. “You are the other you,” he said with conviction. “She’s in there somewhere.”
“No, she’s not.” I put a finger to his lips to stop him from interrupting me again. “I’m not her. I’ll never be her. And I don’t think she’s coming back.”
“So, what does that mean, for us?”
I had already made my decisions, but it takes two to tango, so to speak. “That’s really up to you. Would you want a relationship with me, just the way I am?”
He moved his gaze to the wall. “I’m not sure I can. I mean, I’m not sure it’s right. If she does come back, how would she feel to know I gave up on her so easily? It would be like I was cheating on her. On her memory.”
“It’s okay,” I said, even though I was quite disappointed. I pulled his head so he would again look me in the eyes. “Can we be friends, though?” I asked, my eyes starting to fill with tears. “I don’t have many of those here.”
“Of course,” he said, squeezing me tightly. “We’ll always be friends. I’m sorry I haven’t been much of a friend these past few weeks. Chakotay told me he didn’t think you could handle dealing with our relationship on top of everything else. He thought it would be best if I maintained some distance.”
“I think he was right,” I reassured him. “I wasn’t really ready. But I am now. So, will you introduce me around? Get me into the social circle?”
He laughed. “It’s such a small ship, all you have to do is sit in the mess hall for a couple of days and listen to the gossip. You’ll be as in the social circle as anyone.”
“Mess hall it is, then. Breakfast?” I asked.
“Breakfast,” he nodded.
Harry and I sat in the mess hall with Tom and B’Elanna, catching up on all the latest gossip. It seemed Megan Delaney’s on-again, off-again romance with Kenneth Dalby was once again on-again. Tom was taking bets as to how long the relationship would last this time.
The doors opened and Seven and Chakotay walked in, arm in arm. I flinched at the sight. I had managed to avoid seeing them together, thus far.
“What?” Tom asked, turning to see what had garnered such a reaction from me. “Ah,” he said knowingly, turning back to watch me. “You didn’t know about them?”
“I knew. I was just hoping I’d be able to forget. Are they married yet?”
B’Elanna’s face flashed surprise. “They’re going to get married? Really?”
“That can’t be a surprise,” said Tom to his wife. “They’ve been together for over two years. And it’s done wonders for her. She’s a lot nicer than she was. More considerate of the feelings of others. She makes suggestions, instead of orders.”
“That’s true,” B’Elanna agreed. “I almost like her now. Almost.”
Seeing them in conjunction with our last topic of conversation brought an interesting question to my mind. “Tom, did you ever have a pool going about how long that relationship would last?”
“Oh, I thought about it, no question. But I couldn’t go through with it. It would have hurt some of the people I care about.”
“I hope you’re not talking about me,” Harry said defensively. “My Borg infatuation was over long before they got together.”
“No, not you. But it would have hurt the Doctor. He’s still carrying a huge torch for her.”
B’Elanna turned to look him in the eyes. “It wasn’t really the Doctor you were concerned about, was it?”
He shook his head and said nothing more. He didn’t need to say anything more. We all knew whom he was talking about. I wondered how the captain was dealing with Chakotay and Seven’s relationship, even now. I was sure she’d convinced herself that it was for the best. But she had to be terribly lonely. The two people she’d spent the majority of her time with were now spending their time with each other. There was always Tuvok, but I wasn’t sure how much his condition had degenerated by this time. And I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to ask that.
And now I’d taken myself from her as well. I remember her telling me that the prior me was one of her favorite people, that they’d often eaten lunch together. Maybe I couldn’t be everything the old Jane was, but I could still perform some of her duties.
“I have an errand to run before my shift starts,” I said to my new friends. “See you later.”
I rose and quickly made my way to the captain’s quarters. When I rang the bell, she came to greet me at the door. I was a bit starstruck. The last time I had seen her, I was still kind of thinking I was dreaming. Now I was taking life on Voyager much more seriously. And suddenly this didn’t seem like such a good idea.
“Ensign,” she said with a smile. “What can I do for you.”
“Captain, I . . . I was just wondering . . . if maybe you’d like to have lunch with me today.” There. I’d said it. So why was I so nervous? The worst she could say was no.
But she didn’t say no. Her smile broadened. “I’d like that,” she said. “I was beginning to think you’d never ask. I wanted to ask you last week, but Chakotay convinced me to wait until you were more settled.”
“That Chakotay,” I said sarcastically. “Did he go around telling everyone to give me a wide berth? I’m starting to feel like I have leprosy.”
She laughed out loud. It was a sound I couldn’t recall hearing often on the show. “I’ve missed you,” she said, placing a hand on my forearm.
“Well,” I said, remembering my conversation with Harry that morning and not feeling up to reliving it, “I’m still not the Jane you remember.”
“Oh,” she said, giving me an appraising glance, “there are some definite similarities. So, mess hall? 1230 hours?”
I nodded. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You still have to eat Chell’s cooking.”
“Better than your replicator attempts.”
She smiled again and went back into her quarters. I headed down to Engineering with a flutter in my stomach. Lunch with the captain. I was definitely still nervous.
When I entered the mess hall at 1232, I was gratified to see that the captain hadn’t yet arrived. Somehow, the thought of being late and making her wait for me seemed extremely disrespectful.
She wooshed in just as I was getting out of line with a full tray, trying to find an empty table. “Sorry I’m late,” she said with one of those exhausted smiles.
“No problem. I just got here myself,” I admitted.
She peered at my tray. “So, what’s the damage today?”
“The Warp Core Chicken has made a comeback. Or you could try some Borg Barbeque.”
She crinkled her nose in distaste. “I’ll figure something out,” she said, and headed to take her place in line. I found a table by the couches and was still situating myself when she came up, holding a salad.
“Where did you get that?” I asked, a little jealously.
“Captain’s prerogative. A little leftovers from dinner last night. I just told Chell I wasn’t up to anything spicy. I don’t know how we ended up with two chefs in a row who think that no meal is complete if it doesn’t make your eyes water.”
“At least Chell’s not so fond of leola root,” I pointed out.
“True. So, how are you settling in?”
“Okay, I guess. Not the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but I guess someone needs to do it.”
“Yes, and we appreciate that you’re doing a good job. People generally rotate off the maintenance crew after a couple of weeks into something more interesting. We decided at the beginning of the journey that we couldn’t relegate anyone there long-term. Seventy years of cleaning conduits would suck the motivation out of anyone. I could see about transferring you to another department.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but what would I do? I’m not trained for anything.”
“We’ll give you the training.” I gave her a skeptical look, so she continued. “A lot of the Maquis weren’t trained for much beyond the basics, but they’ve all become valuable members of the crew. How about airponics?”
“Plants? I think I could live with that.”
“Good,” she said, “I’ll talk to Chakotay right after lunch.”
“You know, I always thought life on a starship would be more glamorous.”
She smiled, a little condescendingly. “It has its moments.”
Airponics was definitely more interesting than working on the maintenance crew, even if I had to take orders from Naomi Wildman. Although she was only nine years old, she looked and acted more like sixteen in human terms. She’d recently taken over from Jenny Delaney, who went back to Stellar Cartography to take my place. It was interesting to see how much of a tailspin I’d put everything into.
Naomi was actually an excellent boss. She was incredibly patient and didn’t mind me asking hundreds of questions. In fact, I felt so comfortable with her that I asked her to help me fit in on the ship in general. In addition to giving me lessons on how to use the computer, she would quiz me on the lower decks crew. By the end of two weeks, I could name any crewmember on sight and say what species they were, what department they were in, and who their closest friends were.
Weeks turned to months and I began to feel more and more comfortable on Voyager. I placed second in the Kadis-Kot tournament. I watched Miral twice a week while Tom and B’Elanna worked.
Harry didn’t avoid me entirely, but he definitely avoided being alone with me. The sting of that faded as I began to find some enjoyment in my new life, but it never went away completely. It didn’t help that Tom and B’Elanna continued to give us pitying glances when they thought we weren’t looking.
I ate lunch with the captain at least once a week. I had initially been worried that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about and I’d bore her to tears. But her traditionalist upbringing meant we actually had quite a bit in common, plus she never ceased to be intrigued by what I thought were rather ordinary stories about life on 20th century Earth.
Eventually I got brave enough to ask her if she wanted to have dinner. Lunch was definitely safer; I only had to entertain her for an hour and there were always other people around. The thought of being in her quarters for hours, just the two of us, made me a little apprehensive. What if she finally figured out how tiresome I was? But, the thought of her being alone night after night bothered me more. I don’t know why the idea possessed me, but I felt like it was my mission in life to make Kathryn Janeway happy.
I brought a bottle of replicated wine with me to dinner. Maybe I’d be more interesting to her if she had a slight buzz on. Dinner went well, with the requisite jokes about her cooking and the gossip about the lower decks crew.
We had moved to the couch to finish out the bottle of wine. We were laughing and talking when there came a break in the conversation, which allowed me to hear muffled scraping and the odd moan-like sound coming from her bedroom.
“What is that noise?” I asked.
She listened for just a moment before the smile left her face. “I don’t hear anything.”
“No, there’s definitely something,” I said, standing. “It sounds like it’s coming from your bedroom.”
“It’s nothing,” she said, almost too quickly. But I could tell she was lying. As I got closer to the bedroom, I could tell what it was, and why she wanted to ignore it. After all, who wants to listen to the man she loves having sex with someone else?
I probably shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine. It made me just a little too willing to speak my mind. “You can hear them?” I said, incredulously.
She wouldn’t meet my eyes, but seemed rather focused on the floral arrangement on her coffee table.
“Captain, I’m so sorry.”
Her eyes flashed at that. “That’s quite enough, Ensign. I don’t need your pity.”
I don’t know why, but her anger caused my own ire to rise. “Don’t play your command distance routine on me. I’m not Starfleet. I don’t intimidate so easily.” I’d definitely had too much to drink. Courage in a bottle. But, I was on a roll, so I kept going. “You don’t need pity, but you do need a friend.”
“I have friends,” she said emphatically.
“Yeah, and they’re both next door. You can’t very well talk to them about it, can you?”
She remained silent.
“Is it like that every night?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” she conceded quietly.
“No wonder you always look so tired,” I said, more to myself than her. “Why don’t you move your bed out here?”
She looked like the thought had occurred to her more than once. “I would, but any labor requisition would go through him. I don’t want to embarrass him. Besides, I made my bed . . . “
“And now they get to lie in it?” I asked harshly, and she flinched. I moved back to sit on the couch. I softened my tone. “Don’t you feel you deserve any happiness?”
She sighed. “I’m not sure I’m capable of happiness. Not long-term, anyway.”
Well, that certainly sounded familiar. I never really thought how alike we were in that respect. I always thought too much, analyzed every situation to death, to be truly happy. But, I didn’t want to make this about me.
“Well, you’re certainly capable of better than this.” She nodded. She’d followed this train of thought before. “Maybe it would help if you didn’t blame yourself for everything.”
“But it *is* my fault.”
“What, specifically, is your fault.”
“Everything,” she said, exasperated. She covered her face with her hands and took several deep breaths. I waited. I learned a long time ago that silence is often the best way to get someone to tell you something. She’d talk when she was ready.
Finally, she looked up again. “I had plenty of opportunities to change the nature of our relationship, and I turned them all down. I guess I always thought there would be more time. Or that he’d push harder. Give me an ultimatum. Something. But instead he just drifted away so slowly that I didn’t even notice. All because of decisions I made.”
“That’s right,” I said. “You made decisions, a lot of them good ones. You can’t start second-guessing them now. I can certainly understand your hesitancy to start a relationship with someone you’re going to be trapped with for seventy years.”
“Psh,” she voiced in disagreement. “That had nothing to do with it. If I was afraid of being trapped with anyone, it was myself. I’m just so alone out here. I have to keep my goal in mind every moment. This crew is relying on me to get them home.”
“They don’t expect you to forgo your own personal life for them,” I said.
“They might not expect it,” she countered, “but it’s necessary. I know me. I can’t handle too many distractions. Mark — oh I loved him — but the man was such a pushover. I’d tell him to back off and he would. Chakotay seemed a little more dangerous. A little more forceful. And the stakes are so much higher out here.
“And you know the most ironic thing? I was just about to give in to him. After Quarra, and Jaffen, being alone at night was just that much harder. I still knew it was a bad idea to start something with Chakotay, but I just didn’t care anymore.
“And starting up daily contact with Starfleet only proved to me that there were some definite advantages to being away from them. I saw how I had put them on a pedestal. I still believe in the ideals of Starfleet, but those admirals are not the be all and end all. They seem to exist only to perpetuate the red tape. I just started to see that depriving myself of anything, simply to please them, was a bit ridiculous.”
“So, why didn’t anything happen?” I asked.
“I didn’t think it was right to just run up to him and tell him ‘I’m ready for you now.'” She rolled her eyes. “It just seemed so conceited. So I was waiting for the next time he flirted with me, when I’d make my intentions obvious. But there wasn’t a next time. And while I was busy wracking my brain, trying to remember when he had stopped flirting with me, he was busy with Seven.”
I tried not to flinch at the bitterness which had crept into her voice. “When did he tell you?”
She laughed. “Tell me? He never did. You would think that our history together would warrant at least a personal explanation, but I found out the same way everyone else did. And I was probably the last one to know, at that. We were at some diplomatic function or other. Years ago, he would have been hovering around me, stealing food off my plate and trying to keep me from becoming bored. But instead, he spent the whole evening with Seven. I was in the middle of listening to some drawn-out story from the governor about how they installed irrigation systems and I saw them across the room. She said something to him. He gave her that full-dimpled smile I thought he reserved for me. Then he picked some food off his plate and fed it to her. And I knew then my chance would never come.”
I let her story flow over me. So sad. So utterly depressing. And so predictable. I was pretty certain that, given a choice, Chakotay would have chosen Janeway over Seven any day of the week. But she made him feel like there was no choice to be made. His words from years ago came to my mind, and I couldn’t help but speak them aloud.
“He couldn’t sacrifice the present for a future that might never come.”
Janeway’s mouth gaped open at the echo of words spoken so long ago. “I suppose you know the legend of the angry warrior, too?”
I nodded and she reddened. I thought briefly that I also knew what she looked like in a towel, but discreetly decided to keep that one to myself. It seemed like confession time for tonight had come to an end. “Well,” I said a bit too brightly, “I guess I’ll be going.” We stood and walked to the door.
I was worried. Worried that I had said too much. Worried that Janeway would start avoiding me now. I met her eyes at the door. “I hope we’re still . . . friends.” I wasn’t sure that we had been friends before, exactly.
“Of course,” she said, nodding her head. I don’t know why I wasn’t convinced.
After that night, life on Voyager continued in the same way, except there were no more dinners with the captain. No more lunches, either. As I suspected, she withdrew from me. I don’t think she liked the idea of any person knowing her too well, and I probably knew her better than anyone on the ship, except maybe Chakotay.
We ran into another Borg-infested section of space and Voyager went on 24-hour yellow alert. Everyone on board seemed to be wound tightly all the time. Gone were the joking luncheons with Tom and B’Elanna and Harry. Gone were the Kadis-Kot tournaments.
I was reassigned to Engineering to continue the maintenance work, and was taught a few new tricks by Vorik. I occasionally accompanied some of the engineers when they did routine fixes around the ship.
One day, as I was heading back to Engineering after lunch, I felt the ship shake and the hallways began to flash red lights. Chakotay’s voice came over the comm. “Red Alert. All crewmembers report to your stations.”
I ran the rest of the way to Engineering to find the place in chaos. There was steam everywhere, and shouting. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I’d be in the way. B’Elanna was screaming out orders left and right and I stood in the corner, watching. Occasionally, we’d get hit with something and the whole floor would rock beneath me. I could hear metal ripping apart. And the klaxons. They never stopped. Just kept blaring.
I sank to the floor and covered my ears and started sobbing. Was this the end of my life? What was the point of it all?
Eventually, things started to calm down. I rubbed my face vigorously, as if that could wipe away the evidence of my cowardice. I was ashamed of myself. The first sign of trouble found me blubbering like an idiot in the corner. No one else lost it. They pulled together and got the ship through whatever danger it faced. I could never be like them.
I sneaked out and went back to my quarters, where I promptly replicated myself several shots of vodka. I downed them — one, two, three, four — and huddled in my bed with the covers pulled over my head. When my shaking was replaced with spinning, I closed my eyes and slept.
The bed was shaking. We had to be under attack again. I bolted upright to find myself looking at Chakotay. He was kicking my bed. For some reason, that made me very angry.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked him. I’m really not a morning person.
“What the hell are *you* doing here? You were supposed to report for duty two hours ago.”
Chakotay was angry, too. And I suppose he had a right to be. I’d be mad at someone who tried to kill me. Maybe I hadn’t attacked the ship, but I hadn’t helped, either. The old Jane would have helped. She would have known something to do. She would have been at a battle station, not hiding in a corner. Somehow, I took that Jane away from them, and left them this useless weight to drag them to the bottom of a deep, deep ocean.
I started to cry. Again. I really don’t know what was wrong with me. I wasn’t kidding before when I said I don’t cry often. I don’t. And here I was bursting into tears for the second time in as many days. I don’t know what was wrong with me.
“I can’t go back out there. Please don’t make me go back out there,” I sobbed. I was pitiful. I disgusted myself even as I was speaking. It was as if the words weren’t even mine, but some other being were talking through me.
Suddenly, Chakotay was with me on the bed and I was in his arms. “Shh. It’s alright,” he said, stroking my hair.
We sat like that for a while. I don’t know what Chakotay was thinking. I wasn’t thinking at all. I knew I was feeling better when I started to notice how good it felt to be in his arms. Those arms weren’t for me. They were for Janeway, or — perish the thought — Seven. Reluctantly, I sat up.
“I’m sorry,” I said, wiping my eyes. “I don’t know what came over me.”
He rose and went into the bathroom, returning with a washcloth. He handed it to me and I ran its damp warmth over my face. “I think I do,” he said.
“Yeah?” I questioned.
“You’ve never really been in danger of losing your life before, have you?”
I thought for a minute. There was one time at a water park where I hit my head on a slide as it dumped me into the pool. For a couple of horrid seconds, the world seemed upside down and I was sure I was going to drown. But it was just a couple of seconds, and then everything was okay again.
“Not seriously, no.”
“When we were under attack yesterday, were you scared?”
I laughed. It just struck me as funny somehow. “I think that’s an understatement. I was terrified.”
“And that bothers you?”
I thought for a second and knew that wasn’t it at all. “No. Fear is good. I mean, it can be. It can be a tremendous motivator. It’s all in how you react to it.”
“And how did you react?”
“I tried to run from it. But there’s not really anywhere to go here. So I tried to make myself small. And I closed my eyes. And covered my ears. And cried. In short, I was a coward.”
“What else could you have done?”
“I don’t know. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how. I’m so lost here. So alone.”
“You’re not alone.”
I started laughing again, thinking of how he’d said those very words to Janeway, many years ago. All these years later, she really was pretty much alone. And so was I. Shows how much Chakotay knew.
He was disturbed by the laughter and obviously thought I was hysterical or something, and maybe I was. He went to the replicator and ordered something. “I want you to drink this,” he said, handing it to me.
I took a sip. It was hot and bitter. “What is it?” I asked, making a face.
“Old tribal remedy, to help you relax.”
I took several more sips and gradually felt a release of some of the tension in my muscles. I hadn’t even realized they were tense until they started to relax.
“I think you’re experiencing some of the same feelings the rest of us felt when we were pulled into the Delta Quadrant.”
That made some sense. “But why now?” I asked. “I’ve been here for almost six months.”
“It was a delayed reaction for most of us, too. When we were first deposited here, we thought we’d find a wormhole or a shortcut and be home within the year. I don’t think any of us really believed we’d still be out here, almost ten years later.”
Ten down, thirteen to go, I thought. “But things are different for me. At least you know where home is and are making it there, slow and steady. When we get back to Earth, there will be no one there for me. No friends. No family. They’ll all be dead, if they ever existed at all.”
“Things aren’t that different. Most of us have lost friends and family while we’ve been out here. And we’ve gained them, too. Voyager is a family.”
“And what if I wake up tomorrow and you’re gone?”
“And what if you don’t?”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, so he continued. “You can hide yourself away and never connect with another person, for fear that connection will be severed. But in the end, you’ll have lived your life alone.”
“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'”
“So they say,” he smiled. “It’s not that bad here, really. Is it?”
“No,” I agreed. “It’s not bad at all. Except for the whole being useless thing.”
“You’re not useless. You’ve done plenty to help around the ship while you’ve been here.”
“Yeah, plenty of help when you don’t need any,” I said sarcastically. “And none at all when you do. As long as the ship’s not in crisis and doesn’t really need me, I’m a tremendous asset.”
“We’ll see about that,” he said, raising and taking my glass. “Get some rest and we’ll talk more tomorrow.”
“Chakotay?” I called as he was leaving.
When we talked the next day, Chakotay said there were usually three places to be of help to Voyager in a crisis — Engineering, on a security detail, or in Sickbay. I knew I would never truly be a help in Engineering. Math and physics are not for me. And I certainly wouldn’t want someone’s life depending on my ability to shoot a phaser. But first aid, I could learn.
And learn I did. The Doctor was happy to have another trainee, and I was actually eager to learn. After a month, he said I was a certified assistant medic, able to pull shifts in sick bay. I could handle the small cuts and sprains on my own and was able to help him out with some of the more serious injuries. I still couldn’t assist in surgery, but he assured me I would be of great help in a triage situation. And Tom was very grateful that his sick bay shifts were cut in half.
Voyager passed out of Borg space and there was a collective sigh of relief, as well as a huge party. People were upbeat again, and some of the more frivolous pastimes returned.
It was then that Chakotay and Seven decided to announce their engagement. I watched the captain closely for a reaction, as did the rest of the crew. Not surprisingly, there was none. I don’t think she realized that the complete lack of a reaction was, in and of itself, a reaction. If any other two crewmembers had come to her with a marriage request, she would have been happy. She would have congratulated them. As it was, the rest of us felt almost guilty giving them our good wishes.
The ceremony itself was simple. Since Seven wasn’t big on tradition and Chakotay was, they opted for the traditional ceremony on Trebus, which essentially consisted of both declaring their intentions to live a bonded life from this point forward. Janeway didn’t have to do anything, aside from put her thumbprint on a padd as an official witness. Even that must have been difficult for her. We all watched as Chakotay held the padd out to her. She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes, then very deliberately placed her thumb to the padd. When Chakotay broke their gaze, Janeway leaned over and kissed his cheek. She walked over to Seven and repeated the gesture. Then she proclaimed to the room, “Let the party begin!”
Chakotay allowed Tom and B’Elanna to plan the reception, which meant essentially that Tom planned it and B’Elanna talked him out of doing anything too stupid. Chell didn’t overdo it on the food, and Harry’s jazz combo played several sets.
Wedding receptions have always depressed me, and this one was no exception. Whenever I see happy people, it only serves to remind me that I’m not. I knew in my heart that Chakotay was right about me needing to build a new family on Voyager. Over the past months, I had tried, but I felt like an intruder somehow. My relationships with Tom and B’Elanna and Naomi were nice, but we were more like acquaintances than friends. I got the feeling that most people were taking their cues on how to deal with me from Harry, and they wouldn’t fully accept me until he did.
So I ended up at a corner table, observing the party for a couple of hours. People floated in and out as shifts changed. Janeway seemed to be making a point of talking to everyone and pretending to have a good time. Harry’s combo was good, and Harry looked very dashing. And here I was, so very alone. It didn’t seem like he’d ever give up on the old me and accept me the way I was. It was his acceptance I craved, more than anyone else’s.
I kept thinking about relationships and how so many of them were doomed from the start. Janeway and Chakotay. Me and Harry. Even Chakotay and Seven. Here we were at their wedding and I knew their marriage would be over soon. It was depressing to think that she’d be dead before the year was out. It made me feel sorry for Chakotay. He was such a nice guy and deserved at least one thing in life to go his way. I might not have understood his relationship with Seven, but it made him happy. That’s all that really matters.
Eventually, Janeway made her way over to my table. By that time, I had worked myself into a bit of a state. I wasn’t crying, thank goodness, but I probably looked pretty dejected.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. She seemed concerned. That made me a little more upset. She hadn’t said two words to me in months, and now she was acting like my best friend.
“Like you care,” I said caustically. “Why don’t you go try to convince someone else that you’ve got a heart. I’m not buying it.”
“I suppose I deserve that.”
I chose not to respond and remained focused on Harry’s band.
“How are things going, with you and Harry?”
I just looked at her. I don’t know how she could be so insightful about other people’s relationships and so dumb about her own. Or maybe she wasn’t really dumb. Maybe she just felt like any relationship she had was predestined to fail and had accepted that. Since I felt pretty much the same way, she was probably a good person to seek advice from.
“Things aren’t going,” I replied. “It’s my fault, really. I keep insisting that I’m not the same woman he fell in love with. He thinks that if he allows himself to be with me, he’s being unfaithful to her. And since no one knows how I got here, there’s no guarantee that she won’t come back. So I guess he’s waiting for her.”
“Why do you say you’re not the woman he fell in love with? You seem pretty much the same to me.”
I must have been giving her a very shocked expression, so she continued. “Granted, you don’t have the same memories. But at the core, I think you’re the same person.”
I couldn’t believe that. The Jane everyone else talked about was beautiful and smart and dedicated. I was none of those things. Harry really should keep waiting for that Jane to come back. He deserved her. But I wanted him, so much. Could I wait for him to fall in love with the new Jane? “How long do you wait for someone, before you give up and just move on?”
Her eyes flicked away. I imagine she knew more about waiting, and not waiting, than anyone else I could have asked. Although today, at Chakotay’s wedding reception, was probably the most insensitive time I could have chosen for this conversation. When she spoke again, her voice was very controlled. “It depends.”
“How much you care about them, I guess. And the chance for future success.”
I thought about that. Mark loved her and waited for her for almost two years, even though everyone thought she was probably dead. Chakotay waited much longer, but he was faced with her every day. He probably kept thinking that things were going to change, and they just never did.
I wondered how long she would wait for Chakotay. Forever was the sense that I got. She’d imagine a magical relationship that never happened and curse and blame herself. She’d forget about his faults and believe him to be perfect. She’d put him and what they never had on a pedestal so high that no other man and no other possible relationship could ever touch it. And she’d be alone the rest of her life.
I didn’t want that to happen to me. So I guessed what I really needed to decide was how much I cared for Harry and if we had any chance at all.
We must have made quite the pair, Janeway and I, both sitting there staring at nothing, completely lost in our own thoughts. I was a bit startled to see Tom standing near our table, waiting for one of us to acknowledge him.
When I looked at him, he smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back. His near-constant good mood was rather infectious.
“Sorry for interrupting, Captain,” he said. “Mind if I steal Jane away for a while?”
“No, of course not,” she said, smiling herself. “I really should be getting onto the bridge to relieve Tuvok.”
“Oh, you may want to stick around for this,” he said, grabbing my arm and dragging me gently to my feet. He started walking toward the front of the room.
“What?” I asked, with more than a little trepidation. Tom always had a master plan and it scared me a little to think what part he had decided I would play in it.
“The Kimtones are about to go on break, so I’ve come up with some entertainment to fill the next hour.”
“Well, you and some others. Ever heard of karaoke?”
“I thought you might have. Very popular in the late 20th century. You’re up first.”
Now I had a full-blown case of nerves. I didn’t know whether to run away or throw up on the spot. “Why am I first?”
“Because you’ve got one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. Here’s the playlist,” he said, handing me a padd. “Choose quickly. You’re up in two minutes.”
I hurriedly scanned the padd until I found the 20th century Earth selections and grabbed the first one that looked familiar — a jazzy version of “My Man’s Gone Now,” from Gershwin’s _Porgy and Bess_. It’s a rather sorrowful dirge and was totally inappropriate for a wedding, but it fit my mood well.
Since we were on the holodeck, karaoke did not mean exactly what I thought it would. Rather than having a computer back-up, each singer got a full band backup, which could easily be changed for each song. I even got to choose the instrumentation I wanted. I went for something simple: just clarinet and drums.
I don’t remember much after that. Tom hustled me on stage and started the program. I sang the song through. I must have done an okay job, because next thing I knew, the audience was applauding. And it seemed more genuine than the “nice try, good going, but I hope she doesn’t get back up there” kind that you often hear at karaoke bars.
I smiled, did an awkward little curtsy, and made my way off the stage. Several people congratulated me and clapped me on the back as I joined a table to watch the next singer.
I glanced around the room a bit, looking for Tom. I had to give him a hard time. I couldn’t believe he put me up to that. I noticed Harry staring at me with an intensity I’d never seen in him before. He looked away quickly, like he’d been caught doing something wrong. I found Tom in the back and made my way to him during the next break between songs.
“Good job,” he said. “I knew you’d be great.”
“Thanks,” I said, hazarding another glance at Harry. He still seemed a little out of sorts.
“I think you reminded him of something,” Tom said. I don’t know how Tom always knew what people were thinking and could jump right into a conversation about it, but I’d long since given up trying to play dumb when he did. I just answered as if it made perfect sense that he would say that.
“Let me ask you this: what made you pick that song?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “I like it and it was the first thing I saw that I recognized. You didn’t give me a lot of time to make a decision, you know.”
“Did you know that that’s the same song you and Harry did as a duet almost three years ago?”
I gasped slightly at the revelation. Of course I didn’t know, but that certainly accounted for Harry’s disturbance. I shook my head.
“Maybe you should go talk to him.”
I smiled despite myself. “Trying to play matchmaker?”
“This match was made a long time ago. I’m just trying to get the two of you to realize it,” he said, and walked away.
I took a couple of calming breaths. I had already decided that I didn’t want to be alone and I knew it was up to me to prevent that from happening. I also knew that Harry was the one I wanted to be with. Tom was right; now was my chance.
I walked over to Harry’s table. When he looked up at me, I held out my hand. “Wanna get out of here?” I asked. Wordlessly, he took my hand and allowed me to lead him out the doors of the holodeck to the turbolift. I called for deck nine, where my quarters were. Once inside my quarters, I led him to the couch. He was looking in my eyes, the same look I’d seen dozens of times. He was searching for something, trying to ascertain who I was and if I remembered anything. I knew he was waiting for me to speak first. I wanted to cut to the quick and get everything out in the open.
“I didn’t remember anything. I’m still the same Jane I’ve been the past year.”
Whatever spell had left him speechless the last ten minutes was broken. “But –” he began to protest.
“– Tom told me about the song I chose. I didn’t know. It’s just a coincidence. I’m sorry if I upset you.”
Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head back a little, like he was trying to prevent himself from crying. “You sounded just the same. Not just your voice, but your inflections, the emotions you put behind the song.” He opened his eyes and looked at me. “I remember every second, every nuance of that performance three years ago like it was yesterday. It was when I realized I loved you. And this one was exactly the same. You’re not only the same Jane you’ve been the past year, you’re the same Jane you’ve always been.”
I had the same objections I’d had half an hour earlier when I’d had nearly the same discussion with Janeway. “I may look and sound the same, but I’m not.”
“You are,” he insisted. “Look, you’ve never met her, so you’re going to have to take my word for it. You like the same foods. You have the same sense of humor. You have the same way of looking at the world around you.”
“But I could never be her, with her intelligence and her ensign’s pip and her job in Stellar Cartography. I hate maps.”
“So did she.”
“What? If she hated maps, what was she doing in Stellar Cartography?”
“It was where she was needed. Chakotay asked her if she would join the department and she agreed. She has always been dedicated to the ship, the crew, and to doing her part. Just like you.”
“But I could never do what she did. I’m not as smart as she was.”
“You’re not as educated. You don’t have the same knowledge base. But you are smart. Look how quickly you caught on in sick bay. Tom says the Doctor’s been very impressed. He wants to train you to be a full medic.”
“Yes, really. Do you trust me?”
“Of course I do.”
“Then trust that I know what I’m talking about. You don’t have the same memories. I accept that. But you are, in essence, the same person I fell in love with.” He took my hands and looked into my eyes. “I still love you.”
Maybe he was right. Maybe it didn’t matter that my counterpart and I didn’t share the same memories. I wanted to believe him. After all the glowing reports I heard from so many different people about what the old Jane was like, I wanted to be her. And now I could be. All I had to do was seize the opportunity.
“And I love you,” I replied.
I closed the distance between us to put a gentle kiss on his lips. He quickly deepened the kiss, releasing my hands so he could push me down onto the couch and begin opening my blouse. This was so much different from our last time together. He was almost frantic. I guess it had been a long time for him, and for me too. His urgency was something of a turn-on. It made me feel sexy to think that he wanted me. And the more he wanted me, the more I wanted him.
I started opening his shirt, but was having a hard time with the buttons. He noticed my difficulty and tried to help. He soon got frustrated and sat up, ripping it open. I heard buttons popping off and clattering to the floor all around the room. It struck me as really funny and I started to laugh, but he silenced me with another kiss.
When he was sure my giggles had abated, he lifted my skirt and pulled off my panties. He lowered his own pants and underwear just enough to set his erection free. Without any other preliminaries, he entered me. I was surprised to find I was quite ready. He was much rougher than the last time, and I liked it. Within moments, I could feel an orgasm coming on. Harry felt it too, and slowed his movements. I whimpered and mumbled incoherently while the orgasm washed over me.
Then Harry started moving again, even faster and harder than before if that was possible. I latched my legs around his waist to allow him a deeper passage. I knew I was going to be sore the next day, but I didn’t care. He captured my nipple with his mouth and began working it gently with his teeth. At the same time, he reached to stroke my clitoris. Harry’s rhythm became erratic and I knew he was getting close to release. His handling of my sensitive nub became less gentle, as he began to pinch and roll it between his fingers. Seconds later, I was coming again. This orgasm was more powerful than the last. In fact, it was more powerful than any I’d felt before. The world started to fracture around me. I think I passed out for a couple of seconds.
When I came around, Harry was starting to slide himself out of me. I tightened my grip on him with my legs. “Stay,” I managed to gasp out.
He nodded and buried his head in my neck. I had almost drifted off to sleep when he began to sit up. “The Kimtones and I are supposed to do another set,” he said.
“I think they can manage without you,” I said, stroking his chest. “Besides, I think you ruined your shirt.”
He smiled sheepishly. “I was in a bit of a hurry. I wasn’t too rough, was I?”
“No,” I reassured him. “It was amazing.”
He put his head back in my neck and started kissing me behind the ear. After a while, I became aware of a dull pain in my back. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to get up. “You know,” I said, “I think you’re right. This is one of the least comfortable couches I’ve ever encountered. I have to go to bed. Come with me?”
He nodded and I released my hold on him. I felt the emptiness when he slipped out of me, but I felt better knowing he would stay the night with me. I let out a whoop of surprise when he scooped me up and carried me into the bedroom. We both laughed at the shuffling walk he was forced into by his pants, now pooling around his ankles. When we reached the bed, we both stripped out of our remaining clothes and nestled inside. I almost couldn’t wait to sleep because I knew the sooner I did, the sooner I’d wake up. And I was so looking forward to waking up in Harry’s arms again.
Tom knew something was up the moment Harry and I walked into the mess hall the next morning. He smiled knowingly as we sat down at the table he, B’Elanna and Miral were already sharing. “You two left the reception awfully early. Have a nice night?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“That’s it? Just ‘yes’? Where’s my thank you? Geez, after all the machinations I had to go through to get you two to see what was right in front of you, I think I deserve a medal.”
Harry smiled. “We’ll name our firstborn after you. How’s that?” he joked.
“Sounds great. So, got any plans for this evening?” he asked, raising his eyebrows deviously.
B’Elanna swatted him. “Lay off them, will you?” she said laughingly.
“Don’t you remember how much goading we had to take from Harry when we got together? It’s just payback time.”
“Hey,” Harry burst in. “You already paid me back for that three years ago.”
“Well, I think I’m entitled to do it whenever you get that goofy, I’m-head-over-heels-in-love expression on your face. And you’ve got it, both of you,” Tom said, pointing at both of us meaningfully. “Besides, Jane doesn’t remember the payback and it’s only fair that I get a redo.”
“A redo?” Harry asked. “What are you — five? Miral,” he said, turning to the child, “I think you’re more mature than your daddy.”
Miral giggled. Tom leaned over to her and whispered something into her ear. She giggled again, and started what was obviously a carefully taught chant. “Jane and Harry, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”
We all laughed. “I can’t believe you’re dragging Miral into your schemes already,” I said.
“Just getting her ready to take over the family business.”
I looked at the chronometer and jumped up. “Gotta go, or I’ll be late for my shift.”
“Say ‘hi’ to the Doctor for me.”
“Sure thing,” I replied, leaning over to kiss Harry on the cheek. “Let me know when you’re ready for lunch.” Earlier that morning, when Harry almost refused to let me get out of bed, I promised him we would skip lunch and have a quickie instead.
“Oh, is that what we’re calling it these days?” Tom asked, ever the perceptive one. I quirked my eyebrows and headed out the door.
The next couple of weeks are kind of a blur. Harry and I were at it like rabbits every chance we got. We spent almost every night in my quarters, exploring each other. Occasionally, Tom would convince us to join him and B’Elanna for a game of pool at Sandrine’s, but we always cut out early.
It wasn’t until Harry was reassigned to Gamma shift that my life took on any semblance of normalcy. The Doctor started training me to be a full medic. In addition to learning how to use some new equipment, I was given lots of reading material and quizzed daily on my diagnostic skills.
I was the only one in Sick Bay when we received a frantic call from the Bridge.
“Bridge to Sick Bay,” came Janeway’s voice over the comm.
“Graves here. What is it?”
“Something’s going on with the away team. We’re having problems getting a transporter lock, but as soon as we do, we’re beaming them directly there. Prepare to receive injured.”
“Acknowledged.” I scurried around the room, making sure that there was a medical tricorder and a supply of the most frequently used hyposprays by each of the biobeds.
Harry was on this mission. I hoped desperately that he was okay. I mentally went over what I knew about the mission and wondered what had gone wrong. As far as I knew, Chakotay, Harry, Seven and the Doctor had beamed down to offer humanitarian assistance to a colony on the planet we were orbiting. The colony had been devastated by a passing ion storm. Harry and Seven were to repair their communications system so they could contact their home planet, almost 700 light years away. Chakotay was meeting with the governor of the colony to see in what other ways Voyager could be of assistance.
Suddenly, two blue transporter beams appeared in the room. For a moment, I was panicked to think of the possibility that Harry had been left behind. I breathed a sigh of relief to see his form materialize. The other beam became Chakotay, holding a limp Seven in his arms.
“What happened?” I asked.
“The building we were in collapsed unexpectedly,” Chakotay answered, putting Seven on the nearest biobed. I started scanning her immediately. He tapped his comm badge. “Chakotay to the Bridge.”
“Are you okay?” asked Janeway in a concerned voice.
“Harry and I are fine, but Seven’s injured. The Doctor didn’t get beamed up with us. Where is he?”
“We’re having a hard time locating his emitter in the debris. Harry, report to the bridge and give us a hand.”
“On my way,” he said.
I was too focused on my patient to watch him go. I tried to make sense of the readings I was getting from the tricorder.
“What’s wrong with her?” Chakotay asked.
“She’s in cardiac arrest.” I wasn’t really authorized to prescribe drugs beyond the basic analgesics, but I had to do something. “30 ccs Xeraphim,” I said out loud. It was procedure in the sick bay for recording devices to come on automatically during an emergency. I was supposed to say what I was doing every step of the way, even if I was alone. I programmed a hypospray with the Xeraphim and injected her with the drug. Next, I attached a cortical stimulator to her neck. “Charging to 20 microjoules,” I said and shocked her. “No effect. 25 microjoules.” I shocked her again. “I’ve got a rhythm,” I said gratefully.
But something was still not right. I closed the biobed over her to do a more complete diagnostic. It was then I heard the transporter, and the Doctor rushed over to us.
“How is she?” he asked.
“She was in cardiac arrest. I managed to get her heart going again, but I think there’s something wrong with one of her implants.”
The Doctor began looking at the readouts from the biobed. “You’re right. Her cortical node is destabilizing. Get me the Borg medical kit.”
I rushed to the next room and grabbed the kit. The Doctor had already made an incision in Seven’s forehead and removed the node. When I brought the kit, he took out a couple of tools and began adjusting the node, which he placed back in Seven’s head. He sealed the incision with a regenerator.
The Doctor looked at Chakotay. “She’s alright for now, but I don’t know how long we can keep the node from destabilizing permanently.”
“Chakotay,” Seven said weakly.
The Doctor lowered the arms of the biobed and Chakotay moved to her immediately, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I’m here,” he said.
“What happened?” she asked.
“The building must have lost integrity after the storm. It collapsed. The communications system you were working on fell on top of you. Harry dug you out with his bare hands.”
“Thank him for me.”
“You can thank him yourself.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “You’re fading. I can’t see you anymore.”
“Doc?” Chakotay looked up with the unspoken question.
The Doctor ran the medical tricorder over her head. “It’s her visual cortex. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”
“Chakotay,” Seven cried out again, a little bit of desperation in her tone.
“I’m here,” he assured her, grabbing her hand tightly with one of his and putting his other on her cheek. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Cold. I’m so cold.”
Chakotay looked back to the Doctor. “Fix her, damn it. Don’t just stand there.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “There’s nothing I can do.”
The doors to Sick Bay opened and Janeway hurried in. One look at the Doctor’s face must have told her what she wanted to know. She didn’t even ask him for a report.
“Hold on,” Chakotay said to Seven. “Just hold on.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Several alarms went off, and the Doctor read the computer diagnostics. “She’s gone,” he said, turning off the alarms.
“No!” Chakotay said. “There has to be something you can do.” Chakotay released his hold on Seven and started walking toward the Doctor.
I saw that the Doctor was quite distraught over the loss as well. I didn’t want Chakotay to hurt him inadvertently in a fit of misdirected rage. I stepped between them.
“It was just her time, Chakotay. We’re very sorry.”
He looked at me appraisingly. Something akin to surprise came into his eyes. “You knew, didn’t you?”
There was no point lying to him, so I told him the truth. “I didn’t know exactly when or how, but I knew she was going to die somewhere around now while on an away mission.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
Chakotay turned to look at Janeway. “You,” he said, backing her into the wall. “This is your fault.”
Janeway’s eyes widened and I could tell that she tended to agree with him. “I’m sorry,” she choked out, and I knew she really was.
“That’s not good enough, Kathryn,” he said angrily. “Not nearly good enough.” He slammed his fists into the wall on either side of her head, causing her to flinch. Then he turned and stormed out of sick bay.
“Chakotay!” she called after him, and moved to follow. I intercepted her.
“Let him go,” I said. “He needs to be alone for a while.”
“Oh, God. Seven. What have I done?” she asked the air. She started to cry. “What have I done?”
“Don’t do this to yourself,” I pleaded with her, taking her shoulder in my hand. “I didn’t know anything specific enough to have prevented this. And even if I had, who’s to say she wouldn’t have just died three months from now in a different way? It was just her time.”
“Three months,” she said flatly. “Three months could have meant so much to them. They haven’t even been married six weeks.”
I had not thought of it like that. If that were true, then this really was my fault. Someone would have listened to me at some point if I had pushed the issue hard enough. But I didn’t. I couldn’t think like that, or I didn’t think I’d be able to live with myself.
“It was just her time,” I repeated, trying to convince myself now more than her. “We can’t go changing the time line willy-nilly. It was just meant to be.”
“Bullshit. Tell me everything else you know. Now.”
I knew she already knew about Tuvok, who came in twice a week for a check-up and medication but was still okay otherwise. That was the only other specific piece of information I had. “I don’t really know anything else. Twenty-one more people will die between now and the time you get home. But I don’t know who or when or how. For all I know, I could be one of them.” That was a sobering thought. “I just know that you and the rest of the senior staff and the majority of the crew make it back okay.”
“When will we get back?”
Now that was a question I didn’t want to answer. I knew she wouldn’t be happy with my reply.
“Answer me, Ensign. How much longer until we get back?”
“Thirteen years,” I said.
She looked shocked. “Thirteen years?” she said incredulously. “I don’t understand. We’ve gone almost 50,000 light years in just over ten years. How can it take another thirteen years to go the final 20,000?”
“I don’t know,” I replied helplessly. “I just know it took 23 years to complete your journey.”
“We must get sidetracked somewhere,” she mumbled. “Thirteen years.”
“There’s nothing you can do any differently.”
“The hell I can’t. Next habitable planet we come to, we’re settling down. Getting back to Earth is not worth the lives of 21 more people, especially considering how long it’s going to take.”
“But it’s our home.”
“Earth will be a completely different place by the time we get there. If we stop now, at least some of the crew will be able to start new lives. If I had known it was going to take 23 years, I would have stopped with the 37’s.”
“And you never would have freed Seven from the collective. She’d be a drone out there somewhere, assimilating innocent people.”
“At least she’d be alive.”
“No. You freed her so she could discover her humanity. If she were still a drone, she’d never have known friendship, or beauty, or happiness, or love. Do you think she’d trade the last seven years, if given a choice?”
She didn’t answer me, but rather stared at the cold, lifeless corpse that Seven had become.
“And what about the others,” I continued. “Think of all the people you’ve come in contact with. All the people you’ve helped. You can’t stop now. Who knows who you’re supposed to meet up with during the next thirteen years. It could be very important.”
She was still staring at Seven’s corpse, her eyes glazing over. I took her by the shoulders and shook her, rather harder than I intended. “Kathryn, stop it. Just stop. No one’s blaming you.”
“Chakotay is angry right now and you were an outlet for that anger. He’s not really blaming you. I don’t blame you. Don’t take this out on yourself.”
She took one last look at Seven’s body before squeezing her eyes shut tightly. “I have to go,” she said quickly, and was out the doors before I could stop her.
I went to find the Doctor. He was in his office, staring at the wall. “The captain is gone now,” I said uselessly. I wasn’t sure what else to say. “What are we supposed to do? With the body?”
He roused slightly. “There’s a death kit in cabinet Beta-9. Would you . . . ?” he asked, trailing off.
“I’ll get it,” I assured him. “Don’t worry about it.”
I went to the cabinet and got out the kit, which gave detailed instructions on the Starfleet-approved way to dispose of a body. I had transported her body to a back room and was about to begin when Chakotay came in, holding his medicine bundle.
“Is it okay if I do some things, first?” he asked, motioning to the body. “I have to free her spirit.”
“Of course,” I said. “How long do you need?”
“I’m not sure. An hour, maybe?”
“I’ll give you two,” I said, and left sick bay to wander the halls of the ship. I couldn’t help but wonder what could have happened if I had insisted on telling people about Seven. Sure, the captain had ordered me not to, but so what? I could have gone behind her back and told someone else, even Seven herself. Janeway would have been pissed, but she would have gotten over it. And what’s the worst she could have done to me, anyway? Put me in the brig? That would be a small price to pay to save another life.
I kept trying to stop myself from that train of thought because I knew it was futile. It was all over and done with now, and there was nothing I could do to change anything. I knew I had to stop thinking like that, or I was going to make myself miserable.
I was feeling a little light-headed and decided I should try to eat something. When I entered the mess hall, I could hear the constant buzz of talking. It was unusual for there to be so many people gathered here at this time of day. I walked up to Chell.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Didn’t you hear? The captain is turning the ship around.”
“What? Where are we going?”
“No one’s sure. Rumor has it she’s discovered a wormhole that we passed and she’s backtracking to find it.”
Wormhole, I thought. Shit. She’s going back to the transwarp hub. I rushed out of the messhall and made my way to the bridge. In my year on Voyager, I had never been on the bridge. I was a little intimidated by it, but I swallowed my fear and turned to Tuvok.
“I need to speak with the Captain,” I said.
“She is in her ready room, but has requested she not be interrupted,” he replied calmly.
“I don’t care. I need to see her. Now.”
Tuvok looked me up and down and must have decided that I was serious. “Very well,” he said, and led me to her door. When she didn’t answer after several rings, he keyed in an override code. The doors slipped open and he stepped aside to let me in.
Janeway was sitting on the couch, staring out the viewport. She must not have heard the doors open. I watched her for several moments, and my heart went out to her. Whatever thoughts I had of self-recrimination, hers were probably ten times worse.
“Captain,” I said, calling attention to myself.
“Damn it, I said I didn’t want to be –” she said, turning around. She stopped mid-sentence when she saw me. “Oh. It’s you.”
“Yeah, it’s me.” I moved up to the couch and sat beside her. I had come in, set to have another argument with her. She didn’t seem up to any more yelling. I’d try this the polite way. “Captain, you can’t go back to the hub.”
“It’s three years away,” she said, not looking at me. “If we turn around now, we could be home in three years.”
“And it’s crawling with Borg. We could all be killed.”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Why? Why now? Why not the first time you found the nebula and thought it was wormholes. Or last year when you figured out it was a transwarp hub? It wasn’t worth the risk then. What’s changed?”
“Thirteen years and twenty-one lives, that’s what changed.”
I hung my head. This was my fault. “I never should have told you that. You were right to keep me silent. The Temporal Prime Directive exists for a reason.”
“All rules exist only to be broken.”
“You can’t believe that. No matter how much pain you’re in, you can’t believe that.”
She looked at me then, with a cold and determined glare. “I can, and I do.” She turned back to the viewport. “It won’t make any difference in the scheme of things, anyway.”
“How can you know that? No one knows what your future holds.”
“I know what it doesn’t hold. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to put this crew through another thirteen years of torment. And if you want to get technical, every decision that can be made, is made, and an alternate universe is created from it. I’m just choosing a new universe for us.”
She was right, I suppose. I just didn’t relish the thought of my universe being the one where I die at the hands of the Borg.
“I remember,” she continued, “you telling me that I was going to go to great lengths to prevent this timeline from happening. I’m just doing it sooner, rather than later.”
But still too late to save the person she most wanted to. Now Chakotay would be trapped in a universe where his wife dies and he blames his best friend for it. If she was doing this to make people happy, she was not quite hitting the mark.
I stood. I was not going to be able to convince her. If anything, she had almost convinced me. “I can’t say I agree, but I understand. And I trust you.”
She turned to look at me again, her eyes sorrowful now. “You trusting me is what got us into this mess.”
“Life is a mess,” I said. “You can’t take responsibility for all of it.” I walked out the door and returned to sick bay, to clean Seven’s body and put it in a pod.
The funeral was pretty depressing. Even after seven years on Voyager, more than half the crew never got to know Seven, or knew her and hated her, or were scared to death of her. They couldn’t seem to work up the requisite sadness for the occasion, and instead sat around trying to pretend they weren’t bored.
Most of us felt more sorry for Chakotay and Janeway than for Seven herself. Sorry that Seven had left them and now they had to pick up the pieces. Of course, they wouldn’t even look at each other. Chakotay blamed Janeway. Janeway blamed herself.
Most of us were scared, too. We were heading into Borg territory. Intentionally. And we had lost our greatest advantage. I think we all pictured ourselves, or our loved ones, in that pod being launched toward a nearby star’s corona. Or we pictured ourselves assimilated. Losing our hair. Losing our souls.
Tuvok delivered the eulogy. He talked about the good things about Seven most of us had never bothered to find out. I was ashamed that I had never tried to befriend her.
A day after the funeral, it was like nothing happened. No one talked about Seven anymore. It was almost like she had never existed. Everyone was back to normal. Well, almost everyone.
The first time Chakotay came into sick bay covered in bruises from his boxing simulation, I wrote it off. After the third time in as many weeks, I knew something had to be done.
I knew this wasn’t right, and it was my fault. My presence had thrown everything out of whack. If I hadn’t come, Seven would still have died, but Chakotay would not have blamed Janeway for it. They would have remained friends. In that awful series finale, which was looking better and better all the time, they were friends.
I’m no counselor, but I figured I was probably the crewmember with the most knowledge of the situation from the most angles. B’Elanna had tried to talk to him several times without success. Maybe I’d have better luck.
I asked the computer to inform me the next time the boxing simulation was activated. Three days later, I got the call. I was off duty, so I headed straight to the holodecks. Chakotay had engaged the privacy lock, but I used my medical override. As far as I was concerned, this was a medical emergency.
What I saw shocked me. Chakotay was boxing with, was actually hitting, a hologram of Janeway. With each punch, he would yell at her, call her names.
With that last one, the holographic Janeway went down and did not get back up. Chakotay himself sank to the mat and buried his head in his gloves. He was rocking back and forth, obviously crying.
He had been there for me in my time of need. I wanted to be there for him. But I was so stunned by his actions, I didn’t know what to do. This was not shaping up to be the intervention I had planned.
I summoned my courage and entered the ring. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I sat down next to him and waited for him to be the first to speak. It must have been a full ten minutes before he said anything.
“I hate her. Spirits how I hate her. Either I hit her in here, or I hit her out there. This seemed like the better option.”
“She’s in a lot of pain, too, you know.”
“Good.” I flinched at the bitterness in his voice. This was not the Chakotay I had knew and respected.
“What would you have had her do differently?”
“She could have listened to you.”
“So could you have. I tried to tell you, too. You respected her decision then. What’s so different now?”
“Everything is different now. I’ve respected all her decisions, even the ones I knew were wrong. I’ve followed her for ten years out of some misguided sense of loyalty. Hell, I followed her like some damn lap dog for most of it — eager for any scrap of affection she would deem fit to throw me. For years she pushed me away, practically threw me into Seven’s arms, only to yank her away.”
“You must have loved the captain very much once to despise her with such force now.”
“Loved her once? I still love her. And I hate her for it. And I hate me for it. I hate that Seven had to settle for being second best in my heart. She deserved so much better. Kathryn’s got me so mixed up, I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“She’s hurt you. You’ve hurt her. Do you think you can call it even and start over?”
“I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I even want to. I’ve put myself on the line so many times with her. I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“You told her once that she taught you the true meaning of peace. She’s lost that peace, and so have you. You have to help each other find it again.”
“I can’t even look at her. How can I forgive her?”
“How can you not? Think of all the energy you’re expending, just to convince yourself you hate her. The way I see it, you only have two choices. Either you love her — just as the stubborn, selfish, sanctimonious bitch that she is — or you let her go. Which of those choices do you like less?”
He looked at me and smiled a little. “Becoming the new ship’s counselor, are we?”
“I try,” I said. I left Chakotay to his thoughts and practically ran to find Harry. I had to confirm to myself that my life wasn’t as screwed up as theirs. I had to know love, and try to believe that I could hold on to it forever.
I’m a pessimist by nature. Usually I hate all that sappy, romantic crap. But for some reason, I yearn for a happy ending here. For me, that has always meant Janeway and Chakotay together. Knowing them both the way I do now, I’m not sure it’s even a good idea. Still, I crave it. I want them to be happy.
I wish that I could wake up one morning and not be worried about them. Worried about what they do to each other. Worried about what they do to themselves. I wish I could fix their lives.
But they have to fix their own lives, in their own way, whatever that might be. They seem to be able to be in the same room together now without shooting daggers at each other. The venom has left their eyes and their voices. I’m not sure it’s left their souls.
I’d feel better about the whole thing if I felt more confident that I wasn’t going to die soon. I know, life never holds that guarantee. Yet I don’t want to die now, when my life has finally stopped sucking. More than that, I have people I care about here. I don’t want them to die, to suffer. I don’t think I knew the true meaning of sacrifice until I knew love. I’d throw myself at the feet of the Borg Queen if I thought it would save Harry. And I know he’d do the same.
Every day we get closer to the transwarp hub, to our ultimate destiny. Will I live out the rest of my life in the Alpha Quadrant or as a Borg drone? Will I live at all? Who can say. Life just keeps moving on, day by horrid, scary, beautiful day.
Sometimes, it bothers me that I don’t know how I got here. Or why. Or if I’m ever going back. I guess sometimes your life changes irrevocably and you never know why. You just have to wake up to the possibilities and enjoy every new experience.