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.





IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH.

By KAT LADY.



PART FOUR.







People came and went over the next month, always checking first before calling by.  Kathryn grew tired more easily now and her muscles weakened but the Doctor was calling each day and had found a clotting agent that dealt well with her nosebleeds and any other bleeding that might occur.  Her seizures occurred more often now and she passed out at least once a day but Chakotay was always beside her, his smiling face the first thing she saw when she came round.  Nathan and Louise spent many hours just sitting talking to her while Chakotay took a short break but he hated leaving her side for long, knowing how short their time was.



As they entered the second month, Kathryn found it harder to walk and her pain increased.  Her joints stiffened and Chakotay ran warm baths for her, easing out the soreness where he could.  She bore it all bravely, not wanting to let Chakotay see her suffer but he always knew.  She accepted painkillers only when she felt she couldn’t take it anymore, not wanting to get too dependent on them too soon.  He carried her more now and one night as they lay together, she looked at him tearfully and cupped his face in her hands.



“Chakotay…”  He smiled softly at her.  “I’m so sorry that we never…”  She swallowed and he grew worried.



“Honey, what is it?”  She shook her head sadly.



“I so wanted to make love to you.  I’m sorry we can’t…”  Chakotay’s eyes filled up and he stroked her face.



“My Kathryn…don’t you know?  Every time you look at me, you make love to me.  When our eyes meet, we’re making love as surely as any other way…  When we touch, share words or a silence…hold each other when one is in pain…any pain…sharing our memories…our past…all we’ve ever known together…when our eyes meet and we see into each others souls…all that is making love.  It’s not your body I fell in love with all those years ago but the soul and the spirit of you who inhabits it and that love will last for all eternity, until I see you again.  That and you will never change.”  They cried together long into the night, holding and caressing each other.



Many nights now they lay together with the lights off and just watched the stars.  Sometimes they were quiet, other times they picked out stars they knew or made up names for others, matching designs and shapes they saw.  A lot of the time, they travelled back in their shared memory and relived moments when their world had been very different.  Mostly now they remembered, unable to plan.



The third month saw Kathryn deteriorate badly, unable to leave her bed and Chakotay knew she badly missed how he had often sat her out in the garden.  To know that she would never leave or see outside of their bedroom again, tore at him and he knew she had had the same thoughts.  He saw the effect it all had on her as he washed and changed her.  She put on a brave front when he had to take care of her bodily needs but he knew she was embarrassed and he constantly tried to reassure her.  When she suffered a seizure now, her body usually lost all control of itself and Chakotay would gently change the bedclothes and give her a bed bath.  As he cleaned her one day and turned her, he saw her tears.



“You shouldn’t have to do this…shouldn’t have to see me like this…my body broken…”  He hugged her and tried to comfort her.



“Kathryn, I love you…you’d do the same for me…”  She nodded but cried harder.  He saw her grow more depressed and frustrated each day now, as she felt herself lose her dignity and the control which had always been so important to her.



“I don’t want you to remember this…remember me like this…you deserve someone healthy who can give you what you need…a wife who can love you…give you children…you shouldn’t have promised me anything… I hate it that you have to do everything for me…hate being so dependent…you’ve no life with me…”  He grew annoyed now.



“Kathryn I love you…I won’t hear this nonsense from you.  The vows we made mean something… ‘in sickness and in health’ remember?  It’s not and never will be just about the good times.  The only part I don’t agree with is ‘til death do us part’ because I don’t believe that.  What we have is forever, eternal.  We go beyond that.  You’ll leave me for a little while and I won’t see you here but you’ll always be with me.  We’ll never leave each other and in time, I’ll join you and then we’ll have it all, forever and a day.”  He didn’t even try and hide his tears from her and she sobbed loudly as he held her.  “Please Kathryn, don’t think like that…”  He felt her nod against him.



Kathryn now could only be fed using the intravenous line the Doctor had put in and he had also inserted a catheter to make things easier for her.  As Chakotay cleaned the tubes one day, she looked at him.



“Promise me you’ll meet someone else…get married again…find what I couldn’t give you…”  He calmly finished what he was doing and sat on the bed beside her.



“Kathryn, I’m not going to have this conversation with you again.”  She sniffed angrily and turned her head away.



“I don’t want you to be alone…I know what that’s like…”  He made her look at him.



“I won’t be alone.  You’ll always be with me…”  She managed to shake her head.



“You know what I mean…”  She was crying now.



“Kathryn, we have the best friends in the world.  I won’t be alone.”  She just shook her head and cried harder.



Nathan was sitting with Kathryn one night, when he looked up and saw her watching him.



“Hey sleepy head…”  He smiled at her.  He saw she was in pain and fetched a hypo.



“I don’t want it…they make me sleepy…I’ll sleep soon enough…”  Nathan just shook his head.



“Let me give you a half dose then…”  Finally she consented and he pressed the hypo to her neck.



“I’m sorry Nathan…I don’t mean to get this way…I’m so afraid of getting bitter…and I don’t want to waste the time I have left feeling I’ve been cheated…”  He sat again and smiled sadly at her and gripped her hand.  “I feel I have to put on an act all the time…be brave when I don’t feel it…seem as if I accept all this…”  He nodded his understanding.  “All I want to do sometimes…is cry and scream out at it…the injustice of it…say that it isn’t fair…and…ask ‘why me?’…get angry that this happened…that my body is betraying me…but I can’t because they expect me to be strong and brave…”  Nathan leaned over and stroked her hair.



“Kathryn, no one expects you to be anything.  You’ve earned the right to be whatever way you want to be.  With me, you can be anyway you want, you know that.”  She smiled sadly.



“I need to be strong for Chakotay…he needs that…and I see him try so hard to hold himself together for me…”  Nathan sighed.



“Kathryn, he understands…if you need to cry or scream, that’s fine…he knows that…you never have to put on an act with him or me…”  She nodded and her tears spilled over.



“I don’t want to leave him…just when I found him again…”  Nathan stayed quiet.  “I think I could probably have handled… this better…if I was still on my own…yet if I hadn’t gotten sick…I wouldn’t have…found him again…”  She was getting breathless and Nathan handed her the oxygen mask the Doctor had left and she held it to her face, her eyes closed as she pulled the oxygen into her body.  The Doctor had explained that her lungs were affected now and her breathing would become more difficult.  As her body relaxed now, her breathing eased and she looked back at Nathan.  He saw the serious look on her face though.  “Kathryn?”



“Promise you’ll look after him?”  He knew what she meant and just nodded.  “Good…thank you…”  She drifted off to sleep again then, leaving the man to deal with his tears.



When B’Elanna was taking care of Kathryn the following day, Kathryn weakly took her hand and asked her to get a letter she had managed to write over time from the top drawer of her chest.  B’Elanna got it and handed it to her.



“Is this it?”  Kathryn stroked the paper and nodded.



“B’Elanna, I want you to take this and give it to Chakotay when…”  B’Elanna shook her head. 



“Kathryn…”  She saw the serious look on her friend’s face and nodded.  “All right…I’ll do it…”  Kathryn drew in a deep breath.  Her breathing was getting worse and they all saw it.  Her kidneys were weakening and her liver was failing, giving her skin a slight yellow tinge.  Kathryn knew without the Doctor saying anything that her heart was also damaged.  She was thankful she only suffered the odd moment of confusion and the haemorrhaging the Doctor had been afraid of was mild, appearing as if she just had a light period.  Mostly she knew exactly what her body was going through and she understood a lot more about her condition than she let on to Chakotay and her friends but kept it to herself.



“When I’m gone…not completely…but in the coma…give it to him then…he’ll need it then…more than later…  Later he’ll have you all around…”  B’Elanna nodded tearfully.  She found this so hard to deal with.  Kathryn handed the letter to her and smiled.  “So when is…this baby…coming…I can’t wait…much longer…”  She slowed her breathing as best she could.  B’Elanna had to look away.



“Any day now…”  She looked back at the woman she loved so much.  “It’s a girl…I haven’t even told Tom…”  Both their eyes brimmed with tears and Kathryn smiled. 



“Thank you… for telling me…”  She gripped B’Elanna’s hand as tight as she could.  “I had a feeling though…guessed…there’s some…jewellery…I want her…to have it…”  B’Elanna sobbed.



“Oh Kathryn…I’m sorry…I’m not helping you…”  She cried harder.  Kathryn gripped her hand tighter.



“You’re being honest…showing…how you…care…you’ve come a…long way…B’Elanna…Torres Paris…I’m so proud of you…I love you…I love Tom too…tell him for me…”  B’Elanna fell into her friend’s arms.



“Oh Kathryn, you’ve given me so much…I love you too…and this one…”  She leaned back and placed Kathryn’s hand on her stomach.  “Kathryn loves you too…”  She saw the older woman’s eyes fill with tears again.



“B’El, thank you so much…  make sure she knows Chakotay for me…  Take care of him please…”  The Klingon woman nodded.



“I will…always…I promise…”  She leaned back down to hug Kathryn but sat up quickly, her hand going to her stomach.  Kathryn was instantly alert. 



“Looks like she wants… to see me… before I go…  seems right somehow…one life ends…another begins…B’El sorry…”  B’Elanna nodded her understanding. 



“You’ll see her…I promise you…”



Two days later, B’Elanna kept her promise and sat trying to hide her tears as her best friend sat holding her daughter.  They all cried as Tom and B’Elanna asked Chakotay and Kathryn to be godparents to their child.  B’Elanna snapped off some holoimages as Kathryn gazed into the face of the baby, desperately trying to hide her own internal agony that she would never know this herself.  Chakotay met her eyes and saw her thoughts as he smiled his love to her.  Suddenly Kathryn jumped.



“Take her…”  Tom quickly took his daughter and stood back as Kathryn went into the  spasms of the seizure she had felt coming.  They left Chakotay alone with her as he pressed the powerful hypo to her neck and saw the medicine take control almost immediately.  He sat and whispered to her as she slowly came round, rubbing her back.



“They saw…  the baby…I didn’t hurt her…?”  He hushed her.



“Kathryn…it’s all right…it wasn’t bad…and the baby’s fine…”  She nodded tearfully and he barely heard her quiet whisper.



“I wish she was ours…I wish so much…” 



As the days passed now, Kathryn had no choice but to accept the painkillers on a regular basis.  She hated how they left her feeling spaced out but the pain was usually too much.  She constantly felt she was missing previous time with Chakotay but no matter how strong she tried to keep her spirit, her body was weak and it usually won. The Doctor finally managed to find a painkiller that didn’t make her as drowsy as the others and it helped.  Kathryn developed a deep, abiding respect and friendship with the Medic and it was him she trusted with her will and requests for when she was gone and what small gifts she wanted to go to different people.  She told him how she wanted to be buried or have her ashes scattered under the large tree in their garden and he had nodded solemnly, promising that all she asked would be done.



As Chakotay settled her one night, he saw the pain she was in and urged her to take another hypo.  She agreed quickly and he know then how bad it was.  He smiled gently at her when he saw her tears and held her as she grew sleepy.  Her words were soft in his ear.



“I wish it didn’t have to be like this… but I guess nature… always wins in the end.  I’ll miss you so much…”  He wanted to shout for her to stop but he knew she needed to say it.  “I know you’ll miss me too but… draw comfort from… the fact that I won’t miss… this pain.  I’m so tired now… and a part of me… longs to let go… but I can’t leave you… don’t want to…”  Finally she drifted off, leaving her husband to cry unseen by her.



Kathryn now worsened by the day and Chakotay never left her side.  Even as he slept, he remained beside her as someone watched her.  He washed her hair and combed it out, even did her nails so she would feel better about herself.  He would rub her favourite talc on for her, knowing the scent would fill the room and take her mind off the normal sick room smells.  He massaged her muscles and Kathryn let him, despite knowing that she would never use them again but she saw that Chakotay needed to do it.  When she seized, he always held her gently and used the suction tube the Doctor had left, making sure she didn’t choke on her own saliva or vomit which she was too weak to help expel herself.  He was terrified she would choke and after these episodes, Kathryn would be left weak and exhausted, her breathing bad as Chakotay held the oxygen mask for her, seeing her struggle to draw the air into her damaged lungs.  Only when he left the room as she slept, would he let go.



B’Elanna found him in the kitchen one day as Tom sat with Kathryn, as he battled his tears and emotions.  He looked up when she entered but didn’t try and hide how he felt.



“Oh B’El sorry…it’s just so hard to see her suffer like that…”  B’Elanna sat him down and made tea, using the action to keep her hands busy.



“She has trouble seeing you suffer…I think she feels that’s the hardest part…”  She looked at her old friend.



“It’s hard but…  oh B’El it doesn’t matter how hard it is on me…I see how hard it is on her…and that’s all that matters…I’m not important now…only she is…”  He rubbed at his face.  “I see her struggle to breathe…fight for almost every breath and yet she battles on…”  He looked up tearfully.  “The woman she was…so strong…it’s so hard to see something beat her…I honestly thought nothing could ever do that…”  B’Elanna gripped his hands tightly.



“Chakotay, she’s fighting this because of you…to stay with you as long as she can…”  She felt her own tears run down her face as he nodded.



“Part of me wants her to fight but I think that’s selfish sometimes.  Another part of me wants her to just let go and end her suffering…  I see her fight to hang on to the last…and yet she wouldn’t be Kathryn if she didn’t…”  He stopped and drew in a ragged breath as his tears poured down his face.  “B’El…how can I live without her…go on without her…?”  B’Elanna pulled him into her arms.



“Oh my brother…you’re only barely hanging on in there yourself…”  She kissed the side of his head then pulled back and looked into his eyes.  “You’ll go on because you promised her…because it’s what she wants…but you’ll never be without her…she’s a part of you…a part of us all…ingrained into our souls…and we’re all richer for it…we’ll all go on…because to do anything less would be an insult to the love of life and strength she had…to the memory of her we’ll have…to the love we all shared… it’ll be our salute to her…”  Chakotay was almost beyond consoling.



“She was so unhappy when we got back…even out there…unhappy for a long time…my fault…”  B’Elanna shook him slightly.



“Chakotay…you gave her love and happiness…   You know…despite her illness…her last months have been the happiest of her life…don’t ever doubt that…  What you have together…most people would give their entire life for one day of what you both have…”  She pulled him back to her and they clung to each other, not sure who was comforting who any more.



Nathan frowned as he entered sickbay with Tom and B’Elanna, wondering why the Doctor had asked them there and requested they not tell anyone.  The Doctor appeared and called them in.  When they were all sitting, he spoke.



“I’m speaking to you here because I don’t want Chakotay to know about this yet in case I’m wrong…”  B’Elanna jumped in.



“Have you found something?  Have you a treatment?”  The medic held up a hand.



“Please…  I don’t know and won’t know for a while yet but I’m hopeful.  Time is running out fast.  She’ll most likely slip into the coma before I have anything but if that happens, I want to place her in stasis until I have this treatment ready.  I wasn’t ever close enough before when the others needed it but this time…  Surprisingly…it was information I received from the Cardassians only yesterday, something they found in their own investigation of the mission, one of their doctors.  I’ve been working round the clock but…Let’s just say you should pray to whoever to pray to…”  They all nodded solemnly but it was hard to keep the hope at bay.



Kathryn slept more now yet constantly fought it, wanting every last second with the man she loved.  Only Nathan and his wife, Tom and B’Elanna came now, everyone else knowing that the end was near.  The Doctor called every two or three hours trying to make her as comfortable as possible.  She was too weak to sit up on her own anymore and Chakotay propped her up on her pillows as they held each other and whispered quietly, Kathryn almost totally dependent on the oxygen now.  The Doctor had explained to Chakotay that her cells were degrading badly at this stage and her internal organs were shutting down slowly.  Chakotay had just taken the news with no reaction.  He tried desperately to shut that part of himself down and just concentrate on being there for his wife.



That night, they lay together again with the lights off and watched the stars.  Chakotay knew they had very few nights left like this and cherished every second.  He was aware of her laboured breathing and held her tighter to him.



“Chakotay…”  He nuzzled against her.



“Mmm…what is it love?”  She shifted slightly and he helped her move herself to get more comfortable.  He knew she was in pain but she had refused a stronger painkiller and he let it go.  He had a feeling she wanted to be as lucid as possible.



“I’m close…”  He closed his eyes in the darkness and fought for control.



“I know sweetheart…I’m here…”  He felt her turn her head.



“Lie beside me…I want the light on…”  He nodded slowly and fought his tears.  He eased her down in the bed and switched on the small lamp, shutting out the stars for the last time then lay beside her.  She slowly raised her hand and stroked his face, her fingers tracing over his features.



“I want your face… to be the last thing… I see… when I close my eyes… for the last time… in this life…”  Chakotay saw her tears and let his own fall.  He watched her study his face, her eyes examining every detail she could see.  Over the last few days, her sight had started to fail her but was still good enough in the light.  He held her to him so he could still see her face then leaned down and brushed his lips to hers.



“Kathryn…I love you…”  She nodded slowly.



“Chakotay…I love you…thank you…for my life…I’ll wait for you…”  He was too choked up to speak and just stroked her face and hair.  He watched as her eyes met his and then slowly closed. 



She seemed asleep but he knew.  Her laboured breathing told him that he had looked into the eyes of his wife and seen hers look back at him for the last time.  She had slipped quietly away in his arms, into the coma from which she could never waken, the prelude to her death.



Chakotay knew the force that had been Kathryn, had left him.  Her body continued barely working but she was gone.  He continued to hold her and gently rock her for some time, whispering to her and kissing her.  He delayed calling the Doctor, trying to hold back time, wanting it to stop, knowing that this would be the last time he would have her with him like this.  Finally, his choked voice alerted the Medic and he let her be taken from him.



He sat in the medical facility as he watched the Doctor place the woman he loved on life support, part of him wanting to scream at the man to let her go, that she would never want to exist like this.  Tom and B’Elanna arrived a little later and then Nathan and Louise but there was nothing any of them could say.  They held him and whispered comforting words but Chakotay felt himself die on the inside, his spirit flying from him to join the one already gone.



Chakotay sat mostly unmoving beside Kathryn as the days blurred together.  Her body was still warm but he knew she wasn’t there yet he still held onto any part of her he could.  He refused to return to their home, unable for now to face seeing where Kathryn would never be again, although he knew in time he would find comfort there, surrounded by where she had touched.  The others watched him grieve, wanting so much to tell him of the Doctor’s progress but were too afraid to give him false hope only to perhaps see it dashed back on the rocks of his grief.  B’Elanna came in one day and saw him holding Kathryn’s eyes open with his fingers.



“Chakotay…?”  She laid a gentle hand on his arm.  “Chakotay…what are you doing…?”  He shook his head sadly and leaned back, letting Kathryn’s eyelids drop back.



“Being desperate…”  He turned and looked at his old friend and saw the pain there.  A part of his mind knew that this was a time when she should have been with her husband and new daughter but still she was here.  He saw she didn’t understand his words.



“It’s silly I know…it’s just…I need to see her eyes…see them again…even though she can’t see me…it makes her…I don’t know…a part of her still with me…as if she’s looking at me and can see me…”  B’Elanna nodded and let him talk.  “Sometimes, I take her hand and stroke my face with it…just to feel her…imagine…pretend…”  He smiled sadly through his tears and saw that she understood.  “I keep using her shampoo…her talc…just so her smell stays with me…I kiss her to feel her lips…the warmth of her skin…I sleep beside her…put her arm around me…pretend she’s just asleep and that I’ll wake and so will she…”  He choked up and let B’Elanna hold him as he cried.  Finally he pulled back and B’Elanna hesitated a moment.  Eventually she spoke, taking Kathryn’s letter from her pocket.



“Chakotay…oh God…look…Kathryn wanted me to give this to you…she gave it to me some time ago…wanted you to have it…read it…before…  She wanted you to read it before she died…while she was in the coma.  She said something about…that you’d need it more now…rather than later…”  Chakotay frowned and took the letter.  B’Elanna stood then leaned down and kissed him.  “I’ll leave you both alone…”  She turned and left.



Chakotay sat and held Kathryn’s letter for a long time.  He held it to his face and inhaled her perfume on the envelope.  Finally, he gently opened it and read.



My dearest, darling Chakotay,

I know, it sounds mushy but it’s how I think of you.  I wanted this written rather than on a padd.  More personal.  If you’re reading this then B’Elanna has given it to you and I’m gone from your life, maybe not dead yet but in a coma.  The part of me who wants so desperately to be with you, has gone.

I have little of value to leave you except my mother’s house which Phoebe let go and left to me, but I know that will mean little to you because I know you.  Don’t spend time there looking for me.  I’m not there Chakotay.  That girl is long gone.  If you’re looking for me, I’m in your heart and your memories.  I read a poem once that said something about the dead being in the gentle breeze, the face of a child, the dew in the morning, the quiet sunset, all of that.  They will remind you but I’m not there either.  I’ll live on within you, until we see each other again.

Chakotay, it has been the greatest honour of my life to have known you, to have loved you and been loved in return by you.  Don’t cry for me.  I’ve lived a full and mostly happy life and I’ve done and seen amazing things but most importantly, I’ve known and loved you and that has been the most precious gift I could ever have had.

You offered that gift to me a long time ago and I didn’t take it for a long time and that is my deepest regret, apart from not being able to give you the child I know you so wanted, the one we both wanted.  I want you to know though, that I have loved you as long as you have loved me and I’m so sorry I never told you that.

I leave this life knowing one thing.  I have loved and I have been loved by the most wonderful, loving, kind, gentle and caring man this world has ever known, so the most valuable thing I can leave you is my love and your memories.

I take with me your love and my own memories and Chakotay, they will nourish and nurture me until we meet again.  I love you, my husband.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love and the memories and the life you have given me.

I beg you, don’t grieve for me.  I have simply passed into the next room and I’ll wait for you there.  I believe this now, thanks to you.  I bet you never thought that Janeway the scientist could ever come to believe like this.  It’s nice to know that I can still surprise you.

I’ll watch over you, my love.  Take care of Tom and B’Elanna, Nathan and Louise, David and our crew, even the Doctor.  We have good friends who love us.  Let them be there for you.  Mind that godchild of ours and fill the role in her life that I can’t.  Maybe someday you could tell her about me and that I once held her and loved her very much.

I love you Chakotay and this will never be ‘goodbye’.  There will never be any ‘goodbyes’ for us, only a brief parting.  Look at the stars at night and think of me.  Go on and live for me and be happy.

I love you, Kathryn.



Chakotay gripped the letter in his hand and cried as he had never cried before.  Raw pain ripped though him but his heart was cushioned on a cloud of love even as it broke.  He leaned over Kathryn and hugged her to him, trying desperately to consume her warmth and pass his into her still body.  His fists opened and closed on the sheet which covered her, as he cried out, venting his pain yet savouring the love he felt for his wife and knew that she had returned.



B’Elanna came by a little later, finding him still clinging to Kathryn.  She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly, whispering softly to him.   She looked up and saw the Doctor watching them.  She pleaded with her eyes and saw him nod.



“Chakotay…Chakotay…listen to me…Doc needs to talk to you…I’ll come with you…”  Chakotay looked up, terror in his eyes.



“You’re not turning it off…please not yet…I know she wouldn’t want to be like this…but please…I need her a little longer…”  B’Elanna smiled softly and shook her head.



“No, not that…please just listen…”  He barely nodded and stood slowly, his body stiff from not moving.  He placed a gentle kiss on Kathryn’s face and let B’Elanna lead him to the Doctor’s office.



Chakotay sat stunned as the Doctor explained how close he was with a cure and how he wanted to place Kathryn in stasis before it was too late and her cells and organs broke down too much.  He explained about the treatment he had been working on with help from a Cardassian scientist and doctor who had also been working on it for one of his own patients.  This doctor’s patient had died but had also been exposed before Kathryn and to a greater degree, giving Voyager’s Doctor more hope.



“Chakotay, please understand that there are no guarantees with this.  It’s the reason I didn’t say anything before now but with Kathryn’s condition as it is, I can’t wait any longer.  I also couldn’t have treated her sooner, even if I had had the serum.  At that stage, it could probably have caused more harm than good even if it had been ready.”  Chakotay nodded his head, still in shock.  He was ready to grasp at any shred of hope which came his way.



Chakotay still stayed in sickbay, sitting with Kathryn as she lay in the stasis chamber.  He continued speaking to her but missed touching her desperately.  His fingers clawed at the glass window of the casing, as he spoke to the woman inside, calling her back to him, praying to any Deity who would listen.



The Doctor found him every morning, asleep and always gripping Kathryn’s letter as he lay against the chamber.



“Chakotay?  I hate to disturb you…”  Chakotay jumped awake, his eyes unfocused.  “Chakotay, I have to run some tests and scans…”  Chakotay nodded and moved away, getting himself a cup of coffee.  Even the aroma of the hot beverage caused him pain.  He turned as the Doctor approached him.



“I’m happy to say the treatment appears to be working.  It’ll be slow going but the degeneration of her cells seems to have been halted.”  Chakotay blew out a breath and closed his eyes.



“How long before you know for sure…?”  The Doctor shook his head.



“It’s impossible to say but I estimate anywhere from a week to ten days.  Certainly after that, we’ll know for sure.”  Chakotay nodded and returned to his place beside Kathryn.



Over the next week, Kathryn slowly improved as her medical readings grew stronger.  The breakdown of her cells stopped and her internal organs grew no worse.  Finally the Doctor announced that the first part of his job was complete.



“I’ve arrested the disease and it’s clearing from her system.  However, we still have a long road ahead of us.  There has been a lot of damage done to her organs and tissues as a result of this and her cells…”  Chakotay felt more hopeful now, trying to pace himself but finding it impossible to stem the optimism which surged through him.  “Chakotay, there is still a lot of regeneration work to be done and even after that, we face a long and slow recovery.  She might never be the same as she was and you have to be prepared for that…”  Nothing could discourage Chakotay now though.



“She’ll be alive and with me…that’s all that matters…”  The Doctor smiled and nodded his head.  “I’ll do my best.”  He watched the large man return to his wife’s side and smiled.  He remembered the day they had both laughed at him and told him that with what they had been through together, it was about time he used their given names.  Within days, every crewmember had followed suit and the Doctor had found himself trying to remember a new set of names.  He smiled now at the memories and returned to his office.



Twelve days later, Kathryn was taken from the stasis chamber, which had only been turned on during certain times when she wasn’t receiving her treatments.  Chakotay sat once more beside her as she lay again on one of the biobeds and took up where he had left off, whispering to her and caressing her.  She was still in the coma and on part life support until her internal organs had completely regenerated.  The Doctor informed Chakotay that she was cured but that it was up to her now, when she would come back to them.  He did his best to reassure the worried man that she would come out of it, that it was just a matter of time.



It was the strangest week the Doctor had ever known.  Crewmembers and close friends came and went, all sitting with Kathryn in turn.  Some spoke with her, others played music or sang and yet more read to her and told her of their day or what was happening outside.  As Kathryn continued to remain in the coma, now free of all artificial support, B’Elanna decided to try something.  As Chakotay sat dozing beside her early one morning, B’Elanna shook him awake.



“Hey Chakotay…I want to try something…”  He looked up, still half asleep.  “I’ve made a recording of baby Kathryn.  She screamed her lungs out all night and I suddenly got the idea to record her and play it for Kathryn on a continuous recording loop.  It’ll either help her or drive her as crazy as it did Tom and me at 0300 hours but maybe it’ll wake her.”  Chakotay nodded, willing to try anything.



The sound of the baby screaming rang out through the sickbay for the rest of the day, the Doctor almost tempted to sedate himself to get away from it.  Chakotay was ready to give up, if only to save his hearing, when he felt Kathryn’s hand move in his.  His eyes flew to her face and he saw her eyes move behind her eyelids and her lips move.



“Cry…stop…”  Chakotay let out a whoop of joy, bringing the Doctor running.  He didn’t need to ask what was happening.



“Computer, halt audio play Torres one.”  Silence filled the room now and the Doctor turned to Chakotay.  “Thank God…I was starting to crack up…”  He looked down at his patient.  “Kathryn?  Kathryn?”  He tapped her cheek.  “Come on, wake up Kathryn…”  Slowly her eyes opened then squinted closed again before the Doctor ordered the lights down.  She tried again and this time managed to keep them open.  She blinked a few times then looked at the Doctor then Chakotay.



“Cha…”  She swallowed, her throat very dry and tried again.  “Chak…where…?”  He leaned over her, his smile a mile wide.



“Honey, you’re in sickbay…you’re…”  She looked around her.



“I thought…when…thought…it was…over…”  He blinked back his tears.



“So did I sweetheart…so did I…”  He gave her some time to let things settle in her mind as the Doctor scanned her.  The Medic looked at Chakotay and nodded, his face beaming.  Chakotay looked down at his wife and saw her tears.



“Can I go home…don’t want to die here…unless… too hard for you…?”  Her voice was a whisper and he leaned down and kissed her.



“You’re not dying Kathryn…Doc found a treatment…I’ll explain it all…”  He looked up when the Doctor spoke.



“One hundred percent…she’s fine…  A few more days so I can be sure of everything and then…home…”  Chakotay moved to the Doctor and grabbed him in a bear hug, he even kissed him.  The Doctor just stood in shock before returning to his office, still shaking his head.



Chakotay took Kathryn’s hand and brought it to his lips.  He saw she was still confused and stroked her face as he tried to explain about the Doctor’s treatment.  He saw the shock on her face.



“You mean…it worked…I’m cured…?”  Chakotay just nodded, too choked up to speak properly.  “I’m not dying…not now…?”  He shook his head.



“Only in old age my love…only in old age…”  It was too much for her and she burst into tears as Chakotay pulled her up into his arms and held her tightly to him, his words whispered in her ear, putting the world to right and everything back in its place.



Kathryn was released from the medical facility four days later.  The Doctor informed them that she would suffer some mild residual pain for a week or two and that she would be slow to regain her strength.  She might well have the odd fainting fit but these too would pass.  Chakotay carried her around and continued massaging her muscles which were very weak from lack of use.  He was glad now that he had insisted on massaging them before, making the job far easier now and the problem only half what it could have been.  One of the hardest things Kathryn found was coping with the emotional aspect of everything that had happened.  To have come so close to dying, to have lived through what she believed was a slow and painful death and now dealing with the memory of the mental anguish she had endured during it all was difficult to say the least.  Slowly she managed to set it away and concentrate on the extraordinary gift and second chance she had been given.  Chakotay had the same problems but together they worked through them, supporting and loving each other.



Within two months, Kathryn had received a clean bill of health from the Doctor, none of the side effects present he had worried about.  She would always have to be careful to avoid infections and he kept her on medication to help her fight anything she might pick up, which would be harmless to others but would make Kathryn herself ill. 



Chakotay accompanied her when she went to visit the graves of John and Miriam, Kathryn finally letting go of the survivor guilt she had felt for a while.  He stood back as she placed flowers beneath their headstones and held her tightly to him as she cried for the loss of their young lives and how unnecessary it had all been.  They never thought of Brandon or Walker, leaving them in the past where they belonged

 

Within another month, she was almost her old self physically.  Emotionally, she had never been happier.  Every crewmember visited from time to time, bringing partners and kids, friendship and happy memories.  Nathan and Louise called by all the time and even David came by, bringing his new girlfriend, one he had finally decided to settle with, much to everyone’s surprise.  Tom and B’Elanna were over every few days, baby Kathryn making the place her own as Kathryn fussed around her, wheeling her around in her pushchair and playing with her.  B’Elanna saw the worry on Chakotay’s face as he watched his wife swing the baby in the air and knew what he was thinking.



“You can’t wrap her in cotton wool, Chakotay.  She’s fine.  You heard the Doctor…”  He sighed and turned back to her.



“I know B’El, it’s just…I came so close to losing her…I couldn’t face that again…”  She smiled and reached over, taking his hand.



“You won’t.  Just let her set her own pace.  I know she was never the best at taking care of herself but it’s different now.”  He smiled and nodded, returning the squeeze on her hand.  “So…how’s…everything else…?”  He looked up and saw a look of innocence covering the mischief beneath it.  “Kathryn said something about you two getting the all clear…”  Chakotay laughed and shook his head.



“Get your mind out of the gutter Maquis…  We’re fine…”  She just smirked and bit her lip.



“Good…good…” 



Chakotay had been worried when the Doctor had delicately told them that Kathryn was physically all right ‘in every sense’ and that they would now be fine to engage in ‘married life’ as he put it.  Kathryn had actually appeared shy, dropping her head and Chakotay had simply gone red.  They didn’t speak of it on the way home and Chakotay decided to let her bring up the subject when she was ready.  He noticed that night as they lay in bed, that she was quieter than usual.  Finally, she turned to him and studied his face before speaking.



“Chakotay…about what the Doctor said…”  He nodded.  Her shyness amazed him but her next words shocked him.  “I know he said it was all right but…  I’ll understand if you don’t want to…”  He frowned deeply, not understanding and saw her eyes tear up.  “I know with…  well the way you had to…  I understand if you can’t ever see…see my body in that way…  what you saw of me…had to do…it was hardly appealing…so I understand…”  He propped himself up on one elbow.



“Kathryn…I can’t…don’t believe you…I can’t believe you would think that I’d…that I’d think or feel like that…”  He was angry and he saw that she looked worried now.



“Chakotay, you saw…”  She pulled away and sat up in the bed, her arms hugging her knees.  “Chakotay, you had to clean me when…towards the end when I couldn’t even control…I was worse than a baby…”  He jumped up in the bed and grabbed her.



“God Kathryn, I just don’t believe you…why should that matter…?”  She cut him off and pulled back from him.



“I know you love me but this is different…physically you couldn’t want…not after that…”  She threw the quilt back and jumped out of the bed.  She stopped and turned back to him.       



“You couldn’t see or want me like that…not after…it was disgusting…what you had to do…you could never see my body as anything else…”  A rage came over Chakotay and something fired in his mind.  Not thinking straight, he jumped off the bed and ran at her.  Without warning to her or himself, he saw his hands reach for her gown and rip it from her body.  He vaguely heard her gasp in shock but he was beyond coherent thought.  He grabbed her and flung her onto the bed, ripping his shorts off before he threw himself down beside her.  Pinning her arms beneath her, his mouth descended on hers before she could utter another word and his hands swept up and down her body.  When his mouth left hers and his lips trailed down her neck, he heard her try to say something as she freed her arms.  Before the first word was out, one of his hands had clamped over her mouth, trapping the words there.  His mouth now devoured her breasts and when he finally removed his hand, the sounds that escaped her were welcomed by him, her hands on his body now.



Chakotay heard her gasp and moan as his hands and mouth visited every part of her body and when he spread her thighs and lowered his mouth to her, she cried out and her hips jerked up.  He fed like a starving man on the feast she had to offer and held her hips tightly as she spasmed and cried out under his expert care, his tongue, mouth and fingers assaulting her.  Giving her no time to recover, he came up over her and using one hand to lift one of her legs, he positioned himself against her.  Knowing she was more than ready but that it had been a long time for her, he tried to slowly and gently ease his way into her body, but instead found himself surging into her, possessing her and staking his claim as he watched the play of emotions on her face.  He held still then until he felt her stretch around him and only then did he start to move, finding a tempo that suited them both then quickening as he read her body and felt her inner muscles clamp down on his hard shaft.  He heard her scream as she came explosively, then his own voice as he cried out her name and joined her.



As they lay together afterwards, still joined, they let their breathing slow.  Chakotay looked up when he heard a faint sob and saw that Kathryn was crying.  He gently pulled himself from her depths and drew her into his arms.  He just held her and let her cry, softly kissing the side of her face.



“Kathryn, I’m sorry love.  It should never have been like that.  I was…God I don’t know…I just exploded…I love you and wanted you so badly and to hear you say those things…but it should never have been like that…so rough…I’m sorry…God, if I hurt you…”  She pulled back and stroked his face.



“Chakotay…I love you…thank you…”  He frowned and she smiled.  “Thank you for showing me your passion…your lust…for whatever you want to call it…but mostly thank you for your love…for wanting me, desiring me and needing me that much…it was real…I needed to see that…but please don’t think you hurt me…”   He squeezed his eyes shut a moment, his love for this woman filling him.  He opened his eyes and stroked her face gently, needing her to understand more.



“Kathryn, do you understand now?  What you saw as disgusting, I saw as an act of love.  That you trusted me that much, allowed me to tend you and see you like that, see you at, and I wish I had another word, but see you at your most vulnerable…  For you to allow me to be that close to you…  Physical closeness…sex…that’s only one thing…closeness as in proximity…but this kind of closeness… Kathryn it’s an honour.”  He watched her digest his words.



“Honey, we’ve both had other lovers in our lives.  Have any of them ever been allowed that close to you?”  She shook her head.  “To see someone’s body in the act of sex means nothing without the rest…  Closeness and intimacy…that’s what it’s about.  People associate intimacy with sex, just with sex, but it’s only a small part of it.  There are people together or married twenty or thirty years who are too embarrassed to let their partner see them so…I guess exposed.  That you let me be there for you like that, help you in that way, were that open with me, let me in like that…  Kathryn, it was the most beautiful gift…a humbling honour…is the only way I can describe it.  To be there for each other in that way, is true love.  Think of it this way…  Seeing someone naked for sex is easy…  Seeing them naked as who they are, for who they are…  that Kathryn…is love.”  They both cried now and hugged each other tightly.  They lay awake for a while, softly caressing each other, the light off as they watched the stars but this time, they looked forward, not back.



Ten months later, B’Elanna Louise Gretchen Janeway came home, her godparents and ‘cousin’ Kathryn waiting for her.  B’Elanna cooed over the new arrival as Tom looked on nervously, knowing where it would lead, that he’d have a broody wife on his hands again soon.



“Do you think she’ll ever forgive you for giving her such a long name?”  Kathryn and Chakotay both laughed.



“Oh she needs that.  She has a lot to live up to.  For a start she has five godparents and a string of aunts, uncles and cousins, one in particular…”  Kathryn leaned down and clucked little Kathryn under the chin and laughed at the giggle she received.  She stood up and looked around at the people before her.  Her true friends and godparents to her child, Tom, B’Elanna, Nathan and Louise, the Doctor and then her loving husband, holding the daughter she never believed possible.



Leaving them all chatting and fussing over little B’Elanna, Kathryn wandered out onto the porch and gazed down the garden at the large tree which grew there.  She thought back over the last two years and the time when she had actually planned to be buried under that tree, wanting to still be a part of a place where she had been most happy and now she stood looking down at it, a full life ahead of her.  



She felt her husband’s arms come around her waist and he nuzzled against her neck, knowing what she was thinking.  He had cried when she had told him about the arrangements she had wanted.



“I told you before Kathryn…only in old age…”  She nodded and tilted her head to the side, letting him in further.



“I know, but it just makes you think, makes you appreciate…”  He tightened his hold on her.



“Come on love, the future awaits and our daughter’s hungry…”  She smiled and took a last look down the garden, then took his hand and walked back into the house with him.



THE END.



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RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.


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