Love is so short and forgetting takes so long--"Poema Veinte"

Title: Silver Hour

Series: VOY

Date: 7-3-01

Contact: Starbaby/MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Disclaimer: whatever.

Summary: This little piece has mega spoilers for "Endgame." It's written from the Admirals POV. I don't agree with some of the choices she made in that episode, but grief makes people do crazy things. This is my attempt to get into the good Admiral's head. I also had fun filling in the plot holes--what were those 23 years like? How did the crew react to Seven's death? What was up with Chakotay? How did he die? Where the heck is Deanna Troi when you need her? You get the idea. Oh, and I'm not pro C/7. Just working with the canon and trying to make sense of it all.

Silver Hour

By Starbaby

Love is so short and forgetting takes so long--

Pablo Neruda, "Poema Veinte"

When I wake, it is always in darkness, sometime in the silver hour before sunrise. I wake to earth sounds, still strange to my ear in this, the tenth year of rest. When I wake, it is with a vague sense of incompleteness and a terrible certainty of loss. In the daylight, I can imagine myself reconciled, no longer at odds with life, and even convince others it is so. I begin and end each day with the hope that my old grief will, finally, pass with the sunrise, and evolve into quiet, tender joy. My lost friends are in bright glory, I'm sure of it--yet I can't speak of them in an easy way, without sorrow and a shadow of a ghost upon their names. Grieving is like scaling a slippery rock face: I slide back a foot for every inch climbed toward sanity, acceptance, and peace. If I could only make it up to the treeline, all would be well.

Seven once told me that I would never accept her death, and I replied in anger, calling her presumptuous. She was right, of course. Maybe Seven's ghost crosses the veil to reproach me; maybe that's why she comes by starlight and stands in the darkened corner. She watches me with hollow, knowing eyes…judging me, pitying me, and, if it pleases God, forgiving me. I'm only human, a mortal living outside the state of grace she passed into years ago. All my dead come by starlight. They stand hand in hand, and shoulder to shoulder in the shadows, bound together, for all time, by my common failure: Seven, Chakotay, and Tuvok, when he was well. Hogan, Carey, Stadi, and Cavit. Ballard, Kaplan, Jetal, and so many more. Sometimes, the starlight brings Tuvix, with his pleading eyes, and Kes, with her angry tears.

Seven thought I feared the incompleteness of her life, but she died fulfilled. The love of a good man allowed her to take that final step into humanity with less fear and much joy. She'd been hovering in the doorway of life for a long time, unsure, looking in on the party, and it was her time. She was like the ocean--turbulent, beautiful, full of conflict--but the last years she ever knew were the most peaceful of a short and violent life. Oddly enough, the closer she came to death, the more she enjoyed living. When I wake, it is often from dreams of Seven, my almost-child, the golden-haired daughter who was born into humanity just as another was returning to the root. Her struggle to separate from the collective was like a second birth, perhaps more painful than the first. Watching the woman emerge from the drone, I felt what parents must feel when their children arrive. Seven's death, in year ten, was quick, but not painless, and left me with a cold, clammy feeling of failure, of not having fulfilled my role as Captain, friend, mentor, and surrogate parent. I was there when she began to go, when she closed her eyes and simply detached from the body that had caused her so much pain. I felt the visible pass into the invisible, then she was off and free.

He returned to the agony of his native land

To his indescisions of winter and summer-- Pablo Neruda,"The Weary One"

Wordsworth wrote that we find strength in what remains behind, that times of weeping eventually bring soothing thoughts and philosophic minds. Maybe Chakotay had seen too much death and we both loved her too much to let go; for whatever reason, we couldn't help each other in our grief. The time of weeping led to months of simmering anger, then on to years of silence. Chakotay always had one foot in the spirit world and Seven's death took him farther into that realm. He was like Orpheus, trying to follow the loved one on her journey, spending the remainder of his years in a restless search for Seven. We rarely spoke of her, and did no justice to her life by looking back in grief, not gratitude, for what was given. Chakotay, Seven and I formed a strange triumvirate in death, as we had in life. We three were bound to one another by bonds of love, loyalty, and duty and I was at peace with their sudden marriage, ever aware that the choice had been mine, and mine alone. I did it for the uniform, for the good of the crew, and for Chakotay, who was an officer and a gentlemen.

No one spoke of Seven, but, now and then, I'd find the Doctor looking over her old cortical scans with a faraway look in his eye, as if listening to the faint music of a distant time. I thought of Seven at Naomi's wedding. She had wanted a child, probably from the very first time Tom Paris plopped a drooling Miral into her arms. I remember how Seven looked down at the baby, as if she were holding a squirming member of species 8472, and juggled the infant like a hoverball, over B'Elanna's squeaks of alarm. Then the barest hint of a smile crept over her stern features. Borg and baby reached an understanding. I thought of Seven when Miral graduated from Starfleet, and when Icheb left to serve on the Enterprise.

Chakotay and I both thought of Seven when we reached earth in year twenty-three of the journey. As Tom dipped Voyager flamboyantly low over the Golden Gate--he wanted to roll the ship, and I ordered him to behave--I looked out on a world that Seven would never stride ambitiously through. Years before, Tuvok had retreated into a twilight land of color and logic, where only he could go. I missed my friend. And Chakotay…he was as lost to me as Tuvok. His heart was back in the Delta Quadrant, where we'd released Seven's casket into the void, somewhere near Brindari Prime. He simply walked away after we disembarked. I lost track of him in the tumult; there was hugging and shouting and flag waving--it was glorious and not at all dignified. But Chakotay simply left, and barely lived another year.

He wandered back, I heard, to the borderland beyond Cardassia that he once called home, then on to the Jalara jungle, and, finally, to South America. He died there, among the native people. I buried him here, in California, for B'Elanna, and for me, on a leaf-swept hill where the sky is very blue. Standing on its summit one morning, I realized that Seven's death was the great divide in our lives, harshly measuring everything into Before and After. In the distance, the bay sparkled blue, and it came to me that life is like water. Somehow, someplace, the currents flow on, a river of possibilities that never runs dry. Somewhere beyond my sight, Seven and twenty-two other members of my family still lived. Standing at Chakotay's lonely grave, I made my choice, for better or worse.

I look upon this as the last part of a voyage that began thirty-three years ago, when I was young and burned with interest. This is my final journey, and I've already started the trip. Maybe it started with Seven's death, or as far back as Lieutenant Carey's. A tiny ship in a bottle was all the legacy we brought to the family of a young father and gifted engineer. In choosing life, it seemed, I was condemning my people to death at every turn.

Your voice scatters the highest swords and returns with its cargo of violets:

It accompanies me through the sky---

Pablo Neruda "Gravity"

When I wake, it is not yet morning. Memory is a nightstalker, and the dark background of stars brings out the tender colors of remembered love in all its purity. In the silence, surrounded by ghosts, I remember every false road that has led me to this point, where the grief is overwhelming and Starfleet principles aren't worth a tinker's damn. Stoicism, pride, remorse, self-pity--I've tried them all, and none are a substitute for acceptance, for reaching that elusive treeline. Unwilling to accept, unable to mourn, I've remained out of step with the present, still dancing to tunes from the past. Unresolved grief has colored my life, impaired my ability to connect, and sapped my will to live. This is a one way trip, and I don't care. We cross some borders and can never return. Chakotay knew about borders. To stand on Voyager's bridge, to see Tuvok and Chakotay whole and healthy, to bring Seven back alive--why, I'm simply going home. My younger self might be a tad confused. I was so protective of the flock in those days. I have no doubt that Captain Janeway will greet her older self with suspicion and enough firepower to blast me back to the Alpha Quadrant . I did love to blow things up.

As the sun comes up, I remember the woman I used to be, before the sadness came. We will meet as separate people whose paths and ideals diverged in the seventh year. Her time has just begun. My journey is ending. She trusts in Starfleet and relies on miracles. I put my faith in ablative armor and the Doctor's pathogens. She's blazing a trail across the Delta Quadrant. I'm so very tired. I can almost see her in the gathering light, that shiny-haired young Captain, a phaser in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. I did love my coffee. Chakotay stands at my shoulder, an officer and a gentlemen, smiling the soft smile he wore when showing me his stones from the river, long, long ago. Tuvok appears, a tall figure in the rosy dawn, with one hand raised, telling me to live long and prosper. There is the Doctor, preparing to sing an aria, and frowning at the golden-haired pilot, Tom Paris, who wears an impish grin and Captain Proton's rocket pack. Tom's good friend Harry Kim waves and points to some wormhole only he can see. B'Elanna Torres, brilliant and fiery, considers some engineering problem on a console that probably rests in the Presidio now. Seven of Nine, my almost-daughter, steps down from an alcove and into my world. And Neelix, sweet Neelix, brandishes a spatula and contorts his body to speak Tak-Tak. Kes is a wispy shadow--she's been gone a quarter of a century. They speak to me in words and gestures that would mean little to someone who wasn't there, who didn't love them and call them family.

When I wake tomorrow, it will have been ten years since Voyager sailed over the Golden Gate. Ten years of plotting, and planning, and being at odds with life. Ten years of ghosts, and grief, and visions of lost daughters. Ten years spent in a restless search for absolution. There is none, for people like me, who are stubborn and single-minded and entirely too fond of blowing things up. When I made my decision on Chakotay's hill, it was for all of us, but mostly for me. I lived and they died, and this is my penance for that first, fatal decision.

I'm making a break for the treeline.

I'm simply going home.

FINIS

FINIS