Tides of the Heart-Part Two: Desideratum
Desideratum. It means your heart's desire. For many years, my heart's desire was Chakotay.
Have you ever walked into a room, seen a stranger and felt your heart turn a somersault at the same time as your stomach cramps, and your mouth goes dry, and your brain goes fuzzy because all your blood drains down to your groin as your cock leaps to attention like a battering ram?
Have you ever spent years chipping away at someone's resistance because you simply cannot exist unless they finally acknowledge that they love you too?
Has the object of your obsession ever turned to you and said those two most wonderful words in the history of the universe, "I do" ?
No? Well, you're lucky then.
I'm not talking about lust here, although that's part of it, or even what people "call" love when they are talking about someone who makes them feel happy and good about themselves, I talking about real love. The kind that shreds your soul and sends splinters into your heart and makes you so sick you want to die. It assimilates you, sending its tendrils through every part of your being so that you cannot remove the emotion without amputating your own heart.
After my heart turned to ice, it found a new desideratum.
There's a line I remember from a children's book that I read to Charis when he was about six or seven. "Rejoice, the wicked witch is dead!"
For years I waited for the chance to say those words out loud. The dark brooding hatred that has never released its stranglehold on my soul, lurked in eager anticipation of the day she would finally be dispatched to whatever hell awaited her for her crimes.
When the situation finally happened, though, instead of feeling satisfaction, I felt deflated and sad. Empty somehow. It was as though my hatred of her had managed to keep me alive. Perhaps my insane jealousy had been the only thing that had kept me going. It was certainly the only thing that had kept me on Voyager for all these bitter, lonely years.
No matter how much it hurt to stay, I had refused to give her the satisfaction of seeing me run. She had already stolen the only thing that I had ever wanted or needed. All I could do was hover in the background like a bitter ghost, knowing from the pain that occasionally flashed in Chakotay's eyes that he still loved me at least a little, despite everything that had happened.
In this, at least, I kept some small part of him for myself.
I denied her that last final victory.
He never truly loved her.
Seven was a beautiful and deadly spider, spinning a web of such cunning deceit that to this day I don't believe that Chakotay ever saw through her deceptions. He saw her as naive. He accepted her protestations that she was innocent of deliberately stealing his seed to entrap him. Her beauty blinded him to her true nature.
She was a witch.
She was the Ice Queen.
I know. I'm bitter and I still hate her, even now that she is dead, but that's not why I call her names. My words are not just the vitriolic defense of a scorned lover against his replacement. Had she played fair and won him from me through charm rather than deceit, I would still have hated her, but I would perhaps have at least been able to let him go.
No. That's not true. I couldn't have ever removed him from my heart, but I would have at least have found the strength to leave Voyager so that I didn't have to daily face the person who had abandoned me, who had taken all that I had and found me wanting.
She gave him the one thing I couldn't. Children.
I hate him a little for that, though. I don't care how much he wanted a family. If it meant that much to him to have a son, why the fuck did he marry me?
Besides. Why wasn't I enough? Why didn't my love fill up the corners of his heart? Why did he need more than me? I didn't need more than him. He was the air I breathed. He was the alpha and omega of my existence. I would have died for him.
In a way, I think I did.
I haven't truly been alive for years. Sometimes, as I lie in bed at night, unable to sleep, I can hear my heart beating in the still silence of my lonely bedroom and the sound surprises me. How can a heart as frozen as mine manage to beat at all?
The days of my life have blended into a ceaseless haze, as I wander the lonely corridors of Voyager, as pale and insubstantial as the ghosts who surely wander invisibly by my side. My son now flies this gallant old lady as she limps slowly towards home, while I tend her engines.
I'm no engineer, but I'm the best we've got. At least I know my way around programming. Besides, I understand Voyager. Her heart, this engine room, is as broken and tattered as my own.
Since Seven's death I have spent most of my time here. It's the only way I can avoid seeing him. Besides, I need to complete my repair of the antimatter containment field so that I can leave the ship when we arrive at the next technologically advanced planet. To be honest, I don't give a stuff about the Prime Directive any more. I'd rather live with a group of stone-age savages than stay on board any longer, but Tuvok is a stickler for these things, which is why I'm still here, nine months after Seven died. I'm still waiting for permission to disembark.
Sometimes I think he is deliberately avoiding anywhere suitable, just to keep me on board until the Engines are fully back on line. I know it's not true though. We are moving at barely Warp 2 so we aren't passing that many inhabited worlds. Besides, in his own way, he cares about me and understands my pain. I don't think he would deliberately prolong it. Twenty years is more than enough torture for anyone to bear.
As long as Seven was still alive, the suffering was worth it. Just to keep her on her toes. Now she's dead, I don't have the energy to cope anymore. Now that my hatred has lost its original target, it is eating at me instead. Devouring what little remains of Tom Paris so that soon, even the hollow shell that wears his face will somehow crumble into the dust that is my soul.
I admit it. It wasn't Chakotay that kept me on board. It was my hate of Seven.
You see, I know she always intended to steal him from me.
Charis was only the weapon she used to ensnare him.
That's why she stole my DNA too. So that Charis would look like me and thus doubly capture Chakotay's heart.
I took a blood sample from Charis once, when he was too young to understand what I was doing. I was suspicious because he looked so very like me, although the Doctor's tests had conclusively proven that we were both his fathers.
Blue eyes are genetically recessive. That got me thinking. I did a Punnett square, which is a simple graphical way of figuring out how the genes from each parent might combine to produce an offspring. Blue eyes don't always mean that you don't carry the genes for other colors, but I don't. My parents, my grandparents, and so in, ad infinitum, have never had anything other than blue eyes and blonde hair. Even if Chakotay carried the genes for another eye color, which is highly unlikely given his heritage, our son could only have had brown or maybe hazel eyes. As could the children of Seven and Chakotay.
Hair-colour is a little less easy to accurately gauge. My own hair is a reddish blond rather than the Nordic blonde of Seven. Logically, Charis should have had either ginger or brown hair, maybe black like Chakotay, very unlikely that he should be blond, but not impossible. Anika and Tayven though shouldn't have been blue-eyed blondes like their mother.
What I'm saying is that Seven bore Chakotay three perfect angelic children and they had all been genetically manipulated by her to some extent to ensure that they all conformed to the ideal that Chakotay had indicated he preferred by marrying me.
Although Charis is Chakotay's son, Chakotay's genetic markers in the boy were deliberately repressed.
Which puts the obvious lie to the fact that Seven simply wanted a child of Chakotay's. Since she deliberately suppressed any of Chakotay's dominant genes, she never intended her children to look like him so there was no point in stealing his genes in the first place.
So she never wanted Chakotay's children. She wanted Chakotay and she used the children to catch and then keep him.
Too scientific for you?
Okay, try this one on for size instead.
I found a holoprogram in the archives. She had illegally created a hologram of Chakotay and had practiced seducing him. The date on the program predates Charis's conception by several months.
My conclusion is that she wanted him, and with Borg determination she profiled him and then attacked him at his most vulnerable level. Resistance being futile and all that crap. She must have gone through all of Voyager's databases searching for his weakness and Seska had thoughtfully given her the opening she had needed by demonstrating both his desire for a son and the fact that he would accept the obligation of a child whether he was a consenting party in the conception or not.
He was caught in her web, as helpless as a fly, from the moment she announced her pregnancy.
So why did I let her get away with it?
Because I didn't understand at first. I was too distraught because of Chakotay's agreement to our divorce and his subsequent remarriage. I spent years with my head so far up my self-pitying ass that I couldn't see Seven for what she really was.
Charis was already four when Anika was born. It was only the moment that I saw the new baby's blue eyes, that something finally clicked in my head and I realised that Charis had been genetically altered.
I considered telling Chakotay what I had realised, then decided it would make no difference. Seven would find some innocent explanation for the suppression of his genes and I would only undo four years of trying to pretend that I hated him. I couldn't bear to see the inevitable pity in his eyes as he listened to what I had to say and then still refused to come back to me.
Then it took another two years for me to find the holoprogram that Seven thought she had deleted. I was trying to find any trace of the Sandrine's program because we had lost it during a fire fight that destroyed many of our computer systems.
Instead I hit pay dirt. Finally I had proof of her duplicity. Finally I had a way to get Chakotay back.
I rushed to their quarters with a data padd of evidence clutched in my fist. My heart was hammering with nerves so badly that I nearly passed out in the turbolift before I got there. I remember my hand shaking so badly that I could barely press the panel to request entry. I was so excited, so ecstatic that I charged through the door as soon as it opened, waving my evidence like a madman.
Only to slide to a confused halt.
Chakotay was settled on the couch giving a bottle to Tayven, their third child. Charis was sitting at his feet, happily crayoning into a coloring book and Anika was curled up against his side. For a moment, he was too occupied to look up and see who had entered the room. His face had a beatific softness as he gazed down on his children. I had only seen that expression on his face once before. It had been at the moment that I had said "I do" to him.
The witch, on the other hand, reacted immediately to my presence. Her cold eyes flickered from my face to the data padd in my hand, and then they narrowed as though somehow she knew what I was carrying.
With cool poise, she stepped forward and took the baby from Chakotay's hands so that he could pay attention to me. I saw his face screw up a little as he reluctantly released the child, then he turned to look at me.
A flash of guilt and hopeless longing raced over his face as he saw me standing there and I knew that he still loved me, knew that if I told him the truth I could have him back.
Before I opened my mouth though, I saw Seven standing behind Chakotay's back. She made a quick, but unmistakable motion across Tayven's neck with the sharp point of a borg-probe that had burst out of her left hand, reminding me suddenly of exactly what manner of predator lurked under her comely exterior.
Would she really have done it? Killed Chakotay's children, her children, just for vengeance if I had dared to steal him back to me?
I don't know for sure.
It seems improbable, but then she hadn't had the children out of a maternal instinct, she had borne them with the sole purpose of capturing Chakotay. I couldn't take the chance. Even if Chakotay won custody and moved the children in with us, which was something that made me want to run and hide anyway, in the meantime they would be left in her clutches.
I think she would have killed them. She didn't see them as children. She saw them as weapons, as part of her own collective and ultimately she would have sacrificed them just like any other drone who had ever been under her control. She was Borg. It didn't matter how beautiful she was, or how well she learnt to imitate a human being. Underneath that sleek blonde exterior beat a heart of pure titanium.
I made some pathetic excuse for my presence in their quarters and left.
Over the years I sometimes regretted my decision, but two years ago something happened that has at least reassured me that I made the right choice after all.
You see, I am pretty sure that she killed Tayven.
Two years ago, Chakotay and Seven had a crisis in their marriage. Charis was eighteen then, Anika fourteen and Tayven was twelve. Seven wanted another baby. I think she could see the beginning of the end for her relationship with Chakotay. Charis had moved out into his own quarters and she could see that Anika and Tayven would follow within a few short years, and that as soon as the children reached maturity Chakotay might feel his obligation to Seven was over.
He refused to have another child. He put his foot down and said he was too old to start a new family. That three children were enough for any marriage.
Two weeks later, Tayven died of the Lemukong Fever.
Okay, he was only one of twelve victims and there's no real reason to believe his death was foul play.
But, like Charis and Anika, Tayven had the Borg nanites. Once they reached puberty all three were immune to just about every disease that could be thrown at them. That's why she chose Tayven, I think. He was just young enough that his death wouldn't cause undue suspicion. The whole ship was down with the fever, the Doctor was putting people in body bags daily, and by the time Chakotay's own fever broke, his youngest son had already been dead for a week.
Seven was smart enough to let Chakotay grieve for a year and then, on the anniversary of Tavyen's funeral, she announced that she was pregnant again. She told Chakotay that she hadn't planned it and that the baby was obviously a gift from the spirits to allow Tayven's soul to return to them.
Chakotay is no fool.
Perhaps that's not the impression I've given so far, but he isn't. He had been willing to suspend his disbelief and give Seven the benefit of the doubt in the beginning, and for eighteen years, for the sake of his beloved children, he had accepted the emptiness of his marriage as being the price he paid for the joy of being a father.
I'm not suggesting he suspected that Seven had anything to do with Tayven's death. Even I don't know for sure, and I have the benefit of knowing the rest of her ruthless deceptions. He instinctively knew she had deliberated defied him with her pregnancy though.
Of course, the witch then did her drama queen impression, sobbing crocodile tears and pretending that her grief over Tayven had forced her to do it.
How do I know?
Charis was there and told me everything. Told me how Chakotay had folded before her tears. Told me how he ended up apologizing to her for being as selfish as to deny her a child to replace the one that she had lost.
So, in one brilliant stroke, Seven trapped Chakotay for another 18 years.
That was the point at which my own brittle heart finally shattered completely.
I remember running to Tuvok's quarters after Charis had broken the news to me and begging the Vulcan to fuck me into oblivion. Tuvok just raised one eyebrow to the ceiling and sighed. Since we didn't bond during his Ponn Farr, he has little or no interest in me sexually. He feels an obligation towards me though, since I helped him out and saved his life. He tries occasionally to give me what I need, if I am really in pain and need the brutality of a mindless, Vulcan rut to replace the pain in my heart with the pain of my body,
Just as I once saved his life, after I learnt of Seven's fourth pregnancy Tuvok saved my sanity.
Two weeks later, Seven was dead.
Perhaps she had been right after all. Perhaps the child was the spirit of Tayven returned to her to put right the wrong of his death. The baby killed her, you see. Something went horribly wrong with the pregnancy. Her body interpreted the child as an infection and her implants went into overdrive. She refused to agree to a termination, despite the fact that the baby was killing her, realising perhaps, that now Anika was almost old enough to move out, the baby was her last chance to keep Chakotay.
In retrospect, I think she died for nothing.
Chakotay wouldn't have left her. It would have upset Charis and Anika if he had turned his back on their mother and he would never have done anything to bring them harm. He would have lived the rest of his life in a bitter, loveless marriage to the Ice Queen.
Seven had forgotten the possibility of grandchildren. They would have bound Chakotay to her just as effectively. Chakotay wouldn't have wanted the children to be confused by the fact that their grandfather and grandmother lived in separate quarters.
It's a funny thing about Chakotay that he can't even bear to see a child cry, but he's been content to let me bleed for twenty years.
I know that's not a fair thing to say. I know he found himself trapped between a rock and a hard place. I know he didn't want to leave me.
But you know something?
It doesn't help.
It should make me feel better, but it doesn't.
The bottom line is that he didn't love me enough. If he had, he would have found a way for us to stay together. He wouldn't have agreed to divorce me.
Yes, I know. It was the stupidest stunt I ever pulled, requesting a divorce and then refusing to take his calls. But I just wanted to show him how much I was hurting, how scared I was of losing him. I needed him to prove his love to me after all the months of neglect. I was so sure he'd come after me. I thought he loved me. I expected him to behave the same way I would have under the same circumstances.
I would have crawled to him on my belly for forgiveness if he had ever asked me for a divorce.
I wanted him to come chasing after me. I needed him to do it. If he had I would have stayed. Even if he'd beaten my ass and chained me to his bed to keep me from leaving him, it would have proved that he loved me.
But he obviously didn't love me enough.
And now it's too late.
Charis and his wife had a daughter last week. As far as I can tell, she must have been conceived within days of Seven's funeral. That makes sense, though. Charis adored his mother and he re-affirmed his own survival with the urge to procreate. It's a natural response to grief, I am told.
Charis has asked me to attend the naming ceremony, but I have refused. It's not only that I can't face Chakotay. It's because Charis and Menily want to name their daughter Seven. Just the thought is enough to make me choke, but obviously I can't say anything.
Realistically, I think Charis is the real reason I never aired my suspicions about Tayven's death.
It had nothing to do with me trying to save Chakotay pain. I am years past the point of allowing my love for him to guide my decisions, and other than my temporary madness at discovering that Seven was pregnant the last time, I have not allowed myself to even dream of him coming back to me.
It's too late.
The wicked witch is dead, but unlike the tin man, I never managed to find a heart to replace the one that Chakotay shattered.
There's another fairy tale I once read to Charis. The Ice Queen. It is ironically apt. A young man is captured by the ice queen and she pierces his heart with a single shard of glass-like ice. It immediately freezes him so that he is incapable of emotion, or caring or compassion. He becomes as soulless and heartless as a machine.
Sometimes, as I walk down the now almost deserted corridors of Voyager and into my lonely quarters, I can feel that shard of ice still lodged inside my chest.