Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, and I make no money from this.
Author's Notes: Counterpoint always left a lot of unanswered questions for me. How did Kashyk know the telepaths were on Voyager? What could have prompted Janeway to take them on in the first place, knowing the danger involved? Were J and C doing anything behind the scenes, or were they just not talking at all, the way the episode portrayed? Using all POVs, this is the story of what happened before the episode begins, as well as what happened after the end credits rolled. I suggest being (very) familiar with the episode, as this story does not repeat scenes seen on screen but does refer to them.
This story stands alone, but it is the prequel to Broken. You do not need to have read that in order to follow this, but for reference, the prologue opens at the moments just before the events in Broken, but we're not covering the same ground twice.
Lastly, as long as this thing took me to write…near four years from beginning date to end…Cheshire has suffered through a good portion of that alongside me. She not only had to read all this raw and encouraged me throughout, but she had to beta the full lot of it. She deserves a medal for that alone. In fairness to her, anything unbearably wordy…I most likely snuck in afterward. Thanks, hon. You are awesomeness incarnate! Speaking of awesomeness…for the read-through of the prologue, thank you also to Gates Hepburn. She's another fine specimen of awesomeness :D
The story is finished, but due to its length, I'll be posting at one chapter a day.
I take another sip of wine, savoring the cool, crisp flavor. Thinking about everything we've talked about tonight. Thinking about everything we're probably going to talk about. It's been hell not being able to trust ship's security enough to speak completely freely most of the time. But we're almost out, almost past the Devore border. Another day or so, and the Devore Imperium will seem like a distant dream.
Kashyk hasn't been heard from in over a week. Not since our last meeting on his ship, taking place quite literally over Prax's dead body…
I repress an inward shudder. Not only at the memory of the body lying there on the floor like a trophy on display but at that haunting expression on Kashyk's face. The look in his eye…
For you, he'd said. For me. He'd killed Prax…for me.
I'm not that naive. I know damned well he did it mostly for himself. To save his own reputation from ruin…for letting that wormhole slip through his fingers by underestimating me and my ability to keep the coordinates from him. It's just that a kernel…a very tiny kernel of what he said…might have been based in truth. Because there was absolutely no reason to have summoned me to his ship to inform me of Prax's attempt to report us to the Imperium otherwise. No reason he should have let me return to Voyager unharmed. Not without at least trying for those coordinates one last time. And he hadn't.
Some tiny part of Kashyk had, for once, been telling the truth.
And he'd let us go. Had let me go.
I'd expected him to say goodbye, at least. Had expected it right up until about three hours ago, when the last moment had come and gone: the last moment that his ship could have popped up on our sensors while still enabling him to rendezvous with us before we left his space. We've been scanning continuously for Devore ships using refractive shielding specs he'd given us ever since I'd departed his ship over a week ago.
The high of success, of yet another impossible victory is already fading, that fast. In the aftermath, the melancholy slowly begins to creep back in from the edges of my mind. I take another slow sip from the half-filled glass in my hand, and doing so, feel my cheeks warm slightly with the slight flush of alcoholic beverage. I realize my turtleneck is growing just slightly uncomfortably warm, and I frown into the golden liquid just below my nose. It's only my second glass, but it's been a few months since the occasion has called for much in the way of celebration…and I didn't really eat much dinner. Don't have an appetite, for some reason. I should probably make a single glass of the cider Chakotay's returning with my last and then switch to coffee…
I should also probably start cleaning up – before Chakotay comes back and does it for me. Because I know he will, and he'll do it so I don't even notice until it's too late and already done.
My feet ache, I realize, uncrossing my legs under the table. I've been standing most of the day…the parts of the day I haven't been crawling through Jeffries tubes, that is. I glance over at the closed doors.
Chakotay shouldn't be back with the cider for another few minutes. I have time to get out of these boots and into some casual, comfortable clothing and still start clean-up by the time he returns. He needs rest as much, if not more, than I do. By my count, he hasn't had a decent night's sleep in weeks, thanks to the Devore.
Possibly, if I had more energy for self-honesty this evening, I'd admit it's also, at least in part, thanks to me. I don't have the energy for that admission yet. Not tonight. But I can admit that his support these past few weeks has made a world of difference in my ability to pull this off. To get us out of here safely. He deserves that much for his unfailing loyalty, and I can and will tell him so when he gets back. And possibly, if there's anything leftover after that admission…he deserves a little forgiveness. For…slightly less recent history. It might be time to let "the incident" from The Void go, at last. To admit that what he did by coming to my quarters that night…by confronting me…wasn't entirely out of line, given my own behavior.
Might be. We'll see.
I head for my bedroom, leaving the door open behind me so I'll hear him in case he comes back. Deliberately not calling for lights on the off chance I'm not finished dressing when he does. I breathe a heartfelt sigh of relief on kicking off my boots, and so do my poor feet. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I bend down to pull off my socks and rub at my aching insteps for a moment. Wondering, not for the first time, why I had to get the shorter end of the genetic stick. Mom isn't as short as I am – even Phoebe managed close to 1.7 meters. And curly hair.
I still haven't quite forgiven her the latter.
Shooting the heels of death a final dark look for good measure, my mind flicks back to ships' business as I rid myself of the turtleneck and tank. We'd been hoping to be able to modify the refractive shielding and add it to our arsenal. As I'd told Kashyk – it would be a shame to waste those specs. But after several days of trying to conceptualize the necessary changes to Voyager's hardware, it's just not feasible. Not with current resources, at any rate. If Seven, B'Elanna, and Tuvok together can't find a way to do it, it can't be done, I have to concede.
Disappointing, really. It would have been a nice little insurance policy to have, I think ruefully again, reaching behind me to unfasten the constrictive bra and then replacing all three removed articles of clothing with a single form-fitting tank of comfortable cotton. I'll throw a sweater over it in a moment. It's still a shame. It would have been good to have a new project to work on. To throw myself into, so to speak – one not fraught with potential danger to my ship, that is. Maybe I'll find the time to take a look at those specs myself. Just in case I might see something they haven't. Can't hurt.
Mindlessly unfastening my pants, easing them over my hips and padding in the semi darkness to my closet for a loose pair of sweats, I'm thinking of the crew in general. It hasn't been an easy few months. Not by a long shot. It's been difficult on everyone, myself included. As exuberant as the general mood has been the past few days, it's already begun to give way to a collective fatigue. I frown, rifling through my clothing. I want the blue pair of sweats, the soft cashmere blend, but I don't know where they've gotten to…a sign of an overworked, overtired mind, most likely.
We all need to refuel. Neelix's "Post Devore Party" tomorrow night is probably going to be just what the doctor or–
A noise startles me, followed by a rush of air at an approaching figure's movement, and I feel blood rush into my cheeks in embarrassment. It never crossed my mind that he'd come directly into my bedroom looking for me…especially if it was dark!
Damn. This is going to awkward, but I suppose it's my own fault. I whirl around to face him, grabbing at whatever pair of pants my hands had happened to be touching when I'd heard him enter. "Chakotay," there's a hint of definite annoyance in my voice at his breach of etiquette by entering, "what are you doing back alrea–"
A hand closes tightly over my arm, yanking me forward into solid, leather-clothed muscle, and even before I hear the distinctive voice growl, "Lights!" I know exactly who it is.
"Kashyk," the name passes through the strangling sensation in my throat as his face comes into shocking view under the bright lights, looming over me.
I recover quickly. So do my temper and my curiosity. "What the hell are you doing?" I demand. "How are you…how did you get in here?"
He doesn't answer me. Angry at the unexpected, unwelcome intrusion, especially into my bedroom of all places, I study his face for the answers I'm damned well entitled to, surprised by the anger reflecting right back at me from him. An uncomfortable sensation begins to gather in the pit of my stomach then, and not just at the mortification that I'm barely dressed, either.
Because it's what I see just beyond his shoulder that disturbs me far more than his intrusion or his inexplicable anger.
Kashyk hasn't come alone. Several of his men are standing in my living room, watching us from just beyond the door as he begins to pull me towards them, and comprehension is dawning swiftly.
This isn't a personal visit. He's not simply here to say goodbye. And because this is all happening in my quarters, instead of the bridge…or the ready room…not even Theta Four is going to be able to help me now.
My body goes screaming into full red alert mode because it's in this moment I realize Voyager's in real danger. He's changed his mind.
He's come to take the ship.
There's no reason for the jealousy that wells up within me at the romantic sight of the meal she had obviously not been consuming alone. There is no reason for the rage to spark, to flare out of control as I stride into her darkened bedroom to find her undressing there. There is no reason for desire to blossom uncontrollably at the sight of her white, half-dressed silhouette as I approach her. At the haunting scent of her perfume.
Dear Gods, is she entertaining, here?
I'm well into the room in no time, calling for lights, and then there's no reason for the effect her illuminated, partially nude form has on me, but my anger dissipates by the merest fraction at the sight of it.
Hers doesn't. She rails at me, demanding to know what I want. How I got here without my ship being detected. I hardly hear her, the pulse pounding too hard through my temples at the knowledge of what I have to do to her. What she will no doubt make me do to her.
There's no other way. If Juryk arrives to find her whole…unblemished, and free…
What he will do to her will be far, far worse. He'll hurt her, yes. Take her ship. Imprison her crew. That will kill her more effectively than what else he will likely do to her. Than anything I now have to do to her to prevent that from happening.
I want to allow her to dress herself. To face us with dignity. I want to show her at least the respect she deserves to be afforded, the way a woman of her caliber commands.
She tears her arm free of my loosening grasp as I yank her out into the living room. "At least let me get dressed first," she hisses scathingly, her thoughts apparently in line with my own.
"No," I deny simply, tearing the article of clothing she clings to from her hands and throwing it over her shoulder, out of her reach before she can move to stop me. Unsurprised at the anticipatory sneers on the guards' faces at my refusal and forcing none of the remorse I feel to show on my face. Not even a hint. I can't even tell her the reason why I'm going to do what I now have to do to her. They're watching. Will be at all times. There's absolutely no way for me to explain to her…
I harden myself to the sight of her. To her anger and the sight of her vulnerability. Remembering it's her fault she appears before me now in this state, not mine.
Either way, it's done. There's no changing it now. She's going to be hurt. That's the inevitable outcome of this visit, and I know it full well. All I can do now is to try and minimize the damage done to her – if she will let me.
I don't fully understand the terror forming within me at the realization that she won't.
"Clear," Brek announces stoically as he pushes his way past us to check the adjoining bathroom, sharply pulling me out of my disturbing thoughts.
My eyes narrow. I'd thought obviously he must still be here. And even if she hadn't spoken his name seconds ago, I'd have known who it was that had been sharing this intimate setting with her – who it was she must have been undressing in anticipation for. Her casual touches gave them away – possibly without her noticing. And him. His challenging stares, boring into me as I passed. The dark, impotent and territorial warnings he glowered into me whenever I passed by him at her side…
And I can smell him. He hasn't been gone long, and he will be returning shortly. How could he not, with what stands before me in all her glory waiting for him?
My eyes pass coldly over her. Over all that isn't concealed. She's beautiful…heartbreakingly lovely. More beautiful even than I'd expected…
She's been fucking him all along. Couldn't have had any intention of joining me, because her heart was never free to begin with.
Once more, Kathryn Janeway has made a fool of me. She loves him.
That fact fully penetrates, and I let the fresh wave of anger wash over me, welcome the sharp, unaccustomed stab of jealously and allow both to fortify my resolve. I let it harden me to her further, let it drown out the slew of angry demands for explanations, threats she hurls at me one right after the other. I let the rage begin to form, to gather into a storm of bundled potential energy and welcome that, too.
I'll need it.
"Where is he?" I demand, cutting over her just at the moment that a new and muffled voice emanates from the chair beside us.
"…vok to Captain Janeway. We have detected an unauthorized transport to Deck Three, section twelve. Sensors are showing five Devoran life signs in your quarters. A security team has been dispatched…"
She moves to answer, to take her jacket with the attached commbadge from the chair at the table, but Brek automatically aims his weapon, warning her against it until he looks to me to see my decision. I order the computer to seal the doors to the room, giving the code I'd gotten from her earlier, when I'd needed to turn off internal sensors during that first visit.
She freezes. Looks at me with that burning glower of betrayal…and just a hint of calculation coupled with surprise. Mostly betrayal. And anger.
My betrayal hasn't even begun yet.
"How the hell did you get that code?" she growls dangerously. What would be dangerously, if I didn't have the benefit of four armed guards on my side of this tragic equation.
All eyes are on me now. I feel it. And I want to stall for time…to find a way out of this impossible situation. Some way to get out of it without her paying the price I know she will pay otherwise…even in my rage at having been betrayed by her again, I don't want her hurt. Not like this.
I don't understand myself anymore.
"Captain, please respond."
I have no choice. And I know that others are watching right now, as well. Others that want to find any indication that my feelings for this woman might have compromised my treatment of her. Any hint that my feelings for her may have affected my judgment, tempered my notorious brutality…and caused me to betray my people.
I remind myself that what those people will do to her will be worse even than that which I'll have to do to prevent them taking Voyager. Taking her.
"Tell him to stand down," I bark out the uncompromising order to her. Daring her to disobey. "Tell him to recall those teams."
"I won't do that," she spits back immediately, drawing herself up to full height.
It isn't much to speak of without those boots of hers, which had been so much taller than I'd noticed, apparently.
Her eyes blaze plasma fire into me. Her very aura crackling danger menace as she hisses flatly, "Either state your business here, or get off my ship."
I shake my head curtly. Wanting to smile sadly but unable to. Feeling my eyes harden as I, once again, allow my eyes to pass over the half-eaten remnants of a romantic dinner. Over the half-dressed image of her.
"I'm not here for Voyager," I snap back at her. "I could care less about the ship or your crew, but you and I have unfinished business, Captain."
"What kind of unfinished business?" she demands.
I ignore her. "Tell him to stand down and wait for further instruction, or this all becomes much uglier than it has to be."
She pauses. Her slate grey eyes raking over me as if she's a telepath, her scrutiny sending almost palpable waves of penetrating calculation searing over my features. Trying to gauge my level of truthfulness.
We don't have time for it.
"It's up to you, Captain. You have a choice to make here, but do it quickly. The offer to spare the rest of them is going to expire in three seconds. One. Two…"
She hesitates only a nanosecond of that allotted time frame. Shooting me a continuous glower of the purest contempt as she reaches over to the chair, without breaking eye contact. She's already forgotten her state of undress, from the way she carries herself now. She is focused solely upon me, my men, and the threat we pose to her ship.
Gods help me, but she's magnificent.
She taps the badge, and as she does, I note all four men, my two and the traitors, taking a better aim at her in warning.
She spares them each a scathing glare that would incinerate them where they stand if she had her say, I know.
"It's all right, Tuvok. Stand down the security team. Inspector Kashyk has come to say goodbye. It appears we have some…" her eyes flash at me, "unfinished business…to work out between us."
"We are not detecting any Devore ships in proximity," the Vulcan's concerned voice replies in uncertainty.
"I'm sure the inspector will explain himself shortly, Tuvok." Her eyes flicker with the hint of question at me. The hint of question through the coldly manifested rage, I mean. "I'll let you know if I need your assistance," she adds, shooting me a pointed look that dares me to disagree, "but don't do anything until you hear from me. Janeway out." She cuts the link. "Well?" she demands of me immediately. "Answer the question, Inspector. How the hell did you get within transporter range without our sensors detecting you?"
"I couldn't very well give you all of our secrets, Captain," I force myself to smirk at her. But then I realize, by the look on the faces of Kurros, Frenz, and especially Brex and Jahal that my answer isn't quite satisfactory…
"What do you want, Inspector?" she grits out before I can elaborate.
I reach out to take the jacket from her, which she had been moving to put on over the sleeveless shirt she wears, and she snaps her head up as I take it, tossing it to Brex even as she fixes me with a warning glare of incredulity.
The door chimes. For an instant, I think it's the security team. I think she's lied to me again, has given the Vulcan some non-obvious signal to continue with his tactical resistance to our presence even as I note her eyes settle in what must be feigned surprise on the door.
"Chakotay," she breathes out in sudden realization, and I freeze in the act of moving toward her. "He went to get a bottle of cider from the cargo bay," she explains, her eyes snapping back to me as I too remember I'd been expecting him, and the anger in me flares again looking over her soft, feminine form barely concealed in the undergarments she wears.
And what happens next there is no excuse for. It's entirely within my own discretion whether or not to proceed in the way that I choose to now. My rage…the sheer, maddening sense of betrayal the entire scene instills in me speaks instead of my reason.
There's no reason she should bear the brunt of the unfortunate unpleasantness here alone. There were two individuals involved in her final, most devastating deception. Two individuals will now pay for it.
Motioning the guards to either side of the door with a jerk of my head, I keep my hard eyes fixed on her steel blue-grey. "Let him in," I demand.
She opens her mouth to refuse. I see it clearly. I take a single menacing step towards her. "Choose," I practically snarl. "Let him in, or I will order inspection teams of twenty men to board every deck of this ship. And it won't be inspections they'll be performing, I assure you."
Her contempt for me grows as she scrutinizes my affect and then – damn her – sees right through to the core of my anger.
"Kashyk…" she shakes her head vigorously back and forth, eyes widening in realization. "No. You're mistaken. You don't understand," she lies. Again. Everything out of her mouth is a lie. "This isn't what it looks li–"
A shimmer of molecules just over her shoulder, which she hears, shuts her up mid-sentence. I glower daggers into the eyes of none other than Manna when he appears, and I drop the arm I'd lifted to take firmer hold of her to hover over my weapon instead. The fear bolting through my entire body at the notion that it may already be too late to save her.
"What is this?" I hiss dangerously at him, at full alert. Ready for the appearance of more mutineers at the sight of him.
He smiles ingenuously. "We thought you might need help. Not wanting to disturb you over the comm., I was elected to come and see to your assistance, Inspector." He shrugs. And he does it expansively. Easily. Having no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, I can see.
And then I know. I know what he's here for. What he wants. He is, no doubt, recording my actions now. Somewhere on him is an imager. Juryk would have ordered him to…looking for proof of his suspicions any way he could wrangle it. It would be his only option now, so far from our location still.
"Kathryn," comes from outside the door. Reminding me of the oaf's presence.
"I'm not letting him in," she growls at me. "You deal with me, or you deal with all of us."
I snarl. Whirling on her again. Feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on me. They're waiting for my reaction to her insolence. Her defiance. It must be this way. She – they – none of them are leaving me any choice.
I move against her. Swiftly, effectively seizing her arm and working it expertly behind her back. Pulling her against me so she can feel my intent through her warm skin in contact with the heat of me. "Choose," I snarl again, swiftly catching her free arm, which moves to strike me. Deciding to call her bluff in this one instant that she has the audacity to look outraged at my anger…wronged by it, somehow.
I will make her prove to me now that she isn't lying again – as I know in my heart that she is. I note Brex and Jahal over at the door, where I'd sent them. At my nod, they melt back on either side of it. Playing ball, apparently.
The door mechanism makes a mechanical sound as the sensors register an attempt to open them.
"Kathryn, it's me – open up," the tattoed oaf calls from beyond the tritanium.
"This is your last chance, Captain." I command the computer to unlock the doors. Once again ignoring that murderous look in her eye as I continue to call her bluff. Staring back with menacing promise, and daring her not to comply with my deadly serious demand. "It's him or all of them. Choose," I order harshly. "Or I'll choose for you."
She sees I'm serious this time. And makes her choice, just as I'd known she would.
I give her only enough time to bite out her invitation before swooping in on the opportunity her speech presents, ducking my head down to her open lips and closing my mouth firmly over hers, sealing her fate.
And my own.