Voyager's First Officer rang for admittance to his Captain's ready room but received no reply and in many ways hadn't expected one.
Chakotay glanced across at Tuvok who he found watching him and thought for a moment that he saw a small sign of worry there. He turned his head and scanned the rest of the bridge, finding the eyes of Tom Paris and Harry Kim on him, also watching for any response and noted definite signs of worry on their features. They all knew what Kathryn Janeway was doing on the other side of the door.
It had been four hours now since the disastrous away mission to the planet below, whose name they would never know. It had also been four hours since that same planet had claimed the lives of Ensign Sally Grainger and her unborn child. Chakotay had just come from the quarters she'd shared with her partner, Ensign Joe Feeney, and the memory of the pain and shock the man had been in still cut at him. These two had been his people at one time. They'd joined the Maquis together and had served with him for some time before circumstances had brought them to the Delta Quadrant and Voyager.
Chakotay felt the loss deeply himself and his mind still had trouble accepting the events of this day. While they were now one crew, a part of him would always feel something more for those who'd served so loyally under him in what he often privately referred to as 'the old days'. Leaving Joe Feeney in the care of two of his close friends, Chakotay had sought out B'Elanna and had found her crying softly in her office off Engineering. Once she'd satisfied herself that Joe Feeney was being taken care of, her next concern had been Chakotay and her Captain and this touched him deeply. They both remembered only too well the pain and shock on Kathryn's face when the news had come through. Since that time, she'd shut herself away in her ready room and Chakotay was here now to check on her, his worry for her filling him.
Turning his eyes back to the Vulcan, he received a raised eyebrow and a curt nod of agreement to proceed and so Chakotay quickly entered his override code and entered Kathryn Janeway's inner sanctum.
It took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the dimness of the room, the lights at their lowest illumination possible. Finally, he made out the form of his Captain, curled into a tight ball on the edge of her sofa, her knees drawn up and her head down, fingers laced tightly behind her neck. He saw the faint rocking motion of her body and went to her immediately, calling her name softly but getting no reaction to his presence.
Chakotay sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders, stilling her motion but still she didn't acknowledge him, her eyes just staring blankly at nothingness.
"Kathryn…" He shook her gently and then more forcefully. He got a response this time but it was in the form of a sobbing, choking sound. He ordered the lights to 50% and then saw her tear stained face. The fact that she didn't try and hide from him worried him even more. Taking charge of the matter, he swiftly contacted the Doctor who appeared before them within seconds, and assessing the situation before him, quickly administered a sedative and ordered Chakotay to beam himself and his Captain to her quarters and remain with her.
Chakotay sat for the next four hours watching Kathryn toss fitfully, despite the strong sedative dose the EMH had given her. He knew only too well the pain felt at the loss of a crewmember under your command but the fact that one who'd had no choice in the matter of being there had also been lost, added terribly to the feelings of responsibility and subsequent guilt. He knew Kathryn would feel this worse than he would, as a Captain and as a woman but also because she'd been the one who'd given her permission for Sally Grainger to get off the ship for a few hours, despite the uncertainty shown by Joe Feeney. Kathryn had stood in the shuttle bay and laughingly reassured Feeney that Sally would be fine, that their scans had shown the planet to be safe and that his partner just needed a change of scenery. She'd informed him jokingly that the time would arrive soon when all they'd have were sleepless nights and feeding schedules and that he was not to worry about anything, that the break would do her good. Chakotay recalled Kathryn laying her hand on Joe Feeney's shoulder and telling him that everything would be fine, her smile finally reassuring the nervous father to be. He remembered her, calling to Feeney over her shoulder, 'what could go wrong?' as she'd left the shuttle bay.
Four hours later, those same words had come back to haunt Kathryn Janeway and she'd stood in the same shuttle bay, Joe Feeney in shock beside her, as Sally Grainger's body, swollen with their child, had been brought back to Voyager for the last time. Chakotay remembered looking at Kathryn and seeing the look of absolute horror on her face as the Doctor had gently told them that there was nothing he could do. He remembered the tears which had spilled over her eyelids at his words and then Joe Feeney, racked with grief, screaming at her that she'd told him everything would be fine, that she'd lied, that this was her fault. The grief stricken man had then fallen on the body of the woman he'd loved, his wail of pain filling the ship and Kathryn had fled to her ready room until Chakotay had found her as he had.
Kathryn slowly awoke two hours later, still groggy from the sedative but within seconds remembered the day which none of them would ever forget. Chakotay went to her and held her tightly as she cried out all the pain and guilt inside her and then replicated some soothing honeyed tea. He sat close with her on the sofa, rubbing her back as she sipped at the hot beverage, still choking back sobs until she finally calmed some more.
Chakotay sat with Kathryn long into the night, having checked with the Doctor and been told that Joe Feeney had also been administered with a strong sedative and would sleep through until morning.
"Kathryn, there aren't words I can use to take this away but you have to accept that none of this was your fault. What Joe said was his grief and shock speaking and you know that." He saw her shake her head, denying the comfort he was trying to give her. His next words were spoken more forcefully.
"Kathryn, it wasn't your fault and you must accept that. Sally badgered you for days to let her go on that away mission. She was going stir crazy on the ship and you know that. There was no way possible for us to have foreseen what was down there."
Kathryn drew in a shuddering breath. "Do we know…what…?"
Chakotay lowered his head a moment and then met her eyes. "Apparently Sally disturbed some kind of sacred image, a statue of sorts. There was a forcefield or energy beam built around it. Scans couldn't detect it, still can't, even when we know what to look for. It appears as if the entire area where they were is some kind of holy place, an area for worship or ceremonies and it was protected this way. We've no way of knowing who or how long ago." He saw that this information made no difference to her. "Kathryn, there was no way to have known of this. It could have been any one of us…"
Her anger came quickly to the surface as if from nowhere. "But it wasn't, was it? It was a young woman with everything to live for and her unborn baby. Two innocent lives I sent to the slaughter…" She was almost out of control and Chakotay grabbed her shoulders and shook her.
"Stop this now, Kathryn. This won't help anyone and it won't bring them back. I know that sounds very harsh but it's the reality of it." He pulled her to him again and let her cry, her tears soaking his uniform.
Chakotay sat and held Kathryn to him for the rest of night as she fell into a fitful sleep, clinging to him now and then. By morning, he was stiff and sore from the uncomfortable position and tried to stretch himself without waking the woman in his arms. As he moved, he felt her stir and when he looked into her eyes, he saw the pain still there from the night before.
"I was hoping it was all just a terrible nightmare…" Her tears were once more close to the surface. Chakotay just held her, knowing there was nothing else he could do.
The next days on board Voyager were some of the hardest the crew would ever have to live through. Kathryn had gone almost immediately to see Joe Feeney, Chakotay with her, and the young man had formally thanked them both for coming. He also apologised to his Captain for his words of the previous day, assuring her that they'd been spoken in shock and grief.
"I don't blame you, Captain. I just needed to lash out and you were the nearest. I apologize for what I said."
Kathryn moved to him and slipped her arm around his shoulders. If she noticed that he stiffened slightly, she didn't let on but Chakotay noticed immediately. "Joe, you'd every right to feel as you did, to say what you said and I'm so sorry. If there's anything… We're all here for you, you know that." The young man nodded his head and thanked them both again for coming.
When Kathryn and Chakotay left his quarters and the doors closed behind them, Joe Feeney's face twisted in a cruel, almost evil fashion. His words were whispered but the malice in them was unmistakable. "Bitch. You evil, murdering bitch. You'll get yours, just wait and see. I'll make you suffer, and you, evil Maquis bastard who brought us here to that murdering whore…you'll suffer the way I have. I'll make sure you both know what you've put me through." Putting his pain and grief on hold, Joe Feeney sat and drawing on his hate and need for revenge, planned out exactly how he'd make them all pay.
The following day was the funeral service for Sally Grainger and her baby, a boy they had learned. Joe Feeney spoke heartbreakingly about the love he'd always have for the woman who'd shared his life and for the son they'd both desperately wanted. Kathryn kept her head down during his entire eulogy and Chakotay saw the man look to her many times, something nagging at him.
At the gathering after the bodies had been jettisoned into space, Kathryn had spoken again with Joe Feeney then made her excuses and left. Chakotay found himself watching the young man closely and was surprised when he saw him make his way over.
"Commander, you're watching me very closely. Thank you for your concern but I assure you I'm not going to do anything stupid. I mean, that is why you've been watching so closely, isn't it?"
Chakotay smiled softly. "I'm sorry, Joe. There is an element of that, I admit. I guess I also… well, you were with me before Voyager and I suppose I always feel a bit more protective…"
Joe Feeney smiled sadly. "It's OK. I guess if it were one of the others, I'd do the same. Look, it's bloody hard now but in time… I'll be all right… and I have good friends here, family really…" He looked down at the glass in his hand, hiding his eyes.
Chakotay's hand fell onto his arm. "If you want to talk, you know where I am. That goes for the captain as well. Actually, it goes for everyone on board. We all just want to be here for you during this time…"
The young man looked up, his expression neutral. "I know that, Commander, and thanks, but I'll be fine. You've nothing to worry about. I just want to work now, occupy my mind and keep busy. I know the Doctor suggested I take a few days off but I'd prefer to be doing something. Besides, being in our…my quarters for too long…"
Chakotay saw the sadness in the younger man's eyes. "If you want to change quarters…"
Joe Feeney shook his head. "No… at least not yet. I'm not ready to let go so soon. I mean, I know it's painful but it's also comforting and…"
Chakotay patted his shoulder. "OK, Joe, if you change your mind…"
Just then some other crewmembers came over and Chakotay pulled back. He knew the man would be more at ease with his own friends but something still nagged at him and it bothered him that he couldn't put a finger on what it was. Eventually he finished his drink and went after Kathryn, knowing she'd need company tonight, need his support and comfort.
Over the next week or two, Kathryn rarely left the bridge or her ready room and only occasionally visited the messhall. Chakotay and the other senior staff all saw the guilt and pain she felt from recent events but also knew that time would heal. On a few occasions when Chakotay was with her in the corridors, they bumped into Joe Feeney and the young man was always extremely polite, if somewhat subdued, but something about his behaviour still nagged at the First Officer. He didn't mention anything to Kathryn, seeing how relieved she was that Joe seemed to be accepting things and slowly moving on and knowing it helped her own feelings of guilt as she witnessed this. As time passed however, he dismissed these feelings and concentrated on bringing Kathryn out of her self-imposed sackcloth and ashes.
Slowly over the following weeks, life returned to its usual routine aboard Voyager but inside, Joe Feeney's rage and hatred simmered away, growing by the day, unseen by even his closest friends. He made no secret of the fact that he now spent most of his free time on the holodeck and openly spoke of the survival skills programs he ran.
Chakotay casually asked him about them one day in the messhall and Joe Feeney had a ready answer for his former Captain, claiming some old Japanese belief of something he had read about called Wa or balance, which he claimed helped him a lot. He explained about the theory of balancing mind and body, that when the mind was weary, in trouble or in turmoil, you exercised the body to achieve this Wa and vice versa. Chakotay being the spiritual man he was, accepted all this and was happy to see Joe seek a positive outlet for his grief. Not for one second did he suspect what the man was up to, especially when the offer was made to see the program and even share it.
Joe Feeney made his way back to his quarters after his little chat with Voyager's First Officer. He knew he had to be very careful now, especially around the captain and Chakotay. He spoke to Sally frequently, always in a whisper, as if she were in the room with him. "It won't be long now, Sally. It's all coming together very nicely. That whore won't know what's hit her, quite literally." His laughter rang out around the small cabin and he quickly caught himself.
"Sally, you should see them all. They're all more worried about how that bitch is than about me. It's 'the poor captain this', 'the poor captain that', and 'it's terrible what she's going through'. They all forget so quickly, going on with their small lives, not once thinking of us, but when I'm through, they'll remember then, oh they'll remember every scream from that whore's mouth and I'll make her scream all right. She'll plead for her miserable life at first but by the end she'll pray to die and she will, but slowly and in agony and we'll both watch and laugh and that bastard Chakotay will see it all. I watch him, sniffing around after her, clucking like a mother hen when all he wants is to fuck her and I know she's only too willing to spread her legs for him but when I'm finished with her, he won't ever want her again. She uses him all the time. I see it but he can't so he deserves to suffer. He brought us to her, deserted us to join her because he's weak and she knows that. She controls him by opening her legs and he falls for it, probably does it for half the crew. She doesn't fool us through, does she, love?" He sat at the small table in his quarters, working on his plan. "Soon, love, very soon. I watch her all the time. I'll know her schedule better than she does soon. She put on the appearance of being sorry for a while but I see her slowly letting that go. I saw through her act when the others didn't. Soon, Sally, real soon." He concentrated on the padd in his hand, putting the finishing touches to his revenge.
That night, Chakotay finally persuaded Kathryn to join him at Sandrines for a drink and some pool. It had taken him over half an hour of cajoling and finally begging, before she'd agreed and finally, he'd received a light punch on the shoulder and the first smile he'd seen in ages.
The crew were delighted to see their Captain out and about again. Joe Feeney sat in the corner watching her entrance, hiding his interest as his friends laughed and joked with him, trying to bring him back to them. He put on a good act for them all, knowing he needed to avoid arousing any suspicion if his plan was to work. He sat for most of the evening, talking and smiling with everyone, always keeping one eye on the object of his hate. He saw her chatting and mixing with everyone, smiling more as the night wore on and finally laughing out loud at some joke made by Tom Paris. He saw Chakotay's happiness at seeing her relax and enjoy herself and his blood boiled. He watched as his Captain played pool with some of the crew, winning many games and saw the way her First Officer couldn't take his eyes off her. Finally, he could stand it no more and took his leave, citing tiredness and an early shift as his excuse.
As he passed the pool table, Kathryn turned to see him and smiled softly at him. "Joe, how are you? It's good to see you here."
He put on his best act and returned the smile. "I'm fine, Captain. Thanks for asking. I'm doing much better. My friends make sure I get out like this and they're a great help, a wonderful source of comfort. Time heals as they say." He watched her face closely and saw that she appeared somewhat uncomfortable. He decided to put her out of her misery for the moment and ended the conversation. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm tired and I have an early shift in the morning. I like to keep busy…" He saw relief tinge her face and wished her a goodnight then left. All the way back to his quarters, he seethed to himself, cursing the bitch who had ruined his life, promising payback for himself and the woman and child who'd been taken from him.
Kathryn gradually returned to her old self, although thoughts of Sally Grainger and her son were never far from her mind. She resumed her life, visiting Sandrines with Chakotay and the others, taking part in her own holodeck programs during her off-duty hours and generally picking up her life from where it had been before that day. Joe Feeney watched every move she made, making meticulous notes on her movements and habits, never missing a thing. Before he knew it, three months had passed and the events of Sally's death appeared to be just another fact of life in the Delta Quadrant for the crew, at least to Joe Feeney's eyes. He saw that they all assumed he'd moved on and so he bided his time, his plan in place now. He waited for the right moment to make his move and that moment was not long in coming, but it would change Voyager and her Captain and crew forever.
"You have the bridge, Commander. Take good care of my ship while I'm off duty." Kathryn smiled at her First Officer as he took over from her.
"Aye Aye, Captain. She's in good hands." He glanced over at Tuvok and saw the Vulcan raise his eyebrow, reading it as 'she does this every time as if we're not capable'.
"Kathryn, go and relax. Enjoy your time off." He leaned in a little closer and lowered his voice. "Go play with your holocharacters. Nothing's going to happen." Voyager's Captain sighed and rolled her eyes but left without another word. Neither of them could ever have anticipated that this time it would be Chakotay's words which would come back to haunt them.
Kathryn left her quarters, tying the fabric belt of the light summer dress she wore and made her way to Holodeck 2. She glanced down at the low-heeled sandals she wore, hoping they wouldn't cut her feet as she tramped through the cornfields of Indiana, and smiled to herself thinking of the program Chakotay had presented her with as a way to have a little bit of home to visit. She entered the holodeck and ordered the computer to run the program, waiting for the fields and sunshine of Earth to appear around her.
Kathryn closed her eyes and turned her face upwards, anticipating the feel of the warm sunshine on her skin and the sound of birds and crickets. Suddenly she felt a chill all over and opened her eyes quickly, only to find herself in deep woodland, the light barely making its way through the dense trees. She hugged her arms and was just about to call to the computer, thinking a glitch of some kind had occurred, when Joe Feeney appeared before her.
"Joe, I'm sorry. Have I got my time wrong? I thought…" She saw the man before her smile, something unreadable in his eyes.
"This is my program, Captain." He moved a little closer and Kathryn felt the stirrings of fright, knowing instantly that something was very wrong.
"Joe, if we've crossed times or something or our programs are mixed up…"
He tilted his head to one side, eyeing her up and down. "Oh, there's been no mistake, Captain. You're exactly where you're supposed to be." He smiled again as he saw Kathryn's fear show on her face. "As soon as you entered the holodeck and went to activate your program, mine kicked in. Do you like it? I call it 'Feeney's Revenge'." He swung his arm, indicating their surroundings and laughed when he saw Kathryn trying to work out what was happening and then her fear again as he drew his phaser and pointed it at her.
"Oh, and don't bother trying your comm badge because I've disabled it. You'll find that the doors are sealed too. No way in unless I say so. In fact, you'll find that I control everything now. I've thought of it all." He watched, laughing, as Kathryn tried her comm badge anyway, only static meeting their ears. "Told you so." He roared with laughter.
"Have you got it yet, bitch? I'm in total control here and the name of the game is revenge. You and that Maquis bastard murdered my woman and son and now it's payback time. Oh, I don't blame him as much. He was thinking with his prick, but you, dear Captain, you always knew what you were doing, playing with us all, with him, with me, with Sally's life. Well, now it's my turn to play with your life and Kathryn, we ARE going to play." Kathryn tried frantically to think clearly, wondering how she hadn't seen this coming. She moved back a little but her movement panicked him and he stepped towards her quickly and swung his fist across her face, knocking her to the ground. Kathryn lay sprawled, tasting blood in her mouth and quickly tried to get up, only to feel a boot pressed into her back, keeping her down.
"You do as I say now, whore, and I say you stay down." He held her down with his foot for several minutes and then Kathryn felt the boot removed and a hand twist painfully in her hair, hauling her to her feet. Just as quickly, she felt the back of her legs kicked and she fell to her knees, the hand in her hair keeping her upright.
"Not too used to being on your knees, are you whore? Oh, except when some poor guy's prick is in your mouth and you're sucking him off to get what you want." His hand twisted again and Kathryn cried out, despite herself. "Stay there until I say otherwise. Now let's get that lap dog of yours in on this." He gave a few commands to the computer and waited.
Chakotay was sitting on the bridge, laughing at one of Tom's stories of his days in Marseille, when Tuvok cut in on them.
"Commander, there's a transmission…" Chakotay stopped laughing and turned to the Tactical Officer, a smile still on his face. He saw the Vulcan frown as he tied down the location of the signal. "The message is originating from Holodeck 2…"
Chakotay stood up. "That's the captain checking on us." He smiled again and then frowned. "Wait a minute. Why didn't she just use her comm badge?" He watched Tuvok work his console and finally look up.
"It's from Ensign Joe Feeney, audio and visual and it's directed to every terminal on board but mainly for your attention, Commander." Chakotay suddenly felt fear stir in his gut, the nagging feeling of weeks ago hitting him. "Put him through." He crossed to a terminal just as Feeney's face appeared.
"Commander, good to see you."
Chakotay tried to keep his voice even. "Joe, what can I do for you? What's all this?"
Feeney just laughed, his eyes wild. "This…this is my time to collect." Chakotay frowned and Feeney shook his head, still laughing. "I'll tell you, Chakotay, I was here on the holodeck when along came this scum…" The image which until now had just shown the man's face, widened to show Kathryn on her knees, Feeney's hand still in her hair and his phaser now pressed to her temple. Blood trickled from her split lip. Chakotay cried out and heard the shocked gasps from the others on the bridge.
"I take it I have your attention now…"
Chakotay felt his rage building. "Feeney, if you hurt her…"
The Ensign's voice cut him off and the hate in it wasn't missed by anyone. "Allow me to show you how it all went down…oh. and how she went down too onto her knees but I except she's done that for you quite a few times, hasn't she?" The image on the terminal changed and replayed for the entire ship what had happened from the moment Kathryn entered the holodeck up to the time Feeney contacted the bridge. When the image came back to Joe Feeney and Kathryn, Chakotay was ready to kill him.
"Wasn't that fun? Hear me now. I'll hurt her all I want and believe me, she will hurt for some time yet and then I'll kill her. She may have killed Sally and my son quickly but her death is going to be long and slow and extremely painful, and you, the traitor who betrayed us all to this murdering bitch, will watch it all." Chakotay's knuckles were white with the grip he had on the edge of the console.
"She didn't kill anyone and you know it. Feeney, just let us help you, talk to you…" Feeney's answer was to smash his phaser into the side of Kathryn's head and everyone heard her cry out. Another trickle of blood made its way down the side of her face.
"You're not listening. I control everything. Do you think you can bring them back? You and the whore here took my woman and son. You took my woman so I'm taking yours. As I say though, it won't be as quick for her and you'll watch and hear every last scream of agony from her. I had to see the life drained from Sally's body, see her lifeless eyes, know our son was dead inside her, so I'm going to make you and her suffer too. Now listen carefully and I'll lay down the rules and I'll only say all of this once" Chakotay was aware of the turbolift door opening and B'Elanna coming to stand beside him, her hand gripping his tightly.
"OK, I'll explain how the fun and games are going to enfold and what you're going to do. I'm going to let her go in a few minutes, after I've handicapped her of course and then the chase will begin. I'll give her a head start and then I'll come after her. I'll catch her a few times and she'll be punished and then I'll let her go and we'll start all over again. Know this, Chakotay, I'm going to hurt her so bad, she'll beg for her life, but in the end, she's going to plead with me to finish her off. I'll beat the shit out of her, hurt her bad and maybe have a bit of fun along the way." He trailed the phaser down the front of Kathryn's chest, making his message easily understood.
"This entire crew will watch what I do to this whore, every second of it. You'll all hear her screams as I torture her and slowly kill her. You'll all watch her die, see the last breath leave her miserable body, watch her life drain away with her blood. All that fight and spirit you all admire so much in her, I'm going to beat it out of her. None of you gave a shit about Sally or our son. You were all far more worried about this bitch." He pulled Kathryn's head back and her hands came up to try and lessen the strain and Feeney hit her again with the phaser on the side of the face, causing her to cry out again. He screamed into her ear.
"Don't try that again or I'll really hurt you." He shook her violently and then spoke to the imager again.
"Right, it goes like this. I have imagers all over this holodeck which will record and show everything that happens here, cause I'd hate you to miss anything. You'll all watch, especially you, Chakotay, you Maquis bastard. You deserve to suffer for bringing us all here and handing us over to this whore, becoming her sex toy and selling us all out. The others may have bought what you sold them but I didn't." Chakotay closed his eyes a second, not believing this was happening and cursing himself for not seeing it.
"Listen up, people. The rules. I've told you how it unfolds but there's a chance to get her out of here before she dies, and B'Elanna, I hope you're listening because your skills will be needed even though they'll probably fail. You'd like to talk to her before she dies, wouldn't you, Chakotay? However, she WILL die, and her death will come at my hands." Chakotay glanced at the Engineer beside him and saw tears in her eyes.
"There's an encrypted code locking the door to this holodeck which will enable you to gain entry. Any attempt to open it or gain access to us in any other way like transporting in and out, will result in an explosion being triggered, which in turn will blow this ship apart into tiny little pieces. The code is a number sequence and all throughout this little game of ours, I'll give you one number at a time, some single digit, some double. Some will be spoken and others will be indicated to you silently. I'm doing this so that you, Chakotay, will have to watch every second of what I'm going to do to your beloved captain. Oh, and in case you were thinking of having anyone else watch for you, some of the clues will be given in a way that only you'll understand. You can pass them on to our Klingon friend and she can work out the rest. Any attempt to break the code any other way and the same big bang will occur. Oh, and I can talk to you but there's no way you'll be able to speak to me after this. I won't hear you and in case you haven't already noticed, the safeties are off. Now, is everything clear?" He glared at the imager and Chakotay felt a wave of hate and revulsion go through him.
"Feeney, don't do this, for God's sake. Sally would never want this…"
The mention of the young woman's name only enraged Feeney more. "Don't you dare speak her name. She was a hundred times better than any of you…"
Chakotay tried his best to calm the deranged man. "OK, OK. Let's just stay calm now. We just…" Feeney was too far gone.
"Don't try any of that counselling or negotiating shit on me. I'm in control here. Now let's not waste any more time and start this thing." With that, he gave another series of commands to the computer and the image on the console showed a wider view. Chakotay noticed a small control pad attached to the man's belt.
"Remember, Maquis, all the clues will be here. Stay closely tuned or you could miss one." What followed almost sent Chakotay to his own knees, only for the fact that B'Elanna was holding him up. He was forced to watch and listen as Feeney beat Kathryn repeatedly and screamed obscene abuse at her. In the middle of it he stopped and held up three fingers and smiled, then resumed his vicious assault on the woman on the ground before him. Only when he seemed to tire, did he stop and then he dragged Kathryn to her feet, even though she was barely able to stand. He forced her hands to her face, wiping the blood there on them.
"Look at your captain the way she really is, all this blood on her hands. Well, it's about time, except in this case it's her own blood instead of the blood of the hundreds she's already murdered." He spun Kathryn and faced her towards the woods.
"Two minutes, whore. That's all you've got. Run for your life and then I'll come after you. Just be careful out there now as there are traps all over the place." He pushed Kathryn towards the trees and she stumbled, falling to her knees again.
"Can't stay off your knees, can you, whore. Well, maybe later." He roared with laughter, his madness showing. Kathryn managed to get to her feet and make for the trees, disappearing from Chakotay's view. Feeney's face filled the screen now.
"You trained me well, Commander. Thank you." Chakotay lowered his head, pain filling him that he was responsible for all this. When he looked up, he saw that the screen had been split, one side showing Feeney making his way into the woods, the other showing Kathryn, desperately running for her life. He looked away and saw B'Elanna working at the terminal next to him, her fingers flying over the console, working out any way she could to rescue her Captain and friend.
The next two hours were the longest and worst of Chakotay's life as he watched the woman he loved fight for her life. Feeney would let her run and hide for some time and then catch her, each time beating or torturing her in some way, never inflicting too much damage that she couldn't run again. The imagers he'd placed all over the holodeck showed everything in detail and Chakotay cried openly many times, watching the sick spectacle in front of him.
"For God's sake, B'Elanna, can't you do something? He's killing her." The Engineer heard the anguish and pain in his voice and swiped at her own tears.
"I'm doing everything I can. I'm trying and…" She shook her head to try and clear her emotions so she could concentrate.
"I'm sorry, B'El. I don't mean to… It's just so hard seeing…"
He felt her hand on his shoulder. "We'll get her back, Chakotay. We will…" She saw him drop his head, watching the screen again and the pain written on his face was almost corporeal.
"In what condition…?"
B'Elanna just patted his shoulder, telling him of her support and went back to trying to solve the code.
Feeney had sent them five more numbers since the first one and Chakotay was afraid to look away in case he missed another clue. Inwardly he cursed the sick bastard before him and planned out ways in which he would end his miserable life. He looked up briefly and suddenly got a lump in his throat when he saw that Tom, Harry, Tuvok and the others working on the bridge, had all covered their screens, refusing to be witnesses to what their captain was going through and denying Feeney the glory he sought from having them be onlookers to the torture he was inflicting on her. B'Elanna's voice broke into his thoughts, knowing what he was thinking.
"No one's watching, Chakotay. The Doctor is keeping tabs just so he knows what to prepare for but every other terminal on the ship has been covered. We tried turning them off but he has them rigged. Not one person aboard will see this or hear it. They all have music piped through to their sections so they can't hear." Chakotay closed his eyes again but his tears still escaped. The loyalty of Voyager's crew to their captain was something Feeney would never understand and Chakotay knew in that moment that even if Kathryn didn't come through this, Feeney would still have lost.
He turned back to the screen again and saw Kathryn lean against a tree, her chest heaving with the effort of drawing air into her lungs. Pain ripped through him as he looked at the numerous cuts and bruises on her face and body. He saw her head snap around at some sound behind her and then move forward again, heaving herself away from the tree. Suddenly he saw her stumble and the imager zoomed in on a trip wire and Chakotay watched in horror as he saw Kathryn fall towards some sharp wooden spikes imbedded in the ground in front of her. At the last minute, he saw her desperately twist her body to try and fall clear of them and knew she'd failed as her scream filled the bridge. He watched horrified as Feeney appeared beside her, his laughter rising above her screams and Chakotay saw that Kathryn's thigh had been impaled on one of the deadly spikes, blood pooling on the ground around it. Feeney leaned down and pulled Kathryn off the pointed weapon, ignoring her screams of agony and the blood pouring from the gaping wound left in her leg. He quickly tied a makeshift bandage around the terrible injury and shouted at her to get moving again.
"I'll give you ten minutes this time, whore. Try not and leave a blood trail now. Don't want to make it too easy for me…" His maniacal laughter followed Kathryn as she limped off into the trees.
Kathryn Janeway had never felt so helpless in her life, except when she'd tried so desperately to save her Father and Fiancé from drowning as a young girl. She ordered her failing body to push forward but it was barely listening to her any more. She stopped briefly to try and tighten the piece of cloth Feeney had given her, trying to fashion it into some kind of tourniquet in an effort to slow her blood loss. Already she could feel the light-headedness and nausea that came from so bad an injury but she knew she had to fight longer, that Chakotay and the others would try until the end to get her out of this hell.
Thinking of Chakotay quickly brought tears to her eyes as she thought of his gentleness and kindness but she quickly pushed these thoughts aside, knowing they'd only weaken her, that she needed every ounce of concentration to try and get out of this. She looked down at her feet, badly blistered and bleeding from the useless sandals she wore and groaned quietly. She bit her lip and forced herself on, the pain in her leg shooting up through her. Every part of her body hurt from Feeney's constant beatings and tortures. Knowing that her entire crew, especially Chakotay, were witnessing her pain and humiliation ate away at her but once again she cleared her mind of this, needing to stay as sharp as possible. Every small piece of Starfleet training came back to her and she tried her best to put it to good use but always Feeney was right behind her, waiting to put her through more pain. For one moment she considered refusing to run any more, but something inside her, something she'd no control over, pushed her on to fight to the bitter end. Kathryn Janeway was no quitter.
Out of nowhere, he was in front of her again and Kathryn pressed herself back against the rough surface of a tree, the bark painful against the many bruises marring her skin.
"You make this far too easy, whore. You're a bad girl and bad girls get punished." He was on her before she had a chance to register his movement and he threw her to the ground, the soft earth cushioning the impact. Kathryn lay on her back, pain racking her body and watched terrified as he drew a small device from his belt. Feeney dropped to his knees before her, feeding off her fear and pain.
"You're going to love this, whore, but not as much as I'm going to…" He pressed the device and a red glow appeared on the top of it. He brought it down to Kathryn's arm and she immediately felt the heat from it against her skin. She tried to pull her arm away but his knee came over her chest and other arm, pinning her to the ground while one of his hands held her arm in place. Kathryn screamed loudly as the searing heat of the device burned deeply into her flesh, her body almost convulsing with the pain. Again and again, he pressed the device to her body, on her legs and chest and then to her neck and face.
"He's not going to want to look at you now, whore. You're scarred for life. Still, maybe some ugly alien might find it attractive." His laughter barely filtered through to Kathryn as she lay almost insensate on the ground, wave after wave of pure agony crashing over her. Some part of her registered the fact that her body was going into shock and this time, she didn't try and fight. Seeing all this, Feeney unclipped a hypospray from his belt and pressed it to Kathryn's neck. Almost immediately the pain lessened but was still barely tolerable.
"I'm not ready for you to give up on me just yet, whore. There's still more suffering for you before then." He hauled her up off the ground, leaning her against a tree until she managed to stand for herself.
"Same deal this time. I'll give you ten minutes and then the games resume. Now move, whore." He screamed at her and Kathryn found herself drawing on reserves of strength she never knew existed in her as she took a step, then another and finally managed to move off.
"Oh, sweet God… Kathryn…" Chakotay turned from the console, his hands almost pulling his hair out. Kathryn Janeway's screams of agony echoed around the bridge, joined by Chakotay's. B'Elanna was with him immediately, nodding to Tuvok to take over watching until her old friend regained some control but Chakotay forced his eyes to remain on the screen, terrified of missing any clue that might help them get their captain back to them. B'Elanna held him tightly to her, supporting him physically and emotionally but kept her own eyes averted from the torture on the screen.
As Chakotay watched Kathryn stumble away again, he saw Feeney grin evilly on the screen and utter the word 'nine', before moving off once more.
Kathryn used every meditation technique she could remember learning from Tuvok to try and control the pain that raged through her. She came to a small stream and immediately waded in, thinking only of the cool water soothing the burns which covered her body. As the water eased the pain a little more, she found she could organize her thoughts better now and looked around her trying to decide the best way to go. Forcing herself to leave the coolness of the stream, she pulled herself out onto the opposite bank and made for the thickest part of the woods, praying that the darkness within would become an ally for her. She saw that the water had increased the bleeding from the wound in her thigh but ignored it. Getting to the trees was all that mattered now.
"Anything?" Chakotay paced in small circles, his eyes never leaving the screen for more than a second at a time.
B'Elanna bit her lip, concentrating deeply and trying to be almost Vulcan in shutting off her emotions. "I'm… He's given us seven numbers so far… It looks like the code contains nine… that leaves two more… That's unusual…it's normally ten…"
Chakotay's fear was starting to control him. "I can count, B'Elanna." The Engineer jumped at the anger in his voice, losing her train of thought and looked at her commander, knowing the pain he was going through. "Oh, God B'El, I'm sorry. It's just… We're so bloody helpless…"
B'Elanna looked away quickly then back at her console. "It's all right. Let's just get through this."
Chakotay patted her back and went back to the screen.
Kathryn fought her way through the thick undergrowth and came to a clearing, easing her way around it, trying to stay out of any open spaces. She was trying to use the pain to keep sharp, rather than give in to it but was fighting a losing battle. Her leg injury hindered her badly and the foliage constantly brushed against her burns which were weeping and blistering badly but she pushed on. She'd come to the conclusion that her usual compassion for someone like Feeney was wasted in these circumstances and instead made herself hate him, using one of the strongest emotions to help her fight him and fuel herself. The other strong emotion she knew of also helped her and she held that close to her too. Chakotay's face and the love she felt for him gave her more strength than anything and she clung to it.
She barely managed to get to the other side of the clearing before she heard a twig snap somewhere behind her. Sudden panic filled her when she spotted two imagers set up in the shrubs and immediately knew that something was meant to happen here, that Feeney planned it that way all along, knowing somehow that this was the direction she'd head in. A glow of light suddenly filled the clearing and Kathryn became aware of her heart pounding in her chest, instinct telling her that this would be the final showdown.
Chakotay watched Kathryn stop and study the area around her and realized at the same moment that something had been planned by Feeney for this spot. He called over his shoulder for B'Elanna to hurry, knowing that pushing her wouldn't help but needing to say something. A greater fear than before grew inside him and he prayed desperately that Kathryn would get through this somehow.
Kathryn scanned the area around her but couldn't see beyond the light, the glow making the surrounding area appear even darker than it was. Without warning, hands pushed her roughly from behind and sent her sprawling into the centre of the clearing. Kathryn flipped over onto her back out of reflex but wasn't quick enough to get to her feet before Feeney was standing over her. He planted a foot on her chest and put his weight behind it, pinning Kathryn down, then dropped to his knees and straddled her, pulling a length of rope from his belt. Kathryn struggled with what little strength she had left but she was no match for him. He forced her hands up over her head and tied her wrists together tightly, the course binding eating into her flesh. When he appeared satisfied with the tightness of his knots, he stood up and pulled her towards one of the smaller trees, where he secured the other end of the rope to the thin trunk. He stood for several minutes just staring down at Kathryn, the play of emotions on his face twisting his features. Kathryn watched as the emotions battled for supremacy until finally hate won and she knew that the end of the game had been reached and that he'd won. She was helpless now against him and they both knew it.
Chakotay watched in horror as Feeney tied Kathryn to the tree and saw him stand over her, seemingly undecided as to his next move. Chakotay knew he'd never felt so helpless in his life. If Kathryn died now at the hands of this madman, he would kill him first and then follow Kathryn.
Feeney looked down at the woman lying helpless beneath him. He frowned down at her when he saw that hate and disgust filled her face rather than fear.
"If you're going to kill me, just get it over with. It still won't bring them back." Kathryn was determined to leave this life with as much dignity as she could muster. She wasn't going to give this bastard what he wanted most. Her words seemed to snap Feeney out of it and he grinned down at her as he pulled a small knife from his belt.
"What makes you think I'm going to kill you? Maybe I've other plans for you first." He knelt down beside her, staring deeply into her eyes but Kathryn refused to let him see her fear.
"You know, this is where you belong, Captain. On your back." Feeney looked towards one of the imagers and gave an evil smile. "Hey, Chakotay, you'd better watch this next bit very carefully. I'm going to give you another clue and this will be one that only you can understand." He stood and moved to another imager and moved it slightly then came back to Kathryn.
"Is that better? Can you see better now?" Chakotay closed his eyes a second as the new picture filled the screen before him, giving him a clear view of both Kathryn and Feeney.
Feeney looked down at Kathryn again and almost tenderly stroked her cheek, his fingers brushing over the deep burn there. Kathryn bit her lip from the pain but refused to cry out. Her burns were agony now as some blisters had burst and the soil had stuck to them
"So tough, aren't you, whore? All that arrogance. Well, not for much longer. I'm about to break you good and proper. When I'm finished with you, you won't only be physically scarred but you'll also be emotionally scarred for life. Of course, that life won't be very long but still, I'll take what I can get." He threw his head back and laughed, spittle covering his lips.
Chakotay gripped the edge of the console so tightly, pain shot up through his hands. "B'Elanna, please… Oh God, Kathryn, just hold on…"
Feeney moved now to straddle Kathryn and gazed down at her. He slid himself down so that he was over her hips and played with the knife he held. Kathryn struggled desperately to hide her fear and panic from the man, knowing it was the only weapon she had against him. She pulled against the rope that bound her but the knots held. Feeney slowly slipped the knife into the neckline of Kathryn's dress and pulled downwards, the light fabric cutting easily against the sharp blade.
"Can you guess what game this is yet, whore? It's one you're well used to." He looked at her face a moment, checking her emotions before dropping his eyes to her chest again. He cut the fine material away until Kathryn was exposed to the waist and she saw the gleam in his eyes as he looked her over.
"I think this will be one of the perks of the job. Now all your crew will see what a whore they have for a captain." He slipped the knife under her bra, cutting her and Kathryn gasped in pain but Feeney took it as fear.
"Good girl, that's it. How about a nice scream for Daddy now." With a quick flick of the knife, Kathryn's bra cut open and Feeney pulled the material away, exposing her breasts to his eyes.
Oh Captain, is that all you have? Jeez, Chakotay, you must have been disappointed. I remember you having much better in the old days." He saw something flash in Kathryn's eyes and laughed then twisted her nipples painfully, kneading and pinching the soft flesh there.
"Oh yes, whore, he's had ten times better than you. Still, maybe the bottom end will be more promising eh?" He slid further down, straddling her thighs now and continued cutting at the fabric of the dress. The pain from his weight on the open wound of Kathryn's thigh and her burns consumed her and she bit down heavily on her lip to keep from screaming out, her teeth cutting into her already split lip.
"How about that scream now, whore?" He looked back up at Kathryn and saw anger and hate blaze in her eyes. "Burn in hell, you bastard."
Feeney backhanded her so quickly, she never saw it coming and it left her dazed. "Oh, to hell with this cutting. I prefer my women with their clothes bunched up around their waists. Looks cuter." He used the knife to cut away Kathryn's panties then sat back and smiled at his work.
"Almost ready now, whore. Just have to spread those thighs of yours. Still, you've had one hell of a lot of practice at that, I'll bet." He sat back off Kathryn and grabbed her legs, pulling them apart, then pressed his knees painfully between her thighs and settled himself over her, one hand working to free himself.
"You know, whore, if you live through this, you'll never have sex again after me. You'll never let a man near you again. You'll forever see my face lying over you, forever feel my prick pounding in and out of you, filling that filthy cunt of yours." Kathryn turned her head away, blocking out his words and fighting to blot out what was happening to her. She tried desperately to look at the trees around her, take her mind somewhere else and think only of Chakotay, but Feeney saw this and was having none of it.
"Oh no, whore. You're staying with me for this. I'm going to fuck all that superiority out of you and you're going to feel every last thrust." His hands grabbed her face, forcing her to look at him. One hand then gripped her hair tightly, holding her head in place while the other dropped and pulled her leg up, his fingers digging into the deep wound there, before he took hold of himself and pressed against her.
"I told you, whore, you'll never have sex again after me." He grinned down at her as he pressed harder against her.
Kathryn filled her face with every bit of hate she could and gritted her teeth against the agony surging through her and forced her words out. "I won't have sex but I will make love again and there's nothing you can do about that. I'll never be your victim, no matter what you do to me. You can't make me a victim. Only I can do that." The hand holding her hair moved to her throat and he pressed down, cutting off her air.
"Brave words, whore, but that's all they are. Just words. I'm going to shaft you and there's nothing you or any of those bastards out there can do about it. You won't be able to walk when I'm through with you. I'll have you moaning for more. You'll finally learn what it's like to have a real man between your legs." He removed his hand and moved it back into her hair, twisting painfully and Kathryn sucked in air and bit her lip again, waiting for what was now inevitable. She used every ounce of courage she had to hold her tears back, determined that he wouldn't have the satisfaction of seeing her weaken before him.
"It's only my body. You can't beat me where it matters. Can't win…" She desperately needed to fight to the end.
Kathryn heard Feeney's scream of rage at the same moment she felt him force his way into her, pain ripping up through her and she screamed out, unable to stop herself. She saw his eyes glaze over, was aware of him pulling her hair tighter, heard him grunting into her face, felt his hand pulling her leg up further and his painful thrusting as he ripped in and out of her. She became aware of their bodies being pushed up from his pounding and felt her head strike the tree trunk, her hands and arms painfully bent behind her head. The torture seemed to last forever but finally she sensed his pace quicken and then he shuddered and was quiet and Kathryn felt his fluid fill her and knew it was mixing with her blood, that she was badly torn. She closed her eyes and tried again to shut everything out, even as she felt him become a dead weight on top of her.
Chakotay screamed out in anguish as he saw Feeney thrust into Kathryn for the first time and tears flooded his face as he heard her scream. He was forced to watch the sick show before him as the man he knew he was going to kill, continued to rape the woman he loved. Kathryn's words filled his mind, echoing around his head and he felt a deep pride for her build, despite the agony his body and soul were enduring. As he saw Feeney fall over Kathryn, he closed his eyes a second, praying for the strength he'd need to get her through this if they got her out alive. He sensed B'Elanna beside him and knew she'd seen some of what had just occurred.
"He didn't give a number… Made me watch…" B'Elanna knew he was desperately trying to hang on to the edge of his sanity.
"Chakotay…" A movement on the screen caught her attention and they both looked together. Feeney's evil face stared back at them and his hand came up from between Kathryn's legs, covered in blood and semen.
"Well, what do you know. The whore bled like a stuffed pig." He turned back to Kathryn and wiped his hand on her face, smearing her own blood and his fluid across her. "Hey man, you have my sympathy. She's one lousy lay." He laughed loudly to himself then turned back to the imager.
"Easy now, Chakotay. Here's that clue. Sorry I didn't give it to you before but I was a bit busy. See if you can work it out in time." He held his hand up and made a sign, first with his hand up, palm facing the imager and then a fist.
"There's two numbers there, in order too. See if you remember. You've a few minutes before she bleeds to death." He got off Kathryn and pulled her up into a sitting position after cutting the rope tying her to the tree. Kathryn's face remained passive, no emotions written there as if she'd given up.
Feeney pulled out his knife and held it up then moved himself so that he sat behind Kathryn. One of his hands went around her throat, pressing down on the burns there and he squeezed tightly as Kathryn gasped for breath, her hands coming up to try and pry his fingers loose as she choked. Feeney let go when she seemed on the verge of passing out.
"Just trying to get your attention, whore." He lowered his hands as Kathryn's fell away and she gulped in air. Looking into the imager first and then down at the woman lying against him, he brought the knife to her stomach and pressed it in deeply. Kathryn's body jerked up and a deep grunt came from her throat. Feeney kept the knife in place and twisted it, blood already coming from the wound and spreading over the fabric gathered at her waist. He twisted again and Kathryn's head fell back onto his shoulder, her body arching up then falling back. Finally, he pulled the knife free and wiped it on Kathryn's thighs, grinning the entire time.
"OK, Maquis man, I reckon you have about five minutes before the whore bleeds to death. After that, it's your fault." He stood up and let Kathryn fall limply to the ground. He knelt down and pulled the remains of her dress over her exposed thighs and breasts.
"Never let it be said that Joe Feeney isn't a gentleman." He threw his head back and roared with laughter then disappeared from the screen, the imager zooming in on Kathryn as she lay there unmoving, blood seeping from the knife wound and spreading on the ground beneath her.
Chakotay's hands covered his face as he paced the bridge, his fingers digging painfully into his skin. B'Elanna watched for a few seconds then grabbed his arm, stilling him.
"Come on, Chakotay, hold it together now. Think clearly about what this means." She could see his eyes darting back and forth, desperately trying to tie in the signs with anything in his memory.
"I can't think…it's familiar…"
B'Elanna grabbed him again. "Come on, Chakotay, think…"
He pulled from her grasp, pain written all over him. "What do you think I'm doing…oh God, Kathryn…" He threw his head back and squeezed his eyes tightly closed.
B'Elanna's voice broke into his mind. "Chakotay, just take deep breaths. Take a minute…"
He opened his eyes and stared at her. "She doesn't have a minute…" He resumed his pacing, one hand squeezing the bridge of his nose, muttering to himself.
B'Elanna was working her console, Tuvok at her side. "We have 3 then 20, 14, 7, 16, 10, and 9 with two more to add…" She was aware of Chakotay speaking to himself.
"Hands…signs…handshake…palm up…fist…" He stopped suddenly as if a light had just gone on in his mind and he turned back to the Engineer. "How and Pow…Regis…the bar…what was it?" He saw B'Elanna shake her head, not understanding any of what he was saying. "The bar…called…no…our name…we'd meet there again…"
He slammed a fist down on the edge of the screen. "24 7. 24 and 7 that's it, put that in. Come on, B'El, quickly…" He stood over the young Klingon woman, his hand covering his mouth. When she didn't immediately enter the last two numbers, he turned on her. "B'El come on, we've no time…"
The Engineer turned on him and pushed him back a bit. "Listen to me. This is too easy. Trust me on this."
Tuvok interrupted. "Lieutenant, do you suspect…"
B'Elanna turned quickly to the Vulcan. "There's just something…not right…it's… Look, he's still sitting in there, nowhere to go, just waiting. We use this to open the door and… There has to be another number. It only makes sense. All these kind of codes have ten sets…"
Tuvok was calmness itself as usual. "Do you believe the door will still be wired?"
B'Elanna was pacing now. "There's always ten sets. The sequence and then a user ID. We have the nine he gave us… Look, this bastard has nothing left, nowhere to go, nothing to lose. In his mind, he's done what he set out to do with the captain but that still leaves you and the rest of us. He wouldn't give up this easily…not without… Chakotay, he expects you to come charging in there to rescue her but it's both of you he wanted to hurt. He WANTS us to come rushing in there… Chakotay, think again… A number that was special to him, maybe one he used as an ID or a special date or meaning…"
Chakotay shook his head, his anguish taking over. "I don't know… He called himself… I can't remember… Joe something… Some old cartoon… I can't remember…"
Tom jumped up from his chair and rushed towards them. "90. Enter 90 now." Three blank faces stared back at the pilot. "Joe 90. He was a comic book hero, 20th century…"
Chakotay grabbed B'Elanna. "That's it. I remember it. Do it, B'El."
B'Elanna entered in the last numbers and the screen flashed, granting them access. Chakotay was already at the lift, shouting to Harry to stay on the bridge and get the Doctor to the holodeck, as the others followed him.
When they reached the doors of the holodeck, the Doctor was already waiting there. B'Elanna accessed the doors and they slid open, the group holding their breath. Chakotay was ahead of the others and entered the woodland he knew so well now. He immediately ordered the computer to shut down the program and his eyes fell first on the figure of Joe Feeney, sitting cross-legged and playing with the blade he held, the one he'd used on Kathryn. Only strong hands holding him stopped Chakotay from ending the man's life there and then. Tuvok and his security detail dragged Feeney to his feet and left the holodeck, the knife clattering to the metal floor, Kathryn's blood still staining the blade.
They saw Kathryn immediately on the other side of the now featureless room, still lying as she'd been when they'd seen her on the screen. Chakotay was on his knees at her side before the others reached her and the sight of her up close almost caused his heart to stop beating. His eyes, blurred with tears, took in her battered face and body, cut and bruised, the deep burns oozing fluid. He saw the blood pooling beneath her from the knife wound to her stomach and more blood between her legs and on her thigh, the light fabric of the dress soaking it up.
Chakotay fell backwards as the Doctor and Tom pushed him away and immediately started work on their captain. Chakotay sat there in shock with B'Elanna trying to talk to him but her words drifted over him. He kept his eyes glued to Kathryn's face and saw her eyelids flutter open for a second. He crawled to her, staying out of the Medic's way and saw her lips move slightly. "Chakotay…"
He barely heard her faint whisper and lowered his head to hers, his lips to her ear. "I'm here, Kathryn. You're safe now." He saw her eyes close and a tear escape her eye and let himself cry out, a keening wail escaping him and echoing around the metal room.
When the Doctor decided it was safe to move Kathryn, he transported her to sickbay and a long battle for life began. It was five hours before Chakotay looked up to see Tom emerge from the surgical area, his scrubs covered with Kathryn's blood. The Doctor came out behind him, pulling off his own blood covered surgical gown and made his way to Chakotay.
"I don't need to tell you how bad her injuries were…"
Chakotay's pain filled face met the Doctor. "Just tell me she's still alive…"
The Medic nodded his head, giving Chakotay the first hope he'd had. "She's alive but I have to tell you she has one hell of a fight on her hands. I just want you to be prepared…"
Chakotay stood and turned his back on the Doctor. "She's tougher than you know. She'll fight this and more. You'll see."
The Doctor moved around to face the big man. "Commander, the blood loss alone should have already…"
Chakotay didn't want to hear it but the Doctor needed him to know all the facts. He pushed his Commanding Officer into a chair. "I'm not trying to be cruel but you have to understand this. Her body is in shock from the blood loss and burns and her major organs were starting to shut down. The knife wound did a lot of damage as did the wound to her leg and she haemorrhaged quite heavily from tearing and…from the…other attack. She suffered severe beatings, broken ribs, a fractured skull…" He softened his voice when he saw the pain on the other man's face.
"Commander, a lot of her lesser injuries, the cuts and bruises, broken bones, were easy enough to treat but combined with the others… I've stopped all the bleeding and treated her injuries but the blood loss and shock have caused her to slip into a coma. I can't say when or if she'll come out of it." The Doctor saw the stricken face before him and reached out and grasped his arm. "Sit with her, talk to her, it's all we can do now…" Chakotay sat stunned for a minute then slowly stood and let the Doctor lead him to where Kathryn lay behind a privacy screen. He felt himself lowered into a chair and then the Doctor left.
Chakotay sat with his head down for several minutes then looked up at the woman lying before him. She appeared so small and vulnerable as she lay there, her chest barely rising and falling. His eyes took in the now fading bruises around her throat and on her face, the cuts there yet to heal. He saw the scars from the deep burns on her face and neck and on her arms and closed his eyes tightly, his mind still hearing her screams and seeing images he knew would never leave him. He became aware of the Doctor back with them, running scans and looked up at him.
"The scars…the burns… Will she still have…?"
The Doctor shock his head. "He didn't succeed there. She won't be scarred. I give you my word on that." Chakotay nodded, grateful for that at least. The medic closed his tricorder and sighed. "You know, Commander, there will be other scars…"
nodded, his eyes closed. He drew in a deep breath and then
looked the Doctor in the eye.
"He won't succeed there either. I give you MY word on that."
Both of them looked down at Kathryn, at peace for the moment. The Doctor patted Chakotay on the shoulder and left, leaving him alone with the woman the entire crew knew he loved.
Over the next two days, Chakotay rarely moved from Kathryn's side. B'Elanna sat with him as often as she could and Tuvok came by and reported to him on his findings.
"Ensign Feeney is secure in the brig." Chakotay just nodded, not trusting himself to say anything. The entire ship knew he wanted to go down there and rip the bastard's throat out. B'Elanna let out a low growl.
"We found this on him." Tuvok handed a small black box to B'Elanna. "He apparently used it to control the imagers and, of course, we have the knife."
Chakotay stood up and motioned for them to move out to the main area of sickbay as if he didn't want Kathryn hearing any of their conversation. "I take it the Doc's examined him?" Tuvok nodded. "No terminal diseases where he'll die in agony?" Chakotay's words dripped with the hatred he felt.
Tuvok said nothing as B'Elanna smiled sarcastically. "It can easily be arranged…" A look from Tuvok and she shut up.
"Commander, I need to ask about the last numbers you deciphered, what they meant." B'Elanna moved closer, curious also.
Chakotay met her eye and smiled sadly. "It was before your time, B'El. Feeney and Sally joined about two months before you, before things got really heated." He sat, his mind revisiting a past he now tried to forget. "When I first met Feeney, he was a real joker, always said what was on his mind, spoke out straight. He never meant offence, it just came out that way. Anyway, when he saw I was Native American, his answer to that was the old idea of the hand up, palm facing out and 'How, big Chief'. He often greeted me that way even though he knew to most it was an insult but that was his way." Chakotay shook his head, not able to believe that a man could change so much.
"The three of us socialized a lot together, hung out in bars. It was amazing the information you could pick up when people had a few drinks and as I didn't really drink, I listened a lot." His eyes took on a faraway look. "There was this place, Regis it was called and a bar there, I think it was called Spikes but I'm not sure. Feeney got into a fight there one night, someone had said something about Sally, and all I saw were his fists flying. I gave him a hard time for drawing attention to himself but later I called him 'Pow', like the idea from old comic books when one character hit another and the word 'Pow' was written above them to indicate a punch. That's how we became How and Pow."
B'Elanna leaned against a bulkhead. "How did you get numbers from that?"
Chakotay stood and walked to a tray of instruments, casually rearranging them. "The bar. We had this deal that after the war, we'd all meet back there, where we'd been happy. We never called it Spikes though. It was open all the time, never seemed to close. Sally named it for us, called it the 24 - 7, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We had some times there… a few more fights… He became Joe 90 then… I'd forgotten all that… Life changed. When things hotted up, all that was left behind. Then you came along." He turned to B'Elanna and she saw the deep sadness there then watched as it turned to anguish and pain. "Oh, dear God, how did I let this happen? Why didn't I see it coming? It's all my fault." He twisted his fingers in his hair, pulling it.
B'Elanna grabbed his wrists and pulled them down. "Listen to me now, Chakotay. You didn't make the man. Only the man himself does that. I agree that certain things in life help shape us, but in the end each of us is responsible for who we are and what we do. We've all talked, the crew, his closest friends and not one of us saw this coming. Rogers and Peterson were the closest to him, spent more time with him than anyone else and they saw nothing to indicate this. They're not in good shape over this and think they're responsible so imagine how bad they feel now." She saw some of what she said get through.
"Chakotay, what matters is now and the future. We can do something about that but we can't change the past. It's gone. What's important now is that we're all here for her, you in particular. She'll need that because she will come back to us." B'Elanna rubbed up and down his back and saw that he was close to tears.
Tuvok coughed slightly and they looked at him. "I have to concur with Lieutenant Torres in this matter and I have far more years of experience to draw on than she does." His face remained straight and suddenly B'Elanna burst out laughing, not really knowing at what and she saw Chakotay smile.
"Tuvok, don't ever change. You're the one rational thing in all this madness." They both saw the Vulcan frown, the entire joke going over his head and Chakotay laughed now. Suddenly the Doctor appeared, a stern look on his face.
"This is a sickbay. Can you please take this some place else?" They all sobered quickly and Tuvok and B'Elanna left quietly.
"Sorry Doc, I know there's nothing funny…"
The Doctor's face softened. "Commander, we all need to let go now and then. I didn't mean to speak harshly. Laughter is often a coping or survival mechanism."
Chakotay smiled his thanks and went back to Kathryn, sitting down and taking her hand again. Almost immediately, he felt her fingers move and shouted for the Medic. "Doctor, quickly, her hand…"
The EMH scanned his patient and smiled to himself. "She's coming around all right. It may take a little time…"
Chakotay was already leaning over her, calling her name and within minutes he saw her eyelids flutter, as she fought to open her eyes. He felt her hand grip at his as if she was using it to find her way in the dark and so he continued calling her name, talking to her quietly, guiding her back to him by the sound of his voice, then finally got his reward as she eventually managed to open her eyes and he looked into the blue depths he loved so much.
"Hey there. Welcome back." He smiled softly and saw a faint tug at her lips and then suddenly he saw her eyes cloud over, as memories flooded back to her and the horror of everything slammed into her mind. He saw tears fill her eyes and spill out, running down the side of her face and without thinking to ask the Doctor's permission, he just reached down and pulled her into his arms, whispering softly to her, giving what comfort he could as she clung desperately to him and cried out her anguish and pain, great heaving and choking sobs racking her small body. Chakotay caught the Doctor, out of the corner of his eye, approach them with a hypospray and shook his head.
"Come on, honey, let it all out. He can't hurt you anymore. I'm here. Just let it go." He continued to rock her like a baby, absorbing every cry of pain from her until she'd nothing left. Her body continued to shudder and she still held onto him for dear life as he continued rocking and soothing her, doing all he could to chase any the demons. Eventually she calmed somewhat and slumped against his large frame and he eased her back down, still holding onto her and whispering to her. She kept her eyes locked with his and the pain in them tore at him.
"Kathryn, I promise you I'm here for you. We'll get through all this…" She turned her head away and he saw fresh tears start.
"They…they all saw…" Chakotay had been waiting for this and he sat on the edge of the biobed and took her hands in one of his, his other hand gently pulling her face back to him.
"No, Kathryn. No, they didn't. I give you my word of honour on that." He saw that she was confused. "Kathryn, you have a very loyal crew, every last one of them and they love you. Not one person watched, even on the bridge. Every single screen on board was covered and they even piped music to each station so they wouldn't hear." He saw her tears spill over again from knowing this.
"You saw it though… I know he made you. How can you want to touch me…" Chakotay gently cupped her cheek, careful to avoid the healing burns there.
"Kathryn, listen carefully to me now. Yes, I saw and the Doctor here saw bits but only so he could know what injuries to prepare for…" She turned her head and met the Doctor's eyes and he smiled softly at her. "If you ever think that what I saw would make any difference to how I feel about you then you don't know me very well." He saw her about to protest and pressed a finger softly to her lips. "I'm not finished. What I saw that…him…put you through caused me pain beyond anything I've ever known or ever want to know. The helplessness I felt was beyond words and the guilt I still feel for not seeing this coming… Kathryn, I saw you fight him every step of the way…"
Kathryn pulled her face away. "You saw me beaten, saw me lose…degraded and humiliated… I couldn't fight him…"
He pulled her face back to him again, determined that she see his eyes and the truth he spoke in them. "No, Kathryn…." He saw the pain spill from her eyes.
"You saw what he did to me… the horrible things he said… He beat me. He won…"
"I saw HIM lose, not you. Even had you died, Kathryn, you'd have beaten him. You said it yourself. It was only your body - that he could never beat you where it mattered. You won. I heard you beat him in the only way that's important and I was so proud of you. Now you can beat him again by putting this behind you and taking your life back. Your own words again, Kathryn. He can't make you a victim. Only you can do that. It won't be easy and it'll take time but you'll get through this because you're stronger and better than he is and I'll be there with you every step of the way. Kathryn, I know I've never had the courage to say this straight out before, but I'll say it now. I love you and I'll be with you as long as you want me."
Kathryn choked on a sob and pulled herself up into his arms and he held her tightly. "Oh God, Chakotay, I love you too. If you're sure…"
He pulled back and held her face, staring deeply into her eyes. "I love you, Kathryn Janeway and I've waited a long time to say that. I'm so proud of you and I respect you so much and admire you and you're one of the bravest people I've ever known. You're also one of the most beautiful women, actually you are THE most beautiful woman I've ever known."
Kathryn lowered her eyes. "Even looking like this?" Her hand went to her face and then she looked down at her arms and the healing burns on them. "I'll be scarred for life, Chakotay. Can you really bear looking at me every day…?"
The Doctor stepped in, diffusing the situation with some honour. "You might ask me first. I am the Doctor, in case you've forgotten." Kathryn pulled back, both of them having forgotten he was there. The Medic looked from one to the other. "Oh, don't mind me. I won't breathe a word about any of this. Ahh, amore…" He caught himself. "Sorry. Actually, Captain, you really should only believe what I tell you." His expression softened and he grew serious. "The burns are healing nicely, Captain. In a matter of a few days, there won't be any sign of them. You have my word there won't be any scarring whatsoever. The injuries on your thigh and stomach won't leave any scarring either. I made sure of that and took my time."
A shade of the captain showed itself and Chakotay caught himself smiling quietly. "What about…other…?" She glanced at Chakotay and he squeezed her hand.
"Would you prefer to discuss this in private…?"
Kathryn shook her head, more of the captain showing. "There's nothing you can't say in front of Chakotay." She returned the squeeze on his hand.
The Doctor looked from one to the other then back to his captain. "All right. There was…considerable tearing…and haemorrhaging…" He watched as she lowered her head a moment, pulling herself together then looked back to him. He also noticed Chakotay squeeze her hand tighter. "Captain, I repaired all the damage. Everything is fine although you will be a little tender for a few more days. After that, you'll be perfectly all right."
Kathryn nodded. "Thank you, Doctor, you've been… well, thank you." She reached over and took his hand and he nodded, not sure what to say.
"Well, I'll give you two some privacy…"
Chakotay smiled. "Bit late for that…"
The Doctor threw his eyes up. "I'm leaving, all right? Commander, please don't stay long. I want my patient to rest. If she does and behaves herself, she can leave here in two days. If not…" He trailed off and left the room.
Chakotay ran his thumb over the back of Kathryn's hand. "He's right, I suppose. You should try and get some rest."
Kathryn lowered her head. "Where is…where is he now…?" She raised her head slowly and held his eyes.
She shook her head. "I'll feel better knowing…safer…"
Chakotay nodded. "All right. He's in the brig. Kathryn, he can't get out. You're safe now…" Chakotay watched her reaction and saw her relax slightly before lowering her eyes to their joined hands.
"We will get through this, won't we? The memories will go away in time?" She looked back up at him, almost pleading.
He stroked her hair. "Yes, love, they will and we will get through this, I promise you that. Now, you get some sleep and I'll stay here until you nod off. I might even read you a bedtime story."
She smiled and reached her hand to his face, her eyes already drooping. "As long as I have you…" She closed the distance between them and brushed her lips to his then pulled back, looking closely into his eyes but there was only love there.
"Kathryn, you'll always have me. I swear on my life." He helped her lie down again and continued stroking her hair until she fell asleep then returned to his own quarters where he cried for over an hour before falling asleep also.
When Chakotay called by sickbay the next morning, Kathryn was nowhere in sight. He called to the Doctor and the Medic came out of his office.
"What is it, Commander? I'm trying to run some scans…"
Chakotay cut him off. "Where's Kathryn?"
He saw the Doctor frown and look around. "She's here. She was asleep… Computer, locate Captain Janeway." He looked around sickbay as if he expected his captain to be hiding under a biobed.
"Captain Janeway is in sickbay." The monotone voice of the computer irked Chakotay and suddenly he spotted Kathryn's comm badge lying on the console beside her bed.
"Oh shit, Kathryn. Please don't be where I think you are…" He took off through the doors at speed.
Kathryn made her way slowly towards the brig and managed to avoid the few crewmembers who were passing through the corridors during shift time. She was still in some pain and considerable discomfort but she pushed herself. She wasn't a hundred per cent sure why she was headed to the cell where Feeney was being held but something deep inside her drove her on, telling her she needed to see the man who had almost ruined her life, had taken from her what she'd held for another and in the end, tried to kill her.
Kathryn rounded the final corner and could see the entrance to the brig. She pulled herself back into a doorway when she heard someone coming and recognized one of Tuvok's security detail carrying a tray. The tall security officer entered the brig and Kathryn crept forward, listening for any sound and using the wall to hold herself up.
Joe Feeney lounged on his bunk, smiling to himself and stretched his arms above his head. He whispered quietly to the space around him. "It's not bad here, Sally. Not bad at all. I have a bed and three square meals a day and best of all, that bitch is dead. What more could a man ask for? Oh, the Vulcan and that other security guy bringing the meals could be a bit more talkative but who cares when I have you." He heard a noise beyond the forcefield and sat up. "Well, well, Ensign Ashe, what a pleasant surprise. What has the chef dreamed up today?" Ashe almost growled at Feeney, wanting nothing more than to throw the food in his face at the least but would have preferred it if he could just use his phaser and finish the bastard off.
"Step back, Feeney. You know the drill."
Feeney made a mock salute and stepped back against his bunk. "Aye Aye, Ensign. Whatever you say." The forcefield was lowered as the tray was slipped in and was then re-erected. Feeney crossed his cell to examine the meal. "Could be worse, I guess. At least I'm alive to eat it which is more than I can say for the whore." He laughed to himself and Ashe couldn't resist.
"Hey, Feeney, what makes you think she's dead?"
He got a reaction immediately as the prisoner turned quickly, hate written all over his face. "Because I knifed the bitch, stuck her good, spilled her blood all over the holodeck." His face twisted, remembering what he considered to be his moment of glory. "Anyway, you saw what I did to her. I take it you all enjoyed the floor show." His laughter rang out around the small area.
"What show would that be, Feeney? I didn't see any show and neither did anyone else."
Feeney turned with a growl. "Lying Starfleet scum. You all saw…"
Ashe came in closer to the forcefield. "Let me tell you, Feeney. Not one member of this crew, Starfleet or Maquis, watched what happened on that holodeck and we didn't hear it either. Every screen was covered and we all played music to drown you out, so your dirty little plan failed there."
Feeney threw himself at the forcefield. "Liar, liar, you lying bastard, you all saw…"
Ashe laughed now, working the man in the cell into a frenzy. "Ask anyone. Oh, sorry, you can't. I forgot that. You can believe me though. No one listened, no one watched, not even on the bridge."
Feeney calmed a bit. "HE saw though. Chakotay saw…"
Ashe shrugged his shoulders. "So what? Nothing you could do to her would make any difference to the way he feels about her. We all know that. They love each other. Remember that feeling, Joe, loving someone, never wanting to hurt them, being there for them?"
Feeney paced back and forward. "I love Sally and that WHORE took her away and our son. She had to pay…"
Ashe was actually enjoying himself. "Sally and her son died in an accident. No one was to blame. What you tried to do is a disgrace to their memory."
Joe Feeney roared out. "I did it for them. She had to pay…"
Ashe laughed and walked up and down. "Tell me, Feeney, did you really think for one minute that you could bring her down in our eyes…change the love and respect we all have for her? The only one you let down was yourself. Of course, you've also let down the memory of Sally and her son. They'd never have wanted this."
Feeney paced and pounded his fist into his other hand repeatedly. "I did it all for them. I brought that whore to her knees…"
Ashe cut off his tirade. "Not in our eyes, you didn't. You could never do that. You made yourself clear at the very beginning about what you thought you could do and so no one watched because we all knew you could never do that, that with her of all people, you'd fail. Besides, as I said, we all love, respect and admire her too much to ever be party to anything like that, but I guess you'd never understand that." Ashe stopped his pacing and stared in at Feeney. "You know, I would never have believed it possible but you've actually increased how we all feel about her. I never thought we could love and respect her more than we already do but that's something you have done. You've shown us all that we can. Feeney, thank you. You just might have done something decent in your miserable life after all." The man in the cell let out a howl and smashed his fist against the forcefield but Ashe didn't bat an eyelid, just smiled.
Feeney stepped back, an evil grin on his face. "You wouldn't feel that way if you'd watched as I beat the shit out of her, seen her scream in agony at my hands as I burned the flesh off her or best of all when I tied her down, cut the clothes off her and fucked her good and proper. Oh, the whore screamed then all right, once she got a real man between her legs. She screamed her lungs out then. Mind you, she was quiet when I stuck that knife in her belly."
The hate and contempt on Ashe's face almost had a life of its own. He glared in at Feeney and the menace in his voice was unmistakable. "Know what, Feeney, none of that makes any difference because she'll get over it. That's the kind of woman she is and she has Chakotay and all of us and we'll be there for her. What you've just told me - well, that'll never be repeated, cause none of us want to know what you did. We know you hurt her and that's all we need to know. The hearts and minds of everyone on this ship are with that woman in sickbay. Our captain. She'll be back and we'll all be here for her and who will you have? You've lost the right to speak about Sally and her son because you know that they'd hate you for this." Feeney actually stayed quiet as Ashe spit his words out.
"Our captain will be back to us and she'll stand on the bridge again and lead us home because she's the only one who can do it. That's not just blind faith. We KNOW she'll do it. We follow her because we love and respect her and that's not just blind loyalty either. She earned it and that's the point you missed all along, and you know what? I'm actually sorry for you cause you've nothing now. Something for you to think about, Feeney. Something can only be taken from someone if they let it. You could never take anything from Kathryn Janeway because she'd never let you, but you lost your own self-respect simply because you let it go. She won and you lost. Goodbye, Feeney. I hope you rot in hell." Ashe turned on his heel and left the brig, leaving Joe Feeney on his knees, calling out to a woman who no longer answered him in his head.
Kathryn stood pressed against the bulkhead, her hands in fists and tears streaming down her face. She was vaguely aware of her legs giving way and felt herself start to slide down the wall. Suddenly the concerned face of David Ashe was before her, holding her up and supporting her as he led her away. Kathryn became aware of him speaking softly to her.
"Come on, Captain. You shouldn't be up and about yet. Let's get you back to sickbay and your bed. You must get your rest, you know. We need you back on the bridge, fit and well. We can't get home without our captain now, can we?" He gently and slowly moved her down the hall and then Chakotay was standing in front of them, smiling at them both, holding his arms out.
"Come on, Kathryn. Walkabout's over. The Doctor will have a fit."
Ensign Ashe gently handed his charge over to Chakotay. "I'll see you again soon, Captain. I'll buy you a drink at Sandrines if a certain First Officer doesn't object." His smile lit up his face and Kathryn turned to look at him.
"I guess I'm spoken for now but I don't think he'll object too much." She looked up at Chakotay, who brushed her tears away.
"Oh, I think I can allow that. I'm not the jealous type. Well, not too much. Besides, I'm sure David's wife will keep an eye on him." The two men shared a look which spoke of so much more and Chakotay silently nodded his thanks to the Security Officer.
As Ashe moved away, Chakotay slapped his comm badge and informed the Doctor that the captain was fine and that they'd be back in sickbay immediately. He bent down and scooped Kathryn into his arms and proudly carried her through the corridors, not caring who saw them. Kathryn saw the expressions of those they passed and each one was a smile, followed by a 'great to see you, Captain' or 'hurry back, we miss you'. Not one person seemed remotely surprised to see their First Officer carry his captain around in a sickbay gown. By the time they reached sickbay, Kathryn's tears had returned full force and the Doctor was instantly at her side.
"It's all right, Doc. It's not physical."
The Medic nodded his understanding but ran his tricorder over Kathryn anyway, once Chakotay had put her down on her bed. "She badly needs to rest. Keep it short. She still has a way to go physically to recover completely." Chakotay nodded his understanding and the Doctor dismissed himself.
"I'm sorry, Chakotay. I don't know what I was thinking…" Kathryn sniffled loudly and he just hugged her to him.
"I hope all that sunk in."
She looked up at him and stopped mid sniffle. "All what? What are…?"
He sat down beside her. "Kathryn, I know you heard every word. I got there just as Ashe entered the brig. I was just about to go to you when I heard what they were saying myself. I made the decision that it just might be good for you to hear it for yourself, about how this crew feels about you and so I stayed where I was and let you listen. Do you believe what I told you now?" He took her hands in his as her tears started all over again so he slipped one arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him and held her there until she fell asleep through sheer exhaustion.
Within a week, Kathryn was back in her quarters and desperate to get back to work. Chakotay stayed with her each night and was there for her when her nightmares visited, soothing her back to sleep each time and gradually they diminished in severity. Small gifts arrived at her quarters constantly and messages from the crew spoke of their love for her and their support. Flowers filled every corner and Kathryn finally accepted how much her crew loved her. Chakotay spent hours letting her talk it all out, quietly reassuring and supporting her as she came to terms with all that had happened.
By the end of the second week, she was finally given permission by the Doctor to return to limited duty and her nightmares had lessened even more. Somehow Chakotay never seemed to move back to his own quarters and neither one of them mentioned the subject once, both content with the way things were. Chakotay held Kathryn in his arms each night and whispered stories to her until she drifted off to sleep and gradually felt the woman he loved coming back.
On the first morning of the third week, Chakotay got a call from Tuvok to go to the Vulcan's office with a request to keep the meeting from the captain until they'd spoken. When Chakotay entered the Security Chief's office, he immediately sensed something seriously wrong. Tuvok, being the man he was, got straight to the point.
"Commander, I have to inform you that Ensign Joe Feeney was found hanging in his cell in the brig early this morning." Nothing showed on the Vulcan's face.
"Suicide?" Chakotay had his own ideas but wanted Tuvok's opinion.
"It would appear that way, although I cannot ascertain how Ensign Feeney managed to reach the conduit piping from which he hung himself."
Chakotay paced. "Who was on duty there last night?"
Tuvok simply raised his eyebrow. "Lieutenant Harrison, although he was on his rounds of the other cells at the time and of course he was then due his break."
Chakotay smiled to himself. "Let me understand this. A tour of the other cells when we have no other prisoners and his break when usually a meal is brought to someone on brig duty or someone else takes over. Have I got that right?"
Once again, Tuvok showed nothing on his face. "It is protocol to check all cells on a regular basis according to Regulation 24 of the Security Handbook. As regards his break, I understand that some crewmembers are off sick, some kind of virus according to the Doctor and the kitchen was short staffed, as was Security. Therefore, under the circumstances, Ensign Harrison, who was legally entitled to his break under Regulation 14 of the said Security Handbook, had to go to the messhall himself in order to procure his nourishment and as it is also against protocol to traverse the corridors with food items and items from the said messhall, he was obliged to remain in the messhall in order to consume his meal before his return to duty." Chakotay stood staring at the Vulcan, his mouth almost hanging open. "I will of course have my report in full on your desk within the hour."
Chakotay still stood staring, shaking his head now. "Tuvok, I think you've been spending too much time with Seven." He sank into a chair as he digested all he'd been told. "OK, off the record here. Did he jump or was he pushed?" He motioned for the Security Chief to sit also.
"I really don't know but if I had to say 'off the record', I'd opt for the latter. However, my report, due to a lack of any other evidence to the contrary, will reflect my opinion that it was the former."
Chakotay smiled again. "Tuvok, are you ever 'off the record'? Remind me never to sit in on a Vulcan date. How the couple ever gets close… All right, forget that. Don't answer. I don't want to know." He stood slowly. "Do you have any idea of who?"
Tuvok remained silent for a moment then spoke, measuring his words carefully. "It's quite impossible to say. Numerous crewmembers have worked in that area and would have left DNA residue. All my security personnel and maintenance crews for a start. It would take forever to list them and eliminate them from an inquiry as each of them would have been within their rights to have been in the area at some time and I'm quite sure each crewmember would have an alibi for last night."
Chakotay held up his hand. "All right, Tuvok, I get it. He committed suicide. Now what do I tell Kathryn?"
Tuvok raised his eyebrow once more, the only facial indication of any feelings he ever showed. "I would suggest, Commander, that you've just answered your own question." Chakotay nodded his thanks and left the Vulcan to write his 'Report on the Suicide of a Crewmember in Custody'.
Kathryn stood with her back to Chakotay, staring out the viewport in her ready room. Her arms were folded and she was silent, digesting the news he'd just brought her. Finally, she turned and he saw that her eyes were dry but her pain showed.
"Talk to me, Chakotay. Who did it?" Chakotay related for Kathryn the contents of what would be in Tuvok's report, adding that Vulcan's couldn't lie. She smiled at him.
"They CAN lie, Chakotay. They just USUALLY choose not to. They can also bend the truth." She eyed him carefully. "How do you feel about this?"
Chakotay met her steady stare. "I always bend to the greater authority in matters like this. Tuvok is Security Chief and as such would know better than anyone…"
Kathryn cut him off. "All right, I get the message." She sighed and sat down on the sofa.
"I suppose a part of me is… God, it sounds terrible…but I'm glad." She looked up at him and he saw the start of the tears he knew would come and he moved to sit beside her.
"Kathryn, you've every right to feel the way you do about this and I feel the same. Maybe now, we can let it all go and move on." He put his arm around her shoulders until she gained some control.
"You know, Chakotay, I've wished very few people dead in my life but he was one of them and yet I still feel that's wrong." Chakotay kissed the side of her head.
"Right or wrong doesn't come into this, Kathryn. It's about what you have every justification to feel. You're only human but the simple fact that you can still feel it's wrong to see it that way, shows what an incredible and wonderful human being you are. A lot of people would have blown him away that first day and God knows, I wanted to. I actually found myself outside the brig one night with a phaser tucked under my shirt and then I thought of you in sickbay and I went to you instead." He looked at her, gauging her reaction to his confession and she smiled sadly then studied the carpet for a minute.
"I'm glad you didn't. I wouldn't want you to have to live with that because of me. Seeing as it's confession time, however…" She looked into his eyes and something told her he knew what her next words would be. "You know what I'm going to say, don't you?"
He just smiled and nodded slowly. "That's the real reason you went to the brig that day."
Kathryn bit her lip. "I wasn't sure myself at first. It was only later when I thought about it that I knew why I'd gone. I didn't have a phaser but I sure as hell knew where the one in the brig was." Kathryn twisted around and stroked Chakotay's face. "I'm glad he's dead but I'm also glad neither of us has his blood on our hands. I keep thinking of the Bible, you know, an eye for an eye, and than I remember what Gandhi, the old Indian leader said, that an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole World blind, so I think suicide sounds about right. I can live with that."
Chakotay watched her as she studied his face. "So can I. However, all I really want to do is live with you…" Hoping he hadn't gone too far, he held his breath as she stopped her study.
"I thought you already did." Her smile lit up her face and he rejoiced in the radiance of it, letting out the breath he'd been holding.
"I suppose I do. Can I have some of my clothes there though? I'm tired of running next door all the time."
Kathryn smiled and took a step forward, a healing step. "I was kind of hoping… well, that you… wouldn't need any…" She looked up at him, apprehension on her face as to his reaction but all she saw was love. He stroked her face now.
"Kathryn, if you're ready for this…"
She smiled gently at him. "I'm ready, as long as you're OK with it…" He saw the old fear re-surface and stomped it out immediately.
"Then I'll tell you that I want nothing more than for us to be one. I love you, Kathryn, you know that already but I'll keep saying it every minute of every day anyway."
Kathryn leaned into him and he pulled her close. "I love you as well and I'll keep saying it too." They were silent for a long time, quietly celebrating a new life.
That night, when Kathryn returned to 'their' quarters, she was met with soft music and candles burning everywhere. Chakotay told her to go and wash up and change and when she returned, dinner was on the table. They sat sipping wine for an hour or so after their meal before they slowly started kissing and caressing. Eventually they made their way to the bedroom and Kathryn stood shyly as Chakotay undressed her first and then himself, the look of love in his eyes making her feel special beyond words.
Chakotay climbed onto the bed first and lay Kathryn on her side as he kissed and stroked her all over before his hand made its way slowly and tenderly to where she most needed to be touched. He kept his eyes on hers, watching for any hesitation on her part and gently massaged her swollen clitoris as Kathryn's breathing became gasps and then pants. He expertly brought her to a shattering climax then sat out on the edge of the bed and pulled her up to straddle his lap. Lightly grasping Kathryn's hips, he slowly and tenderly guided her onto him, entering her gently, again watching carefully for any sign of discomfort or uncertainty. All he saw was her love and the flush of desire on her face.
They both gasped as he slowly filled her and began a gentle rocking motion. Chakotay felt Kathryn's fingers dig into his shoulders and heard her moans of pleasure, his own in competition. He watched her drop her head back as he increased his pace and brought his hand down to where their bodies joined, stroking her to another climax.
"Look at me, Kathryn. I want to see into your soul." He held himself back until she was ready, wanting her to come with him. As she looked deeply into his eyes, he saw the deep love and desire that shone from the blue depths, knowing his own matched. As he felt her tighten around him and she cried out, he finally let go, filling her with his life-giving fluid. They fell towards each other, clinging tightly together as they got their breath back. Finally, Kathryn pulled back and stroked his face.
"I love you so much for that, Chakotay. Thank you…" She saw him smile.
"I wanted us face to face, equals, our own way…" She understood what he'd done, not wanting what they did to remind her in any way for their first time together.
"I know and thank you."
He kissed her tenderly. "Are you sure you're all right?"
She returned his kiss and hugged him. "I'm fine, love. I've just made wonderful love with the man I love more than anything in life." He stroked her shoulders, knowing exactly what she meant and that she knew he'd understand. He nodded and kissed her again, rolling them both into the bed and pulling the blanket over them. Kathryn had won, had made love again and it was nothing to do with what had happened. She hadn't lost anything and nothing had been taken from her because she hadn't let it.
As they drifted off to sleep, dreams of the future awaiting them, the horrors of the past were left far them behind in the coldness of space.