CUP – Chapter 13

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By mizvoy

Part 13: Truth

(moments later)

“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?” Kathryn Janeway demanded, yanking the alcove’s curtain aside so the lounge’s bright light nearly blinded the man sleeping on the bunk. “Chakotay!”

“The name is Caldera, and I’m trying to get some sleep.” He rolled onto his back and draped an arm over his eyes to block out the light-and to keep from looking her in the eye. “Isn’t that obvious?”

“Let me rephrase the question.” She took two steps into the alcove and stared down at him, trying to decide whether she wanted to slap him or throw her arms around him. “What the hell are you doing on this ship?”

“I’m a pilot.”


“Because I needed a job.”

“Who are you kidding? You walked away from your job.” Her anger flared. “Don’t play games with me.”

There was a long silence before he moved his arm slightly and squinted up at her. “I had to get away, Kathryn. My life was in shambles, and I needed peace.”

“Peace?” She spread her arms wide and rolled her eyes upward, as if appealing to some higher being for guidance. “You’ll never find peace by running away, Chakotay. You can’t escape, because you carry your guilt with you wherever you go. You know that.”

He rubbed his face with his hands, muffling the emotion in his voice. “Maybe I can’t escape, but I can’t stay, either. I’m not brave the way you are, Kathryn. I can’t endure the look of disapproval I see in every face back home. I’d rather be alone than lonely in the middle of a crowd.”

“The looks. Yes. I know what you mean.” She slumped slightly, leaning against the wall across from Chakotay’s bunk. He was so close to her that she could have leaned forward slightly and put her hand on his arm. She itched with the desire to touch him.

“I don’t know how you’ve endured it, especially since you’ve dealt with it alone.” He still hadn’t really looked at her. “I’m sorry for that.”

“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s easy to face them when I know that I did nothing wrong.” She took a deep breath. “They’ve judged us unfairly, Chakotay, but, for all that, I’m just as much to blame as you. I’m the person the public should condemn. It was my idea that we go sailing.”

He turned his face away from her, studying the wall. “You didn’t break your vows, Kathryn. You never swore to love and protect her.”

“In a way, I did. I promised to protect her when I took her from the Collective,” she whispered. “And I loved her as much as you did.”

“Neither of us loved her enough.”

She took a step, raising an arm so she could lean against the door jamb until he finally looked up at her. His hair was long, almost shaggy, and it hung over his forehead, hiding his tattoo, but his eyes were the same warm brown, his dimples and mouth unchanged. She felt her heart wrench as she realized how much she missed him, how much she wanted to have him back.

“Chakotay, what happened after the boat crashed was just a case of going into survival mode. We were cold, hurt, injured, reeling from yet another brush with death. It’s easily explained away, and Seven would have known it was the truth.”

“Oh, I think you’re right about that.” He closed his eyes as he remembered Seven’s trust and belief in them. “I’m not leaving because people misunderstood what happened in the cabin. There’s another, more ominous disloyalty that I must pay for.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The truth is ugly and inexcusable.” His tortured eyes bored into hers. “We lied, and not just to Seven. We lied to ourselves, refusing to acknowledge the truth. If we had been the only victims, then I could live with that. But Seven was an innocent bystander who trusted us. She was too naïve to think that the two people she trusted most in the universe would betray her.”

Janeway sat down at the foot of the cot, her head spinning. “How did we betray her?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Still in denial, aren’t you?” He swung his legs over the side of the bed so he could stare at the floor. “She saw that she wasn’t first in my heart, as my wife should be. I let her down.”

“We both let her down.” Kathryn was suddenly weak with fear at the dejection she saw in his posture, the pain she heard in his voice. She’d come to bring him home with her, not to hear his confession. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear his confession, after all. “Running away makes everyone think that you’re guilty.”

“I feel guilty, Kathryn.”

“If you’re guilty, then we both are.”

“If you say so. How we atone for that guilt is a personal choice.”

“You don’t have to leave,” she insisted, her voice wavering with emotion. “You can do your penance at home.”

“No, I can’t, because it’s over. Do you realize that? Our friendship is over, and with it, I’be lost my home.”

“Our friendship is over?” she whispered. “Why?”

He looked up at her in disbelief. “How could we continue to work together, go places as friends, without creating even more of a firestorm? It would just prove to people that they were right about us being shacked up, make them think that we’re glad that Seven is ‘out of our way.’ Those judgmental looks wouldn’t fade away, they’d get worse. Those whispers behind our backs wouldn’t get softer, they’d get louder and more strident, until, finally, we would find it too painful to be together. And if I can’t be with you-,” he paused, looking past her at the stars, “I’d rather just disappear into the sunset.”

“Just like that. You just get up and walk away.”

“Not ‘just like that,’ no. Every step breaks my heart. Leaving like this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Then to hell with them! I don’t give a damn what people think about us, Chakotay.” When she heard his laugh of disbelief, she got angry. “Who are they to judge us, anyway? What right do they have to be our judge and jury?”

“They don’t have the right. We’ll do it ourselves.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’d rather leave on my own terms.”

“Dear God.” She studied him as he stood up and walked to the viewport, his back turned to her. This conversation wasn’t turning out as she hoped; she was failing to reach him, and the result, his leaving forever, made her sick with fear. “Don’t do this.”

“What else can I do? I’m not going to stay and watch you gradually turn away from me. I’d rather die.”

“I swear I won’t turn away from you.” Tears glittered in her eyes as she saw him shake his head in disagreement. “You’re as much a part of me as my arm or . . . or my heart. I need you.”

“As Seven would say, ‘You will adapt.'”

She stood up, her fists clinched at her sides. “But I don’t want to adapt!”

“How do we keep from it?” He turned toward her, his face in shadow, before he chuckled. “But you’re different. When Kathryn Janeway is faced with a problem that is distasteful or impossible to overcome, she simply refuses delivery.”

“There are always other options,” she insisted.

“Exactly.” He smiled at her, and she could see the whiteness of his teeth, the dark crags of his dimples. “Frankly, I’m not worried about you. I think you’ll come out of this smelling like a rose. It’s hard to hit a moving target, after all.”

“You don’t have to pilot a tub like this. You don’t have to sleep in a closet and be a delivery boy on the outskirts of the Federation.” She stood up to face him. “If you want to be isolated, I’ll get you a posting on a Starfleet ship that’s assigned to the frontier. You can be a captain and call the shots.”

He shook his head. “I refuse to tie myself down. I might want to sign onto a research ship and leave Federation space altogether.”

“You didn’t even take your credits.”

“I don’t need them. In fact, I set up a trust, with you as trustee. All my stuff and Seven’s.”

“What am I supposed to do with it?”

“I trust you to use it wisely. Help Icheb get established. Pay for Naomi’s college. Or Miral’s.” He shrugged.

“How will you live out here?”

“I’ll work. I’m being paid to help pilot this ship, you know, unless the captain fires me for being the reason behind this bogus inspection.”

“It’s a training exercise.”

“Yeah, right.” He chuckled and turned back to the viewport where the sleek Sargasso Sea hovered just off the port bow. “Now that’s what I call a starship, don’t you agree?”

She refused to let him divert her line of questioning. “Where will you go?”

“Wherever I can find work.” He knew she was staring at him, yet he refused to turn around. “I don’t need that much, really.”

“Those credits are yours. You earned them, and you should have them.”

“I don’t want them.”

She was reeling from his careless attitude and frantic to think of something to say or do to make him stay. “How will I know you’re all right?”

He shrugged his shoulders and turned around, leaning against the edge of the window. “You won’t.”

“Chakotay, that’s unacceptable.”

“Unacceptable, hmm?” He shook his head at her words, the look on his face unconvinced. “Tell me one thing, Kathryn, and, for once, tell the truth. Do you love me?”

She could feel her heart pounding. “You know I love you.”

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.” His eyes bored into hers. “How long have you loved me?”

She tore her eyes from his face and stared at her hands, amazed to see tears falling on them. “New Earth? Probably even earlier than that. It seems as if I’ve always loved you.”

“Yet never, not once, have you ever told me how you feel.”

“The time was never right.”

“Wrong. There’s never a wrong time to tell someone that you love him.”

“I apologize, then. I was sure that you’d want to act on our feelings, and I couldn’t do that,” she insisted.

“I would’ve understood why you wanted to wait. I waited, anyway.”

“Huh.” She ducked her head, tears burning behind her eyelids. “Then, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too, because ignoring it led to this disaster.”

She looked up. “There’s a saying about that.”

“A Klingon one,” he nodded. “‘True love ignored becomes a bloody sword.'”

Her eyes widened. “Is that what you mean when you say that we’re guilty? Everything that happened can be traced back to our failure to be honest with each other?”

“If we’d been open about our feelings for each other on Voyager, I doubt that Seven would have approached me. If I had known where I stood with you, I would have turned her down. If you’d known that I loved you more than anything or anyone else in the world, you would have called my dalliance with Seven to a halt.”

She stared at him. “But, if you didn’t love her, why did you marry her?”

“I gave up on you, and I thought you’d given up on me.”


“Is it? Once the admiral told you Seven and I were involved, it was over. I didn’t realize what had happened until it occurred to me that you would never acknowledge your love for me if doing so hurt Seven in any way.”

“And so you married her?”

He rubbed his face in embarrassment. “It sounds absurd when I say it out loud, but I married Seven because of her close association with you. As her spouse, I would always be close to you, even when we stopped working together. I married Seven so I wouldn’t lose you.”

The silence that followed his admission was filled with tension. For a moment, Janeway wasn’t sure she understood his words, and then she felt the warmth of a blush crawling up her neck and into her face. She could tell that he expected her to be upset with him for what he’d done, and she had to admit that he’d violated Seven’s trust. And yet, she could also see how her refusal to discuss her feelings had brought him to this unethical decision.

“We don’t always get what we want, Chakotay.”

“But couldn’t we have talked about it? Couldn’t we have acknowledged it at least, sometime in the last eight years?”

“What good would that have done?” She realized that a tear had escaped her right eye and swiped at it with annoyance. “It would have done no good at all in the Delta Quadrant, not when we were so constrained by our positions.”

“It would have made us confront the truth. It would have helped us make better decisions.” He’d raised his voice and walked toward her, finally kneeling in front of her. “Maybe Seven would still be alive.”

“What?” she looked into his face for the first time. “Still alive?”

“Seven knew that our marriage was a farce, and she blamed herself for it. Time and again she apologized for not being ‘human’ enough for me, and I let her think that was the problem, because I couldn’t admit that I’d married her on the rebound.”

Shocked, she covered her mouth with her hand as tears brimmed in her eyes. “So when she saw us together at the cabin—.”

“It probably added to her feelings of failure.” He stood up. “I don’t know. I guess we never will.”

She buried her face in her hands. “She never knew the truth—that we never acted on our feelings, not once.”

“More’s the pity.” He hovered over her, so close that she could feel the heat radiating from his body. “Our dishonesty killed her, Kathryn, and her demise was the end of any chance for us to be together.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to leave,” she insisted.

“It means that I can’t stay.” He moved away from her, back to the window where he could look at the powerful, sleek ship. “It’s enough that I have to live with the guilt of causing her death for the rest of my life. To be near you and never with you would be cruel and unusual punishment, even if it fits the crime. That’s why I’m leaving—because, in spite of what I’ve done, I can’t stop loving you.”

The silence that followed his words was unbearable. She tried to think of something to say, some way to object to his reasoning, but words failed her. She sat down on the cot, wringing her hands, staring at his back as he looked out of the window at the lonely cold of space. Finally, a communications signal broke the silence between them.

“Powak to Admiral Janeway.”

Janeway sat up, shocked to remember where she was and what she was doing. She quickly regained control of her emotions and replied, “Go ahead, Captain.”

“The inspection is complete, Admiral, and everything is in order. Captain Jamieson is bringing his engines back online and is anxious to get underway.”

“I’m sure he is. I’ll be right there.” She watched Chakotay put a hand on either side of the window and hang his head between his shoulders. She hadn’t touched him, and now she realized with a pang that she would probably never have another chance to do so.

“You left without even telling me goodbye, Chakotay.” She stood up and adjusted her uniform, nervously smoothing the material over her stomach and hips. “You just sneaked away like a thief in the night.”

“How could I ever tell you goodbye?” His voice was thick with despair. “How does a person cut out his own heart and go on living?”

She blinked back the tears that burned her eyes. “I wish you would stay and work things out.”

“Seven is dead, and her blood is on my hands. It’s too late, Kathryn, to make things right.” He raised his head, turned, and looked her in the eye. “I’m sorry.”

“As long as we’re alive, Chakotay,” she pleaded, “we can atone for what we’ve done. We can make it right.”

He shook his head. “I’ll never live long enough to do that.”

“Chakotay.” Tears glittered in her eyes. “Didn’t you say that you love me?”

“I always have, Kathryn, and I always will,” he stepped back into the shadows of the compartment. “Living the rest of my life without you is my penance.”

“What a mess,” she whispered, stepping back. “What a terrible mess we’ve made of our lives.”

He didn’t reply. She slowly raised a hand and tapped her commbadge, requesting to be beamed directly to her quarters.

She kept her eyes on him as long as possible, until she rematerialized in the privacy of her rooms. Tears streaming down her face, she collapsed on the bed, too tired and depressed to go to the bridge. Captain Powak was more than capable of piloting the Sargasso Sea back into Federation space without her silent presence beside him.

In the meantime, Janeway had to find a way to mend her broken heart.