Continued from Devastation 2/4
For warnings, codes and disclaimer, see part 1/4
I am on light duty today. I don't know how but Torres was actually
able to pull some strings with Seska's cronies and she let me work
inside the welding camp, inside the shade. They got into a big fight
right outside the encampment, spitting and snarling at one another for
what seemed like hours, fighting like wild animals.
The fiery Klingon warrior against the fake Bajoran bitch.
You can guess who'd have won this round.
Dalby doesn't have much say against Seska. She treats all males as her
own private band of slaves, even the ones who side with her. Torres,
being a female, and hotheaded enough to match her evenly in all areas,
is the only one who can bitch-slap her effectively.
I should feel happy that the good guys won this round of verbal
skirmishes, but happiness is an emotion that evades me more often than
I haven't seen Dalby today but I know he's somewhere around, keeping
an eye on me. I saw Torres a few times, stomping off in the distance,
rigid with anger. Though for some reason she didn't come near me at
all, didn't ask me anything, didn't even look at me, all the while I
was sitting inside the shade welding at my pet project.
I suspect she might be pissed at me for some reason. Probably the same
reason I think Dalby is ticked off. They think I have this perverse
wish to deliberately get myself into situations where I end up getting
hurt. Crazy, huh? They think I have masochistic tendencies that have
gotten out of control in this base environment.
For two people who understand me better than anyone else here,
sometimes they don't seem to understand me at all.
How can I explain to them that this whole situation is my fault to
begin with? All these deaths and destruction and pain - theirs, mine,
and everyone else's - it's all blood on my culpable hands. How can I
tell them that I have no way to redeem myself other than to take a
little of their pain any chance I can?
After all, I am responsible for taking away their lives, their peace
and their happiness, aren't I?
Happiness is an emotion I haven't experienced in twelve long months.
I blink my eyes trying to clear the cloud of dust enveloping me from
all sides, obstructing my vision, settling in my mouth and my
nostrils, hindering the flow of oxygen that makes breathing possible
It's so dark. So quiet. Just like the dead.
The only sound I hear is the reckless thud of my heart beating loudly
in my ears. It's an ominous sound, foreboding, hopeless, suggestive of
Or perhaps a reminder of destruction already befallen.
Another explosion on the surface shakes the entire balustrade and
suddenly I realize the dust is clearing. I clutch the rails on both
sides and take two fearful steps down, squeezing my eyes to stop the
unsought irritation weeping down onto my face, and quickly open them
again, wanting to see what's ahead of me, wanting to know what's
Suddenly it becomes visible: the twisted, contorted edges of the metal
steps and the metal junctures holding the platform that were torn away
by the force of the explosion on the surface, torn away right in front
of my eyes.
The platform that is no longer there.
"Oh God, no," I hear myself moan, as I strain to look down the tunnel,
my heart pounding deafeningly, as if it would tear out of my squeezing
And then I see him. His twisted, broken body lying on the sharp,
jagged rocks below. His one arm splayed out over his head, as if he
had been trying to reach out to something.
As if he had been trying to reach out to me.
I feel myself go rigid and cold with realization. I hear myself moan
and slide down on the metal floor, shaking with grief.
I cry out, my voice hoarse with pain as hot tears slip down my cheeks,
stubborn in their pursuit.
Startled, I jolt up on my bed, my chest heaving with exertion, my
heart contracting with waves of guilt and fear.
A hand lands on my shoulder and I spring, my defense mechanism
slipping into action, lashing out with both hands at the intruder who
has slipped into my cubicle in the black night.
"Paris." I hear a painful grunt in the silence of my room, as my fist
lands on a body that suddenly didn't seem to be poised for attack.
I freeze as my baffled brain belatedly realizes it's not an attacker.
"Dammit, its me. Torres."
I scramble for the light switch and turn it on. She is standing on the
foot of my bed, one arm clutching the side of her ribs where my blow
"Shit, I am sorry," I stammer, suddenly feeling contrite. "Did I hurt
"No, its okay," she wheezes and looks closely at me, straightening up.
"You startled me," I try to explain. "What are you doing here so late
She looks at me warily for a few seconds, as if assessing my frame of
mind and my mood, and then shrugs slightly. "I was just passing by and
I thought I heard you..." A tentative pause. "...groaning."
My face flushes hot as I suddenly remember the nightmare. I feel a
blush creep up my neck and I know she can see it on my face. I avert
my eyes from her dark ones.
"I...I just wanted to make sure you were okay," she mumbles, clearly
I take a deep breath and try to force a grin on my face, trying to act
nonchalant. "Well, the first thing you do in such situations is to
turn on the lights, Torres."
My heartbeat suddenly picks up speed when her eyes narrow at my words
and I notice a strange expression flicker through her features. I
stare at her, expecting her to say something but she turns around,
walking to the water-cooler, and picks up a glass, filling it with the
With her back to me, I raise my hand to my face and flinch as my
fingers encounter the familiar wetness on my cheeks. Shit. I had been
crying in my sleep and now she has seen the evidence. I hastily try to
rub my face clean before she can see me. She turns around and pauses,
appraising me for a second and then brings the water to me. I lower my
eyes, not willing to meet her gaze, my teeth working on my lower lip
"Here," she offers me the glass, sitting on the edge of my bed. "Drink
I take the glass from her and try the nonchalance routine again. "I
was having this wild nightmare." I shake my head, a plastic smile on
my quivering lips. "Dunno where it came from." I take a large gulp of
water, willing my heart to calm.
"You still blame yourself, don't you?"
Her question catches me by surprise and I freeze, my eyes flying up to
finally meet her probing brown gaze. I stare at her for exactly three
heartbeats and then speak. "Blame myself for what?"
"Blame yourself for Chakotay's death."
I realize my mouth has dropped open, as I stare at her in shock. I am
astonished that she is talking about this after all this time. She has
never, not once over the past twelve months, ever mentioned Chakotay
to me. We talk about many things, Torres and I. We talk about the
situation we are in, about the scraps of Voyager that we have to
gather to create rudimentary structures for the inhabitants on this
planet, about the lack of hope we constantly find ourselves in. We
talk about the violence we saw and continue to experience around here,
about the Kazon, the Maquis, the Fleeters, and so many other things.
But she has never, ever talked about her captain to me before. She has
never mentioned the incident on the Ocampan stairs. She has never
tried to rub it in my face the way some of the other Maquis do. I
can't imagine why she would start now. I wonder if this is only the
extension of the cold shoulder that I received from her the whole day
"What are you talking about?" I can't help but sound defensive,
skeptical, and hate myself for it. The last thing I want to do is
further alienate her from me.
"I heard you cry out his name, Paris," she sounds suddenly remorseful.
"I've heard from others that this isn't the first time." Her brow is
wrinkled with concern. "Do you get nightmares about what happened on
I let myself breathe slowly, the feeling of relief suddenly descending
on me. She's not here to rub it in my face. She is concerned about me.
But I still can't bring myself to let down my guard too fast. I slide
an impassive expression on my face and shrug.
"Well, what if I do?"
She frowns slightly. "Well, you shouldn't 'cause it WASN'T your
My short-lived peace of mind quickly evaporates into thin air. What's
the matter with all these people? I feel exasperated. A day before
Dalby was trying to calm me down about the same thing, and now its
Torres sitting down at the edge of my bed trying to reassure me that I
am not to blame for what happened on Ocampa?
"You're wrong, Torres. It IS my fault." I grit my teeth, suddenly
feeling my eyes brim with traitorous tears and blink my eyes
stubbornly, willing myself to stay in control. "I let him fall."
She snorts out a short exaggerated laugh, a small puff of air exhaled
through her nostrils. "It was a fucking accident. You didn't push him
off the stairs, did you?"
"I was too slow," I frown, feeling my tightly wound coil of control
springing out of my hold. She's not supposed to be sitting here. She
shouldn't talk to me about Chakotay. There was a reason why she didn't
all this time and it was probably for the best. But now it's getting
all spiraled out of control, it's not right, she can't do this. But I
can't stop myself, can't get a grip on my emotions, on my mouth, on
the staccato beat of my thudding heart. I open my mouth and my pain
comes out in an embarrassing near-wail. "I should've tried harder."
"Yes you should have," she snarls and I halt at her words, thinking
this is crunch time, that I was right and she is really here to rub
salt into my wounds, to make me roll on the hot, burning coals of my
guilt. Instead she lowers her volume and her gaze softens a bit. "But
it wasn't in your control. You tried, he slipped and fell and died.
It's over. You can't relive that nightmare for the rest of your life,
I feel torn between feeling guilty that I thought so low of her, and
feeling mad that she has the audacity to come here and tell me what I
can and not dream about.
"It is all my fault, I shouldn't have listened to his rants, I
should've just scooped down and picked him up." I hear myself groan.
"If I had done that, he would still be alive and none of this shit
She throws her arms out in frustration. "Nothing can get through to
your thick skull, can it?" She shakes her head and regards me with a
strange glint in her eyes. "As far as all-out pig-headedness is
concerned, you are just like Chakotay."
I sigh and lean back on the wall, pulling my knees up against my
chest. "What is that supposed to mean?"
She takes a deep breath as if readying herself to divulge a deep, long
hidden secret. "When you were caught on that mission by Starfleet and
got thrown in prison," she starts cautiously. "Chakotay blamed himself
For a second or two, I have this urge to laugh in her face, so over
the top her words sound to me. But her gaze is intense and her face
serious. "What are you talking about?" I protest. "He HATED me."
She looks at me as if I have gone mad, her eyes go wide and an almost
comical incredulity creeps up on her face. "He didn't HATE you, Paris,
he CARED for you, too fucking much. Y'know, scoop down and pick him up
sounded just about right." She has a strange twist on her lips - a
small, sad, rueful smile. "Don't know what happened there that day but
you SHOULD have stayed in your fucking character and riled him up to
no end. That's what he liked most about you."
But he DIDN'T like anything about me.
"You're crazy." I shake my head at her, thinking she has lost her
mind, the lump in my throat making it hard to get the words out. "He
thought I was a traitor." My heart is thudding again, my mouth dry.
Please stop right here, I want to scream, I don't want to hear
anymore. "He CALLED me a traitor. He thought I sold him out."
"Paris, I don't know what he said to you on Ocampa," she continues,
heedless of the desperation on my face. "But I know this. When the
Starfleet caught you, he went absolutely crazy. He wouldn't stop
looking for you; he was ready to go after you, to try any desperate
stunt to get you out of the clutches of Starfleet, to get you out of
prison. It was just not possible; you had been taken so fast, we had
had no warnings.
"When it became clear that there was nothing we could do, he
barricaded himself in his cabin for two days. He wouldn't come out, he
wouldn't talk to anyone, wouldn't eat, wouldn't do anything.
"When he finally came out, he was a changed man. We could tell he was
wracked with guilt, he blamed himself for not being alert enough, for
letting you fall into the trap, for letting you get caught. He was
My heart is no longer pounding in my chest. In fact, it seems to have
stopped beating altogether, for there is a silence inside me that
smothers all senses - a choking, stifling stillness that fills me,
suffocating me. Her voice sounds distant, as if scattered over jagged
alien terrain, booming through the lonely frigid mountains and valleys
of my heart.
She can't be telling the truth, I hear a voice inside me saying, it
can't be true. It's a lie, a game - a vengeful, spiteful, cruel game.
Yet her gaze is eager, her dark eyes luminous, her face animated with
conviction, as she digs into her side pocket and takes out a small
shiny object. My swimming gaze falls over the object as she holds it
in front of me. It's a seashell, silvery-white in color, bright,
glistening, and beautiful.
With rising horror I notice the small hole, at the top of the flat
surface of the shell, where someone had once threaded a thin cord to
wear the ornament around his neck.
"It was Chakotay's." She presses it into my hand, not aware of the
turmoil in my mind, and in my heart. "This was one of the few things I
could get out of his cabin before we beamed to Voyager," Her voice
echoes through the void in my head. "I had hidden it a year ago and
only today remembered where it was. I dug it out and realized there
was only one person who could make use of it, and that's you."
It's hot in my quivering palm and with a gasp I drop it onto the bed.
"No," I shake my head; my ears suddenly buzzing as I feel my heart
kick start its ragged beat again. "I can't take it, it belonged to
him, he wouldn't want me to have it, it won't be-"
"You're wrong, Paris." she frowns, cutting me off in the middle of my
protest. "You are exactly the person he would have wanted to give this
to," She picks up the shell and presses it back in my palm,
insistently. "Chakotay told me it was his good luck shell and I can't
think of anyone who needs a better luck in here, than you do."
The setting sunrays fall over my outstretched knees, my upper body
partially hidden in the shade, as I sit with my back pressed to the
cool wall. A half-empty bowl of gruel - something they insist is
food - sits on the ground beside me.
My fingers run over the sleek surface of the seashell, one callused
thumb deliberately tracing the smooth spirally bend at the base inlaid
with soft coiled ridges - which appear to once have been festooned
with purple and silver dyes and strokes of shiny paint but are now
faded with time. And sand.
Yes, there's lots of cool, coarse sand, the remnants of which are now
packed inside the shell. Sand under which Torres had buried this shell
a year ago.
She said she did it so that Seska wouldn't get her hands on it. Seska
had had this thing for Chakotay, something no one could miss back in
the Maquis, including me, and would've blown her top if she knew
Torres had something personal of Chakotay's and hadn't given it to
her. The Bajoran quite adamantly - because of a past romance with the
captain, short-lived as it was - considers herself the rightful
successor to him even though he had hated her guts. He had hated her
guts and wouldn't have wanted her to have this shell according to
For some strange reason the half-Klingon is positive that he would've
wanted ME to have this instead. How absolutely, ridiculously fucked up
She thinks that telling me about Chakotay, about how he had felt about
me, will make me feel better. He cared about me, she said. My getting
captured devastated him, she thought. He felt guilty, she insisted. He
blamed himself, he was never the same when I was caught, he was a
changed man, he never forgave himself, and the list goes on.
It was like opening a can of worms. Once she started talking, she
couldn't stop. It was as if she had been bursting with the need to
talk about her mentor with someone, anyone. As if she had been dying
to tell me about everything that Chakotay had done and said and spoken
and implied while I was spending leisure time as a guest of Starfleet
I wanted to ask her why she didn't dig the shell out all these months,
but she didn't need to be asked anything. Somehow she knew all my
unasked questions and answered them anyway with a zest I had never
seen in her before. She said she had lost track of the site because we
had uprooted the living quarters over it several months ago and she
couldn't find it no matter how hard she tried. And today, of all days,
miraculously, she saw a mark that she herself had left there twelve
Today of all days.
It was his good luck shell, she said. Chakotay always used to wear
this ornament around his neck, she related, it was something very
precious to him, and she has no idea why he wasn't wearing it the day
we went down to Ocampa twelve months ago. I know he wasn't wearing it
in the Ocampan tunnel that day on the stairs - the day I failed him -
but I have seen it in each and every dream of mine since then. Even
when I didn't know he used to wear it, even when I didn't know what it
was, I still saw the thing in the dreams.
Why? How did my subconscious mind know? What the hell does all this
She even broke down and cried at one point, something I had never
thought I'd see in my lifetime. My fiery, strong, Klingon friend -
crying for her captain, her friend, her brother.
The coldness has descended even deeper inside me.
How can I explain to her that my knowing how Chakotay had actually
felt about me cannot possibly make me feel better?
Can't she tell it makes everything even worse, more deplorable, more
pitiful, for me?
At least until yesterday I used to think that one day I would probably
be able to convince myself that the man I failed was someone who hated
my guts, someone who felt it beneath himself to be saved by a lowlife
Yes, I could think that he was too good, too noble, too dignified, to
be tainted by my touch and thus chose to rather die than be in my debt
Except now even that safety net has been pulled out from under me. He
liked me, she says. He cared, she insists.
I failed the man I loved, the man who cared for me too. How can I ever
forgive myself for that? I let him fall to his death. Why didn't I try
harder? What was I afraid of? He was in pain, he was scared, he wanted
to live, and yet I let him fall. Why didn't I die with him?
Tonight is the one-year anniversary of my failing Chakotay. It's been
a year, one whole year, since I let him die. How will I ever face my
Good luck shell, is it? I close my fingers around it and feel its
coolness seeping into my palm, as if it's a balm and it intends to
soothe the fire inside my veins. The fire that burns like ice -
frigid, cruel and relentless.
I close my eyes and wish that I didn't have to feel the pain anymore.