Two Lives
by Abbey Carter

You've been on a road
Don't know where it goes or where it leads
-Alison Krauss, It Doesn't Matter

Along the solitary plain we went
as one who unto the lost road returns,
and till he finds it seems to go in vain.
-Dante, Purgatorio, Canto I

Dear Chakotay,

Society likes to tell us that life is a journey along a twisted, obscured trail. It doesn't mention that death is as well. Since my death, several journeys have begun. Learning how to unravel the circumstances of my death and what it means about my life is one of them.

Dying wasn't hard. I saw the phaser in Tuvok's hand. I saw his arm tremble. I saw you stiffen, anxious for completion of the loyalty test. I searched you with my eyes, and found no indication that I had ever been anything different than an obstacle blocking your path. You nodded to Tuvok. I straightened. The bolt struck my head. I never fell.

Dying isn't hard, life after death is. Especially where they've put me. Not heaven, not hell. A great fire burns away my pathologies, a great loneliness pervades me. Until I have found peace, I cannot move forward. I have always believed that peace is overrated. In my life, it was secondary to duty and accomplishment. Perhaps this is why we could never connect. You might be interested to know that now, your vision of peace is important.

Until the end, you were a faithful first officer, a good friend. I know you find these words empty, hollow and incomplete. I am sure you're sick of hearing them. But they have always been true to me. During the hours prior to my death, you behaved as if we never had history, never had complexity or friendship. I understand that Teero's mind control was powerful, understand that it incited you to rebellion and mutiny. But I could not reach you in any form. And now I wonder if I deluded myself. Did we ever have a meaningful friendship? Did you hate me?

I never loved you well enough. Indeed, no one person could ever love perfectly. I sought perfection among the stars. Protocol never dictated how well I could love you, only in what ways I could not. Fearful, I turned away from you. The ship responded to my touch, it comforted me. And like any lover, it demanded all of my being.

The hellish years when we were under constant attack, those I understood. Those I could fight with willpower and torpedoes. We moved as one unit; protecting the ship, holding each other up. Later, when the attacks lessened, I learned that inner demons are much harder to fight. What festered within us during those times removed us from each other more than any external attack could have. It was the disconnect that hurt the most; it was the knowledge that I searched alone, and that an old path lay hidden and misused.

If I had loved you better, would I be here? I cannot know. It was your loyalty test, it was your mutiny. I don't know if you meant the phaser to be active, or if your minions tampered with it. It was your mind under control, but it was not yours that I could reach and touch. I am not judging you. You are not mine to judge.

The mission is incomplete. My death was pointless. I have struggled to forget the ship. I have struggled to let it go. I know that the rebellion is over, that you are in command, and that my death weighs heavily on you. There is little I can tell you, save that you have the means with which to address grief. Your spirit is resilient. That much I know of you.

There is good sort of failure here. I cannot fight or fly my way out. I cannot save myself. I can only acknowledge my failings. There is only one road I am led toward, one road I slowly accept.

I am less angry now. My death had no meaning; it had no purpose. But I realize that death often has little meaning, it simply separates our two lives. The re are some things, if given the chance, I would have changed.

I would have conversed with Tuvok more frequently.

I would have fought less.

I think, I would have touched you more often. I never really hugged you, did I?

You will be strong, you will find your peace. The bulkheads of your mind will fall away, you will fly through calm space. You stood by me in the past. Now, I ask you to help me on this journey, as the rules dictate that I can't make it solely with my own progress, that I need the love of those still living. It took me quite a while to accept this. And to write you.

I don't know what is to come, but I don't doubt that it is good. The path curves ahead, and I walk it with memories of you, as a peaceful storm gathers on the horizon.



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.



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