Required to Bear
Summary: Sometimes the past defines the future. And sometimes, no matter how defining your past, you can begin anew.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Tighe, Janeway/Johnson, Janeway/Kashyk
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit. Jeri Taylor’s rights to ownership of her novel Mosaic is not in question, and my slightly-skewed interpretation of events and characters depicted in that book are not intended to infringe those rights.
Notes: Part of the Counterpoint Vignettes collection on AO3.
Warning: References to rape/non-con.
One: Red Lipstick and Dark Shadows
She gave her heart away that night with drunken kisses and dizzy eyes.
She kissed more liquor bottles than lips and she felt so alive yet misused.
She stumbled with the world toppling over her shoulders and the deadline hanging over her head.
She had a bomb in her chest and she was ready to set it off.
Days filled with coffee stained lips and empty smiles wandered off that night.
She craved kisses like a desperate lover and jumping off cliffs didn’t seem so frightening anymore.
Red lipstick sucked out of her lips and dark shadows enveloped her eyes and cheeks.
She was wild. She was free. She was a walking disaster filled with catastrophe.
USS La Recherche, 2390
“Are you coming to bed?”
When she drags her gaze up from the padd detailing the draft treaty, her husband is leaning in the doorway with nonchalance she knows is feigned. She smiles in a way she hopes is gentle and gives him comfort.
“I’ll be in soon.”
“Okay.” He waits a moment, and she pretends not to feel his eyes on her, before he retreats to their bedroom.
They are three days out from Devore Prime, and all of her fears have just been realised.
USS Voyager, 2375
It takes everything she has to quell her trembling as the Devore bastard strips away her uniform. She watches it drop to the floor. Red and black, and black again.
The air in her ready room is dense with expectation. She keeps her gaze fixed on the scattered pieces of her uniform as the pressure of Kashyk’s gloved hand forces her to hands and knees. As he positions himself behind her, his soldiers lean forward with breath drawn inward, sucking the air from the room. Sucking the breath from her lungs.
She closes her eyes.
He pierces her with force, but she’s already so wet that all she thinks, all she feels is yes, and it’s just one more insult heaped on top of the banquet of them she’s already swallowed.
Powerful thrusts drive her forward. She’s forced to drop to her elbows to keep her balance, curl her fingers into the carpet. The posture raises her hips and spreads her thighs, and one of Kashyk’s men stifles a laugh.
She knows what she looks like.
She knows what she is.
He’s talking now. Much of what he’s saying is apparently too foreign, too vernacular to convert to Standard, but every so often the universal translator supplies whore and cunt and mine. It doesn’t matter; the words wash over her. Her skin is impermeable. There is nothing he can call her that she hasn’t been called before.
He grasps her breast, squeezing, and she presses her lips against a wince. The other hand slides down her spine and comes to rest on her ass. She feels his thumb stroke between her cheeks and press into her. It hurts, and she whines, and she pushes against it, into it.
Her insides are oozing black and red and black again and as he fucks her she welcomes it. He’s fucking the emptiness away.
“Good,” he rasps, “so good,” and she feels him gush inside her.
He pulls out and drags her upright, her back abraded against the buckles on his uniform front. His seed spills down her thighs and she imagines it mixing with the black tar inside her.
His hand is between her legs now, stroking, curling.
She turns her head to the side so she won’t see the leering faces of his men as Kashyk’s fingers pluck her into her own, shattering, shameful climax.
USS La Recherche, 2390
In three days she will see him again, and she’ll smile and shake his hand, and mouth all the platitudes expected of a decorated Starfleet admiral. She will wear dress uniform – white, pristine, unspoiled – and if her insides are coiled in red lust and black shame, she will never let him see.
Ambassador Kashyk, diplomatic representative for the Devore Republic.
The identity of the diplomat she’s meeting to finalise this treaty, if she’s honest with herself – and she tries to be, these days, she tries so hard – is no surprise.
Kathryn tips her head against the back of the couch, closing her eyes. She tires more easily these days, a product, she supposes, both of advancing age and the injuries she has so recently recovered from. It’s late, and she feels the drag of weariness in her bones, but she doubts sleep will come easily tonight.
Can I do this? she forces herself to consider. Can I walk into that room, sit beside that man, make polite conversation?
The answer is clear.
I have no choice.
And perhaps, after all of the trials she’s weathered and borne thus far, this is her final test. Perhaps this – thrown in her face at a time when she’s finally learned to believe her destiny doesn’t have to be written in despair and disappointment – perhaps this is what she deserves.
San Francisco, 2359
I deserve this, she thinks as he pushes her over the table. Before the pain curls into her – the careless grip of hands on her hips, the blunt nudge of his cock inside her – she braces for it, but when it comes it’s everything she wants.
She craves it, needs it, embraces it.
She turns her face to the side and her cheek scrapes against the splintered wood of the table’s surface with each thrust. When this is over she’ll need a dermal regenerator, she thinks. She can hide the finger-shaped bruises that will bloom beneath her clothing, can mask the limp she knows he’ll leave her with, but she can’t hide the abrasions to exposed and tender skin any more than she can hide the gaping wound where her soul used to be.
He told her his name and she forgot it immediately, because she doesn’t want him for conversation. She doesn’t need him to buy her drinks or dance with her or ask about her favourite books. The only thing she wants from him is this, because this is the only thing that makes her feel alive.
Even though, she knows, it’s slowly killing her.
The whiskey they drank when he invited her up to his apartment spills over the surface of the kitchen table, pooling dark and sticky in the wood grain. She can smell it as he thrusts inside her, cloying, thick as the bile that rises in her throat.
She breathes it in, lets it meet and mingle with the poison inside, seeping into her until she thinks she might drown in it. But she welcomes it, embraces it.
It’s hot and thick and weighty, like her rage, and anything is better than drowning under the ice.
The stranger embedded in her body grips her hips so hard she flinches, and she whimpers “harder.” When he reaches a hand around her throat she moans, and clenches, and comes.
The last man who fucked her like this was her fiancé. But he can’t give her what she craves anymore, because he’s dead.
USS La Recherche, 2390
The padd slips from her lax fingers and she twitches, dragging her consciousness back from the clouded edge of sleep. It seems her body has developed a wisdom her troubled mind has forgotten. She’s grateful for the twinge in her bones, the reminder that sinking into old dreams here on this couch will only leave her aching, in body and in soul.
Starlight spills dimly through the bedroom viewport, and she pauses in the doorway to let her eyes adjust. He’s already sleeping, arm flung over his head, chest rising and falling in even, shallow, dependable breaths.
He has always been this, for her. Steadfast in an unpredictable world, her stalwart, her safe harbour. The times when she’s been least controlled, least certain of her path, have been the times she and Chakotay were at odds.
And as she watches him now, the flicker of a hostile dream creasing his forehead, she feels the devastation of knowing that she has not been that for him.
Kathryn drops her robe to the floor and eases between the sheets, and in sleep her husband turns toward her, his arm curling her close. Even in sleep his instinct is to reach for her, protect her, love her.
She lies awake, listening to his soft even breaths.
Were she a better person, she wouldn’t keep this from him. But so much of their life together has been defined by old wounds and unsaid words, and she doesn’t know whether full disclosure would be the glue that binds them together or the knife that finally, irrevocably, rends them apart.
USS Voyager, 2375
“Fuck me,” she rasps.
The hands that grasp her hips are gloved in soft black leather, not scaled and grey, but they bruise her all the same and she welcomes it.
This isn’t the way this night was supposed to go. She’s supposed to smile, retreat, maintain control. And she had every intention of playing her part, until Chakotay turned her down.
So here she is now, stripped bare and cracked open, seeking the pain she knows she deserves. The pain she knows that this man is so amply skilled at giving her.
She allows him to push her and pull her and work her body around him. He wrenches her arms behind her back and buries his hand in the short hair at the back of her neck, and she doesn’t try to hold back her pained, surrendering whine.
If she takes her punishment, maybe she’ll be able to sleep tonight without dreaming.
If she does her penance, maybe it will wash clean her sins.
But she knows, deep in her scored and inadequate soul, that she will never be good enough for the man she loves.
USS La Recherche, 2390
The old hurt, the rage, wells up from under her ribs where she’s stored it all these years, and she rises up to straddle him, pinning his wrists to the pillow either side of his head. She leans in to bite his nipple and he jerks under her. His bewildered eyes, opening sharply onto hers, make her squeeze her own shut.
She doesn’t want to see what she’s doing to him.
“Kathryn, what –”
She silences him with a kiss that speaks of lust and hate and ages-old anger. Her thighs tighten around his hips. She knows his body well, after all these years. She knows precisely how to move, where to touch him to coax him to full hardness.
Not that it’s ever taken much.
And in seconds he’s hot and swollen and she twists her hips, sinking onto him with a grimace. He groans and grabs her hips.
“Easy,” he pleads, but she hisses impatience and works around him, against him. When he reaches up to touch her face she jerks away, brings his seeking hand to her throat and clasps his fingers around it.
He’s no stranger to her needs – and he’s never been reluctant to give into them – but tonight his touch is too gentle, too respectful. She leans into his hand around her neck, arching to show him what she wants. But the hesitation in his grasp is mirrored by the doubt in his eyes.
She hisses her displeasure, shoves his hands away, leans down to sink her teeth into his lower lip.
She draws blood.
It’s the sight of it staining her teeth that changes the look in his eyes. They’re hard now, his mouth flattened into a line. His hand comes back to her throat, clamps tight, and she gasps, strains, “yes.”
“All right, Kathryn,” his voice is as coarse as hers, “if that’s the way you want it,” and he leans up, wraps his other arm around her waist and jerks her hips against him.
It’s rough, and it causes her to wince; they haven’t fucked like this since before her injury and her body is no longer as pliant, as accommodating, as used to this as once it was. But it’s pain she wants, and it’s pain she takes as her due.
He thrusts and lunges and she arches and gasps, and it doesn’t take long before her head is singing from lack of breath, her body shaking as the rush of light and sensation beats back the blackness inside her. She slumps against him, sated and quivering and blissfully, thankfully numb.
In his eyes, when she looks again, there are tears.
Starbase 54, 2359
“Crazy fucking bitch,” the man hisses, fingers pressed to his split lip, and Kathryn, drunk and angry and careless, laughs in his face.
There’s nothing he can call her, nothing he can say to hurt her any worse than she’s already hurting.
There’s nothing he can do for her except fuck her emptiness away.
“Gonna show me who’s boss?” she jeers, standing her ground. Her hair falls over one eye and she plants her hands on her hips. Her mouth is twisted, her chest thrust out.
She licks her lips and tastes his blood.
The stranger unbuckles his belt and steps forward, snatching her shoulder and spinning her into the wall of the bathroom stall. His hand searches for the hem of her skirt, yanks it upward. Her palms flatten against the wall either side of her face and she raises her hips.
He kicks her legs apart, bends his knees, drives into her.
Yes, she thinks as he clamps one arm around her waist to hold her to him. His other hand curls around her throat, fingers digging, compressing her windpipe. Her heels scrape on the tiles, her tortured breathing echoing above the low pulsing beat that’s so much louder out on the club floor.
“This what you want?” he grunts into her ear.
It’s been months since Justin died, but there’s still a pale band on her finger where her ring used to be. She curls her hand into a fist.
“You like this?” he lunges into her. “Getting fucked like a bitch in heat?”
Stop talking, she thinks but can’t say around the hand squeezing her neck. Her vision begins to blur, dark streaks tunnelling inward.
She thinks about Cardassians, and countless faceless men, and Owen Paris, and if she had the breath for it, she’d sob.
Instead she reaches down to rub herself. She wants, needs, to come, and if he’d just shut up –
“Get your fucking hand away,” and he slaps it – actually slaps her hand away from her clitoris. Her eyes go wide and she tries to pry his fingers from around her throat.
He squeezes tighter.
Fear prickles ice water down her spine. She struggles to breathe, tries to kick out at him, but he’s too strong and his grip too solid. A plea rasps in her throat. The singing in her ears drowns out the words he hisses and all she can see now is the blood-red haze across her eyes.
His thrusts into her twisting, flailing body increase in pace and power, and the last of her breath dies in her lungs, her vision going dark.
When she wakes she’s alone and lying on the cold, tiled floor.
It takes her several minutes to re-orient herself, to manoeuvre herself upright on shaking legs, to tug down her skirt and push the hair out of her eyes. She runs trembling hands under the faucet and meets her own eyes in the mirror.
She’s not surprised to find a stranger staring back at her.
USS La Recherche, 2390
Chakotay has fallen back into a troubled, restless sleep, but Kathryn’s conscience, and her heart, are too heavy to bear.
She pulls on a robe and returns to the living area.
Kathryn pulls her feet beneath her on the couch, cradling the cup in cold hands as the Devoran stars streak past the viewport.
She’d sworn off picking up strangers after that night on Starbase 54. Waking up alone with the marks of his hands livid around her neck, she’d finally understood that even though she was afraid to live, she didn’t want to die.
There were other men after that – men she knew; superior officers and friends of friends – and the holoprograms she’d bought from a shady Ferengi on Deep Space Four, but she worked hard on her pristine veneer and kept her Starfleet record clean. At least until a series of random malfunctions exposed her proclivities in a holodeck on Risa. Caught, reprimanded and counselled, she’d fled back to Mark, the childhood friend who had loved her so patiently and for so long.
And for a long time, he was enough. She deleted the holoprograms, moved in with Mark, avoided other men. She worked hard to become known for her virtue and her ambition, and in pretending, she became.
Until the Delta quadrant, which became at once her prison and her salvation.
It’s ironic, she thinks now as the steam curls delicately up from her coffee, that the peace she’s worked so hard to find – and to give – since the end of that seven-year nightmare is crumbling under the weight of their return to this quadrant of space.
She doesn’t want to lose this. This hard-won peace is her bedrock, and the promise of their lake house is her reason for living. It’s her redemption, and her happiness, and the future that she binds onto her finger in the shape of a plain gold ring.
She doesn’t want to be that woman again – that disastrous, drunken woman with her red lipstick and her dark shadows and her emptiness. That woman who sought pain as her refuge and saw a stranger when she looked in the mirror.
She doesn’t want to want this.
And she wonders how much more she can bear.