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 TWO.


Chakotay stood quietly at the side of the house and looked out over the ocean for a moment, watching the waves crash into the beach.  He sighed heavily and tore his eyes away from the water.  He studied the house as he moved towards it.  It was small and simple in design, mainly constructed from wood, not as much glass at the front as there seemed to be at the back.  A narrow, railed walkway ran around the sides. 

He debated knocking on the door, then decided to climb over the small gate and walk around to the ocean side of the house.  He jumped slightly when a low flying gull cried out, making it’s way back out to sea.

As Chakotay rounded the corner of the house the walkway widened into a large deck area where several empty plant pots stood against the rail, creating an appearance of neglect.

He saw her then, lying back in a lounge chair, seemingly asleep.  He crept forward and looked down at her, seeing only faint echoes of the woman he had once known.  The sun was hot and yet she lay shrouded in a blanket.  Chakotay wondered if she was trying to lock something in or keep something out.  He didn’t know and he wondered if Kathryn knew either.

He sat down beside her on a small stool, obviously meant for something other than sitting on.  He sat for several minutes and just watched her.  He took in the scars on the side of her face and partway down her neck.  Above her lip and over her left eye he also saw where she had been cut, now faint lines.  One hand was visible, loosely holding the blanket in place.  Here too he saw burn scars and he wanted to scream.

He leaned forward and stroked her hair.  She stirred and for a brief moment she turned her face towards the caress.  Chakotay spoke her name softly.  “Kathryn…”

Her eyes fluttered open, sleep and confusion in them for a moment before being replaced by fright when she finally focused on the man beside her.  Her eyes widened and she tried to sit up but couldn’t with the blanket wrapped around her.

“Cha…Chakotay…”  She tried to turn away from him, struggling to get up.  Finally she managed to sit up, her back to him.  She fought with the blanket and finally extricated herself from its folds. 

Chakotay stood and moved around to her.  He held out his hand.  “Here…let me help you.” 

She couldn’t or wouldn’t meet his eyes.  “What are you doing here?  How did you find me?”

Chakotay didn’t answer.  He reached down and gently took her hand.  “All in good time.  Let me help you inside first.”

The effort of sitting up had obviously exhausted her.  She seemed to surrender and sighed heavily.  With his help, she managed to stand and let him lead her into the house.  Her difficulty in walking and moving didn’t go unnoticed by Chakotay, even though she tried desperately to hide it. 

He let her lead the way towards the couch and supported her gently while she eased herself down onto it.  She pulled the blanket around her shoulders again.  “Tell me why you’re here.”  She stared down at the floor.

Chakotay smiled sadly.  “Can I sit down?”

She looked up slowly and barely nodded.  “How did you find me?”

Chakotay shrugged.  “I looked.  As to the why, let’s just say I heard you might need me.”

Her eyes bored into his.  “What do you know?”

Chakotay sat down in an armchair facing her.  “Kathryn, you’re my best friend.  For now just accept that I know what happened.  I’m here because I care deeply and because I want to help you.”

Kathryn dropped her head.  “How do you know?  What do you know?”

Chakotay slid to the edge of the armchair.  “Kathryn, look at me please.” 

Slowly she raised her head and looked at him.  “Is this what you want to see?”  She pointed to her face.  “Not pretty, is it?”  She looked away again.

Chakotay slipped off the chair and knelt before her.  He reached over and drew her against him, pulling the blanket around her.  “I’ll tell you everything later.  For now, we need to take care of you.”

She tried to pull away from him and stand up.  “You don’t want to be near me.  If you know so much, then you know how dirty I am…”

Chakotay swallowed his anger as he gently held her in place.  “Kathryn, I’m your friend and I love you.  Now just let me take care of you.  We can talk later.”  He placed his hand under her chin and lifted her face.  “Let me see how bad these are.”

Kathryn pulled her face away.  “Please don’t…”  Her voice was a pitiful whimper. 

Chakotay rested his hands gently on her shoulders.  “Kathryn, you know you can trust me.  I’d never hurt you.  I need to see…to check.  You need a doctor…”

Kathryn weakly tried to pull away from him.  “No…no…I’ll be fine…”

Chakotay wasn’t letting go.  “Kathryn, this is me.  Please don’t be embarrassed with me.  I saw how stiffly you moved coming in here.  You’re hurt and I want to help you.  I need to see how you are.”  She stared past him, shaking her head.  “Kathryn, no one is judging you.  You did nothing wrong.”  He sighed heavily.  “Kathryn, you need to see a doctor…”

She jerked back from him, shaking her head.  “No…”

Chakotay leaned towards her.  “I can call Voyager’s EMH…”

He saw the panic in her eyes.  “No…I can’t face him…”

Chakotay nodded his understanding.  He’d have to tell her later how much the hologram already knew and also about Tom and B'Elanna’s involvement.  “I thought you mightn’t want to see him.”  He watched her carefully.  “OK…someone else then…”

She made no reply to that and he pushed on.  “Kathryn, I know someone.  I have a friend who’s a doctor and I trust her completely.  She served with me in the Maquis.  She knows how to deal with…”  He stopped a moment, remembering how he’d reacted with B'Elanna when she’d said the same thing.  “She knows how to deal with injuries like yours…”

Kathryn’s eyes flew to his.  “You mean she knows how to deal with victims…with sad, pathetic women like me who can’t protect themselves and walk into stupid situations…”

Chakotay swallowed his anger again.  “No.  She knows how to deal with women who have been abused.  You know how many women were abused by the Cardassians and they weren’t sad or pathetic.  They were victims.”

Kathryn seemed to shrink in on herself.  “I know.  I just…”

Chakotay gripped her shoulders again, careful not to apply much pressure.  “Kathryn…let go.  Just let me help you.  It’s over now and no one is going to hurt you anymore.  Just let me be here for you.  Please let me help you.” 

She stared into his eyes for a long time and he allowed her to see his feelings.  Finally she nodded, too weak both physically and emotionally to fight him.  “All right…  I can’t go on anyway…  I don’t have the strength anymore…”

Chakotay pulled her against him, careful of touching her too much.  He knew how much her admission must have cost her.  “It’s over now, Kathryn.  Just let me be here for you…”  He felt her nod against him, her silent tears soaking through his shirt.  He eased her back from him.  “Come on.  Let’s get you settled and I’ll call my friend.  Her name is Carla.  You’ll like her and you can trust her.” 

He pulled away the blanket and helped her stand, then led her towards what he assumed was the bedroom.  Suddenly she seemed to fall against him and he caught her.  She cried out in pain.  Chakotay grabbed her around the waist, hoping she wasn’t injured or burnt there.

“It’s OK.  I have you.” 

She leaned heavily against him, breathless.  “Sorry…my legs…keep giving out…”

Chakotay nodded.  “Can I carry you?  Tell me where I can touch without hurting you.”

Kathryn looked up at him tearfully.  “It hurts all over.  Just help me walk.  I can do it.”

Chakotay nodded and tried a small smile.  “There’s no hurry.  Just lean on me.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Once Chakotay got her settled, he went into the other room.  He pulled a small communications unit from his pocket and placed a call to B'Elanna.  He wandered out onto the deck and spoke quietly.

“I found her.  She’s where we expected.”

B'Elanna’s voice came back to him, her worry clearly audible.  “How is she?  Do you need the Doc or Carla?”

Chakotay sighed.  “Yeah.  Could you call Carla for me please?  Tell her to get here as soon as she can.  Give her the co-ordinates.  I’ll get back to you later.”

B'Elanna answered him.  “OK.  I’ll call her now.  Chakotay…how bad?”

Chakotay looked out over the ocean.  “I don’t know.  I saw some of the burn scars and she seems to have trouble walking but I can’t say.  She also seems pretty depressed and withdrawn.”  He squeezed his eyes closed.  “That bastard…”  He opened his eyes again and sighed.  “Sorry B'Elanna.  I need to concentrate on Kathryn now.  As soon as I know anything more, I’ll get back to you.”  He didn’t wait for a reply and closed the communication.

He took a few moments to control his emotions.  He leaned against the rail and watched the oyster catchers on the sand.  He drew in several deep breaths then went back inside, back to the woman who needed him.

^^^^^^^^^^

B'Elanna stood and stared out of the window after Chakotay’s call.  Tom walked up behind her and slipped his arms around her.

“She’ll be fine now honey.  Chakotay is with her and Carla will take care of her too.”

B'Elanna nodded and drew in a deep breath.  She turned in her husband’s arms and looked at him, her face serious.

“Tom, you trust me, don’t you?” 

Tom looked shocked at the question.  “You don’t even need to ask.  You know I do.”

B'Elanna nodded.  “I need you to go out for a while.”

Tom frowned.  “Why?”

B'Elanna placed her hands on his chest and played with one of the buttons on his shirt.  She studied her actions.  “I need to make a few calls…see some people.”  She looked up and met his eyes.

Tom dropped his head back and sighed.  “You did a bit more research than you let on, didn’t you?  You’re going to take care of this problem…this Johnston bastard…”

B'Elanna sighed.  “Don’t ask me that, Tom.  I don’t ever want to lie to you.  I also don’t want you involved in this.  The less you know the better.”

Tom shook his head.  “You promised Chakotay you wouldn’t talk to anyone…”

B'Elanna leaned back a little.  “I know and I hate breaking my promise to him but this has to be done.  Call it a Maquis thing if you want but the captain is one of us and we look after our own.”

Tom nodded his understanding.  “I know that.  I feel the same way.  I’m just not sure how Chakotay will feel about this.  You know how he feels about violence now.”

B'Elanna nodded slowly.  “I know, but the captain’s still in danger from that bastard.  This is one promise I can live with breaking, even if Chakotay never forgives me for it.  As it is, Mark Johnston is a threat to her and I need to stop that.  Chakotay has enough to worry about.  I know him though. He’d like to hurt this bastard the way he hurt her.  He’d even like to kill him but she wouldn’t want that.  He’d respect her wishes.  He’d also never want to go to her with blood on his hands.  This way his hands are clean.” 

Tom nodded and stroked his wife’s cheek.  “Just tell me you won’t be directly involved.”

B'Elanna smiled.  “I won’t.  I’ll just make a few calls and meet with a few people.  After that, I won’t be involved.  You have my word on that.  I’d just prefer you have as little as possible to do with this.  Go see Miral and your parents.  Give me about two hours.  I’ll call you there and let you know when it’s OK to come home.”

Tom tightened his hold around her.  “For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you and I agree with you.  Chakotay needs this taken care of.”  He frowned.  “Will you tell him?”

B'Elanna shook her head.  “Only if I have to and I’ll never name names.  He’ll just have to accept that.”

^^^^^^^^^^

While Chakotay waited for Carla Westmore to arrive, he returned to Kathryn’s bedside.  She lay on her side, curled into herself.  Chakotay walked over to her and knelt down beside her. 

“Kathryn?”  He saw her tears and it hurt him.  “Oh Kathryn…”

She wiped at her face.  “I’m sorry…”

He shook his head.  “You can always cry in front of me.  I told you that before.”

Kathryn shook her head.  “I’m sorry for everything.  You shouldn’t see me like this.  I never wanted that…never wanted you to see me this way…so weak…so…disgusting…”

Chakotay drew in a deep breath.  “We’ll talk later.  For now I want you to know that you have nothing to be sorry about or for.  You are not weak or disgusting or anything else like that.  You’re my friend and the most wonderful woman and person I’ve ever known.  You’re the strongest and bravest.”  He pushed a lock of hair back from her face.  “However, as I said, we’ll talk later.  For now I just want to get you better.  Carla will be here soon.  How about I get you something to eat before she arrives?  What about some soup and bread?”

Kathryn looked at him, her eyes filled with pain.  “You should hate me…despise me…”

Chakotay just shook his head.  “Mushroom soup?”

She looked at him, her eyes searching his face.  Too tired and worn down to say more, she just nodded.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay managed to get Kathryn to eat some soup and bread then helped her settle to try and get some sleep.  As she dozed, he wandered back into the living room and stared out the large picture window towards the ocean.  His thoughts and emotions were in turmoil.  He drew in several deep breaths in an attempt to calm the storm within.  He stared out at the waves breaking on the shore, trying to find a semblance of peace in their rhythm. 

A faint knock on the front door startled him, drawing his attention away from the water.  When he opened the door he smiled kindly at the woman who stood there. 

Her face broke into a soft smile.  “Chakotay.  It’s good to see you.  You haven’t changed much over the years.”

Chakotay stood back and gestured her inside.  “And you’re still the diplomat I remember.”

Carla Westmore pursed her lips and reached up to ruffle Chakotay’s hair.  “Oh all right.  Some of this grey wasn’t there before but it makes you look more distinguished.”  She pointed to her own short dark hair.  “As with all women, my grey just makes me look older.  It’s still a man’s world.”

They laughed softly together until Chakotay reached for her and pulled her into a hug.  His voice was soft with emotion and memories.  “It’s good to see you again, Carla.”

Carla pulled back after a moment and shook her head.  “As good as it is to see you too, I wish it was under different circumstances.”

Chakotay nodded sadly.  “So do I, Carla.  So do I.”

There was a brief uncomfortable silence for a moment, which Carla broke.  “Can you fill me in before I see her?  Kathryn, isn’t it?”

Chakotay nodded and led her towards the back into the house.  “She’s trying to sleep at the moment.  I’ll get you some tea and fill you in.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Carla sat quietly and nursed her tea as Chakotay told her all he knew.  She nodded occasionally but otherwise betrayed nothing.  When he finished speaking, she looked up.  “Will she trust me Chakotay?  She knows I’m coming here and why?”

Chakotay nodded slowly.  “I told her.  She didn’t want Voyager’s EMH and I guess I can understand that.  It’s often easier with a stranger, as crazy as that sounds and I guess it’ll be easier with another woman too.  Mind you, I’ve yet to tell her how much he knows.”

Carla nodded at that.  “That’s OK…and there’s plenty of time later to talk to her.”  She put her cup down on a small side table and slid to the edge of her chair.  “I left my medical bag in my hover car until I talked with you.  You prepare her while I get it.  Just talk quietly to her and let her know I’m here to help.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay knelt down beside Kathryn and saw that she was awake.  She looked up at him but didn’t smile.  “I heard voices.  I assume it’s your friend.”

Chakotay nodded.  “Carla Westmore.  Will you see her?”

Kathryn tried to roll part way onto her back to sit up and grunted in pain.  She looked up at him again and nodded.  “I don’t have a choice…”

Chakotay tried a small smile then looked towards the door at the sound of a knock.  He looked back at Kathryn for permission and she nodded.  He stood up and called for Carla to enter.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stood back as Carla introduced herself to Kathryn and spoke quietly to her, putting her at her ease.  The woman had a rare talent with people and over the years Chakotay had often marveled at it.  During their time together in the Maquis, he had always been amazed at how well she handled those she dealt with, whether victim or enemy.

Once he saw Kathryn grow easier with the other woman’s presence, he turned and walked to the door.  Kathryn’s voice stopped him immediately.

“Chakotay…please…”  He turned and saw a look of near panic on her face. 

Carla read her new patient well.  “Kathryn, would you prefer it if Chakotay stayed?  I have no problem with that but this is your decision.”

Kathryn looked from Chakotay to the doctor and back again.  Tears filled her eyes.  “I’d…I’d prefer he be here.  I don’t know why but…  Unless he’d rather not…  Maybe…”

Carla looked at Chakotay.  “Do you mind staying?”  Her eyes told him that she knew this would be hard on him.

He shook his head.  “If Kathryn wants me here, I’m here.”  He looked over at her in the bed and smiled.  “As long as you’re sure…”

Kathryn held his eyes and nodded.  “If you don’t mind…  I know it’s not…pleasant or…” 

Chakotay brushed that off and pointed to a chair near the window.  “Is it OK if I sit here?”

Carla answered.  “That’s fine, Chakotay.”  Without further ado, she turned back to Kathryn, basically ignoring her old comrade’s presence.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat and battled his emotions for the next half hour.  He went from wanting to cry to a desire to murder as he witnessed the extent of Kathryn’s injuries.  Each cry of pain from her tore at him and he knew how much it had to be hurting for Kathryn Janeway to vocalize her pain.  He finally saw just how bad her burns were, some of them blistered or weeping when Carla removed the dressings Kathryn had managed to apply.  They covered areas of her back, shoulders, chest, neck and face.  Others scarred her arms and hands. 

He also observed extensive bruising covering her body.  He watched Carla run a dermal regenerator over them and heard her ask Kathryn about her own treatment of them, which told him that they had been far worse than what he was seeing.

As Carla worked, Chakotay also saw bite and scratch marks, mostly on her breasts.  It took superhuman strength from him not to scream out his rage.  The only thing stopping him was the woman being examined and treated.  She needed his strength, nothing else.  His own emotions would be dealt with later in private.

Eventually he saw Carla press several hypos to her patient’s neck before settling her and pulling the sheet back up to cover her.  She smiled down at her patient.  “One of those is a sedative, Kathryn.  You should sleep for the night with it.  I’ve done what I can for the moment but I’ll be back tomorrow and I’ll talk more to you then.  For now I prefer you get a good night’s sleep.  Your body needs to rest so that it will be strong enough to heal.”

Kathryn’s eyes drooped as the drug took effect.  “I’m…so tired…yes…tomorrow…”  She looked over towards Chakotay, her eyes showing her pain, both physical and emotional. 

He moved over to her and took her hand in his.  “Do you want me to stay?  I can make up a bed on the couch outside…”

Kathryn sighed heavily and managed to nod.  “Please…I’d like that…I’d…”  Before she finished her sentence, she was asleep.

^^^^^^^^^^

As Kathryn slept, Carla stood in the small kitchen with her old friend and watched him make fresh tea.

“That’s a strong sedative I’ve given her, Chakotay.  She’ll sleep through the night.  She needs it badly.  I get the feeling she hasn’t been sleeping much and I’m a great believer that sleep helps the body heal.  I’ll be back in the morning to start the main treatment on those burns.  I need other instruments for deep tissue work…things I don’t normally carry.”  She sighed.  “The fact that they’ve gone untreated for so long will make them harder to heal but we’ll get there.  She did her best to treat them herself but some are quite deep.  It’s hard to do without the proper medical knowledge and skill…the right equipment even.  She would only have had the basics.”

Chakotay nodded.  “She replicated some painkillers and dressings.  Nothing else.”

Carla nodded at that.  “Moving around after the injuries and no real medical help made them worse.  And she also couldn’t have reached the burns and bruising on her back so they’ve gone untreated.  They’re the worst.  However, they will heal with time and the proper care.  For now I’ve cleaned them and started treatment.  I’ve also applied fresh dressings to keep them clean and administered antibiotics and painkillers.  Some of the burns are showing signs of infection so the drugs I gave her will take care of that.  She only had painkillers.  She wouldn’t have known the drugs I gave her and wouldn’t have had clearance to access or replicate them anyway.”   She reached out and gripped his hand.  “Chakotay, she’ll also need surgery.  There’s an injury to her back…some ruptured discs…damage to the sciatic nerve which is causing a loss of feeling in her legs.  I’ve given her some anti-inflammatory drugs to help with that.  It will relieve the pressure there for the moment.  There are also some internal…”  She looked down at her hand on his.  “There’s some scarring forming…tears…and if she wants kids…”  She looked up.  “I don’t need to go into detail…”

Chakotay nodded slowly, his face hard.  “No, you don’t.  I understand.”  He sighed heavily.  “Just tell me you can heal her completely…that she won’t be left with any physical reminders of what that bastard did to her.”

Carla smiled kindly.  “I promise you.  Physically at least.  Emotionally is another matter but then you already know that.”

Chakotay nodded.  “Yeah…I know that.  Leave that to me.”  He handed her a cup of tea.

Carla smiled her understanding as she took the cup.  “I suspect you’ve already started your ‘treatment’.  Your being here already attests to that.  She’s embarrassed by all this and badly hurt but I see the trust she has in you.  Asking you to stay for my examination, wanting and needing you there…  Asking you to stay over…  I feel that’s a big step for her.  She’s letting you into the most painful and private of places.  She’s giving you her trust and that’s amazing after what she’s been through.  Just be very careful with her.  She’s extremely fragile at the moment and it would be very easy for that trust to be shattered.  That would devastate and destroy her and I don’t believe she’d ever recover from it.”  She shook her head.  “Yes, she seems strong, but she’s not infallible.  No one is.  What happened to her would have felled anyone.  From what B'Elanna told me about your time in the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn was still recovering from those seven years and then this happened.  That’s very hard.”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “Tell me I’m wrong, but from what I saw of her bruises…  Well…some looked older…”

Carla nodded solemnly.  “Most of her injuries are recent…the burns and bites…much of the bruising…  But you’re right.  Some of them are older and she probably healed others herself.  I’d say this was a fairly abusive relationship.”

Chakotay ground his teeth together.  “That bastard…if I ever…”

Carla shook her head firmly.  “That has to be for later too, Chakotay.  Right now, I need you to be there for her.”

Chakotay swallowed his anger and nodded.  “I know…and I will…”

Carla nodded at that.  “I don’t doubt that.”  She studied her tea for a moment as she thought.  “You know Chakotay, she’s actually very lucky.”

Chakotay stared hard at her.  “How did you come to that conclusion?”

Carla looked at him sadly.  “It’s a miracle her clothes and hair didn’t catch fire.  She could have been severely burned.  She could have died.  He could have killed her…”

Chakotay closed his eyes as her words sank in.  “You’re right.  I know you’re right.  He probably would have killed her in time anyway…”  He sighed.  “I don’t want to think about that.  I can’t think about that.  I need to concentrate on getting her better.”

Carla smiled kindly.  “And we will.”  Her face grew serious now.  “Chakotay, I work at a small private clinic just outside of San Francisco.  I’ll have to take Kathryn there for a few days for surgery.  I’d like to do that as soon as I can, especially for her spinal injury but I don’t want to force her until she’s ready.  As I said though, it’s private, so no one will know.”

Chakotay nodded slowly.  “Thanks Carla.  She’ll appreciate that.”

She smiled and finished her tea, then placed the empty cup on the counter.  “I’ll see you both in the morning.  I’ll go over all this with Kathryn then…discuss the surgery and answer any questions she may have.”  She smiled kindly at Chakotay.  “Try and get some sleep too.”

Chakotay saw her to the door and hugged her.  “Thank you for everything Carla.  You were great with her.”

Carla hugged him back.  “Whatever I can do.”  She pulled back and smiled gently at him.  “I’ll see you in the morning.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay slept fitfully that night.  He got up several times to check on Kathryn but as Carla had promised, she slept through the night. 

He was up and dressed early the next morning, having contacted B'Elanna again the previous evening asking her to send some of his things over to him.  They’d been waiting outside the door,  having been delivered overnight to him by a courier service.   Breakfast was almost ready when he heard Kathryn moving around.  He knocked softly on her door.  “Kathryn?”

She called for him to enter and he found her sitting on the side of the bed.  “I can’t get this on…”  She struggled with her robe.

Chakotay moved into the room and smiled down at her.  “Let me help you…”  He helped her on with her robe, letting her set her own pace, then supported her into the bathroom.  He waited outside until she was ready before helping her back to the bed.

Kathryn seemed exhausted from the small effort.  She looked up at him, clearly embarrassed.  “I’m sorry you had to see all that yesterday.  I just…”  She shook her head.  “I shouldn’t have asked you to stay.  It wasn’t fair.”

Chakotay knelt down beside her.  “Kathryn, I’m here for you with whatever that entails.  I’m not here to judge you or anything like that.  I’m here because I care deeply about you.  You’re my best friend and you’d do the same for me…” 

Kathryn looked up at him sadly.  “It’s asking too much of you.  It’s not right…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “Kathryn, I’m not going over this again.  Please just accept that I’m here for you.  Now…Carla will be here later so how about I get you some breakfast.”  He smiled.  “I think I can even manage some coffee.”  He expected a smile but got tears instead.

“I thought it was hard on Voyager.  I didn’t realize how happy I was.”  She shook her head sadly.

Chakotay squeezed her hand.  “Kathryn, don’t think about that now.  Let’s just get you well first.” 

She looked up at him and nodded.  “You’re right…I know…” 

Chakotay smiled kindly at her.  “How about some eggs…scrambled…and a little toast.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Carla arrived mid-morning with what she needed and began work with her patient.  As before, Kathryn asked if Chakotay would stay with her while she was treated.  He once again sat on the chair close to the window and let Carla work, occasionally glancing towards Kathryn when he heard her gasp in pain. 

About a half hour later Carla stood back and smiled down at Kathryn.  “That’s looking great now Kathryn.  The burns weren’t as deep as I had feared.  One or two were but the rest weren’t as bad as I thought.”  She studied her work.  “The skin will be a bit red for a few days but that will fade completely.  I will need to do a little more work on them but on the surface they’re looking very good.”

Kathryn examined where she could see.  “I won’t have any scars?”  She looked up at the other woman.

Carla shook her head.  “None.  I give you my word on that.”  She smiled kindly at her patient then sat down on the bed beside her.  “Now Kathryn…the bruising is gone and the burns are responding to treatment.  Another few days and I’ll be done with them.  That leaves the injury to your back…”

Kathryn nodded slowly and looked down at her legs.  “I’ve been losing the power in my legs…numbness…pins and needles when I walk…weakness even and they can just give out under me without any warning.  It wasn’t so bad this morning though…”

Carla nodded at that.  “That’s the anti-inflammatory I gave you yesterday.  There’s swelling there…three disks ruptured and they were pressing on your sciatic nerve.  The drug I gave you will have helped that but you will need surgery for it.  For the moment, I want you to rest…stay in bed as much as you can…”

The Kathryn Chakotay knew would have objected to that, but this woman just nodded her acceptance.  “You can fix it though?”

Carla nodded.  “It’s quite a simple surgery.  You’ll be good as new after it.  I might even be able to finish the work on those burns at the same time.”  She hesitated a moment before speaking on.  “Kathryn…while I’m doing that…there’s also…”

Kathryn looked down at her hands and interrupted the doctor.  “I know.  I guessed there would be…”  She looked up slowly.  “Is there much damage?”

Carla gave her patient a soft smile and shook her head.  “There’s just some scar tissue forming…a little tearing…  Surgery will take care of it.”

Kathryn glanced over at Chakotay but looked away quickly.  “You can repair…completely…?”

Carla gripped Kathryn’s hand and waited until she looked at her.  She smiled confidently.  “You’ll be completely healed Kathryn.  There won’t be any scaring or any fallout from this.  I give you my word on that too.”

Kathryn nodded slowly then managed a small smile.  “Thank you.  That seems so inadequate but…”

Carla squeezed Kathryn’s arm.  “It’s all I need.  You’re more than welcome.”  She took a padd from her bag and activated it.  “Now…I work in a private clinic and I can do the surgery there.  I can transport you there and back so no one will know anything.”  She looked at Kathryn.  “The day after tomorrow?  How does that suit you?”

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “The sooner the better…”  She twisted her hands together.

Carla entered something on the padd.  “I could make it tomorrow if you’d prefer…”

Kathryn looked up as she considered that.  “That would be better…”  She looked over at Chakotay then, her eyes searching his face.

He smiled back at her.  “Whatever suits you, Kathryn.”

She looked back down at her hands.  “I just want this over with…dealt with so I can try and move on…”

Carla smiled softly.  “Tomorrow it is then…”  She entered that on her padd.  “I’ll call you early in the morning and arrange to have you transported to the clinic.  Just bring what you need…night clothes and toiletries.  I won’t keep you longer than two days…”

Suddenly Kathryn seemed scared.  She looked up at the doctor.  “It’ll be all right, won’t it?”

Carla squeezed her shoulder gently.  “It’ll be fine Kathryn.  Trust me.”

^^^^^^^^^^

The following morning Kathryn was quiet as they waited for Carla’s call.  She wasn’t allowed any breakfast so there was nothing really to occupy her mind or distract her thoughts.  Chakotay helped her pack a small bag, Kathryn silently handing him what she thought she would need.  She seemed nervous but Chakotay decided against talking about the day to come, feeling it wouldn’t help.

When the call finally came, Kathryn stood back and let Chakotay talk to the doctor.  When he closed the communication he turned to her and smiled.  “She’s ready for you.”

Kathryn nodded slowly and reached for her bag.  “We’d better go then…” 

Chakotay watched as she looked around the room and moved closer to her.  “It’ll be fine, Kathryn.  You’ll be back before you know it.  Carla is a fine doctor.  I trust her completely.”

She looked up at him and nodded again.  “I know…”  Drawing in a deep breath, she gripped her bag tightly.  “I’m ready…”

^^^^^^^^^^   

Chakotay paced up and down the corridor of the small clinic as Kathryn underwent her surgery.  She’d been quiet as the orderly had wheeled her to the theatre.  It wasn’t until they’d reached the doors that she had reached for Chakotay’s hand and squeezed tightly.  “You’ll…be here…?”

Chakotay leaned down and kissed her hand.  “I’ll be waiting right here…just outside the door…”

Kathryn blinked back a few tears and tried a small smile.  “Thank you…”

He jumped now as the doors opened and Carla came out, pulling off her surgical scrubs and tossing them into a recycler outside the door.  She smiled as soon as she saw her old friend, instantly putting him at ease.  “It went all right?”

Carla smiled warmly and nodded.  “It went perfectly.  Textbook surgery I think they call it.  She’ll be good as new.  We took care of everything…even the burns.”

Chakotay blew out a long breath and dropped his head back for a moment.  “Thank God…”  He looked at his old friend and extended his hand to shake hers.  “I can’t thank you enough…”

Carla took his hand then laughed as she was pulled into a bear hug.  “You’re welcome, Chakotay.”  She pulled back a little and shook her head as she continued to laugh.  “It’s nice to be appreciated though…”

Chakotay leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead.  “You’re more than appreciated.  You always have been.  I should have told you that more often all those years ago…”

Carla’s laugh faded away as she remembered.  “I always knew I was appreciated, Chakotay.  You told me many times…in words and actions.  As for today, it was my pleasure.  It’s why I became a doctor in the first place.”

Chakotay nodded.  “Well, I still need to say it…and I know Kathryn will thank you also.”

Carla smiled softly.  “She’ll be in recovery for a little while yet and then they’ll bring her back to her room.  She should be able to go home in a day or two, just as long as she takes it easy for about a week or so.”

Chakotay smiled knowingly.  “Oh, she’ll take it easy.  I promise you I’ll make sure of that…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay’s face was the first one Kathryn saw when she came round from the anesthetic.  He smiled down at her.  “You’re back in your room.  The surgery went perfectly.”

Kathryn licked at her lips and nodded.  “Thirsty…”

He nodded and stood up, then helped her sit up to have a drink of water.  “Just sip at it.”

Kathryn swallowed the cool liquid then nodded at him that she’d had enough.  He put the glass back on the side locker and eased her back against her pillows.  She nodded at him.  “Thanks…”

Chakotay sat back down.  “Carla said you can go home tomorrow or the next day.  She’s very happy with how it all went.”

Kathryn barely acknowledged his words.  “Tomorrow would be good…”

Chakotay was about to answer when the door opened and Carla came in.  “Sorry to disturb you both but I need to check Kathryn over…” 

Chakotay stood and nodded.  “I’ll go get a coffee and give you some privacy…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay waited outside Kathryn’s room for Carla to come out.  He finished his coffee, grimacing at the rancid taste.  “How do you love this stuff so much, Kathryn…?”  He threw the plastic cup in a small recycler beside the door and shook his head.

At that moment Carla came out and smiled when she saw him.  “She’s doing great.  I’ll keep her overnight to be safe, but I think she’ll be fine to go home tomorrow.  Just make sure she eats well and gets plenty of rest.”

Chakotay smiled warmly.  “Carla, that’s great.  Thank you again.”  He reached over then and rested his hand on her arm.  “I wanted to ask though…  It’s just that she seems a bit…  I thought she’d be happy it was over with but she seems…”

Carla finished for him.  “A bit down…?”

Chakotay nodded.  “Yeah…I guess that’s it…”

Carla smiled softly.  “She’s still recovering from this, Chakotay.  The physical side is out of the way now or just about and she was concentrating on that up to now.  With that dealt with, she now has to recover emotionally.  There’s nothing to distract her from it anymore.  Just give her some time.  She’ll have good days and bad until she gets past it but in time she will.  The good days will increase and the bad ones will be fewer.”  She dropped her head to the side.  “I’ll call by in a day or so to see how she’s doing.  I’ll see how she’s coping.  If there’s going to be a problem, I can always recommend a good counselor.  She may not need one though or even want one.  Time can work wonders in getting over something like this.  If she needs to see someone though, I’ll talk to her then.”

Chakotay digested that and nodded.  “OK.  In the meantime…do I avoid talking about it with her or encourage her to talk?”

Carla frowned and thought for a moment.  “I’d let her set her own pace.  It would be better for her to talk about it but she has to want to.  No one can force her or she’ll just withdraw further into herself.  Just give her time and when she feels ready in her own mind to talk, she’ll do it.”

Chakotay shook his head slowly.  “And if she can’t or won’t?  I know her, Carla.  She’s a master at hiding her feelings…keeping it all in…”

The doctor sighed.  “We cross that bridge when or if we come to it.”  She squeezed his arm.  “Just be there for her.  She’ll talk when she’s ready.  Just let her know that she can talk to you and that you’re there to listen if she wants to talk.  Then leave it to her to decide.”

Chakotay nodded at that.  “Sounds like good advice.”  He smiled at the doctor.  “Thanks again Carla.  I owe you one.”

Carla laughed softly as she moved away.  “You owe me nothing, Chakotay.  That was just part payment for saving my ass more times than I care to remember.”

Chakotay laughed also and called after her.  “And it’s still a mighty fine ass, Westmore.”

Two passing nurses burst out laughing at the comment, leaving Carla blushing deeply.  She glared at Chakotay but he just shrugged it off.  “See you later…”  He was still smiling as he returned to Kathryn.

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn came home the following afternoon and immediately went into her bedroom to put her things away.  Chakotay stood awkwardly in the kitchen, not knowing what to do.  To busy himself, he replicated some tea for himself and a coffee for Kathryn.  He was just about to call her when he turned around and saw her standing there, silently watching him.

She shrugged slightly when their eyes met.  “Chakotay, I’ve not been very…  I’m sorry for my behavior.  I’ve been rude to you and…”

Chakotay put the cups down and moved towards her.  He placed his hands on her shoulders.  “Kathryn, you have the right to be any damn way you want to be.  Please don’t worry about me.  I just want to be here for you and help you through this.  I want you to be whatever way you want to be.  I’d be offended if you were trying to be something you’re not just to please me or because you think you have to be a certain way for me.  We’re been good friends for too many years now not to be able to be ourselves with each other.”  He squeezed her shoulders slightly. 

“Kathryn, for now…this is about what you need.  You do what you want to do and you be how you want to be.  You’re in your own home.  Talk to me if you want to or when you’re ready, but only if you want to.  I’m here for you to help you through this if you’ll let me.  I can call by every day or stay here if that would be better for you.  Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Tears filled her eyes as she looked at him.  “I don’t deserve you…”

Chakotay leaned over and kissed her forehead.  “Come on, Kathryn.  Let’s sit down.  I’ve made you coffee.”  He picked up her cup and led her to the couch then got his own tea and sat down beside her.

She looked at him tearfully.  “You shouldn’t be here…”

Chakotay looked confused.  “If you’d rather I left…” 

She shook her head and looked down at her cup.  “No.  I mean that you shouldn’t see me like this.  It’s not right…”

Chakotay shook his head when she looked at him.  “Why not, Kathryn?  Isn’t this what friends do for each other?”

She shook her head.  “It’s asking too much…”

Chakotay leaned a little closer to her and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.  “Look Kathryn… I’m here for you…whatever you need from me.  If you want or need to talk to me at any time, I’m here.  If you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine too.  However, I do think you need to talk about this.  Not now perhaps but in time.  Just know that I’m here to listen if you want to talk to me.”

Kathryn pulled back a little and looked away, breaking contact with him.  “I know…  I know I need to talk about it.  As you said though…not now.  I’m tired…”

Chakotay knew it was too much too soon and that she was trying to put a distance between herself and everything else.  He smiled softly.  “Why don’t you take a nap?  It’s been a tough few days and you had the anesthetic.”

She looked around at him and nodded slowly.  “I think I will…”

Chakotay touched her arm.  “Kathryn, what do you want me to do?  Do you want me to stay or would you prefer I left?”

She looked back at him, her eyes filled with sadness.  “I’d really like it if you stayed…”  She looked unsure of herself.  “I’ve been…”  She shrugged slightly.  “I’ve been…nervous…alone here…”  She looked back at him.  “I know I’ve no right to ask…” 

Chakotay squeezed her arm.  “Then I’ll stay…”

She smiled slightly but then frowned.  “What about work?  I don’t even know what you’re doing now but surely…”

Chakotay smiled at her.  “Anthropology and archaeology…  I followed my heart.  I’m freelance though so I make my own rules.  I’ve taken an extended leave so I’m free…  Don’t worry about all that.”

She nodded at that.  “I’m happy you found something you love doing…”

Chakotay looked softly at her.  “Being here for you means more.”

Kathryn smiled almost shyly.  “Thank you.”  She drew in a deep breath and pointed towards a door across from her bedroom.  “There’s a spare room.  I’ll make that up for you.  The couch is hardly comfortable…”

Chakotay smiled at her.  “I’ll do that while you have your nap.  I’ll fix dinner too for when you wake up…”

Kathryn looked down at her lap.  “I still don’t think I deserve you.”

Chakotay laughed at that.  “Well, you’ve got me.”

She looked up at him and studied him for a moment.  She opened her mouth as if to say something and then just shook her head.  She smiled then and stood up.  “I’ll take that nap…”

Chakotay just nodded as he looked up at her.  “Sweet dreams…”

^^^^^^^^^^

While Kathryn slept, Chakotay contacted B'Elanna and let her know how things were going.  He didn’t go into detail but wanted to put her mind at rest. 

“Chakotay, let her know that we’d love to see her.”

Chakotay sighed.  “I don’t know, B'Elanna.  Now is not the right time.  She doesn’t even know you know about all this.  We’ve just been dealing with the physical.”

B'Elanna sighed too.  “Well, just pass it on when the time is right.  Maybe having a woman to talk to…  I don’t mean that you…”

Chakotay interrupted her.  “It’s OK.  You’re right.  Just leave it with me.”  Promising to keep in touch, he cut the communication.

With that out of the way he began to prepare dinner and was just ready when he heard Kathryn’s bedroom door open.  He looked up and saw her watching him again.  “Dinner is almost ready.  Another ten minutes or so.”

Kathryn nodded as she moved towards him.  “Anything I can help with?”

Chakotay shook his head.  “Everything is under control.  Why don’t you lay the table.”

Kathryn laughed - a sound he hadn’t heard in a long time.  “Meaning I can’t make a mess of that.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Carla called by the following afternoon to give Kathryn a check-up.  Chakotay waited outside this time.

Carla snapped her medical bag closed and sat down on the bed beside Kathryn.  “You’re making excellent progress, Kathryn.  Everything is healing nicely.”

Kathryn smiled softly as she sat up and pulled her sweater on.  “I feel fine.  The stiffness is even gone.  I’ve no pain either and my skin feels normal again…none of that stretching feeling.  The cream you gave me worked wonders.  I’m walking just fine too with full sensation in my legs.”

Carla smiled and nodded.  “That’s great.  What about from the other surgery?”

Kathryn actually blushed.  “A little bit tender there but it’s hardly noticeable.”

Carla nodded again.  “That will clear in another day or so and everything will be back to normal.”  She smiled once again.  “You’ve made an amazing recovery, Kathryn.  I was worried that there might be just a little scaring but there isn’t.  So at this stage, I can give you the all clear.  I’ll make one more visit to you in about a week and that will be that.”

Kathryn smiled.  “I really can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me.  I was a total stranger to you and…”

Carla shook her head at that.  “Don’t even go there, Kathryn.  Apart from the fact that Chakotay is an old friend, I’d still have seen you.  I’m a doctor and this is what I do.”

Kathryn smiled her thanks.  “I still owe you.”  She slipped her shoes back on then looked back at Carla.  “So there’s nothing else I need to do?”

Carla shook her head.  “Just eat well…rest…some exercise too though.”  She pointed her thumb towards the door.  “You have a beautiful beach back there.  Use it.  Walk it and swim in the ocean.”

Kathryn nodded slowly and sighed.  “So I’m back to normal…”

Carla rested a hand on Kathryn’s arm and waited for her to look up.  “Look Kathryn, I don’t pretend to know how hard it was for you in the Delta Quadrant or how hard it’s been with what you’ve been through since.  I do know how hard I found adjusting to ‘normal’ life when the war was over and I left the Maquis behind.”  She shrugged as Kathryn hung on her every word.

“I felt so…”  She sighed heavily.  “God…mundane things…clearing the dishes after dinner…”  She looked towards the window, seeing something that wasn’t there.  “I stood in my kitchen one night and looked at what I was doing.  Putting plates away…and I thought back to my time with the Maquis…something that was so important to me…fighting for what I believed in…”  She looked back at Kathryn.

“Oh…and it was hard.  Day in and day out.  I saw people die, suffer terribly.  I performed surgery in the middle of battles…delivered babies…  And now I was standing in my kitchen trying to decide if I should change the shelf I put my damn plates on.”  She laughed slightly as she looked at Kathryn although there were tears in her eyes.

“In the end I smashed them against the wall and sat down in the middle of all this broken crockery and cried for hours.”

Kathryn squeezed her hand.  “Carla…I’m sorry…”

The doctor shrugged.  “Suddenly my days were ordered and predictable…safe even… and I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I felt alone and worthless… useless… unnecessary even.  I had no place or function and all the people I’d shared my days with were gone…either dead or scattered back here on Earth trying to find the same things I was looking for.”

Kathryn’s eyes showed her understanding.  “What did you do?”

Carla smiled tearfully.  “I decided to stop feeling so sorry for myself.  I decided to feel happy to be alive and use the gift of having my life spared when so many had died.  I had a skill.  I just had to get off my ass and use it.”

Kathryn looked down at the floor.  “But you’re a doctor.  You have something to offer.”

Carla nudged Kathryn’s hand to get her to look up.  “And you’re a damn good scientist from what I know.  You have a great brain, Kathryn.  Use it.  You also have a good man who cares deeply about you.  Care back.  You have a full and good life ahead of you.  Don’t waste it.”

She leaned back slightly and smiled.  “You take the good…take what you’ve learned from the past and go forward.  Leave the rest…the bad… behind in the past and forget it.”  She sighed.  “I had so much bad stuff and I tried to deal with it.  I was never going to undo it so I had to deal with it.  What I couldn’t deal with, I just put away…locked it away.  I had to reconcile myself with the fact that it all happened.  I’d been through what I’d been through and seen what I’d seen.  It happened and I had to deal with it and move on.”

She smiled softly at Kathryn.  “I’m not saying what happened wasn’t important, but I couldn’t change it.  Those images would always be there…the memories…but I had the choice of whether I took them out and looked at them or kept them locked away.  So I decided not to look at them.  I could waste the present and the future by living in the past and my life would be over before I knew it…wasted.”

She drew in a deep breath.  “So I let it go and concentrated on what I could do now.  I didn’t deny what happened but I put it away and moved forward.  I’m happy now.  I’m married and have two great kids.  I help people and I look ahead and only look back at the good stuff.  It’s not easy but you can do it.”

Kathryn stared at her in amazement.  “Didn’t you see a counselor?”

Carla smiled softly.  “I talked about it all but not to a counselor…which is probably not what I should be saying as a member of the medical profession…”

Kathryn shook her head.  “Who then…?”

Carla smiled.  “I talked to someone I loved.  My…at the time…husband to be…now husband.  He listened and held me and let me get it all out.  For me it was the same thing.  Talk it out then let it go.  In the end I was the only one who could help myself no matter who I talked to.  It was all in here…”  She pointed to her head.  “I was the only one with access to it.  I was the only one who could deal with it.  So I talked about it to Bryan.  I got it all out.  I cried and I grieved and then I healed and moved on.  It was a simple choice really.  Stay back there or move forward to where I am now.  No contest really.”

Kathryn smiled sadly and shrugged at the same time.  “So it’s up to me to make that decision?”

Carla squeezed her hand.  “You’re the only one who can, Kathryn.  Maybe you might feel better with a professional counselor though…”

Kathryn just smiled.  “Or maybe you think I should open up to Chakotay and let him in…”

Carla raised a hand.  “Guilty as charged.”  She smiled.  “He’s a damn good man, Kathryn.  Give him a chance.  The man I knew I trusted with my life.  What I’ve seen of him now…well I don’t think he’s changed.  He still seems to me to be a loving, kind and trustworthy man who would go to the ends of the Earth for someone he cares about or loves.”

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “Maybe I will…just…”  She sighed.  “I feel I’m asking too much of him.  He has his own life which he seems to have put on hold for me.”  She smiled slightly.  “It’s been wonderful having him here.  I feel safe with…”

Carla watched her carefully.  “Are you afraid, Kathryn?”

She looked down at her hands.  “At first I was terrified being here but there was nowhere else to go.  I couldn’t stay in my apartment.  I kept thinking he’d come after me or…”  She looked up.  “The man who…hurt me…  I keep thinking he’ll come here…look for me…although it’s been some time and…” 

Carla looked at her sadly and gripped her hand.  “Kathryn, I’m so sorry…”

Kathryn merely shrugged.  “It happened.  I can’t change it.  I feel so much safer with Chakotay here but I still worry that…  He’s out there and I keep…”  She straightened up.  “I’ll be fine.  I know I should talk to Chakotay…need to…  I just need some time…”  She was effectively closing the door on the subject and Carla saw that and accepted it.

She shook Kathryn’s hand.  “Just think about it…and when you’re ready…  That’s all.”  Believing she had given her patient enough to think about, she stood up.  “Do what’s right for you, Kathryn.  Just don’t leave it to eat away inside you.”  She picked up her bag.  “I’ll call back in a week’s time so I’ll see you then.  OK?”

Kathryn looked up at the other woman and smiled.  “Thank you.  For everything.  It means a lot that you opened up to me like that.  So much of what you said makes sense.”  She nodded.  “I’ll think long and hard about it and see you next week.”  She stood up now and Carla leaned over and hugged her.

Kathryn returned the hug.  “Thanks again, Carla.”

Carla pulled back and smiled.  “You’re very welcome.  I’ll see you next week.”  She moved towards the door.  “I’ll let myself out.  You just start that thinking…”

^^^^^^^^^^

That evening, Chakotay made a light dinner for them both after which they sat on the deck and watched the sunset.  They chatted quietly about old times and their crew…all safe subjects.

Chakotay knew Carla had given Kathryn the all clear physically and he guessed his old friend had taken her care a step further and talked to her about other things.  He didn’t ask Kathryn anything about the doctor’s visit and was content to wait for her to tell him anything she wanted.

For the moment he was happy to see shades of the old Kathryn again, even if she seemed somewhat distracted.  Her eyes scanned the beach every now and then and the fact wasn’t lost on Chakotay.

Finally, after a long silence, she looked over at him.  “Chakotay, I do want to talk to you, you know…”

Chakotay smiled at her.  “You know you always can…”

Kathryn nodded.  “I have questions.  I guess I need the answers…although I’m not sure I want them but I know I need them.”

Chakotay leaned forward.  “I’ve no secrets from you, Kathryn.  I’ll tell you whatever you want or need to know.”

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “I know…I’m just not up to it tonight…not ready yet.  Carla spoke with me…gave me a lot to think about.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready but I need to know things and I need to talk about things…”

Chakotay smiled lovingly at her.  “Whenever you’re ready, Kathryn, I’m here.”

^^^^^^^^^^

The following day Kathryn rose late and took her time over the breakfast Chakotay had set out for her on the deck.  She seemed far away in her thoughts and he didn’t push her.

That afternoon they went for a swim, then took a long walk on the beach, searching for and collecting shells and pieces of driftwood.  They chatted easily, but once again Chakotay sensed Kathryn’s mind was elsewhere and she seemed a little uneasy.  Eventually they returned to the house and while Kathryn showered, Chakotay fixed dinner.
 
^^^^^^^^^^

After dinner they sat back on the couch and watched the last of the sunset.  Neither spoke for several minutes as they sipped at some wine, but the silence was comfortable.  Chakotay encouraged it in fact, setting the scene for Kathryn to talk if she felt ready.

When Kathryn finished her wine, Chakotay leaned forward.  “Would you like some more?”

She looked up and nodded slowly.  “Thank you…”

He got up and refilled their glasses then turned to walk back to the couch.  He stopped for a moment and watched Kathryn.  She sat in half shadow by the large window which overlooked the ocean, her head down, hands held tightly in her lap.  Instead of returning to his place beside her, Chakotay sat across from her and watched her quietly, sensing she wanted to say something to him or felt ready to try at least and he wanted to give her some space. 

Kathryn glanced up briefly and saw him sitting across from her.  It felt as if the scene was set.  She nodded in silent confirmation to herself. 

Her voice was almost a whisper when she spoke.  “How did you find me?  How did you know about…?”  She looked across at him and frowned.  “You know most of what happened, don’t you?” 

She had dived right in and her questions caught him off guard but he knew he couldn’t lie to her.  “Yes, I know most of it.”

Kathryn looked sharply at him.  “How do you know all this?  You turned up here and said you knew but you didn’t say more…just that we’d talk later.  How much do you know and how?”

Chakotay sighed.  He’d been dreading this but he knew she deserved the truth.  She needed his honesty.  He put the glasses down on a small side table beside him and leaned forward.  “Our Doc…the EMH…  He told me…” 

Kathryn stared at him in horror.  “What?  How could he know…?”

Chakotay sighed deeply as he looked at her.  “He called me…wanted to see me because…”  He drew in a deep breath then told her everything.

He leaned his elbows on his knees and laced his fingers together.   He spoke quietly as he told her how Voyager’s Doctor had called him and repeated to her what the medic had told him.  Kathryn dropped her head when he mentioned Seven and looked down at her hands, leaving Chakotay unable to read her eyes as he spoke but he knew she was listening to every word.  He saw her tremble when he spoke of the former drone’s death but he continued.  Finally he told her about visiting her apartment, then searching for her with Tom and B'Elanna’s help.  When he finished, she was quiet for several moments.  She sat quietly as she digested all she’d been told and Chakotay could see the internal battle taking place.

Finally she looked up at him.  “Chakotay, who else knows?  I need to know.”

He nodded his understanding to that.  “The Doc…Tom and B'Elanna…no one else and you know you can trust them.  Admiral Paris trusted us enough not to ask when B'Elanna used his computer to find you so he knows nothing.”

Kathryn looked back down at her hands.  “So they know.  They all know my shame.”

Chakotay shook his head sadly.  “First off, you have no shame, Kathryn.  Secondly, besides me, three people know…people who care deeply about you…people who know, love and respect you.”  He sighed.  “Carla knows of course but that’s covered under doctor patient confidentiality.”

She looked out the window for several moments, watching the last rays of the sun.  Finally she looked back at him.  “I’m sorry about…Seven…  For you I mean…”

Chakotay tore his gaze away from the window where he’d also been watching the sun simply because she was.  He studied her.  “Kathryn, we’d broken up before that.  Besides, for me it was never…”  He sighed.  “It wasn’t serious for me.  I didn’t love her…certainly not the way I should have loved a woman who was supposed to be sharing her life with me.”  He shook his head.

“I’m sorry she’s dead but I don’t mourn her.  I know that probably sounds harsh but it’s the truth.  I stayed as long as I did out of obligation…not love.”

Kathryn’s eyes narrowed at that.  “And what about now?  What about me?”

Chakotay caught her meaning and shook his head.  “It’s not obligation, Kathryn.  It’s love and friendship.”

She barely nodded at that and looked back towards the window.  “I hope so.  I couldn’t bear to have your pity…”

Chakotay sat forward and looked hard at her.  He waited until she looked directly at him.  “Kathryn, I promise you…it’s not that.  I care deeply about you.  You’re my best friend.  I’m here because I want to be here.”  He let his eyes show his sincerity.  “It’s not pity or obligation or duty.  It’s love and caring and friendship.”

Kathryn read his honesty and nodded.  “Thank you.”  She studied her hands before looking at him again.  She shrugged softly.  “I still have to face them and that’s hard, but…”  She bit at her lip.  “It’s strange but it’s harder that you know.  Your opinion matters more…what you think of me…”

Chakotay moved over to sit beside her now.  “So I know what happened…  It doesn’t change how I see you or feel about you.”  He turned and took hold of her shoulders, turning her to face him as he sighed deeply.  “Look Kathryn, above all else, we’re best friends.  OK…our paths divided and we lost sight of each other for a while, but we were best friends…still are or should be.  We depended on each other through the toughest of times.  We laughed together and we mourned together.  We trusted each other completely…trusted each other with our lives.  That has to count for something.  Are you telling me that if something happened to me, you wouldn’t want to be there for me and help me?”

Kathryn shook her head.  “No, I’d be there.  It’s just very hard being the one who needs the help.”

Chakotay looked at her sadly.  “No Kathryn.  For me it’s harder seeing someone I love needing that help.  It hurts so much to see you hurt, to know that anyone could have hurt you like this.  That’s harder.”  He sighed.  “We all need help at sometime, even the great Kathryn Janeway, and there is no shame whatsoever in needing or asking for that help, especially from a friend.”

Kathryn dropped her head.  “I don’t know what happened to me.  I used to be in control of my life…”  She rubbed at her face and looked up again.  “I used to be strong…”  She bit her lower lip.  “I’m not supposed to be this weak.  I’m supposed to be strong.  God knows what you think of me.  I was with a married man, for God’s sake.  Separated or not…he was married.  The old Kathryn would never have condoned that.”  She watched his face closely as she spoke.  “I really thought he was separated though.  The last time I saw him he told me he was still with his wife…that they weren’t separated at all.” 

She looked past him now.  “I fell for it.  The oldest story in the book…the oldest line… ‘we don’t sleep together…the marriage is over…we live separate lives’.  I fell for it all.  What’s that expression?  There’s no fool like an old fool.”  She looked down into her lap.  “God I’m pathetic.  I can hide behind a uniform and I’m fine.  Strip it away and there’s nothing but this sad, pathetic, lonely old woman.”

Chakotay stroked her upper arm.  “You know that’s not true.”

Kathryn’s eyes flew to his.  “Really?  What would you call it then?”

Chakotay sighed.  “Seven damn hard and tough years of struggle out there…of denying yourself any personal life or happiness.  Trying to recover from that.  Loneliness even.  And you loved him once.  I think when you love someone, there will always be something there.  It can’t ever be just turned off completely.  He brought back memories of happier times…secure times.  The lure of finding that again can be overpowering.  We try to recapture what once was.  You also trusted him once and probably saw no reason not to trust him again when he said he was separated.  When we got back…”

Kathryn sneered at that.  “When we got back I fell apart.  That’s what happened.  I was lonely and he was there and I should have had the courage to walk away but…  I just felt so down…so depressed.  It’s no excuse, but he wore me down…and he was better than no one…”

Chakotay knew she didn’t mean to hurt with her words but they stung deeply.  “I’m sorry, Kathryn.  I should have been there for you.”

She shook her head.  “I have to be responsible for myself, Chakotay.”  She sighed heavily.  “I thought I had more pride in myself though.  I really did.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “You were vulnerable, Kathryn.  You’d been through so much and had to try and adjust to life back here.  I don’t think that has been easy on any of us…”

Kathryn laughed sarcastically.  “Who else do you know that let themselves walk into an abusive relationship though?”

Chakotay blew out a long breath.  “Kathryn, loneliness can lead us into situations we’d normally not go into…”

Kathryn just shook her head as she looked sadly at him.  “You have all the answers…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “No, I don’t…but they are reasons…”

Kathryn laughed derisively at that.  “Reasons maybe…but not excuses…  I believed him because I wanted to believe him.”

Chakotay continued to stroke her arm.  “You had no reason not to believe him.”

Kathryn just shook her head.  “I should have checked…”  She looked directly into his eyes and he saw the hurt and anger there.  “And what about when he belittled me and hurt me?  I took it.  How pathetic is that?”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “Kathryn, you were vulnerable.  He saw that and abused you…physically and otherwise.  He abused your feelings…your trust in him.”

Kathryn licked at her lips and stared down at the floor.  “Most self-respecting women would have seen that and walked away.  Although where I would have gone…”  She shrugged.  “I was weak and he saw that.  I became dependent on him.”

Chakotay forced his pain down.  “He wasn’t the man you knew before…not the one you described to me.”  He reached for her hand and squeezed it.  “Kathryn, listen to me.  You have to stop blaming yourself.  It happened and we’ll deal with that…”

Kathryn sighed heavily then looked away.  A silence followed before she spoke.  She looked back at him.  “I think one of the main reasons I was with Mark was because he was all that was left of my old life…the only familiar thing when we got back.  Mom was gone.  Phoebe had sold the house and moved on with her own life.”  She shook her head as she looked down at his hand on hers.  “She lives and works in Tahiti now.  Apparently it’s an artist’s paradise.” 

Chakotay heard the hurt in her voice.  “Do you miss her?”

Kathryn thought about that.  “I miss a sister but she was never that kind of sister.”  She shrugged.  “They say you never miss what you never had…”

Chakotay lifted her hand and stroked her palm.  “Kathryn, I’m here, and you have good friends…people who care deeply…”

Kathryn nodded without raising her head.  She made several attempts to speak before getting her words out.  “I felt so alone…”

Chakotay held onto her hand and sighed.  Something just told him she was ready.  “What happened, Kathryn?  You don’t have to tell me or talk about it if you’d rather not…”

Kathryn shook her head and sighed.  “I think you know the worst of it already…”  She looked at him and saw him nod.  She nodded also. 

“It started really with little things…taking me for granted…shouting at me…grabbing me too roughly…demanding attention…sex…”  She looked out the window.  “It was just easier to go along with his demands.”  Her eyes followed the line of the ocean.

“It increased slowly.  We never went anywhere in case we were seen.  He said it could cause him problems with the divorce.  I never wanted to go out anyway so in a way it suited me too.”  She looked back at him.  “I knew he was still married but he swore to me they were divorcing.  Part of me believed him…wanted to anyway.  Another part just didn’t care or think.  He was there…company after a long day…  He was there two or three times a week and it helped.”

Chakotay closed his eyes.  “Kathryn, I’m sorry…”

She shook her head.  “It’s not your fault.  All my own doing.  I stayed and took it.”  She looked out the window again.  “It just went on and on…and he started drinking more and more…was rougher…  In the end I was just an available body to him…and I took whatever he gave…until…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “What happened that day, Kathryn?”

Kathryn watched the ocean in the twilight for several minutes before answering.  “I got back and…she was there…Seven…  They were in bed together…  I heard them before I saw them…”  Her eyes filled with tears and she dropped her head.  “I don’t know what I felt…anger…rage…  and I remember shouting at him…”

She drew in several deep breaths.  “Mark…laughed at me.  He said he’d just been using me…”  With her head down, Chakotay couldn’t see her tears, but he knew they were there.  “He said…said…I was…a lousy lay…but that I was…convenient…” 

She looked up and out over the ocean suddenly, pulling her hand from his.  “Mark used me but I guess I was using him too.”  She dropped her head again.  “I didn’t know you and Seven were no longer together.”  She shook her head, more tears escaping her eyes.  “That last day…when he…  He told me Seven was with him to hurt me…for what she called ‘payback’…  She must have hated me so much…  When I saw them together…  I don’t know what I felt.  I didn’t love Mark.  What feelings I’d had for him had left…were long gone…but he was familiar.  He was all I had.”

She wiped at her face.  “I remember I ran at him…all these emotions I had…  I remember asking him how he could do that.  He laughed.  ‘How could I what?  Betray you?’  He said I betrayed him every time he touched me…that he could see it.  He said I got through it by fantasizing I was with someone else.  He said my body was there but that was all…that I imagined I was with someone else and not him.  Then he said ‘mind you, I do the same’.  He told me I was…he said I was a…a…pity fuck…that I was just a sad and pathetic old woman and that no man would want me.  The only reason he ‘did me’ was out of revenge and because I was always so available…so very easy…”

Chakotay squeezed his hands into fists, his nails digging painfully into his palms.  “What did he do to you, Kathryn?”  He didn’t want to know but he knew she needed to talk about it, needed to get it out.

Kathryn wiped at her face.  “He was drunk.  He usually drank heavily when we were together.  He hit me…kept hitting me…  I remember Seven standing there.  She did nothing…just watched.  Even she seemed afraid of him.  I remember him laughing and telling her ‘oh Kathryn likes it rough…she likes the pain…it’s the only way she gets to feel anything…she’s dead the rest of the time’….and he was right.”

She wiped at her face again.  “It all seemed to happen so quickly.  It’s blurred.  The fire was lit.  We often lit it.  He liked that.  Said it made the place less…sterile.”  She shook her head slowly.  “I don’t know if I fell or if he pushed me.  I just remember seeing the fire and knowing I was going to fall into it.  I put my arms out…felt the burning…the pain.  It wasn’t enough.  The force pushed me down…and my face and neck…my chest hit…  The pain was…”  She drew in a shuddering breath.  “I remember twisting, trying to get away…pushing with my hands, burning them too.”

She looked down at her hands as if expecting the scars to still be there.  “I was screaming… crying…  I saw him standing over me.  He was laughing.  He raised his foot and kicked me in the chest…pushed me back against the fire.  I heard him…his laugh…and he said something about making sure I was done on both sides.”  Her tears fell freely.

“I screamed again…burning…and the pain…agony…  Then he pulled me up.  I don’t know where Seven was…what she saw…  He threw me on the bed…tore my dress and…”  Chakotay wanted to just pull her into his arms but he knew she needed to get through this first.

“He…took what he wanted…didn’t care how much pain I was in…  I felt him…doing it…felt him…inside me…but…  The pain took over and I tried to…  I tried to leave…in my mind…tried to remember home…running through the cornfields…happy…a child again…anything to escape…but I couldn’t…  He was still there…pulling me around…doing what he wanted …hurting …laughing…”  She sniffed loudly and swallowed.  “When he was finished…he spit on me…laughed…then got dressed.  He just left and I couldn’t move…  I rolled onto my side…tried to curl up.  I just wanted to disappear.”

She shook her head.  “I heard shouts and noises and then the door slamming when he left but there were still sounds.  I remember her there.  I felt her looking at me.  Then I heard the door again and then no more sounds.” 

She was quiet for several moments, gaining some control.  “After…”  She swallowed loudly.  “I had to get out of there.  I had some painkilling hypos…took one…replicated more.  I contacted Starfleet…said I was taking some sick time.  No one questioned me.  Then I ran…came here.  Later I sent in my letter of resignation and no one questioned that either.  I think they were just happy to see the back of me because they accepted it immediately.”

Chakotay moved a little closer to her.  “Kathryn, I’m so sorry…”

She stood up suddenly and moved to the window, anger on her face now.  “I’m a failure, Chakotay…as a person…as a woman…  Oh put on the uniform…become the captain and I can manage just fine…but outside of that I’m useless.  Mark was right.  I’m only good for one thing…and obviously I’m not even good at that.”

Chakotay’s own anger flared now and he stood and moved towards her.  “You’re wrong, Kathryn, and I’m not going to stand here and listen to those things.  I’ll fight to stop you believing them.  I think somewhere deep down inside you know they’re not true.  You’re just very vulnerable at the moment and can’t see the truth.  When you’ve healed…”

His anger seemed to calm hers.  She looked at him, pain in her eyes.  “I don’t understand how I got like this.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this…”

Chakotay’s own anger abated.  “It’s life, Kathryn.  I wasn’t supposed to lose my family…”  He moved closer to her now and took her gently by the shoulders, then led her back to the couch.  He sat her down then kneeled down at her feet.  “Look, we’re all supposed to grow up…work at what we love…marry and find true love…have kids…families of our own.  We’re supposed to outlive our parents, who will die quietly and peacefully in their own beds in their sleep of old age.  We’re supposed to see our kids grow up…see them marry and have kids of their own.  We’re supposed to enjoy our grandkids and then leave this life the same way our parents did.  All nice and neat…a set order to things in a nice little package.” 

He sighed as he watched her eyes fill with tears.  “Well, it doesn’t happen like that, Kathryn.  People hurt us.  People die who shouldn’t.  Kids die.  There are wars and horrible disasters…terrible and tragic accidents and we just have to pick our way through it all and survive it and deal with it the best way we can.  We find happiness wherever and whenever we can because it’s the only way.”

Kathryn let her tears fall.  “But I made such a mess of it all…”

Chakotay shook his head as he took her hands in his.  “If anyone is to blame for all this, it’s me.  I broke my promise to you…to always be by your side…”

Kathryn shook her head sadly.  “You didn’t break your promise.  You were there for me all the time we were out there.  You made that promise to the captain in the Delta Quadrant…not to Kathryn…”

Chakotay reached up and cupped her cheek.  “I made that promise to my friend…who just happened to also be my captain.”  He pulled her to him.  “Kathryn, it’s over now.  Just let me be here for you now and help you heal.  We can work all this out…”

Kathryn pulled back.  “How do I let that go?”

Chakotay hesitated a moment.  “You could have him arrested…have him charged…”

Kathryn shook her head quickly.  “No…”

Chakotay leaned back a little.  “Kathryn…why not?”

She looked at him sadly.  “Chakotay…who am I?  It would go to court…be public.  The news services would have a field day.  I’d have to face everyone…have the world witness my shame.  They’d see how pathetic I’d become.”

Chakotay sighed.  “Kathryn, he should be punished for what he did to you…”

Kathryn shrugged.  “I think the state of his life is punishment enough.”

Chakotay hesitated a moment.  “When I went to your apartment…  I cleaned up but I kept…I kept what I found in case…”

Kathryn seemed shocked at that but accepted it.  “Evidence?”  Chakotay nodded and she shook her head.  “No.  Get rid of it.”

He nodded.  “All right.  If you’re sure…”

She nodded her head.  “I’m sure.  Putting this behind me is the best thing I can do…the only thing.  That’s all I want.  I just never want to see him again…”

Chakotay took a chance and asked about something that had been on his mind.  “Kathryn, are you afraid here?  Are you worried?  I won’t let anything happen to you…”

Her eyes flew to his.  “I didn’t think…  I tried to hide that from you…”  She looked away.  “It’s not that I’m afraid.  I’m…maybe nervous or…maybe a little afraid…  I keep…”

Chakotay squeezed her hands.  “You keep watching…”

She looked back at him.  “Am I that obvious?”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I’ve noticed but it’s only natural.  I’ve seen you watching the beach and you mentioned before about feeling nervous being here alone…”

She nodded at that.  “I feel the need to keep looking over my shoulder all the time.”  She looked at him.  “You’re not surprised when I say that.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I’ve seen you watching.  I didn’t want to mention it…remind you.  I notice you don’t really like going too far from the house.”

She shook her head.  “I haven’t been out much since I got here…not that I did before when...  I’ve only been to the town twice.  I have groceries delivered the rest of the time.”  She tried a smile.  “I’m well stocked.” 

Chakotay watched her.  “Does he know about this place?”

Kathryn nodded.  “Yes…but he’s never been here.  He never came here with me…my family.  He wouldn’t know exactly where it was…”  She looked at him.  “Although you found me…”

Chakotay smiled softly as he stroked the back of her hand.  “I did a lot of digging and I had a computer expert helping me…”

Kathryn seemed to accept that.  “I suppose…”

Chakotay frowned.  “Are you that worried?  I mean…”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “About him coming after me?”  She shrugged.  “No…yes…  A part of me thinks he’ll never show his face again…but another part…”  She shook her head slowly.  “What if…if he comes…or…  I wonder if…what if she shows up?  I know fearing that is still letting him harm me but...  Or maybe he’s afraid I’ll have him charged and arrested and he wants to stop me doing that.  And then I think he must know if I was going to do that, I’d have done it already…”  She lifted her head.  “I just never want to see him again.  I have to think that he’s finished with me….believe that he wouldn’t bother himself with me anymore.  I have nothing he wants…would be no use to him.  I have to believe that he’d have come after me before now if he was going to do that.  He probably feels he dealt with me and proved his point…that he won.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “He didn’t, Kathryn.  You’re stronger than that.”

She nodded.  “But it would be better if he thinks that way…”

Chakotay pulled her towards him.  “Kathryn, it may sound…  I’m not trying to play the he-man, cave-man protector but…  I know that would be insulting to you…”  He squeezed her hand again.  “I just want to protect you…and I will…”

Kathryn smiled back at him.  “I know.  And I do feel safer with you here.”  Her eyes suddenly filled with tears.  “That’s not very emancipated of me, is it?  I’m too weak…”

Chakotay slipped his hands onto her arms.  He applied gentle pressure there.  “Needing someone is never weak, Kathryn.  Just know and believe that.”

^^^^^^^^^^

As it got dark, Kathryn finally let Chakotay hold her.  She lay against him and cried silently as he stroked up and down her arm and back.  She didn’t speak and he respected her unspoken wish for silence.  Occasionally he kissed her hair or nuzzled it and she seemed comfortable with that.

Finally the room was lit only by moonlight and Chakotay moved slightly to see if Kathryn was still awake.  He smiled softly when he saw she had fallen asleep in his arms.  As gently as he could, he eased her back then picked her up and carried her to her bedroom.  As he lay her down, she stirred and looked up at him.  “Thank you…”  Her voice was thick with sleep.

Chakotay knelt down beside her and slipped her shoes off then covered her with a blanket which lay across the end of the bed.  “Try and get some sleep, Kathryn.  I’ll just be next door if you need me…”

Her hand reached for his and held on.  “Please stay.  Just hold me.  I’m so tired of being alone…”

Her words tore at Chakotay’s heart.  He nodded quietly in the dark and lay down beside her, pulling her into his arms.  She laid her head on his chest and curled into him.  “Thank you…”  Within minutes, she was back asleep.

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART THREE.
    

RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.

RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.



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