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Summary: Chakotay and Voyager’s former crew gather for a Memorial Service on
the first anniversary of their return to Earth, but one face is absent,
unseen now for almost a year. Unable to stay away however, Kathryn
hides and observes them all, unaware that she has been spotted. Only
now can Chakotay finally discover the reason for her absence from
all their lives.
AND IN THE FIELDS THE POPPIES GROW.
By KAT LADY.
Chakotay looked up at the sound of voices, disturbing the silence he had 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 would 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 are 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 are 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 have 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 have 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 is 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 is a serious mood disorder which affects a person’s ability to function in their every day 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 has 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 would 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 God 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.
“Thank God 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 God someone was watching over her…” He moved away now.
“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 will 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 will 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. It causes 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 have nothing to feel guilty about. Real guilt is feeling badly about something you did that was morally wrong, like if you had 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 Doctor 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 have 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 had 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. Some day, there will 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 now 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 had 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 had 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…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…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… 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…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…the place was empty… I walked again…don’t know where… Suddenly I remembered about the cabin… 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… I used that… didn’t eat too much… 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… went through it all…every single thing I could think of…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…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 had 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… and then 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…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…and 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…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… oh 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 some time 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 rejoined 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 have 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 had been creating long forgotten feelings in her. He didn’t seem to notice.
“I just took some time first…didn’t do much…looked for a house…” He absent-mindedly played with her hair now. “They offered me a Commission but I held them off…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 guess 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 suddenly 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.
“Kathryn…?” 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…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 had 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 and 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 now. 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, a look of shock 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…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.
“Yes?” She nodded, feeling in a daze and handed the small tricorder to him. He looked down at it and smiled. Kathryn 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 laughed.
“I knew that when you came back from your holiday…” She laughed again 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 had suffered similar breakdowns or burnouts. Seeing what she had come through and how far she had 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 among them, a part of their family. She glanced briefly up at the tree, the one she had 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 this to the living this time. She had 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 has made no secret of this in the hope that it will help others. This year, she’s among 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, 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.
RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.
RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.