by Laitaine

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and all associated characters and places belong to Paramount.  No infringement on trademarks and copyrights was intended.  This was written purely for entertainment and not for monetary gain.  Do not archive without permission and keep my name attached at all times.
Summary: We never know how much we rely upon our friends until we fall.
Rating: PG-13
Content: Janeway/Chakotay
Author's Notes: First off, a huge, huge thank you to Coral for the super speedy beta. You are a star! Not only does she do a fabulous job, she also makes me giggle in the process.
This is very, very loosely based on the ER season 8 finale Lockdown - following a late-night conversation about the final scene with Bec, we began to wonder about a J/C version of the same scene. This has taken a few twists and turns along the way, but the idea expressed is still the same.
Dedication - For Bec - my fellow ER fanatic; it was our conversation that gave rise to this little plot bunny, so thank you. And for Coral - just because.
Feedback is very gratefully received at
Copyright © Laitaine 9th June 2002

Kathryn Janeway stood alone in the middle of her ready room, blinking back the tears as she surveyed the wreckage.  Everything was torn and broken, an eerie parallel to her own frame of mind and her bruised and battered body.

The vase on her desk had tumbled to the floor; the flowers once contained therein lay dead amongst the shattered glass, now covered in a fine film of dust.  A gaping hole ripped from the ceiling, exposing rough metal edges and unleashing broken cables and wires that hung like snakes from the maw.  Two metal beams lay across the room, separating her desk from the couches beneath the window and twisted chunks of metal lay scattered on the floor, in amongst the debris and cables that littered the room.  And even now dust and dirt rained down on the shattered captain, and somewhere above something had began to leak, the angry-red gelatinous goo oozing from the breach to splatter messily onto the carpet.

A drop of the red fluid came into contact with her skin, burning wherever it touched.  Kathryn watched with morbid fascination as another drop joined the first, sliding over her arm leaving a trail of fire and pain.  But she didn't move, numb to the pain.  Thick, red, fluid.  It looked like blood.

Her hair was a mess, covered in grease and dust and dirt; it was dull and lifeless, the fiery hues extinguished to match her listless blue gaze.  Her face was equally blessed with grease and dirt, hiding her pale skin under a caked on layer of black grime.  A cut marred her right cheek, an angry scab long since formed, and the blood still staining her face.  She lifted dirty fingers to touch it gently.  Even the slightest pressure hurt and she didn't doubt that the wound, small as it was, was infected.  She had a similar gash on her right arm, this one longer and deeper, running from half-way down her upper arm to just above her elbow; it too was likely infected.  This particular battle scar earned to shield herself from a falling beam from the ceiling as she ran through the corridors.  She couldn't recall how she had hurt her cheek.

She had lost both her uniform jacket and her shirt at some point - she couldn't remember quite where or when or how.  They had simply been shed as necessity demanded, exposing her arms to the same grease and dirt and filth.  Her boots were scuffed and battered and both her tank and pants were ripped and torn.  She looked like hell.

Her eyes slid over the destruction at her feet, taking in the full extent of the damage.  She ached to collapse onto the couch under the window and cry herself to sleep.  But she couldn't.  Not least of all because two metal beams barred her path.  Added to that, falling metal had attacked the seats, ripping the covers and releasing the padding; and the fallen debris littered the material, as it did every exposed surface.

She didn't know who the attackers were, where they came from or why they attacked.  The alpha shift had not long since started when a fleet of ships had appeared seemingly from nowhere and started and all out attack.  They had been relentless in their assault, what they lacked in firepower they more than made up for in numbers and a dogged determination to blow Voyager into lots of tiny little pieces.

Kathryn had lost three of her fold in that first bombardment.

The ships had left then, disappearing into nothingness as they had originally appeared.  But they had returned soon after.  They had repeated the pattern, attacking and then retreating again and again and again.

The number of deaths now numbered at nine, with five more critical in Sickbay; the Doctor wasn't optimistic that they would survive the night.

She didn't know who the attackers were, where they came from or why they attacked; but she would make them pay.

She moved away from the centre of the room and crossed over to her desk.  Her computer terminal was in definite need of replacement; something had ripped and shattered the screen as it fell.  Padds lay scattered on the floor surrounding her desk, thrown from the top that was now covered with dust and debris like everything else.  A thought occurred to her, and she moved around behind the desk, her eyes scanning the floor.

And the she saw it.  A glimmer of gold and white in the wreckage.  She bent down behind her desk and carefully picked it up, turning it in her hands as she inspected it.

"Well, I'll be damned," she muttered softly to herself.  Her lucky coffee cup had somehow survived the damage and destruction; it was stained with coffee, dirty and hardly fit for use, but it was in one piece.  Despite herself, a small smile almost graced her features.  Perhaps it would be possible to survive this nightmare they were faced with.

A knock at the door, requesting entrance in lieu of the broken door chime.

Startled by the unexpected sound, she almost dropped the cup.

She was grateful for the interruption; it saved her from any further contemplations about the likelihood of surviving this latest trial.

"Come in," she called out to her visitor, musing at the irony of having the cup survive the attacks only to meet its end as it slipped from the careless fingers of a startled captain.

The doors struggled halfway open valves hissing as they tried, and failed, to open fully.  Realising that was the best he was going to get, Chakotay squeezed through the gap and the doors slid closed behind him.

"Kathryn?"  His voice sounded tired.

"Down here," Kathryn called back, raising one arm above her head, the hand well clear of the desk and waving at him.

Chakotay stood on the opposite side of the desk and leaned over it, peering down at her.

"Kathryn, what are you doing?"

She held up her coffee cup triumphantly.

He rolled his eyes at her in response and then coaxed it from her dirty fingers.  "This thing has more lives than a cat."

Kathryn rose to her feet once more and came to stand on his side of the desk.  As she did so, he turned around to lean against the desk and she stood in front of him.  He handed the cup back to her and she thanked him with a small nod.

She studied his appearance.  He was, if it was possible, looking even dirtier than she was; she could barely see his tattoo for all the dirt.  He looked tired, drained; his whole demeanour spoke of exhaustion - both emotional and physical.

She set the dirty cup down on a relatively uncluttered bit of desk behind him.

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn, her face was smudged with dirt, her features drawn, her shoulders slumped. The past few hours had taken their toll on her. Hours... it felt like days. She looked exhausted, worn out. She was looking back up at him, her eyes more expressive than she usually allowed them to become.

"Tell me it'll be alright, Chakotay. Tell me everything will all be ok."

She looked so fragile standing there, her voice and her eyes pleading with him to make it right. He dipped his head and brushed his lips across hers. Gently, tenderly. "It'll be alright, Kathryn. We'll get through this."

Her eyes filled with tears.  "How many more will we lose?  How much more of this can we take?"

One tear escaped and rolled down her cheek, leaving a clear streak in the grime.

Chakotay pulled her into his arms, cradling her frail body as if it might break. She in turned clung to him desperately, seeking solace and warmth from the embrace.  She shuddered and a sob escaped her throat, the tears flowing freely now - the support of a friend breaking down all her barriers.  Chakotay's hold on her tightened and he dropped a small kiss on her forehead.

Kathryn pulled back slightly, looking up at him, tear-filled eyes set in a tear stained face.  "How can I do this, Chakotay?  How can I make it stop?  How can I fix it?  How can I make it right and get us home?"

"It's not your burden to shoulder alone, Kathryn.  I'm here to help you.  Your crew is here to help you.  We will get through this, Kathryn.  We will beat this, and we'll be the stronger for it.  And we will get home."

"I'm broken."  The words were so soft he strained to hear them.  She sounded so desolate it broke his heart to hear it.

He moved his hands up to cup her cheeks, his thumbs smoothing over the dirty skin, smudging her tears over the dirt and carefully avoiding her cut.  "You are not broken, Kathryn.  You are the strongest person I have ever known, you are above this, Kathryn."

Her eyes fluttered closed briefly and she drew her dry, chapped bottom lip between her teeth.  When her eyes opened again they shone with unshed tears.

"If you break, Kathryn, then we have truly lost."

"Then it's all over."  Defeat echoed in her voice.  She averted her eyes from his and started at his chest.

He firmly but gently guided her eyes up to meet his once more.  "That's what I'm here for, Kathryn; to make sure that you don't break."  His eyes pleaded with her to believe him.  "You are not broken."

Kathryn placed her hands on his chest as she so often did, and then slid them up and over his shoulders and locked them loosely behind his neck.  She lifted her face up and softly touched her lips to his.  "What would I do without you?" she murmured against his lips, her breath tickling his face.

She wrapped her arms more tightly around his neck and increased the pressure of her lips on his.  He responded quickly, drowning in her; his world existed of her and her alone, the rest forgotten at the touch of her lips.  His hands left her face, moving down her sides to settle on her hips and pull her closer.  Time stilled as the sensations overwhelmed them, lost in the moment.

They broke apart and Kathryn rested her cheek against Chakotay's chest, hugging him close.  "I was broken," her voice was barely more than a whisper.  "But you fixed me."

She moved out of his arms and stood in front of him, straightening her tank and running her fingers through tangled hair in a vain attempt to control it.  She extended her hand to him and offered him a small smile.

He returned her smile and took her hand.

Her voice, when she spoke, we more like that Kathryn he knew.  Filled with determination, strength and courage.  "Let's go and fix the ship."

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

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