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

Rating:          NC 17.  Kids go play elsewhere.  Contains adult material.

Summary:     When Chakotay and his away team are convicted without trial,
                      Kathryn makes the ultimate sacrifice and takes their punishment for
                      them.  Can she survive?



The music had been a mistake.  Instead of soothing her, all it did was mock her and remind her of emotions she knew she would never experience again.

Kathryn shut the music off and continued to sit in the darkness of her quarters, now silent but still lonely.  She gazed out at the stars and wondered how she could feel so closed in, when right outside was the vastness of space and the Delta Quadrant.

She had slipped away from the party early, hoping no one had noticed her covert exit.  Even Chakotay had been engrossed in a conversation with a young Ensign and had failed to notice her leave.  The party had been a double celebration – a marriage and a birth, all in the same week.  While Kathryn was happy for the crewmembers involved, it still only served to remind her of what she would never have.  There might someday be the possibility of a marriage or a relationship, if they ever got back, but she knew nature was against her where a child was concerned, and the pain of that knowledge only seemed to grow deeper as each day passed.  She felt that pain constantly and was always amazed how emotional pain could actually manifest itself as physical pain but she felt it, her heart constricting and the pain running across her chest and shoulders, even down her arms. She felt it now and hugged herself in an effort to rid herself of it.

She stood up, still hugging herself and headed for her bed, hoping to sleep away the pain and feelings but deep inside she knew that would not happen.  She knew her own body too well, knew that sleep, sometimes even at the best of times, tended to elude her and suspected that tonight would probably be no different.  She debated calling the Doctor for a sedative but instantly dismissed that notion, knowing it would only raise questions and earn her a lecture for her trouble.  She even considered replicating something alcoholic to send her off, but quickly tossed away that idea, knowing that if she started to travel that road, she would eventually have trouble getting off it again.  God, she had enough personal problems to deal with, without adding addiction to the list.

Two hours later, she had eventually cried herself to sleep but tossed fitfully for the remainder of the night, so that in the morning when her alarm woke her, she felt no benefit from the few hours of unconscious oblivion.

When she reported for duty on the bridge, she knew her tossing and turning wouldn’t be noticed.  The rest of the bridge crew, with of course the exception of Tuvok, all looked in roughly the same condition, only their appearance had been earned by partying and they would assume that their Captain was no exception.

Chakotay sat beside her, looking the worse for wear but he was still being the consummate professional.  He glanced up at her and gave her a quick smile, before returning to the report he had been trying to read. 

Kathryn quickly turned the bridge over to him and escaped to her ready room.  She badly needed several strong cups of coffee to snap her out of her present mood and immediately replicated the first of many she knew she would consume that day.

Work.  She needed to do some work and immerse herself deeply in it.  Running the ship and getting the crew home were all that mattered now and these tasks had to remain foremost in her mind.  Everything else had to be pushed aside.

After several hours of successfully immersing herself in reports and other ship’s business, and after more cups of coffee, she was suddenly interrupted by a hail to the bridge from her First Officer.

“Report.”   She was at Chakotay’s side in seconds. 

“We’ve picked up an M-Class Planet on sensors and it appears to be rich in a lot of the minerals we badly need.  It’s only a day or so out of our way, and since we don’t know when we might come across the next opportunity to stock up, well…”  

He let the rest of his explanation trail off, knowing Kathryn as he did and knowing instinctively what her orders would be.  She read him well and smiled at him as she turned away from the viewscreen. 

“Alter course, Commander.”

The rest of Kathryn’s shift dragged but at least there was something to take her mind off her own problems. She concentrated on the reports and scans they had so far been able to obtain from this planet and pushed all personal thoughts to the back of her mind. 

Her door chimed and she called “come”.  It was Chakotay with yet more readings and she sighed deeply.  Her sigh did not go unnoticed by her First Officer and a concerned look crossed his face.  While she had made it clear that there could not be a relationship of the kind he wanted between them, he still cared deeply about her.  Who was he kidding?  He still loved her and knew he would until the end of time. 

“Permission to speak freely, Captain?” 

She looked up at him finally, tiredness etched on her face and something else he couldn’t put his finger on. 

“Go ahead, Chakotay.  What’s on your mind?"  

He sat down in the chair facing her desk and looked her straight in the eyes, making sure he had her full attention. 

“Well actually, you are Kathryn.”  His use of her name got her attention and she put the padd she had been holding down on her desk. 

“Oh, so this is personal.  Please, not this again” she thought.  “Not today, I’m not able for this today.”   He almost seemed to read her thoughts but he wasn’t about to let it go. 

“Kathryn, I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear from me, and I accept where we stand, but this comes from your friend and First Officer, no one else.  I’m not bringing THAT up again, even though I know that’s what you’re afraid I’m going to say.  You forget Kathryn, I know you, better than you think.”  He leaned back in his chair, regarding the woman in front of him with concern. 

“Something is different about you lately.  I’ve noticed it for a while now.  You seem more withdrawn, you avoid people, shut yourself away.  You turn in early at night, saying you’re tired but never show any evidence of having gained from any extra sleep.  I don’t believe you’re eating properly, as if you ever did, but lately it seems worse.  And yes, I did notice how early you left the party last night, trying to sneak away when you thought nobody was watching you.  The only reason I didn’t go after you was, well, you looked as if you wanted to be alone and no matter what you think, I won’t force myself where I’m not wanted.  I’ve told you so many times that you’re not alone, that I’m always there for you but Kathryn, I can’t always chase after you.  You know you can always come to me.  You just won’t do it.  And now to save you the trouble of answering, I don’t believe you’re fine, I don’t believe that nothing is wrong and if you are tired, it’s because you’re not sleeping, which just shows that I’m right and there is something wrong.”

Kathryn’s mouth had dropped open throughout all this.  “How can this man know me so well?” was all she could think. 

What she said was “Chakotay, I won’t insult you by giving you my stock answers.  You know them too well already for them to work anymore.  You’re right.  I am tired and yes, it’s because I’m not sleeping.  Look, I just have some stuff on my mind.  I’ll get through it.  I’m not shoving you away but…Chakotay, this is just something I have to deal with on my own.  It’s nothing against you personally…”

Chakotay just stared at her then got up and walked around her desk to her.  He pulled her up out of her chair and despite her protests, pushed her towards the sofa and gently eased her down on it, then sat beside her.

“Kathryn, oh Kathryn.  I can see what’s going on with you.  Do you think I’m blind?  I can tell you exactly what the problem is, or rather what the problems are.  They have been there for a long time but with recent events, well now they’re coming out more.  Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?  Maybe no one else would, but I do.  I know you too well and I care too much, love you too much not to see what’s going on.”  When she went to speak, deny what he was saying, he placed his finger across her lips and continued. 

“No Kathryn, hear me out.  I can tell you exactly what’s wrong.  You’re very lonely, despite not having to be.  This recent marriage brought that to the fore.  The worst thing for you though, has been the recent birth on board.  That has cut you deeply and I can see that.  I saw the look and the longing in your eyes, oh very well disguised to everyone else, but not to me.  You long for marriage and a child for yourself but you’ll never let yourself have them.  Your biggest problem my love, is yourself.  You honestly believe that you can’t have these things and you are so wrong, so very, very wrong.  This crew would love nothing more than to see you have those things.  I would love nothing more than to see you have them and would love it even more again if you would just let me give them to you, but you’ll never let that happen and that’s what the biggest problem is, Kathryn.  You, yourself, the Captain, Kathryn, all of those, and only you can solve it.”

Kathryn’s tears came and she didn’t try to stop them, couldn’t have stopped them.  Chakotay just held her, trying to give whatever comfort he could, no matter how small and also knowing that all his words would go unheeded.

When eventually she managed to gain back some modicum of control, she gently pulled back a little from his embrace. 

“You really know me too well Chakotay,” she told him between sniffles.  “You’re right.  There’s no sense in denying it.  Yes, I want all those things but I also can’t have them despite what you say.  I know the crew would accept me just as well if I were married, if I had a child, if we had that together, but that’s not the problem for me.  My problem is I can’t be both Captain and Kathryn.  I can’t serve two masters.  I accept everything you say and I know it’s all down to me, that all this is self inflicted, but it’s who I am and I can’t change that Chakotay, no matter how much I want to.  This crew must come first and this ship.  I can’t allow anything else to distract me”.

Chakotay took her face between his hands and forced her to look at him. 

“Kathryn, that’s bull and you know it.  You’re just afraid to try.  You might surprise yourself.”  She placed her hand over his. 

“And tell me Chakotay, what if I try and it doesn’t work?  What do I do then?  How do I go back to the way it was?  I’m actually not that strong.”   She removed her hand and looked away but he made her look at him again. 

“Kathryn, listen to me.  You are that strong.  All you have to do is take a chance, just like you do every day out here.  Look at how many chances you’ve taken out here, and whatever the outcome, you always felt that it was worth at least trying.  Where’s the scientist in you?  Please Kathryn, for yourself, for once, take a chance and trust me to be there for you.  If it didn’t work, I’d still catch you, still be there for you, still be your friend, you know that.”  Chakotay took his hands away from her face.

“Something else to think about, Kathryn.  You say you want to be there for the crew first and foremost.  You say you always have to put them first.  All right, think about this.  Are you at your best for the crew with this hanging over you?  Don’t you know that they can see how unhappy you are?  Kathryn, this affects them too.  They care deeply about you and want you to be happy.  When you’re unhappy, it affects them too.  They want a human being for a Captain, not a robot, and I’m sorry if that hurts but I care too much not to be honest with you.  That’s what you are becoming.  No one’s saying you have to put the crew in second place to yourself, but you and they can share first place.  And here’s something else.  Can you really spend the rest of your life alone?  You have to face the fact that we might never get home.  That’s not thinking in a defeatist manner but rather a realistic manner.  I want to believe we’ll get home in a few years at most, but we have to face the fact that it might be forty or fifty years, maybe never during our lifetimes.  Do you really want to waste your life away like that?  You have one chance, one shot at this life.  It’s just too precious to waste and too short.” 

Kathryn stood up and walked a few paces away from him, then stopped and looked back at him, her eyes awash with unshed tears. 

“Chakotay, what you say makes sense in the grand scheme of things but this is me we’re talking about.  I don’t believe I can handle that…” 

Chakotay stood up too and walked over to her. 

“Kathryn, you can.  You just have to trust yourself.  Look, try this.  Promise me you will at least think about what I’ve said here today.  With any luck, this planet will provide the opportunity for some shore leave.  Take a day or so there to yourself.  We can handle ship’s business for that short a time.  Get First Contact out of the way, the negotiations and so on, then leave the rest up to us.  You have a good crew, a competent crew, who can mind the shop for a while.  Take time for Kathryn.  Promise me you’ll do that, OK?”

Kathryn placed a hand gently on Chakotay’s arm. 

“All right, I promise you that.  I will think about it.  Shore leave might be a different matter.  I can’t promise I’ll take any but, and before you say anything, I will think about that too, OK?”  She smiled tearfully at him.

“Fine Kathryn.  I’ll take what I can get but don’t for a second think I won’t follow up on all this.  I’m not finished with this by a long way.  I don’t let go that easily.”

The planet, when they arrived the next day, was everything they would have hoped for.  First Contact went very well, the Kronan Representatives they dealt with seeming very impressed with Voyager and her command structure.  Kathryn understood why they were so impressed, once she visited the planet for herself.  Kronus was a beautiful place, reminding her very much of earth and it had a flourishing society which was well ordered.  When she thought about it, it seemed a little too well ordered, in fact the entire society struck her as ultra conservative, but she noted that everyone she met appeared more than happy with the social and political structure which was in place.

Negotiations were concluded within a day and by the following evening, all supplies had been beamed back to the ship and all formal business was wound up.  The Kronan Representatives who carried the title of Official, were only too happy to allow Voyager’s crew their shore leave but did apprise Kathryn of the fact that there were no ‘stimulants’ allowed on their world.  Kathryn took this to mean alcohol or the like and once she had given the crew a short pep talk on behaviour etc, was happy to allow the leave rota to get underway.

When she had seen the first group off on their leave, she turned to leave the transporter room, only to find her way blocked by Chakotay, holding a padd. 

“There’s a name missing off this list for shore leave” was all he said.  “I warned you I wouldn’t let this go.” 

Kathryn tried to get around his large frame but he sidestepped and blocked her way again.  She looked up at him and saw the serious look in his eyes, knowing this had to be dealt with. 

“My ready room please, not here.”

Once inside the privacy of her ready room, she turned to him.

“Chakotay, all I said was I would think about it.  I never promised to take any leave…”   He interrupted her.

“You haven’t even thought about any of it, have you?  Kathryn, you promised to think about what I said.  Shore leave is the perfect opportunity to do that, or are you afraid to think about this, afraid that what I said might just actually start to make sense to you?”  He was starting to lose patience now; his anger just under the surface and Kathryn noticed this. 

“Kathryn, you are one of the bravest women, no, one of the bravest people I have ever known.  What are you so bloody afraid of with this?  You would face any danger, any pain, even risk your life for this crew, but for yourself you are filled with fear.  What are you so terrified of?  You’ve faced the Hirogen and even the Borg but you are afraid to face yourself.  I can’t understand this.”  He didn’t know what else to say.

Kathryn looked at him, meeting his eyes with a sad look in her own. 

“You’re right Chakotay.  I can face physical pain but this is different.  Emotional pain…  I don’t understand myself.  I guess I just know how to deal with everything else.  I’ve been trained how to deal with all that, how to face it, even how to deal with the losses.  I know the ground rules in a battle situation,  know I have the backup of a good crew and a good ship.  I know all the rules of the game and I know how to play it.  When it comes to me, to the emotional, well I’m lost.  There are no set rules.  If I get hurt, there isn’t any regenerator to fix the damage.”

Chakotay walked over to her and put his hands on her arms, mainly to keep her in place. 

“Listen to yourself.  You’ve just answered your own questions.  This is no different.  This is also a battle that has to be fought.  There are actually ground rules in the right situations.  There are ground rules between you and me.  Trust, love, respect.  Generally speaking, there are not always rules, but even in your training, there was never an answer for everything.  That’s something we’ve learned out here.  Every race we’ve come across plays by a different rulebook and we’ve adapted.  Some had even thrown the rulebook away.  Personally, this is no different.  You talk about having the backup of a good crew and a good ship.  That still applies in this case.  Everyone on this ship is there for you, personally and professionally.  Facing the losses? No, you were given training but that hurt will always be there when you lose a crewmember and you know that.  All the training in the world won’t take that away.” 

He took her face between his hands. 

“You take a chance every time you send someone on an away mission but you accept the risks, for them and for yourself, when you go.  Kathryn, send your heart on an away mission.  Take the chance and trust yourself.  You have all the backup you need.  Yes, there can be hurt that the Doctor can’t fix but to shut yourself away like you do is denying life, and that in itself is causing you pain.  Pain, just like joy, is a part of life.  If we never knew pain, we’d never understand joy.  Kathryn, please, trust me.  I will never deliberately hurt you.  I can’t promise you won’t ever feel pain because of me.  I know I could be killed at any time and that would cause you pain but think about the pain this present situation is causing.  You’re in pain because of it and you’re causing me pain also.  Don’t you know how much pain it causes me to see you like this and how much it hurts me every time you push me away?  Another thing, and I hate to even think of this, but I want you to think about it.  What if you were killed?  Kathryn, it’s just as easy for you or I to be killed as it is for any member of this crew.  If you were killed, think of the waste of life.  Gods, Kathryn, there is nothing sadder anywhere, than life wasted, squandered, thrown away or misused.  It’s an insult to your parents who gave you that life and to your Creator who gave them the power to create you.”   Kathryn had tears flowing freely down her face at this stage. 

“Kathryn, don’t say anything.  Just go on shore leave and think about all this.  Then when you come back, I’ll be here for you and we can talk then, OK.”  She just nodded at him.  Her throat was too closed up to form words, even had she had access to the right ones in her mind.

And so she went on shore leave, needing to rest physically and emotionally.  She knew Chakotay was right.  She had to deal with this now and taking some leave was the best way to do it, away from any distractions on the ship.

The Kronan Officials had given her the use of a small cabin in a lovely woodland setting and the only intrusion she had was the sound of bird like creatures singing and running water from a nearby stream.  For two days, Kathryn secluded herself with her thoughts and her personal demons, but by the end of that time, she had laid a lot of her ghosts to rest.  She had faced up to her fears and loneliness and came to realize that they were her greatest enemies, that they were capable of inflicting more harm to her than the Borg or any other so called real enemy ever could.  She faced these personal enemies head on and the battle was often times fierce but she won each one and so by the morning of the third day, she awoke a different person.  She had actually slept well for the first time in her recent memory and suddenly felt as if she had lost twenty years of cares and worries, pain and fears.

She still had half a day left before returning to the ship and she planned to take a long walk, to stop and smell the flowers so to speak and just generally celebrate this discovery of life.  She actually couldn’t wait on one hand to get back and see Chakotay but there was a small part of her that was nervous about it too.  She likened it to nervous anticipation, like that felt before a great adventure and when she thought about it, that was how she now viewed the rest of her life, as a great adventure, a strange, uncharted country just waiting to be explored and discovered.

Suddenly she was afraid that everything she had learned and discovered might never make it’s way to him or that words might fail her when she was face to face with him, or even that they would come out wrong and so, while she walked, she recorded a personal log to him, knowing that the bird song and the other sounds of nature would make a wonderful backdrop to her recording.  She spoke from the heart to him for the first time and left nothing unsaid.  She ended by telling him, for the first time, how much she loved him and how she would continue to love him for all eternity and she told him how sorry she was for all the wasted time and how all she wanted now was to make it up to him.  She finished by thanking him for saving her life and once more told him she loved him.

She hurried back to the cabin and began packing away her few belongings, making sure the recording for Chakotay was well protected in her bag.  She was just checking around for anything she might have forgotten, when she was alerted by her comm. badge.  She heard Tuvok’s voice and suddenly found her memory taking her back to New Earth.  A chill ran through her and a sudden feeling of foreboding accompanied it.  She instinctively felt that her newfound peace was about to be shattered in some way.  There was an urgency in Tuvok’s hail and she quickly answered him. 

“Janeway here Tuvok.  What’s wrong?"  His voice was calm as usual, but she could still detect that urgency in it. 

“Can you return to the ship immediately Captain?  There has been a problem with some of the crew on shore leave. There have not been any injuries but there has been a situation and the Kronan Officials wish to speak with you.”  He didn’t elaborate further. 

“Beam me back now Tuvok.”  She grabbed her bag just as she felt the familiar tingle of the transporter beam.

Kathryn was off the transporter pad and running immediately. She threw her bag to the young Ensign on duty and told him to send the bag to her quarters.  She headed for the bridge, calling Tuvok and telling him to meet her in her ready room.

Tuvok was waiting for her when she hurriedly entered her ready room. 

“Report” she snapped, more harshly than she intended. 

Tuvok proceeded to tell her that a small group on shore leave had been arrested for violation of the Kronan Laws. 

“What law did they break?”  Kathryn asked.  Tuvok took his time answering. 

“They apparently were ‘acting inappropriately in a public place’.  They were ‘laughing and joking with each other’ and apparently ‘one crewmember put his arm around another’.”

Kathryn sat down heavily behind her desk. 

“And that’s breaking the law?”  Tuvok said nothing. 

“Where are they now?”  she asked him. 

“At present, they are being held in custody, awaiting their ‘punishment’.  The Officials wished to speak with you before sentence was carried out.”  Tuvok didn’t look directly at her but awaited the reaction he knew would come.  Kathryn was out of her chair in a second. 

“Are you telling me they’ve already been found guilty, without any trial or anything?”  She couldn’t believe this was happening.  She had realized that this society was conservative, but this was going too far. 

“Two Officials witnessed the ‘crime’ as they call it and judgement was passed immediately.”  Tuvok waited for her response to that.

“We’ll see about that.”  Kathryn was already headed for the door when she suddenly stopped. 

“Tuvok, how many crewmembers are involved?” 

“Four” he stated simply. 

“And those four are…?”  She suddenly knew who one of them was without needing to hear the answer.  He would have met her on her return otherwise. 

“Commander Chakotay, Lieutenant Torres, Ensign Paris and Ensign Wildman.”  Kathryn was almost afraid to ask her next question.

“What is the ‘punishment’ they want to inflict?”  Tuvok didn’t look at her. 

“Punishment for this kind of crime is public flogging, a public whipping.”

Kathryn closed her eyes and sat down on her sofa for a minute, before she fell down.  She recovered quickly.  She had to be strong now. 

“Let’s go.  Let’s get this mess sorted out.” 

She was out the door so quickly, Tuvok almost had to run to keep up with her.

When Kathryn and Tuvok arrived on the planet surface, they were met by two very dour looking Officials.  The previous smiles were long gone, their manners apparently having left with them.  Kathryn and Tuvok were shown into an office, which was furnished with very plain chairs and just one desk, the walls unadorned and plain coloured in an off white.  The ‘décor’ if you could call it that, reminded Kathryn of a style used by the traditionalists back on earth, almost Puritan.  One of the Officials motioned for Kathryn and Tuvok to be seated and then sat behind the desk himself, leaving his companion standing to one side. 

Kathryn waited a moment to see if the Official would speak first and he appeared to be playing the same game.  She decided to start and opened her mouth to speak but the Official beat her to it. 

“Captain, I can imagine what you are going to say, but let me save you the trouble.  This is a straightforward matter.  Your crewmembers broke our law and regardless of whether this was done in all innocence, that law was still broken.  Ignorance of our law is not taken as an excuse for breaking it.  There were numerous witnesses to this breach of the law, two of these witnesses being elected Officials whose word is taken without question.  The crime was committed and the punishment must be executed.  There really is nothing further to speak of.”  He leaned back in his chair and placed his hands flat on the desk in front of him.

Kathryn leaned forward.  It was her turn now and she would have her say.  She knew the line between stating her point and insulting this Official and tried to be careful not to cross it. 

“We understand your position but surely you must be able to make some allowance for visitors, who come here and trade in good faith and then visit your city, at your invitation…” The Official cut her off. 

“Captain, this matter is out of my hands.  There is nothing I can do.  Our laws are written and cannot be changed.  Punishment for these crimes must be executed and those responsible must pay the price.” 

Kathryn’s mind raced and she knew she was thinking on the run but she had to act, so she persisted. 

“Let me get this straight.  As long as the lawbreaker is punished and a sentence is carried out against that lawbreaker, then the Officials and the Government here will be satisfied, is that correct?”  The Official gave her a suspicious look, wondering where she was going with this. 

“Yes Captain, that is correct.  We will be ‘satisfied’ as you put it, when the lawbreaker is punished according to our law.”

Kathryn glanced at Tuvok and could see he was curious as to her next move.  Kathryn gave her attention back to the Official. 

“Let’s speak plainly here.  Is that all right with you?”  The Official still looked suspicious but gestured for her to continue. 

“I understand the ‘punishment’ is public flogging, whipping, yes?” 

“The lawbreaker will receive twenty lashes, sentence to be carried out in the public square.”  The Official was getting impatient with this.  Kathryn pushed on. 

“So our only concern now is the lawbreaker.”

The Official stood up. 

“Captain, this is getting tiresome.  We already have the lawbreakers in custody.  As I’ve told you, punishment will be carried out and it will be carried out this afternoon.  There is nothing more to be said on this matter.”  Kathryn stood also. 

“I think there is.  You have the wrong people in custody.”