I wish that life wasn't always ending up this way

Title: At Close of Day

Series: Voy

Contact: MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Date: 11/30/00

This story is for Lady Chakotay, who asked for something with Janeway and angst. Here's a gooey angst sundae, double scoop, with nuts and a cherry on top.

Disclaimer: They're somebody else's. Thank God Tuvok is somebody else's. My mom took one look at him and asked, "Is that his real hair?"

Summary: Janeway loses it in a big way.

At Close of Day

By Starbaby

I've chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace,

Where never lark, or even eagle, flew. -------

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

"High Flight"

The voices were soft, muted by the soft whir of Sickbay's doors opening and closing. They reached Kathryn Janeway as if echoing from a great distance. She lay still. They were obviously unaware she'd been awake for some time now.

"The illness is degenerative, Commander. Medical science has made great strides, but we cannot transplant the brain. Not yet. Someday..."

"Someday is too late, Doctor. There has to be something we can do!" Chakotay's voice rose with every word.

The Doctor's tone was calm and firm. It was the voice that had soothed her through dozens of illnesses. She could almost believe this time would be the same.

"We can help her see it through. There is nothing more. It is the fault of genetics and the failure of physicians like myself, because there are limits to our capabilities."

Chakotay sounded broken, defeated. "And the other..."

"The violent impulses? As the body breaks down along with the mind, she'll be physically incapable of hurting herself or others. We really know little about this disease. It only entered the annals of medicine about 150 years ago."

Chakotay let out a sealish laugh that was partly a sob. "You're saying that she has to deteriorate before our eyes in order to stop trashing the bridge and attacking the crew. She gave Harry Kim a concussion with that lunch tray..." his words trailed off.

Janeway remembered parts of it now, mainly the scent of blood and the stamp of running feet. Unprecedented excitement in Neelix's mess hall. The Doctor's voice was profoundly sad when he spoke again, filled with worlds of grief.

"The episodes are frequent and sporadic, but very violent, as you know. It will be difficult to keep her away from weapons, be it a phaser or a lunch tray. We should also be concerned about her disabling the ship. They're still cleaning up Engineering and Astrometrics. The Captain is a fighter." There was a hint of pride in his words. "She won't 'go gently into that good night', to quote an old poem."

She had turned on Voyager, tried to hurt the Starship like she herself was hurting, attempted to rip out Seven's ocular implant, if memory served. She sat up, and two pairs of startled eyes swung in her direction.

"Commander" said Kathryn Janeway, "You have the bridge."

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll

I am master of my fate:

I am Captain of my soul. ----

William E. Henley

She slipped out of Sickbay late that night. It was a dangerous move, considering her new penchant for mayhem.

She had to see it all one more time, this Voyager. She needed to run her hand along the sharp, clean lines and feel the vibrations of B'Elanna's beloved engines beneath her palm. Those minute tremors were Voyager's heartbeat. She had to walk the silent corridors and make notes for another life. She had to listen for the voices of Voyager's sons and daughters. They were all her children, in a way, wards she'd shanghaied for a hair-raising trip across the galaxy.

She went to her quarters and donned her best red uniform, as she'd done a thousand times, as she'd been born to do. She took great pride in the Starfleet uniform. It was one of the few constants in her life. It linked her to the old Kathryn Janeway, the one who'd blown up the Caretaker's array and been drop-kicked across the Quadrants. Her values, goals, and priorities were different then, clearer and more defined. During this endless trek, protocols had been ignored, rules had been violated, and lines had been crossed.

The Prime Directive was all shot to hell.

As Starfleet officers, they were meant to seek out other cultures, but not influence them, to be taught, but not teach. The goals were worthy, but an explorer's spirit cried out to plant a flag and mark the crossing, to blaze a trail that would stand the test of time.

In the turbolift, she wondered how many times she'd taken this trip. Up and down she'd ridden in states of euphoria, agitation, panic, and resignation. Voices from the bridge drifted in, and she remained closeted behind the door, listening quietly.

"We're not putting her in the brig, sedating her, or dumping her on Arakas Prime!" Chakotay snapped.

"Logic would indicate..."

Tom Paris cut the Vulcan's response short. Ah, the faithful few.

"She's done a lot for you, Tuvok." His tone was matter-of-fact, holding only the slightest hint of reproach.

Apparently, Neelix had been invited to this...wake? He just sat there, sobbing. When Harry tried to comfort him, he cried harder.

As the turbolift lowered, Janeway caught Chakotay's frustrated cry.

"What are we going to do?" He was heartbroken, asking the question yet again.

As the Captain left the bridge for the last time, Tom's voice echoed down.

"Why don't we ask her ?"

Someday we'll stand

In God's fair land

Forever home. ---

Allison Krauss, I Give You to His Heart

As she readied the Delta Flyer, Janeway thought of Kes, who had left Voyager in much the same way. She'd been a delicate little thing, ethereal like a Fair Haven sprite, yet she'd set out all alone to find Ocampa, the dreamed-of homeland. Beyond Voyager's shuttle bay, space stretched into infinity, endless oceans of darkness freckled with stars. Kes must have been so afraid waiting here, on the edge of forever. Janeway felt small in the face of the cosmos. Small, and very afraid. There was nothing else to be done, but my, it was hard to let go.

She'd imagined returning home in glory. All these years, she'd dreamed of watching her people- and they were her people now, not Starfleet's-walk off the ship and onto earth's rich terrain. Some would finish raising their children, others would begin. There would be weddings and births, and always, they'd come back to her, the woman who'd taken them to the stars and back. How pompous she'd been. All of her kind thought themselves invincible, immortal. They were flesh and blood, of course. The proof was in her own failing body and in the soil of Verdian III.

Janeway turned at the sound of the door creaking open. She held her breath.

Tom Paris appeared, looking tired in the faint light.

"Captain" he addressed her with the title of respect, although the Doctor had, rightfully, declared her unfit. "I wish you'd stay. No one's going to put you in the brig." He paused. "I wouldn't let them."

Janeway smiled, seeing shades of the boastful boy she'd pulled from a New Zealand penal colony. Kathryn Janeway was a good judge of character. She'd seen the strength in Tom, and in his fiery B'Elanna, in Seven, and in Chakotay.

For the first time, tears came to her eyes. She and Chakotay had danced around one another for years, doing the Officer/Superior minuet because it was the way things had to be, at least until they orbited Earth. Unlike Voyager's pilot and chief engineer, who flung themselves into romance with a battle cry that echoed from Akitiri to the Azure Nebula. Now, there would be no time for them, no relationship, no marriage, no miracle child. She was like Kes, floating away, childless and short on time, looking for the next emanation.

"How did you know I'd be here?" her question was asked softly.

"I'd make the same choice. You shouldn't go by my example though. I'm rather impulsive, you know."

She laughed, feeling the sound well up in her throat, savoring it while she still could.

"My brain isn't deteriorating fast enough to forget that, Mr. Paris." She paused. "I won't fade away in front of the people I love, Tom. I'm stubborn, and vain, and simply don't know how to be dependent. I can do this for myself, now, before the chance is lost forever."

"What about Chakotay?" Tom's question brought tears to her eyes again.

"Tell him...tell him I'll be waiting." At this critical point words almost escaped her. "Tell him that he can replicate the salad when he comes."

Tom nodded. Janeway reached for him and wrapped him in a hug. He'd been there in the best and worst of times, the finest young man, always true.

She turned to climb into the pilot's seat.

"Tom," she called as the shuttle bay doors opened. "Make your daughters Starfleet officers. Let them know they can touch the stars."

She flew away from Voyager for the last time, looking back once to imprint it in her memory. The heavens opened up before her, a canvas on which to write the postscript to her turbulent life.

"Kathy! Borg…dead ahead!"

She whipped her head to the side. There, lounging in the co-pilot's chair, sat Q. He was dressed in the Starfleet uniform, as usual, and appeared to be wearing the goggles Tom wore when piloting his motor car in Fair Haven. He looked utterly ridiculous. Oddly, she was glad to see him.

"How far ahead?" She humored him.

"About 25,000 light years. They'll be on us in a heartbeat!"

He switched topics suddenly, as Q were known to do. "I hear you left Chuckles in charge of the old homestead. He'll run the farm into the ground, I tell you!"

Sometimes she could actually follow his line of thought. "They'll get home, Q." She eyeballed him. "You'll make sure of that for me, right?"

"I never have any me-time..." he complained huffily. "…but I suppose I could keep an eye on your clown car."

"Thank you, Q." she said dryly.

They were quiet for a moment, floating through deltas of starlight. She thought of all the things she'd do if the katra remained free after death. She'd return to the cave of the morrok and find out if the spark of all life really originated within. She'd love to try a chili burrito and Goliath gulp.

Q's silly goggles reminded her of Fair Haven and the holographic Michael Sullivan. In that verdant little hamlet, she'd created the myth of Katie O'Clare, a simple Irishwoman lightyears removed from her true self. Now it was goodbye to Katie O'Clare, and Michael Sullivan. It was farewell to Sandrines, and her ready room, to the Prime Directive and Chakotay.

Sometimes, it was hard to tell if it was day or night in the Delta Quadrant. Her internal clock told her it was evening. On earth, the sun was setting in the west. Kathryn Janeway could see it in her mind's eye.

Goodnight, Commander.