Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17
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 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.

And In The Fields The Poppies Grow

by Kat Lady


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 anymore."

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'd 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'd actually cried as she'd 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'd all come, even former partners and lovers, family and friends of those here today and the ones they'd 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'd 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'd 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'd 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'd 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'd 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'd 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 head. "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 sighed 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'd 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 amongst 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…then 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 tree 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.

Owen Paris sighed sadly. "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.

Owen moved a little closer. "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… 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 – and 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've 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'd 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'd 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've 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 sighed heavily 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 sometimes." 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 and 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'd 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 now 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.


Chakotay looked up at the sound of voices, disturbing the silence he'd grown used to. He saw the Doctor speak with Admiral Paris and glanced at B'Elanna beside him. Tom had taken their daughter home but B'Elanna insisted on waiting with her old friend. After a few minutes, the Doctor came towards them, a small smile on his face. As soon as he entered his office, he held up a hand, as the two people before him stood, waiting for whatever he'd tell them. He quickly put their minds at ease. "She'll be fine."

Chakotay heaved a huge sigh of relief and sank back into his chair, seeing B'Elanna relax also, easing herself down into her chair, her hand on her stomach.

The Doctor moved around and sat behind his desk. "She just passed out…everything catching up with her, her physical weakness and the emotion of it all…" Chakotay nodded and waited for the Medic to continue.

"Physically, she's very run down, under nourished, even dehydrated a little. She's most likely exhausted emotionally and physically too. I've healed the cuts on her wrists…"

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment and lowered his head, unable to take the thought of her trying to kill herself. Slowly he looked up again. "I can't believe…"

The Doctor cut him off. "Commander, we'll address that later. I've healed the cuts so there's no trace of them now. There was also some damage to her liver, from the pills she took. I've taken care of that also. It would eventually have made her very ill at the least, possibly even have killed her in time without treatment." Chakotay shook his head, unable to take everything in. "Look, I'm getting the fluids and nutrients which she needs into her now. She was also anaemic and I'm countering that. I've sedated her and I'm going to keep her that way for a few days… Give her body a chance to rest and recover. She will make a full recovery though. You have my word on that."

Chakotay nodded his thanks. "What about the rest…?"

The Doctor spread his hands on the desk before him. "I've spoken with the Admiral. From what he told me, it sounds as if she had a breakdown all right. I've also been in touch with the doctor she saw at her old home. I can't say much at this moment, but it sounds like… I've heard people refer to this as 'letting go' or 'falling apart'. They're laymen's' terms, which in some way describe what she would have felt. I can't speculate too much without speaking with her, but it sounds that way to me. I don't, however, believe we're dealing with a situation which can't be treated. I'm not for a moment suggesting this isn't very serious. She attempted to end her life twice from what I know but…" The Doctor softened his voice, seeing the effect his words were having on Chakotay and B'Elanna. "I believe we've two problems here. A breakdown or burnout and depression. Let me try and explain if I can…" Chakotay fought down his emotions and forced himself to listen.

"I think our main problem now is this depression which would've been brought about as a result of the breakdown, an offshoot of it really. It's a misconception that depression is a character flaw, that it happens to someone who's weak. A lot of peoples' answer is usually to tell the person to pull themselves together, that they're just feeling blue or that they'll get over it. Depression isn't anyone's fault, certainly not the person suffering from it. It's a serious mood disorder which affects a person's ability to function in their everyday activities and it clouds their view of things. There are cases where there isn't a cause for it but in this case, I believe there is. As a result of that, I believe we can treat the captain and successfully come out the other side of this."

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "Just tell me what to do…anything…"

The Doctor smiled. "I believe there are three main ways to go about this. First off, I'll prescribe medication. Understand now that this will be a very temporary treatment. I don't hold too well with using medication for this. This is just to get her over the first hurdle. Secondly, we address the cause of her depression which I'll come to in a minute. Thirdly, we get her away from here to somewhere restful where she can regain her strength and peace of mind. Plenty of rest, sleep and good food." He sat back in his chair.

"Now, I refer to depression and I know I've stated that I believe she suffered a breakdown. First off, I believe she did suffer a breakdown and somehow coped with that on her own over time, which basically is a miracle. I believe she's also suffering from depression as a result of everything that's happened and from the breakdown. The cause… I'm guessing a lot of this but I believe I'm right. I believe it's a combination of guilt and regret, shame, stress, low self-opinion, loneliness, feelings of failure, perhaps now feeling she's not needed anymore. The list is long but the items on it can be addressed and dealt with. I believe she held herself together for a long time. Finally, we get home and now she can let go, or rather her body and mind felt they could let go. Only there was so much to let go of, that it resulted in a flood of emotions too great to deal with all at once."

B'Elanna sat forward now. "Doc, you think you can treat this successfully?"

The Medic nodded. "As I say, medication for now. I'd then recommend counselling, after which the commander takes her away for a while to rest. While there, we can arrange some more counselling if it's still needed. Look, I really believe this is just down to getting her to see that she's not this terrible failure she sees herself to be. I think her depression and resultant attempts at…trying to kill herself… I think this is a case where if the causes are removed, then the problems don't exist anymore. I believe her attempts at suicide where because her defences were so down and because she was going through this breakdown. Under any other circumstances, she wouldn't have tried this. I also think at this stage, the best medicine will be you, Commander…"

Chakotay looked up quickly and smiled sadly. "If she wants me…"

B'Elanna met the Doctor's eyes and smiled. "Oh, I don't think that's going to be an issue, Chakotay…"

Chakotay smiled and nodded, looking from one to the other. "I hope you're right."

While Kathryn remained in hospital, still sedated under the Doctor's care, Chakotay took B'Elanna with him to visit the cabin where Kathryn had been staying. Owen Paris remembered its location, having been there many times with his old friend, Edward Janeway, Kathryn's father. Chakotay and B'Elanna now stood in the centre of the cabin and shook their heads sadly.

"Oh B'El… how in the name of… How did she live here for a year?" He looked around him at the emptiness of the place. "It's so remote here and this…" He swept his hand around the small room. "She couldn't have been in a worse place in her state of mind. How on earth did she survive? She can't have lived here… How did she stand being so alone?"

B'Elanna shook her head sadly. "Thankfully, she failed." She caught herself and looked up into the sad eyes of her old friend. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"

He reached over and rubbed her arm. "It's OK. It's the truth, even if it hurts. Thank the Spirits someone was watching over her." He moved away a little. "She must have felt so alone. Why does she always feel she has to be so alone when so much is there for her? Why is she so afraid to take that chance and just reach out her hand to what's there for her? Look at this place…so cut off…so empty…"

B'Elanna shook her head again, taking in the room around her. "She wasn't thinking straight, Chakotay, you know that. Look, you can't think about that anymore. Just concentrate on being there for her now."

Chakotay blew out a breath. "Oh, I will. I'm going to take charge of her for a change, whether she likes it or not. She's held me off for a long time and been missing from my life for too long. This may sound old-fashioned but I'm going to take control of this relationship now and look after her for a change and God help her if she objects. I've had enough and she's put herself and me through it for too many years. Now it changes…"

B'Elanna smiled and shook her head. "Cave man to the rescue, huh…?"

He smiled for a moment then grew serious again. "Come on…let's just get her belongings and get out of here." They quickly collected Kathryn's few personal possessions, noting how clean the place was, that despite her state of mind, Kathryn had still tried to keep her surroundings neat and tidy. With a last look around them, they left.

Two days later, the Doctor stopped his sedation and let Kathryn regain consciousness. Chakotay's was the first face she saw when she opened her eyes.

"Hey there, welcome back." She looked around her quickly, frightened at not knowing where she was. "Kathryn, you're in the hospital. We had you beamed here when you collapsed at the Memorial Park. Do you remember that?" He watched the pieces fall into place and she nodded slowly.

"Why are you here?" Her voice was hoarse.

"I'm going to take care of you, whether you like it or not." He kept a smile on his face but she saw how serious he was.

"You don't have to…"

He cut her off. "Kathryn, this isn't open to debate. We start fresh here. We're home now and we're together. Just so you know, I'm not married…no kids…no one else… I haven't moved on. I love you and I believe you love me. We get you back on your feet, physically and emotionally, and move on from there. There's nothing else to say on the matter. I'm giving the orders now." She stared at him, lost for words and he smiled at her expression.

"That's a first. Kathryn Janeway with nothing to say…" He grew serious now. "Look, Kathryn, I think you know you suffered a kind of breakdown. I've spoken with the Doctor and he's going to treat you. He'll prescribe some medication for a week or so and then you get some counselling. We address the causes of your depression, because I believe that's what it is, and it's a result of the breakdown or burnout you suffered. This depression has causes, which we deal with. When they're sorted, I believe this depression will lift. We then take a break away from all this…help you regain your strength and start from there. If that's all right with you…" He smiled again now and watched as she struggled to absorb all he'd spoken of.

"Why would you want…?" She shook her head. "I don't understand…"

He took her hand in his. "Kathryn, am I right in thinking that… Well, in your mind…that when we got home…you hoped that you and I could finally…finally be what we were meant to be to each other?" She stared at him a moment then nodded her head, tears coming to her eyes now. He squeezed her hand a little tighter. "And you still want and love me?" She sniffed and nodded again, her tears spilling over now. He lifted his other hand and brushed her hair back a little. "Then that's all that matters. I've waited an extra year for you but I'll wait an eternity if I have to. We have a few problems, which we deal with and then we start. OK?" She nodded again, not trusting herself to speak. "Good. I'm not trying to take over your life but… Kathryn, for the moment, I take charge. Let me be there for you now…" He leaned down and brushed a kiss to her cheek and saw her tears continue to fall and wiped them softly with his finger. "Kathryn, let me take the load now…"

She nodded. "I need that. I'm so tired. I need… I can't… Not anymore. I'm too tired…" Chakotay watched her closely, knowing how hard it was for her to admit defeat. "I need you…need someone to lean on. I'm so tired of being in control or trying to be…being the one in command…trying to hold it all together. I want someone else to make the decisions…and I know that sounds so weak and I'm sorry…"

Chakotay just continued stroking her face. "Kathryn, it's not weak. Besides, you'll get your strength back and take on what you need again. For now, you need to rest and let go…let someone else do it all. Just let me take charge for a while until you're ready again." She nodded and let him hold her then, giving in to everything.

Over the next week, the Doctor kept Kathryn at the hospital and treated her with small doses of anti-depressant drugs. He also brought a counsellor in to see her and Kathryn agreed to the sessions, insisting that Chakotay stay.

Dr. Alan Parker spoke at length about what he felt had been the cause of Kathryn's problems.
"Kathryn, one of your problems is guilt. There's healthy, useful guilt, which is the feeling we have when we do something we rationally judge to be morally wrong or unfair. That's good to have if it keeps us from doing something we really shouldn't do, in the same way that fear can stop us falling into unnecessary danger. Healthy guilt is really just our reasonable, fair conscience. We also have unhealthy guilt, which comes about when we establish unreasonable standards for ourselves or expect perfection and try to accomplish the impossible. We feel responsible when that can't be met and believe we're 'good' only if we faithfully follow all the rules and do more than our duty. This unhealthy guilt does not allow for mistakes and we expect too much of ourselves. In other words, it doesn't allow for us to be human. Does any of this sound familiar to you?"

Kathryn looked at Chakotay a moment and nodded. "Actually all of it does but I had to be…"

Dr. Parker shook his head. "No, Kathryn… You were a great captain and you got your crew home. I know you feel this guilt for the ones who died but you must learn to let that go and let them go. There isn't a human being or any living being who can do the impossible. Let the dead rest in peace." Kathryn nodded but didn't look convinced.

"Kathryn, you'll learn to accept this in time but you have to work at it. I think you're also suffering from survivor guilt and it's more common than you think. Why did you survive when they didn't…all of that. We'll deal with this." He sat forward in his chair.

"I think you also have shame, shame in the sense of self-disapproval, where you consider yourself inexcusably inadequate or defective in some way. I know it won't matter to you what other people tell you, that they disagree with you. You'll see it this way and no other way. You need counselling now to avoid this destructive negative self-evaluation. Look, excessive guilt and shame cause terrible suffering. They cause suffering to you and those around you who love you." He looked briefly at Chakotay. "All of this was bearing down on your shoulders for a long time and suddenly you sagged under the weight. Now you need to let go of that weight and you'll be able to stand again. Let go of the guilt, Kathryn. You've nothing to feel guilty about. Real guilt is feeling badly about something you did that was morally wrong, like if you'd taken up a phaser and killed someone in cold blood. Neurotic guilt, which is what you have, is when you haven't done anything wrong. Nothing you did warrants the guilt you feel. Kathryn, I know the type of person you are. I can see it in you. I bet you have this mask you use to cover your feelings, to hide what you feel, hide who you are…"

Kathryn smiled sadly. "It hurts admitting that. I did it for so long… had to… As a captain…"

Alan interrupted her. "Kathryn, that's fine when you're on duty. When you're off duty though, the captain has to go away into her box and let Kathryn come out. I know out there in the Delta Quadrant, you were more often on duty than off, but you're home now. When you shut your real self off like that, it's…well, I've once heard it called 'soul murder', because you kill or disown a real part of you and start hiding all of you behind that mask, fearing this false failure, that you see there, will be found out. Kathryn, you failed at nothing. You're the only one who needs convincing of that." He stood now and fetched a glass of water for himself then sat again.

"Kathryn, you had a hole in your soul. All those feelings, your guilt, shame, feeling you failed, the stress of it all, how tired you must have been… It was a burnout…the house of cards falling down because too much was pressing down on it. The body just runs out of energy. I also feel there was some element of feeling you had nothing more to work for, that your job was done. Kathryn, our job on this earth is never done." Chakotay sat back and remained silent as he watched Kathryn digest all the counsellor was telling her.

"Do you really think I can come through this?" She looked up at the counsellor hopefully.

He smiled and nodded. "I know you can. Kathryn, I'll be honest with you. It's a credit to the strength of you that you came through this year. You suffered a breakdown or burnout, whatever term you prefer, and you went off alone. I know you almost failed to survive it twice…" Kathryn dropped her head. "Kathryn, you've nothing to be embarrassed about. You have to accept that." Slowly she looked back up. "Look, I personally think it's a miracle that you came through this the way you did, that you survived it. I believe you'd even started on the road to recovery. Attending the memorial service showed that. If that doesn't speak to you of how strong a person you are, then nothing will. You feel guilt for crimes you never committed and you've served one hell of a punishment for that. Now let it go and take your life back." He reached over and grasped her hand.

"Kathryn, think about the good you did out there, getting them all home, and stop concentrating on what wasn't achieved, which was the impossible. I checked you out, you know." Kathryn frowned at him now and he smiled. "I checked it. There are 140 people alive today because of you. In the years to come, that number will increase and so on through the generations. Someday, there'll be thousands alive because of you." He watched her absorb this and slowly she nodded.

"I never thought about that…"

He shook his head. "Well, think about it now. Another thing to think about…" She looked up at him. "Another symptom if you like… I bet you've been very lonely for a long time." Kathryn's face grew very serious and she nodded slowly. "Let me guess…didn't feel you had any right to happiness?" She looked at him but said nothing, confirming his words. He smiled again and pointed to Chakotay. "From what I understand, the answer to that is sitting here beside you." Chakotay just smiled and Kathryn looked to him now, meeting his eyes.

"I've hurt him so much over the years. He deserves better…"

Chakotay went to speak but Alan beat him to it.

"Kathryn, I believe people deserve what they want. He obviously wants you. Who are you to deny the man what he wants most? Besides, he strikes me as a sane and intelligent man. Don't you think he can make up his own mind and judge what's right and good for him?"

Kathryn just smiled and shook her head. "Fancy words…" When she looked at Alan again, he was serious.

"The truth, Kathryn. I don't deal in fantasies, only the facts. I think you've been lonely for a long time. Too long. Loneliness is more than being alone you know. Most of us need some solitude from time to time. Real loneliness is missing and longing for some kind of human interaction, even in a crowded room. It's missing one particular person or a kind of social interaction, the emotional intimacy in a relationship, even the physical side of that relationship. I believe you had some form of social loneliness but mostly you suffered a deep emotional loneliness and that's the worst kind. We all need someone, Kathryn, some one particular person to share our soul with. I believe you have that. You just have to reach out and take it. I know in your position, you had to stand back, that your circumstances forced you to be alone but you carried it too far, outside of your duty hours." He let her digest this a moment.

"I think you also felt your work was done when you got home. All that pressure lifted off you and you let go. I think that would have happened anyway because of how it was for you out there. How it was dealt with here… well, you put that behind you now. Let it go, Kathryn. Just one thing though. Take the lessons learned from it and use them now. You felt helpless and hopeless then. That's gone now. Let yourself start today, a fresh start with a clean slate and go from there." He sat forward again and took her hand.

"This is it, Kathryn. Let go of the guilt and shame. You did a wonderful job and got them home. That job is done now. Now it's time for Kathryn. Regret for the past, for things we did can be tempered by time. It's the regret for the things we didn't do that can be inconsolable. Don't ever arrive at that place, Kathryn. It's your time now. I'll see you a few more times and then I want you to take that man there and go away somewhere quiet and rest. Eat all you want, sleep late, read, make love in the sand, do whatever pleases you. Find Kathryn again because the captain's work is successfully completed. For the future? Well, you worry about that in the future. I know for a while there you maybe felt you had no purpose. Well, now you have. Kathryn, go live your life." Kathryn had tears streaming down her face now, incapable of speaking so she just nodded and squeezed Alan's hand in return. He stood slowly and leaned down and kissed her on the head.

"Welcome home, Kathryn. Your life awaits and so does love." Without another word, he left the room.

Kathryn felt Chakotay's hand on hers and looked up into his smiling face. He opened his arms and she fell into them, into the safe harbour she'd longed for. He held her and rocked her for over an hour as she cried it all out, whispering softly to her.

Two months later, Alan Parker said goodbye to Kathryn and sent her on her way with his blessing. She knew the rest was up to her now. She'd been staying at Chakotay's house and when she arrived back, he had their clothes packed and waiting.

"Alan called. He said I was to take you away today and not to come back for a month. I've arranged everything with work so I'm all yours. If you want me that is…"

She smiled and hugged him. "I want you all right…"

He kissed the top of her head. "I was hoping you'd say that because I wasn't in the mood to unpack again." He smiled down at her and kissed the tip of her nose. "Come on then, woman. The sea and sand awaits…"

For the first week of their time away, Kathryn and Chakotay spent their days sleeping late and eating when they were hungry. They spent hours exploring the beach on the small island Owen Paris had recommended, and in the evenings, they just lay together, watching the sun sink over the ocean, content with only each other for company.

As they entered the second week, Kathryn slowly opened up to Chakotay and spoke of her time away from him.

"I know you heard some of this…when I spoke with Owen that day…" She was lying back against him on the beach, his back against a large palm tree. "Some of it, I don't even remember…" He pulled her tightly to him, remaining quiet, letting her tell him what she wanted.

"That day… I remember hearing about the pardons and I was… I was so happy and I went to find you. I saw you with B'Elanna and Tom, Harry, Tuvok…all of you there. Everyone looked so happy…all smiling…shouting…hugging… I can't explain it. One minute I was moving towards you all and the next… I remember standing behind a pillar…just watching you all and suddenly I felt…felt I had no part of it…no right to be there. I looked at all the faces there…smiling and happy…but all I saw was… I saw only the faces which weren't there… I could almost see them standing before me…watching me…accusing me…" Chakotay stroked her arm.

"It was like I…something inside me just started unravelling…was coming apart and your voices faded…and there was this buzzing in my ears… I started shaking…couldn't control it. I remember looking at my hands…saw them shaking… I felt rooted to the floor…pressed tight back against the pillar. I just couldn't move. My vision seemed blurred and I couldn't breathe properly…like there was no air. I remember a pain in my chest…bad… I thought for a minute I was having a heart attack but I couldn't speak or call out. I remember feeling so dizzy then…everything swimming before me and I actually felt the blood drain from my face as if it was pouring out of me somewhere. I couldn't think. Nothing made sense. I couldn't even remember my own name for a moment. I just panicked. It seemed to get dark for a minute and then light again… I don't know." She ran a finger through the soft sand, watching the patterns it made.

"Finally, I felt able to move but I didn't know where. I don't remember getting home…just being there…standing looking at the house from a distance. And I saw children in the garden…a family living there now…and I just cried…couldn't stop. It seemed to mock me…telling me what I'd never have or something. I don't know. Then I walked…and I don't know where or how far but suddenly I was tired and I sat down in this field. It seemed familiar and yet just like all the others. I just sat and cried…and time lost any meaning. It was night and then it was day…and I was cold…but still crying…" She wiped at her face.

"I somehow got back and then I was sitting with my old doctor…still crying mind you…" She laughed a little but the sound was hollow. "He listened and I don't know what I talked about…but I still cried…couldn't stop that. I remember him pressing a hypo to my neck and I felt a little better. He gave me others…said something about a breakdown and needing rest…gave me more hypos…" She stopped a moment. "I don't remember what I did with them." She shook her head. "I remember I laughed when he said to rest. I suddenly found that so funny and I don't know why. I think I thanked him…I'm sure I did. Then I went back to Headquarters but I don't remember how." She twisted a little in Chakotay's arms now and settled herself again.

"I got back there and asked about you and about the others. Some Ensign on duty told me you'd gone and he didn't know where…just said you'd left and they didn't expect you back. He told me they were all gone. That's what I remember most…those words…that you'd 'left'…and they'd 'all gone'… It seemed all I could hear. I remember walking away and the place was empty. I walked again…don't know where… Suddenly I remembered about the cabin although where that thought came from, I'll never know. I do know I went back to Headquarters and collected my things and then I was at the cabin." She looked up at him and smiled sadly.

"I don't know about my time there. Sometimes it feels like years…then again it could be days or weeks. It's all blurred in together. A lot of the time I just slept…didn't get up for days, I think… There was a small replicator there and I used that. I didn't eat too much… And there was a well there…fresh water. I think I lived on that mostly…" She shook her head at the thoughts.

"When I didn't sleep, I sat and stared off at nothing. I think I could do that for hours…maybe days at a time. Nights were… I slept badly…dreams…nightmares…all their faces…some I never even knew…imagined them probably. I never felt hungry but I ate sometimes…must have… And I missed you…so much…" Her last words shook Chakotay and he pulled her tighter against him.

"Oh Kathryn…I missed you so much…" She leaned her head back against him.

"I blamed myself for you leaving…or what I thought was you leaving. I blamed myself for everything. I went through it all…every single thing I could think of and I blamed myself. I remember thinking that if someone broke a fingernail in China, it was my fault…" She tried to laugh but felt her tears fall instead. Chakotay rubbed a hand across her stomach and she stroked his hand.

"I remember that night though…" She felt Chakotay tense, knowing what was coming. "I'm sorry…maybe I shouldn't…"

He kissed the side of her head. "Tell me, love…let it all out…"

She nodded and continued, her hand still stroking his. "I don't remember actually getting the knife…only holding it and looking at my wrists. I felt nothing…totally empty inside. I vaguely remember thinking that you'd hate me for what I was going to do but that thought slipped away and I saw myself cutting, just drawing the knife across and then blood. I only have bits of images of it all…like it seemed much later and I was still looking at my wrists but there didn't seem to be enough blood. So I cut again…then again…but I didn't seem to bleed. I have a memory of later on…tying something around my wrists and then…I think I passed out or something. Next morning, I woke up on the floor. I was cold…stiff all over… but I remembered. That came to me immediately. I looked at my wrists and I'd tied them, but there was only a little blood on the bandages. I took them off…looked at the cuts… I remember thinking how ugly they looked and then I cried…cried for hours…" She picked up handfuls of sand and watched as it flowed through her fingers.

"Time blurs again after that …but the scars were there…always reminding me…and I began to think of it more and more as a failure. To me it was another failure… something else I did wrong. And I couldn't get rid of them…had no dermal regenerator. I decided to leave them anyway…a reminder…" She gazed out at the blueness of the ocean and was quiet for a while. Chakotay didn't push her.

"I don't know how long later…days or weeks…maybe a month or two… I don't know. I felt that way again." His arm tightened around her a little. "I replicated some alcohol and pills. How I was able to think clearly enough, I don't know. Anyway, I drank for a while, then took the pills… I know at some stage I got sick…was disgusted at myself…the mess… but I just kept drinking, I guess until I passed out. Then it was like before. I woke up and it was morning. It was different though. I saw where I'd been sick and I was so…disgusted at myself…the mess I was in…the smell… I remember trying to stand… I'm sorry, Chakotay… I'm…this isn't very nice…"

He nuzzled against her neck. "Kathryn…I love you…"

She closed her eyes, drawing the deepest strength from his words. "I…I…found…that I'd…apart from being sick… I'd…I'd wet myself…" Chakotay felt her embarrassment and just kissed her. "I was so… I hated myself so much at that moment…and I…it was the lowest… For a moment I just wanted to die…try again and get it right. I hated myself that much. Something though…I don't know what… Something changed in me… and I got up and cleaned myself. I was dizzy…had trouble standing. I went outside and walked down to the river…just walked straight in. It was so cold, and for a moment…just one moment…I wanted to sink down into it and stay there…not come back up. I looked around…heard birds singing…the sun was out…it was… Suddenly I just thought of New Earth. I don't know where it came from… and I started crying again. I was standing in this river…washing myself as best I could and crying my eyes out. When I think about it now… God, I don't know what I must have looked like…" She licked her lips then bit at her finger.

"I eventually crawled out and just lay on the bank in the sun and kept crying. Something changed though and I still don't know what. I think I'd seen myself at my worst possible and knew it could only get better or something. I don't know. Slowly then I tried a little harder…tried to eat a little more…keep myself cleaner…tidier…neater… I just lived day to day. And then I actually went onto the local town one day and just walked around. I made myself do that more often then and that's how I saw news of the one year Memorial service. It was the only way I knew how much time had passed. I actually had to ask someone for the date and found out the service was the following week." She looked up at him now.

"I was afraid to go…really I was. I was so sure they'd all hate me…at the least be hurt. And then… I made myself go…knew I owed it to them…at least those I left behind. I stood behind that tree and watched you all. I saw you almost immediately and all I wanted was to run to you but… I was sure you'd moved on…met someone…and I saw Tom and B'Elanna…little Emma and… Oh God, I just cried again…couldn't stop again…and I saw B'Elanna was pregnant and… I just stood there hidden and listened and I saw all their faces in my mind as the names were read out…and then…well, you know the rest…"

Chakotay was too choked up to speak and just hugged her to him for a long time. Finally, he spoke.

"I couldn't understand why you didn't come when the pardons were handed down." She was turned away from him, her back still to his chest. "I looked everywhere and I asked and they said you'd left. Same thing you got. I saw how hurt they all looked but I think they also tried to understand… tried to think the best. Anyway, I went home with Tom and B'Elanna but I left messages for you that I'd gone there. I went back next day and they said you'd been back but had taken all your stuff and just left. I'll be honest…it hurt like hell. Kathryn…" She turned to him now. "Kathryn, I'm sorry…for thinking anything else…"

She reached her hand up and stroked his face. "Chakotay, what else could you have thought…?"

He shook his head, not wanting her understanding. "Kathryn, I just heard that you'd taken your personal belongings and had left. I never stopped to think that something could be wrong. God, if you'd…and I'd never have known…" It was suddenly too much for him and he broke down and cried.

Kathryn twisted around, getting to her knees now and hugged him. "I'm so sorry, Chakotay…forgive me please… I'm so sorry…"

He clung to her. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't ever have believed you'd just walk away like that. Forgive me…" They clung to each other for a long time, as the light sea breeze washed over them, bringing with it a healing, and as the sun set, they settled into a peace with each other, whispering quietly in the still evening.

Chakotay awoke with a start sometime during the night, a chill in his bones now. Kathryn was nestled into him and he eased himself away from her then lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the beach house. She stirred slightly and murmured something he couldn't make out. Gently he eased her onto the bed, slipping her shoes off and climbing in beside her. She moved now and reached for him, still asleep, and he enfolded her in his arms, just watching her sleeping face. They shared this bed but hadn't gone any further than kissing and holding each other each night and neither of them seemed in any hurry. He watched her a little longer, feeling his eyes grow heavy until he joined her in sleep.

It was mid-afternoon before they woke and Kathryn stretched against him, bringing him back to the land of the living.

"Morning…" She smiled gently at him. "How did we get here?"

He pulled the blanket up over her. "It's afternoon, actually. Well, I think so anyway. I woke during the night. We were both cold. I carried you back."

She snuggled against him. "My hero…" She tried to hide a yawn and then laughed. "I'm starving…"

He pulled from her arms, hating to leave her warm body and laughed. "I'll have…whatever meal it is…on the table in a few minutes."

She smiled softly at him and reached a hand out to him. He sat back on the bed and smiled down at her as he watched her face grow serious. "Chakotay, everything I told you… You're OK with that? I mean…"

His own face grew serious now and he lay back down beside her. "Kathryn, I love you. I'll keep saying that until you get the message. I'm just so sorry you went through all that, that I wasn't there for you. That's what I find hard about this…that I let you down."

She pressed a finger to his lips. "Please, Chakotay…you've never ever let me down. What I've learned from all this, mainly from Alan Parker, is acceptance of what can't be changed. It happened. It's over. Now is now and the only thing that's important. I just wanted to know that you didn't think less of me or…"

His lips covered hers, cutting off anything else she was going to say. "Acceptance, Kathryn. Isn't that what you said? Now is all that matters. We both let go of any guilt that's there. What we have now is all that's important. That and I love you." He saw tears in her eyes.

"I love you too, Chakotay. I love you so much." She pulled him down to her and held tightly to him. "I love you."

As the sun set that evening, they sat on the porch and drank a bottle of wine. Kathryn lay back against Chakotay, her favourite place now.

"What did you do…after…?" Her voice was soft. Chakotay ran a finger along the contour of her ear and Kathryn turned to look at him, breaking the contact, disguising the fact that he'd been creating long forgotten feelings in her. He didn't seem to notice.

"I just took some time first. I didn't do much. I looked for a house…" He absent-mindedly played with her hair now. "They offered me a Commission but I held them off. I didn't want that…not without…" He looked down at her and smiled. "Not without you. It just wouldn't be the same. I'd have hated it."

She returned his smile, enjoying the feel of his fingers through her hair. "What did you do then…?"

He shrugged. "Spent a few months on the house…getting it the way I wanted. I kept looking for you…all the crew were keeping an eye out. We kept in touch so if one person saw you, the others would be told. I tried anywhere and everywhere…but nothing. I left word all over the place, messages for you… I never gave up but I eased off. I think I accepted that you wanted it that way. Finally, I took a teaching post at the Academy. It seems I have a lot to offer the next generation of Starfleet." He looked out over the ocean. "I enjoy it more than I thought I would actually. I can't imagine doing anything else now." One hand still played with Kathryn's hair. The other had returned to her ear, the back of his finger tracing lazily along the edge, the top of his finger stroking just behind her ear, Kathryn's most sensitive spot.

Chakotay continued to stare out at the water for a few moments before he realized Kathryn hadn't spoken for a few minutes now. He looked down and caught his breath. Her head was slightly back, her eyes closed and she was breathing shallowly through her mouth, which was slightly open. He stared at her, mesmerized by the sight before him. He continued moving his finger around her ear and neck for a moment and just watched her, then stilled his hand. "Shall I continue?"

Her eyes flew open and he smiled at the embarrassed look on her face. "Oh God, Chakotay… I'm sorry…"

He didn't understand her reaction. "Kathryn, please don't ever be embarrassed in front of me. If that was relaxing you…" He frowned as she lowered her head quickly. "Kathryn?" He leaned forward so he could see her face better and tilted her chin up. "Kathryn, please…" He saw that she was actually blushing. "What?"

"It's…I wasn't…well, I was…relaxed…but I was…it was…" She lowered her eyes but he didn't remove his hand from her chin.


She met his eyes and smiled shyly. "It was… I'd forgotten how it felt… that feeling…"

Suddenly he understood and holding her eyes, he moved his hand from her chin, back to her neck, letting his fingers trail over a wider area now. He heard a faint sound from the back of her throat. "Kathryn… May I…?" He stopped his movements now and waited. His eyes asked the question and hers answered him.

She nodded slowly. "Please…" It struck her how desperate she sounded and she smiled softly at him. "I love you…want you…need you…"

His eyes holding hers spoke volumes. "I love you, Kathryn. I want you so much. Are you sure about this? There's no hurry…"

Kathryn surprised herself with her answer. "I'm sure. More than sure. And if you keep looking at me like that, there is a hurry…"

His face broke into a wide smile. "Like that, is it? Well, let's see what we can do about that…"

He turned her slightly and pulled her up into his lap so she was sitting sideways. He slipped one hand into her hair again, cradling the back of her head and stared deeply into her eyes before lowering his gaze to her mouth. Slowly he moved in, the tension almost electric between them. As his mouth covered hers, Kathryn felt weak as feelings stirred deeply inside her, memories of so long ago, the way it felt to be kissed in just this way, as a prelude to so much more. His lips covered hers, his tongue gently teasing, seeking entrance to the warm cavern of her mouth and she gladly welcomed him in. The pressure of his mouth pushed her head back a little but his hand on the back of her head, held her to him.

Kathryn groaned loudly and gripped onto him as his tongue swept her mouth and she joined in the experience, tasting him deeply. It felt like a first kiss, with the knowledge of what was to follow and Kathryn slipped her fingers through his hair, holding him to her. She felt his other hand on her waist now, gently stroking as it made its slow journey upwards before cupping her breast, his thumb seeking her nipple through her light blouse, finding it already erect and awaiting his attention. Kathryn moaned louder now and pressed her breast into his hand, seeking firmer contact as she used her other hand to work on the buttons of his shirt.

Chakotay eased out of the kiss slowly and trailed his lips along her jaw then down her neck and behind her ear. Kathryn's head fell back as he once more visited the spot which had started all this. She became aware of his hand leaving her breast now and almost cried out until she felt her blouse opening, the cool evening air gently dancing over her skin as he exposed it inch by inch. She felt the soft fabric fall away, exposing her breasts fully to his eyes for the first time and she heard his sharp intake of breath.

"Oh God, Kathryn…you're so beautiful. Thank you for this gift." She lifted her head only to see the top of his as he lowered his mouth and took the tip of one breast into it, gently suckling there, his tongue flicking across the nipple. Kathryn's head fell back again as the feelings washed over her and she realized suddenly that they weren't long forgotten after all. They were new, never before experienced like this. She felt herself slide down a little between his legs and then his hand was lifting the hem of her skirt, his fingers slowly walking up her thighs, teasing gently, drawing little circles. Kathryn felt her breathing become ragged as he stroked nearer and nearer to her core, the feelings already there signalling the onset of something so long denied. Her hands gripped his head to her breasts as his finger slipped under the elastic of her panties, barely touching but already feeling her wetness. He eased his hand out and slipped her panties down her thighs a little, his hand returning between her legs to cup her bottom, one finger tracing lightly over her rear entrance. Kathryn cried out as his arm made contact with her heat and he rocked her gently against him. It was more than enough to bring Kathryn to her first orgasm and she cried out, her body shuddering against him before she fell limp in his arms.

Chakotay gave her a few minutes then gently lifted her to him, cradling her body against his chest as he stroked her back and arms. Her lips now took over as she licked and nibbled her way from his neck, down his chest, opening the rest of the buttons neglected earlier. He eased her from his lap and stood, sweeping her into his arms before carrying her indoors.

Kathryn's mouth and hands were already busy, causing Chakotay to bang into the table, almost dropping his precious bundle. Kathryn giggled and pulled from his arms, sitting on the table now. She pulled him to her, pulling the shirt from his body, her eyes drinking in the sight of his broad chest, the muscles rippling under her fingers. She reached up and pulled his head down for another taste, her hands moving down now to fight with the fastener of his trousers. Chakotay's hands on hers stilled her and he finished what she'd started, quickly ridding himself of the material which held him prisoner. As he kicked his trousers away, Kathryn's hands were already pushing his briefs down his thighs and they earned the same fate.

Kathryn pulled back now and studied the man before her, her eyes speaking for her as they grew wider. She reached her hand out and stroked the proud erect product of manhood before her, Chakotay tensing at her touch as desire shot through him. Suddenly Kathryn slid from the table and fell to her knees before him, her tongue coming out immediately to taste him. Chakotay gripped her shoulders, fighting for any control he could find, especially when he felt her mouth close over him, taking almost his entire length in as her tongue played over the ridges it found there. Chakotay felt his knees start to give and quickly pulled her up. He stopped suddenly to look at her face, the love and desire there almost stopping his breath. Without a moment's hesitation, he lifted her back onto the table, peeled her panties off then spread her legs and pulled her towards him.

Kathryn wound her arms around him, her ankles locking behind his back. Her voice was husky when she spoke. "We have all the time we need later. You need this now." She pulled her arms from around his neck and reached down, positioned him against her centre then leaned back over the table, staring up at him, her skirt up round her waist. She loosened her ankles and raised her hands above her head, offering everything she had to him, the gesture of love and trust not lost on Chakotay. He almost wanted to cry as he fixed the image before him in his mind. His body demanded his attention then and he gripped her hips firmly, his rigid shaft poised at her entrance. Mindful of how long it had been for her, he eased his way in, watching the play of emotions cross her face, none of them showing discomfort. Finally, he was sheathed to the hilt and he stopped a moment, savouring the feel of being imbedded inside her for the first time.

Chakotay watched Kathryn raise her hips a little, trying to draw him in even deeper and he started to thrust, slowly at first, increasing his pace then as he listened to her panting as she lay spread out before him. Her feet pressed against his buttocks, pulling him against her as much as she could, and he watched a flush possess her skin as she tried to meet his thrusts. He felt it coming now, from her also and gripped her hips a little tighter, increasing his speed as he felt her inner muscles start to spasm. He felt himself start to lose control and forced himself to hold on, determined that she join him. And then he felt it, as she clamped down tightly onto his pounding member and a wail erupted from her, her head thrown back, her hands searching for anything to grip. He let go of her hips and grabbed her hands, pulling her towards him now as he exploded inside her, her name tearing from his lips before he fell over her, totally spent.

They finally made it to the bed, surfacing only to eat occasionally and use the bathroom over the next two days. Eventually they forced themselves onto the porch and sat watching the sunset.

"This is where it all this started, you know…" Kathryn teased him.

He nuzzled against her neck. "Don't I just know it…" He grew serious for a moment. "Kathryn, you don't regret any of this, do you? I mean coming here with me… joining like we have…?"

Kathryn felt tears fill her eyes. "No…not a one second." She smiled now. "I like that…'joining'…I like that a lot."

He kissed her softly. "It's what it was…us joining together…in all but the legal sense…" He studied her a moment. "Although I'd love that too…"

Kathryn studied his face. "Are you proposing?"

He nodded. "If you'll have me. I never want to let you go, Kathryn. I know making it legal doesn't change anything. I love you with or without marriage but I'd prefer… I want you to be my wife."

Kathryn was too choked up to answer. She nodded tearfully and finally managed a few words. "Yes, Chakotay. I'll marry you…be your wife forever."

He hugged her close to him. "I can't wait…and I want loads of kids…"

Kathryn pulled back quickly, an unreadable look on her face. "Are you sure?"

He frowned now, suddenly worried. "I'd love them, but if you…"

Kathryn smiled now and blew out a breath. "It's OK. It's just… Suddenly you mentioned kids and I just remembered…" She looked embarrassed. "Well, it's been so long for me. I mean you know that…" He frowned and smiled at the same time. Kathryn just shook her head. "It's just that… Well it's just struck me… You might get them sooner than you think. I haven't…well, haven't exactly had any need to think about…"

Chakotay laughed now, suddenly understanding. "You haven't had your boosters in years, you mean…?" She nodded and smiled.

Chakotay shook his own head. "I haven't either…never thought… I should have thought…asked you… I'm sorry, Kathryn…that wasn't right of me."

She brushed her lips to his. "Neither of us thought about that. We got too caught up in the moment, I'm happy to say…and what a moment… Guess we just wait and see then…"

He played with the collar of her dress. "What are our chances…time wise…?"

She thought a moment. "I'm right in the middle. Pretty good I'd say…time wise…" She sobered a moment. "I'm not as young as I used to be though, Chakotay. We might have some problems."

He kissed her hand. "Let's not worry about that now. We'll wait and see."

She smiled and snuggled down into his arms. "And in the meantime…get all the practice we can…" They just managed to make it to the bed this time.

Just over two weeks later, when Kathryn was two days late, she guessed, always being regular with her periods. On the third day, she scanned herself and smiled as she read the results. She turned to find Chakotay standing in the doorway, watching her, his eyes searching hers.


Kathryn nodded, feeling in a daze and handed the small tricorder to him. He looked down at it and smiled. She smiled at the expression on his face. "Who's a clever boy then…?"

He looked up and smirked. "Piece of cake. I had a great partner."

Kathryn laughed with him then grew serious. "I can't believe it happened so quickly. Most people try for a few months at least."

He reached for her and pulled her to him. "Kathryn, we deserve something working right for us. We've earned this."

Kathryn pulled back a little and looked at him. "Chakotay, it's early days yet. Let's just…"

He pulled her back to him. "I know, love. We'll take this one day at a time."

When they returned home, they announced their wedding plans but made no mention of the baby, preferring to wait until they felt it was safer.

They married a month later and moved into Chakotay's house, Kathryn taking a desk job with Starfleet and lecturing when asked. With Starfleet's permission, some of her lectures and talks were about her breakdown. She felt it was important not to hide what had happened to her and hoped that by being open about it, she could remove some of the stigma attached to it, perhaps making it more acceptable and easier for someone else later on, if they went through the same experience.

When Kathryn was three months into her pregnancy, they began decorating a nursery and when she reached four months, they made their announcement. Kathryn was small and wasn't showing much but to their shock, no one was really surprised.

B'Elanna almost snorted. "I knew that when you came back from your holiday." She laughed at the look on Kathryn's face. "Kathryn, it was written all over you. I've been there twice now." She rocked baby Connor at her feet, and smiled at them both. "I think we all sussed that. Maybe the others didn't catch on as early as I did but they certainly knew within the last month or two."

Chakotay shook his head. "Never could keep anything from this lot…" He hugged his wife.

Starfleet held a service at the Memorial on the second anniversary of Voyager's return and this time, it was Kathryn who sat beside Chakotay swollen with child. She looked up at him and read his thoughts and took his hand in hers. "I can't believe it either…"

He squeezed her hand tightly and nodded. "Mention this moment in one of your talks. If this isn't proof of what hope there can be…"

She nodded and smiled. Kathryn often worked with Alan Parker now, helping him with some of his patients, ones who'd suffered similar breakdowns or burnouts. Seeing what she'd come through and how far she'd come, gave them something to work towards and let them see that there could be light at the end of the dark tunnel they felt themselves to be in.

Kathryn took a moment to look around her, at all the faces filling the park and let her mind wander back a year. The same faces were here but this time she sat amongst them, a part of their family. She glanced briefly up at the tree, the one she'd hidden behind a year ago and almost shuddered, as she remembered how bad life had been then. She stroked her stomach and felt a slight kick and smiled to herself. She shifted a little in her chair to ease the ache in her back, knowing only too well what it was. She glanced at her husband beside her, as he smiled at people and used the moment to try and get more comfortable without him noticing. She knew she was starting labour but didn't want to leave yet. Admiral Paris had asked her to place a wreath of poppies at the bottom of the Memorial during the ceremony and Kathryn was determined to carry out the task, feeling she owed it to the living this time. She'd finally made her peace with the dead.

Chakotay took her hand as the ceremony began and they listened to Owen Paris speak of the past two years.

"I have your captain's permission to speak of this. I know in theory she's your former captain but in practice, she'll always be 'Captain'. We all know now that she was, in fact, here with us last year and we know what happened to her. She's made no secret of this in the hope that it will help others. This year, she's amongst us, in the bosom of her family where she belongs, about to welcome another member to that family. This year, the family is complete. Welcome home, Captain." Kathryn didn't try and hide her tears as everyone turned and smiled at her.

Chakotay helped her to her feet when the time came to lay the wreath. She kept hold of his hand and brought him with her, needing to lean on him a little. Together they placed the flowers and then stood back in silent honour of those forever remembered.

When the ceremony was over, almost everyone came over to their former captain to say a few words, many of them relatives of the deceased, each thanking her for looking after their loved ones while they were in her care and for being there for them at the end. Kathryn once more didn't even attempt to hide her tears. Finally, they were left with just B'Elanna and Tom as they made their way slowly back towards Headquarters.

Chakotay slipped an arm around his wife. "Come on, Kathryn. Let's get you to the hospital." She stopped quickly and stared up at him. "What? Didn't think I'd notice? You've been in labour for hours."

She managed a smile and then shook her head. "No… It's just backache…"

B'Elanna came up behind her. "And we know what that means. God, I certainly remember what it means…" She took Kathryn's other arm and moved slowly with her.

Kathryn suddenly stopped, halting them both and stared down at her feet. Her dress was soaked. "Oh… I guess…"

Chakotay just shook his head. "Never listens to me…" He called for an emergency beam out.

Twenty hours later, Karla Hope Janeway entered the world, making sure by her cries that everyone knew it too. Kathryn was exhausted but the sight of her daughter gave her a second wind. Chakotay stood back a moment and let his mind and heart take a holoimage of the sight before him as his wife lifted their daughter to her breast and let her suckle contentedly there. He moved over to her as she grimaced.

"Does it hurt much, love?"

She looked up at him. "A bit. I'll get used to it. It's a good hurt actually, and nothing compared to what it took to get her here."

Chakotay smiled softly and sat down, his finger stroking the tiny hands. "She's so beautiful…just like her mother. Thank you, love. Thank you for giving her to us." He met her eyes and saw her tears.

"Thank you. Not just for her but… God, Chakotay…you know what I mean. From there to here… for everything." He didn't need to answer her. His eyes said it all for him.