An undertone, running through everywhere, hardly noticeable but still filling the air. The kind of thing (sounds cliched but it's true) you don't notice until it's gone. A constant hum, whispered under the breath of a starship, the muted roar of unthinkable speed, it was the sound of the parting of space-time and of movement. It accompanied them as they flew through the night (always the night), on and on. She slept with it filling her mind. It lulled her, like a song from soft lips, reassuring her that all was right and that they continued to rush on the path towards home. The sound of a blue-swirled warp drive, the calm grey of the walls, the family of the men and women who walked her corridors, her control and her purpose.
Now there's nothing, only a hush that beats and vibrates in her ears. The unnatural silence of the dead of night keeps her awake. Sometimes she starts out of her sleep and panics that it's gone, as if it's the end of the world. It takes a minute for her to accustom to the silence. She hasn't yet accustomed to the loss.
There's a party, ostensibly to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the return, really designed for all of Starfleet's best and brightest to meet and pat each other on the back while secretly comparing and gloating over their achievements. She is the star of the show, naturally; Owen has already opened proceedings with a little speech and a toast to her. She smiled and laughed, and the room filled with applause and a smattering of cheers. Then she raised her own glass, thanked the others in a grave voice, as is expected and moves the audience.
She scans the room, which is full of its little networks. She can see Seven deep in conversation with Tuvok, no doubt bemoaning the irrationality and general inferiority of the rest of the party, seemingly blissfully unaware of the admiring looks directed at her. All around, lowly ensigns and crewmen for whom this is quite the occasion are visibly excited at the presence of the people they read about. The illusioned and easily awed gaze starstruck at their heroes; the ruthlessly ambitious are trying every trick to get themselves noticed. It's an invaluable opportunity for career advancement. She's already shaken hands with far too many eager young things, introduced by vague acquaintances and all desperate to make an immediate impression, and promptly forgotten all their names.
She takes a sip of her wine, then changes her mind and drinks the rest down, her throat getting warm. She feels an urge to throw down the glass, hear it shatter and watch the perfect shape broken into tiny pieces of see-through light.
Everywhere there are people she hasn't seen in a year. People who before that were joined to her and to each other in one body, the sanitised grey corridors their veins and a blue plasma warp core their beating heart. She never imagined that they'd be so disparate afterwards, that they would scatter and barely bother to send a note. She held them together, naturally, but they held her up too. The collective was shattered into tiny, insignificant pieces, and it's all too strange to have them all in one room again. To see how much they've lost.
She sees Chakotay coming towards her, and smiles, surprised that she feels real warmth.
"Kathryn," he says, and hugs her, "Enjoying the party?"
"Starfleet always did do this kind of thing well... shame you're missing out."
"Mm," he laughs, "I think I can resist the temptations. And I was never cut out for captaincy."
"I seem to recall you making a fine job out of questioning my orders." She looks at him mock-severely.
"That was just a healthy disrespect for authority..." They both smile, remembering, nostalgic (as is always the case) for a time they were suffocated by, and they're quiet for a little time.
"So how are you? How's the palaeontology?" asks Kathryn. He lights up; she remembers that reaction on her face from another time.
"It's great... I'm really enjoying it. It's what I should have done from the beginning. I finally feel like I've found my place... and how's admiralty?"
"Oh... a step up in the world... and certainly a rest from non-stop attacks from the Borg," she smiles a little, doesn't know what she can say, and Chakotay doesn't press her, a fleeting look of recognition coming over him. He knew her, he knows her. Changes the subject.
"How's Seven?" he asks, with no bitterness - Chakotay was always the magnanimous type.
"She's fine, doing well - dazzling the scientists with her mind, ignoring all pretence of protocol. I think she likes it, though she's not too happy with the uniform." There's a shared laugh, and then she gets serious, and says,
"I'm sorry things didn't work out between you two..."
No, you're not, he should say; but he's Chakotay, so of course he doesn't.
"We weren't right for each other. It was nice when it lasted, but we both wanted someone else." He looks at her. There's an intense meeting of the eyes, and his voice seems closer and more resonant. "You're both very lucky women." She moves in, nearer, and touches him on the arm, and there's a crackling thread there for a moment. But he steps backwards and it breaks; in a light tone he says,
"But I've found someone else, who I'd like you to meet," and beckons the someone over. Kathryn smiles warmly; the woman, younger than herself (but older than Seven) is dark and seems gentle, but with something else glittering below.
"Kathryn, this is Marisa Diaz; Marisa, Kathryn Janeway."
"It's an honour... I've heard so much about you." They shake hands, and she lingers just a little too long on the long fingers.
"And I can see Chakotay's excellent taste in women hasn't deserted him."
"So, I must ask you about some of these stories Chakotay's been telling me..." and Kathryn relates the anecdotes for a little bit, holodecks and malfunctions, watching the way the light plays in Marisa's hair, just shades of red and copper, and the gold of her skin, until there's a pause, and Chakotay says,
"Marisa? Kathryn? More drinks?"
"Not for me, there's some people I should go see... leave you two to reminisce," says Marisa. "It was nice meeting you."
"You too... hopefully I'll see you again, maybe later." Marisa smiles and walks away; Chakotay and Kathryn look at each other, just a hint of awkwardness, and just that moment she despises him, not really sure why. For their history, for his happiness, for everything that he is. She can't be bothered any more, speaks shortly.
"That drink sounded like a good idea... and I should go and catch up with Tom and B'Elanna. I'll see you later on." He looks a little disappointed, and she tries not to notice as she leaves him. She picks up another glass of Bajoran wine, and stands apart for a minute, closes her eyes momentarily. She takes deep, even breaths, fending off some kind of dark. Drinks the wine.
Later on, she spots Mark, looking out a window onto the city. She goes up to him, silently, and watches his contemplations for a minute, and then says,
"It's strange, really, to think of all the people out there... all living their own lives..." He turns to her, snapped out of his reverie, smiling.
"Kath! Great to see you... you're looking good."
"Why, thank you... you're not looking too bad yourself. So how are you?"
He talks a bit about his life, his job, but she doesn't hear him when he answers, only the low hum of his words (almost like a starship), and she watches his lips moving. His hair is greyer than the last time. His eyes are light, flecked with bits of brown, and not particularly kind. She never wanted kind. She sees that nearby there is dancing, and she asks him for a dance - "for old times' sake". He spins her, his hand low on her back, and she feels his heat through her. She looks into his eyes; there's a moment when they know, and as they move into a shadowed area she kisses him, and it's short and sweet but with an urgency underneath.
There are doors, leading to an outside swept with breezes, and she fills with the night air. They walk slowly, not touching, through cultivated greenery, and when the noises of the people are far enough, they draw together automatically. Like a horny teenager, she thinks in disgust. She's hungry and there's a touch of desperation in her mouth on his. They don't remove their clothes; he pushes up her dress (she worries a little that it'll tear, it was expensive and she wants to use it again) and almost throws her against the outside wall. There's anger in the way he comes into her, roughly forcing her apart. She stifles cries. She feels a sense of satisfaction, clear air rushing through her brain and soreness from her back hitting the hard wall.
Afterwards, he does himself up and looks at her with a hint of guilt, fear, left-over love, and a good deal of contempt; she replies with one of closed stone. He exhales, and walks away. Left along, she stoops to pick up her necklace, its chain broken. The gem of the pendant has come off; it lies on the ground, separated from the chain, which is slender and snaked on the ground, as if about to slither off and disappear.
On the transport back Seven is silent and distant. Kathryn thinks about talking, but she doesn't. she looks away, staring at nothing, thinking of nothing. Thoughts flitting in and out of her mind. She doesn't catch them. After the transport, they walk a short distance and then they're back in their building, relatively new and relatively elegant. They take the turbolift, and Seven's still unresponsive.
Inside, Kathryn vaguely considers that it might not be a good idea, but she's too tired and too wary of something great and black sinking her to resist. She slides her arm around Seven, and murmurs,
"I've been waiting to do this all night." But Seven's body is stiff and she steps back, pushes her off.
"I find that doubtful," she says coldly. Kathryn smiles.
"Have you looked in a mirror tonight? Who wouldn't want it?"
"I was under the impression that your desires had already been satisfied," she says coldly.
"Excuse me?" Seven looks straight at her, and her expression says disgust.
"Unless I am mistaken, tonight you have already copulated with your former fiance." Kathryn breathes, draws herself back and in, and speaks with a harsh voice.
"Whether I did or did not 'copulate' with my former fiance is none of your business."
" I believe traditionally it is very much my business," she says with biting sarcasm. "I am, after all, your supposed partner."
"Who informed you of this supposed copulation?" Kathryn demands. Seven's voice takes on a malicious tone.
"It was a topic of general conversation." Kathryn exhales heavily.
"Fantastic... now my love life is the talk of Starfleet."
"Perhaps you should refrain from having sex with your ex-lovers at official functions if you wish to keep your 'love life' private." She seems very tall, and the ice of her fury is so different from the cold that envelops Kathryn. She's too weary, too flat, to respond to this, and says softer, almost pleading (though she'd never plead),
"Look, I just had too much to drink, and there's a lot of old emotion between us. It just happened... can't we forget about it?" Seven is stone, stone cold.
"You humiliated yourself, and you humiliated me."
"Oh, what's a little humiliation now and then... a little shame... isn't embarrassment irrelevant?" Flippantly.
"Pride is not irrelevant. Respect, *self*-respect, are not irrelevant. However, it appears all these things are of little relevance to you."
"Why should I care what some shitty ensign says about me?" she says, angry now. "They'll forget it in a week anyway," though Seven is right; Starfleet has a long memory and an efficient rumour mill. She can't summon up any regret.
"Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps you should not care. You certainly care about little else." She almost spits the words, so sharp are the edges, and Kathryn's head is beginning to throb.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I would think you could see. You were once dedicated to your work; now it appears to be nothing but a distraction to be suffered for you. Evidently you do not care about me - I am merely an object for you to vent your sexual urges on when you can find nobody more convenient." She pauses for breath, and Kathryn sees the intense pain and vulnerability bleeding through, feels a short rush of excitement.
"How dare you say that? You know fucking well how I feel about you. Do you think you'd be safe in a cosy Fleet research job if it weren't for me? No I can tell you you'd be the research subject, lying in restraints in some secret lab being injected with their latest anti-Borg pathogen."
"Yes, and if it were now, you would let them take me. You would not care enough to protect me. I cannot recognise anything in you of the Captain Janeway I met." Her words chip bits off. Kathryn stares back.
"Well, I'm not *Captain Janeway* any more, am I? But I'm still the same person. People don't change."
"I changed," she says with clipped rage. Kathryn gets closer and there's just heat sparking. Her voice is low.
"I made you what you are."
"Yes. You taught me how to be human, how to feel. But now you feel nothing at all, you are not human. You are like the Borg drone I was five years ago." Kathryn waits, and when she speaks, very near to Seven, she's dangerous.
"Seven: shut the fuck up." So near she can feel Seven's heightened breathing, and she takes hold of her and kisses her hard. There's no mercy, she is so very hot, some kind of fury seeping out. Seven reluctantly relaxes into her, and Kathryn pushes her a little, and they stumble backwards to the wall. She can feel underneath her Seven's huge strength, knows that if she wanted, she could kill her at one stroke, and that she could and doesn't only makes it better. She undoes the catsuit (she always wants her to try a dress, but she won't) and it slips to the floor. It's burning. Kathryn is rough and driven, thrusts her fingers into Seven and pumps them in and out hard. Seven's almost dry, she gasps near-angrily at the pain, and Kathryn kisses her again, her tongue in Seven's mouth. Pushes. Licks Seven's neck and bites down on her shoulder as she feels her tighten and rise. Kathryn's short and brutal. Seven comes with quick breaths, little shocks running through and through her, and Kathryn withdraws, watching Seven, naked, take deep breaths, her hair dishevelled and her face pink. Seven draws herself up, looking straight back at Kathryn with cold eyes, which seems all at once to be dark.
"If you don't like it, you can always leave," Kathryn says hardly. Unfeeling.
"Perhaps I will," Seven says shortly.
Her office looks out over city and greenery, and on clear days the sun sparkles on the river with a Starfleet shine. She stays in this office most of the day, and sometimes she ventures out to meetings with other people like her, to discuss tactics, strategies, plans. She briefs lower officers. She shows captains round their ships, and wishes them luck with a smile on her face. Her life is very static, it is caught motionless in space and time. It stagnates.
She walks the corridors of (no) power and grows to despise the world she once loved. Under the polished pips and freshly replicated uniforms, she feels the rot at the heart. She feels the rot in her, and doesn't know why she carries on, and she realises that it wasn't twenty-three years on Voyager that ruined her older self, but ten years on Earth. She knows that this is what she will become; she doesn't particularly care.
A desk, a division, hundreds of people, a view over San Francisco. She controls all of these. Nothing compares. Nothing is enough.
She meets up with Mark again, more covertly, at first once and then many times. In a little Italian restaurant where the wine is fairly cheap and the food passable. In a holosuite frequented by people like them, trying to hide something, where the people who run it not-so-secretly sneer. In Mark's apartment, when his wife's away, which she wanders after he's asleep, looking through holoimages of domestic harmony. They talk a little sometimes, but never a lot.
"I tell you, Kathryn, if I had that Borg of yours in my house, I wouldn't be looking for my kicks elsewhere," he says once, smiling. She looks at him with dislike, but doesn't reply.
Once, she thought that Seven would be everything. She isn't sure, now, why she searches away from home. But there's a thrill, and it's rougher, wilder, something on the edge. Live a little.
She hears that Voyager is being turned into a museum, and she wants to rage against this decision. If she is to stay still, at least Voyager should journey on, and maybe she could get lost once again, with a whole new set of sailors. She raises objections, but they are regretfully, respectfully adamant. "Sustained heavy damage," they say. "Wear and tear." "Not exactly cutting-edge any more." "A part of history." "Fitting tribute." She is called upon to open it, and does so, with much champagne. She talks of the first day she controlled it, and gives a brief tour, with soundbites for the holoimagers. There's a simulated starscape outside the windows, and she is interviewed in her ready room, and she looks out at the star-pictures and doesn't know quite how she gets through it.
Sometimes they show programmes on the holoscreen about Voyager's feat of endurance. She and Seven watch them together. They talk to lower ranks, interposed with pictures from the database. These people discuss the solidarity, the feeling of family, the unique closeness; she wonders where the closeness was when she was there. But she has always known that it's lonely at the top, and that loneliness was utterly different from this. The interviewees talk about what it was like to serve under Captain Kathryn Janeway, with a reverence. Some words crop up often - "dynamism" is one, "single-minded," "strong," "fire". She does not recognise these in herself.
She meets Chakotay's girlfriend in a bar, both already well soaked in alcohol. Marisa is wearing something clinging and red-shimmer-black which leaves little to the imagination and entices with its little flashes. She buys her a drink, dances with her as she glows different colours in the lights, and ends up tied to Chakotay's bed. When the cat's away, she says.
Marisa laughs a little at her.
"You know, they talk about you... desperate, faded, crazy... though a lot of them would pay a lot to be in my place now. I could probably get a good deal out of taking some holoimages. You wouldn't like to hear some of the things the men say, Admiral. Most disrespectful."
She wonders why Chakotay would have chosen someone like this, but sees herself in the other, and knows his judgements aren't always flawless and people can have whole layers hidden beneath them.
She doesn't often see anyone from Voyager, though sometimes she runs into them in the corridors at HQ. They catch up, with superficial questions that reveal nothing. She says they must go out for dinner sometime; they don't. It's worse after these encounters.
Sometimes, walking outside, she feels a panic as the sky closes in and weighs down on her, its vast spaces far too wide and far too small. The gravity of the earth pulls her down. She thought Voyager was a gilded cage, but now she is a bird shut out and forlorn. At night she sits on the balcony and watches the stars, cold and lost and aching. Seven comes out, is there beside her, and they're silent together; they don't talk much these days, but her presence is a hint of warmth. On some days she watches Seven and is grateful that she's there, feels what might be love. Seven holds her up a little in her mostly tacit knowledge, though occasionally Kathryn catches her looking, eyes weak with worry and disappointment. But she rarely mentions it; she recognises Kathryn's wishes and is afraid of what might happen. They are symbiotic, in a way; neither could survive well without the other, and neither wants to risk trying.
She knows Seven would like her to pour out her thoughts, or to break down to her, but she ignores these unspoken wishes. Kathryn has never believed in catharsis.
She does her job, adequately, and is legendary to many. She knows she is the subject of rumours, whispered about after she has passed, and she turns her eyes with fierce scorn on those whom she suspects; they are quelled for a time, but she doesn't bother to change. Often she is bored; she sees the world in dismal shades of grey. She has no power, presides over PADDs and peace treaties and scholarship funds and inane Voyager-themed events presented by Reg Barclay and seven years of history. It is nothing, it does not fill the hole. She doesn't have words for the yearning, which becomes and defines her.
Once she was a starship captain.
Inspiration, title, summary from Red Hot Chili Peppers' Porcelain: "Someone said that you're fading too soon." * This story was remixed, absolutely beautifully, by dafnap, for the Silverlake Remix. You should go and read the remix, right now. What are you waiting for?
Back to Trek fic
This story was remixed, absolutely beautifully, by dafnap, for the Silverlake Remix. You should go and read the remix, right now. What are you waiting for?
Back to Trek fic
Back to Trek fic