A/N: This piece can be read as a stand-alone. However, it was intended as a sequel to "Certain Dark Things." A reviewer commented that they didn't know how the J/C relationship could work if Chakotay's behavior isn't something he feels he can control. (Thank you for the inspiration, you know who you are).
Thanks also to my fantastic beta's, OPYKJ and Icedragon3643.
WARNING: This story is not explicit, but depending on your imagination it could be disturbing to some readers. (Violence and implied nonconsensual situations).
Do you dare to look her right in the eyes?
Cause they will run you down, down to the dark…down til you fall… down til you crawl.
And way down we go.
First Officer's log. Stardate….. Shit. Computer, what's the date?
*Today's Stardate is 53354.6*
Right. It's been seventeen days since the Captain and her team left for trade negotiations with the Bo'tina-Haptar homeworld. Twelve days since they missed the scheduled rendezvous with Voyager. The crew have been pulling triple shifts for so long I'm not sure what's keeping most of them conscious. Kathryn would be proud of them. Or, she'd be very upset. Either way.
We found the shuttle adrift yesterday with the pilot and security officer dead inside. Post-mortems on Lieutenant Marx and Crewman Higgins are underway though it was fairly clear that they were hit with an energy weapon at close range. The memorial service has been postponed for a few days as we remain focused on locating the Captain.
Most of the shuttle logs were badly damaged, but B'Elanna just informed me that before it was attacked sensors registered a neutron-based particle surge. There is only one system we've surveyed in the last two weeks where this type of technology is used. We have reversed course and are headed there now. It should take about four hours at top speed. Until then, I'm ordering everyone to get some rest.
As for me, I just want this to be over. I want her back.
Computer. Delete the last two sentences and end log.
First Officer's log. Stardate….. Two days after my last entry.
We attempted to enter orbit of the planet we now know as 'Emtaki' but were quickly asked to leave. I don't want to risk a confrontation just yet so we've taken up an inconspicuous position behind the fourth planet. Away teams have recently returned from the surface with disturbing news.
This is not a culture I want to be involved with. They aren't openly hostile but their weapons systems are formidable. Surveillance teams encountered some roadblocks while gathering information. The residents are generally unwilling to speak to strangers, but fortunately some could be bribed. We've uncovered evidence of a seedy underworld. It is a masochistic construct, sanctioned and organized by the government to appeal to the sordid desires of high-ranking citizens. Even more worrisome, aliens are apparently highly sought after commodity. At least, female ones are.
This explains why the men on the shuttle were killed and the Captain was taken. The only comfort I have in this knowledge is that she is likely to still be alive. But, diplomacy and trade negotiations will not get her back.
Tuvok has narrowed our scans to three buildings just outside the central district where aliens are apparently processed and held for examination then disseminated. Like livestock.
Computer, end log.
Before I throw up.
"I have gained access to their surveillance system," Tuvok informs me. I'm currently pacing, wearing a trough in the carpet on the bridge. His comment makes me spin on my heels.
"There are thirty-five security cameras in the complex where we located the Captain's bio-signature. I have all of them."
"Did you find her?"
"No. I am searching through them now," he informs me and my blood runs cold.
"Stop," I say. "Transfer the link to my….to the ready room."
It takes every ounce of self-restraint not to run from the bridge. Seated at her desk I begin sorting through the views. The irony is not lost on me that I'm flipping through them like Tom does channels on his old TV set.
Empty hallway. Empty hallway. Room with man alone. Women lined up against a wall but she is not among them. Stairwell. Empty room. I make it through about twenty cameras when my breath halts in my throat.
This is the one. A woman is being held down on a table. She is trying to resist but failing. A man, one whom I can't quite discern but I know I will come to never forget, is pressing down. On her.
I'm forced to watch by my own accord, horrified by the silent display before me. What feels like an eternity, but is likely only minutes, has passed. It shakes me to my very core. I realize then and there that my life as I know it is over. The die has been cast.
A voice wafts in to interrupt my suffering.
"Kim to Commander Chakotay…"
"Yes," I choke, unable to look away from the screen.
"I've got an approximate fix on the Captain's location. I can get a team into the tunnel, but you'll need transport enhancers to get out. I can't get a clear lock through the dampening field."
I tear myself away and end the punishment I've been subjecting myself to. I know that hers will continue just a while longer.
"On my way."
I materialize in a darkened, subterranean hallway as expected. According to my tricorder, Kathryn's bio signature is fifty meters to the north. I begin walking with purposeful, heavy steps. The corridor is mercifully empty; the body count will remain at one. My rage has hit its peak.
All I have to do is walk in, threaten him with a phaser and get us out of there. But I know. I know I won't be able to do that. My weapon remains on my belt.
I should have sent someone else to do this job. Tuvok all but begged me to let him come. He cited every rule in the book to prevent me from doing this alone. I should have listened to him. I don't want to be a murderer.
I reach the door. I can hear her breathing, panting, crying and I burst in. He is still holding her down. It will be the last thing he ever does.
When her battered eyes meet mine, it's the most relief I've felt in weeks. The sight threatens to deter me. She displays no shame, only gratitude at my presence. But then, in a flash she reads my mind. She knows what I'm going to do and her eyes betray fear and regret and disappointment.
I thought these moments would go by in a blur but I perceive them all with a heightened sense of awareness. Shock and panic rip across the man's face as he sees my fury. I lift him off of her by the back of his shirt and throw him across the room. He is lighter than I had imagined, or is it the rush of adrenaline giving me Vulcan strength? His bones crack against the floor.
"Chakotay," I hear her gasp.
I don't even stop to ask if she is okay. She's alive and that's enough for now.
This is the moment. The moment I should grab her and go home. But I make the only choice I really have. I've hunted him into a corner, the coward. He doesn't even try to run.
"Chakotay, no!" I hear her shout.
I drag him out by his ankle as his fingertips fight for purchase against the floor. He's splayed, face up, eyes terrified at the sight of me. Pleas. Desperate pleas and apologies cry from his lips. They are the last sounds he will make. I hear the words but in my rage I don't understand them. Her voice is the only one I will remember.
"Stop. Chakotay. Don't do this."
Why does she defend him? I wonder as I wrap my strong hands around his throat.
"Commander, I'm ordering you to let him go."
Her voice is cracked, but strong. I put my entire weight onto his fragile windpipe.
Now I can feel her tugging at my uniform. She's pulling on my arms. The bastard looks to her for help and maybe, forgiveness. I squeeze tighter.
Her impassioned commands for my mercy grow louder and more insistent. But I don't obey. There's no turning back. A moment later, his life is over. And so is mine.
I release my grasp and sit back on my heels, on his legs. Then I calm my breath. She's not moving. She's stunned, staring at his silent corpse. I stand and cover her with a thin blanket I've found. She's trembling but I have no words to still her. I reach for my belt then affix the enhancer to the fabric draped on her shoulder.
When we arrive in sickbay I take up a position in the corner. The wall supports me. The doctor runs his scans and offers her quiet advice. She is pale. Her features are tired, sickly and bruised. She is clearly in shock.
What feels like an hour goes by and she never looks at me. I know this because my eyes do not leave her. She is safe. At least, physically. The emotional wounds may never heal and most of this, I realize, is my fault. But she is alive. And the abuse has stopped. I made sure of that.
Finally, the doctor takes his leave. Her bruises and wounds are erased; she's dressed now, back under her Captain's uniform and matching mask. She stands from the bed then turns to me and walks with an odd mix of command presence and trepidation. She stops awkwardly far away for our conversation. We used to stand so close, so close it hurt.
"You…" she begins, trying to calm her voice from shaking. "You killed that man in cold blood."
I don't move.
"Did you even know what you were doing?"
"Yes," I reply.
There is a long silence. She looks at me as if she's never seen me before. And she never wants to see me again.
"You are relieved of duty. Confine yourself to quarters."
Her orders are no surprise. I would have imposed them on myself if she had not. She waits. Waits for me to either protest or explain. But I do neither. I close my eyes and when I reopen them she is gone.
I find my voice and speak the words to end this illusory version of what could have been.
"Computer. End program."
Given the chance, I would do it all over again; make it to the point of no return. And I will, in a safer place than reality. In my mind and on the holodeck I will take pleasure removing that man's life over and over again. But only because that's not the way it actually happened.
There was a moment. A moment when I didn't think I could turn back. Until she reached me and changed my fate.
"Chakotay, no!" I heard her shout.
I dragged him out of the corner. He was flat on his back, face up on the ground but I refused to meet his eyes. I heard only her voice as I wrapped my strong hands around his throat. I can still feel how fragile it was.
"You don't have to do this," she said, but I squeezed tighter.
She didn't try to pull me off of him. Instead, I felt her hand rest firmly on my shoulder.
"Look at me Chakotay." Her voice was unexpectedly calm.
Something within me refused to disobey this last request. My grip loosened for an instant and I met her eyes. They weren't full of hate as I expected. They were full of love. For me. The sinner, the monster I was about to become; the one I believed I already was. She didn't see it. She didn't see the dark that she had dragged me to. She saw only the truth that her love was enough to bring me back to the light.
"He's not worth it," she said.
And she was right. So I let him go.
She took my hands and intertwined my fingers. She lifted me away from a fate I was all but condemned to. Her embrace was the most satisfying thing I've ever felt. It quenched my hatred and calmed my fears. In the end, it was she who saved me.
She took the device from my belt and touched my chest.
"Two to beam out."
I'm back in my quarters now, reflecting on the sins of my past. I have killed before. I've killed in battle and in self-defense. I've killed for a cause. I've killed with my words, through my orders. I've killed with phasers and torpedoes and blades. Once, I killed a Cardassian with my boot.
But until today I've never even come close to killing for love.
She told me once, after the events on Ripshyn – after I saved her when she didn't want to be saved – that if I couldn't control this love I have for her it would be my undoing. She may well have been right.
My last bottle of Antarian cider is all but gone. I nurse the final drops. Another glass sits full on the table waiting for her. I know she will be here soon. It is an offering, one she may not take but I make it just the same.
I've recycled my uniform and I don civilian clothes. This is an offering too. I am no longer worthy of the colors she wears. I no longer want them. With one act I've abandoned all they represent and that she honours. And yet, I do not have regrets. But I will mourn the love I may have just condemned to the same strangled fate.
After a while, she joins me in my quarters. I am relieved to see that her bruises and wounds are gone.
She slowly kneels to the floor in front of me and gives me time. It is a posture unbefitting of a Captain, but then I realize Kathryn has come as a friend.
"I wanted to kill that man," I finally admit. "I still do."
She nods, understanding. "I know. But you didn't."
My gaze meet hers behind a fog of shame. "You were the only thing that stopped me. What if next time you're not there?"
"Chakotay, close your eyes." I feel her warm hands surround mine and I pause, confused.
"Go on," she urges. This is important to her, so my eyes flutter shut to comply. "What do you see?"
"Look harder, move past it," she coaches.
I take a long, centering and slightly meditative breath. And then I understand. "I see you." And surely as if my eyes were open she is there.
I feel her warmth as she leans in closer. "That's right. I never leave you," she says softly. "You just have to look."
My lids rise with her words and I see for real again. "How did you know?"
She steadies herself for the confession and releases my hand. "Because for fifteen days I had my eyes closed. And all I saw was you."
I sink from my chair to the floor and in that moment want for nothing more than to pull her close. But she wraps her arms around me, pressing mine to my sides before I can return the favor. I lay my head on her shoulder and our breathing becomes one.
After a time she loosens her hold and gives me the permission I desperately need.
"I don't want you to put that uniform on again until it feels right."
I nod, appreciative for the time she is granting me. "What about you?" I ask, because for all of my issues I will make sure that her needs come first.
She considers my question. "Mine still fits."
"That's not what I meant."
My thoughts wander to her bruises, her memories; all of the horrible things she must have endured. I feel anger burning within me again.
I see her look to the stars outside my window and I realize it's the first time since she came here that she hasn't been looking at me. She speaks. "I'll need time too. And you. I'll need you."
Her admission is more than I expect but what I already knew. I'll need her too.
She straightens her jacket and stands. Then she reaches for the glass of cider and takes a single slow, cathartic sip before leaving.
It takes me two days to create the holoprogram where I will come to terms with the reality I narrowly avoided. After every session I try the uniform on, but a long time passes before it fits.
Each evening she comes to me and I have a glass waiting. Sometimes whisky, sometimes wine. She drinks from each of them and she squeezes my shoulder and she tells me it will be okay.
One day I believe her. I delete the program. The garment feels right again.
I join her on the bridge. When I sit next to her, she welcomes me. And she never leaves me.
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