Bitter In My Mouth
Summary: As Neelix prepares to say goodbye to everyone he loves, one farewell is the hardest of all.
Characters: Neelix, Kes
Codes: Neelix & Kes
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for #fictober2018 Day 12 prompt: “Who could do this?” Episode addition to Warlord and Fair Trade.
Goodbye, goodbye, I hate the word. Solitude has long since turned brown and withered, sitting bitter in my mouth and heavy in my veins.
“I killed a man.”
“What?” Those are not words he ever thought he’d hear from her lips.
“Ensign Martin, in the transporter room. When I stole the shuttle to escape to Ilari.”
“Ah,” he understands. “Kes, that wasn’t you. It was that Tieran, controlling you.”
“But he died by my hand,” Kes repeats. “I can’t help wondering if I’d fought harder, been stronger … would Ensign Martin still be alive?”
“It wasn’t your fault.” He hesitates before reaching over to place his hand on hers. “You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
She allows the contact for a moment then pulls away. “He was a monster,” she says, half to herself. “He killed indiscriminately, razed entire cities to the ground and felt nothing for the lives he’d destroyed. Who could do this?”
“He’s gone,” Neelix reminds her gently. “You weren’t responsible for the things he did in your body or anyone else’s. Please, Kes, put this behind you. Don’t let it change you.”
“But it already has,” she says, and though her voice is pained, her eyes are resolute. “I’m not the same person I was before Tieran. And I don’t know who I’m becoming, but I do know …” she pauses, then deliberately returns her hand to his, “I do know that I need to explore it. And I need to do that on my own.”
The fissure he’s been concealing in his heart cracks open a little wider. But he knows this is for the best.
If his plot to expose the drug dealers on the trading station goes wrong, he could coon be dead. And it’s better for Kes that she not mourn him too deeply.
“I understand,” Neelix says. “Whoever you become, I’m sure she will be wonderful.”
She treats him to that radiant smile that captured his heart all those years ago, squeezing his hand. “You’ve been so important to me, Neelix. And I’ll always love you.”
“And I love you,” he replies, his voice soft. “Goodbye, Kes.”
It’s difficult to unwind his fingers from hers and walk away, but he’s left everything and everyone he loves before, and he can do it again.