mending broken pieces of the life I had before
Summary: Tumblr prompt: “I’ve been undercover for months/years and I know I told you not to wait for me but I’m still in love with you and it’s killing me.”
Characters: Chakotay, Janeway
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Jaffen
Disclaimer: Characters are Paramount’s. No infringement intended.
Notes: A sequel to my first AU prompt fic, you could be my unintended, was requested by a few readers, so here it is. I'm not sure this is exactly what people had in mind, but this is what came out of my brain. Sorry.
I am somewhat tech-savvy, but I really know nothing about the dark web or how IP tracking works except for what Dr Google tells me, so forgive me for anything I got ridiculously wrong. Incidentally, the research I did for this story taught me things I wish I could un-know.
Warning: There are references in this story to disturbing topics, but I’ve kept it as non-descriptive as possible.
Kathryn flicked through the in-flight magazine for the third time without reading a thing, tucked it into the seat pocket and tried to close her eyes. Her fingers drummed nervously on the arm of her chair. In less than an hour, the plane would be landing in San Francisco.
She hadn’t wanted to go, but the principal had insisted on sending as many of his staff as possible to the teachers’ conference. The Education Department was paying for it, it was school vacation, and she hadn’t been able to come up with a plausible excuse for not attending.
“Are you all right?” Jaffen leaned in to speak quietly.
“Fine,” she said, sending him a quick smile.
She was pleased that they’d managed to hold onto their friendship in spite of that aborted fourth date. Things had been a little awkward at first, and she’d almost decided it would be better to avoid him, but in the end, he’d patiently pushed through her discomfort. And she was glad he was on this trip with her. Going home, as she still thought of the city where she’d lived most of her adult life, was going to be painful enough without a friend to lean on.
They landed at four pm local time and joined a few of their colleagues in a cab to the hotel the principal’s executive assistant had booked for them. Kathryn looked up at the sign and felt nausea rise. They’d been booked into the Mystic, where Chakotay had gone the night they broke up. “What are the chances?” she muttered.
“Kathryn?” Jaffen sent her a concerned look.
“It’s nothing,” she said quickly, squaring her shoulders to enter the hotel.
After she’d showered and changed into jeans, she knocked on Jaffen’s door; they’d planned an early dinner at a local soul food restaurant. They sat in a booth by the window at the café and shared their plates of food, and as they walked out to head back to their hotel, he slung an arm around her shoulders, telling her a long, complicated and very dirty joke to make her laugh.
She was still laughing when she glanced across the street and saw Chakotay.
For a moment she didn’t recognise him. His shoulders were slumped, his hair unkempt, several weeks’ worth of beard on his face. He looked thinner and more exhausted than she’d ever seen him. But then he looked directly into her eyes, and the last remnants of her smile died, her breath catching in her throat.
She stopped dead, and Jaffen’s arm slipped from her shoulders as he turned back to her in concern. “What is it?”
She glanced at him, then back across the street. The man she’d married, the man she still loved with every atom of her being, had turned his back and was moving quickly away.
She watched him for a minute longer, then turned back to Jaffen. “It was nothing,” she said, woodenly. “I just thought I saw someone I used to know.”
Chakotay had taken Will’s pep talk to heart.
He’d taken up boxing again and started extending his runs, and was feeling a lot fitter. He was making an effort to eat more regular and healthy meals. He hadn’t touched alcohol for three months now, and although his first instinct when the stress grew too much was to reach for a bottle, he’d trained himself to employ some of his rusty meditation techniques instead. He was still too thin and he desperately needed a haircut, but the slovenly grooming fit with his cover, so he put up with it.
He’d also finally confessed to Agent Bendera just how badly he was handling going covert, and hadn’t objected when Kurt ordered him into counselling. His boss had wanted to pull him out immediately, but Chakotay refused. He was close to a breakthrough – he could feel it – and he didn’t want all of this to be for nothing.
“It’s hardly nothing,” Bendera pointed out. “We’ve rescued seven kids because of you, and stopped the abduction of countless others by arresting perps we’ve found thanks to your intel.”
“Josh Carey is still missing,” Chakotay answered bluntly. “I’m not stopping until I find him.”
Bendera sighed. “You have to accept the possibility that we won’t find him.”
“No.” Chakotay stood, facing Bendera across his desk. “I’m not accepting that.”
Now, two months later, he was on a hot lead. A crony of Seska’s from San Jose was in town, staying at the Rex on Sutter Street, and Seska’s information suggested that this man was here to take possession of both video material and the children who appeared in it. Seska had no pictures of him, but she’d sat with a sketch artist to produce his likeness. Hogan had run his image through the database and identified him as Guillaume Camet, a French Canadian who’d emigrated to the States in his early twenties.
The Bureau had surveillance on the Rex already, but Chakotay couldn’t stop himself from taking a look. If his intel was right, Camet would be leaving the hotel tonight to inspect his contraband. Chakotay had every intention of being on the scene when the arrest went down.
He lingered in a diner near the Rex for a while, but when the waitress pointedly asked him if he’d like yet another pot of tea, he realised people were starting to notice his presence and moved on. He spent some time gazing into the window of an art gallery, watching the reflections of the street. He rounded the city block a couple of times, trying to stay alert. But it wasn’t until hunger had started gnawing at him that he finally sensed Camet was on the move.
Chakotay was pretty good at spotting agents on surveillance – it was partly his training, but partly his natural awareness – so when he noticed the same young couple he’d seen earlier walking hand-in-hand drifting toward him, he realised they were on the job. And if they were moving, then Camet must be as well. Idly stooping to tie his shoelace, he kept one eye on the entrance to the Rex.
It didn’t take long for Camet to appear.
Chakotay let him get half a block ahead, then trailed him casually, his cellphone in hand; if Camet sensed he was being watched, the chances were that his gaze would simply pass over a man with a phone to his ear. He watched as Camet paused at an upmarket Asian bar, studying the menu, then moved on, veering around the corner. Chakotay followed cautiously. There wasn’t as much obvious cover on the street Camet had turned down; he’d have to keep his distance.
Casually, head down, he ambled around the corner and glanced over at the soul food café Camet had stopped at. A couple were just coming out of the restaurant; the man had his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and she was looking up at him and laughing. Chakotay’s gaze flickered over them.
His feet took root in the sidewalk, his heart plummeting to join them. He sucked in a sharp breath, like he’d been sucker-punched in the stomach.
As though he’d spoken her name aloud, she chose that very moment to glance his way. He watched her step falter, watched the smile fade from her face. For a moment they locked eyes across the city street, and then her – date? Boyfriend? New husband? – spoke to her, and she looked away.
Camet forgotten, Chakotay turned tail and walked away as fast as his leaden legs would carry him.
The house looked different.
Kathryn couldn’t quite put her finger on it. There were a couple of toys strewn on the front path, yes, and the garden looked a little unkempt. But the real difference was undefinable. She thought it had something to do with her perspective.
This was the house she’d bought when she was happy and in love and full of hope for the future. Looking at it now, she couldn’t imagine ever being that woman again.
Steeling her shoulders and averting her eyes, she made her way across the street and knocked lightly at the house next door.
“Kathryn! Are you kidding me?” Deanna enveloped her in a hug the moment she opened the door. “What are you doing here? When did you get here? Are you moving back? Oh, I’m sorry – come in!”
Kathryn couldn’t help smiling as she followed Deanna into her kitchen, dodging toy cars along the way. “Billy’s napping and Will’s at work, so we’ll be able to talk uninterrupted. Coffee?”
“I’d love some.” Kathryn sat on the chair Deanna indicated. “You look amazing,” she added sincerely.
“Please. I look like the side of a barn. The baby’s due in six weeks, and believe me, it can’t come soon enough.” She set Kathryn’s coffee before her and eased herself into a chair with a sigh, wrapping her hands around her own mug of hot chocolate.
They each took lingering, luscious sips, caught each other’s eye and started laughing.
“It’s so good to see you, Dee.” Kathryn reached across the table to clasp Deanna’s hand.
“You, too.” Deanna smiled. “How have you been?”
Kathryn’s smile faded.
“I see.” Deanna looked contemplatively into her mug for a moment. “I saw Chakotay a couple of months ago, you know.”
Kathryn felt herself go rigid. She put her cup down before her hands could start trembling.
“He looked terrible,” Deanna said frankly, meeting her gaze. “Have you spoken to him at all?”
“Not since the day he left,” Kathryn answered quietly.
“Are you here to see him?”
“No.” Kathryn rubbed her temple, feeling her headache gathering strength. “I’m here for a work conference. But, incidentally, I did see him last night, across the street from the restaurant where I was having dinner. As soon as he saw me, he took off in the opposite direction.”
“Oh.” Deanna looked troubled. “Look, Kathryn, I don’t know if it’s right for me to tell you this. It might not help at all. But he’s not over you.” She leaned toward Kathryn. “Don’t you think maybe you two should talk?”
“What is there to say?” Kathryn shrugged. “It was his decision to split up. I’m sure his reasons still stand.”
“Don’t you owe it to yourself to find out? If nothing else, you might get some closure.”
Kathryn bit her lip. Could she? She’d have to contact Chakotay’s boss, and if Chakotay was still undercover she might not be able to speak with him anyway. But to see him again… She sighed. Maybe it would only sharpen the pain, but maybe Deanna was right. And she knew she couldn’t go on like this. They’d been apart for almost as long as they’d been married, and she was no closer to getting over him.
One way or another, she had to move on.
“I’ll try,” she promised.
She left Deanna’s house an hour later and walked slowly down the street, thinking. She’d left the card with Agent Bendera’s number on it back in Indiana, but she could call the FBI office and ask to be put through. Or she could simply show up; it wasn’t that far from her hotel, and she had a free afternoon tomorrow.
She turned back for one last wistful look at her house, then lifted her chin and walked away, never noticing the dark-haired, blue-eyed man photographing her from the rented Prius halfway down the block.
“We got him.”
Kurt Bendera sounded jubilant, and Chakotay clutched the phone harder. “You found Josh Carey?”
“Him, and three other kids between three and seven years of age. They’re with the medics now. And not only that – we arrested Camet in the act of trying to move them. He’s being processed and is scheduled for interview in an hour.”
Chakotay sat down hard at his kitchen table.
“Come on in, Agent Chakotay,” Bendera said. “Take the interview with me. You’ve earned it.”
“What about his accomplices? Have you identified them? Camet must have other local connections. And who’s been holding Josh and the other kids? Why didn’t Seska identify –”
“Chakotay, stop.” Bendera was half-laughing. “We don’t have all the answers yet. But you’ve more than done the job. It’s over. You can come home.”
“Understood,” he said, faintly. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Make it thirty. You might want to shave first.”
For the first time since Bendera’s call had come in, Chakotay found himself smiling.
It’s over, he thought as he shaved, trying the words out to make them real.
He could go back to his life.
As that sunk in, he met his own eyes in the mirror.
All the things that had made his life rich, that had made him so happy, were gone. He’d let them go. He’d pushed them away.
Pushed her away. Told her to go. And now she was happy with somebody else, and it was too late.
“Man up,” he told his reflection fiercely.
He switched off the electric shaver and turned to dress in the suit he’d last worn for work almost nine months ago. It was a little baggy on him, but it felt good. Right.
He tried to hold onto that feeling as he left his hated apartment for what he hoped would be the last time.
Camet was a tough subject. Chakotay and Bendera had been hammering him with questions for three hours and getting next to nowhere before they mutually agreed it was time for a break. Chakotay followed his boss into his office and eased himself into a chair.
“He’s too confident,” Bendera said abruptly when he’d poured coffee for both of them. “He thinks we have nothing on him.”
“You caught him red-handed,” Chakotay objected.
“Yeah. He’ll go down for that – no avoiding it. But there’s something big he’s not telling us, and he’s enjoying that a little too much.” Bendera hesitated. “We might need to press his connections. Can you think of anyone you’ve met who might know what he’s up to?”
So much for leaving it all behind, Chakotay thought, but nodded. “Michael Jonas. He’s more connected than I’d realised at first. Always seems to have the inside track, and Seska trusted him. He’s never mentioned Camet, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t know him.”
“I hate to ask you this, but do you think he’d tell you anything if you went back under?”
“Maybe.” Chakotay shrugged. “He’s cagey, though. I might need to put some pressure on him, and that could mean blowing my cover.”
“You have my authority to use whatever means you deem appropriate.” Bendera stood. “Let’s give Camet a little incentive first. Maybe it’ll get you something to work with.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Agent Bendera can’t be disturbed right now.”
Kathryn sighed. “Is there somewhere I can wait until he’s free to see me?”
The receptionist looked at her, assessing her openly. “I couldn’t tell you when that might be, ma’am. Is this a personal enquiry?”
“Then I’ll have him call you as soon as he’s free,” the receptionist said firmly. “May I take down your contact number?”
“All right.” Kathryn conceded defeat and took the pen and paper the young woman handed to her.
Leaving the FBI building, she felt at a loss. She’d had no thought for this afternoon apart from talking to Agent Bendera and hopefully tracking down Chakotay. Sighing, she considered her options. She could go visit the lab, see Tuvok and her old colleagues, but considering that Tuvok had been disappointed with her when she’d so unceremoniously quit, that idea wasn’t particularly attractive. She could go shopping – no, she discarded that idea immediately.
She could go back and see Deanna again, and take one last look at her house. It wasn’t torture, she told herself. It was closure.
Kathryn boarded the first bus heading in the right direction, hopped off at 24th Street and walked the rest of the way.
“Twice in two days!” Deanna embraced her. “Come on in. You’ve just missed Will again – he got called into work.”
They took their coffee and hot chocolate out into the back garden and watched Billy scooting around the paving on a small red truck. It was warm in the afternoon sun. Kathryn slipped off her jacket, draping it over the back of her chair, and Deanna helped Billy strip out of his extra T-shirt.
“Did you get in touch with Chakotay?” Deanna asked after they’d made small talk for a little while.
“Not yet. I’ve left a message for him.”
“I think that’s a good thing.” Deanna patted her arm. “I have hope for you two.”
The doorbell rang and Deanna sighed, bracing herself on the arms of her chair. “God, I hate having to get up when I’m settled.”
“I’ll get it,” Kathryn offered. “Stay right there.”
She made her way back through the house and opened the door to a dark-haired, blue-eyed man. “Can I help you?”
The man smiled engagingly at her. “I’m a friend of Will Riker’s. Is he here?”
“No, but his wife is. Would you like to come out the back?”
“Thank you,” the man said, stepping in as she moved back.
Kathryn led him down the hallway.
“Deanna,” she said as they stepped out into the garden. “Will’s friend is here – I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”
She turned back to the man.
“I didn’t,” Michael Jonas said, and pointed a gun at her.