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 58042.7 – January 16, 2381
~Give her back. Now.~
No, Kathryn thought as she struggled back to consciousness. Oh, no.
She tried to speak, but moving her lips and tongue seemed impossible.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Alkin was responding smoothly. “Your captain and I have been having a wonderful time getting to know each other.”
The rest of his speech faded out as Janeway clamped her mouth shut against a surge of nausea. God, what was in that serum? How long had she been out?
“… in fact, we were just getting to her command codes when you so rudely interrupted us.”
Not long, then. Or she’d been conscious, but unaware. Janeway tried to moisten her desiccated lips. She couldn’t think –
Oh, God, the anguish, the torment in his voice. I’m sorry, Chakotay, she tried to convey. You were never meant to witness this.
She felt cool air on her stomach as someone grasped the tattered remnants of her tank and lifted it. And then Alkin was shouting in her ear, gripping her hair, yanking her head up, and she opened her eye, the one that wasn’t swollen and crusted with blood.
She was looking at Voyager’s bridge. And her officers – Harry, Samantha, Tom, Chakotay – were staring back at her. Sam’s face was grey, and Harry had tears in his eyes.
Chakotay … She’d never seen such a look in his eyes before. Fierce. Untethered. Savage.
She closed her eye.
“For such a scrawny creature,” Alkin commented, “she has proved remarkably resistant. She bears pain quite well.”
And he leaned in close, showily, his breath hot on her cheek, and licked her from jaw to temple. She willed her stomach not to rebel.
“Tell me Voyager’s command codes,” he smirked.
Janeway turned a malevolent eye to him and spat her denial with all the breath she could muster.
~Let her go,~ she heard Chakotay bellow.
“Let her go?” Alkin’s voice was thick with delight. And she knew what he was going to do.
Let her go, she’d demanded, days ago when he held Nina Jenkins at his mercy. And he’d thrown her to the deck, stripped off her uniform, and –
No, her clenching heart pleaded, not this. Not like this.
But Falit was there with his knife, slicing through the remains of her uniform, leaving her naked and exposed and oh, so helpless. He released her restraints, pushed her to her knees. She struggled, tried to get up, a last desperate attempt to avoid her fate, but Falit’s boot weighed onto the base of her back, and her arms gave out beneath her.
She felt Alkin behind her, raising her hips, thick fingers invading her, and the protest in her head was deafening but her voice was weak, so weak.
“But my dear,” oozed the voice she loathed, would despise for the remainder of her hopefully short life, “don’t you want me to show your lover how it’s done?”
And it was the final blow, the last strike to her crumbling defences. That he could taunt her, taunt Chakotay, with the secret she’d so jealously guarded, the secret he’d pried from her in her weakness, left Kathryn with nothing.
The pain, when it came, was almost a relief.
“Lieutenant Ayala.” Chakotay couldn’t take his eyes from the deadened viewscreen. “Fire.”
A tirade of phaser fire streaked into the space between the two vessels, barraging, pummelling, never letting up.
“Their armour integrity is falling,” Kim reported from Ops, his voice as dispassionate as a Vulcan’s. “Seventy-five percent. Seventy. Sixty-eight…”
Fire blossomed over the Fen ship’s hull.
“Their armour is down to forty-five percent. They’re retaliating.”
“Brace for impact.”
Voyager pitched and reeled, and a console went up in sparks.
“Negligible damage. Our armour is holding.”
“Bring them down, Ayala. Harry, get a transporter lock on her and beam her home as soon as their armour fails.”
One nanoprobe torpedo arced toward the Fen Domar ship, and impacted directly with its ablative armour generator. “Armour down,” Ayala announced with grim satisfaction. “They’re defenceless.”
“Incoming,” Kim warned, and the bridge crew braced themselves as a series of explosions battered the hull. “Transporter targeting scanners have been damaged, Commander. I can’t maintain a clean lock.”
“Set the scanners to wide dispersal and beam every life sign in her vicinity to the transporter room,” Chakotay growled. “Chakotay to Baxter. The minute those patterns rematerialize, beam the captain to Sickbay and the rest to the brig.”
~Understood,~ the transporter chief responded.
“Commander.” Ayala was staring at his console. “There’s some kind of overload in the Fen ship’s warp core. That ship is going to breach in less than ten seconds.”
“Harry!” Chakotay roared.
“Energising.” Kim’s jaw was clenched. “I’ve got her! Two Fen life signs were caught in the beam. The captain’s life signs are failing, sir.”
~The captain is in Sickbay, sir. Two aliens have been beamed to the brig.~
“Commander,” Paris broke in, “that ship’s on a collision course…”
“Get us out of here now.”
“Aye,” Paris had already keyed in an escape course. “Engaging at full impulse.”
“The Fen ship has exploded,” Ayala reported. “The shockwave is approaching.”
“Increasing to warp two,” Paris responded.
A scorching white glow filled the viewscreen. Voyager trembled, the bridge crew holding its collective breath. And then the shuddering dissipated, and Paris breathed a sigh of relief.
Chakotay rested a hand briefly on the helmsman’s shoulder. “Good work, all of you. You have the bridge, Mr Kim.”
Chakotay met Paris’ gaze, his own giving nothing away. “The Doctor’s going to need you in Sickbay. I’ll be in the brig.”
The Fen rose slowly, black eyes opaque with rage. “Return me to my ship.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” Chakotay stepped up to the forcefield, “Your ship was destroyed. You and your comrade here are the only survivors.”
The other Fen paced forward, baring his teeth. “Falit,” Alkin snapped, and the soldier moved back. “What are your intentions?” he demanded of Chakotay.
The commander allowed himself a small smile. “I haven’t decided yet.”
The Inheritor folded his arms across his chest. “Indecision is an ineffective trait in a ship’s captain.”
“I’m not this ship’s captain.” The reply was soft and deadly.
Alkin smirked. “You will be soon. Kathryn is dying.”
“If she dies,” Chakotay answered, “so do you. You can count on that.”
“My father would track you down and wreak vengeance on you. You would never leave our space alive.”
Chakotay’s gaze locked onto his. “It might well be worth it.”
Christ, thought Paris, holding the micro-suture device as the EMH worked frantically to seal ruptured blood vessels and repair torn muscles. He was trying to view the patient as a triage case, a collection of physical injuries. He was failing.
“Mr Paris,” snapped the Doctor. “If you can’t hold that device steady, you’re no use to me.”
“Sorry, Doc.” He cleared his throat and wrenched his gaze away from the captain’s battered face.
“Thank you,” the EMH muttered. “Surgical regenerator.”
Tom reached for the device and placed it in the Doctor’s palm, watching as scored and bleeding flesh knit itself together.
An alarm shrilled, and Paris jumped. The Doctor whirled around to check the readout. “There’s some kind of chemical in her blood stream. It’s inhibiting cell oxygenation. Ten ccs of chloromydride.”
As soon as it was in his hand, the Doctor applied the hypospray to the captain’s throat.
“Monitor her blood gases.”
“She’s stabilising,” Paris reported in relief.
“Good. Repair the fractured ribs, then reduce the cranial swelling. I need to devise a treatment for the chemical imbalance.” The Doctor trotted into his office.
The Sickbay doors opened. Paris was too busy concentrating on knitting bone to look up, but he knew immediately who’d come in.
“How is she?” Chakotay asked, eyes riveted to the parcel of blood and bones on the biobed.
“About as good as she looks.” Paris switched off the osteo-regenerator and picked up another tool, moving to the head of the biobed. “There’s some kind of chemical in her bloodstream that’s sucking the oxygen out of her cells. Doc’s in his office working on a treatment.”
“Will she live?”
Tom looked up. “You’ll have to ask the Doctor. But at the moment she’s stable.”
“She’s unconscious,” Chakotay pointed out.
“Yeah.” Paris switched off the cranial scanner. “To be honest, Chakotay, that’s probably a good thing. She’s taken some heavy punishment and she’d be in a lot of pain if she was awake.”
“Ah, Commander.” The Doctor bustled out of his office. “I assume you’ve come for a report.”
“An edited one, please, Doctor.” Chakotay moved closer to the biobed. His hand twitched, wanting to take hold of hers, but he was too afraid of causing her any more pain.
“You can hold her hand,” the Doctor said, his tone unusually gentle as he applied a hypospray to the captain’s neck. “I’ve synthesised an antigen that should neutralise the chemical reaction in her blood cells. Mr Paris and I will need to continue healing her wounds, but we can work around you if you’d like to sit with her.”
Chakotay found himself backing up, away from the emaciated figure on the biobed. “I need to get back to the bridge. Contact me if there’s any change in her condition.”
He could feel Paris’ eyes following him as he made his escape.
“Hail the Ascendant’s ship.” Chakotay settled into his chair.
“They’re responding,” Kim answered immediately.
~Voyager,~ the Ascendant snarled. ~You destroyed my son’s vessel.~
“To be precise, we didn’t destroy it. The warp core overloaded. And they had it coming.”
~You killed him,~ Vikan bellowed.
“On the contrary. Your son is in my brig, along with one of his officers. And I’ll be happy to return them to you in exchange for safe passage through your space.”
The Ascendant’s eyes narrowed. ~Why should I trust you?~
“Because you don’t have a choice. Do we have a deal?”
~And if I disagree?~
“The minute one of your ships so much as drifts in our direction, I’ll blow your son out the nearest airlock.” Chakotay rose to his feet. “Your answer, Ascendant?”
The Fen stared at him. Chakotay stared calmly back.
~We have a deal,~ Vikan finally replied.
“Good. I’ll contact you when we reach your border. I don’t want to hear from you or any of your people until then.” Chakotay allowed a smile to curve his lips. “Voyager out.”
He couldn’t put it off any longer.
Voyager was safe – relatively – and Beta shift had arrived to relieve the bridge crew. Chakotay had retreated to the ready room hours ago to wade through the ever-increasing pile of damage and status reports. The Doctor had reported that Janeway’s injuries had been healed and he’d started her on a course of neodextramine and vitamins. She had woken briefly, but he’d given her pain relief and a sedative. It was a testament to the seriousness of the captain’s condition that she hadn’t objected.
Chakotay left the ready room and trudged slowly toward Sickbay. The adrenaline that had kept him sharp during the battle, the rescue, the negotiation, had dissolved, leaving him feeling sick and shaken.
And very, very angry.
The EMH was back in his office when Chakotay entered Sickbay, but Lieutenant Paris was sitting at the captain’s bedside, her hand held in his as he talked softly to her sleeping form. Chakotay couldn’t hear what he was saying. Paris fell quiet as the commander approached.
“How is she?”
“Out of the woods. She’s going to be stuck here for a few days while the Doc gets her fattened up, which I’m sure is going to thrill her.” He pushed back his chair. “Here, sit down.”
Chakotay slid into the chair and sat staring at her.
“I’ll leave you to it.”
But when Paris had gone, he found he still didn’t know what to say to her. So he took her hand, carefully, because her bones felt as brittle as twigs, and he just looked at her. Drank her in, in a way he would never dare and she would never permit were she aware of it.
When the Doctor emerged from his office to check on his patient three hours later, he found the commander asleep in the chair beside her bed, the captain’s hand cradled gently between his own.
Stardate 58086.4 – February 1, 2381 – Two Weeks Later
“We’re approaching the border of Fen space, Commander.”
“All stop. Send a subspace message to Ascendant Vikan. Tell him we’re ready to talk.”
Harry Kim nodded. “Vikan should receive the message in about two hours, sir.”
“Good.” Chakotay got to his feet. “I’ll be in the ready room.”
Kathryn hadn’t set foot in this room for two weeks, but as he entered Chakotay fancied he could smell her scent. It was ridiculous, of course; the environmental controls had long since recycled the air. Still, he couldn’t help but take a slow breath in, imagining the scent of roses and coffee.
He was deeply concerned about her.
She’d chafed at the Doctor’s insistence that she stay in Sickbay for the first three days of her recovery; that wasn’t unexpected. And she’d objected to being ordered off-duty until she’d regained some of the weight – and the strength – she’d lost. But when Chakotay had gone to see her a few nights ago and asked if she was ready to return to command, she’d haltingly, quietly told him she wasn’t.
She wasn’t the same. But then, had he really expected she would be?
Neither was he. The anger, the rage that had taken root inside him over Seven’s death, that had twined its tendrils into his gut while Kathryn was held hostage on that Fen ship, had not withered with time and distance. He didn’t know if it ever would, and he wasn’t sure he wanted it to.
~Janeway to Chakotay.~
Chakotay tapped his commbadge. “Go ahead, Captain.”
~Would you come to my quarters, please?~
“On my way,” he answered, and dragged himself to his feet.
“I want to see him.”
Chakotay stared at her. Kathryn stood erect, still so thin but holding herself as though her bones were infused with steel. Her chin was held high, her eyes direct.
“What possible good could that do?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered quietly. “But it’s something I need to do. I was hoping –”
“I was hoping you’d come with me.” Her eyes were clouded now. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to, but …” she tried to smile, “your support would mean a lot to me.”
“Of course,” he said. “You know you’ve always had my support.”
“Thank you, Chakotay.”
He stepped aside so she could precede him into the hallway.
Chakotay dismissed the security officer and followed Janeway over to Alkin’s cell.
“Captain Janeway.” The Fen didn’t bother getting up, smirking at her from his position sprawled on the cot. “What a delightful surprise.”
Janeway stepped forward, moving right up to the forcefield. “Inheritor Alkin.”
Chakotay stood to her left, a hand on her shoulder. Alkin’s gaze moved to him. “And the faithful first officer. You must be happy to have your lover back, Commander.” He paused. “Although I’m afraid I may have broken her a little.”
Kathryn put a steadying hand on Chakotay’s arm. “We aren’t lovers,” she told the Fen flatly. “And you overestimate your influence, Inheritor. I’ve faced far greater enemies than you.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’m overestimating anything, Kathryn.”
“Captain,” she corrected, voice frigid. “And the way I see it, you’re in my brig. That puts you incontrovertibly under my influence.”
“Not for long,” Alkin replied lazily. He returned his gaze to Chakotay. “Your commander made a deal with my father: my freedom for your safe passage out of our space. He didn’t make that deal with me.”
“Meaning?” Janeway’s tone was ice.
“Meaning,” Alkin rose slowly to his feet, moving toward her until only the forcefield separated them and she had to tilt her head back to meet his eyes, “that my influence doesn’t stop at the border of the Ascendancy.” He allowed his gaze to travel insolently downward over her body. She stiffened. Alkin returned his gaze to her face and continued, “And I haven’t had my fill of you yet.”
“That’s enough,” Chakotay growled.
Alkin stepped back with a satisfied smile.
“If you come after us,” Janeway said evenly, “I promise you won’t live to regret it.”
She brushed past Chakotay and stalked out of the brig.
Chakotay’s eyes had never left the Inheritor’s face.
“Do you have something to say to me, Commander?” Alkin drawled.
“Computer,” Chakotay said, “deactivate internal sensors and seal the brig doors until further notice.”
The computer chirped obligingly, and Chakotay smiled.
“The Ascendant is sending a ship to rendezvous with us, Commander. It should intercept us in twenty minutes.”
“We’re not waiting for it.” Chakotay took his seat. “I’ve escorted our prisoners to escape pod gamma-twelve. Launch it, Harry.”
“Aye, sir,” Kim said, concealing his surprise. “Escape pod is away.”
The bridge crew watched as the pod went to warp.
“Tom, get us out of here. I want as much distance between us and Fen space as possible.”
“Engaging at warp eight,” Paris replied.
The silence on the bridge was broken twenty minutes later. “Incoming transmission from the Fen ship,” Harry announced.
An unfamiliar Fen appeared on the viewscreen, tawny face distorted with rage. Before he could speak, Chakotay cut in.
“Tell the Ascendant that his son had it coming. And if he attempts to come after us, I’ll blast him out of the sky.” He nodded to Harry. “End transmission.”
The screen went blank, and Chakotay met Paris’ understanding gaze. “You have the bridge, Tom.” He smiled without humour. “Depending on my next conversation with the captain, you might have it until she’s ready to return to duty.”
“You murdered him?”
“Yes, Captain.” Chakotay stood at attention in the captain’s dim-lit quarters. “With your permission, I’ll report immediately to the brig.” He reached up to his collar, removing his rank bar, and placed it carefully on her desk.
She rose from the couch and came directly up to him, staring into his eyes. For a long moment she was silent. Then, “Permission denied.”
“Sit down, Chakotay.”
Cautiously, he settled onto the couch. She lowered herself beside him, her body angled toward his.
“You’ve put me in an untenable position, Commander,” she began. “Starfleet regulations are crystal-clear on this matter. By all rights, you ought to be court-martialled and sentenced to imprisonment.” She linked her hands in her lap. “But I can’t run this ship without you. And Starfleet is so very far away.”
Janeway held up a hand. “Who knows about this?”
He paused. “Tom Paris does. Or at least, he suspects. As would the bridge crew who heard my conversation with the Fen captain.”
“Suspicion is one thing. Who actually knows?”
“I suppose,” he said slowly, “you could say that technically, nobody knows.”
“The brig security logs?”
“I deactivated them.”
“Only Falit. And he’s gone.”
“I see.” She thought for a moment, then raised her eyes to him. “I won’t pretend not to understand why you did it, Chakotay. And I’m sorrier than you can imagine that my choices led you to this.”
“What are you talking about?”
Kathryn stood, facing away from him, thin arms wrapped around herself. “You begged me to turn back from Fen space, and I refused. You told me you knew something awful was going to happen that day, and I wouldn’t listen.” She turned back to him, eyes shimmering with tears. “Seven, Jenkins, Celes, the others – they died because of me.”
“No.” Chakotay strode over to her, gripping her upper arms. “They died because of Alkin. I don’t blame you for Seven’s death.”
“You did,” she whispered.
He shook his head. “I was angry when I said that. Kathryn, this wasn’t your fault.”
“It was.” She stared up at him furiously, eyes welling, body trembling. “I chose to ignore your advice. I chose to send Seven and the others on that away mission. I chose to give myself up to that – that animal who – raped me in front of my crew…” She choked, wrenching out of his grasp. “I’m not fit to captain this ship, Chakotay. My judgement can’t be trusted.”
“Listen to me,” he shouted. “You are the only one who can captain this ship. You want to talk about bad judgement? I killed a man in cold blood, Kathryn!” His voice broke. “I didn’t do it to defend myself or to save the crew, or for any idealistic reasons. I killed him for revenge. And the worst part is that I’m not even sorry for it.”
He turned his back on her, curling his hands into fists, breathing hard.
He felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m not sorry either, Chakotay.” There was no anger in her voice, nothing but fatigue. “I’m glad you killed him. If you hadn’t, and if I’d had the chance, I would have killed him myself.”
“Kathryn,” he whispered. “You don’t mean that.”
“Yes,” she answered, “I do. And that’s why I won’t let you go to prison for something I would have done in a heartbeat.” Her voice strengthened. “So pin that rank bar back on your collar, Commander, because I need you on the bridge.”
“And you?” he asked quietly, turning to face her.
“As you said, I’m the captain.” She straightened her shoulders. “It’s time I remembered that.”
Chakotay scooped up his rank bar from the desk and handed it to her. She fastened it to his collar and forced herself to smile.
He pulled her into his embrace, his arms closing gently around her.
“We’ll get through this,” he told her softly. “We’ll help each other.”
You’re not alone, Kathryn.
Kathryn rested her cheek against his chest, feeling the steady beat of his solid, dependable heart.