Twelve Hours of Darkness
Summary: A tale of two captains. Because the fallout from Equinox can't simply be glossed over by putting a plaque back up on the wall.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Ransom
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Ransom, Chakotay/Gilmore, Ransom/Burke (implied)
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
1. The Artisan of Misfortune
Two captains stride through the corridors of Voyager, and my steps lag behind them, out of pace with the equally uneasy rhythm of my heart.
Ransom appears weary and ragged, the dust of battle still staining his shoulders; even his pips seem dulled. In contrast, Kathryn’s eyes are lit with fever, her steps quickened. She’s walking taller than usual. She’s peppering him with questions, and if I’m not misreading him, he’s quite skilfully deflecting them.
It occurs to me that I haven’t seen her so animated since Kashyk came aboard.
My feet, and my heart, stumble.
She orders me – casually, over her shoulder as she steps onto the turbolift – to find quarters for the Equinox crew, and before I’ve even clipped out a yes, Captain, the doors are sliding closed. The last thing I see before I’m shut out is Kathryn’s upturned face, her palm hovering to settle on Ransom’s grime-speckled chest.
The VIP suite stands empty on deck three.
I assign Ransom to standard crew quarters on deck seven.
While Kathryn and Ransom are in conference in her ready room, I review his service record and order Tuvok to investigate the Equinox’s logs. Naturally, he asks why; I tell him it’s a security precaution. I can’t even really explain it to myself. All I know is, I don’t trust him.
And I tell myself that my actions are merely those of a diligent first officer, and have nothing to do with the way his hand rested – so certain, so possessive – on her lower back as he ushered her into her ready room, or the way she looked up at him with that coquettish half-smile she has previously bestowed only on me.
The two captains arrive for the memorial ceremony in the mess hall, their strides evenly matched, their heads bowed together. They are the picture of solidarity. I don’t object when the blonde ensign from Equinox attaches herself to my side; I linger, but Kathryn’s glance passes over us both without a flicker.
Turning away, schooling my face into impassivity, I catch a glimpse of Maxwell Burke, Ransom’s first officer. In his eyes I see exactly the same sick and hopeless jealousy that I’m sure he sees in mine.
It’s better and it’s worse. Knowing I’m not the only exec fruitlessly pining after his captain is a comfort of a sort; realising that my emotions are undoubtedly clouding my judgement is not. I decide my instincts are not to be trusted, and I force myself to relax my scrutiny of Ransom, and by extension, of Kathryn.
And I refuse to give in to my desire to track her – their – every movement. I know they’re dining in her quarters tonight, and I know she failed to remember that she broke our standing arrangement in Ransom’s favour. I won’t picture her laughing at his stories, refilling his wine glass, touching him to emphasise her punchlines. I won’t imagine her bare, freckled shoulders or his fingers in her hair, or the pale arch of her throat under his perfidious lips.
At the end of the day, as I remove Marla Gilmore’s uniform and catalogue her quivers and sighs, I count the scars decorating her pale skin and find myself imagining they are freckles.
2. The Perfect Starfleet Captain
She told me – her eyes clear and centred on mine – that she’d never broken the prime directive, and I allowed her this conceit. Later, I met Max in their mess hall. He handed me a copy of their ship’s logs, and reading them, I was vindicated.
She’s an accomplished liar. But then, so am I.
We begin the dance over dinner in her quarters. At first I’m distracted by her unrumpled uniform and the pristine sanctity of her surroundings, but then I begin to notice the way her fingers drift across my shoulders, her small hand settling on my chest. We retire to the couch and she leans over me to pour brandy into my glass, her breath drifting over the small hairs on my neck. She sits beside me, close, the lean heat of her thigh pressed against mine.
It’s been too long since I felt the warmth and softness of a woman. I’ve become accustomed to calloused hands and the rough scratch of stubble on tender flesh, the struggle for dominance that ensues when two men who don’t like each other score their need into one another’s skin. And it occurs to me to wonder, would Captain Janeway yield to me, all smooth sweet curves and pliancy? Or would she fuck me – swallow me up and spit me out – like a man?
When I turn to study her she’s leaning her head against the back of the couch, gold pips gleaming at the base of her pale elongated throat, and I think about how badly I want to take her. She is everything a Starfleet captain should be – sharp, inflexible, smug – and nothing like me.
Her eyes open.
She reads mingled lust and revulsion in mine, and she smiles, slow and hot and vicious, and in that moment I realise she’s exactly like me.
Her lips bruise under my kiss and her jacket, when I wrench at it, parts at the seam. The need to make my mark on her, to control and overpower her, consumes me, and I shove her onto her back, my hands clutching her wrists in a punishing grip. I expect her to fight me as I strip her of the turtleneck, the pants – the symbols of her command – but when I nudge her chin to the side and sink my teeth into her neck, she moans and opens her legs.
I push into the grasping heat of her cunt and she hisses through clenched teeth, tells me it’s been a long time since she took a man inside her. About that, at least, she isn’t lying. I feel it in the stretch and flex of her inner muscles, the tension of her thighs. I ease back, some vestige of my better self admonishing me to be gentle.
“Don’t stop,” she whispers, voice strained and harsh. “Fuck me.”
And so I surge into her and she arches her back, her mouth a raptured ‘O’, her fingers tightening convulsively on my shoulders. It’s not gentle or kind, and the more forceful my thrusts, the more she pleads and gasps and whines. I bite down hard on her throat when I come, and as the red haze fades from my eyes, I wonder if she’ll keep the mark I’ve made.
3. A Thief and a Traitor
The imprints of his teeth are still smarting on the tender skin of my throat, the remnants of him still inside me from this morning’s hasty tumble, when I discover Captain Ransom’s duplicity.
I have no illusions that he used our attraction, our mutual loneliness, to his advantage – truthfully, it’s immaterial. He didn’t betray me personally; at least, not in the way he probably thinks I’d feel betrayed. He did much worse than that: he betrayed everything I believe in.
But it makes me sick that I welcomed – no, invited – his hands on me. It makes me sick that I let myself go again and again under his mouth and his fingers, that I moaned as he thrust his cock inside me, that I pleaded, begged, entreated him to fuck me more, faster, harder. It makes me sick that I needed it. Needed him.
Maybe it’s my own betrayal that really galls me.
Chakotay tells me I’m letting my anger get the best of me, that I’m putting Voyager’s crew at risk to settle a vendetta. That I’ve lost my perspective, if not my mind.
He doesn’t know the half of it.
Starfleet protocol. The directives I’ve lived by my entire career, the rules and regulations I claim to uphold over and above all else. The guiding force behind every decision I’ve ever made as captain, whether I choose to apply the letter or the more liberal law of it.
I’ve given up the life I’d planned for it. Let go of a way home, sentenced my crew to a lifetime’s distance from their families, put all our lives on the line for the sake of strangers. Given up the promise of warm arms around me, the potential for a love so strong that nothing else would have mattered. And here’s another, just like me, who grinds protocols and directives beneath the heel of his Starfleet-issued boot.
Damn right, I’m angry.
Does he think I’m immune to temptation? That I don’t want things, need, feel things like a human being? Does he think I’ve never wanted to scream over the injustices, the deprivations, to throw my hands up and say the hell with it, ‘fleet be damned?
Does he know just how close I’ve been to giving in, more times than I’d like to count?
I thought Rudy Ransom was my answer. The only other person on this side of the galaxy who knew what it was like to be me. A compatriot, an ally of the strongest kind. And, though I refuse to believe it was the first thought in my mind, my only chance for a companion and a lover of equal status.
For a few bright moments I had it all. And then Ransom revealed his twisted, tortuously justified means to our mutual end, and I hated him more than I’ve ever hated before.
That egotistical, black-hearted, morally compromised, self-righteous excuse for a human being –
Just like me.
I don’t care what it takes. I’ll hunt that bastard down. I’ll lie, cheat, threaten and scheme until I make him pay. I’ll side-step my ethics until the end of time if it brings me Rudy Ransom’s head on a pike.
Chakotay says he doesn’t even know me anymore.
Maybe he never did.
4. The Somnambulist
The Wee Hours
Relieved of duty.
It sounds so mild, so sanitised; a polite Starfleet expression for a mortal blow. A blow she meant to inflict. Like a wounded animal, she strikes most viciously when she’s cornered.
She scared the shit out of me with that stunt she pulled with Lessing. If it hadn’t been for that tiny flicker of shame I saw in her eyes as she shouldered her way past me, outside that cargo bay, I’d have believed she was too far gone to save.
But if she thinks I’ll hold back the next time she goes over the edge, she can think again. I’m not Max Burke, and I won’t let her become Rudy Ransom.
Ransom. I know she slept with him; I saw the physical evidence he left. But even if she’d bothered with a dermal regenerator, I’d have known it from her small secret smile and the liquid way she walked, all rolling hips and catlike satisfaction. I wonder if I even crossed her mind as she drew him inside her, the way I saw auburn hair spilling through my hands as I let down Marla Gilmore’s blonde ponytail.
At least Kathryn doesn’t have to live with the architect of her indiscretion. I’ll have to face Gilmore every day on this ship for the rest of my life, but it’s a penance I’ll gladly pay if I can bring Kathryn back to us. To me.
It sounds perverse, but knowing she slept with Ransom gives me an odd kind of hope. She’s ignored her human needs for so long – shore leave dalliances and Devore Inspectors aside – that I’d begun to wonder if she still had them. I know her: she had every intention of forming a lasting alliance with Equinox, of travelling alongside Ransom and his crew until we all got home, or if their ship was unsalvageable, of folding them into our ranks. Ransom wasn’t just a random alien, a passing fancy she could fuck and leave. He represented her only chance at a lasting, equal relationship.
And yes, of course I’m sick with jealousy that he’s had a part of her that she refuses to allow me. But mostly, I’m glad. For her, because it gave her at least a night or two of respite from the lonely place she lives in. And for me, because now I know that someday – some longed-for day, when she’s no longer responsible for my life – there’s that same chance for us.
Because I know, deep down and no matter how obstinately she tries to ignore it, that she loves me. And when this is all over – when she comes back to herself, when she comes back to me – I’m going to make her understand: what we feel for each other may be mostly unspoken, but it’s no less abiding for it.
All I have to do is wait for her to come to me, and I’ve become so very practised at waiting.
When it’s all over – my crewmen retrieved, Burke and Ransom dead, Equinox destroyed – it’s time to face up to what I’ve done.
We’ve already made our first overtures, Chakotay and I. I returned him to duty and we attended the pot luck, standing shoulder to shoulder in the show of solidarity our crew so desperately needs. Now, I push down my uncaptainly trepidation as I press the chime at Chakotay’s door.
He’s shrouded in darkness as I enter, squinting past the rectangle of artificial light cast by the open doorway. “Chakotay?”
“Come in, Kathryn.”
He rises slowly from the couch and I square my shoulders and instruct my feet to carry me to him. He’s silhouetted against the stars and I can only see him dimly. My own face, upturned, must be lit up and naked for him to see.
“You were right.”
“And I’m sorry.”
“I won’t do it again.”
“Yes, you will.”
His hands are warm as they envelop mine. “I understand, Kathryn. He was killing innocents. He betrayed everything you stand for, and you had no choice. You had to fight him.” He smiles, just a little. “Believe me, I’ve been where you are.”
“Yes, you have,” I realise, then shake my head. “But I took it too far. You would have been within your rights to take my command.”
“We’ve been through this already,” he reminds me. “I told you I wouldn’t cross that line.”
I take a half-step closer to him, so close I can feel the warmth radiating from his body. Strong, solid, dependable. If I placed my hand on his heart, I’d feel it beating steady and true. Just like him.
“What if I do it again?”
Because what if I do? What if I’m no longer fit to command this ship? What if this good, steadfast man is the one who’ll bring the crew home?
“What is it you need from me, Kathryn? Empathy? Absolution?” He studies me. “Punishment?”
What if I cross that line one day and there’s no coming back? What if he decides, one day, that he can no longer stand beside me?
What if I lose him?
“No,” I whisper, finally understanding why I’ve come here tonight – barefoot in a simple dress, my face scrubbed of makeup – “no. I just need you.”
I hear his short intake of breath, feel the gentle grasp of his fingers on mine.
“Kathryn,” his voice is softer than a caress, “I’ve always been yours. But don’t ask for something you don’t intend to keep.”
“I’ve learned quite a bit lately about what’s worth keeping, and what’s worth fighting for.” I free one hand from his and lay it against his cheek. “Including which Starfleet protocols I should continue to live by, and which ones just don’t make sense anymore.”
His smile broadens across his familiar, beloved face, and I take that final half-step that brings his lips into contact with mine.
There’s nothing that compares to this. The soft slide of hands on skin, the whispering of words into parted mouths, the blending of bodies that completes the joining of our hearts. Hours later, curled into the circle of his arms, I wonder whatever made me believe that someone else could take the place of this man. This man, who is my equal, my companion, my lover, in every way that counts.
As the minutes tick onward into ship’s dawn, the steady beat of his heart lulls me into the sweetest sleep I’ve ever known.