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 58014.6 – January 6, 2381
Her eyes were darker than he’d ever seen them, wide with arousal and a touch of apprehension. Her body, beneath his, was heated and lush, and it took everything he had to slow down, to touch her gently.
“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered. “I won’t hurt you.”
Some of her dry humour asserted itself. “According to my research, intercourse usually causes a small measure of pain the first time.”
He grinned down at her, his arms trembling slightly with the effort of holding himself above her. “At the risk of sounding egotistical, I’ll make you forget the pain.” He nudged closer. “Are you ready?”
She caught her full lower lip between her teeth and nodded.
Chakotay inched inside her, slowly, carefully, teeth gritting at the feel of her, liquid-soft but oh, so tight. She winced, and he paused, leaning down to kiss her.
“Okay?” he whispered, and her breath puffed against his skin as she murmured “yes”.
He slid in further, pushing past her barrier, heard her suck in a sharp breath and kept going as her nails curled into his shoulders. Slow, easy, until he was all the way home, and then he stilled, his lips against her neck as she relaxed.
“I love you,” he said softly and felt her mouth curve against his cheek.
“I love you, too.”
And he began to move, the grip of her inner muscles making him groan, her pale thighs curved over his, her soft sighs and the tentative movement of her hips urging him to take her faster, harder. Wait, he reminded himself, gentle, easy, and he forced himself to slow, reaching down to touch her and hearing her moan.
“Chakotay,” she gasped, straining against him, her head flung back as she shook in his arms.
He groaned, his face against her throat, feeling her pulse flutter against his lips. Her limbs curled around him, her body small and lithe, her roughened-silk hair tickling his cheek. He raised his head to take her mouth, opened his eyes to see hers, blue-grey and darkened with need, her auburn hair tossed and her pale neck arched, and her whiskey voice husked his name as he came with a hoarse, plaintive, guilty shout –
He jerked awake, heart clenching, breath gasping in his lungs.
The sheets were twisted around his legs, his skin slick with sweat. Pushing off the covers, Chakotay hunched over the side of the bed. His head ached.
Dead. Seven was dead.
His throat burned. He didn’t try to stop the gasping sobs that wrenched out of him.
The grief was preferable to the guilt.
Her hands were shaking.
The Doctor had offered her a sedative when her tears wouldn’t stop coming. She’d stood at Seven’s bedside, holding her hand, feeling the warmth leaching from the young woman’s skin, and the tears had just kept streaming down her face. She didn’t understand why. She was hollow, numb, and yet the tears would not stop.
“I’m sorry, Captain.” The Doctor had taken her shoulders, gently, firmly, guiding her away from the body. “I need to perform an autopsy now. Please, get some rest.”
She didn’t remember leaving Sickbay. She wasn’t sure how she’d ended up here, in her ready room, an empty cup cradled in her trembling hands as she stared out at the streaking stars.
~Bridge to Captain Janeway.~
Her voice was rusty. “Go ahead, Mr Paris.”
~Captain, Engineering is requesting all stop. The warp coils are misaligned and they can’t be repaired while we’re at warp. I’ve detected a nebula half a light year away that could provide cover while we make repairs.~
“Set a course,” she answered. “I’m on my way.”
She set the cup on the edge of her desk, ran her shaking fingers through her hair and went back to her bridge.
“Nicoletti, take over here.” Torres’ voice was strained. She held her hand to her mouth until the lieutenant took the micro-caliper from her hand, and then she rushed to the refresher at the rear of Engineering. Dropping to her knees, she emptied her stomachs of the breakfast she’d eaten three hours earlier.
Sitting back on her heels, she pressed a damp cloth to her mouth. Miral’s pregnancy had never made her this sick.
She stood slowly, using the bulkhead for support. The nausea was subsiding, but there was a dull pain low in her belly. Rubbing her still-flat abdomen, B’Elanna breathed deeply. The ache eased, but she felt weak.
“Toughen up,” she told her reflection. “What kind of Klingon are you?”
She splashed water on her face, straightened her uniform and strode back out to Engineering.
The nebula was wispy and ill-formed, but it was threaded with sirillium gases that Harry Kim claimed should offer some protection from the Fen Domar’s sensors, as well as providing an additional power source. Paris guided the ship on thrusters while Kim angled the Bussard collectors through the gas stream.
“Can you realign the warp coils while we’re moving?” Janeway asked Torres.
“Yes, Captain.” Torres looked pale and peaky, but composed. “As long as Flyboy here doesn’t take us directly through a sirillium cloud while we’re routing power through the coils, we’ll be fine.”
“I’ll have Astrometrics monitor the gas formations.” The captain tapped her commbadge. “Janeway to Sev-”
The briefing room was silent. Harry’s head was bowed, his teeth sunk into his lip. Paris reached for his wife’s hand under the table.
Janeway pressed her badge again to close the channel.
“Dismissed,” she said quietly.
The vision quest was a mistake.
Finding himself standing on the dead soil of his ravaged home planet wasn’t surprising. He’d hoped for the mollifying presence of his father, his grandfather, but even his spirit guide had not deigned to appear. Chakotay had wandered the plains in a silence broken only by the soft sighing of the breeze that ruffled the foul-smelling dust at his feet, until his anger grew and he’d brought himself out of the vision.
Anger. It swelled within him until he could feel nothing else, and he welcomed it, embraced it. Made it his own.
Once, he’d told her she brought him peace. Chakotay laughed aloud, fists clenching in his darkened quarters. There’d be no peace for him, not ever again.
And it was all her fault.
“Captain, sensors have detected the Fen Domar ship. It’s on approach.”
“So soon?” Janeway turned to frown at Tuvok.
“They must have prioritised the repair of their warp engines. Their ablative armour is still inoperable, but they have also repaired two weapons arrays.” The Vulcan glanced up at her. “Our armour is still online and we have two nanoprobe torpedoes remaining. We will be able to defend ourselves.”
“But we can’t get away,” Paris pointed out.
“Janeway to Torres. How long do you need to finish aligning the warp coils?”
~Another hour at least, Captain.~
“How long til the Fen get here?” Janeway asked Tuvok.
“At their current speed, forty minutes.”
“You’ve got thirty-five minutes, B’Elanna.”
~Understood,~ Torres replied.
“Captain,” Tuvok said quietly. “May I see you in your ready room?”
She nodded. “You have the bridge, Tom.”
Tuvok followed her in and stood ramrod-straight before her desk as Janeway moved behind it.
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
He took the seat she indicated. “Captain, you have been on duty for over twenty-four hours now without rest or sufficient nutritional intake.”
She shrugged. “It’s been a busy day.”
“And you have just lost several of your crew, including one of your closest friends.”
“Your point,” she said tightly.
“I’m concerned for your emotional and physical wellbeing.”
“You should be more worried about Commander Chakotay.”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “I am also concerned for him. However, as the captain of this ship you require rest. And as my friend, you have suffered a great loss. If there’s anything I can do for you –”
“Thank you,” she said, folding her hands in her lap to still their trembling. “Tuvok, I know you want to help, but I can’t afford to be distracted while the Fen Domar are still out there. The best thing you can do for me right now is let me do my job.”
Tuvok rose gracefully. “Then I will also do mine to the best of my ability.”
He returned to the bridge, and Kathryn switched on her desktop monitor and called up Seven of Nine’s crew profile. As captain, it was her duty to record her death, and she had never been one to put off an unpleasant task.
“We’ve collected enough sirillium gas to fill two storage bays, Captain, but Inheritor Alkin’s vessel will reach our coordinates in fifteen minutes,” Harry Kim warned as Janeway took her seat.
“Have they detected us?”
“I don’t think so, but they’ve most likely traced our warp trail and extrapolated our position. There aren’t many places to hide around here.”
“Tuvok, I want the last two nanoprobe torpedoes ready, but let’s avoid using them unless we have no other option. Boost power to the phaser arrays.”
“Janeway to Engineering. How are those coils coming, B’Elanna?”
~I need twenty minutes,~ Torres answered, sounding strained.
“You have ten.”
~I’ll do my best. Torres out.~
“Janeway to Astrometrics.”
~Icheb here, Captain.~
“We’re going to need someplace else to hide, Ensign. What do you have on sensors?”
~There is a Class B gas giant less than three light years away. With shields at full, Voyager could remain in its orbit undetected for up to forty-eight hours.~
“Send the coordinates to the helm. We’ll set a course as soon as warp drive is back online.”
She stood, looking around her bridge at her crew, calm and focused at their stations.
Except one. Her brow furrowed, noting the tension in Tuvok’s shoulders, the jerkiness in his movements. Feeling her gaze on him, he looked up. She could see his dark eyes looked feverish, but he held himself straight, nodding at her.
“Open a ship-wide channel, Harry,” Janeway ordered, still assessing her tactical officer.
She paced slowly across the command deck as she spoke. “All hands, this is the captain. The Fen Domar ship is on approach, but we are still undergoing repairs to the warp coils and cannot go to warp until they’re complete. Chances are high that we will come under attack before that time. Our defences are in good shape, and I have every confidence that all of you will perform your duties with the professionalism I’ve come to expect from you. All crew, man your stations. Janeway out.”
As Harry closed the channel, she took her seat, crossing one too-thin leg over the other.
“Go to red alert.”
The first hit impacted the forward torpedo launchers; the second, the lateral phaser array.
“They are attempting to disable our weapons,” Tuvok announced. “Ablative armour is holding at eighty-seven percent.”
“Direct hit on their deflector array. Their navigational systems have been compromised.”
“That just made them madder,” Paris muttered as he took Voyager into a roll to avoid a volley of torpedoes. “They’re in this for keeps, Captain.”
“So are we.” Janeway stood, clutching the back of his chair. “Tuvok, I want their weapons destroyed. Attack pattern gamma-five.”
The expected “Aye, Captain” did not come, and neither did the phaser volley.
Janeway whipped around. “Tuvok?”
He was staring at nothing, eyes vacant, fingers resting lightly on his console.
“Tuvok,” she shouted, just as a torpedo detonated directly against the ship’s hull. Voyager groaned, listed sideways, throwing Janeway and several other bridge officers to the deck.
Harry Kim was pulling himself upright. “They found a weak point in the armour,” he yelled over the hiss and whine of sparking conduits. “Engineering’s been hit. They’ve taken heavy casualties.”
Janeway pushed her hair out of her face. “Send medical and repair teams. Tuvok,” she began, turning to him, but he was slumped over his console. “Damn it. Someone get him to Sickbay. Where’s his relief?”
“Lieutenant Rollins is unconscious. Lieutenant Ayala is on his way,” Kim began, but then the turbolift opened. Chakotay stepped out, surveyed the bridge, and moved immediately to the tactical station.
“Commander.” Janeway’s voice was devoid of emotion. She only hoped her face was, as well. “You shouldn’t be here –”
“Your orders, Captain?” he cut her off.
She pressed her lips together, but Voyager lurched under another torpedo strike and she was flung to her knees. Shaking off the ringing in her ears, she nodded to Chakotay. “Target their weapons arrays and fire at will.”
The bridge crew watched the firework-bright sparks of the Fen Domar weapons arrays crumpling under the barrage.
“Their weapons have been destroyed.”
“Tom, do we have warp drive?”
“Then get us the hell out of here, maximum speed.”
~Sickbay to the bridge.~
Kathryn’s heart clutched. “Go ahead, Doctor.”
~Please send Lieutenant Paris down here as soon as possible. His presence is needed.~
“He’s on his way.” Janeway didn’t wait for Paris’ replacement; she slipped behind the helm herself. “Go, Tom.”
She felt the back of her neck prickling with the weight of Chakotay’s cold gaze.
The Fen Domar had chased them for a light year before their limping warp drive had forced them to stop. By the time Voyager left their sensor range, Janeway was shaking with dissipated adrenaline, head pounding. She handed the conn to Ensign Culhane and sank into her chair, pulling the centre console toward her. Status reports streamed before her blurring eyes.
“Captain.” Lieutenant Kim had left his post, perching nervously on the edge of the first officer’s chair. “Alpha shift just finished and I have Beta shift.”
She attempted to smile at him. “Trying to get rid of me, Harry?”
“No, ma’am. But you’ve been on duty for four shifts straight.” He swallowed, his gaze darting to Chakotay, silent at Tactical. “I – uh – would you prefer Commander Chakotay to take the bridge?”
Kathryn closed her eyes. Her thought patterns had lost cohesion five minutes ago, and all she wanted to do was put her head down somewhere quiet. But her ship needed her, and so did her crew.
“No,” she answered, pushing herself to her feet and praying her knees wouldn’t buckle. She forced herself to face the tactical station. “Commander, you’re relieved. Mr Kim, you have the bridge. I’ll be in my ready room.”
“Aye, Captain,” Harry answered, his eyes following Chakotay as the commander silently left the bridge.
~Sickbay to Captain Janeway.~
The Doctor’s voice jerked her awake, and Kathryn sat up, blinking her aching eyes. Disoriented, she stared around. Ready room. Desk. I fell asleep, she realised. God, how could she fall asleep at a time like this?
~Captain, please respond.~
She cleared her throat. “Go ahead, Doctor.”
~I’ve treated and released most of the Engineering crewmen who were wounded in the attack. But I’m afraid Commander Tuvok’s condition has deteriorated rapidly. It’s my medical opinion that he is no longer fit for duty.~
His pause told her she was going to like what was coming next even less.
“Go on, Doctor.” Her gaze fell on the empty coffee cup she’d left on the edge of her desk. Hours ago. It felt like days. It was on the floor now. Her favourite cup; the one Mark had given her when she’d taken command of Voyager. She bent to retrieve it.
~I regret to inform you, Captain, that Lieutenant Torres was also injured and has miscarried her baby.~
The cup was cracked, all the way from rim to base. She watched her fingers whiten as they gripped it.
“Yes, Doctor. I heard you.”
~Can you spare Mr Paris for a while?~
“Of course,” her voice was a monotone. “Tell him to take as long as he needs.”
~Thank you, Captain.~
“Janeway out,” she answered.
She stared at the cup. The handle was chipped as well, a chunk of china missing from it. She slipped out of her chair, scanning the floor, hands spidering over the deck.
The door chimed.
“Captain, I have the reports from –” Kim stopped. “Captain?”
She didn’t answer. There was a speck of white beneath her desk; she crawled under it to pick it up.
Harry crouched beside her. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
“Fine.” She sat back on her heels, holding up the piece of china, fitting it into the chipped handle. “There’s still some missing.”
“Captain?” Harry was staring at her.
“Don’t just sit there. Help me find it.”
“The missing piece.”
Kim shifted and she heard something crunch under his boot.
“Harry, move your foot.” Was that her voice, strangled and breathless? She slapped at Kim’s ankle. “Move it!”
He stumbled, trying to get out of her way, and his boot slipped sideways. Janeway stared at the crushed white china where his foot had been.
“It’s ruined.” There were tears welling up in her eyes, trickling down her face. She caught her breath on a sob. “It’s all ruined. Everything.”
Harry reached a tentative hand out to her shoulder. “We’ll fix it, Captain,” he said, patting her awkwardly.
“No.” She was heaving now, her chest so tight she wondered briefly if she was having a heart attack. “Nothing can fix it. Everything is wrong. It’s always going to be wrong, and it’s all my fault!”
She pivoted on her knees, her forehead crashing onto his chest, and Harry Kim put his arms around his captain and held her while she wept.
“I’ve given her a sedative.” The Doctor’s voice was low.
Lieutenant Kim, the sole remaining senior officer who was not in some manner incapacitated, turned away from the frail figure on the biobed. He couldn’t be sure whether she looked so helpless simply because she was unconscious – she was always lively, always larger than life – or because he was watching the disintegration of the woman he’d idolised for the past ten years. “Will she be all right?”
The EMH’s mouth twisted. “That’s a matter of opinion. She’s severely malnourished and suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. She’s been operating under inhuman levels of stress for almost a decade. And she’s just witnessed the violent death of a number of her crew, including her foster daughter, and the mental collapse of her oldest friend. I’d suggest that all right is a relative term, Mr Kim.”
“How is Tuvok?”
“Medicated, and meditating in his quarters.”
Harry glanced over to the other side of Sickbay. A privacy forcefield shielded the area’s occupants from view. “And what about them?”
“Lieutenant Torres is resting comfortably. I’ve no doubt Lieutenant Paris could use a friend.”
“Thanks, Doc.” He rested a hand on the hologram’s shoulder. “Tough day. I know you’ve done everything you could.”
“I always do,” the Doctor sighed, as Harry headed over to offer his best friend a shoulder to cry on.
She’d never known anyone to touch her the way he did, with reverence, as though she was his fondest dream come to life. Even when she urged him to hurt her, when he pushed her face-down over her ready room desk and fucked her deep and hard, his hands gripping her hair, there was something worshipful about it.
She had never told him that this, the devotion, the love for her that was so evident in everything he did, was exactly the thing that held her back.
But then, he’d never understood that she didn’t deserve him.
That first night, when he’d come to tell her he was marrying Seven of Nine and she’d known then and there that she was losing him, she’d pushed herself into his hands, wound her arms around his neck and drawn his tongue into her mouth. She’d been aggressive, forceful, clawing at him with her nails and biting into his golden skin. But his hands on her body had been so gentle. She’d begged him to take her, pulled him into her with her ankles locked behind his back, and he’d followed her lead, but after she’d scratched and moaned her way to orgasm, after he came inside her, he held her close and whispered words she didn’t want – didn’t deserve – to hear.
And then she’d sent him home to the woman who would become his wife.
Her eyes felt gritty, and when she finally pried them open, the ceiling was not the one she expected to see.
Sickbay, she remembered, then curled into a ball as the rest of it came flooding back.
“I know you’re awake.”
Kathryn’s eyes opened again, and her heart thudded sickeningly in her chest. She forced her breathing to calm, forced herself to turn and face her first officer.
No, she realised as she met his dark, accusing gaze. This wasn’t her first officer, or her best friend, or even the man she’d pushed and pulled, loved and lied to for a decade. This was the man whose wife’s death was on her conscience.
“Anything you have to say to me,” she croaked through a throat dusty from shame, “believe me, Chakotay, I’ve already heard it from myself.”
“Just tell me one thing.”
“What happens next, Captain?” He all but spat her title at her.
She closed her eyes again. “I’m going to find Alkin,” she said so softly she wasn’t sure he could hear her, “and I’m going to kill him.”
Chakotay’s silence said more than any words could. She turned her back on him and prayed he’d leave her alone.
Finally, he pushed the chair back from her bedside and stood. “Do whatever you want, Kathryn. You always do.” She heard his footsteps, and then he turned back to add, “But don’t you for one minute believe that avenging Seven’s death should ease your conscience. This is your guilt to bear.”
“I know,” she whispered to the empty room, curling up as though she could compress all the hurt into a small, tightly-packed vessel in the pit of her stomach, as though that would make it ache any less.