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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          R - For some violence.

Summary:     Voyager is boarded and the crew held by an alien race seeking their

                      technology.  Kathryn is separated from her Senior Officers and tortured    

                      for information, the crew forced to listen to her screams.  Rescue comes

                      and as Chakotay sits with a badly injured and drugged Kathryn waiting

                      for the Doctor, she finally tells him she loves him, leaving him unsure

                      if she was aware of her words.  The battles now, both emotional and

                      physical, have only just begun.





Some part of Kathryn's mind longed for the fire to return, rather than face the mental agony she was enduring now.  Images and horrors beyond anything stormed her mind, mentally assaulting her.  Terrors she had lived through and imagined horrors rushed at her, crowding her senses.  Creatures crawled from the walls and advanced on her, slimy bodies with bulging eyes, fangs dripping with venom, as they slithered over her, biting at her.  She vaguely heard her own cries and screams as the nightmare continued, some of the images blurring with memories of her own, the creatures attacking those she loved as they stood before her, screaming at her to help them, to stop the torture. 

Chakotay’s face came to her, flames erupting from his skin, as he begged her to help him, to end his pain.  Her mother and father, her sister, all those she had ever cared for, came and begged her to stop the agony.  She relived the deaths of her father and Justin, finding herself in the shuttle with them.  She saw her crew, those alive now, consumed in flames, pleading with her to save them.  She saw those who had died, writhing in the fires of hell, screaming at her, cursing her for killing them.

And then it eased, bit by bit, leaving Kathryn broken, both mentally and physically.  As the images faded, they left in their place, a woman who would most likely never be the same again.  Words fell from her lips, with meanings alien to her.  She recognized them as words, vaguely knew their meaning, but they made little sense.  She struggled with the last of her strength to stop them, some ingrained trace of her training still with her not to give in, some last vestige of self, determined to hold onto something, but with it came the knowledge that she would probably fail.


B’Elanna didn’t jump this time when the Doctor appeared beside her.  She saw him look at her, concern on his features as he witnessed the pain on her face and the tears in her eyes.

“Again?”  He didn’t need to say anymore.  B’Elanna managed to nod.

“The worst yet…”  Her words caught in her throat and she swallowed deeply.  “I can’t take much more of this…”  The Doctor nodded his sympathy.

“You won’t have to.”  He handed her a padd.  “You were right about the dampening field being controlled by a frequency…  It’s all on here.  You’ll be able to shut it down from here with what I set up over there but I failed to find a way to disable their weapons.  We’ll have to fight them but we easily outnumber them.”  He saw the Engineer nod her understanding.  “I’ll take care of the doors to the Cargo Bay and tell the crew to get ready…”  B’Elanna scanned the information she held and nodded.  “Any word from Crel?”  She looked up now and shook her head.

“Nothing…I had hoped that…”  She bit her lip.  “I’ll get onto this immediately.”


Crel stormed down the corridor towards Engineering.  He couldn’t believe how his Commanding Officer had dismissed him so quickly, especially in front of his subordinates.  The leader had refused to listen past the first few sentences, dismissing all the information he had been brought.

Crel stopped a moment now, trying to clear his mind of the images it held.  The sight of the woman, Voyager’s Captain, ate away at him.  He shook his head a little, as if he could dislodge the memory and marvelled that she was still alive.  He knew what Bren had done to her, saw the results, knew only too well what the drugs did, had heard her screams along with everyone else.

Making a decision now, one that went against his training but not his morality, he turned and retraced his steps.  He would stop this now, take the chance the young Engineer had offered and maybe then, he might be able to sleep at night, without the image and sounds of the broken Captain haunting him to the end of his days.


Events moved quickly after that.  B’Elanna managed to disable the dampening field and together with her engineering crew, they quickly took back what had been taken from them, easily overpowering their guards with the element of surprise, but not before some damage had been done to the ship. 

She quickly sent a signal to the Doctor and saw from the internal sensors which still worked, that the doors to the Cargo Bay had been opened, allowing her fellow crewmembers to fight back at last.  Within minutes, word reached her that the ship had been retaken, with the exception of the bridge. 

The doors to Engineering now opened and several crew entered, reporting to B’Elanna, as the most senior member of staff available to them.


“We only stunned them…locked them in the Cargo Bay… There was also a soldier locked in sickbay…we got him too…”  B’Elanna nodded to the young Ensign who was reporting to her as she watched the aliens who had guarded her and her crew, being taken away.

“What else…?”  He swallowed quietly.

“We sustained a few injuries…nothing serious thank God…and no fatalities…but transporters are down now and…”  He hesitated a moment.  “I have to report that the Doctor was…damaged…he’s off line…”  B’Elanna knew the worried look on her face was a reflection of the one before her.  “Lieutenant…he’s offline…and the Captain…”  B’Elanna forced her emotions down.

“Get working on him now…  What about the bridge…?”  The Ensign shook his head.

“They still hold it…”  B’Elanna nodded.

“Where’s Crel… ?  He was second in command…”  The Ensign shook his head.

“We put them all in the Cargo Bay…secured their weapons…I think they were…”  B’Elanna studied the young man.

“Just say it Ensign…”  He nodded.

“Some of us got the impression they were about to surrender…  I know that sounds strange…”  B’Elanna shook her head.

“Maybe not as strange as you might think…”  She thought a moment.  “First priority is the Doctor…then transporters…  I’ll be back…just get on it…”  The young man was already moving away.


B’Elanna stood in the centre of the Cargo Bay, an armed guard with her.  She looked down at the slumped figure of Crel on the floor at her feet.  He came around slowly, and saw B’Elanna standing there, a hypo in her hand. 

“I need your help now…  I took a chance that this drug would work and bring you round…”  She held up her hand, showing him the hypo.

Crel sat up slowly, holding his head, his headache obvious as he nodded his understanding.  He looked around at the unconscious pile of bodies surrounding him and appeared shocked.

“They’re only stunned….  We’re not like that…”  He met B’Elanna’s eyes and nodded.

“I know that…  I was trying to get them to listen to me…  They were listening… before…”  He slowly stood, using the wall as support.  B’Elanna shrugged.

“We had to take the chance when it came…”  She saw he accepted her words.

“What do you need me for…?”  B’Elanna moved towards him.

“The bridge…they’ll listen to you…  We have to get to the Captain…if it’s not already too late…”  She cut her words off, not even wanting to think about the possibility.  Crel nodded and pushed away from the wall.

“Bren was in a side room with her…two men and our doctor with him…  The others were on the bridge…but they’ll have heard…”  B’Elanna shook her head.

“I cut all sensors to the bridge before we started…”  Crel smiled softly.

“Very good Lieutenant…I didn’t give you as much credit as I should have…”  He moved slowly.  “Let’s go then…”  B’Elanna nodded and stood back to let him walk ahead of her.  She wasn’t going to let her guard slip now.


Chakotay was sitting with his head in his hands, helplessness washing over him.  Kathryn's screams had stopped some time ago, making him even more afraid for her.  The change in her screams terrified him.  He knew her earlier screams had been of pain but fear of what had caused those same screams to become ones of terror ate away at him.  He raised his head now as he heard the lift doors opening and saw the alien he knew from before, step from the lift.

“Lower your weapons now…that’s a direct order…”  Chakotay stared at the man and then looked around at the confused faces of the other soldiers.  When the order was repeated, they finally complied. 

As soon as the weapons had been lowered, Crel turned and nodded to some unseen person behind him.  A second later, B’Elanna emerged from the lift with a security detail who pointed their own weapons at the soldiers before them.  Chakotay didn’t need to know any more.  He jumped up and along with the other bridge crew, disarmed the men, surrounding them in seconds.  Tuvok immediately took control of his own security team as Chakotay looked to B’Elanna now.

“How did…?”  B’Elanna tried a smile and failed, her eyes on the door to the ready room.

“I’ll tell you later…  The Captain…?”  She looked at Chakotay and saw the pain on the face of her old friend.

“I don’t know…it’s been quiet…”  His words were cut off by the sound of the doors to the ready room opening.


Kathryn was fighting with the last of her strength to control her thoughts.  Bren was still leaning over her, spitting questions at her.  She found herself about to answer him, her mind outside of her control and then she would struggle again, fighting to the end to deny this alien what he wanted from her.

His words invaded her mind, breaking down the last of her defences along with the drugs.  She tried to summon Chakotay’s face, desperately using the image to draw a little more strength to the rapidly waning courage she felt leaving her.  She fought to use techniques half forgotten, to rebuild some wall in her mind, anything to hold him out a little longer.  She saw him lean back now, before his fist connected with her face.

“You’ll talk Captain… before I’m finished with you, you’ll beg to talk to me…  Come on…tell me the truth…free yourself of all this…”  He moved over to the desk now and reached inside the black case.  He came back into Kathryn's line of vision then, brandishing a knife.

“You’ll talk or find this spearing that weak body of yours…”  He looked up sharply as the doctor moved to him.  “Don’t even consider that move medic…I could take you down before it even registered with you…now get out…”  He stared coldly at the man before him.  “I said get out…I don’t need you anymore…you were useless to me…”  He turned to the two soldiers on his other side.  “You two also…leave us…”  Without waiting to see if his order would be obeyed, he turned back to the woman tied down before him.  He laughed now.

“You’re only a shell now Captain…all that fine posturing of yours wasted…  See how weak you are now…?”  He leaned over her again.  “You’re so weak Captain…a puny female with nothing left to hold yourself together…  You can’t even control your own body…”  His words filtered through to Kathryn slowly.  “Look at yourself…a quivering wreck…no control…”  He pushed the handle of the knife between her legs.  “You couldn’t even control your own bodily functions…look at yourself…” 

Kathryn tried to shut out his words, knowing what he meant.  Shame slammed into her and she knew her humiliation showed when she heard his laugh.  The fact that she had wet herself in the throes of her agony delighted him.  She felt him grab her face now, making her look at him.  His hand almost slipped across her skin in the film of sweat and blood which covered her face and entire body.  She vaguely felt her nose bleed as she tried to draw in a breath and focus her vision on the beast before her.

“You weak little creature…let me add to your pain…”  Without warning, he pushed the knife deeply into Kathryn's side.  She grunted, her body tensing as she felt the cold metal pierce her skin and sink into her.  Too weak now to scream anymore, she gasped loudly as she fought to breath, the air seemingly caught in her chest, as fresh pain washed over her.  She felt her body jerk against the wire and grunted loudly again as he wrenched the knife from her body.  It would be the last thing he did.


The alien doctor and the two soldiers entered the bridge, their shock showing for just a moment, before they were disarmed.  Chakotay made for the door, B’Elanna at his side.  He quickly took in the scene before him, as time stood still.  Before he knew what had happened, Bren had turned and Chakotay watched now as a beam of light hit the man with the blade, sending him to his knees, the bloodied knife falling from his hands.

Chakotay spun around and saw that Crel had disarmed one of Tuvok’s security officers before aiming the weapon at his leader and firing.  He now handed the phaser back, his eyes empty.

“It was a kindness…  No man should become what he became…”  He watched as his commanding officer fell forward, the last breath leaving his body. 

Tuvok took over quickly, B’Elanna alongside him.  Chakotay stood for a second, his body and mind turned to stone at the sight before him.  He found himself moving forward then, falling to his knees before Kathryn.   Suddenly all his training and instinct took over. 

“Get the Doc now…transport us to sickbay…”  He reached out tenderly and stroked Kathryn's face, holding her head back, his eyes taking in all her injuries, along with the needles and tubing which had been inserted into the veins of her hands.  He saw the wire cutting deeply into her wrists and neck, even her ankles and the blood that flowed from the cuts but was afraid to try and loosen it.  Pain swept over him then as he saw how she had wet herself and he prayed she wasn’t aware of it, knowing how proud a woman she was.  He fought to swallow the tide of anger that swept over him, knowing his Captain needed his support and calmness more now.  He then saw the stab wound and quickly pressed his hand over it, trying desperately to stem the flow of blood.  Kathryn moaned in agony.

“Hush Kathryn…it’s all right…it’s over…”  He turned away a moment.  “B’Elanna hurry…”  He saw her tears as she shook her head.

“He was damaged…the Doc…transporters are off too…we’re working as fast as we can…”  She saw the terror and pain in his eyes.  “It’ll be a few more minutes Chakotay…I promise we’ll get him back…I…”  Chakotay turned away.

“Do it now…”  He leaned over Kathryn, whispering quietly to her.  “It’s OK…you’ll be fine…we’ll have you in sickbay in a minute…”  B’Elanna and Tuvok backed away, the Engineer now running to the nearest console to try and work a miracle.

Chakotay looked up a second and saw that he was alone with Kathryn.  He looked back then and met her eyes.  She tried to focus on his face and even tried to smile at him but he saw how much pain she was in, her face so pale, as if all the blood had drained from it.  The whiteness of her skin stood out in stark contrast to the blood which smeared her face and beads of sweat stood out on her skin.

“Chak…”  He shook his head.

“Don’t try and talk Kathryn…save your strength…”  He pressed harder against her side, feeling her blood warm and sticky over his hand.  She groaned again.

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry…it’ll be all right…”  He fought his emotions to be strong for her.

“Didn’t tell…don’t think…tried…”  He tried to hush her, telling her she needed to stay quiet but she didn’t seem to hear him.

“Afraid…tried not to…to scream…didn’t want you to hear…sorry…failed…”  Chakotay fought his tears and emotions, knowing she needed his strength now.

“Kathryn…you didn’t fail…you beat him…he’s dead…we have the ship back…  Please Kathryn…don’t talk…Doc will be here in a minute…you’ll be fine…”  He saw her try to keep her eyes open.  “Kathryn…stay with me now…come on…”  He watched her struggle.

“Let…let you…all down…”  He saw her fight for each breath and knew the pain it caused her.  He blinked quickly, trying to clear the moisture from his eyes.  His hand stroked her face, trying to comfort her in any way.

“Never…never Kathryn…you didn’t fail us and you’ve never let us down…you couldn’t…I promise you that…it’s all right now…”  He strained to hear her as soft sounds filtered past her lips, words alien to him and he worried that she was hallucinating from the drugs.  “Kathryn…please…try and save your strength…don’t try to talk…rest love…”  He watched her try to understand his words and fight to hold her eyes on his face.

“Pain…fire…couldn’t take…images…monsters…so afraid…on fire…”  Chakotay swallowed deeply, trying desperately to control himself.

“It’s over now…he’s gone…it’s all gone…you’ll be fine…I promise you…”  He prayed she understood his words as she continued to whisper softly.  Then she seemed to try harder, more desperate now to try and speak.

“Chak…tell you…”  He tried to quieten her again but she pushed her words out.  “Please…have to…”  Her pain was consuming her and he saw it.  He tried to manage a smile for her, anything to reassure her and saw her fight to focus her eyes on his face once more.

“Kathryn please…save your strength…you can tell me later…”  She shook her head slightly, the wire cutting in deeper.

“Too late then…please…”  She continued to fight for each breath, and he knew she saw the pain on his face.  “Get them home…and you…”  Chakotay let his tears fall.

“Don’t you dare talk like that…don’t you dare let go or say your goodbyes…”  He stared into her eyes, seeing her soul almost as tears slipped down her face, mixing with the blood and sweat already there.

“Please…let me…”  She tried to block a cough and failed, bringing up some blood with it.  Chakotay fought his rising panic.

“Kathryn…please…just hold on…”  He continued to stroke her face, wiping away her tears and blood as he pressed harder on the wound in her side.

“No…tell you…wasted too much time…please…I love you…never told you…”  The few words exhausted her.  A sob broke from Chakotay.

“Kathryn…hang on…”  He watched as she fought to stay with him and saw her fail.  More words he didn’t understand whispered past her lips as she lost her focus, her eyes glazed as they sought something they couldn’t find and then they closed as her head fell against his hand.  “No…Kathryn…no…stay with me…”  He held her head back, tears pouring down his face.  “Oh God Kathryn, I love you too…please hear me…”  She murmured something he couldn’t hear and he prayed she had heard him.

Within minutes which felt like hours, the Doctor appeared.  It took Chakotay a moment to register his presence beside them.

“Commander, keep your hand there…”  The Medic was scanning his Captain, taking in the entire scene before him at once.  “The stab wound is deep.  Keep the pressure on it.”  Chakotay forced his mind to work.

“I was afraid to move her or even try…the wire…”  The Doctor nodded and shouted for B’Elanna.

“Ms. Torres…get in here now….” 

The next minutes were a blur to Chakotay.  He watched as the Doctor worked over Kathryn, B’Elanna gently cutting the wires which bound her, leaving part of them still embedded in her flesh.

“I’ll remove those in sickbay, along with the needles and tubing.”  Chakotay and B’Elanna both heard the contempt in the Doctor’s voice.  “Getting her there now and treating that knife wound is my first concern…and the drugs in her system….”  He didn’t continue.

Finally the Doctor nodded to Chakotay to lift Kathryn from the chair.  He gently slid her into his arms, trying to keep his hand pressed over the wound in her side and within seconds felt the tingle of the transporter beam take them.  He laid her on the nearest biobed then stood back and watched, helpless again, as the Doctor went to work.  He was aware of B’Elanna’s hand on his arm, leading him away and pulled against her.

“She’s going into surgery Chakotay.  You need to sit down before you fall down…”  He looked around at her as if he’d never seen her before.  His eyes then fell to his  hands, Kathryn's blood covering them.  He looked up again, his hands still outstretched, as he watched Tom and the Doctor move Kathryn to the surgical bay. 

“Fight it Kathryn…don’t give up now…don’t leave me…”  His words were a faint whisper but B’Elanna heard them.  She gently pulled at him, leading him to the nearest chair.

“Chakotay, she’s a real fighter…I don’t have to tell you that…she’ll get through this…”  Her words fell on deaf ears. 

Needing to do something, B’Elanna set about washing her Captain’s blood from Chakotay’s hands even though he seemed unaware of her actions.  He sat like a child being tended by its mother, his eyes boring through the door to the surgical unit.  Suddenly then, he was aware of Tuvok standing beside him and something stirred in him.

“We don’t know…she’s in there…”  His eyes filled with tears as he looked up at the Vulcan.  Tuvok merely nodded.

“Captain Janeway will pull through this.”  Chakotay nodded, desperately needing the reassurance, his eyes returning to their previous vigil.  “Commander, I need to report to you…”  Chakotay stirred a little more now, his mind snapping back into some kind of order.  It came to him that Kathryn wouldn’t want him as he was, that she’d want him to take care of the ship for her and so he forced his mind to concentrate.

“Tuvok, I’m sorry…I’m not thinking straight…”  He saw that the Vulcan understood.  “What’s our situation?”  Tuvok seemed more at ease now to be dealing with business.

“Bren is dead.  He died instantly.  Crel managed to set the phaser he took to kill before firing it.”  He hesitated.  “I apologize for the lapse and carelessness of my Officer.  I’ll have a full report for you later.”  Chakotay nodded, a hate in his eyes he didn’t try to disguise.

“It’s not that important to me.  I can’t exactly mourn that bastard…”  Tuvok nodded his understanding.

“Not one member of this crew will, Commander.”  He paused a moment before continuing.  “I can report that all of Crel’s men are still locked down in the Cargo Bay.  Most are reporting minor pain but nothing which can’t be treated.  Their own doctor is already dealing with them.  Crel has been in contact with their ship, which has now de-cloaked and they stood down and surrendered also.  I have a team over there guarding the two pilots we left onboard.”  He continued with his report, filling his First Officer in on all that had occurred since they had been boarded and how the ship had been taken back, including the major part the Doctor played, B’Elanna having already made her report.  He now took a moment to sort his next words and then told Chakotay about the conversation B’Elanna had had with Crel and the history of these Aluki.  Chakotay took it all in slowly.

“We should help them after this?”  As soon as the words were out he regretted them.  “Sorry, that wasn’t…  I know what Kathryn would do…will do…”  He rubbed at his face, suddenly noticing that his hands were clean now and then remembered B’Elanna washing them.  He smiled a little.  “OK Tuvok, get onto repairs and then find out everything you can about the Aluki situation.  Talk to B’Elanna and get all the facts.  I won’t make any decision before we have that.  Then you call a meeting and we  discuss this.  I want your report and your gut instinct on this, and before you say it, I know you have one.”  He looked up and met Tuvok’s eyes, a silent understanding passing between them.  Tuvok now nodded and left.

For the next two hours, Chakotay refused to leave sickbay, dealing with all ships business from there.  Anything that was needed from him, went through Tuvok or B’Elanna, the crew knowing that Voyager’s First Officer needed to be close to his Captain now.  The feelings he held for her were no secret to the crew and they constantly waited to see something come from them.  They were always disappointed.

Chakotay stood up quickly now as he saw the Doctor emerge from the surgical bay.  Before his first word was out, the Medic held up a hand and nodded towards his office.  Chakotay didn’t miss Kathryn's blood covering the gloves and gown the hologram wore.

Once the Doctor had discarded his bloodied surgical gear, he entered his office and sat opposite Chakotay.  His face gave nothing away.

“Doc please…”  The Doctor nodded.

“The stab wound was quite deep and did some considerable damage.  It caused massive internal haemorrhaging and punctured her lung, which I’ve managed to take care of.   She lost a lot of blood, internally and from the external wounds but I’m replacing that.”  He smiled slightly now and gave Chakotay some hope.

“Commander, I have great hopes that she will make a full recovery from this.  There was serious damage also from the numerous drugs she was injected with, and they also caused damage to her internal organs.  A great strain was put on her heart from all this.”  The Medic paused a moment.

“I can’t tell what the drugs were exactly.  I analysed the contents of the remaining phials which were left in the ready room so I know a little.  I believe one of them was used to cause physical pain.  The Captain would have…”  He measured his words as carefully as he could but saw that the man before him wanted only the truth.  “It would have been like being immersed in fire…I’m sorry…”  Chakotay stood up and turned away, trying to control the pain that washed over him.

“Commander please…I know this is hard…”  Chakotay turned back and nodded, taking his seat again.

“The second drug was, I believe, used to cause…  It was a mind-altering drug from what I can see.  It was used to induce horrors…things unreal except in the mind…  I believe it also works as a form of truth serum…”  Chakotay held the Doctor’s eyes a moment and then dropped his head.  When he looked up again, his face was filled with pain.

“Will she recover…?  I know you said…but…”  He choked up quickly.  The Medic nodded.

“Physically she will, I’m certain of that.  There were also some other, mainly minor  injuries…the cut on her neck…and others from I believe a beating…two ribs broken…her nose…a small fracture on her jaw…  The cuts from the wire which were quite deep, needed more care…  They had eaten into her flesh…”  He rearranged the padds on his desk.  “What I can’t speak to is the damage this will have on her emotionally…  That…  He set out to break her, physically and mentally.  He failed physically.  I can’t speak to the mental and emotional fallout from this.  Only time will tell.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.

“Would she have known what she was saying?  I mean with the drugs…  Would she have…?”  The Doctor frowned. 

“Are you worried she might have revealed confidential…?”  Chakotay cut him off.

“No…no…  I mean…”  He ran a hand through his hair.  “She said some things… to me…when I was with her…”  The Doctor nodded his understanding then shook his head.

“Commander, I can’t say…  Her condition was…  Look you saw her… what they did…  She had suffered unimaginable pain and horrors…”  The Doctor paused, instantly regretting his honesty, then continued.  “She suffered severe blood loss and the affects of the drugs on her body and mind…I don’t believe she understood towards the end…at least I hope she didn’t… I mean…she was in shock…  However…I’m sure you were a great comfort to her… that she knew you were with her….”  Chakotay closed his eyes.  Part of him wanted to believe she had known what she was saying when she told him she loved him but he had to accept now that it was the drugs and her physical and emotional state speaking, that she had just been clinging to something, unaware of what she was saying or who she was saying it to.  Perhaps it was just the drugs and the effects of them on her mind, causing it to wander.  He looked back up at the Medic now.

“Can I see her?”  The Doctor nodded and smiled.

“She’ll be unconscious for some time but you can sit with her for a while.”  Chakotay nodded and stood, suddenly feeling twenty years older than he had that morning.

“Thanks…for everything you did…this…before…you know…thanks…”  He forced a weary ghost of a smile for the Doctor and left.

Kathryn remained unconscious for the next few days.  Chakotay sat with her as often as he could, still seeing her face and body covered in sweat and blood, cuts and bruises marring her skin, despite how she appeared before him now.  He constantly heard her screams too but beside all that, his mind refused to let go of the time he had spent with her in her ready room, just before the Doctor arrived.  Her words continued to swirl round and round in his head, her words of how she loved him and he clung to them desperately, trying to deny to himself that it had been the drugs speaking.  As time passed though, he finally admitted to himself that she couldn’t have known or meant what she said but still her voice echoed in his brain and he clung to the memory of it, taking what comfort he could from it.

Tuvok finally made a full report to him and Chakotay called the entire senior staff to meet, listening to each opinion in turn.  He went over every piece of information B’Elanna had downloaded from the Aluki ship and even spoke with Crel and some of the other soldiers.  In the end, knowing it was Kathryn's influence, he made his decision.  They would accompany Crel and his men, tractoring their ship with them now, rather than have it piloted, and return to the Aluki home world.  It wasn’t far, resources not allowing for these people to travel great distances in their search for a lifeline for themselves.

The following evening they arrived and Chakotay beamed down to the surface with Tom Paris, both men wearing environmental suits to protect themselves from the toxic atmosphere.  What they witnessed beneath the surface would stay with them for many years.  What had been men and women once, even children, sat around huddled in small groups, their faces gaunt from lack of proper nourishment and fresh air.  Most were thin and wore rags.  Their pale skin showed open and half healed sores, the legacy of the poison they lived with day in and day out.  They all stared back at Chakotay and Tom, fear deep in their eyes, despite the presence of Crel and some of the others. 

When they returned to the ship, Chakotay knew his decision was the right one.  He gained some understanding of what had driven Bren but nothing would ever make him forgive the alien leader for what he had done or the crimes he had committed, no matter how desperate he had been.  It pained him to think that maybe he could have turned out like that too, if they hadn’t ended up in the Delta Quadrant.  Pushing these thoughts aside, Chakotay immediately ordered food to the surface, along with whatever medical supplies and clothing they could spare and sent Crel down with them to warn his people of what would follow.  Chakotay then went to see Kathryn, still unconscious and told her of his plans.

“I’ve stood with you like this before Kathryn.  I think this time though, you’ll approve of what I’m about to do.  Rest as long as you need to, but please come back to me…”  He bent down and brushed his lips to hers.  “Come back to me please…”

The next two hours were spent firing and exploding neutralizing gases into the Aluki atmosphere.  They stopped every so often to check their readings, B’Elanna overseeing the entire project.  Chakotay had his doubts that this would work, but nothing would stop him at least trying.  After another hour, their readings began to offer hope and within a further hour, the air on the surface was almost breathable.  B’Elanna finally came to his office to make her report.

“The rest should clear on it’s own, most likely within a day.  It should only take about a week for the water supply to clear itself.  It comes up from below the surface and the water table isn’t too deep.  It will cleanse the riverbeds itself and run off.  Until then, they can use what they already have once we’ve treated it along with what we can supply.”  Chakotay’s face showed his pride as he listened to her.  “I can prepare additives for the soil which will work fairly quickly and once the clouds have lifted, natural rainfall will occur and take care of the rest.  The sun will shine again and plant life will take care of itself.  Nature will take over with a little help.  We can give them some grains and such like to tide them over until they can grow food for themselves and they have replicators of sorts although their power sources are failing.  We can help there too.  They also have some animals with them which can produce food once they’re treated.  The Doc has already prepared treatments for the people and their animals…”  She stopped and thought, wondering if there was anything else she hadn’t considered.  She looked up and smiled at the look of deep pride on Chakotay’s face.

“I’m so very proud of you B’El.  You’ve done something wonderful here today.  A race of people will live again because of you.  Kath…The Captain will be very proud of you too….”  B’Elanna actually blushed.

“Come on big guy, you’ll give me a swelled head here.  Thanks though.  By the way…when you’re with me…she can be ‘Kathryn’.  I know you better than that…”  Chakotay blushed a little now.  “Chakotay, I know you love her…the entire crew knows that…and I’m sure she feels the same way…”  Her smile slipped a little at the look of pain which came to his face now.  “Chak…what is it…?”  He turned and walked towards the viewport of his office, B’Elanna following him.  She remained quiet and waited for him to speak.  Finally he turned back and sat down, B’Elanna joining him.  For the next twenty minutes, he poured everything out.  He told her of his feelings for Kathryn and about what had happened in the ready room while they had tried to get the Doctor back on line.

“When she told me she loved me, my heart soared, even though I was so worried about her…”  B’Elanna smiled.

“I’m so happy for you…that she finally admitted it to you…”  She frowned when she saw the sadness on his face.  “What?  It’s what you wanted to hear more than anything…”  He shook his head.

“I know it was… but B’El…I also know it was the drugs speaking…everything she had been through…”  B’Elanna gripped his hand and squeezed.

“Chakotay…it sounds to me like the truth.  Sometimes…well it takes for us to be that afraid or down…hurt or vulnerable…before we can admit the truth…  She’s going to be fine…you know that.  Tom told me and I know he was breaking a medical confidence but…  Look I know this will hurt but…she obviously believed she might die at that moment.  She wanted you to know before…”  The pain on Chakotay’s face stopped her on that tracks for a moment.

“Chakotay…she loves you.  I could have told you that before all this happened.  I see the way she always looks at you, usually when you aren’t looking.  I think I know enough at this stage in my life to know love when I see it, and that woman loves you.  I think she’s just been too scared to show it before.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Even if you’re right, it’ll just be back to normal when she’s back on her feet.  Nothing will change.  She’ll either not remember what she said and nothing will change or she will remember and want to forget or deny it.  If I talk of it, she’ll be embarrassed beyond words and revert even further back into herself.”  He paused and rubbed at his face.  “I know the outcome of this…what it’ll be…”  He shook his head again.  “I know it was the drugs and her physical and emotional condition talking, that she either didn’t know what she was saying…or...  I just know she’d never have spoken to me like that…never have said that to me…not as herself…and I can’t use that…I guess at least I’ll always have the memory of hearing her speak them to me…those words…”  He ignored B’Elanna shaking her head in disagreement.

“B’El, I spoke with the Doc.  Look at what she’d been through…the injuries…all those drugs…the terror and pain she went through…  Her mind wasn’t…  I know the second drug was a truth serum of some kind but in her body…  we just don’t know…”  He stood quickly.

“Oh God…those images…when we got to her…how she was….  They just won’t leave me…the blood…the tubes in her veins…the wire cutting into her…the stab wound…and still conscious…and it won’t stop…”  He looked back at B’Elanna, his face a mask of agony.  “Her screams…they won’t leave me alone…the ones of her pain and then…the terrors and horrors she…”  He couldn’t continue and B’Elanna stood and led him back to the sofa, knowing there was nothing she could say.  Instead she just hugged him tightly to her.  When he seemed a little calmer, she spoke then.

“Look my friend, all I can say is this.  When she comes round, just be there for her.  Help and support her through her recovery, the way you would anyway.  Just be a pillar for her to lean on until she’s ready to stand on her own.  I know she hates accepting help, but I get the feeling she’ll have no choice this time, that even she will want and need it.”  She smiled gently at him and squeezed his hand.  “Just be what you’ve always been for her…her friend…  When she’s over the worst of it…well…the rest will sort itself out…you mark my words…”  Chakotay tried a smile and almost made it.

“You’re right as usual…”  He managed the smile now.  “If you ever repeat that…I’ll deny it completely…”  B’Elanna smiled and shook her head.

“Oh it’s filed away in my mind…I won’t repeat it to anyone but…well I might remind you of it from time to time…that you admitted that I’m always right…”  Chakotay shook his head now, his face serious once more.

“Play it by ear seems to be all I can do…”

Chakotay and Tuvok met with Crel a few more times, overseeing the transport to the surface of all items which the Aluki would need to see them through until their first harvest.  Crel assured Chakotay that with the normal weather conditions restored on their world, it wouldn’t take long before that harvest was in.  Their last meeting was on the surface as the two men walked in the sun, signs of new life already all around them.  Children ran and shouted in all directions, the adults almost as juvenile in their happiness.

“We always reaped three, sometimes four harvests in a year.  We were fortunate…blessed…  We just never appreciated what we had…until it was taken away…”  The alien’s face took on a faraway look, memories of kinder times revisiting him.  He quickly shut the door on them and managed a smile.

“I’m sorry…I keep looking at the past…  There’s nothing there now…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I know that well…”  His own mind skipped back a moment before he stopped it.  “However, in time…well there can be comfort eventually in remembering those we loved…”  Crel nodded his understanding.

“Maybe…in time…”  He pulled himself together now and switched to other matters.

“Commander Chakotay…I can’t ever really thank you properly…you and your crew…Lieutenant Torres…for all you have done for us…especially after…”  He saw the pain on Chakotay’s face and looked away.  “I so wish I could undo…  How is she?”  He forced himself to look again at the man before him.  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment.

“Improving…  Physically she should make a full recovery…”  Crel met Chakotay’s eyes and nodded.

“I understand…  Again I wish I could…  I constantly feel I should have stepped in sooner…stopped him…Bren…I wish so much…hate what he became…what the rest of us were becoming…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“You can’t change the past…I’ve learned that well…can’t stop how you feel either…besides…you have your own… well…things you must deal with…”  His eyes apologized for speaking the truth and the alien man nodded his understand. 

“Yes I have…”  He was quiet for a moment, then spoke again.  “You said…physically…she would recover…?”  Chakotay nodded.  Crel nodded his understanding.  “I understand…time needed for that also…at least she has you…  you’re there for her…”  Chakotay frowned a little.  “You are her mate, are you not?  I hope I didn’t misunderstand your feelings for her…  It seemed so obvious…”  He looked a little embarrassed now until Chakotay smiled.

“No Crel…you didn’t ‘misunderstand’ my feelings…and yes…I’ll be there for her…we all will…we’ll help her back…”   Crel nodded and looked out over the land.  Chakotay let his own eyes scan the landscape a moment.

“Crel…I hate to ask…but…what about the Hanns…?”  Crel stopped walking and turned quickly.

“They passed on…it was always their way…  We had heard of them before…they were known of…  They came…destroyed what they didn’t want…took what they did…then moved on…  They never return…  Still…if they do…this time…we’ll be ready…we won’t be so complacent…”  He sighed deeply.  “I find myself wondering now if…  Perhaps they were once like us…and someone like them took from them first…making them what they are…much like we became…I just don’t know…”  Chakotay stood with his head lowered but looked up now.

“My enemy…my personal ‘Hann’… were known…are known…as the Cardassians…”  He told Crel a little of his life before Voyager and saw the understanding and sorrow on the alien’s face.  “I don’t know if I’m strong enough to think as you’re trying to…maybe in time…I try now not to think…to just let it go and remember the people I loved…to concentrate on those I love now…the ones who bring me peace…”  Kathryn's face came to him and he saw that Crel knew his thoughts.  They shared a smile.

“Perhaps that is the best way…”  Crel started walking again, Chakotay moving with him.  “There is so much here to be re-built.  That will take my thoughts now…”  Chakotay nodded and smiled again.

“Move on and not look back…”  They both nodded and shared a smile full of understanding.  Neither man would ever forget the other.

When Chakotay returned to the ship, the Doctor hailed him immediately and he set off for sickbay, arriving in minutes.

“Doc, what is it…?”  His fear was written on his face.  The Medic merely smiled.

“I believe she’s regaining consciousness.  I thought it better that you be here for her when she comes round…”  Chakotay nodded and moved to the biobed where Kathryn lay.  He knew he wanted nothing more than to see her open her eyes but he also found himself afraid of what he would see in those eyes or more than likely what he wouldn’t see.  He sighed deeply as feelings of hope and despair warred within him.  He took a deep breath, trying to shut off his emotions and just be the friend to her he had always been, to show her the familiar.  He reached for her hand then called to her as he saw her begin to stir.

“Kathryn?  Kathryn?  Can you hear me?  Come on…”  He watched her fight to open her eyes and slowly win the battle.  She took a few moments to focus on his face and he saw her confusion.

“Whe…”  He smiled gently as he tried to keep his feelings hidden.

“You’re in sickbay.  You’re going to be fine.”  He squeezed her hand a little tighter as he saw tears fill her eyes now as memories rushed at her.  “Kathryn…it’s over…everything’s fine…the ship…the crew…  Just rest and I’ll tell you everything later…”  He watched as she bit her lip and fought to control her emotions.  She nodded slowly.

“I…bits…pain…remember some…he…he…”  She lost her battle and the tears returned.  Chakotay automatically lifted his hand and stroked her hair, fighting to control his own emotions.  He should have known that the violent memories would surface first.

“Kathryn…let it out…there’s just me and the Doc here…let it go…”  His words were all it took and he lifted her to him as the dam broke and she cried bitterly, clinging to him, her nails digging into his back.  Chakotay held her, comforting her as best he could, relishing the feel of her in his arms, even in this way.  Slowly, through exhaustion more than anything, she fell quiet and he laid her back down, his hands soothing her still.

“It’s over Kathryn…he can’t hurt you ever again…”  He wiped at her tears.

“How…?”  The word was a choked sound.

“Kathryn…you need to rest now…I’ll tell you later.”  For a moment, there was a brief glimpse of the Captain.

“Please…I need…”  Chakotay looked up at the Doctor.

“Captain…you need to rest…you’ve been through a bad time…”  They both saw the haunted look in her eyes but she pushed it away with a will of iron.

“I need…to know…please…I can’t rest if…”  The Doctor nodded at Chakotay then shook his head in surrender.

“Very briefly then Commander…Captain I must insist you rest then…”  She managed a small nod and turned her eyes back to Chakotay.  As briefly and quickly as he could, he outlined the past days until he felt her body relax a little.  He watched as she tried to absorb all he had told her, seeing more memories come back to her, her eyes reflecting her inner turmoil, as she tried to make sense of it all.

“You’re telling me the truth…?”  He didn’t take it in the wrong way and just nodded.

“That’s the truth Kathryn.  I’m not trying to hide anything from you…”  She nodded slowly and he saw how worn out she was by their short conversation.  “Rest now…we’ll talk again later…”  She looked back at him and managed a small smile.

“Thank you…”  He returned the smile, barely controlling himself.  “I mean…”  She looked away a moment as if trying to remember or decide something then back at him and he could almost see her mind flitting through memories and emotions, trying to sort what was real and remembered.  “Thank you…and tell Doc and B’Elanna thanks…”  Chakotay tried to read her eyes but couldn’t so he let it go, telling himself it was too soon and that she’d need time for her mind to sort through all that had happened.  Part of him wanted nothing more than to know what else she remembered, to ask her if she had meant her words, to speak his own, but he made himself stay silent on the matter.

“Rest…get some sleep…I’ll be back later…”  He smiled as her eyes slipped closed again before his words were out.

When Kathryn woke the following morning, Voyager was still in orbit of the Aluki home world and against the Doctor’s orders, demanded to beam down to the surface that afternoon, to see for herself the result of her crew’s work.  She let Chakotay keep his arm around her waist the entire time, holding her up almost, and he knew what it cost her to admit the need.  He saw that she was grasping at anything to try and find her way back to what she had been before their nightmare, to try and get a foothold in some way, to seek some security so that she could once again regain what had been before.  He also knew the only way she could do this was to use the ‘Captain’ in her to guide her.  They stayed only fifteen minutes but he knew she was more at peace with having seen things for herself.

As soon as they beamed back to the ship, she sagged and let Chakotay transport them back to sickbay.  After a short rest, she met with Crel and listened quietly as the alien spoke, informing and apologizing at the same time.  She nodded slowly, saying all the right things but Chakotay saw the struggle for control, which lay beneath her eyes.

For Crel and the Aluki people, there was closure but as Voyager broke orbit that evening, Chakotay looked around the bridge, knowing it would take the crew a lot longer before they could let the past days go.  With their course laid in, they continued on and Chakotay took a quick tour of the ship, stopping and chatting with crewmembers, seeing the effects everything had had on them all.  As usual, Neelix was on top of things and had planned events and parties in his normal manner, but even he covered up his feelings, a fact not missed by Chakotay.  He took the Talaxian aside and spoke with him.

“Tell me the truth Neelix.  How bad is morale and the affect of all this…?”  The small alien let his smile slip now.

“It’s bad enough Commander…  It’ll take time before people feel safe again…but they will get there…  They’re a tough bunch…well trained…  I’m not too worried about them with that side of it…”  Chakotay knew he believed his own words and nodded.  He waited for the rest, knowing there was more.

“Commander…it’s just…”  He sighed deeply, his own bad memories showing.  “I hate to remind you too…it’s just…”  Chakotay finished for him.

“It won’t go away…the sounds of…her screams…”  They each saw the pain in each other’s eyes and Neelix nodded.  He went on to tell Chakotay about their time locked in the Cargo Bay and how he had helped Naomi.

“I tried my best with her…she didn’t understand…  It was all I could think to say…and now…”  Chakotay finished for him again.

“She wants to ask the Captain…”  Neelix nodded nervously. 

“She understands that the Captain needs her rest for now…but in time…she’ll ask and I’m afraid of what that will do to the Captain…  She doesn’t need…”  Chakotay nodded.

“Leave it with me…give me some time with this…I’m sure Naomi will understand that Ka…the Captain needs time too…”  He gripped the smaller man’s arm and nodded his thanks.

Chakotay entered sickbay and found the lights down.  He nodded to the Doctor who was working in his office and made his way to where Kathryn was lying.  He thought she was asleep and moved slowly towards her.  He made a small noise and she jumped up, a look of panic on her face.

“Kathryn…I’m sorry…I thought you were asleep…”  She relaxed a little and shook her head, strong traces of deep emotions still in her eyes.

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to jump…I was miles away…”  He saw from her eyes exactly where she had been.

“Kathryn…in time…  look…I’m here…we all are…here for you…you’re safe now…”  She looked away quickly and he moved around to her and sat down but she hid her eyes.  When she eventually looked up, her mask was in place.

“How is everything?”  The Captain was asking.  Chakotay sighed inwardly.

“Everything with the ship is fine.”  He saw she got his meaning and she looked away.

“I’m fine too…”  She finally met his eyes and saw that her lie was plain to see.  “Chakotay…I just need a little time…a bit of rest…but I’m fine…I was just tired today…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Physically you’re fine…I know that…or will be in a few days…”  He watched her as she studied his face, almost as if she were searching for or trying to remember something.  He found himself hoping and yet afraid.  He pushed just a little.  “What is it Kathryn?”  She quickly pulled her eyes from her study and tried to cover her embarrassment with a smile.

“Nothing…I’m fine…I guess…I should try and get some sleep…”  She looked down at her hands and Chakotay stood reluctantly.

“Look Kathryn…we’re back on course…all repairs…the few that were needed…are complete…  as I say…we’re back on course…”  His last words meant more and she looked up as if she understood.  He wondered briefly if she did understand his  meaning as she nodded slowly, an uncertainty showing clearly.  He reached out and squeezed her arm.  “You know what I mean…I know it won’t happen overnight…that it’ll take time to get past this but…”  She moved her arm and nodded, sliding down on the bed.

“I know…”  She was quiet then and Chakotay just nodded sadly to himself. 

“Sleep well…I’ll see you in the morning.”  Kathryn just closed her eyes.

Within another two days, the Doctor was content to allow his Captain to return to her own quarters.  He smiled as she lavished her thanks on him for everything he had done and his pride showed when she told him that his actions would be recorded in the official logs.  He grew serious though, when he insisted that she remain off duty for a further four days at least after that.  Chakotay objected quietly to the Doctor but gave in when the Medic pointed out that she would be better in her own surroundings.  Kathryn didn’t argue with the Doctor, leaving him more than a little concerned and he was worried enough to tackle her about it.

“Captain, I’ve done what I’m here to do and I’ve healed your body.  I do however, feel that there are still some…issues…you need to deal with…”  Kathryn shot him a glare which didn’t have the same affect it had on the rest of her crew.  “You need to address those issues and you know it.  I however, can’t force you to talk with someone but I can refuse to declare you fit for duty until you do…”  Once again the glare failed to have the desired effect. 

Kathryn paced her quarters over the next two days, allowing her fears and bad memories to build up and up until finally she knew she had no choice but to open up to someone.  She hated being on her own now, with hours to think and remember and she felt scared all the time, unsafe even, jumping at small sounds, yet she was the one who had asked to be left alone.  Chakotay called to see her as often as he felt he could, without trying to crowd her.  Each time he visited, he got the impression that she didn’t want to talk and so within ten or fifteen minutes, he usually left her alone again, feeling she would talk to him when she was ready.  His insides felt like a coiled spring as he forced himself not to push her.  He wanted to be there for her as her friend, to get her to talk about everything that had happened but he still craved for her to talk of their time in the ready room together, to confirm or deny her feelings for him.

With nothing to do with her time but think, Kathryn began to doubt her own sanity at times as she worked through her thoughts.  She had images and flashes of scenes in her mind, unsure if she was remembering or imagining.  She began to wonder what was real and what was not.

She sat heavily on the side of her bed now.  She remembered her own screams and the pain most.  They were real and she knew it.  She’d even read all the reports which had been filed by the crew, each one testifying that all this wasn’t some dreadful nightmare she might waken from.  The feelings of helplessness and letting her crew down, allowing the ship to be taken, they were real also.  She sat quietly now and let the tears fall, sifting through her mind’s contents.  Finally she knew that all she remembered was real, even the drug-induced images which had come to her.  She knew they hadn’t actually existed but in her mind they had been real, and that was enough.

She wiped angrily at her face and acknowledged the one area she had been avoiding.  Chakotay.  The entire scene in her ready room with him came back and unfolded almost in front of her eyes.  She remembered the pain and worry in his eyes and how helpless she had seen him feel.  She closed her eyes now as her shame came back to her, overshadowing everything else.  She knew he’d seen everything, her emotions and pain, her shame and vulnerability laid bare for him, even how her body had failed her and still he had been there for her, his hand stemming the flow of blood from the knife wound, his words anchoring her to the waking world as he helped her to hang on.  And she remembered her words to him, spoken with an honesty she had denied herself before.  She knew she had meant them, that they hadn’t come from the drugs or the pain and she spoke them again now, almost testing herself to see if she could still say them.

“I love you….”  They echoed quietly in the room around her and she cried harder.  “Oh Chakotay…I’m sorry…” 

Kathryn thought back to her time in sickbay, the hours she had spent with him then and since and she shook her head sadly.  Not once had he mentioned her words to him and with this thought came others, fuelled by her present state of mind.  She was too late and he didn’t want to know now.  He’d seen her weakness and it disgusted him.  He was letting her down gently by ignoring what had passed between them, acting as if she hadn’t spoken of her love at all, perhaps hoping she wouldn’t remember.  She knew with certainty that if she had spoken those words to him even a year ago, he’d never have let her forget them.  Now he ignored them, letting them go.  She never stopped to think he might be afraid also, that he might be waiting to see if she would speak first. 

She stood shakily now and her self-doubt filled her.  She wondered briefly if she had said anything to him at all but quickly scolded herself, dismissing the thought, knowing she remembered right, that she had told him of her feelings. 

“You poor stupid bitch…you sad old woman…”  Her words sounded soft to her but she knew she’d spoken them.  “You’re too late…what did you expect…?  You finally tell him…make what you think is a deathbed confession and you expect him to fall into your arms…?”  She moved to the wall and leaned against it for support, her legs suddenly weak.  “Oh God…Chakotay…I love you…I need you so much…”  She felt herself start to slide to the floor and let herself.  She sat in a crumpled heap then and cried bitter tears, the hours passing her by, just like her life.