Title: The Captain on the Edge of Forever

Title: The Captain on the Edge of Forever

Author: Starbaby/MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Series: VOY

Date: 3/15/01

Disclaimer: They're not mine. I'm just joyfully manipulating them. Feedback's appreciated, loved, adored- as always.

Summary: A Chakotay vignette set during "Workforce."

The Captain on the edge of Forever

By Starbaby

Bear patiently, my heart, for you have suffered heavier things---Homer

Kathryn is my best friend. She stands in front of me, beaming with happiness.

But she doesn't know me.

I knew she wouldn't. The Quarren used a mind-scraping technique not unlike the Borg's. a system of memory removal and replacement. Leaders, followers, lovers, losers-all are poured into the workforce of a crumbling metropolis. This city is a sleek illusion. Someone utterly corrupt came up with this scheme of procuring labor through abduction; someone who didn't care about the victims, their abandoned lives, or those left behind to wonder and grieve. I was prepared for Kathryn's doubts, disbelief, and anger. I knew she'd fight me.

What I struggle with…is her happiness.

The Kathryn that stands before me, beaming with happiness, is one I knew briefly, yet never knew at all. This is the Kathryn Janeway who sprang from her office chair, eager as a schoolgirl, and sat on the floor to contact her animal spirit. I'll never forget her face, so full of wonder and joy because she was going where the spirits led. I sensed she was somewhere golden. That was seven years ago, and the last time she knew peace. The sparkle in her eye has long since been replaced with grim determination. Sometime along, the eagerness in her step faded. The dreamer, the visionary, the woman--they retreated, making way for the Captain, the leader, the ultimate survivor. She has paid for blowing up the Caretaker's array everyday since…with blood…with tears…with a subjugation of self.

The Kathryn before me is also a stranger. This is earth Kathryn, the joyous woman who smiled out from the familiar portrait. This is the Kathryn who belonged to Mark and Molly, the Admiral's daughter. I've heard stories of that other Kathryn. She tells them with a wistful smile hinting of lost dreams and final partings. This is Kathryn as Tuvok first knew her. All the responsibility has been lifted, the cross is no longer hers to bear. The bitter memories have been erased…the loss of Kes…a terrifying assimilation…her soul-shattering pursuit of Ransom…the battles…the deaths…the pain.

Kathryn's blissfully unaware of what lies ahead. I sense we're coming to a turning point, a time of choosing. Something waits beyond our sight, crouching in the darkness on the road home. It's a sacrifice, or a decision, or a heart-rending loss. I fear it will take her from us. There's so much to fear; Starfleet won't look kindly on some of our actions. They weren't here, where death stands at a Captain's elbow. These seven years have been Kathryn's time of trial. After this, she simply passes into another. What will become of the Doctor? What of Seven of Nine? Who, outside our group, will look at her and not recall forty lost Starships and eleven-thousand dead?

Kathryn, beaming with happiness, informs me that she's moving in with Jaffen.

My mouth drops open. I close it quickly and manage a heartfelt "congratulations!" This is the woman I've loved and pondered for seven years, and she's gone to another. I have no claim on her; holding onto Kathryn is like trying to capture the tides. She's a force of nature, unpredictable and self-destructive. I stand in Kathryn's peripheral vision, pointing out side routes when her tunnel vision blinds her. I'm her friend, her first officer, the most faithful. We've been many things to each other, but never lovers. If circumstances were different, she might have been mine.

All I've ever wanted for Kathryn was that golden vision of seven years ago, that moment of total acceptance and peace.

But I can't leave her here, beaming with happiness.

I'll take her back to Voyager, to the heartbreak of the past, to the waiting sacrifice that's written in the stars. Back to where she looks upon the growing Naomi and B'Elanna's curving belly with longing and worry. What will the future hold for Voyager's sons and daughters? I see the question in her eyes. I'll take her back because we were meant to part in friendship and laughter, somewhere on Terran soil, not here in this shining city. I want to look back in memory and remember that it was good. I'll take her back because leaving her, beaming with happiness, in this false life is a betrayal of our long friendship. When Kathryn goes, it will be because she chose that path of her own free will.

She's gone, heading back to her table with that enthusiastic step I haven't seen for so long. Tom Paris is at the bar, making friends, adaptable as ever. I'll have to take him back, too--B'Elanna would never forgive me. Life awaits them both. Life awaits us all.

Kathryn is my best friend.

I'll take her back.