Summary: Janeway agrees to an unusual trade with a race of telepathic aliens, and dips a toe into seven possibilities.
Characters: Janeway, Tuvok, Chakotay, Seven, Paris
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/other
Disclaimer: Paramount's universe; fanfic's playground.
Warning: Most of this story could be rated PG-ish, but there's some heavy stuff in a few chapters, particularly Chapter IV. You have been warned.
Part IV | Vengeance
She isn’t sure what hurts the most. Perhaps it’s her trembling, shackled arms, her wrists chafed and bloody from the restraints, shoulders strained and aching from bearing her own bodyweight as she hangs from the cable attached to the ceiling of the cell. Or maybe it’s her numb and battered feet, toes cramped from remaining en pointe so as to minimise the agony of flattening her soles on the plasma-heated floor. What she does know is that her physical suffering is nothing compared to her mental and emotional distress.
And it’s nothing compared to the drawn-out, agonising pain she’s going to lavish on her tormentor, should she gain the slightest opportunity to do so.
After what she guesses has been several hours, the wretched screaming from the next cell has finally stopped, and all she can hope is that B’Elanna has lost consciousness from whatever agony they’ve been inflicting on her. She refuses to think about the more probable explanation: that she’s dead, like Seven, Ayala, Carey and the others whose lifeless bodies the black-suited soldiers have paraded one by one into her cell and dumped on the floor before her, giving her ample time to reflect on the fate she’s brought upon them, before eventually returning to clear each corpse away. At first she tried not to look, unable to bear the sight of her crewmen’s twisted bodies and rictus faces, but after they brought in Harry’s body something broke inside her and she realised that she had to look at them, had to force herself to take in every detail of their gruesome fates, because she deserves it. Because all of this is her fault.
Her cell door opens, and this time she doesn’t even try to straighten her posture, as she has each time it’s opened previously. When they dump B’Elanna’s body at her feet she doesn’t have to hold back hot and useless tears, because she doesn’t have any tears left. All she has is her hatred, white-hot and pure, and she’s keeping that to herself. She’s saving it all up for one man.
She knows she’ll see him again soon; he always turns up in her cell after one of the bodies arrives. He can’t seem to help it. It pleases him to see her like this – trapped, broken down, stripped naked in every sense of the word. Eventually, she knows, this will be his undoing. He’ll grow just that little bit too confident, he’ll underestimate her – again – and the instant his guard slips, she’ll be ready. She doesn’t know how she’s going to kill him, yet, but she will. Somehow.
She hears the door sliding open again, and he’s here, as she knew he would be. He’s smiling, that smile she can’t believe she once responded to with anything other than revulsion. “Captain Janeway,” he greets her. “I trust you’ve been enjoying the entertainment. The soundtrack is somewhat different to your Mahler, I admit, but it does have its own attraction.”
She fixes him with an expressionless stare.
“Not so talkative anymore, Captain? Are we boring you?” Kashyk jerks his head and two soldiers enter the room and drag away the body of her once-beautiful chief engineer. “Perhaps you’ll find it more exciting to watch, then.” He turns to address his soldiers. “Bring him in.”
She hears a scuffle and a scrape, and someone is dropped unceremoniously on the superheated floor before her. He can’t stifle a groan as contact with the floor burns through the fabric of his uniform, but he resumes his silence as Kashyk’s soldiers jerk him back to his feet. She doesn’t want to look; she doesn’t want to know who it is, which member of her crew she’s going to be forced to watch as they torture him. Kashyk takes her chin in gloved fingers and turns her face up, and she looks.
Somehow, she knew it would be him.
Chakotay’s eyes are clouded as his gaze meets hers, but she sees the flicker of rage as he recognises her. He spits blood on the floor in Kashyk’s direction. “Let her go.” His voice is roughened, weak, and she wonders what he’s already had to endure.
Kashyk laughs. “Touching, Commander, but I hardly think you’re in a position to make demands.” The soldiers fasten cuffs onto Chakotay’s wrists and raise his arms above his head, attaching the restraints to a cable descending from the ceiling. He’s facing Kathryn now, as trapped as she is. One soldier produces a knife and uses it to slice open Chakotay’s uniform jacket, turtleneck and undershirt. Kathryn can’t help biting down on a gasp as she sees the bruised and bloody mess they’ve made of his torso.
Kashyk notices. “Beatings are such an unsophisticated means of imposing one’s control, aren’t they? But your lapdog here did make rather a nuisance of himself when we boarded your ship. I’m afraid my men had little choice.” He leans in close, his breath fanning her face. “I prefer more subtle methods.”
He holds out a hand and the soldier places the knife in it.
“Leave him alone.” She’s surprised at the strength in her own voice. “It’s me you want. Let my crew go.”
“And deprive myself of the pleasure of watching you as they die?” Kashyk shakes his head. “You’re right about one thing, though, Captain. It is you I want.”
His gloved hand strokes over her breast, cups it as he pinches her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. She’s known this was coming, but now that it’s happening she finds she doesn’t care. If he’s touching her, he’s not concentrating his efforts on Chakotay. So she holds as still as she can on her trembling legs while he lingers over her body with the hand that’s not holding the knife.
She hears a roar, and her gaze snaps up as Chakotay braces his weight against his restraints and kicks out as far as he can, catching one of the soldiers across the midsection. She hears the crack of bone and hopes Chakotay has broken more than one of the soldier’s ribs. The Devore drops to the floor, and Kashyk hisses. “Get him to the medical bay,” he orders, and the second soldier drags his fallen comrade through the open door.
Kashyk strides over to Chakotay, who’s now slumped and hanging from his wrists, clearly exhausted. “That was unwise, Commander,” Kashyk says. He places the tip of the knife to Chakotay’s neck and Kathryn watches as a drop of blood wells out. Before she can protest, Kashyk glances over at her. “Oh, don’t worry, Captain, I’m not going to kill him yet. But he has annoyed me, and I can’t let that go unpunished.”
He draws back his arm, adjusts his aim and plunges the knife into Chakotay’s abdomen, twisting it upwards before pulling it back out. She can’t help screaming as Chakotay groans, blood gushing from the wound.
“God damn you, Kashyk,” she spits. “You said you weren’t going to kill him.”
“Yet,” he reminds her. “It’ll take him hours to die from that injury, Captain. That gives us plenty of time.”
“Time for what?” She hates herself for asking.
Instead of answering, Kashyk moves back to her. “I’m going to let you down now, Captain. You’re not going to do anything unwise, or I’ll make sure the Commander’s last hours will be so wretched that he’ll wish I left him to bleed out on this floor. Do you understand?”
She hates him so much she’s shaking, but she gives him a short nod. Kashyk shoves the knife into his pocket and releases her wrists from the restraints, his gloved hand holding her arms immobile until he’s satisfied she isn’t going to attack him. Her feet burn as she lets her weight rest on the scalding floor, but that’s just the prelude to new insult as Kashyk places a hand at the back of her neck and pushes her down onto her hands and knees. She hisses at the fresh agony of new parts of her skin touching that floor, but she doesn’t protest.
“You’re going to want to pay attention for the next little while, Commander,” Kashyk says. Kathryn watches as Chakotay lifts his head and his pain-filled eyes focus on her, on her hands and knees in front of him. Then Kashyk moves behind her and unfastens his pants, and she’s shoved forward half a metre by the force of him thrusting himself inside her.
She lands on her forearms but she doesn’t even notice the misery of her tender flesh burning when it connects with the floor. All her senses are focused on the horrendous ripping pain inside her. She isn’t sure who’s screaming, her or Chakotay or maybe both of them. She can see Chakotay wrenching his arms against the cuffs, straining to get to her, but as Kashyk continues his assault, her vision blurs. She’d welcome unconsciousness at this point, except that she knows if she passes out he’ll only revive her, and in the meantime Chakotay or another of her crew will suffer. So she grits her teeth and forces herself to stay conscious and think. Think.
She remembers the knife.
His thrusts are getting faster, harder, the pace more jagged, and she knows she doesn’t have much time. She shifts her weight to her left arm, flexing her right wrist to bring back as much feeling as she can. She prays Devoran physiology is sufficiently similar to human for her desperate plan to work, and as she hears Kashyk’s breathing grow harsh and his thighs, pressed against the back of hers, begin to tremble, she throws all her weight onto her left side, wrenches her right hand behind her and into his pocket, grasps the knife, and plunges it into his right thigh.
His orgasmic cry chokes off into a grunt of disbelief. She feels the gush of blood over her hand as she twists the knife at a wicked angle, and she knows she has gambled correctly: she has severed his femoral artery. He slumps onto her back and she gathers her strength to flip him off her, scrambling away from him. She reaches for the knife handle sticking out of his leg and the fountain of dark blood that escapes the open wound makes her laugh. Kashyk turns his eyes to her and she doesn’t even hesitate before she plunges the bloody knife into his throat. He dies with a gurgle and she turns to Chakotay without sparing Kashyk another glance.
She uses the knife to pry open Chakotay’s restraints and supports him as he sags to the floor. She places her hands over the wound in his abdomen, trying to stem the blood flow, but her hands are soaked within seconds. His breathing is laboured, his face a sickly grey. There’s nothing she can do for him without medical equipment. “Chakotay,” she whispers, and his eyes open a little. “I’m going to get you some help.”
“No,” he chokes out. “No … point. Stay here. Stay … with me.”
Hate and anger rise in her like a boiling wave and she knows he’s right – he’s too far gone. But there’s one thing she can do now. She can find and kill the soldiers who did this to him, who tortured and killed her crew. She can take revenge.
She gets slowly, shakily to her feet, and at that moment the soldiers burst in through the door. She sees them take in the scene of carnage and Kashyk dead at her feet and she brings up the knife as one of them springs at her. Luck is on her side; he slips in the blood soaking the floor and stumbles onto her knife; she dispatches him quickly, then turns to the other. A smile spreads over her lips.
He tries to draw his weapon but she’s too quick for him; she kicks it out of his hand and it skitters into a corner. She scrambles for it, diving out of his reach, grabs the phaser and rolls upright. She points it at his chest. “Get on the floor. Face down, hands behind your head.”
He complies. She hears his grunt of pain as the skin of his face comes into contact with the blistering floor. Funny; she can’t feel the heat of it anymore.
She raises the phaser, intending to shoot him in the back of the head, then hesitates. A quick death is too good for him. She switches the phaser to her left hand, the knife to her right, and kneels beside the prone soldier. She lets him feel the point of the knife as she digs it into the back of his neck. He flinches. “You’re going to suffer,” she tells him softly, and begins to draw the knife through the fabric of his uniform. When the cloth is cut she shoves it aside. She places the blade against the first knob of his spine and applies pressure. Blood rushes out. The soldier jerks and groans.
“Kathryn,” she hears Chakotay rasp. “Don’t … do this.”
She ignores him. The knife cuts deeper. The soldier screams.
“Kathryn, stop!” Chakotay starts to drag himself toward her and she turns to look at him. “Why?” she asks, and she genuinely wants to know.
“Because … it’s wrong,” he whispers. “You’re not … a killer. This isn’t you.”
The soldier is moaning. Kathryn looks back at him. She did this; she caused him pain. She feels sick and she doesn’t want to hurt him anymore. She drops the knife.
This isn’t me …
She bolts upright, throws her upper body over the edge of the tub and vomits until she’s trembling with exhaustion and spitting only bile. As she gasps for air amid the shudders she feels a gentle hand on her back, hears a soothing and familiar voice telling her she’s safe, it’s over and she’s safe.
The shudders slow and she coughs, wiping a hand across her mouth, and pulls herself back into the tub, drawing her knees to her chest. Chakotay is watching her, his eyes dark with concern.
“The crew?” she asks him, needing to know. “Harry, B’Elanna? Are they all right?”
“Of course they are.” He reaches tentatively for her hand and she lets him take it. “What happened, Kathryn? What did you see?”
She thinks of what she’d seen, what she’d done, and she can’t look at him anymore. “I’m not sure you really want to know. How long was the session this time?”
“A little under seventeen hours,” he answers, and her eyes widen. She looks at him again and realises he looks as tired as she feels.
“You’ve been waiting all this time?”
“I wouldn’t leave you alone down here, Kathryn.”
And she knows he wouldn’t, no matter what it cost him.
“Tuvok is on the bridge,” he assures her, as if his absence from the command chair is what she’s concerned about. “Voyager is fine, and everyone is all right. Now, can you tell me about it? What did they make you see?”
She rests her head on her knees for a moment, mustering her composure. “We were in a Devore prison,” she begins, and feels him stiffen. “They’d boarded Voyager, captured the crew. I was in a cell. They made me listen to the crew being tortured to death. Each time they killed one of them, they would bring the body into my cell. He was trying to break me.”
“Kashyk?” Chakotay’s voice is deceptively quiet. She nods. “And then what happened?”
“Then,” she tries to pull air into her lungs, “he brought you in. He stabbed you in front of me. You were bleeding out but you were conscious, and he made you watch him. With me.” She feels his fingers tighten convulsively on her own as he realises what she means, and hastens on; she can’t stop now or she’ll be too afraid to tell him the rest. “I got hold of a weapon and I stabbed him to death. Then I killed one of the soldiers, and I was going to kill the other one but I decided I wanted him to suffer, like they’d made the crew suffer. Like they’d made you suffer. Nothing else mattered, Chakotay,” she emphasises. “Nothing but vengeance. But you stopped me, and the session ended.”
She can hear his teeth grinding.
“I thought I hated Kashyk before, Chakotay, when it was real, I mean. When he was after the telepaths. But I didn’t know the meaning of hatred until just now.” She presses her fingers to her temples. “I’m having trouble distinguishing between what was real and what they made me see. This didn’t happen after the other two sessions.”
He’s quiet for a moment, then, “You said I stopped you. How?”
“You said what I was doing wasn’t right. That it wasn’t me. So I put down the knife.”
“Then you stopped yourself,” he says with gentle emphasis. “No matter what they made you see – how they made you feel – you know what’s right. You do what’s right. Remember that, Kathryn, when you’re asking yourself what’s real.”
She feels tears spring to her eyes, and smiles at him. Of course he understands.
“How are you feeling?” he asks after a while.
“Better, thanks to you.”
“Good. I’m getting you out of here.”
She stares at him. “I can’t leave.”
“You can’t stay,” he counters. “I’m stopping this process. It’s taking too much of a toll on you. God, Kathryn, if I’d known what they planned to put you through –”
“You’d have done exactly the same in my place. If I don’t go through with this, I put Voyager in jeopardy. I have to finish this process, and you need to get back to the ship. That’s an order, Commander,” she adds when she can see he’s about to object.
He’s not happy, but he says “Understood, Captain,” and she lets go of his hand.
He stands to leave, then turns back, and in a rush of words she suspects he’s been holding back for years, he says, “Kathryn, what you felt – the anger, the hate, the burning need for revenge – I’ve been where you were. I’ve done those things you wanted to do. There was nobody to stop me, and I didn’t stop myself. If it weren’t for you, I might still be that man. So when this is over, if you find yourself thinking about this session, I want you to call me. Day or night. Promise me.”
“I promise, Chakotay,” she says softly, and then the seven shadows drift back into the room and she submits to the cool hand on her forehead and slips into the next reality they create for her.