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


Rating:            PG13.


Summary:         God, I hate trying to write summaries LOL.
                       This is mainly an angst story but there are babies in there.  I wouldn’t
                       call it a babyfic but that’s your decision….
                       
                        Back on Earth, Chakotay gets a visitor who makes him face his past, a past where
                        he turned his back on Kathryn when she needed him most.  Now she needs him
                        again.  Can he get past his own pain and guilt in order to be there for her this time? 


Note:

This story has taken a long time to finish and I left it and came back to it many times.  Finally it was finished – with much help (and persuasion).

So – thanks a million to –

Judy – my ever patient beta who read and re-read this and made so many helpful and useful suggestions and corrections, of which there were many.  She cracked her whip when needed, even when I probably drove her to madness.  Thanks, my friend – for everything.  I’d be lost without you.

Gine – who also read and re-read this until I was sure she’d hit me with it.  She became my mirror so many times as I worked through this.  Dear SS, your encouragement and friendship have been beyond words.  And…  You know what I mean.




MEMORIES AND DREAMS.


By Katlady.


Part Seven.


Chakotay visited a much quieter Kathryn over the next few days.  She spoke with him casually, interacting with him on a basic and safe level.  He even saw vague shades of the old Kathryn and felt some hope for the first time since he’d come to the hospital.

He called to see Elizabeth on his way out, finding the doctor in her office going through reports.

Elizabeth nodded towards the replicator as she finished what she was doing.  Chakotay sat down across from her.  “Thanks, but I’m drowning in tea these days.”

Elizabeth smiled and put away her work.  “What can I do for you, Chakotay?”

He shrugged.  “Just checking in, I guess…or reporting in, as Kathryn would call it.”

Elizabeth smiled and shook her head.  “She’s pretty pissed at us all, although she’s hiding it well.”

Chakotay leaned back in his chair.  “I see good improvements in her.  I even see glimpses of the old Kathryn.  There’s a calmness about her now.  I think she just needed to get all that out before, and now…”

Elizabeth sighed and leaned back in her own chair.  “Yes, she’s making progress.  She’s doing well.  She’s angry with me, which is good.  She let that show for a while, but now she’s covering it.  However, she still hasn’t touched on the cause of all this with me.  She’s avoiding the painful subjects like the plague.”

Chakotay leaned forward a little.  “But she’s doing well.”

The doctor nodded.  “Yes, she seems to be.”

Chakotay studied her.  “You say that, but you don’t seem convinced of it.”

Elizabeth sighed heavily and leaned forward also.  “She fooled me once, Chakotay.  ‘Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me’.  She’s a damn good actress.  She performs well, but there’s a sincerity missing from her performance…something lacking.”

Chakotay frowned worriedly.  “What are you saying?  You think this calmness and talking is all an act to get out of here so she can try again?”

Elizabeth spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness.  “I don’t know.  Maybe…possibly.  Perhaps she just doesn’t care either way.  I know one thing.  I have to be one hundred percent sure this time before I let her go.  She’s tried to kill herself not once, but twice.  What do they say?  Third time’s a charm?”  She smiled her apology.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”  She laced her fingers together.

“Look, it may sound devious, but she’s not aware of the viewing panel we have in the bathroom.  I’ve watched her, unaware that she’s being watched in there.  She sits on the floor, her head down and sometimes crying.  She’s still depressed, deeply so, but as soon as someone comes in she’s up and out of there, as cheerful and bright as she can manage.  Once they leave, she’s back in there and lets go again.” 

Chakotay looked troubled.  “Having that in there doesn’t seem right somehow.  She has no idea.”

Elizabeth smiled sadly.  “No, she doesn’t know it’s there or that we’re watching her there.  I’m a bit surprised she hasn’t suspected or looked for it.”  She sighed.  “Look, I know it seems like a terrible invasion of her privacy, but it’s only select staff here who watch her and it’s all strictly confidential.  They’re all cleared and qualified to help her in the bathroom anyway so this is a form of extension to that.”  She leaned forward slightly.  “Chakotay, we need to do this.  I know it seems underhanded, but I’d rather this than think about what could happen.  What if she tried something in there?  I’m not taking any chances, no matter how improved she seems.”

Chakotay latched onto that, grabbing what hope he could.  “So you agree she is improving?”

She sighed heavily again.  “Yes, she’s improving, but she still has a long way to go.  For now we take it as it comes.”  She smiled softly.  “Anyway, it’s early days…way too early to think about release and so on.  First, she has a lot of work to do and a lot to face and sort out.  There’s a lot of pain facing her that she has to deal with.”

Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment and pinched the bridge of his nose.  He opened his eyes again and looked at the woman sitting across from him.  “I guess I was seeing what I wanted to see.”

Elizabeth nodded sadly.  “And what she wants us to see.”

He nodded and sighed.  “You know, when she came out of this I expected her to be the woman I knew before, the woman she was.  I think I told you that.”

Elizabeth smiled sadly.  “You mean the woman you wanted and needed to see?”

Chakotay fell back in his chair.  “Exactly.  No matter what my sins against her, I knew that woman.”  He shook his head, trying to shut off his painful thoughts and failing.  He looked sadly at the woman before him.  “It’s hard to accept that she’s never going to be her again.  That woman is gone.  I destroyed her.” 

Elizabeth sighed heavily.  “No, life changed her…as it does us all.”  She shook her head.  “Chakotay, we’ve been through this.  You were never going to find the woman you were looking for, or the one you remembered.  I don’t really know what you were expecting, and maybe you don’t either, but that woman was never going to be there.  You can’t ever make her as she was before all this and before the baby.  There’s no ‘cure’ for that, no way to undo it.  You can’t turn the clock back.  You can examine it all you want but that will get you nowhere.  You have to stop dwelling on the past and move on.”

Chakotay hung his head and managed a sad smile.  “Underneath it all, I do know that.  It’s just…had you known her before…the way she…”  He squeezed his eyes closed a moment and shook his head, as if trying to dislodge the painful memories.  “I need to help her…”

Elizabeth frowned at that.  “Why?  Chakotay, you can’t help her because you want to atone.  It doesn’t work that way.  We’ve been through this before as well.”  She sighed and leaned back.  “You have a lot of guilt.  I know that.  But I think you believe that helping to ‘bring her back’ will make you feel less guilty or whatever.  Kathryn needs to do this for herself.  Not for you…”  She smiled sadly to herself.  “Not even for me.”  She dropped her head to the side.  “You and I have a lot in common where this is concerned.  We both have guilt over letting her down.”  She shrugged.  “I’m probably doing the same thing.”

Chakotay drew in a deep breath as he studied Elizabeth.  “You’re right.  And going around in these circles isn’t helping.”  He cleared his throat.  “So what about now?  What do I do?”

The doctor regarded him, choosing her words carefully.  “Actually, I think it’s time.”  She sighed.  “I need to ask you to stand back now.”

Chakotay rubbed at his face.  “I’ve served my purpose.”

Elizabeth leaned forward and placed a hand on his knee.  “Chakotay, she has a long road ahead of her.  I have to help her on that journey, but first I have to get her to WANT to make it.”  She smiled softly.  “Your job is done.  You can still be her friend later, but for now you’ve done what I needed you to do…you and the others.” 

She removed her hand.  “You helped me to bring her out of it.  Making her embrace life again is my job…and hers.  She has to want to live for herself…no one else.  Making her like she was before, or expecting that of her, won’t undo it all or how you were with her.  I know you say you see glimpses of the old Kathryn, but as I said, in most ways that woman is gone.  You may see parts of her, but the woman you’ll see now will always be affected by what happened.  She can’t be the woman she was.  Too much has happened.  We’re moulded by everything we experience.  She can’t be who she was before for you.  Trying to make her be that woman won’t undo what happened or help you feel better.  You can’t go back in time and change how it all happened or unfolded.”  She paused and her words hung in the air.  “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry, Chakotay.  That was cruel and uncalled for.”  She sighed.  “The thing is…with you here she may try to be that again.  She might use your memories of her as a template, and that’s not what she needs.  Can you understand that?”

Chakotay shook his head, his eyes filled with sadness.  “No, you’re right.  I think a part of me was pushing her to be who she was before…for myself more than for her.  She was quite a woman…..smart, strong and yet compassionate.  Hostile aliens cringed before her ‘death glare’ and her strength was what got the whole crew home.” He smiled briefly.  “I think I expected her to be the old Kathryn…or maybe I just wanted her to be.  Maybe I just thought if she was, it would be like turning the clock back.”  He shrugged.  “In reality though, I know I can never atone for what I did to her…never undo it or make amends for it.  I let her down and selfishly thought only of myself and my own pain.  She can’t ever forgive that, and even if she did, she’ll never forget it.  She’d always be afraid I’d let her down again.”

He drew in a deep breath and took a moment to sort his thoughts.  He watched his fingers twist together in his lap.  Elizabeth read him well and said nothing.  Finally he looked at her.  “Can I ask you something?”  She nodded.  “Why was I the way I was?  Why did I do that to her?  Why did I act that way?  What turned me into someone who could so badly hurt the woman he loved so much?  Was it just me being a total bastard or…”

Elizabeth leaned forward and placed a hand on his knee.  “Chakotay, stop.  I can’t really answer that for you.  That would be tantamount to counselling you in a way at this stage and I can’t take you on and ‘treat’ you.  That would be a conflict of interest and Kathryn is my patient.  We’re here about her.”  She smiled ruefully.  “Besides, I’ve broken enough rules as it is.” 

Chakotay shook his head.  “I’m not asking that of you.  Take a wild guess here.  I won’t hold you to anything.  Just talk to me as a fellow human being for a moment.  I only want your opinion.  Be brutal if you need to.”

Elizabeth saw his eyes plead for an answer.  She nodded slowly and sat back.  “OK.”  She sighed and shook her head.  “This isn’t a personal criticism, but I think, like a lot of men, when something like this happens you felt you weren’t able to openly grieve the way you needed to.  Something had to come out though, so it came out as anger.  Many men still believe it’s a sign of weakness to show their pain, grief or sadness.  Apart from anything else, like your love for him and anticipation of just having a child, your son was a fulfilment of a dream, tied into so much else.  When you were denied that, you felt cheated.  There seemed to be no reason for the end of your dream so you sought one.”

Chakotay stared down at his hands again and spoke softly.  “Having Kathryn and the hope of a child brought me peace, and then it was gone.  I became an angry man again…”  He looked up at the doctor.

Elizabeth frowned.  “Again?”

He nodded.  “I saw all the elements of the angry man I was before I knew Kathryn…before Voyager, when I was a Maquis.”

Elizabeth nodded her understanding.  “Ahh, I see.”  She sat forward again.  “As I see it…”  She sighed.  “As a way to cope with this terrible loss, you lashed out at the person you were supposed to love the most and who needed you most.  Something you believed in was suddenly snatched from you, and probably feeling unable to show that grief you disguised it as anger.  That anger also covered your pain.  You were blinded to her pain by your own.”

Chakotay just shook his head sadly.  “If I’m honest, it was easier to make her responsible.”  He groaned.  “When I think back to the way I treated Kathryn…”  He barely met Elizabeth’s eyes.  “It’s a damn miracle she made it back with what I did to her.”

The young woman smiled kindly.  “You can’t change the past, Chakotay.”  She waved a hand.  “All this…seeing her again…talking about it…has lifted that blindness caused by your pain.  You see it all now and that’s good.  It can help you heal.  As to what Kathryn went through before, it shows her strength to be able to carry her burdens and responsibilities to the end.  I can work on that and re-instil that strength in her to carry her through what she’s facing now and what lies ahead.”

Chakotay looked away a moment then back at Elizabeth.  “We’ve talked and yet I don’t know what’s in her mind.  There was a time I used to know what she was thinking.  That’s long gone.  I used to even be able to read her emotions.  Now I’m not so sure.  I thought she was improving and yet you see something different.”

Elizabeth sat back.  “I’m trained, Chakotay.  I studied for a lot of years and I’ll see many things others won’t.  She has improved but she’s also still very fragile and vulnerable.  The main thing here is that she’s finally facing this.  Your presence here has made her look more closely at herself.”  She smiled gently.  “You know, in one way she’s further along than you.  I think you’re still suppressing a lot.  Talking to someone like a counsellor might not be a bad idea.  Some form of therapy would be good for you…for yourself.”
  
He nodded at that.  “So I stand back now.”  It wasn’t a question…more an admitting of a fact.

Elizabeth sat back and studied him as she thought.  “Look, Chakotay, once again I’m asking you to trust me to know what’s best here.  So let’s try this.  Come tomorrow as usual but don’t stay as long.  The same for the next day.  After that, I’ll see how she is and perhaps then I’ll step in full time and work with her.”

Chakotay stood slowly.  “OK.”  He moved to the door then turned back.  “You know, I hadn’t thought about this.  I’ve gotten so used to seeing her every day again.”  He shrugged.  “Yeah…well…”  He opened the door.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  With that he was gone, leaving Elizabeth staring at the closed door.  These were the aspects of her job that she hated.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay’s penultimate visit was hard for him.  Knowing his days would soon be without the woman he’d come to know again ate away at him.  He forced himself to act cheerful, the last thing he felt.

Kathryn, for her part, seemed to sense the change in him but said nothing.  He saw her watching him, studying him closely when he spoke.  She said little at first until it was time for him to leave, a good half an hour before his usual time.

As he stood and moved towards the door, she turned and moved towards him.  “Is this part of the good doctor’s plan?  Is she weaning you off me…or me off you?”

Chakotay was amazed that she’d come so close to the truth.  He tried to hide it, but it was clearly written on his face.  “I trust her, Kathryn.  She’s the expert.”

Kathryn laughed slightly.  “Good answer, Chakotay.  Very clever.  I should have utilized your diplomatic skills more on Voyager.”  She moved over to the wall and leaned back against it.  “So what’s your plan in all this?  Are you just going to try and make your peace with all this and move on?”

Chakotay looked at her sadly.  “I can never atone for what I did to you...or change it.”  The words echoed in his mind, words he’d spoken to Elizabeth Fulton only the previous day.  He suddenly felt the need to speak them again to Kathryn, almost as if he might never get another chance. 

“I can’t undo it or make amends.  I let you down very badly.  I saw only my own pain and thought only of myself.  You can’t ever forgive me for that…for what I did to you…what I put you through.  Even if you did, you’d never forget it.  You’d always remember…always be waiting for me to let you down again…always be afraid that I’d do that.”  He shook his head, then turned and walked slowly towards the door.

Kathryn’s voice followed him, a hardness to it which didn’t cover her pain.  “Maybe you’re right in some of what you say, because that’s what you’re doing now, Chakotay.  Have you thought of that?  Do you realize that?”  She moved away from the wall.

“You say you’re sorry you hurt me and yet here you are right at this moment hurting me and walking away again.  In fact, you’re good at that, aren’t you?  Walking away?”  She stared hard at him and when he turned back to look at her, she moved a little closer.

“As to the rest…  You’re right.  I can’t forget.  And some of it I don’t want to ever forget, because to forget would mean denying our son.”

Chakotay felt his eyes fill with tears.  He sounded hoarse when he spoke the one word…his son’s name.  “Caylem…”

Kathryn remembered him saying he’d spoken to Voyager’s Doctor and accepted that he knew the name she’d chosen.  “He existed, Chakotay.  We may never have held him in our arms…but he existed.”

They stared at each other for several minutes, neither one speaking.  Finally Chakotay broke the silence.  “You’re right.  I know that.”  He sighed heavily.  “It’s the rest though…how I dealt with it…how I treated you.  That was unforgivable.”

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “In some ways, yes.  I never fought you on it though.  I should have confronted you and made you face me.”  She sighed and turned away slightly.  “Look, we both dealt with it in our own way.  Both ways were wrong, but we can’t change that now.  So we try to heal ourselves…forgive.”  She looked up at him.  “You accused me for many years of running away from you and my feelings, and now you’re doing the same thing.”

Chakotay’s eyes pleaded for understanding.  “It has to be this way.  I’m not helping you…and Dr. Fulton…”  He sighed heavily.  “I can’t ever atone.  I hurt you too badly.”

Kathryn just shook her head.  “Hurt me?  Walking away again is doing that, Chakotay.  Had you thought of that?”  She waved him away suddenly.  “Oh, maybe she’s right.  Maybe I don’t know my own mind anymore.  I can’t forgive myself.”

Chakotay moved towards her.  “Kathryn, you’ve nothing to forgive yourself for.  I’m the one who needs forgiving.”

Kathryn looked at him sadly.  “I know you want and need me to tell you it’s all right.  I’m sorry, but right now I can’t.  I need all my energy just to stand here talking to you…to stay upright.”

Chakotay nodded sadly.  “I’m not asking for your forgiveness right now.  Maybe in time, but…  I let you down…and I let our son down…  At this moment, I just need your understanding…although…”

Kathryn moved back to her window.  “I can’t even give you that.”  She pulled back the curtain a little then looked back at him.  “You think you made me this way.  Well, I was responsible for myself, Chakotay.  I let myself get this way.  I let myself sink deeper and deeper, instead of trying to climb out of it.  That was my fault, not yours.”

Chakotay stepped closer.  “But I caused it…”

Kathryn nodded.  “In a way, yes…but I dealt with it…or rather didn’t.”  She turned to face him more fully.  “Look, when my father and Justin died, I did the same thing.  I went into a deep depression and would have stayed that way but for my sister…”

She looked off into the distance for a moment, speaking softly to herself.  “We were close then…a long time ago…”  She sighed.  “Time and distance…memories and dreams…”

She shook her head suddenly, bringing herself back to the present.  “My point is…they were the reason.  Not the cause, but the reason.  This time it was losing the baby and you…but the continuation of that…my way of dealing with it…or not dealing with it, as I said…  That is and was my fault alone.  It doesn’t excuse you, but I have to be responsible for myself.”

Chakotay wanted to cry.  “Kathryn, I….”

She stared hard at him as she raised her hand to silence him.  “No, Chakotay.  It’s like…”  She sighed heavily.  “When we got back, I know what I did.  I know how depressed I was…and yes…I tried to end it twice…but…”  The words suddenly seemed to stick in her throat and she turned away.

Chakotay reached out and touched her arm.  “Kathryn, I’m sorry.  I wish so much that…”

She pulled away from him.  “I don’t need reassurance from you.”

He shook his head.  “No…but I need it from you.”

They were both silent for a time, both having too much to say, yet unable to say it.  Chakotay moved away from her.  “Kathryn…”

Before he could say more, she turned fully facing the window.  “Just go, Chakotay.  Just get out.”

With a final ‘I’m sorry’ whispered into the air, he nodded and left the room.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stared ahead at nothing as Elizabeth walked him out of the hospital.  He stopped and looked at the woman beside him.  “Want to hear something really bad?  In a way it was easier when she was catatonic.  It was easier to blame her…easier to believe I hated her.  When she was like that…not talking…she couldn’t do this to me.”

Elizabeth studied him.  “Do what to you?”

Chakotay laughed sarcastically.  “Hit me with the truth.  That saying about the truth hurting is true.  It hurts like hell and there’s nothing I can take for it…no magic medical cure for it.”  He turned and walked towards his hovercar.

Elizabeth called after him.  “Will you still come tomorrow?”

He stopped and looked back, shielding his eyes against the evening sun.  “Yeah.  I owe her that much.”  He smiled sadly.  “Just call me a glutton for punishment…”

Elizabeth watched him leave and whispered softly to herself.  “Or a man still in love.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay never got to make his visit the next day.  Instead he received a frantic call in the early hours from Elizabeth.  He fought the grogginess which consumed him and rubbed at his eyes, trying to make sense of what was happening.  He had spent much of the night tossing and turning, his time with Kathryn playing on his mind, before finally falling into a fitful sleep. 

He willed himself to alertness as he looked at the doctor’s worried face.  “What’s wrong?”  He feared the answer.

Elizabeth hesitated a moment before her words rushed out.  “Chakotay, on the off chance…is Kathryn with you?”

He fought the blind panic he felt building.  “Please don’t tell me she’s missing.”

Elizabeth nodded slowly, pushing tossed hair back from her face.  It was clear she’d rushed straight to the hospital from her bed.  “Her nurse on night shift checked her at 02:00 and she was asleep.  She checked again at 03:00 and thought at first she was still asleep.  She was closing the door, about to fall for the oldest one in the book, when something rang her alarm bells.  She went into the room, pulled the covers back and found only pillows.”

Chakotay tried to rub the sleep from his eyes.  He felt his heart pounding.  “Is she sure Kathryn was there at 02:00?”

Elizabeth nodded.  “Yeah.  She saw her moving under the blanket.”

He forced his mind to work.  “Just let me call Tom and B'Elanna.  I’ll leave Rose with them, then come right over.”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “There’s nothing you can do here…”

Chakotay stood up.  “Maybe not, but at least I’ll feel as if I’m doing something.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Two days later Chakotay frantically paced Elizabeth’s office.  B'Elanna and the doctor watched him.  He raked a hand through his hair.  “What if she tries again?”  He stopped and locked eyes with Elizabeth.  “You don’t think she’s already…?”  He began pacing again.  “No.  We can’t think like that.”

Elizabeth watched him.  “Chakotay…”

He stopped pacing again.  “It’s been two days.  We’ve tried everywhere.  We have to alert security.”

Elizabeth sighed deeply.  “Chakotay, I’m well aware of that, but if we report this and they find her, she’ll be out of my hands.  They’ll section her.”

Chakotay stopped again and shook his head.  “Maybe she needs to be.”

B'Elanna chipped in at this point.  “You don’t want to see that, Chakotay, and you know it.”

Elizabeth nodded in agreement.  “I can’t force her recovery on her.  She has to want this for herself.”

Chakotay finally sat down, worn out with his pacing.  “If there’s no word of her by this evening, I’m calling them myself.”

Elizabeth sat up straight.  “I can’t stop you doing that, Chakotay.  I can, however, plead with you not to.”

He rubbed at his face.  “Well, maybe you can sit here and wait to hear where they find the body, but I can’t.”

B'Elanna shot forward.  “That’s unfair, Chakotay.  We’ve trusted Elizabeth all through this and she’s never let us down.  This isn’t anyone’s fault.”

Chakotay nodded and leaned forward, running his hands through his hair again.  “I know.  I know.  I’m sorry.  I’m just so worried.”

Elizabeth reached over and squeezed his hand.  “Chakotay, we’re all worried.  Look, I’ll make a deal with you.  For now, go home and get some rest.  Get something to eat.  If there’s no word by the morning, I’ll alert security.  I promise.”

Chakotay thought about that and then nodded.  “All right.  No later though.  I’m terrified we might already be too late.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay was barely in the door when the call came.  He locked eyes with B'Elanna and handed Rose over to her.

He activated the comm link and saw Elizabeth smiling at him.  “Please tell me what I want to hear.”

Elizabeth smiled and nodded.  “She’s back.  You’d barely left when she just walked in as if she’d merely been out for a walk.  She simply waved away our worried looks and walked back to her room.”

Chakotay sat down and looked up at B'Elanna beside him, seeing his relief mirrored on her face.  He looked back at the screen.  “Where was she?”

The doctor shrugged.  “She’s not talking too much.  She did, however, ask to see you.”

Chakotay looked up at B'Elanna quickly, but before he could ask she nodded and smiled.  “I’ll take Rose back with me.  You go on.  You can pick her up later.”  He smiled his thanks and gratitude, gripping her hand and squeezing it.

“Thanks.  You’re a real friend.”  He turned back to the screen.  “You heard that?”

Elizabeth nodded.  “I’ll see you when you get here.”

^^^^^^^^^^

When Chakotay arrived at the hospital, he raced inside and skidded to a stop at the nurses’ station.  “Where is she?”  He didn’t need to say more.  They all knew him well at this stage.

A dark haired young nurse nodded towards Kathryn’s room down the corridor.  “She’s in her room.  Dr. Fulton is with her.”

Chakotay was off running before she finished speaking.  He stopped outside the door, hesitated a moment and then knocked.  He heard Elizabeth call for him to enter.

Kathryn stood at her window again, her back to the door.  She was wearing a pale blue robe.  Chakotay looked from her to Elizabeth.  The doctor smiled and held up a nurses’ uniform.  “Our friend here managed to get hold of this.  That’s how she walked out of here unchallenged.”

Kathryn turned slowly and looked at Chakotay.  “SHE is here, you know.” 

Elizabeth shook her head.  “Yes, Kathryn.  We know.  SHE should never have left.”

Chakotay stepped into the room.  His days of worry and fear turned into anger.  “Where the hell were you, Kathryn?  Have you any idea how worried we were or what we’ve been through?”

Kathryn just laughed.  “Oh, calm down, Chakotay.  I was fine.  I withdrew.  I wasn’t mentally retarded.  So don’t treat me that way.  My mind works just fine.  I can think for myself and function perfectly well.  I was fine out there.”

He wasn’t taking that.  “YOU knew that.  WE didn’t.”

She waved that away.  “Well, I’m back now.”

Chakotay sank into a chair.  “We were so worried.”  He drew in a deep breath then blew it out.  He looked down at his hands.  “You came back though, thank God.”  When he looked up, Kathryn was watching him.

“Do you expect me to say ‘sorry’ or ‘you win’?”

Chakotay frowned.  “No, Kathryn…I…”

She stared hard at him.  “Good…because you’ll be waiting a long time.”  She shrugged.  “Anyway…I didn’t come back for you, in case that’s what you’re thinking.  I came back for me.” 

He nodded slowly.  “Where were you?  Where did you go?”

Kathryn sighed.  “I needed some time to myself…time alone with my thoughts.  Is there a law against that?”  She shook her head and sighed.  “I walked a lot.  Thought a lot.  I went to Caylem’s grave…”  She saw the pain that caused Chakotay, but pushed on.  “I thought about him…what he’d have been like…  I talked to him…sat and talked for hours.”  She sighed.  “I began to realize that dying would be an insult to him.”

Her words hung in the air.  Chakotay stared at her as he absorbed her words.  She suddenly straightened herself, as if fighting her emotions.  There were shades of the captain in the woman who stood before him now.  “I know this…from myself and from Elizabeth…  I have to do this for myself and by myself.”

She moved closer to him, her demeanour softening.  “I know you were worried and in truth I am sorry for that.  I have to think of myself and my needs first though, and I needed time to myself.”  She sighed.  “Chakotay, I have a journey to make.  I’m still not sure I want to make it, but…”  She glanced at Elizabeth who just sat quietly and listened.  “My point is…if I’m going to make it…I want…no…I need…to do it alone.”  She swallowed loudly then drew in a deep breath, drawing herself up and straightening her shoulders.  She looked directly at Chakotay.

“I want you to go.  I don’t want you to come back here.”  She forced herself to ignore the pain she saw in his eyes.  “I’m sorry, but you’re a distraction I don’t need.  I’m sorry if that hurts you, but it’s the way it has to be.  I needed to say that to you face to face though.”

Chakotay lowered his eyes.  “I understand.  I do.”  He looked back up at her and then stood slowly.  “Look, can I see you again…sometime…later…when…”

Kathryn hardened herself.  “I don’t know.  I’m not thinking that far ahead right now.  One day at a time is all I can manage.”  Seeing his pain and hurt tore at her.  “Maybe some day…”

He nodded sadly and sighed heavily.  “I understand.  Just don’t hold my breath.”

Kathryn looked away.  “I’m sorry.”

Chakotay nodded.  “So am I…although I deserve this.”

Kathryn looked back at him, her face softening.  “This isn’t some kind of payback, Chakotay.  You hurt me so I’ll hurt you.”

He nodded again as he moved towards the door.  “It’s OK.  I’ll go.”  He suddenly turned back and moved closer to her.  “I need to say this first.  Please.”  She nodded her permission.  “I’m so very sorry.  I need to say that to you.  I hurt you very badly and I’ll regret that for the rest of my life.  I’m not asking for your forgiveness…just some semblance of understanding.  I was very selfish in my pain.  I was also very weak in it.  I couldn’t take it, and lashing out at you in anger distracted me from it.  I hid behind that pain and anger.  That’s no excuse, but it’s what I did.  The more I concentrated on my anger, the easier it was to face the pain.  I became so bitter.  I had all these beliefs…  I thought you were less committed to us.  I thought you didn’t want the baby…all of that.”  He saw he was hurting her, but pushed on, needing to say all this in case he never got another chance.  “I thought you were even worried about the crew’s reaction to us.”  He sighed.

“It took looking at an image of our last short leave…an image Louise left for me to find…to see the truth.”  He shook his head sadly.  “I’m so sorry for all that.  I was so wrong.”  He turned back towards the door.  “I’ll leave you in peace.”  He looked back at her and smiled slightly.  “You know, I thought you didn’t want me to walk away again.”

Kathryn fought to hold herself together.  “This time I need you to.  I’m afraid of you becoming a crutch.  I can’t take that chance.  I need to learn to walk on my own…unaided and unassisted.  I need to be the real me once again.”

He nodded his understanding and managed a small smile.  “I wish you nothing but the very best, Kathryn.  I hope you find the life you deserve.”  He turned and walked to the door.

Kathryn’s voice stopped him as he opened the door.  “Chakotay…”  He looked back.  She smiled softly at him.  “Chakotay…”  She sighed.  “I’m truly sorry about Louise.  I really mean that.  She was a lovely woman.  I should have said that to you before.”

Chakotay smiled sadly.  “Yes, she was.”  He looked kindly at her.  “Thank you, Kathryn.  That means a lot.”  With that he turned and walked out.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Elizabeth caught up with Chakotay at the main doors to the clinic.  “Chakotay…”

He turned and looked back at her then stopped.  “I’m fine.”

The young woman’s expression showed she didn’t believe that for a moment.  “Well, pardon me if I don’t act all convinced.”  She reached out and squeezed his arm.  “I know it’s hard on you, but you have to see that this is an amazing achievement for her.  It’s given me the best hope for her recovery.  We’ve been skirting so many issues all this time, and now I think she’ll face them.  By her own choice too.”  She smiled kindly at him.  “I think you both have a long road to recovery ahead of you.  Kathryn has taken that first step.  Maybe it’s time you stepped onto that road too and let go of your guilt.”

Chakotay looked down at her hand on his arm and placed his own hand over hers.  “Maybe…”

She smiled kindly at him.  “It’s time to do that, Chakotay.  You have to move forward too.  Deal with the past, acknowledge it, but move forward.”

Chakotay swallowed loudly and nodded.  “I know.”  He shrugged and managed a small smile.  “Elizabeth, thank you for all you’ve done for her…and for me.”

Elizabeth smiled softly.  “This was a team effort…not just me or you…but the nurses, B'Elanna and Tom.”  She let her smile slip.  “However, Kathryn has to do the rest of this on her own.”

He nodded.  “Yeah…I know.”  He removed his hand from hers.  “Just keep in touch and let me know how she’s doing.”  He smiled.  “Or at least don’t cut me off when I call you and ask how she is.”

The doctor smiled.  “You know I can’t call you and give you reports.”

Chakotay understood.  “I can call and inquire about a patient though.”

She smiled again as she walked back inside.  “People do that all the time, Chakotay.  That’s fine.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Elizabeth returned to her patient’s room and stood with her back against the closed door.  She watched Kathryn staring out the window.  “Did you really mean all that, or was it for his benefit?”

Kathryn turned around to look at the doctor.  “I meant it.  If I do this, it has to be for myself.  I can’t do it with him around to distract me.  I meant that.”

Elizabeth nodded as she moved into the room.  “You really want to get better though?”

Kathryn turned slowly and made her way to her chair.  “Strangely, yes.”  She looked directly at the other woman.  “When I left here…”  She shook her head and looked down into her lap.  She jumped when she felt Elizabeth’s hands on hers, the woman kneeling before her.

“You left to take care of unfinished business?” 

Kathryn stared at their joined hands for a moment and then shook her head.  “I wasn’t sure.  It was a possibility, but I was undecided.  I really didn’t know, although it was in the back of my mind.”  She looked at Elizabeth.  “I’m sorry for that.  I know all the hard work you…”

Elizabeth squeezed her hands.  “Kathryn, believe it or not, you owe me nothing.  You do however, owe yourself.  I believe that the life we’re all given is a gift.  Some have to really fight for that life.”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “I know that only too well.  I’ve witnessed that fight too many times.  And here I was throwing that gift away.  Isn’t that what you mean?”

The doctor shook her head.  “No, Kathryn.  I just think you deserve all the good that life has to offer you.”

Kathryn laughed sarcastically at that.  “I have a lot of sins on my soul.  I’m not so sure I deserve any good.”  She sobered when she saw the look on Elizabeth’s face.

“That’s not funny, Kathryn.  We all deserve good.  We deserve love and kindness and…”

Kathryn laughed again, but the sound was hollow.  “You don’t know me very well.  I killed a lot of people.  I have blood on my hands.  I even killed my own child.”  She stopped when she saw the anger on the face of her doctor.

Elizabeth let go of Kathryn’s hands and stood up.  “I’m not staying here to listen to this self pity, Kathryn.  You know you deserve to be happy just as much as anyone else.  You’re still depressed and that’s what’s talking here.  Now, just tell me you want to fight this and that you’ll let me help.  We’ll take everything else from there.”

Kathryn stared up at her.  “You’re angry with me.”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “No, Kathryn.  I’m just not going to let you wallow in this.”  She softened.  “Look, you talked recently about memories and dreams.  Do you remember that?”

Kathryn smiled slightly.  “You really heard everything I said.”  Elizabeth just nodded.  Kathryn played with the tie of her robe.  “You’re going to tell me I can still have my dreams and turn them into reality.”

Elizabeth sat down in the chair she’d occupied earlier.  “Yes.  I really believe that.  You can turn your memories into dreams, and then go and live those dreams.  Turn them into reality.”

Kathryn studied her.  “You’re so sure of that.  You forget the pain involved in those memories.”

Elizabeth sat back.  “The pain is what happened, Kathryn.  You can recover from that.  With you, it’s the hope that died.  Not the dreams.  You can, however, rekindle that hope.  You just have to want to.”  She sat forward.  “Kathryn, memories are many things.  They’re joy and pain, happy and sad.  For you they’re not happy.  For you your memories are broken dreams.  Well, the power of dreams is hope…and only you can dream new dreams.”  She smiled softly.  “Kathryn, I heard everything you said to Chakotay during his visits, especially the last ones.  What I don’t think you realize is that you’ve already begun your own therapy, started your own healing with the understanding you have of all this.  You left here and could easily have taken a different way out.  You didn’t.  Doesn’t that tell you something?  Doesn’t that tell you that you still have some of that hope?”

Kathryn mulled that over in her mind for several minutes.  “Maybe.  I don’t know.  I think I’m just very confused about it all.  I’m even confused about Chakotay.”

Elizabeth sat back again.  “I’ve suspected for some time that you still have strong feelings for him.  Am I right?”

Kathryn shrugged.  “I suppose so.  I guess I still love him.  I can’t just turn that off.  I don’t think I like him though.  I just know that I can’t even try this with him around.”

Elizabeth nodded at that.  “I agree.  This is just about you.”

Kathryn sighed.  “I’m still not sure I’m ready to revisit all that or deal with it.”  She looked sadly at the other woman.  “That makes me sound very weak, doesn’t it?”

Elizabeth shook her head firmly.  “Kathryn, listen to me now.  Just because you tried to end your life doesn’t make you weak.  You’re just like everyone else.  We all have limits and at times we have to admit defeat.  It’s human, Kathryn, and I’ve news for you.  You’re as human as the rest of us.  We can all fall and even the strongest of us break, but getting back up as you are…well, that’s where the strength comes in.”  She dropped her head to the side and smiled at her patient.  “You know, Chakotay said to me that he feels it was a miracle you made it back after what he did to you.  I told him it showed how much strength you had to carry your burdens and responsibilities to the end, and you did it mostly on your own while dealing with all that pain.  That’s strength, Kathryn.”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “That was back then.  I was carrying on for them.  Now it’s just me.  I’m not sure I can be strong enough to do this.”

Elizabeth stood and smiled down at her patient.  “I believe you can.  No, I know without a doubt that you can.  You know, that’s the reason God made time to pass one day at a time.”

Kathryn smiled, despite herself.  “One day at a time then.”

Elizabeth walked towards the door.  “Have some dinner, Kathryn.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow will be your first day on the road back.”

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART EIGHT.




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RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.


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