Kathryn bit down hard on her clenched fist and squeezed her eyes tightly closed. She even held her breath in a futile effort to gain some shred of control over the pain which ran through her body in hot waves. She willed herself not to cry out, determined not to let her jailors hear her suffering, knowing every sign of weakness would be reported back to the one who'd put her here.
She lay on her bunk now, in the same position she'd fallen, when the guard had roughly shoved her down on it earlier. Pain continued to wash over her and she fought the waves of nausea which accompanied it.
Today's beating had been the worst yet, the guards as usual standing back, refusing to intervene, almost encouraging the other women whenever they attacked her. Kathryn wondered if this too was part of their orders.
At first she'd been able to defend herself to some extent, but as the constant attacks wore her down, the injuries she sustained rarely treated, she was now an easy target for the others to vent their hate on.
She gingerly tried to move her other arm, knowing some bone there was broken, and lightly pressed against the throbbing wound in her side. Her breath caught in her throat and she swallowed a cry, as a jolt of pure agony shot through her at the contact.
The stab wound was a few days old now, left untreated, and she knew from the pain and burning she felt from the area, that it was now badly infected, and that the poison was running through her, her body's natural defences unable to cope anymore.
'Oh, please God…help me…get me through this…' It struck her how often she prayed now as she fought to control her breathing in an effort to lessen her pain. As it continued and she began to shiver from her fever, despite feeling as if she were on fire only a moment ago, she suddenly amended her prayer.
'Please God…just take me…end this torture…let me die this night…don't let me face another morning…another day here…' She opened her eyes slightly and squeezed them tightly shut again almost immediately, the bright light of her cell cutting into her eyes. They left the light on most of the time now, denying her any relief from it. Occasionally, they shut it off, when they sensed she needed the comfort of it, leaving her in the dark to face whatever horrors her mind conjured up, most of them memories of her time here.
Without warning now, the light went out, plunging the cell into darkness. Kathryn eased her eyes open as she listened to the sounds of the rats, as they ventured out from behind the walls in search of something to eat. She didn't fear them when she could make out their small eyes in the occasional sweep of faint light from the searchlights outside the prison. She realized now that these rats were the only creatures here she didn't fear.
She tried to regulate her breathing once more, concentrating on each breath in and out, trying to control her pain. Her body went from hot to cold and back again and her thirst was desperate, but she knew she wouldn't get any water this night. She never did after a beating. She knew it was almost two days since she'd eaten but that didn't bother her now, her insides too nauseous to accept any offering she made to it.
Eventually her body began to let go, her mind following closely behind. Kathryn gave in and let her thoughts drift back, let them return to a day - how long ago now? She gave up trying to work it out and just let the memories and nightmare images come to her.
They were home. Finally, after all those years of struggling and hardship, they were home. Kathryn stood on the bridge and smiled at her bridge crew, remembering all their happy times also. She then smiled to herself. For the most part, she knew she wouldn't change their adventure. Her smile slipped a little though as she remembered those lost along the way and she shook her head slightly. Maybe she would change a lot of it, after all.
The gentle pressure of Chakotay's hand on her arm brought her back to reality. She turned and smiled into his kindly face, seeing that he was almost reading her thoughts.
The thoughts filled her mind. 'You, my friend, I wouldn't change you for the world. Maybe now I'll have the courage to tell you how much I love you.' She returned his smile and nodded, silently telling him she was fine.
There had been a brief press conference when they reached Earth, no member of Voyager's crew allowed to speak to the waiting media. Holoimages were allowed to be taken but the crew were watched closely, even their conversations with each other monitored. They were then taken to separate sections of Headquarters, Kathryn in one direction, Chakotay in the other.
They didn't see each other over the next weeks. Debriefings went on late into the night mostly and by the end of the third week, Kathryn was physically and emotionally exhausted. She was separated from everyone and everything she knew, kept from all media coverage even. She spent her days in a stuffy office, answering endless questions over and over, every single word of her logs taken out and examined. Late at night, she was escorted back to her one roomed 'cell' where she was given a light meal and locked in, until the entire ritual began again the next day.
Kathryn knew who was behind her treatment. One Admiral Alynna Necheyev. Kathryn was only too aware that the older woman hated her. In the coming days, she'd find out just how much.
The days dragged on, Kathryn talking until she was hoarse, in the small artificially lit room. She'd barely seen the sun. As the fourth week drew to a close, Kathryn finally learned her fate.
Necheyev sat waiting for her this day when she entered the small room. Kathryn hid her surprise as well as she could, as she took her seat. Necheyev for her part, barely glanced up, scanning through some padds on the desk before her, letting the silence stretch ahead endlessly. Kathryn knew her game and refused to play it. She used the silence and the time to stretch her arms and legs, glancing around the room at anything other than the woman before her. Finally, she felt the stare of the Admiral on her and met her eyes.
"I'm not going to beat around the bush here, Janeway. It's a simple offer." Kathryn remained quiet until she knew more. The other woman's stare never wavered. "This meeting, by the way, is off the record, and you'll never prove it took place." Kathryn barely nodded, a tight knot building in her stomach.
"I've never made a secret of how I feel about you or how I felt about your father either. You Janeways are a thorn in my side. At least now, I only have one of you to deal with, thank God…" Kathryn clenched her teeth together, refusing to give this woman the satisfaction of seeing her rattled.
"That just leaves you." She sneered openly at Kathryn. "What are we going to do with you?" She stood now and fetched herself a cup of coffee, not offering the woman before her anything. When she'd filled her cup, she looked back at Kathryn.
"You must have thought you'd return here as Starfleet's 'Golden Girl'. I'm so sorry you were disappointed." Kathryn stayed tight-lipped, her expression remaining neutral. "I guess you'd no idea that I was in charge." She laughed to herself and shook her head. "That one must have shocked the pants off you…" She sneered at Kathryn again. "I imagine it doesn't take much to get the pants of you though, does it? Probably whored your way home." She laughed again as Kathryn just kept her stare even. "No? I find that hard to believe. I'd say you fucked everyone on that ship. Can't see you being fussy about little things like race or gender." She laughed again at her own crude words. Kathryn just looked back to her, her eyes betraying nothing, determined to hold her dignity. Finally, Necheyev sat again and placed her cup on the desk in front of her.
"Well, Janeway, here's the deal. You've come back to find me in charge of it all. Your mother and sister are gone…" She laughed. "I won't bother to offer condolences. You Janeways don't have much luck with shuttles, do you?" She shook her head as she laughed, seeing Kathryn fight her tears. "I'd avoid them if I were you…or then maybe not…" Kathryn just looked away.
"You don't have much of a sense of humour, do you? At least with this crash, it was on dry land. Quicker for them…" She shook her head. "Messier to clean up though…" She smiled when she finally got a reaction, as Kathryn turned and glared at her. "Tut tut, Janeway, calm down now." She stood again and looked down at the woman seated before her.
"OK, fun over with. Here's the deal. I have the fate of your Maquis scum in my hands…" She nodded and smiled now when that got a reaction from Kathryn. "Now you're interested…" She sat on the corner of her desk. "Well, it's like this. I have the power to send the damned lot of them to prison for the rest of their miserable days. I even have the power to send them to a Cardassian prison, especially that traitor of a leader of theirs. What's his name now? Ah yes…Chakotay. Screwed him too, did you?" She studied Kathryn's face for a moment and then nodded again. "Interesting. There's something there with you two all right. He certainly asks about you enough, and now that I see your reaction… Sleeping with the enemy, were we, Captain?"
Kathryn bit down on the inside of her mouth and looked away. She spoke now for the first time. "What do you want, Necheyev? I'm not interested in playing your little power games." She stared straight ahead of her, too tired and too worn down to say more. She caught the Admiral moving back to her chair from the corner of her eye and then looked to the side as the woman sat down in front of her.
"I know you never screwed him, even though you badly wanted to. Screwed a few others though, didn't you? What were their names now? Jaffin…yes, that was one…oh, and of course, Michael Sullivan. Really, Janeway, a hologram? You must have been desperate. And then that Inspector… Of course you didn't get past first base with him…" She laughed when she looked into Kathryn's eyes and saw the anger and shock there. "What? You surely didn't think I'd overlook your personal logs now, did you?"
Kathryn barely held herself in her seat. "You had no right. How dare you…" She jumped slightly when Necheyev jumped up.
"I had every right. I own you, Janeway, body and soul and don't you ever forget that. Your ass belongs to me now."
Kathryn jumped up also, unable to control her rage. "You don't own me…" She jumped again when the other woman slammed her fist down on the desk.
"Sit down, you bitch. I own your Chakotay's fate and the fate of the others, so in turn I own you. Now sit down and shut up." They glared at each other for a full minute until finally Kathryn moved back to her chair, knowing she had no other choice. Despite her reaction, she knew she'd little fight in her.
"I'll ask you again. What do you want?"
Necheyev laughed and sat also. "That's better. Good girl." She laughed again at the glare she received. "I'll tell you." She played with her cup for a moment, letting the moment build.
"I told you I had a deal for you. The fate of those traitor bastards lies in my hands. You can save them though."
Kathryn tried to control her breathing. "What is it you want?"
Necheyev smiled evilly. "I want you. I want your pain and suffering and I want you out of the way. Either way, whichever way you choose here today, I'll get that." She let her words sink in before continuing. "They go to jail or you do. It's up to you."
Kathryn just stared at her. "You can't get away with this. No one has that power…"
Necheyev laughed again. "Oh, I have that power. One word from me in the right place and this happens. One stroke of the pen, as they used to say, or in this day and age, one imprint of the thumb. Your ass is mine, Janeway, I told you that. Now shut up and hear me on this." She glared at Voyager's Captain. "Here's the choice. You can walk out of here a free woman. You'll lose everything, of course. No uniform or back pay. No references. You'll leave these precincts with nothing and walk out those gates to nothing for the rest of your life. No one will take you on because I'll make sure of that. You've nowhere to go and no one to go to. You also won't have a former crew because I'll make sure that every last one of them, Starfleet and Maquis, serve time. Their kids will end up in homes and they'll all blame you. You'll die out there a sad, lonely and empty woman, knowing you have nothing and that you were responsible for ruining a lot of lives, which you've already done once anyway." Kathryn stared at her in disbelief, too shocked to speak. Necheyev savoured the moment.
"Your other choice is this. They walk free and you go to prison. You'll still die a sad and lonely woman though and that's the beauty of this plan. There's just one little proviso with this way." She watched Kathryn closely. "No one will ever know that you're in prison. As far as anyone is concerned, you simply walked away and never looked back. You'll serve at least ten years in a maximum security facility, solitary confinement with hard labour but with the knowledge that your former crew are going on with their lives. I'd considered sending the lot of you down but this way gives me more satisfaction in the end. So Janeway, what's your choice?" She smiled now, her face a cruel twist. Kathryn dropped her eyes and squeezed them closed. She brought her breathing under control, fighting the tidal wave of emotions which swept over her.
"They'll never buy that. They'll fight you…" She looked up slowly.
Necheyev just shrugged. "Fight what? They won't know anything. As far as they're concerned, you'll have just abandoned them. They'll buy it because you're going to tell them that you're leaving, that you've had enough of them after all these years. Oh, I know Chakotay is going to be terribly hurt, but so what? That was something else I saw in your logs. You love that bastard…admitted it… Never told him though. Too bad. You'll hurt him and be hurt more because of that and that's all that matters to me." She threw her head back and laughed. "God, I love this…"
Kathryn just stared at her, not believing the evil she was looking at. "Why are you doing this? What have I ever done to make you hate me this much?"
Necheyev just bit her lip. "That's for me to know, Janeway."
Kathryn shook her head. "You'll never get away with this. Starfleet will find out…"
Necheyev leaned towards her, her mouth a thin line. "I am Starfleet, you stupid little bitch." She leaned back now and smiled to herself. "Tell you what, you think about this for a few hours and let me know your answer. I think I know it already but I'll give you this time, just to be fair to you. Aren't I being fair now?" She laughed as she stood up.
"Let me put it this way, Janeway. There's enough in those logs of yours, Voyager's and your personal ones, to send you down anyway. Your crew were accessories to all that and the Maquis are traitors to the Federation so you could all still serve time. This way suits me more. This way you suffer the most and that's what I want more than anything. You'll disappear into a nice little prison where your life will be hell and I'll get the satisfaction every day of knowing how you're suffering. God, life can be good."
She picked up her cup and played with it. "No one out there will ever find out where you are, because you and I will make sure of that. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing that your little band of criminals are going on with their little lives, marrying, having kids, being happy. You'll miss all that, of course, but who cares. Your Chakotay will meet a nice little piece of ass and marry her. She'll give him the kids you hoped would be yours and he'll be happy." She laughed again. "Still, you can save him. Oh, he'll be hurt and disgusted with you, probably learn to hate you even. They'll all end up doing that. And then there's you. You'll spend each day praying for your death and I'll spend my days filled with the satisfaction of knowing all that." She moved away now and placed her cup beside the recycler. "You think about it all. Just know this. I can and will do what I've said here and you know that. The choice is yours." She leaned over and pressed a button on her desk and almost immediately, a uniformed guard entered the room. "Take this back to its cell. I'll see it again in two hours." With that she was gone, leaving Kathryn sitting there with her life and her dreams in ruins.
Kathryn sat on the side of her bed and wept bitterly. The thought of never seeing Chakotay and her crew again tore at her but she quickly replaced it with images of them all in prison, their families torn apart, suffering when they didn't have to. She wiped at her face and shook her head. She already knew the answer she'd give Necheyev, had known the minute the words were out of the other woman's mouth. She told herself that this was just one more sacrifice she had to make for her crew, and that taking what Necheyev planned for her and hurting those she loved, was just the price she had to pay when she knew the alternative.
Kathryn stood stiffly now and made her way to the small washbasin. She splashed water on her face and dried it, staring at the image in the mirror before her. Her eyes looked dead and she knew they matched how she felt inside. She felt empty, unable to fight back and she shook her head sadly. These past weeks had worn her down, the constant questions and isolation, leaving her with nothing to fight with against this woman who hated her so much. She moved back to the bed and sat wearily, forcing herself to hold the tears back this time. She was successful for the most part but inside her at that moment, her heart died.
Chakotay sat in the grounds of Starfleet and smiled at Tom and B'Elanna. He glanced around at the other crewmembers and nodded to the few who met his eyes. Suddenly he became aware of B'Elanna speaking to him and shook himself.
"Sorry, B'El, I was miles away there…" He smiled at her laugh.
"You don't fool me, old man. Your mind was still within these precincts…"
Chakotay shook his head and smiled again. "Less of the old man, if you don't mind and I'll admit it, my mind was still here…"
Tom smiled at them both. "I'm sure it won't be much longer now. They let us mix together again after only a week. They've even let us all have family visits. I suppose it was only to be expected that the Captain would be kept longer than the rest of us…"
Chakotay nodded, his face serious once more. "Maybe… I just miss her…" He realized his slip but smiled when he saw the surprised look on the two faces before him. "Oh, don't look at me like that. The entire crew knows how I feel about her." They all smiled. "I just want to see her again and…"
B'Elanna reached over and patted his hand. "See her and maybe propose?" She laughed and ducked the hand that aimed a slap in her direction.
"You're getting far too big for your boots, Torres. I'm still your Commanding Officer. Remember that."
B'Elanna saluted him. "Oh yes, Sir. Forgetting my place here, Sir. Permission to be bridesmaid, Sir." Tom rolled on the grass with laughter as Chakotay just shook his head.
"If I'd known then what I know now… Why did I ever take you on?"
B'Elanna was laughing hard too. "Because I was the best damned Engineer you ever had the good fortune to encounter and because you love me. Go on…say it… Tell B'Elanna you love her now…" She blew a kiss in his direction before dissolving into laughter again.
Chakotay joined in, their laughter infectious. "Paris, will you take this woman off my hands please? Marry her or something." His laughter slowed as he witnessed the look which passed between his two friends. "Hang on here, is there something you both want to tell me?" They turned to him and both smiled.
"Actually, Tom asked me only last night and I said yes. We'll tie the knot as soon as we can get out of here."
Chakotay's face broke into a huge grin and he leaned over and hugged B'Elanna then slapped Tom on the back. "About time. Seriously though, I'm very happy for you both." He grinned then. "You deserve each other…" He ducked the slap which B'Elanna made at him.
"You'll really enjoy giving me away, won't you?" She laughed but the look which passed between them was tender and spoke of shared memories.
"You honour me, friend. I'm really happy for you, for you both." They were quiet then for a while until B'Elanna broke the silence.
"Chakotay, you'll see her soon and everything will work out."
He smiled and nodded. "I hope so…I really hope so…"
Kathryn allowed herself to be escorted back into the small room where she spent most of her time these days and waited quietly until Necheyev came in. She noticed the embarrassed look on the face of the young guard and smiled softly at him. For his part, he just looked away, seemingly unable to meet her eyes.
Kathryn barely managed to avoid jumping when her enemy stormed into the room and sat down quickly.
"Well, Janeway, what's your answer? I haven't got all day here." She rearranged some padds on the desk in front of her and then stared hard at Kathryn. "Well?"
Kathryn drew in a deep breath. "You already know my answer. I've no other choice here and you know that."
Necheyev laughed and sat back. "Oh, I know that all right, and you've no idea of how much pleasure it gives me. As I said before, either way you pay and suffer. I want to hear you say it though. Which do you choose?"
Kathryn stared hard at her. "You can send me to prison. Whatever it takes to let them go free. Is that what you want to hear?" She watched the Admiral's face break into a wide grin.
"You've made my day, Janeway." She smiled evilly and Kathryn felt a chill run through her.
"Just one thing."
Necheyev raised an eyebrow. "And what would that be? You're in no position to make any demands here."
Kathryn kept her gaze level. "How do I know you'll keep your word on this?"
Necheyev's smile came, twisting her face as her eyes narrowed into slits. "Oh, you can take my word on it." She laughed at Kathryn's scornful look. "Let me put it to you this way. There'll be another press conference where it'll be announced that all the Maquis members will be pardoned. You'll attend that press conference with me. It will be announced but won't be signed and sealed until afterwards. I'll sign it in your presence an hour later and then you leave here and begin the best time of my life. Besides, I want you to know that they're free and moving on with their happy little lives while you rot away." She stood and got herself a coffee, then sat again.
"At that press conference, you will not converse with any member of your former crew, especially that bastard Chakotay. You'll read a statement which I'll prepare, announcing your wish to retire from Starfleet. At that time, you'll also announce that you'll be leaving San Francisco because you need to get away from what you've had to endure for the past number of years. Something to that effect anyway. I haven't prepared your statement yet. You will read only what I give you to read and say nothing else. All this will take place in the next day or so. As soon as the press conference is over, you'll leave with me and we'll take care of that bit of business. Then, my dear, the rest of your miserable little life can begin." She shook her head and laughed. Kathryn just sat there, knowing her life was over.
Two days later, Kathryn entered a large conference hall with Necheyev at her side. She looked towards the small dais and saw that there were only two chairs there behind a table. She then glanced towards the right and saw Chakotay and the rest of her crew, all sitting together. Her eyes met Chakotay's briefly, his face lighting up with a smile as he looked back at her, his feelings for her clear to see. Kathryn forced herself to harden her expression and merely nodded at him and then cried inwardly as she saw the smile slip from his face, to be replaced by a look of hurt and confusion.
She tore her eyes away from his and glanced at the other crewmembers gathered around him, determined not to meet anyone's eyes. She then looked to her left and saw the assembled press. A nudge against her arm from Necheyev drew her attention and she walked to the dais and took her seat. She pulled at her uniform, twisting a little to pull it into place on her thin frame. It felt too big on her now and she knew she'd lost weight over the previous weeks.
Kathryn glanced quickly over the crowd assembled before her. She looked then at Necheyev sitting beside her and a wave of nausea washed over her at the thought of what lay ahead. She forced down the pain which ran through her and bit the inside of her lip. As silence finally descended over the hall and her enemy cleared her throat to speak, Kathryn took a deep breath. 'You can do this…it's for them…to save them…save him…' She clutched the padd in her hand and prayed for strength. Prayed for the first time in a long time.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, Voyager crewmembers, ladies and gentlemen of the public, I welcome you here today." Necheyev was in her element and smiled sweetly for the holoimagers. "Today is a special day, a very special day. It is a day I shall remember for a long time." Her words were meant for Kathryn and she knew it.
"I know you're all anxious to know about the verdict which has been reached by Starfleet and I know the families gathered here today are anxious to meet with their loved ones who have been missing from their lives for so long. Without further ado, I'll now make that announcement and then Captain Janeway here will read a statement of her own." Necheyev smiled at the woman beside her and patted her arm, her touch burning into Kathryn's flesh.
"First of all, I would like to say on behalf of Starfleet that we are all very proud of what this crew achieved. To have made their way home against the odds which were stacked against them, was an amazing feat. I welcome them all here today and say to you 'Welcome home, people'." There was clapping and some cheers.
"Now, I won't keep you hanging any longer." She cleared her throat again and picked up a padd, which she briefly looked at. She then looked towards the audience. "The decision of Starfleet regarding the members of the former Maquis who then joined with the Starfleet crew… I can announce that all members of the former Maquis…" She looked at Kathryn briefly and smiled but her eyes were cold. "They are all to receive full pardons and are now considered members of Starfleet." The hall erupted in loud cheers and hollers. Kathryn for her part, let out the breath she'd been holding. She risked a glance towards Chakotay and saw that several press members were snapping off holoimages of him and the other crewmembers. She looked away before he could look back at her.
When the cheers died down, Necheyev smiled again at the press members. Kathryn just kept her eyes down.
"That, ladies and gentlemen, is the good news. I also wish to announce that full back pay will issue to all Voyager's crew and that positions within Starfleet await any of them who wish to take up that offer." Kathryn could feel Chakotay's eyes on her but she didn't dare look up. "There is one other matter which needs to be dealt with here. As I said, that was the good news. I now, unfortunately, have to announce to you the bad news." There was silence in the hall.
"I have to inform you that Captain Kathryn Janeway, who led her crew home under such unbelievable circumstances, has informed me of her wish to retire." There were shocked gasps around the hall at this news. Kathryn tightened her grip on the padd she held and raised her head a little as holoimages were snapped off by the press members who had rushed to the dais. She glanced over at Chakotay and saw the look on his face, a mix of hope that maybe she would be free to come to him now and nervousness that maybe there was more to this. She looked away quickly.
"Captain Janeway has made her wishes clear to us and we must respect those wishes. It is understandable under the circumstances, that she would wish to let go of the mantle she has carried for so long and reclaim her life. I will let her now read out the statement she has prepared." Necheyev sat back with a smile on her face, carefully hiding the smug, satisfied look she wanted to show. Kathryn glanced at her quickly and up close, saw what no one else could. She saw the evil venom in the woman's eyes. She turned back and activated the padd and prayed for the strength to get through the next minutes.
"I state for the record…" She cleared her throat and forced her emotions to shut off. "I state for the record that I am Captain Kathryn Janeway. This is the statement I wish to read to you now." She gripped the padd tightly, her knuckles almost white and kept her eyes down. "As of this date, I wish to state that I hereby retire from Starfleet. That is for the official record. For my own part, I wish to state that I had a fine crew out there. It was a long and hard journey to get home. Now that I'm home…I want to leave that part of my life behind me…" She clenched her teeth together to control herself, hearing the shocked gasps from her crew. "I wish to leave that behind me and move on with my life. I had a life before all this and I wish to find that life again." Kathryn stopped again, needing a moment to try and control herself. She kept her eyes down, knowing that if she so much as glanced towards Chakotay, she'd break down. "The last years have been eventful and interesting to say the least and they were hard but now they're over and it's time to move on. When I leave here today, I'm going away to find my old life again. I would ask you all to respect my privacy and let me get my life back. Thank you for your time." She forced herself to look up as more holoimages were snapped off. Not once did she look towards Chakotay and her crew. She felt Necheyev lean forward beside her.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please now. I feel it appropriate at this moment to also ask you to remember those crewmembers who didn't return home…the ones who sacrificed their lives…" Kathryn's head snapped up and she stared at Necheyev. The woman had deliberately made it look like an oversight on the part of Voyager's Captain. "I'm sure the Captain wants the families of these men and women to know that they are in her thoughts." She smiled sweetly at Kathryn and patted her arm then turned back to the press.
"Captain Janeway has spoken with me over the last weeks and made herself very clear on this. She explained it to me quite clearly. She feels she worked long and hard to get her ship and her crew home but that her job is done now. It's only understandable that she feels now that enough is enough. She was with these people, fine people all of them, for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Is it so hard to understand that she would now wish to get away and reclaim her life?" Kathryn lowered her head again and fought to hold herself together.
"We have asked her and she has promised to consider, a place within Starfleet again someday. In time perhaps, when she's managed to put all this behind her and forget about it, maybe then she'll return to us and take on the role she was always meant for, within her Starfleet family. That is all, ladies and gentlemen. Good day and thank you for coming."
Kathryn felt Necheyev grip her elbow as she went to stand and stood with her. She let herself be led across the hall towards the door through which they'd entered. As she passed her crew, she tried not to look at them but her eyes still met Chakotay's face, despite her best efforts. What she saw there, broke the last shred of anything which lived within her. His face had hardened as he stared at her, carefully masking the hurt she still managed to see. He held her eyes for a brief moment.
"Captain. Goodbye. I hope you find the life you want." He turned away immediately. Kathryn felt her nails dig into her palms and her eyes scanned the rest of her crew. None of them held her eyes for more than a split second, before they too looked away.
Outside the hall, B'Elanna stood beside Tom as she fought down the rage she felt. She swallowed hard as she looked up at Chakotay. "I can't believe…" She shook her head. "Chakotay, I'm so sorry…"
He met her eyes and shook his head. "I can't believe it either, but it was clear…" He looked away to where several press members were still hanging around. He watched as a Starfleet Official walked over to them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you're waiting for Captain Janeway, she has already left. There's nothing more for you here." With that, he turned and re-entered the hall.
Chakotay snorted. "That answers that. She's already left to 're-claim her life'. Seems she can't wait to put us all behind her."
Tom shook his head sadly. "You don't think this was all just…maybe…that she'll…be in touch…?" He shrugged when he saw the look on the faces of the others. "OK, it was a thought. I just don't want to believe that she'd… I can't believe all this. I can't believe that the woman who stood on that bridge, was the same woman who sat in there today. I don't buy that." He blew out a long breath. "Come on, Chakotay, you knew her better than anyone out there…"
Chakotay looked sadly at him. "Part of me wants to believe as you do, but another part of me now believes I never knew her at all. The woman I thought I knew would have had the basic common manners to speak to her crew face to face before she left. She'd have at least thanked them for what they did. That woman in there… She didn't even mention those we lost. Necheyev had to cover for her with that. You saw her. She couldn't wait to get out of there. She wouldn't even look at us." His anger was starting to build and he didn't care who saw it.
Tom shook his head and sighed. "I don't know. I still think…"
Chakotay cut him off. "Look, Tom, she's back where she belongs. It didn't take her long to revert back to what she was before. All the time out there, she acted the way she needed to, in order to get home. She used it and she used us and we just bought into it…"
Tom shook his head. "No…no…I still think there's more here… Chakotay, we were out there for years. No one can keep up an act that long, not even her."
B'Elanna laughed. "Oh, come on, Tom. She just let it slip a little. She was Starfleet then and she's Starfleet again now. She may say she's retiring but she'll be back with them in no time. It's what she is. We served our purpose and now she has her fancy life back. She doesn't need us anymore."
Chakotay nodded his head. "To think I ever…and yet…" He sighed heavily. "Look, you two, I have to get out of here. I'll see you later. I just need to get away from here…" He shook his head and walked off.
Tom shook his head slowly. "I still think there has to be more to this…and Chakotay might see that when he cools down." He sighed deeply as B'Elanna gave him a gentle smile.
"Look, Tom, Chakotay's hurting badly and she caused it. She led him on in a way and now she's just rejected everything he ever felt for her. I can't forgive that. I also can't forgive what happened here today. I know she was kept away with debriefings but she could have come to us today and said something. Instead we got that…that display in there. I can't forgive that." Her voice, which had risen, softened again. "Tom, I know she was like a mother to you, someone you looked up to, but you saw for yourself. I know it's hard to take and I know you're hurting too but…" She clearly saw the hurt in his eyes. "Honey, let it go. We have our lives ahead of us and…" She smiled. "Look, let's see how it goes. I'll reserve my final judgement on this. If we hear from her over the next few days or weeks, I'll back down, but if she just disappears from our lives…"
Tom took her hands in his. "OK, love. I'll go along with that." It was all they could do.
Necheyev smiled to herself as she watched Kathryn looking out the window at her crew.
"They certainly don't think much of you at the moment, do they? I thought it went very well. Your performance was lacking somewhat, but I think it worked well nonetheless." Kathryn turned slowly from the window. Seeing Chakotay's hurt, pain and anger was too much for her. She'd watched as he'd stormed away, her heart crying for him. For now, she hardened herself.
"Let's just get those pardons made official. I assume you can keep your word on that at least…"
Necheyev just laughed. "Touchy, aren't we? Here they are." She slid several official padds across the desk for Kathryn to look through. "I've already taken care of them and you can see where they've been entered into the official records." She watched as Kathryn studied the padds carefully. "I can assure you they're in order. Check the computer there and you'll see that copies have already been sent to all the media outlets. It's official now." Kathryn just glanced up at her and accessed the computer terminal, checking and double-checking everything. Finally, she was satisfied. Necheyev shook her head and laughed. "Happy now?"
Kathryn merely nodded. "What now?"
Necheyev came around the desk and stared hard at Kathryn. "Now? Now you begin your descent into hell, Janeway…"
Chakotay sat and sipped at the cool glass of lemonade B'Elanna had brought him. He looked out over the garden of the small house they'd bought.
"What will you do? You're more than welcome to stay on here with us, you know that. At least until you find somewhere…"
Chakotay smiled and shook his head. "Thanks for the offer, B'El. I'll take you up on it for a day or so more but then I'm leaving." He saw the shock on her face. "There's nothing for me here now. I don't mean you two and the crew but…" He saw they knew exactly what he meant. "Look, I want to go home. See what family I have left and re-connect with what I was. Maybe that way, I can learn to let go. Hopefully, at least, to get rid of some of this anger and hurt because I know in the end, they'll only eat away at me."
Tom swirled his drink in his glass, spilling a few drops on his trousers which he wiped away. "I really thought we'd have heard from her. A few words…something…"
B'Elanna studied her new husband. "I'm sorry, Tom, I know you did, but it's been a month now. She never even answered you when you invited her to the wedding. We don't even know if she received it." They both saw the hurt on his face.
"I was sure Dad would be able to trace her but she seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. He even asked Necheyev if she knew anything."
Chakotay looked up. "Did she know anything? They seemed to get on at the press conference. Funny that, because Kathryn always said the woman hated her guts and I got the feeling it was mutual."
Tom shrugged. "Dad said she hadn't heard anything. He can't stand her either. She thinks she can rule Starfleet to suit her own needs and for the most part, she does. Dad couldn't understand Kathryn being with her either, said something about Necheyev never having liked her or her father. It goes way back. I don't know. I don't understand any of this…"
B'Elanna reached over and squeezed his arm. She smiled to herself at hearing Tom refer to their former captain by her given name but they'd all taken to using it now, the habit picked up from Chakotay, and the term 'Captain' just didn't apply in their minds anymore. They all used first names now, every crewmember, rank left behind them when they walked from Starfleet.
"Tom, you have to let this go. The rest of us have for the most part. We're not so angry anymore." She smiled sadly at Chakotay. "It's better that way. She hurt us all badly but we've let it go and gotten on with our lives. She could have gotten in touch with any of us, at any time. We're not hard to find. We may not have taken Starfleet up on their offers but we're still around." Tom nodded but his face said otherwise.
Chakotay shook his head. "I still find it amazing that not one crew member took up a position with them. Everyone resigned. I can't imagine that was liked although I didn't hear any objections."
B'Elanna laughed. "Probably glad to see the back of us. Too much trouble in the end. They got their moment of glory from us and then moved on. Well, we got our pardons and moved on too and I, for one, am glad. I wouldn't swap the life I have now…" She looked over at Chakotay. "Sorry…"
He smiled his understanding. "B'El, don't ever apologize for being happy. You have what you and Tom want. You've a lovely home here, work you both love. Enjoy every second of it. I'm better than I was and you know that. I'm still angry and hurt at what she did but it's not the raw pain it was. I've developed an acceptance of it all now and the rest will fade in time. For now, I just want to go back to Dorvan and make a life there for myself. At the very least, I'll lay some ghosts to rest there and come back here and make a life on Earth. That's if you two don't mind me being around. I've already cramped your honeymoon period."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Chakotay, you're my brother and Tom's too. Don't you ever feel that you're not a part of this family. Now shut up and stop hogging all the lemonade…"
The month after the press conference was a living hell for Kathryn. She'd quickly and quietly been transferred to her place of imprisonment without another word from Necheyev. Her evil smile had said everything for her. Kathryn had thought she would accompany her to the prison but then understood that the Admiral wouldn't take the chance of being seen.
Within minutes of arriving at the prison, Kathryn's 'descent into hell' began, just as Necheyev had promised her. As soon as she materialized in a cold and damp room, two guards advanced on her and grabbed her arms roughly, dragging her down a hallway into a smaller room. She was asked one question, to confirm her name and then it began.
She was ordered to strip in front of four leering male guards, their batons in hand, warning her not to try anything. Kathryn managed to hold onto her composure for just a moment, as she stared back at them, before two of them grabbed her and held her, while the other two cut the uniform from her body.
"That's the last time you'll wear that uniform, you whore…" They all laughed at the comment as Kathryn fought to hang onto what little of herself remained and didn't fight them. She was pushed forward then, their hands on her body as she was roughly strip-searched. She tried her best to hide her tears of humiliation and pain but they saw them, giving them something else to laugh about. She tried to force her mind out of the room as their hands pulled and prodded at her, their fingers deeply probing her most private areas, invading her body, hurting and humiliating her as best they could. She was then pulled into another room, where they threw white powder over her and ordered her to shower. Kathryn stood under the freezing water, trying desperately to wash the stinging powder from her mouth and eyes.
She was then issued with a prison uniform, mostly rags, and taken to her cell, the place they told her would be her home for the next ten years, if she didn't die first. She was pushed roughly through the door, landing hard on the stone floor, her head banging painfully off it, before the heavy metal door was slammed shut and the light put out. It would be more than a week before she left the cell again, a week which would almost kill her.
Kathryn had no way of measuring the time as she lay on the small and smelly cot her guards had provided her with. She'd only managed to find it by groping her way around in the dark. She knew she wasn't alone in her cell, the small scurrying sounds which came to her, telling her that. She knew it had to be rats but she swallowed her fear and curled into a tight ball on the narrow bed.
The light had come on then, almost blinding her and she'd curled tighter into herself, shielding her eyes from the glare. Sometime later, it was switched off again, just as she'd gotten used to it and was welcoming it. The light chased away the rats at least. It went on and off over the next hours but no one came near her. Eventually, a sound alerted her to a small panel in the door being opened and she squinted against the light coming on to see a hand place a tin mug on a small ledge, before withdrawing.
Kathryn stood shakily and walked to the door, taking the mug and examining the contents. It looked like water but something frothy floated at the top. Instinctively, Kathryn knew one of the guards had obviously spit into it. Knowing she needed the liquid in her body badly, she used her fingers to scoop out the spittle and forced herself to drink the foul-tasting liquid. Within seconds, she knew there was more than saliva in the water. Cramps and a wave of nausea gripped her body and she fell to her knees in agony, the mug dropping noisily to the floor. She barely made it to the small toilet bowl before she was violently sick and within another minute, knew her drink had also contained a strong laxative. For the next hour or more, Kathryn was forced to endure the sniggers and taunts of the guards, as they watched her through the door, her body straining against the attacks on it. Whatever semblance of dignity or pride she might have had left, was taken from her now.
Weak and exhausted, badly dehydrated most likely also, Kathryn eventually managed to crawl to her bunk, where she fell onto the course covering, her body trembling and shaking. The stench in her cell sickened her stomach but she forced herself to swallow, determined not to be sick again. Sometime later, two guards came in and hosed the cell down, spraying disinfectant on the floor, before turning the hose on Kathryn, their laughter ringing in her ears. Finally, she passed out, welcoming the oblivion, but knowing that her escape wouldn't last long.
Kathryn was roughly shaken awake and dragged off her cot. Dry bedclothes and another raggedy uniform were thrown at her. She waited a moment to see if the two guards before her would leave but quickly understood that they were there for a free show. Turning her back to them, she stripped off the damp rags she wore and slipped the dry ones over her head. She tuned out the lewd comments and set about changing her excuse for a bed. Finally, they left, their laughter floating back to her as they walked down the long corridor. Kathryn simply curled into a ball again and tried to find some escape through sleep.
Sometime later, the panel opened again and a bowl of something resembling a thick paste was pushed into her. She eyed it warily but the hunger which was consuming her won out. She forced the paste into her mouth and swallowed, trying not to taste it. As the hours went by, she knew that this offering at least, hadn't been tampered with.
Time passed, the light going on and off with no pattern to it. She was hosed down once more, in the corner this time, and another set of rags given to her.
It was dark again now and she just lay there. She jumped a little when the light came back on and she heard the heavy door opening. She looked towards it and saw a guard she hadn't seen before, at least she didn't think she had. He stood there for several minutes, two more guards she recognized standing behind him. This new one just stood and stared at her, his baton slapping repeatedly into the palm of his hand.
"Well well…what have we here? A gift of fresh meat from our Admiral friend?" Kathryn eased up on her cot, a surge of fear going through her. "I take it she's been 'well treated'…?" The two behind him laughed and nodded. "Good. Good. Can't have her getting it too easy now, can we?" He slowly advanced into the cell now, never taking his eyes off Kathryn. "Been hosed down?"
One of the guards answered. "She's been cleaned inside and out…hosed down only an hour or so ago…"
The new guard nodded his head and laughed. "Good…all ready for us then…"
Kathryn looked from this new guard to the other two when she heard the door closing. Raw fear now surged though her and she looked back at the guard standing over her. She knew her fear showed, but there was nothing she could do about it. She saw his face twist into an evil smile and watched as one of his hands dropped and he cupped his crotch. "Yeah…she's ready all right…" Kathryn cried out and jumped up off the cot. Within seconds though, the two guards had her in their firm grip and were holding her tightly between them. They were both laughing as she struggled vainly, one of them looking to his superior.
"Front or back…?"
The new guard just laughed. "On her back at first. Let her see what she can expect from now on…" Kathryn screamed and cried out and struggled harder as she was dragged towards the cot and pushed down on it. She kicked as best she could, her uniform riding up her thighs as they held her upper body and arms in place. She screamed again when she saw the senior guard drop his baton on the cot and unzip his pants, releasing himself, before he grabbed her legs. Kathryn was helpless as he tore the rags from her then held her legs and hips down, before lying over her. He grabbed her face as she continued to beg and cry out.
"Shut up, you stupid bitch. You better get used to this." With that, he forced his way inside her, invading her unwilling flesh as Kathryn screamed out at the agony which ripped through her.
Some part of her left her body after that. She almost felt as if she were watching from across the cell as they took turns with her, twisting her back and forward between them, taking her whatever way they wanted to. They flipped her onto her stomach, then onto her back again, forcing themselves into her repeatedly, until there was no struggle left in her. Now she just lay there and let them pull her body around, her mind having left the arena.
Over the next days, Kathryn was never given any more clothes to wear. She was left lying on her cot, naked and shivering, her body marred with numerous scratches and bruises, bites and cuts, as the guards came and went, taking what they wanted from her whenever they felt like it. From time to time, one or two of them washed her down. Pain was her only companion.
They mostly came in groups of two or three, occasionally four and at times, one came alone, knowing he wouldn't have any trouble with her. She didn't fight anymore, just withdrew into herself as it continued on and on. And then they stopped coming so often, the novelty of the 'fresh meat' they'd spoken of, wearing off. Finally, she was given a set of rags to wear and like the robot she'd become, she pulled them on and then just lay there. Two days later, she was taken out into the fields to work, the guards having decided that she'd been broken in. She was reminded that she was there for hard labour, and another hell began.
Over the next weeks, her body worked and some part of her mind co-operated with it, but the woman who had been Kathryn Janeway was no longer there. She toiled under the hot sun from dawn to dusk with little water, her feet throbbing painfully from the constant blisters she got from the ill-fitting boots they'd given her. Her hands were as bad. The guards constantly watched her, hitting her whenever they felt like it. She slowly became aware of other prisoners working around her in adjoining fields but she never looked at them, although she was aware that they wore different uniforms to her. As darkness fell each evening, she was dragged back to her cell, a small bowl of paste and a mug of the stale water all that awaited her. Nightly visits from the guards were rarer now but not unknown. Occasionally, one of them would come to her, take what he wanted and then leave, her limp body and lack of struggle, giving him no challenge.
As time passed, Kathryn's mind almost shut down, in an attempt to keep itself sane. The guards constantly hit out at her for not being quick enough or some other 'rule infringement' she'd committed. Occasionally, flashes of her former life came to her but she quickly shut them away, not wanting any more pain. Eventually, she was forced to work with other prisoners and despite the state of her mind, instantly sensed their hostility towards her. She heard the guards tell the others that this was the 'Starfleet bitch' they'd all heard about, that she was nothing now but a 'weak little nobody whore' and a 'lousy fuck' with it. Kathryn tried to ignore the lewd comments the guards made about her and just worked on, using the gruelling toil to stop her thinking. She knew the more exhausted she was at the end of the day, the easier it was to find oblivion when she collapsed on her bunk.
Kathryn constantly felt the smack of the guards' batons on her arms or legs, or across her back or hands. The others laughed at her, especially when she cried out. Kathryn kept a close eye on the other women and noticed how a lot of them went willingly with the guards during the day, strolling towards the small huts which surrounded the fields. She knew what they were doing and found that she actually understood, knowing that they'd grab at whatever made life any easier for them. In her own case, it would never come to that. The guards just took it anyway.
The first attack by the other prisoners came shortly after that, the guards standing back and letting it happen. Something in Kathryn fought it, as two other women jumped her, screaming abuse at her for crimes she had no knowledge of. Eventually one of the guards had called a halt to their entertainment and Kathryn had been dragged back to her cell early, no one coming to treat the injuries she'd sustained.
After that, the attacks in the field happened almost every other day, the women feeling they'd almost been given a licence by the guards. Once, after she'd fought back, one of the guards had taken over the attack, knocking her to the ground, where he'd smacked her face a few times before forcing himself on her, to the cheers of his fellow guards, even the other prisoners. Whatever it was in her that held her together kicked in, and Kathryn had painfully pulled herself up from the ground after this, dragging her uniform back down, before picking up her spade and returning to work. The cheers and laughter died down almost immediately. Over the next days, fewer attacks came.
Chakotay stood and surveyed the stretch of land before him and smiled sadly to himself. The view from his piece of property to the far ridge was magnificent and he knew this was where he would settle. It was the perfect place for a home, even if no one else would share that home with him.
He looked back at the semi-built house and shook his head, knowing it wasn't bad for a few weeks work. He smiled as he thought of all the help he'd received with the building, the entire community coming together to work with him and then a surge of pain went through him. He'd always imagined bringing a wife to a home like this, raising kids and working with his hands. That dream seemed shattered now and he pushed it aside but a stray thought remained. 'Kathryn would have so loved all this.' He walked away now, knowing that by the end of a further few weeks, this house would be a home, ready to invite him in.
True to their word, Chakotay's remaining family on Dorvan and his friends had the house finished in just under three weeks. He stood back in amazement as he looked at the log cabin, all modern facilities already installed, even a large bathtub. He'd cried as he'd installed the tub himself, thinking back to happier times and knowing that it was those memories that had made him put this tub in place.
His cousin, Taymar, had been the only one who understood the significance of the tub and who'd been witness to his tears. "Chakotay, I can't help but think you have another reason for installing this bath…other than the memories you spoke of…"
Chakotay had looked up surprised. "I told you. I got to like a bath myself."
Taymar had merely smiled knowingly. "You still hope that someday she might come? Still hope somewhere inside you that she will see this one day and share it with you? My cousin, there is only pain in those dreams."
Chakotay had stood up quickly. "I don't think that…"
The older man had simply smiled. "I didn't say you thought it. I said you hoped it." Their eyes had met and the truth had been seen. "You will, however, only let go of those hopes and dreams when you are ready to do so…"
Chakotay had just sighed. "I'm past the anger and the pain that came from that."
The other man had simply nodded his head. "I know you are. You're not past the other pain though…or the dreams. You forgive her for the pain she caused you…but the pain of losing her…the pain of the love you still carry for her… That has yet to leave you…and I sometimes wonder if it ever will."
Chakotay shook his head now and smiled. His cousin was too wise, too seeing. He smiled at him now, lost among a group of children and adults, all eating and drinking in celebration of the completion of their work. The same thought came to him. 'Kathryn, you would have loved this.' He chased it away and went to join his family and friends.
Kathryn had no idea of how long she'd been in the prison now. She went through the motions of each day, doing whatever she could to avoid notice. She watched other prisoners in the adjoining fields and noticed that some of them watched her and the women who worked alongside her now. She noticed somehow, that they wore different prison uniforms but dismissed it from her mind. She didn't want to think about anything anymore, no matter how trivial. She sucked in the air, hoping to calm the constant nausea in her stomach and went back to work. She looked at her arms as she dug the ground and it hit her suddenly how thin they were. She knew she'd lost a drastic amount of weight since coming to this place and just shook her head. 'With luck, I'll just fade away… '
Slowly over the next weeks, Kathryn's mind slowly started to come back to her more and more as an acceptance settled over her. She thought about her previous life now occasionally, praying that her crew and Chakotay were happy somewhere. She wondered just how much of her daily life was reported back to Necheyev and somehow knew that every move she made and every action made against her was reported and found she didn't care anymore. She was too tired to think about her hate for this woman anymore. Days passed one like the next, attacks coming from some of the other women still, although not on the scale that they had been. Whether or not the guards intervened, depended on how bored they were. Outside of all that, Kathryn went through all the motions of eating when food was given to her, despite the constant nausea which she lived with, drinking the water she was passed, working when she was in the fields and sleeping when she was in her cell. Nothing else existed. She still tried in some way to defend herself when the other women jumped on her but it was more out of instinct than anything else as the constant attacks wore her down, physically and emotionally, the injuries she received rarely treated. When the occasional guard visited at night, lying there and letting it happen also became instinct.
Events then took a different turn about three months into her sentence, although Kathryn had no idea of how long she'd been there. The guards in the field were playing some kind of card game, ignoring their prisoners for the most part, all of them knowing there was nowhere for them to run anyway, and that they wouldn't get far in their half-starved state either way.
Kathryn was working away, trying to exhaust her body and mind, when one of the women approached her. "You Starfleet whore…you killed my brother…" Kathryn glanced around her and then towards the guards. She saw they weren't watching.
"I killed no one." Her voice sounded strange to her from misuse. She tried working on, to ignore this woman. Suddenly the spade was torn from her hands.
"I said you killed him." Kathryn looked towards the guards again and saw that this time they were watching with mild interest.
"Look, just let me work. I killed no one. I don't want a fight…"
The woman leered at her. "Well, too bad, Starfleet…although a fight wasn't what I had in mind…" Kathryn saw the makeshift knife a second too late. She felt it, as it sliced into the flesh of her side before being pulled out again, the woman moving away immediately. Kathryn clutched at the wound as she fell to her knees, seeing the spread of blood over the light colour of the material which made up her uniform.
"Oh God…" Her breathing changed to panting as pain washed over her and she felt the warmth of her own blood on her hands. She looked up to find a guard in front of her, throwing his hands up and shouting at the other women.
"For God's sake, ladies…couldn't you have just beaten the shit out of her again? You're making work for me here." Kathryn heard the women laugh and saw that the guard was unconcerned about her injury, only annoyed that his rest had been disturbed. "Now I'm gonna have to drag the bitch back to the block…" He kept to his word, pulling Kathryn to her feet and dragging her alongside him as she cried out in agony. By the time they reached her cell, she was almost unconscious.
"You get to stay here for the rest of the day. Nice stunt to get off work by the way…" Kathryn still pressed down on the knife wound as she lay sprawled on her cot.
All she got in answer was laughter. "Oh, shut up and stop moaning. It's nothing. If it gets infected, we might do something. Just shut up and stay there…" With that he slammed the door closed and switched off the light.
Kathryn spent the night in agony, nausea and dizziness washing over her in waves. She cried that night for the first time in weeks, as the pain wore her down. She knew she was passing in and out of consciousness but had no concept of how long she'd been lying there.
At some stage, one of the guards came to check on her and tossed a few rags at her, telling her to clean herself up, and that she was lucky, as she wouldn't have to work that day. Kathryn tried to clean the wound as best she could, crying quietly with the pain. She eased herself back onto the bunk then and used the rest of the rags to make a bandage and padding of sorts and vaguely wondered how she hadn't bled to death yet. Eventually she passed out again.
Kathryn was left in her cell all the following day also, before someone came and stitched her wound. She was given nothing for the pain and no anaesthetic while the crude stitches were put in place. Within a few hours, she was pulled back to work, despite how weak she was from blood loss. She fought the pain as best she could but was incapable of doing much and the guards ignored her for the most part, only occasionally hitting her across the knuckles when they passed.
Three days passed like this before the next attack came, Kathryn totally incapable of defending herself in any way. She lay on the ground as fists and kicks rained in on her, before the guards decided enough damage had been done. This time, they left her lying where she'd fallen until the evening when she was dragged back to her cell.
And so she lay there where the guards had shoved her down, biting down on her fist to avoid crying out. The memories and nightmare images still passed through her mind until she finally let the darkness consume her.
Tom smiled at B'Elanna as he planted the last of the small shrubs they'd bought at a local market. She threw her eyes up and laughed at him.
"You're just so proud of yourself, aren't you? You'd think you were the first man to ever plant a garden."
Tom pouted. "It's my first garden…" He walked over to his wife and stroked her face, a puppy dog expression on his face. "Sorry, love. It's OUR first garden…"
B'Elanna laughed and shook her head. "Maybe you should have stayed with Starfleet. Their Diplomatic Corps sure could have used you." She smiled as he leaned in to kiss her. "Get off. You're all dirty and sweaty…"
Tom nuzzled her neck. "Some women like their men that way…"
B'Elanna just smiled to herself and leaned her head to the side, allowing him more access. Suddenly she saw a man standing watching them and jumped. "Tom?" Tom just nuzzled deeper. "Tom… Stop it. There's someone…"
Tom looked up at her with a leer in place but turned when he saw that she was looking over his shoulder, her face serious. He turned around and studied the smiling man who was watching them before recognition dawned. "Jason? Jason Clarke? It can't be…"
The stranger just smiled more. "Hello, Tommy. How's life been…or do I even need to ask?"
Tom shook his head and moved slowly to the man. "I don't believe it. Jason…good God, man…" No more words were spoken as the two men embraced and howled at each other, leaving B'Elanna standing behind them, totally bewildered.
Tom finally broke the bear hug and turned to his wife. "Honey, this is Jason…Jason Clarke…an old and very good buddy…"
B'Elanna smiled now and reached out her hand, only to be grabbed and hugged. When Jason let her go, she stood back and gave him a lop-sided grin. "So I see… Can I ask how you two know each other? I've never heard your name."
Jason gave a stern frown and looked at Tom. "Been keeping secrets from the little lady?" He held a hand up at the glare he got from B'Elanna. "Sorry…bad choice of words. From the…?"
Tom laughed. "The wife, Jason. This is my wife, B'Elanna Torres Paris, the love of my life…"
Jason gave a mock salute then looked at Tom. "I thought pool was the love of your life?" This earned him a playful punch from Tom.
"That was in the bad old days…before this beautiful creature found me and saved me from myself…"
B'Elanna smiled and nodded. "And don't you forget it, buster…" She smiled at Jason. "I have some cold lemonade inside or there's beer if you two would prefer that…?" She nodded her head as their eyes lit up. "Did I even need to ask?"
B'Elanna entered the back garden and handed Tom and Jason two cold beers. She smiled as she watched the easy way they talked with each other, as if they'd seen each other only the day before. "So how do you two know each other then?"
Tom looked up and smiled at his wife, his face taking on a slightly serious look now. "Jason was with me at the penal colony in New Zealand. He was a member of the…" He looked at the man beside him who nodded his permission. "He was a member of the Ravens."
B'Elanna looked shocked. "I've heard of them. They were very like the Maquis. In fact, almost the same, just slightly different causes but the same fight. My God, Jason…" She shook her head. "Has Tom told you…?" She saw her husband shake his head and Jason frowned.
B'Elanna smiled. "You're looking at a former member of the Maquis here."
Jason looked shocked then his face broke into a huge grin. "Well done, Tommy…you know how to pick a good woman then." He smiled at them both and an instant friendship was born between the three of them.
Tom smiled and nodded. "So what's been happening with you then?"
Jason shrugged. "Only got out recently. Been getting settled…a job…apartment…that kind of thing… Making a new life. I mean, the old one's gone…that's for sure…" He smiled at them both but saw shock on their faces.
"You were there the same time as Tom and only just got out? What…? Sorry. I shouldn't ask…" B'Elanna blushed at her own question.
Jason just smiled and shook his head. "B'Elanna, it's OK. I've no secrets from Tommy Boy here." B'Elanna shook her head at the name. "I was in for a lot longer simply because of what I did and who I was. Starfleet needed examples…some there more than most…" He took another drink of his beer and explained. "Look, I didn't ever kill anyone. I did wreck havoc on Starfleet though and when they caught up with me, they were determined to make a good example of me. They didn't manage to catch many of us Ravens. Weren't that many of us to catch. Anyway, I think they'd have given me life if they could have. As it was, ten years was the maximum sentence they could impose and they made sure I served every last minute of that." He frowned when he saw the look of anger on their faces, especially B'Elanna's. "What is it?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "Starfleet isn't exactly a curse word around here but… You tell him, Tom. I'm gonna make some dinner…"
Tom nodded and watched her go. "Like you, she lost a lot of good friends in the Maquis. Starfleet will never really be forgiven. You know how it is."
Jason nodded. "I know well. I hope I didn't upset her too much…"
Tom smiled and shook his head. "It's a little more than that…" He went on to tell his old friend about everything that had happened since they'd last seen each other and about the Maquis. He was just finishing up when B'Elanna returned, carrying a tray of dishes. She caught the last of Jason's sentence.
"She just walked away like that? After all you'd all been through together?"
B'Elanna laughed. "Actually, Jason, we're not quite as mad at her as we used to be, although it is still a sore point. We've a good life here and that's all that matters to us now. We don't really talk about her that much anymore. She hurt us too much, although even that's fading. Actually, it's Chakotay I still worry about…"
Jason looked up quickly. "Is that THE Chakotay? The Maquis leader?" They both nodded. Jason shook his head. "That man is a legend. How do you know him?" Tom filled him in on the rest of the story.
Jason was amazed. "Wow. I can't believe you know him and I certainly can't believe Starfleet let him go. Who's in charge there now? Necheyev must have popped her clogs, I guess… I hope, anyway." He didn't miss the look which passed between Tom and B'Elanna. "What now?" Tom told him, filling in any last gaps in the story.
Jason sat back with his beer. "Wow, again. That woman…Alynna Necheyev…" He shook his head. "She's the one who made sure I served my time. Made it hard too for a while. This was after you left. Finally, she seemed to forget about me. I guess she had bigger fish to fry and just lost interest. I was sure my last lap would be the worst when I heard they were sending me to The Farm but it wasn't…"
Tom looked puzzled. "The farm? Where's that?"
Jason laughed. "Not so much where, as what. I'm surprised you never heard of it. Still, it was a little after your time…" He took a long drink of beer and leaned forward. "Let me tell you about 'The Farm' then. It's upstate from here…in the countryside…way out. It's Necheyev's little playground. Well, part of it anyway. I mean, it's a proper 'correctional facility' as they call it. It's just that part of it is… well, the story goes that some people can disappear into there, if other people want them to disappear. I'm sure you follow me." They both nodded.
B'Elanna spoke her mind. "So Starfleet are involved in this? The almighty Starfleet…?"
Jason held up a hand. "You've got it wrong, B'Elanna. Starfleet itself probably doesn't even know that the part I'm talking about exists. I'm just saying that certain people do know."
Tom nodded and laughed. "You mean Necheyev rules it all…?"
Jason didn't answer at first and just raised an eyebrow. They got his meaning through. "Look, guys, a lot of that is speculation…until you're there and you see and hear things. Oh, my stint there wasn't that bad. I was actually in the trusted, open end of the prison. Near the end of my time and all that." He smiled softly. "I didn't forget you, Tommy, or how you helped me in New Zealand…" He told B'Elanna how Tom had saved his life in a fight with another prisoner. "Tommy got the knife off the guy and broke his arm. They never came near either of us again after that…" The two men laughed at the memory. Finally, Jason went on.
"I'd have been in contact and come to see you sooner, only I had to get settled first. As I said, a job, place to live. I'm still catching up with the outside world too and it took some time to find you. I didn't know about Voyager and all that...only heard recently. They didn't exactly give us access to the media in there." He smiled. "That must have been some party…?" He frowned when they laughed, the sound mocking.
"Oh yeah…all of one press conference…" Tom shook his head bitterly and told Jason about the famous 'homecoming'. He stood up and went to a cabinet, taking out several holoimages. "Here. That's all the news that's fit to print." He sat down again and watched his old friend scan through the images, nodding to himself and smiling occasionally.
"I recognize Chakotay and you two of course, even that bitch Necheyev." He frowned now. "I know her too…I think… She's…" He shook his head. "Naw…yeah…yeah…but…"
B'Elanna stood up and moved to him, sitting on the arm of the chair. She saw Jason's finger point at Kathryn. She laughed. "Well, of course you know her. That's the famous Captain Kathryn Janeway. Everyone knows her. Probably would know her more if she'd stuck around…" She laughed bitterly and then frowned as Jason continued to study the picture before him.
"No…no…I mean… I told you. I didn't know about this. I didn't see any of it in there…didn't know about it all. I'd no access to media for the last ten years, in fact… No…I know her from somewhere else…maybe a little different looking… I mean the uniform and all changes her here but… I know her…and it would have to have been the penal colony…up at The Farm…"
Tom laughed. "I seriously doubt she was there."
Jason looked up. "Where else could it have been?"
Tom shook his head. "Jason, it couldn't have been her…unless… Was she visiting someone? Is that it or was she there as a visiting dignitary?" He shook his head then. "No…not that either. She retired. She couldn't… Jason, are you sure? It couldn't have been her." He looked up and saw B'Elanna's doubtful look too, then looked back at Jason, who sat shaking his head.
"It was there. I know it was…and she wasn't a visitor…" He was quiet for a moment. "It's coming back to me slowly…but she was there. I know it…and she was a prisoner. I just can't remember where…what section…"
Tom leaned forward now. "Jason, she'd either have been there as a visitor or in an official capacity…except that she retired…so that leaves a visitor…if it was her at all…"
Jason shook his head firmly. "I'm telling you, Tommy…it was her…and she was in a prison uniform…" He stabbed his finger on the holoimage to make his point. Tom looked at B'Elanna whose face was a picture of concentration as she made her way to her chair again.
Finally, she spoke. "So that's where she went. This tells me one thing only. She had to be there undercover. I guess it also tells us that she never really left Starfleet after all. This has to be Section 31 or something." She bit down hard on her lip. "Maybe she was with them all along…"
Tom laughed and shook his head. "Oh, come on, love, no way to that. She'd be useless to Section 31 stuck out in the Delta Quadrant."
B'Elanna laughed. "We didn't exactly plan on being out there, you know. She just got caught up in it the same way we did."
Tom shook his head. "No, I don't buy that. Besides, she'd been a Captain for a while and they never work like that. I'm not sure I buy her joining with them when we got back either. I mean, what…? She suddenly gets recruited by them the minute she touches down on Earth again? No…" He looked over at Jason and saw his eyes register something. "What is it, Jason?"
The other man nodded his head. "I remember. She was a prisoner and she was over in the next fields…working there… Yeah, I remember now. She was alone for a long time…working alone…except for the guards, of course. I remember now…and she was a solitary…in solitary confinement…because I remember the different uniform…so that blows your Section 31 theory. Someone undercover would never be a solitary. They'd be in the main prison population." Tom and B'Elanna were both shaking their heads in disbelief. Jason wasn't finished though as more came back to him.
"She was there and I remember her. I didn't see her for a while then, cause I was moved to another duty and then when I came back she was with the hard labour detail…other women…though why a solitary on hard labour was in with others I don't know, but she was most definitely a solitary confinement prisoner because of the uniform. It's lighter in colour than all the others and she was definitely on hard labour…there from dawn to dusk…every day…even before she was put in with the others." He shook his head at his old and new friend.
"Look, I know it sounds crazy and you think I'm wrong here and I admit…she was in the next field but I see good and I never, never, forget a face. Couldn't afford to in my line." He smiled at B'Elanna and saw that she understood. "Look, I remember her because she had a few run-ins with the other women…jumped by them a few times. She wasn't too good at defending herself though. She went down easily. You don't exactly keep your strength up in there…unless you're in with the guards in some way…giving them what they want…you know what I mean…" He laughed cynically. "The guards let it happen, of course…even in our section. They rarely stopped the fights. They took bets, enjoyed them. I had her down as an informer or assumed this was payback for something. That happens a lot as you know, Tommy…" Tom just nodded. "Anyway, the guards always stand back and let it happen…either for their own amusement or for a bribe." He rubbed at his face. "She was beaten by the other women a few times, as far as I saw and heard…" He was quiet now as they all digested everything they'd spoken of.
Finally, Tom broke the silence. "It can't be… God, how…why…? I don't understand? Jason, are you 100% sure of this…that it was really her?"
Jason nodded his head. "I feel sure…I am sure…but… Look, I'm not that important anymore, not seen as a threat." He shook his head. "I can go back and visit. It's no risk. I'll talk to a friend of mine still in there…see what I can find out. I could show him a holoimage…see if he agrees with me…check it out…" Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other and nodded.
Tom turned back to Jason. "You're sure this isn't any risk to you?"
Jason smiled slightly and shook his head. "It's no risk and besides…I owe you big time, Tommy Boy…"
When Jason had left, Tom and B'Elanna sat quietly for over an hour, trying to get their heads around everything they'd learned. B'Elanna stroked the back of her husband's hand.
"You think I should call Chakotay? Let him know about this?"
Tom sighed deeply. "Maybe…I don't know. All this is still a pretty painful subject with him."
B'Elanna nodded her head. "I know it is but… Tom, if it is her… Oh God, we'll have been so wrong."
Tom shook his head again, his mind confused. "Maybe we'd be better waiting to see what Jason finds out."
B'Elanna shook her head quickly. "And if it is? We'd have wasted time… Tom, if he knows now, he can try and get here. The travel time between here and Dorvan isn't as long as it used to be. He could be here by tomorrow if he takes the express shuttle. Oh God, I just know there's something going on here. Jason was so sure and… He was right about being in a Resistance Movement. You learn pretty quickly never to forget a face. It could well mean your life."
Tom bit his lip and looked up at her. "I know Jason's right in one way, but still… It sounds too incredible to be true and yet…" He shook his head sadly. "Maybe I'm just clutching at straws, looking for something that'll tell me there was a good reason for what she did or why she walked away… I guess I still can't buy it that she just left like that…"
B'Elanna squeezed his hand and smiled sadly. "Underneath it all, I don't think any of us could…yet that would be better than this." She sighed deeply and thought a moment. "I'm gonna call him. I have to…" Tom nodded, giving his silent approval.
Kathryn tried to keep her breathing as shallow as she could but her mind kept wandering. The darkness of the cell confused her but she couldn't think about it as the pain washed over her in waves. She shivered one minute and sweated the next, the words of her prayer whispering past her lips constantly.
"Please God…take me…let me die…please…oh God…please…let me die…" She licked at lips that were sore and dry. "Please God…take me…" She moved her head slightly, even that small movement sending fresh waves of pain through her.
Suddenly the light came on again and she cried out, trying to squeeze her eyes closed against the painful glare. She heard movement and managed to pry her eyelids open slightly, a little more tolerant of the light now. She barely recognized the men standing over her as guards.
"Please…help me…pain…" She was unsure if she'd even spoken. "Oh God…let me die…" The sound of laughter filtered through to her tired mind as small cries passed her lips.
"Can't see this one lasting long." Laughter again but only from the one who'd spoken. The guard looked at his companion. "What's wrong with you, Gates?"
The other guard shook his head. "Shouldn't we get someone? A medic or…?"
The older guard laughed again. "Why bother? She's had it." He almost growled. "You'd better toughen up if you want to continue working here. I've been watching you, Gates, no taste for the game of us against them. You never even want to have a quick fuck with them. There's something seriously wrong with you…"
Gates looked away from the pitiful sight before him. "Look, Chambers, I just want to do my job. It just doesn't seem right…the rest of it. Look at her…" He finally glanced back at the woman on the cot. "Surely she deserves…"
Chambers laughed. "She's a criminal…a serious one if our Admiral friend sent her to us. She deserves nothing. Besides, we've got free licence with the likes of her. The Admiral said so…told us we had free rein with them. Once they come here, we report back to her about everything, but if they die, she couldn't care less. Probably celebrates." He turned away from the cot. "Come on…the game's on soon…leave her…"
The younger man barely nodded. He turned away from the sight in front of him, not wanting to see any more. He still heard her whispers though and grew curious. "What's she saying?" He moved to the other side of the cot and leaned down. He faintly heard Kathryn's whispers. "She's praying…I think. 'Please God…let me die'… Come on, Chambers…we should do something. She's a human being…"
The other guard just laughed again. "Sod her…the game's more important. I'll check her later." Gates started to move away, knowing there was little he could do. The apathy of this place was getting in on him. He looked up when he heard Chambers shout and saw him jump. He looked down then and saw that Kathryn's hand was weakly trying to grasp the man's trouser leg.
"Get off me, you dirty whore." Chambers pulled away easily and Gates saw him draw his baton. Before he even registered the movement, the older guard had swung the weapon and smashed Kathryn across the head with it, sending her head snapping to the side. She didn't move anymore and a silence now filled the small cell.
"Oh, shit man, what have you done?" Gates moved back to the cot and looked down at their prisoner. He reached down and touched her face. "I think you killed her. God, why did you do that? She was just trying…"
Chambers appeared shocked for a second than pulled himself together. "Ah, so what. She said she wanted to die. She just got her wish. She should think herself lucky. Now she hasn't any pain. Come on, the game will have started…" He turned and walked away then looked back when the younger man didn't follow. "Gates, get a move on. Leave her…" He saw the young guard feeling for a pulse. "Well…is she dead?"
Gates shook his head. "She's still alive…we should…"
Chambers stared at him with venom in his eyes. "We don't report this, have you got that?" His meaning wasn't hard to miss. "Now leave her and let her sleep it off. She'll have a hell of a headache when she wakes up. Come on, let's watch the game." He shook his head. "Gates, the game…" There was menace in his voice which the younger man heard only too well. He got the message and moved away, knowing he had little choice.
"All right…we'll check her later…"
The older man laughed. "Yeah…we'll check her later…whatever…" He laughed and switched off the light as they left, his mind already on the bet he'd placed earlier in the day on this game.
Chakotay stood looking out into the garden through the French windows in Tom and B'Elanna's house and held his glass tightly. He turned now when Tom came into the room, bringing coffee and looked down at his wife, trying to read her expression. She just shook her head.
"I don't believe all this…can't…and yet…" Chakotay turned back into the room, his face a mask of pain and tiredness. "Part of me just can't believe this could happen, tells me it hasn't happened and that your friend is mistaken… I mean, no one has that kind of power and yet…" He sighed deeply and sat down. "I also know that it's the sort of thing, the kind of sacrifice that the Kathryn I knew would make…" He put his glass on the table before him and rubbed at his face.
"I always found it too hard to believe we all just got off like that. I was so sure Necheyev, of all people, would have wanted our heads." Tom sat down also and looked at the weary man before him. He hadn't been on Earth for more than an hour, having travelled non-stop from Dorvan to get there. He'd left within minutes of receiving B'Elanna's sub-space message.
"Chakotay, we'll know more when Jason gets back. He should be here soon." He used the waiting time to fill his former First Officer in on everything they'd spoken of the previous day. When he finished speaking, he saw that the big man had tears rolling down his face.
"To think of her…like that…in there… Oh God, Kathryn. I'm so sorry." He leaned back and rubbed his face, appearing surprised at the wetness he found there. He shook his head, not caring that he'd cried in front of his friends. "I couldn't ever let her go…from inside me, you know?" He smiled when he saw that they already knew that. "It hurt like hell, what she did. She just walked away, no goodbye, no explanation, and it was like a knife in my heart. And yet, I prefer that to the thought that this now could be the truth of what happened. I'd take my suffering over hers any day." B'Elanna reached over and grasped his arm, just as the door chime went.
Tom jumped up. "That has to be Jason." He ran for the door and returned a minute later with his old friend. "Jason, this is Chakotay."
Jason managed a smile and reached out to take the hand that was offered to him. "Chakotay, it's a real honour. You're a living legend."
Chakotay managed a small smile. "I'm not sure about that. I knew of your people. Tom told me. Sorry we never got together. Might have made a bigger dent…" He shook his head. "Have you news?"
Jason looked a little nervous as he nodded and sat down. He drew in a deep breath before speaking and by that very action, told them what they needed to know. "It's her. She's there. My friend…he's even more sure than I was...has seen more of her… Her hair also stood out to him. Said it was like his sister's colour." He watched as Chakotay's head fell to his chest and he groaned.
Tom saw the look of pain and shock on his wife's face, knowing his own matched it. He forced himself to try and think straight now though. "Right. Oh God…what do we do now? Jason?"
Jason nodded. "If you have any friends in high places, I suggest you call them. You need to get her out of there now."
Chakotay's head snapped up. "She's that bad?"
Jason nodded. "There've been developments since I was there. Sorry. That sounds…" He sighed and shook his head. "I'll tell you everything I know and I'm sorry…this will be painful…" They nodded for him to continue and he saw them try to harden themselves, prepare in any way for what they'd hear. Jason nodded again.
"It was easy to get back in, visit my friend. I told him about yesterday and quietly showed him the holoimage you gave me and he confirmed it, recognized her immediately, despite what life in there has done to her…" He looked up, his eyes apologizing for him. "Anyway, he remembered the fights also, the ones where she was attacked by the others…the guards' treatment of her…" He reached over and poured himself some coffee, needing to hold the cup to occupy his hands.
"He told me that…that there was another…incident, if you like. Four or five days ago, he thinks…" He took a drink. "It's not easy to keep track of time in there…" They nodded their understanding to him when he looked at them. "She was attacked again…" He closed his eyes a moment then looked into his cup. "She was stabbed…by one of the women…" Chakotay cried out as his hand flew to his mouth. Tom reached for his wife's hand when she did the same. "Sorry…I know this is hard…" He forced himself on.
"He was nearby when that happened…next field. He saw it and heard it all. One of the women had come over to her…said something like 'you killed my brother'. The guards just looked on. Nothing new there. This other woman stabbed her then…makeshift knife…anyone can make them in there…usually a piece of old metal…rusty… My friend said she fell to her knees…holding herself…he even saw the blood…" He couldn't look at his friends. "The guard…one of them…eventually came over…shouted at the women about not just 'beating the shit out of her' again and making work for him…that he'd have to drag the bitch back to the block. They're not exactly caring in there." He glanced up then away, not wanting to see the pain his words were causing.
"He said the guard dragged her away…that she was barely able to stand…was crying out…" He ran a finger around the rim of the cup he held. "He didn't see her for a while after that…thought perhaps she'd died…" He sighed, not needing to see the faces before him. He heard B'Elanna's quiet sobbing. "They don't do much about medical treatment in that part of The Farm…" He looked up and met Chakotay's eyes, knowing the look on the big man's face would stay with him for a long time.
"He didn't see her for a while and then she was back…barely able to stand, according to him…and then…" He swirled his coffee. "She was set on again…two days or so ago. She couldn't defend herself…obviously very weak from the other… He said she could hardly stand, yet alone fight back. She took quite a beating…" He cleared his throat. "They beat her to the ground…fists and kicks…and the guards just left her lying there afterwards when they'd finished with her…" He shook his head, gripping the cup tightly. "She was taken back at the end of the day…he thinks she was semi-conscious… He hasn't seen her since… Oh God…I'm sorry…sorry I had to tell you this…" He lowered his head, listening to the crying around him. He snapped his head up then when he heard a noise and saw that Chakotay had jumped up.
"We go there now and get her…pray she's still…" He couldn't finish the thought, much less the sentence.
Jason leaned forward. "Chakotay, you don't understand. You'll need someone in authority to get her out of there."
Chakotay turned on him. "This is Kathryn Janeway we're talking about. When they know that…"
Jason shook his head and almost laughed. "Chakotay, even if her guards know that, it won't matter to them and they probably do know. If Necheyev was the one who sent her there, you can bet it won't matter. Look, in there you lose all identity, all rights as a human being. You're not even a name, just a number. You're nothing. You cease to exist. Especially in that section. You just don't matter anymore. Even in the other sections, your existence is base, surviving a day at a time. In that section where she is, it's more like surviving an hour at a time, until you just lose all will to live…"
Chakotay clenched his hands into fists. "No…not Kathryn Janeway…"
Jason shook his head, trying to get his point across. "Yes…everyone… The system in there grinds you down. Who you were no longer matters. You just don't get it. In there, she's not Captain Janeway or even plain Kathryn Janeway. She's prisoner number…whatever…and that even gets lost after a while…" Chakotay wound his fingers in his hair.
Tom jumped up. "If that's what we need…" He left the room and returned a few minutes later. "Dad's on his way. We'll get the authority if that's what it takes."
Owen Paris arrived quickly, then sat and listened, his rage silently growing as the story unfolded before him. Finally, he cleared his throat. "This changes things…"
They all frowned and Chakotay jumped up. "Admiral Paris…"
The old man smiled sadly. "Owen please…"
Chakotay barely nodded. "Owen… Look, we need to move now. I don't care what it changes. Kathryn needs…"
The old man looked up sharply. "You think I don't know that, son? Look, I'll tell you this and I shouldn't." He sighed deeply. "Necheyev has been under investigation for some time now. This will blow it right open…" He shook his head. "You're right, though. We need to move now. Jason, however, is also right. I need to make a few quick calls first and get some authority behind us…" He stood quickly. "Give me five minutes…"
Fifteen minutes later, they stood outside The Farm, an emergency transport taking them there. Admiral Paris held several padds in his hand, the authority of what he referred to as 'real' Starfleet behind him. They marched to the front gate and were admitted, an armed guard with them.
Amid shouts of protest and some confusion, they finally entered Block N as they learned it was known. Admiral Paris stood arguing with some guards who denied all knowledge of a prisoner named Janeway. Chakotay caught sight of a young guard standing off at the back of their group and gripped Owen's arm.
"Do you know where she is?" The young man looked nervous.
Owen Paris took over. "Come on, son. Tell us what you know. It'll go easier on you."
One of the other guards jumped forward. "He knows nothing. He's new here."
Chakotay ignored the man and moved to the nervous guard. "You know, don't you?" The young man faintly nodded his head then looked up with a look of fear on his face when the other guard roared at him.
"Gates, you son of a bitch. You traitor…" He shut up instantly when Owen Paris backhanded him across the face, shocked at his own actions.
Chakotay spoke softly. "Just take us to her, son. You'll be safe…I promise you that…" He forced a smile to his face. "Gates, is it?" The man nodded. "I'm Chakotay…just take us to her. It'll be fine…"
The man shook himself and nodded. "This way. I think you'll need a medic or someone…" His eyes showed his fear and Chakotay looked back to see the members of their own security detail calling for back-up and medical assistance.
Owen Paris spoke to them. "Get Voyager's EMH. He knows her medical history better…and get more men here. All this closes down now." They nodded.
Chakotay, along with Owen Paris, Tom and B'Elanna, followed the young guard. The damp and cold of the place seeped into them and the stench made them want to gag. They came to a corridor with several metal doors and waited as Gates opened one of them. Chakotay started into the room before he saw that there was complete darkness inside. Instantly the light came on and he moved inside. What he saw almost stopped his heart in his chest.
"Oh sweet God…Kathryn…" He was at her side in two strides and reached out hesitantly to touch her face. His eyes took in everything, how thin she was, the rags she wore, the injuries he could see. He saw blood matting her hair to the side of her head, dried blood on her uniform and fresher blood around the site of what he knew had to be the stab wound. He saw the cuts, bruises and swellings which littered her face and body and how pale she was, a film of sweat on her face. A thin trickle of blood escaped her nose and another one from her mouth.
"Kathryn…Kathryn…" He couldn't believe that this skeletal and abused creature lying before him was his Kathryn. He touched her face and was shocked by the heat from her skin, as she burned with fever. He looked up tearfully. "Tom…?"
Tom was scanning Kathryn when the Doctor arrived, using the tricorder he'd brought with him, and moved aside quickly. They whispered together for a minute and Chakotay watched as Voyager's former EMH went into action, barely controlling his rage.
"I'll need a transport in a minute. I need to try and stabilize her first. She's…" He looked up quickly at the deep worry on the faces before him and decided to be honest.
"Our first concern is the head injury…" Chakotay saw the Medic move Kathryn's head and saw that there was blood on the pillow which was trickling from her ear.
Gates moved forward quietly. "She was…was hit across the side of the head…a heavy blow…a baton… She was barely conscious before that…" He kept his head down, not able to look anyone in the eye.
The Doctor barely acknowledged the words. "One of her pupils is fixed and dilated…blown…indicating that there's a blood clot which has formed…haemorrhaging on the brain… We need to move fast… The rest…injuries…infections…" He didn't continue as he worked at a frantic pace. Chakotay just stood back with the others, almost afraid to breathe. Tears poured down his face as he felt B'Elanna holding him and crying beside him. He gripped her hand on his arm, needing the contact. "Right…let's go…" The beam of the transporter took them, taking Chakotay to what would be the longest and most agonizing wait of his life.
It was ten hours before the Doctor came to them. Chakotay jumped up, seeing him before Tom or B'Elanna did. The Medic said nothing and just sat down, motioning for Chakotay to do the same. His face was grim.
"I'll tell you all this as quickly as I can. First off, she only just came through the surgery, which is a miracle in itself. She is, however, in a coma and I can't say if or when she'll come out of it." He looked up at the three people before him, the closest to family he had, along with the woman whose life he had battled to save for the past ten hours. "I'm sorry I haven't got better news…"
Chakotay shook his head and closed his eyes, fighting for control until he heard the rest of what he knew the Doctor would tell them. "Just say what needs to be said…" He opened his eyes and looked at the Doctor, who nodded his understanding.
"OK, but it's not…" He sighed, a habit he'd picked up. "The blow to her head was delivered with considerable force. It's a miracle it didn't kill her immediately, particularly in her weakened state. It fractured her skull and caused massive haemorrhaging on the brain and a large blood clot had formed. I've taken care of all this but it was a long and tough fight…and…the coma is mainly a result of that injury and swelling to the brain, but not on its own." He paused a moment. "The stab wound…several days old and badly infected. There was damage internally from the knife or whatever was used…something dirty and rusty I'd guess… We barely got her in time to ward off tetanus… It had been stitched…in a very crude manner, I might add…and this added to the infection. This…this infection is now widespread along with…" He shook his head. "There was further infection from…other…injuries…" He stood quickly.
"She was burning with fever from the infections but I've managed to bring that under control. Her temperature was extremely high but is coming down and her blood pressure barely registered but is coming back up with transfusions of blood and fluids. Her other injuries, some old, some newer… There were broken ribs, an arm…internal bleeding and bruising…the external injuries you saw…from beatings…" He walked to the window and stared out. "She's deficient in almost every vitamin and mineral…half starved…badly dehydrated…dangerously underweight…" He took a moment and then turned back into the room. "I think you get the picture…and that's just the physical side of it… God only knows what her emotional injuries will be…" He shook his head, seemingly regretting his words. When he looked at Chakotay and the others, he found only Chakotay staring at him, B'Elanna with her head down crying and Tom trying to comfort her. Chakotay just stood and motioned to the Doctor to follow him outside.
"Infection…other injuries…emotional injuries…?" Chakotay stared hard at the Medic. "You said a lot in there but I think there's also a lot you didn't say. This is just between the two of us…so talk…"
The Doctor nodded his head. "Do I really need to…?" He was trying to make his words as gentle as possible. Chakotay just closed his eyes and turned towards the wall. The Doctor saw him fight to control the rage which already showed itself.
"She was…?" He struggled to breath. "More than once…?" He finally opened his eyes and turned to look at the Doctor.
"I'm sorry…yes… I'd say it was…" He shook his head. "I'm sorry, but…"
Chakotay ground his teeth together. "Part of her daily existence. Isn't that what you're trying to say?" He stared hard at the Doctor and saw the hologram nod sadly.
"I wish I could tell you differently, Chakotay…" He shook his head again. "For now, all I can do is treat what I can…and…" Chakotay banged the back of his head off the wall.
"Yeah, I know…pray she comes back to us…" He looked sadly at the Doctor. "One part of me… I think I expected… The prisons I knew of… I thought here though…but still… I think I tried to prepare myself for this…hoped I was wrong…" He didn't have the words and tried to shut them off. "One step at a time…?"
The Doctor nodded sadly. "That's all we can do…" He looked down at his feet a moment. "Look, give them a while to get her settled and then you can see her…" Chakotay nodded and rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Chakotay, she will live…"
The big man nodded slowly. "Yeah… I just pray it's not the way she is now. She'd never want that."
Chakotay spent the rest of the night sitting with Kathryn, whispering softly to her. The nurses came and went, checking her readings and he usually managed a small smile for them, grateful for their dedication and caring.
The following morning, he sat in the visitors' room with Tom and B'Elanna and listened to Tom's father explain the events of the night. "Necheyev was arrested at dawn. She seemed annoyed at first and then acted as if it was nothing. She's being held at Headquarters."
Chakotay forced his anger down. "It was her?"
Owen nodded his head. "We're sure of it. We just need to prove it all. They'll be investigating for a while yet but with what we already have… It's likely that she'll stand trial. This goes far deeper than just Kathryn."
Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. "Why wasn't she stopped before all this? How did they ever let her get this much power?"
The old Admiral shook his head, not having an easy answer. "As much as I hate to say it, the woman was smart. She paid well for the services and the silence she bought. I think Starfleet also thought something like this was impossible. I wish I had easy answers for you, but I don't. She always had the right answer, if anyone ever questioned her." He hesitated a moment before speaking on. "Kathryn wasn't the first sent there…" Chakotay stood up quickly. "Our teams stayed on after you left…found others there…" He sighed deeply. "If it's any comfort to you…the whole house of cards has fallen…"
Chakotay turned to Owen. "It's no comfort but I guess it helps a little to know that no other poor soul will go through this and yet… God, what about Kathryn…and the others you spoke of? Who's going to undo all that?" He slapped the wall. "I just want to wring that bitch's neck…"
Owen nodded sadly. "You're not the only one, son. Look, for now…all you can do is be here for Kathryn. I'll get back to you…keep in close contact." He stood stiffly, his age showing ten times more than it had the previous day. "How is she today?"
Chakotay rubbed at his temples. "The same… her…her injuries…are healing…but the… She's still in the coma. They just don't know when or if…"
Owen nodded sadly. "She's a real fighter…always was…" He smiled sadly, memories of the woman who had been like a daughter to him, flashing across his mind. "She'll fight back. I know she will." Chakotay nodded, trying to accept the older man's words, desperately wanting to believe them. "I'll see you later…" He turned and left.
Kathryn's physical condition improved greatly over the next two days but she remained in a deep coma, showing no signs of waking from it. Chakotay slept for short periods, knowing Tom or B'Elanna were sitting with her in his place but he found it very difficult to shut his mind off from the dreadful images it conjured up. Finally, Owen Paris returned to see them and took them to a side room in the hospital to speak with them, inviting the Doctor along also.
"I asked you all to be here because there have been developments." He took a moment to collect his thoughts. "To say there have been developments, sounds like an understatement actually. Things have moved at a phenomenal rate." He sighed and sat down, facing the four people in front of him.
"Right, I don't mean to sound all businesslike but these are the facts and they have to be dealt with." Chakotay merely nodded, the others never taking their eyes of Owen's face.
"Necheyev will stand trial in two days time. Starfleet wants this to move fast. The evidence against her in Kathryn's case and many others has just piled up. Once she was arrested and word got out… Well, it seems as if they're lining up to give evidence against her. I know most of them are only doing this to try and protect themselves and basically I don't care if it means we get Necheyev." He rubbed a hand across his face.
"They all want to turn State's Evidence. I guess anything to avoid prosecution themselves. They're terrified to be tied in with her or seen as connected to her in any way. Probably afraid that any future or present career will be tarnished…protecting their own miserable reputations. However…" He held up a hand when he saw the objections coming. "It won't work. It won't go like that. You have my word. They might help to lessen their sentences slightly if they co-operate but they won't escape justice. One or two might get off a lot lighter but that's all…namely that young guard Gates and another guard who worked at Headquarters, but they won't escape either. They could have done something and they know it. I get the feeling though, with Gates and the guard from HQ, that no court can punish them as much as their own consciences will…"
Chakotay shook his head and frowned. "What guard at Headquarters…?"
Owen shook his head. "I don't have all the details. He was there when you first got home. Guarded Kathryn then and overheard a lot. I believe some of it involves the deal Necheyev made with Kathryn. I don't have all the details. It'll all come out though at the trial. The guards at the prison are even starting to turn against each other." He shook his head and laughed cynically then grew serious again.
"The first part of this trial will cover Kathryn's case because it's the most recent but it could be a long affair, covering every charge against that woman, so it could well take weeks…" Chakotay stood and walked to the window. "Chakotay, you'll have to give evidence, you know that. We all will. You'll only have to be there for that though. You won't have to sit through the rest."
Chakotay turned quickly. "No…I'll be there. I know I don't want to hear it but I do want to sit there every day and watch that bitch go down for what she did. I owe that to Kathryn."
B'Elanna sighed and shook her head sadly. "Chakotay, you don't want to put yourself through that. Hearing of…well…the beatings… Please, my friend…"
Chakotay looked at Owen. "You've investigated everything?" The old man nodded. "And the Doctor here will also be giving evidence? Full evidence?" Again, he nodded and they locked eyes. "So, you know too?"
Owen nodded sadly and dropped his head. "Everything will come out, Chakotay. I'm sorry for that. That's why I don't want you sitting through it all. I know you know what… Hearing it in evidence will be a lot harder though."
Chakotay tried to control his anger. "It's the thought of that bitch hearing it all…laughing to herself…"
Owen Paris nodded sadly. "She apparently knew it all anyway…had regular reports sent to her." He nodded in understanding at the anger he saw on Chakotay's face. "Just console yourself with the thought of her taking Kathryn's place when all this is over…"
Chakotay laughed at that. "What? In some civilized prison somewhere? All amenities offered? There's no justice in that…"
Owen Paris shook his head. "I know…but I also know that losing the power she has…the position… That'll kill her. She thrived on it."
Chakotay shook his head. "It still… To think of her sitting there…listening to details of what she… Every sick and sordid detail…" He glanced at Tom and B'Elanna, then away, then back at them. He shook his head at their puzzled expressions.
"You'll hear it at the trial anyway." He punched the wall. "Those bastards… They…raped her…ongoing…like fucking Cardassia all over again…" B'Elanna cried out and jumped up, running to Chakotay. She pulled him into her arms.
"Oh God, Chak…I'm so sorry…" He let himself be held and looked at Tom over B'Elanna's shoulder. He saw the man crying.
Word had spread quickly about the trial as details of what had happened leaked out. By the day before the trial, every crewmember from Voyager was there. Chakotay met with them all, listening to them pour out their feelings of guilt and pain as they tried to apologize in any way for ever doubting her. Chakotay tried to offer comfort where he could. He heard from them how they'd been hurt and angry at first but had quickly tried to move past that, to try and understand how their Captain might have needed to move on, easily forgiving her because of the love and respect they'd always had for her.
The morning before the trial, Chakotay sat with Kathryn for a long time, before leaving for the court. Owen Paris took him aside just before they went in.
"Gates, the young guard…?" Chakotay nodded. "We've had to drop the charges against him." Owen held up his hand to continue. "We had no choice. He's ridden with guilt as it is anyway. Look, his life has been threatened. He won't be safe unless we can place him with a new identity when all this is over. We need his testimony more than anyone's." Chakotay sighed and nodded his understanding. "Chakotay, it's a small price to pay…"
Chakotay sat and watched Necheyev as she was brought into the court. She didn't look at anyone but she exuded an air of cockiness about her. It took every ounce of strength Chakotay had not to jump the barrier and smash her face in. He looked around and quickly saw that everyone else with him looked the same. 'If looks could kill' entered his mind. He watched as the Judicial Panel entered and stood with everyone else until they were seated, then watched amazed as Necheyev smiled sweetly at the Judges. He then smiled to himself as her smile faded with the glare she received in return.
Chakotay and the others sat quietly as the Prosecution team outlined their case. He listened as the charges against Necheyev were read out, for a catalogue of abuses committed by her. The Senior Judge looked down at the main Prosecutor. "I understand that the victim in the first part of this case is unable to attend?"
The Prosecutor nodded. "Yes, Your Honour. Kathryn Janeway remains in a deep coma at Starfleet Medical." The Judge nodded and Chakotay saw the smirk on the face of Necheyev. "However, the medical evidence we shall present will speak for her only too clearly." Necheyev seemed unbothered by that. "We shall also be calling several witnesses who will also speak on her behalf."
Chakotay listened as the long list of witnesses who would give evidence against Necheyev was read out and saw the smirk fall from her face. He watched in satisfaction as he saw Necheyev lose more and more of her self-assurance, knowing she was beaten, even before the trial began. Even her counsel didn't object. The rest of the day was taken up with establishing the order of the witnesses.
Chakotay chatted with a few of the crew after the first day of the trial was over, making arrangements for someone to always be with Kathryn while he was in court. He then returned to the hospital, where he spent the rest of that evening sitting with Kathryn as she slept on, oblivious to everything around her. He found himself wondering if it was a blessing.
Next day, the trial began properly and the following two weeks would be the hardest of Chakotay's life. He sat and listened, trying desperately to keep his emotions in check and mentally prepare himself for what lay ahead. He listened as the Judge spoke first.
"I know this is a trial but for the purpose of hearing evidence in this case, I will ask the Prosecutor and Defender to refrain from objecting. There isn't a jury here to impress. This panel is quite capable of discerning what is important and what is not. We can also separate fact from conjecture. Each of you will simply question your witness and cross-examination can take place afterwards. Please do not interrupt each other." The two men nodded and then the Prosecutor called his first witness.
"I call Ensign Malcolm Roberts to the stand…" Chakotay looked at the young man who took his seat in the witness box and drew in a deep breath. He heard him state his full name and rank for the record.
"You are attached to the Security Detail at Starfleet Headquarters and have been assigned there for the past two years. Is that correct?"
Ensign Roberts appeared very nervous. "That is correct."
The Prosecutor smiled. "And you were serving there when Voyager returned home and while Captain Kathryn Janeway was being held there?" He got the same answer. "Now I know you made a full written statement but can you now tell this court what transpired during those weeks and what you heard?"
The young man nodded and cleared his throat. "It was my duty to bring Captain Janeway to her debriefing session in the morning about 08.00 hours and return her to her room in the evening. That was usually about 19.00 or 20.00 hours. I also brought lunch to her and her evening meals in her room."
The Prosecutor nodded. "Were they not longer hours than usual when debriefing someone?"
The man nodded his head. "In all my time there, I've never known longer hours. Most of the other Officers there have never heard of it either."
The Prosecutor made a note. "Did you ever speak with her?" Ensign Roberts seemed uncertain. "Ensign, you're not going to get into any trouble here. You won't go on report if you merely answered her if she said 'good morning' to you…"
The young man smiled shyly. "Sorry, I'm nervous. Never been in court before." He drew in a deep breath and returned the smile he received from the Prosecutor. "Well, she often spoke to me. Never anything serious. I mean, she was never any trouble. A real lady, if you know what I mean." Chakotay smiled at that.
"She always asked how I was and said good morning and good evening. She thanked me, every time I brought her. Sometimes, she'd ask about the weather and was the sun shining. She always seemed tired and sad too. I think she badly wanted to see the sun again." He smiled nervously. "She never got out of there… I mean, the room where she was all day was artificially lit and her cell…sorry, room…was the same, and it was always dark when she got back there anyway."
The Prosecutor frowned. "Why do you call it a 'cell'?"
The man appeared nervous again. "Sorry, Sir…that slipped out. It's just what…some of the Officers…private talk between us… The room was so small. We called it that. Sorry, Sir…"
The Prosecutor shook his head. "Nothing to be sorry about, Ensign." He studied a padd in his hand. "Can you tell me about the last days there?"
The Ensign nodded. "It was about four weeks in all…the time she was there. Same thing day in and day out. She was worn out. I saw it with her. Didn't walk the same way even. She still made an effort to talk to me though. I think she was very lonely. My opinion anyway." He was getting a little more confident. "Anyway, the last day…the one you need to know about…" The Prosecutor nodded and the man before him blushed.
"Right. You said I wouldn't get into trouble for all this…?"
The Prosecutor shook his head. "Ensign, we need to know what you heard. Nothing will happen to you, I assure you of that."
Ensign Roberts seemed happy with that and cleared his throat again. Not once had he looked at Necheyev. Chakotay looked over at Owen Paris who gave an apologetic smile, silently telling him that they'd had no choice but to let the young man off in return for his evidence. Chakotay knew that the young guard had merely been doing his job anyway.
"Well, I brought her to the interview room as I always did. She smiled at me as usual, said good morning and all that and asked how I was. She seemed very tired and worn down, pale even. I know she lost weight during that month. I mean they'd grilled her for weeks now… and I heard the others say it was all on Necheyev's orders…" He stopped and smiled, embarrassed at himself for getting carried away.
"Sorry. She just struck me as too worn down to fight anymore. My opinion again. Anyway, I brought her in again that day and I knew already that the usual four guys who usually interrogated her…my word…weren't there. I'd heard them before…endless questions…every word examined. The door isn't that thick…" He blushed deeply.
"This day…the last day I brought her there… Well, I knew it was only Admiral Necheyev who was in there. Captain Janeway seemed a bit surprised but she said nothing. I closed the door and it was quiet for a long time. Then I heard the Admiral talking."
The Prosecutor smiled and came over to the witness box. "Now I know you didn't mean to hear but you said the door wasn't that thick, that you could hear?"
The man smiled slightly and nodded. "Yeah…well, I was seated right beside it…" He smiled and blushed at the same time then grew serious.
"What I heard. Well, I heard the Admiral say the meeting was off the record…that there would be no proof of it and that she had a deal for the Captain." The Prosecutor nodded but said nothing. "I heard her say she hated the Captain…to her face…something about all Janeways being a thorn in her side but that she only had one to deal with now." Chakotay's eyes were like daggers into Necheyev's back. "She said that the Captain probably thought she was Starfleet's golden girl but that she was in charge now and how that must have shocked the pants off the Captain…Sorry…her words…" The Prosecutor barely smiled.
"Then I heard her say…and none of it was nice…that it probably didn't take much to get the…the pants…off her…that she'd probably… 'whored her way home'…" The young man shook his head. "She said she must have done the same on the ship…that race and gender probably wouldn't have mattered to her." He took a drink of water at this stage. Chakotay had his hands balled into fists.
"Then…she talked about shuttles…about the Captain's family not having any luck with them…something about this one being more messy to clean up…cause it was on land. I only found out later that the Captain's mother and sister had been killed in a shuttle and her father too years before." The Ensign let his disgust show. Chakotay barely kept himself in his seat. He didn't need to look at Tom and B'Elanna beside him. He briefly thought back to how they'd all comforted Kathryn when the news had been received by her on Voyager about the deaths in her family.
"After that she spoke of the Maquis. I remember her laughing on and off through all this by the way. Anyway, she said…the Admiral that is…that the fate of the 'Maquis scum' was in her hands and how she had the power to send them all to prison or even a Cardassian one, especially the leader Chakotay…" The Ensign briefly met Chakotay's eyes. "I heard her say something about the Captain probably 'screwing' him too and a remark about 'sleeping with the enemy'. I then heard the Captain speaking, asking what she wanted and that she wasn't going to play power games with her." He took another drink, his throat sounding dry now.
"I heard Necheyev say…" He didn't seem to notice that he had dropped the title. "I know you never screwed him…I read your private logs… The Captain got angry at that…said she had no right… That was when I heard Necheyev tell the Captain that she owned her body and soul, that her ass belonged to her…pardon my language…" Chakotay sat and tried to control his breathing.
"The Captain must have jumped up or something cause I heard Necheyev tell her to sit down… 'sit down, bitch'…that's what she said. She said that Chakotay's fate and the fate of the others was in her hands and in turn then, the Captain's fate too. The fate of the 'traitor bastards'…excuse me again…was in her hands and only the Captain could save them. I heard that well. That's what she said." The Prosecutor smiled to himself and glanced over at the Defender. The man didn't return the look.
"Then I heard her say 'I want your pain and suffering and to get rid of you'…something like that…maybe her exact words…that whichever way the Captain chose, she'd get it. She said she had the power to do it, that the Captain could walk free but wouldn't have any life…that she'd make sure of it…no job…nothing…that she'd lose everything…and that her crew would all go to jail…all of them…Starfleet and Maquis…and that their kids would go to homes…" The young man swallowed and allowed some anger to show. "She told the Captain that she'd die a sad, lonely and empty woman…would have nothing…had nothing as it was anyway…and would have ruined lives…but that she'd done that already." He sighed deeply.
"She then said she could go to jail in their place and that she'd still die sad and lonely. She said there was a 'proviso'… that was the word she used…and that was that no one would know…that she'd serve ten years but know her crew were living on and happy…ten years in maximum security…hard labour…solitary confinement…that's what she said…" He shook his head and licked his lips, taking another drink.
"I heard the Captain say something about 'they'll fight you' and Necheyev saying no one would know…that the Captain would make a statement that she'd written herself…that Necheyev had written…and that the crew would believe she'd just abandoned them…walked away…and she said she knew how hurt Chakotay would be but so what…and then she said…" He hesitated and looked towards Chakotay then away. "She said she had read the Captain's logs and where in them, she had said she…that she…loved Chakotay…but had never told him…" Chakotay squeezed his eyes tightly closed and felt B'Elanna's hand on his. He squeezed it back, drawing comfort from it. He only opened his eyes when the Ensign continued.
"I heard the Captain ask Necheyev why she hated her so much and the answer was… 'for me to know'…or something. Then the Captain told her she wouldn't get away with it…that Starfleet would find out…and Necheyev shouted…that she was Starfleet… 'I am Starfleet, you stupid little bitch'. I remember that well." Chakotay saw the hard glint in the eyes of the Judge and his fellow members on the panel.
"She said more about…that there was enough in the Captain's logs and her personal ones…to send them all to prison but that she'd be happy with just the Captain. I heard her tell the Captain that she'd disappear to prison and that she'd be satisfied each day to know of her suffering. She said that they'd all hate her…all hate the Captain…and that Chakotay would marry 'a nice piece of ass' who'd give him the kids the Captain hoped would have been hers…that they'd all marry and have kids…but the Captain would never have that…and that she'd pray for death…that she…Necheyev…could and would do what she had said…" He sat and shook his head. Chakotay sat and fought the wash of pain which almost consumed him.
"She called me in then…and I jumped…I jumped, I can tell you…thought she'd know I'd been listening…" He looked up, embarrassed but angry. "She said to me…her exact words…cause I remember them well… 'Take this back to its cell…I'll see it in two hours'… I'd heard her tell the Captain that she'd give her time…" He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I couldn't look at her as I walked her back and that was the first time she didn't talk to me. She only said 'thanks' when I opened the door for her. I really wanted to say something to her…I don't know what… I didn't anyway…" The court was completely silent.
"I took her back in two hours and…I knew her decision…knew by her…guess I knew from before even…but now…something was gone from her…and I could tell she'd been crying…" He sighed deeply. "I listened more carefully this time. I don't apologize for that. I heard Necheyev talk about the statement and heard the Captain ask how would she know that Necheyev would keep her word. She told her there would be a press conference and that the Captain would make a statement…that's what I was talking about earlier…and that after the press conference…that she'd sign the pardons. She said the Captain was to read the prepared statement only but not to look at anyone." Chakotay sat, barely holding himself in his seat. He felt B'Elanna's nails dig into his arm but didn't stop her. The Prosecutor asked a few more questions and seemed satisfied with the answers.
"Just to clarify, Ensign Roberts. To explain how you remember all this so well…"
Roberts smiled slightly. "I'm known for my memory…ask anyone. Had training for it even. Besides, I've had a long time to think about all this and I have to say, it stayed with me. I won't forget all this in a hurry."
The Prosecutor nodded. "You were also on duty after the press conference?"
Roberts nodded. "I led them to a side office and waited outside. I couldn't really hear anything there but Necheyev came out alone. I only heard one thing. Necheyev told the Captain that now her 'descent into hell' would begin. I didn't see Captain Janeway again cause she never came out of that room…beamed somewhere, I guess. I'll always remember the look on Necheyev's face though. She was grinning from ear to ear and the look in her eyes…I won't forget that. Pure evil, it was…" Only now did Roberts look at Necheyev and hold her eyes. Necheyev looked away first, giving Chakotay a small feeling of satisfaction.
Chakotay sat in the hospital restaurant and sipped at the cold tea before him. He had returned to the hospital directly from the court and had sat with Kathryn for nearly four hours. Sam Wildman sat with her now while he took a break. He shook his head and stared over at B'Elanna.
"God, B'El, I can't believe the sacrifice she made for us…and that…that…thing… I just want to wring her neck…only that'd be too quick…"
B'Elanna reached over and squeezed his hand. "That's her all over…you know that. God, how did we ever doubt her?" She shut up quickly, knowing this was a subject none of them wanted to talk about. "Sorry…I know…"
Chakotay shook his head. "It's OK. We did and that guilt will take a long time to go away." He was quiet for a long time and then leaned back in his chair. "I'm not going tomorrow. It's mainly staff who worked with Necheyev at the time…not directly related to Kathryn. There'll be some days like that. I'd rather be with her here. I hate leaving her."
B'Elanna nodded her understanding. Needing to change the subject but keep talking, she refilled her glass of water. "That Ensign Roberts… He was great…a great witness…"
Chakotay smiled a little. "I was sure the cross examination would unravel him a bit but he was great, all right. Never wavered from his story. God, though, it was so hard to hear…and then Kathryn's logs…how she said she loved me…" He couldn't say more.
B'Elanna sipped at her glass. "Did you really not know that?"
He shrugged. "I guess I did…hoped more…thought maybe I was seeing what I wanted to see…but then with what happened after we got back… I still feel so bad about all that…how I doubted her… Oh shit, enough of this. I can't deal with this yet. I love her…she loves me, I guess… All I want to do now is see that bitch put away and get Kathryn back. I'll sort the rest later."
Chakotay spent all day with Kathryn, reading to her and rubbing and exercising her arms and legs the way the nurses showed him, in order to keep her muscles working. The staff were so used to him there now, they included him in all their patient's care. The Doctor tried his best to explain that there was no way to predict how coma worked and that they had no choice but to wait and see. He delighted though, in the news that she was gaining a little weight.
Owen Paris called by in the evening to report that staff in Necheyev's office had been giving evidence all day, most of it extremely damning to the Admiral. "She's in it up to her eyes. The evidence that came out there today…" He smiled. "Sorry, Chakotay. I know you don't need this."
Chakotay rubbed Kathryn's arm and shook his head. "No…I like hearing how that bitch is going to be brought down. It makes me feel better."
Owen shook his head. "It was certainly a very satisfying day for me and some of my colleagues. Well worth it." He hesitated. "Chakotay, you know… I mean…tomorrow is mainly more of the same…and you don't have to be there…but the day after…"
Chakotay nodded and stood up, gently placing Kathryn's arm across her body. "I know…the prison guards. I'm dreading that…don't know how I'll get through it. Gates is first?"
Owen Paris nodded. "We thought it best…apart from needing to get him to safety. It'll establish the truth of it all before the others speak…make them think…"
Chakotay looked out the window, watching strangers go about their lives. "Oh, I'll get through it. I've good friends around me." He smiled back at the old man and nodded, including him in that circle.
Two days later, Chakotay sat stiffly in the courtroom. He'd spent the previous day with Kathryn also, doing as he always did of late, talking and reading to her and generally helping the nurses with her day to day care. Her fever was almost gone and her temperature was almost back to normal, the infections under control at last. Even her blood pressure was back to what it should have been. He missed her dreadfully when he was away from her but he knew he needed to be here today, despite wanting to run for the door every other second. He sat up now and tried to smile at those around him without success but saw that they understood. B'Elanna took his hand and held on tightly.
"You are Officer Gates of Weymouth Prison, more commonly known as The Farm?" The young guard nodded, trying to ignore the hateful stares of his former colleagues.
The Prosecutor spoke again. "I'll make a statement to the court at this time. Officer Gates was serving as a guard in the prison at the time of Captain Janeway's removal from that facility and was also there when she arrived. He has volunteered to give evidence at this trial and as a result, his life has been threatened. Before that time, while still agreeing to give that same evidence, he knew he would also stand trial for various offences. The charges against him have only been withdrawn because his life has been seriously threatened. He will be given a new identity and placed in the witness protection program immediately following his evidence. That is the only reason he has been granted immunity. He agreed to testify even when those charges were facing him. The Defence knows of this and accepts it." He looked to the Judge now who nodded his acceptance of the situation.
"Officer Gates, you have given a written statement of the evidence you will give here today. Can you now please tell this court what you witnessed from the time Captain Kathryn Janeway arrived at the prison up until her last day there…?" Gates nodded and swallowed loudly. He looked only at the Prosecutor.
"I was on duty the day she arrived…" He cleared his throat and tried to speak a little louder. "I'd been there about three months…had worked at other correctional facilities before that. This was different through. For the first two months, I worked in the open prison…that's where people near the end of their time are…and I worked there with short termers…prisoners who'd only been sentenced to a few years at most." He sniffed. "The month before…before Captain Janeway arrived…though I never knew her title or first name…and only heard the name Janeway that first day… Well, the month before she arrived…I was moved to this section." He licked at his lips.
"She arrived…usual way from what I'd heard and then seen in my month there… She was beamed in…" He reached for his water and drank deeply. "We were waiting for her and I was near the end of my shift so I wasn't involved with her…just waiting for the last half hour to pass… Well, she arrived as I said…and two of them grabbed her…dragged her to the next room… They were rough but not too much…before they checked that is…" He coughed a little. "They asked her to confirm her name and she did…and that was it…" He looked up at the Prosecutor. "Once they knew for sure… I remember one of them…there were four…all standing watching… One of them told her to strip…" Chakotay tried to swallow when he felt his throat start to close and gripped the edge of his chair.
"She stood there…like she couldn't or didn't understand or believe…shocked, I think… Of course, when she didn't move at once…two of them grabbed her. The other two cut the uniform off her…told her it was the last time she'd ever wear it…called her a whore…" He lowered his head, not once looking out over the court. After a few moments, he continued.
"They stripped her…pushed her to the table…a lot of lewd comments…and then they…they strip searched her…rough… It's about hurting and humiliating…" He grabbed for his glass and drank deeply again. Chakotay fought for control, knowing this was nothing compared to what he would hear. B'Elanna was holding onto him, Tom holding onto her.
"After that…she was dragged to the shower…and they threw the powder over her… It's for disinfectant…but it burns the skin…smells…and she got it in her eyes and mouth. She stood under the shower…freezing water…and I remember her trying to wash it from her face…" He stopped again and no one hurried him.
"They threw a uniform at her…which she quickly put on…rags mainly they are…and then they took her to her cell…pushed her in…a hard shove… I remember seeing her…she fell…hit the floor hard…and I saw her bang her head on the stone floor… After that they turned the lights off and left her there… It's pitch black in those cells with the lights off……there's a small vent they can open sometimes but…that's usually at night…and then the only light is from the search lights…but mainly it's black…and the rats come…" He shook his head and leaned back, taking time to compose himself.
"My shift ended and I left and when I got back the next morning…they hadn't been near her…told me that… No food or water… I checked and saw that she was lying on the cot…must have found it in the dark… I could see her from the light from the small door panel…" He cleared his throat and shook his head.
"The next time they went near her was an hour or so later… to give her the treatment…at least that's what they call it…" He drank some more and refilled his glass.
"They have this drink…give it to all new prisoners… They drink it because they've been given nothing else and the thirst they have by that time is bad… So they put on the light…and opened the panel…placed the cup on the small ledge. I saw her. She came to the door…squinting from the light… It's very bright after being in the dark for so long… So anyway, they gave her the drink…and one of the others had spit in it… They do that… and I saw her look at it…and she saw it…the spit…scooped it out… never saw that before…most don't notice… I mean, the guards spit in the prisoners' drinks a lot…not just here…and in this section… This was Section N…which I learned stood for Necheyev…the guards name for it…don't know its real name…but anyway… The drink…she drank it and they were watching her…waiting… and she drank it quickly…thirsty, I suppose…and then I heard her…was almost waiting for it…knew what was coming…" He lifted his glass again and studied the liquid before drinking, as if suddenly afraid of it.
"She cried out and dropped the cup…fell to her knees holding her stomach…barely made it to the toilet bowl… And then she was sick…very sick…and then the rest kicked in… The drink you see…they say it's used to clean the prisoners out… and it's to make them sick and a strong…a strong laxative…" He coughed again. "They watched her for the next hour…jeering and taunting her…cheering…taking her dignity…" He stopped and shook his head. "I watched…I'm ashamed of that…on and off…" He swallowed and blinked. "An hour or so later, she crawled to her bunk…looked exhausted…and they left her alone after that…" Chakotay kept his head down, trying to hide the tears which fell from his eyes. He heard muffled crying all around him and knew he wasn't alone. B'Elanna was letting Tom hug her and trying to hold onto Chakotay at the same time. Gates finally went on.
"Later on…they went in and hosed the place down…the stench…it was…and they put disinfectant on the floor…" He paused. "Then they turned the hose of her on the cot…left her…gave her another uniform later…made her change in front of them and change the cot blanket…hosed her again later on in the corner…" He stopped now and took a few minutes.
"Officer Gates, can you continue…?"
The young guard nodded. "Yeah…it's just…with her friends here…"
The Prosecutor turned to the Judge. "Your Honour, the next evidence we shall hear is very graphic… Perhaps if anyone wants to leave at this point…"
The Judge nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen, I understand the next evidence you shall hear is harrowing, to say the least. Perhaps some of you might wish to leave at this point…? If you do, please do so now…"
No one moved. A voice from the back spoke up, a young woman.
"We're here for Kathryn Janeway. Nothing can change our love and respect for her… Got that, Necheyev…?" Several loud shouts of agreement followed this as Chakotay shook his head. He looked at Tom and B'Elanna and nodded, seeing their tears match his own. When he looked back, he got a brief glimpse of Necheyev as she looked behind her. For the first time, we saw a glimpse of fear on her face. It gave him strength.
"Order, please." The Chief Judge banged his gavel. Silence followed slowly. "Very well. Mr Prosecutor, you may proceed…" The man nodded then motioned for Gates to continue.
"I'm sorry for what I have to say now… And I'll say it as quickly as I can…just as I've done already. I have to do that…the only way I can. And I swear I had no part in it but I didn't do anything about it either…" He held himself together when someone shouted to him.
The Judge banged his gavel again and turned to a court guard. "Arrest that man in the white shirt there and charge him with contempt of court. That'll stop this." Five minutes later, no sound was heard as Gates continued.
"Please understand that I didn't witness all of this, thank God." He drank again. "Three of them…one senior guard…Rawlings, his name is…and two others…Jenkins and Williams… They went to her cell. I guessed what for when I saw them going there…knew it happened…hadn't seen it before though…" He rubbed at his face.
"I saw them enter the cell but they left the door open…and I heard Rawlings say… 'what have we here…a gift of fresh meat from our Admiral friend'… They always called new prisoners 'fresh meat' …and he asked if she'd been 'treated well'…something like that and…then he said 'good…can't have her getting it too easy'…" He cleared his throat once more, a nervous habit at this stage. "He asked then if she'd been hosed down and they told him she'd been cleaned 'inside and out'. They all laughed. Then I heard Rawlings say 'good…she's ready for us then'." He stopped for a minute and swallowed loudly.
"Two of them…Jenkins and Williams, closed over the door but the panel was open…and I saw them grab her… She'd jumped up off the cot…knew what was coming…" Muffled sobs echoed around the courtroom but no other sound.
"I saw her…saw the terror on her face…saw her fight them…but she was weak…from before. I think she'd only been fed once…" He drew in a ragged breath, almost in tears. "I heard one of them say 'front or back'…and Rawlings said 'on her back at first…let her see what she can expect from now on…" He cleared his throat once more, his head down. "They held her down…pinned her…and Rawlings…I saw him tear the uniform off her…then…I heard him say 'shut up, you stupid bitch…you better get used to this'…and then…then… She was crying and screaming…still struggling…begging them not to…and he…he…held her legs down…and he…he raped her…and I looked away… She screamed very loudly then…and I couldn't look…and it went quiet then…and I looked and they were…all three of them…taking turns…pulling her around…turning her over…but she didn't cry or scream anymore…wasn't fighting anymore…I'm sorry…please…I can't…" He lowered his head and sobbed.
The Judge leaned over. "Officer Gates, would you prefer if we took a short recess at this point? If you can't go on…"
Gates looked up, tears in his eyes and shook his head. "No…I want to go on… This is haunting me. I want it over with…" The Judge nodded for him to continue. He took a few more moments, a deep drink and then continued.
"Afterwards…they just left her there…a long time…no clothes…and it was…" He drew in several deep breaths and cleared his throat again. "It was like that for…for days…nearly a week…" He still didn't look out over the court. "They came all the time…came and went…two or three at a time…even four…occasionally one alone…knowing she wouldn't fight. And I saw her…how she just lay there…not there at all really. And her body…bites and cuts…bruises and scratches…just lying there naked and scarred…and I… It was my job sometimes…with another guard…to wash her down…and she never moved…just lay there and let us…her eyes either closed or when they were open…a deadness in them… Maybe she thought we were there for the same…but we washed her and then left…and it went on…and I'm so sorry…so sorry…should have done something…said something…" He dropped his head for several moments. Finally, he lifted it again and forced himself on.
"It slowed down then…less of them… I guess the novelty had worn off…or because she didn't fight them. This was used…used to break the prisoners…and it worked…always worked… I heard someone say once…one of the guards…that 'the meat wasn't fresh anymore'…" He reached for his water again.
"They finally gave her another uniform. I brought it with another guard… She just put it on…understood us…and then lay down again. After that, they sent her to the fields…told her she was there for hard labour…" He nodded to himself, seemingly lost in memories for a moment.
"They kept her alone for a while…working…under the sun all day. There was little to drink…and they hit her a lot… I was there and saw this…because when she and the others were taken from the cells…we had to go with them to the fields…the cells empty, you see. Later then they moved her to work with the others…other women…also hard labour. I can remember one of the guards telling the other women that this was the 'Starfleet bitch' they'd heard about…that she was a 'weak nobody whore' and a 'lousy fuck'. He paused a moment. "I'm sorry…" It was a whisper. "Anyway, I think the guards knew what would happen…part of the plan really…something else to report… "
The Prosecutor frowned and interrupted. "I'm sorry but what does that mean?"
Gates looked at him. "They reported back to the Admiral. I heard them…every detail…heard her name constantly…" The Prosecutor nodded and motioned for him to continue.
The young man looked back down at his hands. "It wasn't long before the other women had a go…and they did… Attacked her a lot…beat her up…and the guards stood back and let them. God forgive me, I stood back too…did nothing…was afraid to…and then…then…" He shook his head and closed his eyes a moment.
"One day…one of the guards called a halt to the fight…she always tried to fight back but rarely could, you see…and this day… The guard…he…Collins, I think his name was… Well…he stopped it and took over…beat her to the ground…punched her in the face and then… Oh God…right there…in the field…in front of them all…" He shook his head again, his tears showing. "He just…raped her…right there…with the others…the guards…even the women…all cheering…". He drew in a deep breath. "And again, she didn't fight. I think she was starting to and then just gave up…just let it happen…and then… I'll never forget it… She…when he finished… She pulled herself up…pulled her uniform down and stood slowly…stiffly…and went back to work…said nothing…and the cheering stopped… but later on… The attacks were fewer after that day… I'll never forget that…" He dropped his head again and played with his glass.
Chakotay's knuckles were white with the grip he had on his chair. He was vaguely aware of B'Elanna's nails digging into his arm and knew she was unaware of it. He let his tears fall, listening to the crying all around him, fighting the agony that crushed him. Gates spoke on.
"It went on the same…day in and day out…even some nights…the guards still sometimes going to her…taking…but she never fought…probably just took her mind out of it or something…and then… There was this day…and the guards were playing cards…ignoring the women… There was nowhere for them to run anyway… One of the women came over to her…to…Janeway…and I heard her say something about her brother being killed…I didn't get it all… Suddenly she stabbed her…then walked away… I saw her fall to her knees…clutching herself…blood everywhere… and a guard…Nelson, I think…went over. He was annoyed…asked the women why they didn't just beat her up instead…they were making work for him. He dragged her back to the block…and she could barely stand…almost unconscious… I didn't see her again until the next day…" He sniffed loudly and went on.
"They didn't treat the stab wound…left her…and she was in agony…and again I did nothing. I think someone stitched it later…but I didn't see that… A few days later…days when she was just left there…barely fed…they dragged her back to the fields. She wasn't capable of working…barely able to stand…and she seemed flushed…very weak… And then there was another beating…one of the worst. I saw that from across the field. They knocked her down…fists and feet…and she didn't get up…and they just left her there…all day, until the evening…then they dragged her back… She wasn't ever in the fields again after that…"
The Prosecutor leaned forward. "Can you tell us about the last days there?"
Gates nodded. "I was on duty on the block for the last days…her last days there… They left her…threw her on the cot…left her there. I often heard her crying in the dark…muffled… I don't know if they gave her food and water those last days…but she didn't move…yet she was conscious… The last day…" He covered his face with the hands and shook his head then looked up a little.
"I went to the cell with one of the guards…Chambers…that was his name…and I heard her…still conscious… 'please help me…pain…' whispered something like that. Chambers just laughed. She hadn't moved at all…still lying on the cot. Then Chambers said that he couldn't see her lasting long. I guess I seemed shocked to him…cause he asked me what was wrong with me. I remember saying we should get a medic and he laughed at that…said 'why bother…she's had it…' He told me I needed to toughen up if I wanted to go on working there, that he'd been watching me and that I'd no taste for the 'game of us against them' …that's what he called it. Then he said…" He looked up slowly. "It's not a nice word…maybe I shouldn't say…" He seemed to think a moment. "I think I already said it….sorry…from before…"
The Prosecutor looked to the Judge who nodded and then nodded his own head. "We need to hear your evidence, Officer Gates. Please just repeat exactly what was said to you."
Gates nodded but seemed reluctant. "OK…it was…and I'm sorry for before… He said to me… 'you never even want…a quick…fuck'…" He shook his head. "Sorry…his words… He then told me there was something seriously wrong with me." He took another drink, emptying the glass.
"I told him it didn't seem right to leave her like that. His answer to that was that she was a criminal and a serious one at that if the Admiral sent her. He said they had free licence…free rein…with her and that the Admiral had said so. He said that the prisoners came…they reported back and that if they died…the Admiral wouldn't care…would probably celebrate. He then said that the game, a football game, was on and to leave her…" There was stunned silence in the court. If Necheyev felt the states of hate directed at her, she didn't let on.
"As we were leaving, I heard her whisper…couldn't make it out. I went over and leaned down." He shook his head sadly. "She was praying … praying… 'please God…let me die…' over and over… That got to me. I said we had to do something…couldn't let her die…that she was a human being. Chambers answer to that was 'sod her…the game's more important…we'll check later…' I couldn't believe it…" He refilled his glass but didn't drink.
"She touched his leg…reaching out…and he jumped. I heard him say 'get off, you dirty whore' and then he…sweet God…he just pulled his baton and smashed her across the head… It was like slow motion… I mean I heard the sound…saw her head snap to the side…and then…nothing…the force of that blow… Oh God…I thought he'd killed her straight out…and I remember shouting…asking him what he'd done…that I thought he'd killed her. He just said 'So what? She wanted to die. Now she hasn't any pain.' I couldn't believe anyone could be that cold… 'Come on…the game's on…get a move on…' That's what he said next. I remember feeling for a pulse and couldn't believe it when I found one…but it was faint…and I saw the blood on her head…and I shouted that she was still alive…that we should… He cut me off…got angry…said that we don't report this and asked if I had got that. 'Let her sleep it off'…He just didn't care…wanted only to watch the game…said we'd check her later. And I went with him…just as bad as he was…and then a while later…the others came…the man Chakotay and a team…an Admiral and some others…and I showed them where she was. Chambers called me a traitor…something like that…but I showed them…said they'd need a medic…and after that…it was crazy…people everywhere…" When he finished speaking, not a sound was heard in the court except for muffled crying. Finally, the Judge broke the silence.
"Cross examination?" He looked down at Necheyev's Defence Counsel who shook his head. He knew better than to doubt this witness. "Very well. I would suggest we adjourn for the day. This court will re-adjourn at 09.00 tomorrow." No one disagreed.
Tom and B'Elanna had to guide Chakotay out of the court. He stared around him, as if not knowing where he was. He saw the tears, pain and sadness on the faces of the crew around him and was grateful for the hands which reached over to him and gripped him for a moment, the silent messages of support understood. Their tears matched his own.
Tom led him and B'Elanna back to the hospital and into a quiet side room then fetched strong coffee for the three of them.
"Sweet God, how did she survive all that? Oh, Kathryn…oh God, love…" B'Elanna was trying to comfort him, in bad need of comfort herself. Tom handed them the coffee, knowing they needed the small distraction. They then sat in silence for almost half an hour, before Chakotay jumped up and left the room.
Sometime later, they found him in Kathryn's room, lying beside her on the bed, holding her to him, whispering the same words to her over and over. "I'm sorry…forgive me…I didn't know…I'm so sorry…"
They left him there, asking the Doc to keep an eye on him. Tom then took his wife home.
"This is just shock at the moment. This is the stage where it's just too fresh to deal with. It'll sink in later but we'll all be there for each other." B'Elanna nodded, just wanting to get home and close the door on the world.
The next day was taken up with hearing testimony from the other guards. Most tried to deny any involvement or knowledge of the matters Officer Gates had spoken of, but they constantly tripped themselves up and, in the end, a few of them sat and admitted their guilt. They were arrested as soon as they left the witness box. Each one of them named the other guards as being involved, thereby incriminating each other, so that by the end of the day, each guard present was placed under arrest and informed of the charges he would face. Even those who hadn't been called found Security Officers at their doors that evening, arrest being immediate and charges filed against them within the hour.
Several women from the prison were also brought to the stand and within minutes of the Prosecutor questioning them, they broke down and admitted their part in everything. Some emerged as victims in their own right, telling their stories of how they'd had no option but to sleep with the guards in order to stay alive and gain a few extra rations. They spoke of being given little choice but to do as they were told and attack Kathryn. In each case, their original sentences were added to but they at least had the knowledge that the time they'd serve, would at least be under a far more humane system.
Owen Paris visited Chakotay in the hospital that evening, reporting to him on the day's events.
"Did I miss anything?" Chakotay's face was grim but his words dripped with sarcasm. He hadn't been able to face the courtroom that day and had sat with Kathryn instead.
"The guards we'd named gave evidence and tried to lie their way out of everything. They failed. Each one blamed the others and they turned against each other then, incriminated each other. They've all been arrested and charged. They'll be very old men when they get out, if they get out at all. You have to remember, Kathryn's is just the first case to be heard. There are others…so many other offences we haven't charged them with yet…most likely some counts of murder also. Chambers, by the way…the guard who struck her with the baton… He's been arrested also and charged with attempted murder. Rawlings, Jenkins, Williams and others have been charged with…rape. Collins also…the one in the field…" He gave them both a few minutes and then told Chakotay about the women prisoners who had also given evidence.
Chakotay shook his head and paced the room. "I can understand the women a little better but I still can't forgive them. The guards though… God, I want to string them all up…and that…thing…Necheyev… How in the name of God did she get away with it?"
Owen Paris shook his head. "I wish I had the answer to that. There have been people like her throughout history, who committed atrocities against humanity to varying degrees…and they got away with it for a time. Remember Hitler during Earth's Second World War?"
Chakotay nodded. "I just thought in this day and age…"
Owen Paris stood also and led Chakotay to a chair. "Son, as long as evil lives in man, this will continue. Humans will always have a dark side to their soul and, thank God, most of us control it or never use it. There'll always be some though…"
Chakotay sighed deeply and nodded. "I know. I do understand. I guess I'm just talking and asking as a way to avoid thinking about the details. I'm just grasping at things. I don't know…"
Owen patted his back. "Are you up to attending tomorrow? The Doctor?"
Chakotay actually laughed. "God, Owen…it can't get any worse. Yeah…I'll be there. We all will. The crew have made sure that there's always someone there." He shook his head and smiled. "They say they want someone there all the time to piss Necheyev off and to get to her. I think it's working. She seemed rattled when Louise Parker shouted out the other day…"
Owen smiled at the memory. "I knew her father. Same head strong, fiery blood in the veins…"
The Doctor swore his oath and took his seat in the witness box, several padds in front of him. Just as he sat, the Judge leaned over and spoke with him.
"May I ask how Captain Janeway is? Is there any improvement in her condition?" The Doctor shook his head sadly.
"I'm sorry to say she remains in the coma. Her injuries are healing very well but…" The Judge nodded his understanding. He turned and faced the court and suddenly his face hardened. Chakotay and the others saw it immediately.
"Admiral Necheyev, I would strongly suggest that you wipe that smirk off your face in my court. You had better pray that Captain Janeway makes a full recovery. You might well find yourself facing murder charges if she doesn't…although I understand you are already facing charges of that nature." Chakotay saw Necheyev's shoulders stiffen and while one part of him wanted to jump on her and smash her face, the other part smiled with satisfaction.
"Your Honour, I have asked the Doctor here to try and simplify some of the terms he will use, so that this court may better understand the nature of the injuries he will be speaking of…" The Judge nodded his consent. "All his evidence is documented and has been corroborated by several other Medical professionals who are all more than willing to give evidence to this Court if needed." The Judge nodded again and made some notes. The Doctor then began to speak, referring to the padds in front of him on several occasions.
"I was called to the prison where Captain Janeway had been held and entered a damp and small cell. I found the Captain lying on a small cot, no blanket or any other protection from the cold. Her face and body were covered with bruises and cuts and she had a deep stab wound to her right side. This wound was infected and had been stitched recently, in a rather crude manner I might add, adding to the infection. I estimated that the wound was several days old. My first concern though, was a head wound which I learned had been inflicted with a heavy blow from a guard's wooden baton. The force of this blow would have been considerable and rendered Captain Janeway unconscious immediately. I believe before the blow was received, she would only have been in a semi-conscious condition anyway." He paused a moment.
"There was severe bleeding from a wound at the site of the impact and from my scans, I discovered that her skull was fractured and a large blood clot had formed and that there was severe haemorrhaging in the brain. This was also indicated by the fact that her right pupil was fixed and dilated…blown, if you like. There was also bleeding from her ear, nose and mouth, indicating the head injury and internal bleeding. There was no response to any stimuli." He lifted a padd.
"I stabilized her condition as best I could and ordered an immediate beam out to Starfleet Medical Centre. The Captain then underwent ten hours of surgery in order to save her life. Three times during that surgery, her heart stopped but we got her back, although it was some struggle. The clot was removed, the bleeding to her brain was stopped, and the fracture to her skull healed, but it was touch and go for quite some time. She has remained in a coma since that time, mainly as a result of the severe head injury, swelling to the brain and from the infections. Her temperature was extremely high as a result of this and she had a very high fever. She received drastic and rigorous treatment for this and her system has been flooded with antibiotics. Her blood pressure was practically non-existent but with fluids and blood transfusions, this has almost returned to normal now. Between the head injury and before from the stab wound, I cannot understand how she didn't bleed to death."
The Prosecutor nodded. "What other injuries did you find?"
The Doctor nodded and activated a padd. "My next concern was the deep stab wound to her right side. This was inflicted with a crude weapon but something sharp, most likely a makeshift knife, metal and certainly rusty. Tetanus would have set in before very long if she had remained untreated, which seems likely by the other injuries I found. She was suffering from severe blood loss and we fought to replace the blood and fluids into her body. The wound had to be re-opened, cleaned out and treated." He paused and the Prosecutor nodded for him to continue.
"As I say, there were several other injuries. There was severe bruising and numerous cuts covering her face and body. There was also a lot of swelling from a recent beating. These injuries could only have been caused by someone else, in case anyone might be thinking along those lines…" He looked at Necheyev's Counsel. "They could not have been self-inflicted or as the result of a fall or other accident. She had several broken ribs, some part way healed, which needed to be broken and re-set. She also had a fracture to her left arm. I also discovered a hairline fracture on her jaw and another to her collarbone." He picked up another padd.
"She was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Drastically underweight and anaemic also. Her internal organs, kidneys and liver, were starting to fail. There was some internal bleeding from body blows and quite severe internal bruising. Her heart has been weakened from the strain of all this but that should correct itself with time and rest. Her feet and hands were covered in blisters at various stages of healing, and even some of these were open and infected but are healed now." He shook his head sadly. "There was even a bite mark on her hand…deep enough… It matched her own dental impression. I'd say she got that from biting down on her own fist…probably as a coping mechanism…a way to fight the pain…"
The Prosecutor nodded and was quiet for a moment before speaking again. "We have heard testimony in this court of…the crime of rape…committed against Captain Janeway. Did you find evidence of that?" The Doctor looked down and nodded his head. He then looked up and met Chakotay's eyes for a moment.
"I found evidence of that." He seemed to be trying to control his emotions. He nodded again. "There was plenty of evidence of that, I'm sorry to say." He took up another padd and activated it.
"There was considerable tearing and evidence of old bruising. Some of these tears had half healed. This tearing was found…vaginally and…anally. There was also massive infection in this area, from the injuries and from the lack of hygienic conditions in the prison. These injuries were inflicted with some force." He didn't look up from the padd he held. "I also found evidence of a sexually transmitted disease." He shook his head. "There was no evidence of pregnancy. It would have been unlikely due to the presence of the infection. Probably the only thing that can be said for it. I'm sorry."
The Prosecutor shook his head. "I understand, Doctor…" The Medic nodded. "Can you tell me if Captain Janeway would have lived with these injuries?"
The Doctor shook his head emphatically. "She would have died within the next ten to twelve hours, even without the head injury she suffered. When I got to her, she was very close to death. She wouldn't have lived another hour. By all rights, the blow to the head should have killed her instantly. It's nothing short of a miracle that it didn't." He shook his head again.
"I can say with certainty that Captain Janeway had been in dire need of medical treatment for some time. She would have been unable to defend herself as time went by. She was malnourished, dehydrated and would have been very weak most of the time. Being out in the sun for long hours each day, made to work in those conditions… The lack of care in all areas…to say nothing of the beatings and…other attacks… Her survival is a miracle." He shook his head.
The Prosecutor moved a little closer to him. "What are the chances of her coming out of this coma? What is her prognosis for the future?"
The Doctor sighed. "I can't say if or when she will come out of the coma. It's quite impossible. I am however, hopeful. Her physical injuries have all been treated and as I said, her heart will be fine in time. However, if or when she regains consciousness… Well, we have no way of knowing if there'll be brain damage until then…and if there isn't…I can't say about her emotional state… The result of all this on her mind… I'm sorry…it's impossible to speculate." The Prosecutor sighed.
"Thank you Doctor. Cross examination…?" Necheyev's Counsel and Defender stood.
"All the medical evidence is documented and confirmed by independent experts?" The Doctor nodded and held up the padds. The Defender nodded and sat. "Nothing further, Your Honour." The man knew to quit when he was ahead.
Chakotay sat with Kathryn again that evening and stroked her arm as he studied the Doctor. "I know you were only thinking of me when…trying to spare me, if you like…when you didn't say it all…"
The Medic turned and smiled sadly. "Chakotay, you have enough to cope with. I'm only sorry you have to know all this, had to hear all of it in such graphic detail."
Chakotay shook his head and looked at Kathryn. "She'll come back to us…and I'll get her through it. That's not just blind faith. I really believe that. If she was strong enough to survive it in there, she'll fight this too."
The Doctor smiled softly. "I hope so. I really hope so. Her heart's a lot stronger now. She just needs to wake up. I guess when she's ready." He reached over and patted Chakotay on the shoulder. "Just prepare yourself for a long journey."
Early next morning, Chakotay jerked awake when he felt a hand on his arm, shaking him. He had nodded off beside Kathryn, still holding her hand. He looked up now to see Admiral Paris smiling sadly at him. "Sorry, Chakotay. I needed to talk with you. How is she? Any change?"
Chakotay shook his head. "No change. Doc said her heart is getting stronger though…" He leaned back in his chair and stretched. "What's wrong?" Owen Paris just motioned for them to go outside.
Owen Paris stood in the centre of the
small side room and looked at Chakotay, then took a deep breath.
"Gates is dead."
Chakotay drew in a sharp breath. "I thought you said you could protect him?"
Owen smiled sadly. "We thought so too. Seems there was one person we hadn't considered he'd need protecting from." He shook his head and smiled sadly. "Himself."
Chakotay rubbed a hand across his forehead. "Suicide?"
Owen nodded slowly. "Security found him earlier this morning. He'd hanged himself…"
Chakotay sat down. "I found it impossible to really forgive him…felt he could have done something…and yet…" He sighed deeply. "Well…I hope he's found some peace now."
Chakotay attended the hearing on and off over the next days. He listened when the crew spoke of the woman they knew and loved and how hurt they'd been at first but that it had passed quickly to understanding because they respected and loved their Captain so much. Each in turn faced Necheyev and glared at her, the Admiral refusing to meet their eyes each time. Tom and B'Elanna took the stand also to give their evidence of how Jason had come to them and how they'd gone to the prison. Owen Paris seemed to have even the Judges in awe of him when he testified. He spoke of why he thought Necheyev had hated Kathryn so much, citing a time many years previously when the Admiral had attempted to seduce Edward Janeway, Kathryn's father, and had never gotten over being spurned publicly. He also stated that he felt Necheyev would have felt threatened by Kathryn's return and how popular she would have been. Plain and simple jealousy, in his opinion, as well as fear of a threat to her position.
Chakotay wished he could have seen Necheyev's face when that was said as he watched her cringe down in her chair. When his own turn came then, he managed to keep his emotions well in check, as he spoke of everything which needed saying.
Jason took the stand and testified to his part in everything and even his friend from the prison gave evidence, earning himself early release as a result, having had only three more months to serve either way. He was still extremely grateful.
Chakotay only sat for half an hour then, when Necheyev's Counsel stood and tried to make one excuse after the other for his client's behaviour. He seemed uncomfortable though and tried to explain that not one character witness could be found. Not one person wanted anything to do with Necheyev anymore and Chakotay gained a deep satisfaction in that knowledge.
At the end of two weeks, the Judges retired to reach their verdict but were back within twenty minutes. The Senior Judge broke protocol and seemed unconcerned by it.
"Alynna Necheyev. I gave you courtesy you didn't deserve during this trial by referring to you by your rank. I drop it now having heard all the evidence against you, simply because it would go against every principle I uphold to use it with you." Once again, Chakotay wished he could see Necheyev's face.
"Unfortunately, I shall have to sit here with my colleagues over the next month or so and hear the rest of the evidence against you. For now, I shall simply refer to this case." He picked up a padd.
"I'm bound by certain protocols in what I can say in this court. That is lucky for you. I will say this. You are a disgrace to Starfleet and everything it stands for. It is to our own dishonour and shame that you have gotten away with what you have for so long. That will never happen again. Safeguards have now been put in place to ensure that no one ever again amasses the power that you did. No other prison like the one you controlled will ever exist either." He barely looked at the woman standing before him but Chakotay could see the slump of her shoulders.
"You have been found guilty on all charges made against you in this case, the ones committed by you and the ones committed by others under your direct or indirect orders, such as attempted murder and rape. We shall only have to see about the other cases but I doubt their outcome in light of this trial. You have been found guilty and are hereby sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than forty years." They all heard her gasp. "That, as I say, is just for this case. I find it fitting to tell you that you will serve that time at Weymouth Prison. No doubt the conditions under which you will serve this time will be far more humane that those you sent Kathryn Janeway to, however, you will serve your sentence as hard labour. That is all. Please remove the prisoner." As he turned away from the microphone, they all heard his aside. "Before I get sick and say something I regret…"
Necheyev tried her best. She turned and faced those seated behind her. Chakotay stared hard at her, his message very clear. He wasn't going to let himself or Kathryn down by speaking these thoughts. The crewmembers behind him had their own ideas though. Shouts of 'burn in hell, whore', 'you'll get yours' and similar, filled the air. Chakotay didn't blink and finally Necheyev lowered her eyes and turned away.
Chakotay stood and drew in a deep breath as the court cleared, Necheyev already taken away, handcuffs having been placed on her wrists. He'd enjoyed that. He looked around him now at the almost silent courtroom, what he'd heard within its walls still with him and shook his head. He turned and smiled at the outstretched hand from B'Elanna, then took it. He wouldn't be back in this court again.
Two weeks later, the full trial ended, earlier than anyone had expected. Chakotay listened as Owen Paris reported to him how Necheyev had been given five life sentences at the end of it all. Other Starfleet people had been sent to Section N and three of them had even died. Chakotay just nodded, trying desperately to move past it all and just concentrate on Kathryn. She remained in the coma and he never moved from her side.
Two short days after her term began, word came that Necheyev was dead. She died apparently in a fall in one of the prison shower cubicles but details of the autopsy were unclear. The coroner noted, but could not account for, the look of terror on the deceased's face. No one pushed for an answer. No one ever would.
A week later, Chakotay stood looking out of the window, watching two birds splash in a small birdbath someone had placed in the hospital garden. He watched them for some minutes, thinking how simple their lives were. He nursed a cup of cold tea, long forgotten. He heard footsteps running down the hall and turned quickly to see one of Kathryn's nurses running towards him. His heart jumped in his chest when he saw she was looking right at him. He put the tea down and moved forward just as she reached him.
"Sarah, what is it? Is it Kathryn?"
She was panting and nodded. "Doc said to get you quickly…" Chakotay was rooted to the spot for a second, frozen in fear, until her words got him moving. "He thinks she's coming out of the coma…" He was already running.
Chakotay almost skidded as he raced into the room and saw the Doctor leaning over Kathryn, a smile on his face.
The Medic looked up and smiled. "I think she's coming back to us. She's fighting to anyway." He leaned over his patient and looked down at her. "Kathryn? Come on, now. Kathryn?" He tapped her face gently. He looked up briefly at the anxious man beside him. "She could come around within a minute or it could happen more slowly."
Chakotay nodded, swallowing to ease the sudden dryness in his throat. He felt as if time were standing still.
"Kathryn, come on now. Open your eyes. Fight it. Follow my voice. It's time to wake up. Kathryn…" The Medic continued tapping her face, a little harder now. Suddenly they heard a faint murmur. The Doctor smiled. "That's good Kathryn. Come on now…open your eyes." For the next ten minutes, he continued as he had been, getting a little more response each time he called to her. Finally, they saw her eyelids flutter.
Chakotay refused to take his eyes off Kathryn's face. He was vaguely aware of the nurse standing beside him, but at this moment in time, only Kathryn mattered. Slowly her eyes opened, nothing registering in them for a minute and then slowly, they grew confused. Chakotay took over without permission and leaned into her line of vision.
"Kathryn? Kathryn, can you hear me? Look at me, please. Kathryn?" Very slowly, she turned her head and met his eyes and for a second, there was a spark of recognition before she tore her eyes away and looked wildly around the room. Her breathing changed until she was almost panting. She began to weakly struggle against the Doctor's hands on her, panicked cries coming from her. Chakotay leaned over her and took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him.
"Kathryn, it's all right. You're safe. I'm here. It's all right." She didn't seem to hear him as she continued to cry out and struggle, tears now pouring from her eyes. Before he knew what was happening, he saw the Doctor press a hypo to her neck, the effect almost immediate, as Kathryn went still in the bed, her breathing slowing and evening out, only faint whimpers to be heard now. Her eyes began to close and Chakotay looked up quickly at the Medic. It struck him then that the hypo had already been prepared, that the Doctor had anticipated this, had been ready for it.
"I'm sorry, Chakotay. I had to do that. She would have gone into shock. We're going to have to do this slowly." Chakotay nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "She'll sleep for a few hours with that. Sit with her and call me the minute she stirs." Chakotay nodded again and pulled a chair over. He then sat and waited.
When Kathryn again began to stir, Chakotay quickly pressed the call button for the nurse. He stood stiffly and leaned over Kathryn, calling softly to her. She opened her eyes quickly this time and he smiled down at her.
"Hey there…" She seemed confused for a minute and then it faded, only to be replaced by a haunted look, before she turned her head away. Chakotay sat on the bed beside her and took her hand in his, grateful she didn't pull away. "Kathryn? You're in hospital, honey. You're going to all right." She didn't acknowledge his words but jumped when she heard the door opening and the Doctor came in. He walked to the side of the bed and smiled down at her.
"Hello, Kathryn. It's good to see you awake." He went to scan her and she jumped again. He stopped immediately and held the tricorder up. "I just need to check you over." He smiled gently and she relaxed a little. When he'd finished, he pulled a chair over to the side of the bed and sat down.
"Kathryn… I hope you don't mind me calling you by your first name." No reaction. "You're at Starfleet Medical Centre." Kathryn just continued to stare at him, a very guarded look in her eyes. "You were in a coma, but you're awake and back with us now." He smiled kindly. "We'll take good care of you. You're going to be fine. You're safe here." His last words got a reaction as she stiffened in the bed. She turned her head and looked to Chakotay, her eyes searching his for a moment as he nodded, then she turned away again. She pulled her hand from his and turned onto her side, curling into a tight ball. The Doctor just looked at Chakotay and motioned for him to come outside. He turned to the young nurse who had come in with him.
"Just keep an eye, Sarah…" She nodded and stood back to let Chakotay and the Doctor out the door.
Outside, Chakotay waited for the Medic to speak. "You have to understand that she'll set her own pace with this. I can't see any signs of brain damage but I'll do a deep level scan to be sure. I don't, however, expect to find anything. She's showing all the classic signs of deep trauma. Chakotay, you have to expect this. There was no way she was just going to wake up, have a good cry and then start to pick up the pieces." They were in the small side room and Chakotay nodded his head, the pain in his eyes plainly evident.
"Look, as I say, she'll set her own pace with this. At the moment, she's trying to shut it out, deny it all, just like she's been doing." Chakotay frowned, not understanding. The Doctor shook his head. "In there, in the prison, she could avoid dealing with it all…with what was happening to her." He held up a hand before Chakotay could interrupt him.
"I know…I know… She was living it, but that's different to dealing with it in the mind. You can accept things without acknowledging them. She'd have done that in order to survive. Now that she's safe, she can't or won't be able to hide from it, won't be able to suppress the memories, at least I pray she won't be able to. The sooner she faces this and deals with it, the sooner she can start to heal and move past it. For now, she just has to reach that point. There isn't, however, any time limit I can give you with this." He shook his head, trying to explain the best way he could.
"Look, at this moment in time, her mind can't cope with all this so it hides it away. Once she came around and it was there, she quickly tried to shut it off, rather than face it. It was just too soon for her. Now her mind is coping the best way it can. It's almost like a computer that's been damaged and it reverts back to its basic programming. Kathryn may well revert back to a time when things were simple in her life, when it was safe. It's possible her mind will be almost childlike in order to cope and she'll function that way, until she's ready to face more."
Chakotay sighed deeply. "So what do I do? How do I act around her?"
The Medic smiled sadly. "It's a case of waiting to see how she acts. I fully expect nightmares now. By day, she'll hide from it all. In sleep, it's harder to hide. Oh, She knows. I can see it in her eyes. She's just fighting that. Curling into a ball like that…the foetal position? It's a way to feel protected…reverting back to how we felt in the womb." Chakotay rubbed his hands over his face. "Just do what you do best, Chakotay. Be there for her." Chakotay tried a smile and almost succeeded.
Over the next couple of days, Chakotay sat with Kathryn and chatted away but she never answered him. He'd catch her watching him and sometimes he let her, without letting on he knew. Other times, he'd meet her eyes and smile, before she looked away, but she was holding his eyes longer each time. He knew she was trying to shut everything out and felt helpless but knew she needed to do this her way.
Nights were different. The Doctor's prediction was bang on. The nightmares came and visited with a vengeance. Chakotay would hold her as she thrashed around, kicking out against the blankets holding her, her arms flailing, making contact with Chakotay a few times. He would hold her then and whisper soothing words to her until she quietened eventually. She never woke fully during her nightmares and seemed unaware of them in the morning. The third night would be different.
Kathryn was asleep, the look on her face closer to peace than he'd seen in a while. Within minutes, it changed as the nightmare began. She screamed out this time, twisting and turning as he tried to hold her in the bed. Her breathing became ragged until she was panting and then gasping for breath. Chakotay pressed the call button quickly as he tried to hold her with one arm. Just as the Doctor and one of the nurses raced into the room, Kathryn twisted violently in Chakotay's arms and fell from the bed, crashing onto the floor. Her scream filled the room, different this time. Chakotay jumped across the bed and knelt beside her, seeing her holding her wrist, as tears poured from her eyes and she screamed on in pain.
He helped the Doctor and nurse get her back onto the bed, Kathryn not fighting them now. Beads of sweat covered her face as the pain washed over her, blending in with her tears. The Doctor quickly pressed two hypos to her neck and she grew quieter.
"That's a painkiller and a mild tranquilliser. It's just to calm her down, not knock her out." He spoke quietly with the nurse who left the room, then turned back to Chakotay. "Just hold her against you. Let her lean into you." The Doctor took her arm and gently placed a pillow under it. He then scanned her.
"It's broken. I thought so. She obviously landed on it quite heavily." He smiled down at Kathryn, who was staring blankly ahead of her, soft sobs still coming from her as Chakotay held her tightly to him and stroked her hair. "Kathryn, I'll have that wrist mended in a few minutes and then I'll give you another painkiller. Don't worry about it. It'll be good as new." She didn't acknowledge his words. The Doctor smiled gently at Chakotay. "Just hold her and comfort her." Chakotay nodded as he rocked Kathryn in his arms.
He rocked her and whispered quietly to her while the Doctor and nurse healed the break in her wrist. She just lay against him, her arm lying limply on the pillow as it was tended. Finally, the Doctor nodded and pressed another hypo to her neck.
"That's a second painkiller to see her through. She'll fall asleep in a while, mostly from exhaustion and from being free of the pain. Just sit with her until then." Chakotay just nodded.
"Kathryn? Kathryn? It's all right, honey. I'm here. I'll take care of you, I promise. You're safe now." She murmured slightly. "Is that OK with you?" She murmured again as if answering him and he frowned. Deciding to test this, he moved her slightly so he could see her face. "Kathryn? Can you understand me?" Her eyes didn't move but she murmured again, her breathing a little uneven. "Kathryn?" She drew in a deep shuddering breath.
"Oh God…" He barely made out her words and squeezed his eyes closed a moment.
"Kathryn? It'll be all right. I'm here." Her breathing was still uneven but her eyes filled up again and tears fell softly down her cheeks. He saw the raw agony in them, nothing to do with the pain from her broken wrist.
"I'm sorry…" It was a whisper.
He pulled her tighter against him. "God, love…you've nothing to be sorry about. You did nothing wrong. I'm sorry. I wasn't there for you…" He rocked her still, feeling her tears soak through his shirt. "Kathryn, just let me take care of you…be there for you…"
Her voice was barely audible. "Please…I can't…"
Chakotay shook his head against her, tears filling his own eyes. "Kathryn, please love. I just want to help you through this, be there for you…"
She was still limp in his arms. "Please…can't…I can't…"
Chakotay shook his head. "Why not? Kathryn please…you need…"
She stirred slightly. "Need…need you…please…care…I can't…can't…do it…"
He squeezed his eyes closed again, finally understanding her. It was a plea from her soul, a last desperate effort torn from her to save what little was left of her.
"Oh God, love…I'm here for you…always…I promise… I'll take care of you…protect you…" He kissed the top of her head.
"Take care…please…help me…please…can't…" He moved his head and kissed her forehead. Never had he heard anyone sound so lost and vulnerable, in so much pain. He wondered if she was even aware of her words, if they'd been spoken from somewhere buried so deep inside her, the part where Kathryn lay hurt and in pain, kept safe in some small way.
"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. Kathryn, it's over. You're safe now. I'll take care of you."
She leaned into him a little more. "Take me home…want to go home…"
He kissed the side of her face. "I'll take you home and look after you. If you'll let me, I'll never leave your side again." He took her hand gently in his. "You just take my hand, Kathryn. I'll lead you home. I promise you." He kept rocking and then looked down at the woman in his arms and saw that she'd fallen asleep, her breathing a little slower now, calmer. He continued to rock her gently and looked up, seeing the Doctor standing there with a smile on his face.
"That's a very big step, Chakotay. That she trusts you so much… With you, she'll get through this. I know she will." Chakotay seemed a little embarrassed for just a moment.
"I'll be here. I'll get her back…bring her home. At least she's talking to me." He saw the Doctor shake his head slightly.
"Chakotay, don't expect too much. I think her talking tonight… It was the medication…lowering her defences more and… I guess…almost a subconscious plea for survival. Just don't push her." Chakotay nodded sadly, but he understood.
The next morning, Kathryn didn't speak at all, proving the Doctor right. She seemed unaware of her actions the previous night and Chakotay didn't mention it either. She watched him constantly as he moved around the room, re-filling her water or tidying up. She let him feed her as he'd been doing but he let the nurse take care of her other needs. He knew he'd have to take over there through when he brought her home so he spoke with the Doctor, who assured him that he'd be fine and well able to cope.
That afternoon, he made his decision and spoke with the Doctor again, along with Tom and B'Elanna.
"I've made a decision. I know I'm assuming a lot but… I think I'm right." He sighed and looked out the window. "Kathryn put her trust in me, to take her home, to look after her and take care for her. She trusted me to do the right thing by her, even if she isn't aware of it now." He turned back into the room. "I'm taking her home. Medically that's all right?" He looked to the Doctor who nodded his agreement.
"I'll give you some hypos…sedatives and tranquillisers, some painkillers…in case you need them. Medically, she's completely healed. There's nothing more I can do there. The rest…" His voice trailed off. "That's now up to you. She'll be better with you than with a stranger…counsellor or someone. Perhaps later on, but for now I think she'd be better with just you…and she trusts you completely. You just have to understand that her withdrawal, as it appears, is her way to avoid thinking about what happened. For now, she'll try and avoid thinking about anything at all except the very basics, in case some of what happened comes to her. Once she finds it's safe to face what's around her now, she'll slowly start to face the rest. It's like she's built this wall in her mind so she won't have to see past it, but in time, she'll take it down, a brick at a time. At this moment in time, she's like a small child who needs looking after, although I think she's capable of taking care of her basic needs, washing and feeding herself, that kind of thing, and it'll be good for her to do that. Kathryn, the woman, is still in there though and she'll come out when it's safe to do so."
Chakotay nodded. "Then I'll take her home to do that. I'm going to take her back to Dorvan with me, to my home. It's beautiful there – quiet, peaceful, away from here and from Earth and all that's happened here. It'll be good for her, the best thing, fresh and new to her with no memories or associations. Her body is healed as you said. I believe that's the best place for her, where she can rest and heal…heal her spirit…her soul." He looked at his three friends and saw them nod.
B'Elanna smiled sadly. "Just let us know when you think we can visit. We'll miss you, but I know this is right. It's the best thing for her."
The following day, Chakotay helped Kathryn dress, marvelling at how much she trusted him. He'd contacted Taymar to let him know his plans and then had Kathryn's few belongings sent to the shuttle station ahead of them, along with his own small items. He'd find out about and locate her belongings from Voyager and before in time. She still didn't speak, but she stayed close to him and let him lead her. She was unsteady on her feet after so long in bed and leaned into him.
Tom and B'Elanna came to see them off and Kathryn remained quiet as they said goodbye, promising that they'd visit when she was ready. B'Elanna walked over to Kathryn and held her arms out, then smiled as Kathryn moved away from Chakotay a little and into B'Elanna's outstretched arms. Chakotay was amazed and saw his old friend try to hold her tears in check.
"You're going to be just fine, Kathryn Janeway. We'll see you soon." She hugged her former captain tightly. "Just always remember that we love you." Kathryn let herself be held for a moment and then pulled back. Tom then reached out for her too, unsure if he was doing the right thing, but Kathryn also allowed him to hold her. Tom held her to him, this woman who had been like a second mother to him.
"Same goes for me, Kathryn. We love you and we'll see you soon. You get plenty of rest and look after yourself. You're in good hands." Kathryn pulled back and just stared down at the floor. She sounded a little breathless as if trying to fight her feelings and turned to reach for Chakotay. He slipped his arm around her to steady her again and nodded to the Doctor who'd just come into the room. The Medic looked at Kathryn and smiled, then moved a little closer.
"I'll see you again." He didn't seem to mind when there was no response. He nodded and smiled softly. "Got everything? Ready to go?" Chakotay nodded as Kathryn looked up at him briefly. The Doctor then arranged for a beam out to the shuttle and once on board, Chakotay settled Kathryn in the cabin he'd reserved. She slept for the entire trip.
Kathryn clung onto Chakotay's arm as they made their way off the shuttle. She looked around her nervously, especially at the men and Chakotay leaned down and whispered to her.
"There's nothing to be afraid of. I'm with you." She looked up to him, biting her lip and gripped his arm a little tighter.
Chakotay led her to the transporter station and spoke quietly to the attendant. Almost immediately, they materialised beside Chakotay's house. Kathryn jumped as a slightly older man stepped down from the porch and smiled at them. Chakotay slipped his arm around Kathryn again.
"It's OK. This almost as handsome as me guy here is my cousin, Taymar…" He felt Kathryn relax a little beside him. Taymar stood still and smiled down at her.
"Hello, Kathryn. I'm very pleased to meet you. I hope you'll be happy here." Kathryn met his eyes for a moment but still seemed a little nervous. She didn't say anything and Taymar didn't seem to mind. He smiled again and looked at Chakotay. "Well, cousin, I've filled your presses and left just about everything you two will need. You know where I am if you need anything else."
Chakotay smiled his deep thanks and nodded. "Thanks, cousin. I owe you." Taymar laughed as he walked away.
"You've been owing me since we were children and I'm still waiting for payment." Chakotay laughed and looked down at Kathryn. She was staring at the ground but then looked up and out over the landscape. He watched her face carefully and for the first time, saw the haunted look in her eyes lessen just a little as she stared at the beauty before her.
"What is it, Kathryn? The view?" He continued to study her face and she looked up at him briefly, then back at the view. Chakotay smiled. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" She didn't answer and just continued to stare at the scene before her. Chakotay patted her shoulder.
"It's that and more. Come on, let's get you settled and then I'll get us some tea and we can sit on the porch and enjoy that view. It'll be sunset soon and when you see that…well, it's stunning." She tore her eyes away from the view and looked up at him. Chakotay smiled again and shook his head.
"What am I thinking? Let me guess. You'd prefer coffee?" Chakotay thought he saw a very slight smile and nodded, fighting to hold back his tears. It was a tiny step forward, maybe even his imagination but he still felt the first bit of real hope run through him. His Kathryn was still there, all right. She was hiding, hurt and frightened, but she was still in there. He knew he wouldn't rest until he brought her back.
Chakotay led Kathryn to the guest room and left her for a moment to look around, while he went back outside to get their stuff. She was just sitting quietly on the bed, her head down, playing with her hands, when he returned, but looked up when she heard him. Chakotay put her things down and reached out his hand.
"Let me give you the grand tour." She stood slowly and took his hand shyly, letting him lead her.
"This is obviously the main room…nice big window…with that view of course. I couldn't resist." Kathryn looked around her, still holding onto his hand. "I actually built this house." He glanced at her as she looked up at him and he smiled at her. "It was with a lot of help from family and friends. I have to say that, but I did a lot of the work. Designed the place myself even. Picked out the site best of all." He smiled again and led her into the kitchen.
"Now this strange room is called a kitchen. I know that you're not familiar with them." He felt another ray of hope when he saw her come close to another small smile. He pointed to the corner. "This here though? Ah yes, she says, that I know. It's a replicator." Kathryn kept her almost smile.
"All right. What's next?" Chakotay laughed and led her back through the main room.
"That's the big open fireplace. as if you couldn't tell - and that room there is a study cum den or office space or whatever. Mostly it's filled with junk and books at the moment. The computer is in there…just about reachable. I'll sort it one of these days." He stood back and let her look in.
"I know. I need a housekeeper." He smiled down at her and pointed to another door, which was slightly ajar. "That's my room, if you need anything at night - right next to yours. These two at the back of the house are other guest bedrooms, or will be if I ever get around to doing something with them. But this one…" He pushed open another door. "This one I think you'll like. You'll probably spend a lot of time in here." He watched her face as she stepped into the bathroom and saw the large sunken bathtub. He was certain he saw a small reaction in her eyes.
"Kathryn?" She looked up at him briefly and then back at the tub. He let it go. "Tell you what. Why don't you unpack while I get the tea…sorry…tea and coffee." He led her back to her own room and pushed her door open for her. She stopped and looked back at him. He smiled down at her.
"I'll get that coffee and tea. I'll call you when it's ready. Oh, and there's a toilet and shower off your room. Just so you know." She seemed to nod her head and moved into the room. Chakotay stood for a moment then moved away, leaving her to get settled.
Fifteen minutes later, Chakotay gently knocked on Kathryn's door to tell her that her coffee was ready. When he didn't get an answer, he eased the door open. He saw her bags, still where he'd left them on the floor and then looked up to see her standing still, just staring out the window.
"Kathryn?" She turned slowly and he saw a look of pain and sadness on her face that tore at him before she looked away quickly.
"Your coffee's ready. I'll be on the porch." She looked back at him and he smiled then left the room.
It was another ten minutes before Kathryn joined him, still wearing the same dress she'd been in all day. She stepped hesitantly out of the door and just stood there.
"Sit down. The coffee is still hot enough." She moved slowly and sat beside him and took the cup he offered her. For several minutes, she just stared out at the view without drinking. Eventually, she took a sip and then another.
"Is it good?" He smiled at her and saw her barely nod. "I make good coffee, what can I say. Are you hungry? Would you like something to eat?" She gave a very slight shake of her head. Chakotay nodded and sighed inwardly then turned back to the view. It was small but at least they were communicating in some way.
He said nothing more as they watched the sun sink for a while. As it disappeared behind the mountains, the last rays still lighting the sky, Chakotay turned and looked at Kathryn. She seemed lost in a world of her own, so that when he spoke, she wasn't expecting it and jumped slightly.
"It's beautiful, isn't it? I told you the sunset was something else." He smiled gently at her. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you and break the mood." She just stared at him. Making a decision, he reached for her hand and took it in his. She let him and looked down at their hands a moment and then back up to his face.
"Kathryn, I need to say a few things to you and I'm sure you can understand me. First off, you have all the time you want and need here. You can stay a month, a year, the rest of your life. That's your choice. Just know this. This is a place for you to rest and heal. A home for you." He saw a faint flicker in her eyes for a moment, and then it was gone. "I hope I made the right choice in bringing you here. I really thought it would be the best place for you. I wasn't sure…but I think now that it's the best place. It's just… Look, here you rest and heal. Take all the time you need. You're also safe here." The flicker returned for a moment.
"Kathryn…you know I love you and don't take that to mean… What I mean is… I love you and care for you so I want you to know that I'll never hurt you in any way. You're safe here…no harm…so you just rest and heal. You eat when you want, sleep when and for as long as you want, spend days in the tub if you want that, walk in the woods… You just do what you want and if you prefer to be alone, just walk away from me and I won't be hurt. I'll never be far away if you want company either. You also talk when you're ready, set your own pace. I won't pretend to understand what you're feeling…" He sighed and shook his head. "I'm not saying this too well…not even sure what to say. Just take your time and, as I said, rest and heal." He smiled softly at her and saw from her eyes that she understood. She looked out at the view a moment, then back at him. She didn't speak and the small smile was barely noticeable but he felt her hand tighten a little on his. "OK Kathryn…I understand."
As the light faded from the sky, Chakotay turned on the lights and led Kathryn back inside. He unpacked for her as she sat on the bed and watched him and then he led her to the kitchen. He sat her down at the kitchen table and got busy. Within a short space of time, he set a plate in front of her, containing an omelette and fresh vegetables, along with a glass of milk.
"Eat something before you go to bed. It's light and won't lie heavy on your stomach. You've hardly eaten all day and you need something." He handed her a fork and she took it, staring at her plate for a while before finally tasting the vegetables. Chakotay busied himself serving up a portion for himself and watched out of the corner of his eye as she slowly ate a little more, well able to feed herself. Chakotay nodded to himself. Another step forward.
As they ate, and later on as they sat on the large sofa in the main room, Chakotay chatted away telling her all about Dorvan and his family and friends. He told her stories of how they'd come together to build the house, much like the old barn raisings on Earth. She listened, looking back and forward between her hands and his face, but she never answered and he was content to let her set her own pace. He then saw her grew sleepy and stopped talking. Leaning towards her, he smiled gently and touched her arm.
"About ready for bed, Kathryn?" She looked up quickly and appeared a little embarrassed for a second then nodded slightly. "OK, then. I'm tired too. It's been a long day." He stood up. "You know where I am if you need any help or want me for anything at all." She stood also and seemed unsure of herself. Chakotay just smiled down at her and took her hand, leading her to the door of her room. He smiled again, reached in and activated the old light control.
"You can turn that off with the control beside the bed or you can leave it on." He squeezed her hand. "Goodnight, Kathryn. I'll see you in the morning. As I said, you know where I am." Once again, she barely nodded and let go of his hand. She walked into the room but left the door slightly open.
Chakotay shot up in bed when Kathryn's screams woke him and was with her in seconds. He saw immediately that she'd left the light on but was thrashing about in the bed, arms and legs fighting some phantom presence. Chakotay sat on the bed and grabbed her to him, calling to her repeatedly, until she jerked awake, her eyes wild. She struggled against him for a few minutes and then began to calm down, slowly becoming more aware of where she was.
"Kathryn, it's all right. You're safe. It was just a nightmare. It wasn't real. Nothing can hurt you here. You're safe." His words flowed over her, almost acting like a balm as her breathing evened out. She drew in deep breaths as she let him hold her. He rocked her and whispered reassurances to her, until he felt her go limp against him and realized that she'd drifted off to sleep again. He stayed holding her for a further half hour, before gently lowering her back down on the bed and covering her with the quilt. He leaned down then and kissed the side of her head.
"I won't let anything harm you ever again, Kathryn. You can depend on that."
The next night, Kathryn's nightmare was worse. She thrashed about so much that Chakotay was afraid she'd hurt herself and so decided to use one of the sedatives the Doctor had given him. As he saw it take effect, he relaxed slightly. Kathryn was almost limp against him, her eyes slightly glazed. She moved then, trying to get away from him and he eased back, letting her. He watched as she tried to get out of the bed but saw that her legs wouldn't hold her up.
"Where are you trying to go, Kathryn? What is it?" She tried again, reaching a hand out towards the bathroom, her eyes fixed on the door. Chakotay understood immediately and slipped his arms around her. "Do you need the bathroom?" She just tried to push herself up again. "OK love, let me help you. Don't be embarrassed." He helped her stand, supporting her as much as she needed it and guided her into the bathroom.
Kathryn was barely able to stand against him, even with the support of his strong arms. He let her lean into him, still holding her, as he manoeuvred her towards the toilet. He sighed quietly to himself as he felt how thin she still was.
"Just bear with me here. Let's get your nightdress out of the way." He pulled the gown up and eased her back onto the toilet then lifted her again for a moment when he saw she was wearing her panties.
"Hang on, love. Just give me a second here." He eased her underwear down and then sat her down again. "OK, Kathryn…" He knelt in front of her and let her lean against him, knowing she was incapable of holding herself up and marvelled at the trust she had in him, especially allowing him to touch her so intimately. He waited until she was finished and grabbed some tissue.
"Hang onto me." He dried her and lifted her again, pulling her panties back up and letting her nightdress fall back down. "OK now…" He reached back and flushed the toilet. "Let's get you back to bed." He gently supported her back to the bed and eased her down, lifting her legs in and covering her with the quilt again. He saw her watching him, her eyes sleepy now and smiled at her.
"Is that better? You try and get some sleep now." She just closed her eyes and he stayed with her until he knew she was asleep again. He sat watching her for some time, knowing that this was what love was really about. Anyone could share the happy times, the fancy nights out and lavish presents. Being there for someone when they needed you, when they were ill or vulnerable, that was real love.
Kathryn didn't speak at all over the next weeks and let Chakotay lead where meals were concerned. She never ventured into the kitchen on her own, letting him decide when and what they ate. When he sat, she sat. If he went for a walk, she trailed along with him, sometimes letting him hold her hand. She explored the woods with him but never showed any reaction to anything they found. He pointed out different birds and animals and she'd just look where he indicated but never spoke. He didn't miss the constant faraway, haunted looks in her eyes though, knowing that she was remembering and trying to come to terms with everything. She was almost back to her normal weight though, which delighted Chakotay.
Early evenings, he filled the large tub and left her to soak there while he prepared their dinner. She washed and dressed herself and attended to her own needs, but he took care of her laundry and left her clean clothes out for her on the bed, many of which he'd replicated for her.
In the evenings, they sat on the porch and watched the sun setting, Chakotay doing all the talking. The only time he heard her voice was when she woke screaming in the night. He watched her now as she played with her fingers and thought back to the previous night.
Chakotay had run to her as usual, his body now tuned into waiting for the wakeup call. He'd calmed her in his usual way until he realized that she was upset about something else. He'd looked closely at her face, tears running down her cheeks and smiled softly at her.
"What is it, Kathryn? You're awake now. It's over." She had just dropped her head and then looked up at him, a fear on her face. "What's wrong, love?" He'd seen her bite her lip and then look down at the bed. He'd frowned and reached for the quilt, pulling it back. He'd smiled then and shaken his head. She'd wet the bed and when he looked back at her, saw that she was afraid he might be angry at her.
"Oh, honey, don't worry about that. Come on, stand out and I'll get you a clean nightdress. I'll run the bath and you can wash up while I change this." He'd smiled again at her, desperate to reassure her and had seen her relax more. Forty minutes later, he'd switched mattresses, made up her bed and tucked her back in.
"Don't ever be embarrassed in front of me, Kathryn. I told you that. Try and get some sleep now." He'd then sat with her until she'd fallen asleep, not wanting to use the sedatives again unless he was left with no other choice.
Kathryn's nightmares continued, although not as severe as they had been. She spent long hours sitting on the porch, just staring out at the scenery, her eyes carrying a haunted look. Chakotay saw her try to smile and nod a little more when he spoke to her but she never used her own voice. One day, he was in the kitchen when she bolted into the house, a look of terror on her face. Chakotay ran to her immediately and held her, only to see his cousin come down the path.
"Kathryn, that's only Taymar…my cousin. You met him that first day." He felt her trembling in his arms as she slowly pulled back and looked at the man now standing at the bottom of the steps, waiting. She nodded slowly then pulled away and made for her room. Chakotay let her go then went out onto the porch.
"Chakotay, I'm sorry. I think I scared her…"
Chakotay smiled at the older man. "It's OK. She got a fright but she's fine."
Taymar didn't seem so sure. "I didn't think. I can be so stupid at times. I was coming to see if you needed any help with anything or wanted any supplies. I know I beamed some up to you last week but still…and I hate using the commlink. It's also such a lovely day. You know me…any excuse to walk these woods."
Chakotay smiled, remembering only too well the adventures they'd been through here as children. "I know you all right. I know…" He trailed off when he saw Taymar look over his shoulder and smile up at the house. He turned and saw Kathryn hesitate in the doorway. He smiled and turned to her.
"Kathryn, you remember Taymar…from the day we got here?" He saw her swallow and nod a little. Slowly she stepped out of the door and inched her way across the decking. When she reached the top step, she drew in a deep breath and looked to Chakotay then back at Taymar. She then amazed Chakotay as she held out her hand to his cousin. Taymar moved slowly up the steps and took her hand. He smiled gently.
"It's good to see you again, Kathryn. You're looking well. I hope this big oaf here is looking after you all right. He thinks he can cook better than I can but we all know he can't." Kathryn managed a very small smile and looked towards Chakotay, who smiled back at her.
"Oh, I feed her well. Kathryn, at least, appreciates my culinary skills."
Taymar laughed at that and let go of her hand. "I'll let you taste my cooking one of these days and then you'll know." They were quiet for a few moments and Kathryn moved off to sit on one of the porch chairs. Taymar walked back to Chakotay.
"I was hoping to show you how those saplings I put down last year are doing…" Chakotay caught his meaning and nodded. He called up to Kathryn.
"Kathryn, Taymar's just going to show me some trees he planted last year. It's about a ten minute walk there and back. Do you want to come?" She seemed to think and then barely shook her head. He nodded his understanding. "OK. I won't be long and you can see us from here."
Taymar said nothing as they walked and waited for his cousin to speak. They breathed in the fresh scents all around them, almost transported back to their boyhood. Chakotay kept glancing back though and Taymar understood. "She'll be fine. We're not far…"
Chakotay smiled and nodded. "I know. I just worry, especially if she's on her own."
Taymar looked back also, the house still visible. "We can still see her from here and she can see us…" He hesitated a moment and then spoke on. "How is she otherwise?"
Chakotay sighed deeply. "She still doesn't speak but I see it all in her eyes. She's slowly growing more at peace here though. I made the right decision."
Taymar played with a leaf he'd pulled from a low bush. "She's an amazing woman. Some of the trial was reported…nothing in detail…but enough to get some idea of what she went through…"
Chakotay looked up, an alarmed look on his face. "What…how much of it…?"
Taymar gripped his arm. "Just that she'd been sent to prison for those months by that…Nech… I can't remember her name."
Chakotay ground his teeth together. "Necheyev. That evil… She's dead now. An 'accident' in prison. Nothing confirmed. I think it went higher. Maybe knew too much herself and made some people nervous in case she tried to plea bargain. Basically, I don't care. What was reported though? I need to know."
Taymar shook his head. "It said that she'd…Kathryn…had been sent to prison…that the conditions weren't very… The report said 'intolerable conditions'. They also said that she'd been beaten within an inch of her life…stabbed also…an attack by a guard…but that she was found just in time…and then about being in a coma during the trial…" He stopped a moment. "Look, Chakotay, you didn't say much when you got in contact to tell me to prepare for you. The reports gave their facts and that's what people believe. I knew from you though, without you saying anything, that it was worse than that. I also see that from her. None of this though, will ever be spoken of. I'm just worried about you."
Chakotay had stopped also and now shook his head. "I'm fine…"
His cousin gripped his arm tightly. "Listen to me, cousin. I know you. I know how much you love this woman. I don't doubt that you can bring her back from the horrors which even I can see in her eyes. What I'm afraid of is… What happens when those horrors are dealt with and she comes back? Don't try and fool me. You built this house for her, for the dream you carry. Having her here now is…"
Chakotay shook his head. "Having her here is… But, Taymar… I'd never have wanted her here under these circumstances…not…"
Taymar smiled his understanding. "I know that. I wouldn't think that for a minute. It's just… If she gets through this, which I know she will… What happens if she wants to go back to her own life? What happens to your heart if she wants to leave here?"
Chakotay looked down at his feet. "It'll tear me apart but I'll be happy for her. She's all that matters in all this. Oh, I tried to stand back from my feelings during all this…to act as a friend who loves her and who can be there for her…but in the end…I can only help her if I put everything I am into it…and if that means giving my heart 110% then that's what I'll do…am doing. My pain will be a small price to pay to see her come back from this."
Taymar shook his head and pursed his lips. "I just hope and pray it all works out for you, my cousin. Either way, you always know where I am." The two men embraced, silent promises made between them.
Chakotay sat bolt upright in the bed, his eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. He was just ready to jump from the bed to run to Kathryn, when he realized that all he could hear was silence. He sat out on the side of the bed and let his heartbeat settle back to normal. He realized slowly that he must have dreamed that he heard her and shook his head, almost laughing at himself. As his breathing slowed, his ears picked up a smaller sound and he held his breath as he listened.
He looked around his bedroom, the light from the full moon letting him see fairly well now as his eyes adjusted. He followed the sound and turned around, twisting his body to look behind him and froze. Lying there on his bed was Kathryn, curled into a ball on top of the covers, sound asleep. He moved slowly, trying not to wake her as he smiled down at her. He reached out a hand and lightly touched her arm. He was shocked to find how cold she was. He lowered his hand then and felt her leg, exposed from the knee down, finding that cold too.
She stirred now and tried to curl tighter into herself as she shivered. As if sensing him there, she opened her eyes and stared right at him.
"It's all right…you're just cold. Here…" He stood up and walked around to her side of the bed. He gently lifted her and carried her to his side, setting her down where the bed was still warm from his body, then pulled the quilt over her. "We need to get you warmed up…" He remembered part of a rhyme from childhood and smiled. "We can't have a kitty with the sneezes…" Kathryn snuggled down into the warmth of the bed and managed a small smile. "I'll sleep in your room. You stay here…" He frowned when the small smile vanished quickly and was replaced by a look of fright. "I'll just be next door…" She stared back at him with wide eyes and suddenly reached out a hand and grabbed his arm. Chakotay sat down on the side of the bed.
"Kathryn? Do you want me to stay with you?" She just pulled harder on his arm. "OK…" He didn't get to say anymore as she went to move back in the bed. This time his hand stopped her. "No…you stay in the warm part…" He stood up and moved to the other side of the bed and got in hesitantly. He eased himself under the quilt and lay there stiffly. Suddenly Kathryn turned around and snuggled into him. Without thinking, his arms came around her. He then lay there for the rest of the night, just holding her as she slept, relishing the feel of her in his arms and marvelling once again at the trust she had in him.
Kathryn didn't seem in the least bit surprised to find herself wrapped in Chakotay's arms when she woke up the following morning. He smiled down at her and saw that she was a little embarrassed but nothing more. He left her to get breakfast started and the rest of their day was much like every other day.
That night, Chakotay had the light on and was reading late when Kathryn came to his door. She stood in the doorway looking nervous, wringing her hands together, as she looked to him for permission, her eyes darting from his face to the bed and back again. He just smiled and pulled back the quilt. She moved towards the bed slowly and then jumped in, curling herself into him quickly. In minutes, she was asleep. That night, just like the hours she'd spent in his bed the previous night, was free of nightmares. After that, a pattern was established and Chakotay made no mention of it.
Some days later, the weather quite hot, Chakotay packed a picnic for them both and led Kathryn down to the river.
"Now that's a big bathtub for you…" He laughed as he saw Kathryn study the still full river. She barely nodded and stood back from the riverbank. Chakotay watched her as her eyes scanned the surrounding area, listening to the birds singing and watching as they flew from tree to tree. He smiled as he watched the interest she seemed to take in them.
Eventually they just sat and ate their lunch slowly, then lay back under the dappled shade of the leaves high above them. Chakotay dozed for a while and knew Kathryn was doing the same. He awoke a little later and saw that she was already awake, sitting there hugging her knees to herself and watching the birds again. He studied her for a moment, thinking how beautiful she looked. She turned as he sat up and just looked at him. He smiled at her as he stretched.
"I think I need a dip in your big tub to wake me up. Want to join me?" She licked her lips and barely shook her head. He stood and stripped his shirt off and then his pants, leaving his boxer shorts on. "OK…you can watch me." He made his way into the water, tensing at how cold it was despite the heat of the day.
Chakotay splashed around for about ten minutes, sensing Kathryn's gaze on him the entire time. Occasionally, he met her eyes but she never looked away. Finally, he'd had enough and went to climb out of the river. He pulled himself out of the water and planted his feet on the large stones at the water's edge. He went to step forward but without warning, his foot slipped, the other one giving way beneath him. He felt himself fall and a burst of pain in his head as he hit the ground. And then he knew nothing.
Kathryn sat rigid and watched Chakotay fall, almost in slow motion. She stood without thinking and went to him, reaching her hand out to touch him. His body felt cold to her and she moved her hand to touch his head. Her fingers slipped under his head and came away with his blood on it. Kathryn jerked her hand back and fell backwards onto the stones, a panic starting in her. She stared at the blood on her hand and then crawled back to Chakotay, shoving him to try and wake him. He didn't move.
Kathryn jerked around, frantically scanning the area for anyone, a terror filling her. Only the birds bore witness to her plight. Drawing on some inner strength she seemed unaware of, she stood shakily and started to move. She picked up the blanket they'd sat on and draped it over Chakotay's unmoving form. She then backed away, before turning and running.
Kathryn made it back to the house, panting and sweating, her face and arms scraped from the bushes she'd run through. She dashed into the house and searched for the comm system, unsure how to use it. She tried it but couldn't get any response. Tears poured down her face now, her mind barely coping. She turned and ran from the house and stopped at the bottom of the steps, suddenly uncertain. She looked towards the direction she remembered Taymar having come from and started running.
Nothing else existed for Kathryn except running. Her face, arms and legs were covered with deep tears and scratches, her dress torn in places and more scratches across her neck and chest. She'd fallen three times now. Her first fall had gorged the skin from her hands and knees, leaving them badly grazed and bleeding. The second fall, she'd landed more on her face, her nose and chin smashing into the small gravelled pathway. Her third fall had left her dazed for several minutes, her head smashing painfully on a large stone. Each time, she struggled back to her feet and ran on.
Finally, she came to the edge of the town and forced her fear down. To see other people terrified her but she shut off the fear and moved towards them. With her clothes torn and her face and body scratched and bloody, she ran to a woman and grabbed her arm, trying to pull her back along the trail. The woman pulled away, frightened by this strange sight who'd come out of nowhere. Kathryn's eyes were frantic as she pulled the woman and somehow she found her voice.
"Help…fall…Chakotay…" Tears poured from her eyes, panic almost taking over her. A crowd was gathering now and Kathryn moved to another woman, trying to pull her instead. She avoided the men. She let go of the second woman quickly and pointed behind her. "Help…Chakotay…" She turned in panicked circles, trying to get them to understand her, fighting her own terror as it built. Suddenly, a hand touched her shoulder and she screamed out, jumping back. The worried face of Taymar filled her vision then.
"Kathryn…what is it? What's happened? Where's Chakotay…?" Kathryn grabbed his arm and tried to pull him with her now.
Taymar nodded. "OK, Kathryn, take it easy. Has Chakotay had an accident?" Kathryn nodded frantically. "OK, try and calm down. Where is he?"
Kathryn was panting heavily, still trying to pull him. "River…fall…won't move…"
Taymar grabbed her shoulders and spoke calmly to her. "Kathryn…calm down now. We'll get to him. Come with me now. It's quicker to transport there. I'll just get someone to help you…"
Kathryn pulled against him. "Show you…"
Taymar shook his head. "Kathryn…you're hurt… Just tell me where Chakotay is and I'll find him. You stay here…"
Kathryn was having none of it and just pulled harder, her panic growing all the time. "Show you…hurry…"
Taymar finally gave in. "OK, come on. We can transport from over there. I'll just get Fayla…" Kathryn was pulling at him still. "Kathryn, take it easy. Fayla is my wife. She's a doctor." Kathryn seemed to calm a little at that information. Within minutes, they had beamed to Chakotay's house.
Kathryn took off as soon as they materialised, Taymar and his wife trying to keep up. In less than five minutes they reached the side of the river and found Kathryn kneeling beside Chakotay, who was still unconscious. Fayla acted immediately and began scanning and treating her husband's cousin. Kathryn pulled herself back and sat against a tree, bringing her knees up and hugging them tightly to her. Taymar went to her but she shrunk back against the tree, tears pouring from her eyes as she hugged herself tighter still. Taymar just backed off, his eyes taking in her injuries and seeing that they weren't life threatening. He shook his head sadly as he watched her, her eyes fixed on Chakotay as she rocked herself back and forth. He then turned his attention to his wife and cousin.
Fayla looked up at her husband and smiled. "He'll be fine. He'll have one hell of a headache when he wakes up but aside from that…" She pressed a hypo to Chakotay's neck, then looked over at Kathryn and smiled at her. "Kathryn is it?" No answer.
Taymar moved towards her. "Kathryn…he's going to be fine…" She didn't seem to hear him.
Just at that moment, Chakotay started to move and groaned loudly. Fayla's attention went back to her patient and Taymar looked down at him also. Chakotay groaned again and tried to sit up. Fayla let him turn and then put a hand on his chest. "Easy, Chakotay, you fell and knocked yourself out. Just take it easy and we'll get you back to the house. You'll be fine though…"
Chakotay looked confused for a second and then tried to sit up. "Kathryn? Where's Kathryn? Oh God…where is she?"
Fayla smiled gently at him and pointed to her right. "Over there. She won't let us near her though…"
Chakotay tried to get up to go to her, just as a wave of dizziness washed over him and he fell back down. It barely registered with him how she looked.
"Hey, Chakotay…take it easy now." He closed his eyes and nodded.
Taymar saw the look of panic on Kathryn's face and moved to her, knowing she needed something to concentrate on, other than Chakotay. "Kathryn, he's going to be just fine. We'll get him back to the house and take care of that cut on his head. Why don't you run on ahead and get some clean water and turn the bed back?" She looked up at him quickly, as if suddenly understanding and barely nodded. She stood shakily and then ran.
Taymar and Fayla helped Chakotay to stand and made their way back to the house. Chakotay kept asking about Kathryn and they kept telling him that she was fine and was waiting for him at the house. When they got him into the house and then the bedroom, Kathryn crept in behind them carrying a large bowl of water. She put it down on the floor and backed away into a corner from where she could still see Chakotay, then sank down onto the floor, hugging her knees to herself once more. Taymar eased his cousin down onto the bed, noticing that the quilt had been turned back as he'd asked and smiled to himself. Fayla once again scanned Chakotay and pressed another hypo to his neck. She could almost see his headache ease.
As Chakotay got his bearings, Fayla tried to treat Kathryn but she cringed back each time she tried to reach out to the petrified woman before her. She gave up for the time being, knowing she was only adding to her terror and went back to Chakotay, who was almost fully alert now. He reached out and grabbed Fayla's arm.
"Fayla, where's Kathryn? Please say she's all right. Where is she…?" Fayla smiled gently and pointed to the corner. She saw Chakotay's eyes follow where she'd indicated. Chakotay cried out, the sight before him tearing at him. He saw a terrified woman sitting huddled in the corner, hugging her knees to her tightly. He saw the blood on her face and the side of her head, the cuts and scratches covering her arms and legs, her neck and chest. Her nose, lip and chin were bleeding and then he saw the palms of her hands and her knees, deep abrasions on them. Tears fell from her eyes as she stared back at him, rocking herself back and forth. He saw also that her dress was torn and that she'd lost her shoes somewhere, her feet bruised and bleeding. Chakotay felt a pain tear through him as he looked at her, remembering her for a moment as she used to be, the proud, capable and confident woman who'd led them all home through the Delta Quadrant. He hoped Necheyev was burning in hell for reducing that woman to the one before him now. He tried to stand and pushed back the dizziness he felt. Fayla pushed him back down.
"Chakotay, it looks worse than it is. I just can't get near her to treat her…"
Chakotay stared back at Fayla. "What happened to her? I thought I slipped…I seem to remember that…but I thought Kathryn was fine…" He looked at his cousin's wife desperately. "What happened to her and…" It suddenly struck him. "How did you two get here…? I don't…"
Fayla squeezed his hand. "Chakotay…take it easy. You did slip at the river and you knocked yourself out. Kathryn covered you with the blanket and then ran for help. I don't know if she tried the comm system first… The system is down at the moment…some repairs… Anyway, she got to the village…" She smiled when she saw the look of shock on Chakotay's face. "I know…it's almost two miles… but she got there. She must have run all the way…fell a few times by the looks of her… I think the scratches are from bushes and brambles…"
Taymar finished the story. "When I came across her, she was pulling at a woman, trying to get her to go back with her…just kept saying 'help' and 'fall' and your name… She was terrified but determined to get help for you…"
Chakotay was almost in shock. "She spoke…ran all that way…on her own…?"
Taymar nodded. "People didn't know what to do…just stared at her. She was pulling this woman and was close to a full panic. She barely made sense but enough for me to understand that you'd fallen by the river and weren't moving. I tried to get her to stay in town to be looked after but she wouldn't hear of it. Kept telling me she'd show me where you were. As soon as we got here, she was off again and when we caught up with her, she was sitting beside you. When Fayla started to treat you, she backed off and sat against a tree, just the way she is now. She wouldn't let either of us near her. Eventually, I told her we needed water and the bed turned back just to give her something else to think about. She took off again. When we got you here, she came in, put the basin down and backed off again. She's been sitting like that ever since. Fayla can't get near her." Chakotay was close to tears as he tried to stand and eventually managed it. With Fayla's help, he crossed the room and knelt down beside Kathryn. She hadn't once taken her eyes off him.
Chakotay reached out a hand and wiped Kathryn's tears away. She winced slightly and he realized that the salt in her tears was obviously stinging the scratches on her face. "Kathryn, I'm so proud of you…but you have to let Fayla treat you." Up close, he saw how bad the scratches and cuts were, small pieces of dirt ingrained in the abrasions on her knees and hands. "Please, honey, just let her look after you. It's OK and I'll stay right here…" He stared deeply into her eyes and slowly she nodded.
Fayla scanned Kathryn quickly then asked her husband to get her some more clean water. She reached out and touched Kathryn's head gently. Kathryn turned and looked at her shyly.
"It's OK, Kathryn, I won't hurt you. I'm a doctor. I just want to heal those cuts you have. It's OK." Kathryn just stared back at her. "Kathryn, I need to know how you cut your head like this. Did you fall?" Kathryn barely nodded. "Did you cut your hands and knees in that same fall…and your nose also?" Kathryn barely shook her head. "OK, you fell more than once?" Again, a slight nod. "More than two times?" Another nod. "More?" Kathryn shook her head this time, her eyes slowly losing their panicked look. "You fell three times?" She nodded. "OK. Where did you hurt first?" Kathryn held her hands out. Fayla smiled back at her. "Hands and knees on the first fall?" Kathryn nodded. "What happened on the second fall?" Kathryn held her hand up to her nose, which was still bleeding a little, and then pointed to her chin, which was also grazed. Fayla nodded and smiled. "The last fall…?" Kathryn's hand went to her head. Fayla nodded again. "Kathryn, did you knock yourself out, lose consciousness?" Kathryn shook her head. "You were dazed by it…?" Kathryn nodded her head again. Fayla smiled and turned to take the small bowl of water which her husband handed to her.
"OK, Kathryn…I'm just going to clean those cuts and grazes then run the dermal regenerator over them. Chakotay will stay here with you while I do that." Kathryn's eyes went back to Chakotay but she let Fayla tend her. As she was doing that, she asked Taymar to get Kathryn something comfortable to wear. When she finished treating her new patient, Taymar stepped out of the room while Chakotay helped Kathryn change clothes, then he came back in.
"Taymar, make Chakotay and Kathryn some tea and we'll get them settled in their beds. There's no sign of any concussion, but we'll stay tonight to make sure." She smiled at Kathryn. "You need to rest now, Kathryn. Get some sleep." Kathryn nodded and moved forward shakily, examining her hands for a moment then moved to Chakotay and looked at the side of his head, reassuring herself that he was fine. He smiled at her.
"I'm fine, honey. I'm very, very proud of you." She gave a small smile then moved past him and climbed into his bed and closed her eyes. Chakotay turned to Taymar and Fayla, his blush clearly evident.
"She's been sleeping there for a while now. I found her beside me one night on top of the quilt. She was asleep but freezing. I let her stay and she's been coming back ever since." He expected a ribbing from his cousin at least, but they both just smiled back. Fayla picked up the bowl and led her husband from the room.
"I'll bring you some tea and then both of you try and sleep. I'll need to wake you both from time to time to check you out though." When she returned with the tea, both her patients were out for the count, Kathryn curled into Chakotay. Fayla smiled down at the two of them and scanned them again to reassure herself that they were only sleeping and not unconscious. They were fine.
Taymar and Fayla left the following afternoon, once Fayla had given her patients a final check-up and was happy with their condition. She told them to take it easy for a while and Chakotay agreed, Kathryn beside him, nodding slightly.
Chakotay smiled down at her as
their unexpected guests left and put his arm around her shoulders.
"I'll say it again. I'm very proud of you. Thank you for what you did. I know how afraid you must have been…" She didn't answer. "And you talked? Well, you'll talk again when you're ready." He led her back inside and started on dinner.
Two days later, he was planting some vegetables behind the house when he looked up to find Kathryn watching him. He handed her a small trowel and she quickly joined him, burrowing herself down on the ground to dig out some small weeds.
"Reminds me of your garden patch on New Earth…" He almost bit his tongue when he realized what he'd said, having been determined not to mention anything from the past.
"Tomatoes…" Kathryn went on working as Chakotay stared at her in total shock.
"What…? You said…" She just continued working. Chakotay swallowed. "You think we should plant some tomatoes here?"
She didn't look up. "Uh huh…" Finally, she looked up at him and smiled softly. "Taste good…"
Chakotay couldn't help it. Tears sprang to his eyes and he couldn't stop them. He saw Kathryn move her head to the side and study him.
"I wasn't ready…to talk…didn't know…how to…start… Then you…were hurt…had to…" Chakotay noticed how hesitant her speech seemed and guessed it was a combination of things. Everything she'd been through, physically and emotionally, lack of use, and a remnant of the coma. To Chakotay, it was the most wonderful sound he'd ever heard. He was just happy to hear her voice at all and knew it would return to normal with time and rest.
"Well…I guess 'tomatoes' is a good place to start. I think I have some seeds." She managed a small smile at him and went back to work.
Chakotay made no more mention of Kathryn's speaking to him again, despite what had happened in the town, and just acted as if he accepted it. He reported to the Doctor via a sub-space communication, as he'd been doing on a regular basis, when Kathryn took a nap in the afternoons. The Doctor was amazed with everything he heard and then confirmed for Chakotay that Kathryn's speech would return to normal but advised not pushing it. He told him that once Kathryn had been forced to speak and then seen that nothing terrible had happened as a result of it and could still avoid remembering too much, that she now most likely felt safe to talk more.
That evening, Kathryn took her bath as usual and then joined him in the kitchen. Chakotay was still preparing their dinner and smiled when Kathryn took the knife from him and took over cutting the vegetables.
He smiled and swallowed the lump in his throat. "See that you don't…" He delighted in the smile he got. "I'll prepare the salad while you do that…"
Chakotay couldn't believe the way she was speaking again and delighted in the fact that she seemed so at ease with it. They worked together and then sat down to enjoy their meal. Chakotay made small talk with Kathryn adding small contributions. He cleared away the dishes then as she made coffee.
"It's amazing how you can always make coffee all right…"
She looked up at him and smiled again, a sight he knew he'd never grow tired of. "It's…top…of my…list…"
Over the following weeks as they moved through summer, Kathryn spoke more and more, even managing a small, shy conversation with Taymar and Fayla when they called by. She never spoke of anything relating to before she'd come to Dorvan and Chakotay never mentioned anything either. Slowly though over time, she would occasionally refer to their time in the Delta Quadrant and to Voyager and Chakotay knew she was working forwards at her own pace. He always let her set the theme of their conversations and saw that she understood that. As long as she worked forward slowly, Chakotay felt sure they could handle everything. They slept together all the time now, Kathryn eventually asking if she could move some of her clothes into his room, completely unembarrassed by it.
Life continued on for them as Dorvan began her journey into fall. Kathryn didn't stray too far from the house. She took long walks but they were mostly in circles around the area, where she could still be close to the house and she never once asked to return to the town. She tended the garden and occasionally read some of the books she found in the den Chakotay had still to sort out. He was amazed to find her reading ability still there and encouraged her. She chatted more and more, but their conversations were always safe.
As the fall got underway, Chakotay told her that he needed to go into town to order in supplies for the following winter. "I know it's a bit away but it takes time for the orders to come through to us here." He smiled down at her. "Do you want to stay here or come in with me?" He watched her ponder this, her face serious as she made her decision. Finally, she drew in a deep breath and nodded at him.
"I'll come. I can't stay locked…here forever…" It was her first reference to her situation. Her speech was improving all the time and he knew it was only how nervous she seemed at going into town that was affecting it now. He played it down and smiled.
"Come on, then. Transport or walk?"
She smiled. "Walk in. Maybe transport home." She didn't realize the joy she'd just given him by referring to 'home'. He knew this was a big step for her and reached out his hand which she took. Then they set off.
Chakotay shook his head and laughed as he watched Kathryn struggle under the amount of parcels she tried to carry into the bedroom. He knew he'd spoiled her during their afternoon in town, but he also knew he could never resist her either. It never ceased to amaze him how many clothes one woman could have and yet still claim to have nothing to wear. He grew serious then as he thought back to their time in town, and how nervous she'd seemed, especially when men were around. She'd kept a hold on his hand and he'd gotten the impression from her that she didn't understand why she was feeling this way. He smiled a little now as he recalled how he'd asked her what clothes she'd need. She hadn't batted an eyelid when she'd asked him what she'd need for the winter and how cold would it get. That had caught him off guard but swelled his heart at the same time, that she was thinking that far ahead and planning on being there with him. He'd ordered everything they'd need and taken what they'd bought that day, needing the transport back as it turned out.
Kathryn grew quieter as the fall faded away to the chill of early winter. She'd taken to spending hours in the study, tidying up she told him, as it was getting too cold to go out. She sometimes went for shorts walks on her own though, the longer ones of earlier in the year left behind. She'd help him while he chopped wood for the winter but seemed to chat a little less, which worried him. As the weeks passed, he knew she'd noticed his concerned glances at her and he saw her try to be the woman he'd come to know over the previous months but he still saw the shadows in her eyes which she tried to hide and guessed where they were coming from.
When the first snow came, they were ready for it. Chakotay stockpiled everything they'd need and made sure their supply of wood was enough for the long cold days and nights ahead. Early one afternoon, he had to make a last trip into town to pick up some last supplies which had only just been transported to the planet. He asked Kathryn to come with him, worried about leaving her on her own. She'd been in a strange and quiet mood all week, insisting constantly that she was fine. Too afraid to push it, Chakotay had promised that he'd be back as quickly as he could. She managed a smile for him and sat down on the sofa beside the fire, appearing instantly engrossed in a book. Chakotay stood in the doorway and watched her for a moment and then left. He called for a transport into town, determined to get there and back as quickly as possible.
As things turned out, he was delayed longer in town than he'd thought and then there was a problem with the transporter, so that when he finally returned, three hours had passed. He hurried into the house, the snow falling again and shook off his coat. He called to Kathryn but received no reply and immediately looked to the sofa, expecting to see that she'd fallen asleep. It was empty.
He called to her again and again, searching the other rooms with no sign of her, a fear growing in the pit of his stomach by the minute. On instinct, he checked the den again and this time noticed that the computer was on. He eased his way towards it, not sure why and sat down, staring at the screen. Without understanding why he thought of it, he accessed the computer's records, checking back through the recent history of the files accessed. He sat there and stared, feeling as if iced water had suddenly entered his veins. He closed his eyes and groaned out loud.
"Oh, dear God…no…Kathryn…" He looked back at the screen. Kathryn had accessed every single file and report relating to Voyager and her crew since their return. Every news report on Kathryn herself had been brought up, including coverage of the trial and the entire case against Necheyev, along with the report on her death. His heart almost stopped when he saw the last items. There was a detailed transcript of the trial against Necheyev for Kathryn herself, word for word from all the witnesses, including Gates and the Doctor and also Kathryn's medical reports. He cursed the fact that her security clearance was obviously still active, allowing her access to the material she'd brought up and cursed himself for not thinking of this possibility. He also cursed the fact that such information was available with the right codes.
"Noooo….Kathryn…." Chakotay was out of the chair and back into the main room in a flash. He knew now she wasn't in the house and grabbed his heavy coat along with a blanket, knowing that she had to have gone outside. He checked the small barn and log store before trying to look for prints in the snow. He racked his brains, trying to think of the direction she usually took but realized the state of her mind at this moment wouldn't allow for thinking like that. Suddenly he spotted faint tracks over to his right, leading down towards the river and ran to them. They were her footprints all right, slowly disappearing in the falling snow. He followed them without thinking, finding them harder and harder to discern in the whiteness all around him. As he passed in under the trees, the tracks were a little easier to follow, with less snow falling here.
Chakotay raced on, shouting to Kathryn constantly. He worked his way down towards the river, still following the tracks and then stopped dead. A dark shape at the river's edge caught his attention and he raced towards it, seeing now that it was Kathryn.
"Kathryn…oh God…Kathryn…" He skidded down in the mud and snow beside her and pulled her towards him, half her body lying in the freezing water. He turned her over and cried out. Her eyes were closed but her skin and lips were blue. He tried desperately to feel for a pulse but with his fingers almost frozen, couldn't feel anything. He placed his mouth over hers and blew several breaths into her lungs and did some chest compressions, then lifted her and carried her back to the house as quickly as he could move.
Chakotay pushed open the heavy door, kicked it shut behind them, then placed Kathryn on the sofa. He made a quick emergency call to Fayla and Taymar, needing to alert them first. He then rushed back to Kathryn and knelt down beside her. He put his face down to her mouth and nose and groaned in relief when he felt a faint tickle against his cheek. At least she was breathing, however faintly. He quickly began trying to remove her wet clothing. Her skin was like ice to his touch, even with his hands so cold. Once he got her clothes off, he rubbed her skin vigorously, trying to get her circulation going. He pulled as many blankets around her as he could find and prayed as he continued calling to her and rubbing her arms and legs.
He looked up quickly now as the door burst open and Taymar and Fayla ran in, Taymar slamming the door behind them against the increasing snowstorm outside. Fayla wasted no time with questions and ordered Chakotay to fill the tub with cool water. He stared at her for a moment before obeying without question. He then came back and followed Fayla's instructions to take Kathryn and place her in the bath.
Chakotay sat back and watched over the next two hours as Fayla slowly increased the temperature of the water in which Kathryn lay. He watched as the woman who was only family by marriage but meant so much more to him, fought to save Kathryn's life. He sat and listened to her quiet breathing and watched as the colour slowly came back into her skin. Finally, Fayla seemed satisfied with Kathryn's condition and nodded to him to lift her from the tub, and then helped him to dry her off and get warm clothes onto her. Kathryn was still unconscious but her colour was a lot better and her skin felt warm enough now.
Chakotay carried her back to the sofa and lay her down, a soft moan coming from her lips now. Her eyes flickered but didn't open.
"She should come around pretty soon as her body temperature goes up. Being beside the fire will help but I don't want her getting too warm either. After that, get her to bed but someone will have to sit with her for the night." Chakotay looked up at her and smiled his thanks.
"I'll stay with her." He paused. "Fayla…I…" She just smiled and shook her head.
"Plenty of time later for that, Chakotay. She's suffering from hypothermia but the medicine I've given her will help. With the right care, she'll be just fine." She smiled at Chakotay, trying to reassure him but she saw the effect the last hours had had on him.
About half an hour later, Kathryn began to stir and fight against the blankets which were wrapped around her. She opened her eyes and looked around her, finally settling on Chakotay's concerned face. She blinked several times then looked away as Fayla sat down beside her.
"Kathryn…you'll be fine. We're going to get you into bed now and let you sleep." Kathryn looked at her for a second then away again, but none of them missed the pained look in her eyes as she just nodded. Fayla nodded to Chakotay and he picked Kathryn up and carried her to their bedroom, placing her under the quilt but leaving one of the blankets still wrapped around her. She didn't speak as Fayla pressed another hypo to her neck. Within minutes, she was asleep.
"That's just a mild sedative but she's so exhausted already. Her body has been through a lot. She'll sleep for the rest of the night hopefully…" Chakotay nodded his head and went to sit down on the side of the bed but Fayla tapped his shoulder and motioned for him to come outside. "She'll be fine for a little while. We need to talk…" She left the room, waiting for him to follow.
"Look, Chakotay, just bear with me here. I'm not trying to pry but I need to know a few things." Chakotay barely nodded, knowing she wouldn't ask unless she had to. "I've some idea of what happened to Kathryn before you brought her here and I've seen the way she's been. I know Taymar spoke with you but he didn't discuss that with me." Chakotay smiled at his cousin, marvelling in the trust there. He nodded slowly at Fayla.
"When I got back today, she was missing and then I discovered that she'd accessed all the files on the computer…the ones relating to the trial. Her security clearance must still be active…because she was able to get hold of the trial transcripts and her medical reports. I'd no idea she was capable of that…thought she wasn't able to think that clearly…" He stood up suddenly and ran his hands through his hair. "God, she was able to read it all…every damned detail… She shouldn't have been able to get access to that… It should be sealed or…"
Taymar leaned forward. "Chakotay, please don't blame yourself over this, and you are. I can see it and I know you only too well. Just maybe…it was better that she…"
Chakotay spun around. "Better that she read all that? Here on her own? It shouldn't be so available for anyone with the right clearance to just read that…."
Taymar nodded his agreement. "I know, but… Chakotay, it was a public trial. Anyone who was there will have known. Most trials are public record. At least this is restricted now in some way…" He sighed and leaned back. "I don't know…"
Fayla stood up and led Chakotay back to the couch. "Forget that for a moment. We can't change that now." She gently took Chakotay's hand. "Am I right in assuming that…that what happened in that prison… Well, that the…abuse…wasn't just physical and emotional…?" The raw pain in Chakotay's eyes answered for him and Fayla nodded sadly. "Chakotay, I'm so sorry…" She squeezed his hand a little tighter. "Was it one incident or… Please understand that I'm not trying to… I just need to know…to know how to be with her now…how to proceed from here…" Chakotay didn't answer for a full minute and then looked up.
"It was…continuous…" He let his tears fall, not caring who saw them.
Fayla nodded sadly again. "Chakotay…do you remember Maya?"
Chakotay's head snapped up, not understanding. "Maya? What…?"
Fayla smiled gently. "Maya. You were at school with her. Thin girl…long dark hair… Her parents bred horses…"
Chakotay shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. "I remember her but… What has she got to do with…?"
Fayla held up a hand. "You haven't seen her in years?" He shook his head, his expression confused. "She was…" She drew in a deep breath. "When the Cardassians… Her parents were killed and she was taken… She was in prison because she fought back and hurt one of them…" She looked over at her husband a moment.
"Chakotay, her time there was… Well, I don't have to tell you what she went through…" Chakotay just shook his head, knowing only too well. "She lives just outside of town…came back here afterwards. My point is… She started a kind of support network, as a means to help herself as much as others. She eventually studied and earned her degree. She's a fully qualified counsellor now. She doesn't have to counsel in that area much anymore but she knows…lived it… What I'm saying is…"
Chakotay smiled sadly and nodded his head. "If we could get her to see Kathryn…." He nodded at her smile. "Maybe…"
Fayla gripped his hand. "Look, let's just get her through this part and worry about that later on." She reached up and stroked his face. "Why don't you sit with her for now and we'll sort everything else later. Just be there for her when she wakes up. There's a slight possibility that she'll try and bury all this again but I don't think so. When she wakes, she'll most likely be herself again, remember everything she learned. She'll likely have her own memories of it all back and she'll have a lot of horrors with her as a result. It's like she's suddenly been presented with it all before her and now she won't be able to close the curtain on it. All we can do is be there for her and help guide her through to the other side of them." Chakotay nodded, too choked up to speak and instead leaned in and hugged Fayla, letting the strength of his arms speak what his words seemed incapable of doing.
Kathryn tossed and twisted throughout the night, crying and screaming out on occasions as nightmares gripped her. Chakotay almost cried at the raw agony in her voice. He'd truly believed that this was behind them. She settled a little towards morning but as the first streaks of light entered the room, she sat up suddenly and cried out. Chakotay was beside her immediately.
"Kathryn…it's all right…" Her eyes snapped to him and she stared at him for a long time. He saw immediately by the pain in her eyes that she was back and remembered everything. "Kathryn, please love…we're going to get through this." He reached a hand out but she pulled back.
"I didn't know…didn't remember…" Tears fell from her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me…?" He reached for her again, but she shrank back in the bed.
"Kathryn, I'm not going to hurt you…"
She just looked away. "You knew it all…knew all along… Maybe I did too…" She looked towards the door quickly as Fayla entered, then dropped her head.
Fayla's voice was soft when she spoke. Kathryn, I just need to check on you. I'll only be a minute." Kathryn didn't look at her and didn't answer as the other woman scanned her, then sat back. "You'll be fine."
Kathryn's head snapped up. "You think so…?" She bit off the words and looked away. "I suppose you know too. The entire universe must know."
Fayla reached her hand out but Kathryn pulled back. "Kathryn. just what do you think you have to be ashamed of here…?" She received a glare for that.
"Everyone knows…but that's not the worst. I KNOW. I'll always know." Tears streamed down her face and she turned away, then slid down in the bed and sobbed into the pillow. "Leave me alone…please…" She cried hard for several minutes and then her voice came, hoarse from crying. "You should have told me…left me there…let me die… Why didn't I remember…?"
Fayla moved around to her now and shook her. "Kathryn, listen to me now. Stop this for a minute. Your mind wasn't ready to know…to acknowledge... It's the mind's way to protect itself. You shouldn't have found out the way you did. That should have come back to you slowly. I know this pain is fresh to you at the moment, but your mind is more ready for it now than it would have been immediately afterwards. I know that sounds hard to believe but it's true. In some way, your mind was preparing you for facing this."
Kathryn seemed to accept that but still glared at Fayla. "I must have known… Why didn't I remember?"
Fayla shook her head. "Because you weren't ready to deal with it. Kathryn, listen to me. You can and will get through this. You just have to want to beat it."
Kathryn shook her head vigorously. "I can't face that…"
Fayla shook her gently. "Yes, you can, Kathryn. You've been starting to face it for a while now and I think you know that."
Kathryn looked up at her slowly. "I wasn't sure…knew something had happened…" She stared off into nothingness. "I never asked… I wondered…why I was here…how I got here… I just accepted. Didn't think about who I was…what I'd been before… I was just here and Chakotay was here…and I knew him…trusted him… didn't want to think beyond that…was comfortable with that…" She looked towards him but her eyes didn't seem to see him. "Something in me seemed to know that…that asking would mean thinking and I didn't want to do that… I just never questioned it…" She shook her head slowly. "I was just here…functioning… in a way felt this was the way I'd always been… The hospital…and before…didn't exist… Then Chakotay got hurt…and I ran…and all those people…and I was terrified and didn't understand why…but after that… I tried to think and yet not think…and then I talked and it was OK. Nothing bad happened. I was afraid before…I know that now…that if I talked…something would happen…something bad…but it didn't…" She rubbed at her face.
"I talked and it seemed fine but then… The more I talked…the more I said and I started to remember… Voyager…times out there…but I could still stand back… I knew there was more but…it wouldn't come…and then… I knew I had to know…don't know why…and I was terrified…but I had to know…and I remembered my codes…and the computer…and I got it bit by bit and then… Yesterday…?" She looked to Fayla to confirm that and saw the woman nod. "Yesterday…I found it all…looked as soon as Chakotay left…found the reports…medical…trial…what that guard said…and it was there…it was all there in a flash…like my mind was the computer and I was suddenly downloaded with all these memories and images…and the feelings…the pain…terror…all of it…" She seemed lost somewhere as she spoke, unaware that she was even speaking or in the room. Chakotay heard the pain in her words, felt the pain of them, as they rushed from her, as if they'd been stored away somewhere just waiting to pour forth, all at the same time. It felt so long since he'd heard her speak more than short sentences yet he never wanted to hear her words like this.
"And I remembered the hospital…everything…seeing Chakotay…Tom and B'Elanna…the Doctor…and I couldn't take it…and I ran…and ran…but I don't know where… I don't remember anything…but all this was in my head and I was running…but I couldn't get away from it…" She slowly seemed to come back a little and looked up tearfully at Fayla. "Where was I?"
Fayla smiled gently. "You ran out into the snow. Chakotay found you unconscious down by the river, half in the water. You were barely alive…freezing… He got you back to the house and called us…"
Kathryn stared at her. "Us…?"
Fayla nodded. "Taymar came with me. He's outside…" Kathryn barely nodded. "Kathryn, listen to me now. Listen to me. I treated you for hypothermia and shock and you'll be fine physically…" Kathryn met her eyes. "The rest… Let it come slowly. Deal with it a bit at a time and Kathryn, you will deal with it because you're a strong woman who doesn't let things beat her." She hesitated a moment and then went on.
"Kathryn, I told Chakotay about this… There's a woman in town. Her name is Maya. She went through a lot of what you did. She lost her parents in the war and was taken by the Cardassians. She was in one of their prisons for a long time." She saw the guarded look on Kathryn's face but also saw that she understood. "I don't have to tell you anymore. My point is, she counsels now. Started with other women here who'd been through the same… I guess a kind of support network. She then trained as a counsellor, still works at that." Fayla reached for Kathryn's hand and was relieved when she didn't pull away.
"Kathryn, fight this. Fight back. Talk to Maya and let her help you through this. Let her help you face what happened and deal with it. Let her help you move past it and reclaim your life. Do it for yourself, not Chakotay or for revenge or any other reason. Do it for you, Kathryn, because it's your life and no one else has the right to take that from you…" Kathryn bit down hard on her lip, her eyes brimming with tears. Finally, she just barely nodded her head.
"You have friends here, Kathryn…family…and we all love you. We're there for you. Never forget that." She stood slowly. "Can I call Maya?" Kathryn seemed to think for a long time and then slowly looked up and nodded. Fayla smiled. "That's the biggest step, Kathryn. I'll bring you something to eat and then let you get some rest." Kathryn barely nodded but her tears were back. She looked up at Chakotay as Fayla left the room. He moved towards her and sat on the bed beside her as she continued to hold his eyes.
"Thank you for bringing me here…" He just smiled and reached for her hand and she let him. "You know it all…every detail?" He just nodded as she absorbed this. "You came to the prison…saw…?" She took deep breaths, trying to control herself. "You got me to the hospital…cared for me…brought me here…?" He nodded again and saw her do the same. "I have vague memories of one night there…falling…?" He just smiled softly and nodded again. "You were holding me…and I felt pain…my arm I think…and I remember…odd words…asking you…to help me…or something…to take me home…?" He smiled sadly and gently told her what her memory wasn't filling in, careful with his words. She managed a watery smile.
"I can't… Suddenly it's all there…and I'm trying to pull myself back from it…see it and not feel it… It's too fast. One day I felt cocooned against it and the next it's all back with me…wanting to crush me… It's like from one day to the next day…there's a year missing or something…" Chakotay just squeezed her hand. "I can remember it all… It's scattered around in my mind…not in order…but it's all there…and I'm trying not to feel it… It's like I can see the images but don't want to feel them yet…like looking at someone else it happened to and not me…" She drew in a shuddering breath. "I remember debriefings…and… her…and all your faces…how I hurt you…how you all must have believed…"
Chakotay shook his head. "Kathryn, that wasn't your fault… Everyone understands that now."
Her eyes flew to his face. "Oh God…the crew…everyone…they all know…all heard… and I remember that press conference…how I hurt you all…saw your faces…and she told me only to say what she wrote…nothing else…and then made it look like I hadn't remembered those we lost…"
Chakotay shook his head again. "If you read it all, you'll also have read about the comments shouted out…how they were there for you…and how you always had their respect…read about what they all said when they testified…" He saw her nod as she remembered. "Look, Kathryn, this is a very big step but take it slowly. You'll deal with the rest when you're able and ready. Don't rush it or try and do it all at once…"
She stared at him and nodded, letting her tears fall. "Thank you…for… Thank you…" He smiled tenderly and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for bringing me here and caring for me…and it must have been so hard on you…"
He stroked a finger over her shoulder. "I love you…plain and simple…you know that. I'd do anything for you. I just wish I could undo…take this away…"
She moved her hand over his. "I know… So do I… but you did everything you could…can't do the impossible…and you brought me here…all this beauty and where I could rest…" She looked past him now out the window, seeing the snow gently covering the ground and trees, the scene beautiful beyond words. "Being here…it's impossible to imagine bad things in the world…" She looked back at him. "Sorry…I don't know… It's like suddenly I'm talking again and this is all I can talk about and it's so hard to speak…to know what to say…to say at all and not let the feelings and pain engulf me…to try and detach myself from them…"
Chakotay squeezed her hand. "We'll get through this, Kathryn."
She looked sadly at him, with just a trace of something else there, possibly hope. "We?"
He smiled and nodded. "We. You're not alone, Kathryn. You should know that so well by now." They both smiled at the memory a moment.
Kathryn stared back at him. "You want me to stay here?"
He gripped her hand and shoulder a little more firmly. "It's your choice in the end I know, but I want you to stay with me forever. I know this isn't the most exciting place in the universe but it's home to me and I hope to you too. I don't want to make decisions for you… I mean, I know I did when I brought you here and I really thought that was best for you…assumed for you I suppose but…"
Kathryn placed a hand on his face. "Chakotay…I asked you to take care of me…trusted you and always will. If you want me and will have me, I want this to be home too." She pressed a finger over his lips when he went to speak. "I asked you to make that decision for me and you did and it was right. I thank you for that…for saving me…because that's what you did. You carried me when I couldn't walk. I want to stay here with you if that's all right…if you want me and will have me…" He let his tears answer that. "Chakotay…I've…with what happened…and I know at this moment, I'm shutting it away but it's still there and I know I have to deal with it. For now, I'm trying to just cope with knowing it all happened without thinking too deeply about it… It's like I was one person and then it happened…and then I was another person until yesterday and now I'm a different person again today but… I'll deal with it. I will do that. When that's done, then…if you still want me…" She sighed deeply.
"Kathryn, I've always wanted you and will always want you. Nothing can or will ever change that. What happened makes no difference to how I see you or feel about you. Always know that."
She smiled lovingly at him and squeezed his hand tighter. "This is what I wanted when we got back…would have wanted anyway…even if… I don't and didn't want to go back to space or stay with Starfleet or do any of that. I'm tired, Chakotay…after all those years out there…I'm tired. I've done it…got them back…and for too long I paid a high price for that…lost my life for it. Now I think I'm owed and this is what I want. Maybe it seems hard to understand how I wanted to change so much…go from that to this but… This is what I want now and I can still use my brain in some work here. As long as you're sure…" Chakotay just pulled her into his arms and she clung to him, releasing her pain as her tears fell and she sobbed into his chest. He held her to him tightly, holding her through the storm, letting his own tears fall too.
"Am I interrupting?" They pulled apart and smiled at Fayla, carrying a tray with soup and bread. "I brought for two. Eat this and then both of you try and get some rest." They both smiled and Chakotay took the tray. Fayla smiled down at them and left them to eat. When she checked a little later and came in for the tray, they were both asleep, curled into each other. She turned to find her husband behind her, his smile matching her own.
"They have a rare thing between them, Taymar. It'll get them through this…" She smiled tenderly at him.
"Guess that kind of love runs in the family then…" They locked eyes and shared a million memories.
Fayla and Taymar left the following afternoon and Fayla spoke with Kathryn before she left.
"I have to tell you this, Kathryn, and I hate doing it, but I think you already know." Kathryn nodded. "You're doing very well, coping with this at the moment but a part of you is holding it all together for now. Things will slip and come back and you'll have good days and bad. You've made the biggest step but rough times are ahead. I hate saying this to you but it's better that you're prepared. You've a lot to deal with and face in the coming weeks and months but we both know you can do it. We're all here for you so don't ever be afraid to come to us." Kathryn smiled her thanks. "I've spoken briefly with Maya and she'll come up here to see you. Just take your time with this and you'll come out the other side. You're stronger than all of what happened, Kathryn. Just never forget that. You survived so the worst is over. You're stronger than it all. Keep remembering that."
Kathryn gave a tearful smile and pulled Fayla to her for a hug. "I know I am and I have you all and Chakotay. With him, I feel I can move mountains…"
Fayla hugged her back. "Well, we're sisters in this. If we can put up with the men in this family, we can survive anything…" They both laughed and cried at the same time.
"Cheek…we heard that…" The women pulled apart to see Chakotay and Taymar with puppy dog expressions on their faces.
Throughout the long winter, Maya visited Kathryn three times a week. She led her through her painful memories, listening to her, holding her, being there for her in every way, as Kathryn faced the horrors of her time in the prison. She shared her own experiences with Kathryn even, helping her patient in that way too. Chakotay always let Maya work alone with Kathryn, knowing that she needed him in a different way when her session was over.
They spent the long winter evenings tucked up in the house in front of the fire and even celebrated a quiet Christmas, finding a tree and decorating it together. Sometimes they talked about the past, their shared experiences and their childhoods, other times they looked to the future, making quiet plans. Some evenings, they didn't speak at all and would sit back against each other, quietly reading and yet communicating still in their own way. In the end, they talked about everything and dealt with all their shared pain. Kathryn opened up to Chakotay and told him everything, knowing the pain it caused him to hear it but needing to speak to him of her horrors, even though she saw he knew most of it already.
"They seemed to go on forever…the debriefings…wearing me down. I know now that was the plan. By the time she came to me, I was so worn down and tired, I couldn't stand up to her, not really. I felt so alone there, missed you all so much, felt so cut off. There was only that guard who was so nice to me but that was so small a thing. I missed the sun even. I was back on Earth and yet I might as well have been still in the Delta Quadrant, only this was nothing like that even. There I had you and 'my family' around me. It was our home." Chakotay just sat quietly and let her talk.
"I gave in to her. Wouldn't change that…believe it or not. I'd go through all that again rather than let one of you go to prison."
Chakotay pulled her to him. "I feel so…guilty. If we'd only known…could have stopped…"
Kathryn pulled away to look at him. "Don't do that, Chakotay. I've spent so much time now wondering if I could have done something differently, said something at the press conference, anything at all. In the end, I have to accept that I can't go back and change it. It happened. It's over. Now we deal with that." He nodded his understanding slowly and she leaned back into him.
"I tried so hard not to look at you and the others that day. Not just because she'd said so, but because I couldn't cope with it myself. I barely held it together. I just kept telling myself that it was for you…my last job as Captain…and used that to cope. I wanted to say so much more and couldn't. I wanted to remember our dead and she even twisted that, made it look like I didn't care, didn't even remember." Chakotay kissed the top of her head.
"Afterwards…oh God… When I saw the hurt I'd caused you…saw your face…"
Chakotay hugged her tightly. "I'm so sorry for what I said to you. I can't ever forget that…and I saw the hurt on your face. Oh Kathryn…"
She heard the tears in his voice and twisted in his arms. "Chakotay, we said we wouldn't do this…"
He nodded and pulled her back to him. "I know…I'm sorry… In time…" He felt her nod against his chest.
"That's the way to get through this. It'll go away in time." She was silent for several minutes and then spoke on.
"The only way I coped with the prison…was knowing it was me and not you…you and my crew…the people I loved. I coped with it that way." She drew in a ragged breath. "I was so afraid. I felt every last piece of control I had slip away in those first minutes. I know that was how they worked." She twisted her fingers together.
"Stripping me and searching me…" She felt Chakotay tremble against her. "It was their way to degrade and humiliate me, dehumanise me and it worked to some extent. In the shower, listening to them and their filthy comments, I could tune it out to some extent, knew the game they were playing. Later in the cell, in the dark and alone, I still managed to hold something inside me but I don't know what it was. It didn't last through…" She was picking at a piece of loose skin now at the side of a nail.
"The drink they gave me… I felt the cramps and the sickness and… They watched…jeered and laughed…" Silent tears were running down her cheeks. "That was the last piece of dignity I had and it left me there and then… They took it…"
Chakotay kissed the side of her head, his own tears joining hers. "You have it still…didn't lose it…"
She nodded, acknowledging his words. "They hosed me down a few times…mocking me…watching me… All I seemed to feel was cold and hungry, thirsty and alone…afraid too…the not knowing…endless years stretching ahead…more of this…and somehow I knew I'd never get out of there…wouldn't survive ten years of that...wouldn't survive one year of it. She knew that too." Kathryn cleared her throat and sniffed.
"That week…" She felt Chakotay stiffen behind her. "Are you OK with me talking about?" She felt his lips press against her ear as he hugged her tighter, giving his answer.
"I didn't know until recently how long it went on. When they came… I knew…instinctively knew and I was so terrified…tried to fight…but they were too strong." Her tears increased. "And they held me down…couldn't fight them…and I screamed at them…begged them…even though I knew it was useless…" She stopped to control her breathing as Chakotay held her tightly.
"The pain…the evil on their faces…but the pain…felt myself tearing…" She stopped and gripped Chakotay's arm, taking a minute to draw in deep breaths. "Then…it's strange to me…even now…but somehow…part of me wasn't there…like I was watching it happen…I could feel the physical but…inside was…detached in some small way… I mean…I felt them…their hands on me…doing…hurting…pulling at me…turning me…but…in my mind…"
Chakotay leaned his head against hers. "It was your mind's way to coping, love."
She nodded against him. "I know that…and now it makes it easier, I guess. I remember lying there…for how long I didn't know…although now I know it was a week or so…but I only remember being in pain…being cold…and them coming all the time…but I can pull back from it now because…I did then too. I felt it happen to me…heard them laughing…felt their hands…pulling at me and hurting me…scratching and biting…pinching…and I don't remember them washing me… That was to me just more of it…more hands on me. I gave up…let it happen…because it was easier. Towards the end and even later on…I just didn't feel anything at all…withdrew from it completely. It became no different to anything else that happened in there. I just stopped thinking at all or feeling even." Tears were pouring down her face and she turned suddenly in Chakotay's arms and buried her face in his chest as she cried out every ounce of pain. He held her for a long time, saying nothing, just holding her. Finally, she pulled away a little and he knew she needed to get it all out.
"Eventually they stopped coming so much and yet…instead of feeling relieved or something…I just accepted it…and they finally gave me another uniform…" She shook her head and sighed deeply. "It's amazing and so strange what you come to accept. How easy it is to let go of what you once were…lose the self-respect…the pride…the value you had…to lose yourself…all dignity gone… I know they set out to break me… They did…" She trailed off.
Chakotay kissed the back of her neck. "No, honey…they didn't. It just seemed like that for a while. You're here and you survived. They didn't succeed. I promise you that."
She leaned her head back against him. "I know…" She sighed deeply and was quiet for a few minutes before speaking again.
"After that, I was taken to the fields to work. That was a different hell…" She shook her head. "For a long time, I blocked so much out but I was aware of where I was and what I was doing. The guards hit me all the time and I could see others working… Most of the time I just tried to work myself to exhaustion so I wouldn't have to think and so I'd just collapse on the cot until the morning. My feet and hands were so sore all the time…blisters…burst and bleeding… Later on, they made me work with the women. I guess I still don't know if their attacks were…whether the guards told them to or they wanted to anyway. I guess it doesn't matter anymore. I mean I saw them…going with the guards sometimes and I understood. I don't know and it doesn't matter now…" She licked at her lips which felt very dry.
"They jumped me a lot…beat me…and I tried to defend myself but usually couldn't. I felt so weak and sick all the time…and…and…then…" Chakotay knew what she was going to say. "One day…one of the guards… He pulled them off and I thought it was over…but he…he took over…kept hitting me in the face…knocked me down…and then…" She gripped his arm again, drawing strength from him. "In the field…with them all…he just…just forced himself on me. For a minute I tried to fight…just for a minute…and then I stopped. I just gave in like always and let it go on. After, I just went back to work…fixed myself…and they'd all been cheering…actually cheering…but they stopped suddenly…and after that…they didn't attack me as much…" She shook her head sadly. "How can people be like that, Chakotay? How can men like that want to hurt so much and how can a woman cheer when it happens to another woman? How can that be?" She was crying hard again and he pulled her tightly against him.
"I don't know, love. I don't understand it either. I'm not sure I ever want to understand that kind of evil. I'd be afraid getting close enough to try and understand it, would only taint me in some way." She clung to his arm and sobbed yet nodded her head in understanding. Eventually she gained back some control.
"I never knew at the time how long I was there. Time had no meaning anymore. It was before or after this or that, with no understanding of the time in between. Then I was stabbed and I thought I'd die that day. I felt the blood on my hands and the pain and felt myself fall, but it all seemed unreal. One of the guards dragged me back to the cell. I could hardly stand but he didn't care. He threw me onto the cot. They left me there…the light on and off…just like always…and when it was dark…the rats would come…and they were the only thing in there I wasn't afraid of." She turned slightly in his arms now.
"I just lay there in agony for a long time…and I cried…something I'd stopped doing. In time someone stitched me…no anaesthetic…nothing for pain… In the end, I was back in the fields but I couldn't work. It was just another excuse to hit me. When the women attacked me again…the worst beating I ever got from them, I could do nothing. I was on the ground…felt their fists and feet. I know I lay there for a long time, to the end of the day, I think - and they brought me back…and I never went to the fields again." She turned again in his arms.
"I've little memory of after that…just being in the cell and being in pain…and praying…something I hadn't done in a long time. At first I prayed to survive and then when the pain continued and I knew I had a fever…that the stab wound was infected…then I prayed to die…prayed so hard for that…" She felt Chakotay's arms tighten around her.
"I barely remember that last night…when they came. I remember asking for help…praying to die…reaching out and then…there was just this explosion of pain in my head…just for a second. I keep thinking I knew it was the end, an end to the pain and cold, the hunger, but I don't know if that's real." She sighed. "After that…there was the hospital and you and the Doctor…snatches of memory which are clearer now. I do know at first, when I came around in the hospital first, and I saw you there… I couldn't understand how I was there…and then this terror that because you were…because I wasn't still in the prison…however that had happened…that you'd all go to prison now…that she'd say I'd broken the deal…blame you all…make you suffer… I knew I hadn't the strength to stop it or fight it so I backed away from it…locked it away because I couldn't face that. I'd rather have gone back to the prison than think of you or the others having to face that." She was quiet for a while and then sat up. She smiled sadly at Chakotay.
"I can actually remember most of it now…since then I mean…and again it's like having watched someone else. Now it feels like the adult me was standing back and watching the child cope. Does that make any sense?" Chakotay watched her and smiled, then nodded. "I saw myself for how I was…this…what looked to me or seemed to me like…I think some brain damaged sad little girl…and I don't know how you coped with me like that…having to look after me…the nightmares…even when I…" She shook her head, almost cringing. "I remember when I wet the bed and how you were with me…"
Chakotay's hand reached out and stroked her face. "I love you. There's no other way or reason. You'd have done the same for me."
She smiled at that and nodded immediately. "Yes, I would. I just can't believe that was me, that I was like that. Oh, I know it was how I coped. I could deal with the moment and nothing more, nothing either side of it. I was like that for so long…and then it all came back so quickly. I find that hard to understand." She smiled. "Just accept that side of it…that's what Maya says."
Chakotay took her hand in his. "How do you feel about the rest of it now?"
Kathryn thought for several minutes. "As bad as it might sound, I'm just glad that Necheyev is dead and I can't bring myself to question how. I don't care actually and I'm not ashamed of that. I'm amazed I can even say her name. I always believed there was some good in everyone but she proved me wrong there. I hate her in some ways and in other ways, feel nothing for her. I know the guards reported everything to her and that she heard it all at the trial and… I find it easier now to know that she's not out there somewhere, still knowing it all, gaining her perverse pleasure by knowing what happened to me. Can you understand that?" He nodded and smiled gently. "I mean, I know people know but they're either people who love and care for me or strangers who will never know me. I can deal with that. To all of them, it doesn't matter what happened. With her, it mattered and that would be harder…" She shook her head.
"Now I'm just going to move past all this and leave it behind me. I tell myself that it's over…not just for me but the others who were there or those who would have ended up there in the future. I tell myself that the prison is gone, the one I knew, reformed now into what it should be. And I know that the others…the guards and so on…that now they're being punished. They did what they did to me for the sick pleasure of it…just as they'd done it to others. I know that it actually wasn't me they were doing it to, me personally that is, as in who I was. It was to a prisoner, one of many. That helps in a way. They didn't see me, just this 'prisoner'. For a while even, when I learned that…that I'd had…from the Doctor's report…that they'd given me…infected me… 'Sexually transmitted disease'… It sounds so dirty…and I felt that…and it just added to the horror of it all but now I can stand back from that…" She smiled sadly.
"So I look forward. I know I have you…" She took his hand. "I also know I would've come to you anyway… And so, I'm putting it away, far behind me and buried. I wanted to see the sun for so long when we got back and then in the fields it became an enemy but I survived so I like to think now that it was watching over me, witnessing my pain but there for me. And later on when I came here, it was a friend again and now it warms me and looks after me. I'll hold the sun inside me now, banishing all the darkness and I'll look to the future because we're all that matters now." She smiled at him, tears in her eyes and gasped as he pulled her tightly against him, pushing the air from her lungs and she closed her eyes, finally feeling home.
Some nights later, Chakotay opened up to Kathryn, filling in the last blanks for her, knowing she was strong enough now to cope with them and that she needed to know, her imagination worse than the truth. He told her about his feelings and his guilt of not being there to stop it all and about the trial, knowing she needed to hear it all, before dealing with it and letting it go.
"I was hurt and angry but I moved past it quickly enough. It still hurt though. Tom and B'Elanna took it bad too but in the end, they moved past it also. They were upset you weren't at the wedding." He saw the sadness this caused her and squeezed her hand.
"In the end, I came back here and built this house, but I couldn't let you go. I just kept thinking that you'd love it here but Taymar knew. He told me I was building it for you, for my dream, and he was right. I think it was a way to hold unto you, by building it for you even if you never saw it. Putting in the tub even was about that, a way to cling to you." He shook his head sadly. "And then B'Elanna called me." He closed his eyes for a moment.
"When I heard Jason's story… Things moved fast after that. You know how they happened…" She nodded and squeezed his hand tightly. "When we found you… Oh God… I don't know what I felt…but the pain of it…and I felt so helpless and then I wanted to kill someone and… The Doctor was there and I half heard his words then waiting for news at the Medical Centre was… The hours dragged by with no word and all I had was this pain and guilt inside me, eating away at me, that I hadn't seen what that bitch was up to, hadn't seen through it all, had let it happen and wasn't there for you and couldn't stop it. I tortured myself with images of what you must have gone through…and being alone with that…and…the fear that you wouldn't come back to me…and…and…"
Kathryn pulled him to her, comforting him as he had comforted her when she'd talked to him. "Chakotay, let it go, love. Please…"
He cried hard against her shoulder, his tears soaking through her sweater. "I wasn't there for you…wasn't there…doubted you…believed…" He clung to her as she soothed him.
"Please Chakotay…please don't do this to yourself…"
Finally his tears lessened and he pulled himself together a little. "When the Doc told us…there was so much hope and yet you were in the coma. And then I pulled him outside. I knew there was more…and I knew… He didn't have to say…and it felt like my chest had been ripped open…but I knew I had to just be there for you and deal with that later. There was only you…all that mattered…being there for you." His hands touched her face, as if needing to reassure himself that she was real.
She smiled gently at him and nodded. "You were there for me. You always have been and always will be." Her words gave him a peace.
"I don't know how I got through the trial…hearing that…" He looked up quickly at her. "I'm sorry. You don't need this."
She smiled softly at him. "You need this and I do too…"
He nodded. "How I kept myself in that chair and didn't end up on a murder charge myself…" He shook his head. "The crew…Tom and B'Elanna…Owen…the Doctor…the nurses…all of them…they got me through it…and seeing that bitch beaten…" He looked up at her. "You know the details…" It worried him that she knew it all but he understood that she needed to.
"We'll get through this…isn't that what you said…?" He nodded. "We let the pain go, Chakotay. It's the only way." She was quiet for a moment. "That guard…Gates…?" He nodded slowly. "I'm sorry for him, I guess…yet I don't really remember him. There were a few who stood back, I think. I don't know. It just all came together. There were guards…all the same…and they hurt me. I didn't think beyond that. I'm sorry I don't remember that he wasn't like the others. He deserves that."
Chakotay pulled her to him. "I believe he's at peace now. I don't think beyond that."
Kathryn nodded. "What about later on? I know it was hard on you…must have been…coping with the hospital…"
He eased them both back on the sofa. "I just worked day to day…dealt with each moment as it was. I marvelled at the trust you had in me…and I loved you…and knew you loved me…" She looked at him. "Your logs…how you'd said in them…"
She nodded now, sudden understanding on her face. "Thinking of her reading them…" She shook her head. "I'm glad you knew though…in case I'd never had a chance." She looked at him now, a serious look on her face. "I love you." She reached her hand up and stroked his face, wiping at the tears which rolled down his cheeks. "That's the way you should have heard those words from me." He just stared back, a look of love and wonder on his face.
"I love you too." Their eyes stayed locked on each other's for a long time. They cuddled in together for a while until Kathryn spoke.
"Tell me about bringing me here." He smiled and slipped his arm around her shoulders.
"After that night, when you broke your wrist and asked me to take care of you and take you home… This, in my mind, was home to us and I took you here. You didn't speak again but that was OK. I understood you." He smiled down at her. "I'd had dreams of having you here with me…from before…but Kathryn…know this. I would rather have lost you…taken that pain…than had you here that way…having suffered like that." She squeezed his hand in understanding. "As it was, having you with me filled me…completed me…but you needed me and that came first. You were… All I wanted to do was look after you and protect you, be there for you and make it all better."
She reached her hand up. "You did all that and more." She shook her head. "It's funny. I've always been this independent, stand on my own two feet, kind of woman and yet… I needed you and you were there for me. I couldn't stand…hadn't got the strength to and you held me up…carried me…and the old me would have rebelled against having to be that dependent but I see the difference now. I can be strong and still need you. Needing someone isn't weak. I think I've found the balance. I can be strong when I need to be and depend on and need you at the same time without that being a weakness...or being seen as a weakness. It's comforting to know that you're there to share the load…share my life…in every way. That's what it's about. Carrying the other person when they need it and knowing they're there to carry you when you need it. There's no weakness in that. It's the combined strength of the whole."
Chakotay just stared at her with love shining from his eyes. "You are the strongest, wisest woman, Kathryn. I love you…and I'm honoured and blessed that you share my life." Kathryn watched the play of emotions on his face. He seemed to hesitate slightly before saying more. "For a while… All I wanted was for you to heal…and I felt guilty sometimes… I was afraid that when you did, never if, but that when you did, you'd want to leave, but… I know I'd rather have that pain than… It would have been a small price to pay as long as you were all right."
Kathryn just burst into tears at his words. "I love you too, my angry warrior…my soul…my life…my…everything… I never want to leave you…never will…" They clung to each other for a long time, then just sat quietly, watching the fire die down. Chakotay felt Kathryn stir against him.
"I needed to say something else." He leaned back and looked down at her. "That night…when I found everything on the computer…" He nodded slowly. "I just ran…somehow thinking I could get away from my own memories." She watched his face closely. "I know I told you about once before, running into the snow…" She saw him nod slightly, knowing he remembered. "This wasn't… What I mean is… I wasn't trying to do that again." She smiled slightly. "I wasn't trying to die out there. I just wanted you to know that. I'd never want to leave you, to do that to you. I needed you to know that."
He nodded slowly. "Thank you for telling me that. I don't think I thought you were…not really…but it's good to know…that you told me that." He kissed the side of her head and pulled her back into his arms. "Come on, the fire's dying down. Let's go to bed." They made their way to the bedroom, a new peace over them both, knowing they were on the home stretch.
By the time the snows began to melt and spring came, new growth sprouting all around them, Kathryn emerged with it. She knew she'd always remember but she could face it now without the associated pain which had accompanied those memories for so long.
Maya's visits fell to one a week and then one a fortnight. By the time spring was in full bloom, she cut it to once a month, Kathryn now often going to her instead. At the end of spring, she said goodbye to Maya as a counsellor and welcomed her as a treasured friend. They'd shared so much with each other in the previous months and a deep bond now existed between the two women. Kathryn also developed a deep and abiding friendship with Fayla and Taymar.
As summer began, she and Chakotay welcomed Tom and B'Elanna for their first visit and although Kathryn had been anxious about seeing them again, knowing the Doctor was also coming with them, she knew she needn't have worried. They picked up their friendship where they'd left off and it deepened throughout their time together. They shed many tears but they healed together, letting go of their guilt.
When summer came in fully, Kathryn was practically her old self. She knew all that had happened would always be a part of her, but she knew that she could leave it at the bottom of her mind and smother it with what she now had in her life.
She and Chakotay worked side by side, tending the garden, working an adjoining piece of land and even taking on some chickens, horses and other animals, adding a bigger barn with the help of family and friends. They built a small smoke house for the fish Chakotay would catch and Kathryn became good at cooking, especially where making preserves was concerned, much to Chakotay's utter shock. He'd watch her, working away with the other women, baking or doing needlecraft, looking as if she'd been born to the life they now led. And then there was the other side of her, as she worked within the community, adding to their knowledge by imparting her own, her mind still challenged as she worked with Taymar and others to improve all their lives. Chakotay also marvelled at how at ease she was now in the company of other men, her peace finally found.
Kathryn's last connection with Earth came when she enlisted Tom and B'Elanna's help to pack up and ship to her any personal belongings she'd had, the contents of her mother's and sister's property as well as anything she'd had from Voyager which had been in storage. She cut her final tie to Earth and didn't look back once.
As they sat on the porch one summer's evening, watching 'their' sunset, as they now called it, Chakotay was quiet and Kathryn sensed something on his mind. "I know you well, old man. Say what's on your mind."
He looked up into her peaceful smile. "You're happy here, aren't you?"
She frowned a little and nodded. "You know I am…"
He smiled shyly. "And you know that I love you…"
Kathryn nodded, feeling tears come to her eyes. "I love you too, Chakotay. I wish I'd said that to you long before all this."
Chakotay just drew in a deep breath and held the moment in his mind for a while. Finally, he spoke again. "And you're happy to…make your life here…with me…?"
Kathryn blinked her tears back and put her glass down. "I thought that's what I was doing. I moved everything I owned here."
He smiled and nodded. "Then…would you consider…making it more…well…permanent…?"
Kathryn swallowed and stared at him. "Chakotay…are you…?"
He shrugged bashfully and smiled. "I was hoping…asking…if…" He shook his head and slid down from his chair, going down on one knee as Kathryn stared wide-eyed at him. "Kathryn Janeway, would you marry me?" He seemed terrified in case she refused him. Kathryn just burst into tears and threw her arms around his neck, sending them both crashing onto the decking. Then she was lying on top of him and kissing his face almost numb.
"Is that a yes?" He finally got his breath.
"Yes…and yes…and yes…and…" Each word was separated by another kiss. His lips covering hers stopped any further words.
They planned their wedding quickly but still gave everyone time to arrive for the ceremony. Once again, as Kathryn met with all her former crew, tears were shed and guilt was let go. It didn't take long for everyone to get used to calling their former captain 'Kathryn' either. Kathryn met Jason even, finally able to thank the man for all he'd done.
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged their vows in a clearing down by the river, wearing traditional robes which their neighbours had lovingly sewn for them. Tuvok, now a captain, performed the ceremony, along with the local Spiritual Leader, combining the two traditions. Owen Paris gave Kathryn away and Taymar and Tom both acted as 'best man' for Chakotay. Kathryn had B'Elanna, Fayla and Maya stand behind her as bridesmaids, a silent memory passing between B'Elanna and Chakotay at that. He'd whispered quietly to her earlier when she'd met his eyes and saw that they both remembered her joke at Starfleet during their debriefings so long ago. He'd lowered his lips to her ear and whispered… 'permission granted'.
They celebrated well into the night and the following day, sharing laughter and tears with their family and friends and saw them all off two days later, knowing they'd never be short of visitors in the future. As they returned to their home, the place seemed deadly quiet after the previous days of merriment. Kathryn almost cried when she saw that their neighbours had stayed behind and cleared everything away.
"This is the best place anywhere and we have the best family and friends anyone could ever have." Kathryn was almost crying. Chakotay pulled her to him and kissed the side of her face.
"You don't need to tell me that." He smiled tenderly at her. "How about a quick walk down to the river and then I'll cook you dinner." She smiled wickedly at him.
"I can cook too now, you know…" He laughed and held his hands up in mock surrender.
"Oh I know…I taught you everything you know. I trained you well, woman…" He took off before she could hit him.
That night, they lay content and sated on the porch, the sun's rays lighting the sky still as it sank behind the mountain. Chakotay played with Kathryn's hand, turning the ring now on her finger. It was their first night alone since their wedding and he was hesitant. Kathryn though, seemed to read his thoughts.
"I'll be fine, you know. I'll be with you." He looked up at her and frowned as she smiled at him. "We'll be fine. This is us…about our love. There's not going to be anything between us that could ever remind me."
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I was a bit worried…"
Kathryn brought her other hand to his face and smiled gently at him. "I thank you for thinking of me like that and I love you for it… and I'm glad we waited…" She paused a moment. "We've shared so much…and I still remember how you cared for me when I first came here with you…the love and tenderness you showed me…helping me when I couldn't even make it to the bathroom…" She smiled at his expression. "Yes, my love…I remember all that…" She squeezed his hand.
"Chakotay, I'm your wife now and you're my husband. We've shared the best of times and the worst of times and we're still together. We love each other and that's all that matters and now we're in love and together, with our future ahead of us. Nothing else matters. I love you, Chakotay…"
He let go of her hand and pulled her to him. "I love you too, Kathryn…so much. I'll always be here for you." They kissed deeply and then just lay quietly against each other as the sunset continued its show. As the last light faded from the sky, Kathryn turned to Chakotay and stared lovingly at him.
"You know…they all…they all thanked me…our former crew…our friends…for leading them home."
Chakotay smiled and nodded. "You did."
He saw her smile slightly. "I know I led THEM home but…I didn't lead US home. You and me. I led us to the Alpha Quadrant and to Earth. You, my love…" She reached up and stroked his face, tracing her fingers over his tattoo. "You led US home…you led ME home. This is home."
Chakotay was too overcome to say anything. He just pulled her into his arms and held her to him. When he was finally able to speak, he pulled back a little and stared deeply into her eyes. "You've no idea of how much that means to me, to hear you say that. I didn't think it was possible to love you more than I already did but I do…" They just stared into each other's souls and then as if reading each other, stood slowly and walked into the house.
Chakotay cleared the last of the dishes in the kitchen and kept glancing towards the bedroom. Kathryn had left his side almost immediately and told him to give her a few minutes. He shut the lights off and made his way into the bedroom now. He sat on the bed and waited, hearing Kathryn in the small bathroom off the room. He looked up now when he heard the door open and his breath caught in his chest. She stood shyly in the doorway, a cream satin and lace camisole falling from her shoulders, barely covering matching panties. He stared in open admiration at her, the creamy skin of her thighs and arms inviting his gaze. He swallowed and stood up.
"Oh Kathryn, love… God, you're so beautiful…" He reached his hand out and cupped her cheek, tears in his eyes. "I love you so much…you know that…"
She smiled back at him. "I love you too…more each day…" She reached her hand behind his head and pulled him down to her, brushing her lips across his. Chakotay groaned and pulled her to him, deepening the kiss. He let go when Kathryn pulled away and stared deeply into his eyes.
"I ask only one thing of you, love…" He nodded. "Treat me as you always would have…as if we were coming together and nothing else had happened. I want tonight to be just us…no ghosts or shadows. You won't hurt or upset me. I love you and trust you…and I want us to remember this night for what it is. It's us…in love…sealing that love and joining totally."
He nodded his understanding. "I will. No asking if you're all right every minute. I understand that. Kathryn, I love you so much and I know this is just us…new and fresh…" He stroked her face and smiled. "No ghosts…just me ravishing that delectable body of yours." She laughed at this and gloried in his ease and freedom with her.
"That's a two-way system, lover. Now lose the clothes." He obeyed and dragged her down onto the bed with him.
"Lady, I'm going to take you to heaven and back. You won't even know your own name when I'm finished with you."
Kathryn groaned and pulled him to her, delighting in his response. "Put your replicator credits where your mouth is, Mister…"
Chakotay growled and rolled her beneath him. "Oh, I have plans for my mouth, woman. Don't you worry about that."
Kathryn squirmed as he brought his mouth down on hers hungrily. He pried her lips apart and slipped his tongue into her mouth, sweeping across her teeth and duelling with her tongue. Kathryn moaned loudly into his mouth, her hands pulling him against her as they swept up and down his back.
Finally, Chakotay released her mouth and laid smaller kisses all over her face and down her neck. She arched against him as he reached a spot behind her ear and she heard him chuckle against her. "So that's a special place…?"
Kathryn merely moaned louder as he leaned back and slipped the thin straps of her top off her shoulders, then pulled it over her head as she sat up a little to assist him. She lay back down and watched him as he stared in wonder and love at her breasts.
"Oh, Kathryn…" He lowered his head and blew wisps of warm air over her nipples as Kathryn moaned beneath him. He lowered his mouth to her breasts and gently licked all around them before making contact with her nipples. Kathryn cried out and arched beneath him as his hands moved to her shoulders to hold her down as she tried to sit up.
"Easy, sweetheart…this is about you only." He worked his mouth over her breasts until she thought she'd pass out, the tremors and sensations building inside her. Slowly then he moved down, licking and kissing his way to her belly button, wetting her skin and then blowing on it. Kathryn was almost insensate as she tried to pull him closer. And then she was moaning loudly again as his fingers slipped beneath the elastic of her lace panties and he slowly eased them down her legs. He kissed and licked his way up her legs, easing her thighs apart as he approached where Kathryn most needed him.
Chakotay marvelled at the trust she had in him as she spread herself open for him then. He gazed down openly and lovingly at the sight before him and almost cried. His fingers lazily stroked her before he lowered his head, breathing gently onto her, small breaths blowing her downy cover. Kathryn groaned and cried out, the torture almost too much. When she felt his mouth cover her, she screamed and arched up, one of his hands on her hips now as he held her to him.
Kathryn thought she'd lose her mind as the sensations flowed through her, the tingling and tightening building inside her. Chakotay worked her with lips, teeth, tongue and now fingers, building her slowly, almost painfully to the crest. He slipped a finger just inside her, testing her readiness and smiled at the wetness he found there, before sliding his finger in further, a second one joining it. Kathryn cried out and groaned.
"Oh….mmmmm…Chakotay…oh Goddddd…." She was almost gasping as she twisted under him as he worked her up and up. She felt him suck hard then on her small bundle of nerves, his tongue flicking across it and screamed out as the waves of orgasm crashed down on her. She was vaguely aware of his fingers gently thrusting in and out of her as her inner walls spasmed and pulled him in deeper.
As she slowly came back down, she felt his fingers busy again and cried out, not sure if she was able for any more but he wasn't giving her a choice. His mouth attacked her again, his fingers pushing in deeply, until he brought her back up, holding the moment as long as he could, before dropping her over the other side, her scream echoing around the room.
He kept her there for a long time, stroking her and thrusting his fingers in and out of her, creating more and more wetness. His mouth never let up on her as he worked her, pushing her further and further. Kathryn was lost to everything but the continuing pleasure which filled her. She slowly became aware of coming down a little, only to start back up again. She cried out, as her body strained against the tremors which gripped her. She felt his fingers enter and retreat and then enter again. She felt his mouth on her, licking, sucking and nipping at her hot centre and then another sensation and she bucked against him. She was right on the edge, barely hanging on, aware only of her pleasure and his hands. She felt it but it took a moment to register. Another finger, moistened with her own juices, as it pressed against her anus and then plunged in deeply. The result was instantaneous as Kathryn was flung into the fires of a pleasure she'd never known before. She heard her own scream somewhere in the distance and felt her body lose all control.
Awareness came back slowly as the waves of pleasure gradually faded, leaving her body tingling, weak and shaking. She slowly opened her eyes as she felt Chakotay cover her body with his own, his hardness pressing against her entrance. Her hands, feeling heavy, clutched at his shoulders, as she moaned into his mouth, pulling him to her. He kissed her deeply, sharing her taste with her then leaned back a little and watched her face, his eyes locked with hers as he pressed slowly and deeply into her, joining them as one. They both gasped at the raw pleasure of it and Kathryn raised her legs either side of him, tilting her hips up, allowing his penetration to deepen even more.
Chakotay began to rock her at first and then moved slowly, barely moving in her at all. He then began to increase his movement, sliding in and out of her, filling her beyond what she thought possible. There was no friction, she was so wet, yet still he caressed her inner walls with his hardness, creating a stimulation she'd never experienced before. He ground himself against her clitoris on each inward thrust, adding to the pool of sensations which flowed through her. Their breathing quickened, matching his thrusting as he stimulated her inside and out.
Kathryn felt the tightening once more, her eyes flying open wide as she felt herself coming again. She cried out in surprise as she felt herself gripping him, her inner walls tightening on him. He increased his pace again, slapping against her and grinding himself into her almost. Kathryn felt it happen, couldn't believe it was happening, and yet it did. Her body thrust against his as he pounded into her now, and then she exploded, no other term applicable. Her world disintegrated into a show of lights and sparkles as she screamed out, her inner muscles clamping down on Chakotay's rock hard member, triggering his release and milking him dry. She felt him fill her, the warmth of it as it caressed her insides, adding still more sensations.
She held in inside her afterwards, not wanting to ever let him go. She felt him soften and somehow that added to the pleasure. Eventually, of course, he slipped from her and pulled her into his arms, neither minding the mess or the stickiness between them. She felt him pull the quilt over them and snuggled deeper into his arms. "I love you…"
He smiled down at her and kissed her lips. "I love you too…"
Neither was aware of falling asleep.
Chakotay gripped Kathryn's hand, flinching with pain as she gripped his in return. He looked down at her and smiled. "Come on, honey…you can do this…"
She glared up at him and growled. "Don't you talk to me. This is all your fault. I swear… You're never touching me again… Ahhhhh… God…" She screamed out and then fell back against the pillows, her body soaked with sweat.
Fayla smiled up at Chakotay. "Don't worry…they all say that. I said it after each of our four…"
Chakotay smiled nervously and looked back down at Kathryn as she glared back at him. "Don't you even think about it. If you want more…you can have them yourself… Oh sweet Godddd… Get this thing out of me…" She twisted on the bed and screamed out again.
"You didn't say that at the start…" Chakotay couldn't resist but instantly regretted his words when he saw the death glare he received from his wife.
"Never…never again…you sleep in the barn from now on… oh shit…here comes another one…" She tried to sit up as she pushed down.
Fayla helped her. "Come on, honey…you've already pushed one out of there…the second shouldn't be too much worse… Look at it this way…you've saved yourself a second pregnancy…"
Kathryn strained and then fell back against the pillows. For a moment she forgot her pain as she looked at Taymar cradling their new son. Then another contraction hit her and she let go of everything.
"You, bastard… I swear you'll pay for this… All those night feeds are yours…you'll see…all those diapers…" She strained hard again and screamed out as the baby slipped into the world.
"It's a girl… Oh, Kathryn…" Suddenly all the pain was forgotten as Kathryn burst into tears. She stared at the tiny wriggling form now lying across her belly and reached her hand down to her daughter.
"Hello, little one…" She looked up at her husband and smiled.
"I'm sorry…I didn't mean…" He was too choked up to say anything and just grabbed her hand as he stared at the miracle of life before him.
Taymar lay their son down beside his sister then and watched as his wife smiled down at them all. When she looked up at him, he backed away nervously at the look on her face. "No, Fayla…forget it. We go through this every time you deliver a baby. Four is enough."
Kathryn smiled at Chakotay and pulled him down to her then kissed him tenderly. "Thank you, love…for the gift of these two. I know I said…"
His kiss cut her off. "Kathryn, thank you. I love you and I love them. I'm the happiest and proudest man in the world." Their eyes locked and a million messages passed between them.
As Fayla took care of the afterbirth, she smiled up at the happy couple. "Thought of names yet?"
Chakotay smiled down at his wife who nodded back at him. "We were hoping actually for one of each. Can you call Maya in?" Taymar nodded, a frown on his face as he went to fetch her. She'd wanted to be there in case Kathryn needed any help coping.
Fayla covered Kathryn up and whispered to her. "I'll clean you lot up in a few minutes." The two women held hands a moment then turned as Maya came into the room, her eyes alight at the sight of the two babies.
Chakotay smiled over at her. "Maya, come here. We want you to meet two very special little people. This is…this is Lara and Raul…"
Maya looked up from the babies, tears springing to her eyes. "My…my parents…?" Her tears slid down her face. "Oh Kathryn…Chakotay…" She couldn't say anymore and just ran to Chakotay and hugged him, then leaned down and kissed Kathryn. She leaned back and stroked the small faces. "Thank you so much. You've no idea… Thank you… It means so much…"
Chakotay hugged his wife to him on their first night alone in the house with the babies. As if on cue, they started crying together. They both groaned and laughed at the same time.
"You're lucky I'm breast feeding, Mister, or I'd have kept my word about these night feeds."
Chakotay got up with her. "You did keep your word. One still has to hold the other while one is fed…or…whatever… I'm so tired, I can't think straight…"
Kathryn smiled as she turned on the light. "Don't worry, old man…it won't be forever…unless there's another one…"
They looked tenderly at each other and then shook their heads at the same time. "No…no more…"
As they settled back to sleep after the feeds, Chakotay hugged Kathryn to him again. She murmured quietly to him. "We've come a long way. I've come a long way."
He kissed the side of her face. "We've come a long way, love…always 'we'…" They slowly drifted off to sleep.