Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17 ****
A crewman has an old score to settle with his Captain and 'punishes' her by making her experience a catalogue of injuries she must pass off as 'accidents'. With a bomb on board, he ensures her silence. Can Chakotay and Tuvok figure out what's going on, before it's too late.

Always Darkest Before The Dawn

by Kat Lady

Part One.

Kathryn sat on the sofa in her quarters, knees tight together with her elbows balanced on them. Her hands covered her mouth and nose as she stared ahead of her unseeing, her mind in complete turmoil. She kept the lights off almost believing if she couldn't see anything around her, it wouldn't be there. She knew without doubt that with the exception of the deaths of her father and Justin, that she had never felt this vulnerable in her life, never had so little control over a situation and it scared her beyond anything. She lowered her head and ran her fingers back through her hair, kneading her scalp, as if the action would stimulate her thinking. She closed her eyes but the images were still there, demanding her acceptance of them. Kathryn sighed deeply and leaned back, once more going back over the events of the night in her mind, as if this time, they might not be real or would have at least changed in some way.

Kathryn stood and stretched then stared down at the pile of padds in front of her, all thankfully finished with. She stepped out from behind her desk and stood for a minute with her eyes closed, allowing her mind to finally acknowledge the fatigue her body had been trying to tell it about for the past four hours. Voyager's Captain hated this time of year, the month when the crew evaluations were completed and she dreaded the covert looks she received from each crewmember everywhere she went, all wondering if they would make the grade this time. She knew she'd worked far too late into the night but at least they were finished with now for another year and she could finally allow herself to switch off, until the next problem came along. She knew Chakotay would have a fit if he knew how late she'd worked and hoped he wouldn't find out. She ordered the lights off and entered the almost silent bridge.

Harry Kim looked towards the sound of the doors opening and jumped to attention then smiled when he saw the look his Captain gave him. "Sorry, Captain, I know. It's not crunch time." He smiled softly at her. "Captain, you really should try and get some sleep. You've been hard at those reports all night…"

Kathryn held up a hand and returned his smile. "At ease, Harry.  I'm finally finished. This'll be our secret. I'm just heading off to bed now. Don't call me unless the ship blows up or something…"

Harry laughed. "You have my word, Captain. Have a good rest of the night." He received a wave and only saw her back as she entered the turbolift and was gone.

Kathryn leaned against the wall of the lift, idly wondering if she'd make it as far as her quarters or if some poor unsuspecting Ensign would find her asleep where she stood at some stage. She smiled to herself as she exited the lift and enjoyed the silence that surrounded her. She loved the ship at this time of night, only the low reassuring hum of the engines to keep her company. She walked slowly towards her quarters, her head down watching her feet move, as she listened to Voyager's own language, quietly telling her that all was well. Suddenly an arm came around her throat from behind and a hand clamped down tightly over her mouth. A surge of fear running through her, Kathryn struggled as she was pulled backwards into one of the unused cabins but she was no match for whoever held her. She felt herself dragged across the floor and forced face down onto the bed, a heavy weight coming down on top of her. She continued to struggle for a few more minutes until she gave in, her own fatigue, coupled with the strength of her attacker, too much for her. She lay still for a minute and then a voice was whispering in her ear.

"That's right, Captain, that's much better now. Physically you're no match for me."

Kathryn tried desperately to place the voice but nothing came to her. The faint hope she had that this was someone playing a stupid prank disappeared quickly and was replaced now by sheer terror, as a phaser was pressed to the side of her head and the voice spoke again.

"I know you have no idea what this is about but you'll get some answers shortly." The weight stayed pressed down on her and she was finding it hard to breath. As if suddenly sensing this, her attacker eased off her a little but the phaser stayed in place, silently telling her not to try anything.

"All right, Captain, listen carefully to me now. You and I are going to be playing a game, a long and slow game that will go on for quite some time. I'll win in the end and you'll lose but at least I'll give you a chance. I'll be fair however and tell you all the rules. If you win, which you won't, you'll get to see your ship blow up with you and your crew on it." Kathryn squirmed beneath him and felt the weight push down on her again. "Stay quiet, bitch, and listen. If I win, which as I said I will, you get to die and I get to be the one to kill you." She heard his laughter and the weight eased slightly again. "You see, either way you will die in the end and the only question is when and how and who you take with you. You should also know that there's going to be a lot of pain along the way for you and that I'll enjoy every minute of our game." He finally lifted himself off her.

Kathryn turned on the bed slowly and then a light was shining in her eyes, plunging the rest of the cabin into complete darkness. She raised a hand up to shield her eyes from the brightness but eventually had to lower her head away from the glare.

"Here's the deal, Captain, and the story behind it. A long time ago, you let someone die a long, slow and painful death. Now I know many people serving under you or working with you met their ends that way. That's you all over. I'm only here to avenge one of them. I have a list of their injuries, and they were many, and you, Captain, are going to suffer each of those injuries one by one over the coming weeks and months. They'll all appear as accidents and you'll make sure that they're reported as such. I'll help you there, of course, making sure that they happen where it'll look believable. If you tell one person about this, the ship goes up. That applies to anyone by the way, from the lowest crewmember to Neelix, to Chakotay and Tuvok, even the Hologram. Do you understand me, Captain?"

Kathryn nodded her head. "Who are you? Whatever the problem is…" A fist came out of the darkness and smashed into the hide of Kathryn's head. She cried out and fell backwards across the bed, clutching her head.

"You will speak when I tell you to and at no other time. Now again, do you understand me, Captain?" Kathryn sat up, completely dazed and managed to nod her head.

"Good. Now I know you're wondering how I can manage to do this and I'll show you in a moment. When we're finished here, I'll take you to where I have an explosive device, for want of a better term, hidden on this ship. Don't try and scan for it because firstly you won't find it and secondly, certain scanning equipment could well detonate it." He laughed at the fear he saw on Kathryn's face. "Oh, don't worry, Captain. There's no way it can go off by accident. Now if you're wondering, I'm not worried about going up with it. I expect to join you at the end so don't think that I won't trigger it while I'm on board. I want you to understand that I'll be moving this device around to different areas of the ship at regular intervals and also that this 'bomb' is of my own design so no one else would even know how to start defusing it. As things stand, my little device is my insurance that you won't speak of this and that you'll take your punishment. At the end, when I win, I'll let the rest of them go, I give you my word on that, Captain. My dispute, if you like, is with you. I don't want to harm the rest of them here but I will if they get in my way of getting to you. At the end of our game, I will kill you and then I'll defuse the bomb. No one will die after you when I win. Now, Captain, are you clear with me so far?" Kathryn just nodded, still holding the side of her head which was throbbing painfully. He laughed as he watched her.

"That little bump was just a taster. It's not on the list." She heard him move around in the darkness. "I debated on whether to give you a copy of my little list, an idea for you of what to expect but then I decided that might be too dangerous. I know your mind and you'd only use it to trace me. Oh, I know you'll try that anyway but I think you'll fail there with so many victims of yours to choose from. This way, I get to surprise you and you'll suffer more wondering what's coming next. You're going to have to get pretty inventive with your lies to cover up for all these injuries but I know what a good liar you are so you won't have any trouble. I want you to know also that if at any stage anything happens to me, either an accident or I'm arrested, this ship goes up because I'm the only one who can halt our little friend. If I don't re-set the code on it every twenty-four hours, it goes off. If it's moved without the code entered first, it goes off. Any disturbance to it without the code, such as beaming it into space will have the same effect. So now, my dear Captain, if you're ready, I'll take you to meet that friend. If you'd be good enough to stand up and face away from me…" Kathryn slowly obeyed and felt his hands pulling her arms behind her back and then some cord or something was tying her wrists together.

"I'm just being careful here although I don't think you'd be that stupid." Kathryn felt herself spun around to face her attacker and barely made out that he was wearing what resembled a ski mask. He hunched down and dragged her with him and she heard him give some orders to the computer and then the familiar tingle of a transporter beam.

They materialised in a Jeffries tube and Kathryn fell to a sitting position unable to get her balance with her hands tied behind her. She was dragged for a few feet and then he stopped and worked a cover loose on the side of the small crawl way. Hands once more dragged Kathryn forward and her head was forced down so she could see into the small space.

Kathryn gasped in shock at what she saw. A small device was attached to the side of the piping running through the space and small wheels turned as they clicked softly on each rotation. Several wires intertwined themselves around strange shaped parts and there was also a form of keypad. The rasping whisper in her ear broke the spell the device had on her.

"This is real, Captain, in case you were thinking we're on the holodeck or somewhere. There's also no way for you to trace our whereabouts at this moment and even if you could, I'll be moving this little beauty in a while so…" He laughed at the look of horror on Kathryn's face. "I take it I have your full attention now?" Kathryn nodded slowly, trying to recognize the eyes she could barely make out in the dim lighting. A hand came up and squeezed her neck painfully. "You won't recognize me, Captain, don't even think that you will. You don't see any of us on this ship, don't ever really look at us." Kathryn turned away as the neck pinch she was in grew more painful and she grunted. He pushed her onto her side and replaced the cover then gave more commands to the computer and they were back in the unused cabin.

Kathryn was lifted and pushed into a sitting position at the side of the bed but this time the light was turned off. She could make out the shape of the unknown man as he paced before her and dropped her head quickly from her study when he turned to her.

"So what do you think of my little friend? Amazing work if I say so myself. All that Maquis training…" He stopped suddenly and turned away.

"All right, Captain, is there anything you're not clear about now?" He turned back to her and Kathryn looked away.

"I don't understand why you're doing this. I know what you said but… Why risk the lives of all the others? They've done nothing to you… If it's just me you want, why not just… "

His laughter cut her off. "Because I want you to suffer in every way you can and I know what your precious ship means to you. You've no idea how long I've been waiting for this chance. I was amazed when I discovered I'd get a chance to work on this ship with you as captain, amazed when it fell into my lap. I've bided my time and waited patiently for the right moment and now it's here. Now I've told you everything you need to know. You can save the others if you want too. Basically, it's up to you now. If you play the game well, they'll all live. It's that simple. Right, Captain, the only thing remaining is to tell you when." Kathryn looked up and heard his laugh again. She tried her best to hide her fear, determined that she not give him anything more than she had to.

"I'll have to leave you guessing on that one. I'll give you a day or so, maybe more, knowing that there's this device on board. Better hope we're not attacked, eh?" Kathryn lost the fight with her fear and he saw it. "Oh God, I'm enjoying this more than I thought I would. OK, business now. My first attack will come to you within days, maybe sooner or maybe longer. I won't spoil the surprise though. I just want you to know what's coming and let that occupy your mind for a while. It'll stop you thinking about our First Officer for a while anyway." He laughed again when Kathryn glared at him. "Did you really think no one has any idea of the relationship between you two…"

Kathryn looked down. "There's no…"

He laughed loudly and caught himself. "Oh, Captain, I know there's nothing but what's in your head or that dirty little mind of yours. His too for that matter. All you two ever talk about is the ship and trivial stuff." Kathryn's head shot up and his laughter met her ears again.

"That's right, I listen in on occasion, so you see I'll know if you talk to him about this. I have ways of listening to you all over this ship. I even know that you call out to him in your sleep sometimes…" Kathryn's look of horror as she realized he had her quarters and other parts of the ship bugged sent him into howls of laughter. When he stopped, he was all business again.

"OK, enough fun for the night. You have all you need to know so let the games commence. Captain, please stand and turn around." Her mind swirling, Kathryn did as she was told and felt the cord being cut from her wrists. She rubbed them, trying to sooth the soreness on her skin. Without warning, she felt his arm come around her and a cloth was pressed tightly against her nose and mouth. She was aware for a moment of a sweet smell and then dizziness and finally total blackness. When she came around, she was lying on the floor in her quarters and over an hour had passed, plenty of time for the bomb to have been moved.

Kathryn sat up and a wave of dizziness and nausea swept over her. She barely made it to the bathroom where she was sick for several minutes. As she cleaned herself up, she thought suddenly that he was probably listening in somewhere and had heard her being sick. This thought, along with the fact that he'd been listening to her in private for however long, sent her back to the toilet bowl and she was sick again. Finally, she stood shakily and sipped at a glass of water. Sleep was impossible now and all tiredness had left her anyway. Kathryn made her way to the sofa in the other room and sat, trying to sort her thoughts.

Kathryn came back from reliving the past night and stood slowly. Her body was totally exhausted but her mind refused to calm itself. Eventually she forced herself to her bedroom and lay down, needing to at least give her body a break even if her mind refused to cooperate. Sometime near ship's dawn, she drifted off to sleep, her mind finally losing the fight and giving in to her body's demands.

Next morning on duty, Kathryn was exhausted both physically and emotionally and spent the day in her ready room, needing the time alone to try and think. As she'd walked to the bridge that morning, several crewmembers had greeted her and she found herself barely nodding in response to them, especially the men.

She was jumpy and uneasy and even Chakotay commented on it to her in private but she'd managed to dismiss his concerns, citing a bad night's sleep and too much caffeine as the cause. She saw him accept her excuse at face value but knew that unless she pulled herself together, he'd be back with his concerns again soon.

Two days passed this way with Kathryn suspicious of any male crewmember. Eating lunch the previous day in the mess hall had found her watching all the men, wondering if any of them was the one who had turned her life upside down. Occasionally one of them would meet her eyes and she would look away quickly. Since then, she'd eaten in her ready room or her quarters.

Kathryn returned to her quarters that evening, totally drained and within minutes was hailed. She jumped as the voice of her unknown tormentor filled the room.

"Evening, Captain. Why don't you meet me. In case you don't know it, there's a small storeroom well below decks. Same rules apply now so tell no one. By the way, you did a good job of putting Chakotay off the other day. Lack of sleep and caffeine indeed. Very good, that one." Kathryn heard him laugh as she dropped her head and fell onto the sofa. The fact that he seemed to be listening to her every word disgusted her. Finally, she found her voice.

"When do you want to meet me and where do I go?" She heard his laugh again.

"That's a good girl. We'll meet in half an hour and in case you were thinking of trying anything, I'll be watching. As to where, I'll take care of that. I'll call you and have you transported when I'm ready for you. In case you haven't sussed it, I'm pretty expert at this transporter stuff. You can't trace anything because I hide my tracks too well. Leave your comm badge behind you and order a privacy lock on your quarters. I'll beam you here using your bio signature. Relax until then Captain." She heard the link close and fought her tears. She was in a corner, trapped by this maniac and they both knew it. He held all the cards for the moment and Kathryn was forced to play empty handed.

Within half an hour, Kathryn was hailed again and materialized in a small storeroom which she knew was in the bowels of the ship. It could have been one of many, each designed for storage and not aesthetics. Kathryn spun around when she heard a voice behind her.

"Welcome to your first lesson, Captain." Kathryn actually felt herself grow pale. "I'm still trying to decide what to do to you tonight. Still, I'll get our bit of business out of the way first." He motioned for her to sit on one of the many boxes then handed her a small case.

"Inside there's a small dermal regenerator. You'll need it from time to time to hide the results of the smaller lessons I give you." He laughed and shook his head at the look on Kathryn's face. "Oh, Captain, you are priceless. You're just not used to being the one on the receiving end, are you? You're used to having all the control, being the one in charge, the one giving the orders. Well, this time, it's me who controls you." Kathryn said nothing.

"Tonight will be a fairly good lesson. You're going to have a bad fall in your quarters, slip getting out of the shower or something. You'll think of a good excuse. This is the first of the injuries you'll experience which will match those you left my brother with." He looked up and met Kathryn's eyes. "That's right. The person I avenge was my brother. I know that'll mean nothing to you. All the people you killed had families, in case you never stopped to think of that."

Kathryn stared deeply at the masked face before her. "I'm well aware that they all had families and whether you believe it or not, I think about them all often. They never leave me…"

He stood suddenly. "Enough. I don't believe a word out of your stinking mouth. You care nothing for those you sent to their deaths or their families left behind mourning them." He raised a hand and struck Kathryn across the side of the head when she went to speak. "What did I tell you before about speaking when I am?" He walked away a bit and starting pacing as Kathryn rubbed the side of her head.

"You really are going to have to learn your place. You've plenty of time though. Now tonight, I was thinking maybe…let's see…how about the arm?" He scratched his forehead and laughed. "Yes, the arm would be good. Plenty of pain there." He stopped and watched Kathryn as she battled her emotions then moved to her and grabbed her, dragging her behind some containers.

"Put your arm here, between these two boxes." Kathryn stared at him in horror but was pushed forward again. She saw him swing a padded stick or bar and finally obeyed.

"This is padded to hide any bruising from the blow." He laughed in Kathryn's face and pulled her arm into place. He forced a piece of cloth into her mouth then pushed her head away. "Bite on that if you need to. Just don't scream out. I doubt anyone would hear you down here though." He pushed against her, blocking her view and she felt his body move as he raised his arm into the air. In seconds Kathryn felt an explosion of pain go through her arm as he brought the padded club down on her forearm and she screamed out, the cloth in her mouth masking the sound. He stood back quickly as Kathryn fell forward to her knees and cradled her arm on her lap. Her tears came quickly and spilled down her face and she spit out the cloth. As she fought the pain that consumed her, she was aware of his laughter.

"Oh, I enjoyed that one. That one was good. I can't wait for the rest, Captain."

Kathryn managed to raise her head and look up at him. "You bastard…you…"

His foot kicked out at her arm and Kathryn fell back, screaming out again. "You'd better watch that mouth of yours, Captain. Our little friend the bomb mightn't like what you have to say to its master. It might get mad and take over…" He laughed as he looked down at the woman lying in agony on the floor and saw that the message had been received. "I'm in control here and you'll speak to me nicely and obey my every command. Have you accepted that yet?" Kathryn managed to nod and squeezed her eyes shut against the pain but it didn't help.

As she lay shaking in agony, Kathryn became aware of him kneeling down beside her and opened her eyes. His hand went to her hair and he pulled her head back. "I've been thinking. It's about time I gave you a name and you had one for me. How about you call me 'Sir' and I'll call you… Oh, I know…in memory of my brother… He always referred to you as the bitch so…yeah…I'll call you 'bitch'. Not very original but in his memory, 'bitch' it is. Now bitch, do we understand each other?" Kathryn gritted her teeth and nodded and he pulled her hair tighter.

"Yes, Sir…" She spit the words out at him.

"That's better, bitch. Now, we stay here for a little while and let you enjoy the pain. I'll send you back to your quarters in a while and you can get that treated. Just remember, I'll be listening to you so be careful what you tell the Hologram." He dropped Kathryn's head and stood, then went and sat on one of the crates. He pulled out a padd and started reading. He ignored Kathryn on the floor, trying to fight the pain that washed over her.

Within half an hour, he stood up again and slipped the padd into his pocket. He walked slowly back to Kathryn and kicked at her arm again. She jerked and cried out, having been almost unconscious with the pain.

"Ready, bitch? Time to send you home until the next time." Kathryn heard him give some commands to the computer and then she was lying on the floor of her quarters. She struggled to her feet and sat on the edge of the sofa, nursing her broken arm and tried to think of a good excuse to give the Doctor. Eventually, she ordered a beam out to sickbay.

"Captain, whatever have you managed to do?" The Doctor was all concern.

Kathryn pretended to appear embarrassed. "One word of this to anyone and I delete you."

The Doctor shook his head. "Just give me the details." He led her to one of the biobeds.

"I'm not one hundred percent sure how I managed this. I fell asleep on the sofa and when I woke up, I was still groggy as I made my way to the bathroom. I forgot to order the lights up and fell over something. I think it was my boot, but anyway, I fell against the chair and then heard this crack and felt the pain…" Kathryn gritted her teeth as the Doctor examined her arm and scanned her.

"It's broken, all right…although how you managed to do this with a fall like that…"

Kathryn pulled on the Captain role and hardened her face. "Doctor, can you just fix this and stop the pain. I don't have time for…"

The Medic held up his hands in surrender. "All right, Captain, keep your hair on. One mended arm coming up." He pressed a hypo to her neck and she immediately felt the relief. Within five minutes, she was almost back to normal. "Just take it easy for a few days and try not and use that arm too much. That painkiller should get you through the rest of the night but I'll give you another in case you need it at some time towards morning. Call and see me again tomorrow and I'll check your progress."

Kathryn nodded and jumped down off the bed. "Thank you, Doctor. That's much better." She saw him about to speak and walked quickly to the door. "Not one word or I'll never live this down. I'll see you in the morning." With that she was gone, leaving the Doctor frowning after her. Two Ensigns showing all the signs of a bar room brawl entered then and took his mind in another direction.

Next morning, Kathryn examined her arm and saw that some bruising was starting to show, despite the padding on the club. She quickly used the dermal regenerator she'd been given and watched in relief as the marks slowly disappeared. The last thing she needed was questions from the Doctor.

She managed to get through her check up with him and reported to the bridge, once more retreating to her ready room to try and sort her thoughts and deal with all she was doing through. She sat staring off into space for some time, the memory of the pain from the night before still fresh in her memory. She unconsciously rubbed at her arm which was still sore and fought the tears she felt coming. A wave of helplessness washed over her, not for herself, but at not being able to protect her crew and ship.

Over the next few days, Kathryn found herself quietly studying all the male crewmembers closely without alerting them to her scrutiny but everyone seemed to be acting normally. Chakotay was aware of the continued change in his captain's behaviour and finally tackled her about it again when he was in her ready room.

"Kathryn, you can put me on report but I'm bringing this up again. What's the matter with you lately? You're miles away a lot of the time and you're jumpy and…"

Kathryn stood up and sighed. "Chakotay, I'm fine. It's just… Look, I'm fine, all right." She met his eyes and saw that he was not convinced. She thought quickly.

"Look, just take it that this is… It's a woman's thing… I'm seeing the Doc so can we just leave it? Please, it's embarrassing enough saying this…"

Chakotay went red instantly. "Oh… Kathryn, I'm sorry… just…excuse me….I didn't mean…" He coughed and looked around him. "Just as long as you're all right…" He glanced at her again and gave an embarrassed smile then fled.

Kathryn closed her eyes and took a deep breath, glad that her plan had worked and sent him running. She knew she'd have to be more careful from now on though with her behaviour.

Part Two.

Within a week, Kathryn was back in sickbay, having 'fallen' and cut her head while trying to check some relays. The Doctor had tutted to himself as he ran his dermal regenerator over the deep cut Kathryn had known her own efforts would have failed with.

"You've managed to break your collarbone as well, Captain. You really are going to have to take better care of yourself." Kathryn had simply shot him a glare which shut him up instantly. When she returned to her quarters, she let her tears go.

He'd been waiting for her in her quarters this time and had beamed them both to an empty storeroom near engineering. Within seconds, he'd grabbed Kathryn by the hair and propelled her across the room, smashing the side of her head off the wall. She'd heard her collarbone crack also, off the corner of the wall and Kathryn had slumped to the ground, holding her head and neck then tried to stand. His foot on her back had forced her down.

"Stay down, bitch. I'll tell you when to get up." His laughter was quiet so as not to alert the crew working just feet away. Within minutes, he beamed them both back to her quarters and made her wait another fifteen minutes before leaving her to report to sickbay.

Over the next week, Kathryn spent every spare moment she had checking through the ship's database and records and going over her own personal logs as she continued and now re-doubled her efforts to trace this mad man. She'd started almost immediately after their first meeting and had kept everything very low profile but now she felt more urgency about her search, knowing that he'd probably learn of her efforts but she was determined to risk it. She scanned the logs of all her previous missions and racked her memory for anything which might tie in with the little her tormentor had told her. She'd no date line to work within and so she started at the beginning of her career up to the time she'd taken command of Voyager. From what little he'd said, she assumed that she'd been in command in some way, maybe not as a Captain but with crew working under her. She drew up a list of incidents where crew had been lost either directly or indirectly around her but even though the list was short, she knew it would be impossible to pinpoint one in particular. All of them had left family behind and only one on the list of ten she was left with had not had brothers.

Kathryn sat back and rubbed her eyes thinking of the ten. She remembered all their faces well and they visited her dreams occasionally. She tried to narrow the list of names further by separating those who'd been lost while she'd been a Captain and now was left with six names. One of those had been a woman so she concentrated on the five names remaining. She checked Voyager crew names against the names of everyone who had ever served under her and been killed or even injured but none matched and she knew it was most likely now that someone on board was using a false name. She also had to consider the fact that the story she'd been told was either a complete lie or altered in some way to throw her off the scent. She thought about his comment regarding the bomb and his reference to Maquis training. Something nagged at the back of her mind about that though, something about his manner and movements, something that suggested Starfleet more than Maquis but no clear thought would form around the basic notion. She made a list of the skills he seemed to possess, transporters, computers, medical knowledge, surveillance, assembling the device, but these 'talents', while rare enough in one person, were not unheard of and she knew that many aboard were capable of them, that a lot of them had learned more in the Delta Quadrant than they ever had at the academy.

Two hours later, she was no nearer to any answers and eventually left it. She knew this man would probably find out what she'd been doing, that he seemed to know her every move and so she kept a log of everything on a padd hidden away in her ready room. She worked on it while she sorted ship's business and hoped that if he was watching her in any way, that one padd would look the same as another and he wouldn't suspect.

Four nights later she got her answer as to whether he was watching as well as listening. As Kathryn slept, Ensign Alan Menzies beamed himself to his Captain's quarters and stood watching the sleeping woman before him. He leaned over her and studied her face then quickly pressed a hypo to her neck. Kathryn stirred for a moment and was then quiet as the sedative dose entered her blood stream. Menzies worked quickly and took some cord from the bag he carried. He pulled the blanket back from her body and tied her ankles to the foot of the bed then each wrist to the headboard. He took some tape and pressed it securely over Kathryn's mouth then pressed another hypo to her neck and waited.

Kathryn came to quickly but was groggy. Within seconds her mind cleared as she took in her situation and was instantly alert. She pulled at the cords binding her to the bed and watched him laugh at her terror. She raised her head slightly and saw that he'd removed the blanket from her and that her nightgown was now up around her hips. Kathryn fought to hide her fear as the masked man before her trailed a hand up her leg.

"Time for another lesson, Captain." Kathryn fought the tears she felt coming to her eyes and failed. "I'm going to enjoy this one." He stood slowly from the side of the bed and turned away from her. When he turned back, she saw he held a square shaped item in his hand, once more padded. He leaned over her and ran his hands over her ribcage and smiled at her.

"I don't know how you're going to pull this one off or explain it. Guess you'll just have to put up with the pain. That hologram would be very suspicious if you reported this." Without warning, he raised his arm and brought the heavy object down on Kathryn's ribs. She tried to scream out as pain exploded within her and she felt her ribs crack. She pulled desperately at the restraints, her body trying to rise off the bed and heard his laughter through the fog of pain that consumed her. She fought to get air into her lungs through her nose and when he saw this, he reached down and ripped the tape from her mouth, replacing it with his hand for a moment.

"If you scream, you'll alert Chakotay next door. We don't want that now, do we?" Kathryn stared tearfully at him and managed to shake her head slightly. He removed his hand and Kathryn gulped in air, trying to be quiet with her cries which she had no control over.

"I'll leave you a small osteo regenerator which will help a little. Use it and keep this quiet." Kathryn managed to nod. "You've been a bad girl, you know. I saw you trying to trace me and my brother through the computer and I won't have that, Captain. You have to learn to take your punishment for what you did so no more searching now." Kathryn nodded slowly as he stood and turned away slowly. He pressed another hypo to her neck and Kathryn felt the effects almost immediately.

"That's a muscle relaxant. I'll let you lie here in pain for the rest of the night. You have to be punished for trying to trace me, as well as for our original deal. It'll wear off by morning and you can try and treat yourself then." He stood and cut the cords from her wrists and ankles. "Have a good night, Captain." With an order to the computer, he was gone.

Kathryn lay helpless and in agony for the rest of the night, unable to move. By early morning, she felt the drug wearing off and managed to painfully slide off the bed. She made it to the bathroom and studied her reflection in the mirror. She saw the pain show on her features and slowly raised her nightgown to check her ribs. Heavy bruising was already forming and she closed her eyes from the sight for a moment. She then set to work and ran the two regenerators over the area, hoping that the bones would fuse in some way. She also treated the marks which she had on her wrists and ankles from pulling against the cords. The bruising slowly faded but the pain remained. Kathryn managed to dress carefully then feigning a bad headache, called the Doctor for a painkiller. He seemed hesitant at first but finally sent the hypo to her replicator. Within minutes the pain lessened to a tolerable level and Kathryn forced herself to the bridge for what she knew would be one of the longest shifts of her life.

Chakotay noticed immediately that something seemed wrong and saw the way Kathryn moved stiffly and carefully. Her face warned him off saying anything and having embarrassed himself before, he left the matter alone. When she seemed to improve over the next two days, he let it go but filed it away in his mind.

It was another five weeks before Kathryn heard from her attacker again, five weeks in which she didn't sleep well and had to force food into her body. She lost weight and knew that Chakotay and others on the bridge had noticed. Before Chakotay had a chance to tackle her about it again, her next 'punishment' was meted out. This time he ordered her to the holodeck, having booked the time there in her name when he knew she'd be off duty. Kathryn arrived on time, terrified not to and found him waiting for her. Within minutes, she knew what this 'accident' would involve.

He sat in a small clearing in a woodland setting, a campfire burning before him. As soon as Kathryn appeared, he stood and walked to her then pulled her towards the fire. He pushed her to the ground and leaned down, withdrawing a burning log from the fire. He calmly ordered her to remove her jacket and push her sleeves up. Terrified of what was to come but more afraid of refusing, Kathryn had obeyed. The agony that followed as he held the flame to her arms repeatedly eventually caused her to pass out. Within minutes, he had pressed a stimulant to her neck in the form of a hypospray and brought her back to endure the pain. Waiting over half an hour again, he sat and watched her suffer, laughing to himself but not speaking directly to her as he enjoyed the results of his work. Eventually he beamed her back to her quarters where Kathryn fought to heal the burns on her arms, knowing she could never come up with a reasonable or believable excuse for the Doctor. Using the hypospray she'd gotten from the Doctor on the night he'd mended her broken arm and which she hadn't used, got her through.

Next day on the bridge, she was again physically and emotionally drained and Chakotay wasted no time in letting her know his mind.

"Kathryn, I've had enough. I can't keep quiet any longer." She glared at him, warning him with her eyes to keep away but he didn't take the hint. "Look at yourself. You've lost weight, you're pale and tired all the time, you shut yourself off from everyone including me and… God, Kathryn, what the hell is it? We're good friends or at least, we used to be. Lately you've just shut me out completely…"

Kathryn reared up on him and donned her Captain's mask. "Commander, I'll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself and mind your own business. Dismissed." If she expected him to obey her, she was mistaken.

"No way, Kathryn, not this time. I want an answer and I want it now…"

Kathryn steeled herself to hurt him, knowing it was for his own good. "Commander, would you prefer I call Tuvok in here and have you relieved of duty? It can happen that way if you prefer." She stared him out and his temper snapped.

"Damn you, woman, you just can't stand to need anyone. I've watched you for weeks now and I don't like what I see. Half the time it's almost as if you're afraid of something…"

Kathryn's temper matched his now. "Get out of here now, Commander, or I'll have you hauled to the brig. Take a big hint and butt out of my private life, out of what's no concern of yours." It broke her heart to see the hurt her words caused him but she had no choice. Glaring back at her, he held her eyes for a minute and when she equalled it, he turned and stormed out. That night, the voice she hated filled her quarters and congratulated her on her wonderful performance.

Over the next weeks, Kathryn managed to stay away from Chakotay as much as possible. Her tormentor visited her four more times in her quarters during that time, always late at night when she was alone and each time inflicted small injuries on her, ones she could always manage to heal herself. On one occasion, he stamped on her toes, breaking two of them and on another, he broke three of her fingers. Each time, he made her wait in pain before letting her try and heal the injuries. He seemed to relish watching her in pain, waiting to see how much she could take.

Kathryn spent her days now avoiding Chakotay and her nights fearing the appearance of her tormentor. There was nowhere on the ship now where she felt safe.

Kathryn's next major 'accident' occurred on shore leave three weeks later. She'd been exploring with Naomi when the child's mother had called her for lunch. Kathryn had wandered off a bit and barely stifled her scream when the figure had jumped out in front of her. The sun had been shining directly into her eyes obscuring her vision and she immediately obeyed the order to lower her head and turn around. She scanned the area before her but no one else was around and she cursed herself for believing she'd be safe on the surface, that he wouldn't dare try anything off the ship. She felt a hand on her arm steering her forward and they walked for a few minutes, coming to a drop down into a small valley. She knew he was scanning the area with a tricorder, watching for any crewmembers who might disturb them. Without warning Kathryn was pushed to her knees and told to keep her head down.

"Ankle and wrist I think and whatever else you pick up." It was the same voice Kathryn heard in her nightmares now. Unable to stop herself, she screamed out as something hard came down across her left ankle and her hand went to the source of the pain immediately. She was then pulled by her other arm, forcing her into a lying position and another blow was aimed for her right wrist with a further explosion of pain. Kathryn screamed out again when his boot connected hard with her face and she knew immediately that her jaw had been broken. He laughed down at her as she cried out, blood spilling from her mouth and nose and then calmly stamped on her head. On the verge of losing consciousness, she felt herself kicked towards the edge of the ravine. With her good hand, she tried desperately to grab a hold of something to stop herself going over but another kick pushed her over and she felt herself falling. What followed was just a pain filled blur.

Kathryn became aware of someone shouting her name and tried to open her eyes. She immediately remembered what had happened and tried to recall the fall and landing but nothing came to her. She forced her eyes to stay open and then Harry Kim's face was looking down at her and then B'Elanna. She made out words here and there but she could feel the blackness crowding in on her and eventually gave in to it.

When she came around in sickbay, Chakotay's concerned face was staring down at her. She closed her eyes against the pain which pounded in her head and felt the hiss of a hypospray against her neck. As the pain in her head eased, she met Chakotay's eyes and saw the worry there.

"What…how long…?"

He stared at her and answered slowly. "You've been here for four days…" He saw her nod her understanding but couldn't read her face as she looked away quickly and closed her eyes. "Kathryn, what happened? How on earth did you fall? What were you thinking of?"

Kathryn slowly opened her eyes and squinted against the light. She licked her dry lips and used the action as cover while she thought of what to say. "I'm… I remember walking…seeing a valley… What happened?" Throwing the question back at Chakotay was all she could think to do.

"You fell down the side of a ravine. Don't you remember the fall?"

She watched him as he sat beside her and turned to see the face of the Doctor staring at her. "I'm not sure… I don't remember a fall. I think Harry and B'Elanna were there or… I don't know… I was with Naomi before but…"

The Doctor stepped forward. "All right, Captain. It'll probably come back to you. You broke your ankle and wrist and received a nasty head wound as well which fractured your skull. You also broke your jaw and cracked some vertebrae but I've taken care of all the damage. You'll be stiff and sore for a few days and that headache will return. I want to keep you here for another night just to be safe so no arguments." Kathryn nodded and didn't object at which the Doctor looked shocked.

Chakotay studied her closely. "Kathryn, are you sure you don't remember how this happened? It's not like you to be so careless. You could have killed yourself…" He stopped immediately, the thought not something he ever wanted to consider but he was determined she understand the seriousness of what had happened.

The Doctor stepped in. "Commander, rest is what she needs now. I'm sure it'll all come back to her later."

Chakotay just nodded and stood up. "Of course, Doctor. Kathryn, get some rest. You'll be all right and that's what matters." He smiled down at her then left.

Chakotay sat in his quarters and tried to remember everything about Kathryn's behaviour over the last weeks and months. Something nagged at him but wouldn't show itself in his mind. He thought of the injuries she'd received and something in his gut told him that something wasn't right, that there was more going on than he was seeing but he also realized that in their situation, it wasn't all that unusual. Eventually tiredness and the knowledge that he had the early shift won over his thoughts and he lay down and was asleep within minutes.

Kathryn was allowed to return to her quarters the next evening but she felt terrified in the one place that had always been her sanctuary. She knew she'd be all right for a few days at least, that he wouldn't risk attacking her again so soon, at least physically. More and more now, she saw signs that he'd been in her quarters or her ready room and was letting her know that he had free access to her life. Items were often moved or her clothes left out, silent and deadly warnings to her. He'd taken to appearing in her quarters at odd hours and just punching her or cutting her, leaving her to deal with the small injury on her own.

Kathryn became a wonderful actress over the next weeks but found she couldn't relax at all with anyone. She alienated herself from every member of the crew, even the senior staff in case they suspected anything. She was aware of Chakotay watching her more closely and avoided him as best she could but he was determined to try once more with her.

"Kathryn, we talk about this now and no arguments. I want to get to the bottom of this once and for all. We can talk from the brig if you like when you put me there." Kathryn ignored him. "This act won't work anymore. I've watched you closely and I don't like what I see. Sometimes I see fear in you which I find hard to believe. It's controlled but it's there, just like when the ship or crew are in danger." Kathryn's head snapped up and he stopped and drew in a deep breath. "You've also become… All these accidents lately. It's like you've become totally reckless, don't care about your own safety…"

Kathryn cut him off and stood, controlling herself well. "Commander, get out and take your wild fantasies with you. I've work to do and if you haven't enough to keep you better occupied, I'll provide plenty for you." Not waiting for him to reply, she left her own ready room and avoided him for the rest of the day.

Next day, now about six weeks after her 'accident' on shore leave, Kathryn was working in the Jeffries tubes above engineering, determined to avoid Chakotay again, when her attacker appeared before her.

"I saw you were alone here, Captain, and it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. You weren't very good yesterday with our friend and didn't convince him at all. You've been failing more and more there so you deserve another punishment. Maybe this one will wake you up a bit." Kathryn knew her fear showed and saw him relish it. He grabbed her and forced her down then pressed her into a lying position on the floor. Without further words, his hand clamped tightly over her mouth and he pulled the same object from a bag he carried which he'd used to break her ribs.

"Legs this time, my dear."

Kathryn tried to scream as the heavy object smashed against her right thigh and then her left. She heard the bones break but her scream stayed in her own throat as he held her down, his knee on her chest and his hand over her face almost suffocating her. As the pain washed over her, she was aware of him pushing her and felt herself falling. This time her scream could be heard. Her body, like a rag doll, fell several decks and she crashed to the floor below. All she remembered after that was the concerned faces of Chakotay and B'Elanna, leaning over her and hearing them call for help. A blanket of blackness then descended over her.

Alan Menzies made a quick getaway, pulling his mask off as he went. He could still hear Kathryn's scream in his ears as she'd fallen and he laughed to himself. He vaguely wondered if he'd gone too far this time, taken too big a risk, but the satisfaction he'd gotten from the incident was enough to override any doubts. He scanned the corridor beyond the hatch of the Jeffries tube he was in and when he was satisfied that the coast was clear, exited quickly and made his way back to his quarters. Hiding his 'work equipment' quickly, he sat and enjoyed the sensation of revenge that washed over him.

"The bitch screamed good, David. You should have heard the crash she made at the bottom. With any luck, she's already dead." He laughed to himself and spoke with his long dead brother. Speaking the name of David sobered him and he lay back on his bed and remembered.

His thoughts brought him back to the day his family had received the news of the death of Ensign David Cooper, eldest son of five children and who had carried the hopes and dreams of his family on his shoulders. David had entered Starfleet straight from school and the second eldest son Alan, had joined him two years later. The brothers had never shared classes or assignments but they never lost touch for more than a week at a time, the distances of space not enough to keep them apart for long. Alan remembered how proud their parents had been, having two sons following in the footsteps of their Admiral father, the three younger girls never showing an interest in a career other than that of wife and mother. His parents had never minded the lack of career ambition their daughters showed, knowing that the family tradition would be carried on by their two sons.

When David had been killed, all that had fallen apart and despite still having a son living, they behaved as if their world had come to an end. Within a year, both parents were dead, their mother first, her body no longer fighting the cancer which had been well under control before that. Admiral Cooper had simply let go after the death of his wife and with his daughters settled and married, had simply drifted off to sleep one night, never to waken again.

Within a month of his father's death and with his sisters living their own lives, Alan had quit Starfleet, never satisfied with the explanation the family had been given regarding the death of David Cooper. Alan found himself wandering for some months, finished in his mind with Starfleet, but in their opinion, only on an official leave of absence on compassionate grounds.

Within a further two months, Alan had unearthed the story behind his brother's death but due to fragmentary information, never got the full story, and the logs regarding the mission David had lost his life on, had been sealed. Alan had learned that David had died on a routine exploration mission, under the leadership of Captain Kathryn Janeway and in his mind, she had failed to protect her crew. What he never knew was the fact that the disastrous mission had been down to one person and that person had been David Cooper himself. Having failed to adhere to the strict guidelines for away missions and ignoring his orders, David had stormed ahead without proper reconnaissance of the area before him and had led his team into a Cardassian trap. It had only been due to the bravery and quick thinking of their Captain, that no more were lost. David Cooper had taken two young female Ensigns with him to death but due to the fact that his father had been a high-ranking Admiral, the files pertaining to the incident were sealed and the matter was quietly closed. The families of the other two lost never questioned the official statement that they'd walked into a trap, completely unforeseen, and that no one was to blame. What Alan would never know was the fact that his parents had known the truth and it was this which had caused them to give up on life and not just the death of their first born. When he learned of the cover up and sealed files, he assumed it was to protect an incompetent Captain Janeway and not to spare the Cooper family.

Alan Cooper had returned to Starfleet for one reason only, to avenge his brother's death and the deaths of his parents. At his insistence that he be allowed to change his name, citing it as a painful reminder and a hindrance in future life, Starfleet had readily agreed and he became Alan Menzies, taking his mother's maiden name. Time had gone by and the matter was left in the past. When Alan Menzies had put in for a post on board Voyager, the team handing out assignments had had no knowledge of the history of the man before them, his work record being all they saw. When it was noted in certain circles later, no one at Headquarters ever thought to inform Voyager's Captain that the brother of someone who had died under her command had changed his name and requested a position on her ship. It had been for this reason, that Kathryn Janeway had been unable to trace the man who was responsible for tearing her life and possibly her ship apart.

Chakotay had been in Engineering overseeing some work details when Kathryn's scream had been heard. He'd locked eyes with B'Elanna for a second and then they'd both run in the direction of the sound. Chakotay had requested Kathryn's location from the computer and within a minute they'd found her. His breath had stopped in his chest when he saw her, blood pooling beneath her head, and as her eyes had met his briefly before closing, he'd cried out her name. B'Elanna at least had been thinking straight and within seconds, they'd all beamed to sickbay.

As he sat beside her now and watched the rise and fall of her chest, he remembered the Doctor's words. "Commander, she apparently fell several decks. I've no way of knowing how this happened but her injuries were quite severe. Both her legs were broken and there was massive internal bleeding and spinal injuries. There were also extensive head injuries." Chakotay had looked at the Hologram, silently asking the question that mattered most to him. "I've controlled the internal bleeding and the spinal injuries. The breaks to her legs have also been healed. Her head injuries were the worst and she's still unconscious. I believe, however, that she'll make a full recovery. I can tell you she was very lucky." Chakotay had simply gripped the Doctor's arm and thanked him. He'd been too preoccupied with worrying about Kathryn to notice that the Doctor appeared to be holding something back from him.

It was two days before Kathryn regained consciousness and when she opened her eyes, Chakotay's face filled her vision, accompanied by his gentle smile.

"Hey, you." He saw the flash of fear that crossed her eyes and quickly set about reassuring her. "Kathryn, it's all right. You're in sickbay but you'll be fine. You fell in the Jeffries tube. Do you remember that?" Kathryn had nodded slowly and closed her eyes quickly in case he read her emotions. She felt him caressing her hand and opened her eyes again.

"How bad…?"

He kept stroking her hand. "You had a nasty head wound and some internal bleeding but the Doc's taken care of that." He saw she waited for him to go on as if she knew there was more and he continued. "You also had some spinal injuries which he healed and you broke both your legs but you'll be fine with plenty of rest." He smiled softly and then saw a look cross her face but couldn't read it. "Kathryn…?"

She closed her eyes again. "I'm fine…it's just…"

Chakotay touched her face and she looked at him, trying desperately to hide how she felt.

"You're not fine. Kathryn, what is it?"

She managed a small smile. "Nothing. I…just remember…falling…and…I saw you before…I passed out…" Tears filled her eyes and he leaned closer.

"Kathryn, it's all right. You're safe now. It's going to be all right." Kathryn managed to keep her smile and nod, wishing desperately that he could be right but knowing that things would never be all right again.

Suddenly they were interrupted by the Doctor. "Pardon the intrusion, Commander, but I need to check my patient."

Chakotay nodded and stood back, something about Kathryn's behaviour bothering him. He watched as the Medic completed his scans and check-up, then press a hypo to her neck. He frowned as the Doctor moved away and motioned his head towards his office. Chakotay looked at Kathryn again and saw that she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. He moved back to her and stroked her hair, understanding now that the Doctor had sedated her. "Kathryn, try and get some sleep. I'll be back later." He saw a brief look of panic cross her eyes but still she nodded. Within a minute, she was asleep, her body deciding the matter.

Alan Menzies had been listening in on the conversation in sickbay and had heard every word. He smiled to himself, satisfied that he had Kathryn under control. He relaxed and switched off the commlink to sickbay he'd secretly installed and lay back, pleased that all was going according to his plan.

Part Three.

Chakotay walked into the Doctor's office, a worried look on his face and sat down as the Medic handed him a padd, then spoke.

"Computer, seal this room and disable all sensors then erase all trace of this sensor lock, authorization EMH Alpha Pye 2 4." Chakotay looked up puzzled as he heard the computer acknowledge the request.

The Doctor now sat also. "Commander…I'll just say all this so bear with me." Chakotay nodded silently.
"What you have in your hand there is a list of Captain Janeway's recent injuries. The first was some time ago, a few months, in fact. She came in here one night with a broken arm claiming she'd fallen in her quarters. I thought nothing of it and healed her. She asked me not to speak of it, saying she'd never live it down or something. Naturally, I took the incident at face value." Chakotay was on full alert now and leaned forward.

"There have since been other 'accidents'. There was a cut to her head and a broken collarbone, sustained while repairing some relays and having fallen again. You know, of course, about the incident on shore leave."

Chakotay barely nodded. "What are you saying here, Doc? You don't think they were accidents?"

The Doctor continued. "I have now found where several other injuries, smaller I might add, were healed by someone else, most likely the Captain herself. There is also the fact that she recently suffered three broken ribs but this was never reported to me. They appear to have been healed in a rather crude manner. Some fingers and toes seem to have received the same treatment. I believe there were also cuts and some burns which were healed although not to the standard of a medical professional."

Chakotay sat back in total shock. "Doc, are you saying you think…? What are you saying here? Do you think she caused these injuries to herself? Is this her being reckless…or some crazy way to try and kill herself…?" He stood now and paced, his hand raking through his hair.

"Commander, please sit down."

Chakotay stared at him as if he'd forgotten he was there but obeyed the request.

"There is something else. First off, I don't think the Captain is responsible for her own injuries. I had my suspicions last night but said nothing to you until I was more sure of myself. I've examined her closely and that's how I discovered the other injuries."

Chakotay leaned back for a second then sat forward again. He saw the Doctor deliberate over his next words. "Doc, just spit it out. What the hell is all this?"

The Doctor stood slowly and came around and sat on the edge of his desk. "This morning…while you were still asleep beside her… I found something…disturbing…" Chakotay continued to stare at the Medic, a growing fear in his eyes. "I found some…bruising…which I healed…before you woke up…"

Chakotay now looked confused. "I don't understand.  Bruising would be natural… I mean, with the fall she had…"

The Doctor held up a hand for a moment and continued. "Yes, of course, but this was…different. There was heavy bruising on her legs, around the sites of the breaks. It would of course be natural for some bruising there but not to this extent and certainly not this deep. That's not the main concern though…" Chakotay felt his hands grip the chair.

"Commander…I noticed some more bruising…all of this only coming out this morning, of course…well…on her face and around her mouth…" Chakotay shook his head, not understanding.

"They, the bruises, were hand and finger shaped. They were finger marks…as if a hand had been tightly clamped over her mouth. I healed them as I say but I took images first…" He leaned back and retrieved copies of the images for the man before him and watched as they were studied.

Finally, Chakotay looked up. "Look, forgive me if I'm slow this morning but… Doc, are you saying someone…?"

The Doctor stood and sat behind his desk again. "I'm saying I think someone pressed a hand down tightly over the Captain's mouth to keep her quiet and used a heavy object to smash the bones in her legs. I'm saying I think they then threw her down several decks, hoping the fall would hide the injuries they had inflicted. I'm also saying that I believe the Captain's recent 'accidents' were anything but 'accidents'. I'm saying I think there have been more injuries she managed to heal herself. Lastly, I'm saying that she is afraid, for whatever reason, to tell you or anyone else about this. It's possible that whoever is doing this is aware of her actions and what she speaks of to us all. That's the reason I ordered a sensor lock on this room. I hope I'm just being paranoid but I doubt it. Either way it's better if no one hears this conversation."

Chakotay stared at the Hologram as if his programming had gone crazy. "I don't…why wouldn't she just say…"

The Doctor had no answers. "I don't have any answers here, Commander. I do, however, have a lot of questions and of course I don't have any proof either to back up what I've just told you. I can only surmise that whoever is doing this, and I strongly believe someone is… Whoever they are, I believe they have some hold over the Captain, some way to keep her in line. I can see no evidence that she fought this. She was silenced most probably to stop her screaming too soon but there were no defence injuries on her body. It's as if she just took this. She screamed afterwards as she fell from what I've learned from the accident reports but certainly not before and that was probably her unconscious reaction to the fact that she was falling. Personally, I'm not sure what to think but I believe with all that I am, that I'm right on all this."

Chakotay stared at the Medic, his mind racing. "She hasn't really been herself for some time. She's jumpy, nervous, almost fearful. She said it was lack of sleep or too much coffee or something." He searched his memory. "I asked her but she said women's problems…something about seeing you about it…" He stood slowly. "I let it go. I guess I was embarrassed or afraid to embarrass her…" He sat back down again, not thinking about the action.

"I can tell you, Commander, she has not been to see me about anything like that."

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment and took a deep breath. "When I think now…when she came around just now…she asked about her injuries. I told her some of them but… I hadn't mentioned her legs and yet it seemed…it was almost as if she knew there was more…" He looked up quickly. "Doc, I think she already knew…"

The Doctor just nodded. "It just adds to my beliefs. I believe there were also some other injuries she managed to heal although I can't be sure…and I've no idea how she managed to cope with the pain…"

Chakotay's hands balled into fists. "What do we do now?" He looked at the Doctor, hoping he might have an answer.

"I would suggest you find somewhere 'private' and speak with Mr. Tuvok. In the meantime, I'll keep her here under observation. Somehow, I don't think she'll object too much. I also think it would be best not to let her know we suspect anything. If this is what we're saying, someone will be watching her closely and if they think she's spoken of this…"

Chakotay nodded quickly. "You're right. Do as you've said and I'll get hold of Tuvok…" The two of them shared a look that spoke of worry and deep concern.

Chakotay made his way back to his quarters, deep in thought. The knowledge that someone was deliberately hurting Kathryn and he was unable to prevent it, ate at him. He sat on his sofa and thought hard about his next move. Finally, he took a padd and typed a message to Tuvok, asking him to find a secure location for a conversation and not to inform anyone. He then walked slowly to the bridge and quietly handed the Vulcan Security Officer the padd. He waited until he felt the padd slide back into his hand and then announced that he'd be in his office. He glanced quickly at Tuvok but saw nothing on the face before him. Telling the Vulcan he had the bridge, he left to read the answering message.

At the end of their shift and having handed the bridge over to Harry and Tom, Chakotay and Tuvok left separately and entered the unused quarters Tuvok had secured for their meeting. When Chakotay indicated for Tuvok to sit, he did so without comment. Chakotay quickly repeated the earlier conversation he'd had with the Doctor and watched as the Security Officer digested everything. When he finished, he waited to see what Tuvok thought.

"Commander, I have to admit that I have noticed the Captain's strange behaviour of late. She does indeed appear agitated and nervous. I have observed her watching the crew more closely also. I must point out that I had vague suspicions about the number of accidents she seemed to be having of late but having nothing of evidence to point to anything sinister, I surmised that they were just, to use a human expression, a run of bad luck. With this information to hand however, I have to conclude that the Doctor is correct in his assumptions." Chakotay sighed and sat beside the Vulcan. He handed Tuvok the padd relating the injuries and showed him the images the Doctor had taken of the bruising.

Tuvok just nodded. "There would seem to be no doubt in the matter. The Doctor is not usually one to imagine what is not there."

Chakotay nodded his agreement. "The question now is what do we do about this. If the Doctor's right, whoever this is could well be watching and listening and probably are."

Tuvok sat up straighter. "It is logical to deduce that if this is the case, this person would only have their equipment in locations where the Captain would be, namely the bridge, her ready room and most likely her quarters, although it is also highly likely they have a sensor lock of some kind on her. I would suggest we scan these areas and even though I disagree with the principle, I suggest we check her logs and any personal padds she has." Chakotay didn't like that and Tuvok saw it. He also saw that his Commander knew they had no choice.

As Chakotay and Tuvok covertly began their own investigation, Kathryn remained in sickbay under the Doctor's supervision. It was afternoon and the middle of a shift and the silence of sickbay was making Kathryn nervous. The Doctor was making a 'house call' on one of the crew who had recently given birth and Kathryn was alone. She dozed and was suddenly aware of the sound of a transporter whine. Opening her eyes, she looked up into the masked face of her tormentor. She jumped up into a sitting position but his hand reached quickly for her throat.

"I see you survived your little trip then. I sincerely hope you haven't been speaking out of turn, Captain." Kathryn gasped as his hand tightened around her neck and managed to shake her head. "That's good because I can set off my little explosive device any time I like and you know you can take my word on that." Kathryn nodded slowly and felt his hand loosen. "Behave yourself now, Captain. I have to go but I'll see you again real soon". With a command to the computer, he was gone.

Kathryn lay back on the bed and fought her tears. She brought a hand to her face to try and stifle her cries and barely managed to control herself just before the Doctor returned. He smiled gently at her and went into his office. Kathryn turned painfully onto her side and squeezed her eyes shut, willing the images from her mind but they remained, as did the feel of his hand on her throat.

Chakotay and Tuvok, meanwhile, were checking sensor logs and anything else they could think of. Chakotay was in Kathryn's quarters feeling guilty for being there without her permission and hating himself for going through her logs. After two hours, he knew they'd reveal nothing to him. He noticed, however, that her logs for the past few months sounded more like her official logs and knew without doubt that whoever was behind these attacks had access to the logs also and that Kathryn knew it too. He stood slowly and began a careful search of her quarters but after an hour, had found nothing. He quietly let himself out and returned to the bridge. He met eyes with Tuvok and understood the Vulcan's silent message to speak in private. He nodded towards his office and they left the bridge.

Once inside his office, Chakotay ordered a sensor lock and they spoke freely. Tuvok moved to the console and called up a file.

"I've managed to locate imagers and audio recording equipment in several locations where the Captain is mostly to be found but I've left them in place. There are some in this room but the sensor lock blocks them. This room, if checked, will appear empty. I took the liberty of locating my own surveillance equipment on the ship and in particular in sickbay where the Captain is. This was recorded about half an hour ago." He replayed the images he'd recorded for the First Officer and Chakotay watched horrified as the masked man materialized in sickbay and threatened Kathryn.

"I guess now we have our answer."

Tuvok nodded. "Unfortunately, his identity is still a mystery. Did you find anything in the Captain's quarters?"

Chakotay shook his head and related to the Vulcan what he had found with Kathryn's logs. "They're almost like her official logs. There's nothing in them so it's safe to say she either fears he has access to them or knows he has."

Tuvok nodded "We need to check her ready room then."

Chakotay nodded agreement. "What about the surveillance equipment in there?"

Tuvok shrugged, un-Vulcan like. "We can safely take it he will assume it would be logical for the First Officer, as acting Captain now, to need access to ship's business. It would not look out of place for you to be there looking for reports or padds."

Chakotay smiled sadly. "Right, I'll do that now." Wasting no more time, he immediately headed for his Captain's ready room. As he entered, he saw Tuvok behind him and called over his shoulder. "Tuvok, I'll have that report for you as soon as I've discovered where the Captain put it. The Doctor wants her to rest and I don't want to disturb her but if we don't have ship's business up to date when she returns, there'll be hell to pay." Tuvok just nodded and Chakotay smiled. Tom Paris turned in his chair and smiled also.

Chakotay spent the next half hour going through all the padds he could find and talked to himself regularly. "Where do you keep these reports, Kathryn? You're giving me a headache now. Tuvok needs this for B'Elanna who needs it to finish what she's doing so that someone else can do their job… Come on, where is it?" If anyone was listening, he prayed he sounded convincing. He checked every padd he found and was looking through the drawers in her desk when his hand brushed off something taped to the bottom of the drawer above his hand. Instantly alert, he leaned over the desk, covering his hands with his body and eased the padd from its taped place. He withdrew it from the drawer and activated it in clear view and saw that it was what he wanted. Kathryn's own words scrolled across the small screen in language he knew was not official.

"About time. Engineering stats… diagnostics… stardate… that's it…" He let out a loud exhale of breath and stood slowly. He ordered the lights off and left the room. Crossing the bridge, he held the padd up and spoke to Tuvok.

"Tuvok, I found that report. I'll let you have it as soon as I check over the stats." Their eyes met and the message was received. "Join me after shift for a game of cards?"

The Vulcan nodded. "Providing you don't mind losing again."

Chakotay laughed. "Don't be so sure I will. Same time, same place?" Tuvok merely nodded and went back to his work.

Chakotay entered his quarters and ordered another sensor lock just to be safe then sank onto his sofa. With his back to the viewport, he activated the padd again and started reading. What he read almost had him in tears.

"I'm keeping this record of events for reasons I'm unsure of. It might never be found or it might be destroyed if he has his way. However, I have to believe somewhere inside me that there just might be some hope that this will end well although I don't believe I have that much faith. I don't care so much for myself, just as long as the rest of them are safe. It started when I was returning to my quarters late….."

Chakotay read the events of what Kathryn had been through in horror. She'd recorded every detail of what had occurred and he was amazed at her ability to think clearly despite what she was going through. The pain and suffering she'd endured silently tore at his heart. He knew what being in control meant to her, how important it was for her to be there for her crew, to be able to protect them. He felt deep fear himself at the thought of a bomb onboard the ship but mostly he cried for what Kathryn had gone through. He hardened himself and made himself think clearly as he read the scant details she had on the identity of this man. The thought that he could be a Maquis ate at him but Kathryn, he saw, believed the man to be Starfleet or at least to have had some training with them. He read the last entries.

"I'm back in my quarters but I have to admit I'm terrified there alone, knowing he can beam in and out whenever he feels like it. I'll never get over the night I awoke to find him there and found myself tied to the bed. The pain when he broke my ribs and the helplessness of not being able to move for the rest of the night will never leave me. I can't forget this last attack either. I so believed it would be safe on the planet, that he wouldn't risk anything with the crew around but he's getting more and more reckless and that, I think, scares me more. If he's reckless then he becomes unpredictable. The more I see of him, his manner and the way he moves, I know he's Starfleet and I feel that it goes back a way with him, maybe in his family. I know people who are from Fleet families, there's always something about them. It's like knowing myself and I sense it with him. I believe his comment about the Maquis was either to throw me or he's learned what he knows from some of them. I can't ever see his face but I know his eyes are blue. He's about five foot ten in height and slim build. I wish I knew more but I've checked everyone and everything I could before he discovered what I was up to. I've at least recorded all I can here so if this goes bad for me, which I know it will, maybe someone else will work through this someday. My only fear is that this crew and particularly Chakotay might get hurt too and I can take anything but that. If it's just my death, that's all right. I'll make sure I lose his game, so that way they'll all be safe and they'll still have their ship to get them home. They can manage without me but I could never manage without them." Chakotay leaned back and wiped at his eyes. He forced himself to read the last entry, just a day before the last 'accident'.

"It's been weeks now since a major 'accident' and I know it's time. I can feel him watching me, feel the clock ticking down. He's almost overdue for my next 'punishment' and I know it's only a matter of time. I so wish I could talk to Chakotay about this but I can't risk it. I believe this next one will be the last. Something deep inside me tells me this and something about his behaviour. I just wish Chakotay knew how I felt about him. I wish I could tell him how much I love him but I've left that too late. All I can do is pray they'll all be safe and can get home. I pray they all find what they're looking for."

Chakotay closed the padd and leaned back, letting his eyes close to aid his thinking. Finally, he stood up and hid the padd then left his quarters and headed for sickbay. Seeing Kathryn was what he needed most, to reassure himself that she was all right for the moment. He entered the quiet sickbay and saw that one of the engineering crew was sitting on a bed near a sleeping Kathryn. The man held his hand, palm facing up and Chakotay saw a deep cut across the hand. He nodded to the man and looked around for the Doctor.

The young man answered the unasked question. "He'll be back in a moment, Commander. He's just checking some specimens or something he was testing."

Chakotay nodded and met the blue eyes watching him. Kathryn's description of blue eyes instantly came to his mind but he quickly swallowed some of his suspicion when he realized just how many crew aboard would have eyes the same colour. "What happened to you, Ensign?"

The man shrugged. "Slipped with a sharp tool in my hand while trying to repair a hatch door in engineering. It's not too bad but Lieutenant Torres insisted…" His voice left the rest unsaid and Chakotay smiled a moment, knowing no one disobeyed B'Elanna. He looked across at Kathryn and saw that the young Ensign followed his gaze. "Will she be all right, Sir?"

Chakotay turned back to him. "She'll be just fine, although it'll be a few weeks before she tries clambering around a Jeffries tube again." The two men shared a smile and both turned to Kathryn at the same time when they heard her stir. Chakotay walked over to her.

"Captain, how are you feeling?" He was keeping everything professional in front of a crewman.

Kathryn glanced towards the other man, not seeing him too clearly as he dropped his head and studied his hand. She looked back at Chakotay. "I'm fine. I'm just tired."

Chakotay nodded and looked behind him when he heard the Doctor approach. "Right, Ensign, let's take care of that cut." The Ensign nodded and moved away, making sure Kathryn couldn't see him.

When Alan Menzies returned to his quarters, he thought of the risk he'd just taken but he needed to check that his victim was sticking to the rules of the game. He knew Chakotay called by to see her regularly and he couldn't have risked another beam in to sickbay again. He delighted in the fact that she hadn't recognized him and knew that testing that theory had been another reason for his pre-arranged visit. Cutting his hand had been worth it. Smiling to himself that all was still well, he left his quarters and returned to work.

Chakotay met with Tuvok at their pre-arranged time and place and showed him the padd he'd found. He waited patiently as the Vulcan read through the contents and then sat when he saw he'd finished reading.

"Tuvok, I've been thinking deeply about all of this and I think we need some expert help here." The Security Officer simply raised an eyebrow. "I want to bring B'Elanna in on this. If anyone can help here, it's her." Tuvok nodded his agreement and waited for his Commander to continue.

"Although it feels like we're spying on the Captain, I want a sensor lock on her at all times. I also want some kind of audio surveillance up and running for wherever she goes. I think we need to find what else he's put in place and hopefully piggyback on it and for that we need B'Elanna's expertise."

Tuvok nodded his agreement. "Commander, I strongly suggest we keep all this from the Captain for the moment."

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "I agree completely. He can't suspect we know anything and while I don't believe she'd give anything away, it's just not worth the risk. While it might help her or comfort her to know that she has backup, it might also just add to her problems and cause her more worry." Both men were silent for a few minutes.

Finally, Chakotay stood. "I'm hoping that B'Elanna might also have some idea about scanning for this bomb. I know what that bastard said about triggering it but I want to hear our Chief Engineer's opinion on that." He hesitated a moment. "Tuvok, there's no way we'll manage all this on our own. We have a rough description and we need to try and go through the personnel files and try and narrow this down. Maybe…"

Tuvok interrupted, reading the other man's mind. "Lieutenant Paris would be the obvious choice for that task."

Chakotay smiled and nodded. "We can trust them both, you know that?"

Tuvok answered immediately. "There is no doubt in my mind on that, Commander. I suggest you contact them both and that we meet back here in one hour. I believe they are both off duty tonight." Chakotay nodded and they left the secured quarters separately, having checked the corridor outside was clear.

An hour later, Tom and B'Elanna both sat speechless and in shock as Chakotay and Tuvok filled them in on everything that had occurred over the past months.

"We know we can trust you both one hundred percent on this." They both nodded. "Tuvok has already managed to set up surveillance in sickbay to keep an eye on the Captain but we need her ready room and her quarters covered also." He went on to explain what they'd need and the problems they might have about scanning for the device on board. B'Elanna was silent and Chakotay could almost see wheels turning in her head as she digested all the information she had and worked towards a solution. Finally, she spoke for the first time.

"Linking up and adding to what's already in place shouldn't be a problem and finding what else is there is simple enough. Scanning for this bomb will be trickier. It's quite possible that he's right and that scanning would trigger it. We also have the problem of not knowing what components he's used so we can't know what to scan for. Any readings it would give off could just as easily be from equipment on the ship and it would be impossible to tell the difference. However, he'd have to have used 'ingredients' if you like, which wouldn't be triggered by the standard scans we already use on a day to day basis so I'll have to start a process of elimination." She was frowning deeply, increasing the appearance of her cranial ridges. "Our only other chance is the keypad, if it actually exists, but from what you say, the Captain saw it so…" She stopped and thought again and no one disturbed her concentration. "That kind of thing, keypads like that, they emit a certain… I think it would be possible to use a low level scan to search for that. Chakotay, this'll take time…"

Chakotay nodded and closed his eyes a moment. "It's time we don't really have. She's safe in sickbay for the moment and the Doctor will go along with us in keeping her there for a while longer. Try your best B'El." He turned to Tom now.

"It's not much to go on but I need you to go through personnel records. Anyone fitting that description, even remotely… If you draw up a list of possible 'suspects', hack into their personal logs if you need to… Whatever it takes…" Tom nodded, serious for once. They were all silent for a few moments more and then set off to go their separate ways.

As Kathryn continued to recover in sickbay, Chakotay and the others worked secretly on their plans. Kathryn knew she was probably being watched by her attacker but had no idea Tuvok was also monitoring her. For the most part, she just lay back and grew more and more depressed.

B'Elanna was making good progress. She'd installed all the surveillance equipment they needed and had established a sensor lock on her Captain which no one would ever detect. Chakotay had had the Doctor implant a small homing device under Kathryn's skin during the night while she slept and she'd been totally unaware of the procedure, the Doctor covering his movements well under the guise of checking his patient during the night hours if anyone had been watching.

Tom had narrowed his search down to four possible candidates for their bomber and now quickly dismissed two of them. Checking the last two, he suddenly noticed a gap in the records of Alan Menzies and was instantly suspicious. Digging deeper, he managed to override defences in the system that even Kathryn herself would have had trouble with. When he came across the sealed files, he knew he'd found what he was looking for. Working steadily over the next hour, he finally managed to break in to the files and read the contents in horror. Quickly covering his tracks as only he knew how to, he copied the file onto a padd and set out to find the others. They once more met in their secure 'den' and Tom related his findings to the others.

"It can't be anyone else. I double-checked my only other serious suspect but found that he was on duty in plain view of four others while the attack on the planet took place. Menzies or Cooper rather, is our man. Menzies was his mother's maiden name and his abilities match all those used by the Captain's attacker. He'd have picked up even more talents on board here, plus working so closely with so many Maquis and B'Elanna… People talk and share information and knowledge. We're one crew, on the same side as we all see it, so it wouldn't have looked suspicious asking." The other three sat in shock at what Tom unfolded for them.

Chakotay finally stood and his anger was clear to see. "How in the name of God did he get through? Why didn't someone spot this? Kathryn should have been warned about this…" No one had the answers for him and he didn't expect any.

B'Elanna broke the silence that followed. "What do we do now then?"

Tuvok looked up from reading the contents of the padd he now held and cleared his throat and they all looked at him. "I understand from the Doctor that the Captain will be released tomorrow back to her quarters.  He believes keeping her longer would look suspicious. While I don't like it, all we can do is watch and wait until we manage to locate the device. Lieutenant, have you had any luck in that regard?"

B'Elanna shook her head. "There's just too many pieces of equipment on the ship which give off similar readings. It'll take more time to narrow down the search and eliminate them. I'll need at least another day…" Tuvok nodded his understanding.

Chakotay was pacing. "In the meantime, we just let him go after her again?"

Tuvok was calm as usual. "We have no choice in this matter. It's unlikely he'll go near her so soon…"

Chakotay cut him off, his mind racing. "Oh God, I've just remembered…." He saw them all stare at him. "The other day, he was in sickbay, getting a cut on his hand seen to…"

B'Elanna nodded. "I remember that. He cut himself on something, mending a hatch door…"

Chakotay hardly heard her. "He was probably checking on her, seeing if she knew him. She didn't react to him though…"

Tuvok answered this. "As long as he knows the Captain is unaware of his identity, he'll feel safe. I've just been reviewing this…" He held the padd up which contained Tom's findings. "The list of injuries David Cooper received and which he died as a result of, match the injuries the Captain has received." He was silent for a moment and they all waited for his next words, dreading them. "However, the Captain's injuries to date now match ALL the injuries to David Cooper, even more so, therefore…"

Chakotay finished for him. "We can safely say that his work is done." His voice broke and they all heard it.

Tuvok said what no one else was willing to say. "Only death remains…"

Chakotay brought Kathryn back to her quarters the next day, hiding his emotions well from her. He knew B'Elanna was working as fast as she could to trace the device and that Tuvok now had Menzies under constant surveillance. He walked slowly with Kathryn, allowing for her unsteady walk and chatted casually with her but he saw that her mind was elsewhere. When they reached her quarters, he immediately felt her stiffen and sensed her fear as he saw her eyes quickly scan the room as if checking everything. Not reacting to it, he helped her to sit on the sofa and replicated some coffee for her but saw that she wasn't enjoying it. Keeping his face from showing his deep worry, he sat and sipped at his own tea and continued to chat away, ignoring Kathryn's troubled face, which she tried desperately to hide. It broke his heart not to be able to just pull her into his arms and tell her that everything would be all right, that he was there to share the fear and the pain with her. When he finished his tea, he took both their cups and placed them in the replicator.

"Is there anything else I can get you, Kathryn?" She shook her head without looking up. "Well, maybe you'd better try and get some sleep. The Doc said you were to take a nap this afternoon." She looked up and he saw the fear of being alone on her face, no matter how hard he saw her try to hide it. "I have to get back to the bridge. Would you like me to ask Sam or someone to sit with you a while and give you a hand getting undressed?"

Kathryn jumped on the suggestion and nodded quickly. "Yes please… Sam would be…It's just… I can't really manage to…on my own…"

He acted casual and nodded. "No problem, I'll call her now." Covertly watching Kathryn fighting to control herself, he hailed Sam Wildman and waited until she arrived before calling a casual 'see you later' to Kathryn, then left. Outside in the corridor, he let his fear show and prayed that she'd be safe for the moment, believing that Menzies wouldn't try anything with Sam there.

Chakotay quickly made his way to 'headquarters' as he'd come to think of their secured meeting place. As he entered, having checked the way was clear, he saw B'Elanna working frantically over her newly installed console. She'd had the equipment installed here almost immediately and had covered her tracks well. There was no way she could work openly in engineering without someone catching on to what she was working on. She ignored Chakotay once she'd glanced up and checked who had entered. Chakotay saw Tuvok checking through the security measures he had in place and relaxed a little. He watched B'Elanna working, without leaning over her shoulder and distracting her. He heard her mutter to herself and smiled softly, remembering the old days and the way she'd always worked, especially under pressure. When she finished the complicated procedure she'd been working on, she looked up and her voice broke through his memories.

"I've located the bloody thing. Found it a little while ago."

Chakotay was instantly beside her. "Where is it? Should we try and clear the area around there…"

Tuvok walked over to them. "That would arouse suspicion. We've erected a modified level ten security forcefield around the area which should contain some of the force of the blast if anything happens. It's in one of the operating rooms off engineering. Ironically, it's the place on the ship where David Cooper worked. That was his domain."

Fear built quickly in Chakotay. "You think this is it? You think this is the final showdown or the last stand or whatever the bloody hell he'll think it is?" Chakotay saw Tuvok merely nod.

"Chakotay, I've managed to access the keypad. It's linked to the ship's computer system. Bloody clever work, I have to say…" B'Elanna didn't follow through on that. "I've managed to get two of the four numbers and I've disabled them. This device works in a strange way. The more numbers which are disabled, the more reduced the blast will be…" She stopped talking and concentrated on her work.

Chakotay looked at the Vulcan. "Tuvok, the minute she has it…"

Tuvok was ahead of him. "I have two trusted men standing by to arrest Menzies the minute we disable the device…"

Chakotay closed his eyes and prayed for a miracle.

Alan Menzies watched the monitor in his quarters and grew more angry when he saw Sam Wildman sitting with her Captain. "Think you can stay safe with someone around you, bitch? We'll see about that." He felt his own internal clock of the events he had planned ticking down and walked to his computer. From here, he could control everything he needed, thanks to the modifications he'd made to his own system. He quickly tapped in the commands he needed and laughed to himself as the beam of the transporter took him from his quarters for what he knew would be the last time.

Chakotay paced, growing more and more agitated. He looked at Tuvok. "Where's Menzies now…"

Tuvok answered calmly. "He's in his quarters. He was off duty all morning. I'll check again now." Tuvok moved across the room and checked with his team and the sensor readings on the screen on his computer. Chakotay watched him with a growing fear building in him. As Tuvok made his way back, Chakotay immediately saw the worry show on the Vulcan's face, despite years of discipline to hide such emotions. Just as the Security Officer was about to speak, Sam Wildman's panicked voice filled the air.

"Wildman to Chakotay. Commander, I don't know what happened…the Captain…she…"

Chakotay forced himself to control his almost out of control fear. "Sam, what happened? Just calm down." He heard her draw a deep breath.

"Commander, the Captain…just disappeared. She was beamed out. There was nothing I could do…"

Chakotay squeezed his eyes closed. "All right, Sam. Stay there."

He closed the link and his eyes flew to Tuvok who was again working his computer.

"Their bio signatures are both in the control room off engineering and so is the signal from the homing device implanted in the Captain. He was able to beam through the forcefield. He probably didn't even know it was there…"

Chakotay was half way to the door with Tuvok when B'Elanna shouted that she had the third number. She didn't need to be told to hurry for the fourth.

Part Four.

Chakotay and Tuvok raced to engineering, Tuvok already ordering the area cleared. When they arrived, only Tuvok's small security team was in evidence, the area now deserted. Chakotay moved to the doorway of the small room and immediately saw Menzies inside with Kathryn. He hadn't even noticed that the door was now open as he pressed her against the wall, his leg forced between hers holding her in place and Chakotay heard the man's voice, all control gone as he spit his words into her face.

"Thought you'd get away at the end, didn't you, bitch? Nice try but I told you I'd win. This is the end now and you're coming with me. You'll take nothing with you but I'll take the memories of all your pain with me and they'll keep me warm in the next world. I'll add to your punishment for this by telling you I'm going to take everyone else with us, just so you know that you'll have their blood on your hands as well."

Chakotay saw the tears pouring down Kathryn's face and the way she tried desperately to control the terror and pain she was feeling. He called out suddenly into the room. "Menzies…" He saw the man's head turn quickly and Kathryn's eyes fly to the door. "Menzies, it's over now. Let her go. We've disabled the numbers on the keypad so let's just end this now."

Menzies let a howl of rage escape him and his hand went to Kathryn's throat. "Nooo…" Chakotay saw him gain control of himself quickly and glance down. "Nice try, Commander, but I can see from here." Chakotay saw him look at the console behind Kathryn and the device that lay there. "There's still one number to go. It may not take out the entire ship but it's enough to take me and the bitch here. In the end, that's all I want." His eyes showed their madness and Chakotay forced himself to remain calm and buy as much time as he could. He forced himself not to look at Kathryn, knowing what he'd see in her eyes would only distract him.

"Menzies, we know everything. We know about David." He saw the hate in the other man's eyes and confusion in Kathryn's. "Alan, the Captain wasn't responsible for David's death. He walked into that himself. We've discovered sealed records and managed to break into them. Your parents knew about it all. That's why they gave up. It wasn't her fault…" He saw that Menzies was beyond accepting anything other than his own twisted beliefs. "Alan, please listen to me…"

Menzies laughed and pulled Kathryn with him nearer to the bomb. "Enough of your lies. I know how David died and I know who murdered him." He tightened his grip on Kathryn's throat and laughed as she fought for breath, her hands desperately trying to claw his fingers away. "That's right, bitch. David Cooper. Do you remember murdering him?" He saw the pieces fit into place on Kathryn's face and squeezed tighter and shook her when she tried to speak. "Don't even speak his name. Don't even try and justify your acts. You murdered him in cold blood. Well, at least you'll die knowing the pain you caused him." He pulled her closer to him and reached down to the device on the console before him. "Say goodbye to the Commander now, Captain. Sorry you never got a chance to let him ride you, you being the whore you are…" His fingers reached to the keypad and time seemed to stop.

For a split second, Kathryn's eyes locked with Chakotay's and he read in them all the love she could convey to him as he desperately tried to show his love for her in same way. Chakotay barely saw Menzies drop his finger to the keypad and saw Kathryn use the last of her strength to try and pull away. He vaguely heard her voice.

"Chakotay, get down…" The explosion that followed happened in a second and Chakotay dropped to the floor out of reflex. It took him a few seconds to realize that the forcefield had held and he stood shakily. He heard his own voice call to Tuvok but quickly saw that the Vulcan was already in action. He looked back into the room and saw the thick smoke and debris near the door. Almost immediately, environmental controls kicked in and the smoke cleared quickly, revealing the complete destruction of the room. The forcefield dropped as soon as the fire suppressants did their job and Chakotay stepped through the door, searching the floor before him for Kathryn beneath the pieces of control panel and other equipment which littered the place. He saw the body of Alan Menzies first and the fact that the blast had hit his back, the area now just a gaping wound, his head almost blown away. He scanned the area, blood everywhere, and finally saw Kathryn slumped against the far wall covered in blood and couldn't tell if it was from the dead man at his feet or her own. He was beside her in two strides, pulling pieces of metal and other debris off her then leaned down, his entire body shaking. He was suddenly aware of the Doctor and Tom beside him, pushing him away and he saw them go to turn her. He heard himself crying out at the sight before him as Kathryn's body fell limply when the Doctor turned her and her head rolled to the side. What he saw now was her own blood covering her head and face and that the knee length dressing gown she wore was soaked with it also. Numerous cuts covered every area of exposed skin and he closed his eyes a moment, unable to look at her this way. He heard the Doctor order a beam out and when he opened his eyes, they were gone. Standing slowly, he turned and saw B'Elanna's face before him and the tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…I couldn't get it in time…I'm so sorry…"

Knowing she desperately blamed herself and needed his comfort, he pulled her to him tightly. "You did the best you could. Without you we'd all be dead…"

Knowing he needed to be with Kathryn now more than giving her what she needed, B'Elanna nodded and pulled away. "Come on…I'm sorry…let's just get to sickbay…" She saw him stare at the pool of blood on the floor where Kathryn had been and pulled him gently by the hand. She had to take over and lead her old friend almost and together they walked to whatever news awaited them.

That news was slow in coming. They waited over four hours as Tom and the Doctor worked and operated on Kathryn, racing against the clock to stop the massive flow of blood from her body. Tom had never witnessed blast injuries so severe where someone survived them and prayed as he worked. When they had finally done all they could, they still had no answers for the two people waiting outside. The pilot and the Doctor shared a knowing look and slowly and gently moved their Captain onto one of the biobeds, making her as comfortable as possible. The Doctor nodded sadly and went outside, leaving Tom to finish up.

He tried his best to explain in layman's terms about the severity of the blast injuries Kathryn had sustained. He attempted to sugar coat his words to some extent but knew the exercise was futile. Chakotay's face was a mask of pain as he nodded, barely hearing what was being said to him, understanding only some of it. Terms like 'extensive internal injuries', 'severe head trauma', 'serious burns', 'massive blood loss' and 'coma' floated over him. He only knew they meant that Kathryn was in a critical condition and might not live.

Sometime later, he became aware of sitting beside her in the still of the medical facility and noticed that the lights had been lowered. He kept his silent vigil throughout the night, his lips moving in prayer one minute and calling to the woman before him the next. No matter how he tried to stop it though, his mind kept returning to the moments just before the blast had ripped through the small room and the look in Kathryn's eyes, the love he had seen in them and something else, regret perhaps, even apology. Her last words repeated themselves in his head, of her telling him to 'get down', words of no concern for herself, only him, only for his safety. He knew she hadn't expected to live through it all, knew that had been her belief all along since the whole ordeal had started, that her only worry had been him and the crew. With this knowledge came the deepest sorrow and he lowered his head to her warm body and wept.

The days following the explosion blurred together as he continued his wait for Kathryn to open her eyes again. After a week of hardly leaving her side, the Doctor tried to force the issue and get his commander to leave and get some proper food and rest but eventually gave in and left him in peace. Chakotay managed to keep abreast of Tuvok's daily reports on the repairs and mostly just nodded his understanding and acceptance.

Eight days after the blast which had almost destroyed Voyager, her captain finally opened her eyes. Chakotay was standing over her instantly, calling her name softly. It took several minutes before she was able to focus her eyes properly and look at him and when she did, she tried her best to smile but instead her face crumpled and her tears came. Chakotay simply bent down further to her and kissed the salty water from her face, gently stroking her hair.

"It's over, Kathryn. It's over. We're all fine." He spoke directly into her ear to ensure she could hear him, the Doctor having explained that her sight and hearing had been affected by the blast. She continued to sob, her body trying to release months of pent up terror. Chakotay gently lifted her into his arms and rubbed her back, careful in case he hurt her, and felt her clinging to him weakly. He caught the Doctor out of the corner of his eye and saw the Medic smile and nod his approval of Chakotay's methods then return to his office.

Kathryn's body was racked with sobs as Chakotay just continued to hold her, trying his best to be a buffer against the storm which rode through her. He absorbed her cries and tears, saying nothing except with the soft, reassuring stroke of his hands and the comfort of his arms. Finally, exhausted, he felt her fall limply against him and lay her back down slowly. She continued to almost dry sob, her breath coming in little gasps as her tears continued to pour. Chakotay still said nothing and just stayed as he was, letting her get everything out. He caressed her cheek and smiled down at her, his love showing in his eyes, speaking more than any words ever could. She eventually quietened and settled a little, never taking her eyes from his face, even though he knew her vision was probably blurred. He held her hands tightly in his and leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips.

"It's over, Kathryn. He's dead now. He can't ever hurt you again or anyone else for that matter. Try and sleep now and rest. I'll still be here when you wake up." He spoke a little louder than usual and continued physical contact with her as he saw her eyes droop slowly. He continued to hold her hand, even as she slept.

Slowly over the next week, Kathryn's condition improved. The Doctor assured her that her sight and hearing, which had been affected by the blast, would return to normal in no time. He explained as delicately as he could that despite the horrific injuries she'd sustained, her pulling away at the last second had resulted in Menzies shielding her from the very worst of the blast. Chakotay and Tuvok calmly explained to her everything about their discoveries and investigations and how they'd tracked Menzies down and managed to stop him in the end from destroying them all. Tom and B'Elanna called by also and explained their role in everything. Kathryn was amazed at how much they'd managed behind her back but understood why they'd kept everything from her and she thanked them profusely. Chakotay spoke with her alone too, telling her about going through her logs and finding the padd and he let her know everything they'd learned about Alan and David Cooper and the fall out to the family which had resulted from David's death. He finally got Kathryn to accept that she'd not been responsible for any of it but he knew she still had a way to go before the emotional healing was completed.

After a further two days, the Doctor finally agreed to let her return to her own quarters. Chakotay was with her when she was released and again felt her stiffen the moment they entered the door. His arm went around her waist and his lips pressed to her ear.

"He's gone, Kathryn. He's not here anymore." He saw her nod slowly and she looked up at him tearfully.

"His ghost is still here though. I still feel him…"

Chakotay smiled softly. "Only the living can harm us, Kathryn. The dead are gone. Why don't you spend a few days in my quarters until you're ready for this. Get your body right first and then tackle the rest."

She nodded eagerly and then seemed to hesitate. "Chakotay, that's not fair on you…"

He pressed a finger to her lips and smiled down at her. "I'll decide that. Now, what do you want to bring with you? Can you manage?" She nodded and gathered what she needed and was out the door in minutes.

After dinner that evening, Chakotay suggested she go to bed early and follow the Doctor's instructions to the letter. She was tired and didn't argue. She watched as Chakotay hesitated in the doorway before speaking.

"Kathryn, if you're uncomfortable with me being here on the sofa, I can always bunk in with Harry…" Kathryn's panic showed and she looked around her. "Kathryn?"

She slowly sat on the bed. "Please, Chakotay… I can't make you stay but… You've already done too much…giving me your bed… I can't ask more of you. I've done too much harm…"

He slowly moved to her and sat beside her, a frown on his face. "Kathryn, you could never ask too much of me. If you're all right with me staying here…" He saw the terror on her face and suddenly realized how afraid she was of being alone. "Kathryn, I'll stay with you. I won't leave you alone if that's what's worrying you…" He saw the fear change to relief but something else remained. "Kathryn, open up to me please. Talk to me. How could you have done any harm…?"

Her tears returned and she looked away. "It's just… That's it… I'm terrified to be alone and…I'm more terrified that…" She looked back at him, pain written on every feature. "Chakotay, the things I said to you…pushing you away like that…but I was so afraid of what he'd do if…"

Chakotay's answer was to pull her to him and hold her tight. He kissed the side of her head. "Kathryn, that's all past. You were just trying to protect us all. I wish I could have shared that with you, been there for you but… Kathryn, you did this the only way you could… When I think what you went through…"

Suddenly she was comforting him and they clung to each other for a long time. Kathryn's whisper in his ear started time again. "Chakotay…I have no right to ask this of you but…would you stay with me please…?"

He nodded and smiled. "I said I would. I'll just be right outside…"

Kathryn shook her head. "No, I mean…stay here… Just hold me for the night. I have no right to ask…" Her answer came as he pulled her to him again.

That night, Kathryn slept without nightmares but Chakotay lay awake listening to her breathing for many hours. She stirred occasionally and he tightened his hold on her many times. He knew this was the calm before the storm, that even though she'd opened up and let some of the trauma of the past four months go in sickbay, there was still more to come and he knew she'd never get past this until she faced it all and acknowledged it, then finally let it go for good. Eventually, he slipped off to sleep, the warmth of Kathryn's body making him feel as if he was finally home.

Chakotay resumed duty the next day and made sure Kathryn wasn't alone while he was away and he returned to her immediately after his shift finished. Despite a peaceful sleep the previous night, Chakotay awoke to Kathryn's screams within an hour of falling asleep. He held her tightly as she came down from the nightmare and the feelings of terror which it had left in its wake. When she finally began to settle, he gently led her out onto the sofa and replicated a soothing hot drink for her. He encouraged her to open up to him and stayed silent as she finally poured out all the pain and suffering, the terror and helplessness of the past months. When she'd unburdened herself, she looked up at him and for the first time, he noticed a slightly lighter look to her face. When she finally fell back to sleep nestled against his strong chest, he gently carried her back to bed and sat watching her for what remained of the night.

By the following afternoon, he'd reached a decision. Watching Kathryn jump every time someone hailed him or called at the door tore at him and he saw that it was wearing her down and hindering her recovery. He quietly suggested a few days 'away' on the holodeck and she jumped at the chance. He explained that it was all arranged if she wanted this, that each crewmember had donated some of their time for them and that Tuvok would take command until they returned. He'd made other plans behind her back but would wait to disclose those to her.

They spent three peaceful days at a beach report Chakotay had programmed in and Kathryn grew more relaxed with each day that passed. Chakotay knew it would take her some time to regain her former confidence but he saw the seeds of that begin to sprout in the fertile soil her opening up had created. Her nightmares lessened as she lay beside him each night and although the only physical act which passed between them was hugging and gentle caresses, they were closer than they'd ever been. They spent hours just walking and talking, Kathryn slowly letting go of the horror of the past months.

When the time came to leave the holodeck, Chakotay saw her slight hesitation and reached for her hand, squeezing gently. She smiled softly at him and he saw her ready herself for the real world again and her resolve to face the challenge head on. He felt her nervousness as they approached her quarters and slipped his arm around her shoulders.

"Kathryn, I have…well, we all have…well, a kind of surprise for you and I hope you approve. I mean, without your permission or anything… well, see what you think…" He reached over and entered his override code and the doors slipped open quietly.

He led her inside and ordered the lights on. Kathryn gasped at the sight before her as Chakotay tried to read her reaction. She gazed around her in astonishment at the re-decorated quarters before her, almost no trace of their former appearance in evidence. Only her own personal belongings remained of what had been.

"We changed everything. Bedclothes, the carpet, even the furniture was recycled and replicated anew. God knows how they managed that…" He saw that she was almost in shock but there was no trace of anger or any suggestion that what they'd done had been the wrong thing. "Did we do right? Is this OK? I know we probably should have asked you first but…" All his questions were answered by the wind being knocked out of him as Kathryn threw herself against him and her arms came around his neck. His shock wore off in a second and he returned the embrace and laughed softly. "I guess that answers that then…"

Kathryn finally pulled back, tears streaming down her face, their path interrupted by the creases of her smile. "Chakotay, I don't know…don't know what to say… It's such a wonderful thing to do…the gesture of it all…" She wiped her face with the back of her fingers and gazed around her. "Even the colours are just right…what I like… How did they know…?" She turned and smiled at him as he stared down at her. "They obviously had a lot of help from someone who knows me better than I know myself…" He shrugged and smiled, vestiges of the boy who had once been showing through. Suddenly he saw a serious look cross her face.

"Chakotay, thank you so much for this and thank them all for me too. I'll thank them myself also as soon as I'm back… I can't tell you how much this means…"

He led her over to the newly re-upholstered sofa and sat them both down. "I think I have some idea. I know that everything in here reminded you and I thought that maybe with the appearance changed it would help in some small way. I'm not sure how Starfleet will take it when we get back and they see what we've done…"

Kathryn smiled and took his hand in hers. "We'll just tell them the Captain needed a change in her life, that it was necessary to boost her morale and performance…" She grew more serious. "Can I interest you in dinner here tonight…to kind of christen the place…"

He reached out and stroked her cheek. "As long as it's replicated…"

She glared at him but he saw her smile showing beneath it. "You've some cheek…"

He smiled and stood slowly. "I'll leave you a while to get settled if that's all right…"

She smiled and nodded. "I'll be fine. I need to learn to be here on my own again but this will make it all so much easier…" She looked around her again and then back at him. "See you around 1700?"

He nodded and pulled her up to him then hugged her tightly. "I'll be back then. I'll know to come when I hear the smoke alarms…" He ducked from under her arms and was out the door before she managed to pick up one of the new cushions and hit him with it.

Chakotay arrived for dinner a minute early and saw that Kathryn was ready for him, the table laid with silverware and candles. He smiled as he watched her potter around her new quarters, making sure everything was as she wanted it. He delighted in the change he saw in her and the effect their short holiday on the holodeck had had on her. He'd spoken with the Doctor earlier and been assured that physically she was almost back to normal. He knew himself that the emotional healing would take longer but as he watched her, he knew she was within sight of the end of the tunnel, that Kathryn Janeway was made of stern stuff and would beat this. He marvelled also at how close she was allowing him now and prayed that it would continue when she returned to duty and was within view of the crew. Tuvok had informed him that Kathryn had made a short walking tour of the ship earlier in the afternoon and spoken with many of the crew, thanking them personally for everything they'd done for her. They, in turn, had thanked her quite openly for 'saving them all' as they put it, letting the matter be discussed without causing too much pain for their Captain. Chakotay looked up when he realized that Kathryn was talking to him and smiled.

"You were miles away there, Chakotay. Care to share the location?" She sat beside him, the distance between them less than usual but she seemed very comfortable with it.

"I was just thinking how well you're doing. Tuvok told me you were out and about this afternoon. Were you all right with that?"

She saw his concern. "I was fine. I was going to tell you about it. It was just a spur of the moment thing, a need to see my life again for a while, know it was still there in a way." He stroked the back of her hand, understanding exactly what she meant. "They were all great about it. They didn't try and pretend nothing had happened and that was such a help. I know I was different with them too, more open, if you like. It felt really good." She met his eyes and saw his loving smile and she matched it. "Come on, let me try and poison you."

He groaned and pulled himself up, taking her with him. "The things I do for you, woman…"

The cushion made contact this time.

Four hours later, they sat and sipped the wine Kathryn had replicated and their conversation ebbed and flowed but the silences were as comfortable as their talking. Suddenly, realizing how late it was getting, Chakotay put his glass down and leaned forward.

"It's getting late and I'm sure you're tired. I should let you get some sleep. Are you OK on your own here or do you want to stay another night at mine…?" He frowned when Kathryn didn't immediately meet his eyes. "Kathryn? Look, it's fine if you want to stay with me…" Finally, she looked up at him but he couldn't read her emotions. He thought he saw embarrassment but wasn't sure.

"Chakotay…I'd…I'd like to stay here tonight…but…" She looked down again for a moment.

"Kathryn, that's fine. If, however, you don't want to, know that there's no hurry. If you want to stay here, that's OK. If you want to come back with me, that's OK too. If you stay here and if you need me, I'm just next door." He leaned down to try and see her face and saw she was biting her lip. "Kathryn, what is it? Just tell me."

She looked up and stared out at the stars as if the words she needed were written there for her to see and read. "I was hoping…that…well, that maybe…you'd stay here…" She looked at him now and bit her lip again and he saw that she was actually nervous.

"You want me to stay here with you tonight?" She nodded. He cupped the side of her face with his hand. "If that's what you want, of course I will. I know it's helped you…" She shook her head, losing contact with his hand and reached up and took it in her own. She traced patterns across his fingers and her head dropped again as she watched her movements. Finally, she looked up at him again but her fingers continued their journey. He saw how unsure of herself she seemed and waited, giving her the time she needed.

"We've christened my new quarters, well, this room anyway. I was wondering if…if we could…" He saw how frustrated she was getting with herself, not able to say what she wanted. He remained silent as she drew in a deep breath in preparation for the big push.

"I was hoping we…we could…christen the…the bed too…" She looked into his eyes, fearing what she'd read there and wondering if he'd even understand what she was really saying and if he did, would he think her too forward. Chakotay for his part was afraid he'd misunderstood her. She couldn't be saying what he thought…

"Ahh, Kathryn, can you… Sorry…but can you be more…well, clearer? I don't want to misunderstand you and cause a problem…" He saw her eyes on his, not moving in their focus. "Are you talking about as we have been or something more…?" He got his words out and then held his breath.

She managed a small smile. "I'm talking about…the last one…the…the more…" She heard him let out the breath he'd been holding and found herself holding her own now as she waited for his reaction. She got it immediately.

"Kathryn, are you sure about this because… ? Why now? I mean, are you ready for this? A lot has happened lately and I don't want this to be just something to get you through or what you feel you owe me or… I think you know already how deeply I feel about you and it would kill me if this happened and then later on it was over and…"

Kathryn held his eyes, understanding everything he meant. "Chakotay, I know this is…well, sudden, that if everything hadn't happened as it did maybe this wouldn't be happening now…but I can tell you, it would have happened sooner or later and I want you to believe me on that. I've been moving towards that within myself for some time and… I've felt alone for a long time now and all this only reinforced those feelings, but Chakotay, what I feel for you was there already. This is only about the timing, nothing else. I…I love you. I have for a very long time. I'm just too much of a coward to have said it to you before. If, however, you don't feel the same anymore… I mean, I know…that we're still friends, good friends and that that will always be there but if…"

His fingers covered her lips and his heart hammered in his chest. "Kathryn, I love you too. I never stopped that. If you're sure this is what you want… I just want you to know that if we start this, it can't ever end, not for me. This has to be separate from everything that's happened, just between us, something that would happen anyway, something you wanted no matter what else occurred…"

She nodded and smiled. "Chakotay, it is, but I have to be honest with you. What happened has influenced me but it's only as I've said, in bringing it forward. While all that was happening, I just felt as if I was in this dark place where there was no light but I've realized that I was already in a place like that. It was a different place, I know, but darkness is still darkness and being alone or feeling that way, is also the same, no matter what the situation. I feel for the first time in months, no, actually years, that I've come out of that darkness into the light and I've discovered that that light shines from you, that you're my light. It doesn't matter what the darkness was or what caused it, the light is the same. My darkness was probably worse during the last months because what happened increased it and I didn't have my light and that was my fault and because of that it was probably the worst time for me…" Her tears started and he wiped them away.

"Kathryn…God, I love you so much. I want nothing more than to be with you completely, for us to be together completely. You're my light too. You've faced the darkest time but the only way to think of that is… I guess it's always darkest before the dawn and what we have here is a dawning…" He found himself choking up and closed his eyes a moment. When he opened them, he saw her look deeply into his eyes and the love shining there was alive. He lowered his eyes to her lips for a moment and saw them part slightly. He leaned in and claimed them, drowning in the sensation. He heard her cry from the back of her throat as the emotion of the moment tore through her and he felt his own tears break through. His lips pressed more firmly against hers as the feelings increased and they both knew the time for words was now past.

Kathryn opened her mouth under the pressure of Chakotay's lips and felt his tongue sweep her mouth, tasting her for the first time. She explored his mouth too, tasting him and the wine, her hands stroking up and down his back as she felt his mimic her own. As they finally broke the kiss, they continued caressing each other with their lips around each other's faces, unable to break physical contact for a moment.

Kathryn was vaguely aware of Chakotay sitting up then standing and picking her up in his arms before heading towards the bedroom. They fell onto the bed, lips locked together as their hands fought to free each other of all clothing. As skin met skin, hands and fingers explored areas long untouched and the emotion of it all was almost too much to bear.

Kathryn felt Chakotay's hands gently caress her breasts, his thumbs brushing her nipples as they hardened quickly under his touch. His lips travelled over her face and neck then further downwards until they covered one nipple, the warmth of his mouth causing her to arch her back off the bed as she cried out at the almost forgotten sensation. She felt his fingers pinching the other nipple, making sure it wasn't neglected. She pulled him as close to her as she could as he continued working over her breasts, stirring long dead feelings and bringing tears to her eyes. Her own hands wandered over his back and shoulders and she felt the ache between her legs become almost unbearable.

As if reading her every thought and feeling, Chakotay left her breast, his hands taking the place of his mouth and kissed and licked his way further down, his tongue created moisture circles over her burning skin. Kathryn was almost incapable of coherent thought as his lips brushed her hairline and he nuzzled further down. She spread herself for him and felt his hands caress her thighs, gently holding her open to him. His lips brushed slowly over her inner thighs, taking the long route to the prize that awaited him. Kathryn squirmed beneath him and he saw how desperate she was becoming, seeing how wet with desire she already was. He blew gently on her core, causing her to moan loudly then lowered his mouth over her, his lips and tongue coming into play. Kathryn cried out and only his hands, holding her hips in place, kept her on the bed as he licked, blew and sucked on her pearl of pleasure. The rush of sensations that washed over her obliterated everything else as she felt her climax fast approach. She felt herself floating on the feelings which surrounded her and when he pressed two fingers deeply into her, she screamed and felt the rush of moisture his actions caused. Kathryn's head tossed from side to side and her hands clutched at the sheets as she felt the long-denied sensations approach and finally crash down over her. Her scream seemed to come from far away as she rode the wave which seemed to go on forever. She became aware that his fingers were still stroking her inside and his mouth was still assaulting her clitoris, forcing the journey to continue and she felt herself come down from it only to start the assent all over again.

Kathryn found breathing almost impossible and clutched desperately at Chakotay's shoulders, needing him inside her more than her next breath. He rose above her and locked eyes with her and she felt him hot and hard against her throbbing centre. Her breath almost stopped now as she looked into his very soul and she knew her own was open to his eyes also. She arched her hips slightly and parted her legs further, the silent invitation all he needed as he poised himself at her entrance. Knowing she was more than ready for him but still aware enough to know how long it had been for her, Chakotay pressed into her warmth slowly, entering her gently and giving her time to adjust to his size. He felt her tightness surround his pulsing member and fought to control himself. Kathryn arched her hips further, trying to draw him in as deeply as she could, despite the slight stinging she experienced. Within minutes the ache was replaced by pure pleasure and she fought to hold contact with his eyes. When he was fully sheathed, his tip touching her cervix, he began a gentle rocking motion and fought to keep his own eyes open. Unable to control himself any more, he started thrusting and reading Kathryn's encouragement as she met his thrusts, increased his pace until he was almost pounding in and out of her as she stayed with him. He felt her inner walls begin to tighten and saw her own fight to keep her eyes open. Suddenly he felt her inner muscles clamp down on his rock hard shaft and saw her throw her head back as her scream came and her world exploded. Seeing her in the throes of her orgasm took the last of his control and with one final hard thrust, he exploded inside her, his fluid mixing with hers as he cried her name, half aware of her screaming his.

As they lay together afterwards, clinging tightly to each other, Kathryn's legs held Chakotay inside her until she felt him soften, desperately trying to hold on to him for as long as she could. He gently pulled out of her and rolled them onto their sides, afraid his weight might crush her. They continued to hold and stroke each other, whispering soft words of love in the semi darkness, until sleep claimed them.

Chakotay awoke during the night and finding himself sticky, eased himself out of the bed and fetched a bowl of warm water. Carefully trying not to disturb the sleeping Kathryn, he gently bathed her then felt her stir before opening her eyes. The love he saw in the blue depths as she looked at him almost took his breath away and the fact that it was there even before she had opened her eyes. He smiled and placed the bowl on the nightstand as she reached for him and pulled him to her, knowing he'd need it again soon.

Three days later, Kathryn returned to duty and even officiated over the funeral which was held for Alan Menzies-Cooper, as he was now entered in the logs, the name being used to send a silent message to Starfleet when they read Voyager's logs. As his casket floated off into space, Kathryn watched it and leaned against Chakotay in full view of the crew when he slipped his arm around her shoulders. She placed her own arm around his waist, knowing they would all see and the message was sent loud and clear. When she turned back to face them, all she saw was their smiles of love and support and several nods of approval. She turned her face up and smiled at Chakotay who simply leaned down and kissed the top of her head. She glanced back once more at the darkness of space behind her, the casket now gone from sight then turned back to the light of her ship and crew and the man beside her, whose love had been the beacon which had guided her back. Together they stepped forward into the future.