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


Rating:          NC17.


Summary:    Back on Earth, Chakotay gets a call from Voyager’s Doctor
                    that changes his life.
                   
                    Contains descriptions of rape and violence.
                  
This is based on an idea I got from Angelina Vansen’s story Twenty Four Seven which can be found at http://angelina.kathryn-enslaved.com/247.html
It’s also NC17 so be aware of that.

Acknowledgement:    Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Judy Morrow, for all 
                                   her hard work and friendship.



LEAN ON ME.

By KAT LADY.



PART ONE.



Chakotay sat on a wooden bench in the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters and wondered how it had ever ended up like this.  He thought of all the hopes and dreams he’d had and looked down at his feet expecting to see the ashes of those dreams and hopes gathered there, but all he saw was the fall leaves, blown on the breeze and caught against his shoes and it told him something of how long he’d sat there. 

He looked down at his legs stretched out before him, ankles crossed, and shook his head.  His gaze shifted to his hands, fingers laced together in his lap and he sighed.  He realized he’d been clicking his thumb nails together and a stray thought came to him.  He wondered how long he’d need to repeat the action before the nails were worn down to nothing.  It would be some time and yet he knew it would still not be long enough to make him ready to face what he had to do.  He could sit there for all eternity and still wouldn’t be ready.

Eternity.  He looked to the side and saw a bird hopping on the grass, drumming on the ground looking for worms.  He smiled sadly as he remembered his father trying to explain eternity to him.  The rich voice of the older man trying to explain the impossible to the young boy.  He could almost hear him.

“Chakotay…imagine a bird who flies to the far edge of space.  He reaches a ball…a sphere…made from the hardest known metal…perhaps the size of a large planet.  The bird brushes the ball with the tip of his wing before he flies back.  He returns again and again and brushes the tip of his wing against the ball each time.  By the time the bird wears away that ball of metal…not even one second of eternity will have passed”

He looked back at his hands, shaking his head again, the memory bringing comfort and sadness at the same time.

Finally he drew in a deep breath and forced himself to stand, smoothing out the creases in his pants.  Another deep breath, trying to draw in some courage and he commanded his legs to move, to carry him towards his destination.  His heart screamed at him to turn and flee but he knew he had to do this.  He owed it to her.  It would be the last thing he could do for her.

He entered the stark building, the environmental controls ensuring that the interior was warm compared to the coolness of outside.  His eyes adjusted to the artificial lighting and scanned the lobby before they settled on a sectioned-off area, the surround decorated in some kind of marble.  He moved towards it and nodded to the young Ensign seated there.  He stated his request and she nodded, an artificial smile pasted on her face. 

“He’s expecting you.  Please take the lift to the second floor.  Turn left then right at the end of the corridor.  He’ll meet you there.”  He nodded his thanks but she’d already returned her attention to the computer terminal before her.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay nodded solemnly to Voyager’s EMH as he held out his hand to him in greeting.  “I’m glad you came…” 

Chakotay nodded quickly.  There was nothing to say and the Doctor seemed to understand that.

“She’s asleep at present.  Perhaps we could talk first…”  It wasn’t a question.  “Please…this way…”  He led Chakotay through an outer office into a small lobby, then into one of Starfleet’s medical bays.  The large man followed him meekly.  Finally they entered another office, this one so obviously the Doctor’s.  Holoimages of many of Voyager’s crew adorned the space, faces from the past smiling out at them.  Chakotay looked around, his eyes seeing everything but his mind registering nothing. 

He turned when he felt the Doctor’s hand on his arm.  He saw sympathy in his eyes and they shared a sad smile for a moment which quickly slipped away.  He took the indicated seat and sank into it, trying to prepare himself for what lay ahead.  He said the words he wanted to deny.  “She’s…dying…?”

The Medic moved around his desk and sat.  He nodded gravely.  “Yes…I’m sorry…” 

For a brief moment Chakotay felt like asking the Doctor what he was apologizing for.  “How long?” 

The EMH shook his head slowly.  “Difficult to say.  I believe it’s a matter of hours though…rather than days…” 

Chakotay felt some anger enter the arena of his emotions.  “You should have called me before…” 

The Doctor shook his head sadly.  “She didn’t ask before today.  And of course the onset of this was quite sudden…” 

Chakotay sighed deeply.  “How did…?”  He swallowed.  “How did it…?”  The words seemed to stick in his throat.  He felt anger again and stood, needing something physical to counteract the emotional.  He stated the obvious.  “It shouldn’t end like this…”  Saying the words somehow released something.  He looked back at the Doctor and saw him shake his head.

“No…no it shouldn’t…”

He sank back into the chair and locked eyes with the medic.  “And she asked to see me?”

The Doctor nodded slowly.  “Yes.  It’s probably why she’s hung on as long as she has…”

Chakotay squeezed his hands into fists.  “There’s nothing…?” 

The Doctor understood what he meant.  “No.  We’ve tried all we can…”

Chakotay nodded slowly and let out a long breath.  The questions came a little easier to him now for some reason.  “How is she taking it…?”  He sighed heavily.  That sounded so stupid.  He shrugged sheepishly.  “Sorry…I guess…  I mean…has she accepted…?  Sorry…I don’t know what I mean…”  Once again he saw the Doctor understood him when even he was unsure of his own meaning. 

The Doctor leaned forward, placing his hands on his desk.  “I understand.”  He met the other man’s eyes and gave him a tired smile, meant to empathize.  “Yes…she’s accepted that she has little time left…that she’s dying…” 

Chakotay sighed deeply and closed his eyes.  That word again.  Dying.  No avoiding the truth now.  A soft cough snapped his eyes open.

The Doctor leaned forward a little more.  “What she can’t accept and can’t deal with is…”  His words trailed off.

Chakotay frowned now.  This was something the medic had alluded to when he’d contacted Voyager’s former XO.  “You didn’t say much when you contacted me.  You said something about her needing to talk to me before…  That it was important…”

The Medic nodded slowly and laced his fingers together.  “She needs to…ask you for something…if you like.  She needs to tell you…well…she asked that I tell you…asked that I try and make you understand.  She knows she’s taking a risk and she’s afraid that you’ll remember her with hate only…” 

Everything in Chakotay snapped to attention.  “Hate her?  Why would I hate her?” 

The Doctor shook his head sadly.  “You don’t know all the facts.  There’s so much you don’t know…”

Chakotay felt something fearful stir in his gut.  “But you know.”  He stated it as a fact.

The Doctor nodded slowly, not meeting Chakotay’s eyes for a moment.  Finally he looked at him and nodded.  “Yes I know…” 

Chakotay eased forward in his chair.  “Tell me…”

The EMH shook his head.  “I promised I would let her talk to you first.  I can tell you later and answer any other questions you will have then, but for now…”  He turned away suddenly as an alarm sounded.  Chakotay’s eyes followed the Doctor’s to a small console beside him. 

The Medic nodded to himself and reached out to silence the sound.  He looked back at Chakotay then, his face devoid of any clue.  “She’s awake.”  He stood slowly and then stopped, staring down at his visitor.  “Chakotay, I need to ask you…for me if nothing else…to please just hear her out.  I can’t ask you to…”  He sighed.  “I don’t know how you’ll react to what I’ll tell you later but I have a good idea.  I guess that’s why I think it’s better that she speak with you first.  I’m asking you to please try your best to hold back any questions and your emotions…at least in front of her.  I know you’ll be confused and I also know it’s unfair to ask you to speak with her without knowing any of the facts here.  However, she hasn’t much time and she needs to talk to you before…” 

Chakotay stood with him, his fear growing.  “Is it that bad?  What could be so…?” 

The Doctor raised a hand to silence him.  “It’s that bad but there are reasons.  I can try and explain those to you later but for now…”  He shook his head, his eyes imploring Chakotay for his understanding.  “Chakotay, she’s dying.  She needs to cleanse her soul if you like, before she goes.  I’m asking you with everything that I am to just listen.  I don’t believe she’ll ask your forgiveness but she will ask something of you.”  He held Chakotay’s stare.  “I can’t ask you to give that to her although I believe you will…”  He looked towards the medical bay, seeing in his mind what the other man couldn’t see through the privacy screen.  “We should go to her now…”  He said no more although his eyes continued to speak, tacitly asking for understanding.

Chakotay nodded slowly and moved to follow him.  He hesitated a moment at the door and then forced himself forward, so unsure of what the next hours would hold.  He felt sure of one thing though.  Life was about to change for all time.

^^^^^^^^^^

Nothing could have prepared Chakotay for the sight of the woman lying on the biobed before him.  He prayed he had hidden his shocked reaction before she turned her tired eyes to him.  She reached out a hand towards him, the simple movement clearly exhausting her. 

Chakotay forced himself to move forward and took the offered hand, forcing a smile onto his face.  The woman whose hand he held was so far removed from the one he had known onboard Voyager.  This woman had aged twenty years in a matter of weeks.  She was pale, her cheeks sunken, her eyes dull.  Her once beautiful hair was devoid of any shine, lying loosely around her head on the pillow.  He heard her laboured breathing and even to his untrained eyes, he knew she was dying.

He looked down at her and forced his smile to remain.  “Hello Seven…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat now on a chair he couldn’t remember having been given.  He assumed the Doctor had supplied it.  He still held Seven’s hand, feeling her bones through her skin which seemed transparent.  He forced another smile.  “You should have called me before…” 

Seven shook her head weakly, ignoring his words.  She moved her head slowly and looked at the Doctor.  “You…didn’t tell…?” 

The Medic leaned a little closer and whispered quietly.  “No.  I kept my promise.” 

Seven smiled softly.  “You will…tell him…explain…” 

The Doctor nodded kindly.  “I will.  I’ll do all you asked.”

Seven sighed softly and barely nodded.  Slowly she looked back at Chakotay, tears in her eyes now. 
“Chakotay…”

Chakotay squeezed her hand.  “It’s OK.  I’m here…”

Seven licked at her lips.  “I need to ask you…to do something…for me…not for me but…”  She stopped to control her breathing for a moment.  Chakotay waited and squeezed her hand softly.  She nodded a faint acknowledgement.  “It’s not…for me…”  She looked away from him, staring up at the ceiling.  “I did…something…terrible…  The Doctor…he has…he has been…my confessor…”  Chakotay frowned at that but she still didn’t look at him.  “He has been…he gave me back…my conscience…saved my soul…gave me some peace…” 

Suddenly she turned her head back to face him.  “I have little time…I know that…”  She weakly squeezed his hand when he went to deny the truth.  “Please…time is too short…for untruths…”  She took as deep a breath as she could manage.  “I won’t ask your…forgiveness…  It would be nice…but…”  She closed her eyes briefly and then looked back at him, a desperate look in her eyes.

“Find her Chakotay…find her…help her…she needs help…must…”  Chakotay looked towards the Doctor in confusion.  The Medic raised a hand, asking for his patience and understanding.  He nodded and looked back down at the woman before him.  Her eyes were boring into his.

“Find her…help her…the Doctor…he’ll tell you…explain…”  She grimaced and Chakotay knew she was in pain but she pushed on.  “You’ll hate me…I understand that…  Perhaps in time…not forgive…but understand…a little…”  She shook her head very slightly, her eyes begging him now.  “All I ask…all I can do…  Find her and help her…please…promise me…promise me…”  Her breathing was growing more and more shallow. 

Chakotay nodded slowly, not sure what he was saying.  “I promise…I’ll find her…help her…” 

Seven gripped his hand with some force now, a last effort.  “All I can do now…to try and make it right…  Help her…make it right…my sins…  I’m so sorry…so sorry…can never…forgive myself…”

Chakotay watched, questions filling his mind, as Seven’s eyes began to close.  Her hold on his hand loosened.  He held on tighter.  “Seven?  Seven?” 

Her eyes opened briefly, staring almost into his soul.  “Make it right for me…  So sorry…”  Her eyes began to close again and she fought to turn her head, seeking out the Doctor.  He looked down at her and smiled, nodding in private understanding to her.  Chakotay watched the look of tenderness on the face of the EMH and felt he shouldn’t be intruding on such a moment.  He looked back at Seven and saw her eyes close, a look of peace in them now.  And then he felt her hand go completely limp in his.  Seven of Nine, former Borg drone, was gone.

^^^^^^^^^^

Four hours later Chakotay sat in the Doctor’s office, his mind trying to make sense of everything.  Seven’s dying moments replayed in his mind constantly, no matter how hard he tried to shut them out. 

The Doctor left him alone with Seven for several minutes before two orderlies came to remove her body.  Voyager’s EMH had accompanied them, leaving Chakotay alone in the medic’s small office, evidence of happier days mocking him from the numerous holoimages which gazed down at him.

He paced and sat alternatively, trying to push away a nagging fear.  Seven’s last request.  “Find her…help her…”  Although he tried to deny it to himself, he wondered if ‘her’ was Kathryn, and the more that thought came, the more his fear increased.

He sat down again and rubbed at his face.  He looked up suddenly at a sound from the doorway and saw Voyager’s former EMH standing there.  Even for a hologram, grief was evident on his face. 

Chakotay shook his head.  “Doc…I’m sorry.  I know how hard this is on you…” 

The Doctor moved around his desk and sat wearily.  “She meant a great deal to me.  She was a good friend.  This last week we became very close.  She trusted me so much…asked for my help.  I was the one she came to…  She couldn’t forgive herself though…once she understood what she’d done.”

Chakotay sat forward.  “You’re starting to scare me Doc.  Please tell me what this is all about.  Seven said ‘find her…help her…’  Find who?  Is it Kathryn?  Why does she need help?  What’s happened to her?”

The Doctor held up a hand.  “Please Chakotay…  I need to talk to you but I need to do it my way.  Please give me that consideration.”

Chakotay nodded an apology.  “Please…  I’m sorry.  I just have this fear building inside me…”

The Doctor showed his understanding.  “I know.  I’ll be as brief as I can.”

Chakotay raised both hands.  “Please Doc…go on…”

The Doctor smiled his thanks but it was strained.  “Let me start at the beginning.  A little of this you may know.”  He took a moment before he continued. 

“While we were still in the Delta Quadrant…before you and Seven got together…”  He hesitated a moment.  “Seven ran simulations to explore different aspects of her humanity…social situations…that kind of thing…”

Chakotay didn’t look surprised.  “I knew she ran some simulations…social situations as you say.”

The Doctor nodded.  “She ran numerous simulations.  You may remember she became somewhat negligent in her duties at one stage…”

Chakotay thought a moment and then nodded.  “I remember something about that.  I think Kathryn spoke with her about it.”

The Medic sat forward a little.  “The point is…she collapsed during one of those simulations.  She was going into neural shock when I found her.”

Chakotay frowned.  “I remember that too…her collapsing that is.”

The EMH sat back again.  “I can tell you this now because Seven asked me to tell you everything.”  He sat forward once more, as if unable to get comfortable.  “When I got her to sickbay her cortical node was beginning to shut down.  I stabilized it.”  He shook his head.  “I eventually discovered that the node hadn’t malfunctioned at all.  Quite the opposite, in fact.”

Chakotay frowned again.  “I don’t understand…”

The Doctor smiled sadly.  “The node was designed to shut down her higher brain functions.”  He looked over at Chakotay, watching his face carefully.  “This happened if she achieved a certain level of emotional stimulation.” 

Chakotay kept his frown, trying to make sense of the Doctor’s words.  “What kind of simulations caused that…?”

The Doctor chose his words carefully.  “Many were of you…”

Chakotay was shocked at that.  “Of me?  What kind of…?”  The answer hit him as he spoke.  “Oh…that kind?”

The Doctor nodded.  “Please understand that she needed to ‘rehearse’ if you like…explore these situations before…”  He shrugged slightly.  “Suffice to say she had her reasons and no one was hurt…”

Chakotay didn’t know whether to feel shocked or flattered.  He settled on somewhere in the middle.  “It’s OK…I understand.”  He wasn’t sure he did.

The Medic merely nodded.  “So we had this situation. She couldn’t experience certain emotions because the node kicked in.  It was a form of emotional handicap for her.”

Chakotay’s sympathy showed.  “She never spoke of this to me.  It must have been very difficult for her.”

The Doctor nodded.  “It was.  I think she was also too embarrassed to tell you about it…you or anyone…”

Chakotay just nodded.  “But you fixed the problem.  I mean with me she was…”  He stopped, not wishing to betray details of their short time together.

The Doctor shrugged faintly.  “I researched it and found I could reconfigure the node.  It meant a difficult and lengthy process…possibly dangerous too.  However, at that stage Seven decided to go no further.  Despite her decision, I did some further research and discovered the procedure wasn’t as difficult as I had at first anticipated.”  He sighed heavily and shook his head.  “Unfortunately, Seven did her own research.  Trouble is…she knew the details but didn’t understand the skill required…”

Chakotay shook his head in confusion.  “I don’t understand this.  She never said anything about all this to me.  When we were together, she experienced emotions.”

The Doctor nodded quickly.  “I know that.  When your relationship began, she came to me and permitted me to start the process.”

Chakotay scratched at the side of his face and frowned.  “Start the process?”

The EMH nodded.  “Unfortunately we got home before the treatment was complete.  She informed me that she would return to me at a later date to finish it, but she never did…”

Chakotay was shocked.  “She just never said anything to me about needing any treatment.”  He frowned again.  “What has this got to do with now?”

The Doctor sighed.  “I suppose I’m trying to explain her actions…perhaps even excuse them…”

Chakotay felt his earlier fear return.  “This has something to do with Kathryn, hasn’t it?  You didn’t really answer me earlier.  What’s all this about Doc?  Seven said to find her and help her.  What’s wrong here?”

The Doctor sat back.  “Let me try and explain this as briefly as I can.”  Chakotay reluctantly nodded for him to continue.  “When we returned to Earth you and Seven had already begun your relationship.  Seven had started her treatment and was experiencing some emotions - but not all.  She was also still learning how to handle those emotions.  Feeling them and dealing with them…analyzing them…are two very different matters.”  Again Chakotay nodded but remained quiet.

“What I didn’t know was that she was having trouble dealing with those emotions.  She was feeling things she had no idea how to address.  Old, previously suppressed emotions also began to surface.” 

Chakotay interrupted at that.  “Doc…I saw no evidence of that.”

The Doctor shook his head.  “What happened when you broke up?” 

Chakotay thought for a moment.  “It wasn’t…pleasant…”  He looked at the Doctor.  “Actually, it was pretty bad.  She accused me of still having feelings for Kathryn.”

The Doctor played with a padd on his desk.  “She told me that.”  He stopped his hand movements and looked directly at Chakotay.  “I can tell you that her emotions, untrained emotions I might add, were taking over at that stage.  She found herself alone…”

Chakotay interrupted again.  “Doc…she left me although we both knew it was over.  I don’t know if she told you that…”

The Medic smiled sadly.  “She told me but you have to understand what she was feeling at the time.  All these new emotions were coming out.  She just knew that you had gone…she was alone…and she blamed Captain Janeway for that because older emotions were coming out now…emotions she had been denied at the time.  She looked back to the time the captain severed her connection to the collective.  All the bitterness of that time began to come out.  Every negative feeling she’d ever had against the captain came out.  She knew enough to understand that she needed further treatment to deal with all this, but instead of coming to me she sought out another doctor.  Unfortunately he wasn’t skilled enough to perform the procedure.  No doctor here would be.  Instead of admitting that, he put his medical ethics aside and put profit over everything else.  Seven instructed him and he went ahead.”  He shook his head.  “Oh it worked.  Unfortunately it worked too well.  All her emotions were heightened.”

Chakotay felt his fear grow.  “What are you telling me?  What did she do?”

The Doctor began to play with the padd again.  “As hard as this may be for you to hear, there was an unacknowledged and unrecognized resentment within Seven towards Captain Janeway.  On Voyager she knew the captain had feelings for you and perhaps a part of dating you was to get at her.  I can’t be positive about that but it seems that way.  Once she was back here with you and learned how you still felt about the captain, those newly released and untrained emotions began to take over and they increased in intensity.  She left you because in her mind, at this stage, being with you couldn’t hurt the captain if she wasn’t around to see it.”

Chakotay sat back in shock.  “Dear God...I thought she always admired Kathryn.  She always spoke so well of her.”

The Medic nodded sadly.  “Towards the end of your relationship that was an act.  As the emotions took over, she began to hate Captain Janeway.” 

Chakotay felt a coldness spread through him at those words.  “Are you trying to tell me she hurt Kathryn?”

Instead of answering, the Doctor asked a question.  “When was the last time you saw the captain?”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I haven’t seen her in over two months.  The last time was at HQ when we were all discharged.  I left with Seven.  I saw Kathryn with her ex-fiancé Mark…talking to him and some admiral.  I don’t think anyone else has seen her since then either.”  He narrowed his eyes now.  “Why?  What do you know?  Has something happened to her?”

The Doctor’s expression gave no clue.  “I haven’t seen her since then either.  I have no idea where she is or how she is.”

Chakotay’s eyes narrowed.  “But you have your suspicions…”

The Doctor sat back once more.  “Seven knew about Captain Janeway and Mark Johnston.  She set out to find them.  She discovered that they were having a relationship, even though Mr. Johnston remained married.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “That doesn’t sound like Kathryn.”

The Doctor shrugged.  “From what I gather, the relationship was not good.  Apparently it was somewhat abusive.”

Chakotay shot forward in his chair.  “Abusive…?  I’ll kill that bastard…”

The Doctor held up a hand to silence the man before him.  “Chakotay, please just hear me out.  This is hard enough to talk about…”  He watched as Chakotay nodded slowly and regained his composure.  “Thank you…”

Chakotay nodded again but his anger still showed.  “Go on…”

The Medic nodded his thanks.  “From what Seven told me, this Mr. Johnston didn’t treat the captain very well…had little respect for her.  He apparently blamed her for a lot of his pain and the upheaval in his life…even for his troubled marriage.”  He shook his head slowly.  “The captain had no idea about you and Seven breaking up.”  He sighed and stood up now, going to the replicator.  “Tea?” 

Chakotay nodded and let out a long breath.  “I have a feeling I may need it…”

The Doctor ordered the tea and placed the cup on the desk in front of Chakotay, who nodded his thanks but didn’t move to touch the beverage.  “Chakotay…you have to understand that at this stage Seven’s emotions were running wild.  Her perception was way off.  She was angry that, in her eyes, you no longer wanted her.  She was angry because while you were together, the captain hadn’t been there to witness it.  She said she felt ‘it wasn’t fun anymore if the captain couldn’t see the two of you together’.  She also knew that you still had feelings for the captain and that angered her even more.”

Chakotay sat back in his chair.  “Why didn’t I see all this?”

The Medic shrugged.  “I would say because she hid it well and didn’t want you to see it.”

Chakotay sucked in a deep breath, trying to hold his emotions in check.  “Tell me the rest.”

The Doctor nodded and walked back behind his desk where he sat down again.  “Seven discovered that the captain was in a relationship with Mark Johnston, as I said.  She watched and studied and then moved in.” 

Chakotay frowned.  “What do you mean, she moved in?”

The EMH shook his head.  “She began an affair of her own with Mr. Johnston.” 

Chakotay was shocked at that.  “She what?”

The Doctor shrugged once more.  “At this stage, the way Seven was, they were very like minded people.  She…in her words… ‘came onto him’…and he fell for it…”

Chakotay shook his head angrily.  “What was her plan?  To take him away from Kathryn?”

The Doctor shook his head.  “No.  She wanted to make sure the captain found them together.  It was another way for her to inflict hurt.  At this stage she had no respect for the captain…was insanely jealous of her.”  He looked up now.  “Chakotay, please understand that her mind wasn’t…”

Chakotay interrupted him.  “No excuses right now Doc.  Just give me the facts.”

Seeing that Chakotay needed to hear this quickly, he nodded and went on.  “She arranged it so that the captain would walk in on them one day.  Mr. Johnston always came to the captain’s apartment…safer that way apparently…more private.  There was less chance of being seen.  A hotel would have been…”  He left the obvious unsaid.  “He was just using the captain…”

Chakotay rubbed at his forehead, feeling a headache starting.  “All right…I get your meaning.”  He sighed heavily.  “So Kathryn came home and found them together?”

The Medic nodded.  “Seven had her timing worked out well.  They were ‘in the act’ you could say…in the captain’s bed…”

Chakotay groaned.  “Oh dear God…Kathryn…”

The Doctor shook his head slightly, bracing himself for the rest of his story.  “Naturally, the captain was very upset.  She apparently made a run at Mr. Johnston.  He’d been drinking and in Seven’s words, he ‘exploded’ in anger…screamed at the captain for daring to even try and raise a hand against him.”

Chakotay felt a cold fist tighten in his stomach.  “What happened?  What did he do to her?”

The EMH forced himself to meet Chakotay’s eyes.  “He…beat her…”

Chakotay just closed his eyes and fought for control.  Knowing he needed to hear it all, he opened his eyes, his expression cold.  “Just finish it.  Tell me.”

The Doctor nodded slowly, understanding.  “I can only tell you what Seven saw and she was afraid.  For the first time with him, she was afraid.  She finally saw what the man was...how powerful he was…saw that she didn’t have all the control she thought she had…”

Chakotay snorted.  “She met her match…”  He shook his head at the Doctor’s sad expression.  “Sorry…go on…”

The Doctor barely nodded.  “She froze.  She watched him…” 

Chakotay jumped up, losing his temper now.  “You mean she stood there and watched while that bastard hurt Kathryn and did nothing to help…?”

The Medic looked up at him, his eyes pleading for some semblance of understanding.  “Chakotay, I’m not excusing what happened.  I’m just trying to explain the best way I can with the information I have.  Please just let me tell this.”

Almost a full minute passed while Chakotay looked towards the man who had treated him so many times over the years.  The man, and he always thought of him in that way, who had even saved his life.  In respect of that fact alone, Chakotay nodded and then sat again.  “This is for you Doc.  Out of respect for you only.”

The Doctor nodded his understanding and thanks.  “I understand.  Thank you.”  He took a moment and then continued.  “Seven was scared.  That’s not…  What I mean is…”  He shook his head.  “You have to understand that with all her emotions so heightened…so out of control…being scared translated into absolute terror.  She froze.  She told me it was like watching the scene before her in slow motion.”

Chakotay showed no sympathy.  “And that scene was what?”

The Doctor sighed.  “Mark Johnston beat the captain…quite badly it seems.  Seven said she saw some blood…her lip cut…and over her eye.  He also…”  The Medic leaned forward and lowered his voice slightly.  “I’ll say this quickly.  Seven told me there was a fire burning in the room.  Old style log fire.”

Chakotay’s eyes widened and his voice was choked when he spoke.  “He…burned her…?”

The Doctor shook his head.  “Apparently the captain fell…when he hit her…  She fell against the fire…”

Chakotay forced himself to breathe.  “How bad…?”

The EMH shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Seven didn’t know.  She said the captain fell forward towards the fire and screamed…then twisted to get away…screamed again.”  He spread his hands.  “I don’t know Chakotay.  Seven said her face was burned…possibly her shoulder and arm…hands…and then when she twisted…most likely her back.  I have no way to know…”

Chakotay stood slowly and deliberately.  “What else?  I’m assuming there’s more…”  He stared coldly at the man seated before him.

The Medic nodded.  “Seven wasn’t sure.  She was in shock…left the room…grabbed her clothes.  She said she heard the captain crying and him still screaming abuse.  It went quiet then.  When she went back into the room…”

Chakotay stared hard at him.  “I want to know…”

The Doctor sighed.  “Seven said the captain was lying across the bed.  Her clothes were torn and she was curled up…crying…”

Chakotay stood there in shock, forcing his voice to work.  “You’re saying that…after all that…he…”  He swallowed loudly.  “You’re saying…he raped her…?”  He leaned forward and gripped the edge of the desk, needing something to support him.  He kept his eyes on the Medic.

The Doctor looked down at his desk and shrugged.  “I don’t know although it would seem…”  He didn’t finish.

A silence filled the room for several minutes.  Chakotay fought to control his emotions and his thoughts.  He looked around him, not really seeing the room.  Finally he sat down again, his legs weak.  “What about the doctors who treated her?  What happened there?  Didn’t security…?”  He looked up.  “He was arrested and charged, wasn’t he?”

The Doctor shook his head.  “I don’t know what happened and neither did Seven.”  He held up a hand asking for permission to finish.  Chakotay barely nodded.  The EMH sat back.  “All I know is that Mark Johnston then turned on Seven.  He hit her too.  She fell against the table…cut her head.  He tried to hit her again but she fought him off.  She’s…she was strong…physically an equal match for him.  He apparently saw this and backed off.  He dressed quickly and left.  Didn’t even look back.”

Chakotay’s face was a mask of anger.  “Seven called for help though…”

The Doctor shook his head.  “She couldn’t think straight.  She ran also.”  He looked up knowing the reaction that would get. 

Chakotay jumped up again and leaned forward over the desk.  His voice was low and menacing.  “You’re telling me that they both left Kathryn there?  She was badly hurt and they just left her there?”

The Medic nodded his head slowly.  “Seven was hurt Chakotay.  She wasn’t thinking straight.  She left and walked around for some time.  She had no idea how long.  Some hours later she returned but the apartment was deserted.  The captain was gone, most of her clothing and personal items as well.”

Chakotay shook his head.  He felt dizzy now and sat again.  “She was hurt…injured like that…”  He shook his head.  “She was wandering around in that state and no one…”  He fell back against his chair.  “Tell me she’s been found since…treated…”

The Doctor shook his head.  “I made covert inquiries.  Under her own name, she wasn’t treated anywhere.  No injuries of that kind…burns…were treated in the days after that either.”  He leaned forward.  “Chakotay, we have no idea how badly she was hurt.  It mightn’t have been as bad as Seven made it sound…” 

Chakotay’s glare silenced the Doctor.  “And she could be lying dead somewhere from her injuries…”

The Doctor shook his head.  “We have to assume that…  I mean, we’d have heard…”  He decided to push on and finish as quickly as he could.  “The following day Seven came to me.  She was in a very confused state.  I examined her and treated her as best I could.  There was damage to her implants from the blow to her head…damage I couldn’t repair.”

Chakotay stared down at his hands.  “When was all this?”

The Doctor folded his hands on the desk.  “A week ago.  It was three days before I knew any of this.  I knew she’d been hurt…that much was obvious.  I then learned about the previous surgery.  Finally she told me about you and then the captain.”

Chakotay swallowed.  “So you’ve known about Kathryn for several days.  Have you called security…tried to find her?”

The Doctor shook his head.  “As I said, I made inquiries to see if anyone under her name or description had reported to any hospital or clinic…any injuries matching those Seven told me about.  There was nothing.  I know she left her job…her apartment…  I called Starfleet…who informed me she no longer worked there…had resigned…  It was the same at her apartment.  They just told me she’d left.  Tracing her outside of that is beyond my capabilities.” 

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “I hadn’t thought about her job…  I can’t think straight…”

The Medic leaned forward again.  “Chakotay, please understand that Seven’s mind was damaged…her perception of everything.  Her emotions were out of control.  Mark Johnston killed her in my book.  The blow to her head caused the damage that led to her death.  I wanted to call security for her…have her report what happened…  She said no…that she didn’t want that.  She begged me not to and I had to respect her wishes.  I wonder now if she felt she deserved what happened to her…her punishment.”

Chakotay stood stiffly and turned away from the Doctor.  He stared out through the glass partition for several minutes, time the Medic gave him.  Finally he turned back and shook his head.  “I can’t believe all this…can’t take it in.”  He gestured towards the door.  “I sat out there this afternoon for over an hour or so…maybe longer.  I put off coming in here as long as possible.”  He rubbed at his face.

“It wasn’t just facing Seven…knowing she was dying.  I mean…you never know what to say…”  He shook his head again.  “Something just told me that things would never be the same again.  A gut feeling or something…”  He sighed heavily and eventually sat.

“I can’t believe Kathryn was with him.  The woman I knew would never have allowed a relationship with a married man.  She still saw him as a friend but…and if he treated her like that…”  He pinched at the bridge of his nose.  “I can’t believe she would allow herself to be treated like that…”

The Doctor leaned forward, a look of deep pity on his face.  “I think she was very lonely.  Seven told me that too…from what she observed.”  He saw the pain his words caused but spoke on.  “Chakotay, loneliness is a disease.  It’s a debilitating disease.  People will do almost anything to find a cure for it.”

Chakotay shook his head sadly.  “Even when the cure is worse than the disease and doesn’t cure it?”

The Doctor nodded slowly.  “There’s always the hope it will…so yes…even then, because anything is better than being alone.  Of course, in the end, with someone like that, you’re even more alone.  People can feel alone in a crowded city, surrounded by people.  It’s the love that’s lacking.”  He saw the hurt his words caused.

Chakotay dropped his head.  “That bastard was just using her…  For someone who was supposed to have once loved her…  And Seven…”  He looked up again and shook his head. 

The Doctor laced his fingers together.  “Chakotay…Seven regretted her actions so much.  She was so confused when she came to me.  I helped her see the truth.  She was filled with guilt and remorse when she realized what she’d done…”

Chakotay laughed bitterly at that.  “Stop making excuses for her.  You told me her earlier emotions came out.  That means her hate and lack of respect was already there…” 

The Medic shook his head.  “No.  It means that she had all these feelings for the captain she’d never dealt with…emotions from the time she was first taken from the collective.  In her confusion, she took the emotions she was feeling when the node began to fail and applied those emotions to all the earlier unrecognized ones.  She used the same emotions for everything.”  He sighed.  “It’s difficult to explain.”

Chakotay shook his head in disgust.  “At this moment, nothing you say to me will excuse what she did.  I just can’t deal with that at the moment.  All I can think about now is Kathryn and finding her.”

The Doctor nodded his understanding.  “Perhaps in time…”  He nodded when he saw the look in Chakotay’s eyes.  “Yes, well…”

Chakotay stood slowly and looked down at the Doctor.  “Just give me Kathryn’s address if you have it…where she was living.  I’ll work from there…” 

The Medic nodded and handed Chakotay a padd.  “I have everything ready for you here…”

Chakotay nodded and took the padd.  “Thanks…”  He activated the padd and looked at the information it contained.  He nodded to himself before looking back at the Doctor.  “I’ll get back to you.  I need to get out of here and sort all this in my head.  It’s nothing personal…”

The Doctor stood also and nodded.  “I understand.  I so wish we’d met under different circumstances…that none of this had happened…that…”

Chakotay nodded slowly.  “Yeah…me too.”  He pocketed the padd.  “I’ll keep in touch…let you know…”  He turned away but then turned back.  He held out a hand to the Medic.  “For what it’s worth…  I know you’re torn here…just trying to do your best as you’ve always done.  You don’t deserve my anger.  I apologize for that….” 

The Doctor smiled and took the offered hand.  “I know that Chakotay.  I never thought anything else.”  He let go of the other man’s hand.  “If I can help in any way, please let me know.”

Chakotay nodded and moved towards the door.  “I will.  And I’ll find her.  I won’t rest until I do…”  With a final nod, he left.

^^^^^^^^^^  

Chakotay stood and stared at the non-descript building which housed Kathryn’s apartment.  He sighed heavily and shook his head.  His eyes scanned the featureless façade, each window as dreary as the next.  He checked the address Voyager’s doctor had given him again, needing to be sure he had the right address.  He looked back at the building, wondering if it had been designed by a first year architecture student or a qualified one who simply didn’t give a damn.  Had it just been functional, it would have been more attractive.  He wondered if Kathryn had chosen to live here deliberately or just hadn’t thought about it or cared as long as she had a roof over her head.

He slipped the Doctor’s padd into his pocket and entered the building.  The entrance hall was a plain beige colour with a dark brown leather couch beside the mail boxes.  Both had seen better days. 

Chakotay looked around at the sound of a woman singing tunelessly and coughed slightly to get her attention.  A blond head appeared from around the corner of a laundry container.  As soon as she saw him, the woman’s expression changed from a frown to a full smile.

Chakotay returned the smile.  “I’m sorry to disturb you but I was looking for someone.”

The woman laughed.  “Aren’t we all?”  She held up a hand.  “Sorry.  I don’t usually get anyone asking me anything.  I’m normally invisible to everyone.  How can I help you?”

Chakotay nodded his understanding.  “I’m trying to find someone who lives or maybe lived here.  I’m not sure really…”

The blond woman came over to him, cleaning her hands on a small towel.  “Does this person have a name?”  She studied Chakotay as she moved towards him.

Chakotay nodded and kept the smile on his face.  “Her name is Kathryn Janeway…”  He saw the woman recognized the name at once. 

She smiled knowingly.  “I know her…and now I know why you look so familiar to me.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean to stare but I thought I knew your face.”

Chakotay waved away her concern.  “It’s OK.  I’m used to being recognized.  Normally people just point and whisper.  It’s nice to find someone honest and open enough to say anything to me.”

The woman smiled again and held out her hand.  “Well I’m Ellen.  Nice to meet you.”  She stood back now, becoming serious.  “Ms. Janeway hasn’t been here in a while.  She left.”

Chakotay’s disappointment was obvious.  “I’d heard that but I needed to check.”  He smiled his thanks to the woman and went to turn away when he felt her hand on his arm.

Ellen withdrew her hand as soon as he turned to her.  “She left but…”  She shrugged.  “She still has her apartment here.  I don’t know if that helps you.”

Chakotay turned back fully to face her.  “She kept her apartment here?” 

Ellen nodded.  “Yeah.  I mean, she’s all paid up so…  I know she left in a hurry about…”  She looked off to the right as she thought then back at Chakotay.  “A week…week and a half?  She doesn’t have a service contract so…”

Chakotay frowned.  “I don’t understand…”

The woman smiled kindly.  “Some of the tenants here have a service contract which means I go in and clean for them…take their laundry…general housekeeping…  Ms. Janeway doesn’t have that.”

Chakotay bit at his lip.  “And she hasn’t been back?  Could she have been in and out without you noticing…?”

Ellen laughed out loud at that and pointed to a security camera above Chakotay’s head.  “I know everyone who comes and goes here.  The place may look cheap but it is clean and it is secure.  That camera runs 24/7 and I view it every evening…that and the one from the rear entrance.”

Chakotay’s mind was working ahead of the conversation.  He put on his sweetest smile.  “Is it possible to view the tapes from a week ago?  I know it’s asking a lot…”  He watched the woman’s expression change at his request.  “Look, I know it sounds strange but…”

Ellen folded her arms.  “Is she in some kind of trouble?”

Chakotay hesitated a moment.  “No…”

Ellen dropped her head to the side.  “I meant with the authorities…”

Chakotay understood and shook his head quickly.  “No.  I promise you.  Nothing like that.”

The woman drew in a deep breath.  “But she is in trouble of some kind…”  When Chakotay hesitated again, she nodded.  “OK.  Just answer me this then.  Are you part of that trouble or are you here to help?”

Chakotay smiled slightly.  “I’m here to help.”

Ellen nodded slowly and studied the man before her for a further minute as if gauging whether to trust him.  Finally she nodded.  “OK.  For some reason I trust you.  And if Ms. Janeway is in some kind of trouble…”  She smiled kindly.  “I like her.  She’s one of the few here who acknowledges my existence.  Always a smile and a greeting.  Most just walk past me like I’m a piece of furniture unless they want something.  Even though she constantly looks worn out, she always says hello.”  She tossed the towel she held into the laundry container.  “Come on.  My office is this way.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat in Ellen’s small office and viewed the security tapes.  He sat up straighter when he saw Mark Johnston enter on the day Voyager’s EMH had described.  He looked up when he heard Ellen laugh. 

“Yeah…I thought it might be him you were looking for.  Sorry if he’s a friend but I didn’t like him much.  Something slimy about that one…”  She stopped immediately.  “Sorry.  None of my business.” 

Chakotay shook his head.  “It’s all right.  I don’t think much of him either.” 

Ellen smiled at that.  “In this business, you get to be a damn good judge of character.”  She stopped the camera several more times as various people came and went.  Watching her visitor’s reaction, she scrolled past them quickly.  She stopped again when she saw him stiffen at Seven’s appearance.  “That one too?”

Chakotay nodded.  “Yeah.”

Ellen nodded and leaned over him to fiddle with the controls.  “OK.  Now I know.”  She nodded down at him.  “Some say I’m too nosy but this work isn’t exactly taxing to the brain so I amuse myself in other ways.” 

Chakotay smiled at that.  “No harm in that.  So what can you tell me?”

Ellen typed in a few more commands then pointed to the screen.  “This is him entering that day.  He’s been here a lot.  Usually twice a week…Tuesday and Thursday…although sometimes he varies that but not often.”  Chakotay nodded as she scrolled on to Seven entering the building.  “This one came in eleven minutes after him.”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “When did Kath…Ms. Janeway come in?”

Ellen typed another command and Chakotay saw Kathryn enter the hall.  “There.  Thirty-three minutes after that woman.” 

Chakotay watched Kathryn, her head down.  She moved slowly as if she didn’t care where she was going. 

Ellen was ahead of him.  “Not the manner of a woman rushing home to see her man…”  She bit her lip when Chakotay looked up at her.  “Sorry again.  I’ve no right to say that.”

Chakotay smiled sadly.  “It’s all right.”  He looked back at the screen.  “When did they leave?”

Ellen moved forward again.  “The camera in the entrance hall faces the door so it only catches the faces of people coming in.  That’s him though.  He left early this time.  Normally he stays several hours.  This time he only stayed an hour.  An hour and seven minutes to be exact.”  Once again she moved the tape forward.  “And there.  Blondie leaves six minutes later.”  She looked down at Chakotay who barely nodded.  “Even from behind, they both seem upset or angry.  As I know people, I’d say those two were caught doing something they shouldn’t have been and yet this was a regular time for him…”  She stopped when Chakotay’s head shot up.  “Sorry.  My mouth runs away with me…”

Chakotay looked back at the screen and forced down his emotions.  “When did Ms. Janeway leave?” 

Ellen concentrated on her task.  “She left by the rear entrance.  I’ll have to switch tapes.”  She slipped the first chip out of the terminal and inserted a second then typed in a command.  “Here.  I remember the time because I was expecting a regular delivery.  I called to her but she didn’t answer.  First time that ever happened.”  She pointed to the screen.  “There.  Her head is down but it’s her.  As you can see, she was carrying luggage.  Left in as big of a hurry as the other two.”

Chakotay barely nodded, his eyes watching the screen.  “Do you know where she went or even which direction?”

Ellen shook her head.  “I’m sorry…no.  That delivery arrived and I had to take care of that.”

Chakotay sat back a little.  “What about a forwarding address?  How do you manage with messages and deliveries for her?” 

Ellen shrugged.  “She doesn’t really get anything.  If something arrived, I guess I’d just hold it for her.  Until her lease runs out or I hear otherwise from her, she still lives here and it’s still her apartment.”

Chakotay nodded at that.  He looked up at Ellen.  “I know it’s asking a lot but…”

The woman beside him smiled knowingly.  “You want to see her apartment.”

Chakotay smiled slightly.  “Are you psychic or am I that readable?”

Ellen shut off the terminal and shook her head.  “It’s just what I’d want to do if I was looking for a friend and was as worried about her as you are…no matter how much you try to hide it.”

Chakotay didn’t try to deny it.  “I need to find her.  That’s really all I can say.”

Ellen studied him for a moment and then nodded.  “OK.  As I said, I trust you for some reason.”  She reached into her pocket and withdrew a code card.  “Come on then.  I’ll let you in.  Just don’t go telling anyone I did this.”

Chakotay stood and smiled at her.  “I won’t breathe a word.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stood in the living room of Kathryn’s apartment and looked around him in despair.  This wasn’t a home.  He shook his head and looked over at Ellen who stood just inside the door.  She smiled sadly at him.  “Not much to show for a life, is it, especially one like hers?”

Chakotay shook his head.  “No, it isn’t.”

Ellen sighed.  “Well…I’ll leave you to it.  Just pull the door after you when you leave.” 

Chakotay smiled his thanks.  “I will…and Ellen…thank you.”

The woman looked a little embarrassed but pleased also.  “Just promise you’ll let me know she’s all right when you find her.”

Chakotay nodded.  “You have my word on that.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Left alone in the small apartment, Chakotay moved around running his hand over several surfaces.  The layers of dust told him no one had been here since Kathryn’s departure. 

Even though he knew he was alone, he still looked behind him before taking a tricorder from his pocket.  He walked around scanning the area but nothing unusual showed on the instrument for the living room.  His eyes settled on the old style fireplace and for a moment he hesitated.  He then noticed that the grate was empty and cleaned, no fire having been lit in it for some time.  He still scanned the area but again, nothing showed.  To be thorough, he quickly scanned the small kitchen area but this also was clean. 

With the outer rooms scanned, his eyes moved to the only other door in the apartment.  He knew that had to be the bedroom and moved towards it.  The door was slightly ajar and he drew in a deep breath before pushing it open and entering the room.

Chakotay stopped just inside the doorway and gasped.  The room was in complete disarray with cupboards and drawers pulled open, the contents strewn all over the floor.  The bed was also a mess, the covers crumpled and hanging off it onto the floor.

Chakotay pulled in several deep breaths and moved into the room.  Trying to swallow his anger, he concentrated on scanning the room.  Within seconds he found what he was looking for but didn’t want to find. 

The fireplace told one story.  He saw that someone, most likely Kathryn herself, had poured water over the logs to put the fire out.  He scanned the grate and studied the readings.  Traces of human flesh registered on the tricorder and he groaned.  He moved the instrument over the floor, traces of blood registering now, some of which could be seen with the naked eye.  Kathryn’s blood.  The readings matched the flesh and blood traces with her DNA.

Taking another deep breath, Chakotay waved the tricorder over the bed and forced himself to study the results.  Several different readings showed up from the sheets and Chakotay groaned.  Kathryn’s blood again which he could see smeared on the fabric near the end of the bed and other stains which confirmed his fears.  Semen in two places showed up on the tricorder.  Chakotay straightened up and closed his eyes.  One stain in the centre of the bed was obviously from Seven’s encounter, but the other, near the end of the bed and mixed with her blood, had to be from the assault on Kathryn.

Chakotay opened his eyes slowly and looked around the room, ordering his anger to subside.  He knew his emotions would only cloud his thinking and he needed a clear head to deal with this.  He forced himself to move and look around the room some more.  Some of Kathryn’s clothes remained but it was obvious that much was missing.  He walked over to the small bathroom and pushed open the door.  Water stains surrounded the sink unit, long since dried.  Even here though he noticed blood smears on the while porcelain basin.  He leaned down and pulled out the drawer of the recycler, expecting to find nothing.  What he saw shocked him.

Several gauze strips and pads filled the small space, all blood stained.  He shook his head as he scanned them and saw that once again the blood matched Kathryn’s.  She’d obviously forgotten to activate the unit in her haste to leave.  Although he looked, he didn’t find a dermal regenerator or any other medical equipment.  He knew she had them so assumed she must have taken them with her.

Leaving the bathroom, Chakotay returned to the bedroom.  His eyes scanned the room again as he began to push items back into drawers, not sure why he was doing it.  He folded a jacket and was about to place it in the wardrobe when something on the floor caught his eye.  He leaned in and pulled out a blue dress and groaned again.  It was the same dress Kathryn had been wearing on the security tape.  She obviously changed out of her uniform before returning home to meet Mark Johnston. 

Chakotay examined the dress, seeing that it was torn across the front.  He lifted it up and shook it out then looked down at his feet as something fell from the folds.  He bent down and almost cried out.  His hand holding the dress tightened on it as he looked at a pair of panties and bra, both torn and stained.

A surge of anger shot through Chakotay as he grabbed the items and stormed back into the bathroom.  He threw them on the counter then returned to the bedroom and stripped the bed, taking the stained linens into the bathroom.  He stood for several minutes and debated about recycling everything.  Instead he folded everything together, taking the bloodstained gauze pads from the recycler and took the lot back into the living room where he replicated a bag, sealing the items inside it in case they were needed for forensic examination.  He knew he’d rather just enact his own form of justice on the bastard who was responsible for all this, but that decision had to be Kathryn’s…if he ever found her.

Chakotay spent the next half hour tidying the apartment and re-making the bed.  If Kathryn ever returned here he wanted the place clean with no trace of the terrible ordeal she’d suffered.  He stood and looked around at his efforts and shook his head sadly.  Somehow the place seemed even emptier now.  He returned to the living room and stood thinking for a moment.  He walked over to the replicator and checked the records.  He saw that Kathryn had replicated some basic medical supplies on the day she left.  Several painkilling hypos and dressings which her security clearance allowed her to replicate.

He shook his head and ground his teeth together, determined to hold it together and think straight.  He took a last look around then picked up the sealed bag.  As he turned to leave his eyes fell on the computer.  Not wanting to take any more time in the apartment, he simply downloaded the contents of the computer into his tricorder.  With a last look around the place, he closed the door behind him.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay spent the best part of the evening going over Kathryn’s computer logs but nothing significant showed up except for a communication to Starfleet HQ on the day in question informing them that she was ill and would be taking several days’ leave.  He checked the time of the outgoing message and saw that it matched perfectly, having been made ten minutes before her departure.

He sat back now and sighed heavily.  He had no idea where to look next or what to do, but he did know one thing.  He needed help and there was only one person he could trust with this.  As much as he wanted to keep Kathryn’s affairs private, he had no other choice.  There was no way he would find her on his own and time was running out.

^^^^^^^^^^
   
B'Elanna’s face broke into a wide smile when she opened the door and saw Chakotay standing there.  It faded quickly when she saw his expression.  “I was going to say it’s great to see you and it is but…”  She reached out and gripped his arm, pulling him into the house.  “Come in.  Tom has taken Miral to see her grandparents.  I’m all alone and you look like you need to talk to a friend.”

Chakotay nodded gratefully and allowed himself to be pulled into the house.  “I badly need to talk to you.”

B'Elanna shooed him into the front room.  “Make yourself comfortable in there.  I’ll just make some coffee…”

^^^^^^^^^^

B'Elanna watched as Chakotay sipped at his coffee and knew he was rehearsing in his mind what he wanted to say.  Giving him time, she finished her own drink and began to fold some of Miral’s clothes from a basket on the floor beside her.

She smiled softly when he finally looked up.  “I don’t bite you know.”

Chakotay smiled at that.  “I know.  It’s just…”

B'Elanna stilled her hands a moment.  “Am I right in thinking this is about Kathryn Janeway?”  She smiled when she saw his surprised look.  “Come on, my friend.  No one else has ever made you this upset.  Things have made you angry but not upset…not like this.”  She studied him a moment.  “I didn’t realize you still carried a flame for her…”

Chakotay drew in a deep breath.  “It’s not about that…not that way anyhow…”  He sat back on the couch and shook his head.  He watched B'Elanna a moment while she folded a baby blanket on her lap.  “What have you heard about the captain since we’ve been back?”

B'Elanna shrugged as she looked across at her oldest friend.  “Not much.  Rumors mostly.  One said she was back with her former fiancé…”  She saw the hurt that caused the man before her.  “Chakotay…I’m sorry.  It’s probably just rumors as I said.  Someone saw them together once and assumed.  You know how these things spread.  I haven’t seen her myself…”

Chakotay nodded sadly.  “Well, she was with Mark Johnston.  If she’d been happy with him, I’d have been happy for her…”

B'Elanna interrupted him and sat forward.  “What do you mean ‘if’ she’d been happy…?  Are you talking past tense here?”

Chakotay sat forward as well.  “She was with him but…it wasn’t happy…far from it.  He was still married…”

B'Elanna looked shocked at that.  “That doesn’t sound like the woman I knew.  She’d never break up a family…  Did she know he was still married?”

Chakotay nodded his head.  “Apparently she knew…”

B'Elanna put the baby blanket down on the pile of other clothes beside her.  “Having an affair with a married man…  I’d never have believed…”

Chakotay interrupted her this time.  “To be fair, B'Elanna, he was the one having the affair.  Kathryn was just very lonely.”

B'Elanna shook her head.  “Maybe but…”  She looked up.  “Am I right in assuming that this ‘affair’ is now over?”  When Chakotay met her eyes, she saw the pain written there.  “Chakotay?”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “I need your help, my friend.  Kathryn needs your help.  I thought I could do this alone but I can’t.  I don’t know where to start and I have to start somewhere.”



^^^^^^^^^^

B'Elanna sat in shock when Chakotay finished telling his story, relating everything Voyager’s Doctor had told him and what he’d found at Kathryn’s apartment.  She wiped at a few tears. 

“Chakotay…I don’t know what to say…”  Suddenly she jumped up, upsetting the basket of clothes.  “That Borg bitch…  If she wasn’t already dead I’d kill her myself…”  She stopped when she saw her temper wasn’t helping her friend.

“Chakotay, I’m sorry.  You don’t need this.”  She sat down beside him and took his hand in hers.

Chakotay shook his head.  “I have my own anger at Seven.  I just can’t think about it at the moment or deal with it.  All I can think about is finding Kathryn…”

B'Elanna squeezed his hand.  “What she must have gone through…”  She shook her head.  “Sorry.  I need to learn to think before I open my mouth…  I’m not helping here at all…”

Chakotay placed his other hand over hers.  “You’re honest and I need that.”  He smiled at the woman beside him.  “This doesn’t leave here, B'Elanna.  I need your help to find her but this can’t be known by anyone else.  Tom will need to know but outside of that…”  One look from B'Elanna and he smiled.  “I know.  I didn’t need to ask that.”

B'Elanna leaned over and kissed the side of his face.  “No, you didn’t but there’s no harm done.”  She stood up now.  “OK.  Let’s get working on this.  Let me see what you have and I’ll have a go at it.” 

Chakotay reached into his pocket and pulled out his tricorder.  “I hope you can find something.  I really need your help here.  I’m too close to this to think straight…too emotionally involved…”  He looked at B'Elanna apologetically.  “I know you care too.  I don’t mean…”

B'Elanna waved away his concern.  “It’s OK.  I know what you mean.”

Chakotay smiled his thanks and handed the tricorder to B'Elanna.  “The scans I took at the apartment and the download from her computer are on that.  Most of it just confirms what the Doc told me.  Her replicator records show she replicated some basic medical supplies…painkillers and dressing.  The only relevant thing on her computer is her request for leave which she sent to HQ.  There’s nothing about her resignation, yet I know she resigned.”

B'Elanna took the instrument and walked over to her computer, attaching the tricorder to it to download.  She looked back at Chakotay.  “I’ll go through it and see if I notice anything else.”

Chakotay lay back on the couch.  “And if you don’t?  Where do we go then?”

B'Elanna smiled slyly.  “Leave that to me, Chakotay.”  She turned her head and straightened up as she heard the front door opening.  “That’ll be Tom back from his parents.  Miral is staying with them for the weekend so we won’t have her running around and getting into everything.”

Chakotay smiled a moment and then groaned.  “B'Elanna, I’m sorry.  You and Tom were obviously planning a quiet weekend with just the two of you…”  He stood up.  “Leave that.  I’ll…”  He staggered back when his old friend walked over to him and thumped him on the chest.

She grinned at him.  “Shut up.  Go and make yourself useful and get us something to eat.  I’ll be starving when I finish this.”  She smiled at Tom who had just entered the room.  “Honey, we have company.  He’ll fill you in as you cook.”

^^^^^^^^^^

When B'Elanna came into the kitchen some time later she knew Chakotay had told Tom everything.  His emotions were clearly written on his face and matched her own.

Chakotay turned to her immediately.  “Did you find anything more?”

B'Elanna placed the tricorder down on the counter.  “I checked the scans you took and I agree with them.”

Chakotay shook his head sadly.  “The findings match what the Doc told me…what Seven told him…” 

B'Elanna nodded sadly.  “Unfortunately they confirm his story.”

Tom slammed his hand down on the table.  “That bitch…”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “I need to find Kathryn first.  That’s all I can think about at the moment.”  He turned back to B'Elanna.  “Did you find anything else?”

She nodded.  “I checked through what you found on her computer.  I didn’t find anything you didn’t.  The only relevant thing to us was the message to Starfleet saying she was taking medical leave.  The rest was just mundane reports, staff evaluations and so on.”  She sighed.  “She must have been bored out of her mind with that kind of work after the Delta Quadrant…”  She looked up suddenly.  “Sorry…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “It’s a fact, B'Elanna.  Sad but true.”  He picked up his tricorder.  “So nothing there to help me locate her?”

B'Elanna smiled slightly.  “I wouldn’t say that…” 

Chakotay’s eyes widened.  “What?”

B'Elanna sat up on a stool beside the counter.  “I did manage to isolate her signature.”

Both men frowned.  Chakotay leaned towards her.  “I don’t understand…”

B'Elanna pushed a spoon around on the counter in front of her.  “Anyone above a certain security level at Starfleet needs a code of sorts.  It’s complicated but in layman’s terms it’s like a signature they sign in with.  Each person will access the Starfleet mainframe in a different way, no matter what terminal they use or where it is and that becomes like a unique signature to them alone, allowing them access to whatever level they’re cleared for.”

She smiled softly.  “Anyway, I isolated the captain’s signature.  All I need to do now is get access to Starfleet’s computer system and I can trace any other incoming or outgoing calls and messages to or from her by zoning in on her signature.”

Tom’s pride in his wife showed.  “And you can do that?”

B'Elanna’s smile fell away.  “Not from here I can’t.  Starfleet’s security is second to none.  Very few hackers would be good enough to get into that system.  Practically none in fact.  I’m good but not that good.”

Tom’s eyes narrowed.  “But it can be done and you can do it.”  He leaned forward.  “Honey, just how are you going to do this?”

B'Elanna shrugged.  “Well, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet unless…”  She looked sweetly at Tom.  “If your dad…”  She left the rest unsaid.

Tom just nodded then looked at Chakotay.  “That would mean telling him about all this.”

Chakotay sighed and nodded.  “If we have to, I suppose.  I just know we need to find her as soon as possible.”

B'Elanna propped her head on her hand.  “Or he might just trust us to have the captain’s best interests at heart and not ask too many questions.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Owen Paris affirmed B'Elanna’s faith in him.  He asked for only the basic facts, trusting his son and daughter-in-law. 

It was early Sunday morning, the building almost deserted, and he stood now with Chakotay and Tom as B'Elanna sat at his desk and worked on his computer.  He smiled kindly at Chakotay.  “I feel I got to know you from reading the reports from Voyager.  And of course Kathryn trusted you so that speaks volumes.”

Chakotay smiled his thanks.  “That means a lot, Sir.  Kathryn always spoke very highly of you.”

The old admiral waved the praise away.  “Edward, her father, was my best friend and as his daughter it’s my honour and duty, my pleasure also, to do what I can for her.  If she’s in trouble, I’ll do what I can to help.  Her resignation didn’t come through me.  I think she knew I’d try and talk her out of it.  It was done and dusted…accepted before I knew a thing about it.”  He shook his head sadly.  “Mind you, it didn’t surprise me.  What I’ve seen of her lately, she’s looked very unhappy.  I just thought she was having a hard time settling back in.”  He looked pointedly at Chakotay.  “There’s something else though, isn’t there?”

Chakotay smiled sadly.  “We’re just worried about her and want to make sure she’s all right.”  He saw the old man wasn’t convinced.

Admiral Paris studied Chakotay for a moment and then nodded.  “OK.  I’ll take your word on that.  Just let me know if I can help in any way other than this…”  He gestured towards his daughter-in-law on the computer.

Chakotay smiled his gratitude.  “I will…and I know you’re risking a lot letting us do this.  I trust B'Elanna’s computer skills though and I know she’ll hide her tracks well.”

Admiral Paris shrugged.  “I trust her too and if someone ever does notice and asks questions, they can just deal with me.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Two hours later Chakotay sat back on the couch in the Paris home and wiped at his mouth with a napkin.  “Tom, you can cook.  I’ll give you that.”  He smiled but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. 

Tom nodded and threw his own napkin down on his empty plate.  “Replicated.  Nothing special.”  He looked over to where his wife sat at their own computer.  “I wish she’d hurry up.”

Chakotay looked across at his friend and nodded.  “Yeah but she needs to be sure of…”  He stopped mid-sentence when B'Elanna stood up, picking up several padds before coming over to join them.

Chakotay leaned forward quickly.  “Well?  Tell me you found something…”

B'Elanna checked something before sitting down and looking at Chakotay.  “Yeah, I found something.  I was just confirming it all…checking facts…doing a little research.”  She looked at her audience and almost smiled.  Their eyes were glued to her face.  She held up a padd.

“OK.  She contacted them again.  There was one other call from her to Headquarters.  She tendered her resignation and it was accepted.  Owen confirmed that earlier.  No one fought her decision.”  She sighed sadly.  “I don’t think she was the returning hero or heroine they’d hoped for.”

She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts and looked at the padd she held.  “Anyway…her call came from a PACT, a public access computer terminal in Northern California…a small coastal town called Gilder’s Cove.”

Tom frowned.  “Never heard of it.”  Chakotay also shook his head.

B'Elanna just nodded.  “It’s small from what I can see.  There’s one hotel, a general store, a few boutiques.  That kind of thing.  Built for the tourists really.  Anyway, I got into the hotel’s computer system and the captain isn’t registered there as a guest.  They actually have no guests at the moment.  Renovations or something and it’s off-season.  There’s a small café attached to the hotel though and that’s still open.  They probably serve the passing trade.  Anyway, there’s a PACT available there and that’s where the captain's call came from.”

Chakotay sighed.  “That could just mean she stopped there to make the call.”

B'Elanna nodded.  “I checked all the other hotels and rooms for rent in that area.  She’s not registered anywhere within a twenty mile radius.”

Tom shook his head.  “So she was just passing through.”

B'Elanna scrolled down the padd she held.  “I also checked the realtors in the area.  There are only two.  They rent out houses and apartments for the summer season but also offer lettings off-season.  It seems writers and artists are fond of the area.  I got into their systems easily enough.  I was able to do that from here.”  She indicated the computer behind her.  “There are no lettings on their books at present.”

B'Elanna looked at the two men before her.  “I decided to run a search for property in the captain’s name…somewhere she might have owned before.  Her apartment showed up, of course.  I then ran a search in the Janeway name as a family.  The records showed the house in Indiana but that was sold after the captain’s mother died.  That happened while we were still in the Delta Quadrant as you know.”

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment as he remembered trying to comfort Kathryn when that news had reached them.  He looked back at B'Elanna now, knowing he had to concentrate on the matter at hand.  “Anything else?”

B'Elanna nodded.  “The profits from that sale were split between the captain and her sister.  There were also two other properties in the names of Edward and Gretchen Janeway.  On the death of Edward, title passed to Gretchen and on her death, it passed to their children.  One was a cabin in some woodland, about sixty miles from San Francisco.  That’s now in the name of Phoebe Janeway.”

Tom frowned.   “Could she be staying there with her sister?”

B'Elanna shook her head.  “No.  I remember her saying before she wasn’t that close with her sister.  Anyway, I checked and that cabin is empty.  It’s on a local realtor’s books for rent.  The sister’s an artist and I imagine moves around a lot.  Probably rarely visits there.” 

Tom sighed.  “So where does that leave us?”

B'Elanna licked at her lips and looked back at her notes.  “The other property was a beach house and that’s now in the name of Kathryn Janeway.”

Chakotay sat forward.  “Do you think she’d go there?”

B'Elanna had a smug smile on her face now.  “I should also tell you that this beach house is just outside of Gilder’s Cove.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat back and digested what B'Elanna had just told them.  “I don’t know, B'Elanna.  It seems too obvious.  If anyone checked the way you just did…”  He rubbed at his face.  “Would she really go there?” 

He leaned forward now.  “The woman I know would hide better but then she’s unlikely to have been thinking straight.”

Tom sat forward too.  “In my mind, if she’s hiding she’s more likely to stay in one place.  I doubt she’d be moving around, especially if she’s hurt.  She also wouldn’t know that we were looking for her.”

Chakotay looked up in alarm.  “What if he’s looking for her too…that Johnston bastard?  He’s known her a long time so he’d know about this place.”

B'Elanna smiled kindly at her friend.  “I imagine he’s keeping a low profile after what he did.  He also sounds arrogant enough not to care one way or the other.  Anyway, I checked his whereabouts.  He’s on Mars.  Some business conference.  So you just get there before him.”

Chakotay nodded and stood up, his thoughts spinning in his head.  Tom looked up at him.  “Do you want us to come with you?”

Chakotay looked from one to the other and shook his head.  “No.  Thanks for asking though.  I think it would be better if I do this alone for now.  If she’s there and we all turn up at the same time…”  He shook his head again.  “I think it’s better that I go alone.”

B'Elanna nodded slowly as she looked up at him.  “What about your work, Chakotay?”

He shook his head.  “I’ve taken an extended leave of absence.  Being freelance I can do that.  Anyway, the fields of anthropology and archaeology can do without me for a while.  The past isn’t going anywhere.  Besides, I have seven years of back pay to live on.”  He smiled at them both.  “I’ll be fine and I’ll keep in touch and let you know any news as soon as I can.”

B'Elanna stood up and hugged him.  “We’ll be here.  You contact us day or night.  Let us know if she needs anything.  We can contact the Doc for you if you need him…”

Chakotay stepped back.  “I’ve been thinking about that.  I know Kathryn and what a private person she is.  I have a feeling she may not want him knowing all this.”

B'Elanna nodded slowly.  “I can understand that but he already knows most of the details or assumes them at least.  He also knows her medical history better than anyone.”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “It’s hope that tells me she won’t need medical help but reality tells me she will.  All I have to do is convince Kathryn herself of that.”

B'Elanna scratched at the side of her face.  “If she won’t go for Doc, what about someone like Carla Westmore.  You remember her.  She served with us in the Maquis.  She’s still practicing as a doctor.  I saw her about a week after we got home.  She called me to ‘catch up’ in her words.  I trusted her then and I still trust her.  She treated a lot of our women and was always very discreet.  She has plenty of experience with…”  She looked a little embarrassed.  “Well, she’s a very good medic.”

Chakotay just smiled sadly.  “You mean that she has plenty of experience with victims.”  He squeezed B'Elanna’s forearm.  “It’s OK.  It’s the truth.”  He nodded to himself as he thought.  “I  should have someone else lined up in case…and as a woman…”  He nodded.  “OK.  If you have her contact details…” 

B'Elanna nodded and grabbed a blank padd, imputing the information from another padd.  She handed it to Chakotay and smiled softly.  “Go find her and keep in touch.  As soon as you know…”

Chakotay nodded and hugged her again, then surprised Tom by hugging him as well.  “I will.  As soon as I know…”

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART TWO.
    

RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.

RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.



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