Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17. Kids go play elsewhere. Contains adult material.
Kathryn goes to see Chakotay one last time in the hope that he has moved on and put her apparent betrayal behind him but strong feelings are still there.
This came from an idea I got while reading another story. I can't remember either the author or the title of the story. If it's yours, contact me and I'll give the well-deserved credit where it's due.
Added – Found the story but not a working link. It's Entrapment by Suz. A great read if you can find it.

No Greater Love Hath

by Kat Lady


Kathryn lay back in her bed and just stared at the ceiling, not caring how long she'd lain this way, although she knew it was near enough to 14:00 hours but there was nothing or no-one to get up for, either to-day or any other day and a part of her knew that there never would be again.

Her life had never been nor had ever felt this empty and even though she knew she could fill parts of it if she put her mind to it, the will just wasn't there anymore. There was a kind of solace in the emptiness and loneliness of her life, a kind of masochistic enjoyment of wallowing in unhappiness, that at least feeling this way was better than feeling nothing at all and so she kept it like this, working from home, keeping her own hours and avoiding the rest of the world.

She looked around her bedroom, at how spartan the place looked and wondered if the fact that the emptiness of the apartment which reflected how she felt, was deliberate on her part or subconscious. She'd lived here just over six months now but anyone walking into the place would have estimated that she'd only moved in the previous day. All the walls throughout the small apartment were the same light beige colour and no images adorned them. Her furniture, what there was of it, was basic and functional.

There was nothing in the place that marked anything of her past life and what few items she did have had been packed away out of sight. There was nothing, in fact, of the identity of Kathryn Janeway on show in this place, either the ghost of Kathryn past or the ghost of Kathryn present. It might as well have been a hotel room, just there for someone passing through and Kathryn wondered if that was what she was doing, just passing through, pausing a while until she had the courage to leave for good.

Suddenly and without warning, she felt tears sting her eyes and she let them fall. As usual, when she felt this vulnerable, she thought of Chakotay and wondered where he was, what he was doing, and most hurtful of all, if he ever even thought about her. She knew he must at least still be alive, knowing she'd have been informed if there'd ever been any news of his death.

There was no way to lie to herself and she knew without the shadow of a doubt that she meant nothing to him and knew that if he did occasionally think of her, it would be with hate in his heart but she also knew she couldn't blame him for it. He believed what had been in front of him and she'd been unable to tell him the truth, and so he'd believed just as all the others had believed.

She knew they all hated her, couldn't meet her eyes the last time she'd seen them but she didn't blame any of them.

She understood why they hated her, understood why they couldn't bear to even look at her but a small part of her had hoped for something less harsh than hate from the senior crew, especially Chakotay. As far as they were concerned, she'd betrayed every last one of them, had used them all along and there could be no forgiveness for that.

She thought of Tom Paris and the look he'd given her, how he'd told her that all the time he'd thought badly of himself while on board Voyager, there'd been a worse criminal on board all along.

Harry Kim, who had looked up to her like a mother figure. His hurt look had stabbed at her heart and when she'd reached out to touch his arm, he'd pulled away as if she carried some terrible disease and might infect him.

B'Elanna had been more honest and straight than the others. She'd verbally torn into Kathryn and would have physically torn into her also had Tom not pulled her back, telling her that 'the Starfleet Captain' just wasn't worth it.

The Doctor had said nothing, refused to even speak with her unless she required medical assistance and had actually deactivated himself in the middle of her attempt to speak to him.

She had expected something from Tuvok, she wasn't sure what. Perhaps what she'd expected from him was nothing, no show of emotion and that would have been better than the coldness she did feel from him and the contempt she noticed barely hidden under that coldness.

Seven had simply told her she was worse than any Borg, that at least the Borg had been honest about what they did, met you face on. Seven, who'd been almost like a daughter to Kathryn, had told her that thanks to the other crew she knew what real humanity was but Kathryn could stuff her brand of it if this was any example. Even Neelix had turned away from her that last day, sadness deeply etched on his features.

And Chakotay. She remembered the pain and hurt on his face and she remembered his anger. He'd used Seven's argument and compared her to the Cardassians, but placed her below them, stating that even they had some honesty. She remembered how he'd spit his words out at her, told her how much he despised her, hated her for her betrayal of them all and her betrayal of him. She remembered the hate in his eyes as he'd turned to leave her quarters that last time, how she'd tried to stop him, grabbed his arm, how he'd turned on her and swung around, sending her crashing into the desk. She had split her lip and her nose had bled and she remembered the coldness in his eyes as he'd looked down at her on the floor, as her blood spilled and stained the front of her uniform, telling her that her hurt was nothing compared to the hurt she'd inflicted and then had simply walked out, never to see her again.

Now fourteen months later, her pain was still as great. She still wore the scar just above her lip where she'd split it against the desk that day, refusing to ever have it treated and she'd never told anyone how it had gotten there, simply saying she'd fallen. She knew she kept it as a reminder of Chakotay, that it was all she had left of him.

She eventually got out of bed, nature demanding that she do so and in the bathroom she stared at herself in the mirror, noticing how cruel the past year had been. She knew she was too thin and that her skin showed her neglect of herself, even her hair showed it, but there was no reason to look after herself. Her eyes were drawn to the scars on her arms, scars which couldn't be treated, and she felt the tears come again and sank onto the cold tile floor.

She sat there for over an hour as memories came back to haunt her and her tears continued to flow. She hadn't the strength for this anymore, couldn't face these memories again, but there was no way to avoid them and so they came back to her day after day and against her will she found herself back in the crashed shuttle with her mother and sister and four other people whose names she never discovered. She'd come around quickly as the fire had burned at her legs and she had managed to crawl out through the partly open door, oblivious of her injuries and the pain of them. Again and again she'd attempted to go back into the shuttle to rescue her mother and Phoebe, her sleeves catching fire, all the while knowing deep down that she would fail, that history was repeating itself and she was destined to once again witness those she loved die a horrible death in a shuttle.

She remembered sometime later, strong hands lifting her and unknown faces staring down at her but all that registered was the pain, physical and emotional. She knew they were dead, that she'd failed again and then there was blackness and she welcomed it with open arms.

She awoke in hospital some three weeks later and after that, for the next week or so, there were only snatches of memory, a nurse tending her, a doctor examining her and pain, always pain, despite the medicines. They told her of her broken ribs, the punctured lung and internal bleeding, the other broken bones, the fractured skull and the damage to her back and legs. Later, she had to slowly and painfully learn to walk again and endure the treatment for her burns, but the pain at least kept her from thinking too much.

Slowly, as she gained strength, a doctor had sat at the side of her bed and with a gentle voice told her what she already knew, that she was the only survivor of the crash. She learned that the crash had been caused by an electrical malfunction, nothing more. She also learned, somewhat gratefully, that her mother and Phoebe had been killed instantly, that there was nothing she could have done, but it didn't stop the nightmares which came every night for almost six months and still occasionally visited.

She looked down at her legs where her other burn scars remained. The doctors had explained that some of her burns had just been too deep to ever heal completely, despite modern medicine and like the scar on her lip, she wore them as a reminder of her failure to and her betrayal of the people she'd loved and lost.

Eventually she was drawn out of her private hell by the alarm on her computer console, announcing an incoming message and so she slowly and painfully dragged herself up to a standing position, giving the skin on her legs time to adjust. The burns still caused her discomfort and the skin there would always be sore from time to time but it was just something else to deal with.

Kathryn made her way slowly to the desk in the other room and activated the screen. The face of Admiral Paris appeared before her and instantly she saw his concern for her as she realized how she must look. She also noticed the underlying guilt which always vied for attention on his features whenever he spoke with her. He knew that he was responsible for a lot of the hurt in her life but she never spoke of it, never once mentioned it after the final debriefings when Voyager had returned. Many times he'd wanted to go public with the truth, but he'd always held back and he always cursed himself for his lack of courage.

"My dear, you look... Are you all right?" A fatherly concern showed through in his words.

Kathryn smiled softly. "I'm fine, Owen. Honestly. Just running a little late to-day, that's all. I worked late last night and you know me, I prefer it that way."

He'd finally made Kathryn drop his rank, feeling it didn't apply to them anymore anyway. "I got that information you wanted. Are you sure…?"

Kathryn cut him off. "Please, Owen. You promised. No questions and no lectures. I have to do this, but I promise I won't do or say anything that would alter what I agreed."

Owen Paris stared down at his desk, not able to meet her eyes as guilt swept over him. "Kathryn, how many times… I wish… You bore the brunt of it all, took all the blame, all the fallout and you were innocent. I wish..."

She cut him off again. "Owen, please. Let's not go over this again. Please. I can't face it and neither can you. What's done is done. We made our decisions and now we live with them and I knew what I was doing. No one forced me."

Owen Paris looked at her and she could see tears in his old eyes. "Oh Kathryn, you were forced and you know it. We all know it. If only the people who were important, who are still important to you, knew it, then maybe..." He couldn't continue, not knowing what else to say.

Kathryn couldn't handle this and quickly changed the direction of their conversation. "You said you had the information, Owen. I hope you won't get into any trouble for doing this".

He smiled at her sadly. "I'm too old now, my dear, for trouble to bother me and anyway, it's well time I did something for you and I wish I could do more…" His voice trailed off but the meaning continued.

Kathryn found herself close to tears again but quickly swallowed them, not wanting him to see her this way but she knew she couldn't fool him.

He tried a tired smile. "I've downloaded the information onto your terminal and I hope it helps atone in some small way."

Kathryn nodded. "Thank you, Owen. I'll tread carefully, I promise but I want you to promise me something." She looked into his eyes, trying to read what wasn't meant to be read. "Don't do anything. What's past is past. Leave it where it is."

He shook his head. "I can't ever make that promise to you, Kathryn. Someday, you know, I want this out in the open, and that's my decision, although coward that I am, it will probably be after I'm gone."

Kathryn dropped her head a moment then looked back at him. "Owen, please, if not for yourself, think of Tom at least and B'Elanna and your grandchildren. Leave them believing what they believe. You've mended so many bridges with Tom so please don't undo all that. Certainly not for me. I beg you. I couldn't live with that."

He looked sadly at her. "My dear girl, I can't live with it, can't you understand that? It pains me such much knowing I had a part in all this, that you did this because of me."

Kathryn shook her head. "It wasn't just you, Owen. You know that. I couldn't let things go the way they would have. I had to do something. I couldn't let him...them go to… They didn't deserve it." She fought back her tears again.

Owen sighed heavily. "You still love him." It wasn't a question but stated as a fact, a given.

She just nodded at him, unable to look up. "Yes, but as I said, what's past is past." There was silence for almost a full minute and finally Kathryn broke it and looked back at him. "Owen, thank you again for this. I'd better go."

He shook his head, knowing the conversation was at an end. "Of course, Kathryn, but thank you."

They smiled sadly at each other and it was she who broke the communication and then gave fully into the tears she'd been holding back.

Kathryn finally pulled herself together and checked the information Owen Paris had sent her, information she'd been unsuccessful in obtaining herself and so the old Admiral had been her last hope. She hadn't wanted to ask him but she'd had no avenues left open to her and there was no other place outside of Starfleet that she could go to find what she needed and indeed, no-one else at Starfleet she could have asked.

Starfleet. She remembered what that word had meant to her for so many years and felt a great sadness but also a great anger when she thought about what it meant to her now. She'd been loyal to them for so long and now her only loyalty was to one small part of it, Owen Paris and to Chakotay and the others. Starfleet had used her and destroyed her trust in them but she could have lived with that, accepted it almost, but she couldn't accept the damage they would have caused had she not gone along with them. Her silence now on it all was only due to her debt to one man and her love for another and she'd never betray them the way Starfleet had betrayed her. She owed them too much and she would never shatter the new relationship Owen Paris had developed with his son and now daughter-in-law, B'Elanna, and their lovely children.

After making herself some coffee, Kathryn sat down at her console and read through the information on her screen. It gave her what she wanted to know and she found herself alternating between tears and smiles as she read down through it.

She discovered that Tuvok had returned to Vulcan to his family and settled happily into his life there. He'd been blessed with three further grandchildren and Kathryn smiled at this, happy for him.

Seven and Harry Kim had actually married and part of her was surprised at this but glad that Seven had settled. She knew how Harry had always felt about Seven and knew he'd never let her down. 'He won't let her down the way I did'. The sad thought brought more tears. As she read on, she discovered they had a two-month-old boy now and smiled to herself again. Seven had discovered the greatest part of humanity.

Next came Tom and B'Elanna but she already knew about them and about the two lovely children they had, eight month old twins conceived on Voyager and she was aware of her tears again as she realized that these children, who she'd never meet, would grow up knowing only of her betrayal, that her name would always be a ghost to frighten them.

She read on about how Neelix had signed on with another Starfleet ship which had gone back to the Delta Quadrant and whose captain would need his knowledge. Kathryn hoped he was happy, wherever life took him.

She realized as she refilled her coffee, her basic nourishment these days, that she was glad to see that they'd all gone on with their lives, even hating her as they did. She was glad to think that they'd put the past where it belonged - in the past, and moved on. She hoped, for their sakes and not hers, that they didn't think of her too often.

She knew she was putting off the final section of the report and sat down again. Owen Paris had found an address for Chakotay but there were few details of his life available. At least he was still alive and she hoped he was happy, happy living and not just existing like she was. She read the address and discovered that his house was on the outer limits of San Francisco. All this time and he lived in the same city as her. All that was known about him was that, like her, he appeared to do some work from home. She knew that he, like all the others, had quit Starfleet immediately upon their return and once everything had come out.

Kathryn leaned back in her chair and digested everything she'd read. She knew as much as she could about them all now. She had read on further about other crew members, learning that most had left Starfleet and either married or gone back to their families and mostly she learned that all had moved on and created new and hopefully happy lives for themselves and this gave her some comfort.

It was getting dark outside but she made no move to turn on any lights, preferring the darkness and the view of the stars, finding a comfort of sorts in them. She found her mind wandering back and felt her tears start again. She wiped at her face and wondered how one person could create so many tears and not dry up. She hadn't bothered getting dressed and realized that most days now she didn't bother doing anything for herself.

They all hated her and it caused her so much pain to know that even her mother and Phoebe hadn't known the truth before they died, that they'd died believing she'd betrayed her crew, her friends, but they had at least stood by her although many times she'd sensed their disapproval and disappointment and she prayed that in some way, where ever they were now, maybe they knew the truth.

Gazing out her window at the stars, she found herself mentally transported back to happier times but as usual these memories only caused fresh pain and she wondered how they would all react if the truth ever did come out but she knew that would never happen so there was no sense in even thinking about it.

Finally she got up and turned a light on, instantly shutting out the stars and the memories they brought. She knew she should do some work, but just couldn't face it, even though it would stop this flow of morbid thoughts, but today there was something hypnotic about looking deeply into the black pool of sadness and she couldn't tear herself away from it. She knew looking too deeply would lead eventually to her own destruction but found she'd almost welcome that. She realized her thoughts lately were heading in that direction and felt no desire to change paths, the only thing holding her up being Chakotay and her desire to find out if he was all right first, to know that he'd gone on with his life and put the past behind him. Once she knew that, she could leave it all behind her without so much as a backward glance.

Eventually, to give her tired mind a rest from her own thoughts, she finished some work and sent the finished reports off. She did scientific research now and while a lot of the work was mentally unchallenging to her, it gave her some semblance of purpose. She'd been unable to let go of science completely once she'd walked out on Starfleet after the others. Her resignation had been kept quite at her own request and Starfleet had been only too happy to oblige, wishing the whole affair buried.

Hunger, rare these days, eventually drove her to replicate something for herself and as she sat in the semi darkness and picked at her food, she found her mind wandering back again, despite her own unwillingness to visit the past.

She remembered the joy on the faces of everyone when they'd discovered the wormhole that would bring them home and she remembered the hope that went alongside the joy on Chakotay's face, knowing that he believed and hoped that now that they were all home, there was finally the chance of his love being returned openly and the relationship he yearned for with her finally becoming a reality. Kathryn herself had felt the weight of the last six years lifting off her shoulders as she realized that she'd finally gotten them home, but that weight was quickly replaced with a different weight, a fear for what was to come and that fear quickly bore fruit.

She knew within minutes of her first debriefing that there would be no happy outcome for her, that this would be no romantic, happy-ending holonovel, that the past was waiting here in the present and would forever contaminate the future.

There was only one friendly face on the Starfleet panel that had sat before her and that had been Owen Paris and she'd known him well enough to read his face, despite his best attempts at trying to hide his thoughts. A chill had run down Kathryn's spine almost immediately upon entering the room and it had remained there for many weeks.

When Kathryn was first assigned to Voyager and given the brief of locating Tuvok and apprehending Chakotay and the other Maquis, she'd taken Starfleet at their word and so with Tom Paris as their 'guide' she'd entered the Badlands completely innocent of Starfleet's true motives. She understood later that that was why they'd picked her for the mission, that her loyalty and dedication were tools to them to be used to their own ends. They'd used her and knew that because of her relationship and loyalty to Admiral Paris, that if or when Voyager returned and the truth be at risk of coming out, she could be used again to keep her mouth shut and they'd been right. She knew Owen Paris was racked with guilt over his part in Starfleet's plans but she found it impossible now to hate him for it, despite wanting to.

Having been thrown into the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn's real orders had come through to her. She'd been ordered to destroy the Caretaker's Array and also destroy the Maquis ship, taking all members of the Maquis on board Voyager. Starfleet in general had been unaware of this plan and the orders issued relating to it. The entire plot had been hatched by an elite, covert and small band of high ranking Admirals, which had included Admiral Paris and who'd been bent on testing one theory - could rebels and former Starfleet rebels in particular, be brought back into line and made use of, either persuaded back or brain washed back into the service of Starfleet. A bonus was to be the study of the effect of long-term space travel. A similar group of Cardassians had also been involved with the plot.

Kathryn had been ordered to amalgamate the two crews and make detailed reports on how the two crews interacted, the difference between Maquis members who'd been with Starfleet and those who hadn't, what assets they'd brought to the Maquis and later to the amalgamated crew and the methods used to bring them into line.

Kathryn's final orders had been to use 'any and all means' to achieve these objectives and if there was any 'resistance' to her orders 'elimination of the problem' was to be undertaken. Her orders also stated that 'Maquis members should be selected first for dangerous away missions but Starfleet crew should also be used to avoid suspicion arising'. In particular, she had been ordered to again use 'any and all means' to obtain the trust of the Maquis Leader, one Chakotay, in order to collect as much information as possible regarding his Maquis activities and methods, and separate reports were to be filed regarding him.

Due to technical problems and the damage sustained to Voyager after they'd been thrown into the Delta Quadrant, these orders didn't reach Kathryn until almost two weeks into their journey home and Kathryn, once her anger had subsided somewhat, had almost laughed at the irony of the whole situation. Starfleet would get what they wanted and they need never have issued any orders to her. She'd made her own decision to destroy the Array and circumstances had naturally forced the two crews together. She had decided almost immediately that no reports on crew activity would ever be filed by her, that she'd never 'spy' on the former Maquis the way she'd been ordered to and that she would probably resign anyway if and when they reached home. It had been her own decision to make Chakotay her First Officer and after only a couple of weeks, she already trusted and respected him, and if she was honest with herself, already loved him.

Chakotay had always accepted Kathryn's 'protocol' and 'getting home' excuses as being the reasons why they couldn't pursue a relationship, but Kathryn had known all along that the day would come when her 'orders' would become known and so despite the loneliness and pain it had caused her, she always held back.

And Kathryn had been right. The previous year, before their return home, a diligent young reporter had uncovered part of the story regarding Voyager's 'true mission' in the Delta Quadrant and when news broke that they were within range of home, more of the story had been uncovered. The top brass at Starfleet had been desperate to keep the story from tarnishing the whole organization and had acted quickly to limit the damage. The Cardassians also were eager to keep the truth quiet and so the covert Admirals group had been uncovered quietly, retirements swiftly arranged and the blame laid at the feet of two of the Admirals who had died the previous year. Now all they needed was a living scapegoat and Kathryn Janeway would fit the bill nicely and they were sure they would find some way to convince her. Admiral Paris and his part in the plot was kept quiet as Starfleet knew that Kathryn Janeway trusted and respected him and that she 'would be easier to handle' with Owen Paris around.

When Kathryn had walked into the room for her first debriefing, the Starfleet panel still was unsure of how they could make their plan work but Kathryn, in her eagerness to protect Chakotay and the other Maquis, gave them their answer, right into their laps.

And so, in a back room, while Kathryn waited outside, it was decided amongst the panel, Admiral Paris included, however reluctantly, that the Maquis would be the bargaining chip and the deal was presented to Kathryn. She was told the full story and in return for the freedom of the Maquis, she would take the blame for the plot and state that she'd been in on it from the planning stages on. If she refused, all the former Maquis would serve lengthy jail terms.

Throughout the meeting, Admiral Paris had not once met Kathryn's eyes but she still sensed that his hands were tied as were her own. She agreed to their terms and a statement was issued to the effect that a small group comprising of the late Admiral Kirov, the late Admiral Harris and Captain Kathryn Janeway had planned a scientific experiment which resulted in Voyager and the Maquis ship being stranded in the Delta Quadrant where the two crews could be studied and reports filed regarding the findings. The statement included a copy of the orders which Kathryn had received.

Owen Paris had gently taken Kathryn's arm as she left the room and she saw the tears in his eyes as he pulled her aside. He had tried to explain that he was deeply ashamed of his part in past events, how trying to get out of it at the time had only resulted in his son Tom getting a longer jail term and how the other Admirals had planned for Tom to be on Voyager as punishment to him, even using Kathryn to achieve that. Voyager had left before Owen Paris ever knew about Tom being on board. He tried to explain that now that Tom was back, they had him cornered again, how all he wanted now was to mend the past with his son and he begged her to understand. Kathryn had accepted the position Owen Paris had found himself in, after all she owed him and they'd been through too much together, but she knew as she walked from the room that her relationship with Starfleet was over. She knew without doubt, as she looked back at the other three on the panel and saw their eyes, that if she ever went back on her deal that Chakotay and the others would probably end their days in prison and she could never let that happen.

The news was out before she left the room and even the eyes of strangers spoke of their hate for her as she made her way back to where Voyager was docked. From the time she left the room to the time she left the precincts of Starfleet a week and a half later, for good, not one person ever spoke a civil word to her.

Kathryn leaned back and rubbed her eyes and noticed that she'd been crying again while her mind had been elsewhere, reliving a past that refused to leave her. Wearily she dragged herself up and looked down at her almost untouched food, realizing that her brief hunger of earlier was long gone, despite not having eaten anything. She turned off the light and leaned against her window, staring up at the stars again but as usual they seemed to mock her, until finally she turned for bed, where once again, as she did most nights, she cried herself to sleep.

When morning came and Kathryn awoke, she still felt exhausted but she got up and got herself a coffee. She had a purpose today and that was to try and find Chakotay. She knew he wouldn't want to see her, would either slam the door in her face or spit on her, probably both, but she had to see for herself that he was all right, then she could let go.

She stopped after her first sip of coffee and realized the way her thinking was going lately. She thought of all the times now she used terms like 'leaving behind', 'letting go' and suddenly one clear thought came to her. 'I'm dying, and I'm letting myself' and with this sudden acceptance, she found she actually didn't care, that she'd been pondering on suicide for some time now and had actually been aware of it in some way but now that her conscious and subconscious had met, she found they were in agreement.

As she dressed for the first time in days, she was in some way surprised at how calm she felt at her way of thinking and realized also that she felt little emotion today. She wore a light sweater and a skirt, which fell almost to the ankles, hiding the scars on her legs. Suddenly the alarm on her console sounded and she quickly answered it, thinking it was a query about one of her reports. Instead, she found Owen Paris looking back at her and he seemed worried then somewhat relieved when he saw she was dressed and had brushed her hair. "Kathryn, sorry to bother you. It's just after yesterday, to be honest, I was worried about you." He smiled gently at her.

Kathryn forced a smile onto her face. "Owen, I told you. I'm fine. Actually, I was just going out. That bit of business, you know."

He didn't look convinced. "Kathryn, I know you, and I believe I have a right to be worried. I can see what's going on with you. I know you too well, remember?"

Kathryn didn't know what to say to this. Surely he couldn't know what she was thinking. She wasn't sure of her own thoughts until now when it had hit her where they were going. She forced a smile.
"Owen, there really is nothing for you to worry about. You can see I'm fine and as regards this other matter, I just want to know they're all well and happy and getting on with things, with life."

He interrupted her. "Kathryn, I can see you. I know you and I know what I see, this letting yourself go and I'm sorry if that seems a bit of a personal remark but I'm very worried and now wanting to check up on the others. Why now? I know you tried before to find out and couldn't but it's almost as if this is a last bit of business and I'm worried that with the accident and everything else, that maybe your way of thinking has… Kathryn, look at me. Please tell me you won't do anything, that you won't try and… Kathryn, please."

She looked up at him and gave him her practiced smile. "Owen, how could you think that? How could you think I'd try that? Don't you think if I was going to try something like that, I would have done it before now, after the...after mom and phoebe? Owen, I'm fine really."

He didn't look convinced. "You hadn't seen how HE was then, what his life was like or how he was coping."

She knew she had to try harder. "Owen, I know I shut myself away and I know I could look after myself better. I admit that but I've always been like that and always worked too hard, never eaten properly. That's just me, but I tell you, and please believe me, take my word for it, again I'm fine. I really am." She gave him her best smile and this time it seemed to work.

He nodded a reluctant acceptance. "All right, my dear. I'll believe you for now, but promise me this. Whenever, if ever, you need me or just need to talk, you'll call me, day or night."

Kathryn nodded. "I promise Owen, but I am all right. Now I better hurry and I'll call you later and let you know how I got on. That's a promise." She smiled again and he seemed to accept this.

"All right, Kathryn. I'll see you later and take care." She smiled back at him and cut the communication.

Kathryn leaned back in her chair. How could he see through her like that and almost know her thinking? 'I'm slipping and letting my guard down in my old age'. She sighed to herself. 'My captain mask is out of practice'. These thoughts brought a stab of pain and she shut them off. Seeing Chakotay was all that mattered now.


Kathryn decided to walk the last half mile to the address she had for Chakotay, needing the time to get her thoughts in order, if she decided to actually knock on his door. She'd no idea what she could say to him if they came face to face or even if she'd get a change to say a word before he turned away from her, but deep inside she knew she would speak to him whether he listened or not.

Finally she came to the house, a very traditional style dwelling set back on a small parcel of land and surrounded by hundreds of small shrubs. She noticed that the garden was well kept despite the almost wild look to it and realized that this look was deliberate and it reminded her of pictures she'd seen of old English cottage gardens. As she looked at the house and the garden, she smiled sadly, as everywhere she looked she could see Chakotay's mark and it made her happy to know that he'd stamped his identity on the place, that it mattered to him.

She stood just at the edge of the path for a long time, trying to gather her failing courage and finally stepped forward and walked up the three steps to the door. As she reached her hand up to knock, the door itself caught her attention and she realized that it was hand carved and this also gave her hope for him and so before she could turn and run, she forced herself to knock and then wait.

She had to knock again but there was still no answer and she debated leaving a note or turning tail and leaving but something drew her towards the back of the house. As she rounded the corner that took her into the rear garden, she caught her breath at the array of flowers and the scent of them was almost overpowering. For a moment she was lost in this new world and then suddenly he was standing in front of her and instantly she saw that nothing had changed for him by the look in his eyes. After all this time her heart still skipped a beat but the pain came back quickly with his first words to her.

"Just what the bloody hell are you doing here?" He spit the words out at her and they were delivered like physical blows and she felt them just as painfully.

She drew in a shaky breath. "Chakotay, please. I know I'm the very last person you ever want to see but I'm just asking a few minutes of your time and then I'll go and I promise I'll never bother you again. Just a few minutes and then I'll leave you alone forever. I promise, please."

Her eyes searched his face for any reaction and something seemed to show for a split second at the sound of her voice but it was gone just as quickly. He was silent for several minutes just staring at her so she kept quiet, afraid that saying anything further would ruin any chance she had of this brief time with him. Finally he just nodded and walked into house while she stood for a moment, unsure if she should follow but eventually she found her feet moving, following where his had been just seconds earlier.

She entered a room with stone cladding on the walls and a large open stone fireplace. The furniture was simple and she noticed the floor was polished wood with throw rugs scattered here and there. The room was him and she could see that much thought and work had gone into creating a home and she found herself wondering if what she was seeing was the result of a woman's touch but then dismissed that, seeing that everything spoke of him only.

She became aware of him watching her take in the room and she turned her eyes to him.

"Inspection finished, Captain? I do hope it meets your high standards. Still, it's something else for your report." His words brought tears to her eyes and she turned away quickly before he could see them but he had. "Oh tears. Nice touch, Captain, but I'm afraid you'll have to try harder this time as I know all your little acts now."

She stayed turned away from him and fought for control. All she needed was a few minutes to ascertain that he was all right, was moving on and then she could leave him behind for good, for his good.

"Why are you here and what do you want from me this time?" His words broke through to her and she turned back to him, having gained some semblance of self-control.

She drew a deep breath and met his eyes, but there was nothing in his eyes that she recognized of the man she'd loved for so many years and who now obviously still hated her, despite having loved her for so long a time. "I know I've no right to ask and you don't have to tell me but… I just wanted, I needed… I have to know that you're all right, that you're moving on with your life, that you've put me behind you and…" She couldn't go on and turned her head away but suddenly he was in front of her and roughly grabbed her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him.

"You bloody bitch." Again he spat his words at her. "You're here to see if I'm 'all right'? To see if I'm 'moving on with my life'? How dare you. It's more likely you've come to see the result of your own dirty handiwork, to see if you did a good enough job on me."

Kathryn's tears started again and she didn't try to hide them. "Oh Chakotay, no. You're wrong. Please. It's not like that. I just want to know you're all right, honestly."

He laughed at her, a cynical laugh and shoved her back from him but she managed to keep her balance. "How can you use the word 'honestly' to me when nothing between us has ever been honest. I loved you and you let me believe that you felt the same way, that there was hope for us and all along I was just some experiment to you, material for your study and your reports. You used me, used us all and now you come here, after all this time to what? Inflict more damage and hurt?" He didn't continue but walked away from her and leaned against the mantel.

Kathryn was openly crying now and didn't care. She had to keep trying with him, make him see that all she wanted was to be sure he was going to be OK. "Chakotay, please listen to me. Someday, I hope in some way that you'll understand all of this. I can't tell you. Chakotay, please. If you've never believed anything else, please just believe this. All I want to know is that you're all right, that you've moved on with your life, that maybe you're happy now. I also want to ask you to please put this behind you, put me behind you. Forget me and let me go. Whatever you feel for me, hate, whatever, let it all go."

His sudden cry of anguish shocked her and he spun round to her. "Forget you? Forget you? How can I? Love you or hate you, I've tried both and they both cause me pain. You've no idea what you did to me, Kathryn. Have you? Let me tell you. You ruined my life, destroyed my trust, betrayed everything I believed in. You took my heart and all the love I gave you and you just trampled all over it and when you were finished, you threw it all back in my face. It meant nothing to you. I meant nothing to you, and now you come here, after all this time, for what? What do you really want from me? Forgiveness?"

Suddenly he started laughing and she watched him with tears running freely down her face. "I know. You want absolution. You're what? Dying, going away, being promoted, or.... Oh I know. Better yet, you're going to kill yourself. Yeah, that's a good one. Maybe all of the above and you felt the need for a confession, to get it all off your chest before you go." He stopped laughing and sneered at her. "Well, am I close?"

He was so caught up in his own pain that he failed to see the pain and shock on her face although it registered in the back of his mind. "Let me guess. Maybe you've come for a fond farewell or do I still have information you need? Oh and Kathryn dear, tell me one thing. Something I've always wondered. Why didn't you ever fuck me? Sorry, my mistake. You did fuck me, just not in bed. In fact, you fucked the entire crew, didn't you?"

The turn of his words shocked her deeply. It was the last thing she expected to hear from him but his rage and bitterness were building and she felt the stirrings of fear. "This was a bad idea, I should never have come. I'm sorry, I'll go."

Kathryn made to turn and go out the door she'd entered towards the back garden but suddenly he was there, blocking her path. She looked into his eyes and was shocked to see tears forming there.

"Why, Kathryn, why? Please, I need to know how you could do that, lie to me all those years. You told me you loved me. Did you mean any of it?" He stopped but made no move to allow her past and suddenly the bitterness was back. "'Any and all means'. Wasn't that it, in your orders? To use 'any and all means' to gain my trust but I guess telling me you loved me was as far as you could go, couldn't bring yourself to go any further." Suddenly he grabbed her face between his hands and the bitterness was gone again and this time he spoke no words but his eyes asked all the questions.

Kathryn cried all the harder, her resolve breaking and she wasn't sure what she was saying. "Chakotay, I did love you, do love you. I wasn't lying about that, but there were reasons I couldn't let it go any further. I never wanted to hurt you, please believe that. I knew what would happen and it did and look at us now. I never wanted to hurt you. I love you too much for that but it had to be this way, because I love you. I wanted nothing more than to be with you totally but I couldn't, for your sake, for you, and now I just want you to let me go, for you, for your safety and protection. Chakotay, please."

He only heard part of her words, and his hurt and bitterness rose up in him again. "Oh, you loved me? Wanted nothing more than to be with me totally?"

He was like a man possessed and suddenly Kathryn felt herself being dragged back into the room. She felt his hands on her face again and then he was kissing her with such force that he was bruising her lips and she tried to push him back but her thin frame was no match for his strength. He pulled back a second and looked closely at her face, then ran his finger across her upper lip and the scar there, his other hand grasping her hair and pulling it tight so she had no choice but to lean her head back. "I see you still carry my mark."

Kathryn continued to cry. "Chakotay, please. You're hurting me."

He laughed sarcastically. "Good. You actually feel something. I wasn't sure you could. Maybe I'm doing you a favour after all." He pulled her to him again for another bruising kiss.

Kathryn actually found herself getting lost in the kiss, her body taking over her mind and she struggled desperately to regain control of herself. She was aware of Chakotay kissing down her neck and then his hand was on her breast, roughly kneading her through her sweater. She tried telling him to stop but he was lost in his own world and then she felt him drag her down to the floor and she struggled against him but he was too strong for her. Suddenly she was on her back on the floor and he was on top of her. She cried to him that this was wrong, that it shouldn't be this way but he heard nothing.

She tried to push him off and punch at him but he just grabbed her wrists and pinned them above her head with one hand, his fingers digging into her skin. For some reason all the fight went out of her and she realized that there was a part of her that wanted this. She knew he needed to punish her, get his revenge in some way and she also knew suddenly that she'd let him have it, that she probably deserved it and so she just lay there and let her tears run their own course. She felt him push her sweater up and as if he sensed her lack of struggle, he let go of her hands and then both his hands were on her breasts.

Kathryn kept her arms above her head, giving him whatever he wanted to take. She felt him bite and suck at her nipples and bit down on her lip to stop from crying out in pain but she was also amazed to feel the stirring of something else and was almost horrified to realize that what she was feeling was akin to arousal.

She was aware then of his hand moving lower and tugging at her skirt, pulling it up around her waist and Kathryn suddenly thought of her scars and prayed he wouldn't see them. His fingers were rough from the months of gardening and Kathryn tried to stop crying out as they grazed across her thighs and the burn scars there. She even avoided crying out as his knees pinched the tender skin of her thighs as he roughly parted her legs. He grasped her panties and ripped them away, the tear of the material burning her skin. She felt him hot and hard against her and suddenly she was terrified, knowing what pain was to come. It had been almost eight years since she'd been with anyone and she knew her body wasn't ready for this and she felt herself tensing, knowing that this was only going to make it worse but she had no control over it.

Kathryn felt him suck at her breasts again, and then felt him press against her opening and without any further preparation on his part, he suddenly plunged deeply into her. White, hot pain burst through her lower body and this time she couldn't stop it and she screamed out in pain. He was merciless as he rammed in and out of her, filling her to the hilt and she felt him grab her thighs and push her legs up, making his penetration even deeper. It registered in her mind somewhere that this must be hurting him too with her lack of lubrication and then she was aware of his tears dropping onto her face and his mantra "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Just as she felt something stir in the pit of her stomach, an almost forgotten feeling, she felt him shudder and then spill himself inside her. He lay on top of her for several minutes, a dead weight, making it almost impossible for her to breathe. Finally he rolled off her but she felt herself unable to move as the pain continued to rack her lower body. She eventually tried sitting up but the pain stopped her so she rolled onto her side instead and tried sitting up this way. Her hand went to hold herself, thinking she could ease her pain and her hand came away wet. She checked herself and suddenly realized that the wetness she'd thought was his semen was also blood.

Kathryn eventually managed to kneel and then stand. She picked up her panties and tried to clean herself as best she could and then looked down at Chakotay. He lay still on the floor, sobbing gently, still repeating "I'm sorry." Kathryn looked down at him, her own tears falling, and whispered to him. "No, love, I'm sorry and I hope that helped." With that she stiffly walked out of the room, holding her abdomen in a vain attempt to ease the pain.

Kathryn got as far as the transporter station before the pain forced her to stop and lean against a wall. She'd managed to straighten her clothes as best she could but her tears kept coming. Suddenly a vicious pain stabbed through her and she cried out, sliding down the wall to the ground. Within seconds, the attendant was beside her and calling for help. Things became a blur for her and the next thing she understood clearly was lying on a biobed in a clinic of some kind with a gentle female face looking down at her. "Whe...where am I?" Kathryn looked around her wildly then tried to calm herself.

The woman approached her gently. "It's all right, dear. Try and relax." She smiled kindly. "I'm Dr. Chang and you're at The Bay Medical Clinic. You were at the transporter station and collapsed. Can you tell me who you are and what happened?" The doctor took a chair and sat beside Kathryn.

Kathryn looked around her, trying to collect her thoughts and suddenly everything came back to her with a rush, Chakotay, the pain, his state when she left. "What's wrong with me?" Kathryn deliberately avoided the questions asked of her.

"We're not sure what happened to you. Perhaps you could help there." Dr. Chang left the question hanging in the air and waited to see if Kathryn would fill in the blanks. When Kathryn made no move to supply any further details, the Doctor spoke again. "Look honey, you had no identification on you and we've no way to contact anyone for you. Can you at least tell us your name?"

Kathryn looked up at the kindly face of this woman. "I'd rather not at this stage, but please, what's wrong with me?"

The Doctor seemed to be considering her words carefully and she reached out a hand and laid it gently on Kathryn's arm. "You presented here with all the classic signs of… It appears as if you were attacked…sexually. You've no defence injuries though and we were unsure if you were conscious during…when…" Dr. Chang seemed reluctant to go on, unsure of how much her patient knew of what had happened to her but she quickly understood from Kathryn's response or rather lack of one, that she knew exactly what had happened. "We've stopped the bleeding but you need more treatment and aftercare." Kathryn stared at the ceiling, saying nothing. Dr. Chang stood up and looked down at Kathryn again. "I'm just going to arrange for your treatment. I'll be back in a minute or two." She hoped giving Kathryn some time to absorb all this would help and maybe get her to open up a bit. As she looked back at her patient, she wondered what had happened to her or who could have done this.

As soon as the Doctor was out of the room, Kathryn looked around for her clothes and spotted them on a nearby chair. She was up and dressed in less than a minute, despite her pain and stiffness and five minutes later she'd fled the clinic without arousing any suspicions. She knew now she'd left her wallet at Chakotay's house and that if he tried to look for her, he'd have no trouble finding her as her identification and address were with the wallet. She knew she had to get away from San Francisco. She was unsure even of how long ago she'd been at his house.

She made her way to a different transporter station and walked a different route to her apartment. Checking there was no sign of anyone she knew, she quietly let herself in to her apartment and quickly set about packing her few clothes and toiletries and what few personal photographs and items she had. She found her spare identification card and then loaded up her computer. With a last look around, she left an apartment that looked no different now than when she was living in it.

It was getting dark when Chakotay began to come back to himself. He knew he'd been out of it and suddenly found himself assaulted with the memories of earlier and remorse and guilt flooded him. He sat up slowly and images came back to haunt him. He raised himself stiffly and went to turn on the light. In the middle of the floor, his eyes were suddenly drawn to some items on the rug. He bent down and saw Kathryn's wallet and then he spotted her panties and noticed in horror the blood on them and on the rug and in his mind, he heard her scream of pain and broke down in racking sobs.

Finally he pulled himself together and knew he had to find her. What if she hadn't gone for medical care, if she needed help and couldn't or wouldn't get it? Other things came back to him now as his mind started to clear. He remembered how thin she'd been and how ill she'd looked, all the life and soul gone from her. He remembered the scar on her lip, knowing he'd put it there and he wondered briefly why she hadn't had it removed. Out of the blue, another thought came to him but he couldn't seem to pin it down and then it clicked. Scars. There had been scars on her legs and on her lower arms. There had even been faint scars on her chest. "What the hell happened to her? They weren't there before, I'd have known. I have to find her." He spoke aloud, his own voice sounding wild to him. He checked her identification card in her wallet and checked her address, here in San Francisco. He tried to gather his thoughts. This was the woman he hated, who'd destroyed him so why did he care what happened to her. "Because you still love her, never stopped, and now you're as bad."

Within an hour, Chakotay was at Kathryn's apartment but as he'd expected, there was no answer and no-one in the building was of any help, everyone he spoke to stating that they'd either never seen her in the six months she'd lived there or that they'd only seen her once or twice but had never spoken to her and it struck him how lonely her life must have been.

Chakotay went to the only place he could think to go for help and less than half an hour later he sat with Tom and B'Elanna and told them the whole story, about Kathryn's visit and what he'd done. They sat and listened, never once interrupting while he told them it all. Finally when he finished and had gathered himself together, B'Elanna spoke. "Chakotay, you know how I feel about her, that I can't ever forget or forgive her for what she did but even she didn't deserve that."

Chakotay looked up at her with shame and guilt. "I know that and… Oh I don't know. All this time I tried to hate her but I think what I thought was hate was in fact, pain. I know now I never stopped loving her and that today, and I pray for forgiveness, today was all that coming out and I hate myself for what I did and now I have to find her. I tried her apartment but nothing and I don't know where else to turn. Please, B'Elanna. I'm not asking for her, but for me. I have to find her."

Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other and finally Tom spoke. "Chakotay, we'll help all we can but it's for you, not her and just so you know, I don't believe we hate her either. Hate is too strong a word and neither of us can still reconcile the woman we thought we knew with the woman she turned out to be. We both still remember her putting her life on the line a few times for us and now that doesn't tie in with what we know but neither of us can forget the betrayal. Still, as I said, we will help you. I'll give Dad a call and see what he can do. He's one of her bosses so he should know something." He stood up and left the room, patting Chakotay on the shoulder as he passed him.

Chakotay and B'Elanna sat in silence for a few minutes and then she stood up and went over to him and did the only thing she could in these circumstances and hugged him. He was grateful for her support and allowed her to hold him but his mind refused to let go of the images of the afternoon and he knew self-hate and guilt would be travelling with him for a long time to come.

Tom returned with a puzzled look on his face. B'Elanna asked him if Owen had been any help but Tom just sat down, thinking a moment, then looked at them both. "There's something strange going on. He wouldn't say anything to me over the comm line, just that he'd be straight over. He seemed in shock by it all."

Within half an hour, Owen Paris had arrived at his son's house and quietly sat and asked if they'd tell him the entire story, promising complete confidentiality. Chakotay seemed reluctant but with B'Elanna's silent nod of assurance, he retold what had happened and when he'd finished, the three of them were shocked to see the tough Admiral Paris with tears running down his face.

"Dad, what is it?" Tom was on his feet instantly, but Owen Paris was looking at Chakotay.

"What happened today was only partly your fault, son. The main blame lies at my door and it's time to finally end it. When I'm finished, it's not Kathryn you'll all hate but me." Tom looked at his father and a fear started in his guts but he promised the old man in front of him that whatever he was going to say, he wouldn't hate him, that enough hate had already gone around.

And so the truth finally spilled forth and Kathryn wasn't there for its revealing. Owen Paris sat by the fire and told the three people in front of him everything. He told them of Kathryn's resignation immediately after them, how he'd found work for her, at home as she'd requested, about her self-alienation, the whole cover-up, his involvement and his fear for Tom, how Kathryn had never followed her orders and how she took the whole blame for him but mainly to make sure that no member of her crew would ever spend a single day in prison. He told them then about the shuttle accident, her vain attempts to save her mother and sister and the months spent in hospital, her injuries, her burns, learning to walk again, how her mother and sister had died believing as they did of her. He spared no detail and when he'd finished, he awaited their judgment on him.

None of them knew what to say, they were so wrapped up in guilt. Owen Paris broke the silence.

"Chakotay, she loves you. I guess it was mainly for you that she did this. Your hate, the hate of the others was easier for her to bear than to see you all go to prison. That would have killed her and those bastards knew it. The minute she walked into that first debriefing, she was fighting for you all and that immediately gave them the bargaining chip they needed. Kathryn herself gave them their bargaining tool and they used it for all it was worth. She knew nothing of all this until two weeks into your journey home and then she ignored it. She intended to resign as soon as she got you all home and the sad part is, those orders need never have been issued because Kathryn being Kathryn would have done what she did anyway, even had she known of the orders. She would never have let an innocent people die. Guilt and sorrow have lived with her for a long time and after today, I don't know. For some time now, I've been worried about the state of her mind from speaking to her and I see the change in her, the letting go and then she came to me to get the information she needed, to see how everyone, the crew, were getting on with their lives. I think she wanted to check how you all were, that you were all getting on with life and leaving the past behind you. After that, despite her assurances to me, I think she was going to…let go."

Tom and B'Elanna sat stunned and B'Elanna had tears pouring down her face. Chakotay was torn between crying and wanting to kill someone. Owen Paris touched his arm gently. "I'm sure all you want to do is rip my throat out, son. I thought of doing it myself a lot, but I had to think of Tom and I couldn't let anything happen to him and later, well it was Kathryn who wouldn't let me come out with the truth. There are three Admirals still at Starfleet who have the power to carry out their threat and she knows that and to my shame, my silence helps them but no more. This ends here. I'm going public. In fact, I've already done it. I already sent everything on this to a reporter I know, sent it just after your call. So Tom, I don't think you'll have a father to be proud of anymore." The old man slumped back in his chair, awaiting his son's death sentence.

Chakotay slowly got up and looked down at the old man sitting by the fire. "I don't hate you for this. As we've already said, too much hate has already gone around and I do understand to some extend why you did what you did. As for Tom and B'Elanna, I can't speak for them but I do want one thing from you. No, actually two. Firstly, I have to find Kathryn and try and repair all this and secondly, I want the heads of those three bastards, whatever it costs. I'll do prison time. I don't care as long as they're in the cell beside me and if you don't do it, I will." With this he turned and left the room.

Chakotay sat in the garden for a long time, and all he could think of was Kathryn's pain, her sacrifice and all that wasted time. He thought of her being alone to deal with the deaths of her family and of how they died, history repeating itself, her own injuries, the scars he'd seen and he knew how deep the burns must have been for the scars to still be there. He cried bitter tears when he thought of how lonely she must have been, knowing how everyone hated her, the things they'd all said to her and not being able to tell them the truth. He cried for all of them but mostly for the pain, physical and emotional, that his beloved Kathryn had gone through all alone and he cried for what he'd done to her.

He was aware of a gentle hand touching him and looked up to see B'Elanna beside him. "Hey, old friend" she smiled sadly at him.

He attempted a smile but failed. "How's it going in there?"

She shrugged. "A lot of healing needed there too, but he's still Tom's father and the kids' grandfather. I suppose I understand why he did it, but Kathryn? Oh Chakotay, to make such a sacrifice. I don't know about you but the guilt I feel is terrible and I know I'd gladly have done time in prison rather than face this."

He looked at her sadly. "You're not the villain of the piece here. I still mainly blame Starfleet and I want those bastards' heads but I… Me. What I did to her today."

B'Elanna squeezed his arm. "We'll find her. I promise, Chakotay."

He stared out over the garden. "Before it's too late? You heard him, Tom's father. What if she…? And after today…" He broke off.

B'Elanna hugged him. "Chakotay, we'll find her. We have to believe that."

Chakotay put his arm around her and suddenly a thought struck him. "Oh no. B'Elanna, something's just struck me. Today I asked her had she come for absolution and why and I asked her was it because she was dying or leaving and then I said 'or better yet, are you going to kill yourself'. Now I remember the look on her face. It was like shock or pain or like I'd discovered her secret." He grabbed B'Elanna. "I think he's right, that that was her plan, that she was saying good-bye. B'Elanna, pray it isn't too late."

B'Elanna just held him, murmuring comfort to little avail.


Next day the story broke and all hell broke with it at Starfleet. There wasn't one detail that was spared and by the end of the day, Kathryn Janeway had been completely vindicated and a lot of people hung their heads in shame and three Admirals went to prison. Those still left alive from the original plot joined them and even the Cardassians involved were dealt with by their own. Everything was settled within one day, so eager were Starfleet and the Cardassians to save face. No Maquis would ever be charged and Admiral Paris, in return for his testimony, was allowed to quietly retire. The next generation of Starfleet vowed that nothing like this would ever happen again.

Tom, B'Elanna and Owen Paris went with Chakotay when he returned to Kathryn's apartment and this time they managed to get in. They were shocked by the emptiness of the place. "How did she clear everything out so quickly?" Chakotay spoke to no one in particular.

Owen Paris answered sadly. "Actually, it looks to me as if nothing's missing. I've been here twice and it's always been this way, this empty."

This only served to hurt Chakotay and the others more and he cried inwardly to think again of the loneliness of Kathryn's life. From speaking with the building superintendent, they knew Kathryn had left in a hurry and there was no forwarding address and so Chakotay readied himself for a search, knowing he wouldn't rest until he found Kathryn, one way or the other.

Over the next week, all Chakotay's efforts led nowhere. Finally he had the idea of tracing her last known movements and checked at the transporter station. Here he discovered the details of Kathryn's collapse and how she'd been taken to the clinic semi-conscious. At the clinic, he managed to speak with Dr. Chang and eventually with the help of Owen Paris and his connections managed to get hold of her medical records and they made him feel even worse. He read the doctor's words. 'Patient presented with all the classic signs of rape but there were no defence injuries. Patient was either unconscious during attack or for some reason, didn't fight back or defend herself in any way. Only sign of restraint was bruising on the wrists and only sign of resistance was heavy bruising on the area of the inner thighs. Penetration was brutal and considerable tearing and bleeding occurred. There were also injuries to the area of the breasts. Patient left the clinic before full treatment could be administered although bleeding had been arrested. As no identification was available, no follow-up treatment can be administered'.

Now that the entire truth was finally out in the open, Chakotay, Tom and B'Elanna started to hear from other crewmembers, each one feeling as bad as the other. Knowing it was useless, Chakotay checked and double-checked with each of them to see if anyone had seen Kathryn or heard from her but he knew she wouldn't have approached anyone from her old life. He checked her mother's house and had someone keep an eye on the place in case she showed up there. He even had her name and description circulated around all the major hospitals and clinics in case she was admitted but there was never any word of her.

One night, almost three months later, he sat in the study of Tom and B'Elanna's house, almost his home these days and poured over lists of unidentified admissions to hospitals around the country and even unidentified bodies in morgues but as usual there was nothing. Every avenue of inquiry he'd followed up these last months had led to nothing and with almost the entire crew back on earth and helping in the search, he was just about starting to despair.

B'Elanna brought him some herbal tea and he leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. "How can someone just disappear off the face of the earth? We know for certain she didn't leave Earth as we've checked every station and shuttle dock, so where could she be?" His voice sounded weary.

Tom came in, catching what Chakotay had said and sat down. "Look, maybe it's just her description we should be concentrating on. Kathryn's a smart woman and she probably isn't using her own name. Hell, she could even have altered her appearance."

Chakotay answered that painfully, standing up and going to the window. "That or she's lying dead somewhere and will never be found."

B'Elanna was close to tears. "No, we can't believe that. We have to keep trying"

The silence was broken by an incoming message from a former crewmember, David Morgan, asking if he could call by. He wanted to speak to them in person and could be there within the hour.

What they heard from the former ensign raised their hopes but gave them all fresh fears. David told them how he believed he'd seen Kathryn the previous day. He'd been to a clinic with his wife for her check-up. He told them that he'd called out to her his former captain but that she'd fled upon seeing him from the far side of the room. He guardedly told them that she'd looked very thin and unwell. Chakotay asked him which clinic it had been and when he told them, B'Elanna gasped and shared a knowing look with the young man. She asked him if Kathryn had looked as if 'she belonged there' and he'd answered her that she had.

B'Elanna asked Tom to bring their guest to the kitchen for something to eat and then faced Chakotay.

He stared at her. "Well? What was that about? What's wrong? What is that place?"

She eased him into a chair and sat facing him. "Chakotay, that clinic is… It's for women with problem pregnancies."

The world seemed to stop for Chakotay. "And she seemed to look as if she belonged there. In other words, she looked pregnant." The shock was almost too much for him. While he was over the moon to know she was still alive, if indeed it was her, he now worried about her health and what she was going through alone. "It had to be her, didn't it? I mean, Morgan knows her. He couldn't be mistaken, could he?"

B'Elanna looked at him and shook her head. "I doubt she'll go back there now, knowing someone's seen her, but it's a fresh place to start searching. She must have given some address, some information. The only problem is that the clinic does such great work that women come from all over to attend it and if she gave a false address, then… Chakotay, listen, she'll have to attend some doctor or hospital, and while she can use a false name, address, even date of birth, what she can't change is her due date. She wouldn't and couldn't change that and we can use that to trace her. It may take some time and computer searching but it has to work."

Kathryn had gotten the shock of her life when David Morgan had called out to her and without thinking, had fled as quickly as she could. She hadn't wanted to come back to the city for fear of someone seeing her, but at her doctor's insistence and because this baby meant everything to her, she'd had no choice and so she'd taken the chance.

Once she'd left her apartment that day, Kathryn Janeway had become Jane Edwards and she moved from hotel to hotel trying to come to terms with what had happened. Because of constantly being on the move and trying to stay out of sight, Kathryn was completely unaware of everything else going on the world and so no details of events at Starfleet and her exoneration had filtered through to her. Her morbid thoughts had grown stronger over the following four weeks and at first she'd blamed her state of mind for feeling unwell but eventually it had dawned on her that it was something physical causing her nausea and dizziness and finally she'd gone to see a doctor, who'd confirmed her pregnancy.

She had sat in a lonely hotel room for two days straight, sorting her thoughts and knew for certain that she could do nothing that would harm this part of the man she still loved which was now growing inside her, and so over the following weeks, she'd rented a house about twenty miles from San Francisco and tried to take better care of herself.

Due to her neglect of herself, problems with her pregnancy had shown up almost immediately and her doctor had insisted that she attend the clinic in the city, once every two weeks and she'd gone, each time terrified that someone she knew would see her and now it had happened.

The house was near enough so she could travel easily to the clinic but still outside the city, away from anyone she knew. She sorted her affairs and prepared for the coming child. She decided that when the baby was born, her instructions would be for him or her to be given to Chakotay and then she'd finish her business and she'd never need to enter Chakotay's life again. She knew he still hated her but she also knew he'd take care of their child no matter how he felt about her.

As she lay in bed that night, she knew it was only a matter of time before Morgan reported his sighting of her to Chakotay and then another thought struck her. Why had she assumed all along that Chakotay was looking for her? He hated her, maybe felt a bit guilty for what had happened that day at his house, but that didn't mean he'd try and go after her. Maybe all her running and hiding had been for nothing but it was better not to take the chance. Tomorrow she'd make arrangements to move on.

Chakotay and B'Elanna sat long into the night, pouring over computer records. They had received the list of patients at the clinic that day and the name Jane Edwards had jumped out at them but they still had to be sure. The date of birth was different but the year matched.

B'Elanna sighed. "She'd have to give her right age, Chakotay. That information would be vital to her doctors, and this address has to right, for test results and the like to be forwarded to her. It at least has to be an address she has access to."

Chakotay was close to breaking point. "The due date for the baby ties in also. It has to be her but she's aware of having been seen now and will probably run again. First thing in the morning, we go there."

Next morning, Kathryn was up early and was packing up her few possessions. As usual she seemed to spend more time in the bathroom retching than anything else. As she packed the last of her things, she was unaware of the man watching the house. Chakotay had checked around the place and had caught a glimpse of her passing a window and so leaving B'Elanna and Tom waiting across the road, he'd hidden himself at the side of the house, trying to decide the best plan of approach. When he caught sight of Kathryn opening the front door, bag in hand ready to leave, his decision was made for him. He watched as she closed the door behind her and slowly walked down the few steps then he carefully stepped out behind her and softly said her name.

Kathryn dropped her bag in shock and spun around to the sound of his voice and their eyes met, tears in his and panic in hers. Chakotay saw panic and then fear in Kathryn's eyes and felt as if a knife had stabbed his heart, knowing he'd caused this. His eyes moved down her body and he saw the swell of their child, clearly evident against her thin frame.

"Kathryn, please..." He moved towards her, holding his hand out to her but she backed away, panic still in her eyes and joined now by her tears. She looked around her wildly for an escape route and saw Tom and B'Elanna blocking her way, they having come across the road when they saw her emerge from the house.

Chakotay pleaded with her. "Kathryn, please. I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you."

Kathryn was turning in circles, still looking for a way out when Chakotay reached out to her and
gently touched her arm but she recoiled as if burned, her eyes wild and tears streaming down her face.

"No, please…" It was all she managed and then the ground was coming up to meet her and suddenly she felt Chakotay's strong arms around her, holding her tightly and all she could hear through the roaring sound in her ears was his tearful voice whispering her name over and over and then came the blessed blackness.

Chakotay lifted her in his arms, shocked by how little she weighed and they got her back into the house. He noticed quickly that only one room was furnished and he crossed to the bed and gently laid her down. He shouted at Tom and E'Elanna. "Get a doctor here. Quickly."

As Tom took care of the call, B'Elanna came over to Chakotay with a damp cloth and started wiping Kathryn's face. They shared a worried look and then B'Elanna backed off, letting Chakotay sit on the bed beside Kathryn. As they waited for help, they both looked around the small room, at how empty it was, just the bed, a table and a single chair and the sadness of it all squeezed Chakotay's heart tightly, causing him to almost struggle for breath. He turned back to Kathryn and gently stroked her face, seeing for the first time just how pale she was and then his eyes were drawn to her arms where her sleeves had fallen back and he saw the scars there from her burns and his heart constricted painfully again.

Within ten minutes, a doctor had arrived and immediately ordered a transport for Kathryn to the hospital and the next two hours were the longest of Chakotay's life as he waited for news of Kathryn's condition. Finally a doctor approached them and motioned for them to sit and Chakotay found himself holding his breath, terrified of what he was going to hear.

"She's malnourished, very underweight, anaemic and her blood pressure is basically through the roof." The doctor activated a padd he held. "I've received her medical records from the clinic and the doctor she was attending and we've got things under control for the moment but she still has a lot of problems ahead, including from what I can gather, her mental state." He looked at Chakotay. "From what I understand, she has no family?" Chakotay shook his head sadly. "You are the father of the baby?"

Chakotay sighed heavily. "Yes, for all the good I've been. I only found out she was pregnant. She'd run off and I didn't know." He couldn't go on.

The doctor waved that away. "You're here now but I warn you, you've a rough road ahead. Are you up to it?"

Chakotay was choking up and found it hard to speak. "I'll be here for her. I promise. I won't leave her."

Tom and B'Elanna spoke together. "We'll all be here for her."

The doctor smiled at that. "I'm going to keep her sedated for a few days to bring her blood pressure under control as that's the biggest problem we have but you can sit with her. I'll show you to her room and I'll be by later to check on her." He rose and they followed him.

Over the next few days as Kathryn lay pale and still, Chakotay never left her side. Almost all the crew called by at one time or another and Kathryn's room steadily filled with flowers and gifts. Sadness and guilt was on the face of every caller and Chakotay recognized it immediately as it was a mirror reflection of how he felt. He sat talking to her and reading to her and begging forgiveness and he watched as the life-giving liquids of the intravenous drips travelled into her veins, blood to counteract her anaemia and fluids which provided the nourishment she and the baby desperately needed.

Tom and B'Elanna were in and out all the time but the saddest sight was Owen Paris as he stood at the end of Kathryn's bed, openly weeping and begging Kathryn's forgiveness until Tom gently led him out and took him home.

Kathryn's doctor, feeling Chakotay was in fact her next-of-kin now, held nothing back from him. He told him that the baby was small but that with the right care, it shouldn't be a problem and was probably better for Kathryn. He explained that because Kathryn herself was so small, giving birth could present complications, but they'd have to wait and see how things went and in any event, if there were too many problems, they could always section her. He then told Chakotay of the legal document which had been placed on Kathryn's file, declaring that the baby was to be given to him upon birth and Kathryn's estate placed in trust for the child. This hit Chakotay very hard and he shared it with B'Elanna when she came by later. "She really was going to do it, end it all. She was only hanging on until the baby was born. She cared about the child that much."

B'Elanna gently hugged him. "She also cared about you that much, Chakotay. The baby was an extension of you. She loves you. You have to see that. This is your baby so to her it was you, all she had, the last thing she could leave to you. That proves it to you, her love for you. And think of it this way. Had things not happened as they did, she might well have done it, ended it all. This baby, her being pregnant, it stopped her, saved her life really." Chakotay knew she was right but it didn't help his guilt.

When Kathryn awoke four days later, the sedative doses having been decreased bit by bit, the first face she saw was Chakotay's. Confusion was followed by the memories of finding Chakotay at the house and her fear and panic returned. Chakotay kept calm and spoke softly to her, having practiced what he would say a million times.

"Kathryn, please just hear me out and if you still want me to leave, I will. I promise. Just hear me out first, please." She seemed to calm down somewhat and just slowly nodded.

And so Chakotay told her everything, how the truth was finally out, about Owen Paris and how he'd made the whole matter public, how they'd searched for her for months, how sorry he was about her family, about what he'd done to her and how he'd treated her even before, how sorry they all were and he pointed out all the flowers and gifts. "Everyone's been by and they're all so sorry. Our guilt, Kathryn. We're all so sorry for what we put you through. We didn't know and we stupidly believed. We should have known better, known you better. And me? I don't know if you can ever forgive me for what I did. I hurt you so much, in every way. Please forgive me. I'm so sorry. Kathryn, please. I love you. I know now I never stopped, that what I called hate was just my pain, my own defence. I understand how you must hate me but I… Please let me try and mend some of the damage, try and put some of it right. I really don't think I can live with this if you don't let me try at least. Please give me a chance. I know I don't deserve it but Kathryn, please." He couldn't continue and broke down in racking sobs, clinging to her.

He suddenly felt her hand on his head, gently stroking his hair and he looked up to see silent tears pour down her face and he saw the pain in her eyes. She placed her other hand against his cheek and sobbed to him. "Chakotay, I could never hate you. I love you. I always have. I never lied about that and as for…"

He broke across her. "Kathryn, why did you do it? We could have fought them together." He took hold of her hand tightly.

She looked sadly at him. "You were my crew, my family out there. It was my job to protect you all, at whatever cost and that still applies, even now. I couldn't let them, and particularly you, go to prison for even a day. I care too much about them, even love some of them, especially you. I just couldn't let that happen and I saw no other choice. I thought even if I told you, you'd still hate me when you knew about the orders, that you wouldn't believe me anyway. I just couldn't see any other way."

He gripped her hand tighter. "Oh Kathryn, how did it come to this? You should have told me long ago. You could have trusted me. You know that."

Kathryn looked away. "I did trust you Chakotay, I did but I didn't want you to have this hanging over you. We had enough to deal with out there and I guess I just wanted to protect you from this and it was hard not to tell you. I don't know how many times I nearly told you about all this and I don't know how many times I nearly let you into my life fully but I knew what would happen when or if we got home and I really believed it would have been better for you and the others that way."

Chakotay slowly looked up at her. "Maybe you're right. I don't know but I still wish you'd told me."

Kathryn nodded sadly. "I wish I had, but it's done with now." She sighed. "Does everyone know?"

He nodded. "There's a lot of shame and guilt out there, mine most of all. My plea still stands, Kathryn. Can you ever forgive me? I'm not just talking about Starfleet and all that but for what I did to you."

She reached out for him but he stood up, still looking down at her. "Chakotay, you just believed what everyone believed, what you were meant to believe and of course I forgive you. To just know that you don't hate me, that the others don't hate me now, to know that they're safe now."

He looked away for a second then back at her. "I'm not talking about that, about the others. Me, Kathryn, what I did. Kathryn, I raped you, forced myself on you, hurt you in the worst way possible." He turned away, unable to meet her eyes but the sound of her crying made him turn back and when he looked, she was holding her hand out to him and he grabbed it like a lifeline offered to a drowning man. She pulled him to her, forcing him to sit again and then she took hold of his face and looked deeply into his eyes.

"No, love, you didn't. Please don't even use that word. Yes, you were angry and you were hurt but it was just all that emotion coming out and that was my doing. You couldn't have known the truth, only that someone who'd caused you all that pain was suddenly standing in front of you and it was just too much to take all at once."

He looked at her, his eyes begging and pleading. "Kathryn, I love you. I never stopped and yet I hurt you so badly. I know how badly I hurt you. I found that out at the clinic you were taken to that day and look at now, the baby and you all alone. I know how afraid of me you were, probably still are. I don't know how you can love me. You must hate me and fear me. I mean, you ran away. And at the house. I saw your fear."

He looked away again but her hands brought his face back to her. "Chakotay, firstly I love you and I could never hate you. As to hurting me, it had just been a long time. That's nature, not you. Secondly, I never was and never will be afraid of you, only of what I could do to you. That's what I was afraid of. I was afraid of hurting you again, causing you more pain, afraid of what Starfleet would do. As to now. I'm not alone now, am I? I'm not unloved now either, am I?" He pulled her to him tightly and they held each other as they cried together.

When their tears had lessened, Chakotay looked at her. "Kathryn, I need you to know that, if you'll let me, that I'll never leave you again, never doubt you again and… I love you and I love our baby."

Through his tears he watched his own hand go to her stomach and for the first time, reach to his, their child. Her hand covered his and she told him what he wanted to hear, handed him his salvation. "Yes, love. I want you, need you and love you."

It was a further three weeks before Kathryn's doctor agreed to let her out of the hospital and then it was only for a weekend. She'd managed to gain some weight and the baby appeared stronger. Chakotay had asked if she wanted to go back to her own apartment but she'd said no. He understood that the emptiness of the place would be no good for her. He suggested they go away for the weekend or stay with Tom and B'Elanna but again she said no.

Her suggestion shocked him. "You want to stay at my place? Kathryn, I don't know."

She seemed hurt by his reaction. "Chakotay, if you'd rather I went somewhere else, that's OK. I understand." She looked down at her hands.

He saw the hurt in her eyes and took her hands in his. "Kathryn, there's nothing I'd love more. It's just with what happened there, what I did..."

She understood now. "Oh love, we've been through this and I told you not to think that way, please. If I'm honest, there was a part of me that wanted it to happen. I have for a long time, even on
Voyager and well, I guess I'd thought it would involve candles and soft music but that's just decoration. I still wanted you. I still do." Kathryn was actually embarrassed and he saw this and it helped him.

"My Kathryn, to hear you say that, you've no idea what it means to me but it doesn't alter the fact that I…there…"

Kathryn put her finger to his lips, silencing him. "Then let's go home." She stood up and took his hand, leading the way.

They spent a quiet, peaceful and healing weekend just getting to know each other all over again and everyone gave them the space they needed. Kathryn had been exhausted many times by the flow of visitors to the hospital and all the emotion that went with each visit. Owen Paris had come and the visit had been physically and emotionally draining but there was closure for them both and finally peace for the old man. Here at the house, it was quiet and she spent many hours just sitting in the garden, sometimes on her own but mostly just lying back against Chakotay as he stroked her back or ran his hands over her growing stomach and they both knew that neither of them had ever felt more at peace.

Within a month, Kathryn's doctor was happy enough with her progress that he let her go home for good, insisting that she visit him once a week for check-ups.

On her first evening home, she sat in the garden while Chakotay prepared dinner and she realized that she truly felt at home here, felt as if they'd always lived here. She heard her name called and looked up to see Chakotay, donning a chef's hat and she laughed. "Dinner is served, Madam." He smiled and offered her his arm. He helped her up and they went into the house together.

Kathryn caught her breath when she entered the room. Candles were everywhere and soft music played and it brought a lump to her throat. Afraid she'd burst into tears if she tried to say anything, she just squeezed his hand and he understood.

Dinner was perfect and afterwards they just lay back on the sofa holding each other. Chakotay leaned down and kissed the side of Kathryn's face and she leaned into him. Next thing either of them knew, they were kissing and then the kisses were getting more urgent. Chakotay's hand dropped towards her breast and he gently fondled her through her blouse and she moaned into his mouth but then she stopped, pulling away slightly.

"Kathryn, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have… I've overstepped the mark. I'm so sorry. And here in this room." He sat back from her but she grabbed his hand. "Chakotay, no please, it's not that, really. It's not that at all. It's… I guess I'm afraid."

He leaned back to her and put his arm around her. "Kathryn, I'm sorry. I understand. The baby. I was being thoughtless."

Again she gripped his hand. "No, that's fine. I mean, there are other ways…different positions."

Her shyness amazed him but he suddenly noticed tears forming in her eyes. "Kathryn, what is it? Tell me, please."

She looked away from him, trying to hide her tears. "It's… I'm afraid that I'll disgust you, that you won't be able to look at me. My scars. I…"

Chakotay was shocked and gently took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. "I'll only ever say this once to you, my love, so remember my words and imprint them on your memory for all time. I love you and I desire you and nothing can change that. Nothing. I don't care if you're purple with big green spots. I don't ever want to hear words like that again from you. Please don't ever think that way again. I know I've let you down in the past…" Kathryn started to say something but he pressed his finger to her lips. "I've let you down in the past, yes, and I know we've dealt with that and moved on but don't hurt me by thinking I'd ever be disgusted by you, please."

Kathryn just leaned into his chest, crying all the more. "I'm sorry, love. I'm not trying to hurt you. It's just my own self-doubt about my scars. I'm sorry."

He pulled her back to look at him again and there was just a hint of anger in his voice. "Last word on this, OK? I love you, again. I desire you, again. And Kathryn Janeway, you are beautiful now and you always have been, OK? Subject closed. Now, where were we?" He leaned in and kissed her tears away.

When they finally came up for air, Chakotay turned Kathryn so she was sitting back against him on the sofa and he gently nuzzled her ear, finding her special spot. Kathryn moaned and tilted her head back. "Just relax, Kathryn. Lie back and let me do this for you, please. Let me love you properly."

He started stroking her face and neck and slowly worked his way down to her shoulders, back and forward, kneading the muscles gently. Slowly his hands slipped inside her blouse and he continued stroking just above her breasts. Kathryn lay back against him, her eyes closed, trusting him completely. She felt him slowly unbutton her blouse and then leaned forward slightly to allow it fall from her shoulders. Chakotay eased it down her arms and for a minute she opened her eyes, knowing he'd see the full extent of the scars there but he just smiled gently at her, lifted her arm and gently kissed along the scars. "Close your eyes, my love. Trust me."

She did as she was told and leaned back into him again. She felt him lower the silk straps of her bra and undo the clasp at the front, freeing her breasts.

He whispered into her ear as his fingers played across her nipples, causing them to harden almost instantly. "You're so beautiful, my love." He gave equal attention to each breast, licking his fingers and gently twisting and flicking her nipples. Kathryn moaned deep in her throat, lost in the feelings he was creating in her, finally fulfilling her dream.

His hands now moved lower, stroking her swollen abdomen and caressing her gently and then he continued lower, easing the loose elastic waistband of her skirt slowly down. Kathryn sat up to allow him remove the skirt but her eyes remained closed. He lowered the skirt, taking her panties with it and then made tiny circular movements across her thighs, up and down, eventually arriving at his final destination. Ever so gently, he stroked her, gently teasing her hair and then he slowly parted her lips and began lightly stroking her outer folds and flicking across her clitoris and all the time he kissed and nuzzled her neck and whispered loving words to her. Already, Kathryn could feel the onset of delicious tingles building in the pit of her stomach, growing in intensity all the time. She was aware only of her own feelings and the touch of his fingers working their magic on her. She felt him gently slip one finger into her opening and run it around just inside, then he slowly and teasingly pushed gently inside, a little at a time. Kathryn was now close and moaned and writhed under his touch and he seemed to read her. He gently inserted a second finger, caressing her inner walls and with his other hand, continued to flick across her clitoris and suddenly Kathryn's world exploded around her and she came hard against his hands, crying out.

Chakotay held her gently, stroking her stomach as she came down from her plateau. She leaned her head back and kissed him passionately. "Thank you, my love, but I want all of you."

He smiled softly at her and made to get up. "What was that you were saying about there being other ways and different positions?"

Kathryn smiled slowly and slid to the rug on the floor. "Grab a quilt or my back will pay for it." She smiled seductively at him.

He looked around uncomfortably. "Wouldn't you be more comfortable in bed?" They both knew he meant more than he was saying.

Kathryn reached up to him. "I'm very comfortable where I am, love. OK? Now you trust me and go get that quilt."

Chakotay returned with the quilt and spread it on the floor behind her and knelt down but he still seemed unsure.

Kathryn reached her hand up to his face. "Make love to me here, Chakotay, just like you did before."

He felt his tears come and just leaned down to her and held her close. "Spirits, Kathryn. I love you so much." His tears stopped any further words.

"I love you too, Chakotay." She smiled up at him. "Now get a move on. This woman you love needs you."

Chakotay lay down beside her and Kathryn turned to face him, then with his help, she undressed him. She hesitated a moment then and looked into his eyes. "Do you want to dim the lights?"

He knew she was still thinking of her scars. "No. I want to see all of the beautiful woman before me, every inch of her." He leaned down and proceeded to kiss every part of her body, paying particular attention to the areas where her scars were and as her tears came, a silent expression of the love she felt for this man, he saw them and kissed them away then claimed her mouth again.

Chakotay ran his hands and mouth over every inch of Kathryn's body, loving the feel and taste of her. He was careful not to lean over her too much, the memory of what he'd done before still with him and also afraid of hurting her or the baby. He worked his way down her, caressing and kissing her stomach and then still lower until he nuzzled against her hair and then gently easing her legs apart, brought her to his mouth, reading Kathryn by her moans and writhing. She was so hot and wet for him and instinctively knowing what to do, he gently rolled her onto her side, his hand never leaving her folds. She felt him hot and hard, prodding against her buttocks and drew her legs up slightly for him and then she felt him guide himself gently to her waiting and aching centre. As gently as he could, he entered her and Kathryn's moans told him everything he needed to know as she pushed back against him. He kept his thrusts gentle at first, still stroking her but eventually he quickened them and suddenly they both came together in an explosive climax then just lay there, holding and caressing each other while their breathing evened out. After a while, Chakotay realized that Kathryn had fallen asleep and he gently lifted her and carried her to their bed. As he settled in beside her, he thanked the Spirits for the gift he'd been given, before drafting off to sleep with her.

Life continued at this gentle and loving pace for the next three months and each day Kathryn seemed to grow in strength. She hadn't felt so at peace in a long time and as their child grew inside her, the love between her and Chakotay grew also, seeming to know no limits.

Chakotay hated to leave her side for a minute but one day at her insistence that she was fine and wanted to take a nap, he agreed to go with Tom for a game of hover ball. Throughout the game, Tom could sense his restlessness and eventually they cut the game short. Tom slapped his old friend on the back. "Come on, Dad. Let's get you home. Don't worry, I still remember how I felt with B'Elanna when our two were on the way."

Grateful for his friend's understanding, Chakotay hurried home. All the way there, he had a nagging feeling and knew suddenly he had to hurry. He rushed into the house, calling to Kathryn but received no reply. With his panic building, he checked the bedroom but there was no sign of her and then he checked the bathroom but she wasn't there either. Something made him look out the window into the back garden and for a minute, his heart seemed to stop in his chest. Kathryn was lying on the ground at the end of the garden, doubled up.

Taking the stairs three or four at a time, he was at her side in seconds and then he noticed that her skirt was drenched and knew that her waters had broken but he also noticed that she was bleeding as well. Kathryn was moaning softly and he bent down to her. "It's all right, love, I'm here. I'll have you in hospital in no time. It's going to be fine."

He knew he was trying to convince himself as much as Kathryn. Not stopping to think, he picked her up in his strong arms and carried her into the house and then ordered an emergency transport to the hospital. As soon as they arrived at the hospital, a semi-conscious Kathryn was rushed away, leaving an emotionally drained and frantic Chakotay just standing in the corridor, her blood staining his hands and clothes.

Within ten minutes, a doctor had appeared in front of Chakotay. "She wants you with her."

Chakotay fought his panic. "She's not going to… Please tell me she's going to be all right."

The doctor patted his arm. "She's lost a lot of blood and the birth isn't going to be easy. It's too late now for a section but with careful handling, I believe she'll come through fine."

When Chakotay entered the room and saw Kathryn, he was at her side in two strides. She appeared very weak and pale but smiled at him immediately and held her hand up to him. He noticed the blood flowing into her through the thin intravenous lines and was aware of the sounds of the monitors, keeping track of her heart and the baby's.

He grasped her hand and smiled down her. "What were you doing, love? What were you thinking?" He couldn't scold her. He loved her too much and at this moment he was too worried.

She smiled weakly at him. "It was a surprise. I was planting a peace rose for you." He felt her grip tighten on his hand and saw her face contort with pain. "Kathryn?"

The doctor moved in. "All right, Kathryn. You're very close now. Come on, breathe properly. Concentrate and then on the next contraction, you push. OK?"

For the next hour nothing else existed in the world for Kathryn and Chakotay except each other's eyes. They never broke eye contact for a second as he helped her control her breathing and she tightly gripped his hand and then there was the doctor's voice. "Right, Kathryn. Last push. Big one now." And then there was the most wonderful sound in the world to them. Their child's first cries.

The doctor came up to them, holding the tiny bundle. "I believe this young lady belongs to you two." His smile lit up the room as he placed the tiny infant in her mother's arms. The doctor stood back and watched the three of them, feeling he had the best job in the world most days. "Not too long for the moment, you two. Everything's fine but Kathryn, you need a little repair work. OK? Nothing to worry about."

Kathryn nodded, still gazing at this little marvel and then she handed Chakotay his daughter and lay back exhausted but happier than she'd ever been as she watched the look on his face as he gazed down at the baby.

Chakotay stared down at the tiny bundle and watched amazed as her eyes looked back at him. He stroked the tiny fingers and face and didn't care who saw his tears. A nurse came over to him and told him with a smile that he could have her back in a little while once she'd been washed and weighed and had a general check-up. Chakotay handed the baby to the nurse and turned to look at Kathryn as another nurse took his elbow to lead him out of the room.

He thought at first she'd fallen asleep and he smiled, then he noticed the doctor and his frantic movements and an icy fist gripped his heart. He rushed back to Kathryn's side, grabbing her hand and looking to the doctor. "You said nothing to worry about. A little repair work. What's wrong?"

The doctor looked up quickly. "She's losing a massive amount of blood and she needs immediate surgery. Please, wait outside." The nurse was tugging at his arm and then another doctor was pushing him out the door.

"Kathryn, Kathryn, don't leave me. We need you. Please, Kathryn." Suddenly he was in the corridor and time lost all meaning.

Someone, maybe himself, contacted Tom and B'Elanna but they were suddenly there with him, and then it was dark outside and he was pacing one minute, sitting with his head in his hands the next and finally the doctor was there and he was smiling. Not trusting himself to stand or even speak, Chakotay just implored with his eyes.

The doctor sat beside him, still smiling. "I can tell you it was a very close call but we stopped the bleeding eventually. Her heart stopped and she gave us a hell of a run for our money but she'll pull through. She'll be fine but she'll need careful nursing and plenty of loving care for the next few weeks. We'll provide the careful nursing and the rest is up to you."

Chakotay stared at him then grabbed the surprised doctor and wrapped him in a bear hug. He still couldn't trust himself to speak and managed to croak a "thank you" only. The doctor appeared embarrassed but pleased. "You're very welcome. Your daughter is fine. Actually, she slept through the whole thing. You can see Kathryn in a few minutes. The nurse will come get you. She'll sleep for the rest of the day and I suggest you go home once you've seen her and do the same." He stood up. "I'll call back later." The doctor left and then it was Tom and B'Elanna's turn for the bear hug.

Chakotay sat with Kathryn for an hour as she slept, quietly talking to her and watching the blood drip slowly into her veins before the nurse sent him packing, assuring him that her patient would sleep for at least another twelve hours. Chakotay gently kissed Kathryn and whispered to her. "I'll see both you ladies later. I love you."

When he got home, exhaustion took over and he sat on the sofa and cried his eyes out, everything needing release at once. He felt better after a few minutes and wandered into the garden. It had been the longest night of his life but he felt hope as he watched the sun rise and said a silent prayer. He felt tears sting his eyes again as he gazed at the peace rose Kathryn had planted the previous afternoon.

"Spirits, I nearly lost them." His eyes caught sight of Kathryn's blood, still staining the grass. He watched the sun a little longer then went back inside and slept, dreaming of his family.

Within two weeks, Kathryn was ready to come home, her recovery amazing everyone and there was never a prouder man who brought his family home and that evening as he stood in the doorway and watched the woman he loved nurse their daughter, he knew that this image was the one he'd remember over all others in his life. It was the image he would hold with him when he closed his eyes for the final time in this life.

Kathryn looked up at him and smiled then called him over and as he sat beside her and put his arm around her, looking from her smiling face to their daughter, he remembered the words of something Kathryn had once been reading on Voyager.

"In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you appear the words 'here begins a new life."