Summary: They’re home… but it’s not what they hoped for. Estranged by circumstance and misunderstanding and kept apart by devious design, Voyager’s former command team are drawn into a world of danger, deception and political intrigue that could end up costing their lives.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven, Kim, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Sekaya, Original Female Characters, Original Male Characters
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Other, Chakotay/Seven, Kim/Seven
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Warning: Non-consensual sex depicted.
I know you've got a little life in you yet
I know you've got a lot of strength left
I should be crying, but I just can't let it show
- Kate Bush, This Woman’s Work
Chapter Eight: In Umbra
In the first week of February, Chakotay’s team in the Borderlands reported that they had finally made contact with a confirmed member of the Entera Coalition, a Trialan trader named Kash. She was, in fact, one of the rebels who’d taken over the Fermola mine several years earlier in the event that had prompted the rise of Entera.
As Lieutenant Davis conveyed, Kash’s job was assessment and recruitment of Entera assets, mainly traders, suppliers and other peripherals. Recruiting a corrupt Starfleet captain with Intelligence clearance would be quite a feather in her dreadlocks, as Jonah Miles agreed when Chakotay proposed he return to Midrian and try to get recruited himself.
He debated how much to tell Owen Paris, and finally decided to stick as close to the truth as possible. When she first went covert, Tilly Davis had posed as a Starfleet dropout; Chakotay’s plan was to claim a personal connection with her to foster Kash’s trust when Davis introduced them. His hope was that he would be quickly accepted into Entera’s inner circle and allow Davis to take a step back to become his messenger back to Admiral Paris.
As he outlined this plan, he couldn’t help thinking that Paris suspected something – the man was no fool – but he simply nodded and signed off on the trip. It made Chakotay wonder if the admiral was working for Jonah Miles’ agency. Or worse: for Entera.
That thought made him grimace. Section 31’s paranoia was rubbing off on him.
Officially, his absence from Earth was recorded as a reconnaissance mission in the Borderlands; Paris had pointed out that he wasn’t trying to hide his Starfleet affiliation, just convince Entera that he was corruptible, and Miles had reminded him that Entera had influence within Starfleet and would almost certainly be checking his story.
Arriving at Midrian, Chakotay hoped his cover would hold – and that he’d be able to keep all the lies straight in his own mind.
He had a few hours with Tilly Davis to debrief and ensure their stories aligned before she introduced him to her Trialan contact, Kash. Chakotay thought privately that with her enlarged amber eyes, varicoloured dreadlocks and the tight, shiny leather clothing she favoured, Kash wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of Tom Paris’ science fiction holonovels.
Kash turned out to be almost as cagey as Jonah Miles, but after she’d verified the snippets of classified information Chakotay fed her over the course of his first few weeks on Midrian, she eased up on the suspicion. By the beginning of March, Chakotay had uncovered the call numbers and warp signatures of the fleet Entera used to ship goods across the Borderlands and beyond. He’d even got a look at some of the cargo manifests. Weapons, technology and other illicit substances were secreted among more innocuous goods such as foodstuffs, ores and medical supplies. He had the evidence now that Entera was controlling a large fleet of illegal traders, and he had the identities of some of the people involved.
But he was still locked out of the inner circle.
“I need more,” he told Jonah Miles in one of his rare communiqués. “They won’t trust me unless I bring them something big, and I won’t give them any information that’s vital to Federation security. You’ll need to come up with something that’s going to convince Entera I’m on their side.”
~What you need is a motive,~ Miles mused.
Jonah gave him a smile full of teeth that made Chakotay’s hackles rise. ~Leave it with me.~
“One more thing.” Chakotay held up a hand, and Miles paused in the act of reaching to close the channel. “Owen Paris. He’s not stupid, and I’m sure he knows I’m doing more here than hanging out in bars and chasing up dead-end leads.”
~As long as you get results, Paris will continue to give you latitude.~
“Tell me something, Miles. Is Owen Paris a member of your agency?”
~You’d be surprised to discover just who our agents are, Captain. But for you own protection and theirs, you’re better off not knowing.~ Miles leaned forward. ~I’ll contact you in a couple of days,~ he finished, and the screen went blank before Chakotay could object.
The excursion to the Borderlands planets had been as mind-numbing as Kathryn had expected. She was talked over in meetings. Her appearance was complimented and her opinions ignored during lavish dinners. The press were ever-present, yet all they seemed to care about were her favourite recipes, her interior decorating preferences and how soon she and Ryan were planning to start a family.
After two weeks of it, she was ready to scream.
Ryan wasn’t helping either. He left her to field the inane media interviews while he offered his opinion on the serious matters. He cajoled her into dressing up for interminable dinners and balls and cocktail parties, but as soon as they’d garnered sufficient attention for their appearance together, he’d leave her to her own devices. Each night he’d make a point of asking her opinion on the day’s events, but when that opinion differed from his he’d try to argue her into submission. And if that didn’t work, he’d seduce her.
Kathryn wasn’t sure what she’d have done if Tora Jens hadn’t accompanied them on the tour. After the third party at which Kathryn ended up buttonholed by some handsy diplomat and trying not to drink herself into tolerating it, she insisted on bringing Jens along to the social events.
But that surfaced a new problem.
Ever since she’d encountered Vela Marquez, the president’s aide, in Ryan’s office, Kathryn had been subconsciously watching the way her husband spoke and behaved around attractive women. At first she’d written it off as his inherently flirtatious nature – she was hardly a saint in that aspect herself, after all – but with each lingering touch, each look he held too long, each conversation that skirted the bounds of innocence, she doubted a little more.
She wasn’t the only one. Tora Jens stood on the sidelines and watched with her as Ryan lit up each woman he spent time with, and the growing sympathy in her eyes made Kathryn want to squirm. And then one morning she slept late, waking to the sound of voices kept deliberately low through the half-open bedroom door, and when she crept quietly to peek into the next room she saw Tora with her back pressed up against the breakfast bar, and Ryan standing too close and smirking down at her.
For a moment she thought the surge of nausea would overcome her, but then she noticed something. Tora wasn’t unfurling, softening, smiling up into Ryan’s face the way all those other women did – the way Kathryn herself did. She looked trapped, wary, even disgusted. She looked ready for a fight.
Kathryn cleared her throat deliberately, and by the time she’d entered the room Ryan had stepped smoothly away from her aide and was making his smiling way toward her. If it hadn’t been for the residual relief on Tora’s face, Kathryn might not have believed her own eyes. By the time Ryan took her hands, kissed her and began to shuffle her back into the bedroom she had almost forgotten the whole incident.
Sitting beside her husband in the president’s private shuttle as they headed back to Earth, Chakotay’s words kept echoing back to her: When you’re together, do you feel out of control?
She’d been livid at the time – horrified and humiliated – but her compulsive reaction to Ryan’s touch, even when she was so mad at him she didn’t want him anywhere near her, could not be denied.
By the time they got back to San Francisco she was exhausted, demoralised and preoccupied with doubts about her marriage. Thinking back on the months since she’d met Ryan, she couldn’t deny that the Kathryn Janeway who’d been caught up in a whirlwind romance and wooed into a hasty wedding was not someone she recognised. Isolated, overworked and struggling to cope with a life that wasn’t her own, it was no wonder she’d rushed into the arms of the first person who’d seemed to genuinely care about her.
Chakotay was right: her life was out of control. And if he was right about that, maybe he was also right about the reasons why.
She chose her moment with care, waiting until they were seated in the middle of a restaurant and surrounded by people – somewhere he couldn’t distract her with sex – before she sipped her wine and asked Ryan, “Tell me about your mother.”
He paused in the act of chewing, then swallowed before replying. “I barely remember her. She died when I was young.”
“On Vega Colony?” She watched him carefully. “What was her name?”
“Adria,” he answered. “Why do you want to know?”
“Well, I know all about your father, but you never mention your mom. I’m just trying to get to know you better.” She smiled at him. “You know all there is to know about me, after all.”
“I doubt that,” he replied, setting down his fork and fixing her with an even look. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot you haven’t told me about your former first officer, for one thing.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
He shrugged. “I just find it hard to believe that you lived and worked side by side for seven years and nothing ever came of it.”
Kathryn gripped the edge of her chair, a sharp pain stabbing her temple. “We were best friends,” she said harshly. “I’d hardly call that nothing.”
“Uh-huh,” he said. “And now you can’t stand to be in the same room as him. What did he do to you, Kathryn?”
“He didn’t do anything,” she ground out. “We just … grew apart. Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.”
“So it had nothing to do with him taking up with that gorgeous young blonde?”
She flushed. “What are you implying?”
Ryan opened his mouth, apparently thought better of it and reached across the table for her hand. “Nothing, honey. It’s just my jealousy talking again. I’m sorry, okay?”
He smoothed his thumb over her knuckles, and a familiar tingling warmth spread along her arm and throughout her body, easing the agony in her head. She found herself relaxing, smiling back at him. “Apology accepted.”
“Good,” he said and launched into a monologue about his upcoming meeting with the Federation president.
It was only when she was lying in bed later, tired and sated from the exceptionally enthusiastic lovemaking Ryan had initiated the moment they were inside their apartment, that she realised he had once again adeptly distracted her from finding out what she wanted to know.
~I have new orders for you,~ Jonah Miles announced over the comm. ~I assume you haven’t been in contact with your sister on Trebus for some time?~
“Not since you sent me out here,” Chakotay answered warily. “Why?”
~You’re aware that Entera is in control of the dilithium mining operation on Trebus, of course. Your sister has apparently been lobbying for the Treban ruling council to close the mine.~
Chakotay swore softly. “I told Sekaya to stay out of it. Is she in danger?”
~Not if we play her interference to our advantage. I mentioned the last time we spoke that you needed a reason to insinuate yourself into Entera; well, here it is. You’re to let it be known that you’re willing to persuade Sekaya and the Treban ruling council to stand down in exchange for a portion of the profits from that mining operation, to be paid into your personal account.~
“You’re serious.” Chakotay stared at the man on the viewscreen. “Even if I could make Entera fall for that, I’d never persuade Sekaya to step back.”
~It’s your job to do both,~ Miles said flatly. ~Entera know you’re with Intelligence, but up until now they haven’t been sure you can be bought. You need to convince them that you can. And as for your sister, I’m sure you can explain to her that there’s more at stake here than her little planet.~
“More at stake?” Chakotay rubbed his forehead. “The greater good of the Federation isn’t an argument that holds much weight with Sekaya. Nor would it with you, if your home world had been caught in the middle of a territorial pissing content between the Federation and the Cardassians.”
~Then tell her that if she persists in her attempts to close that mine, Entera will not take it lying down. The situation will escalate into violence. If she doesn’t care about the Federation, tell her it’s for the good of your tribe.~
Kathryn’s head shot up at the once-familiar voice of her former protégée. “Seven,” she blurted, standing so quickly she almost tipped over the café table. “I’ve been … thinking about you.”
It was true, in a way. She’d been thinking about Chakotay. This was nothing new, but he’d been particularly forefront in her thoughts of late, and thinking of Chakotay led naturally to thinking of Seven. She knew it was a vast oversimplification of reality, but she couldn’t help the small, ugly part of her that believed Chakotay was no longer part of her life because of Seven.
And because I’m married, she reminded herself harshly. As regretful as she was becoming over her hasty marriage, she still owed Ryan her fidelity in thought as well as in deed.
Kathryn cleared her throat. “It’s good to see you, Seven. Would you like to sit down?”
“Thank you.” Seven slid into the chair opposite. “I’m glad to see you too, Admiral. And I’d like to offer my congratulations.”
Seven nodded toward Kathryn’s wedding ring. “On your marriage to Councillor Austin.”
“Oh.” Kathryn tried a weak smile. “Well, thank you, Seven. And,” she took in a breath, “I was sorry to hear that you and Chakotay aren’t together anymore.”
To her surprise, Seven’s gaze slid to the table. “No, Admiral. I’m the one who’s sorry.” She raised her head and looked directly into Kathryn’s eyes. “Had I known how you felt about each other, I would never have pursued him. Although I suppose it doesn’t matter now.” She glanced at the ring again.
“How we felt about each other?” Kathryn’s fingers tightened around her coffee cup. “Seven, I hope you understand that Chakotay and I were never anything more than close friends…”
“I understand that Starfleet protocols discourage romantic and sexual relationships between officers in the direct command chain, Admiral, and that this was at least partly the reason you never pursued such an association on Voyager. My inexperience prevented me from understanding the depth of your feelings for each other until recently. I … apologise that my relationship with Captain Chakotay interfered with your opportunity to pursue those feelings once we arrived on Earth.”
Kathryn stared into the remnants of her coffee. “You aren’t to blame, Seven. Clearly it wasn’t meant to be.”
Seven bent forward, dipping her head to catch Kathryn’s eye. “Are you happy?” she asked softly.
Her heart lodged somewhere in her throat. She couldn’t push the words past it, even if she’d known what to say.
“Are you?” she asked instead.
“I am.” Seven’s lips turned upward at the corners. “It took commencing a relationship with Harry to clarify for me the difference between sexual attraction and love. With Chakotay, I was content, but something was missing. I know now what it was.”
Kathryn looked up into Seven’s wide, beautiful smile. “What was it?”
“Harry completes me,” Seven explained. “I don’t mean I’m less of a person without him. But he complements and challenges me. He listens to me and supports me, but he’s never afraid to stand up to me. I miss him when he’s absent, and I want to be physically close to him when he’s present. And I trust him more than any other person alive. I believe this is the definition of love.”
“That sounds …” Kathryn had to swallow twice before she could speak, “about right.”
“Then you understand.” Seven sounded relieved. “I’m glad you have found love, Admiral. You deserve to be happy.”
Briefly touching Kathryn’s hand, she stood, excusing herself and leaving Kathryn alone with her coffee and her migraine.
~I cannot believe what I’m hearing, brother.~
Sekaya’s dark eyes were murderous, and Chakotay sighed; this was going about as well as he’d predicted. “Sekky, please. There’s so much at stake here.”
~Our community is at stake!~ Sekaya exploded. ~These merchants want to steal our resources and drive us off our planet, just like the Cardassians. How can there be higher stakes than that?~
“Sekaya, do you trust me?”
She set her mouth in a mulish line.
“I need you to do this,” he pleaded. “I promise you, I’ll make it right. You just have to have faith in me.”
She was silent for a long time, reading his steady gaze. ~I hope you know what you’re doing, Amal,~ she said finally.
So do I, thought Chakotay. “Thank you, little sister.”
Signing off, he placed an immediate call to Kash, the Trialan who’d become his key contact within Entera. “I’ve made the deal,” he said without preamble. “You promised me four percent of the dilithium you mine from Trebus. I want it deposited into my personal account.”
Kash’s amber eyes refracted the light, making it hard to read her expression, but the low purr coming from her throat told Chakotay she was pleased. ~Consider it done, Captain,~ she approved. ~Come to Ajilon Prime on Stardate 56259. There’s someone you should meet.~
This was his chance to penetrate the inner circle of Entera, Chakotay realised. “I’ll be there.”
His next communication was to Jonah Miles.
“I’ve been invited to the Ajilon system next week. Any idea what’s going on?”
Miles steepled his hands in front of his mouth. ~President Zife has lined up a series of meetings with Chancellor Martok of Qo’noS. Martok is displeased by the re-arming of Starfleet patrols on the Klingon borders. We expect representatives from the Orions and most of the trade worlds at the conference. There aren’t many independent worlds that welcome Starfleet’s attempt to lock down the trade routes, and some of them wouldn’t be too upset to see relations between the Federation and Qo’noS become strained.~
Chakotay sighed. “You know, when I signed up to Starfleet it never occurred to me that I’d end up tightrope-walking between political puppeteers and slumming with latinum-hungry thugs. What happened to peaceful exploration and the quest to better ourselves?”
Jonah Miles gave him an incredulous look. ~Peaceful exploration is the myth Starfleet sells its bright-eyed recruits to reel them in, Captain. And you are not naïve enough to believe that politics and latinum don’t make the world go around.~
“You have no idea how deeply that depresses me, Agent Miles.” Chakotay pressed the button that ended the comm call and sat back, wiping a hand over his face.
I can’t do this much longer.
He was so tired of lies, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt easy in his own skin. He longed for the company of someone he trusted implicitly, for small touches and easy silences. For lazy kisses and sunny mornings, and late nights wrapped up in the kind of intimacy that could only be forged by years of shared hopes and burdens.
It was unfortunate that the someone he longed for was never, and would never be, his.
Shivers prickled her skin, reaching into the depths of a languorous dream, and Kathryn sighed from under soft layers of sleep. A warm hand stroked over her abdomen and curved under her waist, and she tilted her hips, seeking the heat of the lips that trailed upward along the inside of her thigh.
“Kathryn,” murmured a voice, and she mumbled a protest, her mind grasping for the remnants of her dream. There had been sunshine streaming through sheer drapes and a large, rumpled bed and the satiny play of muscles under golden skin, and she felt so safe and so wholly, tenderly loved…
Her body felt heavy, the hands and mouth that slid over her skin languid and slow. A tongue circled lazily around her hardened nub as a finger slipped an inch inside her. She moaned, and the sound of her own voice jolted her into awareness.
“I thought you’d never wake up,” Ryan grinned as he dipped his head to taste her again.
“Ryan,” she said, and stifled a groan as he swirled his expert tongue over her. She curled her fingers into his hair. “Ryan, stop.”
“What for?” He moved her legs further apart. “You don’t have to do anything. Just lie back and enjoy.”
“No, it’s not –” she caught her breath as he eased a second finger inside her, “I just don’t want –”
“Shh.” He reared up smoothly, his erection pressing between her legs as he leaned down to kiss her.
She pushed against his chest. “Ryan, come on. Let me up.”
“I don’t think you really mean that.” He kissed her again, forestalling any further protests, and reached down to press his thumb to her clitoris.
Kathryn moaned into his mouth. Her body was thrumming, just as it always did for him, and she was fast forgetting why she’d objected in the first place.
“That’s my girl,” he murmured, and thrust inside her. She gasped and clung to him, nails digging into his shoulder as his hips drove him into her. “Tell me you want it.”
“No, I –”
He took her nipple between his teeth and her back arched, her legs locking helplessly around him.
“Tell me,” he growled, thrusting harder. “Tell me nobody ever fucked you like I do. Tell me you’re mine.”
“I – oh God!” she cried as he ground into her at that perfect angle and she came so hard stars burst behind her eyes.
He laughed in triumph and surged into her, his body holding itself rigid until, with a satisfied grunt, he collapsed on top of her.
As the stars receded and her sense of herself returned, Kathryn opened her eyes and heaved in a breath. She shoved at her husband’s shoulder. “Ryan, you’re squashing me.”
He rolled obligingly to one side. “Told you you wanted it,” he smirked, draping a possessive hand over her thigh.
Kathryn lay silent as his fingers traced lazily through their combined moisture. She started to tremble.
Ryan leaned up on one elbow. “More?” he grinned, his fingers moving with purpose.
She jerked away. “No.”
He curled a hand around her hip, and she heaved herself off the bed.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
She grabbed for her robe, belting it tightly, and faced him. “I said no, Ryan. I didn’t want this.”
A frown creased his forehead. “That’s not what your body was saying.”
“But it’s what I was telling you!” The shakes were increasing and her breath was coming in shudders. “I said no, and you just – you ignored me. You don’t have the right!”
“Kathryn –” He slid off the bed and took her hands, his face earnest. “I’m sorry, I honestly thought you –”
“Well, I didn’t.” She snatched her hands away. “I can’t be around you right now. Just – get out,” and she darted into the bathroom and closed the door firmly behind her.
Her head felt light, her fingers cold. She glanced at herself in the mirror and saw a tight mouth and wide, hurt eyes.
“Water shower,” she managed, “hot,” and as the spray jetted on obligingly, Kathryn sank onto the edge of the bathtub. She didn’t realise she was crying until hot tears splashed onto the silk of her robe.