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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC 17.

Summary:     Back on Earth, Voyager’s crew faces a Board Of Inquiry and Kathryn

                     and Chakotay finally find each other as he helps her through a personal

                     crisis.  Someone is watching Kathryn though and decides that she has

                     to die so that he can keep his terrible secret.





Kathryn sat long into the evening in the old leather chair, her thoughts refusing to organize themselves.  The fact that her father and Justin had been murdered had never entered her mind and she trembled to think how close she had come to joining them, all because this Janus needed to keep his cover.

She felt her face wet with tears she hadn’t realized she had shed and saw that the light had long gone but she remained unmoving, leaving the lights off.  She desperately wished again that Chakotay was here with her, helping her deal with this.

Eventually against her own will, her exhaustion won over, the emotional turmoil of the past few hours overwhelming her and she felt her eyes slip closed and despite fighting it, she fell asleep.

Owen Paris sat in his office and sorted his thoughts.  The last hours for him had also been deeply emotional.  Finally he stirred himself and using his secure line, called John Harris.  The younger man’s face filled the vid screen immediately.

“Do we have a next move?”  Owen Paris nodded solemnly.

“I’ve set some things in motion, called in favours without speaking of too much.”  He saw the puzzled look on the other man’s face and explained.  “I’ve discovered that copies of all the papers were delivered to her this afternoon.”  He saw the look of panic cross the features on the face of John Harris and rushed on.

“I’ve managed to discover the contents of Gretchen’s private papers.  She spoke of it all right but only used his code name.  Of course she had no way of knowing who he really was.  I’m glad to say we were merely mentioned as ‘friends’ so our part in this is secure for the moment.  John, we have to move tonight because he will, you can be sure of that.  Once he gets into the offices there, he’ll discover that the copies were sent.  He’ll make a move then, I know it.  They’re working late there so we have time.”  John Harris broke in.

“Can you get her out before then?  Where can we put her that he won’t suspect?  He has powerful connections still and will find out…”  Owen Paris interrupted this time.

“She’ll be ‘dead’ by then.  Actually an unfortunate accident but fortunate timing for us.  God, I sound awful…”  Owen Paris covered his eyes a moment with his hand.  “There was a bad shuttle accident tonight, so far it looks like pilot error but…  It was near her home, on the way here…  She could well have…  Let’s just say she was on that transport…easy to arrange…”  He saw John Harris thinking about all this.

“Coming to see you with the papers…”  John Harris was thinking clearly now and Owen Paris nodded his head.

“We need to get out there and arrange…  If you can get here…   Use the secure beam in, then we’ll get her out.”  John Harris still had questions.

“What about the ‘accident’?”  Owen Paris had the answers.

“Already happened.  Twenty or so people ‘killed’ on impact.  Not much left.  Actually certain interested parties were happy to help.  Seems others needed to ‘die’ also.  The accident investigators will find exactly what they would expect to find, remains and so on.  Our covert branch leaves nothing to chance.”  John Harris ran his hand through his greying hair.

“So all bases are covered?”  Owen Paris smiled slightly and nodded.

“A few loose ends later on…  Can you get here now, to my office?”  Harris nodded and cut the transmission.  Owen Paris put matters in motion and within two minutes, the figure of John Harris appeared in the old Admiral’s office.  Five minutes later they both materialized in the hallway of the quiet and dark Janeway home.

Their scanners immediately located Kathryn, asleep in the chair, her hand still clutching the papers from her mother.  Just as they reached her, she jerked awake but before she could react, John Harris’s hand clamped down firmly over her mouth, his body weight easily holding her firmly in the chair.  Kathryn struggled desperately for a minute, until the voice of Owen Paris reached her ears, reassuring her and then she fell still.

“Kathryn, John’s going to remove his hand now.  Please for God’s sake trust me and stay quiet.”  He made out her form by the dim light of the moon breaking into the room as she nodded slowly, then just sat rigid when the hand was taken away, not knowing how to react.  Owen Paris spoke quickly and explained what he felt she might not yet know.

“I can’t risk turning the lights on so just listen carefully.  This Janus will know soon that you have the papers and he’ll find out that you know about him.  We believe he’ll come here to try and kill you.  His name is James Grant, an Admiral now.  We always suspected him but were never sure until today.”  He made out her shocked expression.

“I spoke with him today, when I saw Chakotay off…”  Owen Paris smiled sadly.

“I know.  I had someone watching you.”  He saw Kathryn open her mouth to ask more questions but cut her off.  “Kathryn, I’ll explain more when I can.  Right now you have to die in a terrible shuttle accident.”  Kathryn was shocked to the core but finally got a word in.

“Owen…”  She was cut off again.

“Kathryn, listen to me.  You’re in grave danger.  He’ll find a way to kill you, that is a certain fact, maybe even tonight.  He’ll know everything for sure tonight, about how much you know already.  We’re letting him break in to the lawyers offices and find what he needs, basically giving him the rope to hang himself with but we need more proof and so we have to play this out right.  If he thinks you’re dead, he might slip up and show his hand.  We’ve always believed that someone else at Starfleet knew of all this and we want to get them both.  You won’t be safe until then.  Now, take a small bag, just what you need as if you were going into the city for a night or two and take the papers with you also.  He’s at the offices so he wouldn’t have seen you supposedly leave the house earlier.  Hurry please Kathryn, we don’t have much time and leave the lights off in case someone is watching the house now.”  His old eyes locked with hers and she saw the worry and pain there.  She nodded and moved to get up, her mind in turmoil.  A sudden thought came to her.

“Oh God Owen, what about Chakotay?  What…”  John Harris broke in.

“Later OK?  We have to leave now.”  The urgency in his voice made her move and within minutes, she had what she needed and all three had been transported out of the house which had only recently become a home again, leaving it once more silent, empty and dark.

The next hours were a blur for Kathryn.  She sat in a strange house, having no idea of it’s location and watched the news reports totally stunned, as word broke about the dreadful shuttle accident outside San Francisco, which had claimed the lives of some twenty people, the returning Captain of Voyager, Kathryn Janeway, tragically among the dead.

Her hand went to her mouth to quieten her tears, as it struck her just how many people would see this report, her former crew among them, who would believe every word, believe that she had died.  She looked behind her and saw Owen Paris and John Harris whispering to each other.  When they caught her watching them, they came over to her and sat on the sofa across from her.  Owen glanced at the monitor, seeing the news report and took in Kathryn’s tears, reading her exact thoughts.

“My dear, it has to be this way.  If they all truly believe you’re dead, they’ll act accordingly and give a convincing show.  Can you understand and accept this?”  Kathryn just nodded her head, not trusting herself to speak.  The last hours felt so unreal and her mind was having trouble accepting everything.

“Grant killed your father and Justin, murdered them.  He knew they were on to him.  As I’m sure you can now guess, they were both a little more involved with Starfleet than you knew.”  Owen Paris wanted her to know it all.  Enough time had passed and she deserved to know the truth.  “You were meant to die with them.”  Kathryn looked down at her hands, memories of that terrible day coming back to her.

“I guess he was afraid to try again so soon and when nothing came out, no word from you or your mother about it all, he assumed he was safe, had taken care of his little problem.”  Kathryn looked up sharply at the choice of words but saw no malice in the old Admiral’s eyes.  He was just being straight and they both knew she preferred that in the end.

“Grant was what was known in the old days as a ‘double agent’, working for the Cardassians and Starfleet.  In later years, he sided more with the Cardassians but that ended in time.  He stayed on with Starfleet, rising through the ranks.  Oh, some suspected him, a small number of us only, but as nothing could ever be proved, there wasn’t anything we could do, not without showing our hand.  When you were lost, he probably believed he’d gotten away with it all.  Your mother never spoke out so he carried on.”  Kathryn never took her eyes of her old Mentor.

“I think he always suspected that your mother knew something, would speak out at some time.  When your sister was killed, we watched Gretchen for quite a while but she seemed safe.  Maybe he thought that with you missing and your sister now dead, she might speak out, if she knew anything, would have nothing to lose.  If you’re wondering, I did check out the circumstances with your sister’s death and it was an accident.”  Kathryn smiled sadly but her gratitude was still there.

“What about now Owen?  What do I do now?”  John Harris spoke to her for the first time since they had arrived at this strange house.

“You stay here where you’re safe.  You keep the place locked and never go outside or contact anyone else.  You speak to no one except the two of us.  We’ll bring you what you need and we’ll be keeping a close eye on you.  Look, I hate to sound so blunt but your life is at stake in all this.  You stay here and we all attend your funeral.  I’m sorry for how that sounds but there really is no other way.”  Kathryn shook her head as if this would knock her thoughts into some order.

“How long for?”  Her eyes were awash with tears.  Harris was straight with her.

“As long as it takes.  Ms. Janeway, this could take a few weeks, I’m sorry.”  Kathryn nodded her understand and then suddenly turned to Owen.

“Owen please, what about Chakotay?  Is he in danger?  Can you get him here too?”  She tried to read his reaction to her questions but couldn’t and she saw the two men exchange a look.

“Kathryn, we don’t believe Chakotay’s in any danger but we will keep a close eye on him…”  Kathryn leaned forward quickly.

“What do you mean, keep an eye on him?  Isn’t he coming here too?  When did you notify him of all this?  Is…”  Harris cut her off.

“He’s not coming here but he will be notified.”  Kathryn stood, praying her thoughts were wrong.

“No please don’t say…  Don’t tell me he has to believe…”  Her hands flew to her face and Owen stood and went to her, taking hold of her upper arms.

“Kathryn, listen to me now.  You’re a Starfleet Captain and once more you have to fall back on that.  I know this is very difficult but Chakotay has to be seen to believe as everyone else does.  His grief will convince Grant and whoever else that your death was real.  He’s not in danger.  Grant knows that when you saw him off, you had no idea about any of this.  Think for a minute and you’ll see I’m right, besides if he disappeared too, it would look suspicious.”  Kathryn’s training did kick in and the rational part of her brain told her the old Admiral was right but her heart was screaming at her to fight this.  She pulled away and sank into the chair behind her, her hand suddenly going to her stomach.

“Oh God…  What he’ll go through…”  She looked up at the two men, tears pouring from her eyes.  “Isn’t there any other way…”  Both men shook their heads.  Kathryn turned her eyes to Owen now.  “Owen, you should know…  I’m pregnant…  I found out only this morning…”  She saw the shock on his face.

“Chakotay doesn’t know yet?”  She shook her head and saw him lower his eyes.  “Kathryn, it’s better he doesn’t know about any of this. Think what could happen if he knew everything and let something slip and no matter how good an actor he is, there is no way he could keep up an act like that.  Tom and B’Elanna would see through it for a start and so on down the line.  That way you’d both be in danger.  Working it this way keeps you safe here and him safer out there.  I’m sorry for the way this has all turned out but we have to…”  He saw her nod her understanding, all three of them knowing there was no other way.

Owen Paris became a wonderful actor over the next few days.  John Harris was able to stay in the background, no one knowing he had any involvement in the slightest.  There was no escape from it for Admiral Paris though.  When he went home, he faced no end of grief from his son and new daughter in law, even his wife could be found crying quietly on occasions.  It tore at him when he heard B’Elanna cry at night in Tom’s arms through the walls of the house but he learned to harden himself to it.  At headquarters, he encountered a lot of Kathryn’s former crew, each one looking as grief stricken as the other.  The hardest task he’d had to perform though, had been in informing Chakotay that his wife to be was dead.

He had sat at his desk facing the vid screen and knew he would never forget the look of pure agony on the face of Voyager’s former First Officer.  Chakotay had cut the transmission quickly and Owen Paris had understood.  Within a day, the same man stood in front of Owen Paris demanding answers.  In the end of course, there were none to be given and he saw Chakotay finally accept it.

“Chakotay, I know it’s no help really, but it would have been quick.”  He saw the raw pain in the eyes before him and turned away, giving the grief stricken man a moment in private.  Chakotay finally spoke, his voice racked with pain.

“Knowing that helps a bit, for her sake, not for mine.  Oh God, I left her and…  We’d only found each other…”  The big man broke down and Owen arranged to have him transported to his own home, knowing he would be better with Tom and B’Elanna there for him.  One thing he was glad of was the fact that Chakotay was too upset to ask too many questions.

As Admiral Paris was leaving his office that evening, he bumped into James Grant and his acting skills were tested to the limit.

“Owen old man, I heard about Kathryn Janeway.  I’m very sorry.”  He sounded so sincere.

“James, thank you.  At least she got home.  It’s a comfort I suppose.”  Owen watched as Grant looked at the floor, nodding his head.

“Do they know what caused the accident or why she was travelling on that shuttle?”  Owen Paris had his answers ready but hearing them, no one would have thought they were rehearsed.

“I’m not sure.  The accident was pure pilot error, nothing more.  Kathryn herself, she’d contacted me earlier, said she’d found something, a letter of her mother’s she wanted to ask me about.”  He watched as Grant did his best to hide his sudden interest.

“She was coming to see me, said something about showing it to me but would talk to me when she got here.  Guess I’ll never know now.”  Admiral Grant folded his arms.

“Can’t have been that important or she’d have told you then.”  He was carefully gauging all answers.

“I agree.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter now.  She’s gone from us.  I’ll miss our chats, missed them for years.  Thought I had them back…  Sorry, getting too old for all this.”  Grant just smiled and nodded.

“There was a friend, boyfriend or something?”  Owen Paris nodded.

“Yes, though it was a fairly new relationship.  I had the terrible task of breaking the news of her death to him.  Worst job in the world.”  Grant just shrugged his shoulders.

“Tell me about it.  I’ve had to do that a few times with families.  Never get used to it.”  They’d both started walking.  Owen just sighed.

“No, you never do.  Ah well, I’m off home.  I’ve learned long ago to turn off the day at the end of it.  Only way to get through.”  He smiled at the other man, showing no signs of grief, only relief to be leaving work for the day and going home.  He saw that Grant was convinced, knew it from the way he acted.  “I’ll see you again some time, James.  Take care”.  Admiral Grant bid him goodnight and strolled away, a spring in his step which didn’t go unnoticed by Owen Paris.

Tom and B’Elanna were doing their best to comfort Chakotay but they knew nothing they could do or say would help.  They battled with their own grief and watched helplessly as their friend fell apart in front of their eyes.

At Kathryn’s funeral two days later, they physically had to hold him up.  They all believed the reason they were given for the closed casket, that the severity of the impact had been too great and this only added to all their pain.  Chakotay elected to have his love buried near her home and as her casket was lowered into the ground, he had collapsed.  Later, despite the protests of the others to come back with them, he stayed on at the house where their life together would have been, desperate to find some part of the woman he had lost, to feel her presence in some way.  Tom and B’Elanna agreed to stay the night with him but gave him the space they knew he needed.  In truth, they were too afraid to leave him alone, fearing he might try and follow her.  As night fell, they sat on the porch, each of them silent, lost in their own memories of the woman they had buried earlier that day.  Chakotay had been wandering around the house, trying to feel something of Kathryn and they had left him to his own memories, knowing he knew they were there for him if needed.

The silence of the house was broken by the most grief filled cry either of them had ever heard and they both ran inside, terrified of what they might find.  The sight that met them broke their hearts further.  Chakotay was on his knees on the floor, clutching something tightly to him, his tears pouring from him as he rocked himself back and forth.  Eventually they managed to quieten him a little.  B’Elanna gently rubbed his back, her hand stroking his face.

“Chakotay…  she’ll always be with you in your heart…she won’t ever leave you completely…”  He looked up at her, the pain on his face ripping into her.

“B’Elanna…  oh sweet God…  she…she…she was…”  Tom knelt down beside them.

“Chakotay, what is it?”  Chakotay looked from one to the other, his tears flooding his face and slowly held out the small folder he held.

“The date…   the day she…  I left her…  our…”  He broke down completely and B’Elanna pulled him to her.  Tom took the folder and examined it, seeing the tiny booties and the scan image.  He unfolded the paper and saw the words Kathryn had written on the day she died.  Tom just closed his eyes and hung his head.  B’Elanna cried along with the man in her arms, his words coming out in gasps.

“She was…pregnant…our…baby…”.  They did the only thing they could and held him to them, the three friends clinging to each other long into the night as they shared their grief and mourned for the woman they all loved so much.

Kathryn had spent the day crying also, trying her best to stay calm for the sake of the baby she carried.  She had watched the media footage of her ‘funeral’ and ‘burial’ and had broken down at the sight of Chakotay in his grief, seeing him collapse at the graveside.  The only thing that kept her going was the knowledge that Tom, B’Elanna and the others were there for him but it still tore her heart out to know what he was going through.  She lay on the bed whispering to the child within her, the only source of comfort she felt and then the thought came to her and she bolted up in the bed.

“Oh dear God, my letter…”  She fell back down on the bed as the memory of the note she had written to Chakotay with the booties came back to her, knowing that he would find it and she cried for the further pain he would experience.

Kathryn had to force herself to eat over the next two weeks, the pain of everything with her all the time.  She cried constantly thinking of the grief Chakotay was going through and Owen Paris, when he could come, tried unsuccessfully to console her to no avail.  Kathryn spent a great part of her days and nights alone and the Admiral could see that this was not helping her state of mind either.  He debated briefly letting her hide somewhere and see Chakotay, but he knew the risk was too great.  He tried assuring her that they were close to arresting James Grant and his partner in crime, that the treacherous Admiral was making mistakes in his belief that he was safe.  He informed her that meetings had been recorded between Grant and a high ranking General and that it was only a matter of days before they had the proof they needed.  His words helped Kathryn a little but he knew only the end of all this and her reunion with the man she loved would bring her back to them all.

It tore at Owen Paris to see the grief in his own home.  Tom and B’Elanna had insisted that Chakotay come back and stay with them for a few weeks and this time he had agreed, the house far too painful for him now.  Countless times Owen had wanted to confide in Chakotay but a recent visit from James Grant to his home had put the idea to rest.  Grant had called one evening on the pretext of extending his condolences to Chakotay and Owen knew that the grief he witnessed from the broken man was what would finally pound the last nail in the coffin of James Grant, that he was totally convinced by what he saw simply because it was real.  Owen Paris knew in that moment that he had been right to do things as he had, that even the greatest actor in the world could not have acted as Chakotay did.

Within a further four days, everything came to a head and Owen Paris and John Harris finally had what they needed.  Grant and his General had gotten extremely careless in their meetings and what they spoke of and every word had been recorded.  Offices, homes and security boxes were raided and old private logs gone through and by the end of the fifth day, both traitors were arrested.  Owen Paris was deliberately careless in directing the security staff in their searches of the two men when they were arrested and so it came as no surprise to him and Harris when word reached them the following morning that both men had been found hanging in their cells.  While both Admirals would have been happy to see the two serve out the rest of their lives in a cold prison, they both privately admitted that they preferred the matter closed.  Not one authority at Starfleet questioned the lax searches on arrest, which led to the traitors having the means to end their miserable lives, and the matter was laid to rest.  Most believed now that Edward Janeway, one of their own, could finally rest in peace.

By lunchtime, all matters pertaining to the case had been settled and a happy Admiral Paris headed for home.  As he entered his house, he grew serious, hoping that Chakotay and the others would understand but knowing that having Kathryn back would be all that mattered in the end.  He slipped quietly into his office and placed a call to Kathryn first, keeping the volume low so no one in the house would hear his call.  When a logo appeared on the screen, he typed in a special security code, which allowed Kathryn to know it was him.  When her face appeared, he was shocked.  He saw what all this had done to her, her crying and lack of sleep, not eating right, the pain she was going through with everything and it worried him greatly.

“It’s over.”  He didn’t need to say any more and he saw the relief on her face and then her tears.

“I’m going to talk to him now, tell him slowly and then I’ll come and get you.  I can’t bring him to you, can’t compromise the location of the house, you understand?”  She couldn’t speak she was so choked up and he smiled gently at her.

“I’ll be with you shortly my dear.  Try and rest and get something to eat.  You two want to look your best.”  Kathryn finally managed a smile.

“Please hurry Owen…  I badly need to see him again…”   Pain and desperation were written all over her face.  Owen nodded and smiled again then cut the communication.  He sat a minute or two gathering his thoughts then rose and went to find Chakotay and the others.  Later he would get John Harris to release the news to the rest of the crew and then the public.

He found Chakotay sitting quietly, staring vacantly into thin air, his thoughts very private but also so obvious.  He glanced across the room and saw his son sitting close to B’Elanna and he beckoned them over, just as his wife joined them, sensing something afoot.  Chakotay looked up, his face still showing his pain and then a mild curiosity.

“Please could you all sit.  What I have to say will take some explaining.”  He was met with four curious stares now and he sat also.  He enfolded for them the story of the last weeks and years starting with the arrests and subsequent suicides of Grant and the General.  He then told them of how Edward Janeway and Justin Tighe had been murdered and about the attempted murder of Kathryn herself at the time.  As he moved towards the events of the last few weeks, he saw Chakotay sit up straighter on the sofa but he said nothing. 

Owen Paris then told them how Kathryn’s life had been in such danger and how Grant planned to kill her when he learned that she knew of him and what he had done from her mother’s papers.  He told them how Grant only showed his hand with the death of Kathryn and how everything of the last two weeks, her death and their grief were what had brought about the conclusion of the entire matter.  He glanced over at Chakotay and saw stirrings of something in his eyes.  He then looked at the others but saw that they were not comprehending everything.  B’Elanna cut in, tears running down her face.

“You’re saying Kathryn was murdered…”  Tom’s arm tightened around her.  Owen Paris shook his hand.

“It was to…it appeared that way…”  Chakotay’s anger exploded.

“Are you telling us Starfleet stood back and let it happen, let her die, let him kill her?  Where were they…”  Owen Paris stayed calm.

“I just said…it appeared that way…”  He let his words sink in and saw Chakotay’s mind racing.

“What are you saying?  Don’t do this unless you…  Oh God tell me she’s not…”  Chakotay’s hopes filled him when he saw Owen Paris actually smile.  Tom and B’Elanna both sat up now, still failing to get what was happening around them.  Owen leaned over and placed his hand on Chakotay’s arm.

“She’s not dead.  I’m sorry we had to do all this but we had no choice.  They had to believe…”  His words were cut off as Chakotay burst into tears, not caring who saw him.  B’Elanna cried out too and Tom ignored the tears he felt escape his own eyes.  Owen’s wife went and hugged her son and daughter in law as Chakotay stood shakily.

“She’s alive…really alive…the baby…”  He was turning in circles now, his mind in turmoil.  Owen Paris stood up also.

“They’re both fine, I promise you.  Kathryn’s been very upset, not eating or sleeping well especially after seeing…”  Chakotay turned and grabbed Owen’s arm.

“After seeing what?  Are you telling me she saw her own funeral?”  The Admiral just looked at the floor.  “Oh God, how could you have let her…  She saw us all… and in her condition…”  He suddenly grew angry.  “How could you not have told us?  How could you put us through all this?”  Owen literally pushed Chakotay back down on the chair.

“Right listen to me now, all of you.  Her life was on the line and this was the only way to play this.  He came here, that bastard, checking it all.  What he saw here was what enabled us to get him and his partner in this.”  Chakotay looked sharply at the Admiral.

“That night… that was him… here in this house?”  Owen nodded and saw Chakotay working it all out.  “He’s the one who was watching her…I remember…I wasn’t sure…hadn’t seen him up close before…so it was him and another…”  Chakotay fought to understand it all as Owen Paris went on.

“Those bastards worked for and against both us and the Cardassians.  A lot of people died because of them, more probably would have in the future, despite Grant’s retirement.”  He looked up at the man Kathryn loved.  “It’s also highly likely they was responsible for a lot of the Maquis losses too but we don’t know for sure.  He was involved though…”  He saw the hate and anger on Chakotay’s face and also on the face of B’Elanna.  He continued on, trying to help them understand.

“It had to be done this way and Kathryn even saw that, despite the pain we all knew it would cause.”  He finally saw understanding begin to show on the faces before him.  “I know what we put you through was the worst kind of hell, but if we hadn’t…  well then maybe your grief would have been real and for ever.  Kathryn would really have been dead.  This was the only way to save her life.  You have my word on that.  They’d have found her, no matter where we hid her.”  Silence filled the room as Owen’s words sank in and they all knew he was right.  Chakotay stood suddenly.

“Where is she?  I have to see her…”  He was crying again and didn’t care.

“I’ll go and get her now.  I told her to rest and eat something.  She knows it’s over…”  Chakotay was back on his feet and heading for the door.

“I’m coming with you…”  Owen’s booming voice stopped him.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you.  Chakotay I’m sorry but the location of safe houses has to be kept top secret.  I’ll bring her here.”  Chakotay was having none of it.

“Look you can knock me out, blindfold me or anything but I’m coming with you.”  Owen thought quickly.

“Look, let’s try and compromise.  I’ll see if I can arrange to have her beamed directly here.  I’ll make a quick call.”  He rose and left the room while the rest of them just stood in shock.  Within five minutes, Admiral Paris returned and nodded.

“This could be a shock for her.  She’s not answering my call.”  He saw the worried look on Chakotay’s face and reassured him.  “I’ve checked her life signs and she’s fine.  Probably taking my advice and getting some sleep.”  The whine of the transporter beam filled the room and suddenly the shape of Kathryn materialized on the floor in a lying position.  Chakotay was at her side in seconds, touching her all over, confirming for his numb mind that she was really there.

Kathryn woke slowly and looked around her in a panic but then saw Chakotay and just threw herself into his arms.  He felt her tears through the fabric of his shirt and let his own fall.

“Oh God Kathryn….”  All he could do was pull her tightly to him, never wanting to let her go again.  It was only when she twisted her body a bit that he realized how tightly he was holding her and that she needed to breathe.

“Are you all right?  The baby?”  He saw her smile through her tears and nod her head.

“I forgot about the letter.  I’m sorry you had to go through that, find out that way…”  She lifted her hand and brushed at his tears.

“Shhh Kathryn, it’s all right now.  I just never want to go through anything like that again.  Losing you…  thinking you were dead…”   The memories of the past weeks were too much for him and he dropped his head to her chest and cried, his large shoulders shaking.  Kathryn held him to her and looked up at Tom and B’Elanna, seeing their tears also.  She reached out her arm and they dropped to their knees, both of them taking her hand and clinging to her.   Owen Paris and his wife smiled softly and left the room and within a minute, Tom and B’Elanna left also, knowing Kathryn and Chakotay needed this time to themselves.

Finally when they had both gained a little control, they sat on the sofa and talked long into the evening, no one in the house coming near them except to drop in some food and tea.  Chakotay couldn’t let go of Kathryn and she understood.  She knew he needed to keep a hold of her, to feel the warmth of her body against his, telling himself that she was real.  They were silent at times and Kathryn became aware of Chakotay’s hand stroking her abdomen.

“You’re all right about the baby?  I know we didn’t plan…”  She watched his eyes focus on her from the faraway place they had been and saw the mix of emotions in their depths.

“I couldn’t be happier.  When I found your letter…”  He couldn’t go on and Kathryn realized at that moment that the trauma of the past weeks would stay with him for some time to come.  She searched her mind and finally an idea came to her.

“Chakotay, will you do something for me, come somewhere with me?”  She saw his face crease into a frown but he nodded.

“Kathryn, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.  You never have to ask that.”  She reached her hand to his face and traced his tattoo.

“Tonight…  I want to go back to the Fairmont…  start over…”  She saw he understood immediately and he hugged her tightly to him.  Tomorrow they would return to the house and try and put everything behind them.

They managed to get the same suite where they had spent that first night but this time they only made love once, then spent the rest of the night just holding each other, whispering softly and caressing gently.  When the soft light of day filtered into the room, it banished the darkness of a night that for Chakotay had lasted weeks.

When they returned to the house later that day, Chakotay tried desperately to shut off the emotions which raged through him.  He gazed sadly down the hill to where Kathryn’s ‘grave’ was, under the shade of her favourite tree, and despite his best efforts, felt himself falling to his knees, the pain of it all washing over him.  Kathryn lowered herself down beside him and pulled him into her embrace, murmuring what soothing words she could, as he clung to her desperately.

By that evening, Kathryn had arranged to have the ‘grave’ removed but she knew the memories would be a lot harder to get rid of.  Over the next week, Chakotay awoke each night screaming for her, his tortured mind refusing to let him rest.  Kathryn was always there for him, soothing and reassuring him, getting him back to sleep until the next nightmare came.  The sleepless nights were not helping her either and finally Chakotay agreed to seek counselling.  Within a month, she saw results and slowly they had less and less broken nights until finally a week passed without either of them waking.

As Kathryn’s pregnancy progressed and she started really showing, they settled into the life they had planned.  Evenings always found them on the porch, watching the sun setting and swaying gently on the love seat which hung there.  Chakotay loved to hold Kathryn to him as he gently stroked her growing abdomen and gradually he was able to look towards Kathryn’s tree with a semblance of peace, accepting the horror of what had been without the pain of it eating at him.  As the weeks passed, he relaxed more when she wasn’t with him but he know the memories of the pain he had endured during that time, would never leave him completely.  At his counsellor’s advice, he learned to use these feelings to strengthen the bond between Kathryn and himself and slowly he let the pain go.

Two months before the baby was due, they stood under the old tree and in front of their close friends, exchanged their vows for Admiral Paris, joining them together as husband and wife.  This place now could only bring happiness to them and would forever be associated with joining together, not letting go.

When Chakotay gently carried their new son home seven weeks later, Kathryn at his side, they stood on the porch and gazed around them.  When their eyes met over the sleeping infant, they both knew the meaning of true peace and love.  They shared a smile which spoke of all that was between them and then slowly moved into their home, the door closing softly behind them.