A J/C Deadletter. See chapter one for headers.

Dear Kathryn,
There is nothing I can do or say that excuses my part in your murder. But, I need to tell you what was inside me at the time, and what has happened since your death.

When you fell, Tuvok jerked out to cover you, his fingers frantically pressed against your face. He trained the phaser on me, his hand grasped my neck, and I sank.

I woke in Sickbay. There was a sheet covering the next bed, and I suddenly remembered what had happened. My orders to Tuvok. The beam of light, and your body falling limp.

I can only remember specific images from the following days. Paris lowered your body into the tube, straightened your uniform, kissed your cheek. B'Elanna spoke at the funeral. I don't remember her words very well, but I remember that her hands tightened and clenched with every phrase. I remember that the Doctor stood behind me. I remember that when the crew looked to me, I couldn't say anything.

During the last several years of our journey, many times I wished to be independent of you. I believed that you drowned me out, that I was slowly wasting away as a result of your protocols, your simultaneous anger and aloofness. I don't know exactly what changed you. Maybe it was the Borg. Maybe it was exhaustion. It was probably your combined weight of years in command. I didn't accept this. I didn't accept you. Suffering has a funny way of inspiring detachment and disgust in entangled observers. Obsession does too.

Now, I would give everything to be with you, damn the independence. I see you in flashes of red, when I turn corners, as Voyager approaches small crafts. Was it worse for you, this partial solitude?

I was not made for it. I was not made for command. In fact, it was my inability to stand on my own that prevented our friendship from adapting to changed times. It was only my inability to accept anything less than perfection.

When Tuvok and I spoke, he told me that guilt is counterproductive. We were in his quarters, he'd lit a meditation lamp and his bowed head moved slowly in the darkness.

Later, Seven approached me in the Mess Hall. It was deserted, and the speeding stars burned my eyes. She shivered as though ill and stepped forward.

"Chakotay, I wish to learn about the beliefs of your people."

Seven has the assimilated knowledge of thousands of cultures. She knows the beliefs of my people. I described our Spirits, and the rituals we perform for the dead.

"And you believe them, these myths of your people?"

Wincing, I continued. "I do believe. It's part of who I am. Seven, there is nothing I can do to right what has happened. But I need to believe that the Captain is not fully gone, and that I will not continue to fail her. I have no reason not to believe."

"The frailty and imperfection of human love is well documented," Seven muttered. "And yet you feel that your failing Captain Janeway merits surprise and special atonement. Curious, considering that the failure of any relationship is inevitable."

Time has passed. Seven does not blame me less. Nor does the crew. There is talk of an unspoken motive in your death. They say that I always wanted the ship, that I was jealous of your command. Not the Starfleet, not the Maquis, but the crew. I cannot fault them, as I took from you what you most loved. Jealousy comes in many different forms.

While Teero controlled me, I felt nothing for Voyager. I knew that a mission needed completion. Anger gnawed me. Inside, I was more alive than I had been in years. The power and heat surged through me, and I never wanted it to leave. I fought to keep it, I willed it to come, and it overwhelmed me.

You may judge me. You have every right to. This is not my ship, and it is not the life that I planned, and it is not the death that you deserved. I can only tell myself that the peace I abandoned has found you at last.

Chakotay