"Because of you?" Kathryn stood before the viewport of her quarters in a position so familiar to him...feet slightly apart and hands on hips. Her death glare was at 70% and increasing by the minute. "Just how the bloody hell do you work that one out?"
Chakotay shook his head, every bone in his body screaming in weariness. "It WAS because of me, Kathryn. You know it and I know it."
"I know nothing of the sort." Her words cut through the air. Death glare up to 75%.
Chakotay hadn't the energy to raise his voice. "Kathryn, you were beaten and tortured because of me. The Prefect's daughter wanted me and when she couldn't have what she desired, she had you captured and took it out on you." He rubbed a hand over his face, the skin feeling like someone else's. "We don't need to go over this again. We both know what they did to you. I was the one who found you, remember?"
He wanted nothing more than to erase the memory but it haunted him. He raised a hand weakly when she went to speak. "I was also the one who sat beside your broken and battered body in sickbay while the Doc fought to save you."
Kathryn refused to be silenced a second time. She advanced on him now but her glare had lost some of its menace and her voice was slightly softer. "And you blame yourself? You think it was because of you?" She sighed heavily. "Oh Chakotay, she was an immature, spoiled little bitch too used to getting what she wanted and couldn't take 'no' for an answer. She may have had a small part in it, gained some satisfaction in knowing what they did, but I remember enough of it to know that their main reason for taking me was to get information about Voyager. Their 'questions' told me that. It was pure coincidence that her agenda matched theirs. They'd have taken me anyway. And that is just one of the risks of being 'captain'. You can't change that."
She moved a little closer to him. "The main thing though is that you rescued me. You got me out of there and back here." She saw that she wasn't convincing him and felt her earlier emotions return. She shook her head angrily. "Oh for God's sake, Chakotay...you go on at me about unfounded guilt. You've spent years teaching me to let go of that 'useless burden' as you call it. Well, I'll tell you the same thing. This wasn't because of you."
He held her eyes, his own filled with pain and sadness. "I saw what they did to you, Kathryn. I saw your injuries...your blood on the floor. I saw your uniform in tatters. I heard your cries of pain when we moved you, even though you were barely conscious. I stood there as the Doc catalogued your injuries. I sat there for two days while you fought to stay with us. I saw..."
He jumped when her hands gripped his upper arms, her fingers digging painfully into him. "Enough, Chakotay. You saved me before it got worse or was too late. Just accept that." Her eyes searched his and time stood still for a moment. Finally she released him and stood back and he could see her formulating her next words.
"You want responsibility for something? Well, think about this. Let me tell you what IS because of you..." Her face softened and she managed a very small smile. "I'm here because of you. The start of this journey and being in the Badlands was because of you. I was sent to capture you and instead you captured me. And so our new life began here."
Her words caught him by surprise, stunned him in fact, and he just stared at her. As if seeing that, Kathryn smiled again and continued. "Surviving and dealing with my decision to destroy the Array to protect the Ocampa, cutting off our way home...that was because of you. You stood beside me, your enemy, and made my burden lighter, even in those early days. I got through all of that, those terrible first weeks out here, because of you. I integrated two crews because of you and coped with the losses we'd suffered."
Her thoughts jumped about all over the place as the memories came at her. She felt tears fill her eyes. "All the losses over the years...Kes...Neelix...all those wonderful crewmembers...Tuvix..." She rubbed her hands together. "Dear God...so many..."
She turned back and smiled sadly at him. "I coped with it because of you though. And seeing what the Doctor could be...what he was...seeing B'Elanna at the start for what SHE was...coping with Seska and Suspiria and God knows how many others...even the damned Q..." She rolled her eyes on that one. "Hell, I even got my coffee when my rations ran out because you gave me yours..." They both smiled at that.
Kathryn moved back towards him. "You held my dead body and breathed life back into it. You gave me my life back." She reached for his hand. "I live and breathe because of you, Chakotay."
He was too choked up to answer her. He simply covered her hand with his own and squeezed. She understood.
"New Earth, Chakotay. I saw what could be because of you. I saw that I could have a life and be ME...that I could be happy. You sustained me there and when they came back for us and we had to leave, I got through that because of you." She shrugged. "My depression in the Void? Again because of you. I can honestly say now that I came close to letting go back then. The reason I didn't was again because of you."
She sighed once more and moved away a little. "So many things, Chakotay. Crell Mossett, Kashyk, Jaffen and when we were all taken to work there, Harry Kim and that Varo girl, Tal. Caylem even. My 'Dear John' letter from Mark... Our crewmembers who needed us...Harren, Talfer, Celes...and so many others over the years. You even saw how I needed you with the Borg baby. You saw the pain I felt holding that little one when no one else did." She swallowed loudly and pushed on.
"The planet with the Memorial... And Teero...I got through that thanks to you because I still saw the real you there and I fought towards that." Her face hardened. "The Borg, Chakotay. Species 8472. When I was assimilated..." She closed her eyes a moment. "I was never so terrified in my life...but you were there with me all the time...within me. Another one I got through because of you."
She grew quiet for a moment and looked out the viewport. Finally she looked back at him, her expression sad. "Don't get me wrong, Chakotay...but there was also pain because of you..." She saw the hurt her words caused. "It was also because of me though. Your Riley Frazer and Kellin and my Jaffen and Kashyk...even a damned hologram..." She met his eyes. "We both suffered pain because of each other, Chakotay. We reflected that pain back onto each other. We could never commit to them though." She laughed cynically. "I discovered how jealousy can eat you up like nothing else because of you."
Chakotay managed two words, his voice choked. "We're quits."
She nodded at that then dropped her head a moment and drew in a deep breath before looking back at him again. "I have to say too that I faced the loneliest times of my life because of you...and again because of me. It was simply that you'd shown me what real love could be and I felt I was denied that. You'd shown me, like no other could, how empty my life was. Had I not seen what could be, I'd never have missed it. Does that make sense?"
He nodded the answer to that but didn't speak. She lowered her eyes in understanding. "I hurt so much...because I loved you so much."
She sighed deeply and met his eyes once more. "You also saved my sanity, Chakotay. You know that." She licked at her lips. "God, you brought me back from the brink of madness and stopped me killing a man. You made me face myself at my very worst and I hated who I was and what I'd become and saw in myself." She smiled softly at him. "You stopped me becoming Ransom, and the fact that my soul has perhaps been saved is because of you. I also learned about forgiving myself because of you. I now believe outside of this existence, beyond the scientific to the spiritual, because of you. I have complete faith in us getting home because of you."
She walked towards him now, her entire being seeming lighter somehow, as if getting all that out had lessened the load of the past week. She stopped right in front of him and took his hand.
"Above all, Chakotay, know this. I sleep and eat better now than I ever have...because of you. My body and mind...they're healthy because of you. When I fall asleep at night and you hold me against you, I feel secure because of you. Despite the dangers of our day to day life out here, I've never felt safer. I know what real and true love is because of you. When my body hums quietly after our lovemaking...that's because of you. I'm the most content it's possible to be."
She gave him a naughty little smile. "Also because of you though is when my throat is raw from my cries and screams of passion as you thrust forcefully and repeatedly into my willing body...your mouth on my breast...as you take me to Heaven."
She pressed herself against him and felt the effect her words had had on him. She stepped back a little and took his hand, placing it gently against her abdomen. "The tiny life that nestles safe within my womb is also because of you. You saved him too when you rescued me." He caressed the slight swelling and nodded, his eyes filling with tears. She leaned up and brushed her lips to his.
"The ultimate truth, my love. I don't regret a single day. I have peace, happiness and love. I have a future. In the end there is only one thing. I simply AM....because of you."