Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17 ****
Voyager unexpectedly finds a way home, leaving Kathryn and Chakotay going their separate ways but when Kathryn is savagely attacked and raped by the brother of a dead crewmember, Chakotay comes back into her life to guide her through a slow and painful recovery.

Many Rivers To Cross

by Kat Lady


"Chakotay." B'Elanna ran up to her old friend, concern on her face, replacing the happiness which had been there just a moment ago. "Chakotay, wait up." Voyager's First Officer stopped walking and turned back. B'Elanna reached him and stood for a minute, catching her breath. "Chakotay, where are you going?"

He shrugged. "Just taking some time off. We've been given leave in case you didn't notice."

B'Elanna half smiled. "I know that. We've been given so much. I can't take it in."

Chakotay smiled gently at her. They were home and the homecoming was beyond his wildest hopes. The Maquis had been pardoned almost immediately and each member offered a posting with Starfleet, on top of back pay and honours. He came out of the memory and looked down at the half Klingon half Human woman who'd been his friend for so many years. "Have you decided what you're going to do?"

She smiled eagerly. "Tom and I will be doing research on some new ships. I'm handling the engineering side of things and Tom's the test pilot. It's a great opportunity. Something I never dreamed possible…" She looked up at her old friend. "You?"

He laughed. "I've taken a teaching post. You're looking at the Chief Lecturer in the Archaeology and Anthropology Department."

B'Elanna jumped into his arms and hugged him tightly. "Oh Chakotay, it's what you've always wanted." Her smile slipped a bit and she stood back. "What about…your other life…?"

Chakotay shook his head. "That's a different matter. I'm heading off now with Susan, going to meet her family…" He didn't miss the hurt look on the face before him. "B'El, come on…please…"

She looked down at the ground and shook her head. "I just thought…now we're home…" She looked up and glanced across the hall at their captain, standing alone and looking out at the large expanse of gardens, a sad and faraway look on her face.

Chakotay's voice brought her attention back to him. "Look, B'El, none of us knew we'd get home like this. It was so unexpected. Kathryn made it clear when we were out there that a relationship between us was out of the question. I accepted that, no matter how much it hurt, and I moved on."

B'Elanna shrugged her shoulders. "I know that but I always thought that once we got home… Chakotay, you know she couldn't out there… but we're here now…"

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "You think it's right that I would just drop Susan and go to Kathryn? B'El, that's cruel and you know it. Susan's been good to me, good for me. She's given me a life, a promise for the future. What kind of man would I be if I just dumped her? 'Sorry Susan, but we're home now. You've been a good diversion but there's someone else'."

The Engineer shook her head. "I didn't think things were that serious between you two."

Chakotay sighed deeply. "They're not…it's… Look, she's been there for me. We have feelings for each other and while it won't ever be half of what I feel for…" He left that unfinished. B'El, I have to go." He moved away and went to turn then felt a hand on his arm.

"So you're just going to walk away from her, not even say 'goodbye'? Chakotay, don't abandon her like this…" She saw a trace of anger cross his face.

"I'm not abandoning her, as you put it. If anyone let go, it was her, not that there was anything there to hold onto in the first place. Look at her…" He turned around and looked across at where Kathryn was now speaking with two admirals. "She has everything she needs right here. She belongs in this world, was born to it. There's never been room for me or anything else in her life, not really."

B'Elanna followed his gaze. "A moment ago she was alone over there. She was looking out the window with the saddest look on her face…" She looked back at Chakotay.

He met her eyes and shook his head. "B'El, she has her life and I have mine. Just leave it now. It was a nice dream while it lasted."

B'Elanna shook her head sadly. "And Susan Lowe is that dream now?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. What I can say is that it's real and not one sided. That's better than what I had with Kathryn. In fact, when I think about it, I never had anything with Kathryn Janeway, only what I hoped for in my own head.

B'Elanna showed a spark of anger. "I don't believe that. I know how you felt about her, still feel about her. She knew that too and I honestly believe she returns that love. She just couldn't act on it out there."

Chakotay turned away again. "Look, I have to go. I hear what you're saying but it's too late now. It just wasn't meant to be. I'll see you in a month." He leaned down and hugged her and then was gone.

B'Elanna stood staring after Chakotay, even when he'd disappeared around a corner. She felt a hand on her back and turned to see her captain, a nervous look on her face.

"B'Elanna, was that Chakotay?"

The younger woman composed herself and smiled. "Yes, Captain, he's taking his leave now…" She saw Kathryn's face fall.

"He's leaving already? I thought he might have…" She forced a smile on her face. "Never mind…"

B'Elanna gave a sad smile. "Captain, he…"

Kathryn interrupted her. "B'Elanna, please call me Kathryn. I'm really not your captain any more…"

B'Elanna smiled. "Kathryn it is but you'll always be my captain…"

Kathryn smiled and blinked back a few tears. "Did Chakotay say…? No, it's all right… Thanks, B'Elanna…" She turned to go but B'Elanna moved in front of her.

"Cap…Kathryn…he's taken a teaching position here. He's just taking some time away until then…" She studied the older woman's face and saw deep pain there.

"B'Elanna, it's all right. I'm happy for him. I'm glad he found the work he's always wanted to do and I'm also happy…" She looked down for a moment. "I'm also happy he's found someone who can give him what I… I really hope he and Susan are happy together." She looked down again, hiding her face. "I'd better head off. I'll see you again and…" Suddenly she leaned in and hugged B'Elanna. "Thank you for all you did and all you were out there."

B'Elanna hugged her back, feeling a slight trembling in the small body she held against her. "Thank you, Kathryn. You got us all home." She pulled back and saw tears running down her former captain's face.

"Not everyone. I left so many behind…"

B'Elanna went to say something but just then Tom came over, grinning from ear to ear. "Ladies, what a day." He stopped when he saw Kathryn's tears and his wife's sad expression.

Kathryn brushed quickly at her face. "I must go. I've a lot to sort out." She smiled quickly at the young couple. "I'll see you soon." She was gone before it registered with them.

Tom moved over to his wife and slipped an arm around her shoulders. "What was all that about?"

B'Elanna shook her head and filled him in. "I really hoped that things would work out there. I'm worried about her."

Tom nodded. "Yeah, me too. Did you know she put in for a desk job here?"

B'Elanna looked up at him quickly. "You're kidding. I always thought space was where she'd want to be."

Tom shook his head. "I get the feeling she thought she might have something to stay home for now." He wiped at the tears which escaped B'Elanna's eyes. "I know, honey, but there's nothing we can do about it."

She hugged him. "Let's just go home, Tom."

He hugged her back and together they left Headquarters, headed for the house they'd found just the day before, sad for their friends but grateful for the life which lay ahead of them.

Over the next month, the time allotted to all Voyager crew for leave, Kathryn spent her days at her old home, sorting through her mother's belongings. Phoebe came by occasionally to help but mostly there was strain between the sisters. Eventually Phoebe's visits dwindled to nothing and Kathryn found to her own distress that she didn't miss her. They were two people connected by blood but nothing else existed between them outside of some shared memories of childhood and even those weren't always happy.

Gretchen Janeway had died about a year before Voyager returned home and although Kathryn had been informed of her death through the data streams they received, her grief seemed fresh now that she was in the house and amongst the old woman's things. Memories of happier times waited around every corner and jumped out at her constantly but by the end of the four weeks, she'd cleared the house, letting her sister take the furniture. Kathryn kept very little for herself, only her own belongings and a few keepsakes from the life she'd once known in this house. She looked down at the three boxes which held all she would take with her.

"Not much to show for all those years…" Her words echoed around the now empty house. She shook her head sadly and taking a last look around her, walked away. She transported to the office of the agent who was handling matters for her and handed over all the legal documents and key codes he'd need. She knew the man was watching her, probably having seen faces like hers a thousand times, as people let go of their past. She finally smiled at him. "I take it that's the lot?"

He nodded. "The new owners will move in tomorrow. Ownership has been handed over and all legal matters are now closed. Funds have been transferred to yourself and your sister."

Kathryn nodded sadly. "End of an era…" She saw his sad smile and returned it. "Thank you again for all your help. Goodbye." They shook hands and Kathryn walked away, leaving everything she'd known behind her. An uncertain future awaited her and she found she actually didn't care one way or the other.

Chakotay and Susan Lowe spent their month visiting each other's families and spending time alone together. Susan was like a little girl on holiday and her mood was constantly up. Occasionally it infected Chakotay, but there was always a hidden sadness about him which Susan noticed. "Chakotay, you are happy with me, aren't you?"

He smiled and brushed her hair back. They were lying on a beach near her parents' home in Southern California. He smiled at her, then sat up, trying to hide how he felt. "Susan, I'm happy. If I seem sad from time to time, it's… You had far more to come home to. Can you understand? My family are…"

She smiled sadly at him. "Oh Chakotay, I'm sorry. I didn't think. I guess I just take my family for granted…" She saw his serious expression.

"That's the biggest mistake you can ever make in life, to take someone's presence in your life for granted, to assume they'll always be there…" His voice trailed off as he looked out over the ocean. "That road leads to a lot of pain…" He felt Susan sit up beside him and turned back to her. Her expression was guarded but she looked worried.

"Just who are we talking about here?" Chakotay heard a warning bell in his mind. He knew Susan had been only too well aware of the feelings he'd carried for their captain.

"I'm speaking generally. We, all of us, can take the people in our lives for granted. I always assumed my family would be there for me." He looked at her and saw her expression soften. "I spent long hours with my father when I was a boy and hated much of it. I didn't want to know what he was trying to teach me. All I wanted was to grow up and get out into the world. Now I'd give anything for just one hour with him again…"

Susan smiled softly. "Sorry, Chakotay. I understand. I've just never lost anyone who was close to me. Oh, aunts and uncles died, but I didn't know them well. My grandparents were dead before I could understand about all that. I've lost some friends but again, they were never close friends…"

Chakotay nodded. "Think yourself very fortunate." They lay back and eventually fell asleep in the warm evening sunshine.

Chakotay reported back to Starfleet at the end of his month's leave and quickly settled into his new life. Teaching opened up a completely new world to him and he enjoyed every second of it. Watching his students' faces as he took them on a tour through the past gave him a feeling of fulfilment he hadn't known before with work. He gloried in the wonder of discovery he saw on their faces and through them learned a new appreciation for what he spoke of.

His relationship with Susan Lowe was still ongoing but something always held him back from advancing it. He sensed her frustration but for the most part, ignored it. It didn't help that she wasn't happy with her work, finding the novelty of being back on Earth wearing off now. He watched her grow more and more uneasy with the routine of their life and sensed deep down that there was no future for them together.

He rarely saw Kathryn now and at the end of their first month back at work had only seen her three times, always from a distance, but he knew she'd also seen him. Not once had he had the courage to call to see her and he constantly berated himself for the coward he felt himself to be. Something inside warned him that if he once spoke with her, his life as he knew it, would be turned upside down. He thought of Susan and knew what he felt for her would never be enough to sustain a marriage or a long-term relationship but the fear of being on his own again kept him where he was.

Only once had he spoken of seeing Kathryn to Susan and instantly regretted it. What followed had been their first real fight, with Susan accusing him of still being in love with Kathryn and how she was only second best. After an hour of screaming at each other, they'd both finally calmed down and made up. In bed that night in her apartment, Chakotay lay awake revisiting their fight and what had been spoken of. He listened to Susan's even breathing beside him then slipped out of bed.

He sat in the living room and looked out the window at the stars and remembered other times and places. As the sky lightened, he returned to their bed, his heart heavy but with an acceptance of his lot. He stood for several minutes watching Susan lying before him and shook his head sadly. He knew night was the wrong time to visit the land of 'what could have been'. Pushing the thoughts away, he climbed back into bed and forced sleep upon himself.

Kathryn's life was about functioning, as one day ran into the next with little to tell the difference between them. Her superiors were happy with her work, finding no fault with it and for the most part, she was content with the challenges they put before her. She stayed long hours at her office, having come to hate the emptiness of her small apartment. At night, she often went for long walks rather than sit in and stare at the walls, many times not returning to her home until the early hours.

Tom and B'Elanna kept in touch with both their former captain and First Officer and saw how unhappy the pair were, no matter how well hidden. They saw less of Chakotay now, only occasionally visiting for dinner and B'Elanna knew the reason. They sat at home one night, discussing their friends.

"I really think Chakotay would like more contact with us. It's that Susan…"

Tom shook his head. "You saw that before I did…"

B'Elanna sighed and looked at him. "Tom, this isn't just women's intuition. There's open hostility there with her. She wants him to herself, doesn't like him having anything to do with the old crowd and if you mention Kathryn… Well, you saw her face the last time we were there and I mentioned their time on that planet…"

Tom laughed. "I remember Chakotay's face more. Thought he'd choke on his food…"

His wife laughed now at the memory. "He probably got it in the neck later on." She grew serious. "Tom, seriously though, when we're there I feel I have to think about every word I say. It's only natural that we'd all tell stories about our time out there. You can't do that without mentioning Kathryn. What does she expect? Besides, I don't know what she's worried about. Chakotay is living with her, well almost."

Tom looked puzzled. "I thought he was living with her."

B'Elanna shook her head. "He has a house of his own somewhere he bought a while back so I guess that tells her something."

Tom blew out a breath. "Guess it does. She's a strange woman. She seems to want to possess Chakotay yet I get the feeling that this life doesn't suit her, that she'd rather be off doing something else. I can't figure it."

B'Elanna sat forward and looked around their garden, taking in the flowers she'd come to love growing. "I could be wrong but I get the feeling she just wants Chakotay because she can have him. Maybe at first it was about more but now… As to him, I think he feels what he has is better than being alone…"

Tom nodded and took his wife's hand in his. "Talking of being alone…" B'Elanna nodded at him, both of them knowing exactly who he meant. "She worries the hell out of me." Tom didn't try and hide how he felt and B'Elanna squeezed his hand.

"I know, Tom, me too. We've been there twice to see her and she's only been here once. I got the feeling that seeing what we have upset her too much."

Tom stared up at the darkening sky. "I know what you mean. I got that feeling too. The famous mask was in place all night." He leaned forward, taking B'Elanna with him. "She seems so…sad, I guess…"

B'Elanna nodded beside him. "I'll tell you what worries me the most…" Tom looked around at her. "Her late night adventures or whatever you want to call them…" He nodded. "Tom, I've called her late a few times, knowing she wouldn't be home before that, that she always works late and I think that's to avoid being in that apartment." She shook her head. "It's often past midnight when I get to speak with her and I always get the same answer, that she was taking a walk. I've warned her of the risks of walking alone so late…" She looked desperately at her husband. "I can't get through to her. I know she'd rather be out than at home alone but Tom…" He nodded with sympathy, having no answer.

B'Elanna had one though. "When I was at the Academy…" She laughed. "For the short time I was there…" Tom smiled at her, shaking his head. "When I was there, I remember a lecture we had from some cranky old admiral. Oh, he'd been there, done it all…you know the kind…had the tee shirt to prove it…" Tom nodded his head, thinking of his own father. "Well, he spoke to us about bravery versus bravado, courage versus foolishness, his words. He told us bravery or courage was about having the wisdom and the intelligence to go with it, weighing up the risks against the chances of success and only then, when the sums added up, to go in and be brave about it. Bravado or foolishness was the complete opposite." She sat forward, pulling her hand out of Tom's, and leaned her head on her hands, her face reflecting the memories she was visiting.

"He told us what often appeared to be bravery was really this bravado or foolishness in disguise. 'Beware the reckless man or woman. They'll get you killed.' I never forgot his words and they come to mind now when I think of Kathryn." She looked back at the man beside her and saw him frown.

"You think she's reckless?"

She nodded. "What else do you call it? It's like she's no regard for her personal safety. The Kathryn of old would have spotted danger a mile off. This Kathryn doesn't even look for it anymore. In fact, she seems to go looking for it."

Tom sighed. "So what do we do?"

B'Elanna reached for his hand again. "Keep a closer eye on her. Call on her more. Take her to lunch when we can. I don't know, Tom. I know what I want to do but I can't…"

Tom smiled. "Let me guess. Get her and Chakotay and lock them in a room together…" The smile he got gave him his answer. "Sounds interesting…"

B'Elanna smirked. "Well, you know the way…"

Tom stood and reached down, pulling her to her feet then lifted her into his arms. "Oh, I know the way, all right…"

Tom and B'Elanna kept to their agreement to keep a closer eye on their former captain but it wasn't easy. She rarely accepted an invitation to join them for lunch and only once more came to their house for a meal. Twice they called to see her but only found her in on one occasion.

Chakotay and Susan were another matter. Contact with the couple slowly ground to a halt and although Chakotay spoke with them at Headquarters whenever they bumped into each other, he didn't make any offer for the four of them to get together. If asked how Susan was, he usually just grunted an answer, saying that she was fine.

Kathryn's life continued as always. She worked her long hours, arriving before her secretary and leaving long after he'd gone home, not usually getting back to her own apartment until late in the evening. She usually forced something into her stomach and tried to sleep or else went for one of her late walks, ignoring the curious stares she often received from those she passed, usually taking their dogs out for a last stroll before bed. Kathryn could never have answered anyone as to where she walked, only knowing that she always ended up back at her empty apartment and often she'd spend long minutes staring up at the darkened windows before going in. She never saw the man who lurked in the shadows, watching her every move.

Chakotay stood back and studied his decorating attempts. After several minutes, he replicated himself some tea and sat staring at the wall where several small sand paintings now hung. He looked around the room, feeling that finally it was starting to feel like a home.

As he sipped his tea, he thought back over the last month and shook his head sadly. Susan was no longer a part of his life and despite feeling lonely, he didn't miss her, which only told him that their relationship had been a mistake. He knew now it was being part of a couple and having someone to share his life which he'd been seeking, and not the woman Susan Lowe had been. He'd seen it coming to a head and knew it had started the last time Tom and B'Elanna had been for dinner. As soon as B'Elanna had mentioned New Earth, he'd felt the chill from the woman beside him and knew what was to come.

Once they were alone, the fireworks had ignited, leaving Susan screaming at him that there was no escape for them, that Kathryn Janeway would always hound them, even when she wasn't in the room.

"Of course, she is here really, isn't she? She's always here between us. She's inside you and that won't change."

Chakotay had shaken his head sadly. "Susan, I never lied to you about how I felt about her. She was a part of my life for a long time…"

Susan had merely snorted. "There was no relationship between you. You never even kissed her…" She had studied him closely for a moment. "At least that's what you told me but when I hear that Klingon and what she was saying tonight, I have to wonder…"

Chakotay had felt his anger start to boil over. "First off, that 'Klingon' is my good and trusted friend so don't even go there. Secondly, I never lied to you. Nothing ever happened between Kathryn and me…"

Susan had turned on him, spitting venom. "But you damned well wanted it to and still do. You can't let her go, can you?" She'd glared at him and had been met only with silence, which had given her the answer she hadn't wanted. "The fact that you bought a house for yourself speaks of how much this relationship means to you. Planning your future, are you?" Still he hadn't answered. "You've never even shown me the place."

Chakotay had just stared hard at her. "You're not exactly settled yourself. You're constantly restless. I know none of your friends and any we share, you don't want to know them."

Susan had glared back at him. "Only because all they ever talk about is Voyager and the great and wonderful Kathryn Janeway. She shares our life all the time and you don't want that to change. Well, do you? Tell me you can let her go." Chakotay had stared at the floor, unable to answer. "Guess that's the answer to that." She'd stormed off to bed, leaving him with the sofa.

That night had been the beginning of the end. They struggled through the motions for another week or so but in the end, Chakotay had taken what little he had at Susan's apartment and left. The last he heard, she'd left also, giving up the apartment and returning to space travel. A part of him didn't care but he also wished her well in his mind. They'd shared something for a while, fulfilled a need in each other and he held no malice against her.

Tom and B'Elanna kept up their efforts to keep an eye on Kathryn. They were amazed to have found her at home tonight and sat with her sipping wine as they chatted about their time on Voyager. Whether from the wine or the conversation, Kathryn had appeared more relaxed than they'd seen her in a while and the conversation flowed, the young couple careful to keep the subject off Chakotay. Finally, Kathryn herself brought up the topic.

"Have you seen Chakotay lately?"

Tom risked a glance at his wife. "Not much. He keeps himself to himself." He forced a smile on his face.

Kathryn leaned over and refilled their glasses. "He's happy though?" They saw the pain in her eyes.

B'Elanna shrugged. "I guess so. As Tom said, we don't see much of them…him…" She bit her tongue and saw Kathryn smile sadly.

"B'Elanna, you can mention her name in front of me. Susan. I just wanted to know if he was happy with Susan."

B'Elanna drew in a deep breath. "I think so. Kathryn, we haven't seen them for weeks and only see Chakotay around headquarters. I get the feeling 'Susan' doesn't like us around." Her last sentence dripped with bitterness and she saw Kathryn frown.

"But they seem happy together… I mean, the last time you saw them…?" Tom exchanged a look with his wife and saw that she was also remembering that evening. When they didn't answer immediately, Kathryn filled in the blank herself.

"Sorry, I don't mean to put you both on the spot like that. I shouldn't ask. It's really none of my business. Old habits die hard, I guess." They saw the deep sadness on her face before she camouflaged it with a smile.

The evening wound down quickly after that, Tom and B'Elanna sensing that Kathryn was uncomfortable now. She walked them to the door and waved them off, promising them that she'd call later in the week.

As they strolled down the road to the transporter station, Tom looked up to see a frown on his wife's face.

"B'El…?" She was staring at a man across the road, who hurried away as she watched him. "B'El, what is it?"

She watched the man disappear around a corner before turning back to her husband. "That man…"

Tom frowned. "What about him?" Tom had barely been aware of a figure on the other side of the road.

B'Elanna shook her head. "I'm sure I know him or… There's something very familiar about him…reminds me… I can't pin it down. He was just standing there, watching us come out the door…" She'd stopped walking and stared down at her feet, her mind trying to remember what wouldn't come to her.

Tom pulled on her arm. "It'll come back to you if it's important. Maybe he just recognized us…"

She shook her head. "No…maybe…but I know him or… Damn, it won't come to me…"

Tom smiled softly. "As I say, you'll remember if it's important. Now come on. I'm tired and I have that test flight in the morning."

B'Elanna started walking again slowly, nodded slightly, but her mind continued to search the memory files there, hunting for any clue.

Chakotay didn't bother turning up for work the next morning and called in sick, requesting a few days leave, which were granted immediately. There was little Starfleet wouldn't do for the Voyager crew, the returning heroes which the media had taken such a shine to. He spent the day decorating more of his house, trying to make a home for himself. With nothing else to distract him as he worked, his thoughts had free rein and he pondered his future, reminding himself to check out some archaeological digs he knew were coming up soon. By the end of the evening, he stood back and admired what he'd achieved. A warm and cosy feeling filled the rooms which didn't extend to the one who lived in them.

Kathryn placed her bowl back in the replicator and sighed to herself. She glanced at the time and saw that it was nearing 22:30. She wasn't tired and looked around her at the empty space she inhabited, knowing she had to get out before she went mad. Grabbing a jacket, she ordered the lights off and set out on her walk, unaware of the man across the road, still watching her. As she rounded the corner, her head well down and her hands deep in her pockets, he emerged from the shadows, an evil smile on his face as he followed her. Tonight would be the night.

Kathryn walked for almost half an hour, ignoring the occasional greeting from her fellow late night walkers, most of whom had come to know her by now, seeing her most nights. It had rained earlier and she enjoyed the scents around her from gardens she passed. She walked on, entering a darker part of the city now, apartment blocks replacing the houses. Finally, she looked up and decided to head back, ignoring the man who passed her with his head down. She set off back in the direction she'd come, her shoes barely making a sound on the pavement. She casually studied the reflection of the streetlights on the wet ground as she quickened her pace, feeling tired at last. She glanced around her and saw that the street was deserted but gave it no more thought. Her mind drifted to Voyager and the faces which had once passed through her corridors, their images like ghosts now as they passed across her mind.

Kathryn didn't hear him come up behind her, no warning before the arm came around her and the hand clamped tightly over her mouth. The fact that she was so shocked and unprepared for the attack lost her precious seconds and before she knew it, she felt herself being dragged backwards into a dark alley. She struggled now but the arm around her tightened and the hand across her mouth and nose pressed harder, cutting off her air supply. Kathryn went limp, making herself a dead weight for her attacker to try and pull but it seemed to make no difference to him. She found herself pressed against a wall, his heavy body pinning her there, and then a rasping voice filled her ear.

"Don't fight me, Captain. You'll only make it worse for yourself." Kathryn felt a fist grip her stomach. Now she knew this was personal, that her attacker had had a target and she was it. This wasn't some random street assault where she'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her mind struggled to identify the voice she heard but dizziness made thinking impossible. As if sensing her battle to breathe, the hand on her face lowered, leaving her nose free and she pulled air into her lungs, her chest heaving. She stopped all her struggles and stayed still and only then did she feel the man step back from her.

"Turn around slowly…"

She did as asked and saw a man of about forty standing in front of her, a phaser pointed directly at her.
"Who are you? What do you want?" She was still breathless and she heard him laugh.

He stepped forward a little so she could see his face and smiled at her. "Anything come to you? Recognize me?"

Kathryn studied the face before her, something stirring in the back of her mind but overshadowed by the thought that if he hadn't hidden his identity, he had no concern about being caught. Kathryn realized in a moment of terror that he intended to kill her. He didn't hide himself because he knew there wouldn't be a witness.

"No…? Nothing come to you…?" His voice jerked her attention back to him and she forced herself to think straight, trying to control the fear that ran through her.

"I don't know you… I thought I… you're familiar…" There was no way to know what answer would be right.

He laughed loudly now. "Just what I thought, Captain. They really meant that little to you…" He smirked at her, his eyes narrowing. "Does the name Elizabeth Furlong mean anything to you?" A face immediately filled Kathryn's mind, a dark haired woman in her thirties, always laughing, always happy, until she'd been killed, leaving Kathryn in a deep depression for weeks.

Kathryn nodded slowly. "Of course it does…"

The man in front of her spit on her and Kathryn pressed back against the wall. "Now do you know me?"

Kathryn stared hard at him, seeing the resemblance and remembering details of Elizabeth's file. "You're her brother…"

He nodded. "Oh yeah, I'm her brother. I was the only family she had, which means of course that she was the only family I had. Are you getting the picture here?" He waved the phaser in front of her.

"David, isn't it?" Kathryn searched her mind and she saw his surprise.

"Very good, Captain, I'll give you points for that one."

Kathryn knew she had to try and keep him talking. "David, Starfleet tried to find you. I wanted to speak with you when we got back, tell you…" Her words only enraged him.

"Shut up, bitch…" He stood back a little, trying to calm himself. "No one ever got in touch with me. They knew where I was, knew from when they told me about Elizabeth having been murdered by you…"

Kathryn stepped forward slightly. "David, it was an accident. I can show you…"

His arm swept out and smashed the phaser across Kathryn's face. She cried out and fell back, one hand holding her face, the other bracing herself against the wall. "I don't want your excuses or your lies. She trusted you and you killed her. You've no idea of the pain I've been through, but you will… You'll know…"

Kathryn drew on all the training she'd ever had. "David, please listen to me. I can't tell you why they didn't find you, but I know they tried. Just let me talk to you. You've no idea how bad I felt. Let me try and explain…"

He hit out at her again. "Try and what? Try and make excuses? Tell me lies to cover your evil? I don't think so, Captain." Before Kathryn's mind registered him moving, he'd lifted the phaser and she saw the beam as if in slow motion before she felt it hit.

Kathryn felt the pain and then found herself sliding down the wall and heard her attacker laugh. Her mind raced, trying to understand what her body was feeling. She felt a tingling run through her and knew that he'd just stunned her. She felt herself land in a sitting position, her body shaking from the effects of the stun as the pain slowly eased. Suddenly he was standing over her then pulling her to her feet again, her legs refusing to cooperate.

"That was the mildest stun setting but when I'm through with you, you'll know my pain…" She vaguely heard his words before the real pain started. Fist after fist rained down on her as she cried out. She felt herself falling and then his feet, kicking at her repeatedly. She tried moving her arms to protect her face but found she had little control over her own movements, leaving her helpless on the ground to be kicked around like a rag doll. She heard him scream at her, obscene words and others she couldn't understand.

Finally it stopped and she lay on the wet ground, shaking and in agony, feeling the cold and wet seeping through her clothes as she tried to control her breathing. She saw him kneel down beside her, laughing at her as he pulled her towards him and rolled her onto her back, her arms and legs flopping uselessly.

"Please…no more…" Tears flowed from her eyes but he just laughed at her.

"Pain, Captain. That's all you'll know…"

Kathryn felt him pulling at her and suddenly horror filled her when she felt him rip at her clothes.

"No…oh God…please don't…"

She tasted blood in her mouth and tried to move her arms to fight him off but she was too weak. Her mind barely functioned as she felt him rip her blouse and bra open and then tear her skirt. She gagged as blood filled the back of her throat and swallowed, trying to keep her airway clear.

"Please…don't…I beg you…"

He pushed his face into hers as his knees pressed between her legs and one hand tore her panties away then freed himself.

"Pain, Captain. Nothing compared to what you put me through, but pain none the less…" His hand covered her mouth again as he thrust painfully into her and she tried to scream but his hand cut it off. Kathryn tried to bring her hands up to push at him but her body refused the commands of her mind. She felt him moving inside her, one hand squeezing painfully at her breast and his weight bearing down crushingly on top of her as she continued to cry, pleading with him in her mind to stop, praying for an end to it all. Everything took on an unreal quality to it, and as she felt herself close to passing out, he began to falter then emptied himself inside her before falling as a dead weight over her.

Kathryn gasped in air when he finally rolled off her, her mind in turmoil. She barely saw him fix himself through eyes which were now swelling. She cried out again when he straddled her and pulled out a knife.

"Before I kill you, I want to mark you first…" All Kathryn could manage was to struggle to breathe. Terror filled her when she saw the knife and then she did scream as he slashed across her chest and neck with the blade. Once again she tried to raise her hands to protect herself but they seemed to be a dead weight.

"No one who sees you dead will ever forget…" He leaned over and grabbed her hair with one hand then brought the blade to her face, slashing at her cheeks. Kathryn was on the verge of madness as raw agony washed through her. She thought she heard voices, men shouting but it was in the distance somewhere and then there was a light and the man above her stopped, falling over her face, once more blocking her air. Within seconds, Kathryn knew nothing more.


Tom stumbled down the stairs, tying his robe as he went. "All right, all right, I'm coming…" He shook his head angrily, wondering who would dare call at 01:30. He pulled open the door and gasped when he saw his father standing there. He vaguely heard B'Elanna come down the stairs behind him.

"Dad? What is it? What's wrong? Is it Mom?"

The old man shook his head. "No, the family's fine. Please, I need to speak with you both." Tom nodded and stood back, pointing to the front room. He followed immediately, B'Elanna at his side. They all sat quickly and Owen Paris got straight to the reason for his visit.

"I wanted to tell you face to face. It's Kathryn Janeway. Something happened tonight…"

Tom looked fearfully at his wife a moment. "Dad, what happened to her? Is she all right?" He saw the older man hesitate a moment and knew it had to be bad. "Dad, please…"

The admiral nodded slowly. "She was brought to the Bay Hospital. I was notified immediately, once they knew her identity." He drew in a deep breath. "She was attacked tonight, about a mile from her apartment…"

B'Elanna jumped up as Tom dropped his head. "I told her not to go walking at night…" B'Elanna let her tears fall and looked down at her father-in-law. "Owen, will she be all right…?"

He nodded slowly. "Yes, she will… Please, B'Elanna, sit down. There's more to this. Her attacker knew her. This was planned." He held up a hand to the questions he knew would come. "Do you know the name David Furlong?"

They looked at each other and Tom spoke. "There was an Elizabeth Furlong on Voyager…" He stopped a moment to remember. "She was killed on an away mission. I think she had a brother named David but I'm not sure…" He looked across at his father. "What's that got to do with all this?"

The admiral continued. "It was the same man. It looks like he went after Kathryn in revenge for his sister's death."

B'Elanna stood now, her anger showing. "Elizabeth was killed in an accident. She ignored all the safety protocols and wandered off. She died in a fall."

Owen Paris nodded. "I know. I checked the files tonight, read the reports. Her brother was notified properly at the time and the counsellors followed it up. It seems as if he fell through the cracks somewhere when you got back though. Starfleet was still trying to contact him so Kathryn could speak with him." Tom stood now, disbelief showing on his face.

B'Elanna knelt down in front of the old man. "How's Kathryn? Is she really all right?" The old man stared into the face of his daughter-in-law, a young woman he'd come to admire greatly and saw the tears swimming in her eyes.

"B'Elanna, you're a good friend to her. She's really going to need that now, going to need both of you…" He looked up at his son then back at B'Elanna. "She was pretty badly beaten. He stunned her first…she couldn't fight back…" He watched the pain and anger on the young people's faces and hesitated before telling them the rest. Their eyes remained on him, knowing there was more.

"He cut her…her chest and neck and…her face…slashed her…" Tom dropped his head and moaned.

B'Elanna let her tears fall but kept looking at the old man, asking a silent question and fearing the answer. Their eyes met and he nodded slowly. B'Elanna's hand flew to her mouth and she shook her head.

Tom looked at her. "What? B'El…what…?"

His father spoke the words. "He…he raped her…"

The old man dropped his head. B'Elanna sobbed out loud as Tom punched the wall.

There was silence for several minutes before Tom spoke. "Where's that bastard now? I assume you caught him if you know who…"

Owen Paris saw the hate and pain in his son's eyes, the same emotions which had filled his own earlier when he'd seen the woman he'd helped nurture. "Dead. Some local residents…they heard…heard her screams… They called Security…" He stopped and rubbed at his face. "I don't know why they didn't stun him instead…maybe because he had a weapon…maybe there was a high risk to them… I don't care really. He's dead."

Tom paced the room. "Amen to that." He kept pacing as B'Elanna sat back on the floor, trying to take everything in.

"He was going to kill her?" She looked up at Owen.

He nodded. "He was about to, from what I gather. Maybe that's why they shot to kill. I only got a brief report from the two Officers."

B'Elanna jumped up. "We'll get some clothes…go right away…"

The admiral nodded again. "I'll take you. I have a transport waiting outside. She's in surgery at the moment. I informed Voyager's EMH, knew he'd want to know…" The couple nodded and left the room.

Three hours later, they still waited for news in the relatives' room. B'Elanna leaned over to her father-in-law. "Owen, you saw her. How bad is it really?" Her eyes pleaded for the truth. She saw the old face crumple a little.

"She didn't look good. There was a lot of blood…bruising… She wasn't conscious, thank God…"

B'Elanna closed her eyes a moment but jumped up with the others when Voyager's own Doctor came out to them.

"Please sit down." Slowly they all sat and three pairs of eyes met the Doctor's. "She's out of surgery for the moment but she'll need more. Before I say anything else though, she will recover from her injuries." They all let out the breaths they'd been holding.

"First off, she was stunned and there are no injuries from that but it meant, however, that she was unable to defend herself. The beating she was subjected to was frenzied. Her skull was fractured, her nose and cheekbone also, along with her right wrist and several ribs."

Owen Paris dropped his head. Tom just closed his eyes, shaking his head but B'Elanna didn't take her eyes off the Doctor. "There was also some internal bleeding…from the beating…damage to her kidneys also…which we've taken care of…" The Doctor met B'Elanna's eyes and saw immediately that she knew the whole story. He gently laid a hand on her arm and nodded.

"The knife wounds are… They're not deep. I don't think they were intended to be. I believe he meant to maim her…" He shook his head. "There are slashes across her chest and neck and on her face…her cheeks…which are deeper…" He leaned back in his chair.

"We've done what we can to heal them but her other injuries took precedence. I didn't want her in surgery any longer than necessary. I want to give her at least 24 hours before I take her back in and repair the wounds. I'll do the cosmetic work then also." Tom stood and looked out the window, still shaking his head. B'Elanna just continued to stare at the Doctor.

"There were some injuries from…" The Doctor sighed, one of his many habits, picked up from the crew. "There was tearing, some bleeding, bruising…all physically healed…" He stared at B'Elanna, his eyes telling the rest.

She nodded. "We'll take care of the rest later… Can we see her?"

The Doctor nodded. "Give them a little time to get her settled. Someone will call you…"

B'Elanna managed a small smile and gripped the Medic's hand. "Thanks, Doc…well, you know…"

The EMH stood and nodded his understanding then left them.

Tom held his wife tightly as tears flowed down her face. They stood looking down at their former captain, lying still and pale in the bed. Gauze pads covered her cheeks and bandages were clearly visible on her chest and neck above the sheets which covered her. There were still bruises on her face and arms, showing how deep they'd been that the dermal regenerator hadn't removed them completely. Thin intravenous lines snaked into her arms, supplying the unconscious woman with blood and other fluids. Tom led B'Elanna over to a chair beside the bed and sat her down. She reached out and stroked Kathryn's arm.

"What did that bastard do to you?"

Tom squeezed her shoulder. "Honey, she'll be fine. You heard the Doctor…"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Physically, he said. Oh Tom, how could anyone do this? Why didn't she listen…?"

Tom pulled another chair over and sat beside her. "B'El, he'd have tried this anyway. If she hadn't been out, he'd have gone after her somewhere else…"

B'Elanna nodded and then drew in a sharp breath. "Oh God, that was him…" She turned quickly to Tom. "That man…the night at her apartment…you remember…?" Tom nodded slowly, remembering how his wife had tried to think where she'd seen the man before. "It wasn't just him I knew… although I met him once with Elizabeth… He was just so like her… Oh, Tom…if only I'd remembered. We could have maybe stopped…"

Tom grabbed both her hands in his. "Now listen, love, don't go down that road. Even had you spoken with him, he could have had any number of reasons for being there. None of us can know what's in another's mind or what they plan to do. This isn't down to you or anyone else. We have to be strong for Kathryn now…"

She nodded tearfully, knowing he was right. She turned again quickly, another thought coming to her. "Tom, what about Chakotay? He should know…should be here…he'd want to…"

Tom nodded and frowned at the same time. "I agree but try and see him without Susan…"

B'Elanna's face showed what she thought of the other woman. "I'll go see him first thing in the morning…" They both nodded together.

Owen Paris came in a little later and looked down at Kathryn, tears in his old eyes. Tom saw him out, knowing his father needed to go home and get some rest. When he returned, he and B'Elanna sat quietly for the next few hours, occasionally whispering to Kathryn.

At about 08:00 the following morning, the Doctor called by to check on his patient. When he'd finished his examination, he looked towards the young couple who had politely turned their backs while he worked. He coughed slightly to get their attention and they turned to him.

"She's stable. I can't tell you when she'll regain consciousness. She received several blows to the head and there's still some swelling to the brain which I'm happy to say is subsiding. It's a case of wait and see, I'm afraid." They both nodded, looking towards their former captain.

B'Elanna asked the question. "She will come back to us though, won't she?" Her eyes pleaded with the Medic.

He smiled slightly and nodded. "She will, when her mind and body are ready. The body sets its own pace. It'll take the time it needs. Her mind will also decide some of this. She'll deal with this when she's ready. Aside from the physical attack, the emotional trauma will be very deep." They both nodded their understanding.

B'Elanna looked back at the Doctor. "Doc, should I get Chakotay? I think he should know…should be here…"

The Doctor nodded. "I agree with that. Get him."

B'Elanna pursed her lips and nodded. She turned and kissed Tom. "I'll go now. I'll keep in touch and let you know when I've spoken with him. Stay with her, Tom…" He smiled gently and nodded.

B'Elanna went over to Kathryn and kissed the top of her head as Tom sat down beside her again. "Fight this, Kathryn. We're all here for you. You're safe now."

B'Elanna spent the next hours hunting down Chakotay. She found out quickly that the apartment he'd shared with Susan was now owned by someone else. Starfleet informed her that he was on leave but wouldn't give any more information than that and so finally, she got her father-in-law to trace an address through confidential records. Now she stood looking at the small stone house and nodded to herself. Chakotay's mark was all over the place, the traditional style of the dwelling speaking of his own life. She knocked and heard someone approach the door. When it opened, Chakotay stood before her.

"B'Elanna, come in. Where's Tom?" He looked behind her and didn't see her face as she fought to control her emotions.

"Just me…"

He looked back at her and nodded. "Come in. Sorry I haven't been in touch. Been getting this place in shape."

B'Elanna looked around at the warm furnishings and wall hangings, nodding to herself. She turned and smiled, giving her approval. "You're a hand man to find…"

He shrugged. "Obviously not too hard. You found me."

B'Elanna bit her lip. "You just don't hide so good. Well, not from me anyway." She smiled then grew serious. "Is Susan here?"

Chakotay's smile vanished also. "No."

B'Elanna nodded. "Good." She looked up quickly. "Sorry, I didn't mean that…well, the way it sounded… I just wanted to speak with you alone…"

Chakotay frowned. "Look, you may as well know. Susan and me…we're not together anymore. We broke up a few weeks ago."

B'Elanna nodded slowly. "You kept that quiet. Why didn't you let us know?"

Chakotay rubbed a hand over his face and sat down, indicating for her to do the same. "Because I didn't need people telling me 'I told you so' or 'it was for the best, it would never have worked'."

B'Elanna just stared sadly at him. "Chakotay, that's not fair. We only ever wanted you to be happy…"

He ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, well…life doesn't always work out that way…" He looked back at her. "Is this a social visit or should I be worried?" He smiled at his own words and let it slip the minute he saw the serious look on B'Elanna's face. "What is it? Has something happened?"

B'Elanna leaned forward. "It's about Kathryn."

Chakotay immediately stood up. "B'El, we've been through this. Just because Susan and I are no longer…"

B'Elanna stood also. "Chakotay, she needs you…"

He cut her off. "No, she doesn't." He turned away.


He turned back quickly. "Was this her idea? Did she send you here?"

B'Elanna looked shocked and shook her head. "No, she didn't. She doesn't even know I'm here."

His laugh caught her by surprise. "Oh, that's great. That makes it worse. At least if she'd sent you, I'd know she was thinking of me but this… Look, B'El, just leave it alone…" He sat down again and she looked down at him.

"I can't do that. She needs you." She sat back down beside him.

Chakotay shook his head as he looked at her. "If she needed me that much, she'd have come here herself. No, she's made herself very clear. She has the life she wants."

B'Elanna got angry now. "You know that she'd never have come between you and someone you were with. She saw you with Susan and accepted it. Anyway, that's not important now. She needs you."

Chakotay grew angry himself and laughed. "Oh, my life isn't important?"

B'Elanna threw her eyes up. "Chakotay, just listen to me…"

He shook his head. "You know, you say Kathryn would never have come between Susan and me. Well, she did. Maybe not intentionally, but she was there between us all right. She's the reason we broke up. Well, not directly. I just couldn't let her go from inside and Susan saw that."

B'Elanna smiled slightly. "You still love her? Kathryn, I mean…"

He laughed again. "God help me, yes I do. No matter where I go or what I do, she's there. Well, I have to fight for my own life now. Kathryn has her life and I need to move on and get one of my own. I can't go back to all that again."

B'Elanna looked around the room a moment. "Chakotay, I'm asking you to put that aside for the moment…"

He shook his head. "That's asking a lot. Sorry, I forgot. She needs me. So you keep saying and I should just jump. Well, I'm a free man now…"

B'Elanna leaned towards him and gripped his hand. "Chakotay, she's…she's in the hospital…" She saw his face pale, anything else he was going to say forgotten instantly.

"Is she ill? What happened? Some kind of accident?"

B'Elanna gripped his hand tighter. "She was… She'll be OK…" She drew in a deep breath. "Last night…she…she was…attacked…" She met his eyes and saw deep worry and pain there.

"What…? I mean…how…?"

She gripped both his hands now. "I'll tell you." He nodded, worry written on every feature of his face.

"Kathryn… You haven't seen her lately. She's…keeps to herself…all work…empty apartment… long hours at the office…not taking care of herself. The only social life she has is when Tom and I drag her out." She watched him absorb all this and saw the pain the knowledge caused him.

"She's also become…reckless…I guess is the only word. She started to take walks…I guess not to be in the apartment… Anyway, this was always late at night…" She saw the alarm on Chakotay's face and nodded.

"Oh, we warned her, but you know her…" She hesitated. "Last night, when she was out…"

Chakotay was shaking his head. "No…no…"

B'Elanna stopped him. "Chakotay, do you remember Elizabeth Furlong?"

He looked confused at the sudden change in her direction and frowned for a minute, thinking. "Ensign on Voyager. She was killed. I remember the way Kathryn was about it…shut herself off for weeks…"

B'Elanna nodded. "Her brother David… He blamed Kathryn…"

The penny dropped and Chakotay swallowed loudly. "It was him? He attacked Kathryn…?"

B'Elanna nodded. "He followed her last night when she was walking…"

Chakotay pulled back a little, almost in a panic. "Tell me what happened. B'Elanna, tell me…"

She nodded, hating what she would have to say but knowing there was no choice. "He grabbed her, dragged her down an alley…" She saw the deepest pain on Chakotay's face. "He stunned her with a phaser and then… He beat her up…pretty badly…"

Chakotay groaned and lowered his head. "You said she'd be OK though?" He looked back at her, pleading for hope and saw there was more. "What are you not telling me?"

B'Elanna licked her lips. "He stunned her with a phaser. She couldn't fight back. He…cut her…slashed her chest…her face…"

Chakotay jumped up. "No…no…this isn't real…" He turned back. His pain mixed with the anger which surfaced now. "Did they get him?"

B'Elanna locked eyes with him. "He's dead. The Security Officers shot him. Residents heard her screaming…called Security… He had a phaser…was about to kill her…so they shot to kill, I guess…"

Chakotay paced. "Bastard…too good for him…a helpless woman…" He stopped and looked down at B'Elanna. "Come on, take me to the hospital…"

B'Elanna didn't move. "Chakotay, our own Doc is treating her…the knife wounds… He won't treat them fully until tomorrow. She was too weak for longer surgery…"

He nodded and grabbed a sweater. "I don't care what she looks like. I just want to see her…"

B'Elanna stood now and moved to him then pulled him back to the sofa and sat him down. She saw the deep frown on his face. "Chakotay, she's still unconscious. Doc said she'll wake up when her body and mind are ready. Chakotay…she had head injuries and she'll be deeply traumatised from…" He just stared at her until she spoke again. "Chakotay… she…she was…" She stopped and drew in a deep breath, steeling herself for saying the words. "She was…raped…he…he raped her…"

Chakotay just sat and continued to stare at his old friend for several minutes as her words sank in. Slowly he started shaking his head as tears filled his eyes. "No…no…not Kathryn…please don't say that…"

B'Elanna reached for him and pulled him to her. "Chakotay, I'm so sorry…"

He pulled back. "B'El, not that…not to her…what was so sacred to her… Please tell me it's not true…" He searched her eyes but only saw the truth of her words there. He let her pull him to her and hold him, giving full release to his tears now.

Tom looked up as B'Elanna led Chakotay into the room where Kathryn was. She nodded to him to leave with her and pushed Chakotay over to the bed. "We'll be right outside if you need us…"

Chakotay nodded, not taking his eyes off Kathryn. He barely felt Tom squeeze his arm as he passed. He moved slowly over to the bed and sank down into the chair Tom had just vacated. He looked at her face, the remains of the bruising and swelling still there and the gauze patches covering her cheeks. He looked down and reached for her hand, seeing the bruising still on her arms. Careful not to touch the IV lines, he lifted her hand into one of his. The other he used to brush some stray strands of hair back from her face.

"Kathryn… Kathryn, love…it's me…it's Chakotay…" He prayed she could hear him in some way and just sat and watched her for almost an hour, still whispering to her. After a while, he heard the door opening and looked up as the Doctor entered the room, smiling sadly at him.

"Commander, I need to check her. You can stay where you are." Chakotay nodded and watched as the Medic carefully removed the gauze from her face. Tears sprang to his eyes immediately as he saw the weeping cuts on her cheeks and he clenched his fists as a deep rage washed through him. His eyes met the Doctor's and he saw that the other man understood exactly what he was feeling. "When I'm finished tomorrow, there won't be any trace of them. You have my word on that, Commander."

Chakotay watched as he checked the slashes on her chest and neck and his rage intensified. "There won't be any physical scars to remind her?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No physical scars, no. The others… I take it B'Elanna has spoken to you?"

Chakotay nodded. "I know what happened…all of it…" The Doctor sat down at the other side of the bed. "I take it you took care of…you know…"

The Medic nodded. "There won't be any pregnancy and I checked her for…well…any diseases… She's clear…" He looked away a moment. "I can't give you answers on when she'll come around, but I assure you she will. After that, she still has a long road ahead of her."

Chakotay nodded and looked back to Kathryn. "Was she…would she have been…?" He swallowed and drew in a deep breath. "Was she conscious when…?" He didn't need to say the rest. He looked back at the Doctor and saw the deepest look of sadness on the face of the EMH.

"I'm sorry. Yes, she was." The Doctor saw the pain his words caused to the man before him but preferred to be honest. "She only lost consciousness when he… The Officers shot him and he fell over her. From what they saw, she was trying to fight him but… She had been stunned. There was no way she could…"

Chakotay wiped angrily at the tears on his face. "So she knew it all…everything that bastard did…was helpless…" He looked at the face of the Medic and saw the answer without any words being needed.

The Doctor stood now and adjusted the sheets. "Commander, first off we get her healed physically. We deal with the rest later. I'll be honest with you. This will always be with her in some way and you know that. To what degree it remains is up to a lot of things. Getting her to accept this and then to deal with it, getting her through it with the right counselling, having her friends there for her... A lot of it will be up to her." Chakotay nodded his understanding. "Commander, one step at a time…" He patted the large man on the shoulder as he left.

Chakotay stayed with Kathryn through the night, whispering quietly to her. He kissed her softly on the forehead when they came to take her to surgery the next morning and was waiting when they brought her back that afternoon. Tears came to his eyes when he saw her face and neck. No trace of the cuts remained and the skin was only a little red from the regeneration. He looked up as the Doctor entered the room and smiled his deep thanks and gratitude. He turned and saw Tom and B'Elanna standing there, seeing the miracle of modern medicine for themselves.

"You two go home and get some rest. I'll call you if there's any change." They nodded and hugged him before leaving, whispering a 'see you later' to Kathryn.

Kathryn remained unconscious for the next two days, during which Chakotay never left her side. On the third day, he was reading quietly to her when he felt her hand move in his and looked up to see her fight to open her eyes. He watched as she finally won the small battle and looked around her, confusion at first followed by a brief terror, until he spoke her name. She rolled her head to the side, following the sound of his voice.


He smiled and leaned closer. "Shhh, it's OK. You had some surgery but you're fine. You'll be fine, Kathryn." Her face crumpled for a moment and she looked away. He squeezed her hand tighter. "Kathryn, you'll be all right. You'll get through this."

She looked back at him. "You know then…it was real…" She turned away again and tried to pull her hand from his but he refused to let go.

"Kathryn, I'm here for you…" He didn't know what else to say.

"Why are you here? How did you…?"

Chakotay took his time. "B'Elanna found me. I'm here because my friend needs me."

He saw her eyes fill up. "Susan will be missing you…" She didn't look at him.

"Susan and I split up weeks ago…"

She showed little reaction to the news and Chakotay dropped his head. She was silent for several minutes before she spoke again.

"Am I badly scarred?" Her question caught him off guard and he looked up quickly and saw the pain in her eyes.

He shook his head. "There are no scars. Doc took care of them."

She looked away again and nodded. "None you can see…" She closed her eyes. "Please…I'm tired…"

Chakotay shook her hand. "I'll get the Doctor. He'll want to check you…" She didn't open her eyes as he stood and called the Medic.

Chakotay stood outside and waited until the Doctor was finished examining his patient. When the Medic came out of Kathryn's room, Chakotay related how she'd been when she first regained consciousness and now searched the face of the Doctor, waiting for his opinion.

"Commander, physically I'm happy with her progress. She's doing very well. As to the rest…well, we both know that will take a lot more time. For the moment, I'd prefer she took this at her own pace. Let her work through it in her own mind for a little while. Let's just see how she goes." Chakotay nodded, accepting the Doctor's superior knowledge.

Over the next two days, Kathryn rarely spoke, only answering direct questions from the Doctor or nurses. Chakotay didn't mention anything outside of trivial conversation and neither did Tom and B'Elanna when they called. He felt as if he was walking on eggshells the entire time but was terrified of saying the wrong thing. She slept as much as she could during the day and he knew it was her way of avoiding everything, seeking a haven from what had happened. When she was awake, he began to notice shades of emotions in her eyes, which disturbed him. Once when one of her nurses dropped something, she jumped in the bed, a flash of panic crossing her face. She slept at night too but in contrast to her daytime naps, she constantly jerked her arms and legs, trying to escape her terrible nightmare and her eyes moved rapidly under her eyelids, as images assaulted her. During these times, Chakotay would hold her and whisper in her ear, hoping he was comforting her in some way. It always seemed to work and she'd settle again until the next one.

As time passed, Chakotay saw the shadows in her eyes increase and knew her memories were getting stronger, that she was getting weaker at fighting them and that the strength of her denial of what had happened to her was wearing down. Instead of letting everything come out to be dealt with though, Kathryn became more withdrawn as she fought to suppress reality.

One evening, Chakotay was sitting quietly as she dozed and looked up to find her watching him. She turned away quickly when he met her eyes.

"It's all there with you, isn't it? Has been all the time." He knew he was taking a risk but felt she needed to face this and deal with it. She was silent for several minutes.

"When can I leave here?"

Chakotay closed his eyes and shook his head. "I don't know. I can ask the Doctor for you."

She nodded slowly. "Thank you."

He decided to try again. "Kathryn, you can talk to me. You need to…"

She turned quickly and looked at him. "Can you ask the Doctor now?"

He stared at her for a minute and slowly nodded, giving in for the moment. "All right, I'll ask him." He stood up and went in search of the Medic.

Chakotay and the Doctor spoke quietly outside Kathryn's room.

"I tried to get her to speak a little but she just ignored it. It's like she's trying to deny what happened." Chakotay rubbed at his face, tiredness washing over him.

"Commander, she'll deal with this when she's ready. As regards her physical injuries, she's fully recovered and I'll be ready to release her tomorrow. I freely admit that I'm out of my depth in all this and I want her to speak with a counsellor here but if she doesn't want to do that, I can't force it on her. I do know that she'll face this when she feels able to. As I've said before, this is done one step at a time and she has to set that pace for herself."

Chakotay sighed deeply. "You really think she's ready to be released?"

The Doctor shrugged. "She'll most likely be better in her own surroundings. Being here can only hinder her, trap her in an associating situation if you understand me."

Chakotay showed his uncertainty. "Her own apartment is hardly ideal from what Tom and B'Elanna have told me." He thought a moment. "What if I suggested she come home with me?"

The Doctor thought a moment. "I can't answer that, Commander. Ask her and see what she says. It's important that she has control over her own decisions at the moment. She's going to feel she's lost so much of that with all that's happened, and she needs to have full control of her life now." Chakotay stared at the floor. "Take your time and talk with her. Let her set her own pace and decide for herself."

Chakotay nodded. "She hasn't even asked… She's asked nothing about… that bastard… what happened…nothing…"

The Doctor shook his head sadly. "Asking that is opening herself up to thinking about it all. She's in a form of denial with this until her mind feels ready to cope with it. Oh, she knows what happened but for the present, it's easier to ignore it. She'll deal with it when she's ready. Just give her time and be there for her when this all comes out, because it will, Commander. Either the floodgates will open at some stage and the resulting flood could threaten to drown her or it could come slowly and over time. I don't mean to scare you with that, just prepare you." Chakotay squeezed his eyes closed a moment and nodded. He eventually thanked the Doctor and returned to Kathryn.

"Doc said you can go home tomorrow if you feel ready. He wants you to see a counsellor first…"

Her head jerked towards him. "I don't need or want to see anyone. I just want to go home."

Chakotay sat down beside her. "Kathryn, you need to speak with someone…" He reached for her hand but she pulled away from him.

"I'm fine. I want to go home. They can't keep me here…"

He eased off. "All right, Kathryn. Think about this though. You still need some care. Instead of returning to your own apartment, why don't you come and stay with me?"

She shook her head quickly. "No, I can't. Please just let me go home…" She was getting upset.

"Kathryn, all right. It's all right. You can go home tomorrow. I'll take you myself and see you settled. Just promise me one thing. Let me help you…"

She turned away now. "I'll be fine. I don't need your pity. I'm not some charity case."

It was like a slap in the face to him. "That's very unfair, Kathryn. If that's the only reason you think I'm here…" He saw a flash of anger cross her face.

"I don't know why you're here. You don't need to feel under any obligation to me. I'm not your captain anymore. I'm not anyone's captain…"

His anger matched hers now. "That's just cruel. We were always more than Captain and First Officer. Kathryn, we were friends, still are as far as I'm concerned…"

She barely glanced his way. "How can you be? I pushed you away…"

He lowered his head. "That was only where any romance between us was concerned. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought we still had a good friendship." He looked back up at her and she met his eyes this time.

"I haven't seen you in months and now… You're only here because you pity me and feel an obligation or something…"

He cut her off. "As regards not seeing you, you're right about that and I'm sorry. That's my fault and my mistake and some time I hope we can talk about it, but right now I'm here because my friend needs me and I want to be there for her if she'll let me." After a few minutes, she nodded slowly and Chakotay let the matter drop for the moment.

That evening, the Doctor had to give Kathryn a final check-up including a gynaecological exam and even Chakotay saw how nervous she was about it. Up to now, only the female nurses had examined her in this way and even then she'd lain rigid in the bed, staring at the ceiling until they were finished. In the end the Doctor agreed to give her a mild sedative before starting, agreeing that it would be too traumatic for her at this early stage, even with the nurse present. Chakotay sat with her later when she came out of it but she didn't speak. He knew how upset she was but she refused to let it show and finally just forced herself to sleep.

Chakotay took Kathryn home the next day. She wore a baggy tracksuit which B'Elanna had loaned her, refusing all their offers to call by her apartment to collect some of her own clothes for her, claiming she didn't want them to go to any trouble on her account and so they didn't push the issue, afraid of upsetting her. She was unsteady on her feet from being in bed so much and he gently supported her as they walked into her apartment. She had flinched when he first touched her but seemed to accept it now, even though he could still feel her tremble slightly. He helped her to her bedroom to change while he replicated some tea. While she was out of the room, he looked around him and almost cried at the emptiness of the place. There was nothing to mark it out as hers or even to show that anyone lived here. She came back into the room wearing a robe which fell to the floor and came right up to her chin, the sleeves long, almost shrouding her. Chakotay understood her need to almost closet herself within the material then he snapped out of his thoughts and smiled at her.

"Tea. Doc said you were to stay off coffee for a while." She said nothing and took the cup. They sat in silence for a while and drank their tea. Needing something to do, Chakotay took the empty cups back to the replicator and watched sadly as she stood slowly and walked to the window, staring out at nothing in particular. He moved to join her, making sure she saw him coming.

"That's a nice view you have…" From her apartment on the fifteenth floor, he saw the old Golden Gate Bridge and the vast expanse of the city stretching out below them.

Kathryn barely nodded. "I like to walk down there, get lost amongst it all…" She turned away. "Chakotay, thank you for seeing me home. I'll be fine now."

He took the hint but didn't want to leave her. "Kathryn, I'm worried about you on your own…"

She gave a half smile. "I'm used to being alone here." There was such a sadness in her voice, even Kathryn herself heard it and she caught herself. "Chakotay, I'm tired. I'd like to get some sleep. I'll be fine now. Thank you again." She moved away from him, leaving him no choice but to leave.

"All right, Kathryn. I'll call you later on. If you need anything or just someone to talk to, you know where I am. I've left my address and contact details on the table there." She glanced over and nodded. When silence followed, he moved to the door. "I'll call you later and I'll come by in the morning." She nodded with her back to him and stared out the window again.

Chakotay was only home about half an hour but he couldn't settle. Finally, he gave into his impulse and called Kathryn but there was no reply. Feeling worried, he left the house and returned to her apartment. He knocked several times but received no answer. As he stood there, a fair-haired woman came out of an apartment and went to enter another one. When she saw Chakotay, she smiled at him.
"She's not in there. I saw you earlier with her, didn't I?"

Chakotay nodded, a fear building in him. "Have you any idea where she went? I need to find her…"

The woman smiled. "Sure. I just saw her a few minutes ago. Missed seeing her for a while. Were you two away somewhere?"

Chakotay stepped towards her. "Please, can you tell me?"

She sensed his urgency and nodded. "Sorry, of course. She was headed up onto the roof. There's seating up there and a great view of the city…" She stared after Chakotay as he ran for the stairs.

Praying he was worrying over nothing and that his imagination was getting the better of him, Chakotay raced up the stairs, taking them three at a time rather than wait for the lift. He forced himself to stop when he reached the door which led out onto the roof and pushed it open gently. He stepped out into the bright sunlight, blinded for a second and scanned the roof space.

At first, he didn't see her. It was her light cotton dress flapping in the wind which caught his eye. He moved out from the door a little and then stopped dead. Kathryn stood at the edge of the roof staring down into the street below, only a small rail between her and the drop of some twenty floors as she stood on the low wall running around the roof area. Her hair whipped against her face and she raised one hand to hold it back, gripping the rail with her other hand. Her dress blew up around her thighs for a moment and she looked down at it, her hand now trying to hold it down. In that second, as she raised her head again, she saw Chakotay standing watching her, and the deep look of fear on his face. For a few seconds their locked eyes and in that moment, Chakotay knew, knew with certainty why she was here.

"Kathryn, please…please step down and come away from the edge…"

She just stared at him, shaking her head slightly. "Why did you come back? You were supposed to go home…" She seemed confused by his presence.

He moved a little closer to her when she looked away a second. "I was worried about you…"

She laughed, still using only one hand to hold herself against the rail. "You shouldn't waste your time doing that." She looked back at him and caught him moving towards her again. "Stop…stay away from me…please…"

He did as she asked and held up a hand. "All right, Kathryn, I'll stay here. Will you at least talk to me?"

She looked out over the city, shaking her head. "So many people down there…all those lives…" She seemed lost for a moment and he took the opportunity to inch his way towards her. She whipped her head around suddenly and he stopped. "You said you'd stay there…"

He just nodded. "All right but do something for me please…" She narrowed her eyes as she looked at him. "I'll sit here and stay where I am if you just step down while we talk…"

She shook her head angrily. "I don't want to talk. There's nothing to say…"

Chakotay sighed deeply. "Well, will you listen while I talk then…?" She looked down below her. "Kathryn, please…please come back in… Look, you can stay near the edge and I'll stay here but just step down. If you slip…"

She turned back to him and laughed. "That's kind of the idea…" She sobered immediately when she saw the pain on his face. "Sorry…"

He closed his eyes a moment and prayed for strength. "Kathryn, I'm begging you, please just step down and stand back a little. I promise you I won't try anything…" She stared hard at him for several minutes and he slowly sat down on the ground, keeping his side of the bargain. Finally, she nodded and stepped down, still keeping her hand on the rail. "There's really nothing to say…"

He smiled sadly. "Maybe I have something to say. Will you at least hear me out?"

She eyed him wearily. "What if I don't like what you have to say?"

He tried another smile. "You rarely have but you always listened. Well, most of the time…" They locked eyes, a million memories passing between them. "Come on, Kathryn. For old times' sake…" She bit at her lip and nodded, then sat also, letting go of the rail but staying against the wall. She folded her hands on her lap and picked at her nails.

"Kathryn?" His voice appeared to startle her and she looked up. "Do you ever think about our time out there? Sometimes it feels as if it never happened. At other times it feels like yesterday, and then again it can feel like twenty years ago."

She shrugged lightly. "I haven't thought about it…"

He watched her closely, unsure if her words were a barrier against talking or if she was telling the truth. "You must have some opinion. How do you feel about it all, now that we're home? I mean all we achieved out there…"

She shook her head. "I don't know. I told you I don't think about it…" She looked out over the city again.

"Well, think about it now…"

She turned back to him. "I don't want to think about it…"

He saw the beginning of tears in her eyes. "Why, Kathryn? Are you afraid to? That doesn't sound like the Kathryn Janeway I know…"

She seemed angry now. "The Kathryn Janeway you know is still floating around out there somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. If I'd known this was what I was going to come home to, I'd have had you drop me on some M Class planet." She turned away from him again, appearing shocked at her own admission.

"I don't believe that. Has it been that bad?" She looked back at him but said nothing. He rubbed at his chin. "Sorry… I didn't mean… I mean when we got back first… I mean… sorry…stupid thing to say…of course it's been that bad…" He stared deeply at her. "Kathryn, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I'd give my life to undo what's happened to you." He expected a strong reaction from her but instead she just dropped her head, picking at her fingers again. He stayed quiet until she looked up at him once more, her face a mask of pain.

"I…I remember…remember it all…"

He stared sadly at her and nodded. "He's dead." He needed her to know that and saw her bite down on her lip.

"I wasn't sure…" She looked away again, her mind taking her places he couldn't know. "I didn't want to ask…" She looked back at him. "Asking would make me think about it and I didn't want to do that…" She shook her head again. "He blamed me…said I killed her. He was right…"

Chakotay shook his head. "Kathryn, we've been down this road too many times now. You know my speech by heart."

She looked at him angrily and shook her head. "Your words can't undo the past…can't bring back the dead…"

Chakotay sighed sadly. "No, they can't but neither will this…" He threw his arm out, pointing to the edge of the roof. "Tell me something, Kathryn…" She met his eyes. "When your father and Justin were killed, did you go around blaming people and trying to hurt someone, or did you just see it for the accident it was?"

She looked away again. "I know what you're saying but it doesn't help how I feel. At least for this one, I got punished…got what I deserved…" Something snapped inside Chakotay and he stood quickly. He ran at her and dragged her to her feet as she fought him feebly.

"You said you wouldn't…you promised…" She cried out as she continued to struggle weakly but he just dragged her back and pushed her against the wall of the central block, which housed the power supply for the building.

"Damn you, Kathryn…don't ever let me hear you speak like that again…" He was angry as he pinned her to the wall, well aware that he was frightening her and bringing back painful memories but at this moment, other things took precedence. "Enough, Kathryn. Bury your dead and move on. Let go of the self-pity and get angry at that bastard." He watched tears flow down her cheeks, no trace of the knife wounds there now. "You remember what he did to you. Well, get angry at that and use that anger to move past this and claim your life back."

Her eyes blazed as she stared back at him. "What life?" She screamed the words and instantly seemed to regret them. She slumped against the wall. "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to say that…"

Chakotay let some of his anger go too. "Maybe not, Kathryn, but it's obviously how you feel. Our innermost feelings come out when we're angry or afraid…" She looked away from him, staring out over his shoulder. He shook her slightly. "Kathryn, we're home now. You can show your feelings. You can be Kathryn again. As to the rest…you can get past this…"

She looked back at him, her eyes showing confusion, as if she hadn't heard what he said. "Why are you really here? I know you said your friend needed you but… I needed you when…" She looked down between their bodies. "Forget it…I'm sorry…"

He shook her again and she looked up. "Can you finish what you were going to say?" She looked away from him again but his hand brought her face back to him. "Kathryn, talk to me. I'm here for you. I know we have two issues here but please, tell me what you're feeling."

Her face fell as she fought her tears. "I don't feel anything…"

He smiled sadly. "I think you're feeling too much, too much to cope with all at once. Talk to me, please…tell me…" He almost regretted his words as the floodgates opened. She pushed back against him and he stood back a little but stayed where he could grab her if she ran for the edge of the roof.

"Just leave me alone. Go home. I needed you when we got back but I'd already pushed you away. You were with Susan…had moved on. I lost you and I deserved that…even though you were never mine to start with. Just leave me, Chakotay. It's too hard for me…"

He stood and stared, shocked at her words. "Kathryn, you made it clear that there could never be anything between us. What was I supposed to do?"

She shook her head, her anger boiling over. "Nothing. It was all my fault. It was just a stupid dream. I always thought that if or when we got home…" Her anger was bringing out her honesty.

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "We honestly didn't think we'd get home. What was I to do with Susan? Just dump her there?"

He watched as Kathryn hugged her arms around herself. "It's not you I'm angry with. It's me. I told you it was my fault. Just leave me be…"

Chakotay moved back towards her a little. "I told you I'm not with Susan anymore. I am here for you though…if you just let me… I'm here because I want to be here, because I care about you so much. You're my friend, Kathryn…"

She hugged herself tightly, pressing back against the wall. "If that was the case, you'd have come to me weeks ago. You're only here now because of this. Admit it, Chakotay. If this hadn't happened, I'd never have seen you again…" She glared at him as he dropped his head.

"These are all separate issues, Kathryn. You were the one who said there could be nothing between us. You made that very clear to me. It wasn't fair to ask me to wait for what could have been the rest of my life if we hadn't gotten home. I had to move on. When we did get back, I couldn't just leave Susan. Be fair, Kathryn. I'm not a mind reader. I saw you at Headquarters and you seemed so at home with all that. Starfleet coming before me or us again. That's how it looked anyway. As to the last few weeks, I needed time to get myself together again. As far as I was concerned, you'd moved on. You could just as easily have contacted me." He stared at her sadly as she shook her head, not caring about the tears which flowed down her face.

"It was made very clear that I wasn't wanted there, at least where Susan was concerned, and I understood that. I had no place there anyway."

He moved forward again and took her shoulders, feeling her cringe slightly. "Kathryn, I don't know what the future would have held if this hadn't happened. I like to think that we'd have gotten together. I just don't know. What I do know is that I'm here now because I care and because I feel you need me. I'm here because I want to be, because we're friends. Are you saying you wouldn't have come, if something had happened to me?"

She met his eyes and shook her head slowly. "No…I'd have…of course I would…" She lifted her hands and wiped at her face. "Chakotay, please, I can't do this. My emotions are all over the place. This wasn't some accident. I can't face…" She bit down on her lip hard, unable to think about what had happened much less talk about it and Chakotay saw that. He leaned in closer to her and lifted one hand to cup her face and was grateful when she didn't pull away.

"Kathryn, listen to me now. We have two things here. One can wait until the other is dealt with. For the moment, just come back and stay with me. I have a house, and your apartment is…well, Tom and B'Elanna said you don't like being there and I can see why…" She didn't say anything and he saw that as a hopeful sign. "Kathryn, B'Elanna is the only other person who has ever been to my house…" He stared hard at her to make that point. "Just come and stay with me until you feel stronger and can deal with this a little better. I promise you there won't be any pressure, just a place of peace to rest and heal. I believe you can get through this with the right help. Let me help you as a friend at least. Surely we still have a good friendship. Isn't that worth something?" He watched his words sink into her mind. "Kathryn, above anything, you've always been my friend and I hope I've always been yours. This isn't pity but friendship. Can't you take it at that? We get you through this first and move on from there…" She stared at him a long time and he almost saw her thoughts working through her mind. Eventually she nodded slowly and he let out the breath he found he'd been holding. He leaned his head forward and looked into her face with a small smile, deciding to take a chance at something.

"Kathryn? Can I hold you?" She looked up at him, startled for a moment, and then her face fell and she nodded eagerly. She hesitantly eased away from the wall but then fell into his now open arms and let him wrap her in them. He felt her body shudder against his chest and tightened his arms as she broke down and cried, deep racking sobs erupting from her.

Chakotay held her to him, absorbing her cries and pain. He whispered softly to her, his hand stroking her hair and back as he felt her hands grip and un-grip on the back of his shirt. His eyes swept out over the city below them and some part of his mind prayed that this was a beginning, that someday they'd stand here again under far happier circumstances. He held her and rocked her slightly now, letting her get some of her pain out. Slowly she calmed a little and slumped against his large frame, exhausted now. He held her a few minutes more and then pulled back.

"Come on, get what you'll need and come home with me, OK?" He wiped at her face and smiled softly. She nodded, her eyes down but she let him lead her.


Chakotay took Kathryn home with him and over the next week, let her set the pace, particularly where their conversation was concerned. She actually spoke little and while he could see her gaining back some of her physical strength, she had long periods where she'd just stare out at the garden, lost in a world of her own, one he knew was filled with terrifying memories and images. He knew she constantly showered but she seemed to want to wear the same type of clothing, old baggy sweatshirts and leggings, covering her body as much as she could. He saw her let her appearance slip, never wearing any makeup or doing anything with her hair. Mostly she stayed quiet and sat for long periods. He didn't intrude on her solitary moments, hoping she'd speak with him when she was ready. In such a short space of time, he grew used to having her at the house and now dreaded the day she'd be ready to leave.

Kathryn's nights were a different matter. What she could suppress during the day, came out in her sleep when her defences were down. She'd wake screaming from terrifying nightmares which filled her mind, only to find Chakotay there with open arms and soothing words. Eventually she'd fall back asleep but she always asked him to leave the light on.

As Chakotay watched her in the garden one evening, as she strolled around and touched the flowers, he made a decision. He felt way out of his depth and knew he badly needed advice on how to deal with what they faced. He made a quick call to the Doctor to arrange a meeting and then B'Elanna, asking his old friend to sit with Kathryn the following morning while he went to speak with the Medic.

Next morning, Kathryn was tired and Chakotay knew she'd been awake for most of the night, most likely afraid to sleep, in fear of what her dreams would bring. He knew she hadn't slept well since she'd come to stay with him and as she sipped at her tea now, he could see the dark circles forming under her eyes. He quietly explained that he had an appointment at Headquarters and had arranged for B'Elanna to keep her company while he was away. Kathryn barely nodded.

"Maybe you should try and get a little more sleep. You look tired."

She dropped her head and nodded again. "Maybe I will. Do you think B'Elanna would mind?" She looked up at him and he shook his head.

"I only asked her to come in case you wanted company while I was out. I shouldn't be more than a few hours. It's just end of term stuff."

She nodded and seemed to study him a moment. "You really love teaching, don't you?"

He smiled and nodded. "Aside from just passing it all on, they're a great bunch. They make me feel young again. I guess I see it all over again through their eyes. They keep me on my toes too though. They constantly challenge things, question it all…" He drifted off a little, lost in images. "Sorry, I can get carried away…"

Kathryn smiled gently at him. "It's good to see you like that. You deserve it all. I'm happy for you…" Her words were interrupted by a knock on the door and Chakotay smiled and picked up some padds.

"There's B'Elanna now. You try and get some sleep. I'll explain to her. I'll be back in no time." He watched as she nodded and stood up, then headed back to her bedroom.

Arriving at the Doctor's offices, Chakotay sat and waited for the Medic. It eased his mind to know that B'Elanna was at the house with Kathryn and he hoped that she'd at least get some rest, knowing that she managed to sleep easier during the day. He knew she kept her bedroom light on during the night and understood why. At least with the light on or during the day, she saw what was around her when she opened her eyes and not the images that most likely lurked in the darkness as remnants of her nightmares. B'Elanna had understood completely about Kathryn needing rest and had even brought some work with her to fill the time if needed. Chakotay looked up now as Voyager's EMH approached him and smiled.

"Commander, please come in." Chakotay followed the hologram into his office and smiled softly at the woman already there. "Commander, this is Dr. Ellen Sands." Chakotay shook hands with the dark haired younger woman then sat. The Doctor moved to the other side of his desk and sat also.

"I contacted Ellen this morning after your call to me last night. First off, Commander, please know that anything discussed here is in the strictest confidence." Chakotay nodded his understanding. "Now, Ellen is a leader in her field of dealing with these matters. She has helped many women and men through this kind of trauma." Chakotay looked up and Dr. Sands leaned towards him.

"Yes, Commander, women and men. It can happen to either, even I'm sad to say, children. I also counsel those we refer to as the secondary survivors or victims, people like yourself."

Chakotay rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "I'm not even sure why I'm here. Well, I know why. I'm just not sure… Look, all I know is that I want to help her through this and I'm terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing."

Dr. Sands nodded. "I'll also assure you of complete confidentiality here. That's first and foremost." Chakotay nodded. "Now your own Doctor here has filled me in on what happened, if that's all right with you. It means you don't have to go through all that with me so that I can understand. It saves you having to speak of it again."

Chakotay leaned back in his chair. "That's fine. I trust Doc here completely and if he trusts you, then that's all I need to know."

Ellen Sands smiled gently. "Then let me try and help."

Chakotay drew in a deep breath. He quickly filled them both in on what had been happening since Kathryn had left the hospital. He saw the Doctor appear shocked when he told them about the scene on the roof of Kathryn's apartment block but Ellen Sands merely nodded, as if this was nothing new to her and she understood only too well.

"Right, Commander, let me try and help you here." Chakotay's eyes pleaded for any advice he could get. "First off, don't try and force her to open up or talk about what's happened. That will only make her feel threatened and she's had enough of that. If she talks, it has to be what she wants, what she's comfortable with. She's in control here and you have to let her have that above all else." Chakotay nodded, remembering the Doctor's words to the same effect.

"I'll try and explain to you what she's going through although you must understand that I don't have all the answers either. Each victim, and just for the moment I'll use the word victim, but each victim will be different. I've spent my professional life listening to these victims and each is so different from the other, including my own case." Chakotay looked up suddenly and saw Ellen smile slightly.

"Yes, Commander, I'm also a victim. That's the main reason I work in this field now. I understand better than most counsellors." Chakotay nodded slightly and leaned back, suddenly having a new respect for the woman before him. He also gleaned hope from her admission, as if proof that this could be beaten sat before him.

"The initial stage is called the acute stage. This is where the person will experience disbelief and shock. There's a sense of 'what did I do?' and feelings of helplessness. Sometimes the victim will be afraid to be alone or else afraid in crowds."

Chakotay nodded. "Kathryn just wants to sit around the house, maybe walk in the garden. She's expressed no desire to leave or go outside at all."

Ellen nodded her understanding. "Let her do this her own way. If that's what she wants to do, just let her." She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts.

"The second stage is the pseudo adjustment stage. This can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, even to several years. You'll see mood swings and she could be very emotional or angry or she could deny that it's had any effect on her. At this stage, she could well experience nightmares or insomnia."

Chakotay scratched his face. "She's not sleeping well at the moment, certainly not the last week she's been at my house. I think she's afraid to sleep although she's never been a great sleeper or one for taking care of herself. She falls asleep and then has terrifying nightmares. I go to her and she lets me hold her but she always wants the light left on afterwards. Mostly she sleeps with it on." He looked at the Doctor who merely nodded, not needing to be told about his former captain's previous habits.

"She could try to maintain appearances at all times to appear as normal as possible..."

Chakotay looked back at Ellen and shook his head. "She's always been like that, always hidden how she feels. Doc will tell you." They both looked to the EMH who nodded his agreement. Ellen shook her head.

"So we have a set pattern here for this behaviour but what's happened is too strong at times, hence the nightmares." She stopped a moment and looked towards the window then back.

"The third stage is the depression stage and this can overlap the second. It could well look like classic depression as self-blame begins to take effect. It also can involve a decreased sex drive or feelings of uncleanness. The fact that she's agreed to stay with you is good. Many victims break up with a partner because they can't face the thought of being intimate."

Chakotay looked embarrassed. "Dr. Sands, we've never…we're friends but…" He told the young woman about the nature of their friendship and what had occurred since their return to Earth.

She smiled softly. "That will most likely make it a lot easier for her. If there is a relationship in the future though, an intimate one I mean, be prepared for her feeling she's not good enough for you or that she's used or dirty. However, that will come much later. Also later is the final stage which is the integration stage. This is when she'll begin to accept the rape as a part of her life and start moving again." Ellen stopped a moment and studied Chakotay.

"That's something else, Commander. I noticed you flinched slightly when I mentioned the word 'rape'. You must get past that. However, where Kathryn is concerned, she'll set her own pace with this. She won't be able to say the word for a long time and then, even similar words will seem like it. As to whether she'll want you to avoid it or use it later, she'll have her own way on that. There'll be a lot of areas where you won't know the right thing to do. In these cases, ask her. If you don't know whether she wants to be touched or hugged, ask what she wants. Some people need it badly, others can't take any contact. Always ask her." Chakotay nodded, feeling he should almost be taking notes. Ellen was more astute than she looked.

"Commander, I know it's a lot to take in but you won't get a test on this. I'm merely trying to give you some guidelines." He smiled and nodded.

"The final stage is also when she'll begin to feel things are OK again but she can only do this through counselling and letting friends help her. She also has to help herself. She can work through this but she needs to believe that she can. It's an old saying about time being a great healer and there'll be many times when she'll find it hard to believe she can get through this. The same goes for you. She's the victim here and the most important person but you also have to look after yourself, consider counselling for yourself also." Chakotay leaned back in his chair again. Ellen now leaned forward.

"I can give you some advice for the present. She'll eventually open up, I hope. Mostly, it has to come out. It's too hard to keep inside. When it does and even for now, I'll tell you this, a list of dos and don'ts if you like." Chakotay listened carefully now.

"Tell her you're so sorry it happened to her and above all, stress that it wasn't her fault. She must believe that above all else. Let her know that as she survived, she obviously did all the right things, regardless of the intervention of the Security Officers. Thank her for telling you when she does speak of it. Thank her for letting you be there for her, for trusting you. Let her know that you're always there if and when she wants to talk. Don't be afraid to ask if there's anything you can do for her." Ellen leaned back and licked her lips.

"What you never do is tell her or let her believe this was her fault in any way, that it could have been avoided if she had done this and not that…"

The Doctor interrupted here. "I know B'Elanna mentioned Kathryn taking her walks, something about having warned her or why didn't she listen. That won't help, Commander. Perhaps a word to the wise there…"

Chakotay remembered and nodded. "I'll tell her. I know she meant well…"

Ellen leaned over and squeezed his hand. "You'll get through all this, I promise you. Now other don'ts. I've actually heard someone tell a victim that since it had been so long ago, they should just get over it. I've heard men and even some women say a victim actually wanted it to happen or even enjoyed it. Some believe that it's not that big a deal, that it happens to a lot of people, so it's not important. The worst I've heard is when someone doesn't believe the victim." She leaned back again.

"I'll ask you to respect her enough not to pity her. She needs support, never pity. Again, don't assume she doesn't want to be touched. As I said, some victims can't stand to be touched, not even a hug, whereas others couldn't manage without one. Ask her, plain and simple. Comfort her. Bring her a cup of tea or a blanket when she's sitting in the garden. Play soft music and make the environment calm, peaceful and comfortable. Don't try and solve all her problems for her either. She must have control. She's had her control taken from her in the worst way so avoid anything that'll make her feel she's losing it again, no matter how small a situation." Ellen stood now and fetched a glass of water for herself. She offered the others something and they shook their heads. She smiled when she looked at the Doctor, forgetting that he was a hologram and saw that he appeared flattered by the lapse. She slowly sat again and sipped her drink.

"I will say this. Encourage her to seek counselling. You can't do this alone, Commander. It's hard enough with training. I also believe that, as a woman, she needs to speak with another woman but that's my own personal belief. At the end of the day, anyone trained is good. Offer to accompany her to sessions if she agrees to go but leave it open. If she wants you there, let her know you'll come with her but also that you won't be hurt or offended if she doesn't want you there. However, don't demand to know every detail of the rape. She'll tell you what she feels able to have you know. She might want you at some sessions and not at others. Respect her wishes on this. Allow her to tell you as much or as little as she needs to. I will, however, stress again the importance of counselling. I actually feel it's vital. I'll be more than happy to see her and as I say, I also suggest you go for sessions yourself but not with me. I'll see you if Kathryn goes elsewhere but I can't see both of you. I believe it's crucial for you to understand the basic facts here and to examine your own attitudes and feelings in order to be a positive support for her. As I said, you're also involved here as a secondary survivor or victim so don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself and your own emotions. It's perfectly normal to feel helplessness, guilt, shame, loss of intimacy, frustration or anger, even feel for a loss of routine. You'll feel over-protective of her and feel a need for retaliation which as I understand won't apply here."

Chakotay actually laughed evilly and shook his head. "Pity about that…" He sobered when he saw Ellen's face. "Sorry but I just want to kill him."

She nodded. "All perfectly understandable but you must control that in front of her. You can't blame yourself for not being there to stop it or not doing this or that. Accept that it happened and deal with now. Change and work with what you can and let go of what you can't. You also need to find the balance between being supportive and overbearing and please don't be offended by that but it's an easy line to cross. Be there when she needs to talk, be open to hear what she has to say but don't press her for more than she can give. Don't always check up on her or force her to talk or try and solve all her problems for her. You can't take away what happened, only help her through this. I know with what happened on the roof, you'll feel a need to constantly watch her but you can't. You have to trust her now. In the same vein, don't be afraid of silences from you or her. If either of you doesn't know what to say, that's all right. The most powerful statement a friend can make is by simply being there, not trying to fix it all or pretending it's all OK. Silence can often say more than words." She smiled gently. "Says she who's been speaking almost non-stop." Chakotay and the Doctor smiled also, relieving the tension which had lingered in the room.

Chakotay looked at Ellen now. "If I manage to put all this into practice, how do I explain how I know it…"

Ellen thought a moment. "I'd recommend being honest. Tell her you spoke with a counsellor because you just want to do the right thing for her. Assure her of the confidentiality involved. Let her know you spoke with me because you care so much."

The Doctor broke in. "I understand you told her you were going to your classroom for some business?" Chakotay nodded. "Well, while lying a little, just say you met me and I introduced you to Ellen and go from there. It's not actually a lie."

Ellen broke in again. "Commander, I've barely broken the surface here with you. I would like to speak with you again."

Chakotay agreed. "You've helped me so much already. I feel as if I've some ammunition or something to fight with now, at least some hope…" Ellen smiled and nodded. "When could I see you again?"

Ellen thought a moment. "I'm free all afternoon tomorrow. My office is upstairs, here at Headquarters." Chakotay frowned as he thought and Ellen smiled. "I'm there anyway, Commander. If you can or need to see me… Well, you decide. No pressure, remember?"

Chakotay smiled and stood. He shook hands with them both. "I'd better get back. I'll try and come tomorrow…"

Ellen just smiled.

When Chakotay arrived home, B'Elanna was reading. She looked up when he came in and smiled at him.

"She's asleep. She cried out once but when I got there, she was quiet again." She sat up, a worried look on her face. Chakotay held up a hand and left the room, checking that Kathryn was still asleep. He returned and sat, telling B'Elanna all he could remember. When he finished, she looked upset.

"I didn't think… Oh God, if I'd said that to her, about walking on her own… Chakotay, I'm sorry…" He moved over and hugged her, reassuring her that it was fine. Finally, she left and Chakotay started dinner.

That night, they ate in silence mostly, Kathryn making only a few comments about the food. She didn't ask how it had gone at Headquarters and Chakotay didn't volunteer anything. He remembered Ellen's words about silence being OK and drew strength from them. Finally, Kathryn told him she was going back to bed and he simply wished her a goodnight. He woke once himself that night and saw her light on but didn't intrude. He knew the fact that she'd slept during the day, made it possible for her to stay awake now.

Next morning, events took a turn that forced Chakotay's hand. Kathryn was sitting in the living room, staring out into the garden while Chakotay tidied the kitchen area. He could see her from where he was and watched her sadly. Without warning, Kathryn cried out and fell to the floor. Chakotay ran to her immediately, dropping the plate he held onto the floor, not hearing the smash as it hit. He was at her side in a second and panicked almost as she thrashed about on the floor, crying and screaming out. He recognized what he thought was a panic attack or flashback, having seen something similar before in the Maquis and tried to sooth her but to no avail. She gasped for air and struggled against him, her eyes wild and tears pouring from them, as she continued to scream out in her pain, her words unintelligible. Eventually, she settled to a shaking and flinching and her words became understandable and tore at Chakotay.

"No…oh God…please don't…please…help me…no…you're hurting me…please stop…please…I beg you…oh God…please don't…no…no…oh God the pain…" She cried out again and again, her arms pushing at Chakotay. All he could do was try and hold her as gently as he could and call to her that it was all right, that she was safe. Slowly his words seemed to reach her and she quietened. For some time, she appeared disorientated, dazed and unsure of what had happened, where she was or what she'd said and done. It reminded him of people he'd seen coming out of an epileptic fit or seizure of some kind. Slowly she seemed to become aware of her surroundings again and she looked up tearfully at him.

"What did…? Where…?"

He stroked her hair back from her face, plastered to her skin with sweat now. "Shhh, it's all right, Kathryn. I think you had a flashback or something. It's over now."

The pain on her face tore at him. "It was…it…was…I was there…it was…happening again…and…I couldn't…couldn't stop him…" Her sobs came, racking her small body and he used his instinct and just pulled her to him. It vaguely came to him that he should have asked her first but he knew now he'd done the right thing as Kathryn clung to him.

Chakotay held her to him and tried to comfort her for almost half an hour. Finally. she managed to regain some control and pulled back a little. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have had to see that…"

He stroked her face. "Kathryn, I'm here for you, to help you through this in any way I can… I just want to do the right thing. I'm afraid I'll hurt you in some way… I don't know whether to…" His voice trailed off and he saw her frown at him. "I don't know if you want me to touch you or not…how that'll make you feel… I don't know…"

She dropped her head to the side. "Chakotay…I… thank you for asking… anyone else I guess…" She dropped her head and thought a moment. "I'm not sure I'd want anyone else near me… but you…I trust you and… sometimes all I want is a hug…but then I tell myself that you mightn't want that…and… I don't know what I feel…"

Chakotay took her hand and decided to chance it. "Kathryn, I have to tell you something. Yesterday when I went to Headquarters, I saw our Doc and he introduced me to another doctor… She deals… I talked with her…"

Kathryn's head shot up. "You talked about me? Chakotay, how could you…?"

He held his hand up. "Kathryn, just listen please. I had to, needed to talk with someone. I was out of my depth…didn't know what to do for you, what was right. I was so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and making it worse. Kathryn, she was great. She understood and it's completely confidential. She…well, her name is Ellen Sands and… Kathryn, it happened to her too… She understands…"

Kathryn pulled back a bit, her anger giving way to upset now. "You should have told me…asked me first…"

He nodded sadly. "I know but I needed to understand…to help you… I'm sorry…it's just…it's hard on me too…"

Kathryn stared at him, her tears starting again as it suddenly hit her that this was all affecting him too. "Chakotay, I'm sorry too. I guess I'm so wrapped up in how I feel… I'm sorry…of course you feel too…"

Chakotay just nodded. "Kathryn, please talk with her…"

She jumped up. "No…no…please…I'm not ready for that…don't make me…"

He was shocked when he saw she was close to panic and sat back on his heels. "Kathryn…oh God…please don't think that. No one is making you do anything… Kathryn, please… I just suggested… You don't have to do anything you don't want to…"

She watched him now and finally seemed to accept his words. Eventually she sat on the sofa. "I know I'll have to in the end… I'm just not ready…"

He moved over to her a little and nodded. "That's all right. You control it all, Kathryn, and you go at your own pace…" He saw her relax a little. "If it's all right with you, I'd like to see her again… I need to…"

Kathryn nodded her head. "I understand…I do… and I will in time…just not yet…" Chakotay just nodded and smiled softly at her.

That afternoon, Chakotay returned to see Ellen Sands. Kathryn knew where he was going this time and insisted that she preferred to be on her own, despite the worry she knew it caused him. He agreed reluctantly. He sat in Ellen's office now and related the details of the morning to her.

"It sounds like a classic flashback to me." Ellen leaned forward and placed her hands on her desk. "I said nothing about them yesterday because not all victims get them. I can tell you now, that with one, others are very likely to follow. They will, however, decrease in severity as time passes."

Chakotay blew out a breath and leaned back in his chair. "She scared the hell out of me. It was like she was reliving everything and she was screaming and crying and pleading with him… I felt I was almost there…witnessing it all and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help her… I felt so damned useless…" He looked up and saw the understanding and kindness on the face of the Counsellor.

"In a way it's a form of trust that she had this attack in front of you. I know it can be very frightening for you and difficult to know what to do. I can only give you more guidelines."

Chakotay leaned forward again. "Anything that can help me at all. I told her I was here, had spoken with you. She was angry at first then upset but I think she finally understood that I needed this, that this has affected me too… She said she's not ready yet herself though…almost panicked when I mentioned it…"

Ellen smiled slightly and nodded. "That's fine, Commander, and she'll come if and when she's ready. She panicked because she's not ready to face all of it yet…"

Chakotay smiled a little himself. "I think it's time you called me Chakotay. I'm baring my soul to you here…" They both smiled.

"Right then, Chakotay…and it's Ellen…not Doctor or Dr. Sands or anything else…just Ellen… Right… what to do… When she has another and as I say, most likely she will… you need to remind her where she is and get her to either sit or be somewhere she can't hit off anything. It can be almost like a seizure in that her mind isn't in control of her body during these flashbacks. She's reliving the rape in every way and I know that's very hard for her and for you but it will get better. Describe her surroundings to her and get her to do the same to you if she can. Try and get her to take deep breaths. You, however, must be very cautious in your actions. She is, as I said, reliving everything and how you act is very important. Talk to her about this, ask her how she wants you to act, either to leave her alone with it or hold her or whatever." Chakotay nodded and told Ellen how he'd reacted earlier that morning.

"That seems to have worked well for her so keep doing that. You're lucky holding her was right for her because it could have been worse but that's not relevant now. You have some idea of how to react so work with that." She leaned back a little.

"Name what's happening. It's a flashback so call it that. She needs to know and understand that this is a flashback and nothing more. Let her know that you understand how real it feels to her but reassure her that it isn't really happening. Turn on soft lighting if it helps or soft music even but check first that these aren't triggers." She saw the man before her frown and explained.

"Chakotay, sometimes these flashbacks come on their own or from something she remembers but there can also be triggers, which you'll need to get to know if they're there. A certain sound or smell can trigger an attack, just like any other form of trauma. A child who was once in a fire will always react when he sees a flame or smells smoke, that kind of thing. It could even be as cryptic as the colour clothes he was wearing when the fire started and later on that colour triggers it. These triggers can be easy to understand or very unique to the individual." Chakotay nodded his understanding.

"During these flashbacks, you need to help her to 'ground' herself. Get her to take slow, deep breaths and tell her that she's remembering. Talk softly to her and remind her of where she is. Get her to talk about her surroundings and reassure her that her attacker is not there anymore. While she may not be able to respond to you, she'll most likely be aware of your voice." Ellen folded her hands on her lap.

"Consider placing your hand on her hand or her arm, grounding her again so to speak. Never though, place your hand on her stomach or thigh or anywhere that could worsen her reliving the event. Do you understand what I mean?" Chakotay sighed and nodded, knowing only too well what she meant. The thought that his touch could cause Kathryn any pain tore at him.

"Touch can, in some cases, make it worse but it grounds the person and we're lucky in that we know it helps Kathryn, so go with that. You also need to let her know that these flashbacks are all right to have. In a sense, they're an opportunity to learn and understand and I know that sounds crazy but for some victims, there are gaps in their memory of what happened to them and this can be an indication that they're ready to remember, that the body has information it wants to share with the mind. Some people are very frustrated by the lack of memory or what they've blocked out, others almost prefer it. In other cases, flashbacks can literally validate a survivor's experience." She smiled softly at Chakotay.

"That's the word I like to use best actually. Kathryn is a victim when it helps her but I prefer survivor as a term. Victim is good to use when she begins to believe she was somehow at fault and needs to understand that she did nothing wrong. For everything else, she's a survivor and needs to believe that." She stood up, poured herself some water, and offered Chakotay a glass. This time he took it, his mouth and throat feeling dry now.

"The most important thing is to know her and what works for her and what doesn't. There's not a lot you can do during these attacks and that's very frustrating for you I know, but just be there for her during and after it. Don't press her to talk about it, which could just trigger it further. If she wants to discuss what just happened, be open to that and be aware that many of the emotions she felt during the rape will be present now, and again I know that's very hard on you but you have to be strong for her." Ellen refilled her glass and sat down again behind her desk.

"It's highly likely she'll also suffer more nightmares now. Her mind has started to accept some of what happened and that'll surface in her sleep also, especially as the mind's defences are down then. Again, deal with those the same way." She leaned forward again and played with her glass.

"You must understand that survivors take a lot of responsibility for what happened to them. None of what happened is her fault and she needs to understand that but at the same time, constantly telling her that, while it may lessen the guilt or shame, it can't take it away. Survivors deal with a hell of a lot of shame and in time, hopefully she'll learn to break that pattern. The healing process can be anything from weeks to years to never. That's not a reflection on the survivor or the severity of the attack, just a fact which differs from one survivor to another. I understand that Kathryn is usually a very strong woman and maybe that'll help, but again, everyone is different and just because someone takes longer to heal, doesn't make him or her a weaker person than someone who recovers more quickly. She also needs to understand that. She must just concentrate on her own healing and not look at anyone else. This is strictly about her and her trauma, nothing and no one else. There aren't any competitions or races to see who recovers fastest or whose experience was the worst. Even in group therapy sessions, survivors are encouraged to empathize with each other, not judge. She'll judge and punish herself enough and be harder on herself than anyone else could be." Chakotay leaned back, feeling again that he'd never remember all this advice.

"Chakotay, I read you well. I'll tell you again, this will come to you when you need it." She smiled at his sheepish look.

"Being there for her and often following your instinct is what matters. You know her well and that's more important than anything I could teach you. Mainly though, as I said yesterday, don't give her your pity because that's the last thing she needs. In some cases, family and friends can actually try and excuse the attacker but I don't need to address that here." The glare she received from Chakotay told her that.

"Another area she won't have a problem with is fearing that her attacker is still out there somewhere. A lot of survivors have to live with that, if the rapist isn't caught and sent away. At least in Kathryn's case, he's dead, but because of the circumstances of this, there might be times when she's down, that she'll believe others might do the same. Only address that if it comes up. In other words, if she doesn't think of it, don't put the idea in her head." Ellen smiled gently.

"She's very lucky to have you. A lot of people who come through this have no one, or else those around have no idea of what to do or say and never bother trying to find out. You obviously care about and love her very much."

Chakotay actually blushed. "I love her more than I can ever explain." He sighed and gave Ellen a brief history of his feelings for the woman they were discussing and about his relationship with Susan.

"You have a second lot of guilt to deal with, Chakotay. Let it go or at least deal with it later." He nodded. "You've enough to cope with now. It's easy to become frustrated and bewildered by all this or to feel you're failing her. You're not and you must accept that or at least hide how you feel regarding this because you can often transmit those feelings to her, which will only make it harder for her to cope with her own experience and add to it by giving her feelings of guilt and confusion because of you." Chakotay stood now and refilled his own glass. He stared out the window a moment, watching people walking and laughing, going about their lives without a care in the world. Ellen's voice broke into his thoughts.

"You can't always tell what a person is going through. Just because they look happy, you can have no idea of their problems…"

Chakotay turned and smiled. "What's your other stage act? Pull the rabbit from the hat?"

She smiled and shook her head as Chakotay sat again. "It's just years of experience with people. I get to read them well." He nodded and drank some of his water. Ellen picked up a padd and played with it.

"Chakotay, as I said before, each survivor deals with this differently. What they have in common will be fear, distress, humiliation, anger, confusion, numbness and guilt, even embarrassment. These feelings will vary from day to day and week to week, sometimes even minute to minute. What's important is that she's allowed to experience her feelings without fear of having them invalidated or dismissed. It's vital that she feels and knows that she has someone who will allow her to talk and who'll try and understand her needs rather than assuming that they know best and rushing her to get over it. She must know that she's believed and that she can rebuild her life at her own pace. The dominant feature of rape is that it's forced on a person against their will and that it's an act of violence and violation, regardless of how much or how little visible violence is used." She saw that her words upset the man before her and gave him a minute.

"It takes away control and it's vital that Kathryn now be in control of her journey to recovery. She needs to rebuild her feelings of safety, trust, control and self-worth, all of which will have been lost through the rape."

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment and shook his head. "I just want to be able to do the right thing for her…" He opened his eyes to Ellen's calm and reassuring smile.

"You will, Chakotay. Never doubt that. You wouldn't be here otherwise."

He nodded and looked at the time. "She knows I'm here but she insisted on staying on her own…"

Ellen nodded. "Let her do that if she needs to. It's a big step for her so early but she obviously needs to do it. You have to trust her to know what's best for herself. Look, I gave you some do's and don'ts yesterday. I'll go over them and some others for you. With the knowledge you have and the love you feel for her, you'll get her through this and yourself." Chakotay nodded but didn't look very sure.

"Chakotay, you will get through this, I promise you. First off, as I said before, don't ever criticise her for being where she was at the time, for not resisting more or screaming more or not talking about it until now, or in fact for anything. Let her know that anyone, anywhere, can be a victim, regardless of age, gender, looks, dress or so on. Regardless of the circumstances, no means no and no one deserves to be raped. All those old myths that still exist in some minds, about a victim 'asking for it' or the rapist being 'unable to help himself' only create a burden of guilt on the survivor and she'll already feel enough of that on her own, which hopefully we'll change. Any criticism of her handling of the situation, either during or after the attack, will add to that guilt and it's vital that the blame is placed where it belongs – with the rapist. She must learn that and accept it because it's the truth. She'll reach the stage where she'll accept that there was nothing she could have done to prevent it happening and when she does, listen to her. It could be down to being frozen with fear, to have been unsuspecting or trusting, or because she was threatened or physically attacked and feared worse could happen if she resisted. No one expects a mugging victim to resist yet some people still believe a rape victim should be able to." Ellen shook her head angrily. "I wish we could educate everyone. Perhaps teach some of this in school." Chakotay watched her, knowing there were still a few stray demons in her own life.

"If she has reasons for not talking about this or later on, reasons why she didn't talk about it earlier, listen to them too. She might be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it or she might even be trying to protect you from the upset of knowing. She knows how you feel about her…?" Chakotay nodded and smiled. "That could well apply here then. She might also need to get it all straight in her own head first or maybe want to talk to someone like me, who isn't personally involved. Don't feel hurt or betrayed if that comes to be the case."

Chakotay shook his head. "I just want her to get through this. I'm not going to feel hurt, betrayed or jealous just because she needs someone else to talk to instead of me…"

Ellen smiled. "Good. Another thing is helping her to distinguish between wishing it never happened in terms of wishing she hadn't been there at that time or said what she said and so on, against it being her fault it happened. She must know the difference between wishing it hadn't happened to feeling she's to blame because it happened. Let her know she has a basic human right to be free from threat, harassment or attack. Never over-simplify it by saying it wasn't very bad or never mind, or forget it. Let her say how she feels and allow her time to work through it in her own time. Reassure her that you'll give her all the support she needs and that you're always there for her, now or in the future. Let her know you'll never push her into expressing things before she's ready. Ask her if there's someone else she'd rather talk to, friends, family, a counsellor and offer to organize that if she wants it, but again, don't pressurise her into anything she's not ready for." Ellen played with the padd in her hands a moment more and now put it down.

"All this will have made her feel invaded, changed and out on control. Try and imagine for yourself how that feels and try and do what helps her rather than what makes you feel better. I know you feel bad, that you want to undo all this and take it away but you must accept that you can't. Listen to what she wants. She has to make her own decisions and regain influence over what happens in her life now in order to rebuild trust and strength. It's actually quite common for loved ones, who are distressed themselves, to step in and make decisions for survivors, which will only add to their frustration. Ask Kathryn how she wants to be helped and in this way, you'll be helping to rebuild her trust." She picked up another padd now.

"Help her to feel safe and I know, that won't be easy. Get her to take part in things again, but only at her own pace and in ways she feels are best. Knowing she can talk to you about feeling unsafe and can ask for your company when she needs it, will be reassuring as she tackles difficult things." Ellen leaned forward now and looked Chakotay in the eyes.

"This is very important. Don't ever come up behind her or touch her unexpectedly or in a way that reminds her of the assault. She may want to be held and comforted or prefer not to be touched until she feels safe, although with Kathryn, she seems to need to be held. Don't feel offended if she finds it difficult to be close, emotionally or in time, sexually. Understand that it's not that she's ever afraid that you'll assault her, just that it will remind her. If she has guilt and pressure in this area, it'll only hinder her recovery. Feeling and knowing that you're there to listen and respond though, will help her re-establish feelings of closeness and trust." She saw the pain on Chakotay's face.

"Chakotay, I know and I believe Kathryn knows, that you'd never hurt her. I'm just going through it all with you." He nodded his understanding and leaned further back in his chair. Ellen continued.

"While you'll have a lot of pain and anger about all this, even frustration, you need to hide that. She'll already be worried that all this will have had an effect on you. Tell her you know it wasn't her fault and if you feel angry, let her know that your anger is directed at the one who did this to her and not her. The fact that he's dead helps here. Some survivors have to worry about their partner or family members taking the law into their own hands and that only adds to their problems, making them feel more unsafe, more upset because you are, and more worried in case you get hurt. It also adds to the lack of control feelings again. If you're angry or have any of these feelings, Chakotay, you come to me or a friend, not Kathryn. You personally have to accept that you weren't to blame for any of this either, because you weren't with her, or weren't there to protect her and so on. Once again, the responsibility lies solely with the one who committed the attack. As I said earlier, you speak to me or friends if you need to, or join a support group for others in your situation." Ellen stood and took their empty glasses then refilled them.

"Chakotay, this could be a long road. You can't magically make everything better straight away, but by showing that you believe her and don't blame her, that you want to help her get through this and take control again, by listening, respecting her feelings and views and showing how much you care, you can make a big difference and help her heal. There are no hard and fast rules with this about the right or wrong way to behave, just experienced advice from someone like me, which still might be wrong for Kathryn. You'll have your own way of coping which is right for you. Kathryn also has to understand that there isn't a right or wrong way of dealing with all this either. What is certain is a state of shock, feeling numb, disorientated, unbelieving, horrified, scared, frightened, maybe hysterical. Some survivors can't stop crying, others are too numb to cry and yet others are half and half. The tears will always come though." She handed him his glass and sat again.

"I told you yesterday that time is a great healer and that can sound trite when applied to something as horrific as this, something so traumatic and debilitating as trying to rebuild your life after rape. There's no magic wand or quick cure. I'd love to say it was like recovering from major surgery, where the doctor can tell you that you'll be back on your feet in a certain number of weeks or months. With that you'll put up with the pain because you know in a month or whatever, you'll be better. This will take as long or as short a time as she needs. She'll appear to be coping one minute, then regress, but this will lessen, until one day the clouds will part and the sun will shine again. It'll always be there but it will be firmly controlled and in the past." Ellen smiled and leaned over and gripped Chakotay's hand.

"Chakotay, you will both get through this, I promise you. I know it's hard to see at this point, but you will. I know what I'm talking about. I made it and I'm still with my husband who was with me at the time. We're still together and still deeply in love. I shut him out for a long time and couldn't stand to have him near me but he was there for me still. You remind me of him and from that, I know you'll both make it."

Chakotay lifted his other hand and squeezed hers. "Ellen, thank you so much. I only met you yesterday and yet… You've helped me so much already." She smiled back at him. "I better go. I don't like leaving her alone and I know what you said about that but I can't help it. I'll hide it as much as I can but I need to know she's all right." He stood and held her hand a moment longer, then left.

When Chakotay got home, he found Kathryn huddled in the corner of the kitchen, hugging her knees to her chest and with tears pouring down her face. He ran to her immediately, getting down on the floor beside her. "Kathryn… Kathryn, what happened…?"

She slowly looked at him and the pain in her eyes tore at him. "It…it…happened again… I was there…he…he…was there…was hurting me… I couldn't…couldn't get away…" She let go of her legs and leaned into him and he hugged her tightly to him. "Why won't he leave…leave me alone…?"

He squeezed his eyes closed as he rocked her. "Kathryn, he's dead. It was a flashback. I know it's very real but he can't hurt you anymore. You're safe now. I know it's very painful but you'll get past these. I'm here for you." She cried bitterly for a long time, just clinging to him as he held her.

Eventually she calmed a little and looked up at him. "I can't take this…it's too hard…"

Chakotay pushed the hair back from her face. "It'll get easier…"

She shook her head. "No, it won't… I'm useless…can't even be left alone… I'm ruining your life too… It just won't go away… I'm too weak for it…can't fight it… I'll never get past this… and it's my own fault…walking late…killing Elizabeth…"

Chakotay took a deep breath and took her hands. "Kathryn, listen to me now. None of this, not one bit of it, is your fault. Do you understand me? It wasn't your fault. What he did…he had no right to do. No one ever has a right to do that to someone else. Nothing justifies this, nothing. You have to believe that. There was nothing you did or didn't do that caused this. He was to blame, no one else. It was all down to him. Kathryn, he's the evil in this. You did nothing wrong. You're the victim. You're also the survivor."

He watched her eyes stare back at him and saw that his words were making sense to her, were getting through to her. "I feel…it was…my fault…if I hadn't been there…or…I should have been able to fight…I had training…"

He ran his fingers over the backs of her hands. "Kathryn, I don't mean to upset you with this but…" He took a deep breath. "He would have tried this anyway. As it was, he came from behind…you didn't see it coming…" He gripped her hands tighter. "He had the element of surprise and… Kathryn, from what I know, he was a heavy enough man…" He saw his words were causing her pain but he needed her to understand. "He was stronger…and then stunned you… Kathryn, you couldn't fight back…" Tears poured down her face now and he felt his own start. "Kathryn, think about this. You survived, so you did it right. That's what matters. You survived. I'm so sorry all this happened to you and I wish I could take it away, but I can't. You have to believe and know that it wasn't your fault though."

She stared at him a long time and then leaned into him again and let him hold her. After a while she pulled back and wiped at her face.

"Kathryn, you'll get through this, I promise you. These flashbacks are all right to have. It just means you're more able to face it now than you were. I'm sorry I wasn't here for you the way I was this morning…"

She sniffed and shook her head. "It's…it's OK…"

Chakotay held her hand again. "I need to know that I didn't upset you more or hurt you this morning. You have to tell me how you want me to be, especially if this happens again… You're in control here. We go at your pace and deal with it your way. If you want me to hold you, I'm more than happy to be there for you but if you don't want that, just tell me. I'll never be hurt or offended by that. I know how bad they are…how real they are and how painful…"

She lifted a hand and hesitantly reached for his face then finally touched him. "Thank you… this morning…. that was fine…"

He nodded, relieved now. "Kathryn, know this. You talk to me if you want to. If you don't, that's fine too. You're in total control of all this. If you don't want to talk at all and just be silent, that's also fine. I want you to know though, that I'm always here for you, now and in the future. You can always talk to me, say anything to me but as I said, there'll never be any pressure and I'll always listen. I'm here because I care so much for you, love you even…" She bit her lip. "That's the safe kind of love, Kathryn…" She nodded tearfully. "I want you to know, above all else, that you can trust me, and I thank you so much for the trust you've put in me up to now. I promise you there's no pity here." She let more tears fall and lowered her head.

"Kathryn, I'll just say this once and then let it go. After that, it's up to you. I think it would be good for you to talk about this when you feel ready, but only then. Again, there's no pressure on you. I'll go with you if you like or if you prefer to go alone, that's OK too. It's up to you and know that I'll never be hurt or anything, if you speak to someone else or need someone else…"

She looked up at him slowly. "I know…know you're right… I can't do this alone… I need help."

Chakotay released a sigh of relief. She leaned into him once more and he held her for a while, then eased her away from him so he could see her face.

"Kathryn, I know it won't be easy, I know that, but you need this. I'll help you and be there every step of the way if you want me to be. If you want me to arrange for you to speak with Ellen Sands or someone else, I'll do it. This is your choice though, your decision. No one is going to make you do anything you don't want." She nodded slowly and remained quiet for some time, lowering her head again. He just sat beside her and waited, giving her all the time she needed.

Finally, she raised her head and looked at him. He saw fresh tears fill her eyes. "Please…" He frowned a little and she nodded. "Make an appointment. I trust your judgement. Ellen Sands…?"

He nodded. "You'll like her. Kathryn, she's been through this and come out the other side. She's easy to talk to…"

Kathryn just nodded. "I…I would…would like…you to…" She bit her lip again and looked up and away. He tugged gently on her hand and she looked back at him. "I'd like it if you could…come with me…but…"

He squeezed her hand. "It's up to you, Kathryn. Whatever you want…"

She sighed. "I'd feel better…safer…if you were there but… I guess I'm also…well, afraid and…I guess embarrassed…"

He smiled softly at her. "First off, you've no need whatsoever, to feel embarrassed or afraid. I'll be there if that's what you want…"

She still looked uncertain. "What if…if I hurt you…with something I say or…what if…you…hate me…when you hear it or…are disgusted with me…"

He almost cried. "Oh God, Kathryn, how could you ever think that? Nothing about you could ever disgust me or make me hate you. I'll keep saying it. None of this was your fault. I love you. It's that simple and I'll say that out straight. Maybe it's not what you need to hear but it's true. I'm here to give you all the support you need and I'll always, always be there for you. You don't have to go through this alone." He appeared slightly angry and she picked up on it.

"You're angry with me…" She dropped her head but he put a finger under her chin and lifted her head up.

"Never. I've had anger since this happened but, Kathryn, please believe me, that anger is never directed at you and never will be. You know where it's directed."

She nodded. "Him…" She watched as he nodded.

"I can't help that and I know you don't need to see that but…"

She placed a finger across his lips and he marvelled at her touching him. "I understand. Maybe I understand better than you think. I believe you felt you should have protected me or something…?" He nodded as she smiled sadly. "I always felt that way when someone was hurt or killed on an away mission. I was the captain and I should have protected them. I do understand, Chakotay. I guess now I understand the other side of that as well."

"Oh Kathryn, honey…" He stopped a moment, scared his use of an endearing term would upset her but she just smiled and he looked embarrassed now. "Sorry, slipped out…" They both smiled.

"Actually, it was…kind of…nice…warm…" He smiled more openly now. "Go on, make an appointment. I'll make some tea. I can do that without burning it…" He just smiled and stared at her for another minute and then nodded.

Leaving her in the kitchen making the tea, he called and made an appointment with Ellen Sands for the following morning. He knew himself that they'd taken a big step forward but he pushed down his enthusiasm, remembering that it was still very early days and that this was just a start, that there were many rough patches in the road still to face before it ever ran smooth again.

That evening, Chakotay contacted Tom and B'Elanna and anyone else with whom they had contact, and at Kathryn's polite request, asked them to respect her privacy over the coming weeks. Kathryn had felt guilty asking him to do this but explained that she felt unable to face anyone else at the moment but that she felt she had enough to cope with. Chakotay understood completely, as did everyone he contacted. They all sent their love and wished her well and he saw Kathryn accept their wishes, drawing some comfort from them. For himself, he felt privileged to be the one allowed in her life to help her through her trauma and recovery.


Kathryn appeared nervous when they entered Ellen's office the next morning but the young woman made her feel at ease within minutes. Chakotay smiled softly and sat off to the side. He was relieved they were finally here and thought back to how scared Kathryn had been leaving the house, clinging onto his hand for the entire length of their short trip to Headquarters. Ellen smiled at Kathryn now and offered her tea which she declined.

"First off, Kathryn… Can I call you that? I prefer first names." Kathryn nodded. "Thanks. Call me Ellen." Kathryn nodded again and glanced over at Chakotay for a moment. He gave her a reassuring smile.

"OK, Kathryn, I'll tell you first that everything spoken of between us stays confidential. I don't even take notes or keep details of sessions on file." She saw Kathryn relax a little more with that knowledge.
"Secondly, you can call me anytime of the day or night, whenever you need me. You know I've spoken with Chakotay…?"

Kathryn smiled softly. "He told me…"

Ellen smiled over at him. "I'll explain to you in a moment what I told him if that's all right with him?" Chakotay nodded his agreement. "Fine. Now I'll also tell you, Chakotay, that once I'm seeing Kathryn, I'm fine with you here with her if that's what she wants. I won't, however, counsel you while I'm seeing her. I'll discuss with Kathryn what we spoke of because you've given your permission for that, but I won't see you without her again and I won't speak of anything to you about her unless she gives her direct permission. Kathryn's my patient now and she's the one who matters here."

Chakotay nodded and smiled. "That's fine, Ellen." He looked to Kathryn and saw her nod her agreement.

Ellen pulled a chair out from behind her desk and sat down. "One other thing. Kathryn can speak for herself or stay silent if she prefers but always let her decide. If I ask something, let her answer for herself and never answer for her." Chakotay smiled slightly and nodded.

"OK, Kathryn, you want Chakotay with you here?" Kathryn looked over at him again and nodded. "That's fine with me but anytime you want him to leave, just say so. This is about what you want and what you're comfortable with. Also, if you want to leave here at any time, you just stand up and go. You're here of your own free will and there's no pressure on you. You're free to leave at any time."

Kathryn bit her lip. "I understand…and Chakotay… I want him here…need him… I know this will be hard…on him too…but if he can…I'd like him here…" They both looked to Chakotay and he nodded.

"Right, Kathryn, I'll tell you everything I told Chakotay…"

For the next hour, Ellen slowly and quietly repeated everything she'd spoken of with Chakotay, including how he was feeling, constantly checking with him that he was all right with her disclosing details of their conversations. Kathryn just listened quietly, keeping a tight rein on herself throughout.

Finally, Ellen leaned back in her chair. "Is there anything you want to ask me, Kathryn, or anything you want to say?" She watched her patient think a moment.

"I just…mostly I just want this not to have happened… I can't… I don't know…don't know what or how I feel sometimes and then it all rushes at me… I don't know what to say…" She twisted her hands together. "I know I need to talk about it but… I guess I tried not to think about it in the hope that it wasn't real and to even consider saying it out loud…" She stopped and sighed deeply, fighting her tears. "Part of me wants to say it quickly and get it out of the way…another part of me never wants to think or talk about it ever… I don't know…" She lost her battle with her tears and dropped her head.

"Kathryn, do you mind me touching you? Just your hand." She shook her head without lifting it. Ellen's hand reached out and gripped Kathryn's, squeezing gently. "Kathryn, I understand what you're going through, I really do. You know, I think, that this happened to me also?" Kathryn looked up and nodded, almost afraid to meet the other woman's eyes.

"Kathryn, I can tell you that you WILL get through this. I can't give you a time limit but you WILL get to the other side. It's like a series of rivers you need to cross. The current in each one will vary but you cross one at a time and the day will come when you can look back and see how far you've come. You'll climb out of one river and maybe fall into the next one or perhaps cross it easily. Occasionally, you can be climbing out of one and slip back in but you will cross it and get out." She saw the pleading in Kathryn's eyes that she was speaking the truth. "Kathryn, I give you my word on this. You can and will do it. Just decide you want to and believe that you can." Ellen slid out of her chair and kneeled down in front of Kathryn.

"Look, one survivor to another. Use whatever you need to get through this. Do it for yourself. Do it to beat that bastard." Kathryn looked up quickly. "Beat him, Kathryn. Don't let him control you anymore. You're in control now, not him. The hardest part is over with and you survived it. Now you take back." Ellen drew in a deep breath and squeezed Kathryn's hand tighter.

"Kathryn, none of this was your fault. I'll say that to you constantly. It had nothing to do with what you did or said or wore. It wasn't you who committed this act. You have to remember how important you are as a person, to yourself, to Chakotay, to so many others. You're not alone, Kathryn…"

Kathryn looked up and smiled slightly then glanced over at Chakotay and they shared a quiet smile. Ellen frowned. "He's told me that…so many times…"

Ellen nodded her understanding. "OK, I understand." The young Counsellor delighted in seeing the closeness and connection between the two people before her and it gave her great hope for her patient's recovery. She squeezed Kathryn's hand again to gently get her attention.

"Kathryn, it's true though. You have a lot of people there for you, who are only too willing to help. It's all right to feel depressed, scared or angry. Just don't give up. Don't give that bastard the satisfaction."

Kathryn nodded tearfully. "What…what about…what happened…reliving it… I can't face that…?"

Ellen nodded. "They're flashbacks, Kathryn, and they can't ever hurt you. I know they're very real and very painful but they can't harm you. Do you want to tell me about them? If you don't, that's fine…"

Kathryn shook her head and looked over at the window, as if she could see through the curtain there.
"I don't know what happened…don't understand it…" Ellen stayed quiet and gave her all the time she needed. "One minute I was just sitting, trying not to think about it and the next I was back there…and it was all…all happening again…every second of it…" Kathryn raised her free hand and wiped at her face. "I could feel it all…hear everything…it was dark…and so real… I could feel the panic and the fear…couldn't breathe…and I fought and struggled…but I couldn't get away from it…" She dropped her head.

"I thought I'd go mad…I wanted to scream and shout…wanted someone to drag me away from it…" She looked up with tears pouring down her face. "It was happening all over again…and I was trapped in it…couldn't move…paralysed with fear… I could smell him…feel him…hear him… I could feel it all…the pain and…him…when he was…" She stopped a moment, unable to say more. Ellen encouraged her to take deep breaths which helped. Finally she went on.

"I could hear screaming…and then I realized it was me…I wanted to get out…get away…but I couldn't…and I pleaded with him…cried to him…not to hurt me…to stop…words which I knew I hadn't been able to say at the time…only in my head…and then…then…" She looked over towards Chakotay and saw the pain on his face but also love and support. He smiled gently at her and she drew strength from it.

"I could feel someone stroking my face…holding me…but it was different…it was kind and gentle…arms around me…holding me…and a voice…soothing…telling me it was all right…that I was safe…" She broke eye contact with Chakotay now and looked at Ellen.

"I came out of it but…I felt confused…dazed…I remember crying…and I didn't understand what had happened…or what I'd said or done…I couldn't stop shaking…" Her eyes pleaded with the counsellor for understanding.

Ellen smiled gently. "Kathryn, it was a flashback and you will probably have others…" She saw the pain in Kathryn's eyes and squeezed her hand tightly. "Kathryn, they'll get fewer and fewer as you learn to cope with this. They also won't be as bad or as severe. It's possible there might be a trigger for them or they could happen on their own. You were trying so hard not to think about this when it happened to you first and maybe that's why it came on. Was the second one as bad?" Kathryn sniffed loudly and nodded.

"I guess…it was worse… I couldn't get away…and I was on my own…" She risked a glance at Chakotay and saw his pain. "I'm sorry, Chakotay…I didn't mean…"

He shook his head. "It's OK…"

Ellen drew her attention back. "Kathryn, Chakotay's fine. This is about you. You worry about yourself only. Chakotay will take care of himself." She looked over at the large man and he nodded and smiled softly.

"Kathryn, listen to me. You'll learn to deal with these flashbacks and I'll help you. This is Traumatic Shock Syndrome, the official name. You'll vocalise during them and that's OK. They're a way of releasing the memories that you've pushed deep into your subconscious because of the pain and fear you knew would come out if you let them rise to the surface. They're coming out now because for you the time is right to face those fears and the reality of what's happened."

Kathryn nodded. "I think that was the first time…I had to admit to myself… suddenly it was real and I knew it had happened… It had really happened to me…not a dream or a bad nightmare… but really happened…not someone else in the news or…but me…"

Ellen squeezed her wrist now. "That's the first big step, Kathryn. You're on the road to recovery now."

Kathryn shook her head. "I can't even say…or think…the…word…I can't…"

Ellen sighed. "That takes time, Kathryn. Don't rush it. You will in time learn to say it. You'll see it's just a word, four letters arranged a certain way, a sound and nothing more. You'll learn to control the word and not have it control you. In time, you'll play with that word, rearrange the letters and see how many other words you can make with them. Look, I can tell you it's a long and often slow and painful struggle but you will make it. The flashbacks won't frighten you as much as time passes and you'll learn to escape them. They'll grow more gentle."

Kathryn shook her head and leaned back a little. "But I'll still be reliving it all…each time…"

Ellen nodded slowly. "Yes, you will, but as I say, you'll learn ways to deal with them, which I'll teach you. When you have them, you scream and cry as much as you want and get it all out. You'll reach a stage where they'll be very quiet and people around you won't even know you've had one. You'll be calmer when you come out of them, almost like waking from a deep sleep and a lifelike dream. They'll disappear in time, Kathryn, and you'll move on from them. I know during them, it's hard to tell reality from dream but I promise you, it'll get easier. You'll cry, sometimes hard, sometimes gently, but let the tears come because they're cleansing. Don't try and suppress them but let them come and go with them instead of fighting them. I know that sounds very hard but you'll work through it." Ellen smiled and leaned back on her heels.

"Kathryn, you have to be patient with all this but it will happen. You can't set yourself a time limit or high expectations of yourself to get better like you would with a physical illness. Let your body and mind dictate the pace of recovery. There are no time limits with this kind of healing because each survivor deals with it in their own way and in their own time. You'll have good days and bad days, even good hours and bad hours, but the good will eventually outnumber the bad. You'll grow stronger every day but don't worry if you slip back a little because that's perfectly all right. As time passes, you'll grow more positive and regain some of your confidence back. Just take it a day at a time."

Kathryn looked up, tears in her eyes. Her hand gestured to what she wore. "I look a mess…" Ellen leaned her head to the side and let her continue. "I keep washing but…"

Ellen smiled gently and leaned forward. "Can't seem to get clean?" Kathryn nodded. "Kathryn, you are clean. There's nothing dirty about you. If you feel comfortable wearing these clothes…"

Kathryn shook her head. "I don't…it's…they're familiar…I feel safer…and I feel too that if I look bad…"

Ellen nodded her understanding. "A lot of women try and look what they feel is unattractive after something like this."

Kathryn nodded. "I don't know if I want to look nice…but I hate that I've let myself go…I was always so careful…with my appearance…but now…"

Ellen squeezed her hand again. "Kathryn, I went through the same thing. I even cut my hair almost to the scalp."

Kathryn looked up quickly, shock on her face. "You have lovely hair…"

Ellen smiled her thanks. "I felt that my looks had drawn his attention or something. I know now it had nothing to do with it. Kathryn, this act is about power and trying to control, nothing more. You did nothing wrong here, you have to believe that. In time you'll overcome this…I guess I'd call it inertia…and start to take a pride in your appearance again. Kathryn, you're a beautiful woman. Never forget that."

Kathryn managed a small smile. "No, I'm not…"

Ellen grew serious. "Kathryn, you are. Inside and out and you have to believe that. You're special and so is every one of us. It just takes time to accept that. I know you find it hard to go out but that also will pass. Any panic you might feel in crowds will ease but you have to accept that it's a natural reaction. All your thoughts and reactions are natural after something like this."

Kathryn shook her head. "You mean I'm not a crazed, demented, mad woman?"

Ellen laughed slightly. "No, you're not. Look, Kathryn, we deal with this stage by stage. When you get a flashback, there are things you can do to help with them, no matter how terrifying they are." Kathryn stared at her, pleading almost for help. Ellen nodded.

"See, touch and feel the objects around you. Tell yourself that the feelings are not harmful and that they will pass. Remember you're safe and maybe even visualize a peaceful scene, somewhere you always felt safe. I know what you're feeling is scary but it's not dangerous. Try and let your mind go blank and passively accept your symptoms. As I've said, remind yourself that you've already come through the hardest part, when it happened. Breathe deeply like I showed you a while ago and don't try and fight or escape your feelings because they will pass." Kathryn nodded her head, feeling a little more hopeful.

"Talk to someone you trust or call me and I know it sounds hard but try and learn to accept what can't be changed. No amount of time is going to take away what happened but it will dim it and you'll move past it and deal with it. Don't focus on hating what happened but concentrate on what you can do to change how you are now. If it helps, keep a journal or diary and write down the scary thoughts. It's amazing when you look back through it and can see the progress you've made. Write some of it on paper and burn it even. Try and sleep well. If you're physically well rested, your mind works better and you'll have more strength to do what you need to do. If you really have trouble sleeping, I can prescribe a mild sleeping tablet but I don't want you taking that road for long, just to get you over the hump."

Kathryn nodded. "I was never a good sleeper and now I can't sleep at all, especially at night. I need the light on because I have these nightmares and if I wake in the dark, it's still there. I sleep better during the day but then I'm not tired at night and…"

Ellen smiled softly. "I understand and it's easy to change your sleep routines. I'll give you something for the short term, OK?" Kathryn nodded, looking slightly relieved.

"Kathryn, over time… there are many things you can do to help yourself. Later on, do something for others…help someone with something. Empowering others is self-empowering as well."

Kathryn frowned. "Does this help you? Counselling, I mean. Doesn't it just bring it all back?"

Ellen shook her head. "At first it was hard but then I found it great. I knew helping others through what I'd been through, helped me. It also helped them because there was so much they didn't have to try and explain. I understood already."

Kathryn nodded and smiled slightly. "What else can I do…?"

Ellen smiled more now. "That's good, Kathryn, that's great." Kathryn smiled shyly, glowing under the praise. "This is also very stressful and you can work off that stress. Do anything, clean the house, dig the garden, take exercise, a walk or run, especially when you feel frustrated. Do all those things you've always put off doing. Take up old hobbies or develop new ones and enjoy them. It's all right to smile and laugh, in fact it's good. For a long time I felt that if I laughed, it would seem to people like I was laughing at a funeral, that they'd think it hadn't been that bad because I smiled or laughed. You're not in mourning, Kathryn. You're recovering and laughter is good for that. At the end of the day though, do what feels right and good for you and don't give a damn what anyone else thinks. You're the one going through this, not them." Ellen sat up in her chair but kept a hold of Kathryn's hand.

"If you're sick or feeling bad, say it. Don't pretend everything is OK. Say 'no' if you don't want to do something. It's not selfish to put yourself first. Listen to your own body too. If you're hungry or tired, take care of it. Work on recognizing your body's signals and listen to them. Another thing. Don't do all this for anyone but yourself. You strike me as a perfectionist, but Kathryn, you don't have to please everybody, only yourself. Recover for you, not for Chakotay or me or anyone else, only for you." They both looked over at Chakotay now, having almost forgotten he was there. He just smiled gently.

"I also want you to take some time every day for yourself, either to listen to music or read or anything. That will be your own special time, when you do what you want, a break from everything else. Learn to meditate, maybe yoga or something." Kathryn nodded and smiled then told Ellen briefly about Chakotay's spiritual beliefs and her spirit guide. Ellen listened with great interest.

"That sounds perfect. Re-develop that. Kathryn, do what feels good. Play music as I said, sing along at the top of your lungs…"

Kathryn laughed. "I'm not sure Chakotay would appreciate that or could take it. I have a terrible voice…" She looked over at him and saw him smile.

"You have a beautiful voice…"

Kathryn raised an eyebrow. "When have you ever heard me singing…"

He went red. "I was listening to you one day…in the woods…on New Earth…" Their eyes met and they shared the memories. Kathryn turned back to Ellen and briefly told her about that time.

"Sounds wonderful." She made no further comment but it gave her more hope again, knowing that Kathryn would come through this with the help of the man she was in love with, even if she didn't seem to know that. "Learn to relax, Kathryn, light candles and take a warm bath…" Kathryn looked back at Chakotay again and once more, memories filled their eyes and once again, Kathryn explained about her bathtub to an amused Ellen.

"You two have some history…" She saw they were still looking at each other and hated interrupting.

"Sorry to interrupt." Kathryn looked back, a little embarrassed. "Kathryn, if things get bad, or even if you have stray memories later on, splash cold water on your face, clean the house, do something physical or something that will demand your attention. However, I must also stress the importance of relaxing for yourself. Relaxing shouldn't be a reward but a necessity. Speak positively to yourself and remind yourself how wonderful you are and tell yourself that you will get through this. Drink soothing honey drinks or herbal teas. I would, however, consider giving up caffeine because it's a stimulant."

Chakotay actually laughed out loud then caught himself but smiled again when he saw that Kathryn was smiling. "Ellen, I'm sorry. You just don't know Kathryn and her coffee addiction…"

Ellen shook her head and laughed. "You two…" She smiled as she watched them and a stray thought came to her, wondering if she'd be invited to the wedding. Her gut instinct just told her that they'd get together, that there was no way they could go through all this and not be inseparable after it all. Finally, Kathryn looked back at Ellen and the smile fell from her face. Ellen immediately picked up on it.

"Kathryn, I told you it's good to smile and laugh. Don't ever feel embarrassed or guilty about it." Kathryn nodded and smiled again. "Look, Kathryn, just remember what's important. You'll get through this. It'll be hard when there are little earthquakes around you all the time but remember that the little things are just that – little. You have all the support you need around you. When you feel bad, know that it'll pass and that the sun will shine again. If that fails, tuck into a hot fudge sundae." Kathryn looked up surprised for a moment and then smiled when she saw Ellen smiling.

"I know. Kathryn, I'm not making fun but laughter is the food of the soul. It's also a great healer. Use it. Just remember to take time to be kind to yourself. It takes time to overcome a tragedy so don't feel that you must be healed NOW. Listen to yourself and your body because it knows the best way to heal itself. If you get angry, don't be afraid of it or try to suppress it. Tear up something or jump on a pillow and hit it and scream at it. Throw something and don't worry about Chakotay… he can always replace his cups and plates." They both looked at him and they all laughed.

"Kathryn, let the child in you loose. Act silly and let the barriers down. Have fun and don't feel guilty. Go to the playground and go on the swings and slides or fly a kite. When it rains, jump in the puddles. Just because you're a grown-up, doesn't mean to always have to act like one. Ever wonder why kids don't get stressed the way we do?" Kathryn nodded and smiled.

"Again, Kathryn, you have all the support you need and don't ever be afraid to ask for anything you want or need. You can't do all this on your own and don't even try. People want to help, they just don't always know how to so tell them what you need from them. Even get a cat or a dog and cuddle them or use an old teddy bear. Hug it when you're in bed and talk to it in the middle of the night when it's bad. Hug it and cry to it, whatever you need. It's almost a link to childhood and the security we felt then. I did that a lot. That bear knows more about me than anyone." Kathryn smiled again at the thought of talking to a stuffed toy but she understood.

"As I already said, go with the flashbacks because they're part of the healing process. I know they're scary, frightening things, both to be going through and to watch someone go through…" Ellen looked over at Chakotay whose face was serious. "As long as you both understand what Kathryn needs during them, it'll be fine." She looked back at Kathryn. "Let him ground you, Kathryn, hold you and talk to you as long as you're comfortable with that…?"

Kathryn nodded. "He's been great. I know I couldn't face any of this without him."

Ellen watched them meet eyes again and frowned slightly. "Relying on him is fine but you also have to want to do this for yourself."

Kathryn looked back at Ellen and nodded. "I do, but it's easier with him… He helps me so much…" She turned to Chakotay again. "I should have said that to you, Chakotay…" He smiled back at her, saying nothing.

"Look, Kathryn, as I keep saying, you will get to the end of this road. It'll be slow going but you'll get there. Try and stick to a routine and don't neglect your physical needs like food and sleep. Eat when you should, even if you don't want to…" Kathryn smiled and looked back at Chakotay again. Ellen shook her head.

"I get it. Another one." They both laughed and Ellen joined in.

Chakotay spoke softly. "Our Kathryn has always been terrible at looking after herself."

Ellen shook her head. "Seriously, Kathryn, it's too easy to slip into bad habits but remember that your body is struggling hard to overcome a great trauma and it needs looking after to help heal itself." Kathryn nodded then remained quiet. Ellen broke the silence.

"OK Kathryn, I think that's enough for today." Kathryn looked up. "I know you were probably expecting me to want you to talk more but you'll do that when you're ready. For today, I just wanted to talk to you and help you understand more about what you're going through and how you can get through it. Mostly I want you to take two things from this today. One is that this wasn't your fault in any way, and two, that you will get through this and recover."

Kathryn relaxed a little more. "I understand. Everything you've said…it's been… I think I needed to hear it… I know I did… I was scared that you'd want me to talk…tell you about…about what happened…"

Ellen smiled and shook her head. "There's never any pressure here, Kathryn. You'll tell me if you want to but if you don't, that's OK too. If you do want to talk, you'll do that when you are ready, not before."

Kathryn sighed and nodded her head. "Ellen, thank you."

Ellen squeezed her hand again. "You're more than welcome. Just let me know when you want to see me again…"

Kathryn nodded. "Tomorrow? Is that too soon?"

Ellen smiled. "Whenever you want, Kathryn. You decide on all this."

Kathryn bit her lip. "Tomorrow please… I need…"

Ellen smiled and stood up. "Tomorrow it is then, about 11:00?" Kathryn glanced at Chakotay and he nodded. "Kathryn, is 11:00 all right with you? Don't worry about Chakotay."

Kathryn smiled, getting the message. "11:00 is fine."

Ellen nodded. She reached into a drawer and took out a small bottle of pills. "I prefer these to hypos. Take one about an hour before you want to go to bed. They're quite gentle but they'll help you sleep." Kathryn nodded gratefully and took the bottle. Ellen nodded her head and smiled softly. "Right. I'll see you in the morning then."

Kathryn was quiet that evening at home and Chakotay gave her all the space she needed, knowing that she was trying to absorb all she'd spoken of and learned from Ellen. After dinner they sat quietly, Chakotay reading a book. Kathryn's voice broke into his reading.

"Chakotay, thank you for taking me today and coming in with me. I was very nervous about it all, even going out and leaving the house… Actually, I was terrified…"

He looked up and put his book down. "I was happy to." She seemed more relaxed than he'd seen her since the whole nightmare had begun. "For the future through, know that I'll be with you if you want that or I'll stay outside if that's better for you. You won't hurt my feelings, I told you that."

Kathryn lowered her head. "I need you there. I know Ellen said I need to do this for myself and not look to you but it helps me so much, having you there. Just as long as you're sure…" She looked up at him, wary at his reaction but he just smiled.

"Then I'm there for you. Know that always. Know this too, I'll swim every one of those rivers with you." She was close to tears at his words and took a moment to compose herself. Finally, she looked up and smiled.

"Thank you so much for that." She patted his arm. "Well, I'm tired. That pill is working." She stood up and moved past him then stopped. Without warning, she leaned down and brushed her lips to his cheek. "Goodnight…"

He just smiled softly. "Goodnight, Kathryn. Sleep well." He held eye contact with her and saw her brief embarrassment pass quickly and she smiled at him then left. He sat staring off into the distance for a long time after she left the room, a smile on his face.

Kathryn's session the following morning was much like the one of the previous afternoon but she seemed more rested and Ellen remarked on it.

"I slept right through…" Kathryn seemed proud of herself and Ellen smiled.

"The pills are a stopgap, Kathryn. They'll get you through the rough part but don't get to depend on them. Kathryn nodded her understanding.

Once more, Ellen pulled her chair around from behind the desk and checked that Kathryn was happy with Chakotay in the room. Once she was satisfied with that, she began. "So how do you feel otherwise this morning, Kathryn?"

Kathryn shrugged a little. "I guess a bit stronger, more positive. Sleeping so well helped and I haven't had another flashback." She seemed more relaxed but Ellen frowned slightly.

"You could well still get them. Kathryn, it's early days. I just want you to be aware of that…"

Kathryn nodded solemnly. "I know that. I just feel a lot more hopeful this morning…" Ellen nodded and let the subject drop. For the rest of the session, she did most of the talking.

By the time of their third session two days later, Kathryn had suffered two more flashbacks. As Chakotay sat and listened to Ellen try and reassure Kathryn, he thought back on the two episodes, both of which had left her badly shaken and crying. Chakotay had followed all the advice he'd been given as he gently brought her out of them and comforted her afterwards. He knew the first flashback had shocked Kathryn more, that she'd believed for a while that they might be behind her, despite Ellen's warning. When the second one came, she'd been a little more prepared but it broke Chakotay's heart to hear her crying and screaming out at her attacker, pleading and begging for him to stop hurting her. Afterwards, she always clung to him, shaking and crying, as he held her tightly to him, rubbing up and down her arms or back, whispering soothing words to her until she calmed.

The sessions Kathryn attended during the following week were in much the same vein. Ellen went back over a lot of the points she'd already made and slowly she sensed Kathryn relaxing more and more into their time together, becoming more comfortable with each visit, despite the continuing flashbacks. Chakotay always sat in the corner and stayed quiet unless something was addressed to him but even he sensed a slight change in the atmosphere. He saw that Kathryn was more comfortable but he also sensed that she was working up to something and realized that Ellen saw this too but was sitting back in order to let it come.

"I think you're a lot more positive now, Kathryn. Think how you were at first…" Kathryn looked up quickly and Ellen saw something flash across her eyes. She remained silent, leaving the ball in Kathryn's court. Finally, Kathryn spoke, playing with a tissue in her hands.

"You probably know about… when I got out of the hospital… what I tried to do…?" She looked towards Chakotay a moment then back at Ellen and met the counsellor's eyes.

Ellen smiled softly. "On the roof?"

Kathryn nodded and sank down in her chair a little. "I feel so ashamed about that…embarrassed… I was so weak…" She looked down at her hands and twisted the paper she held.

Ellen didn't move and just spoke softly. "Do you want to tell me about that, Kathryn? If you don't or you're not ready…"

Kathryn looked up quickly and seemed to think a moment, then shook her head. "No… I can. I don't…" She was quiet again for a few moments. "I didn't…I don't think I would have…" She looked up at Ellen. "I don't think I would have jumped, you know…not really…at least I tell myself that… I wanted to…not jump so much but end the pain…but I'm too much of a coward…" Chakotay shivered for a moment, thinking back to that day but he hid it well.

Ellen continued to use a soft voice when she spoke. "Kathryn, it takes a lot more courage and strength to go on…"

Kathryn met her eyes and Ellen saw the start of her tears. "I'm not though. It's there but I'm not dealing with it at all, I know that, except when it comes in the flashbacks. I know it happened but I keep trying to deny it and push it away but it haunts me like an evil spirit, only I can't exorcize it." She wiped at her face and sat forward. "I'm sorry…can I have some water please…?" Ellen nodded and fetched a glass then handed it to Kathryn, her patient's shaking hands not going unnoticed by her. She sat quietly and watched the woman in front of her fight for composure.

"Kathryn, you are dealing with it and you're making progress, even if you can't see it yet. The very fact that you're here says that. Having the flashbacks is also your mind telling you that you're ready to face more of what happened."

Kathryn didn't look sure as she swirled the remains of her water in the glass. "It just hurts me to know how much I must have hurt and disappointed Chakotay though…" She looked towards him, tears running down her face. "I'm so sorry for that…the hurt I've caused you…" He smiled softly at her.

Ellen broke in. "Kathryn, this is about how you felt. I told you before, Chakotay is fine. He can deal with his own feelings. It's you we're here for."

Kathryn jerked her head back. "But it matters to me how he feels, how much I hurt him and let him down…"

Ellen went to speak but for once Chakotay cut in. "Kathryn, you have never disappointed me, OK? You didn't hurt my feelings either. The only hurt I feel is from seeing you in such pain but like Ellen says, I'll deal with that myself. Seeing you recover is all I need…" They held eyes for a few minutes and finally Kathryn seemed to accept his words. "Kathryn, let Ellen guide you. Concentrate on yourself and her help and don't worry about me. I'm fine." She nodded her head and sniffed. Ellen stared at Chakotay and he met her eyes briefly and saw her smile of thanks. He also saw that she knew he wasn't trying to interfere, that this was a one off on his part.

Kathryn looked back at Ellen now. "It was just…all so fresh… In the hospital, I could push it away a lot of the time…deal with the physical injuries I had and use the pain from them to blot everything else out. Once I left there and I'd sent Chakotay home… I don't know…it just came over me…this fear of what I'd have to face…that I was back in the real world where this had happened…not the hospital which seemed removed from it…safer somehow… Now suddenly it was real again…and I couldn't…knew it was too hard… I'd thought the hospital would be worse because it would constantly remind me why I was there…but it wasn't. It was a limbo…a waiting place…holding it all off or something… as if being there could hold it back. When I left…the apartment seemed so empty and lonely…like it always had…but now I had this as well… I don't even remember walking up to the roof…only standing there and then…then Chakotay was there…" She sipped her water and wiped at her face again.

"All I felt was this intense fear…helplessness…a horror even… I felt dirty and sick…and ashamed… I tried for a while in the hospital to pretend it hadn't happened but now I was home and it was real… I felt such deep embarrassment and shame…and so afraid… I felt I was nothing anymore and that it was all my fault…that I'd deserved it… I'd lost all my confidence in myself…didn't feel capable of walking across the road even… I felt I'd never be able to trust anyone ever again…" She put her glass down and leaned back a little.

"One minute it felt so real and I'd feel the pain again…the next I felt numb and I'd tell myself it hadn't happened…and I couldn't believe it had happened to me…that it was always someone else…and then I looked in the mirror and suddenly hated what I saw there… I didn't want to look at myself or touch myself…my skin felt as if something was crawling on it… I felt so dirty and used…and I couldn't see myself ever feeling any better…only worse… I remember then being on the roof and Chakotay talking to me…and somehow I knew he was trying to buy time and talk me back from the edge…and somewhere in my mind…I knew I wanted him to but still it was all there…impossible to get past…but he kept talking…and I tried to shut his words out but they wouldn't go away…" She sat forward now and tore at her tissue, almost unaware of the others in the room with her.

"I remember sitting and listening to him. He was trying to make me think about something else but… I couldn't see anything else…and I remember saying that I'd been punished for what I'd done…that I deserved it…and then suddenly he was there…angry and dragging me up…and for a second it was…like before…but almost immediately…I knew it was Chakotay…believed and knew he wouldn't harm me. It came to me that quickly…and then he pushed me against the wall and kept talking…telling me not to say those things and…so many other words…but in the end…somehow I listened…even though I felt in a daze and then I was going home with him and…" She sat up and looked around her but all she saw was two kind faces, both now smiling gently at her. "Sorry…"

Ellen leaned over and grasped her hand. "Kathryn, that was great. You've nothing to be sorry for. You've taken a very big step here today. I'm very proud of you."

Kathryn smiled shyly. "It's hard…"

Ellen nodded. "I know it is, but you've made a great start and the rest will follow. You're stronger now and you'll get through it all."

Kathryn seemed doubtful. "I don't know. I feel sometimes that I'll never be the same person I was before this happened. I'll be older. I don't know about wiser, but I'll certainly be far more aware which I think I'd rather not be…"

Ellen leaned a little closer. "Kathryn, I won't lie to you. This will change the person you are but put that part of you aside and retrieve who you were before. I believe you'll be stronger for it even. Something else you'll be at the end of all this, is free of 'victim status'. You'll be a survivor. You are already, in fact."

Kathryn sniffed again. "I still find it so hard to believe it's happened to me. I've tried to put it all to the back of my mind, telling myself that if I didn't think about it, it couldn't or wouldn't have happened." Ellen stayed leaning forward.

"Kathryn, that's a very common reaction. I tried that myself for a long time but it eventually gets through. Most survivors are in denial for a time."

Kathryn bit her lip. "I think I was afraid that once I admitted it to myself, that it would open a floodgate and I'd drown in this sea of emotion and fear. I wasn't ready or able for that. So, I tried to carry on but then… I guess I thought it would be easier to try and…end it, I suppose…" She looked up quickly then back down. "Those days in the hospital… I'd wake up and not know what to expect, what I'd feel. One minute I'd feel I could get through it, the next I knew I couldn't. I wanted to cry but I couldn't."

Ellen nodded her understanding. "Kathryn, it's like a grieving process. You'll cry and mourn for something you feel you've lost, but you can get it back. You'll feel withdrawn and angry and a hundred other emotions before that happens, but it will happen. Sometimes you'll want to talk non-stop, other times you won't want to talk at all or see anybody." Kathryn coughed slightly to clear her throat.

"Getting here some days has been… Only for Chakotay…"

Ellen nodded her understanding. "Your self-confidence has taken some damage but it will heal."

Kathryn shook her head. "I still feel so dirty though and I still don't really care how I look. I just want clothes that are familiar to me and I wear the same things…comfortable… I don't know what way I'll feel in the mornings or how I feel now even or what I'll feel in five minutes…" Ellen saw more coming now and eased Kathryn into it.

"That too will pass and I can testify to that. You'll wake up one day and decide you want to put on something nice and do your hair. You'll look in the mirror and see yourself, the person you always were and still are, the one who's just hidden for a while. She's still there, Kathryn."

Kathryn kept her head down. "I put on a nice dress for the roof… I don't know why it mattered…"

Ellen rubbed Kathryn's arm now. "It mattered to you and that's a good sign."

Kathryn just shook her head, tears falling from her eyes now. "They all saw…they saw…"

Ellen sensed the beginning of the long fall now and knelt on the floor in front of Kathryn. She glanced quickly at Chakotay and saw his worry and barely nodded at him, telling him it was all right.

"Who saw, Kathryn?" The young woman gripped Kathryn's hands.

"The…Security…they saw…and the staff…at the hospital…they saw me…" She kept shaking her head, crying openly now. "They saw me…the way I was…he tore… tore my… my clothes…ripped them… they saw everything…" She broke into deep sobs and Ellen leaned in a little closer.

"Kathryn, it's all right… Kathryn, can I hold you…?" She got a small nod and put her arms around the sobbing woman before her. Kathryn didn't return the embrace but let herself be hugged as she cried. Slowly she calmed and pulled back a little.

"I…I…remember so much…and I want to forget…but it won't leave me…and I relive it…and the same things are there…always there…"

Ellen smoothed Kathryn's hair back. "If you want to tell me…" Kathryn wiped at her face but said nothing. "Kathryn, listen to me. I know in my own case, I spoke with Security and the hospital staff, even the Medics who treated me on the street…" Kathryn looked up a little. "That's right…my attack was actually very like yours… But Kathryn, I spoke with them later. It was months later but…" She stopped a moment and Kathryn looked up, her eyes red and puffy.

"You know, they didn't know me. They didn't recognize me at all and I remember thinking that… I don't know…asking myself if I was that unimportant, I guess… Later on, I worked it out. Firstly, I looked very different from that night…" She smiled slightly. "Secondly and this sounds cruel in a way but it helped me… They hadn't really seen ME that night. I was just someone they needed to take care of and get medical help for. They were doing their jobs. It wasn't that they didn't care but I was one case of God knows how many that night, all different, all needing the same care and attention, people having babies, people in accidents, suicides, overdoses, falls, fires, heart attacks and illnesses, muggings, fights, drownings, the list goes on and on in a city this size. 'All human life is here'… They cared while they were with me but once I'd been taken care of, they moved on to the next patient because that's the only way they can do their job. They can't see a dead child, then go home to their own family, and bring that with them. They have to separate it in order to cope and do it all again the next day or night. And knowing that, helped me so much."

She saw Kathryn absorb her words and accept them. "I guess it does help… I kept thinking I'd meet one of them in the street and he or she would see me and think or say – 'oh that's the woman who was'…" She didn't continue.

Ellen smiled softly. "Would you recognize all the people who tended you?"

Kathryn looked at her. "I wasn't conscious for…" She stared off at the window a moment then shook her head and smiled slightly. "Later on? No…no, I don't think I would…some of them maybe…the nurses…they were so kind…" Kathryn smiled her understanding and then suddenly started crying again. Ellen held her hands and waited.

When Kathryn finally stopped crying, Ellen leaned behind her and reached for the tissues. She handed one to Kathryn.

"Kathryn, you've done very well here today. If it's OK with you, I'd like to see you again tomorrow. For now, go home and take it easy. Try and get some rest. You've come a long way today but I think it's enough for you." Kathryn nodded her agreement and looked to Chakotay. He simply stood and smiled at her.

"Come on, I'll cook."

Kathryn managed a small smile. "He doesn't trust my cooking." Ellen laughed as Chakotay shook his head.

"That's because I've tasted it…" He smiled again at the tiny glare he received. Ellen saw them out, but only she really saw the pain in Chakotay's eyes and the effect all this was having on him.

When they got home, Kathryn headed out into the garden and wandered around for a while. Chakotay watched her for a few minutes, knowing she needed this time to herself to come to terms with what had been revealed that afternoon. He smiled as an idea came to him now.

When Kathryn came back in from the garden, she called for Chakotay, not seeing him anywhere, a slight panic building in her. He came into the room, drying his hands on a towel and had a boyish smile on his face. He saw her relief that he was there and held out a hand to her, which she took, not hesitating for a second.

"I hope this is all right. I thought you might like it…" He led her to the bathroom and watched her face as they entered the small room. Kathryn gasped and tears filled her eyes as she looked around. The bath was filled, bubbles almost spilling over the rim and the scent of jasmine oil filled the air. Candles were scattered all over the room, filling almost every available space and soft music played. Kathryn bit her lip and turned to Chakotay, her tears escaping now.

"Is this all right? I know how you enjoy your baths and I thought…" Kathryn moved over to him and just hugged him gently. He delicately held her a moment, revelling in her trust of him then pulled back and smiled. "I left a glass of wine there for you too. Is that OK? You won't need your tablet until much later and it's just one glass…" Kathryn nodded, not knowing what to say. Chakotay just smiled sheepishly and backed out the door. He pointed to the handle. "It's old fashioned. You need to turn this key here to lock it… I think I told you before… It's not like the bathroom off your bedroom…"

Kathryn stared at him a moment then shook her head. "I don't need to lock it. It's fine…" They held eye contact for a moment longer, then Chakotay looked away.

"I'll start dinner. It'll be ready when you are…" He turned and left her to her bath.

Kathryn stayed in the water as long as she could, feeling some of the tension from earlier ease from her body. The scent of the candles and the bath oil lulled her into a deep relaxing state and for a few minutes, she tried to imagine that this was just home, that she was with Chakotay and her nightmare had never happened. Her mind quickly brought her back to reality though but she fought the 'bad' feelings as she'd come to term them. She dropped her head back and stared at the play of candlelight on the ceiling, as she inhaled the relaxing scents. A noise caught her attention and she sat up quickly until she realized that Chakotay had just dropped something in the kitchen and she heard him curse at it. She smiled at the sound and lay back down. Eventually she studied her fingers and saw that they were pruning. Knowing she needed to get out before she dried up completely, she stood and stepped from the bath.

As Kathryn reached for a towel, she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror which was now steamed up. Moving slowly towards it, she used the towel to wipe it and then closed her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she slowly opened them again and forced herself to look at her body in the glass. She stood for long minutes studying the woman who stared back at her, taking in every curve, every detail and found herself frowning.

"You're the same, Kathryn…this body is the same…" She kept staring and then turned this way and that but nothing caught her attention. Slowly she moved closer and studied her face. "Still the same…" Then she looked in her eyes. "Ah…there you are…" She stared deeply into her own eyes now and while the colour was the same, she saw everything she'd been through, written there for her to see. Up close now, she scrutinized her cheeks, chest and neck area, something she'd felt unable to do before now. She reached over, switched on the overhead lighting, and studied herself more closely. Not a trace of any wound remained in existence and she smiled softly. "Thank you, Doctor, thank you."

Another sound from the kitchen caught her attention now and she tore herself away from her physical analysis and dried herself off. She blew out the candles and padded across the hall to her bedroom, clutching her towel tightly to her body. She then dressed quickly, taking a little more care this time and Ellen's words came back to her. Smiling a little, she brushed out her hair and added a little lipstick. As she studied her reflection, she nodded her head and smiled to herself.

Chakotay looked up when she came into the kitchen and dropped the pan he was holding. He cursed once more while Kathryn just stood there.

"Sorry, Chakotay, I didn't mean to scare you…"

He picked up the pan and scraped the spilled contents back into it. "That's my second lot. I guess dinner is replicated. Is that all right?"

She nodded. "That's fine. Again, I'm sorry I scared you."

He looked up sheepishly. "You didn't… well, not like that… It was just… Sorry… I better get this mess cleaned up…" He looked up and saw her frown.

"Just what, Chakotay? Is it me?" She looked down at herself, appearing uncertain about her appearance now.

Chakotay moved towards her. "Kathryn, you look fine. You look great, in fact…" He actually blushed. "Sorry…it's…because you… You look wonderful and it took me by surprise… I'm sorry… I shouldn't have said that…" He went to turn away but her hand on his arm stopped him.

"Chakotay, thank you. I mean it, thank you. Thank you for my bath and thank you for noticing when I made a little effort to look better. I mean it, thank you. It means a great deal to me." They smiled at each other for a moment.

"Sit, woman. I'll replicate something."

As they sat on the sofa after dinner, Kathryn looked over at Chakotay and smiled at him. He sensed she wanted to say something and just waited.

"Chakotay, you don't mind that I don't talk…about anything…when we're here? I know you see it when I have a flashback but… I mean outside of that…?"

He sat forward and shook his head. "Kathryn, I told you before. Talk to me or don't, silence or not, it's fine. You do this your own way."

She nodded her thanks. "I probably will later, talk to you, I mean, if that's all right?" He nodded. "It's just that for now… I see Ellen and I guess I associate her office with that but here… I see here as peaceful… somewhere I can relax…take a break from it for a while…"

He almost cried at her words. "My turn to thank you, Kathryn. That means a lot to me…"


Kathryn's next visit to Ellen would be a turning point for her but when she entered the woman's office, she had no idea of that. Kathryn was in good form, more relaxed than she'd been since first seeing the counsellor.

"You look good today, Kathryn. I love that dress and your hair looks great." Kathryn smiled and appeared embarrassed. She sat and told Ellen all about her bath and kept smiling over at Chakotay. She then told her about her study in the mirror.

"Kathryn, that's great. You're doing very well."

Kathryn smiled like a little girl but then grew serious. "I know I've been up a little before Ellen, but I also know that I could be down again tomorrow or even in an hour's time." Ellen smiled as she brought her chair out from behind her desk to its usual place.

"As I say, Kathryn, you're doing very well and the fact that you understand that shows how well you're doing. You still have some way to go but at least you know you'll get there."

Kathryn sat back and sighed. "I know I have and… Ellen, yesterday…it was bad but… I look at myself and see that I'm still here today…not in a padded cell…"

Ellen nodded her head. "You can do it. However, I want you to understand that there are still hard times ahead. It's only right that you accept that…"

Kathryn grew a little more serious. "I do… I know that some of the hardest stuff is still ahead…what I'll talk about… I know that…" She was quiet now for some time and suddenly stood up and walked over to the window. Ellen said nothing.

"A part of me just wants to get this over with…get it out…say it… I just don't know…" Ellen turned towards her and watched as she played with the curtain.

"Kathryn, you know the score. You only talk about this if you're ready…" She saw the older woman nod her head.

"I'm so afraid of hurting you…" She turned to Chakotay now.

He looked kindly at her. "I'll wait outside if…"

Kathryn shook her head. "If you can… I'd prefer you here… I think I'll need you…"

They both looked at Ellen who nodded her head. "Whatever Kathryn wants…"

Ellen sat back now and waited and Chakotay forced himself to lean back into his own chair. Kathryn continued to stare out the window for a while then walked back and sat. She reached for the glass of water Ellen had left there for her and took a deep swallow, knowing she was putting this off. Finally, she forced the first words from her mouth.

"I know now he was watching me for a while…maybe a few weeks…I don't know…" She put the glass down and twirled it on the table, needing to keep her hands active. "I wasn't actually looking for anyone…had no reason to suspect I'd need to watch myself… I wasn't exactly thinking that way…" She looked up and went on to tell Ellen about their homecoming and how Chakotay had been with Susan and how lonely she'd been. She was crying now and looked over at him. "Chakotay, I'm sorry…I don't want to hurt you…"

He smiled gently and hid his feelings well. "Kathryn, you're doing fine. I'm not hurt. Please…"

She nodded and continued. "That night…" She stood now and pulled some tissues from the box on Ellen's desk then sat again, playing with them in her lap. "That night… I had to get out of the apartment. The walls were closing in… Oh, I'd walked at night before and I know that was stupid… I'd been warned but I guess a part of me didn't care…" She looked over at Chakotay and saw that his head was down.

"I walked for a long time… I remember it had rained earlier… I was watching all the lights reflected in the rain on the sidewalks…" She sat forward now. "He passed me… I'm sure it was him…that he must have been following me… I took no notice and turned… I was tired now…decided to head back…and then…then…" She stood now and studied some books on a shelf, moving them slightly as if rearranging them.

"I'm sorry…this is very difficult…"

Ellen smiled sadly. "Kathryn, this is the first time you've even come close to facing this by talking about it and it'll be the hardest. Once you get on that road, it will get easier… If you're not ready though…"

Kathryn shook her head quickly. "No, I have to… I feel it'll destroy me if I don't…feel it's almost like a cancer eating away inside me…" Ellen nodded, knowing only too well what that felt like. "I'm just afraid to say the words..." She sat again. "I can't… oh God… No, I can…" She placed her elbows on her knees and cupped her face.

Ellen leaned forward. "Kathryn, the words can't hurt you. HE can't hurt you anymore. I told you, the hardest part is over."

Kathryn nodded and wiped at her face. She took several deep breaths and began. "I was looking at the lights on the street, reflected in the rain and I remember looking around and not seeing anyone. I just didn't think about it. Didn't feel afraid or anything, just lonely." She didn't look at Chakotay as he closed his eyes and fought to control his emotions.

"It was…so…so sudden… I felt someone…him…grab me…from behind…his arm…hand…" She stopped and drew in more deep breaths. "His arm was tight around me…my upper body…his hand…across my mouth and nose… There was no warning…nothing…no sound… and I struggled and I couldn't breathe and from somewhere…in my mind…I remembered something…from my training…about going limp…and I did…but it made no difference to him…" She reached for the glass but didn't drink.

"He dragged me down this alley…dark…and then…pushed me against a wall… slammed me against it…pressing against me…pinning me…and his hand over my face… I felt dizzy…couldn't breathe… I think he guessed because he backed off…whispered in my ear… and his voice…rasping…terrified me…said 'Captain' or something… I don't remember… but I knew then it was really me he was after… I know he said 'Captain' and something about…not making it worse…not to fight him…" She took a sip of water now, trying to fight her tears.

"I saw the phaser… I was so scared…then he spoke to me…asked if I knew him…came towards me… He was familiar…then he said his sister's name and I knew who he was. He told me why he was there and… I prayed I could talk him out of whatever he had planned… I was afraid but not… I thought I could talk to him. He was so angry though and I don't really remember all he said and then…he was screaming at me…that I killed her…that she was all he had… and I tried to tell him…tell him it was an accident…that we'd tried to find him…but he wouldn't believe me… Maybe he was right…I was responsible…I killed her…" She stopped a moment and closed her eyes. "I remember…the phaser…pointing at me…he hit me in the face with it…spit on me…and when he fired it at me… I thought I was going to die and I felt it hit and the pain of it…" She played with her glass on her lap.

"I slid down the wall…tried to understand what I was feeling…and I felt the tingling and knew…knew I was only stunned…and then… He dragged me to my feet and… I couldn't really stand…my legs were… He just kept punching me…hitting me…and I fell and…he was kicking me…and…I couldn't move…couldn't lift my hands…and I felt…felt…my face and head…pain…and I couldn't protect…" She sobbed deeply now and Ellen reached over and took the glass from her.

"You're doing fine, Kathryn…" She said nothing more and waited. Kathryn lifted her head and wiped her face with a tissue then swallowed hard.

"The things he said…horrible…names and…obscene…and he kept hitting me and I thought it would never stop…but it did…and I was just lying there… Oh God, the pain…everywhere…and yet numb in others… I couldn't stop shaking…and the cold… and I remember…strange things…things I feel I shouldn't… I remember the ground was wet and thinking something about my clothes getting wet…could feel it seeping into me…and seeing a piece of paper or something near me on the ground…could see his feet… and the ground was…cold and wet…hard…" She stopped and shook her head. "It was so dark but I could still see…even though…I knew my eyes were closing…swelling…and then he…he was pulling me towards him…and he…he pushed me…onto my back… I think I said 'no…please' or 'no more'…I don't know…and I felt him pulling at me…and…and…I still didn't think of… I thought he was…going to kill me…then he…he was pulling…at my clothes…and…oh God…suddenly I knew…knew what he was doing…and I tried to tell him not to…I begged him… pleaded…and I felt my clothes ripping…my blouse and bra…my skirt…and he…he…" Kathryn stopped again, forcing gulps of air into her lungs. Ellen reached over but Kathryn shrugged her off.

"I tried to fight him…I tried…really tried…but my arms…they wouldn't move…no control… I've never felt so helpless…I couldn't stop him…couldn't stop him…and I begged him…pleaded with him…and he just laughed…he laughed…kept laughing…and I felt blood in my mouth…tasted it…and he'd ripped my clothes away…told me I'd know his pain…and then…he was…on…top…" She gasped again for air and Chakotay jumped up but Kathryn didn't seem to notice him. Ellen looked up quickly and held a hand up, shaking her head. He sat quickly, tears falling from his eyes. Kathryn just stared ahead of her, her hands twisting the tissue into a tight rope.

"He was… I felt him…so heavy…I begged…and blood…I gagged…and I swallowed…it was choking me…in my throat… I thought I'd choke…and I gagged…and he was there…on top…his face so close…staring into mine… I could smell his breath… and his knees…pinching…between my…" Kathryn was shaking now. "He pressed his knees…between my legs… I couldn't stop him…couldn't move…and his hand…over my mouth…tight…kept saying I'd know pain and know his pain… And he tore my panties away…squeezed…my breast… It hurt so much…and I felt him…felt him…there…and then…his hand on my mouth and then… Oh God…the pain…he pushed…into me…so much pain…and I screamed but…his hand…I couldn't breathe…" Chakotay jumped up again but one glare from Ellen and he stopped. "I screamed and screamed…but I only heard them…in my head…and I told him no…and prayed…begged and pleaded…but it was in my head…I couldn't say it… couldn't move…and I tried to lift my hands…push at him…but they wouldn't move…and I felt him…moving…in me…felt him in me…tearing me…and his weight…crushing me and…I couldn't breathe…couldn't…" Kathryn stared vacantly ahead of her. "It was real and yet not… I thought…felt…some part of me still couldn't believe it was happening…that I'd wake up…but I didn't… It was happening…and I couldn't do anything…and it went on and on…never ending… I prayed for it to be over…and then...then I felt that…was sure that I'd…I'd pass out…wanted to so much…and I felt him…and then…it was over…and he fell on me…I felt him in me…his…it…in me…even when he rolled off…I felt it… I didn't know if…it was from him…or my blood…knew I was bleeding…was torn…" She was shaking her head slowly now.

"I prayed it was over…wanted to die…and I was gasping in air…and I saw him…fixing himself… He kept saying about pain…his pain…mine… and then…then…he sat on me…and I thought…oh God I thought he was…again…and then I saw…saw the knife… and I felt such…terror…and he said about…marking me…that whoever would….see me dead…they'd remember… and then I did scream… I know that… There was just pain and he…he was slashing at me…my chest…neck…I know I was screaming…I'm sure of it…but I couldn't fight…couldn't lift my hands…and he grabbed my hair…held me…cut at my face…screaming at me and I screamed…thought I'd go mad…and then…shouts…a light… I didn't know if it was real…and he fell on me again…and…and…I don't remember… Then it was…the hospital…and…and…" Kathryn was rocking back and forth at this stage, tears streaming down her face. Ellen was crying too and glanced over at Chakotay and saw the closest she'd ever seen to a broken man. She quickly looked back at Kathryn. Taking a chance, she reached out and touched her hand.

Kathryn jumped and screamed, then leapt out of the chair and ran for the corner, crying and screaming. Chakotay jumped up and ran to her. He sat down beside her and called to her, touching her arm gently. Within minutes, she seemed to hear him and calmed a little. He kept talking to her as Ellen looked on. Slowly, Kathryn calmed more and while still very confused and dazed looking, she turned to Chakotay and looked up at him.


He stroked her arm a little more firmly now. "Yes, love, it's me. I'm here. You're safe. You're at Ellen's office. It's all right…it's over now… This was just remembering…not real…" She continued to stare at him for a few minutes, then lifted her hand towards him and then back a few times. Finally, she touched him on the chest and once she seemed convinced that he was real, fell into his arms, screaming and crying afresh now, as he held her tightly and rocked her, whispering quietly to her. Ellen watched the scene before her totally amazed. She'd never seen such trust from a patient in this state before, not to anyone, even herself with her own husband.

It took Chakotay almost twenty minutes to bring Kathryn back to him and even then he continued to hold and rock her, still whispering reassurances to her. While she seemed calm now, she still appeared extremely confused and out of it. Ellen made a quick decision and picked up a hypo. Without asking Chakotay, she came over to the man and woman on the floor of her office and pressed the hypo to Kathryn's neck. Chakotay felt it work immediately as Kathryn slumped in his arms.

"I'm sorry, Chakotay, trust me on this. She needed that. She needed to cry it out first but now she needs this." Chakotay looked down at the sedated woman in his arms and continued to stroke her arms and hair.

"I know…" He drew in a deep breath. "What do I do now?" Ellen sat down beside him and stroked Kathryn's hair also.

"She's crossed the roughest river today, Chakotay. It'll be tough for a few days but this was the worst. She had to get that out." He nodded, his face a mask of sadness. "I'm going to order a medical site to site for you both to your home. Put her to bed but stay with her. I'll give you another two of these in case it gets too bad and you can call me anytime. You have my home contact number?" Chakotay nodded. "Call me tomorrow and let me know how she is. I won't call to you unless I have to, because I believe she needs to separate here from home…"

Chakotay smiled slightly. "That's similar to something she said to me…"

Ellen smiled gently and nodded. "Leave it for a few days before bringing her back if she's content with that. If she needs to see me before then, call me. Ask her what she wants and needs and take it from there." Chakotay signed deeply and nodded. "Right…I'll arrange that transport now…" She stood and within minutes, Chakotay felt the tingle of the transporter beam take them.

Chakotay sat through the night and watched Kathryn sleep. Occasionally she would cry out and twist in the bed but mostly the sedative did its job. Only once, did she scream out as a nightmare gripped her fiercely and he used one of the sedatives Ellen had given him. As she settled again, he sat back in the chair and studied her, letting his tears fall now. It had torn him in two earlier as he'd listened to her tell of the horror she'd endured, filled with such fear and pain, and at that moment and even now, Kathryn's words still in his ears, he felt he wanted to go out and dig David Furlong up from his grave and pummel his dead body. He wiped at his face and looked at the sleeping one before him, shaking his head. He reached over and gently stroked her cheek with the back of his finger.

"How could he do that to you? Oh Kathryn…I'm so sorry…" She moved slightly as if his finger was tickling her cheek and he smiled a little, then sobered. "I'll get you through this, I promise you that. I'll do everything I can to take it all away…" His voice seemed to sooth her in some way and she settled a little more. For the rest of the night, Chakotay didn't move from her side.

Early next morning, Chakotay was still awake just watching Kathryn. Without warning, she jerked awake and bolted up in the bed.

"Turn on the light…where's the light…?" She was panicked and Chakotay leaned forward so she could see him clearly.

"It's morning, Kathryn, but the light's still on anyway…" She twisted her head around to where his voice was, her face raw with emotion.

"Where am I? How did I get here?" He calmly and gently told her how Ellen had given her a sedative and transported them back to the house. He saw his words slowly sink in and she nodded. She sank back down in the bed and pulled the quilt tightly to her.

"I'm sorry…sorry you heard all that…at least I think…did I say it all…?" She looked to him and he nodded.

"You got it all out, Kathryn. The most difficult part of this is over according to Ellen."

Kathryn closed her eyes tightly. "I'm sorry… I don't know what you must think of me…how weak I was…didn't fight…scream more…"

Chakotay sat forward but kept enough space between them so she wouldn't feel threatened. "Kathryn, you did all the right things. What I think is that you are brave beyond words…so strong… You couldn't fight…the strongest person in the world couldn't fight against a stun…and you screamed all you could… Kathryn…it's not your fault…don't do this to yourself…don't let him still control you…" He instantly regretted his last words, but they seemed to help her. She stared up at the ceiling. "Would you like some breakfast? I think we can allow some coffee." She barely nodded at him. "Here or in the kitchen?"

She looked at him now. "Here sounds good but the kitchen would be better. I need to use the…"

Chakotay nodded and stood up. "Breakfast will be served in ten minutes." He left, giving her a little time to herself.

Kathryn refused to return to Ellen for the next two days and instead stayed locked away in the house. She went from angry to totally withdrawn in minutes and then restless, pacing the floor. Chakotay stayed silent for the most part unless she spoke to him.

"Why don't you say what you're thinking?"

He jumped when she suddenly screamed at him. "What am I thinking?" He kept his voice calm which only seemed to enrage her more.

"That I deserved this…that I'm just a filthy slut…some whore…who asked for it…that I murdered my crew…"

Chakotay fought to remain calm. "Because it's not true and because I don't think that and never will…"

She closed in on him, determined to bait him. "Come on, Chakotay, you know I'm right. You think exactly that. You probably believe I opened my legs for every alien out there…" He jumped up now and she faced up to him, a strange glint in her eyes. "Come on, hit me…punish me…maybe you want some too… I gave it to him…"

He just shook his head sadly and walked away. Within seconds, something solid hit him in the back and a vase bounced on the floor beside him, smashing into several pieces. He just looked at it. "I'll just clean that up."

Kathryn screamed out and ran at him, pushing him. She then bent down and grabbed at the pieces of broken pottery, squeezing them in her hands until blood ran from several cuts.

Chakotay ran at her now. "Kathryn, stop this now. Drop them."

She just laughed at him and squeezed harder. "It's pain, Chakotay…pain is good…makes you feel…"

Chakotay glared at her, his voice well raised now. "Damn well drop them, Kathryn. Now."

She seemed taken aback that he was shouting at her and obeyed immediately. She stared down at her cut hands, blood dripping onto the floor. She suddenly seemed to come back to herself and fell backwards into a sitting position. "I've cut myself…" She shook her head, confused now, trying to understand what she was looking at.

Chakotay picked up the broken pieces and went to fetch the dermal regenerator. When he returned, she was still sitting there, studying her hands and he gently lifted her and placed a towel around her hands then led her to the sofa. Without a word, he cleaned the cuts and healed them. When he looked up, she was staring at him, tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry… I don't know why…" Her face crumpled and he just opened his arms to her as she fell towards him.

Within minutes, she was calm again. "Chakotay, I'm so sorry. I guess I lost it there. I have all this anger and hurt, pain and… I can't get it out. It's not fair that you get it all…just because you're here. You should have put me away somewhere…locked me up in some hospital…committed me to a mad house…you don't deserve all this…"

He eased her back so he could see her face. "Oh Kathryn, when are you ever going to understand and accept… I want you here because you're my friend and because I care about you and love you. I want to be there for you through this, help you all I can. I know you'd do the same for me so just think about it like that."

Tears poured down her face and she nodded then smiled softly. "I better think about going back to Ellen before I wreck your house…" She tried a smile and almost made it. He was a little more successful and just pulled her to him, still glorying in the fact that she felt so comfortable in his arms, that she trusted him so much. Within minutes, he realized that she'd fallen asleep in his arms, her trust so total. He leaned back, taking her with him and she murmured softly then settled closer to him, snuggling into his chest. He kissed the top of her head and saw her smile slightly in her sleep.

Kathryn returned to Ellen, knowing she needed to get the rest of her 'cancer' out. She sat in her usual chair and played with her tissues again. Before she said anything else, she told Ellen how things had been since her last visit and about cutting herself on the broken vase and what she'd screamed at Chakotay. Ellen simply took her words and digested them, assuring her that it was all right. She looked over at Chakotay and smiled.

"He's a big boy…he can take it…" Kathryn looked as if she almost expected some punishment, some reprimand or a lecture and relaxed immediately when none came.

"I just get so…frustrated, I guess. I hate being this way…dependent or…the one who can't cope…the one with the problem… I was…always… I was so used to being the captain…in control…in charge… I had the answers…I solved the problems for everyone else…never had them myself… It's so hard this way…"

Ellen smiled her understanding. "You'll get back to that, Kathryn, I promise you, but you have to understand that none of us can be that strong. It's only natural to share the burden with someone, have them help with the load. Those people you helped with their problems, did you judge them or see them as weaker because they had troubles?" Kathryn shook her head, understanding now. "There's the answer to that then. Kathryn, it won't be like this forever, you know that. In the future though, use what you learn from all this and let someone share that load, the one that is life in general. None of us can get through this life any other way. Some try but that's not living." Kathryn smiled softly and nodded, Ellen seeing that she accepted her words. Now she encouraged her to continue from before, but again, only if she was comfortable with that. Kathryn sat back and started.

"When I woke up in the hospital…I remembered immediately." She looked up at Ellen who nodded. "I remember asking Chakotay if he knew and he just told me he was there for me. I suddenly wanted to know why and I forced myself to think about that instead. I asked about Susan, I know that. Then I wanted to know if I was badly scarred. It suddenly seemed important to me and I remembered Chakotay having said something about surgery but he told me they were gone now, that the Doctor had taken care of them." She took up her glass and swirled the water in it.

"I spent the next two days trying not to think about any of it, trying to completely detach myself from it all. I didn't want to talk or think. I tried so hard to shut it out but I'd dream and I always remembered then so I'd have to start all over again and block it out." She drank some of the water.

"He caught me staring at him one night and I saw that he knew what I was trying to do, that he knew I remembered it all. He tried to talk to me but I just shut him out." She looked over at Chakotay now and he met her eyes. "I'm sorry for that… I didn't mean to… I just couldn't…" He smiled his usual calm and reassuring smile, which spoke volumes now.

"I just wanted to go home then and he mentioned the Doctor wanted me to see a counsellor…" She smiled up at Ellen. "I just panicked…wanted away from there…to go home…" She shook her head sadly. "The one place which I'd avoided…where I'd felt most alone…and now I wanted to go there…" She looked back at Chakotay again.

"I'm sorry for everything I said to you…then and since…even at the hospital… I know you didn't pity me…that you were there as my friend and because you cared so much…" He smiled softly and nodded. "It was just easier… Can you understand?" His gentle smile told her all she needed to know. Kathryn held his eyes a moment longer, then she turned back to Ellen.

"He brought me home…and I just wanted him to go…and I knew he was scared to leave me alone…but I just couldn't face kindness at that time…felt I didn't deserve it. I felt so dirty and used…worthless…so I kept thinking about Susan…felt that I could be angry at that at least…rather than what I was really angry at…that it was something I could get angry at without thinking about what had happened." She put her glass back on the table.

"I still couldn't believe this had happened to me…still believed it was always someone else and I suppose I still feel that way… There are sometimes when I even try and pretend it didn't happen…" She sighed deeply.

"You know about the roof…I told you…but what I remember most is… Oh Chakotay…" She looked at him again. "When you asked if you could hold me…" She stared at him a moment then back at Ellen. "When he asked that… Oh God…I wanted and needed that so much…he'll never know…" She turned back to him. "You'll never know how good that felt…know that it felt…that I actually felt something… to know that someone was actually willing to touch me or hold me…wasn't so disgusted by me…" Suddenly she stood up and ran to him and fell into his arms. "Thank you…" He hugged her tightly as Ellen tried to keep her tears in check. She could see the beginning of the end now.

Over the next few sessions, more spaced out now at Ellen's suggestion, Kathryn continued to improve. She accepted what had happened now and her flashbacks were less severe and also less frequent. She still slept with the light on and only occasionally required a sleeping pill. Darkness still bothered her and she refused to look out into the garden at night and always wanted the curtains closed. She tried to explain to Ellen and Chakotay that there was still the memory of the darkness from the alley in her mind and she was afraid to wake in the dark and have it continue, that she needed to see light straight away. Ellen assured her that this would pass. Kathryn's nightmares also lessened in the same way as her flashbacks and now she could often go two or three nights without her sleep disturbed by terrifying images.

Today, she sat in Ellen's office and fidgeted with her tissues, something which had lessened over the weeks until this visit. Ellen picked up on it immediately but let Kathryn speak when she was ready. They all knew there would be the occasional relapse and Ellen feared she was seeing one now.

"I still feel dirty…so unclean…no matter how often I wash." Ellen nodded her understanding. "I still feel embarrassed and I dread meeting people again. I feel guilty for not seeing anyone, Tom and B'Elanna in particular…" She quickly told Ellen about the young pilot and his wife and her other former crew. "I didn't want to see anyone and I know Chakotay explained that to them all for me and they probably understand but I feel guilty for that but I still can't face them…"

Ellen smiled gently. "People understand better than you think, Kathryn…"

She nodded. "I know…but now… I'm afraid that when I see them again… I'm not sure I can face them…and I hate that they all know…and I'm afraid that they won't see me…only what happened to me…that when they look at me they'll imagine it all…or wonder…or even want to know…and then I feel guilty for even thinking that…because I know them and they're good people…not like that at all…but it would be so much easier if they didn't know… Sometimes I still feel numb inside and then…then I can feel too much…and it hurts…almost physically….a pain… I'm still afraid a lot…terrified in fact…and I hear a strange noise or any noise and I jump… I feel dirty…humiliated… confused…I don't know… I feel…I feel… I don't even know what I feel. I know that I just want to get out of… get away from my own body at times because… I still…" She shook her head. "I still…feel him…his hands…the pain…and I can hear him and smell him…even see him…sometimes even with my eyes open…" She felt her tears fall now and ended up sobbing like a child. With Ellen's permission, Chakotay went to her and held her until she quietened. Ellen just waited her time. When Kathryn had calmed and Chakotay had returned to his seat, Ellen smiled at Kathryn and then made a suggestion.

"Kathryn, I know you took my advice and kept a journal." Kathryn nodded and wiped at her face. "I think it's time you read back over it." She saw her patient look nervous at the idea. "Kathryn, only if you want. You know the rules. However, I do think it would help you, let you see how far you've come." Kathryn still looked uncertain but she agreed to try.

"You also have to understand that at this stage of your recovery, depression can set in and you can relapse a little but you do come back from it. Just keep doing what you're doing because you're succeeding, Kathryn. Eat well, get all the sleep you need, look after yourself physically. Take time to yourself and do things you like doing. All this will help with the emotional healing."

Kathryn smiled sadly. "I hope so…" She continued twisting her tissues.

Over the next months, Kathryn slowly improved. She still had the occasional relapse but for the most part, she improved and grew stronger. It was now six months since the rape and so far, Kathryn had avoided using the word but no one pushed her and she was always grateful for that. She spoke more with Chakotay now, never in the detail she'd spoken to Ellen with on the day everything had come out, but enough. They usually referred to the rape as 'it' or 'the other thing' even 'that thing' and Chakotay knew Kathryn was comfortable with that. She took up painting again and occasionally went with Chakotay for gentle walks in the countryside.

A big step forward for her was when she agreed that Chakotay ask Tom and B'Elanna over for dinner one Saturday night. She fretted for hours before their arrival and then spent two hours after they left, wondering why she'd ever been so concerned in the first place. Dinner had been an open and sharing time between friends and the conversation had centred around incidents in the Delta Quadrant, often leaving Kathryn with tears pouring down her cheeks and holding her sides as she listened to Tom tell her about some of the things he and some of the others had gotten up to on her ship, which she'd never known about. At first, she'd actually felt guilty to be laughing and enjoying herself, feeling that she'd no right to, or that her friends would think it wrong. She then remembered Ellen's words which always came to her when she faced a wall, about not being in mourning and so she'd relaxed into the evening and really enjoyed herself.

By the end of eight months, she only needed to visit Ellen once a fortnight and was amazed at her own progress. She felt able to face people again and had shared picnics with the crew and even gone shopping on her own, arriving back at the house brimming with pride at her achievement. She shook her head as she explained to Chakotay that what most people took for granted, was a big step for her but one she delighted in.

Finally one night, Kathryn took another big step and asked Chakotay to help her with it. She walked over to the window and opened the curtains, then switched the lights off. She made her way to the sofa and sat down, leaning into Chakotay. He knew immediately what she was doing and smiled to himself. For several minutes they were quiet just sitting in the darkness.

"Chakotay, can you hold me please?" Her voice was soft and he could hear a slight tremble in it. Gently, he slipped his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. She leaned further into him and laid a hand on his chest, her fingers playing with a button on his shirt. "Thank you. I needed to do this."

He smiled. "Kathryn, I'm so proud of you and you honour me with your trust in me." He felt her smile against his chest.

They sat quietly for over an hour then slowly a quiet conversation started between them. For the next two hours they sat in the dark, whispering to each other, talking of trivial matters or remembering times they'd shared together. When Kathryn had been quiet for some minutes, Chakotay realized that she'd fallen asleep in his arms and once again marvelled at her trust in him and how far she'd come.

Chakotay was on a month's holiday while his students were overseas on a dig but had to report to Headquarters one day, to collect some papers and check his class schedules for their return. He wasn't as worried now about leaving Kathryn at the house but when he returned and called to her and then received no reply, he almost panicked. Within minutes, she came in the door and he let out a huge sigh of relief.

"Kathryn, I was worried…" She smiled sadly at him and walked over the sofa where she sat down.

"I'm sorry. I thought I'd be back before you. I needed to go somewhere…do something." He studied her face and could see that she'd been crying. Slowly he made his way over to her, desperate to know what was wrong but determined not to push her. She looked up at him, saw the deep concern on his face, and reached for his hand. A small smile came to her face.

"Sit down. I'll tell you." He sat beside her but said nothing. She took a moment and squeezed his hand. "I'm not sure why I did this or… Maybe Ellen will think I was wrong but…" She licked her lips and drew in a deep breath. "I went to…his…" She bit her lip now and he could see that she was trying to draw on the courage to say something. "I went to…David Furlong's grave…" She looked up at him quickly and saw him almost panic before her eyes. He went to say something but she squeezed his hand again. "Chakotay, I'm fine. Please… I had to go…had to see…"

He slowly nodded his understanding. "You needed to see for yourself? See that he really was…?"

She nodded. "I had to see the grave. I had to know that it really existed. I think if I could have dug him up, I would have…" She smiled sadly. "I just needed proof… to believe that he was really dead…"

Chakotay nodded. "Are you OK?"

She smiled a little more and nodded. "Yeah…it was… It wasn't as bad as I thought…and I think I really feel better for it…" He stayed quiet and let her say more.

"I thought I'd want to smash the burial stone or scream or… even jump on his grave. I want to hate him but… In the end I just stood there and cried. I felt pity for him… Oh, I hate him for what he did to me but… I feel pity for what he probably once was and then what he became… for the waste of what could have been… and I know that if I hate that much…it can only hurt me in the end…eat away at me. Finally, I just stood there and stared and an acceptance came over me. I know I can't change what happened but while he's dead and Elizabeth is dead…and I can't undo that…I know that I'm alive and I can do something about that… I saw his grave, knew his body was in it…and I suddenly knew that he can't ever hurt me again…only in my own mind if I let him…" She stared deeply into his eyes and saw tears in them, knew her own tears were close behind.

Chakotay shook his head in amazement. "Kathryn, I'm so very, very proud of you. You've come such a long way."

She smiled and nodded. "I guess I'm kind of proud of myself. I know I've really achieved something and that it's not him I have to fight anymore, only myself and what I could let myself become."

Chakotay just held his arms open and she went willingly into them.

Ellen smiled with pride when Kathryn told her about visiting the grave at her next session and shook her head in amazement when she learned about her sitting in the dark.

"Kathryn, that's amazing. You should be very proud of yourself. Can you look back now and see for yourself how far you've come?"

Kathryn nodded eagerly. "I can't believe it myself. Every day I feel a little better and stronger. When I think back to those first days, even read what I wrote at the time… I did that, by the way, read back in my journal like you told me. I am proud of myself, even if it feels like an ego trip to say that."

Ellen smiled and sat. "Kathryn, you've every right to be proud. You've done amazingly well."

Kathryn smiled and licked her lips. "So much of that is down to you and Chakotay…"

Ellen grew serious and shook her head. "No, Kathryn. I don't want you thinking like that. You did all the work so you take all the credit. We helped here and there but this is down to you."

Ellen prepared herself for her next piece of advice. "Kathryn, what I want to say to you now is very important and I feel you're ready for this." Kathryn barely nodded her head, not taking her eyes off Ellen.

"It's vital that you don't neglect your own personal health now. By that I mean your health as a woman." Kathryn suddenly understood and nodded, telling Ellen about her needing a sedative at the hospital for her exam before she was discharged.

Ellen nodded her understanding. "That's quite natural and it was very soon after. Now you're stronger. Many women who go through this can't face a gynaecological examination, and they ignore their routine smear tests. While it's understandable, you have to get past that. It could well mean your life. There isn't a woman I know who doesn't detest them, mainly due to embarrassment and the fact that they're uncomfortable but Kathryn, your health is more important than anything. Keep your check-up appointments. Also, in the future, if you ever have children, the same advice applies. Women survivors sometimes have trouble in this area but you have to get past it. See a woman doctor if that's better for you." She smiled. "End of lecture, Kathryn. I just needed to say that, make sure you understand."

Kathryn smiled and nodded. I'll be OK with that. My own doctor is a man but… I forgot…you know him…" Ellen nodded. "Well, I trust him with my life and have on many occasions… He's saved my life even…" She told Ellen more about Voyager's EMH.

She smiled. "We've met many times and spoken at length. Quite the doctor. You're lucky to have him."

Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged a smile. "We know." They spoke in unison.

Watching Kathryn's smile, Ellen took a deep breath and measured her next words. "Kathryn, I believe our work here is finished." Kathryn looked up, her smile slipping a little. "I know that can make you feel a little vulnerable again, almost like leaving home for the first time, but you're strong now and know this. I'm always here if you need me, so just call and I'll be there for you, day or night. The time has come though, for you to try it on your own, be independent again." She saw how scared her patient looked. "Kathryn, you'll be fine, I promise you. You just start taking everything back, all your life, and go from there. Take your time and pace yourself and don't rush anything. Do things as you want to do them and in your own time. Take a week with things as they are and let it all settle in your mind, let it happen slowly."

Kathryn nodded and relaxed a little. "I'll try. It's a little scary to think about that but I'll try."

Ellen smiled softly. "I know you will. Look, Kathryn, it's easy to get comfortable with something propping you up, to almost become dependent on something or someone. In the end though, you have to walk on your own. This is the final river and you're already in the water. You'll see, your confidence will be there for you when you need it. You're a strong woman and you beat this. Everything else will be a piece of cake."

Kathryn sat up in her chair and drew in a deep breath. "I suppose I have become somewhat dependent on you and Chakotay and I know I need to stand on my own two feet again." She nodded her head several times. "I can do this."

Ellen smiled and stood up. "I know you can, Kathryn. I wouldn't say all this if I didn't believe that and have complete faith in it."

Kathryn stood up also and walked over to Ellen. "Ellen, thank you for all you've done. I wish I had the right words…" She leaned in and hugged the younger woman who immediately returned the embrace. They held each other for several minutes as Chakotay watched them. He put a smile on his face and tried to ignore the strange feelings inside, ones he couldn't describe or explain.

Kathryn appeared happy for the next two days but slowly, she began to pull into herself a little and appeared somewhat depressed. On her third night, she awoke sweating and shaking from a nightmare and quickly put on the light, having managed to sleep with it off for the past several nights. She felt a cold fear sweep over her and clutched the quilt to her tightly. She strained her ears but only silence answered her, making her more afraid. She then heard a strange noise outside, most likely a cat and jumped. Quickly she slipped out of bed and grabbed her robe, then steeling herself, she made for Chakotay's bedroom.

Kathryn stood for several minutes, shivering in the moonlight beside Chakotay's bed and just watched him. He appeared to be dreaming and occasionally murmured something in his sleep. She was still frightened and felt tears escape her eyes. Another noise outside startled her and she leaned over and shook him. Chakotay came awake quickly and sat up, shocked to see Kathryn standing before him, clutching her robe and a frightened look on her face. He didn't miss her tears either.

"Kathryn? What's wrong? Are you all right?" She shook her head and looked down at her feet. Chakotay could see her clearly from the moonlight streaming into his room and sat up further in the bed, berating himself for thinking how beautiful she looked in the moonlight, when she was obviously so distressed. "Kathryn, please…you're scaring me here…"

She looked up again. "I…I…had…had a nightmare…and heard a noise…and…and… Chakotay…can I…can I…? She looked down at her hands now. "Can I stay…here…with you…?"

Chakotay was in shock for a split second. "With me…? Kathryn, of course…"

She played with the collar of the robe she held. "Can I come in there? I'm cold. I'll understand if…" Chakotay pulled himself together quickly and lifted back the quilt. She quickly dropped her robe on the floor and got in beside him. He dropped the quilt back over them and lay stiffly for a few seconds, not sure how to react. "Hold me please…" She turned and faced him, her hands on his chest. He turned to her and wrapped his arms around her, feeling her small body shaking and she gave into her tears now as he held her.

"Kathryn, there's nothing to be afraid of. You're safe now." She sniffled for a while longer and he felt her breath on his chest. He just continued rubbing his hands up and down her back and whispering to her until she quietened. He also fought for control of his own body and ordered it to obey him, knowing he would never want to betray her in this way but that he was only human. Finally, he knew she'd fallen back asleep and he lay there amazed at the trust she had in him. He remained awake for the rest of the night, savouring the feel of her in his arms, in his bed and gave in to his own tears and depression, knowing that this moment would so soon become the past and that he'd be on his own again.


Kathryn woke slowly the next morning and stretched her body against the warm one holding her. She finally opened her eyes and seemed surprised for a moment as Chakotay watched her and smiled down at her. He saw her quickly remember where she was and how she'd gotten there and she grew embarrassed.

"Sorry. I really intruded last night. I just got scared. I hope you didn't mind…" He continued to smile down at her, trying to memorize the moment for all time, of Kathryn waking in his arms. Pushing down his feelings, he shook his head.

"Kathryn, I don't mind at all. I'm just glad I was here for you." She smiled her gratitude and lowered her head. He knew she was embarrassed and moved quickly to allay it.

"I'll go get breakfast started. You take your time." He eased his arms from around her and slipped from beneath the quilt, grateful he'd worn pyjama bottoms to bed.

As the next days passed, Chakotay saw Kathryn improve more and more. She regularly left the house now for walks or to go shopping and twice she returned to her own apartment to check on things and collect items she needed. He watched as she began to return to the woman he'd known before the nightmare claimed them and while he was delighted to see her reclaim her life, a part of him ached as she seemed to need him less and less. He found himself growing depressed and was often quiet when he sat with Kathryn in the evenings as she lay against him. For the most part, he felt extremely selfish at what he was feeling. He was happy to see her get her life back but there was a deep sadness within himself for what he was about to lose. Her gain would be his loss.

Kathryn had also noticed the change in Chakotay and felt a similar change in herself. She knew she'd have to leave soon and a deep pain filled her at the thought of leaving behind what she'd come to depend on. Her time with him had given her a taste of what could have been and she found herself getting depressed at the thought of leaving it all. She knew she'd become dependent on him, not at the cost of her own independence but dependent on him for her happiness. When she thought of returning to her own apartment for good, it scared her as she thought of the empty walls closing in on her and she remembered how she'd felt there before.

When Chakotay was quiet in the evenings, she matched his silence, usually daydreaming about what life could be like with him but she quickly stopped this torturing train of thought, believing that Chakotay could never want her like that now, that David Furlong had seen to that. She knew she loved Chakotay with everything she was but believed that he loved her as a friend only. All he'd spoken of was friendship and she had to accept that. What she didn't know was that Chakotay had been afraid to mention anything more because he felt friendship was all she could handle.

Kathryn realized quickly that the sooner she left, the easier it would be on both of them. She stood in the kitchen the following evening, watching him prepare vegetables for their dinner. She looked down at the glass of homemade lemonade she nursed and swirled the contents of the glass. Chakotay looked up and saw the pensive look on her face.

"Penny for them?"

Kathryn shook herself, dragging herself back to his question. "I was just thinking I've probably long overstayed my welcome…" She didn't miss the smile falling from his face. "Chakotay…I…"

He dropped his head and resumed his chopping. "You're not ready yet. You still need time…" He wouldn't look up at her. Suddenly her soft hand covered his, stilling his cutting and he looked up.

"Chakotay, physically I'm back to normal. The rest…I'm almost there and I'll have to live with what I can't let go…" He stared at her, tears threatening and shook his head. He turned away quickly. "Chakotay, please…"

He turned back and shook his head. "I'm sorry…I'm sure you're anxious to get back to your life…" He moved forward, heading for the door but Kathryn blocked his way.

"Chakotay, what are you saying? You can't possibly want me around…"

He stared at her in disbelief. "Why on earth would you think that?"

She lowered her head. "Because… And…"

He reached out and lifted her face. "Kathryn?" He saw tears fill her eyes.

"It's too hard for me…the longer I stay…"

He shook his head as she moved away, heading for the door herself now.

"Why, Kathryn? Kathryn, please don't walk away again…"

She heard the raw pain in his voice and turned, staring at him, not believing what she was hearing. "Chakotay…the longer I stay…the harder…for both of us…" She couldn't continue and dropped her head.

"Kathryn, talk to me please…" He dared to hope.

"It's too hard and I… It'll only hurt more…when I go…"

Chakotay stepped forward and gripped her shoulders. "Why do you have to go? You can stay here…"

She bit her lip. "How can I? Chakotay, we're friends…but I'd cramp your style…get in your way… If you met someone…wanted to bring them home… No…I have to go…" She looked at him, trying to read his face.

He just stared at her. "Kathryn, there'll never be anyone…" He shook his head. "I thought… I hoped… What we've shared these last months…what we've been through together… I mean the good…what we had here… I don't want to lose that. I'm so afraid to lose that. I know it's selfish and I wanted nothing more than for you to get better…but…but…I knew when you did…you'd leave me again…leave me behind…not need me anymore. And I want you to have your life back and I'm happy for you, but I feel as if I'm losing my life…losing what we have here…and I want you to need me but… I'm sorry…that's so selfish…I'm sorry…" Kathryn stared at him with her mouth hanging open. "Why do you have to go? You could stay here… I'm sorry. I've no right…"

Kathryn started shaking her head now. "Chakotay, are you…do you… Do you mean…more than friends…?"

He barely looked up. "I'm sorry. I've no right to ask…to think…expect…" He finally met her eyes.

"But you said…before…on the roof…remember…?" He frowned at her. "You said…you didn't know what the future would have held if this hadn't happened, that you'd like to have thought we could have gotten together…" She shook her head. "If it hadn't happened, we could have gotten together. You said that… But, Chakotay…it did happen…so how could we…how could I…? Chakotay, look at me. You know what happened…"

He shook his head, confused. "First off, that wasn't what I meant. I mainly meant that I wished we'd been together…before… You should also remember I said that this could wait until we'd dealt with the rest, that we'd get through this first and move on from there. Have you forgotten that part?" His eyes searched hers and he saw that she remembered. "I recall sitting on the floor here with you saying that I loved you and I called you 'honey'. I meant all of that."

Kathryn shook her head. "I thought you meant as friends…that you were just trying to comfort me…"

He shook his head. "I meant it as I said it, as I've always meant it. As to the rest…what has that got to do with us…?"

He saw the confusion in her eyes. "What us? Chakotay, there isn't an 'us' and never can be…"

He bit down on his lip. "Why can't there be…?" His eyes were filled with pain.

Kathryn let her tears spill over. "Because…he…he took…I'm…" She backed off and turned, staring out the window into the garden. "I'm dirty…used… It's all ruined now. He took that…"

She heard Chakotay's voice behind her. "He took nothing. Something can only be taken if it's given away…or you let it be taken…"

She shook her head quickly. "Words, Chakotay. You said 'if it hadn't happened'. Well, it did happen and now it's ruined. I'm ruined. Everything is. I've nothing to offer you…not what you deserve anyway…" She felt his hands on her shoulders and he spun her around.

"God, Kathryn, I can't believe I'm hearing this from you…after all that time with Ellen… Is that why you want to leave?"

She wouldn't look at him. "What I spoke of with her is fine for me…how I live with myself. I can accept my own body… but I can't ever ask you or anyone else to accept it. I just feel you deserve better. Not used goods…"

He stood back from her, hurt written all over his face. "Is that really what you think? Is that how you see me? You think that I'd…?" He turned sideways. "I thought you knew me better than that…thought more of me… If that's really how you see me…maybe you are better leaving…"

Kathryn let her tears run unchecked. "Chakotay, it's how it is. The longer I stay…I've…even in this short time… I've tasted what…what could have been in an ideal world…and the longer I stay, the more hurt I cause you and the more hurt I'll have when I have to go…"

Chakotay just closed his eyes a moment. "In that ideal world you speak of, do you want to stay? Do you want to be with me? I can tell you here and now, Kathryn, I want nothing more…"

She cried out now, shocking him. "Don't torture me like that. I can't stay. You couldn't want me…"

He let his own tears spill over. "I want you more than anything. I always have and I always will. Christ, Kathryn, if you can't see that…"

She moved away from him. "That was before…"

He moved towards her but she backed off. "Before…after…whenever… Kathryn, always. What happened makes no difference to how I feel about you."

She shook her head, tears pouring down her face. "Of course it makes a difference. We could never be together…not after that…"

Chakotay sighed deeply then groaned, suddenly thinking he understood. "Oh God, Kathryn, I'm sorry. I didn't think…wasn't… Here's me thinking you're saying this because of me. How can I be so blind and selfish? I'm sorry. Of course, you couldn't want me near me that way…or in a relationship. I'm sorry. Being a man, I'd always remind you. I just didn't think. I'm sorry. After the other morning… You stayed with me… I hoped… I mean even if we never… I wouldn't mind, but I understand. I'd still remind you…"

Kathryn was shocked and shook her head vigorously. Now she moved towards him. "No. Oh God, no. Chakotay, not you…never you… Me. I mean me. Chakotay, I'm useless to you…damaged goods now, used and dirty. I don't even know if I'd be capable… Besides, you could never want to touch me like that…not after… You deserve fresh…"

He was on her before she knew it, gripping her shoulders tightly, his face showing his rising anger. "Damn you, Kathryn Janeway. All we've been through…all Ellen's work…all I've said and done…and you throw this at me? I stood beside you all those years out there, supported you and loved you…and back here? I know I let you down and I'll never be able to say sorry for that but I thought we'd passed all that. With this… Didn't anything we said to you get into that head of yours? I love you with my life and I want nothing more than to share that life with you, but you just throw it back in my face…" He stopped when he realized he was shaking her.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you like that…or hurt you…it's just… God, I love you so much and I'm terrified of losing you…and you just want to walk away and leave me again…throw it all away…" He stared hard at her. "I love you and I've been afraid to say that the way I want to…or touch you…because I felt you weren't able for that…and I know you couldn't have taken it. But now, to find that it's because you think that I'd…that you'd think that little of me…think that I'd…" He lowered his head, unable to continue. Suddenly he felt her hands on his face and looked up into her eyes.

"Chakotay…could you really want me? I was so sure you couldn't…"

He gripped her shoulders more tightly. "Kathryn Janeway, I love you more than anything. I'll always want you and I'm not just talking about the physical. I love YOU…"

She bit down hard on her lip and let her tears fall as she stroked his face. "Oh Chakotay, I love you so much. You've no idea how much. I treasure the friendship we have but I was so sure it was all we could have…that you couldn't… I never want to leave you."

He pulled her to him. "Then stay forever. Kathryn, I love you…everything about you. I'd die if I lost you." They clung to each other for a long time. Finally, Chakotay eased away a little.

"Look, love, I don't care if we never have a physical relationship…never have sex. That's up to you. I love and desire you no matter what. Just to hold you and have you with me… That's more important than anything. The other morning…having you wake up in my arms… I'll treasure that for all time, the trust you had in me… I want to grow old with you and love you for eternity. I don't care about the rest…"

Kathryn stroked his face.

"I love you too. Waking with you there, I've never felt more loved, never felt safer in my life, more at home… But as regards the physical? I care…"

Chakotay smiled down at her. "Kathryn, it's not what's important to me…"

She nodded her head. "I know. I know everything else is more important, but it's still important to me. I want to give you that, share that with you, but I don't want us ever to have sex…" He nodded his understanding and went to say something but she pressed a finger over his lips. "What I do want… What I want more than anything is to have you make love to me and for me to make love to you." Chakotay's breath caught in his throat and he stared at her through a veil of tears. Unable to speak past the lump in his throat, he just pulled her against him, clinging onto her for dear life. He could almost feel the water falling from their bodies, as they climbed out of the last river.

Kathryn finally pulled back from him a little. She stared at him a moment and he saw her thinking, almost trying to formulate her words.

"Chakotay, I mean it when I say I want to be with you and that I love you. The rest, the physical… I want that too. I'm just…maybe a little scared…not just because of what happened but because… I guess I feel I don't know how to be… or react…" She sighed and gave a small smile. "I'm unsure, not of you, but of me, how I feel or how I should feel. I don't…I don't know what I mean. I'm not explaining myself very well…"

Chakotay cupped her face. "Kathryn, just listen to me. As I said, I don't care if we never have a physical relationship. That said, if this is what you want, then we go at your pace. This only happens when you're ready and then only with what you're comfortable with." She nodded tearfully. "I would suggest one thing though…" She frowned slightly. "Talk to Ellen about this first. She's been through this…"

Kathryn nodded eagerly. "I'd like that. I hadn't thought of it… I'll probably be a bit embarrassed talking about this with her but… I guess we've all shared far worse…"

He stroked her cheek. "I think it's best. When we're old and grey, I want this to be something we look back on. A cherished memory. It's too important for us to rush into it…or maybe make it something that could cause you hurt… It's too special to us."

Kathryn leaned into him and hugged him tightly. "I love you, Chakotay…for all you are…your love, your kindness, the way you always think of me and how I feel, mostly at the expense of your own feelings…"

Chakotay hugged her back. "I love you too, Kathryn. That's what love is really about…"

Two days later, they sat in Ellen's office, side by side this time, with the counsellor sitting in front of them, a smile on her face.

"I kind of have a feeling I know what this is about…" Chakotay smiled slightly and Kathryn almost went red. She explained as quickly as possible why they were there and what the problem was.

"I know I want this…more than anything. It's just… I don't know what way to be. I feel I should act in a different way because of it… that the woman I was before can't exist now. Whereas before I felt free to express all I was feeling, emotionally and physically, now I feel I should be or act or feel inhibited by what happened and act accordingly. I feel that if I cry out or moan…show enjoyment…" She blushed. "I feel it will seem like a betrayal of some kind."

Ellen smiled gently and leaned forward. "Kathryn, claiming back your life also means claiming back who you are and how you acted in any given situation. You can't stop being the woman and the human being you are, with all the normal needs and desires. This is no different than what we spoke of before, about smiling and laughing and not feeling guilty for expressing yourself."

Kathryn frowned and shook her head. "It's like…before…when we were out there in the Delta Quadrant, I…well I…I missed…sex…" She glanced at Chakotay for a second and blushed again. "Not just the emotional side, the closeness and the holding, although I know I missed that most of all and I see that as the most important part…but I also missed…sex…the physical release…the enjoyment of the physical side of it. And now I feel guilty saying that…admitting it…and I feel that again now…and…I didn't think I'd ever want to be touched again or even think about this but I do. I do feel and I do want…" She shook her head, her face bright red.

Ellen shook her head and smiled. "Kathryn, that's OK. This is natural. You're alive and you're a normal, healthy woman…"

Kathryn nodded and shrugged. "I know, but… I have this thing in my head whereby I feel that if I enjoy sex, the physical act, I mean… If I enjoy that again, people will think…'oh it couldn't have been that bad for her – it doesn't bother her – it has no effect – she couldn't have been as affected by it as she said she was'… I feel I should have to act shy or virginal…"

Ellen leaned back a little. "Kathryn… Oh God, I've been here. Look, first off this is you…you and Chakotay… 'People' don't come into this. Most of us don't discuss our sex lives with anyone else. It's private. This is about claiming back everything…getting it ALL back…the feelings of safety…regaining who and what you are…not being afraid…feeling clean again. Everything you lost, you get it back. Take it back…and that includes enjoying sex again, enjoying it for what it is…the sharing…the love…the holding…the silly games…the desiring looks…the playful pat on the backside… Kathryn, it's about the physical release and enjoyment, the passion and lust, and whatever else. And mainly the freedom to act whatever way you want to. You're free of that bastard's hold on you. If you want to dress up as a French maid, swing from the lights, tie Chakotay up or have him tie you up, cover each other in chocolate… Kathryn, do it and enjoy it, whether at home or on a mountain top or in a shuttle. There's no shame in expressing all this." Ellen smiled and shook her head when she saw the two highly surprised faces before her. "Well…nothing wrong with all that…"

Ellen blushed now then grew serious. "Kathryn, some women actually have fantasies about this…about rape…" She saw that Kathryn barely flinched at the use of the word and smiled inwardly to herself at her patient's progress. "Maybe you find that hard to believe but it's more common than you think and it's harmless. They mostly fantasize about it on their own or perhaps play it out with a trusted partner, play bondage games, other sex games, whatever… It doesn't, however, mean they want that to really happen and some men can't understand that. Just because you fantasize about something, doesn't mean you want it to happen in real life. Even women who've been there, been attacked, years later can fantasize along these lines. Kathryn, these are fantasies, in our heads, where we control every single aspect of what we imagine. Fear doesn't exist and pain doesn't hurt. Women have fantasized along these lines for centuries and then it actually happened to them but later on, after their recovery, they often still used their fantasies. Kathryn, what happens in your mind is safe and controlled. There's nothing wrong with thinking like that." She licked her lips and leaned forward.

"Many women will fantasize about being rescued from their burning home by a hunky fireman who comes in and rescues them. It doesn't mean they want their house to burn down. We fantasize about being in danger and getting out of it, being rescued, saving the lives of others. We don't really ever want to be in those situations, be in such danger, but it's good to dream and imagine about it. Even with good fantasies, imagining something wonderful happening, we don't always want that to extend past the dream because we know reality is often a let-down. Fantasies and dreams are necessary, an outlet we need that makes us feel good. What fantasies you had before this are still in there somewhere and despite what happened, you're still the woman you were. Kathryn, there's absolutely nothing wrong in wanting and enjoying sex or your fantasies." Kathryn looked stunned for a moment, taking everything in. Finally, she shook her head.

"If this hadn't happened…the…me being…if I hadn't been…" She stopped a moment and drew in a deep breath then blew it out. "If I hadn't been…raped… There…said it…" She looked up to see Ellen smiling at her and nodding her head proudly.

"Well done, Kathryn…now you're even stronger than you were a minute ago…" Kathryn smiled and looked over at Chakotay. He nodded his head, smiling at her, his pride in her showing clearly.

Kathryn looked back to Ellen and nodded. "That actually felt good…to be able to say it…not be afraid of it…" Ellen reached over and gripped her hand. Kathryn returned the squeeze then continued.

"What I was going to say was…had Chakotay and I gotten together before all this, I'd have been me, who I was then, and I'd have acted one way. Since it did happen, I feel I should have to act differently, that I can't be me. It's almost as if I imagine there are two ways to…well, have sex. The way of the ordinary woman and the way of the victim…" She smiled and held up her hand a moment. "Sorry…survivor…" Ellen smiled at that. Kathryn sighed. "I guess I feel I can't be me…"

Chakotay reached over and took her hand. "Kathryn, with me you can be whatever you want to be. You can be yourself. If you scream out in the throes of passion, I'm not going to think bad or any differently about you. I'll be too busy being flattered that I can have that effect on you." Kathryn smiled and saw Ellen join her. "I think though, that for our first time… Well, we'll probably both be a little nervous anyway, maybe even shy, until we learn about each other and our bodies…what we each like and dislike…what pleases and what doesn't…what works…" He looked up, embarrassed at his candour. "I'm nervous, I know that, afraid of frightening you or reminding you, not pleasing you, not maybe being able to perform or…failing you, I suppose…letting you down. I guess that last one is every man's fear."

Kathryn squeezed his hand. "You could never fail me…never let me down…" They stared at each other, deep into each other's eyes and Ellen gave them a minute. Finally, she spoke.

"Kathryn, it's like this…" Kathryn tore her eyes away from Chakotay's and looked at Ellen. "You have needs and desires just like any woman and you've the right to them. They're nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Be proud of them. They make you a woman, a human being, and they're normal and perfectly healthy. Enjoy each other and your fantasies. Do what feels good." She sat back again.

"Look, you both had fantasies before, right?" She looked at Kathryn first, who smiled and nodded, feeling a little bold now.

"I did…mostly about Chakotay…" She looked over at him, trying to hide her embarrassment.

He smirked at that. "Oh, you did, did you? Well, that's all right. I had plenty of my own about you. Why do you think I walked behind you so often…" Chakotay's face went white as he sobered instantly. "Oh God, Kathryn, I'm sorry…I didn't mean…"

Ellen's laugh broke in, diffusing what hadn't actually formed. Then she grew serious. "Chakotay, don't do that." She held up a hand to silence him. "I don't mean what you said… Look, what you just said was harmless and honest…you being you… being yourself… Kathryn doesn't need you trying to be something else. That'll just act as a reminder. Imagine what way you'd both have been with each other if you'd gotten together before all this, and just be that way, be those people. What you just said…you'd normally laugh at that comment and you almost did. Kathryn was laughing at it before you realized what you'd said and reacted as you did. Just be yourselves because that's another way of beating this. You can't constantly walk around on eggshells for the rest of your lives, watching everything you say." Ellen leaned forward and propped her face on her hand, her elbow on her knee. She blushed.

"Look, it took my husband a long time to be himself again with me. By finally not treating me like a victim, and I use that term deliberately, he helped me over the final hurdle. Now…" Her face reddened and she bit her lip a moment. "Well…now…now I can come home and if he's in the mood, I can find myself pinned to the wall or over the table…grabbed in the shower…" She smiled in embarrassment. "The point is, I glory in that freedom and we have a great sex life. Well, as long as the kids aren't around." She laughed at the looks on the faces of Kathryn and Chakotay. "There goes my reputation. You'll never look at me in the same way again…" They all laughed. Ellen eased out of her laughter and shook her head.

"Seriously though, sometimes by someone trying so hard not to remind us of something, they end up flashing a neon sign in front of us instead and bringing even more attention. Have you ever noticed when a couple have lost a child? It's a terrible time for them, and after a while, when they're trying to get some semblance of a life back, trying to move on…everyone around them visits still but they never bring their own children anymore. By the absence of children, it just adds more to the reminder and the pain. It's the same thing here and in many other areas…" Ellen stood now and fetched her usual glass of water, Kathryn and Chakotay declining her offer. She sipped at her drink then sat again.

"Look, I'll talk openly and honestly with you both here but this is especially to you, Kathryn…" She smiled a moment. "As if I haven't been open enough already…" They all smiled. "I'll tell you this. Let it go, let yourself go and celebrate the woman you are and the desires you have. When you achieve orgasm, scream at the top of your lungs if it feels good. You've nothing to be ashamed of. Enjoying sex or making love, is not something to feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed about. It'll free you from so much and liberate you like nothing else can and most likely do Chakotay's ego the power of good." The two women looked at him and he laughed, still gripping Kathryn's hand. Ellen went on. "Kathryn, don't feel guilty about letting go."

Kathryn nodded slowly. "I guess I just feel… Well, before…what you were saying…your husband…grabbing you…against the wall…over the table…" She fought her embarrassment. "Well before… I always…enjoyed…" She dropped her head, too embarrassed now.

Ellen squeezed her hand. "Kathryn, there's nothing wrong with that. Feel free to admit that…that you liked that…the rougher stuff, if you like. If that's what you liked and who you were, claim that back too. What happened has nothing whatsoever to do with this. This now is Chakotay…love and trust…controlled…what you want and consent to… Do you understand that?"

Kathryn bit at her lip. "I don't know what… I'm afraid of what Chakotay will think of me for that…that I'm thinking or wanting still… maybe at some time…wanting that again…with him…after what happened…" She shook her head slowly.

Chakotay had the answer. "Kathryn, I will never, never think anything bad of you. I'll just be so honoured that you love me and trust me enough to be able to express yourself with me, be open with me…allow me the honour of seeing you and who you really are and for feeling safe enough with me to be yourself completely. Besides, in any new relationship, there'll always be some… We'll feel a little awkward with each other for a while. I'll also feel that… saying what I like even… In the end, I just want to please you…" Kathryn smiled softly and nodded, showing she understood. Ellen spoke now as she looked at Chakotay.

"What I can say is this. Always talk to each other about what you both want and like, just like most couples do or should do. If Kathryn wants to be tied up and taken…bodice ripping stuff…which a lot of women like…do that for her. As long as she's told you she wants this, then it's fine. Don't though, keep checking with her every two seconds that she's fine and wants this. She'll tell you so take her word for it. If you want the same…tell her…learn to accept this. You already trust each other so just extend that to the bedroom. If Kathryn wants you to stop, she can just tell you and you both know you will. As to you, Kathryn…" Ellen looked at her now. "If you think your first time back would make you uncomfortable, try a trial run…" Kathryn looked up quickly, a flush crossing her cheeks.

Ellen smiled. "Try it on your own first. I did." She looked at them both and smiled then shook her head. "God, my image is sure in tatters today…" She laughed, encouraging Kathryn to join in and relax, followed quickly by Chakotay.

"Kathryn, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. We all do it. Most of us just don't admit to it or ever discuss it and that's fine. It's a very private thing but there's nothing dirty about it. It's very natural and healthy." She leaned back and placed her glass on the table beside her.

"Take a long bath, light candles, play relaxing music. Basically, relax and make love to yourself. Look, Kathryn, you've claimed your life back and successfully shut that bastard out of all parts of that life. Don't let this area be any different. The only way for you both to be in the bedroom…" She laughed again. "Or wherever you prefer…" She shook her head. "The only way to be, is the way you've always been. Each of you owes it to the other to be yourself. Don't ever let what happened or him come between you there. You have to understand, Kathryn, that it won't so much be the physical act that can be the problem, because what you do together will be so different, and you'll have consented to it. It's about love and respect. The problem will be about you feeling vulnerable and exposed but you simply counter that with the trust you have in Chakotay. You know he won't ever hurt you or abuse that trust. So you go from there. Just take your time and when it feels right…go for it and enjoy." She sat back now, a satisfied look on her face. She shook her head. "You two will never look at me in the same way again…"

Over the next week, Chakotay and Kathryn slept together but they never went any further than holding each other as they fell asleep in each other's arms each night. As they sat on the sofa one night, leaning into each other, Kathryn finally brought up the subject which still bothered her slightly.

"Chakotay…" She paused a moment. "If you don't want to talk about this, I'll understand…"

He watched her closely. "Honey, there's nothing we can't talk about. What is it?"

She smiled softly. "Can you tell me about Susan…why you broke up? I know it's none of my business…"

Chakotay smiled with relief. "Is that all? I don't mind at all." He leaned back a little further, taking her with him.

Kathryn settled against him. "It's just… You never really told me about that…or talk about it. I hope I wasn't to blame in any way… Was I?" She looked up at him and saw his face grow serious. "Please be honest with me on this…"

He nodded slowly. "Susan blamed you…"

Kathryn leaned up quickly. "I caused it? I caused you both to break up?"

Chakotay shook his head quickly and sat up also. "Oh God, no… Kathryn, I did that…" He stared at her. "Kathryn, think about what's just been said. I said that Susan blamed you and your immediate response was that you caused it. Why do you always have to feel guilty or feel responsible? You had no part in this, didn't cause anything. I was at fault because I was never committed to it in the first place. I couldn't let go of what I felt for you and Susan knew that. That's why she blamed you. It was easier to do that than face the real problem, which was that I didn't love her enough or that she was failing me in some way. She was also restless, the novelty of being back wearing off. It's always easier to blame someone else when a relationship fails but if a relationship is right, nothing can touch it, nothing." He saw her relax now, accepting his words.

"I gave up on you and me and I'm sorry for that. I just couldn't face the rest of my life alone. When we suddenly found ourselves back home, I couldn't just leave her to one side and I honestly thought you had what you wanted. Later, even when I still believed there could never be anything between us, I still couldn't be with Susan. That was down to me and what wasn't there between us, not because of what was. I let her go because I knew it was wrong for me, even before all this. We both knew it wasn't right. Later on, those weeks alone here, I couldn't face you. I was afraid to see you, to see that you were settled, afraid you wouldn't want me, afraid of how I still felt and upset and terrified that if I did get the courage, you'd still turn me away and I couldn't face that."

Kathryn leaned into him again. "I'm so sorry… for that and for turning you away before…for not having the courage to come to you… All that wasted time… And when I saw you with Susan…it hurt so much to see you with her…and I knew the mistake I'd made and cursed myself for it…but I still wanted you to be happy more than anything…" She sat up again and Chakotay stroked her face, speaking before thinking.

"When I think…if I'd gone to you…maybe none of this…" He instantly regretted his words but Kathryn merely smiled softly and pressed a finger to his lips.

"That's all in the past now. We let that go too… Chakotay, I know now and I've accepted that he would have come after me anyway. For a long time, I kept hearing people telling me how stupid I was for walking late, but I know now that it still most likely would have happened. If not there, somewhere else. Maybe somewhere I wouldn't have been found. I've accepted that and moved on. I even felt for a while that there would be others who felt the same…who would try…" Chakotay remembered Ellen's words but before he could say anything, Kathryn continued. "I let that go and put that in the past too. I'm not going to live my life in that kind of fear. We have each other now and our life together. Nothing else matters." He smiled and hugged her to him, seeing now just how very far she'd come.

He felt tears choking him but managed to whisper to her. "All in the past…" They held each other for a long time.

The next day, Kathryn went back to her apartment and collected the rest of her belongings and handed back title to the empty rooms. Before they left the apartment block, Chakotay asked if she'd mind if he went back up onto the roof, telling her she could wait for him downstairs if she preferred. Kathryn shook her head, having a feeling she knew what he needed and joined him. As they sat on one of the long benches, Kathryn lying against him, Chakotay told her about how he'd looked out over the city that day as he held her to him, and thought about returning here someday under happier circumstances. For a long time they just sat and stared out over the scene before them, the city stretching below them with all the lives there going on, and they each silently gave thanks for what they had now, for how far they'd come. As the light faded, they made their way back and within a few hours, Kathryn had put her things away in their new home and moved into Chakotay's room, their room now, feeling completely at ease there.

They quickly developed a routine and Kathryn made her biggest step and reported back to Headquarters, informing her superiors that she would return to work the following Monday, the same day Chakotay had to report back to his teaching post. The admiral who was her direct superior acted as normal with her, as did her secretary and she was grateful for their reaction. She knew they were fully aware of what had happened to her but she didn't feel up to addressing the matter and sensed that they knew that. 'Welcome back' was the greeting she received and she was comfortable with that.

They still had five days before they returned to work and they spent them making 'Chakotay's house' into 'their home'. They socialized with Tom and B'Elanna and other crewmembers, including the Doctor. Kathryn had one final check-up with the Medic and received the all clear, and they celebrated with dinner in a small Italian restaurant, Kathryn now mostly at ease with being out at night. She knew she'd always be nervous out alone once it was dark but with Chakotay, she felt perfectly safe.

Two days before they returned to work, Chakotay came back from a meeting at Headquarters to find Kathryn busy in the kitchen. He gave a mock groan and ducked the washcloth that flew his way.

"It's mostly replicated. You won't die of food poisoning." She smiled at him. "Go get changed and washed up. Dinner will be on the table in ten minutes and don't come until you're called."

Chakotay stood to attention and saluted. "Aye aye, Captain…" The second washcloth hit its target.

Chakotay returned when he was called and entered the living room to find the curtains pulled and candles lighting the room. The table was laid with the china and crystal Kathryn had brought with her and she'd placed a centrepiece of fresh flowers on the table also. Chakotay saw immediately that Kathryn had changed her dress and pinned her hair back, even adding a little makeup. He got the scent of her floral perfume from across the room and moved over to the table.

"What's the occasion or do we even need one?" He studied her, the candlelight reflecting in her eyes and the blue silk dress she wore. To him, she'd never looked more beautiful. Kathryn smiled softly and handed him a glass of white wine. She held her own glass up in a toast and he mimicked her.

"To life…to love…and to friendship… To everything you are to me…all you've done for me… To leaving the past behind and only taking what's good from it…to claiming and taking back…to living the present and looking to the future… To…" She laughed suddenly. "I have to put them all in the one toast or we'd be very drunk before we even had a bite to eat." She grew serious again. "To you…my life…my love…my saviour…my best friend…my…my everything… Thank you, Chakotay…I love you…" They didn't drink for a moment, just stared into each other's eyes, seeing into their very souls. Slowly Kathryn raised her glass and sipped, Chakotay following her.

"I'm not sure I'm articulate enough to follow that but here goes. To life also…and love and friendship… To the woman who has been the other half of my soul and always will be… Kathryn, I love you… You complete me… You give my life its meaning… I'll never stop loving you… I thank you for your love and the trust you've put in me and I pray never to let you down. I give you my word…on my life…that I'll never hurt you… nor will I ever do anything to betray the trust you've put in me. I'd kill myself first… I pledge to you my eternal and undying love…" He saw the tears well up in her eyes and raised his glass. They both drank deeply this time, needing it.

Chakotay sat on the sofa after dinner and listened to the soft music Kathryn had put on. He heard her in the kitchen, clearing away at her own insistence and smiled to himself. He felt full and happier than he could ever remember being. It took him a few minutes to realize that it had gone quiet behind the soft strains of the music and he sat up now. As he approached the door, Kathryn's voice called to him.

"Can you blow out the candles before you come in…?" He frowned but did as asked, eventually making his way to their bedroom where he stopped dead. Candles lit the room, fragranced ones this time and another bottle of wine sat in an ice bucket beside the bed, two glasses keeping it company. Chakotay looked up towards the bathroom door now as a small sound caught his attention and felt his heart thump in his chest at the vision before him.

Kathryn stood in the doorway, a white satin knee length gown flowing over her curves, thin spaghetti straps the only thing holding it up. He saw the gentle swell of her breasts through the light fabric and swallowed, licking his lips, which suddenly seemed dry. His eyes drank in the sight before him, his breathing shallow as tears filled his eyes.

"Oh Kathryn…" He saw her hesitancy as he moved slowly towards her. She had brushed her hair out and it now fell like velvet over her shoulders, framing her face. "Oh God…you look so beautiful…like an angel…" He looked into her eyes and smiled at her expression. "Well, you do…" He reached out and stroked her face.

"Kathryn, I have to ask… Are you sure? There's no pressure… Perhaps it would be better…like Ellen said…for you…first…alone…unless you already…" He appeared a little embarrassed and she smiled softly and pressed a finger over his lips.

"I've never been more sure of anything in my life… except how I feel about you…" She stroked her finger over his lips, her eyes never leaving his. "As to that trial run… No, Chakotay. I want the first time back to be with you. I've done too much alone for too long. Chakotay, make love to me please. Let me make love to you." He let his tears escape his eyes and saw hers follow a similar path. Slowly he leaned down and brushed his lips to hers. He slipped one arm around her waist, his hand in her hair, as he drew her closer to him and pressed his lips more fully now against hers. He heard a faint sound from the back of her throat as she leaned into the kiss, deepening it, and felt her arms slip around his back, pulling him against her more firmly. As his tongue caressed her lips, she opened her mouth to him, silently inviting him in and he accepted the invitation, his tongue sweeping her mouth, tasting her for the first time as she explored him with her own tongue.

Chakotay eased his lips away from her mouth, loathe to leave the warmth of it but needing to explore further. His lips trailed along her jaw and down her neck and Kathryn leaned her head back, giving him all the access he wanted to the sensitive skin there. He nuzzled against her neck and just behind her ear, eliciting small breathless whimpers from her as he ran his lips and tongue over her flesh tasting a mixture of slight saltiness and her delicate scent.

He moved his mouth lower now, tracing along her collarbone and her upper chest, kissing and lapping at her skin. For a split second, an image filled his mind of her chest as he'd seen it first in the hospital, the jagged and oozing cuts which had crossed her flesh but he pushed it away as quickly as it had come and pulled her tighter to him. He looked up into her face now, her head thrown back and her mouth slightly open. She raised her head as he stopped his attention on her and stared back into his eyes.

"Kathryn…if you want to stop…at any time…"

She nodded slightly. "I know…I'll say…promise…" She reached for his head and pulled his lips down on hers, her tongue opening his mouth as she explored and tasted again. He felt her legs give way and pulled from the kiss to lift her into his arms and carry her to the bed. He set her down, letting her slide down his body, her breasts brushing his chest through the light fabric of her gown and his shirt. He felt himself grow hard already and knew Kathryn must feel the bulge of his erection through the light barrier between them. He got his answer as she pressed against him, her eyes dark with desire, as a deep groan left his throat.

"Oh God, Kathryn…what you do to me…" Her small hands started on the buttons of his shirt now, exposing his chest to her eyes inch by inch. As soon as one area was exposed, her lips claimed it, marking it as her own. Finally, she got his shirt off and let her hands sweep over the smooth skin of his chest and back, her fingers tracing little patterns as she went, sending tingling sensations to the very core of him. He felt her hands hover now at the opening to his trousers and pulled back a little. Once more, he leaned in and claimed her lips, nibbling on her lower lip as his tongue joined in the play. When he released her mouth, her head fell back, another invitation he was only too happy to accept. He guided his mouth back and forth across her neck and upper chest then stopped.

As Kathryn raised her head again, he slipped a finger under each strap of her gown and holding her eyes, slowly lowered them. As the straps fell away, they were joined by the top of her gown, revealing her breasts to him for the first time and he lowered his eyes to see the unveiling.

"Kathryn…you've no idea how beautiful you are…so very, very beautiful…" He wanted to cry and drop to his knees and just pull her to him, holding her to him forever. He looked into her eyes again, checking that she was comfortable with what he was doing, but all he saw was the deep love and trust she expressed. He eased her back onto the bed, sitting her on the edge of it and fell to his knees. His hands moved slowly up and down her arms and then her back, before slowly moving around to her stomach and finally upwards, brushing against the underside of her breasts. He slowly leaned in and kissed her nipples, now puckered and erect, filled with blood at the effect he evoked in her. He heard her gasp as his mouth came into contact with her and smiled up at her, before lowering his head again to taste and explore.

Chakotay's mouth covered Kathryn's breast, sucking gently on her nipple, his tongue flicking across it, sending a rush of sensations through her and she let her head fall back again as her hands gripped at his shoulders. She felt his hand on her other breast, his fingers making sure it wasn't neglected as he gently twisted and caressed the nipple there. He spent a long time working from one breast to the other until Kathryn was floating. Only now did he allow his hands and mouth to explore further, slowly sliding her gown down towards her hips. He ran his lips over her stomach, his hands gently gripping her hips. He heard small sounds coming from Kathryn and felt her hands tighten on his shoulders, her fingers pressing into his skin. He nuzzled against her gown, working it down a little further with his mouth and felt her ease up from the bed, giving her silent permission for him to continue.

Slipping one arm around her waist, Chakotay raised her slightly off the bed, his hand working the silky fabric over her hips and down her thighs. He lowered her back to the bed and let the gown pool at her feet, then saw the delicate white lace panties she wore and sucked in a breath. He felt her ease forward now and reach for the fastener of his trousers again.

"You're overdressed, Chakotay…" She smiled softly at him as he let her work, her soft hands slipping under the waistband and working his pants down. He kneeled up straight and let her push them as far as his knees then stood up and pulled off his shoes, the trousers following quickly.

He stood a moment and watched her appraisal of his body, her eyes sweeping from neck to knees and back again. There was no mistaking his erection and he saw her eyes linger here now. Tentatively she reached a hand out and stroked the straining bulge, subconsciously licking her lips, as her thumb ran around the head of his member, the fabric of his shorts slightly damp now. Chakotay threw his head back, groaning deeply at the feel of her hand on him. He pulled back a little, needing to regain a little control and knelt down before her again.

"Kathryn…if I do anything you don't want or…" She smiled at him and leaned forward, claiming his lips again and pulled him to her, giving him his answer. She pressed her bare breasts against his chest, the feeling of skin against skin raising the temperature between them even more. Chakotay's hands found their way to her shoulders again and he slowly eased her down, lying her back on the bed, her legs hanging over the side. He picked up a pillow and slipped it under her head, raising her a little so that she'd be able to see him at all times if she needed to. She smiled her understand and lay back, completely at ease with him.

Chakotay's hands moved slowly up and down her legs, his fingers grazing lightly over her skin, leaving Kathryn almost panting on the bed. As slowly as he could, he made his way towards her inner thighs and marvelled at her trust in him again as she slightly parted her legs for him. He leaned down and let his tongue join in the dance with his fingers, Kathryn opening herself to him a little more now. Her breathing changed again as he moved closer to her core and he now leaned up and hooked a finger in the elastic on each side of her panties. Kathryn brought her legs up a little and sought his folded legs with her feet then placed them on his muscular thighs, using this to raise her hips and allow him to slide the lace over her hips and down her legs. As her small thatch of curls was revealed, Chakotay wanted to cry at the sight of her. He extricated her legs from her panties and tossed them on the floor beside him then ran his hands slowly up her legs again, keeping her feet on his thighs.

He watched Kathryn now, mesmerized her by beauty, as she tossed her head back and forth, her hands gripping the quilt beneath her. As gently as he could, he moved her feet to the side now and pulled her towards him then slowly parted her legs.

Kathryn lay back, drowning in a rush of sensations and emotions. She felt Chakotay spread her and felt his hands on her and for just a brief second, she panicked, images of horror filling her mind. As quickly as they were viewed, she shut the light off and replaced them with Chakotay's face, his trusting and gentle smile filling her mind now and with the love and trust she felt for him, the last barrier fell away from her mind and instinct took over. She opened her legs wider for him, inviting him in to her inner sanctum.

Chakotay actually saw the brief flash of panic that crossed Kathryn's face and had stopped immediately. He also witnessed the brief battle and saw himself emerge as the victor and his prize was presented to him. Kathryn, in love and trust of him, opened herself up to him completely, presenting him with all she had to offer. Chakotay wanted to cry at the gesture of trust and love and lowered his head, nuzzling his way up her thighs, his tears merging with her skin as he made his way to the ultimate prize.

"Oh God…" Kathryn's hips jerked up as soon as Chakotay's mouth made contact with her, his tongue laving across her. Chakotay smiled to himself, amazed at the huskiness of her voice. "Oh…uuhhmmm… Oh God…." He held her hips in place with one hand, almost afraid she'd hurt herself otherwise. His other hand slipped under her bottom, one finger gently tracing over her anus.

"Oh sweet…oh God…Chakotay…oh…mmm…" Chakotay delighted in her response to him and moved his hands, gently lifting her legs over his shoulders, giving him more access to the feast that awaited him. Moving his arms beneath her, he pressed gently against her anus, the fingers of his other hand circling her virginal entrance as his mouth descended over her once more. Using his tongue in concert with his lips, he blew, lapped and sucked on her small bundle of nerves, his tongue flicking back and forward across it, building her up and up as she thrashed above him. She cried out continuously as he worked her, slipping a finger into her wet passage and gently massaging just inside her, then creeping higher into her warmth, a second digit joining the first. Her hips jerked up again and again as she climbed higher and higher until she reached the peak. Chakotay felt her arrival at the top, her inner muscles clenching around his finger. He flicked his tongue rapidly across her clitoris and sucked hard, sending her over the edge with a scream and his name on her lips as she spasmed and convulsed, her inner walls clamping down hard on his fingers.

As she came down, Chakotay refused to let her rest as he worked her back to the peak, building her up once more, before dropping her over into the sea of bliss a second time. He stroked her inner thighs now as he finally let her come down, watching her closely as she lay exhausted before him, her body resembling a rag doll and bathed in a sheen of sweat. As the candlelight reflected off her body, Chakotay stared in wonder at the beauty of her, lying back, totally sated and abandoned, a flush lighting her skin. She finally gained the energy to open her eyes and lift her head and saw him studying her.

"You look so…the light…your skin…it's…so beautiful…so beautiful… I want to look at you like this for ever…" His voice was husky and soft, filled with desire and wonder. Tears spilled from Kathryn's eyes at his words and what she saw in his eyes, the love there and the honesty of his words. She knew in that second that no other woman would ever know what she had at this very moment, that the experience was unique and she was the blessed one. A strange thought came to her as she watched his eyes drink in the sight before him and yet she allowed it. She knew, knew at that moment, that she would endure the last year all over again just to have this man at the end of it. She knew she'd go to hell and back, spend eternity there for just one day with him. Her heart and soul were his for all time.

Chakotay finally looked up at her and stared deeply into her eyes, his hands subconsciously stroking against her hips. "Kathryn, I love you. With everything that I am, I love you. Thank you for the gifts you've given me…your heart…your trust…your love…" He choked up and Kathryn sat up, pulling him to her.

"We give to each other, Chakotay. I love you so much. Thank you for my life." She rocked him to her, her lips trailing over his face and she felt him nuzzle at her neck again. Kathryn smiled to herself and let her mouth travel down over his chest. Slowly she pushed him onto his back, learning every inch of his skin as she explored with her mouth and tongue, drawing from him the same reaction he'd from her.

Kathryn slowly worked her way lower, nipping and licking at his skin, hearing all his moans and pants. Her hand slid down to his thigh and inched its way upward until her fingers made contact with his scrotum and he groaned a little louder now. She traced her nails gently around him, hand and mouth meeting now at her prize. Torturously slowly, she flicked her tongue up and down his rigid shaft, her lips trailing with it. She gently nipped and sucked at the sides, her hand still massaging his sac, one finger trailing back to press against his anus, as he had with her.

Without warning to him, he felt her tongue lap at the tip of his penis and then suddenly he was encased in the warmth of her mouth, almost to the hilt. Chakotay cried out.

"Oh God…Kathryn…oh dear God…ohh… ohh…" He felt beyond coherent thought as he filled her mouth and she sucked up and down on him. He felt his control slipping rapidly and reached for her, easing her up to him, his breathing ragged as he fought for control.

"Oh Kathryn…give me a second…" She smiled down at him, her finger tracing his lips as he smelled himself on her hand. He eased down a little and watched her cat like smile. Suddenly he was serious.

"Would you rather continue this way or…?" She just smiled at him and eased back down the bed. He watched as she straddled him, easing her way down his thighs to lick at him again for a second then back up, until she was over him. He watched her grasp him in her hand and guide him to her centre, positioning him against her before she slowly eased down on him as he filled her inch by delicious inch. Chakotay shuddered with the feeling of entering her body, a feeling of finally being home. He barely managed to hold eye contact with her until she threw her head back, lifting slightly then dropping back down. She continued for a minute or so, his hands gently grasping her hips and then she was off him, lying beside him.

"I needed to do it that way to start…"

He cupped her face, his emotions raging and sensations filling him. "What do you need now, love?"

She leaned up and kissed him then lay down on her back, so grateful to him for asking and opened herself to him. "I need you…"

He leaned over and claimed her lips in a rush of passion that left them both breathless. Once more, he moved down to her breasts and worked them, then further on down until he reached her centre, inhaling her scent, mixed with his own as he lapped at her, bringing her close to the edge again before positioning himself over her. Propping himself on his elbows, he stared deeply into her eyes.

"Kathryn…?" She smiled back at him, no trace of doubt on her face, only her love for him and a deep trust.

"Please…I need you…I love you…"

He blinked back his tears. "I love you…" He pressed gently against her and then deeper and deeper until he filled her and her warmth and tightness surrounded him. He watched her face as he entered her, the love and deep desire written there plainly for him to see. He remained still a moment, savouring the feeling, knowing this moment was what his life had been about. He started a rocking motion, slowly increasing his tempo until he found a rhythm which Kathryn was able to match and felt her raise her legs around him. He knew first from her breathing that she was getting close again as she ground herself against him and then felt her inner muscles twitching and tightening around him. With a will of iron, he forced himself to hang on, until she was ready to come with him. He thrust deeply, almost withdrawing each time, filling her to the hilt and at last felt her contract around him, her pupils dilating as he watched and then she screamed, trying to raise her hips to draw him in deeper and as her muscles clamped down almost painfully on his hard shaft, he lost control, his shout almost drowning out hers, as he spilled himself deeply inside her, filling her with his warmth.

Chakotay quickly rolled to the side, taking Kathryn with him, their bodies still joined. He was afraid he'd crush her yet marvelled at the fact that she still clung tightly to him, burying her face in his neck, as they both battled to bring their breathing back under control. As his own returned to normal, he slipped from her body and heard her still gasping slightly and suddenly realized that she was crying. He pulled back quickly and cupped her face gently.

"Kathryn? Oh God, Kathryn, are you all right? Did I hurt you…scare you…?"

She reached for his face and shook her head. "Oh Chakotay, no…you didn't… That was just…it was…it's been so…" She cried harder now and he held her to him, letting her get it out.

Finally, she calmed and he looked deeply into her eyes. "Sweetheart, please…what's wrong…?"

She saw the deep worry on his face and managed a watery smile. "Nothing's wrong…it's all perfect…"

He let out a huge sigh of relief. "Honey, why are you crying then? Are you sure I didn't hurt you…upset you…?"

She shook her head and grew teary again. "It's just been…been…so long…since… I'd forgotten…forgotten what it felt like… It's been so long since…anyone…held me…loved me…" She broke down again and Chakotay joined her this time as he cried for her, for the pain and loneliness she'd endured throughout the years, the emptiness of her life, her arms, even her heart for so long.

Finally, she calmed again and smiled tearfully up at him. She reached up and stroked his face. "It's not just that… There was a time…after…when I believed I'd never know anything like this again…never share love with someone…probably didn't want to…too afraid… I never said it but…for a long time…I wished he had killed me…and later…with you…I didn't think I was…worthy… of you or anyone…but you in particular…because I never wanted anyone else…" Chakotay was too choked up to say anything.

"I know there'll always be the odd time when I…when I remember the horrors of that night and what I went through after it, what I saw you go through with me… but I can deal with it now and instantly put it away…because what I have now totally eclipses all that. I don't want to think of the bad, only the good that came out of it. You. What I had before…yes…I missed it…but I can live without it now…wouldn't want it anymore…because I found something better…" She smiled at him. "Before… oh Chakotay…it was never like this…never… I've never loved anyone the way I love you…and the rest…your tenderness…your touch… I've never known love making like this before…didn't think it even existed…" She stopped tracing her finger along the lines of his tattoo and smiled into his eyes. "I love you… I don't ever want to stop saying that." Chakotay closed his eyes for a second, not wanting to be away from her for longer, then opened them again and just stared at her, committing her face at this moment to his memory for all time.

"I'll never give you reason to stop saying it and I'll repeat it to you just as much. There's just one problem…"

Kathryn dropped her smile and frowned at him. "What…what's wrong…?"

Chakotay shook his head and kissed the tip of her nose. "This isn't quite legal. I need you to be my wife…" Her face broke and her tears spilled again.

He nodded his head to her unasked question. "Yes, Kathryn, I'm asking you to marry me…to be my wife. A simple yes will suffice…" She swallowed repeatedly, fighting her tears.

"Kathryn, we'll be old and grey here and you still won't have answered me…" She opened her mouth and closed it a few times, tears pouring down her face.

"Kathryn…I'm ageing here…greying as we speak… and you're going to give me a heart attack in a minute…"

Suddenly she came to life and squashed him to her, raining kisses down on his face. "Yes…oh yes…Chakotay…yes…yes…"

He laughed and eased her off him a little. "Well, one 'yes' would have done but I'll take the four… Think we should marry four times to match that answer?" He didn't wait for a reply but claimed her mouth hungrily and before they knew it, the candles had long burned out, the wine untouched.

Ellen Sands smiled smugly to herself as she watched Kathryn and Chakotay exchange their vows in front of their entire former crew. She'd broken her own golden rule and formed a deep and lasting friendship with her former patient, a friendship now shared with her husband, as the two couples spent many evenings together, sharing dinner, playing sports or just sitting and chatting over a few bottles of wine.

Chakotay in particular formed a good friendship with Russell Sands, Ellen's husband, and the two men often shared deep conversations, developing a profound understanding of each other through a common bond. They shared many hours together playing sports or just talking, always with their wives' understanding and knowledge. It was only now Chakotay realized how deep his own trauma had been and how he should have sought counselling for himself but his new friend turned out to be just as good. Russell helped Chakotay enormously, especially to understand his feelings and lay his ghosts to rest, allowing him to finally heal too.

Tom and B'Elanna also stayed in close contact with Kathryn and Chakotay and it was B'Elanna who first suspected Kathryn's pregnancy, even before Kathryn herself was sure. B'Elanna, well into a pregnancy of her own, now grew even closer to her former captain as they shared many hours comparing notes and grumbling about morning sickness and what was still to come, vowing their men would never come near them again. Ellen became the voice of experience to the two women, sharing knowledge and in her opinion, never-to-be-used-again baby clothes.

Tom Paris joined in the men's group, feeling a total outcast when his wife got together with Kathryn and Ellen but Chakotay and Russell had saved him a seat and consoled him constantly, Russell offering the advice again on how to cope with a pregnant wife and what was to come.

Chakotay strolled into the house, an empty plate in his hand and stood for a moment looking back out at the garden, studying the scene before him. Tom and Russell were arguing over the best way to barbeque a steak, the Doctor sat quietly watching everyone, a contended smile on his face, Ellen was chasing after her two soaking wet and screaming kids, B'Elanna was wheeling baby Nathan around, trying to shut him up, a string of Klingon curses replacing the traditional lullaby, while Kathryn sat nursing four week old Elizabeth, a look of pure peace, happiness and contentment on her face. As if sensing him watching her, she looked up and met her husband's eyes and smiled. A million pieces of information passed between them alongside a million "I love you's". She knew what he was thinking and nodded to him, a gentle smile on her face until the baby started fussing and drew her attention back. Chakotay lingered a moment longer, watching them all and thinking how far they'd all come, especially Kathryn.

"All those rivers…and we swam them all…" He smiled to himself.

"Hey, Chakotay…bring on the meat…we're dying here…starvation rations…" Tom shook his head and turned to Russell. "Can't get the friends these days…they invite you to lunch and then they don't feed you…"

Chakotay joined in the laughter. "All right…all right… I can take a hint. One cow coming up." He took a last look and an extra moment to offer a silent prayer of thanks for all their blessings then headed for the kitchen.