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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     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.



WARNING:   This story contains graphic material of a violent and sexual nature.





MANY RIVERS TO CROSS.

By KAT LADY.



PART SIX.





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 had 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 had 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 for 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 would have to leave soon and a deep pain filled her at the thought of leaving behind what she had 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 had become dependent on him, not at the cost of her own independent 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 had 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 had 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 will never be anyone…”  He shook his head.  “I thought…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 have 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 would 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 had 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 unto 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 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 to 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.  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…and also Kathryn…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 is 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 have 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 has 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, 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 are still the woman you were.  Kathryn, there is 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…  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 affect 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…reminding you… not pleasing you…not maybe being able to 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 have the right to them.  They are 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.



“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 will 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 about to laugh 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, 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…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 will 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…for feeling safe enough with me to be yourself completely…  Besides, in any new relationship…there will 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.  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 has 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 is 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 is 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 where ever 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 will 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.  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.  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 had 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 would 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 had looked out over the city that day as he held her to him, and thought about returning here some day 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 had come.  As the light had 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, 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 would 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.  “So get changed.  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 had 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 had 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…  Give my life it’s meaning…  I will 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 will never hurt you… nor will I ever do anything to betray the trust you’ve put in me.  I would 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, 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 had 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 have 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 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 would 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.



Just 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 would 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 had 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 down 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 would 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 had 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 will 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.  So 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, it’ll be our Golden Wedding Anniversary 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 an answer but claimed her mouth hungrily and before they knew it, the candles had long burned out.



Ellen Sands smiled smugly to herself as she watched Kathryn and Chakotay exchange their vows in front of their entire former crew.  She had 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.



THE END.



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RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.



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