Disclaimer - Paramount own the characters, but not what I do to them.
I can't help myself! This is a sequel to 'A Man, Humming' which can be found here.
'For I have seen the Celestial Temple...
Witnessed the birth of a new hope, life, future...
And I rise up
Wherever I must go
In the arms of the Prophets'
- Bajoran Prayer
It was dark.
That fact was easily explained - the lights were off.
It didn't explain why he was crouched on the floor, back pressed against the base of a replicator. He couldn't even explain it himself. It was as incomprehensible to him as the fact that he appeared to be aboard a Federation vessel, albeit one he didn't recognise.
Maybe this was a dream. His mother had often insisted that she had visions.
He wasn't about to take any chances. Pressing his back further still against the replicator, he glanced towards the table in the corner. He could probably reach that and roll under it in a matter of seconds, but even seconds could kill him with whatever technology was available.
He almost prayed this wasn't a dream; prayed that it was real and he was actually on a Federation ship only there had been some mix up and someone would stroll out of the shadows saying "Sorry".
Or, even better, Marika would appear and inform him that it had all been a practical joke. He would stand, the lights would come on and he would laugh about his own nervousness. He would be so relieved that he wouldn't even consider vengeance for at least one day.
His eyes continued to assess what he could see. Nice quarters; probably a First Officer's or a Captain's or meant to represent as such. Maybe this-
He caught a glance of his hand, then found himself looking again. Even in the darkness of these quarters it was obvious that the skin tone was far darker than normal. In fact, his hands looked smaller than they usuall-
These weren't his hands.
These weren't his arms, shoulders, legs, this was the wrong uniform!
Starfleet training was lost as utter panic and bewilderment set in. Propelling himself away from the wall he turned in wide circles, continuing to stare at his - no, not his - splayed hands. Yet they moved when he instructed them to do so, clenched when-
A mirror, there was a mirror.
Breathing heavily he ran towards it and almost immediately wanted to back away. He recognised the reflection.
A green eye piece. Tubing. Sickeningly pale skin. Grey veins. Blackness. Apathy. Emptiness.
And she was there, her presence darkening his reflection further. She whispered his name; a seductive murmur.
Biral whirled towards her, grabbing her neck.
"Bitch!" He shouted, forcing her onto the floor, remembering what she DID to him, what she had forced him to do.
Her breath was catching, her face an ugly red colour as she tried to fight back. Yes, she would try to. She would never capitulate easily. It wasn't a part of her nature. Yet for all her spirit, all her effort, it was nothing compared to his bulk, his white-knuckled grip, the absolute need for vengeance. Yes, yes the bitch deserved this-
The voice, that had been trying to force its way through finally managed to squeeze past some unseen, imagined barrier.
'Stop. Gods, please stop.'
Didn't want to, he didn't want to, the feel of her throat under his hands was so satisfying...
And then Chakotay let go.
The memory of his hands grasping her, the bruises that even in darkness could be seen, the sound of her futile gasping, would stay with him forever.
Swearing repeatedly, horrified at himself he crawled backward frantically until he connected with a wall. Reminded of the last time that had happened he fought back the wave of nausea. Gasping, chest heaving, he stared at her barely moving body. Even now after his hands had been removed she was struggling to breathe, the noise reminding him of a fish out of water.
A hand that was his - right colour, right size - but nonetheless shaking, tapped a com badge. "Chakotay to the Doctor. Medical emergency; beam the Captain directly to sickbay." He observed with relief as the transporter beam formed and she was taken away.
After the last of her molecules had dissipated he closed his eyes and pursed his lips together to retain some kind of control. "And Doctor," He added "Please ask Tuvok to come and arrest me immediately."
On the floor in his quarters, back resting against a wall, Chakotay tried to breathe normally but all he could see was his hands grasping her, the bruises that even in darkness could be seen, the sound of her futile gasping...
And then, blessedly, there was nothing.
He was quiet. That fact was not unexpected; Commander Chakotay was usually a man of few words, not finding it necessary to prattle on for hours about nothing of any worth or relevance. It was a trait he believed they shared. Even so, the Doctor couldn't help but notice that the Commander was quieter than usual.
The reasoning for that seemed obvious.
After responding to the Doctor's confused hail, Tuvok had found Chakotay unconscious on the floor of his own quarters. Rather than take him to the brig - as Chakotay himself had suggested earlier - Tuvok instead decided to transport him to sickbay.
When he had awoken a short while ago on biobed two, all he would say was "I'm sorry." He wouldn't look at the Captain at all, his back constantly towards her as she lay on biobed one.
The damage to her throat had been particularly brutal, and Tuvok remained standing next to the doors leading out of sickbay. None of them really believed that Commander Chakotay had attacked the Captain out of any genuinely malicious intent, but even so the Vulcan was taking precautions as he saw fit.
Thankfully the EMH's excellent medical skills had repaired as much of the Captains injuries as was possible in such a limited time, and while he was sure she would make a full recovery, at the moment she was under strict instructions to not even attempt to speak.
Thus, she had given a report of exactly what had happened in the form of a PADD. After reading it, the EMH passed it to Tuvok who quickly appraised the contents. With a few more questions he obtained more specific details, and when he was finished he looked up and then they both looked over to Commander Chakotay.
Still. Quiet. Terrified.
Before they tackled what he knew was going to be a difficult mission, the Doctor availed himself of a rare opportunity; the Captain was unable to speak, which meant he could impart all the advice he thought she needed without fear of verbal retribution.
Who wouldn't take up such a wonderful opportunity?
Thirty seconds after he began he decide to revise his idea; she wasn't acknowledging him at all. Instead, her eyes constantly remained on the form of Chakotay and occasionally a hand would raise to her throat as if she could still feel the bruises that he himself had removed.
This was wrong.
He stopped mid-sentence and wasn't surprised when she didn't notice. Turning away he nodded towards Tuvok and then the EMH - as agreed earlier - approached the Commander alone.
He didn't notice the small step Tuvok took towards them. He didn't notice the subtle slide of Tuvok's hand as it moved, silently and gracefully - the result of years of practice - to rest over his phaser.
Or, if he did, he tried to ignore it.
They were trying to forgive him, trying to find a reason that would account for what he had done to the Captain. Their Captain.
There would be no reason that he would find acceptable. He remembered too well the hunger that demanded to be satiated, the beauty of the violence that had seemed right in a way that nothing ever had. Dreams, love, hope...nothing compared to the violence.
It disgusted him.
Yes, good. That was still his name.
"Commander, can you hear me?"
A nod. Small, subtle.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"I've run detailed scans of your brain and found nothing that could explain...recent events. Do you have any suggestions that might help?"
A coldness was trapped in his chest, pulling his skin tighter and tighter still, determined to keep stretching until it snapped.
He couldn't stop shivering. For the first time since he woke up, he met the Doctor's gaze.
"I think I'm losing my mind."
"I would say it's entirely psychological."
Kathryn glared at the Doctor after he spoke to her softly, sure that those words would be of little comfort to Chakotay. They gave none to her.
He continued, unabated. "There's no sign of the 'family curse' - that the genetic marker for any cognitive disorders has been activated. And there certainly aren't any more memories trying to force their way through. The experience with Biral's memories seems to have ended and the Commander isn't being overwhelmed by them any longer."
She wasn't so sure. Holding the PADD she had been communicating with, she typed in a new message. 'Can he be treated'?
The Doctor glanced towards Chakotay, who was still lying on biobed two facing the opposite direction. "At the moment I can only recommend counselling," He whispered "I believe he needs to discuss what happened."
Again, Janeway entered a message in the PADD. 'He told me about the memory he was trying to suppress. Everything.'
"Perhaps it's more than that," Was all he could offer.
Frustrated, she began to climb off the bed.
Startled, he held up a hand to stop her. "Captain, what are you doing?"
She quite clearly nodded towards Chakotay. Understanding her intentions, he shook his head. "I'm not sure how wise that is right now Captain. He certainly needs help, but you still need rest and so does-" He paused, watching as she typed in a message and then thrust the PADD under his face. Taking it, he read the two words there and opened his mouth in surprise. "That is *very* un-Captainly."
As if she hadn't heard him, she brushed by him and stampeded towards her First Officer. She couldn't say anything to him yet of course, which frustrated her no end. Nevertheless, she would find some way to comfort and reassure him despite his own stubbornness.
She stopped suddenly, her hand outstretched and almost touching his back. Kathryn had decided that she had dealt with the situation remarkably well so far, but that was to be expected. She certainly wouldn't and couldn't be a Captain if she fell apart at every crisis. Yet she'd be lying if she didn't say that recent events had taken their toll on her; not exclusively Chakotay's attack, but the whole background of Marika and Biral and the Cardassian who wasn't really a Cardassian...
Watching her best friend deteriorate hour by hour, minute by minute...
It had not been easy.
And as her hand reached out to touch him now, she couldn't help it; she hesitated. The thought focused unbidden in her mind. She didn't want it to, she was trying to ignore it, but it was *there*. While a part of her was insisting that it hadn't really been him, not *Chakotay*, another was whispering harshly about the things he had done.
She breathed in and...she was there.
His quarters, dark, quiet.
His mirror, reflecting the terror of whatever he was seeing, whatever he was trying not to see.
The feel of her body impacting on the floor, her head thumping harshly.
His hands, once used for something so beautiful, were locked around her throat. It felt to her as if he were pressing the entirety of his weight onto her, but surely that would have killed her instantly, wouldn't it?
She tried to say his name again, tried to breathe, clutched desperately at his hand, but her vision was already dim, her mind dizzy and shit he must have been good at murdering Cardassians and his eyes stared at her face with an open hatred diffused with hideous recognition and a need for revenge a determined glare that *knew* it wasn't going to stop until she was dead.
And then he did stop.
She thought - thought - that he whispered her name, but something was broken, crushed and she couldn't breathe but could feel the pain and taste the blood-
Sickbay. Grey. Beige. Boring.
Kathryn exhaled, the moment gone, her hand still reaching out.
A new resolve set in. Yes, the memories were troubling, but compared with what she had faced...Borg, Hirogen, Q, almost an entire Quadrant's worth of people determined to destroy her ship...
She had fought wars, signed treaties, done the undoable, and had lost only a little of her humanity along the way.
In comparison, dealing with Chakotay's fears and whatever else was causing this would be only marginally more difficult. She and her crew accomplished amazing things on a daily basis. This would be no different.
Breathing out her tension in a long, slow exhalation, she then allowed her hand to continue the rest of its journey.
It happened quickly; had she not been there to witness it herself she would not have thought even him capable of it. Yet happen it did. The moment just her fingertips traced over his uniform, he rolled off the bed so quickly that she mentally blinked several times before her mind caught up with the fact that he had thumped onto the floor and remained there, and the normally stoic Tuvok - long forgotten by the doorway - had rushed towards them, palming his phaser.
As the Doctor objected loudly and pushed the Vulcan away, Kathryn stepped around them and between biobeds two and three where Chakotay hadn't moved from, sitting with his back against the wall. She knelt down, extending a hand to touch his forearm, ignoring the mostly one-sided argument between the Doctor and Tuvok.
This time Chakotay didn't move. He spoke. "Get away from me."
She mouthed the syllables of his name.
"Get away from me," He repeated, hollow.
No. She would not do that. Never. Glaring at him with the look that she wasn't supposed to know but did know that he described as 'stubborn as a Klingon', she sat down fully, staring at him, determined not to move until he said something else.
It was something he probably should have anticipated. Unfortunately his mind had not been in any state to really think about anything she may have been planning on doing; all he could think to do was keep her as far away from him as possible.
He should have been in the brig, but Tuvok - Tuvok! - refused. Since when would he have passed up an opportunity to throw this particular former Maquis member in the brig?
The Doctor, as ever, was the Doctor. Annoying in a car salesman kind of way, but capable of such generosity of spirit that Chakotay frequently forgot he was a hologram.
And as for Kathryn...she really was something he should have anticipated.
Had he been in a better disposition he probably would have smiled when she planted herself right in front of him, sitting so their legs touched, never once taking her eyes from his face. There was that Janeway determination again, something that had saved and risked the ship in equal measure over the past five years.
The EMH certainly wasn't pleased by her behaviour. He frequently asked her to get up, to rest properly, but as she couldn't respond verbally he eventually decided his argument was moot and asked if he could get them anything. When neither of them had responded he'd sighed, turned away, and instructed Tuvok to leave unless he "really believed that I'm not capable of keeping watch over two patients - one of whom can't speak, and the other who refuses to speak."
Tuvok left, no doubt to reclaim the bridge from Tom.
Chakotay decided that was just as well, then blinked, surprised that at least some of his humour was returning.
If she noticed the blinking she gave no indication, still staring at him, somehow managing to keep her right eyebrow raised in silent question for at least ten minutes.
She was not going to give up.
The Doctor brought them food; they ate. The Doctor brought them drinks; they drank. The Doctor rather sarcastically offered them use of colostomy bags; they declined.
Not once did she look away from him, or so it seemed. It didn't seem feasible that she could eat, drink, and silently communicate with the Doctor without once looking away.
He could almost feel himself giving in, opening his mouth to tell her everything...when he remembered...
...his hands grasping her, the bruises that even in darkness could be seen, the sound of her futile gasping...
He had done that. Him. It barely mattered that he had been confused about his identity, because ultimately it had been *his* hands around *her* neck and nothing he ever did or said could change that.
"I don't want to hurt you."
The words were out before he even realised he was going to say them, but somehow when he did realise he wasn't surprised. It had been a long time since he had been surprised by any reaction he had to her.
Kathryn's eyes had widened and he knew more than anything she wanted to say something; trite words of comfort that coming from her would actually be comforting, orders that he get well soon, demands that he get off his butt and do something useful.
Instead of that, instead of any of that, she reached out and clutched his hand. He didn't pull away, didn't grip her hand in response, he simply watched her as she held his hand tighter and smiled.
For one moment - one foolish, hopeful, Kathryn-induced moment - he allowed himself to be deluded into thinking that everything was going to be fine.
She could still remember her smile. Sure, she didn't do it much, but when she did smile it was-
B'Elanna stopped that thought right there. There was no way she was going to allow herself - even in her thoughts - to use the word 'lovely'. That was not a B'Elanna word. B'Elanna did not use words like 'lovely', 'pretty', or - Naomi's recent favourite - 'snugglehuggies'.
Kahless, this was ridiculous.
Here she was in engineering, going about her work and still catching up thanks to recent distractions, and her thoughts kept returning to Marika.
And a pillow fight that B'Elanna had won rather triumphantly. Tom still swore that he had carpet burns thanks to that night, but he was such a *wimp* sometimes.
"What are you smiling about, Lieutenant?"
The title was used purely to annoy her. Nicoletti was standing next to her, grinning like an idiot herself.
Surprised to discover that she actually had been smiling, B'Elanna lifted her hand to her mouth for a moment and smiled even more when she felt the upturned lips. Realising that Nicoletti was still smirking at her, B'Elanna quickly lowered her hand and shrugged. "Nothing."
Before Nicoletti could retort O'Donnell appeared. The greeting on B'Elanna's lips died when she saw his expression. "What is it?" She demanded, all thoughts of happiness vanishing in a way that was disturbingly familiar. She'd become too accustomed to it.
Clearly not wanting to say anything in front of anyone else - not even Nicoletti - he hesitated, then peered over her shoulder at something on the console. "Uh...you might want to check that," He said, nodding towards it.
Frowning, B'Elanna swivelled and saw what he was pointing at. Moving to the console she entered her password and brought up several messages she hadn't had time to go through yet. There was one from Vorik (p'taQ), Seven (the less said, the better), and Jenkins (probably wanting to know something about Harry). And then...one sent a few hours ago...
'PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
TO: Torres, B'Elanna; Lieutenant
FROM: Paris, Thomas Eugene; Ensign
Just heard interesting discussion between Doc and Tuvok over com-link. Suggest you get to sickbay ASAP. Am trapped on bridge with curious listeners.
P.S. You owe me a rematch.
Logging off the console, she thanked O'Donnell then told Nicoletti she was in charge even as she ran out of the room.
This was ridiculous, of course. She kept telling herself that as she pounded along the corridor towards the turbolift. She actually had no idea what had happened, or who was injured if anyone *was* injured...but in that way of which only he had for causing his own suffering, she knew it involved Chakotay.
Growling, she entered the turbolift and requested her destination. Couldn't that man ever stay out of sickbay?
He spoke in small words, his vocabulary practically reduced to monosyllables. His descriptions were unimaginative, unrealistic, cold, contained, as if he hadn't actually been there himself.
Perhaps that was the point, but Kathryn found herself greatly disturbed by just how much he seemed to be distancing himself from what had happened. Chakotay had such an amazing capacity for using words; the warmth of his lifelike descriptions had made her smile on many a day.
Now, after being coaxed up, he sat on the edge of the biobed giving his own version of events in terse words. Tuvok had been recalled from the bridge and was taking down the details, nodding on occasion, prompting for detail on occasion, but seemed to be taking no satisfaction from what he was doing.
She was most definitely relieved by that little detail. There was no doubting the original hostility between him and Chakotay, and though it had mellowed it still reared its head on occasion.
Standing next to Chakotay, still unable to speak, she squeezed his hand. She thought this time that he considered squeezing back, but he wouldn't even look at her.
"And then what happened?"
Quiet. "I grabbed her. Around the throat. I forced...does she have to be here for this?" Her fingers moved.
"No, she will leave if you wish her to."
She *will* leave? Not very likely. She *can* leave doesn't mean she will. He could hear the "Chakotay..." even though she never said a word.
Fine, fine. Let her stay. "Never mind." Licking lips. Taking a breath. "I forced her onto the floor, squeezing her throat, I had to make her pay for what she did...and I still had no idea that I was doing this to the Captain. I had no idea who I was really attacking..."
And he knew, then, that was a lie.
He was lying.
Some part of him, somewhere, had known that he was Chakotay and she was Kathryn Janeway...some part of him knew what *he* was going to do to *her*...and he had done it anyway.
Chakotay looked down. Looked at the hands that had nearly throttled her to death earlier. The same hands she was touching with her own right now. The hands that she herself had once said were 'extremely good at massage'. The hands that would always remember the feel of crushing her throat. The hands that - even now - remembered how *good* it had felt.
He looked up at her, not sure of anything.
"Nothing's the same anymore," He told her gently, turning his hands so they could join hers for what he told himself would be the last time. He would not take another chance.
Somehow she knew. It was in the widening of her eyes, the shocked expression on her face. She knew he intended for this to be the last time. "No," She replied, but he didn't know if it was an agreement or an argument.
And then B'Elanna walked in.
Chakotay was sitting on the biobed, looking at the Captain who was standing in front of him holding his hands. Tuvok was on the other side of the biobed, holding a PADD. The Doctor stood several feet away, trying to look as if he were fascinated by a sample but was obviously keeping a critical eye on the treatment of his patients.
No one noticed B'Elanna as she walked in, not at first. Chakotay and Janeway were staring at each other and from what she could see of Janeway's expression, she looked almost terrified.
Yup, she was definitely interrupting something.
B'Elanna was all set to turn away and head out the doors when someone noticed her. "Lieutenant!" The Doctor cried. "What are you doing here?"
Frozen, her brain clamoured for an explanation. She really should have worked on that on her way up here... "Didn't you say that it's really time for me to come in for my physical?"
Everyone stared at her.
The Doctor recovered first. "Well...yes...but I didn't expect you to actually come in! Unfortunately I don't think now is quite the right time. Could you pop in tomorrow?"
"I'll try my best," She smiled, but made no move to leave. "So why is everyone in here?"
Tuvok stepped towards her, obviously deciding that she should leave. "Lieutenant-"
"No," Chakotay interrupted softly, causing everyone to turn towards him. "Let me speak with her alone. Please," He added, as if the very idea of pleasantries were something that didn't have any particular importance.
"Very well," Tuvok conceded first. "This report will suffice for now, but I will require more information shortly."
"Understood," Chakotay nodded, watching as the Vulcan rose an eyebrow then left the room.
"Come on Captain," The Doctor declared, touching her arm. "Let's go through my office and into the other side of sickbay. Leave them with some privacy."
She clearly didn't want to go, facing Chakotay again. Nevertheless, after squeezing his hands one more time she released her hold and walked out of view with the Doctor.
B'Elanna watched them go, then heard his voice almost immediately.
"How many people know?" Chakotay studied her as she turned back, then sat up on the edge of the biobed next to him.
"Not many, but knowing this ship the number's growing with every passing second. Of course, they don't actually *know* anything or any of the details. They just know something odd is going on." She snorted. "Then again something odd is always going on."
Appreciating the attempt, he contemplated smiling but not for long. "So...you don't know?"
She regarded him seriously; his hunched shoulders, the fists that clenched slowly, the head that was almost bowed. "No," She responded, then realised immediately it wasn't the response he wanted. Whatever it was, he didn't want to tell her, but unfortunately he needed to. Better for her to hear straight from the source than from any circulating rumours.
He attempted to sit up, straighten his back, look optimistic, but within moments he was hunched over again. "I was...confused this morning. Not entirely sure of who I was."
"Biral?" She asked quietly.
Chakotay barely nodded. "The Captain came into my quarters because I was late for my shift and I mistook her for someone else. I attacked her."
B'Elanna blinked, certainly not expecting to hear that. "Attacked?"
His gaze focused on his hands again. His nails were digging into his palms. "I tried to strangle her."
Her eyes went wide. She opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. "But she's alright now, isn't she?"
Chakotay's voice was a monotone when he responded. "The Doctor repaired most of the damage, but not only is she currently unable to speak, she's ordered to not even to attempt to."
Reaching, she almost touched his hand then quickly redirected so she touched his forearm instead. "She doesn't blame you Chakotay. You must know that. And you can't spend days in here blaming yourself."
"You don't understand B'Elanna. The anger I felt when I was doing it. I knew that she *deserved* it-"
"You think I don't understand anger?" B'Elanna retorted sarcastically. "Me? A half-Klingon who - according to you - is far too easy to provoke? A woman who frequently breaks furniture and peoples noses? You think I don't understand the need, the heat coursing through your body, the desire to destroy everything you can get your hands or any other part of your body on?"
She was right, of course. About that kind of anger. But this... "But have you ever felt that angry at Tom? Ever wished that your hands would be around his neck, crushing the life out of him, and you would *enjoy* it?"
"I've certainly been angry with him but...not quite to that extent, no."
That small part of him that had enjoyed almost killing Kathryn wished that she had. "Then you don't understand, B'Elanna. You don't understand at all."
"Heya Seven, how are you?"
"I am well Ensign," She responded, observing as Sarah Jenkins sat opposite her in the mess hall, smiling widely. She appeared to be fond of that activity because she did it almost every time she saw her. "And you?"
"Great thanks," Sarah answered, cheerfully digging into her meal. "Been looking forward to this all day. I'm starving."
Seven was about to respond with a question when she caught herself. "You are exaggerating."
She replied between mouthful's. "Yes. But that doesn't mean to say I wasn't damned hungry."
Nodding, Seven said nothing else for some time, instead picking at her own food and watching Ensign Jenkins on occasion. She was still quite disturbed by her thoughts of Marika, and was curious as to how Jenkins could appear so unaffected already. "Ensign," She began quietly.
"Since our discussion several days ago regarding Marika, you seem to have recovered in an amazingly short amount of time. Was I wrong in suspecting what kind of a friend she was to you?" It seemed unlikely, but she wanted to be sure. She had not been friends with Marika at all, but the frustrating sense of loss remained strong.
Thoughtfully, Jenkins swallowed her latest bite of food and lowered the fork down to the table. Her smile faded, although not completely. "I guess it's just the way I deal with things, Seven. Yes, I did consider Marika a friend, but she was really only a friend I knew for a few hours. It's not as if we were best friends or I had known her since childhood. We were...casual friends."
Sarah nodded enthusiastically. "I just think it's best that you jump back into life head-on. As they say, it's too short."
"What is too short?"
"Even for mourning?" Seven frowned, heavily confused. "I was under the impression that mourning the death of a friend - even a casual one - was important and took considerable time. After One died..." She paused, still feeling the pain now. "The feelings for him have still not vanished. And I feel it will be quite some time until I stop thinking of Marika so frequently. Why is it-"
"Look Seven," Jenkins interrupted, sounding almost angry. "I'm not one of those people who's going to sit around on his or her butt moping that the Universe is unfair, or crying about 'why did this have to happen to me?'. I am getting on with my life. It's just the way I do things, okay?"
Concerned that she had inadvertently offended the ensign, she conceded her point. "Very well."
Reassured, Sarah smiled and dug into her meal once more. "Good. You know Seven, life doesn't have to be all doom and gloom," She emphasised her point by waving a fork-skewered carrot slice around. "You also have to make time for love, happiness, good times."
"You know...parties, staying up late reading a really good book, drinking yourself silly, eating unhealthy foods, taking long luxurious baths..."
Seven interrupted. "Having a bath could be considered having a 'good time'?"
"Absolutely," Jenkins told her, snapping the end of the carrot slice off in her mouth, crunching noisily. "Being completely covered with the warm water, playing with the bubbles, relaxing if you want to..." Her mouth stopped mid-crunch, as if she were realising something. Quickly swallowing that piece of carrot, she spoke. "Seven...have you ever had a bath?"
"Not that I recall. It is possible that I had a bath as a child, but since coming aboard Voyager I have had only sonic showers."
Staring at her in disbelief, Sarah shook her head. "When do you next have some free time?"
She frowned. "Tomorrow evening. 1800 hours. Why?"
Stabbing something else on her plate, Jenkins then pointed the unidentified meat-like substance towards her. "Because you and I, Seven, are going to have a little fun."
"Oh yes-" She stopped talking when her mind tuned into what was being said on the next table.
"Hey, did you hear about Chakotay?"
"What about him?"
"He's flipped out."
"He'd already flipped out."
"No, I mean *really* flipped out. Word is he tried to kill Janeway."
"Would I kid about that? Of course they're using that whole 'confused about his identity' spiel, but...hey, didn't someone have a bet on that?"
"I'm pretty sure Carlson started one when we first got trapped out here, but-"
Not wanting - nor needing - to hear any more, Sarah stood and threw her fork onto the table. "Nice chatting with you Seven, but I really should get to-"
"-sickbay," Seven concluded, also releasing the hold on her utensil and moving away from the table. "I will accompany you."
When they briskly walked into sickbay a few minutes later, no one was there. Confused, they took further steps into the room. "Doctor?" Seven asked.
Stepping out of his office, he answered all the questions he had no doubt been asked many times. "The Commander has been released to his quarters, the Captain has returned to her own, and Tuvok's investigation is still ongoing. As for anything else, I really can't comment." He regarded them sarcastically. "Unless you really want to hear the effects Mr Neelix's leola root 'surprise' has on the gastrointestinal system-"
"Perhaps not," Seven interrupted.
"But I would like to know," Jenkins began, smiling as endearingly as possible "Does this mean that the Commander is alright? And the Captain?"
"The Captain is expected to make a full recovery."
"And Chakotay...?" She prompted.
"I am unable to comment," He replied enigmatically.
"What do you mean you're 'unable to comment'?"
"Exactly what I said," The EMH attempted to smile disarmingly. "I realise that it can be frustrating, not being aware of all the details of a situation, but I really can't talk about it."
"Can't or won't?"
Surprised at her vehemence and offended for the Doctor, Seven stepped in verbally. "There is no need to be rude to the Doctor, Ensign. If he could tell us the details he would."
"That's alright Seven," The Doctor assured her, although neither of them believed him. "She's just worried about her commanding officers."
"No, no I'm sorry," Jenkins closed her eyes briefly, before smiling slightly. "I apologise. I was out of line. I'm just a little tense."
"Apology accepted," The Doctor nodded slightly, smiling. "Now if you don't mind, I need to get back to work."
"Of course," Seven responded. "I should also return to my duties."
Nodding once more, the Doctor bid them a goodbye before turning back towards his office.
"It is curious," Seven stated after watching him leave.
Seven turned to face Jenkins, no longer worried about offending her. "For someone who doesn't wish to 'sit around on his or her butt' either moping or mourning, you have quite a capacity for wasting your time on concern."
Glaring, Sarah jutted her chin out. "See you tomorrow Seven. At the holodeck. 1800 hours."
She nodded. "See you tomorrow."
Saying nothing else, Jenkins turned and walked out of sickbay. A few moments later, Seven followed her.
It was at Chakotay's own insistence that a guard was posted to his quarters, but it was at Kathryn's insistence - via a PADD - that it not be public knowledge. Therefore, Chakotay had to deal with the guard being on the inside of his quarters as opposed to the outside, which was usual practise.
Despite this they had apparently decided to take it easy on him, because the guard was a former Maquis. Actually, he couldn't decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He and this particularly Maquis member had been through a lot together before Voyager. If he was going to have another 'experience' - and he had no idea if he would or not - he didn't want this man to witness it. Of course, Ayala would probably take it better than most.
"Get you a drink, anything to eat?" Chakotay offered.
Smiling, Ayala shook his head. "Fine thank you sir."
Shrugging, Chakotay headed towards his bedroom. "I'm going to try and get some rest. Feel free to stretch out of the sofa."
"Won't be needed, but thanks."
Entering his bedroom he changed into his night-clothes then sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall. He didn't even need to concentrate to remember Marika next to him, asking how she could help...
He remembered the touch of her hand on his arm.
He remembered how alive he felt, the only moment during the entire time that he felt so.
Stretching out, he lowered himself onto his back, and as he looked at the beige ceiling he remembered the thrill of trying to kill Kathryn.
She felt like an animal trapped in a cage. The Doctor had released her after she threatened to start talking, but under very strict orders to return to her quarters and remain there. She had agreed and was now regretting it.
She had to *do* something.
Kathryn had no doubt whatsoever about who was to blame for this, for this entire situation.
Something had to be done.
Dressed in her uniform, she pounded out of her quarters on course for the holodeck.
Stretching, her fingers played across the small console on the corridor wall outside the holodeck, accessing a programme she hadn't used for years. Pressing a final button she waited until the computer said "Programme running," before nodding. She began to turn towards the door...
Turning back she entered in another command. This time the computer beep seemed louder, the voice more urgent. She knew it was entirely her imagination; it was and always would be the bland, dry voice of her ship's computer.
"Warning: disengaging safety protocols presents extreme risk of injury."
Had she been feeling in the mood - the fact that she wasn't able or supposed to speak having nothing to do with it - Kathryn Janeway would have laughed. It would have been a short bark of laughter; loud, probably derisive.
She did not laugh, derisively or otherwise.
Instead she entered her override code and this time strode purposefully into the holodeck as the computer informed her of its compliance.
It was not a particularly large programme nor the most complicated that had ever been made, but it was perfect for her purposes.
It was not often in her life that she wanted to hit something. If she were frustrated she would usually stew in her quarters or ready room, wasting replicator rations on endless cups of coffee and would eventually end up buried in a huge pile of PADDs. On rarer occasions she would actually try to relax, usually by taking a bath or getting a massage from the Doctor - although she frequently found that massages from the Doctor were more like torture than anything else.
But there had been instances...occurences...rare, but existing, where she would discover the inexorable need to strike out. Where coffee and PADDs and baths and massages and anything else she attempted would fail, miserably, hideously, because on these occasions she would only be satisfied by physical violence.
Part of her was appalled that she - a scientist at heart - should need that, something so base and undignified. Part of her knew that it confirmed that she was different from no one, and there was nothing strange about her needing to hit something.
Walking into the bare holodeck, shoes echoing on the floor, she drew back her hand and hit something.
Specifically, a holographic representation of Seska.
The smug grin on 'Seska' faltered as she fell onto her rear, blinking up at Janeway and lifting a hand to rub at her rapidly reddening face.
Kathryn smiled. She advanced towards the woman - who was in her Bajoran 'disguise' - intent on striking another blow. Seska must have been involved. She must have helped plant the 'surprise' for Chakotay, must have had access to a tricorder but only provided it after the Bajoran was dead, must have known that one day Chakotay would have discovered the truth of who she was and would have been forced to relive the nightmare with a new insight.
She could have known nothing about Marika, Biral and any encounters with the Borg, but without Seska none of this would have happened. Chakotay's confusion, terror, dread, neural damage...all her fault.
All her fault.
And Kathryn Janeway had long been accustomed to doling out her own brand of vengeance when the situation arose.
As she moved closer, Kathryn was sure that she had never felt an anger this strong, felt such a need for retribution. The things this *monster* had done...
Seska stumbled to her feet, and Kathryn clenched her fist drawing back for another punch...when something was tripping her and she was falling and Seska had her arms across her chest, all dark hair and laughing eyes.
"Enjoy your trip, *Captain*?"
God Kathryn, you can't even programme her with any original jokes.
Despite herself, Kathryn wheezed which seemed to delight Seska further. Shit, you can be so stupid! You knew you weren't at your physical best, and despite the fact that she looks like a Bajoran you programmed the computer so it knows she has the strength of a Cardassian, didn't you? Thumbs up for doing such a damn good job.
Seska moved an arm slightly, digging the elbow into Janeway's chest. Gasping, she opened her mouth, head swimming. Come on, where the hell has that stubbornness gone? The stubbornness that was stupid enough to get you into this situation can certainly get you out of it. When have you *ever* let anyone get the better of you?
It was enough for her dislodge Seska. Still not entirely sure how she managed it, she attempted to crawl away without dignity but realised immediately how vulnerable that left her. Rolling to one side, she moved just in time to see Seska's foot land where her leg had been. She didn't even think about the damage that would have done.
Pushing herself up she blocked an incoming blow and threw back one of her own, gasping with the effort and the red hot air passing through her throat and chest. Her fist just clipped the side of Seska's face and seemed to do nothing but annoy her, as in the next second Seska returned the favour except this time she hit her target perfectly.
Kathryn's head snapped away so quickly with the impact that she feared it was going to be ripped off her shoulders, but all she had to deal with was the loosening of several teeth and the unpleasant taste of blood in her mouth. Staggering, face throbbing, she-
"Computer, end programme."
Gasping - in pain, surprise, anger, and the fact that she had been caught - she turned to face the person who had intervened.
Had her face not been throbbing its fierce disagreement, had her chest not been threatening to stop moving for its mistreatment, had she actually been capable of speech, all she would have found herself doing was spluttering their name.
As it was, she just spluttered. Then remembered who she was and tried to look unsurprised. She suspected that the blood emerging from the corner of her mouth probably ruined the image, but she wasn't about to wipe it away.
Her visitor walked fully into the room, the doors hissing shut. No doubt he had heard. No doubt he had gone to sickbay. No doubt he had been informed that she had been released to her quarters.
No doubt he had known that she wouldn't stay there.
The smile was as exuberant as always, the expression as friendly as always - if a little too revealing - but she knew that he hadn't come here with some insignificant request. He came - as he always did - to help.
That was his job.
Coming to a stop in front of her, his eyes appraised her quickly without censure. He spoke. "When B'Elanna was depressed, when she found it necessary to...hurt herself...she came to see me. I didn't realise how badly she wanted or needed to be helped." Pausing, Neelix smiled endearingly. "I won't let that happen again. I won't." His eyes cheerily informed her that he was not going to take any opposition.
Yet Kathryn shook her head, then almost regretted it as her vision swam. This was not the same situation. She was not B'Elanna, and she was not trying to hurt herself. She was trying to hurt *Seska*.
Seeming to understand, Neelix nodded. "Then it's the anger? You think Seska's responsible for what's happening to the Commander?"
Kathryn nodded, trying not to groan.
Thoughtfully, Neelix walked by her and took a circular view of Seska's image, frozen mid-punch. Her features were far from angry. More...amused.
It only annoyed Kathryn further.
It didn't seem to faze Neelix at all. Leaning closer, he studied Seska's face in further detail. Absently, he began to talk. "When I was a trader I had an interesting life. I wouldn't have missed the thrill of it for anything, but I'll be the first to say it had some nasty side effects. After a few years I developed a dependency on a drug."
Janeway blinked. Neelix? A drug addict? It didn't seem possible.
If he noticed her shock he gave no indication, continuing with his story. "It was easily available given the kind of life I was leading, but Wix..." Stopping, he smiled fondly and turned back to look at Janeway. "Wix knew I needed help, and he did help me through it. Without him, I'd either be dead or close to it." Taking several steps towards her, his smile vanished. "But during the time he was 'helping' me, I *hated* him. *Hated*. This was worse than the anger at Jetrel for creating the metreon cascade; chemical dependency knows nothing of history or family. All I knew was that he was keeping from me the one thing that would help me. If I could have it just one more time...the Universe would make sense. My life would be perfect. I wouldn't want anything else because I didn't need anything else. My entire existence revolved around trading whatever I could to get my next fix." The intensity of his words died a little. "He took that from me. He took my world away from me." Raising his chin, he smiled once more and met her anxious gaze. "So I know hatred, Captain. I know how desperate you make yourself. I also know," He nodded towards Seska "that this isn't the way."
Not in the mood to take advice from anyone, Kathryn put her hands on her hips.
Recognising the gesture as a sarcastic "Well what do *you* suggest?" he nonetheless complied. "My advice? Normally it would be to talk with someone, but..." He laughed a little, then saw the glare and stopped laughing. His normally chipper features became remarkably sombre. "We're not the only people to know hatred, Captain."
That was the last thing he said before turning and walking away.
After he was gone, Kathryn blinked several times, trying to discover if that bizarre 'talk' had actually happened. Opening her mouth she began to ask the computer where Neelix was when she realised she couldn't. Frustrated, she tried to swear.
Only she couldn't do that either.
Or tell the computer to continue the programme so she could take out her frustrations on Seska.
Fine. Her back straightened. Fine. She was almost breathing normally now, and she was in mind to take her frustrations out on someone else. It may or may not have been what Neelix had in mind, but she was going to get some real answers.
She made a single stop on the way to her destination. Walking into her own quarters she found what she needed and grasped it firmly, reassured by the familiar sensation. With each passing moment she felt more sure, certain.
This was right. This was what needed to be done.
Leaving her own quarters it was scant seconds later that she reached her target. She didn't beep for entry, deeming it unnecessary and somewhat lacking in surprise and dramatic overture. Quickly entering her override code she watched the doors hiss open and then a startled Ayala reaching for his weapon. The moment he realised it was her he holstered the phaser but didn't relax completely, wondering as to her presence.
Stepping into Chakotay's quarters she nodded meaningfully towards the exit.
He caught her reference but frowned, no doubt knowing what had happened the last time she was in there alone with Chakotay. It was only after two subsequent nods that he capitulated and left the room as silently as she had entered it.
When the doors hissed shut, she was suddenly relieved and exhausted. One hurdle down. One gigantic hurdle to go.
Bolstering her strength she advanced towards his bedroom and as she reached the doorway glanced through into the bathroom and saw the mirror-
His quarters, dark, quiet.
His mirror, reflecting the terror of whatever he was seeing, whatever he was trying not to see.
The feel of her body impacting on the floor, her head thumping harshl-
Kathryn shook her head, determined this time to not let the memories overwhelm her. Silently skirting by his bed she walked decisively into the bathroom, towards the mirror, and stopped in front of it.
Reaching out with her free hand, she pressed the hand against the cold surface, leaving faint marks which quickly dissipated. What had he seen there? When she had walked into his quarters - God it felt so long ago now - he had been terrified by what he saw.
Twisting the hand she had pressed against the mirror, she studied it, then studied it in the reflection as she moved it up to touch her own face.
When he had seen her...it had been worse, somehow. He had seen something in her a hundred times worse than what he had seen in himself. Before he had launched himself at her - and even after - she had seen the horror and hideous recognition. It had not been the expression of a man seeing his Captain or best friend.
It had been the expression of a man determined to kill the monster he was looking at.
Her hand lowered. Her mouth settled into a determined line. Moving away from the mirror she turned back into his dark bedroom. Walking until she stood next to the side of the bed he was lying on, she studied his sleeping and - perhaps - calm features. She could only speculate as to what was going on in his mind at that moment.
Kathryn Janeway wasn't in the mood to speculate.
Lifting the hand that held her phaser, she leant forward and prodded him with the weapon.
"You didn't take your medicine this morning." He watched the old man with a mixture of frustration and anger.
"Which medicine are you talking about? There are many medicines," He responded, waving a hand.
"The one the hospital gave us; you know what medicine!" Gods, he was so frustrating!
"Oh, that one," Grandfather practically snorted, his face an expression of disgust. Saying nothing more, he began to walk away.
"Where are you going?" Chakotay demanded, jogging a few steps to catch up with him.
"My spirit doesn't want that medicine." He said, voice childlike.
"I don't care what your spirit wants!" Chakotay snapped. "You're going to take it."
"I don't think so," The old man almost chuckled, pleased at something.
Trying a different avenue, the boy tried to persuade him in other ways. "Come with me back to the house."
"Now why would I want to do that? It's better where I'm going. It...it's more interesting." He smiled.
"Where are you going?" He hoped for a moment that he might pause, might turn to look at him, and somehow he would convince him to take his medicine. If he could do that, he wouldn't have to face father's anger. He wouldn't have to watch his Grandfather think he was a wolf or an eagle. He would simply be Grandfather.
Grandfather did nothing except to continue walking, and then say;
"To the place where my spirit lives."
Something was pushing against him. Small, artificial; not a hand. Hard surface. Almost an oblong shape.
In an instant he awoke fully, snapped his eyes open, and saw Kathryn.
She leant away a little, pointing a phaser at him.
He regarded her in silence, wondering why she wasn't firing, wondering why she wanted to, wondering if this was still a dream.
And then he noticed.
She wasn't pointing the phaser towards him; she was holding the butt of the weapon out for him.
She wanted him to take it. She wanted him to use it on her. To what end? She said nothing, but that said little about her state of mind considering she was unable to speak.
Kathryn didn't look like a person who wanted to die. Kathryn...looked very determined. Kathryn had come here to prove a point. What it was, he didn't quite know, but she certainly had a knack for the dramatic.
Sitting up in one smooth movement, he noticed that she didn't move even when he sat on the edge of the bed and his legs brushed against hers.
Still she held the weapon out for him.
Where the hell was Ayala?
Still she held the weapon out for him.
Carefully, meeting her gaze and seeing the bruises on her face, he took it from her. Then tossed it over his shoulder to land wherever it would. He thought he heard it clatter against the wall, but he didn't turn to look, still watching her rapidly angering expression.
She was annoyed at him for not shooting her. Had he missed something, somewhere? What had she been doing to give her all those bruises?
Breaking her stare, Kathryn marched around the bed to the other side, where she bent down - wincing slightly - and retrieved the phaser. Within moments she was back in front of him, holding it out once more.
Chakotay stared at her from his position on the edge of his bed.
When she received no response she poked the phaser into his chest.
And got a reaction.
In - what certainly felt like - less than a second, Chakotay was up and slammed Kathryn against the wall behind her. He watched as her eyes widened, then relaxed; watched as she wheezed and tried to breathe normally; watched as she glared when he tugged the phaser out of her grip and threw it on to the bed. He intended to ask her what the hell she was playing at when-
Her breath was catching, her face an ugly red colour as she tried to fight back. Yes, she would try to. She would never capitulate easily. It wasn't a part of her nature. Yet for all her spirit, all her effort, it was nothing compared to his bulk, his white-knuckled grip, the absolute need for vengeance. Yes, yes the bitch deserved this-
Chakotay released his hold, stepping away, relieved to discover it was just a memory.
He almost laughed.
"Get out," Was all he said eventually.
Kathryn didn't move, still against the wall, nostrils flaring.
Chakotay shook his head. Fine, if she didn't leave his quarters, *he* certainly could. Turning away, he began-
She spoke. That alone was enough to get his attention. Her voice was thready, distorted; barely above a whisper. It was both a testimony to his own strength and to her own determination for doing whatever the hell she wanted to despite the Doctor's diagnosis.
It was what she said that grabbed him, though. Probably the only thing she could have said that would have kept him in the room a moment longer.
She spoke with sarcasm, anger, frustration.
"Where's that Angry Warrior I've heard so much about?"
He wanted to keep walking. He wanted to leave her stewing in her own ignorance. He wanted - just once - to be the one with the upper hand.
His memory got the better of him. The fact that she picked *now* of all possible moments in their existence to bring up that subject...long known to be forbidden. She had never discussed it, and had made it equally clear that she never wanted to.
The sheer arrogance of it grated at him.
Stopping mid-step, he clenched his fists, hoped he wasn't about to do something monumentally stupid, and turned to face her.
He really, really should have left his quarters.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Kathryn almost smiled, taking a step away from the wall and towards him. Her voice cracked repeatedly, only seeming to add an intensity to her words. "I know he's in there," She began. "I see glimpses of him on occasion. He must have killed dozens - hundreds? - of Cardassians." Eyes flashing, delighted, she leant towards him. "He tried to kill me just the other morning. So tell me, Chakotay. Where is that Angry Warrior?"
Furious, he glared into her eyes. "Stop this. Stop this bullshit."
That she laughed at, although it was more a croak than anything else. "Me? Bullshit?!" Chuckling, she smiled. "I know what it is, Chakotay. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm not as stupid as you think I am. The other night in my quarters - after Marika died - you said you hated me. But you didn't realise yourself just how much you did, and this has led to your rather confused reaction. Well?"
Gods, this was so frustrating. Chakotay watched her as she eagerly waited for a response. He hated the way she could deconstruct the way he thought so easily; hated that his thoughts and feelings could be so damn obvious even to her.
But she was right. She would always be Kathryn; best friend, Captain, sometimes something else...but she was also something that he hated.
He said it.
Pleased, Kathryn nodded slowly. Then, grabbing his hand, she tugged him down until they sat side-by-side on the edge of his bed. "Okay," She whispered, voice deteriorating. "You've acknowledged that part of you hates me. You've acknowledged as much to me. You've wrestled with these feelings of anger and friendship and hatred and loyalty...and now you're not sure what you should be feeling, or doing."
Encouraged, he nodded. Did she actually understand?
Leaning into his personal space, her hand warm against his, she spoke; "Get over it."
Chakotay gaped at her. "Excuse me?"
"Get over it," She retorted, raising an eyebrow. "I watched as you felt the necessary grief and confusion over Marika. I helped you as best I could when you were 'suffering' from Biral's memories." Her hand tightened around his. "But I have had it with being patient. I have had it with you wallowing in your own helplessness. I need you back on duty, back as First Officer. My First Officer. I need you to get off your butt and do something."
He stared at her in silence, wondering how it was possible that he could be enjoying the feel of her hand against his, and hate every single word she spoke. "That's it? 'Get over it'? That covers exactly how I'm supposed to deal with this?"
Chakotay smirked, shaking his head. "Small problem with that plan."
"And that problem would be..?"
"I'm not you."
She pulled away, removing her hand.
He hated himself for missing it.
"And what does that mean?" Kathryn asked carefully, coolly.
"It means at this particular time, in this particular situation, I am not capable as acting as though everything were fine. As though my brain didn't feel like a Cardassian had gone on a murder spree in it. As though I wasn't human."
"So now you're saying I don't act human?"
"Perhaps that's an over-exaggeration, but I think it's a fair statement. There's a small problem with even that plan you use to act unaffected, though."
"And that would be..?"
"You're not the Ice Queen you want to be."
Kathryn seemed more amused than anything. "Really?"
Still on the edge of the bed, he leant towards her, smiling a little. "Where's that Kathryn I've heard so much about?"
Her amusement fled. Her expression darkened. "Stop it."
Chakotay ignored her, still smiling. "I know she's in there. I see glimpses of her on occasion. Touching my hand, my chest, any body part she can get a hold of. Tenderly wiping away the tears on my face. Promising that she'd help me through any crisis. So tell me; where is that Kathryn?"
"She became impatient with a man feeling sorry for himself." Standing, she walked away from him.
He watched her as she paced. "You can't just order someone to stop feeling something."
Her pacing stopped. She looked at a wall. "That's what I thought you'd say. That's why I..." Walking to the end of the bed, she bent and picked up the phaser. "...brought this." She concluded, again holding it out to him.
"For what reason?"
"If this really is that big an issue...if you really can't deal with the situation in any acceptable way...if you really hate me that much...then fire the phaser."
Amazed - although he really shouldn't have been - at her audacity, he stood. She took a stumbled step backwards but soon reasserted herself, prodding the handle of the phaser into his body. His hands fell, touching it lightly with his fingertips. "Captain," He began, trying to find the part of her that was reasonable, understanding.
"No," She interrupted. "No Captain. No Commander. Just Kathryn and Chakotay. This is what you've wanted, isn't it? Simply two people trying to figure out what the hell to do with each other. Big news, Chakotay. That moment is here and you're the one backing away."
"You're pointing a phaser at yourself and asking me to pull the trigger! What do you expect me to do?"
Moving, her hands shifted until they rested over his, the weapon pointing bluntly into her chest. "Fire the phaser Chakotay," She told him simply.
"I can't do that."
"Fire the phaser, Chakotay." It became her mantra.
"If I fire this phaser, what will that do the trust you have in me? To the trust the crew have in me?"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Fire the phaser, Chakotay."
"I can't *do* that." It was starting to become his mantra.
"Come on," She tried to goad him. "If you really hate me, this should be easy. If you don't you shouldn't even consider it."
"You should know better than anyone that nothing is ever that black and white. Never that clean."
"Fire the phaser, Chakotay."
His temper snapped. He walked forward, forcing her back until she was pushed against the wall - slowly this time. "Don't mess with me like this, Kathryn. Don't even joke about your life. Every life is significant."
"Yes," She breathed. "Yes, you believe that and you've always believed that. The problem is that a life is only significant depending on your situation, your point of view. When it's convenient. When you don't need it anymore you can discard it, unwanted."
"That's not true," He denied hotly.
Grasping his wrists harshly, she pulled them towards her, causing the phaser to dig deeper into her body. "Fire the phaser, Chakotay."
"Will you *stop* that?"
"Fire the phaser, Chakotay."
"Dammit!" Grabbing the phaser tightly, he pulled it away and flung it across the room until it smashed into something. He didn't wait for reaction, instead reaching up and clutching either side of her face with his hands. It must have hurt the bruises that were already there, but he didn't release his hold. "I want you to listen, Kathryn. Do not play any of these mind-screw games with me, okay? I have had *enough*. I've had enough of the people I've trusted the most manipulating me, whether they think it's for my own benefit or not. I've had enough of you thinking that every situation can be fixed in an instant; it can't. I will get through this. I will get 'over' this. But you can't force me into it."
His piece said, he removed his hands and stepped away, falling down until he reached the floor. His back barely rested against the side of his bed, and in the darkness of his quarters he blinked. He felt so tired...
Silently, she sat next to him on the floor. "I'm trying to help you."
Eyes closed, he shook his head. "What's really worrying is that you actually believe that. I just...can't seem to find myself anymore. I haven't contacted my spirit guide in so long."
She smiled indulgently. "Did you think I wouldn't know?"
No. Not really.
"Perhaps you should try." She encouraged.
He knew she hoped that it would help him. He knew she hoped that it would 'fix' what was wrong with him. Chakotay looked at her, studied her features in the quiet darkness. "There was a time, Kathryn, when I believed in nothing. I always found myself thinking of you."
Not particularly caring what that revealed - if anything - he tried to find the energy to move so he could open the drawer on the other side of his quarters and retrieve his medicine bundle.
He couldn't move.
She got it for him.
"How can you be like that?" Chakotay asked, watching as she returned to his side, the medicine bundle in her hands.
"Like what?" She settled herself down on the floor next to him.
"Change your mood so rapidly from one second to the next. One minute you're caring, compassionate, and the next..."
Kathryn stared at him blankly for a few moments, before speaking one word; "Necessity." Avoiding his gaze she bent slightly, lowering the medicine bundle to the floor. Once there, she began unfolding what she supposed to be animal skins - although she had never asked if they actually were. Considering the fact that Chakotay was a vegetarian, she doubted it.
Once unfolded, she studied the contents, not noticing as he studied her. It had been years since she'd seen these objects. She never had got around to making her own...
A stone from a river.
A blackbirds wing.
It took several seconds for her to realise that her eyes were frantically scanning the objects before her, trying to see the smallest sign of a new addition. Something that meant...something.
Her disappointment frustrated her. She shouldn't have been upset. What was important was that Chakotay overcame his guilt as quickly as possible, and came back on duty.
The bridge had become lonely.
She nearly smiled when she realised how little time she had been spending there lately.
Extending her hand, she nudged the akoonah towards him. "Let's get it over with."
Chakotay continued to study her. Let's get it over with? It seemed to sum up Kathryn Janeway's philosophy since being stranded out here. But he had known that a long time ago, and he had known an even longer time ago that she wasn't about to change.
He didn't want her to.
Something would be missing, somehow.
Exhaling heavily, he forced his body to relax. His gaze moved to his medicine bundle. The sight of the stone, the wing, nature...made him feel at least a little peaceful. He was still wary about attempting this; since Kathryn had forced him into the link with Marika and Seven, he wasn't sure if he could. It was as if he had been desecrated. He had been in links before, with the Cooperative and even Seven herself, but this...this had been different. Forced.
His fingers brushed over the smooth, round surface of the stone, then gathered it up until it rested between the palms of his hands. Clasping his hands together he leant forward slightly and uttered the words;
"Akoochemoya. We are far from the place of our ancestors. We are far from the bones of our people. But perhaps there is one being who will embrace this man and show him the wisdom he seeks."
Releasing the stone, his pressed his right palm firmly against the akoonah.
His eyes remain closed as his hand shook, feeling the whiteness in his belly, the almost imperceptible touch of her fingertips against his wrist, the wind on his face...
The air was thick with rain. Whether cleansing or destructive he didn't know, but the threat hung obviously. He could feel it. He could smell it.
I should have come back sooner.
Chakotay half-expected his animal guide to suddenly appear and tell him that of course he should have returned a long time ago.
Shaking his head and smiling, he opened his eyes. The familiar terrain was exactly as he remembered it. Relieved, the smile came even easier to his face and as he began to walk through the foliage, his steps became remarkably light.
Hearing a rustling noise to his left, Chakotay eagerly changed direction, trying to catch a glimpse of his friend. She would be happy to see him. She always was.
Forcing his way between several particularly dense trees, he stumbled into a small clearing. It was warmer. Brighter.
That was not what caught his attention.
There was a man in the clearing, facing away from him. An icy dread trickled through Chakotay's chest, an instinctive feeling knowing immediately who the man was. He was dressed in a Starfleet uniform - one that indicated he worked in the sciences, but Chakotay couldn't see his rank.
It was a big man, heavy set. Larger than him.
The noise started.
Clutching at his head Chakotay stumbled backwards, then, anger propelling him, he ran towards the bastard, intending to force him to stop.
He'd nearly reached him when he realised the noise was coming from somewhere else. Stopping, he glanced about and saw - to his right at the edge of the clearing - his friend.
She was the one the noise was coming from.
She was the one who was humming.
Sitting on her rear, she calmly studied him and continued to hum as Chakotay reached out and touched the mans shoulder, turning him around. He knew who it was. He knew who it was going to be.
He was not prepared.
The time when Chakotay stumbled he fell, and gaped up at the man who looked down at him impassively. Gasping, Chakotay moved, trying to crawl away. His hands and knees became muddier with every movement, yet still the sun beat down. He could hear the sound of slow footsteps behind him mixed with the sound of his animal guide humming and he could still feel Kathryn's fingertips-
Kathryn, get me the hell out of here-
Swearing, stumbling back in surprise as he saw what was waiting behind the leaves on the Sikari planet. Using his tricorder, confirming that the thing was dead, shaking his head at his own nervousness but realising the seriousness of the situation. Tapping his com badge and informing Kathryn that she really should beam-
-was bald, some kind of implant in the back of her head. No, it couldn't...no..."Riley?" She was shocked, embarrassed, horrified. His head pounded, throbbed, the light was too bright; this was not a complication he-
-and Gods he could feel everything he did, everything she did, hear every thought no matter who it came from, and he cried and laughed and screamed at the absolute bliss, absolute understandin-
"Chakotay, can you hear me?!"
-are under attack. You must hurry. We are under attack. You must hurry, Chako-
-dark, smoky. Damaged and dead Borg lie everywhere. A part of him was glad to see it, glad to see *them* suffering. His grasp tightened around his phase-
"-know you, Kathryn. Sometimes...you don't know when to step ba-"
-of Nine stared at him. "We have an alliance, do we not?" He wanted to scream, wanting to yell that this couldn't possibly be happening. Not with them. Not an alliance with them. Not even for Kathryn. He said nothi-
"-linked to a Collective once - remember? I had a neural transceiver embedded in my *spine*. I know who we're dealing with! We've got to-"
"-to Chakotay; Scorpion."
"Janeway to transporter room. Beam Chakotay directly to-"
He could see again. He could see her cradling his head in her lap. Could see the concern.
"Chakotay?" Kathryn asked quietly, voice croaking.
None of it mattered. "Get me to the bridge."
She was defiant. "No, we're taking you to sickbay to see-"
The ship shuddered. The klaxons blared the activation of red alert. She met his quiet gaze. "Okay, maybe we'll go to the bridge."
There were more than a few raised eyebrows when the apparently mute Captain stampeded onto the bridge, with her apparent guilt-ridden attacker just behind her, looking more than a little worse for wear.
No one questioned her.
Harry responded. "A ship Captain; just appeared out of nowhere right on top of us. The computer initiated an automatic red alert. It's not a ship we're familiar with, but it doesn't appear to be armed." Stepping over to his station, she looked down at his readings. There was something about the warp drive of that ship. Something familiar...
Tuvok's voice interrupted her reverie. "We are being hailed, Captain."
All eyes turned to her. Hers turned to Chakotay. He was still on the upper level, arms braced against the railing for support. He nodded his head once, not looking at anything.
Janeway stepped forward. "Open a channel."
Tuvok acknowledged, and the familiar chirp was heard as she looked towards the viewscreen-
And stopped, cold.
She was not the only one.
The image on the viewscreen suffered no such surprise. They spoke, with the voice of dozens;
"We are the Cooperative. We require your assistance."
Yup, there will be a sequel. Called 'Pallid'.
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