The Bitter End
Summary: In the tenth year of their journey, Voyager is in bad shape, and so is her command team. A powerful enemy brings ever more desperate times, and with nowhere to run, an unthinkable sacrifice may be the only option for the crew’s survival.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven of Nine, Tuvok, Paris, Torres, EMH, Kim, Ayala, S. Wildman, Celes
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Chakotay/Seven of Nine
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own Voyager, her crew, and the Star Trek universe. I own this idea and the words I used.
Notes: My take on what happened in the unaltered-Endgame timeline to turn Captain Janeway into the time-travelling Admiral.
Admiral Janeway: Unfortunately, our favourite cup took a bit of a beating along the way. It was damaged during a battle with the Fen Domar.
Captain Janeway: Who?
Admiral Janeway: You'll run into them in a few years.
Warning: Depictions of violence and (non-graphic) rape. Major character death (but if you've seen Endgame, it shouldn't be a surprise). Minor character deaths, too. This is very dark. You have been warned.
Stardate 57947.1 – December 12, 2380
“She fainted?” Janeway levelled a stare at the Doctor. “Why? We’ve only been rationing for four days now. Surely that’s not long enough for people to start –”
Kathryn sagged back against the nearest biobed, her gaze drifting to the woman now sleeping peacefully in a neighbouring bed.
“Oh,” was all she managed.
“Yes,” she said dimly, wondering if it was tempting the fates to ask them if things could possibly get any worse.
“As you may recall from Lieutenant Torres’ previous pregnancy, expectant Klingon mothers require a significant amount of additional nutrition. If she fails to get it, both she and the foetus will be at risk.”
The captain straightened. “Reallocate my daily replicator allotment to B’Elanna and use it to synthesise nutritional supplements. I’ll speak to Chell about making sure she receives three meals a day.”
“Captain, you can’t –”
“Just do it, Doctor.” She strode out of Sickbay.
Stardate 57955.2 – December 15, 2380
Janeway pressed her fingers to her aching temples as Lieutenant Kim wrapped up his report.
“… and that little skirmish yesterday drained the power reserves a further five percent.”
“I thought Inheritor Alkin offered us his protection,” Paris grumbled. “Seems we’re still easy bait for any Fen ships that decide to take a pot shot at us.”
“Alkin’s offer was contingent on something we weren’t prepared to give him,” Chakotay clipped out. “We’ll have to put up with the pot shots for now.”
“I’ve been studying the readings we took of the hull armour on Alkin’s ship, and with a little modification, I think we can install it on Voyager.”
“That could give us a significant advantage.” Janeway managed a half-smile for what felt like the first time in days. “Seven, Harry, I want you to work with B’Elanna. This is now your top priority.”
“Aye, Captain,” Harry answered. Seven gave her a short nod.
“What about looking for food and energy sources?” Chakotay cut in.
“If we don’t find a way to defend ourselves against these Fen attacks, there won’t be anyone left to feed – or a ship left to power.” Janeway stood. “But have your teams continue long-range sensor sweeps and report anything promising to Commander Chakotay.”
“There’s another option, Captain,” Chakotay said.
“Yes?” she asked, hand on hip.
“We can still reverse course. Find another way around Fen space. We’d clear their borders in a couple of weeks.”
“And then what?” Janeway asked, trying hard to hide her impatience. “We’d likely spend those two weeks fighting off further attacks, and there’s no guarantee we’d find ourselves in a better situation at the end of it.”
“What’s the alternative?” Chakotay demanded, rising to his feet. “We spend the next six weeks at the mercy of the Fen Domar? Do you trust Alkin to protect us? Because, given yesterday’s attack, I certainly don’t.”
“Alkin has already informed me that he’s reissued his order to all ships in this region to leave us alone,” Janeway retorted.
“At what price?”
“You’re out of line, Commander.” Janeway’s voice was low, eyes snapping a warning Chakotay didn’t heed.
“I want it on the record that I object to your decision.” His hands were low on his hips now, mirroring her stance.
She opened her mouth, thought better of it, and nodded tightly. “Your objections are noted. Now, if there’s nothing else, this briefing is over. Commander, remain behind, please.”
Tom tried hard not to glance in the direction of the command team, whose eyes were locked on each other as the senior staff filed out.
“Here we are again,” Kathryn said shortly when they were alone.
“So it seems.”
She pressed her lips together, eyes cold. “I told you last time we spoke about this that I’d relieve you of duty if you continued to be insubordinate. Do I have to carry out that threat?”
“Insubordinate?” Chakotay’s eyebrows rose. “As I recall, offering alternatives is the first officer’s job.”
“And if you had offered those alternatives in private conference, or in a manner that didn’t directly challenge my authority, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“Conversation,” he repeated. “Is that what you’d call it? It’s been so long since we had a conversation, Kathryn, I’m not sure I’d recognise one.”
“Captain,” she snapped. “I’m your commanding officer, not your –”
“My what?” he demanded as she clamped her mouth shut. “My friend?” He moved closer. “We haven’t been friends for a long time, Kathryn.”
Despite herself, she flinched.
“And as to what else we are,” he stepped right up into her personal space, “how would you define that? Lovers? Too kind a word for it. Maybe we’re just people who fuck.”
Her lips parted in shock, and he took advantage, his mouth coming down on hers in a bruising, punishing kiss. His hands clamped over her arms, his thigh pushed between hers, holding her still as she struggled against him. He swept his tongue inside her mouth and she growled in fury, her teeth sinking into his lower lip.
“Fuck,” Chakotay growled, pulling away from her, his fingers pressed to the blood on his lip.
Kathryn stood breathing hard, fists clenched at her sides.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” she said in a voice so low he almost couldn’t hear her. “I don’t care what your problems are. I don’t care if you’re angry and regretful because you married a woman you don’t love. From now on, leave me out of it. This is over, Chakotay. I mean it this time.”
The colour drained out of her face. “What?”
“Seven knows about us. She’s known all along.”
He shook his head, dabbing at his lip. “Does it matter?”
“Oh, God.” She slumped into the nearest chair. “She must hate me.”
“She loves you.” Chakotay sat warily opposite her, watching her face. “Funny thing, Kathryn. When it comes to you, the two emotions are pretty closely connected.”
Her eyes welled with tears. “I never wanted you to hate me, Chakotay.”
“You never wanted me to love you, either.” He shrugged. “Even the great Captain Janeway doesn’t always get what she wants.”
A tear slipped down her cheek and he reached to wipe it away with his thumb. She jerked back.
Chakotay’s jaw tightened.
“I meant what I said, Chakotay.” Kathryn scrubbed the tears from under her eyes with the heel of her hand. “We can’t go on like this. You chose to marry her. And –”
She took in a deep breath and steeled herself to speak the lie that would break his heart … again.
“And I don’t love you.”
She watched as his eyes drained of tenderness. When he spoke, there was nothing but ice in his voice.
“Seven years ago, you told me you couldn’t imagine a day without me.” He stood, looking down at her. “Now, I wish we’d never met.”
Janeway’s voice was perfectly controlled. “Dismissed, Commander.”
She waited until he’d gone before she let the tears come again, staring at the alien stars through the viewport and trying not to think about one of the most selfish and hurtful decisions she had ever made.
Stardate 57384.8 – May 20, 2380 – Seven Months Earlier
“Enter,” Kathryn called absently. She heard the door to her quarters slide open, but was so engrossed in reading the security report that it took her some time to realise that the person who’d entered had remained silent.
When she looked up, Chakotay was standing at attention just inside the doors. “Commander,” she greeted him, uncurling her legs from beneath her. “What can I do for you?”
“May I speak with you, Captain?”
“Of course.” She cocked her head to one side, mouth curling. “At ease.”
She waved him to the couch and he sat, shoulders rigid with tension. His gaze moved restlessly from the coffee table to the viewport to the far wall, until finally she sat forward and dipped her head, trying to catch his eyes.
“What is it, Chakotay?”
He let his gaze rest on her face at last. “I need to ask you something,” he said, “and I’m nervous about it.”
“Because I have no idea how you’re going to react.”
She put her PADD down and straightened up, sipping at the coffee she held in her other hand. “I’ve always found the best way is just to ask.”
“All right.” He took a steadying breath. “I want to ask if you’ll marry me.”
The coffee cup slipped from her suddenly nerveless hand and thumped, unnoticed, on the carpet.
Chakotay scrubbed a hand through his hair. “I mean, if you’ll officiate at my wedding.”
“Your wedding.” Kathryn swallowed around her suddenly dry throat. “You’re marrying Seven.”
At her flat, expressionless tone, Chakotay’s eyes narrowed. “Is there some reason you think I shouldn’t be?”
She muttered something under her breath.
“I didn’t catch that.”
“I said, I can think of a few.” She stood and paced a few steps away, arms folded around her body. “But you’re an adult. My opinion doesn’t matter.” She glanced back at him, over her shoulder. “At least, it shouldn’t.”
Chakotay rose slowly to his feet, face darkening. “If you’ve got something to say, Captain, just say it.”
“Take my own advice, you mean?” she smiled without mirth.
He waited, watching her as she moved over to the bureau and sloshed a healthy slug of whiskey into a tumbler, hesitated, then poured a second glass. She walked toward him slowly, and if there was a slight extra sway to her hips as she moved, she didn’t care. She handed him a glass and raised her own.
“To true love,” she said with heavy sarcasm, and tipped the contents of her tumbler down her throat.
Chakotay bent to shove his glass onto the coffee table and faced her, jaw clenched. “What the hell is that supposed to mean, Kathryn?”
“Ah.” She tilted her head to the side, mouth curling. “I’m Kathryn now, am I? It’s been a while, Chakotay.”
“That’s the way you want it, isn’t it?” He took a step toward her. “You’ve made that pretty clear. You’re not Kathryn anymore.” Another step. “You’re the captain, and you don’t need anyone.”
The half-smile faded from her face and she stared up at him, inches from her. “Is that really what you think?” There was a hitch in her breath that made his heart speed up and his body tense. “That I don’t need anyone?”
“You tell me.” His voice was low. “I thought you needed me once. I thought you loved me. But what else am I supposed to think when you’ve spent the past – I don’t know how long – pushing me away?”
Her throat worked. “I’m not pushing you away now,” she whispered, and then her lips were on his and her fingers threaded into his hair, and her body pressed against him, and –
And she’d woken with a start in the early hours of the morning, naked and tangled up in his arms.
She’d shaken him awake immediately, barely able to look at him, almost rigid with shame and guilt. She’d told him to go. And Chakotay – He didn’t understand. He’d leave Seven, he said. They could be together. At long last.
And she’d said the words that drove the hope from his eyes.
This didn’t mean anything, Chakotay.
Four days later she’d put on her dress uniform and performed their wedding ceremony with serene smile and steady voice, not a hair out of place.
Three weeks after he married Seven, she and Chakotay were working late in her ready room when her hand brushed his, purely by accident, as she passed him a PADD. She’d felt him go still, and when she looked into his eyes she’d had to suck in a breath, a hot wave of desire punching through her. He’d swayed toward her, said “Kathryn,” and that was all it took. She was straddling him, her tongue in his mouth and her hand working feverishly into his pants before she could take her next breath.
She was consumed with regret afterwards, and told him it had been a mistake and could never happen again.
But it did happen again. And again, and again. And each time, afterwards, he looked at her with a little less hope in his eyes, and each time she crushed it. Again.
And now it was over.
Janeway brushed away the last of the useless tears drying on her cheeks, pulled her shoulders straight and returned to the bridge.
Stardate 57987.3 – December 27, 2380
Christmas had passed, forgotten, and it wasn’t until two days later that Janeway realised it.
It was probably for the best, she decided as she forced herself not to think about Indiana and snow angels and the wonky, finger-painted tree decorations she and Phoebe had made as children. There would have been no laughter, no gifts, no feast in the mess hall this year. Not now that the crew was down to one cooked meal and one ration pack each day.
She’d taken to wearing an extra turtleneck under her uniform. It gave her the much-needed illusion of extra bulk, as well as additional warmth. The environmental controls were running at seventy-five percent to conserve energy, lowering the ship’s ambient temperature to a chilly sixteen degrees Celsius, but she’d have been cold anyway. Losing almost fifteen percent of your body weight would do that to a person; especially when a body hadn’t held much weight to begin with.
Her hands shook slightly as she fastened the pips to her collar.
She was worried about B’Elanna. Despite her orders to Chell and the Doctor to ensure the expectant mother – and the children on board – still received three meals a day and adequate vitamin supplements, the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was taking its toll. And B’Elanna had never been one to let pregnancy curb her working habits. Twice in the past week, Janeway had had to order her away from Engineering in the ungodly hours of the morning.
Kathryn stood in front of the mirror and assessed her appearance. Sallow skin, hollow cheeks, a uniform that hung on her shrinking frame, knobby wrists extending from her jacket sleeves every time she moved her arm. “At least I still have my hair,” she addressed the mirror sarcastically, and turned to go. It was time for the senior staff briefing.
“It’s not working.” Torres prowled the briefing room, frustration written in every line of her body. “Every simulation we’ve run has failed. The armour just takes too much power, and with our energy reserves down to fifty-three percent, we can’t hold it stable.”
“The protocol required to generate the ablative armour is also incompatible with Voyager’s shield frequency.“ Seven remained composed, hands folded on the table before her. “Even if we could activate the armour, should it fail, the ship would be unprotected by standard shields.”
“All right.” Janeway held up a hand. “If we could replenish our power reserves, that would solve one problem. B’Elanna, keep working on a way to stabilise the armour. Seven, see what you can do to further extend the astrometric sensors. We need energy and food sources as a matter of increasing urgency. Tuvok,” she hesitated, “and Lieutenant Ayala, I want you to find a shield frequency that won’t be incompatible with the armour, if we ever get it working.” She stood behind her chair, hands gripping the back of it. “Dismissed, everyone.”
She bowed her head as they exited, staring unseeingly at the table’s smooth surface. Go, she mentally urged them, swallowing against the nausea rising in her throat. Just go.
Damn it, not now! “Yes?”
Tom Paris had stayed behind and was shifting his feet nervously. “I just wanted to make sure you’re all right.”
“I’m fine.” She straightened with effort, and sent him a quick smile as she gathered her PADDs from the table. “Let’s get back to the –”
She stumbled, knees giving out beneath her, feet tangling. Paris rushed forward and caught her before she hit the deck, and she grabbed onto his shoulder as if it were a lifeline. Her head hung as she gasped for breath, eyes shut tight against the rush of blood in her ears.
“Easy,” Tom said soothingly, smoothing her hair back from her face as he held her upright with his other arm. “Captain, can you make it to a chair?”
She didn’t answer. He could see beads of perspiration dotting her hairline.
“Okay. All right.” Gently, he slid his arm under her knees and lifted her. “Christ, you weigh about as much as Miral. Come on, I’m taking you to Sickbay.”
“No.” Janeway gripped onto his jacket, opening her eyes just enough to glare at him. Her voice was breathy, halting. “I’m … fine, Lieutenant. I just … need a minute.”
He hesitated, then deposited her gently in a chair and crouched before her, fingers on the pulse point in her wrist. “Your heart rate is sluggish and I’m willing to bet your blood pressure is through the floor. You need medical treatment, Captain, and I’m not taking no for an answer.” He stood, tapping his commbadge. “Paris to Sickbay. Doctor, I need you to bring a standard nutrition kit to the conference room immediately. And please be discreet.”
~On my way, Mr Paris.~
Janeway had recovered a little, colour starting to return to her thin, drawn face. Her glare intensified. “I should … demote you again … Mr Paris.”
He grinned. “Wait til you get your breath back, then you can bust me down to crewman if you like.”
The Doctor bustled into the room, tricorder at the ready, and tutted at the readings. “You’ve lost almost eight kilograms and have a severe electrolyte imbalance, Captain. It looks like you haven’t been ingesting your daily nutrition allotment. Your condition shouldn’t be so serious at this stage, even with your unwisely altruistic tendencies.”
“Altruistic tendencies?” Paris raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, the captain saw fit to reallocate her replicator rations to your wi-”
“Doctor,” Janeway snapped.
“You what?” Paris turned to stare at her. “You gave your rations to B’Elanna?”
Janeway’s glare bounced off the Doctor’s matrix. “She needs them more than I do,” she growled.
“I beg to differ,” the EMH sniffed, loading a hypospray. “This will restore your electrolyte balance and inject some much-needed vitamins into your bloodstream. However, Captain, I must stress that you need to –”
“All right, Doctor,” she snarled. “Get on with it, will you? I’m needed on the bridge.”
The Doctor subsided, muttering. “You’re free to go, Captain, but I’d like you to check in with me every forty-eight hours so I can be sure –”
“Thank you, Doctor,” she cut him off again, levering herself to her feet. “You’re dismissed.”
Rolling his eyes, the EMH departed.
“Captain,” Tom said quietly. “We can’t accept this. You can’t starve yourself for us.”
“I’m not starving, Tom.” She patted his shoulder. “I’ll be fine. You just take care of your family and let me worry about the rest.”
She swept out of the briefing room without giving him a chance to protest further.
Stardate 58006.4 – January 3, 2381
Janeway had followed the Doctor’s orders – under protest – and reported to Sickbay every second day for a shot of vitamins, but it couldn’t stop the weight loss. A week later she’d had to unpick the elastic out of an old pair of sweats and sew it into the waist of her far-too-loose uniform pants. Her hands trembled almost constantly now, and she’d started finding herself out of breath after climbing up a couple of Jeffries tubes.
She wasn’t the only one suffering. There had been three more instances of crewmen blacking out on duty – Ensign Harper had come off the worst, having fainted while working on an open plasma relay in Jeffries tube 28; if Lieutenant Nicoletti hadn’t happened to come by less than a minute later, Harper’s burns could have been fatal – and people were making mistakes out of fatigue and loss of concentration. Janeway had stopped taking her single daily meal in the mess hall, preferring to have Chell send it to her ready room. The gallows humour among the crew – Crewman Dalby had a running daily gag about how many new ribs he’d discovered – was more than she could bear.
So when Seven announced at the daily briefing that she’d detected a planet on long-range sensors that seemed a promising source of both dilithium and edible vegetation, Janeway ordered Lieutenant Paris to set an immediate course.
The buoyant mood of the senior staff as she gave the order was not shared by Commander Chakotay.
“Permission to speak freely,” he said abruptly, when they were left alone in the briefing room.
Kathryn gave him a short nod.
“That planet is almost six light years off the course Alkin prescribed for us.”
“If we go off course, we run the risk of Fen attacks.”
“We haven’t heard a peep from Alkin in over a week. And the only Fen Domar ships within sensor range are scout vessels. Even in our current state we’re more than a match for them.”
“We still have the option of turning back, retreating from Fen space.”
“And then what?” she demanded. “It would take us almost a month to clear their territory, and in the meantime, our energy reserves continue to drop and people starve. Our situation is desperate. We can reach that planet in thirty hours, Chakotay. I’m willing to take the risk.”
For a moment, she thought he’d raise his voice, loom over her, argue. But all the fight seemed to go out of him, and he sagged into a chair, rubbing a hand over his drawn, tired face.
“What is it?” she asked cautiously.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” he said haltingly. “I can’t explain it. I just know in my bones that going to that planet is a bad, bad idea.”
She lowered herself to the chair beside him, studying him. They’d barely spoken since she’d told him – what she’d told him. Whenever he was forced to be in her vicinity he’d radiated anger – and, she thought, shame – and it had been weeks since he’d looked her in the eye.
He was looking now. Distant, certainly; angry, definitely. But it was subdued, and the main thing she was reading from him now was a wary, hopeful kind of pleading.
“I would never dismiss your instincts, Chakotay,” she said carefully. “But I don’t believe we have a choice. If we don’t find what we need on that planet, we probably won’t make it out of Fen space alive.”
“Then turn back,” he pleaded, reaching for her hands and holding them – not tightly, just earnestly. “Turn the ship around and get us out of Fen space before it’s too late. Please, Kathryn.”
She looked down at their hands – his thinner than she’d ever seen them, but still dwarfing her own twiglike fingers – and closed her eyes for a moment, wishing with all her heart that things were different. But they weren’t. This was her life, and she was the captain. She opened her eyes and pulled her hands from his.
“I’m sorry, Commander, but this is my call to make. We go to that planet.”
The last of the hope died in his eyes, and she wondered if the last of his feelings for her had gone with it. He nodded, once, and quietly left the room.
“You’re not going on this mission, B’Elanna, and that’s final.”
Torres took in a breath to argue yet again, met her captain’s steady blue gaze, and conceded defeat.
“Good,” Janeway said, softening her sharp tone with a slight smile. “Seven, you’ll lead the dilithium extraction team. Ensign Wildman will be in charge of the team gathering edibles. Chell, your expertise will also be required. We’ll beam you down within the hour and I want status updates from each team leader every fifteen minutes. In the meantime, Commander Chakotay will take the Drake and Ensign Jenkins will pilot the Sacajawea to scout for other substances of use, as well as making regular passes over the away teams to monitor their progress and status. Voyager will remain in low orbit and the surface teams will be recalled at the first sign of any trouble from the Fen Domar, so make sure you follow protocol and keep your people close. Questions?”
Wildman, Chell and Jenkins shook their heads.
“Dismissed, then. And good luck.”
She averted her eyes from Chakotay’s tense, reproachful gaze as they scurried to follow her orders, turning to the viewport. When Seven spoke from behind her, she jumped.
“I wish to speak with you.”
Janeway steeled herself. “Yes, Ensign?” she answered without turning, her tone deliberately forbidding.
It didn’t deter Seven; not that she’d really expected it to.
“I’m not speaking to you as my captain.”
Kathryn could hear the quiver of hurt underlying Seven’s flat voice. You owe her this, she told herself firmly, and turned to face her protégée.
“Go ahead, Seven,” she said quietly.
“Chakotay and I wish to leave Voyager.”
“What?” She knew the colour was draining from her face, and she couldn’t blame Seven for the gleam of satisfaction she saw in those blue eyes.
“We came to the decision several days ago. He has not yet addressed it with you, so I’ve taken it upon myself to do so.”
It was hard to speak around the ache in her throat. “You don’t have to leave, Seven. It’s over between us.”
“There should never have been anything between you,” Seven shot back, icy exterior cracking.
“You’re right. There shouldn’t have.” Kathryn forced herself to meet Seven’s stare. “It was inexcusable. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
Seven shrugged a blue-and-black shoulder. “Your apology is irrelevant. As soon as we are clear of the Fen Ascendancy, we want you to scan for a suitable planet housing an amenable post-warp civilisation. It must be sufficiently technologically advanced to enable me to contribute to its society as well as tolerant of my husband’s spiritual beliefs.”
“Seven ...” Janeway reached out a hand, thought better of it and returned it awkwardly to her side. “Please reconsider. I give you my word I won’t interfere in your lives again.”
“I have decided to trust my husband.” Seven straightened further. “But I don’t trust you. Aside from necessary interaction during your duty shifts, you will avoid contact with Chakotay. Do you understand?”
“And how does Chakotay feel about this?” Kathryn couldn’t help asking.
“That’s not your concern, Kathryn.” It was the first time she’d ever heard Seven use her given name. “He chose me.”
No, she thought. He didn’t.
But she held her tongue.
Seven held her gaze for a moment longer, then nodded sharply and left the room.
Later, much later, the image that would not stop playing in her mind’s eye was of Seven’s gaunt, sharp-cheekboned face, rigid with barely-suppressed pain at her betrayal by the two people she loved the most.