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Slash and Yaoi Fiction
Title: Reasons
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Pairing: Suder, Chakotay, Cardassians
Rating: R
Status: complete
Archive: yes
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
URL: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Disclaimer: Star Trek and the characters belong to Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: no. Set before the beginning of the show, during Suder's Maquis days.
Comments: On Voyager, talking to Tuvok about Suder, Chakotay says that when he had to stop Suder from going too far a few times, 'the way he looked at me with those cold eyes, I knew he was this far from killing me, too.'
Warning: non-graphic abuse, violence
Summary: Suder is going 'too far' and Chakotay tries to stop him.


This story is for Eggblue

Why do I believe that the door can protect me? I close it and pull the stool towards it and even then I still hold it as if I can stop it from opening when the times comes.

When the demons want to come in.

It must be a demon - screaming, the thin voice that can't be human, the words that are so blurred that they lose any meaning; the only one of them I understand because it is repeated again and again: "Please, please." What does he beg for?

The Road-Crawler - my father gave it to me on my birthday - gets all wet and slippery in my sweaty hands - but I don't let it go, never let it go, clasp it so tightly that later, when everything gets quiet, the red lines stay on my palms - so deep that they don't go off till the next time when I freeze at the door.

Silly. I know I am silly. He is not a demon - he is my brother, my parents' voices sometimes cover the cries - shushing, comforting. Helpless. This thing is eating him alive. They say it is... the long word but I've learned it - 'hereditary'. Strange how it can be when only he has it - and I don't. We are the same, even similar names - Len and Lon, mother must have thought it was cute, you know people always find it funny. Her friends used to guess who is who of us when we visited them... a long time ago- two, three years. The only thing I remember about him.

They said we'd be lucky when at school - would cheat the teachers with the lessons.

He will not go to school with me. He... he doesn't look okay any more. They don't let me see. They say there is a connection - between us - that must not be there, must be broken. Until it is too late.

It doesn't work. I feel him - feel the demon in his head. Pain. At first it is located in his brain - in my brain - like a mole that never stops digging. But it is not a mole any more - it is too big - it is everywhere. There is nothing that can stop it.

Even the drugs. My parents think the drugs help - but they don't know. They only make him lie quiet and float in the darkness - and he can't scream - so, they think he feels better. But they don't know about the demons in the darkness that are ready to jump - and drugged he can't protect himself from them. He doesn't want the drugs - but nobody understands him. They won't understand me if I tell them. They won't listen to me.

They never listen to me. I am a wrong one. For being healthy. I can see it in my mother's eyes when she looks at me and looks away quickly - and my father never looks at me at all. Only sometimes, at night, in the darkness, he comes and wraps his big arms around me and holds me and hugs me - and he is warm and strong - but I can't talk to him about the demons. And he always goes away.

"Please, please..."

He doesn't beg them. I want to believe he does - but I know better.

One day I come in. The nurse is out - and I enter, the big room, an unknown place in our house. The window is not curtained and everything is white - but it doesn't make it look cozy, just cold and too open, nowhere to hide.

The Road-Crawler is in my hand, as always, heavy and solid, its weight strangely comforting - like the only familiar thing here. I walk in - and feel the smell, sweet and medicine-like and pissy and something very sick - and there is a high bed and a boy in the bed - so pale and thin, almost lost in the sheets and pillows and blankets - and his hair is gone - but when he turns to me, his eyes are huge and black and watching me.

From my own face.

I stand still and I don't know what to say - and I regret so much I've come here - but my feet are frozen, I can't run. He looks at the Road-Crawler - and I think he wants it - and as much as I love it, I am ready to give it away - to ransom myself and be free to leave. I raise it.

But instead of asking for it, he asks suddenly - and this time his tiny voice is clear and human and the words are not an incomprehensible mess:

"Do you want to kill me?"

I look at the toy in my hand, all metal and sharp angles - and suddenly I understand the answer, suddenly everything becomes very clear. I know what I've come for.

"Please," he asks.

There is no point in locking the door. The demons are already inside.

* * *

Chakotay hails me as soon as we get out of the shuttle. I weigh the ugly Cardassian machine-gun in my hands - my new acquisition - and put it to the rack before following him.

Everybody is quiet letting me walk past them - the same quiet as they were all our way back. I make my eyes wander casually but I still feel their gazes on me. I don't need to see to know when people look at me.

Chakotay is not looking, however. In his room he stands at his table, shifting the padds from place to place. His hands are clean. I look down at mine. They are not sticky any more - the crust of blood flakes off when I curl my fingers.

At last he raises his eyes.

"Take a seat, Suder."

So... That's what all this tidying of padds has been for. His voice is almost placid now; he must have snapped before - the reminiscence of metal in his voice - but he doesn't allow it to happen any more. I sit down - he remains standing. Beautiful... tall and strong and warm-skinned and so composed - and the tapering fingers lie tranquilly on the edge of the table.

"Do you know what I want to talk about?"

Should I? Well, I think I do. Now give me a moment... yes, the right amount of deference - no, of respect. He'll sense if I get it wrong. A deep inhale.

"Have I been insubordinate?"

He looks at me - a brief glance but I know what he sees. My face is calm, my pose is just a bit tense - understandably. My hands are clasped under my chin. He can't believe that I looked threatening to him so little while ago.

"Yes. I am afraid, yes."

"I am sorry," it won't hurt. "I don't know what... what came over me."

Bullshit. Do you think he is going to buy it? His thin brows - sable fur, so smooth, shiny - fly together. Looking down at his table again.

"You disobeyed my orders."

Damn. I don't even remember it. But I must have... he was furious... Still is?

"I am sorry."

"You raised your gun on me."

His self-control! Amazing. He should be grounding me with the floor. He is able to do it. And the truth is it is what he'd like to do. The expression in his eyes I saw... his pupils were like narrow slits, like the stingers of the phaser in his hand. Is it what they call 'hatred'? Or, maybe, disgust is a better word? He didn't look as if he wanted to fight me - he looked as if he wanted to squash me.

He's managed to expel it from his eyes by now. Maybe, from his soul, too. He is in control of his demons, isn't he?

"Yes," if I am going to repeat 'I am sorry' once more, I will lose it.

Sorry for what? Eighteen dead in the combat are mine. I am efficient - I should be proud of it. I should have been sorry if I did a sloppy job - but I've done a blameless one.

Who knows if he would return to the base today if not for me.

"You have to understand, Suder, I can't allow anything to slip out of my control during the fight."

Yes, if the fight doesn't slip out of your control all in all, Commander.

"It won't happen again... sir."

His eyes are very tired as he looks somewhere above my head. A sleepless night before - and every fight takes more for him than for anyone else who participates in it. His jacket is donned casually over his shoulders, covering gaps and splashes of blood on his clothes. He looks like a Commander in a classic war movie - lacking only a bandaged arm on a sling.

"It is not the first time, Suder."

I know. What can I do about it? I regret it... I do. What is wrong with me that he doesn't believe me? He must believe! Dare not disbelieve.

"Apparently the problem is not in something that... comes over you. It is something you let come over."

Shh. Don't let him see that he's hit the mark. What a strange leap of intuition - for Chakotay, anyway. He never seemed to be capable of such guesses.

Funny. I left Betazed exactly because of it. How would you like to have your soul bare without the benefit of reading others' emotions in return? I believed I matched with humans, however. Careful observation and logic - and I could even imitate, as good as one can without having the scale to compare.

If only humans didn't do it, too, sometimes - guessing. Almost the same good as Betazoids, only more dangerously because you don't expect it.

I slacken the grip of my hands on each other. The dents of the nails must be bleeding but fortunately my hands are smeared enough for it not to be noticeable.

"We are going to have a contact with 'the big land' next week, Suder. I believe it will be better for everybody if you take this ship."

I stare at him. It is must be horror that I feel - this weakness, this feeling as if the air is drained out of me. I need to say something - to convince him. He doesn't understand. These last years, with Maquis... all my life - I had never been so much in the right place before, had never belonged like this.

He can't take it away from me!

You'd better kill me, Chakotay. Send me on some suicide mission then, if you can't stand me around any more, huh? I won't 'disobey' this time.

But no - not Chakotay. He is too... lawful for it. Being a Maquis and a felon, he is still too lawful.

"Don't think I don't need people, Suder, I do. But there are some choices that must be made."

"You can't m-m-make me go!"

I don't stammer usually - it's a new sensation, like the words are too cumbersome to go smoothly from my tongue.

"Sit down, Suder!" Chakotay's voice is very alert. Curious - I haven't even noticed I got up. His hand starts clenching and unclenching - as if he misses his phaser. Too late. He should have shot when he could.

I slump back, cross my legs, intertwine my fingers. It must look casual - I hope he won't notice how white my knuckles become. Don't let the joints snap, please, not now.

"Think about it, Chakotay," my words slur and I make them clear by will. "Will my leave strengthen the group or will it weaken it? Do I bring more harm than use?"

His breath is even but the small mouth is almost white, not the lovely cherry-like crescents as always. He gives out himself in more ways than one - his hands, his eyes he can't turn to me.

"I assure you, Suder, the group will go on without you."

"Yes, yes, I understand," I don't want to say it but it comes off before I can catch the words. "But how will I go? You know what happened to me. I can't forget it... it is the only way for me to live - to be here."

I regret saying it immediately. Wrong effect. His eyebrows jump up and I am as close to reading his thoughts as I can ever be.

"Almost all people in my group have their own settlings with Cardassians, if it is what you mean, Suder."

"You are right," I am ready to say whatever he wants to hear. I would call him a god if it could earn me anything but more contempt in his mellow brown eyes. "You are right I am a danger, I am beyond control sometimes. But what they did to me... can't it explain? At least..."

I stop. He is silent, too. How haughty his mouth is. I can taste the liquid on my tongue - sweet and salty, its coppery blend makes it slightly unpleasant - and when there is too much of it, I swallow it. But my lip doesn't hurt - I draw my teeth into it so deep that it goes numb. There is a small twitch in Chakotay's face and at the same moment I feel the slight tickling sensation on my chin, like an insect crawling. I catch the trickle of blood with my fingers, wipe it off.

Please, Chakotay. Please don't make me do it.

I don't know how I get on my knees - for a moment it is the same unexpected for me as it seems to be for him. Chakotay's body looms over me - strong, big and dark - and I hear a sound of distress from him. But he doesn't rush to me immediately - and what is it in this tiny pause, almost imperceptible? Can't he stand touching me - or does he like to see me like this?

"It is my life to be here. I was blind... I was nothing... please..."

I can see the bulge on the front of his pants, it is so close now, much closer than when I have been sitting. An inevitable after-combat erection. You don't need to be ashamed of it, Commander, it is not the worst thing that can happen. I wish it was so simple with me, with what gets me going, you know.

And he has someone who will take care of it... maybe, as soon as I leave. I occupy his time with her - the cool strong woman. Always looking at me so... strange - but, maybe, she is the only one I don't mind looking.

He moves towards me - regaining control, whatever it is he has to control. His hand hovers over my shoulder.

I flinch and see shame flooding his face even though he's had no intention to hit me at all. He is right that he doesn't touch me, instinctively right. He doesn't know what his touch can do to me, what it can trigger.

"Stop it, Suder. Get up."

Too late for orders.

I will myself to banish this thought. No, I must, I must obey him. I make a few sharp deep inhales - my eyelids shut tightly.

"I understand, I understand..." the mantra that is so beloved by me exactly because of how little I understand, always did. Then I slide up smoothly - and what Chakotay hasn't foreseen - he is too close - almost chest to chest to me.

His body is so warm - so overwhelming - and the presence - it is like letting my mind fall into darkness, for an endless moment.

Hit me. Send me on the floor, doubled over, dry-heaving... don't let me get up, crash my ribs with your boot...

Silly. My own madness projected on someone else. It's Chakotay, mind you.

But he is too close. Still is. Too close for his own good. I make a step forward and my pelvis crashes against his - and do you know? - there is the table behind him, he has nowhere to go. His golden-colored face, so warm, is so near - and then I see how the color drains from it. As it happens in death. He moves his hands; he must throw me away - but he doesn't move them forward but behind him - as if he is afraid of what they can do.

A happy man - he still can be afraid of it.

The hardness in his groin is almost scalding through the material of our pants. It is not that he doesn't hate me - it is just that it is caught, too little time to change it. Lying so comfortably against my crotch as I rub my belly against his. His face says what his body doesn't. Rejection.

Please, Chakotay. You don't know what I spare you from by doing this.

He can feel my breath on his lips and I feel him shiver, the motion reverberating through my body.

"You are a madman... Suder."

Does he think I don't know it? I live with it every day.

The man back on Betazed... I picked him up near the spaceport - the cruising place where every race came in the search for sex. He was a big burly guy, strong and confident. I wanted someone like him - not only because he would fit the pattern - but because somehow, deep in my mind, I thought it could happen - and he had to be safe from me.

He was sweet - considerate - more than one could hope for from someone who was not a Betazoid. But when I knew that the things were going wrong - and when he saw death in my eyes, he was not good enough. He let me do it - I say 'lets' even though he surely fought. He didn't fight enough.

They never found out. I put him to the hangar where they had the tests on the new engine next day. There was so little of him left afterwards - they had no other choice but decide he was drunk and it was an accident.

I don't want to do it again. I don't want to do it to you, Chakotay. You are too precious, Commander. I have to let you go.

His eyes are not golden any more - dark and deep, sucking in like black holes - and his breath is torn. Can't he breath - in this position as I hold him, his body trapped between mine and the table?

He looks as if he is going to faint and all the strength he has is gathered in his eyes, burning me to ashes. I raise my hands slowly, palms upwards. Dry blood is like dirt in the lines on them. Red and white, my hands lie around his honey-colored face - the round chin, the smooth warm cheeks - and his eyes become distant as if he is falling down and his lips open, moist and pink.

Next moment I am away from him and he rubs and rubs his face although my hands are dry, there is no trace on it. I raise the chair that I've knocked down when getting on my knees and put it on its place neatly. Chakotay is shivering. One, two shudders - then he takes a grip of himself.

"It won't happen again," I say and for a split second between two phrases his face is totally blank. Calm down, Chakotay, it is not what I mean. "I swear I'll look after myself, I won't lose control any more. You can rely on my word."

He doesn't say anything, still rubbing his face. As if I hit him and it hurts. Then:

"Do you realize, Suder, that it is your last chance? One more mistake and we won't have this conversation again. You will go."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

The unsteadiness of my voice matches his - but I bet it costs him even more than me.

"And, Suder... the things you tell about your captivity by Cardassians... There are people who really had it happened to them. Their feelings can be hurt."

The things I tell? Oh no, he doesn't know how much I keep silent about. He makes me laugh - Chakotay. He makes me sick. He makes me feel sorry that I haven't kiss him.

I look up and down his body and the bulge on his front is still there. Do you want me to suck your dick, Commander?

I stand up sharply before he starts a new phrase.

"Excuse me. I would appreciate a shower."

He doesn't stop me as I leave the room.

I walk along the corridor, exhilaration making me dizzy. I barely register the figures passing by. My body avoids them, clever as always, even though my mind doesn't seem to be capable of this kind of analyzing. But, maybe, it is excessive and if I didn't try to dodge them, they would take care of it themselves. My clothes is still moist, the smell of drying blood soft and teasing.

There is a dream that keeps coming to me since I joined them Maquis. That I walk as I do now - and suddenly I understand that all of them - everybody I meet - Hogan, Bendera, Johnson, Seska - they are really dead. They don't know it yet. They are not afraid - they think there is no attack of Cardassians impending. But they die.

And do you know what is worst in this dream? Sometimes it seems to me that they die of my hand.

There is B'Elanna going towards me. Her face is a blur of bright white in the frame of dark shiny hair. She doesn't stop to talk to me but it's okay. It's okay I can't see her clearly, too, because she might be looking. They are always looking, do you notice it?

I close the door behind myself and lock it and for some moments I keep holding it. They call it 'extinction of reflex'. The doors here open only when you want them to. Nobody comes without invitation. Well, nobody comes to me at all.

* * *

The door hisses. I jerk minutely, trying to press closer to the wall. My mind knows it is useless, nothing will help, still less these inefficient movements - but my body reacts involuntarily. The pain rises and spreads in a hot agonizing wave and I bite my tongue to stay silent. It will pass. If only I am allowed to lie still, just as I have done before, it will calm down. I know.

But I also know pretty well I won't be allowed. The door opens for a reason. He squeezes into the low entrance, approaches. I know him. I may be unsure about the face but every other detail - the smell, the feeling of the broad sleek body, the slightly staccato breath - are imprinted in my mind irrevocably, putting the fear connected to them into my bones.

His name is Neher Tar. Glinn Neher Tar - although I will hardly ever have a chance to address to him.

//"I'll make you an animal, captive. I'll make you worse than an animal. I'll make you nothing."//

Liar. He hasn't done what he promised. If he made me an animal, anything that was not pain or fear wouldn't mattered for me. I wouldn't care - how I look like, what they can see looking at me that I can't see any more.

He made me look like an animal - exposed, stinking, unable to eat or drink in another way than an animal would - but the peace of mind that an animal would have - I don't know it.

"Get up," his voice sounds close and quiet, not rising to a shout as it never does. "What are you waiting for?"

I don't expect a kick: the cell is too tiny for it. But feeling his hand on my wrist is unanticipated, the shift of the broken bone so shocking that I cry out. I hear his snort, sounding very matter-of-fact - a small pleasure derived from routine pain - as he pulls me up and drags to the door. I try to get my feet desperately to take off the pressure from my arm but manage it only when we are out - and another Cardassian grabs me from the other side. I feel the sharp muzzle of the phaser pressed to my kidney.

Am I going to bolt or what?

Well, it is true - there was time when I kicked... struggled. I just couldn't believe it was happening to me, couldn't believe it was happening at all. Being in the wrong place in the wrong time - was it so simple? The wrong way the spacecraft took... and the next thing I remember is sitting at the half-destroyed shuttle and blood leaks out of my nose and ears and my legs are so weak that I can't understand how the hell I could have got out of the wreckage. And they come up to me cautiously, the grey faces and hooded eyes wary - and their phasers are cocked up - and when I don't grope for mine as they are afraid I would do - for fuck's sake, I don't have a phaser, it is too dangerous for me to own a weapon! - I can see triumph, tentative at first, in their eyes.

I thought they wouldn't dare. I was a civilian, Betazed would protest. I tried to tell them about it... made stupid motions... made them mad. They should have killed me right away, you know. But they used the phasers in the 'stun' mode again and again - until I knew I couldn't get any more of that.

//"Do you hear me? Do you hear me? I will not let you go so easily, captive. I have plans for you. You will pay for what happened with Telk Asher."//

Another name imprinted in my mind forever while I lay on the floor in my own shit unable to control a muscle in my body. Telk Asher... I would hear enough of him during the next... weeks? months? He would repeat it every time when my consciousness would fail - and every time when I would regain it. I would pay for Telk Asher, for Glinn Tar's loss.

I still pay for it.

The floor under my feet is cold, tiled. Not the usual rough passage that leads to the interrogation room. It takes me time to realize it - and eventually it downs on me that the turns we take are wrong, too. I can't help panicking. I don't want to, telling myself it can't be worse than usual, nothing can be worse - but the change still sends me into a state. There is so little stability left to me - and even if slips away now.

"Scared, you?" Neher Tar's voice is quiet as always, sounding so close that I can feel his warm breath against my ear. So much for my struggle to be calm. "I know you are scared. I can smell it, captive. And that's all right, be scared. You should be. You are going to die now."

Going to die. It takes a few moments for the words to reach me. So, that's why we go somewhere else. They will execute me. At last. At last - the words flicker through my mind where the terror must be. No terror. Death is not what I dreamed about. But I want it to be over. Another week or two of rotting in the damp cell until my body would refuse to resist - or a short clean death, even if it won't be so short and clean, Tar will take care of it. And then... then peace.

I do want it.

"Enjoy your last minutes, dead man."

You know they say your life passes in front of your eyes before death. Perhaps it's too early, perhaps it'll come yet. I try to imagine the faces I would like to see. My parents... will they grieve? Will they know, above all? Maybe, they already consider me dead. Not a big loss, taking into account how much mess I always brought to their life. Maybe, my father will be upset. His arms around me, hugging, pressing me to his chest, wrapping me into the shell of his body.

"Shh, it's all right, you are my boy, I am here..."

But he is so seldom here, actually. And now I am gone.

Years later... Her name is Jesse and she has such intent eyes that I feel groggy looking in them.

"You don't know what people feel? You don't know what I feel now? Huh!" then, in a hasty attempt to comfort. "It will develop. It's just a little too late - but it will."

It never develops. She doesn't know it was gone - on the day my brother died - it was gone forever.

After a few more years. Piter Crane's fierce face, cold, smiley, unkind as he questions me, the merciless backhand slaps:

"Are you into rough stuff? I can give it to you. Don't tell me you don't like it, Lon. I know you do."

Later, when I cough blood on the floor and he towers over me, his boots demonstratively shiny and square-toed:

"You are a crazy son of bitch, Lon, and I'm going to get in trouble with you - but do you know? I like it."

He is the only one who could possibly like it - who could be stronger than me even when I was not myself at all. The only one who was never scared of having an unresponsive partner in his bed - he just didn't care.

They said he was ill when they found out. He was, I was not! I just allowed him to do it... but they didn't know what I could do if he let me! They took him away and gave him the drugs - and when I met him again, he didn't even recognize me, looked right through me as if I didn't exist.

Who else can I recall? The loose contacts, the one-night stands that finish before I let myself go - because I know it would go ugly if I do - it would be too dangerous. The smugglers I used to hang around with - a ghost of danger... too bland for me, I was going to leave them - before this spacecraft crashed... in Cardassian zone, what the hell Captain Schlock wanted there? Can't ask him, he is dead, I am the only one of the team who still isn't.

Maybe, other people have something else to think about - girls they loved, friends they had. Not only the ones they lost.

A short punch in my side takes me out of surprise. My balance is so precarious that it is enough for me to lose it - and when no hands keep me from falling, I understand it is what is wanted from me. The floor hits cruelly. The tiles are cool and wet. I stay as I am, at least it is smooth, not agonizingly rough as the surface that left those long, almost bone-deep scratches on my knees, after the hours on my fours, taken from both sides.

//"I'll take care so that no soldier around here could say he didn't try your ass, captive. "//

He is as good as his word at that.

"Thank us," Neher Tar's voice is a bit away, sounding above - and I can't feel the warmth of his body anywhere near. "We should have let you die as a filthy pig you are."

I turn my face to the voice questioningly. There are times when he does mean what he says, demanding me to thank him for what is done - and it is a long time since I was able to resist. But this time instead of a kick there is a jet of water hitting me. So, he means it.

The water is cold - icy, painful. The jet is tight, hitting my face and body, running in burning flows, and I try to turn away inefficiently. I wish I had enough self-control not to jerk. The water is bliss - how long has it been since they allowed me this luxury? Certainly not after Glinn Tar pissed on me.

Cold is bearable. Then the water goes over my eyes. Bad. As if there are smoldering embers forced under my eyelids. I don't know exactly what is wrong with my eyes - it has been a long time since I could open them. They might be rotting there, for all I know, perhaps it is because of the burns. The eyelids are swollen shut and the eyelashes are glued with solid crust. If I could rub them, no matter how it would hurt - I would possibly be able to see. But my hands are not good for anything for a long time.

The water is shut off. The trickles are cold running down from my hair. So what now? I don't expect to be shot here, in the showers - it wouldn't make sense. They allow me to get clean because they are going to make some show of the execution.

Incredible... But it will mean they will take me out. Oh God, suddenly it is the only thing that matters. To be out - even though I will not see it - I will feel. Please let it be that.

I wait for them to order me up. To get up myself would only mean being stunned or kicked - and I don't want it. Not now when I am almost free.

Just one more little thing - I know he won't let me go without it - but I can stand it. The hands opening me, the blunt tip, hot and wet, pressing against the entrance - I don't need to follow the sequence, his personal, never-changing rhythm is branded into my mind forever.

I am not surprised when feeling another touch on my jaw. This one is not rough, just business-like, the warm scaly fingers opening my mouth easily. Another Cardassian cock, the familiar ridges against my palate as it is thrust into my throat.

I don't know if I tasted this one before. I don't care. Let them have it.

Then it is over and they pull me up. Clothes. I barely can believe it - something soft and warm put on me. I cry out when my wrists are touched - but I almost don't mind. They don't give me the shoes. It doesn't matter, too. At least I will feel where I walk.

Every step - something is chanting in my mind - I am going to die. I remember I read somewhere about a woman who asked for a minute, a minute more before dying. She surely didn't spend her time with Cardassians before it.

Dead man. It doesn't sound so bad, after all.

Then we are outside - I can feel the air flowing - and I turn my face trying to catch more of it, of smells, of cleanness - of light that I can feel even through my shut eyelids. Neher Tar pushes me one more time - and then he is gone - and suddenly, despite all the agony his presence was bringing, I feel lost, I feel alone.

Don't they want me to kneel? I don't know but they will have to order. They don't put the blindfold on my eyes - they don't need to - but I don't know where they are going to shoot from. I almost feel my mind break as I fight with myself trying to stay motionless. I wish I knew where from. I wish I knew when.

There are voices around - quiet, business-like, Cardassian and not only, but I can't get the words. What takes them so long to prepare? I can't help it - but I can't wait, too. There is so little dignity left to me - and even that I can't spare. I can't stand it any more.

"What? What?" I turn around. I try to find - feel-find - Tar's presence - but I don't know where he is until I hear his unkind cold laughter. "Why don't they shoot?"

And then another voice, the language that I don't need to struggle to understand - the language I am afraid to believe in, saying:

"Let's start."

"You stupid one," there is gleaming malice in Tar's voice and he moves closer - and my mind rushes in the different directions. I want to die. It is not an execution. He mocks me. "I got it! I managed to do it. They give my Telk Asher back to me! You can go."

And there is such triumph in his voice that at last I believe him. It is true. They exchange me. He took me in with the execution. Oh God. I sob. I laugh, too, and it is an ugly sight, I bet - and when I can form the words, they are:

"You make a mistake," I say to Neher Tar - at least I think I say it. My words are a mess - I am hysterical. "I'll kill you. I swear I will."

"Dream on," he pushes me forward and I stumble but don't fall. His touch is almost impersonal - for the first time. His voice is very tight, there is no hatred in it - other emotions have taken over. I know he is looking - he is looking past me. I walk where he's sent me, warm ground and small rough stones under my feet. I am careful - I don't want to sprawl in front of everybody now - and there are eyes on me, I can sense it.

I hear the steps, towards me - and suddenly I know who it is - where Neher Tar looks so intently. The steps are light and sure and they can be much hastier than my stumbling walk - but they are reserved, the rules demand it. I feel him moving past me as we meet - and I feel his eyes on me, too - swallowing my face.

I know what he feels. I would like to see him, too. Telk Asher. The man my life is bought with.

My equal.

Then I reach the line - and I know he reaches it, too, the voices that greet him - and there are voices for me, too - and the arms accept me - and I hear someone saying:

"Holy shit, just look at his eyes."

There is a hospital after that - and my parents, solemn and triumphal. They are always ready to accept you back, you know. Just admit that they have been right all the time... well, I am a living proof that they have been. Their voices when I am not in the room - why do they think I need to see them to hear?

"He was always strange... Spoilt... All only children are..."

Another attempt to get along with the normal life after that. How successful? That guy whose remains they found in the testing hangar can tell. Then the conversation I eavesdrop - in the same place where I met my misfortunate Ferengi smuggler friends. Maquis. It sounds like the ultimate decision. And they need people.

You see - it is such a neat explanation - revenge. People come to Maquis to revenge all the time. And it is not so untrue, after all. I do remember Neher Tar - even though the scars are removed, the broken bones are mended.

And I remember Telk Asher. I wish I could ask someone. How did he look like? Was he cute? What was about him that made Tar love him so much? I wish I could ask - someone who knows - if they treated Telk Asher the same way as they treated me. Well, I know there is no point in asking - and any answer wouldn't satisfy or disappoint me. After all, if I want, I can make my own guess.

* * *

I discard the clothes in a heap on the floor - dried blood makes it half-stiff - and stand on the floor barefoot. It is not cold, not rough under my feet. I close my eyes and make a few steps across the room. I don't stumble - it is small and I know it well enough, my hands touching the familiar objects - the bed, the table.

I don't need to walk blind.

It is clean and light in the shower. The light is too white, unflattering, casting no shadows on my face. I can see the small swirls of pink - blood removed from my body and drained away - not my blood. And there is no water, just sonic current sliding over me. I look at the man in the mirror - cold, tranquil, exquisite.

I don't like to look at him at all.

"Do you want to kill me?" he moves his bluish bitten lips. There must be sarcasm in his voice - but the eyes undo the trick. Fixed and empty and dead. No matter if he looks clean or dirty, smooth-haired or disheveled, beaten or safe, there is nothing of sanity in these eyes.

It is so easy to believe it. If at six you didn't witness how your twin brother died agonizingly... If at eighteen you were not raped on the back-yard of the downtown night-club by the guys who considered that you 'looked' at them in a wrong way... If thirteen years later a certain Cardassian Glinn didn't decide to use you as an ace card in the exchange of the hostages to get his lover back... maybe, you would be sane now; you would feel alive not only when someone falls dead of your hands.

It is the belief you cling to for all your life - and even if it slips off at a moment of truth, you try to resurrect it as quickly as possible because it is too frightening to be without it. Everything must be explainable. Everything has to have the reason under it. Because without the reason anything is possible; nothing needs to be grounded. If you don't need the reasons... Then there is nothing that can stop you.

I hit my hand against the glass. The blow is weak and I see in disbelief the streak of red marring the face in the mirror. There is no pain at all.

You know I've had these nightmares for so many years - that one day something happens and I will not be able to make out physical sensations, the same as I am not able to make out emotions... hasty cuts and burns after I wake up - to prove it is just a dream.

It is strange that now it doesn't scare me at all.

The blood from my hand goes to the same place where the blood of Cardassians has gone. Silly. It's not mirror one must hit. But I don't do it. Instead I pass the battered knuckles against my cheek.

I wish there was something for me to do in the showers - what men do, even the ones who have women or other men available. I look at my face, at my body in the mirror and I don't know how it would be to caress it. It doesn't need it. Chakotay is lucky, needing someone to take care of it. My body got everything it needed there, in the fight... it is not only blood my clothes are stiff with. But blood masks it best of all.

Maybe, Chakotay felt it. Maybe, it was not blood on my hands that made him freeze at my touch as if a snake slithered on him.

Yes, I know. I can touch anyone, in love or in murder - but there is no one who would touch me. I wrap my arms around my body, clean and blameless now - and I think that my brother would hold me if he were alive. He would never reject me.

* * *

Today, earlier.

Please Gods help me because I don't think I can do it.

It looks like there is going to be a fight, a real fight, not just an impersonal exchange of fire - and something in my mind whines pitifully. I can't do it. I can't.

Of course I can. There is the other part of me, skeptic and sober, that advises that I can and I will. I will even like it - love it - as always. And it is probably the worst thing of all.

Then it starts and everything becomes okay. I can do it... do it better than anyone else. I don't waste a shot. Until I see him.

Glinn Tar. Still Glinn... the promotion is delayed or what? I make the spurt to him. And do you know a funny thing? I didn't dream about this moment. I didn't even know it would happen. I promised to kill him but I didn't really know I would.

There is no pleasure of cold revenge in what I do - he doesn't have time to understand what happens when I shoot point-blank and he crumples on the ground in a heavy heap.

I keep discharging my phaser in his body, already dead - I know it but I can't stop. It is only when the blue light start fading I realize what I've done. Stupid. To kill him and to stay armless. One must be really mad to do it.

Yet I can't feel sorry. I feel drunk - delirious - and, after all, I still have my hands. I will knock out the vertebrae of one or two of them before I...

The rest happens too quickly. There is another one - at Tar's side - so young, his eyes getting huge when he sees his Glinn dead. He looks at him lain, not at me who laid him - and it is his mistake. Because there is always the weapon available around.

I pick it up - and he sees my movement - and when I have it, he is already staring at me, the phaser in his hand. He has the time to shoot. But... One split moment he doesn't. One moment I need exactly to push the button.

I haven't recognized him. Not before I've shot. I hadn't ever seen him before, remember. And when I understand - he is already falling. But even if I knew who he was - the truth is I would kill him anyway. It is his mistake that he lets his hand falter at the moment when I read recognition in his eyes.

He has blue eyes - the bluest eyes I had ever seen - the black eyelashes flop up and down a few times as he lies on his back, his armored chest rising and falling. But there is just a burning bloody pit instead of his belly.

I don't know if he knows where he is during those last seconds. His lips move but there is no sound in what he says. And then I call him - very softly but he still hears me even through the all noise around.

"Telk Asher."

And before his eyes close and his face loses its color, he nods to me.

I feel so dizzy that I am about to fall and shaking my head doesn't clear the haze. I clasp my hand on the comm badge and feel the sharp edges enter my palm. It feels good. The pain is sobering, the same as the trickling of warm blood than runs on the inside of my wrist wetting the sleeve softly. I lick it and feel the things stand on their places in my head.

The first blood I taste today.

There is a Cardassian on the left and I take him off and move on... and I can't tell much since then - till the moment when I hear Chakotay's voice yell:

"Don't do it, Suder, or we both will regret it!" - and see our phasers pointed at each other like in an old gangster movie.

He doesn't know. So much for the brainwashing he is going to give me - he has no idea what really goes on. No one knows.

Later I walk between the bodies looking for Neher Tar and Telk Asher - and do you know? I can't find them even though no face is destroyed enough for me to doubt.

But I know I will see their faces in my mind every day from now - like I see others.

* * *

I put on fresh clothes and smooth my hair back neatly before I come out. The corridors are empty and I hope the mess is empty, too. I halt a little when I hear the voice. B'Elanna. I make a few steps and can see her reflection as she sits at the table, facing Chakotay. It is too dark in the corridor for them to see me.

"...talk to him?"

Don't ask me how I know she asks about me. Chakotay's eyebrows knot as if the answer is not necessary and then he touches his face - exactly where my hands have laid on it - not rubbing it any more, just touching.

"He seemed to be telling me again how he had been captured by Cardassians. What a mess this man's mind is!"

"Are you absolutely sure nothing like this happened?"

"Look at his file!" it must be exasperation. Not at her - not even at me, it would be too much an honor - at the situation, I presume. "I told you. I know my people."

There is something very still in B'Elanna's face at these words of his - but I don't try to puzzle it out.

"Well, maybe, it doesn't matter what happened - it matters what he believes happened," she says.

Do I believe I had Chakotay's face in my hands smeared with blood - or did I have it?

I walk in and they become silent - so abruptly that it would hurt anyone who knows what it means to have his feelings hurt. They don't move - and I don't look at them, filling my plate and sitting in the corner of the room.


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