Chakotay watched Voyager descend from the sky, fear and hope battling in his mind. He feared the Kazon had decided to do something worse than strand them on a planet, he hoped that something had happened to cause Voyager to fall into friendlier hands. The Captain stood next to him and his thoughts were written on her face.
Both of their questions were answered when the shuttle bay doors opened and a Telaxian stepped out, calling out the good news that Voyager was in the capable hands of one Lieutenant Tom Paris.
Chakotay had never been so glad to hear that name before. A lot of his animosity toward Tom had vanished during their time spent aboard Voyager, but they’d never become friends. Right now he’d be willing to throw the man a party.
They boarded the ship, making their way toward the bridge. Tom barely stood to greet them, still frantically working on the con, but he threw comments over his shoulder and grinned. For once Chakotay didn’t mind.
It was a bit of work after that, making sure all the crew got aboard, treating medical injuries, assessing the damage to the ship, extricating themselves from their new friends on the surface without frightening them. Chakotay found himself running around doing his job as well as three other people’s and trying to make it easier on Kathryn. They were both exhausted and malnourished and as soon as everyone else was taken care of, they could rest.
Once they’d left the planet’s atmosphere and returned the Telaxians to their ships, the entire convoy made its way out of Kazon space, heading back toward the Alpha Quadrant. Repair crews were working overtime and damage reports were still being assessed and even the bridge was still being cleared of Kazon bodies. Chakotay and Kathryn made their way into her ready room to try and prioritize their next move.
She stopped short as she entered the room and he almost bumped into her, but being taller than her, he could see what had stopped her in her tracks. Seska lay face down on the carpet, arm outstretched toward the couch as if reaching for something.
Kathryn quickly knelt down and felt for a pulse, then looked up at him and shook her head.
“I’m sorry, Chakotay, she’s dead.”
He nodded, not really trusting himself with words. The things he felt for and about Seska were complex and variable and half the time he didn’t know how he felt about her. Granted, these past few months her actions had mostly inspired betrayal and anger in him. This whole mission, everything that had happened to them, was because of her and her manipulation of him.
“What happened to her?” he asked, kneeling down beside her.
“Looks like she was injured in the attack and then tried to make it in here.”
“For the baby,” he said, looking around. “Has anyone found the baby?”
“Kullah isn’t here, I’m sure he must have him,” said Kathryn.
“All this for nothing,” he said, touching a hand on the back of Seska’s head. “My son is still out there.”
“I’d say I’ll help you get him back but I don’t even know where to start,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I don’t know if we can go through this again. Maybe I should just…”
“We will figure it out, Chakotay,” she said, standing up and extending a hand to him.
He let her pull him up.
“Thank you, Kathryn,” he said, trying to smile, but not really sure if he was succeeding.
“Doctor to Captain’s ready room,” came the voice of the Doctor.
“Janeway here,” she said.
“Please report to sick bay. Is Commander Chakotay with you?”
“I’m here, Doctor,” said Chakotay.
“Please accompany the Captain.”
“We’re on our way,” said Kathryn.
Chakotay sighed and gathered Seska in his arms, letting Kathryn walk ahead of them. Everyone on the bridge stopped what they were doing to watch the two of them make their way to the turbo lift.
They didn’t talk on the way there for which Chakotay was grateful. If anyone would know what to say it would be the Captain, but he didn’t think words were needed right now. He was going to be processing this for a long time.
When they entered sick bay they saw Mr. Suder’s body laid out on one of the tables but the rest of the room was empty.
“Well, Doctor?” Kathryn said crisply.
“Most of the crew suffered no lasting injuries,” said the Doctor. “The most common ailment was simply exhaustion. They could all do with a good meal, but other than that, I understand we lost two men on the planet?” At Chakotay’s nod, he continued. “That makes a total of three fatalities and no serious casualties.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Kathryn. “Now, what did you need?”
“I see you found Seska,” the Doctor said, walking toward an empty bio bed. “Please, place her here.” Chakotay gladly put his burden down and stepped back. “Was she dead when you found her?”
“Yes,” said Chakotay, “but the baby isn’t here. Do you know what happened?”
“I don’t know why you’re concerned, Commander,” said the Doctor, with that irritating smug look on his face. “He wasn’t your child.”
“What?” asked Chakotay, staring at him.
“Seska asked me to examine the infant; he was not your child.”
“But she pulled my DNA…”
“I’m sure it was her intention for the child to be yours, but that was not what happened.”
Chakotay turned away slightly. It was too much to expect him to process gaining a child, accepting him, losing him, and finding out he was never his to begin with in such a short amount of time.
“Are you all right, Commander?” asked Kathryn, concern in her voice.
“I just need to think,” he said.
“I thought you would be glad to hear you were not responsible for the child,” the Doctor said, looking confused.
“Let’s discuss that at another time,” said Kathryn, pulling the Doctor away. “Now I assume you wanted to tell me about Mr. Suder?”
Chakotay stood beside Seska on her bed and was infinitely grateful to Kathryn for having given him some space. He felt guilty, extremely guilty all of a sudden, for having dragged the crew on a wild mission with absolutely no reason. People had died because of that. Seska was dead.
He felt guilty about that too. He knew she was responsible for her own actions, had brought it upon herself, he mostly felt guilty about feeling so relieved that she was gone and he didn’t have a child to take care of. He would have loved that child, would have protected him, but now…there was nothing to do but mourn something that had never been his.
He stared for a long moment at Seska’s face, one that was as unfamiliar to him as it was familiar. He’d known her for years, but the person he’d known had been as false as his paternity of her child. Everything that had ever been between them was a lie, yet hurt all the more for having felt real without being real. When she’d abandoned Voyager and shown her true face in more ways than one, that had made it easier to think of her as someone he didn’t know. But now...staring at her Cardassian features, he could still see signs of the Seska he’d once cared for so deeply.
But he would never know anything about her now. All of her stories about herself had been tainted with lies and once she’d finally become herself as she really was, he had only seen her for short spaces, usually on the other side of a screen or in battle. She had, in her own twisted way, cared for him, he was sure. But…she’d obviously had no idea of how to truly love someone and show that love.
Because of her selfishness and trickery so much had happened and, now that she was dead, the only place for blame lay on his own shoulders.
Chakotay slowly pulled the sheet up over her body and covered her face, letting that be a goodbye.
Kathryn silently moved back to his side and he started to pay more attention to his surroundings. Tuvoc and the Doctor were standing over Mr. Suder’s body and Kes was now working in the office.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Kathryn asked softly.
“Could you give me some discernment?” he asked, smiling tightly at her. “Or some way to judge people accurately? This really was all for nothing. Everything that happened was because I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face.”
“Don’t do that to yourself,” she said sharply. “I won’t have anyone berating my first officer. Seska made her own choices and, while I can’t say you’ve always made the right ones, you made the ones you thought were best with the information you had. Can you honestly say you would change your decision to come after the child?”
“No,” he said. “If I thought the child was mine I would always come.”
“And I would always come with you,” she said, resting her hand on his arm.
He placed his over hers and they stood that way for a moment or two.
“Thank you, Kathryn,” he said.
“You’re quite welcome,” she said, her tone becoming more brisk. “Now, we’ve got a ship to run and I suggest we get back to it, but if you need time, you just let me know.”
“I think I’ll be doing some heavy thinking for a while,” he said, “but I’m fit for duty, Captain.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” she said.
She led him out the door and back to the bridge and he followed, grateful for her lead, needing some kind of anchor and realizing she was the perfect fit.
He still felt lost and unsure, but at least he wasn’t alone.