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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     Things fall apart for Kathryn on Voyager’s return to Earth as

                     Chakotay and the crew mistakenly believe she wants nothing to do

                     with them.  With her life empty, she falls back on Starfleet and is sent

                     on a mission that goes terribly wrong.  Infected with a fatal disease,

                     she faces a lonely and painful death.  Chakotay finally discovers the

                     truth and vows to be there for her, nursing her through her final months.




Even after three days in space, Kathryn had to swallow the lump in her throat which  formed every time she came to the bridge and saw John Hawkins sitting in the First Officer’s chair.  Seeing Miriam’s blond head and not Tom’s at the conn had the same effect.  The fact that a Vulcan was her Security Officer on this ship, didn’t help the pain she felt either and when she looked at the young red haired woman in Harry Kim’s place, she always had to swallow and concentrate on all their names, fearing she would slip up and revert to happier times.  She left it to her First Officer to speak with engineering, not able to take the absence of B’Elanna’s confident voice answering any problem.

They had just received their orders and had entered in the coordinates for their rendezvous with another Federation vessel.  Once there, they would be informed of their final destination.  Within a further four hours, they were hailed by the Taurus and followed them, the other ship appearing to have more details about this mission than Kathryn and her crew had been given.

Two hours later found the Captain of the Taurus, a man in his fifties named William Walker speaking with Kathryn in her ready room over a secure commlink.

“I can only give you rough details Captain Janeway.  We’ll arrive at our objective in one hour.  Your team will join mine on the surface and once there, we’ll basically take the place.  There are two main buildings, one housing quarters for the group and the other their main command post.  Your team will join me in taking the command post.”  His face and voice never changed during his entire speech.  Kathryn went to ask a question but he cut her off.

“I know you would like more information than I’m giving you but you have your orders.  I’m in charge of this mission as I’m sure you already know and I’ve told you what you need to know.  Your job here is to follow my orders without question.  I realize that is still a strange concept to you but I would suggest you get used to it again.”  Kathryn controlled her temper, disliking this man even more.

“Of course Captain.”  Something about Captain Walker spoke of his being more than an ordinary Starfleet Captain but Kathryn knew better than to inquire further.  He nodded curtly and cut the transmission, telling her he would get back to her within the hour, when they were ready.

Kathryn sat back in her chair and wondered just what she had gotten herself into.  Nothing about this mission felt right.  The fact that only Admiral Brandon had spoken to her of it and now the lack of information from the other Captain was more than strange and in fact was completely unheard of in her experience.  Something felt very wrong to her but her training remained with her and she forced her worries away.

As they prepared to beam down, having reached their target, Kathryn looked at the faces of John Hawkins and Miriam Stowe and knew immediately that they were as concerned as she was with this assignment but none of them spoke of it.  Kathryn had no more time to think further on the matter as the order came.

Time held no frame of it’s own in the hours that followed.  It only took Kathryn seconds to realize that their information had been in error, although Walker hadn’t seemed surprised.  There were nearer fifty Cardassians and Humans at the base they now tried to take.  Kathryn saw the other team storm the living quarters, a small fight ensuing.  She forced her mind to her own target and to simply staying alive.  She and her team fought long and hard to take the command post as the noise of the battle almost deafened her.  Captain Walker grabbed her arm and shouted at her.

“I want you, Hawkins and Stowe to come with me.  We need to find the labs and take them…”  Kathryn didn’t have time to question anything and found herself running down a long corridor with Walker leading them.  It vaguely clicked with her that he seemed to know his way around the building a little too well but she quickly dismissed the thought, knowing he had been briefed far more extensively than she had.  Walker kicked in a door and nodded for them to precede him inside.  John and Miriam were ahead of her as they rushed the room and time slowed for Kathryn as she saw two Cardassians and a Human look up startled as they stormed in.  Almost in slow motion, she watched one of the Cardassians go for a weapon and she raised her own.  As she fired, she felt a sharp pain rip through her shoulder and realized that she had been hit.  At the same moment, her eyes caught the movement of the other Cardassian as he picked up a glass container and threw it in their direction.  As Kathryn started to go down, some of the liquid in the container splashed on her but she saw that John and Miriam, being so much closer, caught more of it as it sprayed across their bodies and faces. 

All Kathryn knew after that was the sound of phaser fire and strong hands on her, dragging her out of the room as pain washed over her.  She saw two members of Walker’s team helping John and Miriam out of the room before throwing something inside.  As they rushed down the corridor, Kathryn being half carried, she heard the explosion as the lab blew.  She was pulled back to their pick up site and all along the way, she saw bodies littering the ground and knew none of them were alive.  As they waited, a shuttle landed and she heard someone shout for them to hurry and then she was shoved into the small craft and they were lifting off.  As they rose from the ground, Kathryn got her last view of the area below her and she saw the two buildings they had stormed explode, leaving nothing standing.  She saw the remaining members of the team on the ground, vaporize the bodies which remained.  Just as she went to scream out, to demand to know what they were doing, a hypo pressed to her neck and she knew no more.

Kathryn woke later in a sickbay, the light instantly assaulting her eyes.  She groaned loudly just as a familiar face appeared before her.  Voyager’s own EMH.

“Where…where am I?  What happened?”  She struggled to sit up but her head seemed to explode and she fell back.  She groaned again at the pain in her shoulder and arm before another hypo was pressed to her neck and the pain eased immediately.

“Captain, please lie still.”  Kathryn nodded slowly and let the painkiller do its work.

“Doctor…please…what…how did I get…how did you…?”  He smiled softly.

“I’ll tell you all I know.  You were brought here yesterday with a bad shoulder wound.  I had to perform surgery as you had only been given basic first aid.  I have no idea why you weren’t treated better on the ship…”  Kathryn fought to get her thoughts to order themselves and to recall the events of her mission.

“Where am I?”  He patted her hand.

“You’re at headquarters, in the medical facility.”  He saw her process the information and knew many questions would come from her.

“It’s three or four days from where we were.  How…?”  The Doctor shook his head.

“Captain, I have no answers for you.  I can only assume that you were unconscious all that time or…”  Kathryn saw him hesitate.  “It’s possible you were kept sedated.  There was a fairly high level of sedative in your system.”  Kathryn’s thoughts swirled as she tried to make sense of everything that had happened.  Before she could ask anything else, another face appeared before her.  Admiral Brandon.

“If I may Doctor, I need to speak with your patient in private.”  The Doctor simply nodded and moved away.  Kathryn pushed down the uneasiness this man created in her every time she saw him.

“Right Captain.  Simple orders for you.  I’m sure you can manage them.”  His snide manner wasn’t lost of her.  “The mission is over and debriefings aren’t necessary.  What you saw is over with and you won’t speak of it again.  Do I make myself clear?”  Kathryn simply nodded.

“My crew?”  Brandon shook his head in annoyance. 

“Six dead, ten injured including yourself.  Details of the other team are not your concern.  In fact, none of this is your concern any more.  Your work is over and I suggest you just get back on your feet and return to your desk.  Remember the oath you swore and let this go Captain.  It is not your place to know anything else.  You simply follow orders.”  He waited to see if she would say anything more and when she didn’t, simply nodded and walked away.

Kathryn was back on her feet within another three days and back at her desk two days after that.  She tried quietly to find out where John and Miriam were, to check if they were all right.  Her last memory of them had been sitting in the shuttle beside her, before she had been sedated.  Most of her memories of the mission were now clouded and she had no answers as to how she had been returned to Earth.  Despite having been released from sickbay and given the all clear, Kathryn still suffered a fatigue which she couldn’t seem to shake.  She asked questions quietly now but was never able to find any answers.  Most people she spoke with either denied any knowledge of the matter or appeared nervous.  When she checked Starfleet’s records of the mission, she found she was denied access to a lot of information and discovered to her shock, that all sensors had been wiped from the computers on board the Travis and that there was no record at all of a ship named the Taurus.  She continued her quiet investigation until finally Admiral Paris came to see her at her apartment, asking her to keep their meeting off the record.

“Kathryn, I have to ask you something and for the moment, I don’t want you to ask any questions.”  Kathryn merely nodded and remained silent.

“Kathryn, I’m asking this as a colleague but also as a friend and most of all I’m asking you to trust me.  You’ve been asking about two of the crewmembers who were with you on your last mission and about the mission itself.  Your little investigation has not gone unnoticed.  I’m here to ask you to let it go.  I’ll try and answer questions for you later but for the moment, please stop what you’re doing.  I can’t tell you any more at the moment.”  Kathryn searched his face but saw nothing.

“Forgive me Admiral…”  He waved a hand and smiled.

“Come on now Kathryn, we’re off the record here and you’ve known me a long time.  Call me Owen please.”  Kathryn didn’t return the smile but simply nodded.

“All right…Owen it is.  Look, there’s something not right here.  First off, I barely received any orders and certainly little explanation, which I can understand to some degree but not to this extent.  I’m told to forget the entire mission yet what I saw happen there was not Starfleet…”  She paused a moment and drew in a deep breath.  “Captain Walker gives me more orders, despite being the same rank and I can take that as I’d been ordered to follow him… I’m given no clue as to where we are and then…  I don’t know…I’m injured and I see them wipe the place off the map.  I’m sedated and not treated for my injuries and kept that way for several days.  I wake up back here, again no explanation and then Admiral Brandon is there, telling me to wipe it all from my mind and go back to my desk like it never happened.  Later on…I check and ask some questions and find sensors have been wiped and I’m not allowed access to information that would normally be available to someone with the rank of Ensign.  I can find no trace of my crew…”  Owen Paris held up his hand again.

“Kathryn, listen to me carefully now.  I’m here to ask you to trust me for a while.  Stop asking anything and just do what’s expected of you.  I will try and answer your questions in time but for now…  Kathryn, lives are at stake here, including your own.  Please, I beg you, let this go for now.”  Kathryn stared deeply at him.  She saw how serious and worried he was and a shiver went down her spine.  She nodded slowly.

“All right Owen, because it’s you…”  He finally smiled and she saw the relief that came with it.  They chatted for a little while longer, mostly about the Delta Quadrant and Kathryn was suddenly aware of Owen staring at her.

“Owen?  What is it?  What’s…?”  She got her answer before he spoke as she felt a small trickle of something escape her nose.  Quickly she wiped at it and studied the back of her hand where she saw blood.  She stood quickly and apologized, grabbing a tissue and wiping her nose.

“Owen, I’m sorry.  I don’t usually have nosebleeds.”  She saw him smile softly but there was something on his face she couldn’t read.

Over the next week, Kathryn experienced several more nosebleeds and her fatigue continued.  Occasionally now she suffered headaches and her joints seemed stiff and painful in the mornings and at night.  Kathryn for the most part ignored what her body was trying to tell her and threw herself into her work but she couldn’t stop thinking about John and Miriam.

As she worked her way through a pile of padds one afternoon, Nathan sent a call through to her from Tom and B’Elanna.  Smiling to herself, she took it and smiled again when she saw their faces.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.  I know I promised but it’s been…”  She saw them stare at her and B’Elanna as usual went straight to the point.

“Kathryn…what on earth have you done to yourself?”  Kathryn’s hand went immediately to her face, and she studied her fingers, afraid her nose was bleeding again but saw nothing. 

“What…?”  B’Elanna stared at her.

“Kathryn, you look so tired and well…you look ill…”  Kathryn just smiled.

“I’m fine, honestly.  My mission was a bit more gruelling than I thought and I was injured…  I’m fine now…”  She saw the shocked looks on their faces.  Tom broke in.

“Injured?  Kathryn how bad?  It’s been weeks since we expected to hear from you.  Are you sure you’re all right?  What are you not telling us?”  Kathryn instantly remembered Owen’s words and smiled her best smile.

“Will you two stop worrying?  I’m fine.  I was off my feet for about a week but I’m back to normal now.”  B’Elanna snorted.

“Normal for you is not eating, not sleeping and denying how bad you feel…”  Kathryn threw her eyes up.

“I am eating, I am sleeping and I’m getting back to myself…  Will that do?”  They both smiled and shook their heads.

“Guess it’ll have to do until we get you over here and feed you properly.  When can you come for dinner?”  Kathryn smiled her thanks. 

“B’Elanna, Tom, I’m not crying off but I’ll have to let you know on that.  There’s a lot on here at the moment…  I promise you though…the minute I can…I’ll call you…”  They nodded reluctantly, knowing they had no choice.

“All right, you have two weeks and no more.  After that we drag you here.”  Tom gave her his best cheeky smile and it brought tears to her eyes.  She nodded her agreement and cut the transmission before she broke down.

The following day, Kathryn still felt unwell and shocked the life out of Nathan when she fainted on him.  When she came around, he had her lying on the sofa in her office with a cool cloth on her forehead.

“Easy Captain, I’ve been trying to call the Doctor but I can’t reach him.  I’ll try again…”  He stood up to go but Kathryn grabbed him by the wrist.

“Nathan please…I don’t need…”  He made to pull away.

“You faint, on top of which you’ve looked unwell for the past two weeks, had nosebleeds and you don’t want…”  Kathryn sat up and fought the wave of dizziness which passed over her.  She felt Nathan’s kind hands on her arms and smiled.

“Nathan, I don’t need him.  I’ll see him later.  It’s all right…”  He nodded slowly.

“This is something you know about?  Something you’re seeing him for?”  Kathryn hadn’t thought of that as an excuse but nodded now.

“Nathan, I’m fine honestly.”  He reluctantly let it go and returned to work.

An hour later, Kathryn felt better and carried on with her work.  Owen Paris let himself into her office and smiled softly.

“Don’t blame him, I talked him into letting me in.”  Kathryn sat forward and smiled, putting her padd down.

“Owen, you don’t need an excuse…”  She saw the smile slip from his face as he looked at her.

“Nathan tells me you fainted earlier.”  He wasn’t asking a question and Kathryn sighed.

“Nathan says too much.  Owen, I’m fine…”  He moved forward and cut her off.

“Kathryn, I need to speak with you.  Can you come with me?  Do you feel up to it?”  She frowned and nodded.

“All right.  This sounds serious…”  He didn’t answer and waited until she stood and made her way to him, then stood back and let her precede him.  Calling over his shoulder, he smiled at Kathryn’s secretary.

“Nathan, I need the Captain for an hour or so.  Can you take her calls for her?”  The man knew his job well and merely nodded, asking no questions.

Owen Paris took Kathryn to an area of headquarters she had never been in before.  He led her to a small office and gestured for her to sit.  Without asking, he placed a cup of tea in front of her.

“Better for you than that coffee you insist on.”  He smiled but it didn’t hide the serious look beneath it on his face.  Finally he sat and studied her for a few moments.

“Kathryn, I told you before that I would answer your questions for you.  I can do that now.  Some of what I say will only give you more questions but please wait until I tell you everything first.”  He looked at her and saw her nod slowly.  Leaning back in his chair, he began.

“I’m sure you’ve wondered why Admiral Brandon appeared to almost hate you from the moment he saw you?”  He saw her nod.  “He worked with your father, you know.”  He saw she remembered.  “There was a great deal of animosity between them, to say the least.  Your father didn’t trust him and suspected him of being involved in some things which I won’t go into but let’s just say they were to Brandon’s own personal gain and our loss and involved the situation with the Cardassians.”  He saw the face of the woman before him harden.

“Let’s also just say your father and I suspected a lot but could prove nothing and eventually things quietened down.  Brandon was assigned overseas and had no more contact with us.  In the end, the matter was let go but I don’t think he ever forgave us.  After your father was killed, the matter slipped from my own mind.”  Kathryn lowered her head a moment as memories of her father’s death alongside her fiancé came back to her.  Owen gave her a moment before he continued.

“The reason I believe he treated you as he did, was because of who you were and also I think, because you were a woman.  Not a modern thinker our Admiral Brandon.  Never believed women should be out in the world.  Anyway…”  He stood and looked out the window a moment then turned back.

“Just before you returned home, the Peace Treaty was signed with Cardassia.”  Kathryn nodded, knowing all the details as she had read them.  “There were rumours of a group opposed to the Treaty and intent on sabotaging it.  I believe their preferred method of warfare was chemical…”  Kathryn sat forward now, concern on her face.  She felt something drop inside her and knew she wasn’t going to like what she was going to hear.

“They…this group, were comprised of a mix of Cardassians and Humans, hating each other for the most part but working together towards a shared goal.  We knew they had ‘help’ if you like, in higher ranks and we pooled intelligence with the Cardassian government to expose them.  We were close too…”  Kathryn stared intently at her old Mentor.

“My mission…”  He nodded his head.

“In essence yes…only Brandon went ahead before he had spoken with anyone…  How he organized it so quickly and how no one saw…”  Kathryn saw anger on the face of the old man.  He controlled himself and sat again.

“Brandon was one of those involved, just as we had suspected all along…all those years ago…  He used your mission…”  Kathryn held up her hand now.

“He used us to wipe the place out before anything could be discovered about it, knowing he would be found out and William Walker was in it with him…”  Owen Paris merely nodded.   Kathryn made to stand then sat again.

“How did…?”  Admiral Paris shook his head.

“He was clever, that’s how.  I’m telling you this now because they were both arrested this morning, along with a few others.  The same scene played itself out on Cardassia.  There will always be many questions from this we’ll never have answers to, what with the evidence and witnesses destroyed.  We just have to accept that.  It’s over…for the most part…”  He looked away from her.  Kathryn’s anger rose up in her.

“He used us to destroy all that…kill all those people…”  Owen stood again.

“Those people would have killed millions Kathryn…”  She looked up at him and saw the truth in his face.

“I know…it just doesn’t make it any easier…”  She shook her head.  “Why didn’t someone see…?”  Owen came around and sat on the corner of the desk.

“Kathryn, he had you all briefed and away before we knew it.  After that, he convinced the right people that he was sending a team to arrest those involved, only he had other plans…”  Kathryn tried to force her thoughts to order themselves.

“How did he explain…later on…?”  Owen shrugged.

“He sounded sincere and some bought it…  He told them that there had been a suicide pact with the group…that they had the place rigged if anyone tried to take them…  They believed it Kathryn…had no reason not to.  They saw a decorated Admiral and a long serving Captain in Walker, telling them all this.  Basically, they were just happy to hear that it was over…  You’d been there, the returning heroine…  Kathryn, they were blinded by what they wanted to see…  I know it’s no excuse but…”  Kathryn finally stood and walked up and down slowly.  Her fatigue bore down on her but she put it down to what had just been revealed to her.

“All the people we lost…”  She stopped suddenly, her mind racing.

“You said…over for the most part…Owen…what else?  Where are John and Miriam?”  He didn’t answer her immediately and her mind supplied it’s own answers.  “Chemical…warfare…chemical weapons…one of them threw something…”  Her eyes flew to the face before her.  “Owen…?”  He shook his head sadly and gestured to her chair.

“Kathryn please…”  She sat, hardly aware of the movement.  “Kathryn…you remember what happened?”  She nodded, torn between wanting and not wanting to hear what was to come.  “They were experimenting with chemical weapons… making…  it was to be germ warfare on a scale…”  Kathryn’s face showed the horror she felt at his words.

“What was in that lab was… that’s where they were formulating and constructing everything…testing…”  He signed deeply and stared sadly at Kathryn.  “What was thrown…  it exposed…”  Kathryn’s hand flew to her mouth.

“What he threw at them…it splashed all over them…  Owen…where are they?  Are they…?”  Owen got off the desk and knelt beside her.

“They were exposed to…we don’t know what it was but…”  He looked down and took her hand.  “Kathryn…they’re…dying…”  Kathryn closed her eyes tightly.

“No… oh no…Owen…”  He gripped her hands tightly. 

“Kathryn…you…”  Finally he met her eyes and saw the sudden understanding in them.

“I was exposed too…”  The acceptance he saw there shocked him and he just nodded.  Kathryn dropped her head and said nothing.

“Kathryn, we need to get you to the Doctor…get you checked…  I know you’ve been feeling ill and it could well be something else…  You were injured there and it could be related to that…”  Kathryn pulled her hands away and stood up.

“Walker knew his way around there…  It didn’t click at first…  He didn’t have me treated because he hoped I’d die on the way back…  what else did he give me…?”  Owen stood slowly and sat on the desk again.

“Kathryn, I have few answers for you.  We know that Walker was there many times before and so was Brandon.  As to you…we now know that he simply kept you sedated and gave basic first aid.  I don’t believe he wanted you to die though.  He could have easily arranged that if he’d wanted to.  Your death would have raised too many questions.  I think it was mostly to keep you in line.  Kathryn, I don’t know and they’re not talking.  Look, you just have to let it go now.  It’s over for good now and they’ll never be free again…”  Kathryn felt her anger rise up.

“It’s over for a lot of people Owen.  It’s over for John and Miriam isn’t it?”  He had no answer and she saw it.

“Can I see them?”  He met her eyes and shook his head.

“Kathryn please… it’s for the best…besides…  Kathryn, they’re both in comas…”  Kathryn finally gave way to the tears which had been threatening.

“It’s not fair…”    She felt kind arms go around her and let go, crying out everything.

Finally, he led her back to her chair.

“Kathryn, you need to see the Doctor… please Kathryn…  just to be safe…”  She nodded and wiped at her face.  He looked kindly at her.  “Did any get splashed on you?”  Kathryn drew in a deep breath.

“I’ll see the Doctor in the morning… I will Owen …but yes…some did get on me…”  She looked into the eyes of the man who had been like a father to her and saw the deep pain written there.  There was nothing more to be said.

Kathryn wiped at her eyes, only now realizing how much she had been crying as she had spoken to the Doctor.

“That’s my story…  not a happy one…”  The Doctor’s face showed a sadness he had never been programmed with.

“Captain…  I’ll work round the clock on this…  you have to have faith…”  Kathryn actually laughed.

“Poor Owen…I think he wanted so hard to believe that my symptoms were anything but this…”  She wiped at her face again and took the tissue he offered her.  “I have faith in you but…  actually I have faith in justice after this morning…”  She saw the puzzled look on the face of the Medic.  “I received word that Brandon and Walker…they decided to take the cowards way out…”  She saw understanding on the Doctor’s face.

“Suicide?”  She nodded.

“Starfleet taking care of things.  The opportunity was left available to them…their belts or something…either way I don’t care…”  They were silent for several minutes and then the Doctor spoke.

“Captain, we need to discuss…”  Kathryn looked at him and nodded.

“I know…how to delay the inevitable…sorry Doctor…I just need to get rid of some of this anger…  please go ahead…”  He smiled sadly.

“We need to discuss treatment.  I can control the symptoms for the most part, at least for now… certainly the fatigue… and I can give you a clotting agent for the nosebleeds…painkillers…”  Kathryn held up a hand.

“What I have so far…that will get worse?”  He nodded, knowing the woman before him and how she preferred the truth.  “What else?  What happens…later on…?”  He sighed deeply.

“What I’ve learned and from observing…”  He shook his head.  “There will be headaches, joint pain, the muscles will weaken…”  He looked at Kathryn and saw a model of control, pure composure.  “Your blood will have more and more trouble clotting…and the internal…it attacks the immune system and the cells…  it’s complicated and… there will be…you’ll experience…seizures…”  He met her eyes.

“How soon can I expect…seizures…how will I…?”  The Doctor shook his head.

“They can be expected quite soon…”  He had trouble controlling himself.  “I’ll give you medication…hyposprays…you should always have someone with you… Captain, it could well affect you differently…”  Kathryn stood.

“But the end will be the same…  coma and then death…what will probably be a relief…”  She shook her head and frowned, amazed at her own calmness now.  When she looked back at the Doctor, he nodded.

“It breaks down the internal structure of the cell walls, attacks the tissue…blood…”  Kathryn sat again.

“In other words…it’s not going to be pretty at the end…sorry Doctor…it’s that self righteous anger again…”  He nodded his understanding.  “For now…I take it I can return to work…?”  She saw his disbelief.

“Captain…you really shouldn’t…”  Kathryn just smiled sadly.

“Doctor, I need it.  Do you honestly expect me to just go back to those empty rooms and lie there…waiting for… and you did say I’d need someone… oh God…I can’t ask anyone to do this…”  She bit her lip and saw he understood but his sadness was profound.

“Would you not consider staying with…  I know Tom and B’Elanna would love to have you.  When they’re in for her check ups, they’re always talking about you…”  Kathryn’s look of horror startled him.

“No…no way…what if…the baby…?”  He stood quickly.

“Captain, you’re not going to infect anyone with this…surely you don’t think…”  Kathryn moved away.

“I’d prefer not to take the chance.  Look Doctor, this stays between us.  I’ll tell them when they need to know…when I can’t hide it anymore…  In the meantime, I want to continue as long as I can… I know I’d be better off here but I’m just not ready to let go yet…I know that’s selfish and I’ll probably have to ask Nathan but…”  He sighed deeply and nodded.

“All right Captain, it’s your right…”  He lifted a padd off his desk.

“I’ll need a day to prepare your treatment and get the doses right.  I’ll also need to see you everyday…”  Kathryn nodded.

“All right.  I better get back to work now though…  I’ll see you in the morning…”  She moved away but stopped in the doorway.  “Doctor…”  He smiled sadly at her.  “Thanks for…listening…you know…and for what you’re trying to do…  Thanks also for your honesty…just…well thanks for everything…not just this but…  since the  beginning…you know…”  She suddenly turned back and hugged him and then left quickly.

Voyager’s EMH slowly moved around his desk and sat down heavily.  “Oh my dear…I just wish you had something to really thank me for…”

Kathryn returned to work and finally confided in Nathan and David.  They were deeply shocked and she saw how they covered how upset they both were.  As time passed and Kathryn started to experience some seizures, she grew to depend on them both a great deal.  Nathan took care of her for the most part and a deep friendship developed between them.  When she fainted or experienced a seizure, it was always Nathan’s reassuring smile she came round to and his quiet voice.  He took everything in his stride, keeping her hypos easily available to him, tissues and ice for her nosebleeds and generally just watching her and caring for her.  She knew he worried about her when she went home but so far she refused any help.

He was there for her too when she got the news that John Hawkins and Miriam Stowe had both lost their fight for life.  He held her tightly as she cried for them, for the waste of their lives and the senselessness of it all.  She cried as she remembered how alone they must have been and it only reminded her of the emptiness of her own life.

Tom and B’Elanna finally grew impatient and called to see her at the office, tired of being put off with excuses from David or Nathan and were shocked by her appearance.  B’Elanna spoke her mind yet saw how her former Captain stood back from her.

“Kathryn, what is going on with you?  I don’t want to hear excuses about how busy you are either.  Look at yourself, what’s the matter with you?”  Kathryn had all the right answers ready, citing overwork and confidential matters she couldn’t speak of.  Nathan even joined in when he brought tea for her visitors, complaining how overworked he was too and how his wife nagged him all the time about it. 

“Kathryn, every time I move towards you, you back off.  What’s wrong?”  B’Elanna saw the control on the face of the older woman and saw her wipe at her nose with a tissue she held.

“It’s nothing.  I just have a cold and with the baby…  I don’t want to take chances…”

B’Elanna allowed it but filed it away in her mind.

They chatted on for a while, Kathryn looking a little more relaxed and finally, they appeared to accept her words and left, promising to keep in close contact with her.  At home that night, they discussed the matter.

“Tom, she was lying through her teeth…”  Her husband rubbed her growing abdomen as they sat back and nodded.

“I know she was and that guy, Nathan, was going along with it.  They seemed pretty close.  I don’t mean as a couple but…he knows something…”  B’Elanna held his hand as he caressed her.

“Did you notice how she didn’t seem to want to get too close to me?  That excuse about having a cold…  that was just bull…  You were close to her and she didn’t back off as much…”  She felt Tom nod his head against her shoulder. 

“I’m going to talk to Dad about her.  He sees her more than we do.  He’s back tomorrow from that trip.”  His wife squeezed his hand.

“And I’m going to find that big thick Indian and sort this once and for all…”  They smiled and hugged each other.

Nathan stayed back late with his boss that evening and sat sipping coffee with her. 

“I think we convinced them…”  Kathryn smiled softly.

“Nathan, thank you for that.  I hate having you lie for me but…  If anything happened to the baby…”  He smiled back at her.

“Kathryn, you know what the Doctor said about that.  He stood here and told us both that there was no danger…”  She nodded and studied the liquid in her cup.  Nathan’s friendship still amazed her, the trouble he had gone to in understanding her condition and learning all he could in order to help her, how he and his wife now did so much for her.  She accepted the odd invitation now to have dinners and outings with them and knew that Louise understood the situation and was more than understanding about the time her husband spent with his boss.

“I know that Nathan, but I’d still rather not take the risk and besides I’m not ready to tell them yet…”  She looked up at him.  “Louise will be worried about you…with me keeping you here like this…”  He shook his head.

“She’s visiting her mother with the girls tonight.  They’re not back until tomorrow evening, so I’m all yours.  Don’t suppose I can interest you in something to eat?  We can replicate something here and you haven’t had much today.”  Kathryn smiled sadly and felt her eyes tearing up.  “Kathryn, what is it?”  She shook her head.

“Nothing, you just remind me of someone…”  She wiped at the few tears which had escaped.

“Want to tell me about that someone?”  She studied him a moment.

“It’s past now…he’s gone…”  Nathan reached out a hand and gripped hers.

“Gone but far from forgotten from what I can see…  Come on Kathryn…”  She nodded and took another swallow of her coffee.  An hour later, Nathan knew all about Chakotay, Kathryn even showing him a holoimage she had. 

“You kept that quiet.  Good looking guy.  I knew all about the others from you but him…”  He watched as she studied the carpet before looking back at him.  “We’ve sat here like this quite a few nights and you’ve told me about every one of them but you barely mentioned him.  Did he hurt you that much?”  Kathryn sniffed and shook her head.

“No…I hurt him…”  She told him about her debriefing and how things had gone.  Nathan took her side though.

“He could have at least heard you out…”  Kathryn wore a pained expression.

“Don’t…Nathan please…  I’m sorry but…I can’t hear anything bad against him…”  He watched her closely.

“You still love him very much…”  She nodded, not meeting his eyes.

“Until the day I die…”  She looked up.  “Sorry…bad choice of words.”  She saw the sadness on his face.  “Actually…beyond that…I’ll never stop…”  He bent his head to the side to see her face better.

“Why don’t you try and find him…contact him…?”  He saw the panic on her face.

“Nathan no…  Look, he’s happier without me…settled somewhere I hope…found someone…  I wouldn’t want his pity…”  Nathan swirled the remainder of his coffee and thought a moment.

“It sounds to me like he wouldn’t forget you that easily.  When someone is that angry, it’s usually because they care so much…”  Kathryn stretched and dragged herself to the edge of the sofa.

“It doesn’t matter now…”  He stood and helped her up and looked into her eyes, holding her gently.

“You don’t fool me Janeway.  I think it matters very much.  I just hope he knows what he walked away from…”  He hugged her.  “Come on, let’s get you home and tucked up in bed.”  She smiled at him.

“Nathan…whatever will Louise say…?”  They laughed together and ordered the lights off.

When Tom arrived home the next day, he found his wife sitting in the kitchen, a faraway look in her eyes.

“Honey, are you all right?”  She turned and smiled.

“I’m just fine.  Daydreaming and reliving the past, you know.”  Her face became serious.  “Did you talk with Owen?”  She saw the worried look cross his face as he sat down opposite her.

“Oh I talked with him all right.  Sorry I was gone so long but I looked up a few other people while I was at it, including the Doc.”  He held up a hand when he saw her worried look.  “Come on inside, this will take some telling.”  They moved into the front room and Tom told his wife what he had learned.

“I got a story from Dad…  He told me first about how it was for her when we got back and some things since…”  Tom related everything his Father had told him, most of it confirming what Kathryn herself had told them.  He then told her what else he had learned.  “Do you remember that incident recently at Starfleet…that Admiral…Bradley or Brandon I think he was called…?”  B’Elanna nodded.

“Brandon…there was him and another guy…a Captain Walker.  I remember him from before, during my time there.  Never knew him but I remember him being around headquarters.  I remember saying that to you when we read it.”  She frowned at him.  “What has that got to do with Kathryn…?”  Tom sat beside her.

“You remember reading about the mission that took out that group…?”  B’Elanna gasped.

“Oh no…Tom…are you saying…?”  She watched his face closely.  “Don’t say Kathryn was on that…”  He nodded and she closed her eyes a moment.  Tom told her more.

“She was injured on it, like she said but…”  He sighed deeply and went on to tell her about how Kathryn had been left untreated until her return to Earth and how she had been sedated.  He also told her how Kathryn had been asking questions until his father had stopped her until they had a case against Brandon.  “I got some of that from Dad and I found out Brandon was the Admiral who had handled Kathryn’s debriefings, the one she told us about.  The rest of what I learned, I had to pry out of the Doc by letting on I knew more than I did.”  B’Elanna’s mind raced.

“Some of that team were lost…others were…there was something about them being infected with something…”  She swallowed and a look of horror filled her face as tears rushed to her eyes.  “Oh Tom…no…please don’t say…not Kathryn…”  He looked away a moment.

“I can’t confirm it but…we saw how she looked…I can’t think of what else it could be…”  He reached for B’Elanna’s hand as she leaned in to him.

“Tom…”  She pulled her head back and he saw the panic on her face.  “Tom… they…they died…I remember that…”  He nodded tearfully.

“I know honey, I know.  Doc told me about them.  They were exposed to some toxin or something on the mission, some kind of germ warfare those bastards were playing around with…”  He held his wife tightly.

“And Kathryn?  She was…?”  He shook his head.

“I don’t know.  Doc couldn’t tell me anything and I understand that.  Dad didn’t or wouldn’t say anything either.  I understand I suppose but…”  They cried together for several minutes as it all sunk in with them.  Tom eased away and wiped at his face.

“Oh God…I can’t believe all this…”  He looked down at his crying wife.  “Did you have any luck finding Chakotay…”  He saw she only now remembered what she had been trying to do all day.  She wiped at her own face and sat up.

“Someone’s watching over her…  I actually found him.  For weeks I’ve tried and now suddenly…  I’m not sure she’ll thank me but…  I left a message for him that I needed to see him urgently.  I know it was bad of me but I let it sound like it was me who was in trouble…”  Tom smiled softly and stroked her hair back. 

“I’m sure the Gods will forgive you.  Is he coming?”  She nodded and smiled sadly. 

“He’s coming.  I just got a message that said he was on his way.  I was out for a while so I didn’t get the call.  I just needed a walk earlier…”  He smiled and pulled her against him.

“Let’s just pray this all works out, pray we’re jumping to the wrong conclusion here…”