A Unimatrix Zero episode addition. Kathryn does some soul searching the evening before her assimilation.
Thanks to Pook for the beta.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
Kathryn sat in the far corner of the mess hall, well away from the last few stragglers who were loitering with friends after their evening meal.
She needed to be alone, to prepare herself for the ordeal ahead. Thoughts and pictures swirled through her mind. Some comforting and welcome, others not.
Assimilation. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. She smiled grimly to herself. The Starfleet counsellors would have a field day. Her reasons for doing this were complex, convoluted and a touch suspect if she was brutally honest with herself.
There were the obvious reasons of helping the drones from Unimatrix Zero, while striking a crippling blow against the Borg Collective, but there were other more complex motivations at play and it was too late in the game to try and deny their existence.
Revenge had reared its ugly head. It came in many guises, but this time it wore the faces of a six year old Annika Hansen, young Icheb, the twins – Azan and Remy, little Mezoti and the baby, who had never had a chance. Kathryn was going to make the Borg pay for the misery they’d brought upon all those innocent children.
Anger and resentment played their parts as well. She hated bullies and the Borg were nothing more than bullies on a galactic scale. If she succeeded in this plan, she would be winning one for the little guy.
There were ghosts that needed to be laid to rest as well. Riley Frazier, a human scientist and Marika Willkarah, a Bajoran engineer, both assimilated at Wolf 359. There were Marika’s friends, P’Chan and Lansor, and also, One and Arturis.
And dear Kes, who’d been torn from them in their first encounter with the Borg. All these faces haunted her dreams and perhaps they, and she, could find some measure of peace if she was successful.
There was an unhealthy degree of self recrimination involved as well. In a twisted way, it would be her just deserts for stranding all her crew in the Delta Quadrant where they were exposed to the likes of the Borg and other dangers. Assimilation seemed a fitting punishment to assuage her guilt.
That thought had her a little concerned, but there was an even more frightening consideration.
A small voice deep down inside her was telling her that if she didn’t survive then at least she would no longer have to bear the burden of her guilt or the onerous and soul crushing responsibility of trying to get the crew home in one piece. She wouldn’t have to bear the pain of any more losses. It would be someone else’s problem and she would be free.
Hmmm, yep, those counsellors could write an entire textbook on her psyche. Shaking her head, she decided that it was best not to dwell too much and took another sip of her coffee. It was cold and she plonked it on the table in disgust. Shaking off the cold mantle of disquiet, she turned her mind to less troublesome thoughts.
As she stared, unseeing, out the viewport for several minutes, she took time to visit all the precious and pivotal moments of her life. Her father’s face drifted past her mind’s eye, and she heard the echo of his voice as he called her his ‘Goldenbird’. She pictured her mother’s warm eyes and soft smile, and could almost feel the gentle touch of her hand on her cheek. Phoebe, Justin, Mark, her friends and the people who had in some way been important to her over the years. Their faces all flashed through her mind like a slide show of her life. She had the maudlin thought that perhaps she was saying goodbye to all of them, but discarded that idea. She often did this before an important mission. Really, she did.
Taking a deep cleansing breath, she checked the time. It was still early. The doctor wasn’t expecting her for a few hours so she could sit and think for a little longer in peace. For some reason it seemed important on this night before her rendezvous with the Borg. She suppressed a shudder and thought of her shipmates here on Voyager. Tom and Harry, what a pair, Neelix, bless his whiskers. Seven and the Doctor, both so different, and yet so endearing in their quest for their humanity. B’Elanna and Tuvok were of course coming with her, and no doubt she would get to know them a whole lot better over the next few days. Having access to each others thoughts would be … interesting to say the least.
She tried to turn her thoughts elsewhere, but his handsome face came unbidden into her mind. Chakotay. God, she was trying so hard not to think of him. Talk about pivotal moments. B’Elanna and Tuvok were in for one hell of a revelation tomorrow and there was nothing she could do about it. Oh well. She had a pretty good idea that most of the crew knew how she and Chakotay felt about each other. There had never been any overt show of affection or open declaration, but their body language spoke volumes and it was something that she had no control over. And even though they’d never been voiced, that didn’t mean the feelings weren’t there. Boy, were they ever there. She took a deep breath and allowed them to the surface. She may as well visit them as well. They’d brought her such joy over the years, but that joy was tempered with a good deal of regret. It was just so typical for her to have found the love of her life and be in a situation where she was unable to acknowledge it or do anything about it. She’d never had much luck where love was concerned.
She reached for her coffee then remembered it was cold and just as she was deciding whether or not she could be bothered to get up and replicate another, a steaming cup magically appeared in front of her. She looked up expecting to see Chakotay, but Harry was standing there with a smile on his face and a cup of something for himself in his other hand. “I’m sure the Commander will be along soon, but I was wondering if I might talk to you for a moment, Captain.”
“Certainly, Harry. Have a seat.” She lifted her fresh cup in salute. “Thank you.”
He nodded and took a sip of his drink. Kathryn was amused by Harry’s automatic assumption that she was waiting for Chakotay. It seemed that she was right about the crew and what they knew of the command team’s feelings for one another. It occurred to her that she should be concerned about the impropriety, but on a night like tonight that seemed petty, so instead she acknowledged the courage that it gave her and made her all the more determined to save them all. She owed them so much.
They sat quietly sipping their drinks and Kathryn studied the young man sitting opposite. He was looking at her as well and for the first time she noticed a real wisdom and maturity in his eyes. He’d been with them for six years now and he wasn’t a young fresh faced ensign anymore. He was a man who’d seen and experienced things that most people twice his age were never likely to see or do. He’d become an exceptional man, one of whom she was very proud. She smiled at him. “What can I do for you, Harry?”
He smiled and shrugged. “Nothing really, Captain. I just thought you might like some company and… seeing as I’m the only member of the crew who has been assimilated and lived to tell the tale, I could maybe give you a few pointers.”
Kathryn’s eyes widened and then she chuckled. “Pointers? As in Handy Hints for Assimilation? Harry Kim, I do believe you’ve picked up on Commander Chakotay’s peculiar sense of humour.” She smiled at him warmly, but a knot of sadness formed in her middle as vivid memories of his assimilation surfaced. He’d been partially assimilated by the Borg children when Voyager had first stumbled upon the damaged cube all those months ago. A cold shiver ran down Kathryn’s spine. Because of the immature Borg’s lack of knowledge, they’d botched the process and poor Harry had suffered terribly. Kathryn frowned as she thought of the Borg Queen and her cryptic comment to Harry, and muttered under her breath. “So that’s what she meant.”
“I beg your pardon, Captain.”
She gave him a small smile. “Oh, it’s nothing, Harry.”
But he was too quick these days. “You mean when the Queen said she’d ‘see me soon’. Hmmm. I thought that might be what that was about.”
Kathryn reached across and covered his hand with hers. “Don’t worry, Harry. She won’t ever get her hands on you. I promise.”
He smiled at his captain. “I know that, Captain. It’ll be fine. I know you’ll succeed. I have great faith in you. We all do.”
Kathryn felt a lump form in her throat, and blinked back the burn of tears. “You’re a good man, Harry and I’m so proud of you.” She could see him beginning to frown. That sounded very much like a goodbye, so she changed the subject quickly. “Okay, then. Tell me what it’s like to be assimilated. I gather it’s not pleasant.”
“No, not terribly. It burns more than anything, but it’s not as bad as you think. You can feel them… the nanoprobes, as they move through your body. But that only lasts for a moment, and then you become warm all over. That part isn’t that unpleasant, but then the voices start. It’ll probably be different for you, because you won’t be directly linked to the hive mind. I was only linked to the children and their chatter was disconcerting. You’ll be able to hear B’Elanna and Tuvok though.” He laughed. “Now that will be an interesting experience.” His face twisted into a wry grin. “You’ll learn all sorts of things, I imagine. Some you probably don’t want to know. Tom will be blushing for months afterwards, I’m sure.”
She laughed out loud at that thought and several of the crew turned and smiled at her. Bless you, Harry. It was quite an achievement to get someone who was about to be assimilated to laugh out loud. “Thank you, Harry. I hadn’t thought there could be a funny side to all this, but I think you may have found it. And the fact that Tom is the brunt of the joke just makes it all the more enjoyable. Thank you.”
He smiled. “My pleasure, Captain.” He took the last sip of his drink and looked behind her at someone. She had feeling she knew who it was. “Well, Captain, I’ll be off. Good luck tomorrow. We’ll be waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Harry.” She smiled at him as he stood.
“’Night, Captain.” He looked meaningfully at someone, then nodded to the captain and walked away.
“May I join you, Kathryn?”
Suspicion confirmed. “Please.” She looked behind her and watched as Harry left the mess, then turned back to Chakotay and smiled. “He’s grown up. All of a sudden he’s a man and I hadn’t even noticed.”
He smiled in return. “It happens.” Leaning back, he studied her face as she looked around the mess hall.
She was still looking away when she said with a smile. “You’re staring, Commander.”
“Hmmm. I know. But you’re going to have to put up with it tonight, Kathryn.” She turned to him and their looks held. “I can’t pretend tonight. No one is watching or listening and even if they were, they wouldn’t care. They know how we feel, it’s no secret.” He was still staring at her, his eyes dark pools of love and anxiety. “I love you, Kathryn. You have to hear it at least once before you go.” He expected her eyes to dart away and check to see if anyone had heard, but she kept her gaze fixed steadfastly on his.
She gave a jerking nod. “I know. I love you too.”
They sat and stared at one another for many moments. And as they did, Kathryn felt the barriers crumble. The walls of protocol and regulations collapsed and the obstacles of the crew and obligation dissolved. All that was left was this clear space between them and their open looks of love and devotion. The room faded around them and for a moment out of time, they were in complete accord. It was breathtaking.
Slowly reality reasserted itself and they smiled gently.
Chakotay huffed out a breath. “Hey. That was something.”
Kathryn chuckled. “Yes, it was rather intense. But wonderful.” She took a glancing look at the floor and laughed. “The gravity plating is still intact. I’m surprised.”
He laughed as well, and then his face became serious.
His look wrenched at her control and she reached across the table and took his hand in hers, and squeezed. They sat for a time contemplating their joined hands. Her pale fingers were wrapped around his bronze hand and his fingers clasped hers protectively. It signified so much. All of a sudden Kathryn realised that this was the only thing that mattered. Regulations, protocols, Starfleet and a swarm of pompous admirals meant not a jot in the scheme of things. As she held the solidness of his warm hand in her own, she knew that this was what would define her. Her love for this man and his love for her. It was what made her whole and kept her striving to go forward. She looked up into his eyes and it was all so simple and so freeing.
Love surged through her and she squeezed his hand again “Come on, Chakotay. We’ve got things to discuss.” She pulled him to his feet and they walked hand in hand from the Mess hall. Some of the crew looked up and but there was no censure, no derision, just a sense of overwhelming acceptance. Life sailed on.
They arrived at Kathryn’s quarters, and still holding his hand, she keyed in the door code and pulled him into the room. “Do you want anything, Chakotay?”
He shook his head and held up their joined hands and kissed her fingers. “No. I’ve got everything I could ever want.”
She grinned. “Smooth, Commander, very smooth.” And she chuckled at his confounded look. “I, on the other hand,” she waved her free hand at him, “No pun intended, could do with a glass of wine. Are you sure you won’t join me?”
He lifted their clasped hands and was about to make another lame comment when he thought better of it and smiled. “I’ll have whatever you’re having, Kathryn.”
“Computer, two glasses of white wine.” She let go of his hand to pick up the glasses and gave him one.
They touched their glasses together and Kathryn smiled. “To us and the future.”
Chakotay returned her smile and echoed the toast. “To us and our future.”
They sipped their wine and looked into one another’s eyes. Both breathed deeply. This was very satisfying. “Come and sit, Chakotay.”
They moved to the couch. Chakotay draped his arm around her as they sat and Kathryn slid back resting her head on his shoulder. They sat for a time in silence, sipping their wine and thinking.
Kathryn sighed. “This feels so… normal. It’s like we’ve been doing this for a hundred years.”
Chakotay tugged her a little closer. “We have in a way. I’ve always thought of us like this. It wasn’t too far to travel from what we had to this.”
“Hmmm. I suppose you’re right.”
They were silent again for a time.
Chakotay ran his thumb up and down her arm “What time to do you have to see the Doctor?”
She placed her glass on the table and checked the chronometer. “I have another half hour or so. You can come with me if you like. He’s going to give us a small dose of the neural suppressant and monitor for any side effects. He’ll give us the full dose just before we leave Voyager.”
Chakotay nodded. “Of course I’ll come with you.”
“I thought you might.” Kathryn snuggled in closer. “Chakotay?”
“I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I have to. In case I don’t make it back, promise me, you’ll try and get Voyager home.”
“You don’t have to ask that. Nothing is going to happen…..” He could feel her tense. “But… yes, Kathryn, I promise. I’ll get Voyager home.”
She heaved a sigh. “Good. I can rest easy then. Thank you.”
He put his empty glass on the table then pulled her close. He kissed her forehead, and whispered, “I love you.” softly against her skin. She twisted around, her hand moving up to the side of his face as she studied him. Caressing his cheek and tracing the outline of his lips with her fingertips, she slid her hand into his hair and pulled him towards her. Their lips touched sweetly for a brief moment, and then they drifted apart slowly and smiled at one another. An invisible cord drew them together again and this time their kiss took on a life of its own. All those years of long denied desire, surged to the surface and their open mouths moulded together and their tongues delved and tasted. Kathryn twisted right around until she was half lying across and half straddling his body. Her hands were grasping at him and his were pulling her into him. With a gasp their mouths slid away from each other and with their chests heaving they rested their foreheads together and caught their breath.
After a moment Kathryn slid her hands through his hair and rubbed her cheek against his. His whiskers rasped across her skin and his breath tickled fine hairs on her neck. She shivered and returned the whispered words of love. Chakotay closed his eyes as her husky, “I love you.” breathed past his ear.
Of their own volition, hands began to drift over uniform clad bodies, softly stroking and learning the feel of both new and familiar places. It was arousing, but gently so. This was about a joining of souls and hearts; of learning of each other through touch and the giving and receiving of love. Small shudders rippled through them both. Kathryn ran her hand over his abdomen and chest, feeling the muscles tense and shiver at her touch. His hands stroked over her arms and chest, lightly cupping her breasts then moving down to stroke over her thighs and bottom. Kathryn trembled at his touch.
Their eyes were closed and they became enveloped in the sweet swirling heat of abandon – oblivious to everything around them. All that mattered was each other and the soft swoosh of hands over fabric, the erotic sensation of gentle caresses and the intoxicating scent of their arousal.
They were brought back to reality with a jolt when the Doctor’s voice blasted from Kathryn’s combadge. “Sickbay to Janeway. Captain, we are expecting you in sickbay.”
Startled, she bolted upright and kicking the table, knocked her wine glass onto the floor.
“Damn!” Kathryn slid away from Chakotay and shook her head giving him an amused smile. She took a deep breath and tucked her hair behind her ear as she tapped her combadge. “We’re on our way, Doctor.” Chakotay picked up her glass and they both watched as the wine soaked into the carpet.
Kathryn shrugged. “Oops. That’ll leave a mark.”
“I’ll take care of it later.”
Chakotay stood and straightened his clothing. He held out his hand and pulled her to her feet, and she draped her arms around his neck. “And we’ll take care of this later as well. Thank you.”
He kissed her gently then nodded. “Later.”
Kathryn stepped away from him and moved towards her bedroom. “I won’t be a moment.”
Chakotay mopped up what he could of the spilled wine while she fixed her hair and brushed down her uniform. She moved out into the living area again and held out her hand. He grasped it firmly and they walked to sickbay together.
The neural suppressant worked like magic. Both Kathryn and B’Elanna tolerated it without any problems, but Tuvok’s dose required some modifications. After two hours they were given the all clear.
Their time in sickbay was put to good use as they refined their plans for the infiltration of the Borg cube and covered as many contingencies as they could think of, even organising several code words that could be used if the need arose.
Tom and Chakotay followed B’Elanna and Kathryn from sickbay and as they parted, the two men gave each other a telling look. The next few days weren’t going to be good. The women they loved were about to be thrown headlong into a situation that could very well mean their death or worse. It was a grim situation indeed. Chakotay watched Tom drape his arm around B’Elanna as they walked away from sickbay. What they were being asked to do was almost beyond comprehension, but he would honour his word as Tom would honour his.
The Delta Flyer was ready for launch and Voyager would be within range of the Borg cube in a matter of hours. It was time to rest. Chakotay stood with Kathryn outside her quarters. He took a step away from her. “You need to rest, Kathryn. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
She grabbed his hand. “I’m not going to be able to sleep.” She stood tall and met his eyes bravely then asked in a steady voice, “Would you lie with me, and just hold me?”
He nodded solemnly, and whispered, “Forever,” and together they entered her quarters.
These last few hours would be spent together in each other’s arms. Precious minutes that might have to last a lifetime.
Kathryn leaned forward in her command chair, staring straight ahead. Her hands were clasped between her legs. It was the only way to hide their shaking. She wouldn’t have swapped the last twenty four hours for anything, but it felt like there was so much more at stake now.
B’Elanna’s voice came over the comm. “Torres to Bridge.”
Kathryn’s fingers knotted together. “Go ahead.”
“The Delta Flyer is ready for launch.”
“On my way.” Kathryn sat back in her chair and slapped her hands on the armrests. It was a brave attempt to appear nonchalant. Chakotay knew better, but would play along if this was how she needed to do this. She gave him a lop-sided smile. “Guess I’d better be going, huh?”
Chakotay gripped tight the armrests of his chair. He had to. All he wanted to do was grab her and run as far away from this as he could. It was a foolish notion, but the urge was powerful. Instead, he turned to her with a half smile. “Anything you’d like done around here while you’re gone. Gravity plating recalibrated, carpets cleaned?”
She chuckled quietly and her eyes sparked at the private joke, then she held out her hand. “Surprise me.” He laid his hand in hers and smiled as they stood, their hands clasped tight.
Kathryn looked down at their hands and gave his a squeeze. It was a reminder of all that she was fighting for. With her emotions barely in check, she nodded at him. “You have the bridge.”
He tried to smile but failed. His throat had constricted to a point where he couldn’t speak. Her hand slid from his and he watched her as she walked away. Their eyes held one another’s until, followed by Tuvok, she entered the lift.
She was gone and his heart had gone with her.
The mission was a success. The drones from Unimatrix Zero were liberated from the hive. The Collective was thrown into chaos and most importantly, the away team was safely back on Voyager. They’d managed to beam them from the cube with barely seconds to spare.
As soon as Kathryn and the others had been transported to sickbay, Chakotay handed the bridge over to Harry and he and Tom raced to deck five.
Both men came to a jolting halt just inside the sickbay doors. What greeted them was a nightmare. Chakotay wanted to scream when he saw her. She was barely recognisable with sickly grey clammy skin, and her body invaded and violated by vile implants. Her individuality ripped from her by the cold hand of the Collective. His instinct was to tear the implants from her body and lay waste to the grotesque devices that protruded from her, but instead he held himself in check and stood in anguished silence while the Doctor assessed her, administered more of the neural suppressant and sedated her. He moved to her side just as she was slipping into unconsciousness. She stared at him with fear filled eyes and he countered that fear with a gaze filled with love. Gripping her hand tightly he held it to his cheek and whispered, “Kathryn. You’re safe. I love you and I won’t let go.” He saw her fear fade and knew she understood and with the slightest of smiles, she closed her eyes and surrendered to oblivion.
Kathryn fought her way to consciousness. She had no idea how long she’d been asleep. Without opening her eyes, she took inventory of her limbs and body. She was free of the Borg armour, thank god. Harry had been correct about the initial sensations of assimilation. Burning and then warmth, but she’d have to tell him about the incessant itch caused by the body armour. It was most unpleasant and there was no way to scratch.
She moved her head from side to side and there was no tug from her cranial implants or optical enhancements. Lifting her hand, she felt her head. There was hair and she smiled. She tried to move her other hand but it was restrained for some reason. Blinking into the light, she opened her eyes reluctantly, her surroundings slowly coming into focus. There was a dark head resting on the side of the biobed and her hand was tightly clasped in his. She lifted her other hand and ran it through his hair. He bolted upright and stared at her, his eyes wide.
Her voice was rough. “Hello.” Her lips curled into a warm smile.
His face relaxed and he smiled broadly. “Hello.”
She lifted their joined hands and rested them on her belly, covering them with her other hand. “’S’okay?” Her voice was very gruff.
Leaning forward, Chakotay kissed her forehead, and swept her hair away from her face. “Everything’s fine. Repairs are almost finished and we’re being escorted by Korok’s sphere while he continues with his repairs.” He shook his head in disbelief. “We make an odd convoy.”
Kathryn smiled. Letting go of his hand, she tried to sit up, but gasped in pain.
The Doctor appeared out of nowhere. “Captain, will you please remain still. I have removed less than half of your spinal clamps, and your vertebrae will be unstable until they are all removed. Perhaps if the Commander assists me, we can lift you a little.”
The Doctor looked towards Chakotay and raised his eyebrows. Chakotay slid his arm gently behind her back and under her legs, while the Doctor supported her neck and shoulders. Together they lifted her into a reclining position. Kathryn closed her eyes as the world tilted precariously then righted itself. She stared at Chakotay as the Doctor packed pillows around her. He was fussing. “Thank you, Doctor.”
He harrumphed and patted one or two more pillows into place. “Call if you need me.”
Kathryn nodded without taking her eyes from Chakotay’s. “So, we won?”
He smiled and nodded. “We won.”
She tried to turn her head, but couldn’t see past the pillows. “B’Elanna and Tuvok?”
“They’re recovering. Tuvok had a rough time, but he’s on the mend. You can’t keep a good Vulcan down. Tom’s over there with B’Elanna now.”
Kathryn nodded her head gently.
He took her hand again. “How are you?”
Her eyes met his and for a moment fear flashed in their depths, but she took a deep breath. “I’ll be fine.” He was about to object when she squeezed his hand. “I’ll tell you all about it and together we’ll deal with it…. then I’ll be fine.”
He felt the prick of tears in his eyes. He wasn’t altogether sure that he was fine, but in light of what she’d been through, he had no right to complain. But he had a feeling that she understood.
“Spirits, Kathryn, you amaze me.” The depth of love and respect he felt for this woman knew no bounds. She was truly exceptional and he was at a loss to express how he felt. Instead he leant forward and kissed her lips softly. He pulled away and raised their joined hands and kissed the back of her hand.
She contemplated their joined hands and knew she’d been right. Even though at this moment her body was in pieces and her emotions were just as shattered, she knew that together they would make her whole again. And together they would get their crew home. She gripped that warm bronze hand and listened to her heart.
This was what mattered and this was worth fighting for.