Beyond Definition – Chapter 4
Spring 2417 San Francisco, on the pathway near Kathryn Janeway’s apartment
Kathryn Janeway toiled up the path to the bluff that overlooked the ocean, grateful for the balance that her cane offered her. She had been delayed in making her daily walk because of a late morning meeting over subspace, but was grateful for delay that let her feel the heat of the midday sun. Winter remained in the air, and new-fallen leaves were littering the pathway.
When she reached the spot with the most compelling view of the sea, she stopped and activated the “seat” of her multipurpose cane. It was little more than a three-legged stool, but sitting on it gave her a chance to catch her breath and look out toward the horizon. The marker of Chakotay’s grave was just behind her.
Her health had faltered in the last year. She tired easily and her legendary ability to concentrate had weakened. In a few weeks, she would do something she’d never thought would happen—she would retire from Starfleet—because of complications from the New Earth virus. It was the same sort of complication that had taken Chakotay’s life; somehow, it was fitting that she should succumb to the same disease he had.
She wasn’t afraid to die, but she was concerned about Olivia, whether her daughter would find the peace and reconciliation that she needed. She sat for a long while lost in thought, trying to think of a way to give Olivia the sense of closure she needed.
This gift would be the last she would give her daughter, the most crucial of them all.
“There has to be a way,” she murmured, glancing toward the headstone. “And you’re no help.”
Her thoughts went back to the day of Chakotay’s death.
The hospital room was quiet and dark. All but the most basic instruments on the biobed had been deactivated at Chakotay’s request. The ones still working were silenced, showing the simplest data, his heartbeat and respiration.
They had talked for thirty minutes, on and off, and had said all they needed to say. Now, all that remained between them was a peaceful silence as the medication took away his pain. His death was imminent.
Kathryn sat beside him and held his hand. Their daughter was light years away and would not arrive in time to join her at the vigil. Chakotay’s family and those friends who lived in the area had said their goodbyes and had adjourned to the waiting room down the hall with Seven and the EMH.
The Doctor had administered the final palliative dose of medication just before he departed. For the first time in three days, Chakotay was pain free. The drug would shorten his life by a few hours, but the benefit was that he would slip away in peace.
Hearing an odd sigh, Kathryn stood to check on him. “How have we grown so old?” she thought, taking in his grey hair and deeply-wrinkled face. “How had his health declined so quickly?”
“Hi.” His eyes were open and unclouded. It was a moment, perhaps his last moment, of clarity.
“Hi, yourself,” she replied, smiling at him. “Is there anything you want me to do?”
“Stay with me.”
“Of course.” She perched on the edge of the bed.
“I’m thinking there is one last thing I should tell you.”
“Now’s the time for it.”
His eyes softened with affection. “I promised I would never leave you.”
“New Earth.” She blinked back tears. “We became friends there.”
“I’m not leaving you now, either.”
Her eyes widened. “You mean spiritually.”
“You’ll know I’m still with you.”
Now the tears welled in her eyes. “That’s good, because I have no intention of letting you go.”
He smiled. “I’m serious about this, Kathryn.”
“So am I.”
“No goodbyes for us. Just a change—.” He paused, his eyes losing focus.
“Shhhh,” she hushed him, caressing his face. “Just a change in the nature of our connection.”
He nodded, struggled to speak, but she silenced him with a finger on his lips.
“I know. I love you, too,” she said.
“Olivia . . . the best,” he whispered.
“The best thing we ever accomplished together. I know.” She saw the concern in his eyes. “She will miss you, but she’ll be fine. I’ll help her every way I can.”
He nodded. His eyes drooped, and she knew he could no longer see her.
“Relax, my darling. I’m here.”
His last word.
She kept her promise. She didn’t let him go.
Kathryn was suddenly aware of the rain that had started falling. She was soaked to the skin, and the warm spring day had slipped further into winter. She folded away the seat, pulled her cloak close, and began a careful return to her apartment. By the time she arrived, her teeth were chattering.
“Mother! There you are!” Olivia scolded her. “What are you doing out walking in a cold rain again? Are you trying to get sick?”
Kathryn endured the scolding in silence and allowed her daughter to help her undress and prepare for a hot bath.
“It wasn’t raining when I left,” she explained, but she did as she was told, sinking gratefully into the hot water and thanking Olivia for the hot tea she brought her.
“Mom, what were you thinking?” Olivia asked later as they sat in the living room before a roaring fire.
“I just wanted to go for my walk, that’s all.”
“Let me guess—to the overlook by Dad’s grave.”
Kathryn could think of no reason to lie. “It’s my favorite spot.”
“Did you commune with his spirit,” she teased.
“Yes, of course. What else?”
Olivia shook her head in disbelief. “I think you might have lost your mind.”
Kathryn nodded. “So do I.”
“You do talk to him, don’t you?”
“It would be impolite not to.” She laughed at the look on her daughter’s face. “No, I don’t really hear his voice. But I hear him. I know what he would say.”
“And now, Mom? What would he say now?”
“He’d say, ‘Give up trying to explain, Kathryn. She’s too much your daughter to understand.'”