Disclaimers: This story is mine, but the characters are owned by you-know-who. No copyright infringement intended, inferred, or implied.

Series: Voyager
Codes: J/C
Written: August-September 1998
Rating: PG-13 just to be safe...

Summary: Hankie alert! How will Kathryn and her crew cope after losing an important crew member. This story has been desigated as Very Sad, so if you're not in the mood, please come back later…

Author's Notes: Thanks Jenn, Suz & Cindy for your help on this one.

 Pursuit of Closure

1998 : Saffron

Kathryn still couldn't believe he was gone. For 2 months, dreams of him consistently wakened her. She fought them at first, but now...they seem to comfort her. Her heart ached as she remembered back to the last time she and Chakotay were alone together.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

Their relationship had grown slowly. The ever patient Chakotay allowed the time and space for Kathryn to adjust to their budding romance. At one of their weekly standing dates, they sat in his quarters quietly talking. He wouldn't tell her about the new program he'd just created.

"Come on, you can tell me." She poked his ribs, trying to get the information out of him. He smiled at her child-like impatience; "You just can't stand not knowing, can you?"

She playfully glared at him, exhaling an impatient sigh. "You...are absolutely no...fun!"

Chakotay just smiled and looked at her, his love for her shining in his eyes, causing a familiar flutter in her stomach.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

Kathryn wasn't sure when her thoughts turned into dreams, but it only seemed a second later when the computer's voice woke her up.

Kathryn strode across the bridge, still half expecting to see Chakotay smiling at her from his chair, instead of a stoic Tuvok glancing at her. She spent most of her duty shift in her ready room, reading reports, handing out assignments, trying to avoid reminders of Chakotay. Not since Justin had a man so filled her world. Chakotay had not only filled her world with his presence, but also with his spirit. It was this spiritual presence that she now avoided and tried to ignore.

She sat staring at the PADD, rereading the same information, none of it being comprehended by her brain. She lifted her head at the sound of the door beep.

"Come."

B'Elanna walked in, instantly feeling empathy for her captain, as she noticed the darkness around her eyes.

"Sorry to disturb you, Captain."

"Not at all, B'Elanna." Kathryn put the PADD down and gave B'Elanna her full attention.

"What can I do for you?"

"I was going through the holodeck files, compressing and archiving them to free up computer space. I thought you would like to know that I found a program that Chakotay saved the day before the accident."

Kathryn blinked her eyes, looking at B'Elanna but no longer seeing her. Chakotay's program. She had completely forgotten about it. She returned her focus to B'Elanna.

"Thank you B'Elanna. I appreciate you personally letting me know. Leave that file intact until I've had a chance to look at it."

B'Elanna nodded her head, gave Kathryn a small smile as she nodded her head, then exited the room.

Kathryn stared at the doors, her thoughts returning to her last moments with Chakotay.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

She had just snuggled herself into Chakotay's arms for a hug when Tom's voice came over the Comm system. "Bridge to Captain Janeway."

She gave Chakotay one last squeeze before responding, "Janeway here".

"Sorry to interrupt, Captain. Sensors indicate an M-class planet, less than 1 light year way, that has considerable vegetation, and pre-warp civilization scattered sporadically all over the planet."

"Fine, Mr. Paris. Adjust course for standard orbit. Have senior staff meet me in the conference room in 30 minutes."

"Aye, Captain."

"Janeway out."

Still in Chakotay's arms, she stood up on her toes to kiss him. "Duty calls. I guess your holodeck program will have to wait."

He kissed her on the forehead. "Don't worry, it will."

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

It was a routine away mission. Chakotay beamed down with Neelix, B'Elanna, Harry and 2 crewmembers who had taken over the hydroponics bay since Kes left. Upon materializing on the plant, they broke out into groups of two, tricorders in hand. Harry and B'Elanna paired up, the two crewmembers made the second team, and Neelix was with Chakotay.

Chakotay scanned the foliage around them in silence while Neelix felt the need to pass the time by relay one of his many adventures as they walked. Chakotay's tricorder picked up something interesting, his hand brushing against some branches as he waded through the underbrush. It was instantly that he knew something was wrong, but before he could cry out, he collapsed on the ground. Neelix immediately called up to Voyager for an emergency beam out.

Chakotay, along with the away team, was beamed directly to sickbay. Kathryn was in the turbolift within seconds of being notified of the emergency beam up. When she arrived in sickbay, the Doctor was already declaring the time of death. "...death occurred at 1432 hours."

Kathryn looked at the doctor in disbelief. "No...you're...but...what..."

The away team that had gathered around Chakotay backed away upon her arrival.

"All resuscitative attempts have failed...the poison just worked too quickly through his system."

"Poison?" Kathryn had moved to place her hand on his shoulder as she had done many times before. She stared at Chakotay's face as she listened to the Doctor.

"Commander Chakotay encountered a dangerously poisonous plant while on the planet. Its affects are very much like poison ivy or poison oak but with fatal results. Every system in his body was attacked producing a cascade shut down. There was nothing I could do."

Kathryn felt her lip quiver in her struggle to retain her compose. "Are all away teams up from the planet?"

Harry spoke up, his voice cracking, "Yes, ma'am."

Kathryn couldn't take her eyes from Chakotay's face. "No one is to return to the planet. We'll just have to tighten our belts as far as replicator rations go." Kathryn knew she was stating the obvious, but somehow, talking kept her from completely breaking down in front of the crew. "Everyone is dismissed." She didn't want to look at anyone...not yet. As the crew left, one tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

B'Elanna was fuming when she got off duty. Lately, nothing seemed to be going right in Engineering. Her normally competent crew was no longer such, but her anger consumed any empathy she might have. A voice invaded her thoughts just as she was about to enter her quarters. It was Tom.

"B'Elanna, I've been looking for you." He followed her into the room, his eyes looking at her with concern. "You don't look so hot."

"Tom..." B'Elanna's voice told him to back off, but he wouldn't let up.

"No, I have stayed out of your way and watched your anger simmer its way up towards a boiling point. You've got to let your anger out."

B'Elanna stood silent for a moment, his words sinking in. She spoke as though she were choosing her words carefully.

"Tom...I don't know what to do. Normally, I am able to control the anger, but now, I feel as though I'm going to explode."

"You look like it," said Tom bluntly, knowing he was placing his life in jeopardy.

B'Elanna just glared at him. He was the only one she would tolerate such comments from.

Tom held his hands up in surrender. "Okay-I'm sorry."

Tom took a deep breath. "B'Elanna...I miss him too. You gotta break through the anger so it doesn't eat you up; allow yourself to grieve. Go to the holodeck and beat up some Klingons. I'd even be willing to suffer some broken bones if it'll help."

Her lips formed into a small smile. "Thanks. Just talking about it helps."

Tom smiled back at her. "Yeah, well, I'm here for that too. You have to start somewhere."

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

Harry sat in the mess hall, moving his food around with his fork. For once, it was not Neelix's cooking that affected his appetite. He had not expected to feel this loss so deeply.

The ever vigilant Neelix, Voyager's self-appointed morale officer, noticed Harry's pensive facial expression and went over to check it out. "Uh, Harry...something wrong with your Turkon stew?"

Startled, Harry looked up to find Neelix looking at him in earnest. "What? Oh, hi Neelix. Actually the stew is fine."

"Then is there something else I could help you with?" Without waiting for an answer, Neelix sat down and continued to speak. "You know, I've been talking with a lot of crew members. The topic of Chakotay seems to have dropped since his burial."

Harry couldn't think of a response so he simply nodded and Neelix continued. "I think what's needed is a get together for the crew to celebrate Chakotay's life."

Harry again nodded. "But what about the Captain? There's like this unspoken rule that he is not to be discussed anywhere, for any reason."

"Then all the better for her if we do this. And there's the man who can make it happen." Harry followed Neelix's eyes and saw Tuvok entering the mess hall. As Neelix left the table, Harry's thoughts of Chakotay continued as though Neelix had never interrupted him.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

Neelix approached Tuvok just he was about to sit. "Ah, Mr. Vulcan, just the person I wish to speak with".

Tuvok, looking as perturbed as a Vulcan can, sat down and looked up at Neelix. "Unless this is regarding ship's business, Mr. Neelix, I really do not have the time." He then tried to turn his attention to the PADDs he had brought with him, but Neelix sat down as if Tuvok's words were an invitation. "Exactly, Mr. Vulcan. I consider crew morale to be ship's business."

Tuvok regarded him for a moment. "Very well. But if we are to continue this conversation, please refrain from calling me Mr. Vulcan."

"Can do, Mr. Vul...I mean Mr. Tuvok."

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

Kathryn stared at her hands as she listened to Tuvok relay Neelix's idea for the gathering to celebrate Commander Chakotay's life.

Tuvok was now spouting off reasons why this would be helpful to the crew. "Overall efficiency is down 15%. With the commander's death and your increased distance from the crew, I think it would help the crew if they were allowed to have some time to mourn together...and that you were there as well."

She slowly moved her tired eyes to look at Tuvok. She knew he was right. She knew this should have happened sooner but she had resisted bringing up the idea herself and now knew, for the mental health of her crew and the efficient running of Voyager, it should be done. "Very well, Tuvok, the crew should get together, but...I'm not sure I'll be there. I'm just...not...ready...to let go."

"Very well, but I must point out that the crew will not easily find the necessary closure until they see their captain begin to accept Commander Chakotay's loss as well."

Kathryn nodded her head in agreement. "I know that Tuvok. I've not had to deal with such a loss in a long time. I'm working on it as best I know how without completely shutting down. Thank you, Tuvok."

Taking her last words as the end of the conversation, Tuvok nodded his head and left the room.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~ 5 days later...

Chakotay's memorial celebration was a solemn but festive occasion. The spread of food consisted of dishes from Earth to Bajor but mostly was from Chakotay's personal list of favorites including a large bowl of mushroom soup. Most of it was palatable and delightful, especially since Neelix's new crop of Leola root was not yet ready for harvesting. As the crew milled around, talking quietly, the Captain's absence created a void, a space that could only be filled by her.

Kathryn woke up instantly aware of the memorial celebration to taking place that day. She also knew where she had to go. She had put aside time and she knew she had to do it. She had to visit Chakotay's program. It was time.

~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

She let her hand hover over the panel briefly before she pressed the button for entry. She let the doors close behind her, closed her eyes, and spoke the command to the computer. "Computer, activate Chakotay Theta 7."

Almost instantly, she felt a cool breeze on face and the sun shining on her hair. She clutched the small bundle in her hands and opened her eyes slowly; almost afraid of what she might see. What she saw was very familiar and yet it was a place she'd never been. It was like a perfect autumn afternoon. She was standing on the edge of a trail. She followed it, leaves crackling under her feet. Feeling the warmth on her face, she looked up to see the golden leaves that still clung to the branches. What she saw, gave her pause.

A small cabin had been built in a clearing among the trees. There was a large oak tree on the right side, sturdy enough for climbing and on the left, a small garden where she could see Talaxian tomatoes sprouting from the ground. She half expected Chakotay to appear at the front door and welcome her.

She was touched by how he had incorporated many of the things she had described to him about her youth in Indiana. There were little touches of New Earth here and there as well as new things...things that she recognized as being a part of him.

Instead of going inside the cabin, she opted to climb the old oak tree. She didn't stop climbing until she reached the top. As she scanned her surroundings, she let the beauty of all that surrounded her soak in. Her eyes stopped at a lake further to the right of the cabin. She climbed down and went in search of the lake.

By the lake was a boat, previously hidden by the trees. It was built to the specifications he'd shown her before their departure from New Earth. She stepped in, sat down, and placed the small bundle on the floor of the boat. She rowed out a little bit then pulled in the oars and let the boat drift. She placed the small bundle on the seat in front of her and opened it. It was her medicine bundle. It was smaller than Chakotay's. She'd only just begun to acquire items to put in it. She took a quick inventory of the items: an Akuna, a rose petal from the rose Chakotay brought her on their first official "date", a locket given to her by her father and a picture of her mother and sister.

She settled herself on the floor of the boat, closed her eyes, and placed her hand on the Akuna. "Akoocheemoia, we are far from the people from our past and in search of a way to reach them. Help me to seek the one who has most recently left us..."

She opened her eyes and took in the green forest surroundings, similar to the setting created by Chakotay's program. She scanned the horizon, the tops of the trees and the ground around her where she was sitting. There was no sign of her spirit guide. Without warning, an image of Chakotay appeared before her. She sat, frozen, afraid that any movement she made would send him away. Although his lips did not move, his voice filled her head, "Hello Kathryn".

Words failed her. She reached out to him with her mind, hoping that some of what she was feeling and thinking would be made clear to him.

"I am here...I've never left you. You should know that."

Finally, she found her voice. "I miss you...terribly. We never had a chance to say good-bye."

"Good-byes are not necessary. I am still here...where you can find me."

She found herself standing in front of him. He felt and looked alive. She could feel his energy, his breath on her face, his eyes burning into hers. He reached out and pulled her to him. She held him tightly, her eyes peering over his shoulder. She saw a small lizard, her spirit guide, its eyes smiling at her. Kathryn smiled back and closed her eyes. Then as quickly as he appeared, Chakotay was gone. Instead of feeling empty, Kathryn felt content for the first time in a long time. She opened her eyes and found herself back in the boat. It had drifted back to shore.

As Kathryn entered the mess hall, silence cascaded across the room. In that instant, the void was filled and a collective feeling of relief was felt. As her eyes took in the sight of the crew, her lips formed into a small smile. She knew, at that moment, that she and her crew would be able to achieve closure.

FINIS

To my other stories:

 Resolutions Vignette  No Longer Alone  All or Nothing
 What He Wants  Pursuit of Closure "Night" Prequel
"Night" Sequel Reaching Out The Hunt
Thank you for being a friend The Encounter If you like Kathryn Janeway
The Dream Gotcha Mad Scientist Janeway
Remembering Kathryn Vignette Series It's Never to Early for That
Sex & Ice Heat & Insomnia  

[ Saffron's Stories & Links | A Touch of Kate | Janeway Kashyk Fan Fiction ]