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Freedom of Choice


How could he apologize for something like this? How would he find the words?  Seven years of trust and the most important friendship in his life, possibly destroyed.

“Teero.” He spat the name.

The violation of his mind was bad enough.  His freedom of choice had been stolen.  But the things he had done - how could he forgive himself, let alone ask forgiveness from her.  Never would he forget the Look on her face when he had ordered Tuvok to kill her.

He had ordered Tuvok to kill her.  He had looked into the eyes of his captain, his best friend, and had ordered her oldest friend to kill her.

Now all he wanted to do was go to her and beg her forgiveness.  Forgiveness for something that wasn't his fault.  Couldn't be his fault.  Yet Tuvok had broken Teero's mind control.  Why couldn't he have done the same?  Weren't his feelings for Kathryn strong enough to overcome something so fake and vile?

Was he to blame?  Had his harsh words with Kathryn in sickbay left open a window of opportunity for Teero's mindwashing?  A vision quest might be the only way to work through these emotions, but he wasn't ready to feel better.  He didn't deserve to feel better.

He needed to see Kathryn.

He found her in her ready room, staring out the viewport.  She didn't turn to face him immediately.

"Tom's showing a movie in the holodeck," she said. "I've ordered Tuvok to attend, so don't think you'll be getting out of it."

He smiled a bit as he studied her reflection in the transparent aluminum.  Was she already offering such simple forgiveness?  He stepped closer, and she turned to him, her face inches from his.

Her gaze never wavered as it met his.  "Nothing that happened today has changed how I feel about you," she said softly.  "I still trust you completely, in every way, and I don't want you to doubt that."

"I'm so sorry," he said.  "If - "

She put a finger to his lips, stopping his words.

"You knew the phaser was defective.  Even brainwashed, even manipulated to be loyal to some twisted version of the Maquis, even believing that Starfleet was the enemy, you wouldn't have hurt me."

"I took your ship," he said.

"No, you didn't."  She reached up, touching his face.  "It wasn't you.  It wasn't your fault.  I saw how hard Tuvok, a Vulcan trained in meditation techniques, had to fight to break Teero's control."

“You looked at me with fear in your eyes," he said.  "I ordered him to kill you."

"The phaser - "

"No, that's no excuse.  You didn't know that.  You couldn't have known that."

"Do you know what scared me?"  She took his hand and threaded her fingers through his.  "I was afraid of how you would feel later; now.  I knew that hurting me was the last thing you would ever want."  She brought their clasped hands up between them.  "I was afraid that whatever had been done to you might not be reversed.  I was afraid I had lost you.  But I was never really afraid that you would hurt me."

He looked at their clasped hands, and down into her beautiful eyes.  "I want to tell you I was trapped, fighting for a way to regain control.  But I wasn't. My feelings for you, they were gone.  My friendships with Tom and Harry, my loyalty to this crew -- gone. I wanted this ship.  I enjoyed the fear in your eyes."

“And how did you feel after the meld with Tuvok?"

"Free."  He looked down at the ground.  "Ashamed."

"Don't be," she said.  "B'Elanna knocked Tomunconscious.  Do you think that was really B'Elanna?"

"Of course not."

“Teero stole your freedom, but it's over.   You and I have a job to do now."

"What's that?"

"A great many relationships might have been damaged today.  We have to make sure our crew recovers from this; that people don't blame themselves or each other."

"I agree."  He cursed himself for dwelling on his own feelings, without thinking of the rest of the crew.

"I need to spend some time with Tuvok tonight," she said.  "Will you make the rounds, check on people?"

"Of course."

She lifted their clasped hands and kissed his fingers softly.  "Come see me after the movie," she said.  "We have our freedom, and I think we should use it to make some other choices as well."

The End


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