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 THREE.


Several times during the night Kathryn cried out in her sleep but settled when Chakotay whispered softly to her and tightened his hold on her.  He knew her dreams were disturbed after so much coming out the previous evening but her cries still tore at him.  Finally she settled, allowing them both some peaceful sleep. 

When Chakotay awoke the next morning he was alone, Kathryn gone from his arms.  He called out to her but received no answer.  He went to his room and changed his crumpled clothes to some sweatpants and a tee shirt then checked around the house, but there was no sign of her.  Eventually he walked out onto the deck and looked along the beach.  His eyes scanned the sand in the early morning light and finally he saw her.

Kathryn sat huddled against a large sand dune, her knees drawn up to her chest as she stared out over the ocean.  She didn’t react to his presence when he sat down beside her.

Chakotay watched her closely.  “Are you all right?”

Kathryn continued to stare out over the water.  “I can’t believe I told you all that last night.  It came out in a rush.  I talked with Carla…about talking about it all…about talking to you.  And I wanted to.  I was going to talk to you…  I just thought it would come out slowly over time…in bits and pieces.  I was working up to it.  I thought it would take me time to tell you.  I let my guard down and the dam broke.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “Is it so bad that it came out the way it did?  Maybe it just needed to, Kathryn.  Sometimes our minds and bodies make decisions for us.”

Kathryn hugged her knees more tightly.  “God, the things I said to you…what you must think.  I hate that you saw me like that.  I’m embarrassed…  No…I’m mortified…  I want to blame the wine…anything…but I can’t.  I didn’t drink that much.”

Chakotay pulled his own legs up and hugged them.  “It needed to come out, Kathryn.  Please don’t ever be embarrassed with me.”

Kathryn rested her chin on her hands.  “I feel such a fool…”

Chakotay frowned.  “Why?”

She lifted her head and shook it.  “Because I’m weak and you saw me like that.  I spilled my guts to you.  All those terrible, sordid details.  I told you of the whore I’ve been…”

She jumped when Chakotay suddenly grabbed her arm and squeezed it.  She looked up into his face and saw his anger.  “OK…that’s enough, Kathryn.  I won’t listen to that kind of talk from you…”

She pulled her arm from his grasp.  “It’s the truth…”

His anger rose.  “No, it damn well isn’t…”

Kathryn stared hard at him but didn’t say anymore.  Finally he calmed down and pulled his hand back.  “Oh Kathryn…”

Kathryn turned back to look at the sky which was beginning to show more light.  Her question caught Chakotay off guard.  “Why did she hate me so much?”

Chakotay drew in a deep breath and shook his head.  “She was sick…unbalanced…unstable…  I told you what the Doc said…”

Kathryn’s face hardened.  “He would.  He was in love with her too…”

Chakotay looked hard at her.  “I wasn’t in love with her, Kathryn.”

She turned and met his eyes.  “You went with her…had a relationship…”

He nodded.  “Yes, I did.  I’ll always regret that…”  He sighed as she looked away.  “I was weak.  I was lonely.”

Kathryn’s eyes flew to his.  “And I wasn’t there for you.  Is that supposed to sound familiar?  Are we supposed to be even now?”

Chakotay shook his head sadly.  “Kathryn, we made mistakes.  People make them every day.  It’s called life…being human.”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “And you what?  Leave the mistakes behind and forget about them?”

Chakotay nodded slowly.  “If you can.  And you forgive those you love when they make those mistakes.  You don’t judge them or condemn them.  You open your arms and invite them in and move forward with them.  That’s what you do when you love someone…whether that’s lover or friend, parent or child, brother or sister.”

Kathryn looked down at her hands.  “My sin was greater…”

Chakotay looked out over the water now.  “And I think mine was but I actually don’t believe either of us ‘sinned’.  We made bad choices and we made mistakes.  We were hurt but it’s not meant to be a competition.”  He felt her watching him and turned his head to look at her.  “You were hurt, Kathryn.  You were very badly hurt…physically and emotionally.  We need to help each other heal.  We made mistakes and we even hurt each other.  Now we need to heal and forgive…each other and ourselves.  But the hardest part will be to forgive ourselves.”

Kathryn lowered her eyes.  “I’m still sorry about last night.  I shouldn’t have…  I put you on the spot and…”  She pushed her hair back from her face.  “Asking you to stay with me.  I’d no right to ask that of you.  And everything I said…  God…the things I said to you.  You must think…” 

Chakotay placed a hand on her shoulder and waited until she looked at him.  “Kathryn, I’m honored that you trusted me enough…that you felt comfortable enough with me…”  He smiled softly.  “Look…last night we watched the sun set and it all came out.  That was fitting.”  He stood up suddenly and reached for her hand.  She frowned as she allowed him to pull her to her feet.

Chakotay pulled her with him to the top of the dune.  He pointed to the rising sun.  “Today we’re looking at the rising sun.  A fresh and new day.”  He turned to look into her face.  “I think that’s fitting too.”

Kathryn watched the sun for a few moments before turning back to look at him.  “Maybe you’re right.  It’s just hard to face the morning after…”  She shrugged.  “And I still have to face Tom and B'Elanna…the Doc…”

Chakotay reached over and tucked her hair behind her ear.  “I know B'Elanna would love to see you.  You have good and loyal friends, Kathryn.  You forget that.  Don’t shut them out.  B'Elanna would love nothing more than to be your friend.  You need it and so does she.  Let her in.  Let her be your friend, Kathryn.  She cares deeply about you.”

Kathryn looked at him for a moment then down at her feet.  “Maybe I’ll call her later…”

Chakotay reached for her hand and squeezed it.  “She’d love that…”  He pulled gently at her hand.  “Come on.  Let’s go back to the house and I’ll make you breakfast.”

Kathryn nodded and smiled for the first time.  It didn’t quite light up her face, but for Chakotay it was a start.

^^^^^^^^^^

Before lunch that day, Chakotay joined Kathryn for a walk along the beach.  She paddled through the surf, her bare feet sinking into the sand as the water flowed around her ankles.  Chakotay let her set the pace, speaking if she wanted to.

Suddenly she stopped walking and looked out over the water.  She bit at her lip and moved away a little.  “I called B'Elanna while you were in the shower…”  She turned back to look at him, using her hand to shield her eyes against the sun.

Chakotay smiled.  “I’m glad.”

She looked down at her feet and moved one through the water.  “It wasn’t as bad as I thought.  She was great.  More concerned than anything…”  She glanced up at him.  “Not that I wasn’t embarrassed…knowing that she knows and all…”

Chakotay moved a little closer to her.  “Kathryn, with friends, none of that matters.  You were there for her many times.  What about when she was hurting herself or when she needed to sort things with her mother…  She was embarrassed with you but she still let you in to be there for her.”

Kathryn frowned.  “She had no need to be embarrassed over that…”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow in a wonderful imitation of Tuvok.  “I rest my case.”

Kathryn gave him a half smile and slapped playfully at him.  “All right…so I know what you mean.”  She studied the sand for a moment.  “Anyway, she and Tom are coming here for lunch tomorrow.  I hope you don’t mind cooking because if I have to…”  She looked up at him and smiled again.

Chakotay raised his hands in surrender.  “Point taken.  I’ll cook….”

^^^^^^^^^^

After lunch the next day Tom and Chakotay took Miral down onto the beach to search for shells and whatever else they could find.  The little girl toddled along the sand and squealed in delight every time the waves rushed in at her.

Kathryn and B'Elanna sat on the deck and watched them.  B'Elanna laughed and shook her head.  “Poor child has never seen the ocean before.  She doesn’t know what to make of it.”

Kathryn nodded as she watched them.  “She’s having the time of her life though…”

B'Elanna turned and looked at her former captain, knowing she needed to break the ice.  “It’s good to see you looking so well.  The sea air agrees with you.”

Kathryn met her eyes.  “You should have seen me a few days ago…”  She dropped her head.  “Sorry…that was uncalled for.  Carla said I’d have good days and bad for a while.  I had hoped today would be one of the better ones but…”

B'Elanna turned so she faced Kathryn more fully.  “Kathryn…”  She blushed.  “I hope you don’t mind me calling you that…”

Kathryn smiled and shook her head.  “It’s my name, B'Elanna.  I’m not your captain anymore…”

B'Elanna nodded.  “Look…I hope we can be good friends.  So that said…I don’t care what way you are.  You don’t have to be any particular way to talk with me.  Friends…real friends…are there on the good days and the bad.  They don’t distinguish between them.”

Kathryn reached over for her hand and squeezed it.  “Thank you, B'Elanna…”  She let go and looked down at her coffee.  “I just feel really down today.  I’ve been trying to hide it from Chakotay but I’m sure he’s noticed.  I caught him watching me several times with this worried look on his face.”

B'Elanna nodded slowly.  “I’m sure he understands…”

Kathryn sighed.  “I think he expects me to feel a bit better every day…each day better than the last, but I can’t…”  She dropped her head to hide her face.  “God, I don’t know where this is coming from…  I’m sorry…”

B'Elanna pulled her chair closer.  “Kathryn, I’m sure he understands and just wants to be there for you.”

Kathryn looked up, her eyes filled with tears.  “B'Elanna, I feel I have nothing left.  All I had was the knowledge that Chakotay couldn’t see me like this…couldn’t see what I’d become.  It was the one shred of dignity and pride I had left.  I don’t even have that anymore now.  It’s gone.  He knows it all because I broke down and let it all out.  He must despise how weak I am…how pitiful.”

B'Elanna leaned forward and shook her head.  “I’ll tell you what you have, Kathryn Janeway… whether you like it or not…believe or admit it or not.  You have the love of a good man who only wants to be there for you.  He loves you and asks nothing in return.  He craves your love and longs for you to love him back.  All he’s ever wanted was to be with you…even if you never returned his feelings.  He just wants you to love him.  He’ll sacrifice all that though…just to be with you and be there for you.  I think deep down somewhere you know that and you’ve just lost sight of it.  He loves you, Kathryn.”

Kathryn smiled sadly.  “As a friend.  He’s my best friend.”

B'Elanna nodded.  “Yes, he is…but he loves you as so much more than a friend.  I think you know that.”

Kathryn stared down at her lap.  “I hoped…more than thought…but that was then…before.”  She sighed and shook her head, looking down at the beach now.  “How could he love me?  Look at me.  I can’t even stand myself.”

B'Elanna smiled at that.  “I still can’t believe Tom loves me.”  She smiled when Kathryn looked around at her.  “Look at what I was.  How many jaws did I break in those first weeks on Voyager?”  They both laughed at that.  “The fact is…I wasn’t the kind of woman who was open…to allowing any man in.  My back was always up.  He hung in there though.”  She looked down at her husband and daughter.  “I still have a hard time reconciling that time with what I have now.  Sometimes I think I’ll wake up and find it all a dream.  I can’t believe I deserve what I have…”

She looked back at Kathryn.  “But with all that, I have to believe that I’m good enough to be loved…that I deserve to be loved and happy as much as the next person.  We all deserve that.  I deserve it and so do you.  You just have to learn to believe it.”

Kathryn looked down at her coffee again as she considered that.  “Yesterday I would have found that easier to believe.  Today is…”

B'Elanna reached over and stroked her arm.  “Kathryn, today is just a down day and they’ll get fewer and fewer.  Tomorrow will be a good day again and they’ll get more and more.  Tomorrow you’ll be more likely to believe what I’m saying and you’ll see more clearly what I’m talking about.”

Kathryn wiped at her tears and nodded.  “I’ll try.”

B'Elanna smiled warmly.  “Kathryn Janeway doesn’t try.  She does.  You’ll do it and you’ll be happy again.”  She squeezed her arm.  “Kathryn, the best I can tell you is this.  You’re a wonderful person and you deserve to be happy.  Let Chakotay in and let your friends in.  Let us be there to help you through this…just the way you’ve always been there for us and helped us.  The rest will fall into place for you.  Once you love people and they love you, that’s the best shield you can have in life.  It protects you against everything.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay leaned against the countertop and watched Kathryn as she cleared away after their friends’ visit.  She put some glasses away then picked up a cloth as she looked over at him.  “Go on.  Ask.  You’ve been dying to.”

Chakotay blushed a little.  “Sorry.”  He smiled then.  “OK.  How did it go with B'Elanna?”

Kathryn thought about that and nodded.  “It was good…”

Chakotay turned and leaned his hip against the counter so he was facing her more fully.  “But we could have picked a better day?”

Kathryn folded the cloth in her hands.  She watched her own movements.  She nodded slowly and sighed, her head still down.  “I thought you’d noticed…although I tried to hide it.”  She looked up.  “Carla said I’d have good days and bad days…”

Chakotay smiled kindly at her.  “And today was one of the bad days?”

Kathryn bit at her lip.  “Yeah…although not so bad now.  Talking to B'Elanna actually helped.  At least facing her and Tom is out of the way and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”  She moved over and leaned against the kitchen table.  “Now I just have to face the Doc.”

Chakotay watched her.  “There’s no rush.  You have plenty of time.”

Kathryn shook her head at that.  “I know but I don’t want to have these feelings…”

Chakotay frowned.  “What feelings?”

She shrugged.  “About…Seven…  I think if I let myself, I could end up hating her and I don’t want to do that.  I need him to explain to me what happened to her.”  She waved the cloth she held.  “I know you told me but I need to hear the medical details from him.  Maybe then I can accept what happened with her and let it go.”

Chakotay turned and leaned his back against the counter again.  “Everything was just exaggerated with her…”

Kathryn nodded slowly and bit her lip again, looking down at her hands.  “Exaggerated.”  She shook her head and looked back up at him.  “That means some of those feelings were already there to start with.  They weren’t invented because of what happened to her…so she already felt that way about me…”  She shook her head and threw the cloth down on the table.  “She still resented me for taking her from the Borg, and I thought she was over that…”

Chakotay sighed heavily.  “I think she was for the most part, but she hadn’t completely dealt with it all back then.  She didn’t know how to, so it was stored away.  What happened to her brought it all back to her…all those unresolved feelings and emotions and blew them out of all proportion.”

Kathryn just shook her head, wanting to believe what he said.  “At the end, she really hated me…”

Chakotay nodded sadly.  “Not at the very end.  She knew what she’d done and deeply regretted it.  That’s why she asked me to find you…to make it right for you.  I did that so I guess I kept my promise to her but I didn’t do it for her.  I did it for you.  Her earlier feelings…  I think that was because of me.  She knew how I still felt about you…accused me of still having feelings for you.  She knew I had those feelings and she was right…”  He looked up, afraid he’d said too much.

Kathryn held his eyes.  “I felt sure they were gone.  I mean…”  She shrugged, not knowing what to say.

Chakotay drew in a deep breath.  “No, Kathryn…they weren’t gone.”

Kathryn’s eyes flitted from his face to her hands and back again.  “Are…are they…?”

Chakotay answered her unfinished question.  “They’re still there if that’s what you were going to ask.”  He sighed and looked down at his feet.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t need this now.”  He looked up when Kathryn moved towards him.

She laid her hand softly on his chest, as she’d done a thousand times before.  “I can’t really deal with it right now…but it is what I need.”  Her eyes held his and he saw what it was costing her to say the words.  “Chakotay, I needed to know that.  Just give me a little time please.  If you still feel…”  She shook her head and frowned then.  “You really…love me?  In that way, I mean…  Not just as a friend…?”

Chakotay smiled lovingly at her and nodded.  “Yes, Kathryn…I do.  I love you the way a man loves a woman in a loving relationship…”

Kathryn closed her eyes at that.  “I thought you might have just loved the captain…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I loved Captain Janeway very much, but I was in love with Kathryn the woman.  I still am.”

Kathryn smiled to herself as she heard that.  She moved away and walked towards the bedroom.  She stopped then and looked back at him.  “I just need some time…”

Chakotay smiled as he looked at her.  “I’m here when you’re ready.  There’s no time limit on this.”

She nodded slowly as she looked at him.  “Thank you…”  She moved away again and as she reached her bedroom door, she smiled back at him.  “Chakotay, I love you too.  I just want you to know that….”

^^^^^^^^^^ 
 
Over the next several days, Kathryn opened up to Chakotay more and more as he began to bring her back.  She poured out her pain and loneliness, her hurt and sadness over what she’d been through.  He listened when she talked and held her when she needed to cry.  Only when he felt she was ready, did he speak.

“Kathryn, listen to me now.  I know I haven’t spoken much these past few days but I felt you needed to talk and get all that out.  For the most part, I think you’ve done that.”  She nodded up at him.

They were standing in the surf on the beach, with the gentle breeze caressing their skin.  Chakotay took her face between his hands and looked deeply into her eyes.  “I’m honored that you felt comfortable enough and trusted me enough to talk to me in this way and I just want you to know that nothing you’ve said has made any difference to the way I feel about you.  I got the feeling a few times that you felt you’d lose my respect or change my feelings for you.  You need to know that nothing could be further from the truth.”

Kathryn gazed up at him.  “I’m starting to accept it.  You’ve seen and known me at my worst and you’re still here.  I felt so sure that you’d want to run…leave…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “When you care so much about someone…love someone…”  He stroked his fingers over her cheeks.  “Kathryn, nothing could stop how I feel about you.  Even if you felt nothing for me, I’d still feel as I do about you.”

Kathryn’s eyes filled with tears at his words and she leaned into him.  He slipped his arms around her and hugged her to him.  “We’ll get through this, Kathryn.  We’ll get through it together.”  He felt her nod against his chest.  “I’ll never walk away from you again.  I’ll never let you go again.  I’ll be here for as long as you want me…”

Kathryn tightened her arms around him.  “For always…for always…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Two days later, Carla was waiting for them when they returned from one of their walks on the beach.  She smiled at them both but Chakotay immediately sensed something was on his old friend’s mind.  He knew her too well.

He left her chatting with Kathryn while he made tea and coffee for them.  As he placed the cups down, he caught Carla’s eye and saw that she knew he could read her.  She nodded at him and took a sip of her tea.

Kathryn had seen the interaction and frowned.  “Am I missing something here?”

Carla put her cup down as Chakotay sat down beside Kathryn.  “There’s something I need to talk to you about, Kathryn.  Something you need to know about.”  She saw the worried look in the eyes staring back at her and raised her hand.  “It’s not serious…well nothing is wrong or…”

She sighed and leaned forward.  “Kathryn, I asked you before if you were on any medications…when I began treating you…”

Kathryn nodded solemnly.  “I remember.  I was only taking the painkillers…”

Carla frowned.  “I just need to be sure.  You’re positive you weren’t taking any other medication during the past few weeks…”

Kathryn sat forward also.  “I was telling you the truth, Carla.  Only the painkillers…”  She frowned deeply.  “Why?  What’s wrong?  Don’t you believe me?”

Carla looked at Chakotay a moment then back at Kathryn.  “I do believe you.  It’s just…”  She sighed.  “Kathryn, while I had you on the table in surgery…while I was doing the repair work on those tears and removing the scar tissue…  Well, it’s normal procedure to take a few tissue samples for biopsy.  It’s routine to take those samples to check for any abnormal cells that may be present…cancer cells and such…which as you know is completely treatable when caught.  It’s the same as you’d have during your annual physical.”  She drew in a deep breath.

Chakotay sat forward now.  “You found something?”

Carla seemed to ignore his question.  “Anyway, as I said, it’s a matter of routine to take these smears and tissue samples for examination in the lab.”

Kathryn closed her eyes a moment.  “Are you trying to tell me you found some cancer cells?”

Carla shook her head quickly.  “No.  Everything was normal.  You’re very healthy.”

Kathryn narrowed her eyes.  “But you found something…”

Carla nodded.  “The lab tends to take its time with non-urgent cases.  I only got the results this morning…”

Kathryn held her control.  “And they were?”

Carla looked directly at her.  “There were minute traces of a drug in the samples…”

Kathryn’s eyes flew to Chakotay’s and she saw her own shock reflected there.  She looked back at Carla.  “What drug?  How did it get there?”

Carla shrugged.  “Its generic name is Zepharosin.”

Kathryn frowned and shook her head.  “I’ve never heard of it.”

Carla nodded.  “In the right doses, it’s used to treat hyperactivity in young children and teens.  Its administration has been controversial of late.  Some side effects have been reported.  However, that aside, if it’s administered to someone who isn’t affected by hyperactivity, it can cause depression.  How severe the depression depends on the amount taken.”

Chakotay jumped up.  “Or the amount given…”

Kathryn just sat in shock, staring at the floor.  “This drug was in my body…?”

Carla nodded.  “It didn’t show up in your blood tests.  There were just the traces in the tissue cultures.  Obviously it worked its way out of your system over the past weeks, but it always takes longer with certain tissues or organs…”

Kathryn finally looked up.  “He…drugged…me?”  She kept shaking her head.  “He drugged me…?”  She looked squarely at Carla.  “Depression…” 

Carla nodded.  “In someone who had no symptoms of hyperactivity…”

Kathryn looked towards Chakotay who stood leaning against the window.  She could see him fighting his anger.  She looked back at Carla.  “I was depressed.  I was…”

Carla nodded slowly.  “It would have…  Your normal and natural resistance to…  It sounds strange but the positive is compromised…becomes the negative.  It affects your perception and entire outlook…even your decision making.”

Chakotay finally seemed to win his battle.  He turned back into the room.  “How long would he have been doing this?”

Carla shook her head.  “It’s hard to say but most likely weeks.  For there to still be traces…”

Kathryn’s hand covered her mouth as if she was going to be sick.  She then lowered it to her chin.  “He was drugging me from the start…making me dependent on him…”

Chakotay’s mind was racing ahead.  “What about now, Carla?  What harm has this done?”

The woman shook her head.  “It can only cause problems if taken over very long periods of time…years mostly.  No long term harm has been caused.  I got them to re-check the samples.  Everything is fine.  It’s almost out of her system now.”  She reached for her bag and withdrew a hypo.  “I’ll just give you this, Kathryn.  It will dissolve any last traces…eradicate the drug from your system completely.”  She stood up and walked over to Kathryn, pressing the hypo to her neck. 

Kathryn rubbed at her neck.  “That will take care of it?  I’ll be free of this now?”

Carla nodded as she placed the empty hypo in her bag.  “Within a day or two.  Physically it did no harm…just emotionally…”  She glanced towards Chakotay then back at Kathryn.  “I’ll leave your final check-up until that has time to do its job.  I’ll check you in a few days and give you the all clear then.”

Kathryn nodded and stood as she saw Carla pick up her bag.  “That’s fine.  Sorry Carla.  I’m still trying to take all this in.”

Carla smiled and reached over, squeezing her arm.  “You’re fine, Kathryn.”  She glanced at Chakotay once more.  “I’ll let myself out.  I’ll call you before I come by for your final check-up…”  She left her patient and friend still standing there in shock.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay watched Kathryn closely as she walked over to the window and stared out.  He knew she wasn’t seeing the view, her eyes appearing unfocused.  “Kathryn…?”

She took a moment before she turned and looked at him.  “I don’t know what to think…”  She shook her head.  “I mean…he drugged me…and yet…”

Chakotay looked shocked.  “And yet what?  Kathryn, he drugged you…was doing it for weeks…”

Kathryn nodded very slowly.  “I know…but…”  She sighed.  “Chakotay, all this time I’ve been…  I was so weak.  That’s what I thought.  I believed…  I blamed myself for being lonely…weak…a coward…  I constantly asked myself what had happened to me to make me that way.  How could I have allowed all that…how could I have allowed myself to be in a relationship like that?  He was married…separated or not.  He was abusing me…and I allowed it.  I stayed and took it.  At one time I hated myself for what I’d become.”  She looked hard at him.  “Can’t you see?  It was always ‘what I’d become’ and now I know it wasn’t that.  It was ‘what he made me’.  I know I’m probably grabbing this as the excuse I need to explain everything but…”  She moved away from the window.  “I agree it’s one more thing to hate him for…but Chakotay, it’s one less thing to hate myself for.  Can you understand that?”

Chakotay understood what she meant.  He walked over to her and hugged her.  “It was never your fault, Kathryn.  Drug or no drug.  It was always him.  That will never change.”

Kathryn leaned into him.  “I know but I needed to know this.  It helps me…takes me a few more steps forwards where I need to get.”

Chakotay held her.  “And you’ll get there because you’re strong, Kathryn.”

She nodded against him.  “Stronger than I believed.  I needed to know that…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Over the next two weeks Kathryn recovered well, Carla giving her the all clear on her final visit.  Her physical injuries were now healed completely, and emotionally she was well on the way.  Chakotay saw the woman he had known before finally emerge once again.

She accompanied Chakotay to her apartment to clear out her belongings and give up her lease.  She didn’t go upstairs with him but stayed downstairs with Ellen, thanking the woman for all her help.  Chakotay also did as she asked and destroyed the evidence he had collected.  With that done, she gathered her courage and forced herself to go see Voyager’s EMH.

She sat quietly with Chakotay one evening and told him about her visit.  “It was like with Tom and B'Elanna.  It wasn’t as bad as I feared.  He was great.  He explained everything to me and I understand a lot better now.  He really loved her, you know.”

Chakotay stroked her arm.  “How do you feel about her now?”

Kathryn looked up at him.  “Sad.  I feel sad that it all happened and ended the way it did.  I do however, know that I need to let go of my feelings for her if I’m to completely recover from all this.  I can’t ever forget what she did, even though I know it wasn’t her fault, but I have to forgive her or I’ll never move on.  I want to at least feel sorry for her.  I need to work on that.  Hate for her will only eat away inside me and destroy me.  I have to let it go and move forward.  Hate anchors you to the past and I don’t want that.  I don’t want to live in the past anymore.”

Chakotay moved his hand from her arm to her hair, running his fingers through the silky strands.  “I guess I feel the same way.  A part of me wants to hate her and yet if…”  He broke off, not sure how to say what he wanted to say.

Kathryn said it for him.  “If she hadn’t done what she did, we might not be sitting here like this now.  You and she might still be together and I might still be with him…”

Chakotay drew in a ragged breath and shook his head.  “I know I wouldn’t still be with her.  That much I’m sure of.”  He sighed.  “What scares me most is the thought that you’d still be…”  He couldn’t finish again.

Kathryn looked down at the glass of wine she held.  “He’d probably have killed me by now…”  She looked up at Chakotay and saw his eyes squeezed shut.  “Chakotay…”

He opened his eyes and looked down at her, a look of pure pain written there.  “I don’t even want to think about that…”

Kathryn smiled sadly.  “I know.  Some places are best not visited.  I have to let that go too.  Hating him is the same even if I have more reason to hate him.  I have to let it go or it will hurt me and hurt us.” 

She sighed.  “The Doctor told me he wanted Mark charged with Seven’s murder…”

Chakotay nodded.  “He told me he held him responsible for her death.”

Kathryn nodded also.  “I think Mark could at least face some charge over her death.  I don’t know for sure.  Even the Doctor admitted that it could be hard to prove because of the underlying problem that was already there.  Mark could also say she fell or tripped.  She made no report or statement and there’s no evidence now that she’s gone because she was cremated.  Doc knows that it wouldn’t bring her back anyway and the publicity would tarnish her memory.  He also understands that raking it all up would involve me and I told him how I felt…that I couldn’t face that.  So he’s just accepting it and letting it go.  There’s really nothing else he can do.  We all have to let it go.”

Chakotay sighed again.  “So we move forward and leave it all behind…”

Kathryn nodded.  “It’s the only way…”  She drew in a deep breath as she looked at him.  “And I’m ready now.  I know that.”

Chakotay watched her face carefully.  “Are you sure?”

She smiled softly and nodded.  “I’ve never been more sure of anything.  You brought me back and yet I feel my life is just starting somehow.”  She laughed and held up a finger.  “And we have my first proper outing tomorrow night…” 

Chakotay laughed with her and nodded.  “Dinner with Tom and B'Elanna at their place.  Someone else doing the cooking.”  He pretended to look nervous.  “Have you ever tasted Tom’s cooking?  B'Elanna went to the same culinary school as you did.  He’s always left with that chore.  I mean, B'Elanna’s a great hostess but don’t let her near the food except to pass it around.  I just hope Tom is better.”

Kathryn playfully glared at him.  “You have some cheek.  I’m not that bad.”  She shrugged then.  “OK…so I can burn water.  However, B'Elanna assured me that Tom is a wonderful cook so we’ve no worries.”

Chakotay rolled his eyes.  “We’ll see.”

^^^^^^^^^^

The following evening Chakotay stood back and admired Kathryn as she chatted with Tom and played with Miral.  She looked happier than he’d seen her in a very long time.  Her hair shone with health and her skin seemed to glow.  She wore a pale blue dress that fell just below her knees, tucked in at the waist and with elbow length sleeves.

He turned as he sensed B'Elanna watching him and smiled at her.  “What?”

His old friend smiled to herself.  “Nothing.  She just looks good, doesn’t she?”

Chakotay looked back at Kathryn and nodded.  “She looks wonderful.  I can’t believe how well she’s done…”  A cloud crossed his eyes for a moment before he pushed it away but B'Elanna didn’t miss it.

She looked over at her former captain.  “She’s strong and she has you…”  She was interrupted by Tom who lifted Miral up into his arms and called to her.

“B'Elanna, I’m going to put this little one to bed.”  He turned to Kathryn.  “You want to help while these two lazy sods set out dinner?”

Kathryn stood up and smiled.  “I’d love to.”  She stroked the small girl’s hair and smiled at her.  “If that’s all right with you, Miral?”

Miral reached her arms out to Kathryn.  “Be…”

B'Elanna laughed.  “That’s bed.  She’s no trouble in that department.  She knows her favourite toys are in her cot.”  She pushed herself away from the sideboard and kissed her daughter.  “Night sweetheart.  You be good for daddy and Auntie Kathryn now.  Don’t give them a hard time.”

^^^^^^^^^^

With Tom and Kathryn upstairs, Chakotay stood at the kitchen table with B'Elanna and helped where he could.  B'Elanna watched him as he worked.  “She really has come a long way, Chakotay.  She looks radiant tonight.”  She laughed softly.  “Must be all that sea air and a good man…”

Chakotay half smiled.  “She’s doing great all right.” 

B'Elanna read his expression.  “But…?”

Chakotay stopped what he was doing and shrugged.  “I just worry about her.  It happened and those memories are still there.  There’s also…”  He stopped and shook his head.

B'Elanna stopped what she was doing too.  “There’s also what?”

Chakotay met her eyes, a cold look in them.  “There’s also HIM.  He’s still out there.”  He quietly told her about Carla’s discovery of the drug in Kathryn’s system.  “It kills me to know he’s probably enjoying himself thinking he got away with all this.  And what if he comes looking for her in the future and…”  He looked away a moment.  “She doesn’t mention him except when we talked about…  I mean when she told me what happened…and when Carla told us about the drug.  Outside of that, she doesn’t talk about him.  I see her though.  He’s there.  She never completely relaxes.  She admitted that to me.  She looks over her shoulder…watches when we’re on the beach and tries to hide it from me.  I do the same though.  I’m afraid for her.  I’m afraid to leave her side…and that won’t help her but…”

B'Elanna watched him carefully.  “Chakotay…”

Chakotay gripped the edge of the kitchen table.  “As much as she’ll resist the idea, I’ll protect her.  I want to make sure that bastard never hurts her again.  I won’t have him anywhere near her.”

B'Elanna smiled slyly to herself, unable to stop the words slipping out.  “He won’t come near her ever again.”

Chakotay looked up and studied his old friend who suddenly looked guilty of something.  “What makes you so sure of that?”  He frowned when she didn’t meet his eyes.  “B'Elanna?  You sound so certain of that?  How do you know…?”

B'Elanna looked at him briefly.  “I just know.”

Chakotay leaned across the table and grabbed her hand.  “What have you done?”

She pulled her hand away.  “Nothing.”

Chakotay wasn’t letting her off that easily.  “B'Elanna, he’s a dangerous man.  Please tell me you didn’t go after him…”

B'Elanna shook her head.  “No…I didn’t…”

Chakotay sighed heavily as he began to understand.  “But someone did…because you sent them…  Am I right?”  She didn’t answer.  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment before standing back from the table.  He drew in a deep breath and looked at B'Elanna.  He spoke just one word.  “Why?”

B'Elanna took a moment to answer.  She smiled sadly at her oldest friend.  “Because I knew you couldn’t.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stood with his back to B'Elanna and the kitchen.  He stared out into the back garden.  “You promised me you’d never speak of this to anyone else.  You promised me.”

B'Elanna spoke softly.  “And it’s the only time I’ve ever broken a promise to you.  It’s also the last time.”

Chakotay barely nodded.  He gripped the countertop.  “Who did it, B'Elanna?”  He turned slowly to look at her.

B'Elanna met his eyes.  “I’m not telling.”

Chakotay laughed sarcastically.  “And what if they tell?”

She moved towards him.  “They won’t.  I give you my word on that.”

Chakotay just shook his head.  “And how can you be so sure of that?”

B'Elanna sighed and sat down on a stool.  “Several reasons.  I asked them not to.  He hurt the captain.  They don’t intend to go to prison for that scum although they would if they had to.”

Chakotay looked shocked.  “Why…?”

B'Elanna smiled sadly.  “You know the answer to that one.  It’s because it was her…because it was for her…”  She watched him sit down beside her and reached for his hand.  “Chakotay, we look after our own.  You know that.”

Chakotay just shook his head, trying to take everything in.  He looked hard at B'Elanna.  “Did they kill him?”

B'Elanna laughed derisively.  “No.  That would have been too easy on him.”

Chakotay didn’t know if he felt relief at that or not.  “What did they do to him?”

B'Elanna merely shrugged.  “They gave him a taste of his own medicine.  He knew why they were there.”

Chakotay was shocked.  “They...burned him?”  His eyes widened.  “They…raped him…?”

B'Elanna just shrugged again.  “Yeah…and beat the shit out of him.  They let him know that if he ever came near her again, they would kill him.  Their actions left him in no doubt as to their sincerity.”  She held up a finger.  “Oh…and they also supplied his wife with all the evidence she needed for a divorce, and I don’t mean Kathryn.  He had quite a few women.” 

Chakotay came close to a smirk.  “The wife divorced him?”

B'Elanna nodded.  “Yeah.  I read about it.”  When Chakotay raised an eyebrow at that, B'Elanna smiled self-consciously.  “Yeah…I follow the society and gossip pages, but don’t you dare tell Tom.  He’d never let me live it down.”

Chakotay made a locking motion at his mouth as he struggled to be serious.  “My lips are sealed.”

B'Elanna swatted his arm.  “They’d better be.”  She sighed as she became serious again.  “Anyway, the petition cited infidelity.  Kathryn wasn’t named or anything, but several other women were.  It also stated that he was unable to father a child and claimed emotional and physical abuse.  Evidence was supplied.”

Chakotay shook his head in disbelief.  “So Kathryn wasn’t the only one he hurt.”  He looked up.  “That evil bastard…”

B'Elanna nodded in agreement.  “Well…it’s over now.”  Her voice softened as she looked at him.  “Look Chakotay, I know these guys.  You do too but I’m not naming names.  Suffice to say you trusted them with your life many times and they never let you down…never betrayed you.  They’re not about to start now.  That should be enough for you.”

Chakotay thought about that.  Finally he nodded.  “OK.”  He sighed heavily.  “You know, Kathryn  would never have wanted this.  I don’t know if I would either and yet…  Knowing she wouldn’t, would have made the decision for me…  Mind you, had I come up against him…”

B'Elanna licked at her lips.  “We knew Kathryn wouldn’t have wanted it and that you couldn’t because of that.  That’s why we did it for you…did what was necessary…because you wouldn’t or couldn’t.  Your hands are clean.”

Chakotay looked at his friend.  “Just promise me that Kathryn will never hear about this…what you did or about him…his divorce and all that…  I don’t want her hearing his name ever again.”

B'Elanna frowned.  “Maybe hearing some part of that would help her though.  If she knows he won’t come back…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “She’d never have wanted him hurt, no matter what he did to her.  She’s too good a person for that.”

B'Elanna nodded.  “I know that.  I just meant…  If she knew he’d divorced…  You could tell her…”  Her eyes widened suddenly.  “When I checked for him first, he was on Mars at a business conference.  He’s some kind of agent for a pharmaceutical company…”  She nodded knowingly.  “Easy access to and knowledge of drugs…”

Chakotay ground his teeth together.  “Bastard knew exactly what he was doing…”

B'Elanna nodded.  “So why not tell Kathryn that the wife divorced him and he moved full time to Mars.  Say you have a friend who works security or something and would let you know if he was back on Earth.  Say you checked because she was worried and learned that he applied for permanent residency there…  Whatever puts her mind at rest.”

Chakotay thought about that.  “I’ll see.  I may well do that.  I’ll think about it and see how she is.”  He looked pointedly at B'Elanna.  “For now though…she hears nothing of this.  Promise me that.  I don’t want her knowing this…what they did to him.”

B'Elanna smiled softly and tightened her hold on his hand.  “She won’t.  I promise you that and I will keep that promise.”  She reached over and stroked his face for a moment.  “I told you.  She’s one of us and as I said, we look after our own.  She put her life on the line many times for us and we don’t forget that.  We owe her a hundred times over.  This is just returning a favour.”

She stood up.  “Now…no more on this.  We bury it here and now and never speak of it again.”

Chakotay stood also and opened his arms.  “Come here.”  He hugged his dear friend and whispered into her ear.  “Thank you.”

B'Elanna hugged him back and then pulled away.  “You’re welcome.”  She turned and handed him a plate of food.  “Now come on.  This food is getting cold.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Three days later, having seen Kathryn still watching around her, Chakotay made a decision and told her his version of where Mark Johnston was, borrowing from B'Elanna’s idea.  She watched his face carefully as he told her about the divorce and taking up permanent residency on Mars.

She shook her head.  “Where did you find all this out?”

Chakotay kept his emotions well hidden.  “While you were in the shower yesterday morning.  I contacted an old friend.  He was in the Maquis with me.  He works security now, checking who comes and goes.  He also deals with applications for residency here on Earth.  Anyway, I asked him to make discreet inquiries.  I trust him completely and he owes me.  I contacted him again this morning.”

Kathryn kept watching him.  “And what did he find out?”

Chakotay licked at his lips.  “The wife divorced him on grounds of infidelity…several counts…”  He watched Kathryn closely, trying to gauge how she was taking all this.  “It also cited physical and emotional cruelty…” 

Kathryn sighed heavily and closed her eyes.  “It wasn’t just me…”  She opened her eyes again and looked at him.

He shook his head.  “No.  There was also something about being unable to father a child.  I didn’t ask for the full petition but he read me the names that were listed and yours wasn’t there.  My friend also discovered that Johnston wasn’t resident here on Earth anymore so he spoke quietly with a fellow officer who deals with applications to live off world.  He applied for and received residency status for Mars.  He’s living there now under a permanent resident visa.”

Kathryn sighed and turned to look out at the water.  “So he’s gone…although…”

Chakotay gripped her arm and she turned back to look at him.  “Kathryn, this guy is a good friend.  We shared a lot and owe each other.  He’ll keep this quiet.  He also flagged Mark’s name.  If he sets foot back on Earth, David will be quietly alerted.  He’ll let me know at once.”

Kathryn considered that.  “And this friend of yours…David…  You trust him?”

Chakotay nodded.  “With my life.  I did trust him with it once and he saved it.”

Kathryn drew in a deep breath then blew it out.  Chakotay watched as she seemed to let go.  He could almost see the weight lift from her shoulders.  She nodded slowly and looked back at him.  She studied him for a moment.  “So he’s gone…”

Chakotay nodded.  “And if he comes back here, we’ll know about it.”

Kathryn sighed again.  “I needed to know that.  I know I need to put the past months behind me and I’m doing that.  This helps a lot.  It makes me feel a lot better.  It also stops me wondering all the time.”  She shook her head, a determined look on her face.  “Anyway, I’ve decided I’m not afraid of him anyway.  He can’t harm me because I’m strong again.  I must have had some strength when we got back because he felt the need to drug me in order to control me.”

Chakotay smiled at that, kicking himself for not thinking of it himself.  “That’s smart and intelligent thinking, Kathryn.   

Kathryn nodded her head and gave him a small smile.  “Speaking of which…what else do you get up to while I’m in the shower?”

Chakotay shrugged and smiled.  “Usually clearing away your mess…”  He laughed and just avoided the punch she aimed at him.  He enjoyed hearing her laugh until she grew serious again.

“Chakotay…thank you for doing that.  It’s good to know…”

He shook his head.  “You’re welcome.”  He reached for her hand.   “Come on.  You must be starving.  It’s lunchtime.”  He smiled to himself as she took his hand and walked back to the house with him.  He hated lying to her, but when he noticed that she didn’t once look back over her shoulder, he knew he’d done the right thing.

^^^^^^^^^^

A month later, Chakotay was still staying with Kathryn.  They’d grown very comfortable together and shared everything although Chakotay still kept his own room.  He was in no hurry to move their relationship to a more physical level and was content with what Kathryn was able to give him.

They walked along the beach to watch the sunset one evening, holding hands together.  Chakotay watched Kathryn as she inhaled the salt air and smiled to herself.  “Happy?”

She turned her face up to his and nodded.  “Very.”  She squeezed his hand in hers.  “I was remembering something my mother used to say.  ‘Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?’

Chakotay smiled softly.  “Where does it end for you?”

Kathryn looked down at the waves splashing over her feet.  “When I’m here, it’s here with me.  It calms me somehow.  But when I leave it, it comes with me.  I hear it at night from my bedroom and it lulls me to sleep.  It stays with me.  Maybe it is in my heart after all…”

They were silent for several minutes just watching the sun sink below the horizon.  As they walked slowly back towards the house, Kathryn slowed down and pulled at his hand.  She looked up into his face and then stopped.  “I’ve come to a decision, Chakotay.”

He smiled down at her then grew serious, the look on her face telling him this was important to her.  “What’s that?”

She smiled sadly.  “So much has happened.  Not just…”  She sighed.  “I mean inside me…”  She made a fist and pressed it to her chest.  “Turmoil would be a good word to use.”  She turned and looked towards the last of the sun then let her eyes scan the water.

She sighed quietly.  “I’ve come to love the ocean so much...”  She turned her head to look back at him.  “Maybe that song of the sea is in my heart…”

She smiled and turned back to look at the sea.  “I look out over it and it calms me.  I’ve been in space for so long…the vastness of it…endless stars.  I thought being back on Earth after so long out there would make me feel claustrophobic.”  She laughed slightly.  “Starfleet certainly made me feel that way…”

She looked around her.  “Out here it’s different though…the vastness of that ocean…”  She waved her free hand towards the water.  “It’s like space in a way.  It’s open…stretching out before me as far as the eye can see.  It doesn’t make me feel restricted, but I know it’s restricted and suddenly…to my great surprise…I welcome those limits.  I have breathing space but there’s still a boundary…a security…” 

She looked back at him and smiled almost shyly.  “Am I making any sense here?”

Chakotay returned her smile.  “Best of both worlds…”

She smiled at that.  “Yes…with a deep feeling of peace also…something I haven’t had for a long time.”  She was quiet for several minutes, time Chakotay gave her as she watched the water.  Suddenly she turned back to him, her face serious.  “Chakotay, I’m not going back to Starfleet.”

Chakotay frowned and looked confused.  “Not going back?  But you…”

She smiled sadly.  “I know.  I resigned.  But for a while I considered going back.  I know now though that I don’t want to go back…ever.  I only want to go forward now.”  She threw her head back and put on a mock serious face, lowering her voice.  “I’ve retired from my former life…”

Chakotay laughed.  “That’s not a bad imitation of Owen Paris…”  Kathryn laughed with him but it wasn’t entirely convincing.

Chakotay shook his head.  “What will you do?”

Kathryn shrugged.  “I need to do something.  I need to work…feel useful.  I don’t know what I’ll do yet.  I still love science.  I could do research…some kind of consultancy work.  I could even teach.”  She sighed softly.  “I’ll find something I want to do…but on my terms.  Something I’ll be happy doing.  No pressure.  No stress.  Not being responsible for 150 lives.”  She was quiet for a moment remembering the lives she lost and paying tribute to them.

“I spent so long out there exploring…and yet my life here…me…inside me…is un-chartered territory.”  She turned back to Chakotay.  “What about you?”

He smiled as he looked out over the darkening sky.  “Archaeology and paleontology…  I love it.  It’s what I’ve always wanted to do…but here on Earth.”  He smiled at the woman at his side.  “I’ve also had enough of space.  We sought and solved so many mysteries out there…made so many discoveries…and yet there are still so many questions about our own past right here…so many gaps.  I want to fill those gaps…discover my own people’s history…study it and learn more about what my father tried so hard to teach me.”

Kathryn smiled contentedly at that.  “Looks like we both have voyages of discovery to make.”  She studied his face.  “Solitary journeys can be lonely though…”

Chakotay smiled down at her.  “Are you asking me to be your XO again?”

Kathryn smiled and shook her head.  “No.  This ship only has room for those of equal rank…”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow at that.  “Promotion?”  He pretended to think about that.  “Ummm…I accept…”  He reached down and took her hands in his, his face serious now.  “Kathryn, you’ve done amazingly well.  You’ve made a wonderful recovery.  I’m very proud of you.”

Kathryn tried to laugh away his compliment but he could see she was flattered.  “I’m kind of proud of myself…  It feels good.”

He squeezed her hands.  “You’ve a lot to be proud of…”  He looked up at the sky, the stars coming out now.  “Come on.  It’s getting dark and it’s getting cool too.  I’ll make you a nice hot chocolate.”

Kathryn’s eyes lit up at that.  “That’s music to my ears.  Lead on.”  She turned and almost lost her balance as her right foot sank into the sand. 

Chakotay grabbed her.  “Come on lady.  Let me get you home.  Lean on me.”

Kathryn stopped and looked into his eyes, her expression soft.  “You’ve said that to me before.”

Chakotay smiled as he remembered and slipped his arm around her waist.  “Yes…and I’ve never regretted it.  I meant it then and I mean it now.  I’ll always mean it.” 

^^^^^^^^^^

That night Chakotay couldn’t sleep so he got up and made himself some tea.  He took his cup over to the couch and sat down, turning on the small reading lamp there, intending to read. 

He activated the padd he held and looked at the words for several minutes but they refused to register in his mind.  Finally he put the padd down and turned off the light, content to just stare out at the ocean in the moonlight.

He sensed her rather than heard her.  He turned his head and saw her standing there in her robe, looking down at him.  He hadn’t heard her bedroom door open.  He smiled at her and lifted his cup.  “I tried to be quiet making this.  I’m sorry if I woke you.”

Kathryn smiled softly and shook her head.  “I was awake already.  I was just going to get myself one…” 

Chakotay shook up, intending to make her a cup also.  She gestured for him to sit.  “It’s OK.  I’ll get it.”  She turned and went into the small kitchen area, returning a few minutes later with her own cup of tea.  She raised it towards him.  “Tea.  I promise.”

Chakotay smiled at her and went to turn on the light.  Kathryn sat down beside him.  “Please leave it off.”

He nodded and withdrew his hand.  “All right.”

Kathryn sipped at her tea and lay back against the couch.  “Your sea isn’t working tonight…isn’t sending me to sleep.”  She rolled her head to look at him.

Chakotay lay back also.  “At least you’re not compounding the problem with coffee.  Tea will relax you.” 

Kathryn moved her eyes from his face to the window, looking out at the view.  “There’s something very special about the beach in the moonlight.  You feel you’re part of something no one else is seeing.”  She dropped her head.  “I think there was a time I felt I’d never enjoy anything again.”  She turned again to look at him and he could see her tears in the moonlight.  “I think of it now as having been away somewhere terrible for a time but then you brought me back from there.  Does that make sense?”

Chakotay reached for her hand and squeezed gently.  “It makes a lot of sense.  You came back yourself though, Kathryn.  I may have helped a little but you did most of the work.”

Kathryn shook her head as she looked down at his hand on hers.  She turned hers in his and squeezed back.  “I couldn’t have done it without you.  I had no reason to do it and that’s the difference.  You were my reason.”

Chakotay smiled softly at her.  “I’m honored then…” 

They were silent for a while as they both finished their tea.  Chakotay leaned forward and put his empty cup on the coffee table.  Kathryn handed him her own cup to place beside it then they both lay back to watch the ocean, each totally comfortable with the other.

Chakotay finally broke the silence, his voice low.  “Are you all right?  You said you couldn’t sleep…”

Kathryn sighed softly.  “I’m fine.  I was just lying there thinking.  I heard you get up.”  She sat forward suddenly and looked at him.  “Did I disturb you?  Did you want to be on your own?”

Chakotay shook his head and smiled his reassurance.  “Of course not.  I just couldn’t sleep either.”  He sat forward.  “Kathryn, it’s your home.  I was worried I’d have disturbed you or you would have woken up.”

Kathryn accepted that and lay back again.  “You didn’t.  I promise.”

Chakotay nodded slowly and lay back beside her.  “What were you thinking about?  If that’s not too personal…”

Kathryn shook her head and sat up again, looking down at him.  She seemed shy suddenly.  “I was thinking…”  She licked at her lips.  “I was thinking that…I’ve looked back for long enough.”  She shrugged slightly.  “I think it’s time I looked ahead now.  I feel ready to go forward, although…”

Chakotay frowned and reached up to place a hand on her shoulder.  “Although…?”

Kathryn smiled shyly.  “It would be nice…not to…have to do that…alone…”

Chakotay sat up, his face close to hers.  “You’re not alone, Kathryn.”  His words echoed back through the years and they both smiled, sharing the memory.

Kathryn reached up and placed her hand over his on her shoulder.  “If you still want me…”  She bit at her lower lip.  “I don’t know…  Perhaps we could try…”  She looked down into her lap, unsure of herself now.

Chakotay sat all the way up and pulled his hand from her shoulder but continued to hold onto hers.  “Kathryn, only if you’re sure.  I don’t want you to feel under any obligation to me.  First and foremost, we’re friends and I’ll always love you.  However, I don’t want you to feel pressure to return that unless you’re completely…”

Kathryn took his hand in both of hers, her words interrupting his.  “Chakotay, do you remember when I told you about…about Mark…and what he said…?”

He was taken aback by that but nodded slowly.  He gripped her hand more tightly.  “I remember.”

Kathryn licked at her lips again and drew in a deep breath.  She looked right into his eyes.  “I told you that he accused me of thinking of someone else…”  Chakotay barely nodded.  “Well…he was right.  I was…”

Chakotay’s voice was a whisper.  “Who were you thinking of?”

She smiled shyly at him.  “Do you really have to ask that?”

Chakotay found himself holding his breath.  “Me…?”

Kathryn nodded.  “It was what got me through…got me through all of that time even though it felt so wrong to bring your memory into that situation.  I mourned your loss but inside me…in a special place…I still had my dreams.  They sustained me.  They…”  She looked up at him, seeking his understanding.  She smiled when she saw she had it.

Chakotay looked down to where she held his hand.  “Seven accused me of the same thing.  I told you that.  She said she knew how I felt about you.  She told me she was leaving because she knew I still loved you.  Of course I know now it was because you weren’t there to see us together.  That’s what she wanted…to see you hurt.”  He looked out over the room.  “I feel so guilty about that.  Not because of her…but did I push her to do what she did?  Had I hidden my feelings better…maybe she wouldn’t have gone after you…”

Kathryn squeezed his hands to get him to look back at her.  “Don’t go there, Chakotay.  She would have done what she did no matter what you did.  The damage was already done and her feelings against me were already there.  That was just an excuse for her.”

Chakotay didn’t look convinced.  “But what if I pushed her over the edge…?”

Kathryn shook her head.  “You couldn’t help how you felt.  I guess she couldn’t either.  You’ve nothing to feel guilty about and I can’t allow myself to feel that way either.  All that’s in the past now.  We have to leave it there and let it go.  Dwelling on it and trying to make sense of it all just keeps us tied to that part.  We let it go.  OK?”  She squeezed his hand more tightly to make her point. 

He smiled softly at her.  “OK.  It’s the past.  It’s gone.  Only now and the future matters…”

Kathryn smiled and nodded at that, then licked at her lips.  “Now…please…before I lose my courage to ask…”  She still smiled but her eyes showed some fear.  “Would you…kiss me…?”

In answer, Chakotay pulled his hands free and placed them each side of her face.  He looked deeply into her eyes.  “Are you sure?  Are you ready?”

Kathryn’s face fell a little and she looked down.  “If you’d rather not…”  She looked up when he increased the pressure of his hold slightly.

“Kathryn, I want nothing more.  I just want you to be sure this is what you want…to take this step.  There’s no hurry and there’s no obligation and…”

In answer to that, Kathryn reached up and pressed her hand to his lips, silencing him.  “I love you.  I always have.  Please…”

That was all the reassurance Chakotay needed.  He nodded as he studied her, her hand falling away now.  He moved towards her slowly, savoring every second.  He moved his hands back to slide his fingers through her hair and yet pull her towards him at the same time.  “I love you too, Kathryn.  From the first moment I saw you…”

He said no more as his lips brushed hers, caressing them softly for a moment.  He saw her eyes close and closed his own as he felt her hands rest against his chest before her fingers gripped his robe.

The kiss was all Chakotay had ever dreamed of.  As he pressed against her lips, he felt her open her mouth beneath his, tentatively inviting him in where he wanted to be.  He felt Kathryn’s arms slip around his waist, applying gentle pressure to pull him towards her.  With one hand still holding her head Chakotay’s other hand slipped down her back, stroking up and down as he pressed his lips to hers more firmly now, bringing his tongue into play.

He heard Kathryn moan deeply in her throat, the sound telling him so much.  He deepened the kiss and lost himself in her taste and scent.  Her hands opened and closed on his back and she pressed forward, her mouth moving under his, her tongue dueling with his.

Time lost meaning as they discovered each other.  Kathryn felt the ache begin in her centre and actually squirmed in an attempt to ease it.  It increased when Chakotay’s hand explored from her back to the underside of her breast.  She pressed herself into his hand, silently giving him permission in his exploration.  As his hand covered her breast and his finger stroked over her nipple, Kathryn pressed her legs together and leaned harder into the kiss.

Eventually they had to come up for air.  Kathryn was almost panting for breath as she rested her forehead against his.  Chakotay tilted her face back and smiled down at her.  “Had I known you could kiss like that…”

Kathryn smiled self consciously.  “I was just thinking the same thing about you.  It’s just as well I didn’t know or we’d never have gotten home.”

They both seemed unsure of the next move as they continued holding each other, gently stroking and caressing.  Kathryn smiled gently at him.  “I feel like a teenager.”

Chakotay smiled and shook his head.  “Take it from me, Kathryn.  There’s nothing ‘teenager’ about you.  You’re all woman.”

Kathryn actually blushed and hoped he couldn’t see it in the moonlight.  “Thank you.  I feel like one though.  I don’t know…”  She looked up at him, her eyes searching his.

He grew serious as he watched her.  “What do you want, Kathryn?”

His question was so honest and she answered him just as honestly, pushing her shyness aside.  “I want you to make love with me.”  The words were out.  She’d finally spoken them aloud and he saw her fear that she’d shocked him or disappointed him.

He tightened his hold on her.  “I want nothing more.  I just want you to be sure you’re ready…  I mean emotionally as well as physically.  I never want to hurt you or push you into something you’re not ready for…”

Kathryn loved him even more in that moment.  She smiled lovingly at him.  “I’m sure and I’m more than ready…”  She blushed again at that.  “Emotionally and…physically…”

Chakotay smiled at that and broke the awkward moment.  “I thought you were squirming a bit there…”  He grew serious when he saw her embarrassment.  “Kathryn, I’m so flattered that I can have that effect on you.  You’ve had the same effect on me, you know.”

Kathryn glanced down and then caught herself.  Chakotay laughed softly.  “That’s what you do to me.  Don’t be embarrassed.  It’s a wonderful thing.”  He stroked a finger over her lips.  “Just tell me what you need, Kathryn.  I don’t want to hurt you or…”

Kathryn shook her head quickly.  “You could never hurt me.  I want you and need you as you are…”

She never got to say more.  Chakotay leaned forward and claimed her mouth again.  This time when they came up for air, Kathryn slid off the couch and pulled at his hand.  Her permission was given and he accepted the gift she was offering him as he stood to join her.

He whispered in the still air.  “Your room or mine…?”

Kathryn whispered back to him.  “What was mine.  Ours now.”  She smiled.  “Besides, the bed’s bigger.”  She gasped then as Chakotay swept her up into his arms.

“Our bed then…”       

^^^^^^^^^^

Their joining was everything they had both dreamed and fantasized about over the years.  Kathryn lay back and allowed his worship of her body, his fingers trailing over her skin.  Her eyes mapped his body also, her breath catching in her throat.  When he lay beside her and suckled on her breasts, she threw her head back and moaned in ecstasy.  Soon his hands explored further, reaching the juncture of her legs.  She opened herself to him and squeezed her eyes tightly closed as his fingers found what they were looking for.

She reached for him then, needing to hold on and explore him as he discovered her.  Finally when the dam was ready to burst, Chakotay lay over her, his fingers entwined with hers above her head as he pressed against her.  He whispered to her in the darkness.  “I’ll be as gentle as I can…”

Kathryn shook her head.  “I don’t need gentle.  I need you.  Please…”

Despite her words, he pressed slowly into her and watched as she fought to keep her eyes open as he filled her.  Kathryn moaned loudly.  “Oh God…Chakotay …”

He lowered his mouth to hers as he pressed home, feeling her legs come around his waist.  Her mouth devoured his as he began to move slowly but she had other ideas.  Her hips moved against his, her urgency clearly read. 

Chakotay tortured her with long and short strokes.  He moved faster then slower, driving her wild.  She tore her hands from his and gripped his back.  “Oh God…please…”

He didn’t deny her anymore.  He knew now he wasn’t hurting her and let go.  As he felt her inner muscles begin to contract, he slammed himself into her triggering both their orgasms.

^^^^^^^^^^

THREE YEARS LATER.



“Kathryn, what are you doing?  Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Kathryn looked at her husband in pure innocence.  “Nothing.”

Chakotay rolled his eyes.  “Don’t lift him.  He’s too heavy for you.”

Kathryn rolled her own eyes in imitation of his.  “Chakotay, he’s just a baby.”

Chakotay reached for his son and took him from his wife’s arms.  “No Kathryn, he’s a whopping two year old…and in case you’ve forgotten, you’re seven months pregnant with his sister.”

Kathryn just sighed in exasperation.  “Yes daddy.  God, you’re so protective.  I took early maternity leave so I wouldn’t be on my feet all day teaching.  We’re on vacation and I’m eating all the right things…”  A smile quickly covered her face as she picked up their bag.  “I take it I can carry the towels?”

Chakotay softened as he looked at her, her stomach swollen with his child.  “I just worry.  I can’t help it.”  He leaned over and kissed her tenderly. 

Two year old Jamie squirmed in his father’s arms.  “ool…ool…”

Chakotay pulled back from Kathryn and tickled the toddler.  “All right.  Pool it is…”

As Kathryn walked ahead of him towards the hotel’s pool, Chakotay suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.  He frowned and looked around, a remnant of something from his Maquis days telling him he was being watched.  He suddenly locked eyes with one of the waiters and felt his blood run cold.

Without taking his eyes off the man, Chakotay put his son down.  He moved to block Kathryn’s view of him and glanced towards her.  “Honey, can you take him?  I left something in the room.”

Kathryn looked back over her shoulder and reached her hand down to her son.  “You always forget something.  If that head of yours wasn’t screwed on…”  She laughed then.  “I’m the one who’s supposed to forget everything with being pregnant.”

Chakotay forced a smile on his face as he glanced at her, making sure she hadn’t noticed anything.  “I’m just coming out in sympathy with you.”  He stepped back.  “Go and find us some pool chairs.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

Kathryn just rolled her eyes and pulled Jamie along with her.  “Come on, honey.  Let’s find some  nice shade for daddy.  The sun is getting to him.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Once Kathryn and his son disappeared around the hedging to the pool, Chakotay moved slowly watching the waiter as he too began to move.  The man suddenly broke into a run, disappearing around the side of the hotel, Chakotay in hot pursuit.  Still being in top physical condition from working on digs, he caught up with the fleeing man in seconds.

This side of the hotel was quiet and Chakotay slammed his quarry against the hotel wall, his forearm immediately pressing down on the other man’s windpipe.

Mark Johnston struggled for a moment before realizing the futility of it.  He gasped to breathe.  “You’re…choking…me…”

Chakotay moved his arm just a fraction and grinned down into the terrified face.  “Don’t tempt me or give me ideas.”  His words hissed out.  “Now what the fuck are you doing here?  Why were you watching us?”

Mark managed to draw in some breath.  “Wasn’t.  Work here.” 

Chakotay looked down at his uniform and eased his arm back a little more.  “Why?”

Mark pulled more air into his lungs.  “I work…on the island…wasn’t following you…I swear…just saw you…”

Chakotay took his arm off the other man’s throat but still held him against the wall.  “You expect me to believe this coincidence?”

Mark tried to regulate his breathing and closed his eyes a moment.  “It’s the truth.  Ask anyone.  I’ve been here…almost two years.  Besides…I got your warning…your message…loud and clear…”  He glared up at Chakotay.  “Those bastards made it clear…ruined me…  I came here…as far away as I could…only job I can do now…all I can handle…”

Chakotay just sneered down at him.  “My heart bleeds.”

Mark moved one hand slowly to his neck and rubbed at it.  “I moved here.  I thought your spies would have told you…”  He took a deep breath.  “Do you know what they did to me?”

Chakotay smirked and shrugged.  “I heard something about you getting a taste of your own medicine.”

Mark looked down.  “They took my life…ruined it…ruined my marriage…I couldn’t cope with my work anymore…  I needed weeks of medical treatment…counseling…”

Chakotay laughed.  “You did most of that yourself.  You won’t get any pity from me.”

With a last bit of defiance, Mark looked hard at Chakotay.  “Kathryn looks well.  I take it you’re married and that’s your kid…the one on the way too…  When is it due?”

Chakotay slammed his arm back against Mark’s throat so fast he actually saw the remaining color drain from his face.  He spat his words out.  “You go near her…touch her…even look at her or let her see you and I give you my word that I will kill you.  That’s no idle threat.  It wasn’t just me, you know.  She has a lot of friends who’d be only too happy to pay you another visit, and believe me, it would make the other one pale into insignificance.”

The threat was understood and believed.  Chakotay saw it in the other man’s eyes.  Real fear resided there now.  It was closer to terror, in fact.  Despite that, he felt the need to grasp what last shred of himself he could.  “Your thugs you mean…”

Chakotay pressed down harder.  “Not my thugs.  Actually I learned about it after the fact.  Needless to say, I didn’t cry for you.  You weren’t worth it.  They decided that for themselves.  Kathryn and I have a lot of damn good and loyal friends.  Well trained too.  You’d do well to remember that.”

Mark struggled to breathe.  “Is…that…a…threat…?”

Chakotay’s eyes bore into his.  “It’s a fucking promise.”  He pulled back again and looked Mark up and down.  “It pleases me to see they succeeded with you.  You’re pitiful looking.  Look at you.  You have nothing.”  He shook his head.  “I read up on your divorce, by the way.  ‘Infidelity… cruelty…unable to father a child’.  Tell me…did you also have to drug those other women to get them to be with you?”  Chakotay watched Mark’s face carefully.  “Yeah…we know about that.  It doesn’t say much about you as a man, does it?”

Mark still struggled to breathe.  “You ruined me.  I’ve nothing left…”

Chakotay grinned at that.  “It must hurt like hell to look at your own miserable life and then see hers.”

Before Mark could draw a breath, Chakotay grabbed him and brought his knee up hard into the other man’s groin.  He let go and watched his enemy fall to the ground in agony clutching himself.  Chakotay knelt down beside him and dug his fingers into Mark’s throat.  “That’s for Kathryn.”  He pressed down harder, Mark choking for breath.  “Leave here now, you fucking son of a bitch.  If I see even a passing glimpse of you, and especially if Kathryn does…you’ll die by my hands.  I give you my word on that.  Disappear off the face of the Earth.”

He stood up and kicked the fallen man in the gut as hard as he could, hearing a pained grunt.  “And that’s for Seven.”  He drew in a ragged breath as he stepped back, pleased with his work.  “Disappear forever.  You have an hour.”  With that he turned and walked away.

^^^^^^^^^^

When Chakotay returned to Kathryn and their son she glanced up at him, shielding her eyes from the sun.  “What kept you?  And your hair is wet.  Did you have a shower or something?  You’re wearing a different shirt…”

Chakotay flopped down beside her and forced a grin on his face.  “You won’t believe this…”

Kathryn sighed and lay back.  “Probably not…but try me…”  She looked towards the toddler’s pool, satisfied that Jamie was well supervised.  “Tell me this fantastic story…”

Chakotay laughed.  “I went back to the room for my sun glasses…”  He pointed to the pair he wore.  “I then fell over one of Jamie’s shoes, which he thoughtfully left in the middle of the floor.  Banged off the refreshment unit and spilled his orange juice all over my shirt.  So I was stained and sticky and hot again and the only answer was a quick shower.”

Kathryn just stared at him in amusement.  “Only you could manage all that.  And what do you mean ‘a quick shower’?  I’ve taken shorter baths…”

Chakotay smirked.  “It was lovely and cool and hard to get out…”

Kathryn just waved a hand at him and slipped her own sun glasses on.  “Don’t tell me any more.  I don’t think I want or need to hear it.”  She smiled at him then and reached for his hand, her other hand caressing her stomach.  “Anyway, you’re here now.  You can get me a nice cool drink and then rub my aching back…”

Chakotay groaned and stood up, making his way to the bar.  He heard Kathryn call after him.  “Don’t spill it now…”  Her laughter followed and he grinned back at her.  He moved to the bar then, his expression changing from his smile to one of stone.  He allowed it for a moment and then forced it away.  He smiled at the bartender.  “Two club sodas please.  Plenty of ice.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn and Chakotay had a leisurely swim after their drinks, playing with Jamie in the shallow end of the pool.  When they dried off, Chakotay suggested they have their dinner before returning to their room instead of going back to change and then coming out again.

Kathryn looked doubtful.  “I’m a mess, Chakotay.  I’d rather shower off and wash my hair then relax over dinner.”

Chakotay offered a compromise.  “OK.  How about we get Jamie his dinner and we have a snack with him.  We can get a sitter at reception and come out on our own later for a proper dinner.”  He wanted to stay away from the hotel for as long as he could.

Kathryn bought that and agreed.  “You win.  I am a bit hungry anyway.  A snack would be good…”

^^^^^^^^^^

It was three hours before they returned to the hotel.  Chakotay tensed immediately when he saw several security officers and paramedics in the lobby.  He pulled Kathryn to the side.  “Take Jamie away from the doors for a few minutes until I see what’s happening.”

Kathryn looked around at the gathering crowd and nodded, pulling the now tired boy with her.  He protested but went with his mother. 

Chakotay spotted the hotel manager and walked over to him.  “What’s wrong, Paul?”  He had gotten to know the man fairly well in a matter of days, seeking tourist information from him.

The manager sighed heavily and looked around him.  “I’m sorry.  I’m afraid we’ve had an incident.  One of our staff…” 

Chakotay’s senses went on full alert.  “What happened?”

The manager glanced around and when satisfied that no one could hear them, he leaned closer to Chakotay.  “One of our waiters.  He was about two years with us.  I don’t understand.  He was quiet but…”  He sighed.  “He committed suicide.  His roommate found him about an hour ago.  He was already dead at that stage.  Seems he gained access to the security office and took one of the phasers there.  He didn’t even leave a note from what I could see…”  He spread his hands.  “We’ve never had anything like this happen here before.”  He looked up at Chakotay.  “I offer you my sincere apologies.”

Chakotay felt a fist form in his guts but showed only calm on the outside.  He patted the manager on the shoulder.  “It’s not your fault, Paul.  None of us can know what’s in a person’s mind.  These things happen and are completely out of your hands.”

Paul smiled his thanks then looked around at the sound of the lift opening.  Both men watched as a stretcher was wheeled out, a black body bag covered with a grey blanket on it.  Chakotay watched as the medics stopped and gestured for the manager to come over.  He looked at Chakotay and smiled his apology.  “Excuse me…”

Chakotay nodded.  “I understand.”  Just as the man moved away, he took a step towards him.  “Paul, if you don’t mind my asking…  What was the man’s name?”

The manager looked uncertain for a moment and then nodded.  “Johnston.  Mark Johnston.”  He frowned.  “Why?”

Chakotay merely shrugged.  “I just wondered.  We’ve gotten to know the waiters from breakfast.  I worried it might have been one of them.”

Paul shook his head.  “I know the waiters who serve breakfast.  It isn’t any of them.  This man works the tables outside…”  He sighed.  “Worked…  I doubt you knew him.”  He looked at Chakotay.  “I’m sorry…I have to go…”

Chakotay smiled his thanks and waved his hand.  “Of course.”  He watched as the manager walked over to the stretcher.  One of the security officers whispered to him and he nodded.  The officer then pulled back the blanket and unzipped the bag a little.  Chakotay saw Paul look down and then away before he nodded, most likely confirming identity.  The officer closed up the bag and pulled the blanket back in place, but not before Chakotay caught a glimpse of the man he had hated beyond words.  He was gone now and would never hurt Kathryn or anyone else again.

He turned and walked back out into the sunshine.  He didn’t feel the guilt he expected, just the lifting of a weight.  Maybe someday years down the line he’d tell Kathryn about this but not now.  Their life was good.  They both had work they loved, a beautiful son, a happy home and marriage and now a daughter on the way.  Nothing was going to spoil that happiness.

^^^^^^^^^^

Once outside, Chakotay kept Kathryn and his son well away from the doors.  Kathryn frowned as she whispered to him.  “What’s happening?”

Deciding that a basic truth sounded better, Chakotay shook his head and whispered back to her.  “One of their staff died.”  He saw her shock.  “Suicide.  It’s best we wait here until they take him out.  Keep Jamie occupied.”

Kathryn hid her shock and nodded.  “Of course…”  She knelt down and played with the little boy until she glanced over and saw the body being taken out and loaded into an ambulance.

As the crowd began to disperse, nothing left to occupy their interest, Chakotay led Kathryn and Jamie back into the hotel.

Kathryn looked up at him and whispered to him as they walked across the cool lobby.  “Do you know who he was?  Was it someone we know…one of our waiters or bartenders?”

Chakotay drew in a deep breath and slipped his arm around her shoulders.  He managed a small smile.  “No, I don’t know who he was.  Paul said his name but it meant nothing to me.”



THE END.


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