Disclaimer:  Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I don’t.  Only borrowing                 

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     Voyager returns home and Chakotay hopes that at last he and Kathryn

                      can have a life together but before he gets that chance, she disappears     

                      from his life, leaving without a trace.  Chakotay finally discovers her

                      terrible secret and searches desperately for her but can he find her before

                      it’s too late.





TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS.

By KAT LADY.



PART ONE.





CHAKOTAY.



“I never believed in keeping a diary or log before, a written record of my innermost thoughts.  I never felt the need and it was too personal.  It was also too dangerous and indiscreet in my line of work and in those days, I think I felt that seeing my thoughts in written form, would only make my demons more powerful and I had enough to cope with and so what personal thoughts I had, I shared with my spirit guide.



I kept a personal log of sorts on board Voyager but it was always more like a report on my daily activities, a brief outline of certain events, rather than what I was feeling.  Maybe now I regret that, afraid that there will be things I won’t remember.



I don’t know why I do it now or relate all this now, except perhaps to tell anyone who might some day read these words, that I once knew a woman named Kathryn Janeway and that I loved her.  Still do and I suppose I always will.  Maybe I just wanted to set this in stone, so to speak.  Perhaps I thought seeing it written down would make it real, despite desperately wanting to deny her absence.



In the span if my life, she inhabited a very small part of it and yet while she was there, she filled it and completed me in ways no words can ever express and rendered everything else meaningless.  That still stands true.



She’s gone now and I can tell you nothing of her, except that she left, went away one day and never returned.  What she left behind was an emptiness so profound, it engulfs me.  She also left behind many questions.



There are times, late at night, when I waken and call out to her, always alone, when my tortured mind wonders if she ever existed or if I dreamed her, but then I make my way to the other room and study the holoimages I have of her, the only thing I have left, and I remember. 



I remember her soft voice, her shining eyes and that smile, her laugh, the gentle weight of her hand on my arm, her scent, the feelings she could stir in me…  I also remember her struggle, her pain and sadness, her fight to get us home, her loneliness…  I remember it all and my mind takes me back and I relive it.  The intensity of my feelings at these times only proves to me that she was there, a part of me, shared for such a brief time and so the only part of my life she inhabits now is my dreams.



Oh I searched but I guess she didn’t want to be found and for a time, I respected that, despite the pain I felt, but my acceptance of her wishes only reached my mind, not my heart and now what’s in my heart has infected my mind again and so I’ll continue to search, unable to rest.



I sit here now, once more in the small hours of the morning, surrounded by images of her.  I listen to the faint humming in my ears that comes only with silence and remember how she would often hum to herself when she believed no one was listening.  My Kathryn wasn’t blessed with a singing voice but when she spoke, it was music to me.  It is 0400 and I walk slowly to the window, stiff from sitting so long and bone weary from lack of sleep and despair, and stare out at the darkness but all I see is my own reflection staring back at me, mocking me, and I find I no longer recognize this man.  The sun will be up shortly to begin another day for those faceless and nameless people out there and for a moment, I’m angry with them.  They sleep on, knowing nothing of my pain, not caring that the woman I love has gone, leaving behind a hole in my life which cannot be filled, despite the best efforts of friends.  She is nothing to them but everything to me.  They would probably know her name, vaguely remember it from somewhere, but in most cases it will have passed from their minds like yesterday’s news, which of course it is, and continue on with their lives.



I watch as the first grey streaks of light invade the night and I turn away, unable to witness another dawn without her.  I replicate some tea for myself, staring deeply into the cup as if the answers I seek are there, rising up to me with the steam.  Once more I recount how it all came to this, my logs now filled with the same repeated words, as if repetition will erase the events.  I feel my tears begin and let them fall, just as I do each night but they never bring the comfort I so desperately seek.  Only Kathryn can do that.



I remember the ‘there and here’, the name the crew gave to the two days which changed our lives.  One day we were in the Delta Quadrant with a long journey ahead of us, our lives fairly settled, the next we were back in the Alpha Quadrant, nothing to warn or prepare us for it and everything was turned upside down.



On the ‘there’ day, Kathryn and two Ensigns beamed down to a planet rich in Dilithium, a world uninhabited and whose name we never knew.  They were back within four hours with what we needed and we moved on.  I remember seeing Kathryn when they got back, covered from head to toe in red dust, her two crewmembers not quite so bad.  She had laughed as she told me how she had fallen down a small pit, the others having to pull her out, covered in dust and coughing.  Her laugh had been infectious, an unseen portend for the mood of the coming day.  I watched as the three of them made their way back to their quarters for a shower, before reporting to the Doctor for the regulation check-up following away missions and smiled to myself, knowing this image of Kathryn would stay with me for a long time.



The following day, the ‘here’ day, we found the wormhole that took us home, the crew ecstatic if somewhat shell shocked.  I watched Kathryn closely that day, the anticipation and disbelief at first, and then the desperate struggle to hold back the hope that threatened to burst from her, and later the tension as we travelled through the wormhole and the relief when we emerged unscathed on the other side.  I saw and shared her happiness when Tom confirmed our location and when she spoke with Starfleet Command and then afterwards, when we prepared to dock.  All the emotions she passed through during it all, mirrored my own and together we shared them.  Her face that day, in it’s many different ways, stays with me, ingrained on my memory for all time.  I occasionally draw comfort from the memories until the ‘later’ overshadows them.



We had two weeks of debriefings and medicals and on the occasional moment when I would see her, she always appeared happy, sending a smile my way, an openness on her face and a lightness in her step I hadn’t witnessed before.  This was Kathryn without the dreadful burden she had lived under for so many years and I harboured the hope that she would feel free enough now to finally come to me, to at last allow herself to live and let me love her the way she deserved.



And then on the last day, she was gone.  I remember the day before that, when word had come to us that no former member of the Maquis would be charged and she had thrown herself into my arms, not caring who witnessed us and I gloried in her actions, holding her tightly to me, savouring every second.  We were all offered posts with Starfleet, even back pay and promotions, medals and honours.  Hope and happiness shone in her eyes that day and something passed between us, a connection not made before, a promise.  I knew she still had more business with Starfleet, another day or so and I smiled at her as she pulled back, her own smile lighting her eyes.  And then she grew serious, a tenderness on her face I’ll never forget.  “I’ll see you later….”  Her last words to me, speaking of so much more and she had held my hand a little longer than she needed to, neither of us wanting to let go.



When she didn’t show up after three days, I went looking for her but no one could give me any answers.  Finally Tom’s Dad, Admiral Paris, came to me and told me how Kathryn had simply left, no parting message from her.  I didn’t believe him at first but in the end, I accepted his word.  It was the same everywhere I went and the rest of the crew got the same answers I did when they spoke with anyone.  The returning Captain Kathryn Janeway had simply vanished into the night, having left no word as to her whereabouts.



At first the optimist in me simply believed that she had needed to get away for a few days, overwhelmed by everything that had happened and needing the space after two weeks of debriefings.  I was hurt that she hadn’t spoken to me first but I accepted it.  We had all been given three months leave, but as the days turned to weeks, I slowly gave up hope and accepted the fact that she had gone.  Most of the crew were hurt by her actions, believing they at least deserved a ‘goodbye’ but I hurt the most, feeling I had lost my reason for living, for coming back.  I went from feelings of hurt to anger and betrayal to fear that something terrible had happened to her.  In the end of course, I returned to hurt, no reports of any accidents coming in.  I accepted that Kathryn had simply decided to leave, having had enough after seven years and hadn’t been able to face us all.  It still bothered me though, because I knew her and believed that she was afraid of nothing, that she could face anything or anyone. 



Eventually I found out that she had resigned and that shocked me to the core.   Her face and her words to me that last time, haunt me, so out of line with what followed and I know now something is very wrong and so I continue my search, all the crew keeping their eyes open for any glimpse of their Captain.  I still feel there has to be a serious reason for her sudden departure and when, not if, I find her, I hope I then get the answers to the questions which have kept me awake night after night and I pray I get the chance to again have her as part of my life.”

 

KATHRYN.



“I should have known it was all too good to be true.  I really thought something would work out for me, that I was long overdue for some peace and happiness, but if I’m totally honest, I guess deep down I suspected life would throw something else at me, would once more drag away someone I loved.  I should have guessed that the Delta Quadrant wouldn’t let me go that easily and that the Janeway, or rather the Kathryn Janeway curse, would visit my door one more time.



One day, twenty-four hours, one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes – if my mind wasn’t so tired, I could probably work out the seconds.  If we had just found the wormhole that short time earlier, if we hadn’t needed the Dilithium so badly, if we had found it somewhere else, if…if…



We checked our sensors, went over our readings a dozen times, all the usual precautions.  There was nothing to tell us that what lay waiting on the surface would have the repercussions it had.  Oh we got what we needed but we also brought back something else.  I guess now I have the answer as to why the place was uninhabited. 



I remember most details of the away mission, although now the odd detail is fuzzy.  I guess I had better get used to that.  It’s probably why I’m keeping this log.  It’s my legacy, all I can leave behind, thanks to the Delta Quadrant’s last bequest to me.



Stop wandering Kathryn and get this down.  I beamed down with Ensigns Stella Edmonds and Mark Crowe, two bright young people, eager for the challenge.  We stood a moment and looked around us at the semi barren landscape.  There were some trees and a scattering of scrub grass but the rest was rapidly turning into desert, a covering of red sand and dust over everything, probably blown up by the wind.  It was thankfully still as we worked and we obtained the Dilithium in just over three hours.  As we finished off, we noticed a slight breeze coming up and gathering up what we had collected, made our way back to the shuttle and got ready to leave.  As I climbed in, I looked back and saw some tools still on the ground where we had been working.  Telling the others to wait for me, I returned and retrieved the items and made my way back.  I noticed the wind had picked up some more and looked behind me at the darkening sky.  As I turned back, my foot caught on something.  I felt myself fall and before I knew it, had fallen into a small pit.  I rolled onto my back, spitting out the mouthful of sand I’d nearly consumed and struggled to my feet, by now covered in the red dust.  As I looked up to try and find a foothold or something to pull myself up with, hands reached down for me, my two young charges who pulled me back up.



We thought no more of it.  I certainly thought no more of it.  I remember Chakotay’s expression when we arrived back on Voyager and how he tried his best not to laugh.  I guess we did look a sight.  I know I sure did, half the desert floor covering me.  We headed off for a shower before seeing the Doctor and got the all clear from him.



I couldn’t have known then.  Perhaps if we had gone straight to the Doctor, he would have detected it from our clothes, perhaps not.  By the time we reached sickbay, we were showered and clean, all dirty clothing disposed of.



Nothing showed up on my first physical at Starfleet the day we arrived home and I thought nothing of the fatigue I felt over the coming week.  My second physical went much as the first, with me complaining and wanting out of there, to the annoyance of the poor Starfleet medic assigned to us.  This time, he took more blood and fluid samples than he had the first time and I was growing impatient.  Finally the ordeal was over and I was asked to return in a week’s time for any results which might need to be discussed. I thought nothing of it, knowing that each crewmember had been told the same.



I walked out of there without a care in the world.  I still had debriefings to face but they weren’t the battle I had feared.  I saw from the crew that things appeared to be easy enough with them also and so I relaxed more.  A weight had lifted off my shoulders and I felt a lightness about myself which I hadn’t experienced since I was a young girl.  The only shadow was the absence of my mother and sister but I had done my grieving for them and let them go in peace.  The data streams we received during the last part of our voyage often brought sadness along with happiness in news from home and hearing of the deaths of my mother and sister in a shuttle accident in this way didn’t help, but I know I handled it better out there with Chakotay and my friends around me, than I would have back here with a stiff board of Admirals informing me of the sad news.



I miss them all so much, my crew and friends, especially Chakotay.  Who am I kidding?  I miss Chakotay like I’d miss my limbs or my head.  I ache inside with longing just to see him again or hold him, but I love him too much and so I must stay away.  I’m digressing here, another symptom…



The day before it all fell apart…  We received the news that the former Maquis  wouldn’t be charged, were offered promotions, back pay, honours and I actually threw myself into Chakotay’s arms and didn’t care who saw for once.  I barely held myself back from throwing him on the floor and taking him there and then.  God… me, Kathryn Janeway, Starfleet Captain, Miss Prim and Proper…I could just see the headlines now.  ‘Returning Voyager Captain Jumps First Officer In Public’.



I so want to laugh at images like this but all I do is cry.  I remember telling him I’d see him later and I meant it.  At that moment, I had the world before me, stretching out to the horizon, happiness and love beckoning to me.  Life can sure kick you in the teeth at times.  As quickly as the change from Delta Quadrant to Alpha Quadrant came, this came faster. 



I walked into sickbay with a smile plastered on my face but it fell quickly when I saw the expression on the face of Dr. Wilson.  I read people well and this man was an open book.  I remember sitting and seeing his concerned face as he hesitated before speaking and I knew.  Something deep inside me knew that he had just burst the balloon which housed all my dreams and I sat and watched in my mind as they shattered into a million pieces.



I barely remember his words at first but as the hours went by, they became imprinted in my memory.  He explained calmly that the superior scanning equipment Starfleet boasted had detected something in one of the cultures from my tests and the deep level scans they had taken backed it up.  He believed I had picked something up within the last day or two in the Delta Quadrant and I instantly remembered the red dust but my mind immediately thought only of Stella and Mark.  Dr. Wilson assured me that he had also tested them.



I then got the full story, as far as he could tell it.  There was something in that dust, something lethal to all life and I knew then why the planet had been uninhabited, devoid of any life as far as we had seen.  It was poisoned and the three of us were its victims.  The Doctor explained as kindly as he could that perhaps our own Doctor might have been able to pick it up from traces which had been on our clothing and I nearly laughed at his words as I remembered how I had been covered with the damn stuff.  I also know now though, that even if Voyager’s EMH had detected anything, he would have been helpless.  The damage had been done.



He explained that the dust must have contained some form of toxin, a chemical or kind of radiation, which attacked any life form it came into contact with.  He also informed me carefully that he believed it could be passed on and I had not just tested positive for this toxin but I also had reached a stage where I would most likely pass it on to anyone I came into contact with, though only through bodily fluids as far as he could see.  He compared it to the Aids virus of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in how it might possibly be spread.  There was, he informed me, the very slight possibility that in the later stages I could pass this on by touch and later again maybe simply by breathing near someone.  I only now noticed that Dr. Wilson wore surgical gloves and a feeling of dread passed through me.  I felt unclean and stood immediately, putting more distance between us and saw that he understood, could see how I had noticed his precaution to protect himself.  I guess it wasn’t airborne yet.  He was still in the same room as me.



I remember asking about the others, Chakotay in particular, as I thought of myself throwing my body against his.  The kindly medic informed me that it couldn’t have been passed on by touch at this stage but he had still checked everyone else under the pretext of having missed some scans and found no signs of the toxin.  He then told me how Ensigns Edmonds and Crowe had both tested positive for the toxin but were at a far earlier stage than I was, having been less exposed.  He asked me about my own exposure, how I had gotten more of the dust on my body and I explained about falling into the pit and getting some of the sand in my mouth.



I do know I got the Doctor’s reassurance that the matter would not be discussed outside of that room.  I knew the top brass would be notified, would need to be but I wanted no one else to know.  I was told that I could still have contact with people for the moment, that I wasn’t yet infectious, but to stay close to headquarters and sickbay for further tests and treatments.  In the end though, I demanded and got the bottom line.  This disease had no known cure, was unheard of here and so would kill me within months.  Despite his assurances that I was safe at present from passing this on,  I knew at that moment, that I had to just disappear from everyone’s lives.



As I sit here now, the fact that I am sparing them, is all that sustains me and gets me through the days, days which seem endless and consume me with loneliness and torturous dreams of what could have been.  I think back to New Earth and remember another time when I was infected but at least then, I wouldn’t have passed it on and I also had Chakotay with me.  I long for those days again and dream of them often.  Come on Kathryn, you’re wandering again.  I’m doing that a lot more now and I know why.  I forget simple things too as the days blur together and I know my mind is drifting towards madness, the wonderful gift the red dust left me.  I just hope I won’t know too much at the end.  My biggest worry is forgetting Chakotay but I feel I’ll never do that.  At least, I pray I won’t.



Where was I?  The Doctor?  Yes, that’s it.  He told me the ‘disease’, his word, had an incubation period of just over a week before the symptoms showed, at least in his estimation.  Guess that’s why I felt so tired all the time and nothing showed up at my first medical.  I barely manage four hours now without needing to get some sleep.  When I think of the all-nighters I used to manage, sometimes days on end…  Come on Kathryn, get out of the past.



I don’t know if our own Doctor would have picked this up and I guess it doesn’t matter now but if Starfleet didn’t spot it at the first medical, I suppose he wouldn’t have.  I know it was the advanced equipment Starfleet have and maybe if we’d had that onboard Voyager…  then again, maybe it wouldn’t have shown up until now.  My mind can go in circles when I think like this and nothing I say seems to make sense.  I think I went over this already.  In the end, I find it doesn’t matter any more.  The facts are as they are and I can’t change them.



Anyway, I got the rundown on what to expect, as much as he could tell me.  It’s apparently similar to known diseases and he named them but nothing lasts long in my mind these days.  I do know that I will die from this but not before my body gives out and my mind goes.  He described it as a mix of diseases.  It can be passed like the Aids virus which I mentioned but mostly the disease itself is similar to something that was once prevalent here on Earth called Alzheimer’s disease and I read a little on that.  I stopped quickly, not wanting to know more.   What this also does is attack the blood, almost like leukaemia, bringing dreadful pain with it.  God Kathryn, you do nothing by halves.  If I had simply gotten these diseases, they could at least be cured, but not this.  All he can do is treat my symptoms with drugs and hope for the best. 



I got his promise that he would say nothing.  Did I mention that already?  Maybe.  I spoke with one Admiral and then the Vice-President, very aware of how they stood back from me, as both of them assured me that news of this would never come out and giving me their word on that.  I suspected that deal was as much for them as it was for me but that matters not.  It wouldn’t do to see the returning heroine of Voyager go mad in public.  They assured me that Stella and Mark would be well taken care of and I suppose I have to trust them on that.  I also handed them my resignation which they falsely tried to refuse but we all knew there was no other way, knew I wouldn’t be coming back from this.



And now I know I made the right decision.  I lie here in the winter sun of California, not having the energy to go for a short walk even and record this log.  I keep in touch with some news and that’s how I heard.  It made the headlines actually but then anything to do with Voyager will for a while yet.  Stella Edmonds died last week, cause withheld.  They didn’t need to say any more, not to me.  I know the cause because I’m it.  The Voyager Captain who took two young Ensigns to their deaths.  It seems so unfair that she died first and not me when I was exposed to a greater degree.



I sat a while longer and listened to that sympathetic Doctor give me what to him was probably a well rehearsed speech, about how he would work on a cure, that there were treatments he could try in the interim and so on but I knew better.



And so I ran.  I procured a supply of painkillers from him and other drugs with the promise to keep in touch with him, a promise I won’t keep.  I also supplied myself with more drugs from other sources, old friends in the right places who didn’t ask questions and needed no answers.  Some of these I use now,  others I’ll keep for when I know I’ll need them.  For the moment, they just hold off what’s coming and help what’s already there but only a little.  When it gets too bad, I hope I won’t know I’m in pain and I’ll probably wander down to the river and fall in, drown myself most likely.  God Kathryn, when did you get so cynical, so bitter.  Anyway, Dr. Wilson made his speech about there always being a chance for a cure and as he went on, I tuned out.  I guess I was already planning my escape at that stage.



That night, middle of the night actually, I packed what little I had and ran off into the darkness like a runaway teenager.  I left no address, no message and I know I’ve hurt a lot of people, Chakotay for sure, but I would honestly rather he have emotional pain now than physical pain and death a little later.  I’ve probably simply solved a problem for Starfleet.



I found this place easily, considering how out of the way it is and thankfully my memory was still good.  My father’s brother used to own it and it was boarded up for years.  I don’t have any prying neighbours to worry about and the water still runs.  I got myself a small replicator and power cells so I guess I have all I need.



Anyway, I sit here now and record all this while I still can.  I put off making this log for a long time and I honestly can’t remember how long I’ve been here now.  It has been weeks, I know that but one day is the same as the next and I don’t worry about it.  I guess most of this log is jumbled around all over the place but then so are my thoughts.  I won’t even go into my emotions.



I feel my eyes drooping again so I’ll finish this later.  I feel like an old woman and in a way I am.  Seven years in the Delta Quadrant can do that to you.  Until later.”

 

CHAKOTAY.



“A lot of the crew are still around, sticking close to each other after Stella’s funeral.  Starfleet released the news of her death but withheld the cause and I know her family are grateful for that.  None of us will ever speak about the real cause of her death, such is the loyalty of these people.



Poor Stella.  I wish she had just spoken to us but within a day of Kathryn’s disappearance, she withdrew into herself and never spoke to anyone about what was troubling her.  In the end, she took her own way out.  When they found her in her hotel room, she had a phaser at her side, having directed it at her chest.  Our Doctor assured us she would have died instantly but it’s little comfort and we’ll never have any answers as to why.



All the crew, with the exception of Mark Crowe attended her funeral and I was puzzled by that because I know they were close.  Maybe he just couldn’t face it but now that I think about it, he has also seemed withdrawn and from about the same time.



Something nags at my mind but the thought won’t clarify.  I think of these two young people and suddenly something hits me.  I see an image of them both, alongside Kathryn, all covered in red dust, laughing together when they returned from our last away mission and I freeze a moment, knowing there is something more going on here than I can think of, something more than coincidence that these same three people are now connected by one going missing, one now dead at her own hand and the other withdrawn and closed away at his home.



All at once, I know I need to speak with Mark Crowe and find some answers to this, instinctively knowing that whatever he can tell me will help me find Kathryn and explain what I badly need to understand.”



KATHRYN.



“I had to re-read this log to remember what I’d written last and that frightens me.  I think I caught a chill from having fallen asleep outside, which I do most days.  I woke and it was getting dark but I’m used to finding my way around this place now as my sight starts to fail me, especially when the light is bad.  That was something Dr. Wilson didn’t mention, probably because he didn’t know.



I feel guilty for not getting in touch with him as I promised but I’m afraid of bumping into Chakotay or some of the others.  I just can’t take the risk of harming them, causing their deaths and despite what Dr. Wilson says, I still believe it’s too dangerous to be around anyone.  It’s a chance I won’t take, the risk of harming any of them.  I did enough of that in the Delta Quadrant, left enough of them behind.



I owe them too much and they served me well.  Now it’s my turn to serve them, in the only way I can, for the time I have left.  This is the last thing I can do for them, the only way I can protect them.”



CHAKOTAY.



“The young man who finally opens the door to me is not the Mark Crowe I know.  This man is a mere shadow of what was and there is an emptiness in his eyes that shakes me.  He doesn’t seem surprised to see me and that puzzles me somewhat.  Maybe he just expected someone from Voyager to check on him but as I watch him closely, I feel more and more that he was expecting me.



He calmly invites me in and goes through the motions of playing host, offering me coffee out of politeness but I decline and see him nod slowly, as if he understands that I have more urgent reasons for being here.  He appears nervous and I notice he stands away from me and it registers with me now that he didn’t offer to shake hands even.



“You want to ask about them, Stella and the Captain, need to know about the three of us…”  It is neither a statement nor a question and I nod slowly, a feeling of dread creeping through me.  I have been right in connecting them all together but that knowledge brings with it a fear.



“I’ll tell you what I know, even though I was ordered to keep this quiet…”  He watches me closely and shakes his head then sits.  There is silence for a few minutes, time I know he needs in order to form his words before he speaks them.  Finally he looks up at me and smiles sadly.



“Stella gave up…  didn’t believe that was a chance… that’s what I think anyway…”  He draws in a deep breath, his eyes still on mine and I know he sees my worry and confusion.



“I’ll tell you the story Commander.  You’ve always had my loyalty over the Federation…you and the Captain…  being out there made that so… despite the fact that I swore to uphold their principles when I joined Starfleet all those years ago…”  He looks around the small room a moment, almost as if confirming it’s still there.



“You remember that last away mission…when we returned with the red dust all over us?”  I nod slowly, my fear and dread growing.  “It was poisoned…something or other…”  I feel my hands squeeze tightly into fists as he shakes his head, his eyes on his feet now.  “They detected it at our second medical.  I was infected with it, this nameless killer…”  I shudder at the use of the word and he looks up at me, smiling apologetically.  “Sorry Commander…”  I simply nod.  “We were all infected… although I believe the Captain is probably the worst…there was more on her…I think she might even have swallowed some…when she fell…”  Once more his eyes apologise for him.  He stands now, uneasy with all this.



“They’ve promised to do everything they can to find a cure before…  I guess Stella didn’t have that much faith in them…  her own pre-emptive strike against it…”  He slowly sits again and tells me everything the Starfleet Doctor has told him, how this disease works and what it does to the body but his words seem unreal to me and I know that only later will they come back to me, haunt me for the rest of my life.



“That’s what’s waiting for me.  Oh I’m not bitter at anyone…  just life itself … how it can kick you …”  He runs  his hands over his face.  “I get so tired these days…”  His eyes meet mine again and I find myself seeing into his soul almost, a witness to the pain which fills him. 



“I think only Dr. Wilson and one or two of the top brass know of this.  I heard no mention of our own Doc being involved.  I was politely ‘requested’ to remain quiet on the matter and it suits me I suppose… I know people and I don’t want them afraid of me… nor do I want to harm anyone… I couldn’t take that…to hurt my family or friends… be responsible for their getting infected...”    I watch as he plays with his fingernails and it registers with me that he can’t keep his hands still.  “It works like a mix between Alzheimer’s and Leukaemia…can be spread by body fluids…that kind of contact…later on by touch possibly …after that maybe it will be airborne but not yet…”  His eyes bore into mine, desperate to tell me that I’m safe enough with him and I nod my understanding but thoughts of Kathryn consume me and I know he sees that.



“We showered and changed before seeing our own Doc but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference…”  I nod as I remember that day, watching them all head back to their quarters, Kathryn’s laughter filling my mind.  “We got rid of our clothes…rid of the evidence if you like…though I think the damage was already done…”  He stands again and walks to the window, but nothing there holds his interest and he turns back to me.  “I doubt Doc would have spotted it…nothing there to see at first anyway… it didn’t show up here until our second medical anyway … and that was with more advanced scanning equipment…”  Finally he sits again and a million questions rush at me but I find myself speechless.  He understands and leans back in his chair.



“They believe it might become airborne in time… sorry…I said that already… I tend to repeat myself sometimes…my state of mind…  I guess I shouldn’t even have let you in…  I certainly won’t come too close…”  He smiles sadly again and I nod my thanks or whatever it is.  “I actually have faith in them and I suppose in a way, I understand why they want to keep it quiet.  They don’t need a panic on their hands…”  We are both silent now, minutes stretching out ahead of us as my thoughts scatter all over the place.  Only Kathryn’s face remains steady in my mind.



“Mark…”  Finally I find my voice and I see that I’ve startled him, as if he’s almost forgotten I’m here.  “I don’t want to get you into trouble but…”  He waves his hand and shakes his head.



“You do what you have to do Commander.  I understand that the Captain is your first concern and maybe it will only help me too if you open this up.  I’ve always had more faith in our own Doc…  I wanted to speak with him before but…  guess I chickened out…”  He pauses a moment and I see him fight for control of his emotions.   “Commander, do what you need to…  for the Captain and…  well in memory of Stella…”  I nod slowly and try a smile and almost succeed.  As I stand to leave, his slight cough catches my attention.



“Commander… I hope you understand…”  He seems to hesitate and then speaks.  “I’ll just say this.  Being ill gives you a daring you wouldn’t normally have and I’ve suddenly developed a desire to speak my mind, leave nothing unsaid in case I don’t have the time later…”  He leans his head to the side and I see that his words are not about seeking sympathy but just getting his point across.  “I know you love her and she loves you…we all saw that…”  I smile sadly and nod, giving him the confirmation he was seeking.  “Find her and get her back…even if it’s only a short time…”  I look away, not wanting to even consider my Kathryn dying or gone from me.  “Commander, don’t blame her… I suspect she was just doing what she’s always done…protect us all…protect those she loves… you have to understand… she would never want to hurt you…”  I turn back to him and see tears on his face and I close my eyes a moment to halt my own.  I can’t answer him but my nod and my eyes tell him everything.  I leave, speaking no more, knowing that anything I say will just be a promise I may not be able to keep.



An hour later finds me at Headquarters in the presence of Owen Paris and our own Doctor.  My story shocks them and I see that both are completely ignorant of everything I speak of.  As I rise to leave the room, I get their reassurances that they will be in contact with me within a few hours and I know now I have done the right thing, the only thing I can do.  I also know that I have a long journey ahead of me, that we need to work together to find a cure for this, but most importantly, I need to find Kathryn.  I don’t care if it’s even just for a short time and I know that should I lose her to this, at least I can bring some comfort to her for the time she has left.”



KATHRYN.



“I sit back and let the hypo do its work and feel my body relax as the painkiller kicks in.  I try and use them sparingly but sometimes it gets too much and there’s no one here to pretend for.  The days are longer and harder now and pain is a major part of my hours but the loneliness is worse than any physical pain.  Memories assault me these days, the mistakes I made, the people I love and miss, Mark and Stella, and I fight my tears.  I think back again to that planet and wish we had known then, could have placed a warning buoy for others.  All these thoughts come to me when my defences are down and always there is Chakotay, my love and guilt surrounding his image.  I sleep a lot more and in a way, I welcome the oblivion and then I feel guilty.  A longer sleep awaits me and a part of me feels I should be making the most of what time I have but being so alone here is too hard and I give in to the sleep instead.”



CHAKOTAY.


“I can’t believe the last few days.  I guess I really opened a can of worms within Starfleet but I underestimated these people.  I actually believed at first that they were keeping things quiet for their own selfish reasons but I know differently now.  Some top Admiral came to see me and spoke with me in an open and frank manner, sparing me no details.  I understand now that keeping this quiet is to stop any panic the news might cause but mainly for the protection of those infected, to shelter Kathryn and Mark and still in a way, Stella.  I learned that her family were told and understand now why their daughter took her own life and in a way, I guess it makes it easier for them.  Unanswered questions are the worst and I know that now.  I also know that they are the ones which torture us the most.



Our own Doctor is involved in the research now and that gives me more hope.  Mark Crowe is working with them, allowing himself to be their live test subject.  The poor man probably feels he has nothing to lose.  For myself, the biggest problem remains.  I still have to find Kathryn.  Admiral Kramer tells me how she resigned and left, then just disappeared into the night.  Our difference is that they let her go while I continue to search.  With his permission, I have informed every crewmember and now they are helping me in my search and such is the loyalty of these people that even Starfleet are secure in the knowledge that none of this will reach the public.



My home becomes a headquarters in its own right as crew come and go, co-ordinating our search and sharing information.  We’ve checked every hospital and hotel with no sign of Kathryn but not once have I seen anyone want to give in.”



KATHRYN.


“My guardian angel is back.  I see him watch me occasionally from the far side of the field.  I assume it’s a man.  He’s too far away to know for sure and my sight is not good, but when it’s bright, I see him watch me using what I think are old-fashioned field glasses.  I’ve watched him work the land day to day and it always brings thoughts of Chakotay.



My angel also watches the birds, either in the trees around here or as they soar high in the sky and I’ve found myself watching them also, envying them their freedom and carefree lives, even though I can’t make them out too clearly.  Lately my angel has started to leave gifts for me.  I come out most mornings now to find a small basket of fresh fruit or vegetables sitting on my porch, sometimes a meat or apple pie and I actually smile, something I don’t do much these days.  He seems to respect my need for solitude and he never intrudes.  I just wish I had something to offer in return but as much as I want to thank him, I must keep a distance from him.  I just hope someday he understands.



I’ve actually written a note to him, telling him the truth, which he’ll find someday and I’ll leave it outside when the time comes.  I even wore gloves to write it, just in case.   I have a feeling that he will be the one who will find me when this ends and I worry that touching me even then would be dangerous to him and so I had to warn him.  It’s all I can do.  I’ve also asked him to contact Chakotay and pass on a letter to him for me.  Maybe then I can give him the peace and rest he deserves.”

 

CHAKOTAY.



“I can’t believe what’s happened.  With every scientist at Starfleet and the best the science field has to offer working on this, they’ve actually done it.  Mark came with our own Doctor to tell me and I couldn’t say a word to them, just sat stunned in my chair for almost five minutes.  Finally I looked Mark over and only then did I see the man I had known on board Voyager, the one I thought for a time we have lost.



For a brief moment, our eyes lock and I know we are both thinking the same thing.  If only Stella had hung on and will we find Kathryn.  We both nod together, no words needed.



“Mark…”  I don’t know what I was going to say, for suddenly my words are interrupted by a thought I can’t pin down for a moment.  “Mark…Mark…”  He stares at me as if I’m a stuck recording.  It clicks with me and I repeat it once more.  “Mark…”  I actually smile as I see the expressions on the faces of the two men before me and I shake my head and explain.



“Mark as in Johnston… Kathryn’s fiancé before we left…I never thought…maybe he might know of somewhere…”  I see they understand and I leave them in B’Elanna’s capable hands as I search for a way to contact this man who was a part of Kathryn’s life for such a long time.



An hour later, I’m sitting in his home with him and his wife as I explain the situation and I see their shock and concern.  I see Mark think back, reliving a part of his life long gone now and watch the face of his wife as she smiles gently, no trace of jealousy on her face. 



“There’s her mother’s house which I think is boarded up…”  I shake my head and tell him that was the first place I looked.  “I know it’s not the cabin as we were up there only last weekend…”  He looks to his wife as they remember a happy time together and for a moment I envy them, hoping I someday have this with Kathryn.  He pulls himself back to the present and I almost see his mind working.  “That only leaves…no…she wouldn’t go there… too run down now…”  I lean forward quickly.



“Where?  Mark, anywhere she might be…it’s worth checking at least…”  He nods slowly.



“There was a shack…I doubt there’s even water up there…it was…where was it?”  He stands and goes to his desk, hunting around through drawers.  I think it belonged to Edward’s brother at one time…her uncle…ah yes here…”  He shows me an old map and points to a small town I have never heard of in the north of California.  “It was about two miles north of here…down a small dirt road on the left as you head north… if I remember right, there was a large beech tree at the side of the road where the turnoff is…”  I thank him and his wife, eager now to try this new lead.  As I leave, I feel a hand on my arm and turn to Mark’s wife.



“Tell her we send our love and that we’d love to see her…see you both some time…perhaps dinner…?”  I nod my thanks again and shake their hands.  I had often thought I would hate this man, someone I felt was almost a rival, but I feel I’ve made a friend instead, two friends.  I promise to keep in touch and let them know.”



KATHRYN.



“My angel left me soup this morning and I feel better having had some.  My energy levels have dropped through the floor and I know I’m getting more and more confused.  I manage to remember to constantly check the padds I leave all over the place now, notes to myself to remind me when I’ve taken medication, when I’ve eaten, things I need to remember although sometimes I don’t think to enter information I’ll need later so it can be a useless exercise at times.



I don’t need reminders to take painkillers.  My body tells me when I need that, which is becoming more and more often now.  My eyes are starting to fail me even in the  daylight now and most of the time I just sit outside on the lounger and doze, enjoying the sound of the birds and the warm sun.  That is when I let my mind wander and think back on half forgotten times.  Mostly though, I remember Chakotay and smile sadly, wondering where he is now and what he’s doing and then I put the thoughts away because they become too painful.  Finally I give in and let myself sleep again, my only comfort now.”



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