CUP – Chapter 18

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By mizvoy

Chapter 18: Redirection

(later that day)

“You have gone AWOL, Admiral.”

Janeway looked up into Tuvok’s face and shook her head. “What time is it, anyway?”

“Nearly midnight.” He sat down beside her on the bench and looked at the brightly-lit exterior of the Alamo church. “You haven’t answered your hails.”

“Oh, I guess not.” She pulled the commbadge out of her pocket and looked at it, not bothering to activate it. “I wanted some time alone.”

“You won’t mind if I contact your aide and tell her that you’re fine.”

“Not at all.” She blushed as she shoved the commbadge back into her pocket. He contacted her aide, reassuring her that the admiral was fine, while Janeway was surprised to see that the sky had grown so dark. She wondered whether she’d been in some sort of trance to have been so oblivious to the passage of time. When Tuvok finished his call, she asked him how he had managed to locate her.

“My Starfleet security clearance allowed me to access local police scanners. I looked for the unique composition of the Starfleet commbadge.”

“There must have been dozens of hits.”

“Two hundred and sixty-five within an eight-block radius of the transport station.”

“And you checked them out one by one?”

“No, I eliminated those that were still active, since I assumed you would answer a hail if you heard it, leaving only six. However, I did check out three other inactive ones prior to finding you here.”

“I hope you weren’t worried about me.”

“You did disappear after saying goodbye to Chakotay. I knew you would be distraught.”

“You didn’t think I might have left with him?” She knew him well enough to read the truth in his face—he knew Chakotay wouldn’t have asked her. “I needed some time.”

“You’ve been through a great deal of emotional turmoil in the last week. The dedication of the Hansen wing. The pain and anguish of the injuries. The reunion with your former first officer.”

“In spite of all that, I assure you that I’m fine.”

“This period of reflection makes me think otherwise.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s just a passing mood. I admit that I felt a bit discouraged after Chakotay beamed out, so I decided to cheer myself up by taking in the sights along the Riverwalk, having a glass of wine with dinner, and watching the tourists.”

Tuvok glanced around the deserted plaza. “It would seem that the tourists have all gone home.”

“So it would,” she laughed. “I guess I was pondering the Alamo itself—a shrine to a hopeless cause.”

He studied the smooth white church that was commonly associated with the Alamo. “Your characterization of the shrine is problematic. While the battle for the Alamo was a hopeless cause, that defeat became the rallying cry of a revolution and eventually led to Texas’ independence.”

“And so those who fought here died for something.” She stood up. “What is the Vulcan saying? ‘The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.'”

“‘Or the one.'”

“That was my mantra on Voyager, when I was consumed with the goal of getting the crew home. Only now am I beginning to appreciate how lucky I was to have a cause like that-first on Voyager, and then, after Seven’s death, the creation of the Hansen Wing. Something I believed in enough to make sacrifices worthwhile.”

“Not every cause is worth such sacrifices,” he replied, giving her a quick, sideways glance. “And that troubles you.”

“Yes, it does.” She studied her hands. “I’ve been thinking about my next assignment for Starfleet and, frankly, it bores me to tears. I can’t imagine spending the next two or three years sitting at a desk at Starfleet command.”

“Perhaps you should request an assignment that’s more to your liking.”

“I would do that if I could think of a damned thing I want to do.” She walked to a small monument that listed the fighters who had died defending the Alamo, absently running her hand over the names as she spoke. “These heroes were lucky that they didn’t outlive their cause.”

He frowned at the sorrow he heard in her voice. “The loss of one’s life hardly seems to be a ‘lucky.'”

She said nothing, staring blindly at the names, and then she leaned forward on the stone as teardrops splashed on her hands. Tuvok was beside her in an instant. He put an arm around her shoulders and called for a beam out to her hotel before she had the chance to say a word in protest.

Tuvok maintained a vigil over Janeway through the night as she grappled with her emotions, watching impassively as she spent long periods in silence and longer periods in tears. As a Vulcan, he repressed his own feelings, yet he recognized that humans need to work through them in order to accept whatever events would logically follow.

He had been Janeway’s sounding board many times in the past, providing her with both advice and companionship ever since he had become her security officer during her first command. They had shared several mind melds over the years, which gave him unusual insight into the workings of her mind, and he had watched her muddle through countless disappointments and challenges that would have defeated a less formidable character.

His role as her de facto counselor had lessened some on Voyager, thanks to her friendship with Chakotay, but he had been forced to step back into the role during the last two years, helping her cope with the stress of Seven’s death, the scrutiny of the public eye, and the sorrow she felt at Chakotay’s absence. This particular crisis had been a long time coming, and Tuvok was glad to see that she had finally succumbed to it. He hoped that once this current anguish ended, she would be emotionally prepared to take whatever actions logic demanded of her.

When the sun rose hours later, spilling into the lounge area of the hotel suite, Tuvok was sitting in an overstuffed chair watching Kathryn Janeway as she lay sleeping on the sofa, finally overtaken by exhaustion. Tuvok had sent her aide back to San Francisco with instructions to clear the admiral’s schedule for the rest of the week and to hold all calls.

At noon, Janeway’s eyes opened. If she was surprised to find him still there, she said nothing about it, sitting up and pushing her tousled hair out of her eyes.

“It is nearly midday,” he said, answering her unspoken question as he stood up. “I’ll get you some juice and coffee.”

“Thank you.” She closed her eyes and laid her head on the back cushion until he arrived in front of her with a small tray. She snatched the juice, drained it quickly, and then wrapped her hands around the warm mug, sniffing the coffee aroma with a groan of pleasure. “You didn’t need to stay this long.”

“I disagree.” He resumed his seat across from her. “My experience has taught me that such emotional outbursts require a long discussion before you are able to move on.”

She sipped the coffee and sighed. “I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about it.”

“Trust me when I tell you that this is the best time for you to discuss the issues that disturb you.”

“Okay.” She gave him an irritated look as she stood up. “But first I have to take care of some personal business.”

“Take your time.” He could hear her rustling around in the bathroom and then the sleeping area. Finally, she returned with her hair pulled back into a ponytail, her face scrubbed clean, and her body clad in a soft terry bathrobe. She stopped at the replicator and refilled her mug and ordering a buttered croissant before returning to the sofa. He asked if she felt better.

“Much, thank you.” She sipped the coffee and regarded him in silence, probably trying to remember what she’d said the night before. “So, my aide called you to tell you I was AWOL?”

“She was concerned about your failure to return from the transport station.”

“And, naturally, you assumed that I was upset about Chakotay’s departure.” Her tone was sarcastic, and Tuvok recognized it as one of her many defense mechanisms.

“Weren’t you?” he asked mildly, watching as Janeway narrowed her eyes and looked away.

“It’s been a tough week.”

“That is has.” Tuvok nodded at her vague reply. “And issues have failed to resolve as you had imagined they might.”

“That’s an understatement,” she whispered and then cleared her throat. “I was overly emotional because I’m exhausted from my injuries and all the physical therapy.”

“And you were deeply hurt by Chakotay’s actions. Once again.”

“Yes.” She shifted on the sofa so she could look out of the window and avoid Tuvok’s steady gaze. “I feel like such a fool for hoping that he would stay, for thinking that we could somehow salvage our friendship.”

“It was that hope that fueled your optimism over the last two years, wasn’t it? That was the ’cause’ that made the sacrifices worthwhile?”

“I suppose so. That, and helping drones like Seven.”

He took a deep breath, wishing he could demonstrate more openly the respect he felt for her.

“Admiral, I have had the good fortune to serve with you for many years and have always admired your ability to put personal wants and needs aside for the good of your ship and crew. When Chakotay left two years ago, you let him go because you felt you owed Seven of Nine some gesture of atonement.”

“Yes, and I felt that someone who loved her should be there to take care of her memorial service and to try to understand why should would resort to such a dangerous procedure. Since it was beyond Chakotay’s ability to do so, then the task fell at my feet by default.”

“Please tell me what it was that you sacrificed.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “I beg your pardon?”

“You said your work on the Hansen wing was worth a great personal sacrifice. I’m just wondering what it was that you sacrificed.”

She stared at him and then slowly leaned forward to place her coffee mug on the table. For long minutes, she stared at the cup, as if hoping the answer would suddenly appear on its surface, and then she looked up at him.

“I don’t know,” she finally answered.

“You don’t know, or you’re unwilling to tell me?” He waited until she shook her head again. “Admiral, you’ll never resolve this matter until you admit to yourself what your sacrifice has been.”

She stood up and walked to the window, staring into the storm clouds that were boiling up from the Gulf. Tuvok watched and waited, unwilling to let her escape from this moment of self-understanding, ready to force her to face facts, no matter what the cost. At last, she turned to him, her arms crossed over her chest.

“I gave up Chakotay,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “I let him go and refused to search for him because being withouyt him was part of what I had to do as penance for my part in Seven’s death.”

“You hoped that his return for the dedication would mark the end of your sacrifice. That is why your hopes were so high, and your disappointment was so deep.”

“I suppose so. Two years is long enough, Tuvok. I hoped that Chakotay would listen to Seven’s logs and understand that our actions didn’t make her commit suicide. I hoped that he would stay here and resume our friendship.” Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she nodded, unable to continue.

“But once again, he left.”

She nodded, miserable.

“And this time,” Tuvok continued, “you don’t have personal quest to occupy your mind. You’re distraught because you can’t justify letting him go.”

“I can’t force him to stay, either,” she interrupted, her temper flaring. “I can’t call ahead and have him arrested at the border and thrown into the brig.”

“You could have asked him to stay.”

“You think I didn’t?” she shouted, throwing her arms into the air. “I begged him to stay, to no avail. He wouldn’t listen.”

Tuvok remained calm, determined to keep the admiral talking. “Because he still feels guilty about Seven?”

“Not exactly.” Her shoulders fell. “Because his presence here might damage my career, and he said he couldn’t be around me and not with me.”

Tuvok gave her a calculating look. “So, at last, it’s all or nothing.”

“All or nothing.” She sank down onto the sofa. “That’s what he said.”

“For years, Chakotay accepted the fact that he could only have part of you, and a small part at that. You had your work as captain of Voyager and a journey of 70,000 light years to accomplish, and that was a challenge important enough to justify any sacrifice.”

“I sacrificed my chance to be with him. Is that what you mean?”

“Precisely. And he sacrificed, too.”

Her mouth opened and then snapped shut in surprise. “I guess he did.”

“I assure you he did. And then, after our return, you had the debriefings to go through and the crew to resettle into their lives.”

“I didn’t have time to breathe.”

“It was worthwhile to accept his involvement with Seven because it allowed you to delegate her care to him.”

“It wasn’t like that.”

“Wasn’t it?” He waited, allowing the silence to built beyond tolerance.

“I let him go because I thought they would be happy.”

“Another noble sacrifice,” he agreed. “Even though it was contrary to your own wishes.”

“I suppose you’re right, but I don’t want to think that I did it simply to make life easier on myself.”

“You thought he’d moved on, and so you let him. And then, after Seven’s death, you did the same thing. You let him go because you needed to do something in atonement.”

She began to pace, thinking through her motivations, and then turned to face him. “What can I do?”

“As I see it, you have two choices. Either you can let him go and accept the fact that you have only your career to live for and that you will live the rest of your life without him.” He paused as Janeway groaned. “Or, you can take a leave of absence from Starfleet and follow him.”

“Follow him?” She rolled her eyes. “And do what? Beg him to stay again? Throw myself at his feet? Make a public spectacle of myself?”

“You must do whatever it takes. You must convince him that you love him enough to sacrifice everything for his sake. The time has come for you to put him first in your life and tell him how you feel.”

Janeway sat down heavily on the sofa and stared at him. “I told him that I love him.”

“You must convince him.” He watched her as she considered his advice, her eyes losing focus as she saw the truth of his advice. “What is the human saying? Actions speak louder than words.”

“So I catch up with him and convince him. Then what do we do?”

“Assuming that he returns your affection, either he will return with you to the Federation, or not.”

She frowned. “Not return to the Federation? Meaning what?”

“Meaning, Admiral, that your next step might involve a compromise that demands a different sacrifice from you—this time, perhaps your career.”

“I guess that’s only fair.” She stood up and walked slowly through the room, studying the view from the window, the framed prints on the walls, gradually circling until she returned to the sofa. “He could reject me completely. Again.”

“Which is the illogic of human relationships,” he replied, shaking his head. “The turmoil and heartbreak of your courtship practices never fail to astound me.”

She laughed at that and gave him an affectionate look. “You said a mouthful, Tuvok.” She spent a few moments in thought and then stood up. “I know his itinerary. He has a layover of a couple of days on Deep Space 3 that should give me the chance to catch up with him. I just need to make a few arrangements first.”

Tuvok looked up at her expectantly.

“Excuse me while I get dressed.” She grinned with excitement as she rushed past him toward the bedroom.

In her haste, she missed seeing the brief look of satisfaction on Tuvok’s face.