Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17 **** Kids go play elsewhere. Contains adult material.
With Voyager safely returned home, Kathryn and Chakotay finally have the life they deserve but an old enemy of Chakotay's lurks close by, determined to smash that life.
I recently saw the film 'A Stranger Is Watching' in which Kate Mulgrew gave a wonderful performance (when does she not?) and decided to use the basic storyline for a JC story. This film was made in 1982 and if you haven't seen it, shame on you. Rectify this immediately.

Phoenix From The Ashes

by Kat Lady


Chakotay opened the door wearing only a pair of black boxer shorts and squinted against the early morning sun. "B'Elanna, have you any idea what time it is?"

Voyager's former engineer was wide awake and seemed ready to take on the world. "I think about 08:00."

Chakotay rubbed at his eyes trying to wipe the sleep from them. "OK. Have you any idea of what day it is?" He was tired and not in the mood for visitors.

B'Elanna's bright mood refused to be dulled. "It's Sunday and a beautiful Sunday it is too."

Chakotay just shook his head. "Right, it's Sunday, that day at the end of a long working week, the day after Friday and Saturday, you know those two days I have to spend in San Francisco, away from home, away from my new wife, the day I get to lie in, the one whole day I get to spend with Kathryn."

B'Elanna just shrugged her shoulders. "Yes, I know, but you'll both just love this."

Chakotay just stood back as the tough Klingon woman turned and waved to her husband and then pushed her way into the house. "B'El, I love what I have right here, a home, a beautiful wife, a baby on the way…"

B'Elanna just smiled and wagged her finger at him. "OK, OK, so I can't compete with that but this is something you have to see. Come on, old man, Tom's waiting. Go get Kathryn and hurry up. I'll wait outside." She laughed and left him standing in the middle of the kitchen as she hurried back to Tom. Chakotay knew it would be far easier to give in and he reluctantly went to get his wife.

An hour later, they both forgave the troublesome pair for getting them up on their day off. They stood in the middle of a field, their entire former crew spread out before them and gazed around in amazement at the hanging banners and tables laden with food and drink. Tom smiled at the expressions on their faces and explained. "Look, sorry for getting you two out of bed but this would mean nothing if you weren't here."

Kathryn linked her arm through Chakotay's and smiled back at him. "Tom, what is this?"

The pilot scanned the people around him before speaking. "Since we've all agreed to stay with Starfleet, we decided to resurrect an old American custom called the 'Company Picnic'. It was an annual event and a great way for the families of the workers to get together and get to know each other and so this is year one of the Starfleet/Voyager Company Picnic and as the two of you are the top brass of the company and therefore the guests of honour, you had to be here. Let's face it, we wouldn't be here at all without you two so…" Cheers erupted among the group and Kathryn blinked back tears which everyone noticed anyway. Chakotay squeezed her hand, knowing it didn't take much to start his wife crying these days.

The day passed in a haze of happiness with only the occasional child sick from eating too much or from excitement. There was no rank present, no captain or commander, no lieutenant or ensign, just good friends breaking bread together and sharing memories. As the sun set over the group of friends and kids fell asleep leaning against the nearest adult body, each person present knew that a day had passed that would forever live on in their memory. As people cleaned up and slowly drifted home, Chakotay hugged Kathryn to him. "Guess it was well worth being dragged out of bed for."

Kathryn smiled at him, her face radiating happiness as she looked around at their friends. "It was well worth it, Chakotay, and you know what I was just thinking?" He smiled down at her, dropping a kiss on her head. "I was just thinking that this time next year, we'll have our own little one, that in a few years' time, it'll be our child who'll be eating themselves sick and falling asleep in their Daddy's arms." The image filled both their minds as they moved off slowly. Chakotay pulled his wife closer to him. "I can't wait."

Neither of them was aware of the man watching them from the far hill through a pair of field glasses whose plan was to crush that dream and leave their lives in ruins. Gul Zarruck was Cardassian but blended in on Earth since the Peace Treaty had been signed some years back and everyone was supposedly friends now. It was not unusual to see many Cardassians around Starfleet Headquarters and on the streets of San Francisco and other cities, just as many humans now visited Cardassia, but there was one difference with Gul Zarruck as opposed to others of his planet visiting Earth in that this man had a mission and a long memory. He also had a heart full of hate and all that hate was directed towards one man and that man was Chakotay.

The following morning Kathryn and Chakotay left for work together, Kathryn to her desk job at Headquarters and Chakotay to his teaching post at the Academy, both of which were housed on the same campus. Kathryn was content working behind her desk, especially with a baby on the way and found that the yearning for space she'd always had no longer existed. Five years in the Delta Quadrant had been enough to satisfy her, and the life she had now, a loving husband, imminent family and good friends, was all she wanted. Chakotay for his part adored his teaching post, passing on his love of archaeology and anthropology to his eager students. The only drawback he found was the necessity of staying overnight at the Academy on a Friday in order to fill in for another lecturer on night exercises and another class on the Saturday while that lecturer was on maternity leave herself. He knew the overnight stays would only last for another two months but he still worried about Kathryn during his absences. He was away from her from early Friday morning until late on the Saturday afternoon and these days he found that an absence of even a few hours was too much for him.

This particular Friday he managed to slip away for an hour and he met with his wife for lunch. They decided as the day was so warm to spread out on the grass of the campus and share a picnic. They lay back on the blanket Kathryn had brought and stared up at the sky, giggling and finding shapes and strange animals in the few clouds which floated high above them.

"That one is definitely old Admiral Barnes. See the pointed nose?" Kathryn was relaxed and in a childishly happy mood.

Chakotay tickled her nose with a blade of grass and she laughed out loud and turned to him to tickle his ribs but he caught her hands and a very brief struggle ended in a passionate kiss. Chakotay nuzzled Kathryn's neck. "I want to stay here for the rest of the day."

"Well Mister, we can't. Work is…ohhh." She leaned her head back, allowing him more room in his quest.

"Work is irrelevant. Resistance is futile." He nibbled at her shoulder as she squeeled.

"Chakotay, we'll be arrested if you keep this up." Kathryn didn't try and stop him though and he continued for a minute more before stopping.

"Oh, all right. I guess I'll just have to wait until tomorrow. How about you be in bed and waiting for me when I get home?" Their eyes met and they kissed again.

"You have a date there. What should I wear?"

He ran his hand over her stomach, caressing the life growing there, not yet showing. "Oh I wouldn't bother with anything. It wouldn't last too long anyway…"

Gul Zarruck watched from a bench close by and observed the happy couple. He smiled to himself and his thoughts were spoken aloud but whispered so no one passing would hear. "Soon, you bastard, very soon. You'll pay back what you took from me. This time tomorrow you'll know the meaning of loss." He stood and walked away, smiling to himself and ignored the curious stares of those passing him.

Kathryn arrived home late afternoon and entered the empty house which had been her childhood home and was now hers and Chakotay's. She smiled to herself thinking how the laughter of a child would once again fill the rooms in the years to come and stroked her stomach tenderly. "I hope you'll be as happy growing up here as I was, little one. Your Daddy and I have great plans for you." Thoughts of Chakotay filled her and she missed him, even though they'd just been together a few hours ago.

Kathryn replicated something light but healthy for herself and settled on the sofa with a good book. For the first time in her life she was conscious of the food she put in her body and found she could manage quite easily without coffee when she knew it was for the good of the one growing inside her. When her eyes found the words more difficult to read, she stood up and ordered the lights on then made her way to the kitchen and replicated some tea for herself. Realizing she was more tired than she thought, she headed upstairs with the cup and got ready for bed. Within half an hour, she was sound asleep, leaving the house quiet and dark. The Cardassian watching from outside saw the lights go off and sat back waiting, the darkness hiding his evil smile.

Kathryn jerked awake, not knowing if she'd heard something or if some dream had disturbed her. She found that she dreamed more now that she was pregnant and she and Chakotay laughed frequently at the images which filled her sleep when she told him of them.

She lay quietly in the bed, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness around her. Suddenly she made out a shape beside her but before she could scream out, a hand clamped tightly over her mouth. Kathryn struggled desperately and was able to sink her teeth into the hand then slide out of the bed but the figure was on her again quickly. She managed to shout for the lights and stopped dead for a minute at the image of the large Cardassian standing before her. Her mind took her back briefly to the time she'd been a prisoner of this race with Admiral Paris and that small hesitation was all the man before her needed and he grabbed her as she fought him fiercely. She was aware of furniture being knocked over and items crashing to the floor as they struggled together but she was also aware of his superior strength and knew this was a fight she would lose. She felt his fist explode against her face and blood gush from her nose and lip and then his hand in her hair and she found herself being propelled across the room by him and her head smashing into the mirror on the wall. She heard it shatter as the side of her head connected with it and felt the shards of glass cut into her. A wave of dizziness and nausea washed over her and she felt her legs give way beneath her. She became aware of her body being dragged back across the room and forced face down onto the bed, his weight coming down on top of her. A rasping voice came from the mouth at her ear.

"I'd stop this fighting if I were you. We don't want that bastard you carry inside you getting hurt now, do we?" Mention of her baby stilled her struggle and she heard his deep gutteral laugh as he pressed down heavily on top of her. "Good girl. That's what I like to see. A woman obeying the commands of a man." Kathryn's heart thumped in her chest and she felt him reach for the hem of her nightdress and pull it up and then stroke his way up her thigh. She felt him sit up off her and his hand continue upwards, caressing her back. His other hand had a tight grip on the back of her neck and suddenly both hands were ripping the satin gown from her body and Kathryn fought again but a heavy punch to her kidneys stilled her and she cried out in pain.

"Bitch. You'll take what's coming to you." Within seconds Kathryn's nightgown was in shreds on the floor and he was pulling her over onto her back, his eyes raking across her body. Satisfied that he had the situation under control, the large Cardassian sat back and watched as Kathryn fought to control her breathing and her tears, winning the first and losing the latter. His laugh filled the room.

"What do you want from me?" Kathryn continued to fight to control herself, desperate that he not see her fear but knowing by his face that it was useless. He knew the effect his presence had on her.

"All in good time." He watched as Kathryn tried using her hands to cover herself and when she reached for the sheet, he snatched it from her. "Maybe I like the view better this way." Kathryn managed to keep her hard won control and folded her arms across her chest as best she could, grateful she'd worn panties to bed. She saw him look around the room then bend and pick up some sweat pants and a shirt she'd left on a chair but which now lay on the floor, along with most items in the room. He threw the clothes at her.

"Put these on quickly. We don't want you dying of the cold. Well, not too quickly anyway." His leering face sent shivers down Kathryn's spine and she grabbed quickly for the pants and sweatshirt, turning slightly to put them on in an attempt to hide herself from his eyes.

Once she'd pulled the clothes on, he advanced on her again and forced her back down on the bed, pushing her face into the mattress. Her arms were pulled roughly behind her and a rope or cord was tied tightly around her wrists. She felt him move down her body and then more bindings being tied at her ankles and knees. When he seemed satisfied with the tightness of the ropes, he pulled Kathryn back to him and pulled out a roll of tape, tearing bits off and pressing them over her mouth and eyes. Kathryn struggled against the restraints but there was no give in them. She felt a bag or hood being pulled over her head and secured around her neck and then she was lifted roughly and slung over his shoulder.

Time lost meaning for Kathryn as she was carried from her home and bundled into a transport of some kind. She was aware of movement and jostling for some time, perhaps an hour, but her captor never spoke to her. She strained her ears for any sound which might give her a clue to her whereabouts but the hood muffled anything which might have been of use to her.

After what seemed like hours to Kathryn, she felt herself lifted again and carried for some time but within minutes, she felt the cold seep into her. She became aware of his hand stroking her backside as he carried her but she forced her mind to ignore it and think clearly and she came to the conclusion that they were perhaps underground. She knew the weather at this time of year allowed for warm nights and wherever she was now was far too cold to be outside. She knew they hadn't travelled long enough to have left orbit of Earth and she'd have felt a transporter if he'd used one so she surmised that they were most likely below the surface somewhere.

Eventually her captor stopped and she felt herself falling from his hold and grunted loudly as her body hit the ground, landing on what felt like stone. She was dragged across the hard floor, her bare feet scraping off the surface and slammed against a wall. Kathryn was then roughly pushed forward and she felt him working at the bindings on her wrists and then they were cut. Instinct made her lash out at where she felt he was but he quickly grabbed first one wrist and then the other and she felt each one pulled above her head and snapped into metal rings of some kind. She pulled against these and heard what sounded like chains but once again there was no escape from her restraints.

Kathryn felt the suffocating hood removed from her head and grunted against her gag when the tape from her eyes was roughly ripped off, pulling hair with it. It took a few minutes for her vision to adjust to the dull light and she slowly took in her surroundings. Kathryn quickly realized that she was in a cave of some sort and saw water dripping down the walls. The dampness of the place seeped into her and she found herself shivering. She became aware of her captor watching her and hardened herself as she looked at him, trying to get her eyes to show her defiance.

"Not the high and mighty Starfleet captain now, are we?" His laugh echoed off the cave walls. "Still arrogant though, I see." He brought his hand up and ran a finger down Kathryn's cheek but she pulled her head back. The Cardassian's answer to this was to grab Kathryn by the throat with one hand and twist his other hand painfully in her hair.

"Don't try that with me, bitch. You'll learn quickly who's in control here." His hand around her throat tightened, leaving Kathryn struggling for air. When he finally loosened his grip, he just sat back and laughed as she fought to get air into her body through her nose. When her breathing eased, he moved close to her again and sat beside her.

"Let me clear some things up for you. You're my captive and I'm in total control. You're here because I intend to get payback for an old debt." He clearly saw that the woman before him didn't understand and he let his eyes look her over. "You see, my dear, your husband owes me big time." He saw her confusion grow and laughed. "Oh, before your time. Long before your time. His Maquis days, you see? He stole from me and now I intend to take back from him. I can't replace what he took from me but I can have… What do you call it? Oh yes, payment in kind." He brought his hand to Kathryn's neck and moved it down to her breast where he squeezed painfully. Kathryn closed her eyes and a cry caught in her throat as pain shot through her from her over sensitive breast.

"Quite tender there at the moment, I see. Amazing what pregnancy does to the body." He moved his other hand up and grabbed her other breast and squeezed there too. Kathryn squirmed under him as pain filled her and he squeezed tighter. Finally his hands were removed and Kathryn opened her eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks.

"I understand this condition also has other 'more pleasant' side effects." He grinned at her and reached out and pulled her sweatshirt up, exposing her to his eyes. "Quite swollen, I see. Cardassian women have the same reaction." He brought his hands back to her breasts but this time his touch was gentle as he caressed her nipples then leaned his mouth in and sucked at them. Kathryn tried her best to pull herself away from him but with the wall behind her, there was nowhere to go. She felt his hand on her thigh and then it moved upwards until he pushed it between her legs and cupped her mound, the rope at her knees cutting into her. Kathryn twisted in any way she could but there was no escape from his roving hands. His hand now moved to the waistband of her pants and slipped in under the elastic and down until his fingers slid beneath her panties and into her hair and between her folds. She twisted all she could and tried bringing her legs up to hit off him but he was ahead of her. She felt one of his legs move over hers and push down, using it to hold her legs to the ground while his hand continued exploring her. Kathryn groaned again when she felt one of his rough fingers slip into her and suddenly something inside her gave in and she fell limp, all the struggle gone from her. Sensing her change immediately, her captor stopped at once and looked into her eyes. He saw her tears and something he couldn't quite name.

"All right, we'll play it your way for the moment. We have plenty of time later for some fun." He pressed his finger deeper inside Kathryn and laughed. "Plenty of time for me to fuck that little bastard out of you afterwards." He saw the fear on Kathryn's face and pressed deeper again then withdrew. "I have some business to take care of regarding that husband of yours and then I'll be back and we'll take care of some business of our own." He smiled and pulled her shirt back down and patted her stomach.

"You two stay here and wait until I get back now." He stood up and looked down at the woman before him then walked away and came back with a holoimager and took several images of Kathryn shackled to the wall, her hair dishevelled and her face blood smeared, cut and bruised. "These should give him something to think about for a while." He came back and knelt back down beside Kathryn. "I'll be back to you later and then we can have our fun. I should only be gone a day or so." He laughed when he saw the panic in Kathryn's eyes. "Oh, you won't starve. Maybe you'll get thirsty but so what. You'll get used to the dark too and I'm sure the rats will keep you company. Well, I'll see you later." He stood again and picked up the light and left, leaving Kathryn in the dark, terrified and alone.

Chakotay headed for home delighted to be finished for the week and smiled to himself wondering if Kathryn would remember their plans of the day before. The thought of her lying in their bed naked and waiting for him filled his mind and he quickly turned his thoughts to something else. The last thing he needed was to embarrass himself in public.

He quietly opened the front door and caught himself before he called out as he usually did. He tiptoed his way up the stairs and looked down at the bunch of roses he carried and smiled. He'd already felt very self-conscious carrying the flowers through the campus of Starfleet but didn't care really. The smile on his wife's face when she saw them would easily make up for that. Boothby had cut the stems himself and handed them to Chakotay, Kathryn Janeway being one of the few he would even consider handing his beloved blooms over to. Chakotay stood outside the bedroom door and inhaled the scent of the roses deeply then slowly pushed open the door, a big smile plastered over his face.

Chakotay dropped the bouquet he carried as his eyes took in the devastation of the bedroom. He felt his legs carry him into the room as his eyes scanned the destruction within, the upturned furniture, the smashed ornaments and vases and the mirror on the wall. He saw Kathryn's nightgown on the floor ripped to shreds and her blood splattered on the bed and around the room. Somewhere in the distance he heard his own voice scream out Kathryn's name and then his training kicked in and he was back downstairs calling in Starfleet and Security.

Sometime later, he found himself sitting in a chair as Starfleet personnel roamed his home and whispered in small groups. He was aware of Admiral Paris talking to him and heard himself repeat what he'd found and how, going back over the past week, how nothing had been out of the ordinary, how they'd met for lunch the previous day and he reluctantly told the old man of their plans for this afternoon. He saw the sadness in the old face before him and looked past him as he watched a young ensign carry the roses outside, Chakotay's eyes following them. He felt the Admiral pat his arm and attempt to say something comforting but it didn't reach him.

Snatches of a conversation came to his ears a little later and he saw Admiral Paris and a young Lieutenant talking quietly nearby, unaware of Chakotay's close proximity. 'It looks like he took her in the bedroom' –'the place is pretty badly smashed up' - 'probably taken from her bed' - 'middle of the night by the congealment of the bloodstains' - 'found rope and tape, probably used to tie her up and gag her, blindfold her too' - 'seems there was quite a struggle' - 'judging by the mess and the blood, it looks like she put up one hell of a fight' - 'you see the mirror, looks like he smashed her head off it' - 'fair bit of blood around and some hair' - 'her nightclothes were ripped off her' - 'can't say if there was any sexual assault but…" They both looked up into the agonized face of Chakotay.

"Chakotay…" Admiral Paris reached out his hand to the man before him.

Chakotay held a hand up. "Don't… just… I need to know…" He saw the two men exchange a look and nod to each other.

Admiral Paris spoke finally. "Look, Chakotay, we know little at this moment except that there was a struggle and she was taken."

Chakotay pulled back. "How much blood? Could it have been the baby?"

The Lieutenant shook his head. "No, it wasn't that. We have a team up there. It was most likely a head or face wound, nose bleed probably. Sir, there isn't enough blood for that, I assure you." Chakotay looked around him.

"What about… You said her nightgown was… I saw it." He watched as the two men looked uncomfortably at each other.

"We don't think he would have taken the time. I'm sorry for how that sounds but… He'd have wanted to get out of here quickly."

Chakotay was pacing now. "But later on, wherever he has her. Oh Spirits…" He felt a strong hand grip his arm and looked up into the sad eyes of the old Admiral.

"Chakotay, you need to be strong now for her. We badly need your help here." Chakotay nodded, knowing the old man was right. "I need for you to go back upstairs and try and see if anything is missing. Lieutenant Jenkins here will go with you." Chakotay closed his eyes trying desperately to pull himself together.

When Chakotay and Jenkins came back downstairs later, Jenkins was practically holding him up. Admiral Paris saw the pain on Chakotay's face and hardened himself.

"I think… She has a sweatsuit, grey. She wears it at home a lot. She says it's comfortable. I can't see it." The older man nodded and motioned for Jenkins to sit Chakotay down then came over and pulled a chair up.

"Chakotay, listen carefully to me now. I have some answers to this." He saw the former Maquis look up at him. "We've received a ransom note." He put a hand on Chakotay's chest to keep him in his chair. "It arrived at Starfleet about fifteen minutes ago."

Chakotay pushed against the hand holding him down. "Who is it from? What have they… Where is she? Is she all right?

Admiral Paris pushed harder. "For God's sake, man, hold it together a minute. I'm sorry…"

Chakotay shook his head. "I'm sorry too. It's just…" Paris and Jenkins nodded their understanding, both men knowing they'd be the same if it were their wives.

Admiral Paris spoke on. "There's a list of demands, mainly precious metals, gems, works of art."

Chakotay nodded, his face showing his desperation. "So pay it. I'll find some way." He saw Paris and Jenkins exchange another look.

"Chakotay, you know Starfleet policy. We can't pay this. We don't negotiate with terrorists."

Chakotay jumped up. "So we what? Leave her there? Let her die there? Let him kill her? Let…"

Owen Paris stood up. "Chakotay, it won't come to that. We'll find her."

Chakotay turned suddenly. "When? When it's too late?" He started his pacing again, his mind racing. Suddenly he stopped. "You said 'terrorists'. How do you know who?"

Admiral Paris lowered his head a moment then met Chakotay's eyes. "There's one other 'item' on the list." He saw Chakotay's eyes demand the rest and he shifted on his feet. "You."

Chakotay stared at the men in front of him. "Me? They want me?" They both nodded. Chakotay's thoughts were everywhere but slowly began to order themselves. "So I take it we know who?"

Owen Paris nodded slowly. "We know who and we were hoping you could perhaps tell us why. We assume you know since this is so 'personalized' if you like." Chakotay just continued staring at them, waiting for them to tell him. Owen Paris indicated for them all to move to the kitchen and then closed the door.

"It's not a 'they', it's a 'he'. He signed the note, wants you to know who." He regarded the man in front of him and then continued. "Do you know the name 'Gul Zarruck', a Cardasssian?" Chakotay's face told the Admiral he knew him only too well. He watched as Chakotay fell into a chair at the kitchen table, his mind revisiting a past the rest of them knew nothing of.

"He… Bastard. All these years late." Owen Paris and Brian Jenkins sat also and waited for the man before them to share that past. Chakotay stood and made for the kitchen sink where he splashed cold water over his face, drinking some. Finally he dried himself and sat again then drawing in a deep breath, he spoke of something he'd considered long dead.

"It was way back, before… I was in the Maquis. It was some time before the Delta Quadrant. Zarruck was evil beyond words. Even his own found him too much. Oh Spirits, Kathryn…" He covered his face with his hands.

Brian Jenkins cleared his throat. "Chakotay, we need to know this. Come on now, this is the only way we can help her."

Chakotay nodded at the Lieutenant. "I know, I'm sorry. It's just… You've no idea what he's capable of." The two men before him nodded their sympathies.

"He knows me all right, hates my guts. He was involved in the war but it was only a part of it with him. He worked to his own agenda. He used anyone, even his own. The Maquis were always on the lookout for him because we knew what he was capable of. I think even his own would have been glad to see the back of him. I foiled him a couple of times so he was always on the hunt for me. It became almost personal." He looked up at the two men sitting watching him, knowing they'd no real idea of what it had been like. "We rescued some Colonists from him, people he was holding hostage. He wasn't too happy with that. Later on, we learned that he had his own personal 'camp' if you like. Basically a slave camp he ran, many different races and some of our own. It was his own personal 'breeding ground' for his own use. He used the people there for slaves and his own 'entertainment'. Anyway, one night we 'liberated' the camp. After that he wanted my blood." Chakotay leaned backed in his chair, his eyes haunted by the images his mind was reliving.

This place… He used those people. As I say, as slaves mostly but also for his own perverted tastes. He used the women and girls for his own… You don't want to know. Some of the girls were as young as ten or twelve. That bastard was even into young boys. Race didn't matter either. There were even some Cardassians there." Chakotay saw the disgust of his own face reflected on the faces of the two men in front of him.

"After that, it was almost impossible for him to try that again. He got away with a lot, with his own but even they drew the line at children. Anyway, he was watched more closely and… He swore revenge at me and now… Oh Spirits, I tried so hard to forget." He dropped his head and covered his face, great racking sobs shaking his large frame. Owen Paris nodded to Jenkins and they left the man to himself, giving him some privacy.

Kathryn had no idea of how much time had passed but she'd cried herself dry. Her ears picked up scurrying sounds in the darkness and twice she'd felt something crawl on her legs but when she'd shaken them, whatever had been there quickly ran off, probably more afraid of her than she was of it. The cold and damp of the place seeped into her bones but she forced her body to relax itself, knowing that this helped. She could make out nothing in the thick blackness which surrounded her and she fought desperately to control her fear. She found herself terrified with thoughts of her captor returning yet equally terrified that he wouldn't return and would leave her to die in this place, chained to the wall. Her legs felt numb from the tight bindings and her arms ached from being shackled above her head, the metal at her wrists digging painfully into her skin.

Thoughts of Chakotay and their home came to her and her tears started afresh. She knew the pain he'd go through when he discovered what had happened to her but she was more worried about what this Cardassian would do to him. She quickly forced these thoughts from her mind and instead filled herself with images of what had been between them and what was to come, how happy they'd be with the baby and what good times lay ahead. She knew she had to keep thinking along these lines if she wanted to stay sane and so she spent her hours thinking of happy times, dreaming of a wonderful future, singing songs and reciting poems in her head, anything that would deny reality and in between all this, she prayed.

Admiral Paris and Brian Jenkins stood on the porch of the Janeway home and spoke quietly. The old man shook his head, not believing what was happening around them all.

Jenkins looked out over the garden then turned to search the face beside him. "Do you think we should keep the images we received from him?" He saw his superior shake his head.

"I don't think he could handle them. That son of a bitch…"

A voice behind them startled the two men. "What images?" Both Starfleet men jumped slightly and locked eyes with each other a moment before looking back at the distraught man before them. "I said what images? Admiral, I have a right to…. I need to know…"

Jenkins looked down at the decking while Owen Paris moved to Chakotay. "Son, I really don't think…"

Chakotay stood his ground and held out his hand. "The images, Admiral. Now please." The old man sighed loudly and handed Chakotay an imaging chip which he took, then walked back into the house. Jenkins went to follow but Admiral Paris laid a hand on his arm and shook his head.

Chakotay inserted the chip into his console and the pictures that came at him almost stopped his heart. To see his wife beaten and abused like this was too much and he squeezed his eyes shut to block out the images but they were already there. Even with his eyelids tightly closed, he still saw her, her face cut and bruised, her arms chained above her head, the tape gag, the tears and fear in her eyes and he found himself making a vow to get her back and then kill the man responsible for this. Guilt sat heavily with him also that Kathryn was suffering for something from his life but he quickly shut it off knowing there would be time for that later. For now, he channelled his hatred into getting his wife back and making Zarruck pay, knowing he wouldn't rest until that had been done.

Gul Zarruck would have given anything to have been a fly on the wall in the house he watched from a distance. He knew his message and the image chip had been delivered and received and hoped that the man he wanted to get at had seen them also. He knew there was a chance that Starfleet would try and keep the images at least to themselves, but he knew his prey well, and felt sure that if Chakotay knew of their existence at all, would demand to see them. He laughed to himself thinking of what effect those same pictures would have and delighted in the pain he knew they would cause. Once he'd had his fill, he silently crept away and made for the cave where his hostage lay waiting for him.

Kathryn wasn't sure if she had fallen asleep or passed out but suddenly she found herself jerking awake with some sound. All at once light began to filter into the area around her and then the form of the large Cardassian filled her field of vision. Kathryn struggled desperately to control her fear as the man made his way towards her. She watched carefully as he set the light down and stood studying her for several minutes, not speaking any words, letting his presence do his work for him. Kathryn refused to look at him but when he suddenly moved towards her, her eyes turned to him and she saw he carried a flask of some kind. He knelt beside her and reached out to her, quickly tearing the tape from her mouth then simply held the flask to her lips and let her drink.

Kathryn drank deeply and greedily as he laughed. She wanted to spit the liquid into his face but knew she needed it more for her own body and the small life she carried inside her and for that reason, she'd suffer his taunts and humiliation tactics. When he'd decided she'd her fill, he withdrew the flask and re-fixed the tape across her mouth, then sat back and studied her.

"Missed me, did you? I've been gone a day and a half you know." He looked from Kathryn to the walls surrounding them and was silent again for some minutes, his thoughts his own.

"He knows I have you now. All of them know. All those Starfleet pigs running around the place, trying to look important. They'll fail of course. Even if they find me, they'll never find you." He studied Kathryn closely and saw the fear and pain on her face. "All those dreams you had are nothing but ashes. Nothing will ever come of them now, you know that. A dream in exchange for a dream sounds about fair to me." He laughed. Suddenly he reached into a bag he carried and pulled a blanket of sorts from it then reached around Kathryn and pulled it around her.

"Can't have you dying on me too soon. The cold here is bad and I need a live hostage. Well, for the moment anyway." He threw his head back and laughed as Kathryn stared at him, fighting her tears as best she could. As quickly as he'd started laughing, he stopped and stared at the woman before him.

"You've been a guest of my people before, haven't you?" He saw by her eyes that she remembered only too well. "I'd say they were kinder to you than I'm going to be." Kathryn's terror showed and he laughed again. His hand had started running up and down Kathryn's thigh but he seemed unaware of the action.

"I remember those days well and how good it was." His hand continued its exploration of Kathryn but he seemed unaware of where it travelled as he lost himself in recollections of a past he appeared to savour. Kathryn fought her tears as he idly molested her and tried to listen to his words as he spoke at length about the 'good days' when he was in command of all around him, how he'd had wealth and respect and how the war had brought him a lifestyle he'd never had before. Slowly bitterness crept into his voice as he spoke of Chakotay and the Maquis and how they'd been against him from the start, how they'd tried to foil his plans for his own betterment, even turned his own against him in the end and how now their leader would finally pay. He told her of how much he hated Starfleet for their part against him and as a result Kathryn herself as she was part of it all, connected to both his enemies. "Time waits for all men, my dear, especially a patient man with revenge on his mind. Those bastards, him in particular, took from me and denied me, now I have you and I'll do the same to them. They're all going to suffer the way I suffered." His grip tightened on Kathryn's leg painfully but she refused to make any sound that might alert him to the fact that he was hurting her.

Suddenly he seemed to come back to the present and his eyes dropped to where his hand was on Kathryn's leg and she saw the evil grin on his face. His grip loosened and he stroked up and down her leg then looked into her eyes, his laugh reaching her ears. Kathryn prepared herself for what was to come but he had something else in mind.

His mood changed back to bitterness and hatred in a flash and instead of the sexual assault Kathryn had prepared herself for, a vicious physical and verbal bombardment came in its place. Zarruck screamed obscene abuse at the woman chained helplessly before him and his fists rained down on her. Kathryn tried to scream out but the noise stayed in her own head, having nowhere else to go. Pain tore through her as blow after blow met her small body, her face, head and chest taking the brunt of the assault. Kathryn drew her legs up as far as she could, twisting herself onto her side as much as possible, trying desperately to protect her lower body and the tiny life that fought to survive within her but his heavy boots kicked her legs repeatedly. Eventually it seemed to be tiredness that stopped the heavy Cardassian and when he'd finished, Kathryn lay, still chained to the wall, almost insensate from the beating, blood and tears mixing freely on her face. Zarruck was still screaming at her, words she could no longer understand, as he staggered backwards, his mind somewhere other than the cave now. Finally he seemed to calm down somewhat and stared down at his own handiwork, appearing shocked at first and then pleased with his results. Once more he snapped off images of Kathryn, telling her that her 'bastard husband' would get a thrill from seeing her as she was. Without another word, he picked up his light and left the cave, his laughter the last part of him to leave as it echoed around the walls of Kathryn's stone prison, staying with her and mocking her, long after her tormentor had gone.


This time, Owen Paris was determined that Chakotay wouldn't see the images which were delivered to Starfleet some three hours later but Zarruck had other ideas and sent a separate copy of the images to Chakotay at his home. When Admiral Paris and Lieutenant Jenkins arrived at the Janeway house an hour later they knew immediately that the man who opened the door to them had already seen the Cardassian's latest delivery. The pain and anguish on the face of Voyager's former First Officer had a life of their own and they knew that only seeing Kathryn as she appeared in the latest pictures could have caused such deep horror to manifest itself. "Chakotay, we'll find her. I promise you."

Chakotay shrugged the kind hand off his arm and paced in small circles. "You can't promise that and you know it. Maybe you'll find her but when? In how many weeks or months?" Jenkins, a trained counsellor took over and grabbed Chakotay and pushed him into the nearest chair. He gestured for the Security man on duty to leave them.

"Listen to me now. This will help no one, particularly Kathryn. You have to hold it together for now. Every member of Starfleet, every Security Officer is on the lookout for Zarruck. We WILL find him and your wife and when we do, it's your strength she'll need to get her through this, not a man falling apart or planning murder." Chakotay looked up into the green eyes staring into his own and knew the truth of the words spoken to him, at least the last part. He nodded and searched himself for what he needed to control his emotions, dug deep for everything he'd learned from the woman who was now missing from his life.

"Right, right. You're right. It's just so…" He saw both men nod their understanding.

Owen Paris sat opposite Chakotay and spoke softly. "I wouldn't say this if I didn't have faith in my men but I truly believe we'll find them. You'll get her back, Kathryn and the baby. We'll catch Zarruck and he'll get what's coming to him. I give you my word on that." Chakotay nodded, desperately needing to believe what the old man told him. Silence descended over the three men for some minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Owen Paris broke it.

"He sent along particulars this time for the handover." Chakotay's head shot up. "He gave us details of where he wants the other items sent, the gems and so on. Some safety deposit box and security account, one he can access from anywhere."

Chakotay stared the old man square in the eyes. "And where does he want me sent?" He was aware of Jenkins sitting beside him but kept his eyes on Owen Paris.

"He sent coordinates. You're to go unarmed and wait. He'll scan the area, make sure there's no one else around."

Chakotay nodded, silently thanking the Admiral for being honest with him. "When is this to take place? What did he say about Kathryn?"

The old Admiral sighed. "Tomorrow 15:00 hours. He said he'd relay the coordinates where Kathryn could be found, some cave in the hills. We'd already guessed that and he'd know we'd have seen from the images that it was underground."

Chakotay stood. "We can't trust him and you know that. I'll go to him. I don't care for myself but I don't think we can trust him where Kathryn's concerned. It's all too one sided."

Owen stood now. "Chakotay, I don't like this either and I don't want to you going. I agree it's all on his side, that he holds all the cards. Trouble is, he has us over a barrel and the bastard knows it."

Chakotay looked from one man to the other. "We don't have a choice though. I have to go and he knows I will." They were interrupted by an incoming call to Owen Paris on his personal communicator and the old man walked outside to take the message, leaving Chakotay and Jenkins silent in each other's company, neither knowing what to say.

Kathryn knew she was passing in and out of consciousness and as a result had no concept of time passing. Pain washed over her from the beating Zarruck had inflicted upon her and the cold and dampness of the cave still seeped into her. The blanket he'd given her helped alleviate some of the bitter cold but still she found herself shivering badly, not sure if it was from the low temperature or her body going into shock. She was aware that days had passed since Zarruck had taken her and the fact that she had eaten nothing in that time and only been given something to drink once was telling on her. She still felt small creatures scurry across her legs but now she had little strength to move in order to try and frighten them off and she felt them bite at her every now and again. Her arms were numb at this stage and she slumped against the wall, completely weakened. She'd no clue as to how long it had been since the Cardassian had last been with her but understood that some considerable time had passed, more than likely a day at least. Kathryn did all she could and she thought of Chakotay and prayed that she'd see him again, prayed that their child would get a chance at life. Her tears had long since dried up and she constantly found her mind wandering to images of childhood, times in the Delta Quadrant, happy occasions with Chakotay and her former crew and then reality would snap back into place and with it would come terrible feelings of dread and hopelessness. She was long past feeling hungry and found it almost impossible to distinguish the empty feelings inside herself between lack of food and water and the despair which seemed to consume her. She felt herself losing consciousness once more and prayed with her last conscious thoughts for Chakotay to be safe.

When Owen Paris re-entered the house, Chakotay tried to read the expression on the face of the old man but found it impossible.

"They've arrested him, some young Security Officers from Unit D, only out of training." Owen Paris dropped his head and Chakotay jumped in immediately.

"Kathryn? Have they found her? Owen, what the hell?" He felt Jenkins grip his arm and tried to calm himself.

The Admiral looked up slowly. "There's no sign of her and that bastard's not talking. How many times? We tell them to await orders. Chakotay, I'm sorry. They were young and green. They saw him, recognized him and just arrested him."

Chakotay didn't hear most of what the old man said and was on his way out the door. "Not talking? He'll talk all right." Paris and Jenkins looked at each other in a panic and chased after the distraught man.

Gul Zarruck sat in a comfortable holding cell, his grin spread across his face, knowing full well the effect he was having. Thoughts of the woman he'd taken, alone and dying, actually brought him comfort. He knew Starfleet would do nothing to him as long as he alone held the card as to her location. He longed to see the man he hated, the one this was all about, but so far he'd been denied his requests to see his work in action. The Cardassian leaned back in his chair, warm and comfortable and with a full stomach and hummed to himself, believing everything was going his way.

Chakotay hadn't been allowed anywhere near Zarruck and found himself in an office, carefully watched by Owen Paris, Brian Jenkins and two nervous looking Security Officers. "Chakotay, for God's sake man, sit down. Our best are interrogating him. We'll find her."

Chakotay whirled on the two men. "It's been nearly two days and he still won't talk. Just give me five minutes with him."

Jenkins shoved Chakotay into a chair. "His own counsel are with him. Chakotay, I hate to say this and I agree with you and know what I'd want to do, but you have to understand that we can't start a war over this, neither can we be seen to break the rules on prisoner rights."

Chakotay looked up at the man, tears pouring form his eyes, completely unashamed at the show of his emotions. "He has no rights. What about Kathryn's rights? Brian, it's been almost five days since he took her. She's dying somewhere. Maybe already… Oh Spirits, please."

There was a knock on the outer door and Tuvok entered. Chakotay saw the Vulcan take in the scene before him before speaking. "They've called it off for the evening. His own Counsel refuse to let us near him until the morning." Chakotay went to jump up but Jenkins was ready for him and held him down. Tuvok stepped forward. "Admiral Paris, I would suggest that I take the commander back to my quarters and let the Doctor administer a sedative for the night." Chakotay was about to fight them all but something on the face of the Vulcan silenced him, some inner reading of the man he'd worked closely with for so many years in the Delta Quadrant and he found himself showing his surrender and just nodded. Admiral Paris slowly nodded his agreement. If he had suspicions, he kept them to himself.

Within minutes, they were walking the corridors of headquarters towards the living space where the Vulcan resided while on Earth. Neither man spoke and finally they entered the Spartan rooms Tuvok referred to as his quarters.

Voyager's EMH stood waiting for them and nodded silently for Chakotay to sit. "Commander, I'm so very sorry about all that has happened. Please just listen to us." Chakotay nodded, knowing he'd trust these people with his own life and also Kathryn's.

Tuvok gave them all a moment then spoke. "Commander, please understand that all this is unspoken. This conversation never took place and what will follow will never have occurred. You returned to my quarters for the evening and the Doctor administered a strong sedative. You slept for the entire night. During that time the Doctor and I played a few games of cards and then retired also." Chakotay simply nodded his agreement.

"I have 'spoken' with my Cardassian counterpart and we find we are in agreement on this matter. Zarruck is a 'problem' to us both. They want nothing more than for the man to cease to be a problem to them and we want information from him. We can't let him go until we get that information or decide we cannot get it and agree to release him and they want nothing more than to return their 'problem' to their own home and deal with it as they see fit. Apparently there are many on Cardassia who wish an audience with the Gul also." Chakotay stayed silent and waited to hear the rest. The Doctor merely stood to one side and played with some medical instruments.

"There will be a single Starfleet Security Officer on duty alongside a single Cardassian Security Officer outside the brig where Zarruck is being held. Both these men are most trustworthy and were both 'recommended' for this duty." Chakotay nodded, starting to understand where this was going.

"Zarruck has information we require and he also apparently has information the Cardassian Authorities require. Our Doctor will visit the prisoner to 'ensure that all is well'. He will administer a drug called Sodium Penthathol, a more crude name being a 'truth serum'. Actually, it will be an enhanced version which is not exactly 'legal'. When we have the information we all need, another drug will be administered and Zarruck will remember nothing of the encounter. Tomorrow morning, Starfleet will announce that Zarruck struck a deal and in return for safe passage to his home world, he volunteered the information we required. Once back on Cardassia, he will face charges there. The outcome of that has already been decided but that is not spoken of and we must await the outcome of the 'fair trial' he is entitled to." Chakotay shook his head and smiled softly, despite the situation. The lengths these people were going to for their former captain amazed him and he stood slowly and nodded.

"Let's get going then. I assume I can accompany you both." They simply nodded but Tuvok wore a guarded expression. "Oh, I'll stay back and let you work. I promise. I want nothing more than to pound the bastard to oblivion but I know your way is more productive. Let's go." He was already out the door, praying desperately that they wouldn't be too late.

Kathryn's head lolled around and her thoughts were scattered in all directions. Not one single clear thought would form for her and it was only Chakotay's face which was clear in her mind. She felt confused and at this stage had little idea of where she was or what was happening around her. She was aware of being cold and in pain and of the darkness surrounding her. Occasionally there was a sharp pain to her legs as if something was biting at her and she tried pulling her legs away but found they refused to obey the simple command. Her arms ached above her head and she vaguely wondered why they were there. Once or twice another face came to her and she felt fear, instinct telling her that this face was the cause of her pain but it always disappeared as quickly as it appeared in her head. The only clear concept that came to her now was that she was dying and she somehow knew that this death would take place where she was. A stray thought came to her that there was someone else she should worry about, another she had to care for but it wouldn't form clearly in her mind. As she felt herself falling somewhere, she fought it for a moment and then gave into it, Chakotay's face being the last image she knew.

Chakotay stood back and let the others do their work. He forced himself to grin at the evil Cardassian before him, making sure he could be seen, as the man's tongue was loosened by the drug coursing through his system and all the information they needed tumbled out. As the large alien finally slumped in his chair, Tuvok's counterpart came up to Chakotay and whispered to him.

"Commander, my apologies for all this. He is my enemy too. My daughter was in one of the camps you liberated so I owe you a great deal." Chakotay studied the man before him and simply nodded his understanding. "You have my word that he will pay for all this. Take it from me, he will die for his crimes. I also give you my word that my name and yours will be the last he will hear. He'll know why at the end." Both men locked eyes and silent understanding passed between them. Finally the Cardassian went to move off. "I'll keep in touch with Mr. Tuvok to let him know. My prayers for your wife go with you." The former enemies shook hands, each knowing there were always foes far greater than the ones you saw straight on, things more important than war and territory.

Within minutes, Chakotay and a Starfleet team were on their way to where they prayed they would find Kathryn alive. Tom and B'Elanna took part in the search and the Doctor, thanks for his emitter, joined them. Teams split up and searched the many tunnels of the cave system underneath the hills on the outskirts of the city where Zarruck had told them he had brought his captive. Within five minutes, shouts reached Chakotay's ears and he ran, following their sound as best he could. He came to a small cave, now well lit and the sight that met him sent him to his knees.

Kathryn lay unconscious, chained to the wall, her ankles and knees still bound and her arms chained above her. Her head had fallen to her chest and Chakotay crept forward as he saw the Doctor raise her head and run a scanner over her. He cried out when he saw the bloody and swollen state of her face, the tape gag still in place and her skin a mass of cuts and bruises. He watched as the Doctor carefully peeled off the tape and saw the cut on her lip ooze blood from having been disturbed.

"Kathryn, hold on. Please don't leave me." Chakotay reached his hand out to her, barely touching her skin and finding her freezing cold but the Doctor blocked him and moved his arm away.

"She's still alive. Commander, please, let me work." Chakotay nodded and moved back a little, allowing Tom to take his place. He watched as they fought to stabilize his wife and was vaguely aware of two Officers cutting the shackles which chained her wrists and the blue tinge to her hands. He looked down and saw B'Elanna cutting through the ropes which bound her ankles and knees and saw the blood on her pants and the small holes in them and the many bites beneath the material. He also saw the scrapes and bites on her feet and the same blue colour of the skin there from the cold.

Time took on a surreal aspect and Chakotay saw Kathryn being placed on a stretcher of sorts and then they were outside. He was barely aware of the transporter beam taking them all to a hospital and then there was the waiting, endless hours of not knowing and praying, people speaking meaningless words to him, hands patting his arms and shoulders but nothing meaning anything to him except the fight he knew was taking place behind the closed door he refused to take his eyes off.

Sometime later, he became aware of the Doctor's face before him and he saw the lips move but the words refused to meet his ears at first. He shook himself and forced his mind to cooperate and realized the Doctor understood as he repeated his words. "Commander, she'll be fine. There are still some small cuts and bruising remaining but they'll heal. She took quite a beating but we've managed to heal her. There was some internal bleeding but mostly in her upper body. The lack of nourishment and fluid was the greatest problem. It could have been a lot worse. If much more time had passed…"

Chakotay rubbed at his face, trying desperately to bring feeling back to it. "I know. She'd have starved to death." He dropped his head, trying to block out the images. "The baby?" He looked up again, suddenly aware of Tom and B'Elanna beside him and saw the Doctor smile.

"The baby's fine. They're resilient little things. She… The baby fed off its mother. Kathryn was the one who suffered most."

Chakotay missed the Doctor's slip of the tongue, hearing only that the woman he loved had suffered, knowing it was because of him. "She'll be all right?"

The Doctor nodded. "In time and with plenty of good care and rest. The rat bites were starting to get infected but I've placed her on the appropriate medicines for that and we have her body temperature back to normal. Chakotay, she'll make a full recovery. I give you my word."

Chakotay nodded, welcoming the hands that reached for him now. "Can I see her? Please, I need to see her."

The medic nodded. "Give us a few minutes to get her settled and then I'll call you." Chakotay nodded and managed to thank the Doctor, the words coming from him of their own accord. He slowly looked up and suddenly realized just how many former crewmembers and friends were waiting with him and tears clouded his eyes again and he tearfully nodded his thanks to each of them.

Chakotay spent the rest of the night sitting at his wife's bedside, stroking her hand and arm and whispering quietly to her. Occasionally his hand strayed to her stomach and he spoke to the tiny life which lay nestled safe and sound within. By morning, he was exhausted and fought a battle with his eyes which he finally lost. Sometime later, a hand gently shook him aware and he looked up into the eyes of Tuvok. Chakotay blinked a couple of times to clear his vision and motioned for the Vulcan to sit.

"Commander, how is the captain?"

Chakotay smiled softly and looked towards the woman lying before him. "She'll be fine thanks, Tuvok. She and the baby…." The Doctor's words of the night before filtered into his mind. "They're both fine. Kathryn and my, I believe a daughter?" He looked up and saw the Doctor in the room with them, making adjustments to some equipment and saw the medic look embarrassed.

"I apologise, Commander. A slip of the tongue."

Chakotay smiled and shook his head. "Doc, it's fine. That they're both OK is all that matters." The two men exchanged a look that spoke of a long and deep understanding and friendship, one Chakotay knew all of Voyager's crew shared with each other. Seeing the cards and flowers and small gifts which already filled the room spoke of that.

Chakotay watched as Tuvok nodded. "Commander, I need to inform you that the 'trial' has already taken place."

Chakotay raised his eyebrows, almost mimicking the Vulcan. "Already? They don't waste time, do they?"

Tuvok shook his head. "They do not indeed. He was found guilty on numerous charges including murder, rape, kidnap, enslavement, numerous corruption charges, the list is quite endless. Needless to say, justice on Cardassia is swift and the execution has already taken place. It apparently 'took three attempts by the executioner to carry out sentence and the prisoner suffered greatly' or so I was informed. Apparently his last words were to the effect that they had to let him go as he couldn't let 'the Maquis bastard win'."

Chakotay knew there was a time when he would have celebrated the death of this Cardassian, rejoiced in it even, but the woman beside him had changed all that. He was glad Zarruck was dead, that he'd never inflict pain on anyone else again, but the burning desire for revenge was long gone from inside Chakotay now, replaced by love, the love and peace Kathryn Janeway had brought to his life.

Once Tuvok had left, Chakotay turned to the medic and asked the question which had been on his mind constantly. "Doc, I needed to ask you if there…if that bastard did anything else, if Kathryn was…"

He saw the Doctor nod his understanding. "I saw no evidence of that, Commander."

Chakotay held the other man's eyes. "That's not what I asked you." His voice was pleading.

The Doctor shook his head. "It's all I can tell you though, Commander. If there was anything, I can't say. Certainly there was no medical evidence of anything, tearing or bleeding. There was no sign of that." The Doctor seemed to hesitate and then continued. "The only injury I saw was bruising to her breasts but that could easily have been from the beating, most likely was, in fact." Chakotay nodded, taking the Doctor's words for what they were, knowing they were all he'd get.

Kathryn improved greatly over the next two days and by the third day, she regained consciousness. The Doctor kept the lights at their lowest setting to allow her eyesight to adjust. She cried bitterly as Chakotay held her trembling body tightly to him, trying his best to sooth her and reassure her that she was safe now but deep inside he knew it would take a long time before his wife felt secure again.

By the end of the week, he was able to bring her home but he never strayed far from her side, seeing how nervous she was in the house. Admiral Paris arranged for a long leave of absence for them both and Chakotay thanked the old man profusely.

Kathryn's first surge when she regained consciousness was all that had shown so far. As time passed, she appeared to withdraw further into herself and over the following weeks, Chakotay watched helplessly as Kathryn sat for hours at a time staring off into space and jumping at every small sound, a look of fear crossing her face which ate at Chakotay. Nights were the worst and she refused to have the lights off. She slept fitfully during the hours of darkness, often staying awake all night, napping during the day to make up for it. Every tiny noise at night woke her and she would jerk up in the bed, screaming and sweating. She'd refused to use their bedroom again and they now slept in one of the guest bedrooms. Chakotay tried his best to reassure her that Zarruck was dead and could never harm her again but his words made little difference. The woman she'd been before seemed to be gone. Chakotay tried to get B'Elanna to help but the Klingon felt as useless as he did.

"This is when she should be relaxing and happy, enjoying this pregnancy but that bastard is still with her, ruining what should be one of the happiest times of our lives. She hardly even acknowledges the fact that there's a baby there at all, despite the fact that she's showing now." Chakotay spoke with his old friend as they watched Kathryn sitting in the garden, staring off into nothingness. "She won't talk to me and refuses to speak with a counsellor. She's letting Zarruck stay with her and it makes me so angry. When she came around in the hospital, I thought she was letting me in but now she's shutting me out all the time and I know she blames me for all this. She won't talk about it and won't let me try and comfort her or touch her. The Doc tried to tell me he doesn't believe anything 'like that' happened but I'm not sure. Every night she has these terrible nightmares, even when she sleeps a little during the day."

B'Elanna placed a gentle hand on his arm. "Chakotay, it's not you she blames. She loves you more than life itself and you know that. She just has to deal with this herself. I agree she needs help to do that but she's always been so strong and independent and this is… I guess admitting she needs help is hard."

Chakotay shook his head. "B'El, I'm her husband, for Spirits sake. If she won't talk to me, I can accept that but she needs to get this out. She's terrified of the dark and I can understand that. She thought she'd been left there to die." He shook his head, trying desperately to clear the terrible images that filled his mind. "I can't even begin to imagine what she went through but she has to get past this. He's dead physically but he still lives in her mind and he has to be killed off there too."

B'Elanna nodded agreement. "What about Brian Jenkins? He's a trained counsellor."

Chakotay nodded. "I thought of that but I got nowhere when I suggested it. I'm not sure she hears me half the time when I talk to her. Brian would be ideal and he's been great for me. I've spoken to him many times now and I wouldn't have gotten this far without him, I can tell you." They were silent for a long time and watched sadly as Kathryn finally made her way into the house, hesitating before entering and looking to make sure Chakotay and B'Elanna were still nearby.

"Fear is her constant companion these days, not me." Sadness dripped off Chakotay's words and B'Elanna slipped an arm around his shoulders, not knowing what to say, hoping her action would convey to her friend what words would fail to.

The following day, the Doctor called by to check on Kathryn's progress and reported to Chakotay afterwards. "Physically, she's doing fine and so is the baby, although she doesn't really seem to be acknowledging the pregnancy."

Chakotay nodded, knowing exactly what the Doctor meant. "Is there nothing I can do for her? I just want to help her but sometimes I think I'm just adding to the problem."

He saw the EMH shake his head. "I believe she needs you now more than she ever has, despite not showing that. She's just dealing with this in her own way, even if that means denying some of it, but I truly believe something will just break, probably quite soon. She can't continue this way. At the moment, she needs your love and support and also more importantly, your patience and understanding."

Chakotay sighed deeply, hoping the Doctor was right. "I'm really trying, Doc, but it's hard. She freezes sometimes when I go to her and despite what you said, I'm sure there's something there, that something happened. She just won't let me in at all and I really believe she blames me, believes that this is my fault and she's right there. I've managed to deal with some of that in myself but I can't seem to do anything for Kathryn. I just want to be there for her but she won't let me." The Doctor just patted his arm, knowing there was little he could say to help and promised to call back the following week to check on them both.

Chakotay awoke four nights later unsure of what had disturbed him. He quickly looked beside him and saw that Kathryn's side of the bed was empty. With his heart pounding in his chest, he screamed out her name and ran downstairs, searching until he found her sitting in the kitchen crying and when he saw her face, he dropped to his knees before her. The pain in her eyes tore at him and he wiped at the tears that flowed down her cheeks but she didn't acknowledge him, not seeming to know he was even there as she continued sobbing. Gently, he lifted her, surprised that she let him and carried her into the sitting room and sat on the sofa, cradling her in his arms and rocked her back and forth until she quietened.

"Sweetheart, please talk to me. I just want to help you. I'm so sorry for all this and I know it's all my fault. I probably remind you all the time that this all happened because of me." He continued rocking her and stroked up and down her back but she seemed not to hear him. "Would it be better if I moved out and got someone else to stay with you? Would it help if I wasn't here?"

He never got any further and his words broke the dam with Kathryn. She became almost hysterical and clung to him desperately, her nails digging painfully into his back. "Oh God, don't leave me. Please don't leave me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Chakotay was shocked to the core at her reaction and he gripped her tightly to him. "I won't leave you, not ever. Kathryn, I love you. Oh love, I'm here." It took him more than half an hour to calm her down but she still clung onto him, her body shaking in fear.

Finally towards morning, Kathryn calmed enough to talk with him and once she started, the floodgates opened. She told him everything that had happened, the pain and fear, how she'd woken to find Zarruck in their bedroom, the struggle and him punching her, smashing her head off the mirror, his tearing her nightdress from her, her memories of before with the Cardassians, being tied and gagged, blindfolded and having the hood pulled over her head, being taken from the house, how terrified she'd been of Zarruck returning to her but also of him leaving her alone, the cold, the beatings, how he tried to strangle her, being left in the dark alone and feeling the rats bite at her. She opened up to him and told him how she felt she would die there, how afraid she'd been of never seeing him again, terrified of losing the baby and how the last time she'd lost consciousness she'd been sure she was dying.

And finally, fear coating her every word, Kathryn told him of how Zarruck had molested her, painfully pinching and squeezing her breasts and then kissing and sucking them, how his hand had crept over her body, between her legs, his finger penetrating her and what he had told her he would do with her. Chakotay cried with her and held her to him, telling her that he loved her, that nothing would ever change that, that she was safe now and that Zarruck was dead, could never hurt her again. For the first time, his words seemed to have meaning for Kathryn and he slowly felt her relax into him. He felt her hand snake around his neck and her lips move against his chest.

"Chakotay, I'm so sorry for the way I've been. I hate being this way, afraid of the dark, of being alone. There's so much fear and anger inside me, battling each other and I don't know how to deal with them. I know I need a counsellor. I don't want to be this way and have this beating me. I see what it's doing to me and to us." She pulled back a little and Chakotay let her but stayed silent.

"I don't want this beating me or controlling my life. You're right. He's still with me and if I don't stop him and take control, take my life back, he'll succeed and kill me." Chakotay's arms tightened around her at her words and Kathryn looked into his face for the first time. "He told me our dreams were gone, that they were ashes now. I want my life back. I want our life back. I need you to help me though. I know I've pushed you away and I'm so sorry for that but I was so afraid. I wasn't sure if the Doctor knew about…or if he'd said anything to you and I was… I was afraid it would make a difference to you, especially when I was carrying your child."

Chakotay fought his tears and also his anger and Kathryn saw this. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn, how could you ever think that I'd… First off, it's our child and secondly nothing like that would ever, ever, make a difference to me. I feel this is all my fault, that it's because of me and my past that this happened to you. I wasn't there to protect you and I'm trying to learn to live with that and it's hard but, Kathryn, I'm learning to accept that and I'm only managing that with help. Brian Jenkins helped me no end and now you've made the first step talking to me like this but there's more you have to deal with. I'm always here for you, you know that, but I really believe you need a professional, just like I did." He saw her nod.

"I know I do and I'm sorry it took me so long. Chakotay, this is not your fault though, please believe that and please don't ever think I blame you in any way."

He smiled gently at her. "That's our deal then. You stop thinking that anything that happened to you would make a difference to me and I stop blaming myself." They hugged tightly and Chakotay offered a silent prayer of thanks.

Kathryn's voice broke the silence. "I was so afraid it would seem like weakness to need outside help, that you'd think less of me. I thought I could do all this by myself but it just got harder to cope and then more and more difficult to ask for help."

Chakotay stroked her face and delighted in the fact that she didn't once flinch. "We all need others from time to time. That's not a sign of weakness, Kathryn. It's a sign of strength and intelligence, knowing when we can't do it alone and admitting we need someone else. There's no shame in that and I know. I've needed counselling myself and I'm not ashamed to admit that."

Kathryn dropped her head. "You needed it because of me, what I put you through, acting the way I was, not being there for you and not able to handle it all."

Chakotay took hold of her face and made her look at him. "Kathryn, I talked to Brian because he's a trained professional but it was because of Zarruck." He felt her cringe at the mention of the Caradassian's name and pulled her tighter to him. "It was because of him, not you. So much of all this goes back a long way before us and you know that. I had a lot from that time I also needed to sort out. Kathryn, I refuse to let his name be a ghost that haunts us. He was only a man and now he's dead and he can't ever hurt us anymore unless we let him do that from beyond the grave."

He saw her nod and knew this time his words were getting through to her. "Honey, today we start off fresh. We get the help we need and we take our lives back, the lives of all three of us." His hand stroked her growing abdomen and he felt tears come to his eyes when her hand covered his on her stomach, acknowledging their child.

"I love you, Chakotay. I was so afraid I'd never get the chance to tell you that again."

He pulled her to him. "I love you too, Kathryn." Chakotay continued rocking her in his arms until she fell asleep and this time, no nightmares disturbed her.

Over the following weeks and months, Kathryn attended regularly for counselling sessions, sometimes alone and at other times with Chakotay. As she neared her due date, Chakotay realized that his wife was back with him and thanked Brian Jenkins for all the help and support the man had given them both, knowing there was really no way he would ever be able to repay the man for all he'd done for them.

With only two weeks to go until the baby was due, Kathryn shocked Chakotay one night with a request she made of him. "You want me to what? Oh Kathryn, are you sure, love? I'm not…"

She reached out to him and gripped his hand. "I'm sure and Brian even agrees I need this."

Chakotay slowly nodded his agreement and so he spent that night with Tom and B'Elanna, leaving Kathryn alone in their home for the first time since her abduction. He lay awake the entire night worrying about her and was home again at first light. He walked slowly up the stairs and entered their bedroom, only to find the bed had not been slept in and a deep fear washed over him as he frantically checked all the other rooms. Finally he looked into the room which had been their bedroom before their nightmare had begun and the sight that met him stopped the breath in his chest. Kathryn lay peacefully asleep in their old bed, a holoimage of her husband gripped in her hand. He saw that she'd fixed things back to their former appearance and he let out the breath he realized he'd been holding and slowly walked into the room. It took him a minute to realize that the lights were not on either, that Kathryn had fallen asleep in the dark and a smile crossed his face as he nodded to himself, knowing they'd finally won, that Kathryn had exorcised her ghosts and regained her life.

As if sensing his presence beside her, Kathryn stirred and stretched herself, waking in a leisurely manner, no sign of any fear.

"Hey there, sleepyhead. Did you miss me?" Chakotay let go of the fear which had come over him as he reached out a hand and gently stroked her face.

He was rewarded with a large smile. "You were here with me. Why would I miss you?" Her words brought tears to Chakotay's eyes and he lay down beside his wife and hugged her close to him.

"That's only an image. The real thing is far better." He kissed the tip of her nose.

"I don't mean the picture, love. I meant you. YOU were here with me." They kissed passionately for several minutes and Chakotay's hand slipped under the sheet and wandered over his wife's body. Suddenly he stopped dead as his hand was drenched and his eyes flew to Kathryn's face and the shocked expression there.

"Ahh, Chakotay, I think my waters just…"

Chakotay was already out of the bed and was reaching for his wife. "I think so too. Come on. Hospital time."

Kathryn evaded his arms. "We've plenty of time yet. I want a bath first." She heaved herself out of the bed and laughed at the shocked and worried expression on Chakotay's face. "Stop worrying so much."

For the next two hours, Kathryn pottered around the house between contractions, setting her own pace and packing her bag. She took time with her hair and sat and ate some breakfast while Chakotay paced and fretted and all but panicked, much to Kathryn's amusement. Finally, when she was ready, they headed for the hospital, stopping in the hall until a contraction passed and Chakotay had a small panic attack.

One small part of Chakotay relaxed when they finally reached the hospital and the Doctor arrived but the rest of him made up for it as Kathryn's labour progressed and he gave the perfect performance of a terrified and helpless father to be. Just as he thought he could take no more, their daughter slipped into the world and as she gave her first healthy cries, Chakotay finally let it all go and just burst into tears.

Later as he sat and watched his wife nurse their new daughter, he finally allowed himself to relax and enjoy everything. He knew he had a stupid grin spread across his face but it wouldn't leave him. Kathryn looked over at him and smiled as the tiny rosebud mouth suckled gently at her breast and she whispered softly to him.

"Thank you for giving her to me. Thank you for giving me yourself too, for being there for me." Kathryn watched as her husband's eyes filled with tears and the grin was replaced with a look of love that spoke to her on its own.

"Thank you, love, but you did all the work and you gave her to me too and you gave me yourself. You complete me in every way a man can be." He reached over and softly stroked the tiny hand which gripped Kathryn's hospital gown and they were both rewarded with a small contented murmur.

"Chakotay…." Kathryn gave him a strange look. "You didn't seem surprised that we had a girl. Did you just guess or…"

Chakotay smiled quietly. "To be honest… Well, I knew." He saw Kathryn's puzzled look. "Doc let it slip after you were brought in before when…" He saw her nod, neither one of them wanting to cloud this wonderful moment with thoughts of what had been. "Kathryn, because I knew and have had time to think and…"

Kathryn studied him. "You have a name and you want to know what I think?"

He nodded and then grew serious. "Before…" He looked into Kathryn's eyes, seeking her permission to speak of something best forgotten and she nodded her consent. "It's just… You said that he told you all our dreams would be ashes and…" Kathryn nodded and he saw the flash of pain that crossed her eyes and quickly reached out to her and chased it away. "Well, they're not ashes, are they? They're reality." Kathryn smiled at him through her tears and he continued. "I remembered an old story about ashes, something ancient Greek, I think. Anyway, it was about a bird rising from ashes, reinventing, if you like, reborn. The bird was a phoenix and I thought…"

Kathryn reached out her free hand and gripped his. "Phoenix. Rising from the ashes. Chakotay, I love it. It's perfect." She looked down at the small face, the eyes closed and the contented expression there. "Hello, Phoenix. Welcome to the world. I'm your Mom and this here is your Dad. We've waited a long time for you and we've great plans for you but more than anything in the world, we both love you so very much." A tiny burp came in answer and the proud parents laughed softly.

Three hours later, Chakotay stood in the doorway of the hospital room and watched his wife sleep peacefully, a soft smile on her face. He looked to the cot beside her and to their new daughter being carried on the sleep of the innocents and he smiled to himself. As he quietly closed the door to head home, six words filled his mind. "You lost, you bastard, you lost."