Clarity

Summary: Hope is a hard thing to kill. - Sequel to Acceptance and Denial.

 

Characters: Chakotay, Janeway

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, mentions of Chakotay/Seven, Janeway/others

 

Disclaimer: Thank you, Paramount, for providing us with the Star Trek universe, and in particular for Endgame, which has spawned at least a thousand “fix-it” fics. This is one of mine.

Rated E

~ C ~

 

“When you’re ready,” I told you once, “I’ll be waiting.”

 

And I meant it; I promised myself to you, long ago and longer ago and every day since. The stretch of years meant nothing to me when the reward would be so sweet.

 

But then there was chaotic space, and Ransom, and the Nakan memorial, and I began to lose hope. You grew colder, harder. You constructed an ever-shrinking prison for your heart, pared off the soft parts of your personality, and as the years wore on I barely recognised you.

 

You think I don’t see you, that I never did; you believe my version of you is idealised, an avatar of bright-eyed innocence. You’re wrong. I always saw you, Kathryn. You, and all your imperfections and your doubts. I loved that woman, that brave, complicated, flawed woman, but I’m not sure she exists anymore.

 

You think I don’t know about your holograms. Oh, I don’t mean Sullivan, that sanitised charade you created for the crew, that awkward cliché constructed to protect you from their suspicion that you’d lost all trace of your humanity. I mean the other programs. The ones you run in secret, so rarely, so discreetly that even Tuvok probably doesn’t know. B’Elanna taught me plenty of tricks in the days before Voyager, and I haven’t forgotten them; I found your programs and broke your privacy codes. I watched one of the replays, watched you rough-handled by holograms – alien men who had you two or three at a time, a black-clad woman who blindfolded and bound you. I watched the pain and the lust playing out across your face as you were beaten, choked, pleasured and teased.

 

And I admit I was helplessly, shamefully aroused. But it shocked me, as well. Is that what you wanted from me? To bind you and beat you, to hurt and humiliate you? To fuck you without feeling, take you for my own pleasure, to use your body without concern for your heart and mind and soul?

 

Did you ever feel anything for me at all?

 

Hope is a hard thing to kill, Kathryn. When the ship was time-fractured and I met that fresh, spark-lit, seven-years-younger version of you, it kindled. But I’ve lived for seven years with the slow death of that hope, and the last embers died in the ashes of Quarra.

 

Not for the reason you might think, though. Yes, I was jealous of Jaffen. He was graced with a part of you that I’ve never been allowed. But that isn’t why I’ve pulled away.

 

Are you sorry I showed up?

 

Not for a second.

 

Brave lies, Kathryn.

 

It was the cruellest thing I could have done to you: I ripped you away from the only happiness you’d had in seven hard years and dragged you back to your beloved burden of a ship. I wanted to bring you the peace you once gave me, and instead I brought you heartache and regret. You barely spoke for days after you returned from Quarra. You barely slept or ate. You couldn’t look at me without guilt clouding your eyes. Guilt for unknowingly abandoning your responsibilities. Guilt for never giving me what you gave to Jaffen.

 

And I realised then that wanting you, loving you, had only brought you pain.

 

So I pulled away – hoping, at first, that you’d reach for me, a hope that faded with each passing day. But I was tired and heartsick, worn down from the long years of loneliness. And then there was Seven – sweet, awkward, beautiful Seven – and to my surprise, she became the only ray of light in my dull grey life.

 

I tried with you one last time, the night Neelix left. I saw the grief in your eyes, the tight set of your jaw, and I came to your quarters and held you in my arms. But you slipped away, and it was the final rejection. I could no longer convince myself that there was any reason to hold out hope. We had decades ahead of us, and I couldn’t wait any longer for a day I finally believed might never come.

 

And I gave up on you.

 

 

~ J ~

 

I thought for a split second, when you had Tuvok aim that phaser at me, that it was finally over. He’d kill me and you’d be the new captain of Voyager; I’d be dead, but I’d be free. And I was glad.

 

My only regret was that I knew what it would do to you, once you were rid of Teero’s mind-wiping and came back to yourself. The guilt would crush you.

 

But the phaser malfunctioned and I lived. I was so angry. You thought I blamed you for the mutiny, for taking my ship. I wanted you to take it. I hated you for wrenching me back from the precipice. You spent the next few weeks avoiding me and skulking around the ship like a whipped dog, and I let you believe whatever you chose. I didn’t care anymore.

 

I was numb.

 

Those holoprograms you think I don’t know you’ve watched? That’s when I started turning off the safety protocols.

 

It didn’t change anything. I didn’t feel anything; I just spent more time in my quarters with my dermal regenerator. It wouldn’t do for the Doctor to find evidence of my holo-inflicted sex injuries, after all, would it? God forbid he declare me unfit for command.

 

What a joke. Command is all I’m fit for.

 

But then… Jaffen.

 

You think I hate you for taking me from him, for returning me to this life of penance and solitude. I don’t. I didn’t. When my memories of you returned and those of Jaffen began to fade, I realised I didn’t hate you. I never have.

 

I love you.

 

And, damn the reasons and the regulations and my own crippling fear, I was ready. I was finally ready, for you, for us.

 

But you were no longer waiting.

 

Lunch?

 

I'd love to, but I've already made plans. Raincheck?

 

Oh, I was stupid. It took me too long to understand, too many broken dates and knock-backs. But eventually I caught on. You didn’t want me anymore.

 

I watched as your step lightened and your shoulders grew straighter, as you smiled when you thought nobody was watching, and I realised you were falling in love.

 

But not with me.

 

It’s better this way, I tell myself fiercely as the hologram pushes me to my knees, its hand twisting in my hair. I could never make you happy.

 

And you deserve to be happy.

 

I knew I had to let you go.

 

Then she shows up. That wintry, hard caricature of me that I recognise all too well. The woman I have no doubt I’ll become – am already becoming. God, I hate her, that smug, heartless bitch. And then she tells me about Seven. And about you and Seven.

 

And I can’t bear it.

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll die in that Borg hub. Maybe we’ll make it through, and then what? What will happen to the Maquis, the Equinox Five, to Seven and Icheb?

 

What will happen to us – to you and me?

 

All I know is that anything is better than this.

 

 

~ C ~

 

Irony is a heartless bitch.

 

Here we are, emerged from the belly of a Borg sphere, dazed newborns blinking in the light of the Alpha quadrant stars. The ship is silent, all of us holding our breath, not yet daring to believe. And then you breathe, “We did it,” and we’re being hailed, and –

 

And we’re home.

 

You did it.

 

And I’m standing with Seven instead of by your side.

 

In the days that follow I can’t seem to draw a full breath. We’re debriefed and counselled and promoted, and every time I try to catch hold of you you’re whirling away, just out of arm’s reach. You wear your practiced smile, your new pips gleaming with pride as you give speeches and commendations. “I couldn’t have done it without my first officer,” you never forget to say, standing beside me on podiums, in hearings and interviews. Your slender shoulder brushes my chest, I breathe in the scent of your hair, and all I want to do is the one thing I can’t.

 

Starfleet throws us a welcome-home ball and I arrive with Seven, elegant in a long red dress, on my arm. Champagne flows, admirals talk, and I run my fingers along the inside of my too-stiff collar. You make a late entrance on the arm of the other most-fêted captain in Starfleet, your hair pulled back softly against the white column of your neck. He places his hand on your bare lower back and I have to consciously remind myself not to grip my champagne flute so hard it shatters.

 

There are speeches and toasts and dancing, and I can’t stop looking at you.

 

And then my date tells me she wishes to dissolve our romantic relationship, and all I can feel is relief.

 

I feel the breeze stirred by the passage of Seven’s skirts as she stalks away from me through the banquet hall. My feet carry me toward you but I’m interrupted, waylaid by gushing relatives and pompous desk-job officers. I think I glimpse the turn of your head once or twice, the lowering of your lashes just as I catch your eye. But the crowd swirls around and between us and you’re moving further and further away.

 

I get it. You don’t want to be alone with me. You’re avoiding me.

 

Harry Kim’s mother corners me, weeping her gratitude onto my shirtfront, and by the time I extricate myself you’re gone. Drained, disheartened, I make my way onto the balcony seeking fresh air and silence.

 

You’re already there.

 

You lean on the balcony railing, your arms trembling, exhaustion written in every line of your body. Your head is bent, the pale length of your spine exposed, but as I step through the door the music swells out from inside and you raise your head. You don’t turn around, but I can tell from the sudden tension in your shoulders that you know it’s me.

 

“Kathryn.”

 

Even I don’t expect the depth of emotion that roughens my voice. I hear you exhale, shakily. And then, finally, you turn to me, and for the first time in years you’re not hiding from me. Your eyes are luminous, and in them I see everything I’d given up hoping for.

 

There’s so much to say, so much to explain and confess and resolve, but at this moment, words are superfluous. I step closer, my hand held out to you.

 

“Dance with me.”

 

My hand is open, my heart is yours, and all you have to do is accept it.

 

 

- J -

 

I won’t deny it. I’ve been avoiding you all evening.

 

But then Seven tells me it’s over between you, and every time I glance at you, you’re watching me. My heart is squeezing in my chest, my mind turning in circles, and I escape onto the balcony to think. And then you’re here, and I realise there’s nothing more to think about. Everything is suddenly so clear.

 

Now, finally, it’s our time.

 

I slip my hand into yours.

 

Your palm is warm, slightly calloused, and the contact sends a luscious tingle along my arm. You draw me in against you and the shock of your other hand sliding onto my bared back, your body flush against mine, sets me to trembling. You guide me into a slow, gliding dance. I can’t hear the music over the blood pounding in my ears. I can’t look away from you.

 

Your dark gaze is heating my skin, the slide of your fingers down my spine hypnotic. I press closer to you, raising my face, and you take the invitation for what it is and brush your mouth across mine. My lips part, our tongues tangle, and the thudding of my heart expands, my breath hitching as it mingles with yours.

 

“The first time I kissed you,” you murmur as your lips caress mine, “I knew I was yours.”

 

My mouth curves into a smile. “And the last time you kissed me, I knew you still were.”

 

You pull back slightly, your eyes meeting mine as you bring our joined hands to rest against my face. “Are you mine, Kathryn?”

 

I wind my fingers between yours, our gazes locked, my eyes full of the memory of hands clasped across a table, thousands of light years ago.

 

“Always.”

 

There’s nothing tender about your kiss this time. Your mouth captures mine, possessive and demanding. You trace the naked line of my back, fingers skating inward, upward, over my ribs and under the silk of my dress. My nipples tighten as your fingertips brush the underside of my breast. My belly is tight, liquid pooling between my legs where your thigh presses deliberately into me, and I bite down on your lower lip with a moan.

 

“Take me home,” you whisper, and I answer, “Yes.”

 

It’s so hard to step back from you, feel the slide of your hands leaving my body, but with your hand gripped in mine we make it through the crowd – and I don’t care who sees us - out of the banquet hall to the transporter station. We materialise in the hallway of my bland Starfleet-issued apartment.

 

In an instant you have me shoved up against the door, my wrists high above my head and pinned by your hard hand. Your fingers curl loosely around my throat, tipping my face up. I meet your black gaze and my breath catches, my body burning at the feral, open lust in your eyes.

 

“I’ve been waiting for this for seven years,” you growl, and then your lips are on mine again, your tongue curling into my mouth and stealing my breath. I push against your grip on my wrists, wanting to touch you, but your fingers tighten and I feel you smile.

 

“Not this time, Kathryn,” you murmur as your lips move over my face. “This time, I’m in control.”

 

If I’d planned to protest, it dies on my lips when your fingers move to the back of my neck, unhooking the clasp that holds up my dress. Your hand splays flat at the base of my throat and slides downward between my breasts, the slither of silk rasping against my skin as you expose me inch by maddening inch. The dress whispers over my hips and pools on the floor at my feet, and you step backward, my wrists imprisoned in one strong hand, taking in the sight of me stripped bare before you.

 

The combination of your hands holding me immobile and your black, implacable stare is the most erotic thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m almost panting, small sounds trapped in my throat, my nipples tight and my thighs damp as your eyes consume me.

 

And then we’re moving; you’re stepping backward, pulling me along the vestibule with your hand wrapped around my wrists until we reach the kitchen. Your hip connects with the edge of the table and you jerk me hard against you, turning me, turning us both, pushing me face-down across it and tapping my ankles apart. I grip the edge of the table, shuddering as you run a finger lightly down the length of my spine. My hips curve upward into your touch as your finger continues its path, stroking between my raised ass cheeks and dipping into the liquid below.

 

“So eager.” Your voice is like honey. “So wet.”

 

I hear you fumble one-handed with the fastening of your pants, your other hand stroking between my thighs. I’m gasping, my legs trembling so hard they can barely hold me. I feel your erection nudge at my opening and thrust myself backward, desperate for you to fill me, but you press me down with a hand on my lower back.

 

“God, Chakotay, please.”

 

I barely recognise my own voice.

 

And then you’re pushing inside me, slowly, so slowly I almost scream, and the feeling of you fully sheathed in me at last brings tears to my eyes. You start to move and I’m moaning, growling, mewling without shame, my body quivering and clenching around you as you take me. It’s rough, it’s rhythmic, it’s animalistic and I can’t tell if it lasts a moment or forever. Your hands are hard on my hips, your mouth sucking at the point where my neck meets my shoulder, and then you grind into me roughly and I burst over the edge with a long, keening wail.

 

You shudder and groan, and I feel you let go and spill your seed and your soul inside me.

 

“I love you,” I whisper, over and over again. You turn your face into my neck and I hear you speaking softly into my skin. I don’t understand the words, but I know what they mean.

 

My legs are still shaking as you help me upright, lifting me like I weigh nothing more than air and carrying me to the bedroom. We lie together on the smooth sheets and I press my face to your throat and breathe you in. You wrap me in your arms and stroke my hair, my arm, my hip, and soon I’m almost purring.

 

“I could hold you like this forever,” you murmur against my lips, and then you’re covering me with your body and moving inside me again. You clasp my hand in yours and hold me close, and this time it's not fucking. You’re making love to me.

 

I feel hyper-alive, focused, crystal-sharp, like the world can see the nerve endings under my skin.

 

I can't stop smiling, and I can hardly wait for what happens next.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper