We can only respect his wishes. Just a few words, and she accorded a status to the Volkari, she acknowledged his right to live, and die, as a sentient being. She allowed an enemy a reprieve from murder, an extended death as opposed to a quick one, for the sheer sake of remaining a good Starfleet Officer.

The mistake she'd made. The terrible mistake.

Some part of her applauded herself for her own righteousness, disregarded the sheer reality of it all. She'd accepted the Doctor's views, forgetting that his perspective was tainted by subroutines, an inability to feel pain, and a sheer lack of life experience. She had no such excuse. What had she expected? That the prisoner would meekly accept starving to death ?

Voyager didn't have the power for force fields. Mechanical restraints alone held the Volkari to his biobed, and not for long after he began working at them.

* * *

It was a quiet night and almost five days later when she found Harry on duty for a volunteer Engineering shift, working on the collapsed lighting panel in her quarters. When the door closed, he looked up from the fallen console to see her standing there, gazing at him with a pensive look on her face.



"Kathryn," he amended. "How's it going?"

"You're working? I thought these were your off hours."

He shrugged. "I thought I'd put in a little face time. Besides, there's not much else to do, with the holodecks down. You did mention your lights were out."

She circled around to his side of the console, and lowered herself to the deck next to him. Harry flicked off the hypo spanner, and directed his full attention to her.

Kathryn asked, "How have you been, Harry? These last few months, I mean."

He looked at her curiously, and then smiled uncertainly. "I'm fine. Everything's been fine, considering. Why?"

She turned her head sideways a little to gaze at him. "I was just thinking about you, and here you are. We haven't had much chance to talk lately."

"You've been busy." He put the hypo spanner back in its case. "You've had a lot on your shoulders recently. You know I'm always here to be your friend."

"And you have been," she said with a smile. It wasn't quite up to the grins of old, but he was glad to see her look a little happier. "You've been good to me."

A smile lit across his handsome face. "Just a part of my job, ma'am."

She grasped his hand in hers and pumped it once.

"So much of this time, Harry, I don't know how I would have gotten by without you. You've been invaluable."

He squeezed her hand back. "Thanks. It's good to hear that from you." They sat there a moment, seated together on the hard deck, hands locked. Harry gathered his courage, and with a little tug, pulled her against his side and looped his arm around her shoulders. She didn't resist the gesture, to his surprise and relief. She even let her head rest on his shoulder.

They sat together in silence for a few minutes. Her eyes grew heavy, her entire body relaxed in the sudden intimacy. He leaned his cheek against her, relishing the sheer peace of the moment, alone together in her darkened quarters. It was times like this, the rare times like this, that he wondered if maybe, in some deep part of her, she might regard him as more than a friend. Maybe--

And then they heard a vague scuffling, getting closer and closer.

"What could that be?" Janeway wondered, sitting up straight, staring across the room towards the sound.

"Sounds like someone's in the Jeffries Tube," Harry replied. He shot her a reassuring smile, and rose to his feet. "The Engineering team's been using them to get around the ship. Someone must have forgotten that I was already working here..."

Janeway sat impassively and watched as Kim crossed the quarters, knelt, and started to pull off the panel to access the Jeffries Tube.

"Hey, I've got it covered--" He started to pull at the panel.

It jerked off and propelled itself into his face, knocking him to the ground. He cried out, and his hands covered his face, dark blood running between his fingers. Janeway sprang to her feet as a figure slid out of the tube, and Janeway realized that the person had kicked the panel into Kim's face.

She was frozen a split second in surprise and confusion, and the Volkari pounced on Harry.

Janeway darted across the quarters, and realized with a start that it was Torvone's fists flashing viciously across Harry's jaw. Prolonged starvation had drained Harry of his old strength, whereas the Volkari's five days had little consequence to him.

Janeway rushed in, grasped the massive shoulders of the Volkari, attempted to jerk him bodily off of Kim, or at least distract him enough for Kim to wriggle out. Torvone paid her no heed, a large arm thrusting out and easily knocking her reed like body across the room, slamming her into the wall.

A few moments passed, and she was there, stunned and dizzy, caught in the sheer unreality of the situation. Torvone... She'd left the damn bastard alive...

Security. She needed to call security.

Her hand fumbled at her chest, and she realized the com badge had come off in the fight. Harry's struggles seemed to be dying down, and she didn't want to think right now of the implications of that.

She spotted the cold metal glinting a little away on the rug, and lanced her hand towards it.

A heavy boot came down onto her arm, pinning it to the floor. She tried to pull back, but her arm was trapped painfully. With a decidedly deliberate insolence, Torvone bent down, picked up the badge, tossed it into the still open Jeffries Tube. Then, he reached out a heavy fist and slammed the access panel shut.

"Torvone, you'd better--" she began, but then he reached down, grasped her by the collar, hauled her up to her feet like she was weightless. A few steps forward and he had her pinned back against the wall. She pressed her hands against his chest weakly. "Torvone--"

His clamped his fist over her mouth, his fingers digging into the flesh of her cheeks. "Not a word." He stared at her with an unsettling intensity. "Weakling Federation... Mocking me in the medical bay… How does it feel to find our positions reversed?"

Janeway held his gaze in silence. She felt a wave of apprehension, fearing he'd follow the example of his predecessors and kill Harry as some sort of punishment.

"I told you..." he said quietly, "..that you would die screaming..." He was breathing heavily. She could feel his chest rise and fall against her, and she wasn't sure if he was winded from the fight, or breathless in anticipation.

When he lifted his hand a little, Janeway said quietly, "Torvone... you'll never escape this ship if you kill me." She stared up into chilling eyes that were too close for her liking.

"Escape?" he stared at her, an unsettling look on his face. "Escape to live a life of dishonor? To tell my family I suffered as a prisoner rather than attaining glory in death? No... There will be no escape. All I seek is revenge."

Before her mind could sort through the implications of his words, he drove his fist into her stomach, doubling her over painfully. She fought to breathe as his other fist slid from her mouth and slammed into her ribs. She heard something crack. A wave of agony rocked through her, and when her breath came back, she could hear herself whimper as her knees gave way. He must have broken her ribs... She tried to support herself, couldn't...

He caught her around the waist, dragged her with him into the other room. It was then she thought of screaming, but then she remembered that the quarters around hers were vacant this shift, and no one outside of those would hear her...

He tangled his hand into her hair, and continued to drag her to the other side of the room, towards her desk. He lifted a bottle off her desk, clutched it by the neck, and slammed it back down, shattering the glass. Kathryn tensed as he brought it towards her, realizing that he was going to use it on her... either to slit her throat or worse...

He tossed her forward over the desk, carelessly onto broken shards of glass. She felt them chafe her skin, and struggled to push herself up, only to feel his hand on her back, pushing her roughly back down onto the desk. She wriggled forward, and a hand grabbed her arm, wrenched it back, twisted it up between her shoulder blades.

Helpless now, she lay there fighting for breath, hearing him do the same behind her. A few months ago, she might have been able to put up a fight. She might have been strong enough mentally, if not physically. But something in her withered now, and she felt her cheek sink against the cool surface of the desk.

Everything slowed as if in a dream, and a cool fog descended over her. The pain in her ribs faded to only an awareness, the glass against her torso was a mere speck in her comprehension.

She felt him press up against her, behind her. He pushed his torso against her buttocks in a lewd gesture, and he pressed the broken bottle against her skin. He raked the jagged edge forward, across her back, and she squeezed her eyes shut, the cry of pain frozen by the realization that she didn't feel it.

He carved up her skin for what seemed like a few minutes, trying to elicit a scream, before he gave up and tossed the glass to the ground. Then he was tearing at her pants.

"Threatening me…Now you'll know… You'll pay ..." Muttering. He was only muttering. She didn't listen to him.

Since you're sleeping on a regular basis, Seven, I see no more need for a regeneration alcove

Regeneration is more efficient.

He was probing with his fingers, intently, seeking--

Perhaps. But I can't see the use of expending 0.9% of the ship's energy supply every year simply so you can have a more efficient means of sleep. You'll have to make do like the rest of the crew.

-- pressing against her, finding--

I should have let her keep the regeneration alcove... It centered her.

She was vaguely aware of a sudden, brief pain, momentarily worse than the cuts she had on her back. It faded with repetition.

Biggest mistake of your life, Chakotay... That wedding. You two weren't right for each other... I wasn't right for either of you...

One of the few people who have mastered the art of callousness. How long ago did the Doctor say that to her? Did he really think that?

The world flipped over, and she was lying on her back now staring at the gray ceiling. Torvone's ugly, cartoonish face leered over her, breath hot and sour, teeth crooked. He tore her shirt open, and she noticed blood on his hands. It was hers. He was muttering something, his body jerking spasmodically against hers--

We're still here after twelve years of traveling, and I think we're going to die out here... But we haven't yet, Mr. Harren, have we?

I came here as a friend. Harry. The tears glinting in his eyes broke her heart, now, looking back. Was he still alive? She couldn't see him. The world was blurred, and she realized that there were tears streaming from her eyes. She could hear a muffled sound issuing from her throat each time Torvone jerked. Pain?

The Doctor looked with condemnation. My crew is starving to death.

Her eyes, closed, suddenly snapped open. The crew! What--

Torvone shoved her back down, and she was aware of a restraint other than his arm keeping her down. He'd broken her ribs. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten.

Tal Celes's pained eyes flashed through her mind and Torvone stiffened, then collapsed onto her, breathing raggedly. She thought of Noah Lessing terrified in the cargo bay as she tried to kill him when Torvone pulled back and stared in triumph... empty as Napoleon's triumph when he claimed the burning Moscow...

She let her head slump back, her thoughts whirling listlessly, her body disconnected. All she could feel was a strange, powerful vibration through her body, like an electrical current. She could float if she wanted to, right out of her body, right out of her ship, into the darkness of space...

And Harry broke the vase over Torvone's skull. She heard the Volkari grunt before he collapsed.

When he fell, she almost slipped off the desk to the floor. Harry grabbed her, and tried to cover her, calling in a broken voice for the Doctor, hugging her to him.

"It's okay, Harry. I'm fine now," she told him, but her voice only came out as a dim whisper, and he didn't seem to hear her.

"Gods... I'll kill him for you, I'll kill the bastard, are you all right? We'll get you all fixed up..."

"...I'm fine. I'm all right. I'm not in any pain..." She told him, but he again didn't seem to hear.

"We'll get the Doctor here, and he'll make everything feel better..."

She whispered the words to him over and over... "I'm fine... everything's fine...."

Harry merely held her and repeated words of comfort, as though she weren't even speaking.

You can transcend it all, she later told Chakotay. It stops mattering to you after awhile. I stopped feeling fear, and now I've stopped feeling pain. There's nothing to hurt in the present, only the pain of the past.

When she woke the next day, Torvone was dead and her hair was completely white. She ran her fingertips through it, marveling at it with one part of her mind, unsurprised in another. But she was fine. She went onto the bridge as soon as she was physically fit, and she felt fine. She smiled and laughed. The reason the crew looked at her with troubled eyes eluded her.

Voyager left Volkari space, in such a short time to her. Food, real food, began to trickle back into the mess hall.

"I wish I could change it all," she said sometimes. She'd smile distantly at Harry. "I think it all started to go wrong when Seven died."


"It's fine now, but we've already done all the damage--"

His hands on her shoulders. "Kathryn, I feel like I'm losing you. Please talk to me."

He sometimes even alluded to their swim in the ocean. "You swam farther and farther from shore, and I had to catch you... I feel like that again, only you're too far for me to reach this time."

But every time she told him the truth, that everything was fine now, that she finally understood, his eyes grew more troubled, his face more distant. How close they'd become... and how far they began to drift.

She turned back to Chakotay, who at least seemed reassured by her cheer, cheer as empty as his continued reverence for his late wife.

Things became peaceful between them, for the most part. Sometimes he got drunk and cursed at Kathryn... claimed he'd always loved her, that he'd been robbed. And sometimes Kathryn got drunk and would weep endlessly, as though the universe had destroyed itself. They never drank heavily at the same time. They always needed the other sober, holding to their own denial, so as not to make their own seem real.

The EMH was shame-faced around her for a long time, despite her attempts to reassure him.

"It's not your fault. I'm fine... We know now, what I should have known thirteen years ago..." he always stopped listening to her at this point, but she repeated it in her head like a mantra-- "Never help strangers before your own crew..."

There was a voice. It used to point out her obligations, her limits. It told her what she could not dare strive for, achieve, it told her right from wrong. It told her she could not murder. It told her she could not allow suffering. And when she woke up and realized her hair was white, she also realized that she couldn't hear that voice anymore.

Seven of Nine, proud and erect, staring with ill-concealed Borg insolence at the humans before her. Seven of Nine, a faint smile on her lips, stepping into the unfamiliar territory of human emotion.

Chakotay grinning at Kathryn, reclining comfortably in the sailboat beneath a moonlit sky. The winds of Lake George blowing through her hair. A moment, perfect and right, before they began to move from each other.

Tuvok hunched over a chess board, deep in thought as he contemplated his next move.  A paragon of logic, her anchor, gazing at her with dark, affectionate eyes even with his Vulcan control.

Large arms restraining her in a cold, murky ocean. Harry Kim's hand on hers, the awareness suddenly come and all too quickly gone between them, a possibility never realized.

Kathryn Janeway, standing proud on the bridge of her ship, a thrill of fear and anticipation trembling up her spine as she ordered Lieutenant Paris to set a course for home through an alien land.

Kathryn Janeway was invincible. She could defeat the Volkari. She could defeat the Borg Queen. She could defeat pain and fear. She could defeat that voice of conscience, and by God, she could now defeat the Delta Quadrant. She'd defeat time itself, if she had to. All that could hurt her now were the shadows of a universe already past.

The Starship Voyager forged on, plunging endlessly through the Delta Quadrant night.