Author's Notes: This is for Froot, for her donation to the Queensland Flood Relief. She requested an alt. ending to Night where Janeway goes through with her decision to remain in the void…with the stipulation of no magic rainbows. I took it and ran with it. Thanks especially to my beta, Cheshire, and Gatesy for her stardate conversion aid. They both put up with you don't want to know what kind of aggravation from me.
If you want anything like what the title promises…wrong place, sorry…but you can probably just about get there if you skip the epilogue. In spite of that…I still stand by it. ;)
Disclaimer: Much as it pains me, they aren't mine and I make no money from this...but this time, charity did :D
TIMING: The time frame of the story spans about fifteen months...from January 31, 2375 (52084.88) until May 20, 2376 (53382.51). Figure about two - three months between chapters. The last two chapters occur on the same day (May 20th, 2376), which is important to note.
Not every story has a happy ending, Goldenbird. It would be wonderful if they all did. But that's not the way the universe works, sometimes.
"Kathryn, for God's sake, don't do this." If he's ever resorted to out and out begging her to heed his counsel, it's right now. "There's still time to get back!"
"I'm sorry, Chakotay." It's a lie. This isn't, "But this is something I have to do."
"Kathryn–!" he chokes on his desperation because he sees her determination now, the way he hadn't on the bridge.
"I'll be fine," she assures him with deathly calm. The sting in her eyes is from the odd atmosphere in this damned void while she tries to memorize the lines of his face one last time. With the smallest, oddly serene smile, she imparts one final order to him.
"Get my ship home, Commander."
She fires the torpedoes she'd preprogrammed to the appropriate yield, and within seconds, Chakotay's desperate face fizzles, snaps, disappears. The link has been cut by the implosion of the vortex. Voyager, and the damaged Malon freighter, are gone.
She's alone. Alone in silence.
When she was six years old, she'd stumbled into her father's holo-reading of Old Yeller. To this day, she remembers how thrilled she'd been with herself for cracking his desk drawer code – her birthday, incidentally. She'd immediately curled up under his desk to enjoy her hijacked contraband. It was her first adult holo-reading. The tiny display had popped up quite compliantly at the press of her little thumb on the forbidden activator, the story had begun, and she'd giggled to herself in pure glee. There was no reward better than a new book, in Kathryn Janeway's esteemed six-year-old opinion…and it looked like Daddy had been holding out on her.
By the time he'd found her at the story's end, she'd been in tears. Utterly devastated. She couldn't believe anyone would write such a story. About a dog, of all lovable creatures! It had been a sin, as far as she was concerned. Despondent, she'd sobbed and sobbed in his patient arms, and once calmed enough to breathe, she'd histrionically sworn her life was never going to be the same for it. In some ways, her six-year-old self had been right about that.
She knows now that the book had been a gift to him from Gretchen; hence he'd kept it in his desk with other precious keepsakes. The book now belongs to Kathryn, though she still finds it too painful to read. She cherishes the small keepsake, protects it as he had because it reminds her of him – she doesn't want to think about the book now, however, because she knows full well she'll never see it again.
Nevertheless, as she stares at the ripple in space created by the imploded vortex, Kathryn can't help but be reminded of her father's honest words to her when he'd found her under his desk all those years ago.
Not every story has a happy ending. She knows that now, she understands that. But this story does. Because Voyager is safely on her way home, free of the Malon, and out of this God-forsaken void. At least two years closer to home.
Of course she will be more than three years behind them now. Years spent in darkness. Alone. With plenty of time to think about the decisions that have led her here.
She won't wallow; she'll refuse to do that. Some things are worth dying for. Ensuring Voyager's safety is certainly one of them. She's happy with this decision. She knows it's right. That knowledge will sustain her through all the dark, lonely years to come.