Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17. Kids go play elsewhere. Contains adult material.
Tired of waiting for Kathryn, Chakotay pulls out of her life. Kathryn struggles by on her own and Chakotay regrets his decision but before he can do anything, Kathryn is arrested for murder on an alien planet and sentenced to be executed.

It Cuts Both Ways

by Kat Lady


Chakotay stormed into his quarters, Kathryn's words still ringing in his ears, her actions deeply imprinted on his memory. He badly missed hinged doors at times like this, giving him something to slam and take his temper out on.

He stormed around the room looking for anything that would smash but suddenly the thought came to him that it just wasn't worth it, that SHE wasn't worth it and instead he slumped down on the floor, his back against the wall and silently stewed. His anger washed over him and he let it.

Damn the woman. She'd gone too far this time and nothing now would make him forget or forgive. He felt some shame for the words he'd spoken but he let his anger drown it out. It dawned on him that maybe he was the one who'd gone too far, not this evening but in constantly trying with her. Every time he tried to further their relationship, she slapped him back down and yet he still came back for more. He wondered where his masochistic streak had come from and realized that he hadn't had it when he came aboard Voyager years ago, that it had developed slowly along with his love for her. Love was supposed to nurture and strengthen but instead with her he found it debilitating and soul destroying and he knew at this moment that it had to stop before it tore him apart and took with it the last vestige of pride he had left.

He finally got up and replicated some herbal tea for himself, knowing he had to calm himself before he could sort matters in his head. He wished he was a drinker, able to hide behind the haze of alcohol until the problem waned a bit but he also knew that when the effects faded, those same troubles were always still there, not gone but hiding on you, waiting to pounce. He sat and sipped the soothing beverage slowly and let his mind wander back over the evening.

Neelix had once again come up with some obscure holiday they all simply had to celebrate and he remembered Kathryn's arrival on the holodeck. His had not been the only head that turned upon her entrance but he was the only one with the nerve to approach her and ask her to dance. Tom had looked only too willing to try but B'Elanna's firm grip on his arm had made him think otherwise.

She'd been in a strange but happy mood all week, ever since their narrow escape from the Darvaan, a hostile race who'd appeared bent on destroying them for no other reason than the fact that they were there. Chakotay had stood back a little and watched her, having seen this change before. Whenever they had a close call, Kathryn always bounced back with what could almost be described as overkill. It was as if she needed to reaffirm life, prove to herself that she was alive and convince herself and the crew that she was happy and on top of everything. Whenever this occurred, she was always more attentive to him, inviting him for dinner and generally including him in areas of her life normally off limits to him. Usually within a further week, she'd revert back to normal and carry on as if nothing had changed.

Tonight she was up and he remembered leading her to the centre of the floor, soft music drifting over them and she'd walked into his arms, her buoyant mood infecting him. Over this past week, Chakotay had once more found his hopes rising that maybe this time she was letting the walls down and was finally going to let him into her life. He knew from previous experience this was unlikely but hope sprung eternal. She moved against him as her perfume entranced him and the feel of the soft skin of her back against his hand burned into him.

The dress she wore was one he hadn't seen before but he knew it was also one he'd never forget. It was black satin and it flowed around her to just below the knee. It could barely be described as respectable and just about covered what should not have been shown. The fabric seemed to have a mind of its own and its thoughts took it to every curve on Kathryn's body, hugging them tightly. As they danced slowly, she'd pressed against his chest, with the result that Chakotay had a perfect view down the front of the plunging neckline and that view was one that made controlling himself almost impossible.

He pulled her towards the bar, needing to draw back a bit and regain some control. Kathryn suddenly was the one leading the way and within a short space of time had knocked back several drinks which he knew were not synthehol.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur for him. They danced and chatted, flirted and played silly games, until they were the last ones left on the holodeck. Eventually, at her suggestion, they ended up on the small balcony off the main room which had been programmed in for this celebration.

Kathryn was quite drunk and they both knew it. She swayed gently, using her lack of balance as an excuse to hold onto his arm. They stood against the balustrade and he watched her face as she gazed up at the full moon, thinking she'd never looked more beautiful to him than she did at that precise moment.

Without conscious thought, he found himself leaning towards her and as she turned to him, he brushed his lips gently across hers. For a moment, one sweet moment, she stayed in place and returned the kiss, even deepening it until she felt his arm go around her, then almost as if someone had dumped cold water over her, she pulled away, her face angry now.

"Just what the hell was that?" She leaned against the railing now for balance.

He smiled. "I could be wrong but to the best of my knowledge, it's called a kiss."

She pulled back further. "That's not what I mean and you know it."

"Kathryn, just what the hell is wrong with you? I thought you wanted this." Without warning he felt her hand strike his face.

"Did I ask for it?" She got no further and suddenly found her anger overpowered by his as he rubbed at his face.

"No, not in words but certainly in actions." His glare dared her to interrupt him and he saw her shrink back a little. "All night we've played your little game. You've flirted and come on to me all evening, brought me out here, held on to me. What was I supposed to think?"

Finally, she cut in, her captain mode in place and all appearance of the alcohol dissipating quickly from her demeanour. "We're supposed to be friends and friends can flirt. Chakotay, if you can't tell the difference…"

He moved on her and grabbed her arms and thought he saw fright in her eyes for a split second. "Friends are supposed to respect each other, not inflict torture. Damn it, you know how I feel about you and you carry on like this. Kathryn, I'm only human. What did you expect? It wasn't just me either. Have you any idea of the effect that dress had on every man here tonight?" She looked down at herself and shrugged. That action alone sent his temper to boiling point.

"Oh, don't pretend. Don't insult me like that. You knew exactly what they'd all think but you don't give a damn. You certainly knew what it would do to me but you don't care about that either. You play your game with me, use me even…" Kathryn just rolled her eyes and turned away but he quickly grabbed her arm and pulled her back to him.

"Don't you dare act that way with me. You know bloody well what I mean. You're playing a dangerous game, Kathryn, and you've just lost. I've seen you like this before, usually after a dangerous mission or something. That's when you want to feel alive again and when you need me. I'm also useful to you when you need a partner for these functions or a lap dog at your side on official visits. You flirt with me and come on to me when you need to feel like a woman for a while and then it's back to business, back to being captain and I'm supposed to follow your lead and act accordingly, wait around until the next time." He was almost beyond control now and she was suddenly scared.

"There's a name for women like you, did you know that?" She shook her head, afraid to say anything that might anger him more. He brought his face closer to hers. "Prick tease."

Her eyes widened in shock that he would speak to her like this and he saw her shock and the fear that came with it. He instantly regretted what he'd said but the words were already out, a bell he couldn't unring. He pulled back and suddenly brought his hand to her face, gently running his finger up and down her cheek. When he spoke, his words dripped with a mixture of sarcasm and anger.

"Oh, don't worry, Kathryn. I won't ever do anything to hurt you and you know that. That you even think I would pains me. What I will do is warn you now for your own good. Think very carefully before you ever do this again. I don't mean with me because there won't be a next time with me. Think before you ever try this with anyone because in the future your next victim might not be such a gentleman."

He pulled back completely but she stayed rooted to the spot. "Chakotay, I'm sorry. I never meant…"

He lowered the tone of his voice slightly. "No, you never do. You never mean and you never think, certainly not beyond yourself. Well, it ends right here. I'm done being there for your convenience, being a date or escort when you need one, a shoulder, a holodeck partner, someone to bolster your ego when you want that, make you feel a woman, even someone to nod and agree that you're right with whatever it might be. I'm surprised you haven't hired me to use as a sex slave but then I suppose you use the holodeck for that. No involvement."

He'd hit a nerve and she ran for him but he sidestepped her. "The truth hurts, doesn't it? Good, because you know I wasn't sure you could actually feel anything."

She was crying now, more from rage than anything but was determined to defend herself. "That's not true. I don't use you." He laughed, making her more angry. "Damn you, I don't. I know what you want, what this is all about. You're supposed to be my friend, always be there for me, giving me support. You were the one who told me I wasn't alone."

He rushed to her now. "You expect me to be alone though, don't you? Any time I ever show an interest in starting a relationship with someone else, you're always there on the side lines looking all hurt and sad. When it fails, usually because I can't stand to see you like that, you back off again. You don't want me but you sure as hell don't want anyone else to have me either."

"Chakotay, I can't. The rules. Starfleet."

He grabbed her again. "Don't you dare hide behind all that crap. That's always been your excuse to avoid getting involved. It's like you want to and start off reeling me in only to change your mind and cast me loose again. For the past week and not for the first time, you've given me hope again and now this. It's cruel and you know it. Maybe you can't help it or maybe it's just some game with you, a power thing to see how long I'll play along or maybe you just don't want to, that you just can't face the loss of control having to share with someone might bring and this way you get the best of both worlds. Well, no more, Kathryn. This ends here tonight. I'll be your First Officer but nothing else." He stood back and turned away from her.

"Chakotay, don't be like this. We can be good friends." She saw herself lose him and it scared her to the depths of her soul.

"No, Kathryn, we can't. I'm not strong enough for that anymore. We can be friendly but we can't be friends." He suddenly felt her grab at him and pull him to her.

"If it's sex you want…" She pulled at the front of her dress, dragging it downwards, exposing herself to him.

It was the final insult for him and he turned away. "You think I just want your body, you arrogant bitch?" He paused before speaking more softly. "Cover yourself, Kathryn, before I lose the last ounce of respect I have left for you."

He turned back at the sound of her sobbing. "I'm actually sorry to hurt you, at least that's the way it appears. It's hard to know with you what you feel, even if you feel. If it's only a fraction of the hurt you've caused me then I'm sorry but I can't do this any longer. You can just find someone else to traipse around after you because I can't do it anymore. I've lost every trace of self-respect and pride I ever had in myself because of you, all of what made me a man. You've broken me, Kathryn, coming on one minute and pulling back the next, playing with my feelings and using them, and don't deny that because you know in your heart, if you have one, that you do all of that. Well, think on this. Now you can be alone and I hope you enjoy it. Goodbye, Kathryn." He turned and walked off the holodeck, leaving her slumped on the floor, crying out after him.

Kathryn stayed as she was long after Chakotay had left. Pain ran through her as her tears continued to come. She hurt badly, not just at what he'd said but because it had hit the mark. She knew he was right, that she'd deserved his cruel words.

Eventually she dragged herself up off the floor and ordered a site to site to her quarters. The last thing she needed now was for some crewmember to see her in this state. Once in her quarters, she stumbled to her bedroom and fell limply across her bed, not bothering to undress. She cried quietly to herself, not wanting Chakotay to hear her from the other side of the bulkhead. His words swirled around in her mind and she painfully acknowledged them all for the truth they were. She knew she wanted him in her life and tried so hard to let him in, only to find within a short space of time that something always stopped her, made her pull back and she could never put a name to it.

As her mind slowly cleared of the alcohol, she lay awake re-living Chakotay's words over and over. Each point he'd made came to her and she guiltily admitted how right he'd been on each one. She did need to get away from the captain now and then and knew she used him to make her feel like a woman instead of a leader, the superhuman deliverer she felt she had to be for the crew. Dressing as she had tonight helped her feel feminine and she knew she should have every right to dress as she pleased but she hadn't stopped to think about the effect it would have on him and the message it might give and she now conceded how unfair that was.

Protocol and rules had been ingrained in her for her entire life to the extent that she'd practically been weaned on them and she found it almost impossible to let them go, despite knowing that out here they just didn't apply in the way they would have back home. She also acknowledged that fear of getting hurt and losing him controlled her too. She'd been raised and trained never to show weakness and realized that she'd let this pour over into her personal life.

Other realizations came to her and terrified her. She knew now that she'd taken Chakotay for granted, assuming that he'd always be there for her, even wait for her, but now she knew that she'd pushed too far this time, that he had his breaking point and had finally reached it.

As ship's morning dawned, she was still awake but she'd confronted a lot of her personal demons and resolved a lot of issues. For a brief moment she felt better until the darkest cloud of all passed over her. Kathryn realized that she'd left it too late, that this revelation was useless to her now. Chakotay had made himself clear where he now stood and there was no room for her in his circle anymore.

Her alarm went off and she ordered it to re-set for 24 hours then dragged herself up and pulled herself to the bathroom. The image in the mirror which met her scared her deeply. With her makeup smeared and her hair dishevelled, she saw herself for what she was, a sad and aging woman, loneliness and bitterness eating away at her, destroying what could have been. As she set about trying to exorcise the image before her, she talked herself into a small chance that perhaps she could still talk to Chakotay, explain to him what she'd learned from his words and her long night of self-analysis and a small hope grew in her. It was all that would get her through.

Most of that hope died as she entered the bridge an hour later. Chakotay sat in his place, absorbed in his work, barely acknowledging her presence with a polite nod.

"Commander, could I see you in my ready room please?" She barely controlled her voice.

He stood, still not meeting her eyes. "Aye, Captain." He said nothing more as he followed her and his manner wasn't lost on her. When the door had closed behind them, he stood to attention in front of her desk, still refusing to look at her.

"Chakotay, please sit down. This isn't business." If she was going to say more, she never got the chance.

"Captain, if it's not ship's business then I'd rather return to duty." He hadn't changed his posture from the moment he'd stood stiffly in front of her.

"Chakotay, please. Just hear me out. Last night…."

He interrupted her, his face angry. "Last night is over. Nothing happened nor ever will. This is my last word on this so hear me well. You are the Captain and I'm your First Officer. There's nothing outside of that for us to discuss. Permission to return to duty, Captain?"

She simply nodded as he made a quick exit. He'd made his point and she had no choice but to go along with it. With his exit, all her hope left with him, leaving in its wake an empty shell.

Over the following weeks, Chakotay was the consummate professional but nothing more. He increased his social life and mingled easily with the entire crew, spending most of his evenings on the holodeck either shooting pool or joining in a card game. He occasionally dated and ignored the looks which frequently came his way from Tom, B'Elanna and the other senior staff.

Kathryn never witnessed this side of him although she was well aware of it. Voyager was a small ship where gossip was concerned and most of it eventually made its way to her ears. She now spent all her evenings shut away in her quarters, licking her wounds and wallowing in her self-pity and loneliness. If Chakotay knew how she spent her off duty hours, he never acknowledged the fact.

She was functioning well enough as Captain but the strain of their situation was slowly making itself felt and started to manifest itself with her on duty. She occasionally appeared unsure of a decision, taking just a little longer to give an order and started to spend most of her shifts in her ready room. Only the bridge crew noticed the change in her but no one dared to speak of it.

Chakotay was well aware of the effect his decision was having on her and hardened himself to it. It pained him to see the way she was becoming, knowing he was the cause but he knew deep inside that the game they had played was finished, that to give in now would only resurrect that which was best left buried. He mourned at the graveside of what could have been then moved on.

Kathryn was miserable, loneliness eating away at her like a cancer. Tom and B'Elanna, even Harry and Tuvok, encouraged her to join them off duty but she constantly declined, citing reports or tiredness as an excuse to avoid contact with anyone. She knew if she gave in, she'd only have to sit and watch Chakotay move on and knew she wasn't strong enough for that. Day by day, all this ate away at her and she felt it was only a matter of time before there'd be nothing left. She knew now that without her friend to fall back on, she was nothing, and she wondered when she'd become so weak, so dependent on him, and then like a sledge hammer striking it's mark, the reason for all this came to light. She was in love with him and it was too late.

Eventually the rest of the crew started to notice the change in their Captain and even the Doctor grew concerned for her. Kathryn saw their pity whenever she toured the ship and slowly reduced contact, delegating wherever possible.

Within a month of this, every crewmember felt the fallout of Chakotay's decision. People did their jobs and socialized, but there was something lacking. The glue that held them all together, that made them feel safe, was slowly coming undone and the insecurities of the early days of their journey came back. The relationship between their Captain and Commander, whether personal or professional, needed to be strong, a foundation for the building of a happy crew, and now a large crack had formed, threatening the entire structure.

The longer it went on, the more Chakotay regretted his decision but what pride he felt he'd been left with won over. At first, he'd been convinced that Kathryn's behaviour was just another round of her game but as time wore on, he saw that she was no longer playing, that she really was deeply affected by the situation. He found it difficult to comprehend that the woman he'd known, the strong Starfleet Captain, could be rendered weak by this.

It was B'Elanna who finally cornered him about the matter. As he sat in a quiet corner of the mess hall one evening, he suddenly looked up when a shadow fell across him. What he saw was one angry Klingon/Human with a lot on her mind.

At her firm insistence, they went to his quarters where he found himself telling her everything, revealing all he'd been keeping in over the last two months, even since his arrival on board and what he got in return was a mixture of anger and sympathy.

"I can't believe you said those things to her, Chakotay. How could you?"

He shook his head sadly. "It was just my anger. Do you think I'm proud of it, that I don't regret my words? I know I hurt her badly and I have to live with that, but B'El, she hurt me too, has been hurting me for a long time now." It was his only defence.

B'Elanna was going to have her say though. "Look, I'm not going to judge either of you here. You did what you did because you were hurt and angry. She, however, is a very lonely woman and before you say it, I know she doesn't have to be but look what she comes from, her background. She can change that any time she wants to and she knows that. It isn't as if no one has ever offered. I know she feels alone, that she believes she has to take the whole load on her shoulders despite knowing that no one person can be that strong, can carry that load, but she goes on believing she can because that's been the way of it her entire life. She knows deep down it's impossible and that's why she leans on you. I think she also still feels responsible for us being here and that won't ever change." Chakotay knew her words were the truth.

"She feels closer to you than any of us. She depends on you. You're probably the only one in her eyes who can give her what we can't and I don't mean a relationship but the kind of friendship none of us are able to provide, at least in her eyes. As next in command, she can discuss with you things she could never speak of with anyone else. Maybe Tuvok, but there's hardly affection there and at the end of the day, I believe she needs that more than anything."

Chakotay's pain was written in every line on his face. The more he thought about it, he realized his friend was right, that no one could shoulder all that she had over so many years, that in the end, something would have to give and now without something or rather someone, namely himself, to rest against and lean on when needed, she was starting to crumble, the weight of it all bearing down on her.

"Chakotay, I can't talk to you about any relationship. Friendship though, she needs that more than anything, someone to turn to, lean on, just be there when she needs that, some one person she can let her guard down in front of. You have to accept that she's only human, as are you. I know you hurt too and your actions were about trying to preserve yourself, if you like, but I guess I'm asking you to be stronger than your own need and put her needs first. She's alone, hurt and she needs her friend."

Chakotay broke across her. "And I only increased that, left her more alone than ever. I've really let her down this time."

B'Elanna cut him off again. "I'm not finished. That was one side only. You did the only thing you could. The hand of friendship, in all its different ways, has been offered to her many times but she always stands back, having to be what she falsely believes we want her to be. You're both the hurters in this situation. You're also, a made-up word if you like, you're also both the 'hurtees' here. Both of you are to blame for this. We all see how she is with you and how hurt you are each time she steps back into her cocoon again. I know she sees how you feel about her and consciously or unconsciously, the latter I believe, she either uses that or ignores it. Maybe she's just afraid of appearing weak to the crew if it looks as if she needs someone, but in the end, she only appears, I guess, stupid. Perhaps that's the wrong word but we all see you hurt each other time and again, the going forward and then back. However, you both need to start again now and try and get past all that. You really need each other and this ship and this crew needs you. I know you love her and that love has to win out over your pride. Is keeping that pride intact more important than hurting someone you love?" She sat back.

Chakotay smiled and shook his head. "When did you ever get so wise, little Maquis girl?"

She smiled at him. "Oh, life experience, a good Maquis Captain, a good Starfleet Captain and a certain cocky pilot. Take your pick or combine them."

Chakotay pulled her to him and gained strength from the embrace. "Thank you."

She pulled back gently. "You're welcome, my friend. Just know we're all always here for you both and you can pass that on." She stood, leaving him with his thoughts.

Chakotay sat long into the night thinking of B'Elanna's wise words and knew the solution was in his hands, that at least he could meet halfway. He knew he had to offer friendship again, despite the pain it would cause, but seeing Kathryn as she was now, her face gaunt from lack of sleep and hardly eating, only caused a greater pain.

Before he ever got to present his olive branch though, the situation changed, and events took a turn that none of them could ever have predicted, but the repercussions of which would live with them all for a long time.


With supplies running low, they were forced to stop at a planet named Tallar, where the inhabitants appeared friendly enough. Kathryn managed to get through first contact well enough and within two days, they had secured a fair trade for what they needed.

On their final night in orbit, Kathryn had reluctantly agreed to attend the function which the Officials had informed them was in their honour and not wishing to offend she found herself on the surface for the first time, all previous business having been conducted on board Voyager. Communications with the planet were no problem but something in the atmosphere made transporters refuse to function. Kathryn hadn't spoken of the evening with Chakotay, having barely discussed matters unavoidable. Where normally he'd have accompanied her to events such as this, this time she went down alone, a fact not lost on him. He'd made his point well and knew she'd taken his words to heart. She hadn't even asked him if he was attending.

Throughout the evening, one of the Official's daughters had latched onto Chakotay, draping herself around him like a blanket. Many times, Chakotay had caught Kathryn watching him but each time their eyes had met briefly, she'd turned away. He saw that she was not alone either, another Official named Denar, doing a good imitation with her of Chakotay's self-appointed escort. He noticed the dress she wore was a complete contrast to the one she'd worn the last time they'd spent the evening together. This one was of a dark blue colour with long sleeves and a high neck. It fell well past her knees and seemed almost matronly.

As the evening wore on, Chakotay noticed Kathryn relaxing slightly in the company of her 'date'. The alien seemed to hang on her every word and his charm was starting to work on her. Kathryn knew most of his words were false flattery but found herself being taken in by them, her vulnerability and loneliness of recent weeks making her a prime victim for the taking. As she covertly watched Chakotay, for a minute she considered trying to make him jealous, but immediately stopped herself. She'd unconsciously played that game before and now that she was aware of it, knew it was childish. He had moved on for good and had made that fact all too clear to her and any other interested party. She tried to put him from her mind and concentrate on Denar.

With just enough of the alien planet's wine in her system, she felt herself give in to the charm of the man beside her. It felt such a long time since anyone had appeared even remotely interested in her and the more she witnessed Chakotay with his new friend, the lonelier and more hurt she felt and she craved any form of contact that took away the feelings inside, even if only for a few hours. All the other crewmembers attending this celebration appeared happy and not one of them had come near her. As she eventually saw Chakotay leave the hall, the young woman with him laughing at something he'd said, pain stabbed at her and she forced her eyes away from the painful scene, focusing all her attention now on the only one in the room who was even interested in her.

Towards the end of the evening, she found herself dancing with her escort, and as he held her close, she tried to let herself feel wanted, the touch of this man being better than none. She knew he was flirting shamelessly with her and found herself trying to join in yet hold a respectful distance. When he suggested showing her the gardens, she'd gone with him, her mental state of the previous weeks and the effects of the wine suppressing her normal wariness of a situation like this. She was by no means drunk, but the warm red liquid had relaxed her just enough.

The Official led her across the balcony surrounding the outside of the palace and down a flight of steps into lush gardens, keeping his conversation on trivial matters. Here the lighting was subdued and a fragrance filled the night air causing a heady effect to Kathryn's mind, already affected by the wine. She listened half-heartedly as he described different plants and it took her a minute to realize that they had stopped walking.

When she focused on his face, she realized that he'd stopped talking also and was holding her by her upper arms. She looked around her and could still see the palace and hear the music floating down to them but saw that there was no one else around. She hadn't noticed how far they'd walked and a faint warning bell went off in her mind and she pulled back a little.

"Denar, I've had a wonderful evening but I really should be getting back to my ship." She gave him a courteous smile and went to move off, expecting him to follow her lead.

Instead she found her arm held firmly by his hand. "My dear, please. It's still early and we're just getting to know each other."

Kathryn looked down at his hand on her arm, trying gently to pull away. "I'm sorry but I must get back. I've had a lovely evening and…"

He pulled her back to him and raised his other hand to her face, running a finger down her cheek. "It's hardly over yet."

Kathryn grew a little more alarmed. "No, really. Thank you again for everything."

His grip grew tighter. "You haven't thanked me yet."

Kathryn's head snapped up. "Look, if I've given you the wrong impression…" She tried pulling back to no avail and saw irritation grow on the face of the alien.

"Oh, come on. Our species aren't that different. I show you a good time and you show me the same. We've been friends all evening. I got your message and we played the game."

Kathryn's thoughts swirled around and Chakotay's words came back to her. She tried to think back over the evening, attempting to remember if she had indeed given the wrong signals but nothing came to her. "Look, you have the wrong idea…"

He laughed now. "Oh, I don't think so, my dear. Come on, you owe me." His arrogance was coming through at this point and he pulled her back towards some shrubs.

Kathryn grew really frightened now. "Let me go. I owe you nothing." She didn't see his hand rise, only felt the hard slap of it across her face. She was stunned for a minute and that was all he needed. He pushed her against a wall she hadn't seen, partly hidden by a bush. Her head banged painfully off the hard surface, dazing her, and by the time she thought of hitting her comm badge, his hand had already torn it from her dress.

Kathryn was growing more and more afraid and realized the danger she was in. She felt him push her back against the rough stone of the wall and cried out as it dug sharply and painfully into her skin.

Denar held her against the wall, his hands pulling at her. Kathryn fought, it not occurring to her to scream for help in an ingrained belief that she could handle this herself and rely on the training she'd received with Starfleet. Without warning, Denar's foot swept at her legs, knocking them out from beneath her, sending them both to the ground, him on top of her, not letting up.

Chakotay's words continued to echo in her head as the Official pinned her down and tore at her clothing. She still tried desperately to think how she could have led him on, part of her knowing that she hadn't, that he'd taken politeness and courtesy and twisted them to shape what he wanted to see, a come on. She knew just what Chakotay would think and that if he thought that way, there would be little chance of her convincing anyone else. Her recent vulnerability came to the fore however and she suddenly found herself believing that she'd asked for this, that it was her loneliness which had caused her to spend the evening in his company. She realized now that going outside with him had been a huge mistake, but it still didn't give him the right to attack her like this. All these thoughts came to her at lightning speed in a jumble, passing across her mind without any conscious thought on her part and she forced them away, concentrating on the struggle.

The fighter in her took over. She pushed hard against him, trying desperately to shift his weight off her but her strength was rapidly waning. She felt his hand pull at the bottom of her dress, pulling it up to her hips and then his knee press hard between her legs and she was powerless to stop him. He pressed down with both knees, almost in a kneeling position, parting her thighs despite her best efforts to stop him, pinching the soft flesh there. For a brief second, part of her actually considered letting him have his way and then she could hope that no one would ever find out, especially Chakotay. If she stopped her struggles, she could perhaps hide the injuries she had up to this point and maybe this alien might also stay silent on the matter but instinct won out and she found herself struggling harder than ever.

He was punching her face now, screaming at her to stop fighting him. His full weight now bore down between her legs and suddenly she felt him lean up and pull one leg back. With great force, his knee exploded against her pelvis and pain tore through her. As her scream came, she felt his hand cover her mouth and nose, cutting off all sound and her air supply with it. He pounded her head against the ground and she felt it connect with something hard. Blinding pain shot though her head and she saw lights dance in front of her eyes.

She fought with the last of her strength, her hands trashing around desperately, grasping for a hold on anything that might serve as a weapon. As she felt his hand pull at her panties, suddenly her fingers brushed against a hard object and she struggled to reach it. She closed her fingers around it and before she knew what was happening, instinct took over and her hand raised and she slammed the object against the side of his head as hard as she could. It slowed him as a bluish liquid escaped the wound, dripping on her. His hand now tightened across her face. She was fast losing consciousness and there was a roaring sound in her ears. As she lost the fight, she was dimly aware of shouts behind her and then phaser fire before the darkness began to invade her. She vaguely felt her attacker become a dead weight on top of her, then fall to the side and in the split second before her eyes closed, she saw Chakotay's face.

Kathryn regained consciousness quickly with her airway now clear but found herself very confused. Pain consumed her but she realized that she was still lying on the ground and she wondered who all these people were, all gesturing and shouting above her. She was aware also of Tom scanning her and saying something about a broken pelvis and a concussion.

Chakotay's face suddenly filled her field of vision and she saw his lips move then her name spoken in his voice but the two seemed separate. She registered the worried look on his face but in her present confusion all she could think was that he'd believe she'd asked for this.

Other Officials now came to her but without her comm badge she was unable to comprehend their words. She could make out that Chakotay and now Tuvok were shouting and arguing with the Officials and some guards, but her mind couldn't stay long on anything.

Her head rolled to the side and she saw Denar lying unmoving beside her, two aliens bending over him. Without warning, two guards approached her and bent down to her. With one of them on each arm, they pulled her roughly up from the ground. Kathryn screamed out in pain and heard Chakotay and Tom shout above her. She was dragged across the gardens and back towards the palace. Pain raged through her and she felt her vision blur again. As she lost consciousness once more, the only sound that came to her was Chakotay screaming her name.

Chakotay paced back and forth in the small office, his rage building with each circle he made. Tuvok sat calm and dignified while they waited for one of the Government Ministers to arrive. Chakotay fought to control himself, knowing that the Vulcan's quiet demeanour would get them further than his own temper. He couldn't shake the last images in his mind of Kathryn as she'd been dragged away. He'd watched helpless, the guards weapons trained on them, as she'd been taken and had seen her lose her struggle to stay conscious. His last sight of her had been the two armed guards disappearing around a corner, her limp form pulled along by them.

After what seemed like hours, a tall alien male entered the room and introduced himself as Reann, Minister for Justice. Chakotay jumped in immediately, demanding to know where their captain had been taken and if she'd received medical attention yet. Reann showed no sign of emotion and just indicated for them all to sit. The feel of Tuvok's firm hand on his arm got through to Chakotay and he forced himself into a chair. After a moment's silence, Reann spoke.

"Your Captain has been taken into custody and is presently in our prison."

Tuvok interrupted. "Minister, has Captain Janeway received medical assistance? It was plainly obvious that she required treatment for her injuries."

Reann just waved a hand dismissively. "They won't let her die, don't worry."

The tone of his words chilled Chakotay and he looked sharply at the Minister. "Just what the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?" Tuvok's strong hand had returned to his arm, keeping him in the chair.

Reann merely shrugged. "It means simply that she won't escape her trial first thing in the morning."

Chakotay shrugged off Tuvok now and jumped up. "Trial? What trial? She's done nothing. She's the victim here. That bastard tried to rape her."

Reann now stood up from behind his desk, his eyes boring into Chakotay. "Commander, sit down. You have no understanding of this so let me enlighten you. Firstly, there is only one charge here and that charge is of murder and it is against your Captain. The man named Denar died as a result of the injury she inflicted on him."

Tuvok had to stand now and hold Chakotay back. "Minister, you seem to have neglected the fact that it was I who fired upon this man."

Reann shook his head. "It was the blow to the side of the head which killed him. Our species is very sensitive there. As to your point, Commander…" He looked the First Officer squarely in the eyes. "We are actually aware of the crime of rape on this world but this was not one of those cases."

Chakotay couldn't pull away from Tuvok's strong grip on him but he still had his voice. "Just what the hell do you call it when a man attacks a woman in that way, beating her senseless and…."

Reann now raised his voice above Chakotay's. "We call it the man's right." The shock of hearing this actually stunned the two Starfleet Officers and Chakotay was too shocked to speak.

Reann sat again. "I will explain. The charge of rape on our world only applies when that act is committed against a stranger. Once a man and woman are acquainted, no such charge can apply. In this case, your Captain was WELL acquainted with the victim." Chakotay fell into his chair. He just couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Come, Commander, you were there tonight also. We all saw your Captain spend the entire evening with Denar. There was no one else near her. She was in his company, practically alone with him the entire time. We all saw them dance together and quite a lot of people witnessed them leave the hall together later going into the garden."

Chakotay cut in. "Are you saying that gave him the right to do what he did? They were strangers, met for the first time…"

Reann appeared to grow bored. "I have already stated the situation. In case you haven't noticed or that you don't care, there is a man dead tonight because of your Captain's actions. She committed the crime of murder."

Tuvok cut in now and there was barely disguised anger in his voice. "She committed an act of self defence. This man was attacking her and she fought back."

Reann smiled slyly. "Perhaps she shouldn't have."

Once again it was Tuvok who held Chakotay down. "Bastard. So in your eyes, he had the right to just take? What if I'd done the same with Laray, that Official's daughter? What would you be saying then? If I had…."

The Minister showed no emotion yet again, almost rivalling any Vulcan "That would have been your right as a male, Commander. Her intentions were clear for all to see all night." Chakotay was stunned beyond words.

Tuvok at least was thinking straight. "Minister, this trial. I demand to represent Captain Janeway."

Reann stood now. "Lieutenant Tuvok, the prisoner is not entitled to any representation when the charge is this serious. She will, however, be questioned publicly and will have her chance to speak then. I will send details of the trial location and time to your ship. You are well within your rights to attend." He stood, indicating that the argument was closed as far as he was concerned. "You may, if you wish, see her now but only from the cell door. You may not converse with her in any way. You may also see her at the trial in the morning and if she's found guilty, which seems highly likely, you may have a few minutes with her then before she receives her punishment."

Tuvok was the only one who seemed capable of thinking straight. Chakotay was clearly in shock.
"What is the punishment for this crime?" Chakotay was afraid to hear the answer.

"Death. Death by power shock." Reann's expression had not changed and he now turned and left the room.

Tuvok almost had to hold Chakotay up as they were led to where Kathryn was being held. The prison was old and smelled of damp and small rodent like creatures scurried for safety as they made their way through the long narrow passages. Eventually they came to a stop behind the two guards assigned to bring them here. The lighting was dim and Chakotay had to strain his eyes to see through the narrow grill of the door they'd stopped at. He scanned the room and then cried out and fell back against the wall. Tuvok took his place at the door and saw for himself what had caused his Commander to react as he had. He saw Kathryn Janeway lying on a small dirty cot, still in her torn dress, dried blood remaining on her face. She appeared unconscious and no blanket covered her to offer any warmth from the cold and damp of the place. What caused the Vulcan the most distress was the fact that she'd been chained down, her ankles attached to the end of the cot and her arms pulled over her head where her wrists were also chained. He closed his eyes briefly, willing himself to remain calm then turned to the guards.

"This woman has suffered a head injury and a fracture of the pelvic area. She NEEDS medical care. Letting her sleep with a concussion…" His answer came in the form of a weapon pointed in his face, no verbal reply necessary.

Chakotay had pulled himself back against the door and was shouting to Kathryn but she never stirred. Within seconds he felt himself dragged back and then they were outside and told to return only when they were summoned.

For the remainder of the night back on-board Voyager, Chakotay sat huddled in a corner of his quarters. They'd exhausted all efforts to break through the atmospheric conditions preventing transporters from working and now they had to wait until morning.

Guilt and shame washed over Chakotay now as he sat with his head in his hands. He placed the blame for this entire matter solely at his own door. He knew that had he not acted as he had before, he would have accompanied her tonight and no situation like this would ever have arisen. He tried desperately to think back over the evening and his memories of her behaviour. Any time he'd looked towards her, she'd just been sitting quietly, listening to Denar. He'd noticed her sad and lonely look but there'd been nothing remotely sexual in her manner and her dress had been beyond respectable. He remembered nothing that could be used as any excuse by the Officials at the trial that she'd been responsible. All he'd observed had been a quiet woman, sharing conversation and a drink with someone and later one or two dances. He tried his best to think on the whole matter in as fairly a manner as he could. Nothing Kathryn had done the entire evening could possibly have given even the slightest indication of interest in anything other than politely passing the time with some conversation and a dance.

He thought back to when he'd been standing outside with Laray, trying his best to get her to stand on her own and stay off him. He'd first seen Tuvok leave the grand hall by a door nearby and scan the grounds and then Kathryn's scream came. He'd taken off at the same second as the Security Officer, following where they felt the sound had come from. The sight they'd found had stopped him dead in his tracks for the briefest of seconds before he was aware of Tuvok pulling his phaser.

He saw Denar lying on top of Kathryn, her dress up around her hips, his lower body between her legs. He saw that the man's hand was pressed firmly across her face, his other hand holding his head and what he assumed was blood running from a wound there. He heard himself shout and then move forward just as the beam of Tuvok's phaser cut across his path and Denar fell over her then to the side. He remembered looking down at her, seeing her torn clothing and the blood on her face and on the grass beneath her head and then her eyes had closed. Within minutes, Officials and guards arrived and he remembered pulling her dress back down, determined to spare her from their prying eyes.

Now, as morning approached, Tuvok hailed him with details of time and place for the trial which had been received. They met with the senior staff in the briefing room where these details were read out by Tuvok. His voice stayed soft as he read the transmission they'd received and the other information submitted to them.

"The Captain has been charged with murder of an Official named Denar. There is a lesser charge of overt sexual behaviour, leading the victim to believe that she wished relations with him." Chakotay jumped up but it was B'Elanna who did all the shouting, until Tom pulled her back to her seat. Tuvok was barely controlling himself.

"Her trial will take place in two hours and we may attend but not enter into any communication with the accused. She may speak for herself and if at the end of the hearing she is found guilty of her crimes, she will be executed in the manner set aside for this crime, that being death by power shock. At that time, the remains will be handed back to those responsible for the guilty party and they will then leave and dispose of the remains as they see fit." Tuvok turned away from the others, fighting for control and Chakotay slammed his fist into the wall. After a prolonged period of shouting and yelling, it was Tuvok who once again brought calm to the group before him.

"This, while understandable, will not help the Captain. There is no way, as we know, to transport her from the surface and we are greatly outnumbered for any rescue attempt."

B'Elanna shouted now. "So we just let those bastards kill her?"

Tuvok remained in control, barely. "Lieutenant, there is nothing we can do. I have exhausted every avenue on this. I have however, one hope." He got their attention. "I have spoken with the Doctor. We know that technology on this world is not to our standard. We can only hope that what they speak of as 'power shock' is something similar to what was once a power supply on Earth called electricity."

B'Elanna burst in again. "We wait until they've killed her?"

Tom spoke for the first time. "What are you getting at? I know about this electricity. In fact, until the early 21st century, it was used for executions on Earth when they still punished offenders by death. Tuvok, it kills and…." Tom's mind was racing. "Wait. Electricity was also used as a power supply for homes, businesses. People were often hurt or killed by…" He suddenly got Tuvok's point. "Some people survived a shock, even at high levels. They were resuscitated. Would we have time to…?"

Chakotay started to think now. "We can get the Doctor down there as one of the crew. If…"

Now Harry spoke for the first time, everyone nearly having forgotten he was even in the room. "She may not be found guilty."

Chakotay smiled despite the situation, mostly at the young ensign's innocence. "Harry, she's already been found guilty. We're the strangers and he was one of their own. Some things don't change."

Tuvok, the voice of reason took over again. "Commander, with your permission, I suggest we finalize our plans and then head for the surface." Chakotay nodded his permission.

They all filed out leaving him behind and he sat back down, taking just a few minutes to himself to offer a silent prayer that by the end of this day, Kathryn would be back at his side, alive and well and not away from him where he'd pushed her. He vowed to himself that nothing would ever interfere with him being with her ever again, particularly his own stupid pride. He would be to her whatever she wanted him to be, whatever the pain to himself. No pain could be worse than this.

Kathryn awoke to agonizing pain followed by fear at not knowing what was happening or where she was and the cold seeped into her. She panicked when she found her arms and legs chained. Her mind refused to order itself and only flashes of memory came to her. She heard the door of the cell open and suddenly there was a guard standing over her, screaming words at her she had no chance of understanding. Within minutes a second guard had joined the first and they leaned over her, unlocking the chains which bound her to the cot she lay on. They then hauled her to her feet but her legs gave way beneath her as pain stabbed up through her body and her head felt ready to explode. She screamed out in agony but the guards ignored her, re-chaining her hands in front of her now and dragging her out into the dimly lit corridor.

As they reached the outside of the prison, the daylight bit into her eyes and she tried to cover her face but the guards weren't letting go of their grip on her. She was pulled onto a vehicle of some sort which moved off immediately and she tried again to turn her head from the blinding sun. Within minutes, the vehicle stopped and she was once again pulled up, almost passing out from the pain. Thoughts swam around in her head and more memories of the previous night came to her.

She was roughly dragged into a crowded room and then suddenly she saw Chakotay's face and then Tuvok, Tom, B'Elanna and the Doctor. Their images rushed past her and then she was unsure if she'd actually seen them at all or imagined them.

She felt herself pushed down into a chair and fresh pain shot up through her body and she screamed out again. She dimly thought she heard the voices of Chakotay and the others but then her attention was back on the guard in front of her, pulling her hands up and undoing the chains. He pulled each arm to the side and secured one wrist to each arm of the chair she sat in. Next he bent down and pulled her ankles apart, chaining each one to a leg of the chair. This action sent another wave of white hot pain through her and she cried out again. As quickly as he'd appeared, the guard was gone and an Official came over to her and slapped her comm badge back on. For the first time now, their voices made some sense to her.

Chakotay would have been over the barrier when he saw the way the guard treated Kathryn were it not for the glass shielding between them and the main area of the court. Seeing her suffer such pain tore at him and once more his guilt and shame slammed into him. He saw that the others were as angry and unset as he was. The guards standing beside them, weapons at the ready, kept them in their places. Tuvok once again spoke with intelligence.

"We must hold it together now. The Captain will need our heads clear. We need to remain strong in order to help her."

The court was a small room separated from the public seating area by the glass partition and at the front on a raised dais, three Officials sat in what appeared to be robes. Only one Official stood before them and announced himself as the Representative of the Deceased and therefore the Accuser.

Chakotay never took his eyes off Kathryn. She looked around her, not focusing on anything and seemed extremely confused. Her eyes darted around as if looking for something she couldn't find. He saw her tears and barely managed to hold his own back. He also saw perspiration beading on her face, probably from her pain. Eventually he looked to the Doctor. "What's wrong with her? Has she been drugged?"

The medic shook his head. "I can't tell from here or without scanning her but it's possible this is a result of the concussion and her head injury."

Chakotay nodded and turned back to Kathryn. It enraged him to see that she still wore her dress, torn and bloody, her chest partly exposed and that there were still traces of dried blood on her face and neck. Dried blood also caked her hair at the back of her head. Bruising was clearly visible on her face and neck and one eye was partly closed with swelling. He saw the alien's blood also, straining the front of her dress and standing out clearly on the white of her bra where it was exposed. He saw too that she was barefoot, her feet dirty and badly scraped and bruised from where she'd been dragged along. "The bastards didn't even look at her, her injuries and cuts." B'Elanna laid a gentle hand on his arm and he gripped it, desperate for some kind of comfort.

Tom spoke, his anger taking over. "Why have they chained her down? It's not like she can go anywhere." One look from Tuvok and he shut up. Stating the obvious wouldn't help.

They could all see how confused Kathryn appeared but also how afraid and in pain she was and they saw her pull at her chains, not understanding why she was like this.

The Accuser began speaking, calling for silence. He then turned to Kathryn and spoke loudly and clearly to her, his tone filled with distain. "Confirm your name. Kathryn Janeway. Captain of the Starship Voyager."

Kathryn took some minutes to focus on him and his words and he repeated himself, finally getting through to her. When she answered, her voice was barely above a whisper. "Yes. Kathryn. Voyager."

The Accuser continued, relating for the court the events of the previous evening. Everything he spoke of was one sided and Chakotay had to be held down by the others and ordered to stay silent by the Officials.

The Accuser moved closer to Kathryn now. "Captain, you may now tell the court about the events of last night." She barely managed to look at him and even he could see the pain she was in, but he ignored it. "Denar, the man you were with last night."

"Denar…the palace. He stayed with me…talking to me…was nice to me."

The Accuser cut off her words. "You liked him?"

Each answer from Kathryn took time. "He was friendly to me. No one else came."

"So you were happy to spend time with him?"

Kathryn looked down. "I was lonely…alone…no one…" Chakotay felt his heart contract painfully at her words.

"Denar talked to you? Denar was nice to you?"


"So you played along with him, talked and danced, drank wine." The Accuser was finding his job getting easier.

"Played game. Shouldn't have. He warned me." She looked up at the man in front of her and he could see how confused she was.

A frown crossed the Accuser's face. "Who warned you?"

She looked back at him, a frown crossing her face too. "He said… Chakotay. I didn't know. He warned me, said I used him but I was… He was nice and talked to me…" Chakotay doubled over, pain tearing through him as he heard Kathryn repeat the words he'd said to her in anger.

The Accuser saw his chance and jumped on those same words. "So, you've done this before, played with someone? You did it again last night? You led Denar on?"

Kathryn was looking around her again, not aware of what she was saying, words tumbling around her head from the previous night and her last conversation with Chakotay on the holodeck, words from the man in front of her. Her tears continued to fall. "Led him on…used him…Chakotay left…"

"So you were alone, lonely, yes? Now I repeat to you and the court so there can be no mistake. You had done this before with this man Chakotay? He left you and you did it again last night with Denar?" The Official leaned over her now, making sure his words were heard by her and that he would hear her reply.

"Yes…last night. Chakotay left and… I didn't know."

A puzzled look crossed the Accuser's face. "What did you not know?"

Kathryn looked at him now as if he should know what she meant. "That…I love him."

"Love who?"

Kathryn stayed focused on him briefly and spoke as if he should also know who she meant. "Chakotay…love Cha…." Her eyes swept around the room again, seeking what she couldn't find. "Chakotay…where…"

Chakotay cried out and one of the Officials on the dais shouted at him again to stay silent or he'd be removed. The others held him tightly.

The Accuser turned to Kathryn again. "You went willingly into the garden?"

Kathryn was looking down again, as if trying to understand why she was chained but raised her head again at the Accuser's words. "See the flowers…."

"He was friendly and you turned away from him?"

"Yes… hurt…"

The Accuser went in for the kill. "He was friendly and you hurt him, killed him, slammed a rock into the side of his head and ended his life. You can't deny that."

Kathryn was crying harder now. "Yes…hurt…stop him…knew what Chakotay would say…"

The Accuser saw his chance and took it. "So you killed this innocent man so no one would find out, so this Chakotay wouldn't find out." He was twisting every word she said. "Is this correct?" He shouted at her now.

Kathryn jumped slightly. "Yes…I'm…tease…" Chakotay cried out again when he heard this.

"You're saying you teased him, that this was your game, that you're a tease?" The Accuser couldn't believe how easy this was.

"Yes… I…"

"So you killed him when you changed your mind?" To the Accuser, it was in the bag.

"Yes…" Kathryn continued to look around her, totally disorientated. "Chakotay…."

"The Accuser has concluded, Honours. There is nothing further to add." He sat with a satisfied look on his face and nodded to the three Officials.

Chakotay jumped up. "She doesn't know what she's saying. She needs a doctor." He heard the Official shout at him but ignored it. "She's hurt and in pain. She's concussed. She doesn't know what she's saying and is being led." He felt himself pulled back down and for some reason, perhaps because he considered the matter settled, the Official now ignored Chakotay once he was sitting again.

Tuvok watched as the Officials whispered amongst themselves but already knew what their verdict would be. Finally the one in the centre spoke up. "We have considered all the evidence, from what was spoken of here today and also from the scene of this heinous crime." He turned to Kathryn.

"Captain Janeway, your words were heard by this court and we have reviewed the evidence from the scene, the stone you used as your weapon to end this man's life, your blood placing you there and the witness accounts. You still carry the deceased's blood upon your person, further proof of your crime." Kathryn barely understood what was being said to her but looked down, seeing the blue stains still on her and she cried out.

"We have no other path open to us now but to order your execution for this terrible crime. You shall be taken to that death presently. This matter is concluded." He closed the book which sat in front of him and stood, the other two following his lead.

Chakotay and the others all stood now, shouting their words above the cheers of a group of aliens none of them had noticed before, all sitting off to the left behind them.

Chakotay watched in agony as two more guards now undid Kathryn's chains and pulled her to her feet, keeping a tight grip on her. She screamed out as they hauled her across the court and pulled her towards a small area of the room, separated by a curtain of sorts.

Chakotay heard Tuvok argue with the Accuser about the right of appeal, the right to be with her and heard the monotone reply of the alien stating that there was no appeal and that the execution would take place immediately, that there was no time for them to converse with the murderer. Only B'Elanna and Tom holding tightly to him prevented Chakotay from ripping the Accuser's throat out.

Guards appeared in front of them and indicated to them to follow, using their weapons to make their point. They were taken out and ushered along a corridor then came to a room where one entire wall appeared to be made of clear glass and told to sit again. Almost immediately a door in the room on the other side of the glass wall opened and the two guards holding Kathryn entered, followed quickly by the Accuser and the Officials. They saw that the cheering group was also present in a room on the other side, well separated from them but plainly visible.

Chakotay and the others watched horrified as Kathryn was dragged towards two metal posts in the centre of the room which had shackles and wires attached to them. She was pulled between them and cried out in pain as her arms were pulled up over her head and secured into the metal binders at the top of the poles, one each side. Next the guards bent and pulled her ankles to each side and again secured her into the tight shackles. Kathryn screamed in agony and only the hold on her wrists held her up. Tears coursed down her face and Chakotay and the others saw the fear and pain she was feeling.

One of the Officials was reading out the charge and the findings of the court again as the guards attached the wires to Kathryn, at her wrists and ankles and then to her temples. They heard her cry out constantly, most of her words unintelligible except for Chakotay's name. Her eyes swept around wildly as if still trying to find him with no success but she continued calling to him.

Chakotay called tearfully back to her but she seemed unable to hear him and some part of his mind knew that the room they were in was obviously soundproofed from their side. He realized that the Official was finished speaking and was standing back and nodding to a guard he hadn't noticed before, standing off to the right beside a console. The shouts and cheers of the other group continued to fill his ears.

The next few minutes seemed to pass in slow motion and would haunt Chakotay and the others for years to come. He watched the guard nod understanding to the Official then turned his eyes back to Kathryn. A sudden silence surrounded him, broken only by Kathryn's now quieter cries and then suddenly her scream as her body arched back, a surge of power running through her. The horrifying image in front of him seemed to freeze in his sight and he felt unable to move or breathe as the lights dimmed around them and Kathryn's body continued to arch and convulse in the clutches of the electricity running through her, her frail body pulling desperately against the metal shackles. He vaguely heard another sound from somewhere and later he would realize it had been his own scream.

Then it was over and he saw her body slump down, only her wrist bindings once more holding her in place. He watched her head fall forward to her chest and then it was bright again, the drain on the lights power not there now. He heard the voice of one of the guards pronounce that life was extinct and that the execution had been a success. He found himself pressed tightly against the glass wall, the hands of the others holding him and still there was the shouting and cheering of the aliens filtering through.


Tuvok took over, seeing that Chakotay was in no condition to command anything and he nodded to Tom and B'Elanna to get them all out. Only snatches of the next few hours would ever stay with Chakotay.

He found himself standing in the room where the execution had taken place as the guards released the clamps at Kathryn's wrists and ankles. It was the Doctor and Tuvok who caught her body as it fell forward and they gently lowered her to the floor. He looked down at her face, deathly still and pale and fell to his knees beside her and it registered somewhere with him that traces of pain still showed on her features even now. He heard a voice from behind, telling them they were free now to take the remains and dispose of them as they wished as long as it was not on this planet. Later on, he would be told that he had had to be restrained again but these memories never stayed with him.

He was then leaving the building and carrying Kathryn in his strong arms, her lifeless body clutched protectively to him as they boarded the shuttle, trusting no one else with her. Once on board and with B'Elanna at the controls, he could only sit back and surrender Kathryn to the hands of the Doctor and Tom and watch as they engaged in a desperate struggle to re-start her heart and bring her back to them. Once more he had to witness currents run through her body as the Doctor used the cortical stimulator to try and bring life to where there was none and the irony of it all swirled inside him, that what had been used to kill was now being used to try and restore what had been cruelly taken.

And then they were in sickbay and he was in the Doctor's office as B'Elanna stayed with him and he watched through another glass panel and saw Tom and the Doctor fight again with death, determined to stave off its evil clutches from the woman who lay before them. He saw hypospray after hypospray pressed to her neck and then they were gone from view and he heard the word 'surgery' spoken somewhere.

Time passed without meaning, short or long he didn't know, until the Doctor was standing in front of him, speaking words he struggled to understand, and slowly everything started to move normally for him again for a time and he fought to get meaning from the Doctor and what he said. "Commander, please sit before you fall." Chakotay obeyed meekly but his eyes pleaded with the medic. "She's stable." Two words and they started his world again.

"You got her back."

He saw the EMH nod and give a small smile. "Commander, we re-started her heart in the shuttle." The Doctor saw that the large man in front of him remembered now, recalled Tom's shouts of joy when they'd gotten her heart beating again. The Doctor knelt in front of Chakotay now, getting his attention back. "Yes, we have her back but there was severe damage to internal organs, burns…" Chakotay's face showed his panic and the Doctor continued quickly. "All of which we have taken care of."

Chakotay drew a deep breath and suddenly realized he'd been holding air back. "She'll be all right?"

He got a reassuring smile. "In time, yes. The burns were quite deep and will take some time to heal, despite the dermal regenerator. Her internal injuries are healing nicely also with the regeneration. Her pelvic fracture, head injury and concussion have also been seen to."

Mention of this brought back to Chakotay what had led to all this. "What about the rest. Her mind?" Bitterness entered Chakotay's voice now.

The Doctor looked down a second then back at him. "I don't expect any brain damage but there's always the risk…" The Doctor looked puzzled at the reaction he got but Chakotay cut him off.

"You're saying she could have brain damage from this? What…" Chakotay jumped up.

"Isn't that what you meant?" The medic's voice was gentle as he waited for Chakotay to explain.

Chakotay shook his head quickly. "I meant her mind, the emotional fallout."

The Doctor nodded his understanding now. "Ahh, I see. Commander, that will have to come later. We can only deal with one thing at a time. Right now, my job is to get her physically back to normal. The rest can wait."

Chakotay nodded an apology, knowing the Doctor's order of things was correct. "When will you know if there's brain damage?"

The Doctor stood back up. "As soon as she's regained consciousness, and no, I can't say when. Most likely the next day or two but she will come around."

Chakotay nodded, his thoughts still all over the place, the emotion of the last day and night, even the previous weeks finally hitting him all at once. "Thank you. Can I sit with her, stay a while?"

The Doctor smiled gently. "Of course."

Chakotay was moving already, not waiting for permission.

Chakotay sat with Kathryn, not speaking for a long time, just gently stroking her hand and arm around the bandages the Doctor had placed there and knew the burns must have been very deep and saw her other arm was similarly covered. As he looked more closely, he could still see the evidence of the burns at the side of her face and traces of bruising and cuts. He found himself swimming in a deep emotional eddy, drowning almost, until he felt a hand softly grip his arm and he looked up into B'Elanna's face, her Klingon features seeming softer than he ever remembered. "Hey, old man, how are you doing?" She sat beside him, leaving her hand on his arm in comfort.

He looked back to the woman lying before him. "Not so good to tell you the truth."

"She's going to be fine Chakotay. You heard the Doctor." B'Elanna's voice was strong yet very soft. Chakotay just nodded, not trusting himself to speak and they were silent for several minutes.

Eventually it all became too much for Chakotay and it was B'Elanna, his oldest friend on board, who saw him through it all. All his feelings and private thoughts came out and then his guilt and shame of the past weeks and about the blame he felt was all his.

B'Elanna was an anchor in the storm for him, holding him to her, never letting him drift away from her strong hold, either physically or emotionally. At the end of it all, a cleansing had taken place and he felt lighter for having unburdened himself again, but the pain and guilt remained. "It's all my fault."

B'Elanna cut him off again. "Chakotay, we've been through this before. What you do now is put all that in the past, learn from it and move on. It'll be a very rough road but it can be travelled. This is all going to have a terrible effect on her and she'll need you to help her find her way through it. It's also had a terrible effect on you, and while you always have me and Tom and the others to turn to, I believe in the end, only she can be what you need. I guess each of you is the only one who can help the other. You just both need to accept that." B'Elanna let out a long sigh, hugging him closer to her.

Chakotay shook his head slowly. "I don't know if I can be what she needs. I'm not even sure if I can face her. I've been sitting here watching her and I can say what I feel, what I mean, when she's like this, but I don't know if I can say that to her face. What if she doesn't want me, if I remind her? I know I'm a coward where this kind of thing is concerned. I suppose most men are but what if she doesn't want me near her again and…"

B'Elanna sat back, stern now. "Don't talk such nonsense. Of course she wants you to be there for her. Look, you're exhausted, emotionally and physically. Take your time. You'll see. It'll all fall into place."

He smiled sadly. "Maybe you're right. I am tired."

B'Elanna hugged him again. "Try and get some rest, OK. You won't be any good to her if you're exhausted. Tuvok and Tom have everything under control. They even placed warning buoys about the kind of society future visitors can expect if they visit Tallar. We're well out of their space now so there's nothing to worry about." He nodded at her and sent her off with what he hoped was a smile of gratitude.

Chakotay spent the next two days at Kathryn's side and watched as the burns and bruises slowly faded. The Doctor reported himself well pleased with her progress and felt she would regain consciousness any time. Chakotay knew the injuries he couldn't see would take a lot longer to heal and he slowly began to doubt if it would be a good idea if his was the first face she saw when she opened her eyes again.

His vigil continued for the next few hours and he constantly fought to stop his eyes from closing. Suddenly he was aware of a hand gently shaking him and was instantly alert. He looked up into the Doctor's face and panicked. "Doctor, what is it? Is she all right?"

The Doctor smiled softly. "Everything's fine, Commander. I believe she's starting to regain consciousness." They both looked to Kathryn and Chakotay stood back to give the medic room to work. He could still see Kathryn and watched as she slowly opened her eyes and blinked several times as if trying to clear her vision. He saw her mind working to make sense of where she was and what had happened and then her eyes finally settled on the Doctor.

"Welcome back, Captain. How are you feeling?"

Kathryn took time to answer as if trying to form the words clearly in her mind first before vocalising them. "I…" She licked at her dry lips and her voice was barely above a whisper. "Sore and…" Her few words seemed to exhaust her and she closed her eyes for a moment.

The Doctor pressed a hypo to her neck with painkiller. "That should help. Captain, do you know where you are?"

She opened her eyes again, not looking at anything in particular. "Sick…sickbay."

The EMH nodded satisfaction. He didn't want to push but had to establish just what she remembered and if any brain damage had occurred. "I'm sorry, Captain, but can you remember how you got here? Can you remember what happened before?"

Kathryn heard him but just stared at the ceiling for some time then finally answered. "Yes. I know. The palace…the garden with him." She closed her eyes again and tears slipped down the side of her eyes.

The Doctor laid a hand gently on her shoulder. "Captain, what about after? I'm sorry but I have to ask."

Kathryn just nodded. "Cell…chains. A court or…asked me things. I don't know. Said…don't remember all the words…" She continued staring at the ceiling. If she noticed Chakotay, she gave no indication.

"And after that, Captain? Please."

She finally looked at the Doctor. "I…I…remember… I think…poles or…pain and…then…terrible pain and…like light or…energy…and pain…pain…" More tears fell now and finally she looked towards Chakotay then quickly away. "Please…no more…I…"

The Doctor patted her shoulder and arm. "It's all right, Captain. Rest now. You're safe and sound. It's all over. You'll be fine now." If she heard his words, she didn't acknowledge them. Her eyes slipped closed and she drifted off.

The Doctor smiled kindly at Chakotay. "It's all right, Commander, she's just sleeping. That's the best thing for her now. Time and rest will take care of her."

Chakotay nodded, unable to trust himself with words. She'd only looked briefly at him before turning away quickly and it hurt.

"There's no evidence of any brain damage, I'm happy to say. She's confused which is to be expected but it will all come back to her. Whether that's good or bad…" He looked at Chakotay and saw his exhaustion. "Commander, go and get some sleep and that's a medical order."

Chakotay nodded. He knew he needed rest badly and he had to leave sickbay for a while, needing to get away and recharge himself in some way. He knew now facing her again would be the hardest thing he could ever do.

Having checked with Tuvok that all was running smoothly and approved the placing of the warning buoys, Chakotay returned to his quarters and fell asleep almost as soon as he lay down. It was another twenty hours before he stirred again.

Kathryn lay awake on the biobed in sickbay and just stared at the ceiling, memories assaulting her. She fought to keep her crying as muffled as she could. She'd been awake for over half an hour now. She'd sent the Doctor away when he approached her, seeing that she wasn't sleeping any longer, asking if he would allow her just a short time to herself. Nodding his understanding, he'd withdrawn to his office.

She turned onto her side and wiped angrily at her tears. Most of the events since she'd arrived on the surface of Tallar had come back to her but she remembered her pain and fear most.

Her remembering brought with it a depression and she thought now how right Chakotay had been about her, believing that what had happened was just proof of his words. She thought of his presence when she'd first regained consciousness but how he'd not spoken once to her. These thoughts took her down a dark road, filled with uncertainties and self-doubts and with them came a self-hatred. She thought about how she'd used Chakotay as a crutch for so long, taking all he offered and giving nothing in return and about how unfair she'd been to him. She brought her mind back to how she'd walked into the situation with Denar and convinced herself that she'd asked for everything she got. She could still feel his hands on her, tearing and pulling at her, hurting her, punching her and the struggle, fighting for breath and then hitting him with something. She saw again Chakotay's face as he'd looked down at her on the ground but in her present state of mind, she substituted his worry and concern with mockery and loathing.

Her memories brought her back to the prison and her feelings of helplessness and fear as she'd found herself chained like an animal. She remembered the cold and the pain again and how she'd been dragged out of there to the court. The events at her trial flooded her mind and where details were missing, she filled those gaps not with facts but with a fiction that suited the self-blame which filled her. She recalled her answers to the questions which had been put to her and now believed them accurate. The sounds of the cheering and jeering mob invaded her mind and she cried harder. Just like the wounded animal she felt, she took all these thoughts and memories and transferred them to her present state of mind and the result was a total breakdown of all defences. And then her mind was filled with the moment when she'd been taken to her 'execution' and how understanding of it all came only at the last moment. The fear and pain of that time consumed her and she physically relived it all, suddenly crying out aloud until the Doctor rushed to her side and quickly administered a sedative. As it took effect, she remembered Chakotay's words from the holodeck once more and any feelings of self-worth she'd ever felt dwindled away with her consciousness.

When Kathryn awoke some hours later, her mind was clearer but her feelings remained. She stared at the ceiling again for quite some time, thinking over her options now as she saw them and belief in her own ability for anything faded away. Suddenly she felt a presence beside her and as she rolled her head to the side, her eyes met B'Elanna's. The fact that the Chief Engineer was there and not Chakotay fed her current depression and confirmed her delusions.

"Hi there." This was accompanied by a smile.

"B'Elanna, how long have you been…" Her voice was still only a whisper.

"Oh, not too long. Doc said you can return to your quarters tomorrow IF you take it easy and take at least a week off." Kathryn just nodded, not seeming bothered and this worried B'Elanna. "Want me to get you anything?" A small shake of the head answered this. "Captain, we can talk if you like or… Well if you prefer I left…"

Kathryn took the easy way out. "Sorry, I'm just very tired still. Maybe…"

B'Elanna stood. "It's OK, Captain. I understand. Whenever you want. Just know that I'm only a short call away if you want to…need…"

Kathryn tried a tired smile and failed. "Thanks." She closed her eyes again.

By the time Chakotay eventually returned from his deep, but badly needed sleep, a call to sickbay informed him that Kathryn had been allowed back to her quarters on strict orders to rest and at her own insistence. The Doctor informed him that he grudgingly felt she would recover better with her own surroundings.

Chakotay was unsure of his next move and when the computer informed him that she was sleeping, he felt relief. He knew he was putting off going to her but he was also afraid of doing more harm than good and when later that evening, his query to the computer told him she wasn't taking visitors, he let it drop for the night.

He didn't go to her the next day either and she didn't call him. He used having to hold duty on the bridge to give Tuvok some much needed time off as the excuse of avoiding the matter again.

Kathryn, for her part, saw his absence as further proof that he wanted nothing to do with her and that night in her quarters, alone again at her own request, Kathryn lay awake for most of the night and ran a self-diagnostic, one tainted by her current depression which radically altered the results. The following afternoon, when B'Elanna called to visit her, insisting on entry under threat of breaking the door in, she had settled a lot of matters in her mind.

B'Elanna found her sitting on the sofa, the lights low, nursing what appeared to be a cold cup of coffee. She approached slowly and finally sat beside her Captain.

B'Elanna smiled softly. "Captain? How are you?"

Kathryn didn't meet her eyes. "Don't call me that please."

The half Klingon looked confused. "OK. Is Kathryn too personal?"

Kathryn barely shook her head. "That's fine. It's who I am…was…before…" When she turned and saw the worried look that met her, she tried a smile and failed. "Kathryn's fine, B'Elanna. Sorry, I'm just…you know."

The younger woman smiled again. "It's OK. I understand. You've been through a lot." Kathryn said nothing and silence followed for a few minutes before B'Elanna broke it. "I hear you've been refusing all visitors. Everyone cares, you know. They just want…"

Kathryn gave a bittersweet smile. "Maybe not everyone."

B'Elanna was unsure of her meaning but felt certain she meant Chakotay and chanced it. "Has he been to see you?"

"No." One word and the way it was said spoke volumes. Kathryn knew who B'Elanna meant all right.

B'Elanna tried an explanation but it came out as an excuse. "He's been exhausted too and then taking the bridge to give Tuvok time…"

Kathryn just shook her head. "I understand. It doesn't matter." She was doing her best to close this subject.

B'Elanna leaned forward a little. "Others wanted to come but you didn't want…"

Kathryn just sighed. "I just couldn't. I'm not ready to face… Anyway, I needed some time. I needed to think and…" She was quiet again and B'Elanna allowed it, feeling something more was coming. Eventually Kathryn put into words what her thoughts had been.

"B'Elanna, I've made a decision." She met B'Elanna's eyes again. B'Elanna nodded her agreement but looked puzzled. "I've been doing nothing but think and… B'Elanna, I can't do this anymore. I can't face one more day of it. It's just too much." She felt a hand grip her arm.

"Kathryn, what can't you face? What are you talking about?" B'Elanna was getting frightened.

Kathryn just waved a hand. "This. Being Captain. I can hardly face being myself, whoever that is. Being Captain… It's not who I am anymore, not who I've been for a long time."

B'Elanna drew in a deep breath. "Kathryn, just listen to me now. This is just the after-effects of all this talking. It's Chakotay's words talking." Kathryn looked sharply at her and B'Elanna looked away for a minute. "He told me what happened, what he said to you."

Kathryn looked away. "Did he also tell you he was right?"

B'Elanna tried to hold her temper. "Kathryn Janeway, he was wrong and even he knows it."

Kathryn looked down into her lap. "No, he was right and so was the court."

B'Elanna closed her eyes a moment. "I don't believe I'm hearing this from you."

Kathryn merely shrugged. "B'Elanna, I'm standing down as Captain of Voyager. I'm handing command over to Chakotay. Tuvok can take over as First Officer and the rest will sort itself out. I wasn't a half bad Science Officer at one time, way back when…"

B'Elanna was trying to keep her anger under control. "You can't do this, Kathryn. We'll fight you and you know it. This is just, I think depression or something."

Kathryn finally looked at her. "B'Elanna, I've had enough. Can you not see that? I can't do this anymore. I'm no good anymore. I'm just bone weary tired of doing it all, being I don't know what." She looked away and gazed sadly at nothing in particular, each word from her sounding like a note in a symphony of hurt and pain she'd composed for herself.

B'Elanna grasped for the right words. "You just need some time to get over this, a break away from it all."

Kathryn wasn't to be convinced. "No. A rest or vacation isn't going to solve this. It would only be a stopgap. I've had enough of this, years too much, and I can't trust my own judgement any more. Someone else can do it. Please, B'Elanna, just inform everyone. There's a padd on the desk there with all the proper authorizations on it. It's signed and sealed."

B'Elanna stood angrily. "No. I won't have any part of this. You can do your own dirty work." If she expected anger or a dressing down, she'd wait a long time.

Kathryn just sighed resignedly. "All right, I understand. I'll do it myself. Goodnight, B'Elanna, and thank you." The message that the visit was over was clear and B'Elanna felt it unwise to push the issue anymore. She left Kathryn as she'd found her, still gripping her cold coffee tightly to her.


B'Elanna sat alone in her own quarters for the rest of the evening, mulling over the whole situation. She wished that Tom wasn't pulling the night shift, feeling desperate to talk it over with him, needing his guidance on the best course of action. She had thought of going to see the Doctor immediately but now felt it would be better to talk things over with Chakotay first.

She knew she was delaying until she'd sorted in her own mind what she'd say and finally rose, deciding that her usual way of just ploughing in was probably the best.

An almost shadow Chakotay opened the door of his quarters to her and she softened. All this was grinding him down also and she decided to go easy on him but still get her point across.

He tried a smile and failed. "B'El, it's late and I'm tired."

B'Elanna ignored him, pushing her pity aside along with him. "You haven't been to see her yet." It was more a statement than a question.

Chakotay saw a flash of anger of his friend's face. "I just can't face it, I'm sorry. I will though. I did actually try but she was asleep and then wasn't seeing anyone."

B'Elanna gave a derisory laugh. "That didn't stop me."

He sat, knowing he was going to have to hear her out, that there was no getting away for it. "So I should just force my way in and demand she see me? I'm the last person she wants to see. Besides, she's hardly sought me out either." It was lame and he knew it.

B'Elanna wasn't buying that. "Cut the bull, Chakotay. She's the one confined to quarters under Doctor's orders, and before you say it, I know she could have just called but… Chakotay, you haven't seen her, the way she is. She's not good. I don't mean physically but…"

He was half listening, hearing the bits he wanted to. "It's her right. As I said to you once before 'she's the Captain'."

"No, she's not. At least not for much longer." That got his full attention. "She's standing down as Captain, handing command over to you."

He stood now, a mixture of worry and uncertainty about him. "She's what? When did she…?"

B'Elanna nodded to the couch, indicating that he sit. "She told me this evening, wanted me to take the necessary authorizations to you and Tuvok. She has them all done out." She played down her own worry.

Chakotay ran a hand through his hair. "She can't. I won't accept it and neither will Tuvok."

B'Elanna played with her fingers. "I told her that and I also told her she could do her own dirty work, that I'd pass on nothing. Chakotay, talk to her. She's… Well, she scared me tonight. She's in a deep depression, full of self-doubt, blame and guilt, everything. You can practically see it all sitting there on her shoulders, pressing down. If you can talk to her, be her friend, maybe you can get through. My first stop was going to be the Doc but I wanted to see you first. I still think he has to know though." Chakotay nodded, staring at the carpet now. "Chakotay, I'm serious. When I said depression, I meant it. This isn't just the blues. I don't think you on your own will be enough, no matter how well you handle things. I really believe she needs medical intervention here."

Finally, he looked up at her. "You really think it's that bad? You think all this has had that bad an effect on her?" He stood and paced, not giving her time to answer. "I told you what I did. It IS all my fault. I did this."

B'Elanna's eyes followed him. "At first, I would have agreed that this situation between you was the cause but not now. Chakotay, this is more than what you said or what happened."

He was getting more worried now. "What do you mean?"

B'Elanna sighed heavily. "I think this was coming anyway. I'm no expert but I think the events of recently… I think they just brought it on quicker. You said yourself about her behaviour before. I think it's all just become too much after all these years."

Chakotay was shaking his head. "I just don't know. Maybe, but… No. I see your point but I think you're just going easy on me. I agree a depression or something might have come. It did before in the void…" He looked at B'Elanna, realizing what he'd said but one look at her face showed him his words would never be repeated and he nodded his thanks. "Look, I know the stress she's always under and that taking everything on herself can just… I still think she'd have handled that though, would have continued to handle it all when she had backup. When that went, when I left her, that's when it all started to go. She's like a house of cards and without one, it all falls. Spirits, I'm not being egotistical about this, but when I pulled back from her and then this all happened, that's what has brought her down. You see, I AM the cause."

B'Elanna let out a long sigh. "Maybe you're right. I don't really know. You know her better than anyone aboard this ship. Talk to her please. I'll let you try that first but if that fails, I'm going to talk to the Doctor. He can't be kept in the dark about this, Chakotay. If she's not helped… Well, I don't want to start thinking down that road."

Chakotay looked at her sharply. "You're right. I should have done something before now. I'll go and see her tonight. Knowing Kathryn, she's awake." He pulled her to him and hugged her. "She's lucky to have a friend like you. I just wish she knew that."

B'Elanna pulled back a little. "Well, you can tell her that. Tell her she has 147 friends and a holographic one on board. Just make sure she knows she also still has a best friend. You know him, tall, dark, tattoo…"

Chakotay smiled properly for the first time in days. "Get out of here. I'm needed elsewhere." They shared a smile that spoke of the good friendship they had and everything they'd been through together.

Chakotay rang Kathryn's chime three times and still there was no reply so as was his custom in these cases, he used his override. It took him a minute for his eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room and slowly he began to make out Kathryn's slumped shape on the couch. He slowly moved towards her and now saw that she wasn't asleep as he had at first thought. Her eyes met his for a moment and he was shocked to the core to see the lack of anything in them except a deep sadness. Neither of them spoke for some minutes. Finally, Chakotay decided to. "Kathryn?"

Her voice was weary. "What do you want, Commander? I'm on leave."

He was starting to feel unsettled. "Can I turn the lights on in here?"

She looked down at the cup in her hand, which she still held. "Leave them."

He sighed. "Kathryn, I can hardly see you."

"Why do you need to?" Her answer wasn't what he expected.

He took a step closer to her. "Please, can we talk?"

She shrugged, giving neither permission nor denial.

"Kathryn, please."

Suddenly she looked at him but her expression didn't change. "Kathryn? I thought it was 'Captain'." She looked away again.

The blow went home and Chakotay felt it. He was getting more anxious. "So did I but apparently I'm wrong on that score."

Her eyes shot to him for a moment. "B'Elanna. She said she wouldn't…"

Chakotay cut across her now. "Kathryn, why?"

She played with the cup, dipping her finger into the cold liquid and running it around the rim. "Didn't she tell you?"

He moved his feet slightly. "No, not really."

Kathryn pointed to her desk. "It's all there. Effective immediately. You're already Acting Captain. Just continue what you're doing." She swirled the contents of the cup, appearing engrossed with watching the cold coffee.

Chakotay's angry reply made her look up again but her expression remained dead. "I won't take it."

Kathryn just shrugged. "Too bad. It's already entered into the official logs and the computer."

Chakotay drew a deep breath. "Why are you doing this? Kathryn, you can't do this to us."

Suddenly there was a hint of anger from her. "I'm not doing this TO you. I'm doing it FOR you. Oh, don't worry, I'll earn my keep. I can do research, scientific... I'll share quarters with whoever, work at whatever."

Chakotay was getting more and more annoyed. "No. No, Kathryn. This entire situation is just… You need to… When you're over this and seeing clearly again and…" He jumped as she suddenly threw the cup against the wall and for a second they both watched the brown liquid trail down to meet the carpet. When Chakotay turned back to Kathryn, he saw the first signs of emotion in her since he'd arrived.

"What do you care? What do you want from me?" In the dim light, he could just make out tears starting in her eyes. "I don't know what or who I am anymore but whatever I try, it's not right. It's never right or enough, never going to be." Chakotay moved towards her but she held her hand up. "If you've come here to have another go, you can leave because I don't have the strength or the courage for another verbal attack, no matter how right you are." She lowered her head.

Chakotay dropped into a chair facing her and rubbed his hands over his face. "Oh, Kathryn. I really did a job on you, didn't I?" He looked at the woman sitting in front of him.

She slowly looked up and met his eyes. "No, I did it to myself. You just pointed it out, made me see the truth." She pushed her hair back from her face.

Chakotay rubbed a hand over his face. "Kathryn, I was angry but most of all, I was so wrong."

She shook her head. "You were right. Everyone was right. What they said in that court…"

He was immediately on his knees in front of her, grabbing her hands which were now folded on her lap.
"Don't you dare say that. I won't hear that from you." He shook her hands. "Kathryn…"

She looked away and pulled her hands back from his. "No more, please. I've made my decision." He sat back, giving her a little space and she looked back at him again. "You say you won't accept this? Well, you've no choice. Someone has to run this ship and lead this crew, but it won't be me. You'll do it because you care for them too much. Probably for a long time now and certainly at this moment, I know I've had enough. If I can't run my own personal life, there's no way I can be trusted with this ship and this crew. After what happened…" She bit at her lower lip. "My judgement was way off, was shot to hell. There's just no way I'm fit or equipped to be in charge of them, no way I can be trusted."

They were silent for a moment and Chakotay sat on the sofa beside her, leaving just enough space between them. "What happened to your promise to get us all home? Can you really go back on your word about that?" He hoped this would stir her in some way. He was wrong.

She sighed heavily. "The woman who made that promise is no longer here. She'd never have gotten herself into all this."

Chakotay closed his eyes briefly. "Kathryn, what happened could have happened to anyone. It happened to you because I left you in such a state that you didn't see it. You just need time and some help."

She just shook her head. "No, you were right. I'm just some whore and I asked for it, a 'prick tease', isn't that it? I deserved what I got. I should have just let him."

Chakotay's anger boiled up and he found himself grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her then stopped himself and just reached for her hands again and held them tight. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn. I'm so sorry for everything I said but please don't say that. I didn't mean those things. Please believe me. I regret so much what I said and wish so much I could turn the clock back and take them away. I was just so angry and I hit out at you. You asked for nothing. There wasn't anything you did that deserved what he did to you."

She tried pulling her hands away but he refused to let go. "You told me I was playing a dangerous game and you were right and I was too stupid to see it. I deserved everything I got. I killed him and I deserved to die too."

Her words tore at him. "No, no, no. Kathryn, please."

She looked down at their joined hands. "I led him on. They said so. I deserved everything and for what I did to you."

Chakotay lowered his head. "Kathryn, I saw you all that night and you led no one on. All you deserved was his respect and as for doing anything to me… I was the one who did wrong to you and I'm so sorry." His eyes pleaded with her. "Look, you need help. From me or the Doctor or… Kathryn, you're scaring me with this. I'm afraid for you, afraid you'll..."

Now she looked at him and laughed softly. "Afraid I'll what? Try and kill myself? Don't worry, I'm too much of a coward for that. Besides, I doubt I'd manage to get even that right." She felt his hands on her arms now and pulled away. "Just let me be please. What more do you want from me? I can tell you now I've nothing left to give. All I had is gone. The captain isn't who I am anymore, hasn't been for some time." She stood now, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. "I can't face myself anymore, much less the crew. I'm no good anymore. I'm too tired. I wish to God you'd just let me die, left me dead."

Chakotay jumped up and grabbed her, forcing her to turn to him. "Please don't ever say that to me again."

She saw the distress her words had caused him but she was beyond caring. "Can you not see I'm already half dead?" He saw her eyes well up but when he tried to pull her to him, she pulled back. "I'm already half way there. Nothing in me functions anymore. Oh, the heart beats and pushes the blood around but I feel nothing."

Chakotay held onto her. "I don't believe that, Kathryn. I saw how badly I hurt you. I saw you in that court, heard what you said."

She twisted from his grasp and he finally let go, afraid of hurting her. "You heard the delusional rantings of a sad and lonely old woman, a washed-up pretender who can't be trusted with…"

He wasn't taking that. "Dammit, Kathryn, stop this now. I know what I saw. I saw a woman who'd been beaten and almost raped by a madman. A woman who was injured and ill and who needed medical treatment yet was further abused by a court determined to use that to put their words into her mouth and find her guilty for a crime she didn't commit. I saw a woman who'd been badly hurt and let down by someone who was supposed to love her and be her best friend and yet still, with all that, she still thought of him." He saw her tears spill over her eyelids but she didn't try and move further away. "Kathryn, I badly let you down and it's my fault all this happened. I spoke in anger and all I feel at this moment is shame and guilt. I want so much to let you know how sorry I am. I won't, however, ask your forgiveness for this no matter how much I want to. I won't ask for two reasons. One is I don't deserve your forgiveness and second, you should never give it." His eyes searched hers and he saw her weaken.

"Chakotay…" It was the first time she'd used his name and he felt hope. "Chakotay, there's nothing to forgive. You spoke the truth."

He groaned. "No, I spoke in anger and rejection and probably spite, pride, any number of things I'd no right to feel. I lashed out without ever considering things from your side and because I was angry and hurt, I let those feelings grow and fester and instead of keeping my promise and being there for you, I let pride take over and I moved away." Kathryn kept her eyes down the entire time he was speaking. "You needed me and I let you down. Even when I saw that need grow, I still stood back and I destroyed not only the best friendship I'll ever have but I also destroyed you. I planted the seeds of something in you which has grown like tares and suffocated you in ways I can't even begin to undo and all this caused something terrible to happen to you and I not only became the cause of that but I wasn't there to stop it either and I find it very hard to live with that. Now you need someone again but because of the damage I already caused, I'm afraid I've lost everything, in particular the chance to try and be there for you this time. Asking if you can forgive me is asking the impossible, but at least let me be there for you to help and try and atone in some small way for what I did."

He watched for any reaction and finally she lifted her head and spoke. "I don't deserve anything from you. Just forget about me. I'll only let you down again and…" She stared down at the carpet.

He smiled sadly and shook his head. "I can't do that. I care too much about you. The way I see it, my friend needs me now."

She kept her head down. "What if your friend is gone, isn't there anymore?"

He raised his hand and gently stroked her hair. "I know that's not true. I see you and I see the hurt I caused. Kathryn, you're at the beginning of a long, twisting and very difficult road, one I put you on. Now I know you have to travel that road but please let me walk it with you and help carry the burden and be there for you to lean on when you tire, even carry you if it gets too rough. It's a road I know and I could show you the places to rest and help with directions, travel with you and offer perhaps some of what you need." He felt more hope grow in him.

She still looked down at the carpet. "Chakotay, I put myself on that road? In fact, I was already on it and I deserve what it brings. I guess I'm just too tired to travel any further."

Chakotay refused to give in. "I know you were already on a tough road, one I abandoned you on but it's a road I think you were able to travel as long as you had someone with you. When I left you alone, that's how you strayed onto this rougher road. In fact, I pushed you onto it. Not being able to travel alone is not a weakness as you see it. It's human, Kathryn. None of us are meant to be alone like that. If you're too tired to travel, then rest until you're ready to take on the journey. I just need to know I still have a friend and that you'll let me be the friend I stopped being, that maybe you can, in some way, forgive me for that at least."

Finally, she met his eyes briefly and he saw they were awash with tears. "Chakotay, how I feel isn't because you said those things to me but rather what you said." She raised her hand to him when he went to speak and he stayed quiet. "Let me say all this please. It hurt because what you said was true. I used you, took what you gave me for granted. I used you because I needed you so much but couldn't even face that fact. I was just so afraid and then… Oh God, throwing myself at you that night and you say I'm not a whore?" She walked towards the view port, staring out at the stars as if they could help her in some way. He wanted so much to scream at her to stop her way of thinking but he'd allow her to finish.

"That night on the holodeck… I lay awake all night going back over every word you said and I realized that every one of them was the truth. For too long I've been afraid of living, have hidden behind rules and regulations, but mostly I took you for granted, caused you no end of pain and that hurts me the most." She looked back at him briefly and saw the pain on his face, pain that matched her own. "I took away from you what I loved most, what made you who you are, the man you are. I took your pride and self-respect and in the process, lost my own. You were right. I needed to feel alive and a woman and I used you. I missed the fact that you were already offering all that but what I am is so ingrained in me. Never show weakness." She took a deep breath. "The following morning, I wanted to tell you that, tell you what I'd learned but…"

He finished for her. "I never gave you the chance." He nodded sadly. "Kathryn, I'm so sorry."

She shrugged. "It doesn't matter now. Too much else has happened." She turned back to him. "Chakotay, I just can't deal with this anymore. I can't carry on with what I am."

Chakotay was suddenly angry now, his pain driving it. "Right, you've had your say and now it's my turn. Firstly, you will carry on because you owe it to everyone who loves you. Next, if I ever hear you speak badly of yourself again, ever hear you call yourself a whore again, so help me, I won't be held responsible for my actions. As to the rest now. You say can't deal with this? Kathryn, I know what you've been through and you've every right to feel like this, but you WILL heal in time, especially if you just let us help you. Consider this too though. How do I deal with it? How do the others? Can you tell me that?"

She seemed shocked by his sudden outburst. "Chakotay…"

He would have his say. "No, Kathryn, you'll hear me now. I saw what you went through, but I wasn't completely removed from it. Neither were the others who were there. We've been affected too. Do you have any idea of what it's like to stand by helpless and see someone you love or care about deeply killed in front of you, to watch them die and you can't do a damn thing to stop it?" Kathryn suddenly cried out and her hands went to her face.

Chakotay remembered, too late, that she knew exactly how that felt. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn, I'm sorry." He reached for her and pulled her into his embrace. "Kathryn, I didn't think. I'm sorry. Of course, you know. Forgive me." He held her for some time and she let him. Eventually he felt her arms slip around him and he continued holding her, letting her cry it all out.

When he felt her sag against him, finally exhausted, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her to her bed, lying her down gently and pulling a blanket over her. He stroked her back and spoke soothing words to her. "Kathryn, listen. If you really want to stand down, either full time or just for a while, I'll support you. I don't actually care if you resign, if that's going to be the best thing for you. However, I don't think this is you doing this and that's probably why I'll fight you on it, because I believe you're wrong and that in the end, you'll regret it. Rest and take care of yourself and let all of us in to be there for you. Take time and then decide, and if at that stage you still want to stand down, I'll be behind you one hundred percent." There was still the occasional sob but he saw her nod in agreement. He stayed until she eventually fell asleep, still stroking her back and hair.

When Kathryn awoke the next morning, she found Chakotay sitting in a chair just watching her. He saw she was embarrassed at her reaction the night before but he quickly reassured her and saw her accept it. After seeking her permission, he called the Doctor and let the medic take over, promising to call by later.

Within minutes of the Doctor leaving his captain, he called Chakotay to sickbay. "Ah Commander, please have a seat."

Chakotay nodded and took the chair facing the desk. "How is she? What do you think?"

The Doctor nodded and sat also. "She is depressed but I don't believe she's suicidal or anything. Basically, it's a result of all that has happened the last few days. She's in shock still and the stress of all this... Her self-worth, her belief in herself has been shattered into a million pieces. This is also the build-up of the years out here finally catching up with her. However, I believe we can get her back but it's going to be a long road."

Chakotay nodded. "You know I'm the cause of all this, that it's all my fault?" The medic looked puzzled and Chakotay told him everything.

"Commander, you may have started the ball rolling but as I said, most of this is to do with what happened later. Recent events though have just been a last straw. Now we must only worry about solving the problem, not what caused it. I need you to concentrate on that, do you understand?"

Chakotay sat forward. "Doc, you're trying to be kind but don't worry, I'll do everything I can. I'll deal with my own guilt my own way. Now what do you want me to do?"

"I've prescribed some anti-depressants for a few days, nothing too strong. I believe that will get her over the worst of it, in the sense that it will take her to a place where she feels better able to cope with helping herself. For you, talk to her. Help her build herself up again. Basically, be a friend. Listen to her and just be there for her to lean on and rest against." The Doctor's words hit home with Chakotay and he thought of how he should have been doing this all along.

During the following weeks, Chakotay spent many hours with Kathryn talking late into the night and slowly he saw her emerge again. He listened as she re-lived the nightmare she'd endured and he shared his own demons with her. Their friendship gained strength again and Chakotay slowly learned from her to forgive himself a bit.

B'Elanna called by whenever she could and a good friendship grew between the two women, something Kathryn had missed badly from her life. She also spent time on the holodeck, sometimes alone, other times with Chakotay and slowly she gained a liking for herself again and a new confidence and appetite for life came about.

Somehow, word leaked to the crew what their captain was going through and many messages and small gifts arrived at her quarters, all sharing the same sentiments. She was their captain, they loved her and trusted her completely to lead them. She had their complete respect and trust and all their thoughts were with her. They looked forward to seeing her again soon, back where she belonged. Kathryn spent many hours crying over these words. "Did you put them up to this, Chakotay?"

They'd just finished sharing a late dinner. He shook his head. "No, I swear to you. I don't even know how word got out. Kathryn, are you upset by these? If you are, I'll make sure they stop."

She sat forward quickly. "Oh God, no, please. They mean everything to me. I just can't understand how they can all feel this way about me."

He gently laid his hand on her arm. "Then you're the only one. Kathryn, those messages are from the heart. These people care greatly about you, love you even. When we thought we'd lost you…" He looked away quickly, unable to even consider the thought.

Now he felt her hand on his arm. "Chakotay, it's all right. You got me back. Look, I'll admit there was a time recently when I wished it hadn't been like that, but now… I'm sorry for everything I put you through."

He took her face in one hand. "Kathryn, I'm the only one here who has to be sorry. I still… What I said to you…"

She smiled gently. "What you said needed to be said, although maybe not quite in that way." She dropped her head to the side. "That was a joke, Chakotay." He tried a smile but failed and she saw his pain at the memory of that night. "Chakotay, I mean it. Most of what you said needed saying. I see that now more than ever. What happened later… Well, I know now it wasn't anyone's fault really. From what I saw of their laws… You were right before when you said it could have happened to anyone. Chakotay, we both have to learn to put that behind us. I'm learning that more and more each day. I know you've been through a lot too, seeing me 'die' and I know what that can do to someone. What I want most now, if possible, is for us to re-build our friendship because that's what I really can't live without. I've finally come to know that I can't do this alone, without you. Can we do that?" Her answer came in a gentle hug.

"I want nothing more. Kathryn, what I said before…and listen to me please. What I said before was anger speaking. I'll be whatever you need me to be. I won't deny how I feel about you. You know I love you. For a long time, I wanted something from you and never stopped to consider that perhaps you were unable to give that, for whatever reason, and so I lost everything. You see, I never stopped to think that what you could give me would be just as wonderful and it was only when I saw myself lose that and saw that threatened and I couldn't do anything, that was when I realized just what I'd lost. I'd lost my best friend, you see, the best friend I'd ever have and now I want you back but I was so afraid that I'd left it too late. I know now that any relationship, in this case our friendship, is what matters most. I want you in my life in any way and if that's this friendship, then I'm proud to have that." He smiled softly, sending her his reassurance.

Kathryn smiled tearfully. "Oh Chakotay. I don't deserve you, you know. I really meant what I said before about not being able to imagine a day without you. It took this for me to realize exactly how true that was." Chakotay sat back and watched her as she sorted her thoughts in her head. "Chakotay, in the court…"

He didn't want her going back there again. "Kathryn, please put it behind you."

She shook her head. "No, this is important. At the time, words swam around in my head but I do remember what I said. I was in so much pain and I was so scared, but mostly I remember looking for you and not being able to see you or find you. Most of my answers were confused, his words, things half remembered or just repeating what I was hearing. However, one of those things relates to something I realized shortly after that night on the holodeck but had probably known for years without acknowledging it to myself. I said it in the court, I know that much, and now I'd like to say it properly. I don't know if you understand what I'm talking about."

He felt his heart pound in his chest. "Kathryn?"

She drew in a deep breath. "Chakotay, I heard them sentence me to death and I actually understood that. I was terrified, I can tell you that. Mostly though, what ate at me was the fact that I couldn't see you before I died." He squeezed her hands in his, his pain evident. "I couldn't see you one last time and I couldn't tell you what I wanted to tell you. I'm sorry I didn't, before or…" She lowered her head and he leaned in, trying to see her face. When she spoke, he had to strain to hear her. "I love you."

It was what he'd always dreamed of but he needed her to know she didn't have to say the words because she felt she owed them to him. "Kathryn, I love you too. You know that. Just please don't feel you have to say this, that you owe it to me."

She squeezed his hands in return. "I'm saying it because I mean it. I've wasted so much time and life. Chakotay, I love you."

He pulled her into his arms. "I love you. Oh Kathryn." They held each other for some time. Finally, Chakotay pulled back a little.

"May I kiss you now?" She nodded, her eyes filling with tears. As their lips met and the kiss deepened, time seemed to stop and the memories of the past weeks faded away.

Within a further two weeks, Kathryn felt ready to reclaim her old life. She left behind the parts of that life which had held her down and took on the new lessons she'd learned. As she put on her uniform for her first shift back and watched the image in the mirror of the new woman she'd become, a smile crossed her face and she recognized it as something she'd left behind a long time ago. Now it was back where it belonged.

She turned to Chakotay who stood behind her watching this new birth and smiled softly at him. Opening her life to him and sharing that life was still new to her but she never had a minute's regret. He'd stayed that night when they'd finally admitted their love for each other and hadn't left since.

He held his hand out to her and she took it, squeezing gently, saying this way what words never could. Together they left 'their' quarters for a new day, united against everything.