Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17
With problems on a professional level between her and Chakotay and her life feeling totally empty, Kathryn spirals into a deep depression until she feels there is only one way out.

One Short Sleep Past...

by Kat Lady


"I can't name the hour or the day, the week or even the month, when my greatest enemy became my friend, a friend I sought out, eager to have him embrace me, enclose me in his arms and take the pain away. I only know that my need for him crept up on me gradually like an unseen predator and then one day, it suddenly turned, and I stalked him. I played a game of cat and mouse, hide and seek, with my friend, sometimes seeking him, other times running from him, until one day, I grew too tired to run anymore and I surrendered, conceded the game. I sit here now in this cabin on a strange planet far from home and wait for my guest to arrive, my friend who won't leave or let me down, and I'll welcome him in and share myself and my body with him and let him take me, take me on a journey that will have no end or perhaps it will be a journey that will have an end but no beginning. Had I written this even three months ago, I could have been describing Chakotay. Now things are different and my friend, the one I wait for, the one I invite, is death."

Kathryn sat on the rug in front of the large open fireplace as the flames danced around each other, jumping playfully together, and fingered the items she had brought with her. She shivered slightly, the heat from the fire doing nothing to ward off the chill which ran through her body. She stared at the padd beside her a moment, wondering why she'd bothered recording her words but then dismissed the thought, her attention back on the item in her hand.

For a moment her awareness was drawn to the noise of the storm outside, as branches whipped against the windows of the small wooden cabin as if seeking entrance, before her eyes dropped back to the small blade she held, her fingers gently tracing the sharp edge as the light of the fire caught the metal and bounced crazy reflections around the darkened room. She set the knife down on the rug and picked up the bottle of pills she'd replicated earlier, over-riding Tuvok's security codes to obtain the painkillers. She smiled bitterly to herself at her choice of medication.

"Well you want something to take the pain away, don't you, Kathryn?" She laughed to herself briefly and shook her head. Suddenly her face fell and tears spilled from her eyes, pouring down her cheeks.

"Oh God, how did I get like this. Where did it go so wrong?" She dropped the small bottle and wiped at her face, cursing her own weakness. She turned her head towards the window once more.

"You think you're a big, strong storm, don't you? You're nothing compared to the one inside me." She turned away from the window again and dropped her head back against the large armchair behind her. For a few minutes, she was mesmerized by the light of the fire flickering on the ceiling, tracing out patterns against the wood. She closed her eyes then, taking deep breaths and fought for a semblance of control. Slowly, she lifted her head and stared across at the wooden bathtub at the other side of the fireplace, almost laughing at the irony of it, and in seconds her tears had returned as she remembered another time, another place.

Tearing her eyes away from the tub, she stared deeply into the fire and let her mind wander back over the past months, back to when she'd had hope.


Kathryn strolled slowly along the corridor, heading back to her quarters where she knew a long soak in the bath and a good book awaited her, trying to convince herself it was exactly what she wanted. It had been a long and dull day on the bridge, nothing of interest to report from any section of the ship, but the crew welcomed it with open arms. It was peaceful in the almost empty area of space they travelled through now, all of them happy to be finally free of the constant attacks which had plagued them for the previous month.

For the past four or five weeks, Voyager had been constantly bombarded by warring ships, mostly caught in the crossfire but at times deliberately fired upon simply for being there and finding themselves accused of aiding one side against the other. Not one of the factions involved in the battles ever listened to reason and so the Federation ship found itself pounded upon at every opportunity. Finally, they had escaped the war zone, limping off to make vital repairs. Kathryn had received word from B'Elanna only an hour ago that all repairs were now complete and that they were running at peak efficiency once more.

As Voyager's captain keyed in her entry code, she nodded to two crewmembers passing by. As the doors closed behind her, shutting out their idle chatter, she leaned against the wall and allowed herself to slide down to the floor. She closed her eyes a moment, trying to understand the disquiet she felt within herself, the uneasy feeling that surrounded her. She opened her eyes and studied the shadows in her quarters, not needing the lights to show the scene before her.

"God Kathryn, we got away in mostly one piece. No one was killed or even badly hurt. What's wrong with you?" She almost expected the shadows to answer her but they remained silent. Finally she answered her own question. "Because at least when that was going on, you didn't have time to think." She shook her head sadly at her own revelation and let her tears fall. In the silence of her rooms, there was nothing to stop her thinking now and she let it happen.

The crew had been great, including the senior staff, even Chakotay, in not once mentioning how they came to be in the middle of someone else's war. Kathryn hugged her legs as she remembered making the decision to cross the disputed area, known as Boran space, knowing the time it would cut off their journey. They had saved time but she'd also ended up taking her ship into the middle of a battle, one they'd very nearly not come out of. She'd seen Chakotay's face though, how hurt he'd been when she'd once again made her decision and not asked his opinion. She knew he was remembering other times, other mistakes, but she'd pushed that from her mind and ploughed ahead. And now, when it was over, he still hadn't spoken of it and by that very gesture, his silence said more than any words ever could.

Eventually, she pulled herself up from the floor and made her way to her bedroom, peeling off her uniform as she went, not caring where anything fell. Telling herself that a hot bath would sooth her, she ran the water and added her favourite bath oil, the scent of lavender filling the air around her instantly. She slowly slipped her body beneath the water and let the heat caress her, breathing in the calming perfume. She lay back and closed her eyes, willing her mind to wind down and send her thoughts to more pleasant locations. For a while it worked and she revisited her childhood and happier times on Earth a small smile on her face. In the end though, as always happened, those thoughts turned to Chakotay and the brief interlude was over. A thousand memories and images crossed her mind in seconds, bringing with them the deep emotions she constantly tried so hard to suppress.

She sighed deeply and slipped further down into the cooling water, studying her fingertips and seeing the skin 'pruning', telling her she'd stayed in the bath long enough. Pulling herself up, she used drying herself off and cleaning out the tub as a distraction to keep from continuing her train of thought. As she slipped between the cool sheets of her bed though, the subject of her First Officer caught up with her and she gave in. She missed him, not having spoken with him outside of ship's business for weeks now, not sure if he would even want to hear anything she had to say. It had been nearly two months since they'd shared a meal or attended the holodeck together and now, despite the normalcy of their days, he hadn't made a step towards returning to their previous friendship and the fact wasn't lost on her. Kathryn knew the blame for that lay mostly at her own door and that she should be the one to suggest something, that really the ball was in her court. It was up to her to make that first move but she held back and she knew why.

She remembered how she'd felt leading up to the attacks, how her inner walls had been slowly crumbling, her parameters gradually fading from her mind and protocol meaning less and less and it had scared her. The feelings she had for him were powerful beyond anything she'd ever known but up to this she'd been able to hide and control them. Finally of course, they grew stronger as she grew weaker and Kathryn felt out of her depth for the first time in her life. She knew Chakotay had seen her struggle but he'd stood back a little and given her the room she needed to make that final step to him.

Before it ever came to that, Kathryn had been forced to make her almost fatal decision and she shut her eyes tightly now as guilt washed over her. She knew she'd used his feelings for her and the belief he had that she returned them, to push her opinion past him and in the end, that had hurt him the most.

"Oh. my friend, I'm so sorry." She whispered into the darkness of the empty room, knowing she didn't have the courage to speak the words to his face and hating herself for it, for being such a coward. Her guilt continued to consume her, how she'd used Chakotay and in the process nearly gotten them all killed. Eventually her mind exhausted itself and she let sleep claim her, her dreams filled with images of blood and horror, giving her no peace even in slumber.

Over the following weeks, Kathryn continued to stand back from Chakotay, never once having the courage to speak with him about how she felt and he stayed away too, leaving her to her own demons. Their command relationship functioned but outside of it, nothing existed and every crewmember bore witness to the void between them. Chakotay for his part picked up his life and attended every function the holodeck offered, even dating any pretty ensign who took his fancy. Kathryn simply shut herself away, attending to 'out of hours duties' only when absolutely necessary and then only staying long enough to be polite. Her absence was clearly noticed by the crew and B'Elanna finally decided to tackle her old friend about it. Spotting him sitting alone for once in Sandrine's, she made her way over to him and sat, not waiting for an invitation. "Care to tell an old friend what the hell is going on?"

He looked up at her sharply. "Care to mind your own business?" He looked back down into his drink.

"Can't do that. It goes against my nature."

Chakotay looked up at her and shook his head. "B'El, I know you mean well but…"

The Klingon leaned well into his personal space and narrowed her eyes. "Don't give me all that, Chakotay. I want to know what's going on with you and the captain."

Chakotay pulled back. "There's absolutely nothing going on between me and the captain. Now can we change the subject or do I have to leave?"

B'Elanna almost growled at him. "Take one step and I'll break your legs, Sir." Chakotay stared hard at her, his eyes warning her not to go too far but it was lost on the engineer. "Come on, you know I mean well. I though you two were finally finding a way."

Chakotay took a deep swallow of his drink and sat back. "Let me tell you a story then, quite short actually. There once was a time when I stupidly believed she was finally letting go of whatever was holding her back, believed that she returned my feelings in some way. From this vantage point, I know I was seeing what I wanted to believe. She has no feelings for me, certainly not outside of the relationship between Captain and First Officer and even that's in bad shape. Oh she knew how I felt about her and she used that to her own advantage, to get what she wanted."

B'Elanna shook her head sadly. "I don't believe that."

Chakotay finished his drink in one gulp and banged his glass down. The few people left in the bar looked over for a moment then went back to their conversations, knowing to mind their own business. "Well Lieutenant, believe it. She feels nothing for me and that's been proved these last few weeks. Not once has she come near me to say sorry, try and mend what's been broken, not even a kind word outside of business. She ignores me off the bridge, stays away from anywhere I might be, hasn't asked me to share a coffee, which we used to do a lot. I barely even get a 'good morning' any more. She's letting me know exactly where I stand and what my place is and that's fine by me. I'll follow her orders but nothing else exists any more. My opinion on anything isn't needed. Hell, I don't know why she doesn't just fire me and do away with the position of First Officer. She certainly doesn't need one. She makes all the decisions and doesn't ask anyone else what they think."

B'Elanna sat back and was quiet a moment. "Did you ever think that maybe she's afraid to come to you? Maybe she feels bad about everything that happened and how it turned out. Chakotay, she can't be happy with things the way they are. It might just need for you to go to her."

Chakotay stood quickly. "I'm done chasing her around. I did nothing wrong here, B'Elanna. If she feels bad about her decision and how it all turned out, that's not my problem. Besides, she's afraid of nothing." He sat again. "Look, for too long I've stood by and supported her, waited for any crumb she threw my way but now I've finally seen where her loyalties lie. Starfleet and her almighty principles will always come first. She's blinded by her ambition to get us home and nothing else will ever matter to her. Nothing and no one will stand in the way of her achieving that. Well, I'm not going to stand around and wait, hoping that someday she'll feel differently about me. We could be out here for the rest of our lives and I intend to live that life, not stand by and let it slip past me and become a bitter old man someday, wishing I'd done it all differently. Look, you have Tom and now a baby on the way. B'Elanna, can you really deny me the same desires?"

B'Elanna's face clouded over and she slowly shook her head. "No, of course not. It's just… I just hate seeing her throw her own life away. She's very alone and I still think she just needs a little push, and despite all of what you've just said, I believe you still love her."

Chakotay rubbed his hands wearily across his face. "Spirits help me, but I do and that's something I fight every day. In the end though, it's all one sided and because of that, it can't exist. At the end of the day, she has to be responsible for her own life and if that life means standing back from everyone and everything around her, then that's just the way it is. B'Elanna, I can't live her life for her or tell her how to live it. I'd get no thanks for trying and more than likely I'd be told where to get off. She's not a little girl who needs her hand held. If she's so alone, it's by her own choice. Every member of this crew makes the effort to include her in anything that's going on. We've both asked her to join us here for a party or just a drink, shoot some pool even, but she constantly turns us down. Tom, Harry, Neelix, even Tuvok and Seven are blue in the face trying to coax her out, all to no avail. God, even a Vulcan and an ex-Borg have more of a life and more fun than she does."

B''Elanna sighed deeply and nodded slowly. "I know you're right in all you say but… Look, she's the captain and I guess she feels she has to stand back and keep a certain distance. That's the way she was trained. The fact that we're out here changes those rules but she can't adapt. I think she just needs someone to help her see that Starfleet rules can't and don't apply out here. I also think she carries a lot of guilt around with her. I know she'll always feel responsible for stranding us out here and for a time, I thought she'd managed to let go of that but now… Chakotay, this latest incident will only have brought those feelings out again, reinforced them and added to them."

Chakotay kept his head down, his finger tracing patterns on the table. "Maybe she does feel bad about all that's happened recently but there's a part of me that says 'so she damned well should'. She's had plenty of opportunity to come to me and talk about it, tell me how she feels or even say sorry but that's beneath our great captain. Look B'El, I've had enough of having my feelings trampled on, of being used to back her up without being asked my opinion. It's her life and how she lives it is up to her, her choice. Someday, she'll look back on all this and find herself filled with regrets that she let her life slip by her. She's going to be an old and bitter woman one day, totally alone, and she'll suffer a lot of pain for what she let go but I can't change that. The only thing I can do is make sure the same thing doesn't happen to me. I want a wife and kids, a life I can be proud of. She has her goal and I have mine. Easing her guilt is not in my job description." He twirled his empty glass between his hands.

B'Elanna rubbed at her temples. "Maybe it's in the job description of a friend though."

He looked up suddenly. "That's not fair and you know it. I've tried being there for her as a friend but she constantly brings rank into it because she doesn't know how to be any other way. Look, I know she has a lot on her shoulders, that she carries a heavy burden and feels that she has to do that alone, but deep down she knows she can share that same burden, allow us to help her carry the load but she just won't do that, and before you say it, I know it's ingrained with her to be that way but I don't have the energy any more to fight to change that with her. I also find it too hard to be a close friend and always have to hide my real feelings for her. She invites me for dinner, or at least she used to, and I'd always have to check my heart and my feelings at the door. No, B'El. I can't do it anymore. If I want to have any life of my own, I have to stand back now from her and let her get on with it. I need to find my own way and let her go."

B'Elanna had tears in her eyes when he looked at her. "Maybe you're right but…"

Chakotay reached over and covered her hand. "But nothing. I know you mean well but you have to understand that I have feelings too and a life I want to live. She's hurt me too many times now and there's only so much of that I can take. I have to let her go and move on, put her behind me. I know that won't be easy and I guess I'll always love her, that I won't ever be able to change that, but if I want to preserve any part of myself, I have to move forward, not stay locked in a present that will only drag me down. Please B'El, understand how I feel."

The engineer smiled sadly. "I do, old friend. I'm just sorry it has to be this way."

Chakotay smiled sadly too. "Yeah, so am I but that's just the way it is."

Kathryn for her part, turned up for her duty shifts each day, often staying hours longer than she needed to, then returned to her quarters alone each night and shut herself away until the start of her next shift. The crew noticed the change in her, how withdrawn she'd become but no one had the nerve to speak of it. Slowly over the next few weeks, her personality seemed to change and she became even more withdrawn, often appearing indecisive and apathetic. She constantly seemed tired and a feeling of sadness hung around her. When she was presented with a report, she appeared to have trouble concentrating on the words before her and nothing seemed to hold her interest for long. She frequently had to ask someone to repeat themselves and occasionally seemed unsure of herself when giving orders. At times, she would grow irritable, frustrated with a routine task until she eventually passed it to someone else. She spent little time on the bridge, opting instead to spend her shifts locked away in her ready room.

As hard as he tried to shut her out of his thoughts, Chakotay couldn't help but notice the change in Kathryn. Late at night, he'd listen to her move around in her quarters or hear her doors open and close, knowing that she was unable to sleep and was wandering the ship. Her appearance each morning also told him she wasn't sleeping well and he began to notice her losing weight. He knew she'd never been a good sleeper and had always needed to be nagged about her eating habits but now it seemed worse than before. While her uniform was always neat and clean, she seemed to bother less and less with her hair or make-up. On an impulse, he'd checked the records and discovered that she hadn't used the holodeck once in the past four months or so. Of the three planets they'd had contact with, two of them offering shore leave, Kathryn had refused any leave herself, electing to stay aboard the ship.

On a few occasions, Chakotay had felt himself let his guard down and had attempted to speak to her about what he was seeing but she'd quickly changed the subject and made it clear that she wasn't going to talk about anything outside of ship's business. He knew she'd heard about his constant 'dates' with different women and at one time had seen him with one of them when she'd been in Sandrine's with B'Elanna to help the engineer repair a faulty imager while the program was running. Chakotay for his part had become more attentive to this date, while B'Elanna had wanted to throttle him before crawling into the nearest Jeffries tube. Kathryn had simply ignored him and fixed the problem as quickly as possible before leaving without a backwards glance.

A week later, they came into orbit of a planet much like Earth called Ranos, the inhabitants more than happy to trade and inviting the crew to partake of shore leave. Kathryn had re-read the report Tuvok had given her six times before the words made their way to her brain. She knew the crew didn't really need shore leave, having had two leaves only recently, but as they never knew when their next chance would come, Kathryn had agreed to allow some time for them all, spread over four days, while they took on the supplies they needed which they'd been unable to procure on the other worlds they'd been to.

Once arrangements had been made and all business was out of the way, Kathryn had practically fallen back to her quarters where she sat for nearly three hours with the lights off. She felt almost dead, any positive emotions she'd had having deserted her weeks ago. She knew in some part of her mind that she was suffering from a deep depression and vaguely realized that some of the crew were starting to grow suspicious about her recent behaviour. Deep negative feelings filled her, an almost crushing sadness and a growing fear. She was constantly tired, even when she managed to sleep a little, and even then, her mind was filled with terrible nightmares, dead crewmembers screaming at her for not getting them home, for leaving them behind and killing them. Hunger became something unknown to her and she only ate enough to keep her going.

In recent days, she had begun to doubt her own ability more and more and felt anxious all the time. She struggled to concentrate on the simplest things and making even the smallest decision was becoming more difficult. She found herself each evening going back over her logs and old reports she had filed, doubting every decision she'd ever made, her guilt building to a towering height inside her as she recalled crewmembers who had been lost under her command. What hopes she'd ever held for the future deserted her completely and what little feelings of control she felt she still had over anything, left her. She found it more difficult to think straight and getting her crew home, the one dream she had harboured, seemed less important now as she doubted her own ability to even get to the bridge each morning. She knew she'd lost interest in everything around her, even her own appearance and she'd long since given up keeping a personal log. During the past few days, other feelings had started within her, a deep fear of losing all control, of 'going crazy' or even harming someone. She doubted if she could so much as replicate a cup of coffee as her self-confidence and self-esteem plummeted. All she was left with now was overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred with not a shred of hope for the future. In her mind, as her pain consumed her, she knew only one thing. What she felt now would only continue. It would never get better and she would always feel this way. With that thought came another. It would only get worse.

Early next morning, Kathryn closed herself in her ready room and went over all the ship's reports on the supplies they needed. There was only one item the Prefect of Ranos couldn't offer but Seven had located a source of the dilithium they needed on a small moon about two hours away. She knew they'd have to send an away team on the Delta Flyer to mine it, Voyager needing to stay in orbit of Ranos until the last of the supplies were on board.

From out of nowhere, sparks of an idea flickered in Kathryn's head, lighting the darkness that shrouded her mind. At first she pushed the thought aside, shocked at herself, before slowly realizing that it wasn't so alien to her at all. The thought returned and grew until she acknowledged it and as it took hold, she finally accepted it then gained an energy she hadn't had in a long time as she researched and planned. Within an hour, she knew what her future held. With a decision made, a semblance of peace and relief came with it. Suddenly a small light shone in the dark cave in which her mind had lived for the past months and she closed her eyes, smiling sadly to herself. It was the only way.

Chakotay reported to his captain's ready room when summoned and stood to attention. He risked a glance at her and noticed that once again, she'd simply pulled her hair back casually. While it was clean and tidy, it lacked her usual care and attention and he found himself frowning. Her voice brought him back to attention.

"Commander, Seven has located a source of dilithium not far from here. It's on a small moon owned by the Ranoseans and they have given us permission to mine it. I want you to take someone with you and get what we need. Voyager must remain in orbit of the planet until all the supplies are aboard so take the Flyer." She hadn't looked up at him once and he shook his head slightly.

"All right, Captain. B'Elanna would be best for the job."

She cut him off. "Right. Take B'Elanna and get going." Chakotay just sighed and nodded. "Dismissed." He nodded and just as turned to walk to the door, her voice stopped him. "Chakotay, thank you." She met his eyes briefly then dropped them again. Something about her words stirred something inside him, setting off an alarm bell and he went to speak but just then Tuvok interrupted with a hail.

"Captain, I have the Prefect of Ranos wishing to speak with you." Kathryn barely met Chakotay's eyes, giving him a small smile then turned to the console on her desk, taking the call. Chakotay stood still for a few seconds then left.

Kathryn smiled softly at the alien face that filled the view screen of her console. It still amazed her how like the Talaxians these people were, a source of great wonder to Neelix who spent as much time as possible on the surface, feeling a contentment of home he hadn't experienced in years.

"Captain Janeway, I wanted to report that all the supplies will be onboard by this evening. I understand some of your crew are taking leave until tomorrow morning?"

Kathryn nodded. "If that's still all right with you."

He smiled in return and held up his hand. "You are all welcome as long as you like. You have been more than generous in your trading with us."

Kathryn bowed her head slightly. "It's our pleasure. Actually, Prefect, I have a small favour to ask of you." The pale skinned man merely nodded. "I was thinking of taking a little leave myself but I'd prefer somewhere… Let's just say somewhere out of the way, quiet and private."

He smiled and nodded his understanding. "I understand only too well, Captain. The strains of command can take their toll." He had no idea how accurate his words were. "I will arrange something for you immediately. If you could perhaps beam down in about two hours?" Kathryn thought a moment. "Captain, I wouldn't leave it any later." She frowned at him now. "Oh, nothing to worry about. It is why I was calling you actually. We've picked up a surface storm on our sensors which probably won't show much on yours but they are quite common here at this time of year. I needed to let you know that during these storms, your sensors and communications will be affected. Your transporters won't work either but I assure you there is no danger. I just wanted to let you know of this. These storms are electrical in nature. Even our own communications are disrupted during them. They never last for more than twelve to fourteen hours."

Kathryn digested this information, fitting it in with her plans. She thought quickly and smiled. "Prefect, that will be fine. I'll beam down in two hours. Thank you again for all your kindness." She received another smile and a courteous nod before he broke the communication.

Kathryn walked around her desk and sat down slowly. She closed her eyes a moment as she struggled to deal with the decision she'd made and was suddenly afraid as the enormity of it hit her, but this fear was easier to deal with than the pain and she smiled to herself sadly as she thought that at least it would only be temporary. Once she'd established things in her head, she rose shakily and made her way to the door. She paused briefly and looked around the room, a million memories, some good, others bad, filled her mind and played themselves out like a hurried slide show. Shaking her head sadly, she ordered the lights out and left.

She returned to her quarters and stuffed a few items into a bag, constantly looking around her, almost as if someone might see her. She went over to her replicator and stopped a moment, taking a deep breath before setting herself to her task. Using codes only she knew and bypassing Tuvok's security codes, she quickly got what she wanted. She stood a moment and studied the items, feeling a faint wave of dizziness pass over her at what she was contemplating but she pushed any doubts aside and walked back into her bedroom, adding the new items to the ones already in her bag. As she had done in her ready room, she stopped and studied the rooms which had housed her for many years but they held fewer memories than her office had. She remembered dinners with Chakotay, how they'd laughed together over the antics of some of the crew or an incident on shore leave. And then she remembered the other times, the fights they'd had, how she'd pushed him away so many times and then seen the pain and hurt on his face which she'd put there. Her own pain rose up inside her again and in that moment, she knew she was making the right decision. Picking up her bag, she took a last look around and left her quarters for the last time.

Kathryn approached her Chief of Security, her face set and calmly informed him that she was going down to the surface for the night, needing some time to herself. "You lot are always badgering me to take some leave. Well, now I am. The Prefect has arranged a room for me for the night and I have a good book. I intend to soak in a hot bath, have a good read and a peaceful night's sleep." She smiled her best but saw that Tuvok was puzzled.

"Captain, when did you decide this? I would strongly suggest that I check out…"

Kathryn held up her hand. "Tuvok, you've already checked every nook and cranny on that planet before the others went down. I'll be quite safe."

The Vulcan still had more to say. "Captain, I would ask you to at least wait until Commander Chakotay returns." If he saw any reaction from his captain, he didn't let on.

She lowered her head a moment and her mask was in place when she looked up. "Tuvok, the commander will be back in no time. The Prefect, however, has informed me of a surface storm which is due." She handed him a padd. "The details are all on this. I'm going to beam down before it arrives." She watched him scan through the information.

"Captain, this is… I should have been informed of this immediately. I really must object to crewmembers, in particular the captain, being out of communication with the ship like this. I suggest we inform the crew already on the surface and have them beam back immediately."

Kathryn just rolled her eyes. "Tuvok, they're fine where they are and I'll be fine too. Now the Commander and Lieutenant Torres will be back shortly. In the meantime, I should like to take my leave and get some peace and quiet. That will be all." She turned away but he followed her to the lift.

"Captain, I really must…"

Kathryn sighed deeply, keeping her voice low. "Tuvok, I need the break, you know that. If I don't go down now, I won't get there at all. You can't think that the Ranoseans conjured up a storm, just knowing that I'd go down there. If anyone was going to try anything, they'd have already taken advantage of us when half the crew was down there. At present, I believe there are only about ten people still on leave." She paused a moment. "Look Tuvok, I know you're only doing your job and taking your duties seriously but I'll be fine. I just need some time to myself, recharge my batteries." She looked up at him and met his eyes. She couldn't read his face but eventually he nodded.

"All right, Captain, but I must tell you I have misgivings about this. I wish you would wait until the Commander returns." Kathryn went to reiterate her earlier point about the storm but he interrupted her. "However, as your mind is made up, there is very little I can do." He studied her closely, making her uncomfortable and she lowered her eyes.

"I appreciate your concern, Tuvok. Really, I do. I'll call you when I get there if the storm hasn't arrived. Either way, I'll be back in the morning."

Finally she looked up and saw actual concern on his face. "Captain, are you all right?"

She smiled softly. "Just tired, Tuvok. Hence the break." He didn't seem convinced and she moved quickly to the lift to escape his scrutiny. As she entered and turned, she cast a last look around the bridge. Only when the doors closed, did she allow a few tears to escape her eyes.


Chakotay leaned back in his seat on the Flyer and stretched. B'Elanna looked over at him and laughed. "Getting too old for all this work, old man?"

He shot her a glare wrapped in a smile. "Watch it, Torres. I'm still your Commanding Officer."

She feigned horror. "Oh, yes, Sir. Certainly, Sir." They laughed together and then were quiet. Finally, B'Elanna broke the silence. "Chakotay, I know you won't want to hear this but…" She looked towards him and saw that he knew what she was going to speak about. "I'm really worried about her."

He sighed deeply and turned around in his seat. "I know you are and to be honest, so am I." He shook his head. "I can't stop thinking about it." He saw her puzzled look and went on, telling her about the scene in Kathryn's ready room just before he left. "There was something… I can't tie it down but there something about her." He twisted his fingers together. "You know what I mean when I say that when you love someone…" He looked into the Klingon's face and smiled shyly. "Yeah, I still love the damn woman. Anyway, when you love someone you develop a kind of sixth sense about them. Do you know what I mean?"

B'Elanna smiled and made a slight course adjustment.

"I can read Tom Paris like a book, I know that. If there's even the slightest thing about him that's out of sync, I see it."

Chakotay smiled, actually pitying the young pilot, then grew serious again. "There was just something about the way she said it. I mean she hasn't spoken to me outside of ship's business for weeks, months even. Why suddenly now?"

B'Elanna shrugged. "Maybe it's her way of breaking the ice."

Chakotay thought about that but shook his head. "No, it was more than that. There's something more going on with her. I know she's been very withdrawn lately, her mind not really on the job and even the Doctor questioned me about her the other day, said he hadn't seen her in a few weeks. I mean I know she keeps to herself but…"

B'Elanna swung round in her chair, her pregnancy clearly showing. "Withdrawn? Chakotay, are we talking about the same woman here?" Chakotay stared at her, surprised at her raised voice. "That woman has been practically a recluse for the past I don't know how long. She looks like hell, she's tired and half starved. You constantly have to repeat things to her and if you so much as try and ask if she's all right you get the stock answer of 'dismissed'. She's anxious, fidgety and indecisive. She's no interest in anything anymore or anyone for that matter and the crew sees it. She's depressed, has no confidence in or about herself and getting home just doesn't seem to matter anymore. I could go on all night."

Chakotay sat back in his chair and let his mind skim through images of his captain over the past weeks. They were scenes he knew but he hadn't really looked at them. "B'El, what are you saying? I agree that she's seemed down whenever I saw her, which hasn't been that much. I've tended to keep out of her way as much as I can. You think she's depressed enough that she needs to see the Doctor?" He was worried now. B'Elanna dropped her eyes for a moment, unable to meet his. "B'Elanna?"

She looked up slowly. "Yeah, I think she's that depressed. Maybe more."

She looked away quickly but Chakotay leaned over and grabbed her arm. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

She pulled her arm back from his grip. "I don't know what I mean."

Chakotay wasn't going to let it go though. "You started this so spit it out."

She looked back at him. "I just think she needs help. I think she's seriously depressed. Ever since…" She didn't say any more.

Chakotay continued for her. "Ever since Boran space. B'Elanna, I know what I said about all that, what happened between her and me, but as regards the ship… She made a mistake but we came through it."

The engineer shook her head. "Chakotay, no one blames her for that. It's in the past. I mean since then, from the time we got out of it. You said yourself she pulled right back from you. I don't know. I think she believes she made a big mistake and now she's taking all the blame and guilt that goes with it and heaping it upon herself. She's probably questioning every decision she ever made, if I know her. What I do know is I can't stand to see her so unhappy, and she is. I think she's in a lot of pain." She shook her head again, now at a loss for what more to say.

Chakotay lowered his head. "I've been no help to her. Oh, I tried a few times but she always just backed off." He sighed deeply and turned back to the view screen, as if an answer might suddenly appear before him. He smiled softly as he made out Voyager in the distance. "Well, we're home now." He looked sadly over at his friend. "I'll talk to her, try at least. I'll have a word with the Doc even."

B'Elanna smiled and nodded. "I do think she needs that." She reached out and took his hand. "It'll be all right."

He just nodded, turning his attention to the controls and hailed the ship.

Kathryn stood in the centre of the small cabin the Ranoseans had provided for her and looked around. It was warm and cosy, a log fire burning in the grate. She shivered slightly as she listened to the storm outside, building up by the minute. She'd only just managed to contact Tuvok and assure him that she was fine and had made it to the surface safely before communications had been lost. The Prefect had then beamed her to her home for the night, using their own surface transporters.

She made her way to the small kitchen area and made herself a cup of strong tea, having brought the leaves with her, a blend Chakotay had introduced her to. She took her cup over to the small coffee table and stared at the side of the fireplace. She almost cried when she saw the wooden bathtub sitting there. She squeezed her eyes closed until she felt it safe to open them again. Eventually she sat and pulled out the contents of her bag, the tea having been on top. Knowing there was no one around, she didn't bother pulling the curtains and quickly changed out of her uniform into shorts and a tee shirt then slipped a robe on over them, a pair of slippers on her feet. Discarding her uniform and the now empty bag, she picked up the other items she'd brought and took her tea over to the fire and sat on the rug, her back to a large armchair.

Chakotay reported to the bridge first, once he had taken care of his cargo of dilithium. He hadn't expected to see Kathryn on the bridge and made for her ready room.

Tuvok called his attention. "Commander, if I could have a word with you in your office please."

Chakotay frowned and nodded. Once inside he stood and waited for the doors to close. "Tuvok, I need to report to the captain. Can you make this quick?" Something on the Security Officer's face bothered him.

"Sir, I have to inform you that the captain is not on board."

Chakotay stepped forward. "Where is she then? Was she needed on the surface?"

Tuvok shook his head. "She informed me about two hours ago that she was taking shore leave and would be back in the morning."

Chakotay raised his eyebrows, doing a good imitation of Tuvok. "Excuse me? Kathryn took leave without a phaser pointed at her or an all-out threatened mutiny? Are we speaking of the same captain here?" Tuvok didn't laugh and Chakotay wouldn't have expected it. The silence that followed unnerved him though. "OK, Tuvok, out with it. You're scaring me. That's the nearest I've ever seen to a worried look on your face."

Tuvok didn't blink. "She simply informed me that she needed a 'break' and was taking the night on the surface and had spoken with the Prefect who was arranging accommodation for her. I advised her to wait until you returned but there was the storm…"

Chakotay shook his head and half laughed. "You're losing me now."

Tuvok continued. "There is a surface storm on the planet, an electrical storm. The Prefect called to advise us of it. It has rendered all communications, sensors and transporters useless. The captain wanted to beam down before the storm moved in and called me from the surface to let me know she had arrived safely. There were still crewmembers on the planet who had already applied for permission to stay the night. This storm is only expected to last approximately twelve to fourteen hours. They are apparently quite common here at this time of year. I have run scans with what sensors we do have and it checks out. It is a natural phenomenon."

Chakotay shook his head. "You had thought it wasn't?"

Tuvok merely shrugged. "It is my duty to check out everything."

Chakotay actually smiled and turned to look out the view port. "So you're happy with the storm, the captain arrived safely and the remaining crew on leave are fine. I don't see the problem. We just wait it out. I'll wait until the morning to see the captain when she arrives back. I need to speak with her." He hesitated and thought a moment before speaking. "Tuvok, have you noticed her… Well, lately she's been…"

He turned back and saw that Tuvok had moved towards him. "That is what I wanted to speak to you about, Commander. It's not the storm which worries me. The captain taking leave at this time does however, which ties in with what I believe you're going to say."

Chakotay drew in a deep breath. "Tuvok, you're scaring me again. Just what's bothering you?"

The Vulcan looked down at the floor a moment. "In your language, in human terms, I'd call it a hunch."

Chakotay smiled softly. "I didn't think you believed in hunches."

Tuvok merely shrugged again. "Where the captain is concerned, I've learned to depend on many things in order to second guess her." Chakotay nodded his understanding. He knew that feeling well. "It's something about her timing, even her manner. She refused to wait for your return, despite the fact that it would leave both of you off the ship. She beamed down just before the storm, knowing it would last until morning, refusing to call the others back, which I can accept. I contacted them and informed them by the way and they all returned to the ship just before the storm hit. The captain insisted on taking this leave, appeared extremely anxious to get away when I questioned her, nervous almost. She knew well in advance about the storm moving in, from the time she had spoken to the Prefect." Chakotay nodded, a deep frown on his face. He remembered the call coming in. "She knew about the storm long before I did, delayed telling me about it until she was ready to leave. We now have no way to contact her." Chakotay moved around his desk but didn't sit. Tuvok went on. "Another thing bothers me. She claimed she needed some time alone. That is not leave for her when all she has done of late is spend all her time off duty on her own over the past months."

Chakotay played with a padd on the desk, his mind racing. "All right. Off the record here." He looked up and saw the Vulcan nod his agreement. "B'Elanna thinks Kathryn is depressed, depressed enough to need medical help. I'm beginning to agree with her."

Tuvok barely nodded. "I would concur with that. Even since we escaped the Boran area of space, she has become withdrawn and, as you say, depressed. She is not herself. She has shut herself away and appears constantly tired. Her attention is not what it was, her concentration, her…"

Chakotay held up his hand. "I know, Tuvok. I've seen it but… Let's just say B'Elanna pointed it out more clearly to me earlier. You think I should go down after her and speak with her?"

Tuvok seemed to think a moment. "That would be my recommendation. In as much as I worry, I am very concerned about the captain at this moment. Unfortunately, we cannot transport through the storm and as I've stated, communications are down."

Chakotay came out from behind his desk and sat on the edge of it. "You really are worried about her, aren't you? I don't know. I'm starting to panic now myself. Why didn't I look more closely earlier?" He rubbed a hand over his face. "Could I get a shuttle down there?"

Tuvok considered this. "You might get down but I doubt you would be able to return to the ship until morning. The storm is increasing in intensity. You would also be stranded there. However, at least someone would be with her."

Chakotay's head snapped up. "You don't think she should be alone? God Tuvok, you're starting to sound like B'Elanna." His mind raced.

"Commander, I'm merely saying that I don't think it's good for her to be alone, especially in her state of mind. Strange things happen when you're alone like that in the night and you feel depressed. The ghosts of the past tend to visit, accusing you of things your guilt conjures up. The dark side of the mind eclipses the light."

Chakotay ran his hands through his hair, his mind made up now. "Right, I'll take the Flyer."

Tuvok coughed slightly. "Might I suggest you take Mr. Paris with you."

Chakotay almost laughed. "You don't trust me with a shuttle, do you?"

Tuvok shook his head. "I just believe it would be more prudent if he were to go with you. Besides, you know the protocol. All away teams must be comprised of two members."

Chakotay nodded. "OK, let's go." He was out the door with Tuvok at his heels before the words were out of his mouth.

Kathryn came back to the present from her mind's wanderings and forced herself to concentrate on what she had to do. First, she opened the bottle of vodka she'd brought with her and put it down beside her. She then opened the bottle of pills, separating two from the rest and just stared at them a moment. She'd done her research well, intending for this to work. She knew that most drugs taken in excess caused vomiting and in order to avoid that, she'd learned that by taking one or two anti-histamine tablets first, the kind used for travel sickness or hay fever, she could avoid this. She knew this needed to be done on an empty stomach and laughed slightly, thinking that her stomach was usually like that these days. She also learned that only some of the tablets should be taken whole, the rest crushed or dissolved so they worked in the right way. Taking alcohol with them aided the dissolving process. She'd even worked out the exact number of painkilling tablets to take, knowing too many could also cause vomiting, even with the anti-histamines. She laughed to herself again. "God, Kathryn, ever the scientist."

She stood slowly and made her way to the small kitchen where she crushed the tablets and fetched a glass for herself. On her way back to her place at the fire, she set the water running for the bath and stood staring at it for a moment, before dragging her mind back to the present. She sat once more and studied the tablets and powder she now had and then without further thought, swallowed the lot, washing it down with neat vodka. She resisted the impulse to gag on the taste, forcing herself to swallow the mix which she prayed would bring oblivion. She sniffed loudly and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, knowing she had to get this right, that if she didn't, she'd have liver and kidney failure to deal with, possibly internal bleeding, followed by a slow and painful death, most likely over a two week period, despite what modern medicine could do.

She sat quietly for some time, staring at a few pills she had dropped on the rug and debated taking them too but instead found herself turning back to the fire, watching the flames die down and almost added another log. "You won't need it, you stupid fool." Tears poured from her eyes and she rubbed at them angrily. She was starting to feel the effects of the vodka and the pills and stood slowly, unsteady on her feet. She slipped out of her robe and kicked off her slippers, then bent down and grabbed the bottle. She refilled her glass and picked up the small knife and shakily made her way to the tub. It was almost full now and she turned off the flow of water. She drank deeply again and once more refilled her glass then placed the bottle at her feet. Sitting her drink on the small table beside the tub, she climbed into the water, the temperature not too hot and sank down, a wave of nausea and dizziness passing over her.

Kathryn looked down at her body in the water and squeezed her eyes closed a moment to clear her vision. It felt strange to be wearing clothing in the bath but somewhere in her mind, she knew she didn't want to be found naked when she was dead. Some small part of her still cared about that. She reached to the side and took another deep swallow of her drink, some of the liquid spilling down her chin. She set the glass back and turned her attention to the small blade she held and studied it for several minutes as she blinked back her tears. Taking the pills and the drink hadn't been too bad but she hesitated now, knowing this bit would cause her pain.

"Nothing compared to what's inside." She started crying again and forced herself to control her emotions for just a few more minutes. "Come on. You can do this. There's no other way. You have to be sure." As if watching someone else, hands not her own, she saw the blade cut across her wrist, a thin red line at first and then a flow of blood. Before she could change her mind, she placed the knife in the hand of the wrist she'd just cut and winced as she drew it across her other wrist and watched the process repeat itself. She studied the blood drip from the cuts for a few seconds then threw the knife over the side of the tub. She felt her head fall to the side and caught herself, forcing her wrists below the water. She hissed in pain as the water covered the cuts and bit her lip. She now became fascinated as she watched the blood flow more quickly, aided by the water as it turned a shade of light pink then darker.

She quickly grew used to the stinging pain in her wrists as the water continued to darken with her blood, making odd patterns. She watched them as a strange sound filled her ears and she felt her eyelids begin to droop. She dropped her head back against the tub and stared at the ceiling, watching the light of the fire play across it, strange shapes chasing each other.

"No going back now." She smiled sadly to herself and for a few brief seconds, she panicked, asking herself what the hell she'd just done but she forced the thoughts from her mind, finding it easier now to just go with the sleepiness she felt coming over her. She knew there was no way to call for help anyway even if she'd wanted to and that had been one of the reasons she'd asked for somewhere out of the way, in case she had changed her mind or backed out of her own deal with herself. The sound in her ears grew louder, almost a buzzing noise and she felt sick but made herself swallow, determined to keep the tablets inside her. She moved her head to the side, another strong wave of dizziness taking her, as her head rolled, taking control from her. She forced her eyes open and let them wander around the room one last time, smiling at the cosy glow the fire created.

"There are worse places, worse ways." Her speech was slurred and she heard it. She struggled to understand how she felt, thinking of times when she'd been drunk and finding this not unlike those times. She let her head roll back again, strange thoughts coming to her as she felt what strength she had leave her body. "Wonder if Daddy will come, be him this time." Her thoughts began scattering and different images came to her, scenes from her childhood, half-forgotten memories, times onboard Voyager. "When it was good." She couldn't understand her own words now but she heard them in her head. "Chakotay, so sorry. My friend, sorry. Never told you. Do love you." She found she could only think now, her words coming out only as a slight whisper.

The room seemed darker now. "The fire going out. Maybe me." She laughed to herself, a faint sound like a hum passing her lips. "Maybe me going out." She dropped her head back and closed her eyes. "No more pain." As her blood flowed from her veins and the pills took hold heralding the end, Kathryn felt a peace descend over her. She lay still now, the only movement a few stray tears which rolled slowly down her face, dropping into the mix of blood and water. As her world closed in around her, Kathryn Janeway slipped away without even being conscious of it.


Tom kept glancing over at his First Officer as they made their way to the surface of Ranos. They were through the worst of it, just below the storm now and things were a lot calmer but they both saw the storm grow in intensity above them. They both nursed some bumps and bruises but were grateful that at least the Flyer had been undamaged. Chakotay had made brief contact with the Prefect, the communication full of static but had managed to obtain the co-ordinates for the cabin which Kathryn had been assigned.

Chakotay had only spoken to Tom briefly before they left Voyager, simply telling him that they needed to go down to the planet and that it would most likely be a pretty rough ride. Tom, always one up for a challenge, had simply nodded. For once, he remained silent as they set off, knowing that his First Officer would speak when he was ready. He already suspected enough about the reason for the dash to the planet's surface, B'Elanna having spoken with him and Tom had only ever seen the large man beside him this upset when their captain was involved. When Chakotay made no mention of Kathryn, Tom finally broke the silence. "Look, Chakotay, I'm sure she's fine."

He received a glare in return, which softened immediately. "Tom, I'm sorry. You've every right to know about this." He told the young pilot about his conversation with first B'Elanna and then Tuvok. "I'm sure you've noticed her lately."

He looked across the cockpit and saw Tom nod sadly. "I tried to ask once or twice myself but she made it clear that I should stick to business." He hesitated a moment. "I've never seen her this down before."

Chakotay nodded sadly. "I wasn't paying enough attention to her, too busy licking my own wounds, trying to shut her out and move on." Suddenly he slammed his hand against a console. "Damn that woman. I can't ever get away from her, everywhere I turn." He looked up, guilt written on his face. "Tom, I'm sorry. I don't mean that the way it sounds. I'm just worried about her." Tom reached over and patted the older man's arm, trying to reassure him but it had no effect. Chakotay looked up, his face pained. "You don't think she'd try something? Try to…?"

His eyes pleaded and Tom forced his lie out. "Chakotay, she's strong. I'm sure she's fine, just needed some time to herself."

Chakotay saw through it. "Tom, she WAS strong but not anymore. She's had too much time to herself, that's the problem and my fault." Tom went to answer, to try again to reassure him but just then some turbulence demanded his attention. Within another five minutes, they saw the cabin and landed. As they climbed out, they looked up at the ever-darkening sky and both men shivered, heavy rain now falling.

Tom stated the obvious. "We won't be going back up through that." He looked to Chakotay who nodded agreement. They looked towards the small cabin, a bare flickering of light behind the windows.

Chakotay hesitated a moment. "She's going to be pretty mad. Oh, to hell with it. I'd rather know she's all right." Tom nodded and together they pushed against the strong wind and rain and made for the door. They knocked several times but received no reply.

Tom shouted above the noise of the storm. "Think we should let ourselves in? We can't stay out here in this." His words were cut off as Chakotay shouldered the door in, having failed to turn the old-fashioned handle. Tom shrugged. "Guess that's my answer." He followed Chakotay in.

It took a minute for their eyes to adjust as they stung from the strong wind and lashing rain. They both turned and looked around the small room, trying to see through the shadows, unable to find any lights and knowing there was no computer here for them to ask.

Chakotay glanced towards the empty bed, barely able to see it in the gloom and shook his head. "Where could she be? This is the right place." He turned slowly, his back to the fire, his body blocking Tom's view of the far side of the fireplace. They both still shivered. "Tom, either replicate some tea or heat water. We need something warm. I'll add logs to the fire. It's nearly out and it'll at least add some light." Tom wore a puzzled expression that matched his First Officer's but nodded and went to the kitchen area, just enough light to see. Chakotay wandered towards the fire, shaking his head. As he stepped onto the rug, he looked down, mindful for a minute of his mucky shoes when something caught his eye, the light a little better nearer the fire. He bent down and studied what had drawn his attention. Several small tablets lay on the dark rug and he picked them up, studying them. One was yellow, the others white. He looked to his right and saw Kathryn's robe and slippers beside the chair, recognizing them immediately. Shaking his head, a deep fear growing in him now, he looked to his left and froze.

Chakotay stood and moved slowly to where Kathryn lay in the wooden bathtub. He saw her head back and her eyes closed. "Spirits, be asleep. Please just be asleep." His eyes flickered to the left and he saw the empty glass on the small table. He then looked down and saw the half empty bottle of vodka at the side of the tub and beside it, the small knife on the floor. Just one step more took him to the side of the bath as he forced himself to look down at her and saw the dark coloured water. Immediately he knelt and plunged his hands into the water, grabbing for her wrists and pulling them clear. Blood continued to ooze from the slashes there and he heard his voice as if from far away. "NO…KATHRYN…"

Tom had just picked up some cups and dropped them when he heard Chakotay shout. He ran to the other side of the room, knowing instantly that something was dreadfully wrong. "Chakotay? What is it?" He stopped dead at the sight that met him.

Chakotay was pulling Kathryn from the bath, her shorts and tee shirt badly stained from the blood in the water. "Tom, help me."

Tom moved immediately and ran to the other side, helping to lift his unconscious captain. When they were clear of the tub, he stood back, his training kicking in. He saw that Chakotay was in a panic, not knowing what to do. "Chakotay, hold her a minute. Listen to me now." Chakotay barely nodded, his eyes on Kathryn's pale face, her head fallen back.

Tom raced to the other side of the room and grabbed blankets and pillowcases off the bed. He quickly placed one of the blankets on the table and shouted to Chakotay. "Put her here quickly. Lie her here." Chakotay needed someone to give the orders at that moment and meekly obeyed. Tom quickly covered his captain with the remaining blankets and grabbed Chakotay's hands, pushing the pillowcases at him. "Tie these tightly around her wrists. I need to get the tricorder and med kit from the Flyer. Chakotay, come on now."

The big man slowly looked up and nodded. "Right. Sorry. Tie them." His own training pushed its way in and he snapped out of it. He pulled Kathryn's arms free of the blankets and folded the pillowcases, tying them as tightly as he could over the cuts there. He vaguely felt the cold wind hit him from the open door and looked down at the woman before him. "Oh Kathryn, what have you done? Why? Oh Spirits, Kathryn." He reached down and stroked her cheek, feeling the coolness of her skin. Just then Tom ran back in and slammed the door, pulling a heavy chair against it to keep it closed from where they'd broken the lock. He slammed his fist against a panel he saw beside the door and light flooded the room. "Found the light." He said it to have something to say. He ran back to the table and quickly scanned his unconscious captain as Chakotay watched his face closely.

"She's bad, isn't she?" He looked behind him a moment and ran back to the fire, picking up the tablets he'd dropped there and came back to Tom, handing him the pills. "I found them on the rug and there's a bottle of something, some alcohol, I think." Tom met Chakotay's eyes, a fear and dread in them.

Chakotay just groaned and dropped his head. "No, please. Tom, do something." He looked back up and saw the young pilot studying his tricorder readings.

Tom raised his head, his eyes showing the working of his mind. "Right. First. You tied her wrists tightly?" Chakotay nodded as Tom checked. A small amount of blood was showing through the bindings but not enough to worry the pilot and part time medic at the moment. "Help me get her on her side. If she vomits now, she'll choke although I don't think she will. She made sure of that." He looked up to Chakotay's worried face. "I'll explain later." They quickly turned Kathryn, her small body rolling easily. "Chakotay, I need your help here and it's not going to be pretty." Chakotay merely nodded. "I need you to get water. I need several full containers plus an empty one. I need to get something else from the Flyer. I'll be right back." Chakotay moved quickly and followed the orders he'd been given. When he got back with the water, Tom had returned and held some tubing and what looked like a cone shape.

Tom wasted no time in explaining. "Right, Chakotay. I need you to just follow me and ask no questions. Her readings show that she's swallowed quite a number of tablets as well as the alcohol. Time is our enemy here. We've nothing to work with and no one to contact." He saw the raw pain on the other man's face and grabbed his arm. "Chakotay, stay with me here. We're going to have to try and wash the tablets out of her. As I say, it won't be pretty but we've no choice. If I try and make her sick, it'll just block her airway and I've nothing to use for suction to clear it. I'm going to have to get this tube into her stomach and pump it out. Just follow me. OK?" Chakotay meekly nodded.

Neither man knew how much time passed as they worked. Chakotay helped Tom force the tubing he had down Kathryn's throat and into her stomach, the pilot drawing on all his training to ensure the tube ended up in the right place. He pushed his emotions aside as they worked and saw that Tom was trying to do the same thing. They worked together pouring water into the funnel Tom had made and attached to the tube then watched as the contents of Kathryn's stomach were slowly washed out. Occasionally, she murmured and attempted to fight the tube in her throat, gagging reflexively on it. Chakotay was almost submissive as he followed Tom's orders but eventually the young pilot seemed happy that they'd done as much as they could. He then quietly set about treating the cuts on Kathryn's wrists, cleaning them and running the small dermal regenerator over them.

"These won't heal too well but I've managed to stop the bleeding." He looked up at the weary face of his Commanding Officer. "There's too much alcohol in her bloodstream and I've nothing here to counteract it. We've gotten as much of the tablets as we can out of her stomach but some will have been absorbed."

Chakotay wiped at the tears he wasn't ashamed to let fall. "Will she be all right?"

Tom lowered his head a moment. "I've done all I can. She needs the Doc." He stopped as Kathryn murmured again and tried to move. Chakotay grabbed her before she fell from the table and whispered to her softly and somehow it seemed to soothe her as she became quiet again.

Chakotay looked back at Tom. "Shouldn't we try and get water into her, get her to drink as much as possible? Make her move around? Get her to walk?"

Tom shook his head quickly. "That's the worst thing you can do. For starters, she'd choke on it the way she is but most importantly, it would only wash out the salt in her body. That causes the cells to fail, something called the 'osmotic balance' is thrown out. There have been cases where people died from drinking too much water. They actually overdosed on it. That's why they give you salt tablets on certain away missions where there's a lot of heat and you need to drink a lot. As to walking or moving around. That will only speed up absorption of the tablets." Chakotay nodded, something coming into his mind from an old lecture at Starfleet.

Tom looked at the distraught man in front of him. "Chakotay, let's pull the bed over to the fire and get her onto it. We can build up the fire and keep her warm. We can watch her there." Chakotay nodded and moved into action, needing something to do. Finally they got her settled, having removed her stained clothing and wrapped a sheet around her. They then sat beside her, keeping her lying on her side in case she vomited and making sure her wrists were turned up and nothing was lying against the wounds.

Chakotay sat with Tom in silence for a long time just watching her, listening to her breathing, terrified it would stop. He surprised the young man when he finally spoke. "She's not out of the woods yet, is she?"

He looked up into the pale blue eyes as Tom shook his head. "I'll be honest with you, Chakotay." He drew in a deep breath. "First off, she meant this. I know that hurts a lot but…"

Chakotay shook his head sadly. "You said something earlier about her making sure of something."

Tom nodded. "I checked those pills with the tricorder. She took an overdose of painkillers which a lot of people in this situation will do. It's a popular choice." His eyes apologized for his bluntness but he saw that Chakotay understood and knew that he preferred the truth. "In a lot of cases, pills make you vomit. What few people know but what the captain obviously found out, probably by researching it, is that taking anti-histamines alongside the other pills, stops that vomiting, basically ensuring the tablets stay down." Chakotay shook his head as Tom went on. "She also crushed some of the tablets. I saw some powder and a spoon in the kitchen and drank while taking them. The scans show that the alcohol has been in her system the same length of time as the tablets. Drink helps absorb the pills and crushing some of them helps them work one lot after the other. A continuous flow if you like." Tom licked his lips and shook his head. "Chakotay, I'm sorry, but she meant this. She planned it down to the last detail and she knew exactly what she was doing. She really checked her facts out. Cutting her wrists was… I don't know. An insurance policy. And then to be in the water speeding up the bleeding. Thankfully her research didn't stretch that far." Tom saw Chakotay's pained frown. "She cut them the wrong way. Oh it works this way all right yet… Most people cut across while it's actually more effective to cut up but… Well, keep that to yourself. Luckily the part of her plan that was flawed was us. She didn't reckon on that, thank God."

Chakotay reached out and gripped Tom's arm. "Thank the Spirits you were here, Tom. I'd have been useless. Spirits, I can't believe this. She really meant this, meant to die. This wasn't some call for help."

Tom shook his head sadly. "No, it wasn't. I wish I could tell you I think differently but I can't. I honestly believe that she didn't mean to wake up from this. The scans prove it." Tom looked around him for a moment. "Chakotay, look, when we get back… The chance of damage from this…"

Chakotay looked up quickly. "What do you mean? We got the worst of it out of her.

Tom shook his head. "She crushed some of the tablets and yes, we got a lot of it but some would still have been absorbed. Without treatment, she's looking at… I have to be honest again with you. She could be looking at liver and kidney damage, maybe failure. There's the risk of bleeding in her stomach and upper intestines. Worse case can be toxic hepatitis, cerebral oedema, abdominal bleeding, aspiration pneumonia, haemophilia…" He saw the horror on Chakotay's face and quickly moved to try and assure him. "Chakotay, we'll get her back to the ship, back to the Doc." Chakotay nodded slowly, believing the words because to do anything else was unthinkable. They were silent again for some time and now Tom broke the silence.

"You know, it's likely she's going to be angry and very upset when she knows she's failed at this, on top of that, very embarrassed." Chakotay stared at him. "She's going to have to be watched closely and almost guarded for a while too because she'll most likely have another go at this. She was serious and unless we take away her reasons for this, she'll try again. Our reaction to all this is most important. We have to be supportive and not condemning. At least that's what the books say." He shook his head. "I don't know, Chakotay. Maybe Doc can tell us."

Chakotay stroked Kathryn's hip through the blankets. "I don't know either, Tom. I do know I want to keep this quiet, as few people as possible. She deserves that."

Tom nodded. "Tuvok should know. He has a right really and will probably have to know anyway."

Chakotay nodded. "B'Elanna too but that's it."

Tom frowned. "Chakotay, I hope that's not for my sake."

Chakotay shook his head. "No, it's not. I'm hoping Kathryn will see the need for a good woman friend." Tom smiled, understanding now. He looked back towards the fire and then spotted the padd Kathryn had left there. He picked it up and activated it before handing it to Chakotay. He watched as his First Officer read the words before him, seeing his pain intensify with each second. Suddenly Chakotay dropped his head, his shoulders shaking and Tom knew he was crying. He leaned forward and took the padd, which was falling from the large man's hand. He didn't look at the words until Chakotay told him to read them.

"She didn't even say goodbye." He broke down completely, suddenly everything catching up with him. A deep sadness filled Tom at what he read and he gave Chakotay a few minutes, simply placing a strong hand on the other man's arm, saying nothing until he was ready.

Finally, Chakotay looked up, pain covering his face. "Oh Tom, the signs were there. I should have seen this coming but I wasn't looking. I failed her so badly. I let her down completely. When I think how desperate she must have been to try this, in that much pain."

Tom felt anger at the statement. "Chakotay, she made her own choice. You can't blame yourself for this. It's not something you did or didn't do. You're just saying what anyone close to someone who tries this tells themselves." He paused and drew in a deep breath. "Just think about it this way. In a lot of cases, someone trying to kill themselves, well, they succeed. At least you've been given a second chance here."

Chakotay shook his head. "Have I? Have I? What if I haven't got a second chance here? You said yourself she's not out of this yet."

Tom didn't have an answer but he tried. "I think you just have to believe you have another chance." He tried turning it around. "Look, you say you failed her and let her down. Well I think we're all guilty of that. You feel bad, well, so will Doc, Tuvok even, and you can hit me for saying this, but I also think she has to take some of this on herself." He held a hand up at the angry look he received.

"Chakotay, think about it. She backed off all the time when a hundred offers came her way. Every member of that ship offers the hand of friendship to her and she repeatedly turns away from them. She's alone because she's made it that way. Now I know that's hard to take, but then the truth always is." Chakotay stood up, knowing Tom was right.

"Chakotay, none of us saw this coming, not even the Doc or me and we're trained. Stop being so hard on yourself. If anything, we all carry the can on this one but in the end, that way of thinking is counterproductive. What we do now and I believe we'll have that chance… We help her now, get her through this and be there for her to help her rebuild it all. And if that fails, we bang her head off a bulkhead until we knock some sense into her." Tom tried a smile and managed to get a small one from Chakotay.

"Thanks, Tom. You're a terrible liar but thanks." They both smiled.

The long hours of the night passed slowly, the two men speaking quietly occasionally but mostly staying silent, praying for the storm to end. Tom continuously checked and scanned his captain, her condition not improving the way he would have liked but he kept this to himself. Kathryn remained unconscious, only occasionally twitching or murmuring something. As the first streaks of light entered the sky, the storm finally looked ready to move off and Tom felt it would be safe enough to move Kathryn and attempt to fly back to the ship in another hour or so. As long as any trace of the storm remained, their hails failed to reach Voyager.

Needing something to do, Tom gathered Kathryn's belongings together, cleaning up any evidence of a night they preferred to forget. He wanted to make sure that no one would ever know what had transpired in this small cabin out of his fierce loyalty to his captain. Finally, he emptied the tub and looked up to see the pain on Chakotay's face as he watched. Both men knew they could so easily have come down here later and found their captain dead, just as she planned. Chakotay stood and looked down into the tub as it drained, the blood in the water clearly visible. He looked away quickly. His attention was suddenly on Kathryn though, as she moved slightly and groaned and he was at her side in a second.

Chakotay knelt beside her and stroked her face and watched as she slowly opened her eyes. She blinked slowly several times and continued to moan. Tom whispered to Chakotay as he stood beside him. "That's probably some hangover." Chakotay looked up but saw that Tom wasn't trying to be funny or glib, just telling it like it was. "I can't risk giving her anything for it, too much already…" He didn't need to remind him of how much painkiller was still in Kathryn's system and what damage it was probably doing. Chakotay just nodded and turned his attention back to Kathryn.

"Kathryn? Kathryn? Can you hear me? Try and open your eyes." He watched as she fought against the grogginess and finally succeeded.

She squinted against the light and tried to focus on his face. He saw the confusion there and the glazed look from the drugs she'd taken. She tried to speak and closed her eyes in pain. Slowly licking her lips, she tried again. "Where…what happ…?"

Chakotay stroked her cheek with the back of his finger. "You're still at the cabin." He hesitated. "Do you remember what happened?" She met his eyes for a second and he saw her remember before she looked away, giving him his answer.

Her voice was a hoarse whisper as he saw her move her arms and look at her wrists. "What have you done?"

He kept his voice even. "We bandaged your wrists, managed to stop the bleeding."

She nodded slightly. "That all…?"

He shook his head. "No." She met his eyes again. "We know about the pills and the alcohol, what you took. They didn't escape our notice. We had to pump your stomach, put a tube down. We didn't have any choice."

She closed her eyes a moment and tried to swallow. "Throat hurts…"

Chakotay fought to control his emotions. "That's from the tube."

She nodded slightly. "You said 'we'. Who…?"

His face remained serious. "Tom's with me. If it hadn't been for him…" He left the rest unsaid and saw that she understood. "We cleaned up. No one will ever know." If he thought she'd be grateful or care, he was mistaken. He got no reaction from her at all.

"How did…you find…why did…?"

He saw that she was having trouble concentrating on her words. "I was worried. It's that simple. Tuvok was very concerned about you too. I got Tom to bring me down in the Flyer just before the storm hit." He watched her fight to keep her eyes open and shook her gently.

"Shouldn't have… Why…didn't you…let…me go…?" She barely managed the few words.

Chakotay felt a rage grow in him. "Because Kathryn, you mightn't care about yourself but there are a lot of people who do care about you. Now I'm sorry to disappoint you but you're still with us and I for one will fight to keep you that way." He saw a few tears escape her eyes.


He shook his head angrily. "The only thing you failed at was trying to take your own life and I thank the Spirits for that. Kathryn, you'll get through this." He watched as she closed her eyes and murmured something he couldn't make out. "Kathryn?" He shook her again. "Kathryn, stay with me." He looked up to see Tom scanning her.

"She's lost consciousness again. Look, Chakotay…" He hesitated a moment then decided to be honest. "I know you probably see her waking as an improvement but the readings aren't good. I'll be honest with you about that. We better try and get her back now. I really don't think we should delay. There are still traces of the storm there but I think we'll be all right. The sooner we get back the better. Unfortunately, I still can't contact the ship so we've no transporters." Chakotay nodded, already standing, trying to shut off the fear in his gut. Tom handed him two thermal blankets from the Flyer and they wrapped her in them. Chakotay picked her up in his arms, her low weight only now registering with him as Tom shoved the bed back and placed the blankets back on it. Within minutes they were in the shuttle and on their way.

The shuttle ride back to Voyager seemed to take forever in Chakotay's agitated state. He watched as Kathryn's breathing grew more and more shallow and called to Tom. He took the tricorder the pilot handed him and scanned her, then handed it back so Tom should check the readings. He watched as the younger man's face grew dour. "She's started bleeding internally. It's not too bad at the moment but…"

Chakotay bit his lip. "Just get us back as fast as you can."

Tom nodded and worked the controls. "We're within communications range now but transporters still aren't an option. I'll contact Tuvok and the Doc."

Chakotay leaned forward, Kathryn lying limp in his arms. "Just get me Tuvok." Tom nodded and contacted the ship.

Tuvok's voice came over loud and clear, no emotion to be heard. "Commander, have you anything to report?"

Chakotay drew in a deep breath. "Tuvok, I need a secure comm line. Hurry." Within seconds the Vulcan was back, confirming that their communication was secure. "Tuvok, I have the captain with me. I need you to contact the Doc and get him to clear sickbay and erect a privacy screen. As soon as we dock, beam the three of us there."

Tuvok cut across him. "Is the captain all right?"

Chakotay looked down at her in his arms. "Let's just say you were right to be worried and that it's a good job we went down when we did. I'll speak with you in sickbay when you can get down there." Tuvok asked no further questions and just confirmed that everything asked, would be done.

Within another few minutes, the Flyer docked and Tuvok initiated the beam out to sickbay, the Doctor waiting for them. "Put her here, Commander." Chakotay lay his charge gently on the biobed and watched as Tom explained everything to the medic, showing him the scan readings he'd taken. He saw the EMH nod slowly then move into action.

"Commander, please wait in my office. I'll come and speak with you as soon as I can. Mr. Paris, help me here." Chakotay took a last look at Kathryn and brushed her hair back with his hand. Without a word, he turned and left.

A short time later, Tuvok entered sickbay and made his way into the small office where he saw his Commander sitting. He didn't ask anything but the question was clearly written on his face. Chakotay didn't stand and just looked up at the Vulcan. "Your fears were well founded. Those ghosts you spoke of? They were already there, had visited with a vengeance."

Tuvok merely nodded. "I had hoped I was wrong." Chakotay shook his head and rubbed his hands over his face, trying desperately to wipe his pain away.

"Yeah, me too. Thank the Spirits for your hunch though." He sighed deeply and decided to tell the Security Officer everything. When he'd finished speaking, he looked up and saw actual shock and upset on the Vulcan's face and watched as he sat also. There was nothing more to say and the two men sat in silence, sharing the vigil for their friend.

Two hours later, Chakotay looked up to see a weary Tom Paris emerge from the surgical bay, followed by the Doctor, who made his way to the two men waiting in his office. He entered and stood silent for a moment before speaking.

"I take it Mr. Tuvok is privy to all this?" Chakotay nodded. "Right, the medical side of things first." He moved around and sat behind his desk.

Chakotay turned and faced him. "She'll be OK now, won't she? I mean we got her here." His eyes pleaded for the answer he wanted.

The Doctor looked down at his hands a moment before looking at the two men in front of him. "Gentlemen, her battle has only just begun and I'm sorry to have to be so blunt about that. It doesn't help either in that it's a battle she doesn't want to win." Chakotay shook his head, desperately trying to keep control of himself. "She's not fighting this and I can only hope that her body has different ideas and that it heals itself, despite what her mind wants."

Chakotay groaned loudly and fell back in his chair. He looked towards the doorway and saw Tom standing there, drying his hands on a towel. The look of pain on the younger man's face matched his own. "I don't believe this is happening. Can't believe…"

The medic leaned forward slightly. "I feel I should have seen this coming but she's avoided me for weeks now and when I did see her, she seemed fine. Obviously, all an act but I couldn't know that." Chakotay just nodded and smiled sadly at the EMH, trying to tell him he understood.

"As we stand… I'll explain her condition as it is now." Three pairs of eyes met his. "Her liver and kidneys are failing and she's suffered internal bleeding. There was still enough of the drugs in her system to cause this damage and with the alcohol…" He cleared his throat, a reflex action. "I've done all I can. There's bleeding in her stomach which I've hopefully stopped. Her stomach lining has been severely damaged, her liver and kidneys as I say. I'm regenerating." He sighed and leaned back. "I have her on blood transfusions and dialysis to clean her blood as her body can't do it." He picked up a padd and played with it. "She's comatose. All we can do is hope for the best, pray if you do."

Tuvok spoke, the strain clearly heard in his voice. "How soon before you know if…"

The Doctor looked up sadly. "I really can't say. Perhaps two days, three maybe before I'll know. The longer she stays with us, the better her chances." He looked over at Chakotay, the large man's head down as he listened to the dour prognosis. "Commander, if you wish to sit with her."

Chakotay's head shot up and he stood quickly. "I have a ship to run. I'll check with you later. If there's any change…" Without another word, he left.

Tom, feeling the need to defend his actions, stepped into the office. "He's hurting. It's just his way of dealing with this." Tuvok and the Doctor nodded their understanding. They understood only too well. None of them knew how to react.

Chakotay stayed away from sickbay over the next two days as Kathryn's body fought for life. The Doctor kept him informed but he barely acknowledged the medic's words. The crew, unaware of what had transpired and believing that their captain had picked up a viral infection on the planet, kept out of his way. Finally B'Elanna had had enough and stormed into his quarters late on the second evening.

Chakotay merely nodded to her. "Say your piece and get it over with. I'm sure Tom has told you everything."

The engineer nodded. "You know he did. You told him he could." She was met with silence. "OK." She moved to the sofa and sat. "I'll say what I came to say anyway." She watched as her old friend wearily sat across from her. "You forget that I know you too well, my friend. You're hurting badly here, from seeing her like this and from knowing what she tried to do. You feel betrayed that she could even consider this and you feel guilty for not seeing it coming and trying to stop it. Well Chakotay, welcome to the club. We all feel that way."

His head snapped up, the truth hitting home. "You forgot something." He actually smiled at the frown he saw on her face, her facial ridges increasing. "How do I face her afterwards? What the hell do I say? How do I handle that?"

B'Elanna picked up a cushion and hugged it. "I don't know, Chakotay. Maybe the Doc has some answers. My answer is to be totally honest with her but most importantly, get her to speak about it, listen to what she has to say and try and help her any way we can. We find the cause, most of which we know, and eradicate it. Then we can start the healing and hopefully give her something to live for."

Chakotay stood and walked over to the table, rearranging what was already neat. "All I really want to do is shake her and scream at her. Think that will help? I'm better staying away." He looked back at the young woman on his sofa. "You're right though. I feel guilty as hell and it hurts so much. I keep thinking 'why didn't she come to me, talk to me' and then I remember the way I've been with her and I blame myself for it all, feel that I pushed her into this because I wasn't there for her."

B'Elanna put the cushion back and stood, walking over to him. "From what I know, those feelings are natural. Of course, you feel angry and betrayed but you have to put what you feel aside for the moment. We all just have to be there for her now, give her something to lean on, until she's strong enough to walk on her own again. She's going to have enough to deal with inside herself without having to deal with what we feel. That can come later. For the moment, I suggest you talk to the Doctor and see what he has to say on all this, then go from there. What I'm begging you to do though, is not desert her. I'm sorry if that hurts but she needs you now, more than she ever has." Chakotay closed his eyes, not wanting anyone to see him cry at this moment but he failed. As he felt his friend's arms come around him, he gave in and let it all out.

Chakotay finally forced himself to sickbay and looked apologetically at the Doctor. He said nothing, just moved into the office and sat. The Doctor followed.

"Doc, I'm sorry. I just couldn't handle, couldn't face this."

The Doctor sat too. "Commander, you have no reason to explain to me. I'm here to help and believe it or not, I understand more than you think. I'm not immune to this either and I have my own demons to deal with over all this."

Chakotay looked up slowly. "How is she?" T

he Doctor smiled softly. "Improving. She's still unconscious but I'm very hopeful now of a full recovery."

Chakotay closed his eyes and nodded, his shoulders dropping in relief. Finally he looked back at the Doctor. "Can you help me, explain anything, help me understand any of this?"

The Doctor shrugged. "I've been researching a lot myself these past two days. I'll explain what I can." Chakotay leaned back and remained quiet.

"Most people who are suicidal are also depressed and I know that sounds obvious. The two prime reasons that a person becomes depressed are a loss of control, over their life situation and of their emotions, and secondly, a loss of a positive sense of their future, in other words, loss of hope. When we look at this, especially regarding the captain, we see a pattern emerge. She is someone who needs to feel in control and is in a situation where she feels she can't let her emotions show. Emotions, however, can often control you, with the exception of Mr. Tuvok, and even he struggles with it. I'm unsure of how she feels about you, Commander, but from what I understand, she has held back from a relationship with you for reasons of protocol?" Chakotay nodded. "That most likely applies with her regarding anyone on board, even for a friendship. She could never keep that up though. If her emotions couldn't be controlled, if what she felt for you became stronger than she was, we have a classic case of that loss of control of her emotions." He paused a moment.

"We had the recent events in Boran space, something else which was beyond her control and she'd have felt guilty for taking the ship into that and not seeing what was ahead and then having no control over the situation. She most likely felt her judgement was failing her. Again, loss of control. I believe she feels she needs to make all the decisions, simply to prove to herself that she has that control, that she doesn't need to lean on anyone. She was trained that way and it's very difficult for anyone to change their ways when they are so ingrained. I imagine depending on you in a professional sense reminds her how much she needs you in a personal sense too. Someone like her will perceive this as a weakness. I also believe that the longer we are out here, the further away home seems to her. I know a lot of the crew could be open to those feelings, but they are not the captain, the one who feels the ultimate responsibility for getting everyone home and for bringing them here in the first place."

Chakotay just sat staring at the Medic, trying to take everything in. "How do we…?"

The Doctor shook his head. "Any help which is to be effective in reversing her depression and the resultant thoughts of suicide will have to help her regain control and help her regain her hope also. In her case, she needs to learn to almost reprogram her way of thinking. She must accept that she is not in the Alpha Quadrant now and that things must be different out here, must be done differently. I believe she needs to learn to depend on others, see herself as part of a team, still the leader of that team but a part of it nonetheless. She must accept that needing someone in any way, professionally or personally, is not a sign of weakness." The Doctor sighed.

"Commander, depression causes us to narrow our view of the world around us to such an extent that reality becomes distorted. The negative in our lives is constantly reinforced and the positive around us is discounted as being irrelevant or even non-existent. Options to help solve our problems are rejected as having no merit, until it seems as if there is no possible solution. An unrelenting and oppressive sadness comes over us which causes a very real pain. It is as if we are trapped in a dark tunnel that runs only from our constant pain to somewhere near hell, with no exit to heaven and no exit to happiness. The captain will have believed that there was no relief for her and that her pain would never end. Tomorrow would be the same or even worse and this would continue until she felt that death was the only solution, the only escape from it all."

Chakotay shook his head in disbelief and stood. "I still can't take all this in. I really never thought that she of all people would try this. She always seems so strong, indestructible, so capable…"

The Doctor sighed also, one of the many habits he'd picked up. "Commander, she's as human as the rest of you. This can come to anyone. Look, when you pile weight onto someone's shoulders and keep adding to it, eventually even the strongest person will break under the strain. Their legs will eventually buckle, no matter how hard they try and fight to remain standing."

Chakotay sat down again. "So what do I do? What do I say to her? How do I deal with this, with her?"

The medic shook his head sadly. "I don't have all the answers, Commander. I'm out of my own depth here too. I believe you can be more help to her in this area than I can. Basically, talk to her, be there for her."

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "There's one part of me just wants to pull her into my arms so I can love and comfort her, tell her everything will be all right, because I love her." He looked up and saw that the Doctor showed no surprise at his words. "Another part of me wants to scream at her and bang her head off the wall because I feel so hurt, betrayed and angry and yet another part is embarrassed to face her because I know she'll feel that way too and I'm afraid to be with her because I won't know what to say or how to act. I just don't know."

The Doctor leaned forward. "Commander, I'll give you everything I have in my database and what's in the ship's computer on this. Read all you can and work with that. In the end though, I believe you should just trust your own instincts. Two things need doing here. We need to find a way to reduce her pain and find a way to increase how she copes with that pain, her coping resources if you like. Even in this day and age, there is a stigma involved with this. We need to reassure her that it's been kept quiet and that only a few trusted friends know of this. I've entered nothing into the logs and it stays that way. I know no one else involved here has either. We then help her all we can to work though it and come back to us. I can give her some help medically for her depression. It's often due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and I have found some evidence of that with her which I'm treating but the rest of it, well that's down to being there for her and letting her talk through it. She has to face this and that won't be easy. She has a lot more pain to face before she can come through it, but if she really wants to, she can fight this and come out the other side and even be stronger for it. It's going to hurt her to face up to what she's tried to do and how she'll believe the rest of you see her for it. If you show her support and not condemn her for this, I believe she'll be fine. Talk to her and above all, get her talking. It won't be easy for her or for you though. Her emotions will go back and forth. She'll advance and retreat and you'll think you're getting through to her one minute and see her regress the next. Just be patient with her. In the end, just care for her and help her care for herself. Give her something to live for."

Chakotay sat silent for some time, absorbing all he'd heard. Finally he looked up, his face filled with pain. He stood slowly. "I…" The Doctor looked up at him and smiled softly. "I might just…sit with her a while…" The Doctor nodded, saying nothing, instinctively knowing that any more words would be surplus to requirements.

Chakotay sat with Kathryn quietly watching her for the rest of the night. He dozed on and off and towards morning, jerked awake to find Tuvok standing beside him.

"Commander, might I suggest that you take some time off to be with the captain and I'll take over until you're both ready to return to duty. We are well stocked and traversing a quiet area of space."

Chakotay smiled his thanks. "Thanks, Tuvok. I might just do that. It might be a while though."

Tuvok nodded his head. "This crew is quite capable of running things. She trained us well." Without another word, he turned and left.

Chakotay came and went over the next day and towards evening, he found himself dozing again. He opened his eyes to find the Doctor scanning Kathryn and looked up at him.

"I believe she is starting to regain consciousness. Any time over the next hour." Chakotay nodded and drew in a deep breath. He said a silent prayer for the strength he would need.

Within an hour, he felt Kathryn's hand move in his and heard a faint sound come from her throat. She groaned more loudly now and he saw her fight to open her eyes. He leaned over towards her and watched as she eventually opened them, blinking several times to clear her vision. Slowly, she rolled her head and looked at him. For a second, there was a slight smile and then she remembered and he saw her panic a moment before she turned away.

"Kathryn? How do you feel?" She didn't answer him and he saw tears escape her eyes.

The Doctor moved to her and scanned her while she lay there staring past him, ignoring his presence. "Captain, you're fine physically. Try and get some rest now." The medic nodded at Chakotay and returned to his office, leaving matters in his hands.

Chakotay said another prayer and tried again. "Kathryn, please don't ignore me."

She turned slowly and the pain he saw on her face shocked him. Her voice was a hoarse whisper when she spoke. "Why couldn't you have just let me go?"

He hardened his face. "Because I care too much about you and I love you too much. You can take that any way you want to, but I can't let you go."

More tears escaped her eyes. "I'm miserable. It hurts too much. Please…"

He fought to control himself and leaned closer to her. "Kathryn, you can heal that pain and hurt and be happy again. Please just talk to me and let me help you back. If not me, someone else but don't give up like this. We came so close to losing you. Kathryn, please just try."

She turned away for him. "You don't understand. I feel so much pain."

He dropped his head. "Kathryn, you can get past that pain if you just try. Let me help you and be there for you."

She weakly pulled her hand from his. "Please. I'm tired." She closed her eyes and Chakotay shook his head sadly. He'd let it go for now.


Over the next two days, Kathryn remained in sickbay but refused to talk to anyone about anything. She barely answered the Doctor when he asked a direct question and only occasionally glanced at Chakotay as he continued to sit with her. Finally on the third day, she asked to return to her quarters.

Chakotay shook his head. "I'm sorry, Kathryn, but the Doctor won't allow that."

He saw a flash of anger in her eyes. "You can't keep me here against my will. You don't trust me."

He forced his anger down. "You're right, we don't trust you. The bottom line here is this. You don't leave this sickbay until you talk with someone. You've been silent for days now so you've had time to think about all this. I suggest you think some more and consider what I've just said. If you want to return to your quarters and later return to duty…"

Kathryn actually laughed, sarcasm dripping from the sound. "I don't want to return to duty. You've just said you don't trust me so why would any of them trust me. I don't trust myself. I couldn't even do this right. I just want to go back to my quarters."

Chakotay shook his head. "As soon as you agree to speak about this." Kathryn just looked at him a moment then closed her eyes and rolled her head to the side away from him and didn't speak again that day.

By the following morning, he knew he'd won. Kathryn was sitting up, making herself eat the breakfast the Doctor had placed before her. Eventually she pushed the tray away and glared at Chakotay. "All right, you win. If you want to talk, go ahead. Have your say and get it over with. Anything to get away from here."

He shook his head sadly. "You're still missing the point, Kathryn, but it's a start. I'll bring you some clothes and we'll go somewhere else and talk." She barely looked at him and nodded.

Chakotay had read everything he could over the previous few days but in the end he still felt out of his depth. As he had them beamed to the holodeck, he prayed once more for guidance in handling this right. As they re-materialized on the holodeck, he watched Kathryn look around her at the summer meadow he'd programmed in. "Is this all right? Will you talk to me here? Will you talk to me at all?"

He watched her closely as she continued to look around her, a barely controlled anger on her face. "Oh great. What's this? The holographic version of a padded cell?"

Chakotay ignored the sarcastic comment. "I thought you might be more comfortable here, that we could talk better on neutral ground."

She shrugged. "It's your ball game." She moved off and sat on the soft grass, staring out ahead of her.

Chakotay moved to her and sat also, giving her some distance between them. He watched as she picked at some grass and played with it. "Kathryn, please don't be so angry. I just want you to talk to me."

She turned angrily on him. "You talk. This was your idea. You brought me here." She turned away again.

Chakotay forced himself to remain calm. "Kathryn, I'll be blunt here. You tried to kill yourself." She looked around sharply and he saw some of her anger replaced by pain. "I know how much you meant that, the trouble you went to. You really meant it, did all you could to make sure it worked." He knew his pain showed on his face and saw hers soften a little more. "I know you're hurting and in pain. Well, so am I."

Her face fell and she looked away quickly. "I betrayed you all, this crew and you. I failed you so many times. I've let you all down. I let you down constantly. I repeatedly fail you all, get you killed one by one. It was the only way, two birds with one stone, save you all from me and get rid of this pain for myself."

Something began to snap inside Chakotay. "Tell me, Kathryn, have you any idea of the pain I feel, the pain those who know of this feel? Tom and B'Elanna, the Doc, Tuvok even? How do you think we feel for failing you, for not seeing this coming, not being there to try and stop you trying this? Do you think about the guilt that goes with that for us?" She was staring at him, puzzled by his anger and felt her own grow. She stood quickly and made for the exit but he jumped up and blocked her way. She glared at him now but he wasn't finished. "Kathryn, I've listened to what you just said about your pain and how you felt. You listen to me now."

She pushed against him. "Let me go. You don't know. You've no idea."

He grabbed her arm. "Then tell me. Talk to me, damn it."

She pulled away from him, tears pouring down her face now. "You know damn well. I stranded you all here. I get you killed and injured. I can't make a decision and my judgement is shot to hell. I fail you all every day."

She turned away from him but he pulled her back. "We're supposed to be here for you too. Kathryn, you don't make it easy for someone to be there for you but I still feel the blame for this. I should have been there for you. I'm the one who let you down because I didn't see what you were going through. I'm supposed to be there to help with the load."

She pulled weakly against his hold. "I never asked you to do that."

His anger continued to grow. "That's half the problem, Kathryn. You try and do it all alone, all the time. You prefer to take it all on yourself, wear the sackcloth and ashes, be the martyr. You're well named, Kathryn. The first St. Catherine, a 4th century Saint, was tortured for her beliefs. She was broken on a wheel studded with spikes, then scourged and beheaded. I read about it. You're the same. You take it all on yourself, all the guilt, the entire burden. Why don't you drop the self-pity for a moment and think of someone else and what this has done to us. You're so filled with that self-pity that you can't see past it to the rest of us." He was shouting and didn't care.

"I can't live my life or choose to live just for you." She was shouting herself.

"I'm not asking you to. You're a selfish bitch at times, Kathryn. This isn't just about you. Did you stop for one minute and think what trying to kill yourself would do to the rest of us, what it would do to me, the effect it would have? You talk about letting us down. What do you think trying to commit suicide speaks of? I want you to see how much you've hurt us. It's like a slap in the face or a punch in the guts. You've pulled my heart out and trampled on it. It's not just about you." He grabbed her hands and turned her wrists facing up. "I should have told the Doctor to leave those scars on you. Let you have a reminder of what you tried to do, of what you put us through. You could have her your own personal stigmata."

Kathryn cried out and pulled her hands from his. She stumbled backwards, her face almost red with anger. She screamed back at him. "You say this isn't just about me. Well it isn't just about you either. How dare you think this is just about you. You think I fell apart simply because you weren't there for me to lean on, because you weren't there to prop me up? How do you think that makes me feel?"

He advanced on her, screaming back at her. "I don't know, Kathryn. I've no idea how it makes you feel and that's the problem. Tell me. That's what I want."

She moved back from him again. "It makes me feel weaker, feel worse. I'm not supposed to need anyone. This is about me, not you. It's how I feel about myself." They stood staring at each other, tears pouring from both their eyes, their chests heaving.

Chakotay was the first to break, as he dropped to his knees. "Oh Kathryn, I'm sorry. I'm not helping you. You're right. I'm supposed to be here helping you and all I do is attack you. I didn't mean to tear into you like that. I promised myself I'd be here for you, help you through this and support you, not condemn you or talk about my pain. Instead, I turn on you and attack you."

Kathryn stared at the large, broken man at her feet and something stirred inside her, emotions vaguely felt, an almost forgotten feeling. She found she almost gloried in his anger, the intensity of his caring. She moved slowly to him and dropped to her own knees. Hesitantly she moved her hands to his face. "Chakotay, I'm sorry too, but your anger and seeing how you feel… It actually shows how much you care and that feels good. I feel something for the first time in a long time. For so long, I've been too tired to feel anything,"

Chakotay looked up at her, his tears continuing to fall and opened his arms. Kathryn fell into them and felt him crush her to him, heard his deep sobs. "Why did you try to leave me? Why did you try and get away from me? Have I been that bad to you, caused you that much pain and hurt? Why, Kathryn? You wanted to leave me. You didn't even say goodbye."

She felt his body shudder with the emotions running through it, felt his pain. She whispered tearfully to him, suddenly finding herself the one doing the comforting. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." She rocked him for several minutes, letting her own tears fall. Finally she pulled back and met his eyes, her small hand wiping his face. Chakotay, I'm sorry. Forgive me."

He stared deeply into her eyes, letting her see all his pain. "Just talk to me. Help me understand. Don't keep things from me or hide them."

She nodded slowly. "It's hard, it's… I guess it all started with recent events and then all the other stuff just grew and grew and attached itself and joined it. All I felt was helplessness and deep pain so that everything else was overshadowed. It all just got too much. Everything around me was black with no sign of any light. I was in this dark place, with no windows or doors and no way out and I felt I was sinking deeper and deeper into this black hole and I tried to climb out, grab at anything, but I just kept falling." She stopped a moment and drew in a shuddering breath.

"I felt I'd let them down, let you down especially and I'd hurt you so much. I saw that, saw the pain I caused you, saw it on your face and I couldn't go to you, afraid I'd only hurt you more. My courage failed me completely and I was afraid to face you, knew what I'd see from you. Then I saw you move on, get further away and I knew then that I'd pushed you away, further away than ever and that it was too late to stop it." She looked up and saw the tears spill down his face, knowing her own were matching them.

"I felt such despair, there's no other word for it. What I saw and felt in myself, I was sure others could see also, was sure they felt the same way about me as I did about myself. I convinced myself you didn't care, hated me even, that I was such a problem for you."

Chakotay closed his eyes, causing more tears to spill. He opened them again and looked deeply into her eyes. "Kathryn, I could never hate you. You know I love you. The only problem I have is that you don't let me in, let me be there for you and share the burden. You're like that with us all. You have to see that out here we're on our own and we need and depend on each other, all of us. We're a team. Oh, we still need a command structure but it has to be a different type of structure than we'd have had in the Alpha Quadrant. A lot of it out here, we make up as we go alone with the Prime Directive backing us up instead of Starfleet Command. We keep the principles but we must adapt to the surroundings we're in now. That takes as much strength. You know the poem, 'No man is an island'. You don't have to do this alone. Just let us in."

Kathryn shook her head. "I don't know if I can do that or manage to change."

He took her hand. "Kathryn, you can, but you have to let us all help you. We have to work together and be that team."

She shook her head again but let him hold her hand. "I'm not strong anymore."

Chakotay lowered his head so he could see her face. "Kathryn, you build your strength back up. I'm here for you, the Doctor is there for you, Tom and B'Elanna, even Tuvok. Let us help you."

She was quiet for several minutes, time he gave her to absorb his words. Eventually, she shook her head and pulled her hand back. "I can't." She glanced at him.

"Kathryn, you can."

She jumped up. "I can't. Oh God, what you must think of me, all the mistakes I keep making, getting you killed." She jumped back further when he stood up. "No, please." He nodded and stayed where he was, giving her some space.

"Chakotay, I make so many mistakes. Firstly bringing us here and so many since. And this latest? A big mistake. I keep making them." She stared hard at him, her eyes wild. "What will the next one be? I'll get us all killed and get the ship destroyed." She backed off further and he let her, instinct telling him to let her get all this out.

"Even you. I've hurt you and turned away from you so many times. I've disappointed you so much, let you down, lost your trust completely. Every time you look at me, you'll remember this. Oh dear God, this is a stigma. It's all you'll ever think of when you look at me." Her voice was rising. "I might as well get a tattoo on my own forehead. It could say 'failure' or 'this weak bitch tried to kill herself and couldn't even get that right'." Tears poured down her face as she stared at him.

Chakotay looked at her sadly then smiled slightly. "You might have some trouble fitting that last one on."

She stared at him a moment, his words not making sense. "What?" She saw his slight smile and somehow it broke the downward spiral she'd been on. She shook her head and actually smiled herself. "Chakotay, I'm serious."

He smiled again and moved towards her. "I know you are, love, and I'm not laughing at you. Look, I don't have all the answers to this. What I can do is help you look for them."

She pulled away again and he let her. "Chakotay, this will always be there. It won't go away. You'll always see me as weak, a failure and I'll see myself that way too, as someone who couldn't cope." She looked back at him.

"First off, Kathryn, I don't or ever will see you like that. Secondly, you're human."

She moved towards him. "No. I'm supposed to be more than that. I'm supposed to be stronger."

Chakotay shook his head. "That's just the image you've put there of yourself. You expect perfection of yourself. Well, outside of the Borg, in fact even within them, that's not possible and it never will be with anyone."

Kathryn stepped back again. "You'll always feel you have to watch me. You'll never trust me again. The first time something goes wrong, I'll break completely or I'll hide it and you'll be waiting for me to try this again. It can't work. I'm broken now. There's a crack in me, in my armour. You can try and repair it to some extent but it's always there, just well-hidden but weaker for it." She looked at him sadly. "You can't run a dermal regenerator over this or heal it."

He moved to her and took her shoulders. "I believe you can regenerate it so there's no trace there. Kathryn, when a bone breaks, the place where it heals, where the bone knits, that becomes stronger than the rest of the bone."

She grew angry once more and pulled back from him. "Enough, Chakotay. You can tell me all the stories or use all the pretty phrases you like but nothing will change this. I despise all this and what I've become. I haven't the ability for anything anymore. I'm weak and useless. I couldn't even end it all properly. You found me which just shows how badly I'd let my guard down, how unfit I am to ever command this ship again. If I'd been competent, I would have succeeded. I can't feel anything anymore. What I actually thought I'd started to feel here today, it's nothing. Overall, I feel nothing inside. I'm empty. Even before this, before I… Sometimes I'd feel nothing at all, other times I'd feel too much. I couldn't ever get that balance." Her voice trailed off, growing softer as she stared off into the distance a moment as if suddenly talking to herself but her anger remained. "One short sleep past…" She turned and looked at him. "It's from a poem. 'One short sleep past - we wake eternally – and death thou shalt be no more – death thou shalt die." Chakotay watched her sadly. "It wasn't death or dying I was afraid of. It was life, living. I'm just so tired and all I want to do is sleep. Sleep forever. I wanted a long sleep, to never wake again at all." Chakotay took a moment, drawing in several deep breaths and watched her as she looked out over the meadow, angry tears running down her face.

Finally, he moved to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She looked at him and he saw the pain and anger there. "Kathryn, sit down. You've said a lot here today. Now I want to say some things and I ask that you just hear me out. OK?" She sat, shaking her head, silently telling him that nothing he said would make a difference to her.

"I'll try and explain all this. Some I read, other stuff I got from the Doctor. Some of it even I just learned through the years." She just stared at him.

"I believe you wanted to die because you were depressed. There were reasons for that depression, reasons I believe we can address and do something about. Doc even things he can help medically, something about a small chemical imbalance in your brain. However, I can only speak of how I see it and the reasons I know of. There's control, the control you feel you need over everything, your life and your emotions. You have to learn to accept that no one, absolutely no one, has ultimate control over their life. The other aspect of this is a loss of belief in the future, a positive sense of that future, a loss of hope. I think you can work to get that back but you can't control that either. None of us know what the future holds and I'm not sure we'd want to. I believe in your case you need to regain your control where you can and accept the things you have no control over. I also think you need to learn to hope again."

He saw her nod slowly, some of what he was saying making sense to her, but her anger remained. "How you've felt lately has clouded your view of everything, distorted it. You learned to concentrate on the negative and ignore the positive or not even see it. You rejected anything that could help you until it looked as if there was nothing that could help you. In the end, you saw suicide as the only solution." He saw her eyes fill with tears.

"Kathryn, love, suicide is not a solution. I know you felt it was the only way for you but you were wrong. Suicide is an end before a solution can be found. It can't be considered an option, for an option denotes we have a choice and death robs you of both, the option and the choice. Death is an irreversible act that does not end the pain. It might end your pain but that depends on your religious beliefs. Maybe there's eternal damnation for suicide, your conscience making you suffer for all time. I don't know. Pain remains though for those left behind and no matter what you say, I believe you care about us more than that." He paused and licked his lips.

"You say you felt no hope for the future or over your own life. Maybe you feel you won't get this crew home, which is up to us all, not just you." He looked hard at her to make his point. "I know your emotions are all over the place, that you can't see straight, but again you can learn to clear them up and sort them out. You say you can't make the right decisions, that your judgement is off. I want you to think about this. No one can always make the right decisions, not one living being. All our decisions are open to be mistakes. What we have to do, and this applies to personal as well as professional decisions, is talk to friends and experts, gather all the information we can, get what advice we can, and only then do we act and make that decision. Kathryn, you need to learn to do that." She nodded slightly, her head down. When he didn't go on, she looked up at him and saw the love on his face.

"Kathryn, many people have thoughts of suicide, even I've had them from time to time. For most of us, it's a fleeting feeling, usually after a major event, a death or something deeply traumatic. For others, life is not quite that kind. Some have a strong genetic propensity to become depressed, a chemical imbalance, which you have slightly, or it could be life itself, a series of unfortunate life experiences. Others can cause their own depression by using an unrealistic cognitive thought process or having expectations in life that are not possible to achieve, especially on their own." He smiled gently at her. "Does that one sound familiar?" She nodded reluctantly. He nodded to himself and went on.

"Whatever the cause of depression, it can be treated. I believe with you that you had no outlet for it and nothing to temper it, so it grew. You were alone, thanks to me." He held up a hand when he heard her about to speak. "You were alone, you weren't eating or looking after yourself, so you were rundown physically which in turn made you more rundown emotionally. You try to always go it alone and that's unnatural, because man is not a solitary animal by nature. We're more like ants, working together for the good of the community and it works better for it when we do that. At the end of the day, you're suffering a depression which led to trying to kill yourself. You are not a bad person, or crazy or weak or flawed because of what you tried to do. I don't think it really meant that you wanted to die even. It meant that you had more pain than you could cope with. The point at which pain becomes unbearable differs with everyone and depends on what kind of coping resources you have. When your pain exceeds your pain coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. We need to find a way to treat your depression, reduce your pain and increase how you cope with that pain."

He looked at her again and saw her shake her head. "That simple, huh?"

He heard the contempt in her voice. "I'm not saying this will be easy but you can do it. People get through this all the time, even ones who feel as bad as you do, and so can you. Kathryn, you tried this because you wanted a relief from your pain. Think of it this way. Relief is a feeling and you have to be alive to feel it. You won't find the relief you desperately want if you're dead. Look at today. You're angry one minute, hopeful the next. I know you feel on an emotional roller coaster ride but that shows great hope, because you're actually feeling something. Your emotions are all over the place but they are emotions and they are there."

Kathryn just sighed deeply but he saw her mind trying to work through all he'd said. She rubbed at her face. "That still leaves a long hard road ahead. It also leaves how people will see me. I really don't feel anything anymore inside me, despite what you see here and no matter what you say, I don't see how you could honestly feel anything for me either, except maybe disgust and contempt that I tried to do this."

He sighed, his exasperation showing. "Kathryn, all we've spoken of here today, does any of it fill you in any way? Does any of it…?"

She stood quickly and turned to him. "Chakotay, I'm empty inside. You've just sat there and quoted all the right words, said the right things, acted accordingly, but at the end of the day, they're just words and they can't change what I am or how I feel."

Chakotay jumped up now. "Kathryn, those words, they came from my heart. This isn't meant to work overnight."

She turned away, not listening to him anymore. He saw her depression fall over her again like a cloud. "You only feel pity for me and guilty for something or other." She turned back to him and the mix of pain and helplessness on her face cut into him. "Well, Chakotay, I forgive you for whatever sin you falsely feel responsible for. Let it go and let me go. You couldn't feel anything for a failure like me and you're a fool to even feel pity."

A rage built up in Chakotay, the knowledge that nothing he'd said had gotten through to her, despite it seeming to have for a while and the Doctor's words about back and forth came to his mind. The medic's advice about being patient was forgotten though as Chakotay rushed at her and grabbed her. "Spirits, Kathryn, what will it take with you? You're not a failure nor are you responsible for the problems of all the known galaxies and you're only alone because you choose to be. Everything I said here, you just shrug it off when I poured my soul into my words." He shook her, shouting at her now. "Damn it, Kathryn, I love you and you just walk away from that, throw it back in my face. You refuse to let yourself feel or love and won't let me or anyone else love you. You just throw it back at me because of your own lack of self-worth. You cut my heart out, you know that? You cut me to the core by trying to leave me and when I tell you it won't matter to how I feel about you, that I still love you and that you can get through this, you throw that back at me too, as if I'm lying to you. Maybe you should kill yourself. The Spirits know you've given me enough pain to want to end my own life. Maybe we should just share resources and jump together. Of course, that would be too much sharing and dependence for you." He stopped suddenly and realized that he was still shaking her and stared into her eyes. Her anger was gone but in its place was shock and a pain unlike any he'd ever seen before in anyone's eyes. Tears poured down her face as she looked back at him. He saw her lips move but no words came out.

Chakotay would never know why he acted the way he did next. One moment he was staring into her face, watching her lips move silently, the next his own were covering them, his mouth coming down forcefully over hers. His tongue forced her mouth open and pushed past her lips then plundered her mouth. He felt her stiffen against him for a minute but ignored it. He was aware of himself pushing her down onto the grass as she struggled for a moment then seemed to give up. He felt his hands tear at her dress, ripping the light fabric and pushing her bra up and then his mouth was on her breasts, nipping and biting at her nipples. He vaguely heard her try to say something but his ears were filled with the roaring sound inside his own head as his emotions erupted within him. He leaned back, pushing her skirt up around her waist and roughly ripped her panties away. Before he knew what he was doing, his mouth was back on hers, one hand on her breast again and he was lying between her legs, his other hand freeing himself.

All he knew after that was surging into her and hearing her cry out as a blackness descended over him and raw lust took over. He felt himself thrust in and out of her, trying to possess her, his pace frantic, and only then did he become aware of Kathryn's hands on his back, pulling at him and her legs around his waist, her hips meeting his thrust for thrust. He slowed slightly and looked at her face and almost stopped. Her head was thrown back, her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open. As he slowed, she bucked against him and opened her eyes, meeting his. She stared deeply into his eyes and spoke one word. "Please."

She moved against him again, her message unmistakable and he quickened his pace again but this time, they held eye contact and then he felt her contract around him and heard a moan begin in her throat. Suddenly she arched her body and threw her head back, a choking cry torn from her throat. He felt her inner muscles clamp down hard on him and lost it, exploding inside her as her legs tightened around him. He screamed her name, releasing all his anguish and pain as he filled her body, praying desperately that in some way that he was also filling her soul.

Chakotay collapsed on top of Kathryn for a moment, then rolled to the side, taking her with him, their bodies still joined. His actions suddenly slammed into him, deep shame filling him. "Oh sweet Spirits, Kathryn, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I don't know what…"

He forced himself to meet her eyes and saw her tears as she smiled softly and placed a finger against his lips, silencing him. "Shhh, it's all right. Oh Chakotay…" She looked away a moment, clearly embarrassed then back at him. "I felt that all right. Thank you." She saw the worried frown on his face. "Chakotay, please. It's all right."

He gave way to his own tears. "No, it's not. What I just did, that's never all right. It's…"

She leaned in and kissed his words away. "Chakotay, that's the first time in a very long time that I've felt anything. Being with someone, it's like a dim and distant memory. To feel your passion, your intensity, it's… I'm not saying this well."

Chakotay stared deeply at her, not daring to hope. "Kathryn, I hurt you. I must have. I betrayed your trust. I brought you here to try and help you and I end up…"

Once again, she placed a finger over his lips. "Firstly, you didn't hurt me. I'm the one who's hurt you. Secondly, as strange as it sounds, this has helped me more. I heard your words, what you said, that you loved me and about your feelings but somehow that didn't get to me the way this did. I needed that, needed you. I feel a spark of fire in me at this moment that's been missing a long time. Feeling you inside me… It was so real. It was life and it made me feel alive for the first time in months. It's like something has been ignited in what was so dead, so you see for that, thank you."

Chakotay shook his head. "Kathryn, you're just saying this to…"

Kathryn shook her head too. "I'm saying this because it's true. Don't get me wrong here, I still feel pretty much as I have been lately but at this moment, after what we've just shared, I guess I've just found out that I can still feel something, that something is still alive inside me and for a long time, I felt I was already dead." She sighed and reached up, stroking his face. "I know I've a long way to go but suddenly I want to step onto that path now. I guess I'm saying that it feels like the first treatment in a long cure but now I want to get better." Chakotay just pulled her tightly against him and rocked her. They remained locked together for a long time.

Over the next month, Kathryn took further steps along the road to her recovery. Chakotay and Tuvok shared command, giving her all the time she needed. Kathryn for her part spoke with the Doctor on a regular basis and took the medication he administered without complaint and she spent time with Tuvok, drawing on his calm reassurance and guidance. Tom and B'Elanna spent time with her, separately and together and Kathryn re-discovered the value of friends, especially the friendship of another woman. Chakotay was the source of her greatest strength though as he spent long hours each evening sitting and talking with her, gently leading her back. He eased her along the difficult road she was taking, wiping her tears and sharing her laughter which he began to hear more and more. They shared dinners and outings on the holodeck and occasionally he'd spend the night but they never made love, Kathryn needing to heal first and Chakotay knowing it. As she saw it, it was like a reward waiting for her at the end of a long journey and she drew far more from what they already shared, the love and closeness between them.

Chaktoay watched as the woman he'd known on New Earth emerged slowly, although he saw many changes and gloried in them. Kathryn was far more open with her crew, more willing to let them in and was now often found joining in crew functions, needing no prompting, except from herself. The relationships with her senior staff developed beyond what she ever thought possible or would have once permitted, as a new openness and respect developed between them.

The biggest change though was the relationship Kathryn had with herself. Slowly she let go of her guilt and began to look to the future. She gained a new trust in herself and began to like who she now was. She gave herself a spring clean, discarding what was harmful to her and restoring what she needed. Gradually, she let her guard down, admitting for the first time to herself and Chakotay, that she couldn't do it all alone, a milestone for her. She found the border fence between going it alone and dependence and sat comfortably on it for the first time in her life and she finally admitted that she wasn't alone, that she could love and be loved without losing anything in the process. As all these changes took place, she was amazed to see the crew's respect for her grow, something she'd always feared she'd lose if she didn't keep the mask in place.

She began to take better care of her body, gaining back an interest in her appearance. She picked up old hobbies she'd long ago left behind and gained a peace she hadn't known in years. As she sifted through her feelings and emotions, she saw her mistakes and learned from them. The journey wasn't easy and many times it was extremely painful, but she pushed on, cleansing her soul as she went. She buried her dead and mourned for them then moved on. Eventually, she eased back to duty, a little at a time and instantly discovered the change in her working relationship with Chakotay, marvelling at how comfortable it was and how easy it was to let him help for a change. She learned to delegate, another alien concept for her and gained a deeper trust in those around her, seeing how capable they were. For everything she gave out, she reaped back a thousand-fold.

At the end of a six weeks intensive therapy from all its sources, Kathryn was a different woman, someone she felt proud to be. She felt reborn and knew that in fact, she had been. Without ever realizing it, the old Kathryn Janeway had died on that planet, and the new Kathryn Janeway was born.

Chakotay stood back and watched the transformation with deep love and pride. He marvelled at how far she'd come and learned to forgive himself also. He couldn't believe the difference in the woman before him, how content she seemed, and so when a subtle change occurred, he noticed it immediately. It started slowly, over a matter of a few days, a slight distance with her which he saw her quickly push aside whenever he was around her. For the last two days now, she'd been late for duty but had simply brushed off his concerns and he grew deeply worried, seeing shades of the old Kathryn again.

When she failed to show up for duty the following morning, he was worried enough to check with the computer for her location and when it informed him that she was in sickbay, he grew alarmed. Unable to control his worry, he checked with the computer a second time and discovered that she'd returned to her quarters. Meeting eyes with Tuvok, he handed the bridge over to the Vulcan, receiving his silent endorsement, and went looking for her.

He rang her chime twice but received no reply. Finally letting himself in, he immediately heard her in her bathroom and made his way to her. He found her on her knees over the toilet, her forehead resting against the coolness of the bowl. Without a word, he moved to her and eased her back. She looked up, panic on her face and he saw how pale and clammy she was. He silently helped her clean up, seeing from the bowl that she had indeed been sick and helped her to stand, flushing out the toilet as he did so. She was unsteady on her feet and he gently supported her as he led her to her bed and eased her down.

"Would you like some water?" She nodded weakly. He brought her a cool glass which she sipped slowly, afraid of being sick again. She handed the glass back to Chakotay and nodded. He set it down on the night table and sat down beside her, slipping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her against him.

"Do you want to tell me what's wrong?" He watched her face closely, wiping it with the facecloth he'd brought back with him.

She leaned into the coolness of the cloth and slowed her breathing, fighting the nausea she felt. "I'm all right. I just need to let this pass first."

Chakotay felt an old fear stir in him, terrified that she was reverting to how she'd been before or was suffering a relapse after all her hard work. "Kathryn? What's wrong love? Please talk to me."

She nodded against him. "Just give me a minute." He stayed silent and let her get her breath back. "Sorry. I'm not trying to shut you out. I just need to feel a bit better first. There's a full scale whirlwind in my stomach." He controlled his worry and waited for her.

Finally she looked up at him and smiled nervously, causing him more worry. "I feel better now. I was at the Doctor and he gave me something. It's kicking in now." He nodded and watched her reach for the water again and drink deeply. "That's better. Almost back to normal again, for the moment anyway." She looked slowly up at him.

"Kathryn, you're scaring me here."

She bit her lip and hesitated a moment. "I'm almost afraid to say this to you. I don't know how you'll take it."

He cupped her face in his large hand. "Please love, you scaring the living daylights out of me here."

She nodded. "It was obvious really. I just didn't see it at first. No experience of it, I suppose." She smiled at the puzzlement on his face. "Sick the last few mornings in a row now. Missing something that should have been there a while back. Saw the Doctor?" She shook her head when she saw he still didn't understand. "Chakotay, I'm pregnant." He just stared at her in shock and his arm fell from her shoulders.

She immediately read him wrong and jumped up. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean…didn't plan. You don't have to… I won't hold you to anything."

His eyes flew to her face. "What? What the hell are you saying?" His eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Kathryn, you're…we're pregnant? A baby? Us? Really?" He continued opening and closing his mouth but no more words would come out.

Kathryn felt the fear of a moment ago fly away from her and she moved back to him. "You're not angry with me? I know this wasn't planned and I don't want you to feel any obligation to me."

He sat up and pulled her down to him. "I'm more than happy. I'm beyond over the moon." He sobered suddenly. "Kathryn, are you all right with this? You've been through a lot lately and there's also the way this happened, what I did, how it…"

She pressed her hand across his mouth. "I'm fine with this. I can't think of anything I want more. As long as you're happy with it." The look on his face answered that question. "As to how? This child was conceived from love. No other way. This child's life started the same time mine did. You gave me something to live for again with your love and now this child is doing the same. Chakotay, you gave us both life that day on the holodeck."

Chakotay let his tears fall and blinked them away to clear his vision. He just sat and stared at the woman before him, wanting to imprint her face on his memory, exactly as it was at this moment. He cupped her face in his hands. "Kathryn, I love you so much. I'll love you for all eternity. You and our child. You've no idea of how much you mean to me, what you mean to me, how my love for you grows every day. I can't put it into words. It's just so…" He leaned in and hungrily claimed her lips.

She met his with equal fervour. When they finally broke for air, she stroked his face and smiled lovingly at him. "Chakotay, I love you too, with everything that I am, with my life literally, because I wouldn't have it without you. I love you and I know you love me." She smiled coyly. "If, however, you feel the need to convince me again the way you did on the holodeck…" She quirked her eyebrow at him and smiled seductively. The rest was a blur.

As Kathryn lay sleeping wrapped in Chakotay's arms afterwards, he quietly contacted Tuvok and told him that everything was fine but that they'd be off duty for the rest of the day. Tuvok, ever the diplomat, questioned nothing. As he closed the link, Kathryn murmured sleepily beside him and snuggled closer to him, drifting back to the peaceful sleep which carried her. Chakotay lay staring at her for a long time, watching her face closely as her eyes flickered slightly, a small smile on her face. He pulled her closer to him and tightened his arms around her, then kissed her forehead.

"Welcome back, Kathryn. Welcome home. You did it." He closed his eyes and slipped off to sleep, knowing they would share the same dream.


Author's Note:

This work is a piece of fiction. I in no way intend to suggest that depression can be so easily overcome.

I hope a lot of what's in this story speaks for itself. Depression and thoughts of suicide can affect any one of us and there is no shame involved. The only shame is for someone who doesn't listen to another.

While this story is fiction, the pain involved for those who either suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, or the pain we feel when someone we care for is suffering, is very real indeed. If you suffer from depression or feelings towards suicide, I urge you please to seek the help you need and deserve, especially with an organisation like The Samaritans, caring people who are there 24 hours a day. They will listen and take you seriously and never judge.

If someone you know is suffering, be there for them, listen to them and help them find what they need. Being a friend can literally save a life.