They met outside the holodeck wearing more comfortable clothes. She was hit with the sudden sensation of déjà vu, recalling the many times they’d dressed like this back on New Earth. The memory brought back other thoughts to her mind that she didn’t want to think about or encourage. She had enough to process at the moment. The fatigue on her body she was dealing with was nothing compared to the stress of dying, the emotions of meetings her father/not father, and seeing the grief, real or imagined, of her friends and crew.
Besides, they were here to celebrate life and another day, and she meant to do just that.
They stepped inside the holodeck and she let its beauty sink into her for a moment. They were on the shores of the lake, a small dock extending out in the waters that were rolling soft waves, a deep contrast of black and silver, light from the moon and shadow competing with each other. The air was warm with a slight breeze and she felt more relaxed already.
A boat stood waiting for them at the end of the dock and they walked toward it.
“After you,” he said, extending his hand.
“You’re the sailor, not me,” she said, but took his hand and stepped into the boat, then pulled him after her.
“You can’t fool me, Captain,” he said, “I’ve seen you run this program before.”
“Let’s just say we’re both competent on the water and be done with it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
They went through the business of untying the ropes and adjusting the sails and made their way out into the lake. Kathryn held the rudder loosely in her hands, letting the wind steer them more than anything else. Chakotay lounged near the bow of the boat facing her.
“This is exactly what I needed,” she said, letting her eyes half close.
“I’m glad,” he said. “Especially because I’m pretty sure the Doctor would actually approve of what you’re doing.”
“Well, I have to appease him sometimes. Poor man, he tries so hard.”
“He did good work today,” Chakotay said. “He wouldn’t give up on you.”
“None of you did,” she said. “Sometimes I could see you, hear you, toward the end.”
“None of us would want to lose you, Kathryn,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to be lost,” she said, smiling. “Thank you for the flower, Chakotay, it was a nice gesture.”
“Not too inappropriate, I trust?” he said, his voice slightly unsure.
“Don’t worry. I think on special occasions, ones where I almost die, for example, allow for certain protocols to bend.” His face darkened and he turned away slightly. She felt guilty. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It must have been hard for you.”
“You’re the one who almost died, what I felt can’t compare,” he said, still not looking at her.
“I think I have you to thank for my life anyway,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you never gave up on me and you were there with me through every loop.”
“Wasn’t that just your way of fighting the alien’s influence?” he asked. “Didn’t it make sense because I was with you in the accident that you’d imagine me there?”
“Yes and no,” she said thoughtfully. She’d been going over and over this in her mind since it had happened. “The alien was trying to get me to die, but my body wouldn’t give up and my mind created a time loop in order to keep me fighting. It recreated the accident over and over again, but each time you were there with me and you knew what was going on. Well, except for once, when the delusion required you not know. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but just having someone there with me, knowing there was a problem…it helped.”
“I still don’t get it,” he said, but he was looking at her now, his fingers over the side, moodily stirring the water.
“I don’t know as I’ll ever fully understand it either,” she said. “The point is I’m here and I believe you helped me do it. So thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “It-it’s good to have you back.”
“Can you tell me what happened?” she asked, sensing he needed to talk about it.
“You just lay there,” he said quietly. “I kept trying to revive you, but you wouldn’t listen to me.” He brushed at his eyes swiftly and turned again to the water. “You…died and then Voyager contacted me, saying they were sending a shuttle. Tuvoc and the Doctor were the away team and that’s when the Doctor found the evidence of the alien presence keeping you from responding to treatment. Then you died…over and over again.”
“So that part was true,” she said, drawing in a swift breath.
“What part?” he asked, his voice breaking.
“The final loop. I didn’t start over again; I was watching you trying to resuscitate me. You kept telling me to breathe and when I didn’t you held me in your arms until the away team got there and the Doctor took over. From there we went to Voyager and my delusion started again.”
“That’s…what happened,” he said.
“Chakotay,” she said and he turned to her, “thank you. I’m so sorry.”
“You know me,” he said, smiling slightly, “I always let my emotions get the better of me.”
“That’s hardly true,” she said.
“Sitting there, weeping over my captain,” he said. “I’d say it was.”
“We both know you weren’t just weeping over your captain,” she replied, “and I can assure you that I’d be weeping if the situation were reversed. Your eulogy, even if it was just my perceptions of what you’d say, was very moving.”
He laughed and stood up, the moonlight casting contrasts on him as he came and sat next to her.
“I’d like to know what I said so I can use it again if the need arises.”
“I don’t ever plan to put you through that again,” she said, putting her hand on his and holding it.
He grasped it tightly and they sat that way for a long time. Normally she would never allow herself such a luxury, but it had been a long time since she’d been able to draw or give physical comfort to him. They were both aware of their duties and responsibilities and the proper distance that needed to be kept between them, but she had almost died today and he’d been powerless to stop it. Sometimes a moonlit sail while holding hands was the only thing to do.
They didn’t do as much celebrating of life as she had planned, but their time spent together wasn’t wasted and after a few hours he finally opened the champagne bottle and poured them a glass, raising a toast rather than a eulogy and they were able to laugh and forget their cares for just a little while, skipping stones into the water, watching the moon set, and sipping their champagne.
When the night grew late she reluctantly steered them back toward the dock and helped him tie the boat to its moorings. They strolled slowly toward the holodeck entrance and lingered there for a while.
“I had a good time,” she said. “Thanks for helping me celebrate.”
“Any time,” he said.
“We’re both on duty in the morning so we’d better get some sleep,” she said.
“Good idea,” he said.
“Good night, Chakotay.”
“Good night, Kathryn,” he said, giving her hand one final squeeze before letting it go.
She walked him to his quarters, just before hers, and they said good night again. She walked the last remaining steps to her own doors and stepped inside, preparing for bed with a sigh and a smile. It had been one hell of a day.