Disclaimers:  They belong to Paramount;  I just play from time to time 
 

 
 

Rating:  G 

Notes:  This was inspired by Robert Beltran’s comments in June that “they should kill off Chakotay” and by recent rumours on the ‘net that one of the regular characters is not going to make it home.  Be warned – it is not a happy story. 
 

                                                     I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE 
 

By Mary S. 
 
 
 

           That year, their seventh in the Delta Quadrant, saw the longlost starship Voyager finally get within ten thousand light years of Federation space.  Again, Borg technology had played a critical role.  The ship had jumped fifteen thousand light years thanks to a transwarp coil “borrowed” from a cube after the queen had been distracted by events in unimatrix zero.  With the recovery of their captain, engineer, and chief tactical officer from the Borg, and the near-total disruption of the hive, the crew was delighted to get the bonus of another few years shaved off their journey.  The doctor worked his usual miracles, and in no time, the three were restored to their original appearance.  Things were getting back to normal, or what passed for normal in the Delta Quadrant. 

           The following month, the message from Starfleet Command, now a regular occurrence, made several very specific requests for information about the Maquis members of the crew.  The admirals demanded detailed reports about Lt. Ayala, Lt. Torres and Commander Chakotay.  Janeway was ordered in no uncertain terms to keep these reports completely confidential; she might enlist the aid of Lt.-Commander Tuvok – no one else. 

           The captain hit the roof.  She fired off a very sharp reply, which bordered on insubordination, to the effect that her crew was one crew and she categorically refused to consider it any other way.  That seemed to be the end of it until two months later.  The new C-in-C, one Admiral Nechayev, reprimanded Janeway in a manner normally reserved for the most recalcitrant cadet.  The captain was reminded that as a Starfleet officer, she would obey the orders of her superiors, or she would not remain a Starfleet officer for any longer than it took to reach the Alpha Quadrant.  Janeway had known she might encounter difficulties with headquarters about some of her decisions, but Nechayev’s attitude indicated that she was going to hit a brick wall.   They could not understand, and apparently did not want to understand, what it was like to captain a single ship so far from home and support.  She called the commander to her ready room. 

           “Chakotay, we’ve got a problem.  Look at this.”  And she ran through both the original demands and Nechayev’s latest.  The commander’s mouth thinned and a frown settled on his face. 

           “What are you going to do?” 

           “I don’t know.  She’s got me over a barrel and she knows it.  I never did like that woman – she knows that, too.  Look at her – she’s positively gloating!” 

           “Kathryn, none of us want you to jeopardize your career.  We knew this day would come; we’ll face it.” 

           “Oh Chakotay!” she almost wailed.  “I can’t just give you up to them. 
They’re so vindictive!  All they care about is their little power games.  I have a horrible feeling about all this, that they’ll imprison you for the rest of your life, not because of anything you did, but to prove they can!” 

           “Kathryn, remember who you are.  Think about what you’re saying.  You have no choice.  You have to follow orders.” 

           Yes, she knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier.  They went over it and around it several more times, but the answer was always the same.  Finally, fed up with admirals and Starfleet generally, Janeway proposed they shelve the issue for the moment.  Maybe their heads would be clearer in a day or two and they could find a way out of this quandary. 

           As they both stood and stretched, Harry’s voice came over the comm.  “Captain!  Commander!  To the bridge!”  That got them moving and they were through the door in a second.  “Report, Ensign!” 

           “Captain, it appears that there is a wormhole four light years ahead.  It’s in a – complicated area, one that’s filled with all kinds of – anomalies.” 

           “What sort of anomalies, Harry?”  demanded Janeway. 

           “Areas of subspace, like pockets, all over; they keep shifting around.  Sensors are having trouble getting clear readings.  It’s very unstable.” 

           “The wormhole is located where?” 

           “Pretty much in the middle, Captain.” 

           “Can we get a probe to it – see where it goes.” 

           “We can try.  I can’t promise success.” 

           “Tom, can we maneuver in there?” 

           “I wouldn’t advise it, Captain.  No telling what those ‘pockets’ would do to our systems.” 

           “Hmm.  So near, yet so far.  Could we modify our shields, Tuvok, to withstand the pressures from the pockets?” 

           “Not on the ship to any great effect.  But it might be possible on a class three probe.  I would need to consult Lt. Torres and Seven.” 

           “Do it.” 

           Tuvok duly departed to engineering, collecting Seven on the way, where both they and Torres chewed over the problem for several hours before finally improvising a Borg-enhanced shield that might withstand sub-space shifts.  The shield worked better than they dared hope, and in minutes, the probe flew into the wormhole.  

           “Receiving telemetry from the probe, Captain,” announced Harry.  “Putting it on screen.” 

           They held their breaths and waited.  Swirling colours, faster and faster, then – pop!  The probe was in open space. 

           “Bingo!” shouted Harry.  “Alpha Quadrant!” 

           For a minute, there was stunned silence, then cheers erupted on the bridge.  As the news spread faster than warp speed, shouts of excitement could be heard on every deck.  They were almost there. 

           Janeway let it go on for a while, but finally called the ship to order.  “People, this is grand news.  But we still have a few difficulties, such as getting to the wormhole so we can use it.  I want everyone to come up with as many ideas as they can, I don’t care how wild.  Staff meeting in one hour.  We’ll consider options then.  Commander, my ready room.”  And she rose to her feet as he followed her. 

           “Coffee, Chakotay?  I’d offer champagne but we are still on duty.  And in light of our earlier discussion, you may not want to celebrate.” 

           “Thank you, Kathryn.  Coffee’s fine.  And I am glad we have finally found the last leg of our journey.  We need to get home – all of us, regardless of what awaits.” 

           They sipped in silence, each contemplating very uncertain futures.  She spoke first. 

           “Chakotay, if, by some miracle, Starfleet saw the light and recommended a full pardon for the Maquis, including you, what would you do?” 

           “I don’t know, Kathryn.  I guess – go back to Dorvan first, see if anyone’s left.  But then – then, I’d like to go to Arizona, the canyons, for a while and just sit.  Relax completely, no responsibilities, no schedules, just nothing.  What about you?” 

           “After I’ve jumped through all the Starfleet hoops, home to Indiana, reacquaint myself with my family, then – I don’t know.  Maybe I could come visit you in Arizona.” 

           His eyes were warm.  “You’d be welcome anytime, Kathryn.” 

           “Well, enough daydreaming.  Got to get to that wormhole first.  Now what do you think if we….” 

           At the staff meeting, ideas were tossed around at great length but no real solution could be found.   The best hope appeared to lie in sending a shuttle through the pockets to plot a course for Voyager to follow.  It was risky but seemed to present the best chance of success.  Tom offered to fly the shuttle, but Janeway vetoed that – she needed him to pilot Voyager.  That left Chakotay who quickly volunteered to lead the way.  Janeway didn’t like it but knew he was the next best pilot and the logical choice.  As always when he headed off into a dangerous situation, her heart was in her mouth and her captain’s mask firmly in place.  This would be the last time, she told herself.  Just once more; let him make it through just once more. 

           The shuttle sailed out of the bay, seemed to gather itself and headed into the area of pockets. 

           “Voyager to Chakotay.  How is it so far, Commander?” 

           “Straightforward, Captain.  I’m taking a few bumps, but the shields are holding.” 

           “Very good.  We’re right behind you.  Take your time.  The comm. link is open.  Talk to us, Commander.” 

           “It’s getting trickier here.  The pockets are shifting more rapidly, almost as if they were caught in an eddy.”  A loud bang was heard. 

           “Are you okay?  How’s your structural integrity field holding up?” 

           “The field is down twenty percent.  Still within tolerable limits.  I’m watching it.”  She wished now she had sent someone with him, to watch the readings so he could concentrate on flying. 

           Another bang.  “Structural integrity down another eight percent.  I think I’m almost through the worst of it.  There, that’s better.  Space here is a little more stable.” 

           “All right, Commander.  Harry, how much farther?” 

           “Ten thousand kilometres, Captain.  We’re almost there.” 

           “Chakotay, wait for us at the entrance.  Don’t go  ---.”  She stopped in shock as the shuttle was suddenly tossed by an invisible force straight into the mouth of the wormhole. 

           “After him!  Hurry!”  And Voyager dove in right behind.   Immediately, the ship heaved and lurched, thrown around like a child’s toy.  Anyone on their feet ended up on the floor.  Janeway tried to crawl to her chair.  “Status!”  she shouted. 

           Harry did his best as he dug his fingers into his console.  “Captain, we’re almost through!  Structural integrity is falling but I think we’ll make it.” 

           “The shuttle, Harry!  Can you see it?” 

           “No, Captain.”  And then they were out.  Everyone looked around them in a daze, hardly daring to believe they had made it through in one piece.  Janeway finally got to her chair and climbed into it.  

           “The shuttle!  Where is it?!”  No answer.  “Harry!  Tell me where it is!”  Desperation was creeping into her voice.  “Harry, please.”  In a whisper, he replied.  “It’s gone, Captain.  There’s only a bit of debris.  I guess the field collapsed.” 

           “Oh god!  No!!” she cried out before clamping a hand over her mouth, her other arm wrapped across her stomach as if she would hold herself together.  “Chakotay” she wailed under her breath, and bowed her head.  He hadn’t made it. 
 

        _________________________________________________ 

           Somehow, Kathryn Janeway got through Chakotay’s memorial service although afterwards, she could not recall it at all.  There had been no body, no tangible evidence that he was dead beyond a few pieces of torn metal.  He was just – gone.  She couldn’t eat, or drink; barely talk.  Sleep was out of the question.  All she could do was walk.  So she walked her ship, every deck, every corridor, for hours, trying to tire herself enough so she could at least lie down.  But in vain.  All she could see was the shuttle being pulled into the wormhole.  Again and again. 

           Finally, she collapsed in the shuttle bay, where Tuvok found her and had her transported to sickbay.  The doctor gave her a strong sedative in the hope that a decent sleep would restore her equilibrium.  When she woke, she seemed recovered and certainly lucid, but her eyes were completely empty.  All the life, the spark that had been Kathryn Janeway was gone.  She was like an automaton, just going through the motions. 

           Each day, she fulfilled her duties, filed reports and logs, obeyed every dictate of headquarters, all without ever changing her expression.  She spoke only in reply to direct questions, volunteering nothing on her own. 

           The crew, especially the senior staff, were becoming very worried.  They were all in emotional turmoil between the long-awaited return home and Chakotay’s death and the captain’s malaise.  No one knew what to do or say.  B’Elanna, despite her own deep-felt grief, twice tried to talk to Janeway but got no response whatever.  Tom tried, the doctor, even Tuvok.  No one could get through to her – she had shut down. 

           If headquarters was surprised at her sudden complaisance, they said nothing.  Nechayev obviously thought it was her threats which had brought the captain into line and preened a little.  In fact, Janeway was barely aware of her existence.  She was holding on to the shreds of her sanity with her fingernails.  She felt she was dangling over a great precipice, at the foot of which was absolute chaos.  She had no anchor, nothing to hang on to except her goal, the same overriding goal she had worked towards for seven years – to get home.  As Earth loomed ever closer and her goal was reached, she began to fall dangerously close to insanity, to complete mental oblivion. 
 

        ____________________________________________________ 
 

           On the last day, the day Voyager reached Earth, the captain regained some of her professional balance.  So many messages and excitement and just plain noise made her more aware of her surroundings and the reality of their arrival home.  She made a real effort to look pleased and happy so as not to spoil such a special occasion.  Various admirals wanted to beam aboard, but she refused all outsiders except for Reg Barclay.  

           For several years, Mr. Barclay had been considered an honourary member of the crew for his ground-breaking work on the Pathfinder Project.  He was allowed aboard – no one else. 

           Kathryn tried not to think of Chakotay;  tried not to think at all, but she couldn’t help reflecting that at least she didn’t have to worry about his arrest and trial, never mind imprisonment.  He had died a free man, a thought that gave her some small consolation. 

           Starfleet Command had decided that, in order to get the maximum amount of publicity, Voyager should land as close to headquarters as possible.  And so, for the last time, the ship went to Code Blue and Tom Paris brought her down.  They were home. 
 
 
 
 

           Flags flew, bands played, throngs gathered, all to watch and celebrate the arrival of one lost ship.  As the excitement grew and the media went into a frenzy of oneupmanship, headquarters realized it had the makings of either a public relations dream or nightmare on its plate.  Voyager’s story was all anyone could talk about, and public interest increased by leaps and bounds.  When news of Chakotay’s death leaked out, the Federation Council took control of Operation Welcome Home. 

           The long war with the Dominion had cost the Federation, in personnel, material loss and damage, and prestige.  They nearly hadn’t won.  Voyager was the first good thing to happen in far too long.  People were tired of all the bad news, the huge losses, the rationing, the higher taxes.  It had seemed neverending.  They wanted heroes, a success story – and Voyager presented a golden opportunity.  Most discounted the fact that some of the crew had been Maquis.   In fact, it added to the glamour.  Public sympathy was clearly on their side and no politician worth his salt was going to further upset an already disgruntled citizenry.  

           When the Council heard Starfleet’s recommendation that the Maquis crew should be arrested, it wasted little time in reminding the admirals just who had overall authority.  And when Nechayev continued to argue, the Federation president herself told the admiral very bluntly that she either backed down – now! – or she could take immediate retirement.  She had ten seconds to decide.  Nechayev stopped.  

           So it was, on this happiest of days, that Starfleet Command officially recommended all charges against the Maquis be dropped;  the Federation Council magnaminously agreed. 

           Voyager touched down, the ramps dropped into place and Kathryn Janeway led out her crew.  Some wondered why the captain was so solemn, but put it down to the moment – she must be overcome with joy.  A dais had been set up; all the most important dignitaries were waiting on it, and once initial greetings had been exchanged, the President stood to make the first welcome-home speech.  

           As Janeway sat there listening, mostly numb, the truth finally hit her – they were home!  She had done what she said she would.  All obligations to her ship, her crew were fulfilled.  She remembered when she had sometimes daydreamed about how she and Chakotay might build a life together once they reached Earth.  Well, she was here – and he wasn’t.  And the full force of her loss hit her.  She started to shake, tears filled her eyes and she knew with a sudden, blinding clarity that she didn’t want to be here. 

           She rose, pulled off her pips, walked to Owen Paris, dropped them in his hand as she spoke a few words, and left the dais.  A mutter rolled through the crowd, the president came to a halt in mid-sentence and turned around.  Nechayev turned to Paris, who sat looking completely stunned. 

           “What did she say, Owen?” 

           “She said – I can’t do this anymore.” 

           “Is that all?   Anything else?” 

           “No.” 

           Neelix was on his feet, hurrying after Janeway while everyone else was still staring in astonishment.  He chased after her, finally catching up underneath the ship. 

           “Captain!  Captain, wait!   What is it?   What’s the matter?” 

           She turned and he was horrified to see tears pouring down her face as she gasped for air.  For a second, he thought she was having a seizure, then he realized.  Their captain had come to the end of her strength – she could go 
no further.  He pulled her behind a landing strut as the first reporters came running by.  She looked ready to collapse and he put his arms around her to support her.  He heard Tom’s voice and waved him over.  

           “Neelix!  What happened?  Captain!  What is it?  Are you all right?”  She couldn’t answer. 

           “Tom,” said Neelix.  “Do you know of some place we can take her, somewhere private?” 

           He thought for a minute.  “Yeah, come this way.”  And they led their weeping captain to a back door in headquarters and from there to a transporter.  Neelix got her home to Indiana; Tom and B’Elanna followed. 

           An hour later, Gretchen and Phoebe Janeway arrived to find their house full of people.  Tom explained that the captain had suffered a complete collapse upon arrival – they had put her to bed.  B’Elanna was sitting with her at the moment.  Mother and daughter shared a long look – this was familiar ground. 

           Gretchen suggested they return to headquarters which was in a complete uproar.  Tom was designated family spokesman which, in effect, meant Voyager spokesman.  He called B’Elanna down – she would be needed, too.  But when Gretchen tried to send Neelix away as well, she was met with a flat refusal.  He simply would not leave.  She gave up.  Perhaps he could make himself useful in the kitchen. 

           Meanwhile, Phoebe had gone up to her sister.  She had a sudden sense of déjà vu as she opened the bedroom door.  Nearly twenty years ago, Kathryn had been in the same state.  She wondered facetiously if she should get the glass of water now, to toss in her sister’s face.   She slipped carefully into the room; Kathryn was awake.  Face blotched red, eyes puffy from crying, but at this moment, calm. 

           “Kathryn,” called Phoebe softly.  “How are you doing?” 

           “Oh, I’ve been better, Phoeb.” 

           “What happened?  Why did you leave so suddenly?” 

           “Phoebe, it…..”, she hesitated.  “It just all seemed so pointless all of a sudden.  Here we all were, triumphant heroes, and all I could think of was how much I miss him.  It doesn’t mean anything, do you see?  Without Chakotay, none of it means a thing.” 

           “Kath, do you love him?” 

           “Oh yeah, I love him.  Little late now, aren’t I,” she added sarcastically. 

           Phoebe sat down on the bed and held out her arms.  “Come here, sweetheart.  You’ve had an awful time, haven’t you.” 

           “Oh Phoebe”, she wailed and burst into tears, as she grabbed onto her.  “Why does this keep happening?  Why do I keep losing the men I love?  Three times now!  Why?!” 

           “I don’t know, Kath.  I really don’t know.”  And she rocked her and rubbed her back until finally Kathryn calmed down.  Then she fetched a cold damp cloth and washed her face and hands.  At that point, Gretchen appeared in the doorway.  

           “Kathryn, love.”  And she put her arms around her. 

           “I did it again, Mom.  Fell in love and what happens – he died in the wormhole.  Oh Mom, it isn’t fair!  It just isn’t fair!” 

           “No sweetheart, it isn’t.  But that’s what life has dealt you, Kathryn.  You’re a strong woman and you will survive this.  Remember what was best about him and hold that in your heart.  It makes it a little easier.” 

           The three sat for a while longer until Kathryn felt sleepy.  Eventually, she drifted off and Gretchen and Phoebe went downstairs.  Neelix had prepared an elaborate dinner in the hope that he might tempt the captain with something.  They all sat at the table nibbling, but no one was very hungry.  Gretchen got up. 

           “Neelix, why don’t you stay here tonight?  We have an extra room.” 

           “Why thank you, Mrs. Janeway.  That is very kind.  I have been so worried about the captain;   she has not been herself since the commander died – such a tragedy….”  And he continued to babble on.  

           When Gretchen finally found her bed, she was completely exhausted.  What a day!  It had started out so full of joy and ended in near-despair.  At least tomorrow should be better – it couldn’t be much worse. 
 
 
 
 

One month later: 

           Neelix scurried out of the house.  “Captain, you have a visitor!” 

           She shook her head.  “Neelix, I don’t want….” 

           “Captain, it’s the commander’s cousin, the one who lives in Ohio!  His name is Tandikay.  And Captain, the resemblance….” 

           “is astonishing,” she finished.  Her heart leaped as this man came up to her and smiled.  Oh heavens!  He even has the same dimples!  She rose and held out her hand.  “I’m Kathryn Janeway.  You are very kind to come and see me.” 

           “Captain Janeway,” he replied in a voice somewhat lower pitched than the commander’s.  “I have wanted to meet you.  Chakotay mentioned you a lot in his letters.”  And his eyes examined her thoroughly.  Apparently, he liked what he saw for she got another smile.  “Sit down, please, Tandikay.  You’ve met Neelix, have you?” 

           “Yes indeed.  Neelix and I have been communicating for several weeks.”  Her eyebrow went up in a silent question. 

           “I will be blunt, captain.  My cousin loved you very deeply.  He asked, that in the event of his death, if I would see to your welfare.  And here I am.  I must go to Dorvan next week and I don’t know how long I will be, so I was anxious to meet you before departing.” 

           “Tandikay, I ….don’t know what to say.  I am surrounded by friends and family.  I lack for nothing, except, perhaps, a purpose.” 

           “How long is your leave?” 

           “I have resigned my commission.  I am no longer a part of Starfleet.” 

           He studied her carefully before, seemingly, coming to a decision.  “Ms. Janeway,” he began.  

           “Please, call me Kathryn.  Ms. Janeway makes me sound like a maiden aunt.” 

           “Very well.  Kathryn.  Why don’t you come with me?” 

           “Where ….to Dorvan?  What would I do there?” 

           “See the places where Chakotay spent his childhood.  A lot has been destroyed but the rebuilding has started.  You could help, if you wanted to.  Give you something to do.” 

           The more she thought about it, the better she liked it.  For the first time since Chakotay’s death, she felt a sense of hope.  She nodded her head.  She would go to Dorvan, help them start afresh and by doing so, help herself as well. 

           “You’ve got a deal.  When do we leave?” 
 

The End

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