CUP – Chapter 19

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By mizvoy

Part 19: Departure

San Francisco (late the same day)

“You’re really taking a leave of absence?” Janeway’s chief of staff, Commander Anne Blake, was stunned at the news. “Just like that?”

“It’s been a long time coming, Commander,” Janeway assured her, placing a comforting hand on her subordinate’s shoulder. “And it’s just a leave of absence.”

“But we were just about to get a new assignment.”

“Don’t worry. Before I leave, I’ll make sure that you and the rest of the staff are offered positions that are to your liking and are with decent bosses. And when I get back, I’ll request you, if you still want to work for me.”

“Of course I’ll want to work for you, Admiral. You’re the sanest admiral I’ve ever met.”

Janeway laughed, “That’s a scary thought.”

If Blake and the staff had been surprised at Janeway’s decision to take an open-ended leave of absence, her boss, Admiral Hayes, had not been.

“You’ve saved enough leave to take six months off if you like,” Hayes told her. “And God knows you deserve it. Just let me know when you’re ready to return and what you want to do. I’ll make it happen.”

“I’ll let you know, sir.” She didn’t stick around to chat with him, since Chakotay was farther away with each passing moment. Instead, she returned to her office and started packing while she tracked down at least two decent job offers for each of her subordinates. By late afternoon, her office was packed and her staff happily reassigned. She took it as a sign of good luck that everything was falling into place so quickly and hoped that the rest of her plan would go as well.

That part of the plan, however, would depend on Chakotay. She had her doubts about her ability to sway him from continuing his exile, wondering how to convince him that she loved him, finally putting those thoughts aside for later. He had nearly a forty-eight hour lead on her, so she would have plenty of time to work out her approach once she boarded the transport vessel the next morning.

When Janeway walked out of her office building that night, she felt lighter and happier than she had in years. Wondering when, and if, she’d ever return, she walked slowly through the grounds, taking in the beauty of the late evening quiet and making her peace with the career that had consumed most of her adult life.

Strangely enough, she found the idea of starting a new life both exhilarating and appealing, especially if that new life meant having Chakotay by her side. Seven full years as Voyager’s captain actually translated into more than a decade of experience compared to what other officer’s gained, and so she needed something new, something open-ended, something with personal overtones to tickle her fancy.

Her trip through San Francisco gave her time to organize her thoughts and make a mental checklist of the things she needed to take care of at home. She’d spent so much time living in San Antonio in the last few months that there was very little remaining to do at her house. She had closed it for an extended absence months earlier, so all she really needed to do was inform the neighbors of her departure and arrange to have one of them check on the place now and then.

The task she dreaded most was contacting her mother and telling her of her decision to travel into deep space once again. Gretchen would want to know why, and Kathryn was in no mood to tell her until she knew what would come of her pursuit of Chakotay. If things went well, she could simply surprise the family later. If things didn’t work out, telling them about her hopes might mean that her sister could say “I told you so” for the next sixty years.

At least she didn’t have to tell the Voyager crew why she had left, since Tuvok had promised to inform them for her. He’d predicted that they would know at once what her real motive was and that they would wish her well.

“They’ll respect your privacy, as well,” he assured her. “In fact, they’ll be pleased that you two are finally exploring the attraction you’ve felt for each other for so many years.” At her astonished look, he added, “We weren’t blind to what was right in front of our eyes, Admiral.”

In spite of Tuvok’s optimism, Janeway wasn’t sure that her efforts would be successful. In San Antonio, Chakotay had turned a deaf ear to her declarations of love and had ignored her suggestion that they stay together. Nothing had really happened to change his mind, so she would have to shake him up and make him believe that she was deeply and sincerely in love with him. She suspected she might have to “knock his socks off,” to use one of Tom Paris’s favorite terms.

She spent the two-block walk from the transport center to her house trying to come up with a scenario that would be dramatic enough to catch his attention. She hoped to come up with a plan that fell short of beaming directly into his cabin and chaining herself to his bed. Naked. With only a vial of Queen Arachnia’s pherenomes to help her seduce him, just in case.

She was still chuckling at that thought when she stopped in her tracks on the sidewalk leading to her house, suddenly aware that something was wrong. She always left a timer on the lights in the study in the rear of her house, but those lights were not on, and there was a lamp burning in the living room that looked out over the front yard.

The last thing she needed was for some relative to be waiting for her to return from San Antonio. She had enough to do without also getting rid of unexpected visitors in just over twelve hours. She panicked to think that her mother had come to San Francisco to conduct some business or other and had decided to stay with her daughter rather than finding a hotel. She consoled herself by thinking she could just discuss her departure with her in person and swear her to secrecy. However, if the visitor was her sister, she was in deep trouble.

“I knew things were going too well,” she muttered as she keyed her access code into the door and stepped into the front hall with a cheerful, “Hello? Who’s there?”

When her greeting elicited only silence, she froze in alarm. Although the Hansen wing had kept her busy for the last few months, she’d been involved in a few controversial assignments before that and had made some dangerous enemies in the process. Her presence at the dedication was well publicized and gave potential foes the perfect chance to break in to her house and wait for her to return, alone and defenseless.

She moved silently to the foyer table. She lowered her shoulder bag to the floor and pulled out the hidden drawer where she hid a type 1 phaser for protection. Keying it to stun, she stepped into the front room with the phaser held in front of her in both hands, sweeping it from left to right, as she’d been taught to do when entering a room that might contain an assailant.

She was surprised that no one was there. At least, in the gathering darkness, the room appeared to be empty, but then she heard a soft snore coming from the sofa that faced the fireplace on the far wall. She could feel her heart pounding as she crept through the room and took aim at the person sleeping there, totally wrapped up in an afghan against the cold temperature of the empty house.

“Let me see your hands, and don’t make any quick movements,” she ordered, poking the figure with a boot and then moving back out of range, her back to the fireplace. “I won’t hesitate to shoot first and ask questions later.”

The sleeping figure stiffened slightly, snorted awake, and then placed two hands over the blanket.

“Don’t shoot, Kathryn,” came a muffled voice. “It’s just me.”

Janeway’s mouth fell open in surprise as a familiar head of tousled salt-and-pepper hair appeared.

“Chakotay!” She lowered the phaser and stared at him. “Chakotay?”

“I was beginning to think I’d missed you,” he replied, sitting up and pulling the afghan around his shoulders with a shiver. “I expected you to come by your house yesterday before you went to work. I should have known better.”

“I had some things to take care of at headquarters.” She paused, realizing that she hadn’t had time to think about what she would say to him or how she would handle their hopeless situation. She had no choice now but to “wing it.” “When did you get here?”

“I got here a few hours after I left San Antonio and let myself in.” He yawned and rubbed his face with his hands. “You know, Kathryn, you should change your door code once every couple of decades, just to be safe.”

“I can’t believe you’re here,” she answered, grinning at his remark. “I thought you’d be halfway to Crossroads Station by now.”

“I would have been except that I kept thinking about our last conversation.” He shivered again. “Would you mind turning up the heat in here? I couldn’t access your environmental controls.”

“That’s because they’re voice activated.” She brought the equipment online and immediately felt warmth flowing into the room. “Are you hungry? I could use some hot coffee.”

“Sure.” He followed her into the kitchen and sat down at the table, the blanket still around his shoulders. She replicated coffee, tea, and two bowls of mushroom soup before joining him.

“I’ve been thinking about that conversation, too,” she told him. “In fact, it’s why I went straight to the office today.”

“I assume you received your next assignment.” He looked up from his soup. “Or are you getting another promotion for your work on the Borg wing?”

“Neither.” She realized that the time had come to tell him the truth and reached into her coat pocket for the PADD that she’d put there before leaving her office. “This is what was next for me.”

He took the PADD and studied it, looking up at her in amazement. “An itinerary? This looks like . . . you intended to follow me to Sanctus V?”

“That’s right. I hoped to catch up with you before you left the Federation. I never imagined that you would come back of your own volition. You seemed so intent on continuing your punishment.”

“Punishment? I remembered what you said about us having suffered enough.” He looked down at the soup, stirring it slowly. “I came back because I had to make sure I heard you correctly.”

“You heard right, Chakotay. I think we’ve both suffered more than enough for our part in what happened.”

He looked up at her with hope in his eyes. “Not just that. Didn’t I also hear you say that you love me?”

She smiled, relieved that he was the one to bring up that more personal part of their discussion. “I wondered if you heard me. You seemed to gloss over it, so I decided to follow you and keep saying it until I was sure you understood.”

“You did?” He reached across the table to take her hand. “You were going to tell me again that you love me?”

“Yes, and I hoped to be able to tell you that I love you every day for the rest of our lives.”

Chakotay’s eyes widened with surprise. “The rest of our lives?”

“Don’t play coy with me, bub.” She laughed at the look of astonishment on his face and brushed a tear from her cheek. “You shouldn’t be shocked by my love for you. We’ve both paid dearly for our sins, and I think it’s time for us to forgive ourselves, don’t you? And forgive each other?

“I don’t know if I can forgive myself, Kathryn.”

“But you must.” She squeezed his hand. “Seven didn’t blame you or me for anything that happened, you know that now. You say that you didn’t love her, but you were never really unfaithful to her—and you never would have been.”

“That’s true. So, why do I feel so guilty?” he wondered.

“Because you lived a lie?” she guessed, shrugging her shoulders. “Because for far too long we refused to admit how much we mean to each other.”

“It’s hard to change the habit of more than a decade.”

“I know. I should have been honest with you about my feelings after Voyager got home. I never should have allowed you to marry Seven without resolving our continuing attraction to each other first, and I’m determined to be honest with you now.” She stood up and circled the table, looking down into his eyes as she cupped his face in her hands. “I love you, Chakotay, and I don’t want to live another day without you.”

He stood up abruptly, almost knocking her over in the process.

“Kathryn, you were actually going to follow me all the way to Sanctus V?”

“You saw the itinerary.”

“What if I said I didn’t want to return to the Federation?” He took her by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake. “What if I refused to leave Sanctus V?”

“I was ready to deal with whatever you wanted. Maybe I would have built a cabin of my own and harassed you. But, I imagined that we’d work out our future plans together. We’ve almost always managed to find a workable compromise when we have to, haven’t we?”

“What if I demanded that you give up your career? Would you do that?”

“Yes, I would. Is that such a surprise?” She laughed when he nodded. “Well, it’s true that I put my career first for far too long, and I hurt you, Seven, and myself in the process, but no longer. I want us to be together, and I’m willing to make any sacrifice necessary to make that happen.”

“What will people say when they realize we’re together?”

“I know you’ve been concerned about what people will think, but after all these years? I think they should know better than to think we betrayed Seven. And, frankly, I don’t care what they think. If I don’t care, why should you?”

He gathered her into a gentle embrace and sighed with joy as she nestled against him, burying her face in his chest as he wrapped them both in the warm blanket that was still around his shoulders.

“I came back, Kathryn, to tell you that I couldn’t go back to Sanctus V and live without you any longer. I didn’t know how you’d respond. I just knew that I didn’t want to waste another minute of our lives by being apart.”

“Then we agree.” He could hear the joyful lilt in her voice.

“We do?”

She pulled back and smiled into his face. “I’ve taken extended leave from Starfleet and have plans to visit an idyllic planet with a man I’ve been in love with for years. You don’t expect me to give that up, do you?”

“I suppose not.” He brushed her hair away from her face. “I should warn you that I don’t have a bath tub.”

“Well, I guess you remember how to make one.”

He laughed. “I think I can manage it.”

“Two years apart is enough.” She kissed him softly, surprised when her love for him made it nearly impossible to breathe. “Later, Chakotay, much later, after we’ve had time to get used to sharing our lives, we’ll figure out what we want to do next.”

“Okay. But, what about now?”

“Now, we simply enjoy our new-found freedom.” She slid her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest with a sigh of relief. “We’ve made our peace with Seven and each other, now it’s time to be happy.”

“Time to be happy?” Chakotay smiled, burying his face in her hair. “I’m ready for that.”

  • Danielle

    This story was absolutely the best Voyager story I have ever read. In fact, I enjoy all your stories. But this one, wow! You write so well and so true to the characters that I can’t help but see it all happening as though it were an episode. I cannot say enough of how much I enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading many more of your creations!