Disclaimer:  Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I don’t.  Only borrowing                 

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     Chakotay and Voyager’s former crew gather for a Memorial Service on

                      the first anniversary of their return to Earth, but one face is absent,

                      unseen now for almost a year.  Unable to stay away however, Kathryn

                      hides and observes them all, unaware that she has been spotted.  Only

                      now can Chakotay finally discover the reason for her absence from

                      all their lives.




B’Elanna smiled and nodded to Chakotay, as she took her seat beside him, smoothing her dark dress down around her knees.  She gazed around at the assembled former crew of Voyager and nodded to a few others who met her eyes.

“Any sign of her?”  She didn’t need to say more as she looked at her old friend.  Chakotay turned to her and shook his head.

“I didn’t honestly expect to see her here and yet…  Oh I don’t know.  I guess it doesn’t matter any more.”  B’Elanna shook her head sadly, feeling Tom take his seat beside her.

“It matters to this crew and despite what you say, I know it matters to you too.  I know it matters a great deal.”  Chakotay lowered his head, his silence confirming her words.  Slowly he raised his head again and looked about him.

The day was warm, with few clouds in the sky and all around him, Chakotay listened to the quiet murmurings of the assembled former crew, no one raising their voice in reverence of the time and place.  It was a year to the day since their return, eleven months since any of them had seen their former Captain, eleven months since she had disappeared from all their lives, never to be heard from since.  In her wake, she left confusion, feelings of abandonment and hurt, sadness and even some resentment which was always accompanied by guilt.  Mostly though, they didn’t understand how their Captain could just leave without a word.

Chakotay looked to his left and met Tom’s sad eyes and nodded to him, his mind drifting back over the last year now.  He looked around him at the others gathered in this place and shook his head sadly.  Kathryn had missed so much.

Harry Kim met his eyes and smiled softly, Seven at his side.  The former Borg had come a long way, finishing her journey to humanity on her own, the one her Captain had started.  Chakotay watched her rock the small carrycot at her feet, her two-week-old son already asleep.  Chakotay smiled softly as he remembered her wedding day ten months previously, how she had actually cried as she had spoken her vows, entering freely into an assimilation she desired, merging her life with Harry’s.  Within two weeks, the seed of the fruit of that union had been sown, and as Chakotay watched her face now, he knew that the real meaning of humanity shone from it as she watched her son.

He looked to B’Elanna, watching her as she scanned the crowd and surrounding area, knowing the one face she sought.  Her hand rested on her stomach, swollen with child as Tom held their daughter, two-year-old Emma, born on Voyager.  Chakotay shook his head again as he watched the little girl, goddaughter of Kathryn and himself and again he wondered how she could just have left it all behind.

His eyes drifted now to Tuvok, sitting erect and passive with his wife P’Tel and several of their children and grandchildren.  Even Voyager’s former Security Chief had undertaken the long journey to Earth for this ceremony.  Chakotay nodded now to the Doctor, Voyager’s EMH and saw that even the Medic knew his thoughts.  Their eyes met and silent understanding passed between them. 

His eyes drifted over them all, the Delaney sisters, both married now also, a double wedding with Joe Carey and John Harper, one of Tuvok’s Security team.  They had all come, even former partners and lovers, family and friends of those here today and the ones they had come to remember and mourn.  Chakotay looked around at them all, remembering every name and face, of those present and those forever gone, but maybe here in spirit in this place now for this gathering.  He shook his head a little, drawing comfort from his spiritual beliefs.  He studied all the faces before him, little change in their appearance in his eyes but he knew it only appeared that way, due to the fact that they all kept in such close contact with each other, coming together on a regular basis.  He wondered how much his own appearance had changed and suspected that the past year had aged him more than two or three in the Delta Quadrant would have. 

Chakotay felt a hand on his arm now and turned back to B’Elanna, seeing her reading his thoughts.  He nodded and smiled slightly and looked towards the platform, which had been erected for this occasion, directly in front of the Memorial, which had been built but remained covered for the unveiling.  He looked out past it at the sea of gravestones and wondered briefly about the others who had sat here for similar ceremonies and those yet to come, who perhaps at this moment, sat in a kitchen somewhere with the loved one they would someday come here to mourn.

Chakotay shook the thoughts from his head and sat a little straighter now as several Admirals stepped up onto the small dais but took one last look around the area, his eyes still scanning for any sign of the one who was missing, seeing many others mimic him.  And then he gave up as Admiral Paris spoke.

“We have gathered here today to remember.  We have gathered to renew our promise never to forget.”  Silence descended over the field beside Headquarters, the Memorial Park to Starfleet’s fallen heroes.

“We have come here today to honour our fallen friends and to remember them.  In remembering each of them, we ensure that they will live on eternally, within each of us and on through the generations yet to come.  We remember.”  Chakotay looked around him a moment, every face lost in the past, many with their heads bowed.

“Voyager returned to us one year ago today.  Many of you perhaps believe you left your friends behind.  That is not so.  They are here with us today because their spirits live on.  They are here in our hearts and in our minds and will forever remain with us.  They helped make you who you are, contributed to the people you are today, influenced your lives in so many different ways and through that, they will live on.  They live on in each of you and in their families and friends gathered here with us.  They will never die as long as we remember them.”  The old man paused a moment.

“We are here to honour our dead and our absent friends…”  Chakotay looked to B’Elanna and saw that she was already looking at him.  “Today we unveil this Memorial, erected so that those unable to speak directly, will always be heard in this way.  This is to them, so that even strangers, many years from now will know them and know of their deeds and the sacrifices they made.”  Admiral Paris cleared his throat before continuing.  He spoke on, along with several other dignitaries but Chakotay had tuned out now.  His own mind revisited the dead and the missing as he paid his own tribute and said his own goodbyes and as he glanced at some of the others, saw that he wasn’t the only one.  Finally he came back from his brief absence and forced himself to concentrate again.

“If we could now stand for the unveiling…”  There was a brief disturbance as people stood, chairs moving against each other and then the silence descended again and they all looked towards the covered Monument.  At a nod from Admiral Paris, the President of the Federation stepped forward and pulled a cord, the black satin material which had covered the stone, slipping silently away to reveal the Memorial.

Time stopped as every person present stared at the black marble stone, the names of the deceased engraved in gold lettering on each side.  At the top of the plinth, a gold bowl stood and at the base, flowers had been planted.  Chakotay saw people craning their necks to see better.

“Thank you Mr. President.  Let me explain to you all.  This Monument is simple because to us the people it remembers are far more important and should never be over-shadowed.  The bowl at the top will house an eternal flame and beneath it, we have planted poppies.  For those of you unfamiliar with this flower, I can tell you that it gained great importance as a reminder of the fallen during and after Earth’s First and Second World Wars.  The battle fields were filled with these flowers where the fallen had lain and so today, we borrow from them, the symbol which meant so much.”  He stared out at the assembled crowd a moment.

“I have asked Voyager’s youngest member to light the flame and I think you’ll all approve of that…”  He stood back a little and nodded to Naomi Wildman to step forward.  As the flame ignited, muffled cries were heard among the gathered crowd.  Admiral Paris stepped forward again.  “I would ask you all to step forward in a moment and lay your flowers at the Memorial but first I will read out the names of those who will never be forgotten…  If we can then follow that with a minute’s silence so that we may each reflect and remember.”  He paused a moment and then continued.  “Ensign David Mason…died Stardate…”

Silence filled the field as the names of the dead were read out.  Even the birds seemed to have paused their song out of respect.  As the names rang out over the Memorial Park, another listened.  Kathryn Janeway stood hidden behind a tree, unseen by those gathered for the service.  As each name was spoken, the face matching it filled her mind, and she cried bitterly for them all.  Her lips barely moved but her words were clear.  “I’m sorry…so sorry…I failed you all…” 

Kathryn turned her head slightly, blinking back her tears which continued to flow.  She forced her vision to clear a moment and watched her former crew, their heads bowed and saw them all remember as the silence now stretched out across the field.  To Kathryn, the silence was deafening.  It was a silence that condemned her.

Finally, once the last name had been spoken and the minute’s silence had followed, no sound could be heard anywhere, as if no one wished to resume time again.  Admiral Paris, moving from the podium, started it.  People then slowly made their way to the Memorial, laying their flowers, candles and tributes as the last thing they could do for their loved ones. 

As the ceremony finished, many wandered away, leaving some speaking in hushed tones in small groups.  Chakotay looked at B’Elanna at his side and saw her wipe at her eyes.

“It was lovely actually…  Normally these things are…impersonal I suppose…but this was…  Maybe it’s just that we know…knew them…”  Chakotay nodded.

“That did them proud.  The Monument is just right…”  B’Elanna nodded and looked up as her father-in-law approached them and smiled at him.  She had grown to quickly love the old man and her daughter adored the ground he walked on.  Emma squealed and wriggled from her father’s arms now to run to him.  Owen Paris bent down and scooped his granddaughter up in his arms, swinging her in the air.

“How’s my precious princess today?”  He lowered her only to be showered with kisses and squeezed tightly around the neck.  “That good, huh?”  She giggled loudly, causing several people nearby to smile, despite the sadness that still filled the air.  Tom came over and shook his head.

“I never get a look in when you’re around.”  They all smiled.  Tom and his father finally had the relationship both had long desired.

“Chakotay…”  He turned and looked at B’Elanna, something in her voice alerting him immediately.  She wasn’t looking at him but over at some trees and he followed her gaze.

“What is it…?”  He got his answer quickly as he scanned the area.  Just behind one of the trees he saw it, a brief glimpse of red hair and in that second, he knew it was her.

“I guess she couldn’t stay away after all…”  Tom shook his head sadly.  “Don’t let her see us watching or she might run…”  Chakotay shook his head and turned away.

“Chakotay…?”  B’Elanna gripped his arm.  “Aren’t you going to…?”  He pulled his arm away gently.

“No I’m not.  She’s known where to find me…find any of us…  She decided to leave and stay away…  She made her choice.”  B’Elanna shook her head angrily.

“Chakotay…you can’t just…  Maybe there were reasons…”  He just stared at the ground and B’Elanna’s eyes now pleaded with Tom and her father-in-law.  Owen took charge and handed his granddaughter to Tom.

“I’ll go.  I’ll head around from behind.  Tom’s right…  She could well make a run…  Let’s not give her that chance…”  Without another word he walked away.

Chakotay moved away now, heading back towards Headquarters, leaving B’Elanna struggling to catch up with him.

“Dammit Chakotay…I’m too heavily pregnant for this.  Stop a minute…”  He stopped immediately.

“B’Elanna, please drop it.  I don’t…”  She glared at him, reminding him immediately of Kathryn and he knew where she’d learned it.  He sighed deeply and shook his head.  “I doubt she’d want to talk to me even.  We’re all here.  All she had to do was come down…”  B’Elanna was getting mad now.

“Listen to me.  Just do this one thing for me.  Go over there and talk to her.  It’ll take a few minutes out of your life and without meaning to sound bad, you don’t exactly have much else on.”  She regretted her words immediately.  “I’m sorry, that was cruel but Chakotay, it’s the truth.  You’ve been half a man without her and you know it.  If you let this chance slip by, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.  If it doesn’t work out, you can at least know you tried and then let it go and move on properly.  You can’t live the rest of your life in this limbo and you know you have been, so don’t deny it.  If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t have spent so long looking for her.”  She was breathless now as Chakotay stared at her.

“God B’Elanna, you don’t say things by half, do you?”  She glared at him again. 

“Go on then…do as you’re told…”  He shook his head and laughed.

“Yes mother…  Do I remind you that much of Emma?”  She shook her head and laughed now.

“Sorry…  Tom even gets spoken to like that from time to time.  I have trouble switching from baby talk to adult talk…”  Tom came up behind her.

“I’ve even been known to get spanked if I’m bold…”  B’Elanna glared at him now, unable to believe what her husband had just said.

“Tom…  Not here…”  Chakotay laughed at her deep embarrassment but Tom was enjoying himself.

“If I remember correctly…that’s how you got in the mess you’re in now…”  B’Elanna actually hit him now and Chakotay moved off, shaking his head.

“OK I give in…I’m going…”  He grew serious again.  “B’Elanna…”  She shook her head and smiled at him.

“Just go over there Chakotay…We’ll see you later…”  He nodded and followed after Owen, running a little to catch up.

Chakotay watched the old man in front of him approach the tree they had seen Kathryn hiding behind.  He quickly caught up with the Admiral but saw that the old man hadn’t noticed him.  Just as Owen Paris rounded the tree, Chakotay stopped and remained at the other side of it, easily within earshot.  He glanced across the field, the Memorial clearly visible, the flame not as easy to discern in the daylight.  He saw Tom and B’Elanna slowly make their way back, chatting with the Doctor and shook his head.  It was too late to move now.

Kathryn watched them all leave, pressing her back to the tree trunk and sighed deeply to herself.  She wiped angrily at the tears which still flowed down her face.  She knew she badly wanted to go down to the Memorial but that she would be better waiting until the next day, when there might not be anyone around.  She heaved herself away from the tree and turned, straight into the figure of Owen Paris.  Kathryn actually let a cry escape her lips with the fright.

“Hello Kathryn…”  He stood still and smiled gently down at the woman who felt like a daughter to him.  He saw the mix of fright and pain on her face, her tears still very evident.

“Owen…I…”  Kathryn just stood there, lost for words for the first time since he had known her.  He didn’t move from her path.

“I didn’t think you’d come…  Then again…I just wasn’t sure…  I guess I hoped…”  He looked at her closely and saw how pale and thin she was, her hair hanging limply, clean but missing the shine he always remembered.

“I wasn’t sure myself…if I’d come…well no…I knew I would…  I owe them…I’m the reason they’re…”  She dropped her head.  Owen shook his.

“So you come for the dead.  What about the living Kathryn?”  She looked up at him quickly.

“I feel closer to them…”  She shook her head and bit her lip.  Owen frowned.

“Who?  The dead?”  Kathryn shook her head again as she looked at him.

“All those names…left behind…  I owe them…to at least remember them…”  Owen studied her.

“I get the feeling you can’t forget them.  Do they come to you every night Kathryn?”  She looked at him strangely but didn’t answer.  Owen sighed deeply.  “I’d have contacted you about this but we couldn’t find you…”  Kathryn answered softly.

“You weren’t meant to…”  Owen Paris rubbed at his face.

“You know Kathryn, when you walked away from everything a year ago, I felt sure you’d be back.  You’re not a quitter.”  If he thought he would goad her, he was mistaken.  Kathryn just stared past him unseeing.

“There’s nothing here for me now.  Mom’s dead, Phoebe’s off living God’s knows where with her husband and kids and…”  She stopped and looked down at the grass.  Owen moved towards her a little.

“And what Kathryn?”  She didn’t meet his eyes.

“It doesn’t matter…”  Owen pushed a little harder.

“Oh I think it matters very much.  It’s him isn’t it…?”  Kathryn's head jerked up.

“Owen, leave it please.  He’s gone, moved on.  I’m happy for him…”  Owen shook his head.

“He’s here…and he hasn’t…”  Kathryn rubbed at her forehead, her words cutting him off.

“I know he’s here, I saw him…”  Owen moved a little closer.

“Why didn’t you come over…talk to him…?”  Kathryn laughed now and shook her head.

“What?  And hurt him even more?  God Owen, I’m bad but I’m not that bad…”  She turned now and played with the bark on the tree.  Owen studied her closely.

“Kathryn, where have you been?  Have you looked at yourself lately?  I don’t mean to hurt you but…  God Kathryn, you’re too thin, you’re so pale…  You look sick…”  She turned her head slightly towards him.

“I don’t go out much…”  The old Admiral shook his head sadly.

“So you’ve just locked yourself away somewhere for the past year?”  Kathryn just shrugged and pulled a piece of bark away.

“Just leave it Owen.  I’m not worth your pity…”  She jumped when she felt his finger stab at her arm.

“You know what Kathryn, you’re like a ghost.  We might as well bury you over there among the dead.  I’m speaking with the ghost of Kathryn Janeway.  You’re already over there with them, buried in the cold soil…”  If he thought he might get a response from her, he was mistaken.

“Maybe I am…”  Her answer caused his anger to rise.

“So you just lock yourself away from it all?  Why Kathryn…?”  Finally some response.

“You know why I shut myself away?  Because I can’t bear to see other people’s happiness.  I came here today only because I owed them that.  At least here I’m exposed to what I feel, can match what’s inside.”  Owen laughed now, sarcasm wrapped around the sound.

“Isn’t there anything else inside you?  Besides, do you really believe they’d want your sacrifice?  That’s what you’re doing you know.  You think you took their lives and now you want to give your own.  Oh I thought you were an intelligent woman Kathryn…”  She glared at him now, tears in her eyes.

“Damn it Owen, the woman you knew is dead.  I mourned her passing.  I was there for her demise.  She died a slow and painful death.  Poetic justice really when she failed them so badly… killed them… let them die.  It’s only right that she died too.”  Owen kicked at the grass.

“And now you’re just waiting to join her, only you’re doing it the long, slow, hard way.”  He looked back up at her.

“I don’t deserve a quick death.  I don’t deserve the release.  I deserve to suffer…”  Owen was angry again.

“Oh cut the crap Kathryn…”  She jerked back at his words.  “You’re filled with this false self-pity…”  She shook her head vigorously.

“It’s fact…the truth…”  He cut her off.

“It’s self-pity but you’ve disguised it so well, you can’t see it because you don’t want to.”  When she didn’t answer, he took it as a hopeful sign.

“I knew two women…Kathryn and the Captain…”  She smiled a little.

“Kathryn is the one who died slowly…was half way there already…  The Captain…I guess she’s dead too… If there was anything left of her, it was made redundant a year ago…now she doesn’t exist anymore…”  Owen folded his arms.

“So who am I speaking to now?”  Kathryn just shrugged.

“Even I don’t know that…”  Owen shook his head.

“So there’s just you, whoever that is… a vestige of what was… this living ghost… and all these other ghosts who visit your dreams every night?”  She looked up at him sadly.

“Not dreams…nightmares…  Don’t you ever see all their faces…?”  Owen nodded sadly.

“Of course I do but I know enough to let them rest in peace.  The dead are at peace now Kathryn, let them have their rest.  They don’t want you to suffer like this for them.  You should concentrate on the living and what you can do for them…”  He watched as her eyes filled up with tears and then spilled over.  His face softened immediately.

“Did you ever tell him?”  She looked up quickly, wiping at her tears.

“Who…?”  Owen smiled softly.

“Don’t play games with me Kathryn.  I’ve been around the block far too many times.  You know I mean Chakotay.  Did you ever tell him how much you love him?”  He watched the play of emotions over her face.  “Come on Kathryn, I may be an old man, but the eyes still work and so does the heart.  I recognize love for someone when I see it.”  She bit down on her lip as her tears increased.

“I couldn’t… and… I made the biggest mistake of my life Owen…  Oh out there…I couldn’t let go of my damned principles and protocol… and…we got back…I always thought or hoped when we got back…and it had to be when…never if we got back…I hoped that then…but… I couldn’t even try…  the Board were watching my every move…  If I’d shown them anything… I was so afraid for them all…especially him… I had to appear unbiased…removed from them…   Anyway…I was too late…even without that…”  She shook her head sadly.  “I think he loved me once…a long time ago… I like to think he did anyway…”  Owen felt like crying himself as he looked at the broken women before him.

“So they were freed and you got the life sentence…”  Kathryn just shrugged in resignation.  “And what then Kathryn…?”  She looked at him sadly.

“And then…then he was gone…”  Owen shook his head sadly at her.

“Gone but not forgotten…”  She smiled sadly and shook her head.

“No…never that…but gone nonetheless…”  Owen moved a little closer.

“Why didn’t you even try and see him today…speak with him…?”  Kathryn rubbed her fingers against the tree.

“Be fair Owen.  I have enough pain.  Besides, I’m sure he’s married now, perhaps even a child…  I just hope he’s happy…that’s all I want for him…”  Owen watched her as she studied her fingers, some of the sap staining them slightly.

“He’s not married…”  Kathryn barely reacted.  “What about you Kathryn…  Didn’t you ever want all that…?”  He saw her face crumple.

“Love…?  I’m not fit for it…only end up hurting people…killing them…  A child…?  Well that also wasn’t meant for me… None of it was…”  Owen reached over and stilled her hand.

“Oh Kathryn…you’re a shadow of the woman I knew and I don’t just mean the one who left Earth and ended up in the Delta Quadrant.  I’m also talking about the one who came back a year ago.”  He leaned towards her and cupped her face.  “What have you done to yourself?”  His eyes took in her face, the pain and deep sadness etched into each line.  “You’re letting go aren’t you, just like I said?  You’re just doing it the slow and painful way.”  His thumb wiped at her tears.  “Go to him Kathryn…talk to him…”  She pulled her head back and shook it, sniffling loudly.

“I can’t Owen…even if he’s not married…  I love him too much to ruin his life.  He deserves a woman…a woman who’s alive and whole… who can give him what I never could…not the shell I’ve become…”  She closed her eyes, squeezing more tears out.

“Kathryn, I believe you’re that because you’re alone…” 

Chakotay had slipped down into a sitting position on the far side of the tree, as he listened to the woman he knew he still loved, pour her heart out.  Her pain added to his own and his tears joined hers.

“Kathryn…why did you really leave…?”  Kathryn turned back into the tree, resting her forehead against the rough surface.

“I don’t know…no…I do…I…”  She turned slightly to face him.  “Some of this is a blur… I think maybe the Doctor was right…”  She saw Owen frown at her.

“What Doctor?  Right about what…?”  Kathryn shook her head slowly, her eyes gaining a distant look as her mind took her back.

“I know I said you weren’t meant to find me…  I guess I meant I didn’t really know where I was…”  She swallowed and bit at her lip.  “When the pardons came down that morning…I wanted to go to them…was heading towards them…  I don’t know…I remember feeling…  oh I was so happy for them but something inside me… I felt something was about to give…break me apart…  I remember being barely able to breathe…feeling dizzy…a pain in my chest…so bad… and it was like…as if all the blood was draining from me… and I started shaking…couldn’t stop…  I just ran…I don’t know why…I panicked or something…”  She leaned her back to the tree now and stared across at all the graves.

“I went home… home to nothing…  The house was gone…Phoebe had sold it after Mom died… but around it…the fields…they were all I knew…  I walked a long time and then just sat…  I sat for so long…I’ve no idea…but I cried and cried…couldn’t stop…it just wouldn’t stop… and then it was dark and I was still crying…”  She looked briefly at her old Mentor.  “Next I remember it being morning…and I was cold…I was still crying though…”  Owen reached out and gripped her shoulder gently.

“Oh Kathryn…why didn’t you call someone…? There are so many who would have been there for you…”  He watched her shaking her head, her tears continuous.

“I didn’t think like that…  I was just in this place that was familiar and I couldn’t stop crying…  Eventually I remember standing and…”  She wiped at her face.  “I guess something inside me was thinking straight.  I found myself at my old Doctor…his surgery still there…  I sat with him and cried for hours then…”  Owen shook his head.

“Why didn’t he call someone…?”  Kathryn shook her head. 

“I guess Doctor-Patient confidentiality.  I don’t know.  I remember him giving me something…some hypos… telling me something about a breakdown…suggesting rest…  I laughed…I remember that…”  She turned back into the tree now and played with the bark again.

“I just left there… I think it was afternoon…I’m not sure… I came back to Headquarters and learned that Chakotay had left…no one knew where…”  She turned back again.

“I have no idea of time after that… I left here…I know that… and somehow made my way to a cabin Mom and Dad had…still there… I can’t tell you a lot about the past year…bits and pieces…every day the same…  The last two or three months are clearer… Then I heard about this…started taking an interest in what was around me again…”  Owen looked at her with the deepest look of sadness.

“Oh dear God Kathryn…you went through all that alone…  Kathryn I can’t believe…”  He rubbed his hands across his face.  “I can’t believe this…  Do you know how lucky you are to be here…to be alive…?  If you were alone in that state…  I just don’t want to think about it…”  Kathryn laughed bitterly and banged her fist against the tree.

“Oh I thought about that a lot…even tried…”  She realized her words and looked to him a second then turned away, her head down.  Owen watched her carefully as she banged her fist off the tree again, annoyed with herself for her slip of the tongue.   Saying nothing, he took her hand and rubbed at it where she’d hit the tree.  She tried to pull her hand away, puzzling him and suddenly he understood what she was trying to hide, as his eyes spotted something that made his breath stop in his chest.  Where Kathryn's sleeve had fallen back a little, he saw badly healed cuts on her wrist.  He grabbed both her hands, pulling them towards him, causing her sleeves to slide up her arms a little, exposing both wrists.

“God Kathryn, what’s this?  What are these scars?  Did you try to cut your wrists?  Oh good God Kathryn…”  She twisted her hands, trying to break free.

“It’s nothing…let me go…”  She tried to pull her hands from his grasp but the old man wasn’t letting go.

“Let me see your wrists Kathryn…”  He looked more closely, shaking his head sadly.  “It doesn’t look like nothing to me.  It looks like you tried to slash your wrists and thank God, failed at it…”  Kathryn finally managed to get her hands free.  Her face twisted in pain.

“They didn’t bleed enough…I don’t know why.  Guess there’s not that much blood in me…”   Owen just stared at her, almost refusing to believe that the woman before him was even vaguely related to the one he had once known.

“Kathryn, it’s not funny…”  He shook his head.  “Why did you leave the scars?”  She looked at him a second then turned back to face the tree again.

“I couldn’t heal them…had nothing to do it with…no dermal regenerator…  They healed on their own over time…  Besides they’re my legacy…my reminder…”  Owen felt himself getting angry and reached for her.  He pulled her around to face him, his hands gripping her shoulders and shook her slightly.

“Kathryn, listen to me now.  Was that the only time…?”  She tried to twist from his hold on her.  “Damn it Kathryn…talk to me…was that the only time…?”  He was shouting a little now.  She glared at him, her emotions over-shadowing everything else.

“No…”  She caught herself and pulled easily from his grasp now, which had loosened in his shock.  She stood back a little and met his eyes.  “I…I swallowed some pills and drink one night…”  She lowered her head a moment.  Owen’s voice, which had softened, made her look up again.

“What happened?”  Kathryn just shrugged.

“Nothing happened.  I got sick, passed out…  I woke up again though…”  Owen blinked back the tears he felt threatening.

“You could have choked on your own vomit when you passed out…”  Kathryn shrugged again.

“Well I didn’t…”  She stared out over the graves again.

“You sound almost sorry about that…”  She looked back at him and shook her head.

“I don’t know anymore.  I guess I don’t feel as bad as I did…well some days…”  She shook herself suddenly and wiped at her face.  “Oh God Owen, what am I saying?”  Why am I telling you all this?”  He smiled softly.

“I’d say it’s long overdue in coming out…”  He watched her shake her head and look towards the memorial.  He reached a hand out and stroked her hair.

“Kathryn, you don’t belong down there.  Look, from what you’ve told me and from what I’ve seen…  Kathryn, I strongly believe your Doctor was right.  It looks to me like you suffered an emotional and physical breakdown and you’re still suffering from the effects of it.  You just need the right help.”  She didn’t turn back to him and he watched her eyes scan the graves but he knew she was listening.

“Kathryn, what you went through out there, it’s no wonder…”  She turned back to him now, tears in her eyes.

“Owen, we were home…  There was nothing for me to worry about any more…  Why then…?  Why not when it was at its worst out there?”  Owen smiled gently at her.

“Kathryn…you just said it yourself.  You were home.  Suddenly for the first time you could let go.  You’d gotten them home… the Maquis were pardoned…  Suddenly all that pressure was lifted…  I don’t know…  Maybe you felt your work was done and didn’t know how to cope with that…  I don’t have the answers but there are people who do…  Maybe out there you held together because you had to.  Once you got home, the burden you had carried for so long was suddenly lifted and for the first time, you could let go and be yourself…  I guess this was the result…”  She just stared at him and shook her head.  “Kathryn, come back with me…”  His words seemed to jolt her now.

“No…no…I have to go…someone might see me…please Owen…”   He moved to block her way.

“Kathryn, you’ve nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about with this.  This isn’t a sign of weakness on your part…”  She shook her head angrily.

“I think it is…”  Owen interrupted her.

“Kathryn, do you think any less of me?”  Her eyes flew to his and he nodded.  “I had a breakdown.  You didn’t know that.”  She shook her head.  He smiled sadly.  “It was kept quiet.  Maybe it would have been better, more helpful to others if it hadn’t been…”  He smiled as she continued to stare at him.

“Oh Kathryn…you know the how and the why…I don’t need to tell you about it…”  He saw the realization dawn on her face.

“The Cardassians…”  He nodded sadly.

“You were there with me…held with me…you heard and saw…”  She nodded sadly then shook her head.

“Owen…that was…  You can’t compare…  You went through so much…  I didn’t have anything like that…”  He held his hand up.

“Kathryn, this isn’t a competition.  I broke down because of what I went through there.  You had all those years out there, building up and up inside you…always having to be in control…no backup…always having to be so strong…the worry and pain…not allowing yourself any personal life…  You know what you went through…with no outlet for it…  You’re the strongest person I know but even the strongest tree breaks some time…”  He watched her absorb his words.  “Kathryn, come back with me…”  She shook herself and looked around a moment.

“No…I can’t…please Owen…let me go…  I let them all down…they must hate me…”  He gripped her arms now.

“Kathryn…they love you…have missed you so much…  No one hates you… If anything…they’re confused, maybe hurt and disappointed that you just left but they’ll understand…  Kathryn, they care about you so much…  And what about Chakotay…?  He still loves you…”  He watched her lose her battle with her tears as they ran down her cheeks.

“No Owen…he couldn’t… He left…didn’t need me…  He’s moved on…” 

“No he hasn’t…”  Chakotay’s voice sounded broken and Kathryn's eyes flew to him as she cried out.  As he moved towards her, she backed away, shaking her head as her tears began afresh. 

Chakotay had sat as long as he could, his pain tearing at him with Kathryn's words.  The thought that she had tried to end her life tore at him until finally he could take it no more.  He rose to his legs shakily and moved around into her view.

“Kathryn…please listen…”  She continued shaking her head then her eyes flew to Owen’s face.

“How could you…?  You…”  Owen moved to her also.

“Kathryn…I didn’t know he was there…  I promise you…”  She continued to back off and suddenly turned away from them.  Moving towards her now she saw Tom and B’Elanna, along with the Doctor.  Kathryn cried out and turned back to Chakotay.

“Please just let me go…”  She moved away again and turned to run but she didn’t have the energy and Chakotay was after her then stepped in front of her.

“Kathryn…please…Admiral Paris is right…please come back with us…you need help…”  She tried to get past him but he wasn’t having it.  He reached out and gripped her upper arms. 

“Please just let me go…please…you don’t need me…  Let me go…”  Tears poured down her face.

“I can’t…  Kathryn…with what I just heard…even as a stranger…I couldn’t let you go…”  He paused a moment and stared deeply into her eyes.  “Mostly though, as your friend…as someone who cares about you and loves you… I can’t let you go…”  She struggled weakly against him and he eased his grip a little, afraid of hurting her.

“Please just let me go…please… I’m no use to you or anyone…please…don’t torment me like this…”  Tears poured from her eyes as Chakotay watched her face closely.  Suddenly he was angry, unable to understand why.  He gripped her upper arms more tightly now.

“Dammit Kathryn…listen to me.  I’m taking you back and I’m going to look after you…”  He let her go and grabbed her wrists, seeing the scars there for himself.  “How could you do this…?”  He looked back at her.  “Why didn’t you tell me or someone else…call me… we’re supposed to be friends…  I’d hoped for more when we got home…”  Kathryn cried harder and tried to pull away from him.

“You were gone…  you left…”  Chakotay shook his head sadly.

“I thought you’d left me…  I left messages at Headquarters for you…  The rest of the crew…Tom and B’Elanna…they all knew where I was…  Kathryn…why didn’t you try and contact them…?”  He saw how upset and confused she seemed.

“They said you’d gone…left… I didn’t hear anything else…  They said you’d gone… I couldn’t find you… told me you’d left…”  Chakotay squeezed his eyes shut a moment.

“They meant I’d gone home…  I left with Tom and B’Elanna…  Kathryn…I don’t understand how it happened…  I told them where I was going…  I’m sorry…  Why didn’t you call someone else though…?  Why did you leave…?”  He watched as she cried harder, shaking her head in confusion.

“I don’t…  I can’t…  please Chakotay…let me go… I can’t…I need to…I’m no use to you…”  He tried to pull her to him.

“I’ve just found you again after so long…  I don’t ever want to let you go again…”  She didn’t seem to hear him as he put his arms around her, shocked at how thin she was, that he could feel her bones so clearly.

“No use to you…let me go… no good…”  Her words tore at him and he whispered softly to her, looking to the others as they watched him.

“I need you Kathryn… we all do.  Little Emma needs you… please Kathryn…”  She struggled a little again.

“I can’t…no strength…”  He tightened his hold on her.

“Then you rest and regain your strength.  Kathryn please…we’re all here for you.  You did so much for us.  Let us try and repay some of the debt.  It’s our turn to be there for you.  You got us home…let us get you home.  Please…we owe you so much…Kathryn…I love you…”  He pulled back now so he could look into her eyes.  All he saw was pain and her tears.  “Kathryn…I love you.  Please…”  He noticed her breathing change, almost as if she were hyperventilating.  “Kathryn…?”  He gripped her shoulders tightly and watched her face grow even paler before his eyes.  Her eyes appeared unfocused now and she seemed more confused as she looked around her quickly.

“I…I can’t…oh God…”  Her head fell forward and she seemed to fall against him suddenly.  He held her tightly as he felt her body go limp.

“Kathryn…Kathryn…?”  He started to panic.  “Doctor…”  Chakotay slipped an arm around her back and lowered her to the ground.  He watched her head fall back, her eyes closed now.  The Medic was at her side in a second.

“Lie her down on her side.”  Tom and B’Elanna, along with Owen Paris ran to them quickly and watched with Chakotay as the Doctor quickly scanned the unconscious woman lying before him.  “She’s just passed out but she needs medical care and a lot of it.  I’ll call for a transport.”  As they waited, Chakotay sat down beside her and took her hands in his.  She felt cold to him and he slipped his jacket off and covered her with it.  Within a minute, he felt the tingle of the transporter beam take them.