Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17
This story is based around the events in Repression. After Thiro's control has been broken, the crew try to return to normal, unaware that their Captain is keeping a terrible secret in order to protect them.

Take My Hand And Walk With Me

by Kat Lady

Kathryn paced back and forth, the pain she felt inside growing all the time as her mind continued to feed her images which she wanted to shut out.

"How can I have a nightmare while wide awake?" She whispered the question to herself, no one else there to hear her or answer her. She felt tears prickling her eyes again and forced herself to sit. "Oh God, what's happening to us all?" She blinked the tears back and looked around her, shaking her head sadly. "How? Why?" The dull grey walls of the brig refused to answer her.

Eventually she forced herself to sit back on the bunk, trying to think straight. She brought her knees up and hugged them, seeking some semblance of comfort in a gesture which had helped her as a child by making her feel secure. Now it mocked her, her mind telling her it made her look weak and afraid. Despite this though, she found herself just hugging more tightly.

She thought back over the past few days and sighed deeply. A few days ago things had been normal on board Voyager or as normal as it got out here. Then the attacks had begun and all because of one man. A man who was 35,000 light years away. Thiro Anaydis. Kathryn finally succumbed and let the memories rush at her.

Taybor had been first. Found in a coma on the holodeck. Others followed quickly and the reason had been found. Tuvok. The seeds had been planted seven years in the past and been forced into growth through a data stream for reasons they'd probably never completely understand. "This is a holy time. The time of awakening. Return to that dark place from which all life springs. Pog Tem Far – Batonay."

It scared Kathryn Janeway more than she'd ever admit. Something beyond her control. How can you fight what you can't see or understand? She lay her head down on her knees, feeling the dampness from her tears seep through the fabric covering them.

They'd all awakened from the comas and appeared fine but everything had changed. Chakotay's words still echoed in her mind, stinging deeply as she relived it all.

"Maybe someone on YOUR crew couldn't put the past behind them." The words hit hard and she knew the hurt was showing in her eyes.

"MY crew?" He at least had the grace to look apologetic.

"OUR crew." The correction didn't help. The damage was done.

She'd been so concerned about Tuvok, spending her time with him, feeling that was where she could best get answers and control the situation she felt spinning out of control all around her. So she learned about Tuvok's letter, the message hidden in the data stream to him. Chakotay recognized the stranger's face and told her of Thiro Anaydis, the Bajoran Vedic, the Maquis from counter intelligence who experimented with mind control to recruit agents. She discovered how he'd been thrown out as a fanatic but understood now that his work had continued. Leaving Chakotay and Seven to continue working, she'd returned to Tuvok, concentrating on him again, hearing now of Thiro's plan to awaken the Maquis and pass on his instructions. When Tuvok had hailed Chakotay and repeated the words she'd come to hate, the ones which sent a shiver through her, she had somehow known, sensed, that everything was about to change for all time.

Chakotay hadn't answered her when she tried to contact him, fuelling the fear inside. While she remained with Tuvok, her First Officer was awakening others, taking over the bridge, controlling her ship, sending B'Elanna to take Engineering. When Kathryn had hailed the bridge, again receiving no response, her fear had doubled. Then the corridor and the phaser blast behind her, spinning around to see Chakotay, his phaser pointed at her, eyes belonging to a stranger, certainly not the kind and loving man she'd come to know.

"What the hell are you doing?" It took some effort to control the timbre of her voice and appear in command.

"I think it's obvious. I'm taking control of your ship." YOUR ship. Drawing the battle lines. "Within the hour, all Starfleet personnel will be locked in their quarters. Step back in the brig, Kathryn." Somehow the use of her name sounded like an insult, denying her any importance.

She felt the hurt and the pain grip her, refusing to believe this of the man before her. Yet she knew it wasn't really him, couldn't be him. Her eyes searched his face for any trace of the man of even an hour ago and found none.

"What's Thiro done to you?" Her hurt showed, her voice softer. It didn't even dent the demeanour of the man before her.

"He's simply helped us remember who we are. We're Maquis. We've always been Maquis." Even on their first meeting, he hadn't been like this, hadn't sounded this hostile.

Kathryn tried to draw on the woman who she'd been then also. "The rebellion ended three years ago. You know that."

He moved towards her. "In the Alpha Quadrant, maybe. Not on this ship." He took her arm, a firm grip and moved her back towards the brig. As they walked, B'Elanna's voice filled the air, hailing him.

"Go ahead." There was a coldness and a hardness in his voice she'd never heard before.

"Deck Eleven is secure." B'Elanna controlled also. Chipping away more of the small piece of hope she still had.

"Acknowledged." He let go of her arm, knowing she wouldn't be foolish enough to try anything, wouldn't risk her crew. They entered the brig and even to the end, she tried to reason with him, even with his phaser still pointed at her.

"We're 35,000 light years from Earth, Chakotay." No time for rank. She knew that it wouldn't help, tried to appeal to her friend. "No one here even knows about the Maquis. It doesn't make sense. There's nothing you can accomplish." He barely seemed to hear her.

"As long as we exist, so does the rebellion." The party line. Programmed.

She tried a last pleading effort. "That's Thiro talking. He was unstable. You said so yourself." Another ex-Maquis moved her towards the cell.

"We have no intention of hurting any of you." No emotion in his voice.

She turned to face Tuvok then, locking eyes with him, trying to ascertain if he was still loyal to her. "Your orders, Captain?" He was looking at Chakotay and Kathryn's last hope died.

"Take your station." She met Chakotay's eyes and knew her emotions were there to be read. She barely registered Tuvok leaving the brig, then heard the security barrier activate. She was trapped and helpless on her own ship, all control gone. She watched them leave then dropped her head, ignoring the security guard left behind.

Kathryn came back to herself and wiped her face across her knees, unable to release her hold on her legs. She cursed herself now for spending so much time with Tuvok, despite her desperate need for his answers. While she'd been with him, concerned for him, she hadn't considered the others, hadn't seen the threat to them. In her mind now, she'd failed in her duty to protect her crew. She let the self-recriminating tears fall and found herself trembling again as she remembered only a few hours ago in her ready room. HIS ready room now.

Kathryn was escorted to her ready room by the same security guard who'd taken watch over her in the brig. She tried to remember his name and felt guilty when she couldn't. She looked to Chakotay first, his face still devoid of any trace of the man who'd been, and saw that he was wearing his old Maquis uniform again. She tore her eyes from him and saw Tuvok, also dressed in Maquis uniform. Another stab of the knife. Despite the compression rifle at her back, she tried her best to appear in control. They all knew it was only for show.

"Consider this a test of your loyalty." Her eyes snapped back to Chakotay as she saw him hand Tuvok a phaser and a stab of fear ran through her as he took it. The smell of alcohol in the air reached her nostrils and she suddenly wondered how much they'd been drinking.

There was a slight smile on Chakotay's face, nothing warm about it, as Tuvok took the phaser.

"You said you wouldn't hurt anyone…" She fought to keep her voice controlled but her fear sounded and she knew it. She knew how dangerous this was, but there was no way out of it. She was trapped. Her eyes snapped back to Tuvok, pleading with him.

"You're in control of your actions. Not Chakotay. Not Thiro." He seemed not to hear her.

"Tuvok?" Chakotay's voice was calm. Time seemed to stop then and Kathryn felt the blood almost freeze in her veins as Tuvok raised the phaser and aimed it at her. She waited for her life to flash before her eyes, yet nothing happened. All she felt was pain and betrayal. It couldn't end like this. All the dangers they'd faced out here, only to be murdered by one of her own. She searched for some shred of dignity and found it for just a moment. Then it deserted her and fear returned.

"Don't do this…" Her eyes locked on Tuvok's face as he aimed at her head. She heard the faint fizzle of the phaser as it refused to fire and her heart almost stopped. She stared as her old friend calmly handed the phaser back to Chakotay, his voice cool.

"This phaser is defective." She watched as Chakotay took the phaser and re-holstered it, nodding at Tuvok, obviously pleased with the Vulcan and his loyalty. For Kathryn, something inside her died. Chakotay's voice snapped her out of it.

"Take her back to the brig." He spoke to the guard who'd escorted her into the ready room without looking in his direction. Kathryn felt the prod of the rifle in her back and went to move. Chakotay's voice stopped them both.

"No. Wait." Kathryn met his eyes as he moved towards her. "This isn't right at all." He was right in front of her now and met her eyes, staring her out. Kathryn refused to look away. Suddenly he stepped back a little and let his eyes travel down to her neck. He smiled and reached a hand up to her collar, stroking over the pips there.

"You don't need these anymore." He popped them from her collar, letting them fall to the floor, his face breaking into a small smile. He moved back a little more and slapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Torres. Report to my ready room. I have a little job for you." Kathryn was too hurt now to feel fear. She summoned what was left of her waning courage and forced her tears to stay away. She turned when she heard the door, watching her chief engineer enter the ready room, her uniform also replaced. Kathryn just dropped her head, not wanting to see anymore.


Chakotay laughed when Kathryn's head came up. "She means me. Haven't you got it yet? You're no longer the Captain of this ship. I'm in command now." Kathryn barely met his eyes, then looked away. She listened as they all laughed.

"B'Elanna, take 'Kathryn' here to her old quarters, my quarters now, and make sure she dresses appropriately for her new position." Kathryn's head snapped up and she met his eyes, saw the hate there. "Get her out of that uniform. Strip her of it and get her into civvies. She's no longer a Starfleet captain and should look the part of the civilian she is now. She's not a captain anymore and has no right to a captain's uniform. Put her in a dress or something." B'Elanna barely nodded and moved to Kathryn, taking her arm in a firm grip. Kathryn kept her eyes locked with Chakotay's as long as she could.

"Get her out of here and when she's changed, take her back to the brig." He turned his back on her then. Kathryn lowered her head and squeezed her eyes shut, letting herself be led from the room.

B'Elanna waited beside her the entire time, allowing her no privacy, not taking any chances with her prisoner. She watched as Kathryn changed out of her uniform, having grabbed a dress from her closet and thrown it at her former captain.

"Put that on…and these…" She reached down and grabbed a pair of soft pumps from the bottom of the closet. "Can't have you wearing hard shoes now, can we? You might try and kick someone." The woman before Kathryn was a stranger to her now, showing glimpses of the one who'd stood on the bridge that first day. Even then though, she'd been under her own control. "Come on…hurry up. I've work to do. I've a lot of people to transport." Her laughter sounded empty, controlled. Kathryn took a last look around her quarters, as if trying to memorize her home of the last seven years, the place where she'd always felt safe. B'Elanna seemed to read her thoughts.

"Come on, 'Kathryn'. The brig is your new home for now and then some nice little M-Class planet. You'd better get used to it. Personally, I think it's too good for you all." Kathryn just lowered her head and moved forward. B'Elanna's words barely penetrated the pain she already felt.

Kathryn sat rocking herself now. Pain filled her, gripping her chest and moving across her shoulders and down her arms. She rubbed at the top of her arms, wondering how emotional pain and hurt could always manifest itself as physical.

Suddenly she stopped rocking as her mind seemed to clear, leaving just one question remaining. Why did she hurt so much? Yes, she felt betrayed but she knew her crew, the ones who'd been Maquis, were under a control they couldn't fight. What she should feel was anger, a deep rage at Thiro, the lunatic in another Quadrant still trying to act out his evil ideals. She searched inside herself, finding some of that anger, but mostly it was overshadowed by the pain and hurt she felt. She closed her eyes quickly and lay her head down again.

"It's because you care about them. That's why it hurts so much." She began her rocking again, hugging her legs tighter. "How did you ever let them get this close to you? You knew better. The rules are there for a reason." She whispered her words and let the tears fall again, tasting their saltiness as they slipped between her lips. She licked at her lips now and sniffed quietly. Chakotay's face filled her mind, the biggest hurt of all. The answer came to her unasked question, one she knew, yet she still tried to deny it. His actions hurt the most for one reason only. She cared about him more than anyone else. She loved him.

A slight sound caught her attention and her head jerked up quickly. She found herself staring at her guard, an amused smile on his face, one which didn't hide the hate clearly written there, hate which had been resurrected and put there by Thiro.

"Taken your toy away from you, have they? Poor little Starfleet." His tone and expression mocked her and she looked away quickly, knowing it was too late to hide her tears from this man. "Nice to see the tough captain, sorry EX captain, crying like a little girl. Shows how weak you really are." His laughter grated on her as she turned away from him. He wasn't through with his fun though.

"Never mind. You'll soon be on a nice little planet somewhere. Then you can play at captain again and order your poor fools around. It kills you, doesn't it? Not being able to control everything around you? No wonder you're all alone. No one would put up with you." Kathryn just lowered her head to her arms and refused to look at him. Eventually he tired of his game when he couldn't get any response from her.

Kathryn jerked awake and groaned. Her neck and shoulders were stiff and sore from having fallen asleep in a sitting position. She tried to shake the grogginess from her mind and wondered how long she'd been out. She stretched her legs and arms out and blinked several times to clear her vision, then rubbed at her eyes, feeling them gritty.

She sat forward onto the edge of the bunk and looked out through the security barrier. Her guard was seated with his feet propped up, reading from a padd. Kathryn suddenly realized that the lights in the brig were lower than the ones outside and pushed herself into a standing position, her body protesting at the movement. She watched the young man for a moment, seeing that he hadn't noticed or heard her moving.

"Engineering. That's where he works. Jen…Jenkins? Yes, Jenkins, something with a P. Peter." It came to her now. She remembered he was good at sports, especially athletics. Peter Jenkins. She cleared her throat but still he didn't move, all his concentration on the padd in his hands.

"Ensign Jenkins…Peter?" He started and dropped his feet immediately, the padd falling from his hands. He jumped up quickly, cursing under his breath.

"What do you want, Janeway?" The harshness in his voice was alien to her ears. She remembered him as a softly spoken young man.

"Please, what time is it? How long have I been here?"

He walked over to her slowly, laughing all the way. "Why should I tell you anything? In a hurry to get to your new home?"

Kathryn felt an urge to snap back at him but she swallowed it quickly. It galled her to pretend so politely.
"I fell asleep. I just wondered how long it had been." She watched him as he looked her up and down.

"Well, I don't see any harm in telling you that. You've been back here about six hours." He laughed again. "You haven't had any visitors in that time, if that's what you're worried about. Your crew mates are all locked down in quarters and no one else is remotely interested in you."

Kathryn just shook her head, fighting to hold herself together. "Please, could I have something to drink, eat perhaps? I haven't had anything since yesterday." She shivered involuntarily and hugged herself, the light dress she wore giving her no warmth. "Perhaps a blanket also?" She forced herself to act almost submissively, something telling her not to anger him in any way, his mental state under Thiro's control being impossible to predict.

"What the hell do you think this is? A hotel?"

Kathryn shook her head slowly. "No. Please, I'm just a bit cold, hungry. Peter…"

He snapped at her suddenly. "Don't you dare use my name."

Kathryn held up a hand. "Please, I'm sorry. What do you want me to call you?"

His answer was swift, his voice angry. "You call me nothing. You shouldn't even be talking to me."

Kathryn lowered her head. "I'm sorry. I'm just asking for the same rights as any prisoner." She hoped acting this way would calm him down a little. She risked glancing up at him but saw that it hadn't, his expression if anything, a little harder now.

"Tell you what. You can call me 'Sir'." Kathryn swallowed to control her impulse to snap back and barely nodded. "As to food or a blanket, how about you beg me for them."

Kathryn stared at him now, her eyes widening. "What?"

His hard stare returned hers, then he laughed, a cynical, hard sound. "That should be 'what, Sir?' Yeah, that's it. Get down on your knees and beg me. Go on, Starfleet. I'd really enjoy that."

Kathryn turned away quickly. "You can't do this. I want to see Chakotay."

He moved towards her, his face a mask of hate. "Too bad, bitch, because I'm all you're getting. He's more important things to worry about, like HIS ship." He laughed again. "Now go on, beg me."

Kathryn narrowed her eyes. "Forget it. I'll manage." She moved back to the bunk and sat down again, keeping her face turned away from him. She heard his laughter.

"Have it your way. You'll change your mind." She glanced up to see his back to her and watched as he returned to his chair, picking up his padd again and continuing to read.

It took Kathryn some time, time she'd no way of measuring, to realize that it had gotten colder and she hugged her arms around herself. She'd fallen asleep again and it suddenly clicked with her that the cold only seemed to be affecting her and not Jenkins, as she looked out and saw him sitting comfortably in his chair. She knew then that he'd obviously tampered with the environmental controls to the brig, controlling the temperature on her side of the security barrier.

At this stage, her stomach almost hurt with hunger and her throat felt drier than she ever remembered. She licked at her lips to try and moisten them, but even her mouth was dry. She'd spent so much time the day before worrying about Tuvok and trying to help him that she'd neglected to take care of her own basic needs, like eating or drinking. She tried to remember the last time she'd eaten anything and shook her head when she realized that coffee and a small piece of fruit for breakfast the previous day was the answer to that.

Kathryn fought her body as long as she could, the thought of begging this man for anything unthinkable to her. In the end though, she knew she'd no choice, as common sense began to win out. She held out for what she gauged to be another hour or so, before she felt her resolve give way completely. She couldn't fight anything if she was too weak to even stand. She had to believe that this would end and she was determined to be there to see that end. That meant keeping herself alive, no matter what it took and if it took acting like a weakling, so be it. She'd survive that. Humiliation, at least, didn't kill but starvation and dehydration did.

Kathryn stood shakily and approached the security barrier, finding herself unsteady on her feet. She looked over at Jenkins and realized that he was already watching her, a cruel smirk on his face.

"Feeling more cooperative now?" He swung his legs down and stood up, sauntering over to her. "Well, go on then, down on your knees, bitch." Kathryn saw that this time, Jenkins had his phaser pointed at her, using it as a silent threat. She closed her eyes a moment and took a deep breath, telling herself that all this was Thiro's doing, not the man before her. She opened her eyes slowly, only to meet his mocking face. Slowly she dropped to her knees.

"What do you want me to say?" She whispered the words as he laughed, clearly enjoying himself.

"Now be nice, Janeway. Say 'please Sir, may I have some food and water?' and then ask me the same way for a blanket."

Kathryn gritted her teeth for a moment. Even kneeling, she felt light headed. "Please, SIR, may I have something to eat and some water?" The words almost choked her and she didn't look at him, but at a spot on the floor in front of her.

His voice almost hissed at her and she looked up quickly. "Not good enough. Look me in the eye and beg for it."

Kathryn balled her hands into fists, feeling her nails dig into her palms. She stared into his eyes, desperately trying to control her emotions. "Please Sir, may I have something to eat and some water? Also a blanket?"

He laughed loudly. "That wasn't so hard now, was it?" Kathryn looked away as anger and humiliation fought their way to the surface. She saw that he read her well. He studied her for a few minutes and then smiled evilly. "I'll see what I can do. Stay on your knees."

He turned away quickly and headed to the door, where she heard him whispering to someone she couldn't see. Jenkins remained at the door, glancing back at her occasionally then turned his attention to the corridor again. She watched as he took a plate and cup from hands which were attached to arms covered with Maquis clothing. Jenkins placed the items on the console beside him and then took a blanket the hands also held out. He whispered something else and then nodded. Finally he made his way towards Kathryn again.

"Get up and sit down there on the bunk, well back." She nodded silently and obeyed, taking a minute to steady herself as she stood, earning a laugh from her jailor. She then moved back to the bunk before sitting well back on the small cot, determined not to alarm him in any way. She knew she wouldn't get far even if she made a run for it, her own weakness too much of a hindrance, and then of course the fact that there was someone else obviously out in the corridor. She also had no doubt that he'd shoot her before she even reached the door. She watched closely as Jenkins lowered the barrier and set the cup and plate down on the floor, just inside the entrance. He then threw a thin blanket at her before re-activating the security barrier. "Anything else Madam would like?"

Kathryn reached for the blanket, pulling it around her shoulders and shook her head. "Thank you."

He barely nodded as she made her way over to the small meal he'd given her. She picked up the plate and cup and walked back to the bunk, sitting down slowly, placing the plate beside her. She sipped from the cup. Water only and stale tasting. What she wouldn't give for coffee. She looked at the plate then, seeing a mix of something, almost a paste. Not thinking about it, she scooped some between her fingers and ate. There was no way they'd trust her with eating utensils. She hid her soft smile. She'd trained them all too well.

When Kathryn had finished, she leaned back against the wall, trying to get some warmth from the thin blanket. She jumped as her guard's voice broke through her thoughts. "You finished?"

She looked up at him and nodded. "Yes. Thank you." She picked up the empty plate and cup and stood up.

"Stay there."

She nodded her obedience and stayed where she was. She watched him closely as he lowered the force field and stepped into the brig, using a small handheld control to raise it again. He walked towards her slowly, never taking his eyes off her. Suddenly he held out his hand and pointed to the bed.

"Put them down there." He stopped and waited until she placed the plate and cup on the bed then backed off. Keeping his eyes on her the entire time, he crossed to the bed and picked them up, holding both items in his left hand, along with the hand held control. "Aren't you scared? About where you're going?"

Kathryn wasn't sure what way to answer him and remained quiet, which seemed to anger him suddenly. He crossed to her quickly and before she knew what was happening, had punched her in the face, sending her to the floor.

"Starfleet bitch. You answer me when I ask you something." He glared down at her on the floor, as she held a hand to her cheek in complete shock. She fought to control the anger she felt rising within her.

"What do you want me to say? Yes, I'm scared. You're all under the control of something I can't fight. What do you want?" He moved on her again and she shut up.

"Get on your feet." The raw hate in his voice frightened her as she struggled to get up, her foot catching on the blanket. Finally, she managed it and stood shakily before backing away a little.

"Thank you for the meal and the drink." She threw him with her words and saw him appear almost confused for a moment. It didn't last long.

"Don't try and trick me with that Starfleet psychology shit. You hate me as much as I hate you."

Kathryn's eyes were steady on him. "I don't hate you. You're a member of my crew and I care about you all. You're not yourself. Thiro has you all controlled…" It was the wrong thing to say and she saw him advance on her, dropping the cup and plate on the floor.

"Lying bitch…" He laid into her, hitting her around the head and into the ribs and stomach. Kathryn immediately fell to the floor, crying out and rolling into a ball to try and protect herself. She felt him kick at her a few times along her back and arms, before pulling back. She waited for more but nothing happened.

"Get up and don't give me any more trouble." She felt his hands on her as he pulled her up and threw her onto the cot. She watched as he picked up the plate and cup, deactivated the barrier and walked out. He looked back at her with a look of pure hatred in his eyes and re-activated the force field.

"Don't make me come back and give you more of the same. I've had just about enough of you." Kathryn just lay as still as she could, forcing her tears to hold back until he'd gone. He turned away then, cursing her under his breath and disappeared from her view.

Kathryn felt her tears start and painfully rolled over on the cot, so she was facing the wall. She pulled the thin blanket around herself, covering her head and let the tears fall, fighting her pain as well as her despair. With something at least in her stomach and her thirst quenched a little, she eventually cried herself into a fitful sleep.

Kathryn wasn't sure what woke her as her eyes snapped open. She found herself staring at the grey wall of the brig and swallowed, her throat dry again. She licked at her lips and sniffed, her nose feeling blocked from her earlier crying, as if from a cold. She lay still for another moment, sensing something she couldn't name and then turned her head slowly, groaning as a throbbing pain accompanied the movement. She turned fully then when she saw the looming figure of Peter Jenkins standing over her, leering down at her.

Despite her body's painful protests, she rolled over and tried to sit up. Her nose quickly picked up the smell of alcohol in the air and she clutched the blanket to her chest. Even in the dim lighting of the brig, she could see a glazed look in his eyes as he continued to just stare at her, his mouth twisted into a crooked grin. In an attempt to control the situation, Kathryn spoke first.

"Have we arrived?" Her voice shook badly, despite her best efforts to control it and she sounded hoarse. Jenkins didn't answer her as he continued to run his eyes over her and Kathryn felt a fear build in her. She tried to sit up again, her body one large ache and a groan escaped her lips. The sound seemed to snap him out of his study and he dropped to sit on the side of the cot.

Kathryn forced herself to control her rising panic, gripping the blanket even more tightly as she tried to move away from him. His hand shot out and gripped her shoulder, pressing her down.

"Where do you think you're going?" His speech was slurred and his eyes seemed to have some trouble focusing on her.

Kathryn twisted under his vice-like grip. "Please, you're hurting me." Her voice sounded alien to her, soft and frightened. He moved a little closer to her now and took a tight hold of the blanket, ripping it from her grasp quickly. "Now, that's better." He moved closer again, leaning over her, as his other hand pressed down on her other shoulder.

"Let me go please…" Kathryn struggled weakly under his strong grip, trying to get out from under him to no avail. Her fight only seemed to spur him on as he moved over her again.

"Now don't do that. Be nice." He leaned over her and lowered his face to hers, the smell of alcohol heavy on his breath. His intentions now only too clear, Kathryn struggled fiercely against him, earning herself a painful smack across her already bruised cheek. She felt him lower his body over hers, his legs pinning hers down as his hands captured her wrists and held them down over her head. "Shhhh…don't fight this now. Behave yourself."

Kathryn cried out, still fighting him. "No… Oh God… Please don't do this. Peter, please. This isn't you…." Her words were lost on him and she felt his knees press between her legs, her dress having ridden up her thighs during her sleep and from her struggle. She felt him shift his grip, one of his strong hands holding both her wrists now with little effort on his part.

"Stop fighting me. You'll only get hurt more." His free hand covered her mouth, as he stared down at her. "You should thank me." He seemed to take great delight in the tears he saw forming in Kathryn's eyes. "I mean, who else would bother with you. Who else would ever want to touch you, the almighty, untouchable captain? I've news for you. To everyone, you're the cold bitch who sits on the bridge, the sad, lonely old woman who has no one. You're not a real woman, not a woman at all. You're completely asexual, a machine. You're already dead." He laughed evilly.

"Jeez, I'm about to commit a sin. I'll be guilty of necrophilia. I'll be fucking a dead woman." He laughed again and removed his hand from her mouth, ignoring the tears which fell from Kathryn's eyes. His words hurt her as much as his physical actions and she felt something die inside her.

With his hand removed from her mouth, Kathryn knew she should scream for help, at least try to but she didn't. His words filled her mind, taking over all else as her tears continued. If the man above her saw this, he didn't show it, seeming to just accept her sudden lack of struggle.

Somehow though, instinct kicked in and she began to fight him again, firing him up without knowing it. She felt his other hand drop to her throat, where he pressed down and squeezed hard. Kathryn struggled for breath, as he cut her air off, leaving her light headed and gasping when he finally removed his hand. In this state now, weakened physically and emotionally and almost completely disorientated, she was no trouble to him. She felt him lean off her a little, one hand still holding her wrists above her head. She felt his other hand popping the buttons of her dress open and pushing her bra up, exposing her breasts to him. She felt him sucking and biting at her, the stubble of his chin grazing her skin.

Kathryn vaguely wondered if she was going into shock as the assault continued. This couldn't be happening, not on her own ship. His hand dropped then, pushing the skirt of her dress aside, tearing her panties away. She still struggled weakly but it was a moot gesture. He settled between her already parted legs and freed himself, pushing against her opening, before his hand came back up and covered her mouth again, pressing down hard. Kathryn tried one last burst of struggle, but it was useless. With a cruel, unforgiving thrust, he entered her, penetrating her deeply, tearing at her soft, dry tissue and ripping her open.

Kathryn screamed against his hand as a raw agony consumed her, increasing with the repetition of his thrusts. She felt herself stretching around him, tearing to accommodate his invasion, the dry friction adding more and more pain to what already existed. Left with no choice but to endure, Kathryn closed her eyes and for the first time in years, prayed. She prayed for the torture to end, for the agony to cease, to just survive it.

He didn't take long and she vaguely heard him groan in her ear, just as she felt him shudder within her, his ejaculation easing his final brutal thrusts as he slammed himself against her. She found herself gasping for air once more, as he became a dead weight on her, then rolled himself off, standing shakily before tucking himself away.

Her body lay as he'd left it, her legs open and her arms above her head, still feeling his grip and weight on her. Kathryn managed to open her eyes a moment and saw him staring down at her, knowing she lay completely exposed to him, but unable to find the strength to do anything about it.

For a moment, he looked confused as he stared down at the sight of the broken woman before him and she thought she saw some semblance of internal struggle taking place before being replaced once more with his scornful grin.

"That wasn't so bad now, was it? You probably didn't feel a thing though, did you?" He bent down and retrieved the blanket from the floor and tossed it at her. Without another word, he turned and left, aware enough to re-activate the security barrier once more.

Kathryn lay in pain and shock for some time, unable to function on even the most basic level. Tears scalded her face, the only outward sign of life from her. Eventually her survival instinct kicked in again and she tried to move, pain racking her body. Taking each small movement slowly and one at a time, she eventually managed to sit up, biting down heavily on her lip to avoid crying out. Her mind slowly began to work with her again, kick starting out of its shock to function once more.

Finally, Kathryn managed to get herself into a sitting position on the edge of the cot, one hand holding her abdomen in some effort to ease her pain, while the other held the thin blanket over herself, trying to cover her body in some way. Knowing that 'Kathryn' was unable to cope with this, she sought out 'the captain', using that persona to get through this. Thoughts of Chakotay filled her mind for a moment, needing him more than she'd ever needed another human being in her entire life. And then another thought crowded that one out for just a moment. Would Chakotay as the man he was now, also be capable of this? She pictured him on the bridge at this moment, wearing the uniform of the enemy, in control of her ship, issuing orders that would lead to her and her remaining crew being left behind and abandoned on some desolate planet, never to see home again. Her mind felt unable to deal with the question, yet alone the answer, but somehow, her heart knew. In her heart, she knew that if or when this was all over, the Chakotay she knew would be racked with guilt, unable to cope with the knowledge of the actions of them all. It would kill him to know what one of his crew had done to her. And so in that moment, as she sat there in pain, struggling to cope with the deep trauma of what had just happened to her, she made her decision.

Chakotay must never find out.

Kathryn managed to get to her feet on the third attempt and took a moment to steady herself. She looked out through the force field, only to find Peter Jenkins staring at her. Summoning all the strength she had, she managed to steady her voice. "Peter…please…"

The cruel expression was gone but hate remained. He still moved a little closer though. "What do you want?" His voice seemed less harsh.

Kathryn drew in a deep breath. She could do this, had to do this. "If anyone finds out…" She gasped as a sharp pain crossed her stomach and then grunted.

"No one will care. Do you think I'm afraid because of what I did?" There was just a trace of doubt in his words. "Maybe I shouldn't have but…" He seemed confused for just a moment and then the cruelty returned. "What do you want?"

Kathryn still held herself tightly. "You can't take that chance. No one can know. Please Peter, I need some painkiller and a dermal regenerator." He laughed at her and went to turn away but her voice stopped him.

"Why take the risk? What harm would it do?" Some of the wisdom of her words seemed to penetrate his mind and he turned, staring hard at her.

"Maybe…" Without another word, he left the brig, leaving Kathryn to sag against the wall, desperate to stay on her feet. Several minutes later, he returned, carrying a small regenerator and a hypo.

"Stand back." He didn't wait for her to try and move, seeing for himself that she seemed incapable of moving at that moment and was no threat. He lowered the barrier and tossed the items onto the cot then re-activated it. Without another word, he turned his back on her.

Kathryn sat painfully on the edge of the cot, her back to Jenkins and pressed the hypo to her neck. Almost immediately, her pain eased and she breathed a little more easily. She fought her tears as she worked the dermal regenerator over her bruises, along her ribs and on her wrists and forced her mind to almost shut down, concentrating only on what she was doing.

As she worked, she'd no idea that Tuvok was working on Chakotay, performing the mind meld that would restore the Maquis terrorist to the gentle First Officer they all knew, before they re-took the bridge together. She eased herself forward a little, noting blood smeared on her upper thighs and closed her eyes. She looked around in search of her panties and saw them on the floor beside her. She leaned down, hissing in pain and retrieved them, easing them back on, tying them where they'd been torn. She drew in a few deep breaths, willing the remaining pain away, then slipped the top of her dress off, still keeping the blanket around her shoulders, hiding her body from Jenkins, whose eyes she knew watched her. She quickly took her bra off and replaced her dress, then folded the bra and slipped it into her panties, needing something to soak up the bleeding which wouldn't seem to stop.

Kathryn turned her head slowly and saw Jenkins watching her, a strange look in his eyes. She looked away from him quickly and fixed her dress as best she could then picked up the regenerator, one hand feeling at her face to try and heal any bruising there, trying to work without a mirror. She was just finished healing her lip, cut from where she'd bitten down on it, and was attempting to heal the bruise she knew must be on her cheek and jaw, when she heard voices behind her, instantly recognizing Chakotay's and Tuvok's, as they disarmed Peter Jenkins. Without thinking, she slipped the dermal regenerator and hypospray under the mattress and pulled the blanket tightly around her. Chakotay's voice reached her ears, soft and hesitant.

"Kathryn…Captain…" She turned her head slightly, keeping the bruised side of her face from him and forced her expression to appear neutral. Her eyes met his and she saw everything she'd feared written there. Pain and guilt covered his features as his eyes met hers. She turned away and drew in a deep shuddering breath and stood slowly, ignoring the pain she still felt, determined that he wouldn't see it. She turned to face him, grateful that the lights in the brig were still low.

"I thought you might like your ship back." His small attempt at humour didn't hide his real feelings and he barely managed to hold her eyes.

"I take it the mutiny is over? No more rebellion?" She fought to keep any emotion from her voice. Part of her wanted to lash out, the rest just wanted to fall into his arms and cry. She did neither. She watched his face carefully.

"It took another mind meld with Tuvok but I'm fine." She nodded and looked behind him, seeing her Security Officer melding with Jenkins. She knew she needed to get out of there quickly.

"I see." She moved painfully to the edge of the brig and waited, hoping he wouldn't notice how stiffly she walked. Chakotay saw her looking towards Tuvok as he melded with Jenkins and his voice was soft when he spoke.

"Tuvok's job was a little easier with me." She turned her eyes to him now, seeing his pain, but trying to harden herself to it. "He said I was apparently weakening already. We believe it was the memory of seeing you here, knowing you were here and it was getting to me. He sensed that in the meld." His pain was even evident in his voice and she knew he was clutching desperately to any hold available to secure him to what had been between them before all the madness.

Kathryn just stared at him. "Too bad it didn't work a bit earlier." She instantly regretted her slip of the tongue but her emotions were so raw at this moment. She saw its effect on her friend as his eyes widened.


She shook her head quickly. "Nothing." She turned her head away and looked behind her, still hiding her face. Suddenly she saw the crumpled sheet covering the cot and noticed some stains there. She stepped back quickly and pulled it from its folds, forcing her emotions down as she pulled it around her.

Chakotay watched her, his expression sad. "Are you cold?"

Kathryn quickly shook her head and moved back to the edge of the brig. She tried to hide her emotions behind righteous anger. "If you'd be so kind?" She waited and watched as he shook himself and quickly lowered the security barrier. As Kathryn went to move past him, he suddenly caught her arm.

"What's that on your face?" She heard the concern in his voice and tried to pull away, hiding her face from him. She could see Jenkins beginning to come back to himself and knew she needed to get away.

"It's nothing."

Chakotay wasn't put off that easily though and moved around in front of her, taking her chin in his hand and raising her face to his. "If it's nothing, why are you trying to hide it? Let me see." He looked at her face closely. "Kathryn, where did you get this bruise? Did one of us do this?"

Kathryn pulled away quickly. "I said it's nothing. I fell. That's all."

Chakotay refused to let her arm go. "Kathryn, please, what happened?" She saw Tuvok look at her now also and pulled her mask into place tightly.

"Commander…" Hiding behind rank seemed the best thing. "I fell in the brig and hit my face. I woke up and forgot where I was with the lights down." She fixed him with a cold stare. "I'm not exactly used to waking up in the brig." Her last words were cold and hard and she knew she'd hurt him but she couldn't let him know the truth. She looked towards Tuvok and saw the look of horror on the face of Peter Jenkins as he stood beside the Vulcan and began to remember. She knew she had to act quickly.

"Now, I take it I'm the captain again and that this is my ship once more, that I have it back?" Chakotay nodded but his face showed his hurt and pain. "Good. You're not in charge anymore and you don't give orders to me. I ask the questions, not you. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to check my ship." She looked away from her friend, before she saw even more hurt there.

His voice when he spoke was a whisper. "Aye, Captain."

She looked at Tuvok quickly, needing to know that he was all right, chancing the brief delay it would take to ask. "Tuvok, are you all right?"

He nodded. "I'm in control again, Captain." She heard Chakotay's soft voice behind her.

"Whatever you said to him, it worked." She knew how bad he felt, heard it in his voice and turned to him, offering the only crumb she could.

"It's good to have you back, Commander." She looked away quickly from the sad brown eyes, feeling her emotions threaten a mutiny of their own. She went to move away and saw him cross to Jenkins, speaking to the confused young man.

"Ensign Jenkins, I need your report."

Kathryn turned quickly, a panic rising in her. "That will do later." She glanced at the young Ensign for just a moment. "Get all crew who were affected by this to sickbay and have the Doctor check them over." When no one moved, she hardened her voice even more. "That means IMMEDIATELY. If your memories are back, I assume you still remember how to take and obey orders." Even Tuvok seemed to shrink under her glare.

"Aye, Captain." She heard the three of them answer softly together as she turned to Chakotay. "As to those involved in making reports, I can give my own orders where that is concerned. You've done my job for long enough." She cried inside, hating having to be so cruel to him, but knew she had to keep him from the truth at any cost. "As one who was involved, I would prefer you stay away from this. I'll handle this myself and take care of the debriefings. You speak to no one. That means all of you. Is that understood?" She had to look away quickly at the look of hurt on Chakotay's face, knowing that he felt she didn't trust him. She continued to hide behind the Captain.

"Right. Get those involved to the Doctor. That includes you, Commander Chakotay and you, Tuvok. Take Jenkins with you." She kept her eyes to the floor, unable to look at the man who'd hurt her so much. It took all her strength to just say his name. "After that, I want you to check over all systems and get a report to me by the morning." She stopped suddenly. "What time is it now?" She realized she'd no idea of how much time had passed since everything had fallen apart.

Tuvok answered her. "It is already morning, Captain. The time is approximately 03:30."

Kathryn cut him off by raising her hand. "Very well. By 16:00 then. Dismissed." She turned away, desperate to leave.

Chakotay followed her and spoke quietly to her. "Kathryn, please, we need to talk about this."

She pulled her arm from his gentle grip, seeing more hurt cloud his eyes. "Report to the Doctor, get some sleep and have your report to me by 16:00. Goodnight, Commander." She walked away, holding herself stiffly and biting back her pain.

Chakotay watched his captain and friend walk stiffly down the corridor, the blanket and crumpled sheet covering her thin shoulders. He saw the way she held herself, but put it down to anger rather than pain. Her face filled his mind, the bruising on her cheek in particular and he shook his head, trying to get his mind to work. Something didn't fit and yet why would she need to lie? His musings were interrupted by Tuvok and Jenkins, the Ensign appearing confused still.

"Commander, I would suggest we follow the captain's orders and report to sickbay. After that, we can complete our work and write up our reports."

Chakotay's head snapped around and he nodded slowly. "Right…yes…" His legs began walking towards sickbay, his mind not even thinking about it.

Kathryn passed through the corridors, nodding to crewmembers, giving her best captain's act, silently reassuring them all that she was fine and that everything was back to normal. It was easy to pick out the former Maquis, the ones who found it difficult to meet her eyes. She managed to hold out until she reached her quarters and the doors slid closed behind her. She then stumbled to her bed and lay down on her side, careful to avoid causing herself any more pain. As she lay there in the semi darkness, she finally let her tears fall full force. She sobbed into her pillow, physical and emotional pain engulfing her as her hands gripped the bedclothes beneath her.

"God damn you to hell, Thiro. I hope you burn there." She cried bitterly for about twenty minutes, before she forced herself to stop. She then sat up on the edge of the bed and wiped at her face.

"That's the last of it, Kathryn. No more tears on this. You've shown enough weakness to last you a year." She pulled herself up and went to the bathroom, stripping off every item of clothing she wore. Padding across the bedroom and into the living room, she recycled everything, including the blanket and sheet, and made her way back to the bathroom, where she spent the next half hour under a hot water shower, crying once more, despite her earlier promise to herself and tried to ignore the stinging pain between her legs. She watched her blood mix with the water as it flowed away and cried even harder.

Pulling herself from the shower at last, she stood in front of the mirror and examined herself. Bruising was still evident on her ribs, back and arms and she opened a drawer and took out her own dermal regenerator, making sure she did the job right this time, having more time to work now. She spent the next half hour healing everything she could, even trying to heal the tears she knew she had inside her. What she couldn't reach would have to heal in its own time. She sighed and shook her head sadly. "Thanks to your booster, at least you won't get pregnant." She almost broke down again before she drew in a deep breath and regained her control. She replicated an old-fashioned style sanitary towel, knowing the modern-day tampons wouldn't do and would only hurt her. She dressed quickly, slipping the pad inside her panties. She reached back into the drawer and pulled out a painkilling hypo, one of many she kept hidden with her private medical supplies and injected herself with it.

Stepping back into the bedroom, she looked around and saw that everything was as she'd left it. Chakotay obviously hadn't used her quarters after all. Forcing her mind to the present, she took her old uniform and recycled that also, replicating herself a new one, along with four new pips. When she finally felt ready, she studied her reflection in the mirror and sighed sadly. She looked as she had the previous morning when she'd prepared for her day, not knowing what was to come.

Kathryn stared hard into her own eyes, moving closer to the mirror, studying her face closely. There was a hardness there now and she knew her eyes showed her pain.

"It's over, Captain. Get back to work. You've a job to do so get on with it. He can't know. It would kill him to know. Put it behind you. You can be strong enough." With a last look at herself, she turned and left her quarters, her mask more firmly in place than it had ever been before.

Kathryn's first stop was the bridge, satisfying herself that the ship was running smoothly and everything was in order. Despite forcing her mind to almost close down to all but business matters, a sudden thought struck her and she handed the bridge over to the young Lieutenant who was on duty and almost ran for the turbo lift.

Kathryn stood outside the brig now and took several deep breaths, forcing her legs to move her forward. Checking again that no one was around, she stepped inside and closed her eyes as she saw the crumpled state of the cot, the bottom sheet pulled from its folds and creased. Telling herself she was strong, that she could do this, had to do this, she opened her eyes and moved forward, her hand searching under the mattress until she found the hypo and dermal regenerator she'd hidden there earlier. She jumped now when she heard Chakotay's voice behind her.

"Miss the place already?" Her shocked expression wiped the slight smile from his face immediately. "I'm sorry. That wasn't… Bad joke and bad timing."

Kathryn stood quickly, hiding the two items behind her back. "I thought I ordered you to sickbay, Commander."

Chakotay's face fell. "Doc's already cleared me. I was starting my rounds."

Kathryn barely nodded and brushed past him. "As you were then." Before he could utter another word, she was gone.

Over the next four hours, Kathryn toured her ship, talking to and reassuring everyone she came across. She checked on Tom Paris and made sure he was healing well after being stunned by Chakotay, taking a report from the Doctor also who informed her that there would be no after-effects from the control, that it was completely broken now and that all those involved were fully back to themselves. Relieved by that news, she moved on and spoke quietly with every Starfleet crewmember she came across, reassuring them that it was all behind them now, making sure they didn't blame their former Maquis crewmates for what had happened.

She deliberately sought out the ex-Maquis, taking more time with them, telling them over and over that they'd never been at fault for the events of the last days. She watched as they hung onto her every word, desperate for absolution from their captain.

Finally she sought out B'Elanna, only to find the Klingon in Engineering, taking out her anger on a piece of conduit as she cursed and grunted to get it back in place. She jumped and her face fell when she saw her captain leaning over her.

"B'Elanna, please…"

The Engineer stood up slowly. "Captain, I'm so sorry. I wish so much that…" She looked up tearfully as Kathryn laid a gentle hand on her arm.

"B'Elanna, I'll say to you what I've said to everyone else. You were not at fault here. You're not to blame in any way. Thiro controlled all this. The only blame here lies with him. That said, it's over now and we get back to normal. We put this behind us. If we let it stay with us, he's still controlling us all. It's over. Everything is fine again."

B'Elanna nodded tearfully. "I want to believe that but…" She looked around her. "It all looks the same but I'm not and I don't think I ever will be again. We all feel like that, the ones who… His control is gone but a part of him is still with me." Her eyes pleaded for understanding and Kathryn swallowed and nodded.

"I understand."

B'Elanna shook her head. "Do you really? Can you honestly tell me that you'll be able to put what happened to you in the last day or so away for good? I don't think so." She saw Kathryn pale before her eyes. "Oh Captain, are you all right? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound so angry. It's just…"

Kathryn quickly regained her composure. "B'Elanna, I'm fine. I'm very tired and I need to eat something but I'm fine." She smiled, trying to show what she hoped was reassurance. "Look, I know it'll take us all some time to move past this, but we will, because we have to. The best way to do that is to get back to normal and back to our routine as quickly as possible. I'll take everyone's report by 16:00 and talk with you all privately. Outside of that, it's back to business as usual. That's the best way to beat this."

B'Elanna smiled sadly. "I know you're right and I'll try, really I will." She kept her eyes down for a moment and then looked up at her captain. "You're a wonderful person, Captain. If I was in your shoes, I'd have spaced us all."

Kathryn allowed herself a genuine smile for the first time. "Who'd run the ship then?" The two women shared a private smile, speaking of the beginning of the recovery of their friendship.

B'Elanna surprised Kathryn then when she leaned in and hugged her. "Thank you. For understanding and for being so…for being you." She pulled back, both their eyes awash with tears. "Starfleet can't be all bad, I guess." Kathryn frowned slightly. "They know how to make good captains." They both laughed through their tears.

Kathryn squeezed her hand tightly. "Just remember that when I'm ordering you to get me warp six and the engines are dead or when the plasma manifolds need cleaning or when…" She didn't finish and they both laughed. "It's over, B'Elanna. Let it stay in the past where it belongs. We're family on this ship. Nothing can break that bond for long. Don't ever forget that." She knew she was trying to convince herself more than the woman before her.

Kathryn's last port of call before trying to rest was to Peter Jenkins. She returned to her quarters first and took another painkiller, mentally preparing herself for the visit. She'd checked with the computer and learned that he'd been released from sickbay, having been given the all clear along with every other crewmember.

She stood outside his door now, taking deep breaths, praying for what she needed to get through this. Finally she rang his chime and heard his voice calling for admittance. She steeled herself and entered.

Peter Jenkins was sitting on the floor in the corner of his living room with the lights low. He jumped up immediately when he saw his captain and backed away from her.

"Cap…Captain… Please go…leave… You shouldn't…shouldn't…be here. I was… I thought…thought you were…security…" He couldn't meet her eyes as she forced herself to move further into the room.

"Why were you expecting security? Who have you told?" Kathryn forced her voice to sound calm.

He met her eyes fleetingly. "I spoke to no one but surely you did… I deserve…"

Kathryn closed her eyes a moment, trying to steady her nerves. When she opened them, she looked around for a chair. "Ensign Jenkins, please sit down. We need to speak about this." He barely nodded and took a chair well away from her.

Kathryn remained standing. "I haven't spoken to anyone and I don't intend to. What…" She swallowed. "What happened…is over. It's not important."

Peter's head snapped up. "Not important? Captain, I…I…what I did…I…"

Kathryn shook her head quickly. "Please don't say the word. I'm not ready for that." She instantly regretted her own words, the brief loss of her tenuous control. She closed her eyes again and drew in several deep breaths, preparing to speak the words she'd rehearsed earlier.

"Ensign Jenkins, listen carefully to me now. I'm speaking to you at this moment as your captain so hear me well." She forced herself to meet his eyes, instantly seeing that the man before her was not the same man who'd been in the brig with her. This man was frightened, filled with guilt and remorse, pained beyond reason at the knowledge and memory of his own actions and it helped her to see that. She moved to sit across from him and held his eyes.

"I'm not important here. Nor are you. There's a far bigger picture here." She heard her voice strengthen as she spoke on and drew inner strength from it. "This crew was divided once before at the start of this journey. It took a lot of hard work and effort on everyone's part to unite us all into one crew, one family, to be able to live and work together. It took courage and a strong will to leave the past behind, but we did it." She watched as his eyes remained on her face now.

"I won't stand by now and see all that destroyed. What has happened the last few days has threatened everything we worked for and everything we achieved. Everything we ALL achieved, not just the ex-Maquis." She stood now, needing to pace, to move.

"I've been walking around this ship for the past four hours or so, and you know what I see?" She looked back at him and saw him shake his head. "I look around and I see walls being rebuilt, damage being repaired, friendships and relationships being mended, even this soon." She had to look away at that, thinking of Chakotay and how she'd had to hurt him. She wondered briefly if their friendship would survive all this. She turned back to Peter Jenkins now.

"I won't let anything stop that. This ship and this crew come first. I will not let Thiro succeed. If we let this continue on now, we'll be doing his work for him."

Peter seemed to find his voice and a little courage to use it. "This was different."

Kathryn cut him off. "No…"

Peter refused to let her speak. "Yes." He stood and saw her move back a little from him and wanted to cry. "I won't hurt you, Captain."

Kathryn cursed herself. "I know you won't. I'm sorry."

Peter held his hand up. "I understand. You've every reason to believe…" They stared at each other for a moment until Kathryn spoke.


He seemed to snap out of it. "Captain, this is different and you know it. I can't ever forget what I did and there's no way you'll ever forget. I need to try and explain to you, to deal with this, understand how I could have done that, why I did…" He dragged his hands through his fair hair. "I need to say how sorry I am and beg your forgiveness. We have to talk about this. We need to…"

Kathryn was twisting her fingers together and cut him off. "Well, I can't." She stopped and lowered her head. "You deal with this alone in your own way, as I will. I can't talk about it."

Peter shook his head and looked around him. "Captain, I hurt you very badly. What I did, the cruel things I said…"

Kathryn's raised voice made him jump. "Stop it." Seeming shocked at her own outburst, she closed her eyes a moment to regain control. When she opened them again, she looked at the man before her. "I can't."

Peter shook his head sadly. "I have to tell Commander Chakotay…"

Kathryn seemed to panic at that and she moved forward, Peter stepping back this time as if afraid. "Leave Chakotay out of this…" She stopped, shocked at the strength of her own words.

"Captain, he has to know."

Kathryn moved forward again. "No. He has enough guilt of his own to deal with over all this." Her eyes pleaded with him and he saw the truth of all the rumours there.

"That's the main reason for this. It's for him. You really love him, don't you?" He stopped suddenly, shocked. "Captain, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"

Kathryn either ignored him or didn't quite hear him. "We bury this here and now and never speak of it again." The captain quickly took control again. "Thiro caused us all to suffer. We're all victims. We bury this and if I have to make that an order, I will. We'll just have to live with it. I'll just have to learn to live with it and so will you. You weren't yourself. None of you were. You're not to blame." She looked around the room a moment, not really seeing anything.

Peter's voice broke the silence. "Captain, how can I make you understand that letting this go only makes me feel worse." Kathryn met his eyes and saw that they were awash with tears, the man's pain almost corporeal. "I need you to punish me for this, for what I did." He sighed deeply and moved from one foot to the other.

"We'll see each other every day, most days anyway. I can't live with that and I don't for one moment believe that you can either." He looked deeply into her eyes. "Captain, you're one strong woman, one very strong person, but no one is that strong."

Kathryn allowed some anger to show, knowing it was mostly pain and fear disguised. "You need to be punished?" Her voice rose and she saw him nod. "Well, think on this. You said this is hard?" Again he nodded. "Then think of that as your punishment. You have to live with this every day and keep it quiet. That's your punishment." They stared at each other for almost a full minute, Kathryn's eyes daring him to argue back.

Still too upset and filled with guilt, Peter Jenkins finally nodded. "I'll try but…"

Kathryn moved a little closer to him, forcing herself to do it. "You'll do more than try, Ensign. You'll do it. This ends here and now. It never happened and we never speak of it again. Is that understood?" Once again he nodded, but he couldn't meet her eyes for long. With that, Kathryn turned and fled his quarters, almost running back to her own.


Kathryn reported to her ready room by noon, having only managed a few hours of a drug-induced sleep, using another hypo from her private stash. By 16:00 she'd received all the reports she'd requested and began the long task of reading through them. She ate very little and fuelled herself with strong coffee instead. To avoid being alone with Chakotay, she convened a meeting of the senior staff and took reports from all of them as a group. Finally, she fled back to her ready room, forcing down the memories of her time there when Chakotay had tested Tuvok's loyalty with the faulty phaser.

She managed to avoid Chakotay for the rest of the day, keeping him busy with reports and checking through all ship's systems. She spent her time locked away with reports and stayed there until well past midnight, not leaving until she knew Chakotay had long gone off duty and was back in his quarters.

The more Kathryn tried to shut off her memories, the more they threatened to consume her. Over the next few days, she shut herself off from Chakotay and the crew more and more. She did, however, speak with Tuvok and reassured her old friend that everything was still fine between them, seeing him accept her words gladly, knowing he needed to hear them. She was still unsettled though, by his logical explanation of how he knew the phaser he'd pointed at her would be defective, stating that Chakotay would not have given him a working phaser if he doubted his loyalty.

Unknown to Kathryn, the crew was having a hard time dealing with things. To the ex-Maquis, what they'd seen as their captain's initial forgiveness and acceptance of their actions under Thiro's control, now began to look like the opposite. They saw her absence as a lack of trust in them and her not being able to be near them. Even the original Starfleet crew felt her absence, believing that they'd let her down.

Chakotay heard the crew talking, heard what they were saying. He felt terrible about everything that had happened, blaming himself more than anyone else. Unable to take anymore, he went to see his captain in her ready room.

Kathryn had been waiting for his visit, dreading it but knowing she couldn't avoid him forever. She answered his chime and called for his admittance, standing with a fortifying cup of extra strong coffee in her hands as he entered.

"Come in, Commander. What can I do for you?" Her light tone of voice was forced and they both heard it. Chakotay's unease sat around him like a cloak. "I was hoping we could… About what happened…"

Kathryn moved to behind her desk. "I have your report. I don't need anything else." She was trying to shut the conversation down and Chakotay saw this.

"Kathryn, we need to talk."

Her head snapped up at the use of her name. "Commander…" He didn't miss how she used his title, how she meant it. "We are talking."

Chakotay felt his annoyance begin to surface. "You know what I mean."

She cut him off and turned away. "Look, Commander, I've a ship to run and a lot of work to catch up on. I don't have time to chat about something that's well and truly over with."

Chakotay saw well what she was trying to do and moved towards her. "Come on, Kathryn, we need to talk about what happened. I feel terrible, so guilty, responsible…"

Kathryn turned to him quickly, determined to hide behind rank. "Well, you needn't feel responsible. You know it was all Thiro's fault." She sighed. "Look, Commander, I have work to do. Thanks to all this, I'm behind with that work. Now if you haven't any further reports for me or other ship's business, I suggest you get back to work and let me do the same. If that's all, you're dismissed."

Chakotay wanted to push her, talk about this now, but somehow, his guilt got the better of him and he found himself letting it go, cursing his own cowardice at the relief he felt.

"Aye, Captain." He stared at her for a moment longer, her face free of bruising now but in his mind, he still saw it there. Without another word, he turned and left.

Chakotay let things go for another week, days in which he saw Kathryn pull back even more. She reported for duty then retreated to her ready room, spending her shift behind closed doors. The crew hardly ever saw her and morale dropped to an all-time low, each crewmember feeling more and more to blame, especially the ex-Maquis. Many came to Chakotay asking about their captain, until he ran out of excuses about her catching up on work she'd missed.

Kathryn for her part buried herself in work, even re-reading old reports and forcing her mind to concentrate on them in order to block out thoughts of anything else. Each night now, she took a sedative in an effort to avoid the nightmares which had visited over the two nights she'd tried to sleep without medical aid. She even broke the rules, over riding the computer's restrictions to replicate the drug. She avoided the mess hall and any other area where the crew might gather, terrified of having to come across Peter Jenkins, knowing she didn't blame him but unable to face him, knowing the horrible memories seeing him would bring. The only time she'd been in the mess hall, having no choice but to seek out Neelix for something, she'd come face to face with the young Ensign. Immediately she'd felt as if an icy fist had gripped her heart and had almost run, seeing him leave just as quickly.

Chakotay had been quietly observing his captain, unable to figure out what he was seeing and trying to find answers to questions which refused to leave him alone. At the end of that week, he called Tuvok into his office and asked the Vulcan for his opinion.

"Do you think it's just anger on her part and feeling betrayed or am I imagining more here?" Chakotay was beginning to wonder if his mind was part of his own body at times. Sleep hadn't been coming easy for him either since Thiro's control.

Tuvok frowned slightly. "It has been my observation of the captain over many years, that she hides behind what she knows and feels familiar with whenever something occurs which is beyond her control. It is as if she needs to feel in control of the things around her until she feels 'safe' again, be surrounded by things she can control. Perhaps that is not the correct way to phrase it, but it is appropriate."

Chakotay shook his head, his expression pained. "Do you think she blames us all? I know what she said, how she spoke with us all immediately afterwards but her behaviour since speaks of the opposite. She's become totally withdrawn."

Tuvok took a moment to think. "I don't believe she blames us but I do believe she blames herself in some way. Once more, it is down to control. With time to reflect on what occurred, the loss of control has grown in importance in her mind. She will question how this could have happened and how she didn't see it coming. Impossible, of course, but Captain Janeway won't think like that. It happened to her ship and her crew, and as captain she sees it as her job to protect us all. She will see in her own mind that she failed at that. She will also punish herself like this until she can learn to see past it all."

Chakotay just stared at Tuvok. "And in the meantime, we just let her carry on like this?"

Tuvok shrugged slightly. "There is little alternative. The captain has always been extremely hard on herself and always will be. If flogging were an option, I believe she would partake of that."

Chakotay shook his head. "I don't know. Immediately after it all, she spoke with all the crew, reassured them all. Now they see her this withdrawn from them and think she blames them all. They think she holds it against them. Many of them have spoken to me. This is not a happy crew, Tuvok."

Voyager's Security Officer nodded. "I have observed the crew myself. I spoke with the captain one time when she reassured me about my own part in all this. I have tried to meet with her on many occasions since in an attempt to speak of these other matters but I was denied."

Chakotay almost smiled. "I know. I tried too. You got the message loud and clear that she wasn't going to discuss it."

Tuvok nodded. "That would accurately describe her reaction." They were silent for a moment, Tuvok seeing his First Officer thinking and knowing to wait.

"Tuvok, off the record here." Tuvok's eyebrow twitched. "In the brig immediately afterwards…" Chakotay looked up at the Vulcan and saw him nod. "The bruise on her face…" He sighed and sat against his desk. "Did you buy her story?"

Tuvok frowned again. "You think the captain lied about falling?"

Chakotay shook his head again. "I don't know. Part of me thinks… Why would she lie about that and yet…?" He chewed his lower lip a moment. "I found her there in the brig shortly afterwards when I was making my rounds. She seemed to be looking for something and rushed out when she saw me. We barely spoke. I just keep thinking about that bruise." He shook his head slowly. "I questioned Ensign Jenkins, you know."

Tuvok moved forward a little. "You believe he hit the captain?"

Chakotay stood up and rubbed his hands across his face. "No…yes…I don't know. I just… None of us were exactly acting as ourselves." He looked back at Tuvok and shuddered, remembering ordering the man before him to fire on his captain.

Tuvok frowned. "What did Ensign Jenkins say about it?"

Chakotay sighed deeply. "He denied any knowledge of it. He seemed very nervous though. I know him, knew him well when I was his captain and something just doesn't add up. At the same time though, every member of my former crew is acting the same way, even most of the Starfleet crew, so…" He sat back against his desk again.

"Most of them are sticking together, talking to each other, helping each other over this, sharing it, but Jenkins reminds me of Kathryn in his behaviour. I've checked and he's become almost as reclusive as she has. The man I knew, know, Peter Jenkins, would never be capable of hitting a woman and yet I never thought I'd be capable of what I did either. I can't prove a thing. Just call it a gut feeling." He smiled slightly. "Sorry, I know that's alien to you but…"

Tuvok moved to the other side of the desk, straightening some padds for something to do. "I don't experience 'gut feelings' as you call them but I do respect them in others. I have come to believe in them almost."

Chakotay watched him for a moment, as he fixed the padds in place. "Something else bothers me." Tuvok looked up from his task. "The bruising. I mean, I reported to sickbay immediately, you and Jenkins with me and we were there for some time." He scratched at the side of his face. "Kathryn didn't come to see the Doc while we were there and yet later on, when I saw her in the brig again, the bruise was gone. I assume she treated it herself. She must have. That got me wondering if she… I mean, if she treated that bruise herself and stayed away from sickbay, did she also treat other bruises or other injuries or…?" He stopped at the almost shocked look on Tuvok's face. "You think I'm letting my imagination run away with me?"

Tuvok shook his head. "Perhaps she reported to the Doctor between the time we left sickbay and the time you saw her."

Chakotay placed his hands behind him on the desk. "She didn't. She wouldn't have had time. Besides, I checked the records in sickbay. She never reported there. I also covertly inquired of the crew she saw or spoke with immediately afterwards. I did it in such a way that they didn't even realize I was asking. She hadn't any bruising on her face when she went to see them. That means she treated herself when she left us in the brig and returned to her quarters."

Tuvok moved away from the desk. "What are you suggesting, Commander?"

Chakotay shrugged and sighed at the same time. "Maybe nothing, maybe something. I don't know. Perhaps it's a leftover from Thiro's control but I'm beginning to see conspiracies everywhere."

Tuvok examined his fingernails a moment. "It is also possible that the bruise to the Captain's face was received in a simple fall as she stated and being the only injury she had, she simply treated it herself in her own quarters. Many senior officers keep a dermal regenerator of their own."

Chakotay thought about that a moment. "You could well be right, Tuvok. What you said is perfectly 'logical'." He smiled slightly. "I guess it boils down to my gut instinct again. I just feel something isn't right about all this. Another thing though. I've seen them together just once since all this started, Kathryn and Jenkins. It was one of Kathryn's very rare visits to the mess hall. She had to see Neelix about something. They seemed shocked to see each other and you could have cut the air between them with a knife. Kathryn seemed very nervous and unsettled. Jenkins also. I got the feeling neither of them could wait to get away."

Tuvok considered this. "As the guard on duty in the brig with the captain, Ensign Jenkins is bound to feel unsettled when he sees her again."

Chakotay nodded. "How does that explain Kathryn's reaction then? This wasn't simple embarrassment, not even guilt on his part."

Tuvok seemed at a loss. He showed no reaction now to hearing Chakotay speak of their captain as 'Kathryn', well used to it over the years. "I cannot explain that." He was quiet for a moment. "Commander, what exactly do you believe happened?"

Chakotay folded his hands in his lap. "I don't know, Tuvok. Maybe he got rough with her and hit her. It doesn't explain why she wouldn't tell us though." He shook his head. "Of course, knowing Kathryn, she'd protect him if he had hit her." He sighed. "I don't know. Nothing points directly to anything having happened and yet my gut is telling me there's a lot more going on here. She's certainly avoiding me like I had the phage."

Tuvok pursed his lips together a moment. "Perhaps Commander, it would be wise to attempt to speak to the captain again. It might well settle your mind on these matters."

Chakotay smiled slightly. "I know you're right. I just hope I survive the encounter."

After another couple of days with Kathryn hiding herself away, Chakotay made up his mind. He saw, along with the rest of the bridge crew, how thin she looked. She tried to hide the dark circles under her eyes with make-up, but fooled no one. Having requested a meeting with her during duty hours and been turned down, he called on her in her quarters that evening. Refusing to leave her door when she didn't answer, he hailed her and informed her that he had to speak with her on a matter of importance. Finally she gave in and allowed him in.

Chakotay now stood in her living room, Kathryn already undressed and wrapped in an oversized robe, hugging it to herself tightly. She seemed nervous about his presence and remained standing, not even offering him tea.

"I'm tired, Commander. I'm also off duty so please state your business quickly. Is there some problem with the ship that can't wait until morning?" She barely looked at him.

"No, there isn't a problem with the ship." She looked up at him quickly. "There is, however, a problem with the captain."

She looked away. "Commander…"

He moved towards her. "It's Chakotay. We're off duty." She looked up sharply and backed away a little. "We started this conversation some time ago but we never finished it."

Her expression hardened. "No, Commander, you started it. I finished it. Now, if that's all…"

Chakotay wouldn't be pushed away this time. "No, that's not all, Kathryn. You've successfully avoided me for long enough, for almost two weeks now."

She glared at him. "I'm not avoiding you. I'm simply busy and we have nothing to talk about. Now if that is all, you're dismissed." Chakotay didn't move an inch. "I said dismissed." Her voice rose but Chakotay just shook his head.

"No way, not this time. We talk about this." He moved a little closer to her, his face showing controlled anger and watched amazed as she backed off a little, seeming almost scared of him. "Damn it, Kathryn, are you going to hold this against me forever? Are we ever going to be able to get through this and get past it?" He saw that she still looked scared but his own feelings took precedence.

"We have to talk about this. I'm trying very hard here. I've enough guilt for the entire ship. I couldn't feel any worse if I tried. I've tried to speak with you, to explain how I feel and to apologize but you won't give me the time of day. All of this happened and we need to talk about it and address it but you want to ignore it. I have to push this issue with you and come to see you like this. What else do you want me to do?" He saw how scared she looked suddenly at his raised voice and frowned. "Kathryn, what's wrong with you?"

She moved away a little more. "Nothing is wrong. Everything's fine."

Chakotay snapped at that, causing her to jump. "Oh Kathryn, don't add insult to injury by lying to me. Everything is not fine. It's far from fine and from where I stand, it'll never be fine again." He advanced on her and she backed away again. "You say you forgive this crew. You go around to them all immediately afterwards and tell them all that it's over and that it's in the past now, all forgotten and forgiven and no harm done. You tell them that they weren't to blame in any way, that it wasn't their doing. Your actions of the past week and a half speak of the opposite and they've noticed that only too well. You've cut yourself off from them and ignored them. You avoid them and me like we had some terrible disease. How do you think that makes them feel? You've made yourself into a liar. After what you said to them… God, Kathryn, was that all an act?" He saw her shake her head.

"Well, what was it then? Don't you trust them anymore? Let's face it, you don't trust me now and probably never will again. You're probably even afraid of me, not that I'd blame you."

Kathryn shook her head again. "I'm not…not afraid of you…really…"

Chakotay decided to test that and moved to her quickly, grabbing her shoulders. He felt her tremble and saw a flash of fear cross her face. "Look at you. You cringe when I touch you. You've backed off since I entered this room and you say you're not afraid of me?"

Kathryn showed a sudden blaze of anger and ripped herself from his grip. "You're so damned arrogant. How can you assume that everything is about you?" She seemed to instantly regret her outburst.

Chakotay jumped in. "If it's not about me, then who is it about? If not me, what? What happened to you that I don't know about?" He was afraid to ask her directly about the bruise which had been on her face, thinking it better to work around to it. Her eyes glared at him but her anger didn't quite hide something else there that he couldn't read.

"Nothing happened. Now get out of here and let me get some sleep."

Chakotay moved on her again and she backed off once more. "Damn it, Kathryn, if something happened during all that time, I have a right to know."

Kathryn felt herself panicking. Her eyes almost shot fire at him. "You have a right? What right?"

Chakotay stepped back a little, his expression like stone. "Oh, I see. Well, go on and say it. I gave up all my rights the day I took over your ship." They stared at each other, almost panting.

Kathryn swallowed loudly. "I wasn't going to say that."

Chakotay snorted. "Oh right. You thought it though." When Kathryn didn't answer, he shook his head sadly. "Something happened to you, Kathryn. You've become unrecognisable since all this happened. You've shut yourself away from everyone, lost weight and aren't sleeping. You've withdrawn into yourself so far…" He sighed. "I know there's more to all this and I'll find out what it is without your help. You've a nasty habit of playing dead where your feelings and emotions are concerned…" He stopped mid sentence when Kathryn's hand flew to her mouth and he saw tears spring to her eyes. "Kathryn?"

Kathryn backed away, hearing Peter Jenkins's words in her head. "You're already dead. You're the cold bitch who sits on the bridge, the sad, lonely old woman who has no one. I'll be fucking a dead woman."

Drawing on anger to cover her pain, she turned on Chakotay. "Get out of here now. I've had enough from you. You have your duty on this ship. Outside of that, I don't need to see you."

Chakotay was shocked at the venom in her words as he stared at her. "All right, Kathryn, I'll leave. Know this though. We'll talk again about this because it's not over. There's something going on here and you and I both know it. I see it, the crew sees it, even Tuvok agrees…"

Her eyes widened. "You have the nerve to discuss me behind my back?"

Chakotay backed off. "We're concerned about you." He debated telling her that he knew she hadn't been to sickbay that night and about his other suspicions, but something just told him to leave matters alone for now. He watched her closely, seeing her fight for control. "OK, OK, I'll leave." He held his hands up, palms facing her in a gesture of surrender. "This isn't over though." He made for the door quickly and glanced back at her. All he saw now was her back to him, her arms hugging herself tightly. He turned and walked towards his own quarters, not seeing Peter Jenkins duck out of sight, having heard everything. He also didn't witness Kathryn falling to her knees, her body racked with sobs.

"Oh Chakotay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's for the best, for your own good. The truth would hurt you more."

Peter Jenkins returned to his own quarters, shaking badly. He'd been on his way to repair one of the turbo lifts when he'd heard raised voices from his captain's quarters. He'd stood outside, listening to every word exchanged, his inner pain building.

He sat on his bed now in the dark, the stars the only illumination in the room. He'd also watched his captain closely, making sure she never saw him. He checked constantly to know her whereabouts and knew how much time she spent away from everyone else. He saw how thin she'd become and knew it was all down to him.

Seeing the slow and painful destruction of the woman he'd come to admire and respect tore at him day by day, knowing he'd caused it. What hurt most though was seeing the deterioration of her relationship with his old captain. These were two people he respected greatly and it pained him deeply to see them so far apart.

Peter Jenkins had also not known a peaceful night since Thiro's control had ended. He slumped back on his bed now as it played across his mind again as it did constantly.

He remembered coming back to himself with Tuvok's fingers on his face. Everything was foggy in his mind but the memories of what had occurred while he'd been under the control remained with him. Horror had filled him as he'd looked to his captain, seeing her standing there, her face still bruised. Everything had crowded his senses at once, leaving him incapable of functioning. He remembered not being able to meet her eyes, yet seeing that she avoided looking at him also. Shock kept him from speaking out there and then.

The trip to sickbay and his time there was a blur to him now, his confused state not appearing unusual among the similar states of mind of everyone else there. Eventually, he'd stumbled back to his quarters where he'd spent almost half an hour vomiting and dry heaving on his knees in the bathroom.

He'd then crawled out into the living room and sat huddled in the corner, waiting for security to come for him, praying for them to hurry. He wanted nothing more than to be punished for what he'd done.

When Kathryn had appeared before him, he'd panicked, couldn't believe she was there and yet a part of him hoped that she'd come to end his misery, perhaps kill him. Her words had shocked him, leaving him feeling even more tortured than he'd already been. She offered no release, no absolution, no punishment, only eternal pain for his actions.

Even now, almost two weeks later, that pain refused to diminish in any way. He knew she was shutting herself off, knew what his actions had done to her. He saw her every day, making certain she never saw him. He watched her in the corridor on her way to and from her quarters, sure no one was watching her, and he saw the real state of Kathryn Janeway, her head down, pain and suffering showing clearly. He knew, of course, that his suffering was nothing compared to hers but being the cause of it still ate away at him.

He shut himself away when he was off duty, incapable of mixing with the others. He tore himself to pieces trying to understand how he could have done what he did, under control or not. He'd seen Chakotay and Tuvok in the ready room, how his former captain had tested the loyalty of the Vulcan, but still he knew none of them had done anything remotely as evil as he'd done, would not have been capable of it.

He recalled the comments he heard each day from his fellow crewmates. How at first they'd all felt relieved that everything was over and talked about how their captain had come to visit them all, reassuring them that everything was fine again, that she held no grudges, blamed no one.

In time that changed as she'd isolated herself from them, in total contrast to her earlier message. 'Isn't the captain great'…'she doesn't blame us'…'doesn't hold this against us'…'we were so worried but she's fine' were sentiments which were now replaced by 'maybe now she's had time to think about it, she does blame us'…'she hates us'…'doesn't trust us anymore'…'we betrayed her'…'let her down'…'she can't face us'…'doesn't want to see us or be around us anymore'… So many times, he'd wanted to scream at them. "I know why she's like this. It's my doing. I caused it." He never quite had the courage though and he still held onto his promise not to speak of it all, knowing she couldn't handle the crew or Chakotay finding out.

Peter shook his head now, trying to dislodge the words and memories but they refused to leave him. He knew Chakotay heard the crew talking also and saw the pain it caused him. Many times he'd wanted to go and see his captain, to try once more to explain and apologise, even beg forgiveness, but each time he backed out. He was never sure if this was down to his own cowardice or his fear that Kathryn wouldn't be able to take seeing him, especially alone.

He thought back to seeing her in the mess hall, the pain and fear on her face and he'd fled, as had she, making his decision for him by proving that she couldn't face him again. He even considered speaking to Chakotay or Tuvok alone, confiding in them, but once more his promise to his captain stopped him. He dropped his head now and cried. There was no way they could continue like this. He knew that for a fact. Something would have to give and he knew it would be him, could feel the cracks there already, feel himself coming apart. He rubbed at his face, trying now to understand why she was doing this and shook his head.

"You already know the answer to that." He whispered to himself in the dark. "For us but mostly for him. She loves him that much." He cried bitterly. "Oh Captain, I'm sorry, so sorry. Forgive me."

The bridge was tense the next morning, with Kathryn having to be there beside Chakotay as they approached a planet which Neelix had assured them was known for its friendly trade with strangers. They needed supplies and so far everything the Talaxian had said was proving reliable.

Kathryn had made first contact an hour ago with the planet's Government Representative and now they waited to be contacted with coordinates so they could beam down and trade. Chakotay kept glancing over at his captain and knew she felt his eyes on her, but she steadfastly refused to look his way.

Within half an hour they were contacted and Kathryn quickly arranged to meet with the Government Representatives to negotiate. She beamed down with Tuvok and Tom Paris and within two hours was back on board, trade negotiations a complete success. She then ordered Chakotay and an away team down to the surface and by the end of the day, supplies were in the process of being brought aboard. An offer of shore leave was also made and accepted, Kathryn surprising them all by stating that she'd take some time off on the planet.

Chakotay noticed that she stayed out of her ready room now, preferring to be around others and he quickly understood that she was making sure she wasn't anywhere he could catch her alone. He shook his head sadly as he watched her leave the bridge for her leave and his eyes met Tuvok's sadly. He'd have to wait to try and talk to her again. As things turned out, matters came to a head in an explosive way that answered his questions for him, making sure Voyager would not be the same for a long time.

Kathryn was two hours into her leave when the call came to the bridge. Only a few crewmembers were off the ship, along with the captain. B'Elanna's frantic voice cut across the bridge, calling for Chakotay and Tuvok to get to Engineering as quickly as possible. Sharing a worried look, Chakotay quickly handed the bridge to Harry Kim, Tom already off the bridge, helping load supplies.

They raced to Engineering, seeing crew gathered there already, Tom standing beside B'Elanna. The Klingon quickly took them outside the door, wanting to speak to them quietly.

"B'Elanna, what's going on in?"

B'Elanna answered Chakotay before he finished his question. "It's Peter, Peter Jenkins. He's over in the corner, has a phaser. He's saying something about ending it all. He's not making sense. He was fine one minute and then just snapped." B'Elanna actually seemed afraid. Chakotay shared a look with Tuvok as she spoke minute on. "He's seemed more affected by everything than the rest of us and he's thrown himself heavily into his work. He was more distracted today though than he has been." She sighed and rubbed a hand across her neck. "We were talking about how things changed so quickly, about the captain, nothing much, just how we haven't seen much of her. Peter appeared to get agitated
when Joanne Cooper said that the captain must feel hurt and betrayed, how none of us really felt safe at the moment. She said something about the captain being unable to protect herself against us and he just flipped. He grabbed a phaser and started screaming, something about his fault, his sin." She shook her head. "I tried to talk to him but he demanded that you both be here, something about his confession."

Chakotay looked at Tuvok and nodded. "Better give the man what he wants." He went to move when Tuvok rested a hand on his arm.

"Commander, if his state of mind is as Lieutenant Torres reports, I must advise against this for your own safety. Let me go."

B'Elanna cut in. "I don't believe he's a danger to anyone but himself. He spoke about wanting to die, ending it all. He also warned us against trying to stun him. Said he could fire on himself faster."

Chakotay nodded slowly and made his way into Engineering, following by B'Elanna and Tuvok. He turned to them slowly. "Get everyone out. Get them back." He waved his arm, indicating his words.

Peter Jenkins's voice shouted out at them from the corner where he sat slumped against the wall. "They stay. They have to stay. They have to know."

Chakotay moved slowly towards the young man, feeling Tuvok right behind him. "Peter, please. What's wrong?" He saw the face of the young man, twisted in mental agony.

"They have to know, know what I did. She wouldn't let me say but I can't take the pain anymore."

Chakotay frowned. "Peter, I don't understand."

The young man looked around him, confusion evident in his eyes. He finally locked eyes with Chakotay.
"Why wouldn't she let me tell? Why did I do that? How could I be so evil?" Tears poured down his face. "She wouldn't punish me and I deserved it. I wanted it, needed it."

Chakotay inched forward, hearing Tuvok move with him. "Peter, you have to calm down. I don't know what you mean."

Peter cocked his head to the side and looked right at his old captain, ignoring Tuvok. "She did it for you. Did it to spare you. I guess for us all but mainly for you." Chakotay moved forward a little more but Peter moved the phaser to his head. "Don't come any closer."

Chakotay held a hand up and stopped moving. He sensed Tuvok tensing beside him, knowing his hand would be close to his own phaser.

"OK Peter, we'll stay right here." He crouched down. "Can I get these people out of here?"

Peter looked at the others and shook his head vigorously. "No, they have to stay and hear me. They have to be witnesses to my evil, know what I did, hear my sins."

Chakotay tried a smile. "OK, Peter, they'll stay. I just don't want to see anyone get hurt here."

The young man stared at him in horror. "I won't hurt them. I've done enough of that already. I only want to hurt myself and pay for what I did. She wouldn't let me do that, wouldn't punish me so I have to punish myself." He looked around wildly. "Where are the others? They have to all be here."

Chakotay smiled softly, trying to calm him down. "They're running the ship. They're needed at their posts."

He seemed to accept this. "They can tell the others then. Everyone here can tell the others."

Chakotay nodded slowly. "They'll do that. Now Peter, please tell me what this is all about. I just want to help you." That seemed to anger him more.

"You can't help me. It's too late. I can't live with what I did to her. She can't either. I can see that. I see her pain, what it's doing to her." He wiped at his face and looked at Chakotay. "I did it to you too, betrayed you too." He sniffed loudly and drew in a ragged breath. "I betrayed you all."

Chakotay frowned, fighting down a nagging fear he felt building inside him. "Peter, you have to tell me what you're talking about. I think I have some idea but I need to be sure."

The young man looked at him strangely. "She did it for you, you know." He frowned. "Did I say that already?" He shook his head then, trying to concentrate. "She did it to protect you, to spare you. She didn't want to hurt you, said you had enough to deal with." He shook his head once more and looked around at the faces watching him. "They have to know how evil I was." Chakotay licked at his lips and risked a glance at Tuvok. Their eyes met and he saw understanding in the Vulcan's eyes. He also saw his own fear reflected there. He turned back and tried a weak smile at the man before him.

"Peter, is this about the captain?" Peter just nodded his head. "What happened? Did you hit her?" He heard a few gasps behind him but ignored them. Suddenly the young Ensign laughed, little control in the sound.

"Hit her? Hit her? Oh God, I wish I had just hit her."

Chakotay's fear grew. He saw Jenkins raise the phaser again towards his own head. "Peter, what did you do? Whatever it is, we'll sort it out Please don't do this."

A burst of manic laughter met his ears. "It can't be sorted out. It's too late. I destroyed her and she won't let me tell. I have to do this, atone in this way but first you have to know my sins."

Chakotay nodded slowly. "Peter, please let me talk to you in private."

A roar sounded out over Engineering. "They stay. They have to know."

Chakotay moved forward slightly, Tuvok again shadowing him. "Think about the captain. She must have had her reasons for wanting you to keep this secret." The argument was wasted.

"She only did that to protect you, thought you'd blame yourself. Well, it's my fault, my doing and it ends here. Maybe then you can help her."

Chakotay tried to will his heart rate to slow down, as he felt it thump in his chest. "What happened, Peter?" No answer came for a full minute, as Peter stared out over the faces before him.

"I hurt her, real bad. I made her beg for food and water, made her get down on her knees." Chakotay closed his eyes a moment. "She was cold too and I made her beg for a blanket." Chakotay heard faint cries behind him but ignored the sounds. Peter locked eyes with him.

"I gave them to her, stale water, bad food, a thin blanket and…and…I made her call me Sir. I called her terrible names and made her eat with her hands, and she said… She thanked me." Tears fell down his face as Chakotay tried to control his own temper.

"She asked for you." He looked directly at Chakotay. "I wouldn't let her, said no." He was quiet again for some moments. "Later on, when I went to get the plate and cup, I made her stand back and I asked if she was scared about where she was going." His eyes held a distant look now. "She didn't answer, afraid to, maybe felt she'd say the wrong thing." He focused again, looking from Chakotay to Tuvok and back again. "I punched her on the side of the face. Knocked her down." Chakotay drew in a deep breath. Now he knew how the bruise had gotten there. He waited, praying there wasn't more but knowing there was, fearing what the next words would bring.

"She looked so shocked and hurt, held her face. I screamed at her, called her a Starfleet bitch, told her to answer when I spoke then ordered her to get up. She got up, stumbled on the blanket. She said she was scared, scared that we were all under the control of something she couldn't fight. She was scared of me too though. I know she was." He wiped at his nose with the back of his hand. "She thanked me, said 'thank you for the meal and drink'." He shook his head now, as if still unable to believe it. "I snapped. I couldn't understand how she could say that after what I'd just done. I lost it. I screamed at her, about not using Starfleet psychology shit on me, said that she hated me as I hated her." He sniffed again and met Chakotay's tear filled eyes.

"You know what she said?" Chakotay barely shook his head, not conscious of the movement. "She said 'I don't hate you. You're a member of my crew. I care about you all. You're not yourself. You're controlled.' That's what she said." He shook his head, still unable to accept it. Chakotay felt a tear slip from his eye.

"I called her a lying bitch and, God forgive me, I started hitting her, again and again and she fell to the floor and I punched and kicked her." The cries behind Chakotay were louder this time. Peter Jenkins threw his head back a moment. "How could I do that? How was I capable of that?" He looked back at Chakotay again and shook his head. "I stopped then, pulled her up and threw her on the cot, left her that way." He stared out over the room before him, not seeing his fellow crewmates now.

Chakotay took several minutes to gain some control and cleared his throat. "Peter, she…the captain… She doesn't blame…"

The young Ensign's head snapped up. "She what? Forgives me? You think that's it? Think that's all?"

An icy fist gripped Chakotay. "Peter, please, let's talk somewhere else." Chakotay jumped when the man before him screamed.

"Nooo. You're not listening. They all… You all have to know."

Chakotay held up a hand, hoping to calm things down. "All right, Peter. Just take it easy." He watched as a myriad of emotions flickered across the young face.

"You all have to know." It was a mere whisper and Chakotay barely heard the words. Peter seemed to come back to himself a little more then and looked at everyone in turn. "You'll all hate me but I deserve your hate."

Chakotay moved a little and sat down on the floor, eyes level with Peter's now. Tuvok sat with him. "We won't hate you. The captain doesn't hate you. You said she told you that."

Peter looked sadly at him. "You don't know yet."

Chakotay swallowed loudly, feeling a lump in his throat. "What…what happened?"

Peter shook his head sadly, his face awash with pain, as he stared off into the distance at nothing. "Why me? Why did I do it?" He looked around him, not expecting an answer. "I did bad things before. I killed…" He looked at Chakotay now, both men remembering the past.

Chakotay shook his head. "Peter, we were at war."

The young man shook his head again. "I know. We only did to those who would have done the same to us. Isn't that what you're meant to believe? Protect what's yours. Killed or be killed?"

Chakotay nodded slightly. "It's still not easy to live with, I know that."

Peter squeezed his eyes closed a moment. "I can live with that…barely. It can still haunt me though." Chakotay sighed deeply and dropped his head a moment, understanding that only too well. "This is different."

Chakotay's head came back up. "What do you mean? Peter, no one died here."

Peter shrugged. "Didn't they? I killed… I killed her."

Chakotay frowned. "The captain's not dead. She's alive and…"

Peter cut him off, his voice rising. "I committed terrible evil and I can't live with the pain, knowing what I did. I can't understand how I could have done that, was capable of it." His eyes were wild as he looked at them all. "You were all controlled. Why didn't you do bad, commit evil? What made me do it? Why me? Why me?"

Chakotay barely managed to hold himself still, feeling as if ice was running through his veins. "What did you do, Peter? What did you do to her?" He found himself breathing very slowly, not wanting to ask the question, terrified of the answer.

Peter dropped his head, taking a minute to answer. When he spoke, his voice was filled with pain and tears fell from his eyes. "I went in later. She was asleep, despite the pain and the hurt I'd caused her. She'd fallen asleep before." He moved his eyes, replacing one view of nothing with another. "She woke up. Maybe she felt me there, and I remember her looking at me, asking if we'd arrived. Her voice sounded dead and sad and…" He wiped at his mouth. "I was drunk. I'd been drinking, found it somewhere, can't remember but that's no excuse." He was quiet for a moment and there wasn't a sound to be heard.

"I remember her holding the blanket, tight like, to herself and I sat down. She went to sit up and I pushed her down. I tore the blanket away and she told me I was hurting her but I didn't listen." Chakotay was vaguely aware of someone sobbing behind him.

"She knew. I saw it in her eyes. She knew and she begged me not to and I hit her again across the face, lay on top of her." He shook his head slightly. "I saw myself doing all this but my mind… It's like it wasn't there or had left me." Chakotay found his hands balled into fists. "I…I know I… I pinned her hands, her wrists, over her head and she tried to fight. She struggled, said 'don't do this…please…it isn't you'. I keep hearing her, over and over. I still hear her." Tears poured down his face, his grip on the phaser causing his knuckles to turn white. "I said the cruellest things, that she should thank me, that no one else would have her. I said she was the almighty, untouchable captain, that to everyone she was the cold bitch on the bridge, a sad, lonely old woman with no one. And she was crying. I saw her tears, saw that that hurt her as much, my words." He wiped at his nose again and sniffed.

"I told her she wasn't a real woman, not a woman at all, that she was asexual and a machine, that she was dead already. I said that I was guilty of necrophilia, that I was…was…" He lowered his head. "I said that I was fucking a dead woman." He broke down at his own words and Chakotay ground his teeth together, hearing muffled cries all around him. He became aware of Tuvok's hand on his arm. Eventually Peter looked up, staring off over Chakotay's head.

"She struggled a little again. I tried to choke her, my hand around her throat and she fought for air. Then…then I…I opened her dress, her bra and I tore her…her…underwear. I pressed my hand down over her mouth and…" He dropped his head again. "I…I…raped her…forced…"

Chakotay jumped up, heard his own scream. "Bastard. I'll kill you." Tuvok held him as he jumped up with him, having anticipated his Commanding Officer's reaction. Suddenly B'Elanna was on his other arm, holding him tightly. "Why? Why?"

Peter screamed back at him. "How many times do you think I've asked myself that? I hate myself for what I did. Why do you think I'm doing this?" They stared hard at each other for several moments, eyes locked, both panting. Finally, some of the fight went out of Chakotay as his pain washed over him, drowning some of his anger and hate. His voice was softer now.

"Control or no control, how could you do that to her? All she's done for you, for us. She'd give her life… She trusted us."

Peter's free hand balled into a fist, his voice filled with pain and anger. "Look what you did. You took her ship. You hurt her too. We all did."

Chakotay sagged against B'Elanna and Tuvok. "I didn't touch her. I'd never lay a finger on her."

Peter laughed. "You just let her believe she was going to die." His eyes darted from Chakotay to Tuvok. "You held a phaser to her head and fired. She couldn't have known it was a trick, a defective phaser. She believed she would die. Didn't you see her face? You tore her heart out with that. We all betrayed her, hurt her. I'm just the worst one. I did the worst of all." The truth of his words hit home and hit hard. Chakotay fell to the floor, almost taking B'Elanna and Tuvok with him. He looked up at the face of the man before him, wanting nothing more than to jump on him and pound his face to a pulp but he forced himself to remain where he was. His jaw hurt from clenching his teeth together so tightly and his hands pained from where his nails dug into his palms. He found he even had to force himself to breathe. He saw the young man before him close his eyes for a moment.

"Why do you think I'm doing this? I can't live with the pain. Trying to live with this is worse than any punishment she could have given me. Maybe she knew what she was doing. So I have to take care of it myself. Before I leave though, you all have to know. I have to cleanse my soul."

Tuvok spoke now for the first time. "Out of respect to the captain, I believe we would be better discussing this elsewhere."

Peter smiled sadly. "I don't. I want you all to know. She needs you all now so you need to know, so you can help her and be there for her and with me gone, maybe that'll help too." He looked around him, lifting the phaser and studying it.

Tuvok barely nodded and sat again, then nodded to B'Elanna, who followed his lead. "Very well, Ensign Jenkins."

Peter seemed not to hear him, as he played with the phaser now. "It was only my hand over her mouth that blocked it, her scream. She screamed, the pain. I hurt her so much." He drew in a deep shuddering breath. Chakotay felt B'Elanna's hand digging in to his arm, offering and receiving comfort at the same time yet completely unaware of it.

"She cried, her tears and then closed her eyes, endured it. No choice." Chakotay could hear many of the crew openly crying behind him now. "Afterwards… I left and she lay there. In a while, she managed to sit, sat for ages, in pain and crying. Then she stood, real slow. She came over to me, called me. She actually looked at me and I saw she was in pain, holding herself." He shook his head in disbelief. "She told me no one could find out, asked for painkiller, a hypo and a dermal regenerator. And I did. I got them. I felt nothing, could think nothing and I watched her. She sat with her back to me, trying to heal herself, fix herself. And then you came and I saw her hide them, under the bed." Chakotay dropped his head, understanding now why Kathryn had been back in the brig so soon, why she'd been there. Peter still didn't look at anyone.

"She came to see me later. Made me promise to keep quiet. She said she wasn't important, that the crew had been divided once before and she wouldn't let that happen again. I wanted to tell you." Only now did he look at Chakotay. "She panicked. Said you'd enough to deal with. I knew. I saw by her that she loved you." He looked away quickly, unable to stand the look of pain on his old captain's face.

"I couldn't take it though. I wanted to be punished, needed to be but she wouldn't let me tell. She said she'd make it an order, that she couldn't handle it and I actually thought maybe it would be better for her that no one knew, but then I saw her and how she's been and how it's killing her, taking her away from you." He looked sadly at Chakotay then away. "I know what it's done to her. I heard you with her one night in her quarters, bits of it. Was passing and heard through the door." He looked back at Chakotay again. He saw the rage and hate build there, the mind's way to cope with the pain, and actually smiled.

"I know. I know what you want. I'll save you, save you all the trouble. You made yourself clear, and you're right." He looked at everyone else now and raised the phaser. "I won't ask forgiveness because I don't deserve it. Just tell her I couldn't take it anymore, knowing what I did. Just tell her… Tell her I'm sorry and I hope this helps. Maybe now I'll find some peace." He raised the phaser to his head and Chakotay suddenly snapped into action. He jumped up, tearing away from the hands on him, seeing things happening in slow motion around him. He saw Peter's hand raised, the phaser against the side of his head and then the flash and the cry, before he slumped to the ground.

Chakotay stopped dead and just stared at the man on the floor before him. Time seemed to stop and for a moment, he heard nothing. He slowly became aware of a few screams behind him, gasps and cries. Then Tuvok was there, kneeling down beside Peter Jenkins, checking for a pulse and shaking his head. B'Elanna's hands gripped his arm then, pulling him away. For several seconds more, Chakotay just stared down at the body of a man he'd once trusted with his own life. Several memories flitted across his mind for a moment before he turned away. He looked at the crewmembers before him, saw their deep emotions and tears. Without a word, he pushed through them and fled.

While Tuvok set about ordering a transport for the body to sickbay, B'Elanna turned around and came face to face with Tom. He simply opened his arms and she fell into them. He didn't speak at first, which was exactly what she needed. Eventually, she pulled back and he nodded. "Go on. He needs you."

She smiled softly and touched her hand to his face. "Thank you." They held eyes a moment longer, speaking volumes in their silence before she pulled away and went after her oldest friend.

B'Elanna finally caught up with Chakotay as he stormed down the corridor and roughly pulled him to a stop. "Don't you dare do this."

Chakotay glared at her. "Do what?"

She shook her head. "I know you. You're taking all the blame from this on yourself." He tried to pull away but B'Elanna's grip was strong.

"Leave me alone."

She shook her head again. "Now you know why she did what she did." He glared at her. "She knew you'd take it this way. That's why she didn't want you to know."

Chakotay pulled harder and freed his arm but didn't leave, pacing instead. "I wanted to kill him, still do." He raked his hands through his hair. "Good God, B'Elanna, what she's been going through on her own."

B'Elanna felt at a loss. "She has us now."

Chakotay didn't seem to hear her. "He was right though about what I did to her." He stared tearfully at his old friend. "I remember her face, the hurt I caused her, the pain. I saw it there. He was right."

B'Elanna swallowed and dropped her head. "I had my part in that too, remember? When I took her to her quarters?" She looked up and saw him nod.

He then squeezed his eyes closed a moment. When his eyes met hers again, they were awash with tears.
"Would I have been capable of that too?"

B'Elanna jumped in. "Chakotay, no, you'd never…"

He cut her off. "Did you ever believe that the Peter Jenkins you knew in the Maquis would be capable of it?" He made his point well.

"I don't…didn't know him the way I know you. You love her. You'd never…"

He laughed, a cynical sound. "I'd never hurt her? Well, I may not have raped her but I definitely hurt her. We don't know. Had I been in that situation with her, maybe I'd have done the same thing. Maybe I'd have taken from her what I've wanted for so long. The thing that bastard Thiro turned me into, I didn't recognize anything there. Who knows what…" He jumped back when he felt B'Elanna's hand across his face.

"Stop this now. It's over. You can't do this to yourself or to the rest of us. If this or if that." She smiled sadly. "If 'ifs' and 'ands' were pots and pans, there'd be no need for pot menders." She smiled softly at the confused look on his face. "My mother used to say that. We say 'if' and 'and' so often."

She shook her head sadly. "I know only one thing. Peter is dead and I hope at peace. Kathryn Janeway is alive and in need of her friends. One friend in particular." They stared at each other for several moments and eventually the wisdom of her words sank in with Chakotay. He reached out and took her hand.

"You're right. My own personal post mortem can wait." He looked up and saw Tuvok approach them. "Do me a favour, B'El. Go to Peter's quarters and download his personal logs for me. Bring them to me when you can." He looked into the face of the Vulcan. "I need to know."

Tuvok nodded his understanding. "Commander, the Captain still has three hours of her leave remaining. Shall I request her early return to the ship?"

Chakotay quickly shook his head. "No. I need time to take this in or let it sink in. Maybe a year or so but three hours will help." He rubbed his hands over his face, trying to stimulate some feeling there. "I need time to think, to sort this, to clean up before she gets back." He looked up at Tuvok, slipping into command mode and knowing where he'd learned it so well. "Get the crew back to their posts or back to whatever." He shook his head, trying to absorb everything.

"Already taken care of, Commander."

Chakotay smiled softly at Tuvok and patted his arm. "I should have known. What about Jenkins…his body?" He spit the words out.

"Sickbay. Also taken care of. I made a brief report to the Doctor." Chakotay nodded his gratitude. He took a moment to think and looked at B'Elanna. "Get me those logs and bring them to Tuvok or myself. We just need to check if there's any more that…" B'Elanna nodded solemnly and left. Chakotay turned to Tuvok now.

"We need to discuss this, talk, decide how to handle it. My office?" The Vulcan nodded and they moved off towards the bridge.

Kathryn strolled around the large park she'd found, grateful to be away from the ship and for the time alone, although she knew she was spending more time alone lately than was healthy. She was finding it harder to concentrate on anything now for more than a few minutes. The more she tried to suppress her emotions and memories, the more they forced their way to the surface, leaving her feeling more and more drained each day as she grew weaker in the fight. All that sustained her was the fact that she was sparing Chakotay and the crew.

She looked around her nervously. She'd expected to feel a little vulnerable off the ship but not this much.

"Hell, you feel nervous even on the ship now." She chided herself as she passed a small pond, her attention momentarily drawn to some duck like creatures gliding across the water. She hugged herself, wishing she'd brought something warmer to wear. It wasn't cold here but she felt a chill, knowing it was more internal than external.

She let her mind drift as she walked on, wanting to be back on board Voyager and yet dreading it at the same time. Finally, she saw a wooden seat and made for it, easing herself down. She sighed and twisted a little, trying to get comfortable. She was still sore and now and then darts of pain surfaced. Today was one of her bad days, physically and emotionally and she looked around her, checking to see if anyone was near, before giving her tears the release they'd been seeking. She sniffed and swiped at her face, annoyed her at own weakness. She felt sluggish today, as if she was moving around in a fog and knew it was down to the constant sedative doses she took each night.

Eventually, growing restless despite her tiredness, she stood again and moved off. She knew she only had about half an hour before she returned to the ship and stopped, getting her bearings, before walking slowly back towards the beam out site. Back to her life.

Chakotay heard the doors slide closed behind himself and Tuvok and wished for doors he could slam, something comforting about the anger a person could expel with the force of the slam and the satisfying sound it made.

"Spirits, Tuvok, why didn't I push more? Why didn't I see this? How could I have missed it? Her behaviour, the bruise on her face, and I just let it go. I couldn't believe what was there in front of me." He turned to look at the man before him.

"If it offers you any comfort, Commander, I didn't suspect anything like this either. I truly believed the captain when she said she fell. That, of course, was her intention. Her behaviour later on, I put down to what you would call 'hurt feelings' although I know the captain is not one to hold a grudge. I believed that she would pass through it. If she felt hurt or betrayed, she would deal with it and let it go. Captain Janeway is not someone who accepts a loss of control easily and I accepted what we saw as her reaction to that loss, however temporary. I also believed she felt vulnerable and that that would also pass in time. We had no way to know what occurred."

Chakotay stared at him for a moment. "Why doesn't that make me feel better then?" Tuvok offered no answer. "I can't believe she hid this. She had injuries. She must have…" He closed his eyes a moment, not wanting to think like this. He slapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to sickbay."

The Doctor answered quickly. "Yes, Commander? I assume you want a secure channel on the monitor?" Without waiting for an answer, he switched channels as Chakotay activated the monitor on his desk. "Ready, Commander."

Chakotay nodded to the Medic. "I'm sure you're up to speed on all this." The Doctor nodded his head. "I'll talk with you later about that. For now, I need to know if the captain has been to see you at all or reported any injuries since…" He stopped as he saw the EMH shake his head sadly.

"Outside of ship's business, the captain hasn't reported to me with so much as a splinter. I didn't observe any injuries either so I assume if she had any, she healed them herself. If, however, there are injuries relating to…" He looked away a moment. "Commander, I would strongly advise getting her here to see me as soon as you can. If there are injuries relating to this which have gone untreated…"

Chakotay nodded quickly. "OK, Doctor, I get your meaning. I'll be in touch as soon as possible. I can't just drag her down to you the minute she sets foot back on the ship. As soon as we've spoken to her…" He glanced at Tuvok. "We'll get her there once we've spoken to her. Is that all right?"

The Doctor nodded at that. "It will have to be. I agree that it would be wise to speak with her privately and calmly first. Let me know if you need any help." Chakotay nodded and managed a small smile before terminating the communication. He looked up at Tuvok slowly.

"I want you here with me when I speak to her. I believe she'd feel more comfortable that way. I know she'll want to run and hide from this and maybe it would be better one to one, but I think this way is best in the end." The door chime cut him off. "Enter."

B'Elanna came in, her face a mask of sadness. "I got them all, from that day up to now. There's a lot here. I didn't read any or try and sort them. You'll have to go through them all." Chakotay nodded and took the padds from her with Peter Jenkins's downloaded logs on them.

"Chakotay…" B'Elanna sounded close to tears and she glanced at Tuvok before speaking. "Both of you, I guess." She moistened her dry lips. "Neither of you are to blame for this."

Chakotay placed the padds on his desk. "I saw the bruise. We both did. I guessed, suspected that someone had hit her and yet I let her deny it. I accepted it. I didn't push because it was easier to accept her story rather than face the truth." He sighed and shook his head. "One part of me thinks now it was obvious, there to be seen if I'd just looked. The other part can't believe, couldn't have believed, this could happen on her own ship from one of her own crew." He massaged his temples. "I still don't believe this, can't accept… I'll wake up in a minute."

B'Elanna moved to him and gripped his arm. "Chakotay, none of us saw this. She spoke with me immediately afterwards and I didn't see it. Maybe my mind was clouded with how I felt but she seemed OK. I worked with Jenkins side by side each day and I saw nothing there. Oh, he was upset but no different than the rest of us were, Starfleet or Maquis. Each of us felt bad about all this. You know that. The Maquis involved had their guilt but even the Starfleet crew felt it and believed they'd let her down. Chakotay…" She gripped his arm a little tighter to make her point. "You don't have a monopoly on guilt here." She looked at Tuvok, including him.

Chakotay pulled away gently. "I'm supposed to protect her and I didn't. I just never thought it would have to be from one of her own. I let her down. I failed to keep her safe in the very place where she should have been safest of all, her own ship, among her own people."

Tuvok stepped forward. "I understand your 'feelings', Commander. I also have been greatly disturbed by my failure to protect the captain…, by my lack of control over my own mind. I have meditated constantly on this. It was my weakness which allowed Thiro to come aboard this ship. I was the one who melded with all of you and passed on his instructions and made it possible."

B'Elanna threw her hands up. "Listen to yourselves. This isn't a competition for blame or who's the most guilty. We're all victims here." She clenched her hands into fists. "I know how you both feel, how I still feel, but in the end I have to accept that Thiro is the only one to blame. The captain saw that and that's how we're in this situation now. She should have let us help her and be there for her but she didn't. We need to do that now before any more damage is done. She was on the right path in how to deal with this, in placing the blame where it really belonged. She just decided to take that path alone. Now we need to walk with her on that path and together, as one crew, one family, we'll come through this." She stopped speaking when she saw them both staring at her. "I'm right and you know it."

Chakotay nodded and managed a small smile. "I know you are." He looked at them both now. "One thing we're all guilty of is getting locked into how we feel as individuals instead of being there for each other." He smiled softly at Tuvok. "I'm sorry, Tuvok. I'm so wrapped up in how guilty I feel. Of course, you feel it too and don't deny it." He smiled. "You feel it because you care so much about her too, just like we all do."

Tuvok nodded and raised his eyebrows. "The captain manages to have that effect on those around her."

B'Elanna stood back and smiled. "Well, now that the male bonding is underway, I need to get back to Engineering. People are upset and…"

Chakotay's head came up from his inspection of the floor. "Of course, sorry. Look, B'Elanna, I'll be down in a while. I want to go over these with Tuvok first and know if… I need to know that what he said is… I need to know we're not dealing with more." She nodded her understanding. "I'll talk to the crew then."

Over the next hour, Tuvok and Chakotay went through Peter Jenkins's logs, having to stop many times when Chakotay needed to step back from them in an attempt to control his emotions. "I still can't believe all this." He slapped his commbadge suddenly. "Chakotay to transporter room."

A woman's voice came back. "Transporter Room here. Ensign Lord."

Chakotay pictured the young woman in his mind. "Please advise either myself or Commander Tuvok the minute the captain contacts you for transport back to the ship."

There was a moment's hesitation. "Aye, Sir." Even with only two words, he heard how upset the young woman was. He closed the communication and turned back to his desk.

"There's nothing here we didn't already know, except in more detail than I ever wanted. He was racked with guilt and pain."

Tuvok rearranged the padds before him. "It seems that he sought the only way out from that. He was correct that no punishment could be worse than his own conscience."

Chakotay sat down again. "This will have to be reported to Starfleet. I want Thiro found and convicted." Tuvok nodded. "I'll enter Peter Jenkins's death as murder."

Tuvok frowned slightly. "Not suicide?"

Chakotay shook his head. "He wouldn't have done this if Thiro hadn't controlled him. The man I knew would never have been capable of doing that to any woman." His eyes took on a faraway look. "I still can't…" He focused on Tuvok again. "Would the rest of us have been as capable?"

Tuvok stood and moved away a little. "I have asked myself that same question."

Chakotay looked up at him. "Did you get an answer?"

The Vulcan shook his head. "I have to believe that we would not. Thiro's control caused those affected to revert to what they had once been. Men and women fighting for a cause they believed in. To that end, they would have killed." He looked at Chakotay. "In the heat of your worst battle, you would have killed to protect your crew and yourself. You fought for what you believed in. I suggest you think back to the man you were then and ask yourself if you would ever have committed this act for any reason."

Chakotay lowered his eyes and let his mind drift back. "No. I would have killed and did kill. It was against soldiers though, my enemy as I saw them. I attacked ships which came after us." He looked up. "You saw some of it. You were there."

Tuvok nodded and sat again. "But you would never have committed a crime like this one. Women and children were not the enemy. Women in Starfleet, as soldiers, yes, but the women you fought were equal to you in battle."

Chakotay nodded slowly. "Peter Jenkins fought beside me. He had the same…"

Tuvok held up his hand. "You knew him as he fought beside you. You knew little of his life before."

Chakotay shook his head. "He couldn't have been like that. If he had been, he wouldn't have been driven to take his own life over this."

Tuvok had his answer to that. "Are you the same man now as the one who came aboard this ship?"

Chakotay managed to smile at that. "No, I'm not. I could never be that man again, no matter what the cause. The man I am now would find some other way. I'd still kill, I know that, but it would be when there was no other way out, no other choice and only to protect. I wouldn't attack first."

Tuvok ran his hands over the desk. "Then we can assume that Peter Jenkins also changed during his time on board this ship. The man he was here couldn't live with his actions but the man he was before, perhaps could have." He looked across the desk at Chakotay. "Commander, in the end, we will never have all the answers we seek. We must accept what happened and concentrate now on 'picking up the pieces' as you would say."

Chakotay smiled sadly. "As ever, Tuvok, you are wise beyond your years." Tuvok seemed surprised at that. Chakotay rubbed at his face and stood up. "I want to speak to the crew before Kathryn comes back. B'Elanna has probably already spoken with them and they've obviously talked amongst themselves but I want to make sure we speak with them also."

Tuvok nodded and stood also. Together they left the room.

Over the next half hour, both men toured the ship and quietly spoke with most of the crew. By this time, word had spread about Peter's death and what had happened. Chakotay and Tuvok saw the crew's reaction, ranging from upset to anger but once having spoken with their senior officers, they accepted that all they could do now was to be there for their captain. They couldn't change the past, only help Kathryn Janeway in the future.

As Chakotay and Tuvok made their way back to the bridge, Ensign Lord hailed them, informing them that the captain had requested to beam back to the ship. Chakotay thanked her and placed a hand on Tuvok's shoulder. "I'll meet her in the transporter room. Wait for us in her ready room." Tuvok said nothing and merely nodded. They shared a quiet look that spoke volumes.

Kathryn sighed deeply as she re-materialized in the transporter room. She looked up at the young Ensign before her and tried a tired smile. Ensign Lord looked nervous and upset but tried her best to hide it.

"Ensign, is there a problem?"

The dark haired young woman barely met her Captain's eyes. "No…no...Ma'am. I'm…I'm fine. Welcome back."

Kathryn frowned and turned as the door to the transporter room opened, admitting two other crewmembers. Both men stopping dead when they saw her. "Cap…Captain…" They looked away quickly and moved away from her.

Kathryn moved towards them. "What's going on here? Why are you all so nervous?" Before anyone answered her, the doors opened again and Chakotay entered. Kathryn looked at him. "Commander, what's wrong here? Why is everyone acting so…?"

Before she finished speaking, Chakotay moved to her and took her arm. "Captain, please come with me." He turned to Ensign Lord. "Please transport the captain and myself to her ready room."

Kathryn pulled her arm from his hold. "I'm quite capable of walking to the bridge…" Her eyes widened, a flash of fear on her face. "Is this Thiro again? What's happening?"

Chakotay's expression softened and he moved a little closer to her, seeing her backing away from him.
"Kathryn, please. We're fine. This isn't Thiro again, I promise you. Please just come with me. We need to talk. Please." He nodded to Ensign Lord and when Kathryn didn't object, she transported her captain and commander, heaving a sigh of relief when they were gone.

Tuvok stood when Kathryn and Chakotay re-materialized before him. Kathryn looked around her and moved quickly away, putting the desk between herself and the two men before her.

"All right, what the hell is this all about?" She fought to bring some control to her voice as she watched them closely and saw them exchange uncomfortable looks. She finally fixed her eyes on Chakotay. "What's going on here?"

Chakotay nodded to Tuvok to sit and indicated that Kathryn should do the same. She stared at him a moment longer before agreeing. Chakotay then sat also, taking in her appearance as he hadn't before. He saw now the effects of the last weeks. He took a moment which she gave him, before speaking.

"Kathryn…" By using her name, he told her a lot and she felt herself tensing. "Something happened while you were on the planet." She felt a fist grip her insides but remained quiet. Chakotay drew in a deep breath and just pushed the words out.

"Peter Jenkins is dead." He saw her face pale and her hands grip the edge of the desk. She stared at him, her mouth open then slowly looked to Tuvok. Her gaze dropped away then to her hands. Her voice was a mere whisper.

"What happened?" She raised her eyes to Chakotay, trying to read what he hadn't yet said.

"He killed himself." He didn't think it was possible but she seemed to grow even paler.

"Killed himself? How? Why? Where did this…?" She clamped her mouth shut and brought a hand up to her face. "I don't understand."

Chakotay leaned forward. "In Engineering." He glanced quickly at Tuvok. "He had a phaser. He demanded that Tuvok and I come to him, the crew also." He watched her closely, saw her struggle to hold it together. "He wanted us all there to witness it." Kathryn just stared at him and he saw her trying to read him, clinging onto the small hope that perhaps her secret was still safe. He just nodded slowly.

"We know what happened, Kathryn. We know it all." She cried out and jumped up, backing into the wall.

Chakotay jumped up also. "Kathryn, please."

She was pressing herself into the wall, shaking her head. "You all… They all…"

He nodded slowly. "He wanted everyone to know. He couldn't live with it." He saw her close her eyes, tears now spilling down her cheeks.

"No. No. They can't. Oh God, no." Chakotay moved to her and her eyes opened. When she saw him moving towards her, she slid away from him along the wall, holding a hand out before her. "Please don't…

Chakotay wanted to cry and saw Tuvok stand also. "Kathryn, please. Why didn't you tell us?" He saw her eyes flit from him to Tuvok and back again. "Kathryn, please. Let us…"

She moved away again, struggling for control. "No, I couldn't… Please…" She turned suddenly, facing the wall, hugging it almost.

Chakotay looked quickly to Tuvok and nodded, jerking his head towards the door. The Vulcan understood and left the room. Chakotay moved slowly to her, hesitating before placing his hands on her
shoulders, feeling her tremble. "Kathryn, it's just me now, your friend. Please Kathryn…" She didn't move and he felt her shaking. "Kathryn, please let me be here for you. Let me help you."

Suddenly she pulled away, tearing herself away from his hands. She turned to him and her eyes were wild. "You weren't to know. I didn't want you knowing."

Chakotay just stared at her. "Why not? Kathryn, you should have told me."

She shook her head almost violently. "You had enough to deal with." She backed away a little more, tears pouring down her face. "They know? They all know? You know…know it all?"

He nodded slowly, deciding to be totally honest with her. "Kathryn, I'm sorry. Yes, I know."

She looked confused for a moment. "How? How do you know it all?"

He moved towards her but she backed off again so he stood still. "He told us and I read his logs."

Both her hands flew to her mouth but he still heard her words. "He…he told…told everyone?" He nodded. "You…you read…his logs? He wrote it?"

He nodded again. "Kathryn, we all just want to be there for you and help you through this."

Anger sparked across her face suddenly. "No. No. Oh God, I'll never be able to face them all now, never again." She moved away, putting the desk between them.

Chakotay watched her. "Kathryn, just what do you think we are? Everybody on board this ship cares deeply about you. They just want to help. I want to help you and be there for you. We've all been so worried about you and…" He saw her wipe at her face, pulling her walls up.

"No. It's over. Leave me alone."

He moved to her again. "It's not over, Kathryn. Don't shut me out like this." He saw anger flare up in her.

"It's over." She took a step towards her desk then stepped back again. "I have work to do. I have reports."

Chakotay stared at her, not believing what he was seeing. "Kathryn, you have to see the Doctor. He wants…"

Her eyes flew to his face. "The Doctor?" She stared around her, appearing in shock. "He knows?" She looked back at him, her eyes distant. "I'm fine. I don't need the Doctor. I have work to do."

Chakotay shook his head sadly. "You can't shut this away, Kathryn. We have to deal with it."

Her anger returned. Irrational anger.

"Are you deaf? I'm fine. I have reports and I suggest you get back to work."

Chakotay felt his own anger rising. "Damn it, Kathryn, you're far from fine." She glared at him but he couldn't stop now, was barely thinking about his words, hoping to shock her into dealing with it all. "Kathryn, you were raped on your own ship by a member of your own crew."

It was like a smack in the face and she reeled under it. He instantly regretted the harshness of his words but saw that he was finally beginning to reach her. "Spirits, Kathryn, I'm sorry, but you have to face this." She kept shaking her head.

His face a mask of sadness and pain, Chakotay moved towards her again. "What's happening to you? You can't shut this out. You're internalising it all, denying it."

She still tried. "It's over. I'm fine."

Chakotay sighed. "I don't know you anymore. I wonder if I ever did." The words came from his mouth but he didn't know where they originated. He just knew he had to keep trying to get through to her. "Kathryn, you've been through one of the worst things that can happen to a woman and you put this ship and this crew first, before yourself and your own pain. When did you stop feeling and caring so little about yourself?" Still no reaction. "Kathryn, face this. You were raped."

She snapped suddenly, screaming at him. "I know that. Don't you think I know that?"

He moved to her quickly. "Do you? You've shut down, Kathryn. You haven't dealt with it. You can't ignore it because it won't go away on its own. You have to face it and deal with it. Let me help you. Let us all help you. You have to see the Doctor and take care of yourself. I know everything, how he hurt you, what he said and did." He looked at her closely. "Have you looked at yourself lately? You're not eating or sleeping. Kathryn, please. You need help." He reached out and touched her arm and she jumped back.

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment then looked at her. "I won't hurt you, Kathryn. I know that probably means little to you, maybe seems impossible to believe and I can't prove it to you…"

Kathryn turned away suddenly. "Commander…" She choked on the word, fighting for the last ounce of control. "I'll speak to you later." She turned and fled before he even registered her movement.

"Damn." He stood in the centre of her ready room and rubbed his hands over his face. He looked around him for several minutes, trying to gather his thoughts. Finally, he started to think clearly again.

"Computer, locate Captain Janeway."

The answer came quickly. "Captain Janeway is in her quarters."

He nodded to himself and hit his commbadge, hailing B'Elanna. "B'Elanna, can you meet me outside the captain's quarters?" He didn't wait for an answer and walked out onto the bridge. He took in the worried faces before him, each having seen their captain's departure. He locked eyes with Tuvok and gestured for the Vulcan to follow him. Once in the turbo lift, he spoke.

"That didn't go well and I handled it badly. Even still, she's locking me out. She's blocking it all out. She's in her quarters now and I've told B'Elanna to meet us there. Maybe another woman…" He looked at the Security Officer and shrugged. "I can't think of what else to try."

Kathryn paced back and forth in her quarters, her thoughts swirling in her head as tears poured down her face. She wrung her hands together, her mind close to breaking point as it overloaded with trying to cope. She moved to her bedroom and paced some more, her mental state getting beyond her control. She looked towards the bathroom, feeling suddenly that she'd be sick but as she stepped forward, everything grew dim around her. She felt her world spin, the edges closing in on her. She was vaguely aware of the floor coming up to meet her, before the blackness consumed her.


Chakotay exchanged worried looks with Tuvok and B'Elanna as he rang Kathryn's chime for the fourth time. Not waiting any longer, he used his override and entered. Not seeing her in the living room, he made for the bedroom, calling to her but receiving no answer. He stopped dead in the doorway when he saw her lying on the floor and was at her side in a second.

"Kathryn?" He gently turned her over, cradling her in his arms. "Kathryn?" He stroked her face, her pallor shocking him. She looked as if all the blood had drained from her face. He was aware now of just how thin she'd become, feeling her bones easily through her uniform. He turned to look up at the others but saw that Tuvok was already contacting sickbay and ordering a transport.

Within seconds, they were in sickbay and he was laying her gently on one of the biobeds. The Doctor was scanning her before he spoke a word. "Mr. Tuvok explained how you found her. Please give me some time and wait in my office. I'll report to you as soon as I can."

Chakotay nodded tearfully and stroked the hair from her face. Leaning down, he whispered quietly to her. "We'll get you through this, Kathryn. Just hang in there." He leaned down and kissed her forehead softly then looked up at the Doctor, slightly embarrassed.

The Medic smiled at him. "I'll speak with you shortly."

Chakotay nodded and left.

While the Doctor worked on his patient, Chakotay filled Tuvok and B'Elanna in on his time with
Kathryn in her ready room. "I pushed too hard. I handled it all wrong."

B'Elanna squeezed his arm. "You have to stop blaming yourself here. We deal with now. Doc will take care of her and then we'll handle the rest. We'll be there for her and get her through this."

Chakotay stared off at nothing but nodded, acknowledging her words. "I hope you're right."

An hour later, the Doctor returned to his office and the three people waiting there for him. Chakotay looked up quickly. "Well? How is she?"

The medic smiled softly and sat down. "She'll be fine. She needs plenty of rest and care but in time, she'll be fine. It's obvious she hasn't been eating or sleeping well. Oh, she's been sleeping but not my idea of good sleep." He saw the frowns on the faces before him. "I found quite a high level of sedative in her bloodstream. I'd say she's been using a hypo or two each night in order to find some rest and perhaps to escape from nightmares. She's probably quite dependent on these now, not so much in a medical sense but in a psychological way. As she didn't get them from me, she's obviously been replicating them. One of the advantages of being captain." He shook his head. "I've given her a mild sedative for now and she should sleep until morning. After that, I'd prefer she not use them for a while, unless it's absolutely necessary. I'm also giving her nutritional supplements."

Chakotay nodded as he took this in. "What about…? Were there any…?"

The Doctor leaned forward over his desk. "I know what you're asking." He looked around at the others. "Normally, I would not discuss this with anyone other than my patient but in this case…" He moved a padd around his desk, playing with it. "There was some damage, quite minor really but still unhealed. Difficult for her to treat. It would have been causing her some pain though. I also found evidence of injuries she healed herself although not quite to a medical standard. There was traces of old bruising and other, tearing and bleeding. I've healed all her injuries completely now. They weren't life threatening but I would imagine quite painful for a time. She also won't be pregnant. Her booster took care of that." Chakotay leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

Tuvok asked a question. "I assume you performed an autopsy on Ensign Jenkins?"

The Doctor looked up and nodded. "Death occurred as a result of a single shot from a phaser and was instantaneous. He suffered no pain A split second perhaps but…"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Only what went before it and what he had to live with."

The Doctor nodded slowly. "Quite."

Chakotay leaned forward now. "What about now? When will you release Kathryn, the captain?"

The Medic shrugged. "I can release her in the morning but I'd prefer to keep her here for another day. She may then return to her quarters but I won't permit her to return to duty until I feel she's dealing with this and facing up to what has happened. She has suffered considerable mental trauma but I'm no counsellor. She needs time to get over this and the first big step with that is for her to accept it and face it. Once she has done that, she will begin to heal emotionally. Don't get me wrong. She knows what has happened but she has pushed it away, tried to ignore it and not think about it. Something like this needs to be dealt with. It refuses to be ignored and will keep pushing to the surface." Chakotay sighed deeply and told the Doctor about how he'd handled things in the ready room. He expected the Doctor to admonish him but instead got a smile.

"She needed that, I believe." He smiled when he saw the shocked face of his Commanding Officer. "Commander, I know the captain. Sometimes she needs to be made to face things about herself. She is notorious for putting herself at the bottom of the list, leaving her own needs until last, if she even considers them at all. While you may feel your words were cruel, they were needed, so in fact, you were being kind in the end. She cannot move forward and past this if she doesn't face it first and deal with it. I believe you did the right thing. Had this not happened today, you making her face this, she would have continued to try and suppress it all until eventually it would have boiled over, leaving her facing a complete emotional and physical breakdown. The human body and mind can only take so much before everything gives way." He leaned back.

"For now, let her sleep. She's getting the nutrition she needs and the rest. The day after tomorrow she can return to her quarters and start healing completely. In the meantime, I believe this crew needs you more. Start there with them and tomorrow you can come here and begin with the captain."

Chakotay nodded slowly, taking what comfort he could from the Doctor's words. He watched as Tuvok and B'Elanna made their way out. "Can I see her? Can I sit with her a moment?" The Medic nodded and smiled.

"I left a chair there for you. Don't stay long though. You need to rest. It's been a very hard day on you too."

Chakotay smiled and stood. "I know. I won't stay long."

Chakotay didn't use the chair the Doctor had provided, standing instead as he looked down at his friend. She looked so at peace, her face relaxed. He felt her gentle breath against his hand as he stroked her cheek.

"I wish I could undo all that's happened to you, Kathryn. I can't. Just let me be there now to help you face what lies ahead for you. Let me help you fight the demons. You've fought on your own for long enough." He smiled down at her sadly, thinking how small and vulnerable she looked and felt a surge of love pass through him. All he wanted to do was hold her, love and protect her. He pushed down the guilt and pain which rose up within him suddenly, the consuming feelings of how he'd let her down. She'd suffered so much to protect him and the crew, knowing the blame was all Thiro's. To go against that now, would be to deny her sacrifice.

As they broke orbit and got underway again, Chakotay spent the rest of the evening touring the ship once more, speaking to the crew. They all knew now. They knew about the death of Peter Jenkins, his confession and what had happened to their captain. Their emotions were raw, many blaming the young Ensign before finally understanding where the real blame lay. By the time Chakotay finished, every crewmember had accepted the events of one of the worst days on their ship and had begun their own healing process.

Before returning to his own quarters, Chakotay once more checked in on Kathryn as she lay in sickbay. The lights had been lowered and he moved slowly towards her. She lay partly on her side, as if she'd stirred in her sleep and rolled over. One hand lay beside her face, her palm facing upwards, her fingers gently curled. Chakotay pulled a chair over and sat down beside her, his face close to hers and slipped his fingers under hers. He studied her for several minutes, watching her eyes move under her eyelids occasionally, seeing something in her sleep he couldn't imagine. He saw that her mouth was slightly open although she was breathing through her nose and he smiled softly at her, stroking the back of his finger over her cheek.

"Oh Kathryn, why do you always put everyone else before yourself? We're all adults and we're in this together. Why can't you ever let someone be there for you for a change?" He moved his hand, stroking his fingers through her hair. As if feeling him in her sleep, she stirred a little before settling again. Chakotay leaned down and brushed his lips to hers, remembering B'Elanna's words.

"Tomorrow, I join you on the road out of this, Kathryn. We face this and go through it together."

Chakotay arrived in sickbay early the next morning and was there when Kathryn woke up. The first thing she saw was his smiling face as he held a cup of coffee out to her. "Just don't tell the Doc or he'll have me thrown out." He watched her closely as she looked around her, seeing her look confused at first, before her eyes reflected her memories of everything, as it all came back.

"How…how did I get here? How long?"

He lowered his hand with the coffee, his face serious now. "We found you in your quarters. That was yesterday evening. You'd passed out on the floor, fainted." She nodded slowly, remembering now and lowered her eyes in embarrassment. "Doc said you'll be fine."

She barely acknowledged his words. "I'm sorry for everything, yesterday, before…" Her voice sounded hoarse and Chakotay swallowed his emotions. She looked up when he held the coffee under her nose.

He decided to ease her into things, give her a little time. "You've nothing to be sorry for. Now drink this while it's still hot." She barely nodded and sat up, taking the coffee from him. He smiled softly to himself as she sipped at the beverage, seeing it having a soothing effect on her. He remained quiet as she drank and waited until she looked up at him, handing him back the empty cup. "More?"

She shook her head. "No. Thank you." She still seemed embarrassed. "What happens now? I don't…" She broke off her words and Chakotay gave her a moment as he walked over to the replicator, depositing the empty cup there. Her quietness and lack of emotion compared to the day before bothered him, as if she'd surrendered. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

"Doc will release you tomorrow. He wants you here for today to make sure you're eating properly and are well rested. You can return to your quarters in the morning but he wants you to take some time before returning to duty." He watched her as she simply nodded, not objecting and it worried him. "Kathryn?"

She looked up at him and nodded. "Yes. OK." He came back over to her and sat down again. She looked down for a moment and then back up. "Where's the Doctor?" She looked at Chakotay a moment but seemed to have trouble holding his eyes and looked down at her hands instead.

"He's around. He thought it might be better if I spoke with you alone." She glanced up at him again, her eyes telling him that she wanted to be anywhere other than where she was.

Chakotay sighed. "Look, I know you'd rather not talk about this but you need to. It's just you and me here. No captain. No commander. Just friends. You know you have to face this and deal with it. We have to." He sighed when he got no reaction. "Kathryn, let me be here for you. Please just talk to me. Don't shut me out any longer. I know it's hard to talk about this and face it but you can't keep this inside you any longer. It's eating away at you." He shook his head sadly. "Why didn't you tell us, tell me?" She looked at him with the greatest look of sadness on her face he'd ever seen.

Tears filled her eyes and slipped down her cheeks and her voice was a whisper. "He said…he said…it was no wonder I was alone…that no one would put up with me…"

Chakotay sighed deeply. "That's not true and you know it. Surely the last seven years have proved that. Besides, you're not alone."

She just shook her head. "A cold bitch who sits on the bridge, sad, lonely, old woman. Is that really how they see me?"

Chakotay leaned towards her, seeing her fighting more tears and losing. "That is not how they see you. They've never seen you like that and never even thought it. Kathryn, he was controlled. He wasn't himself. He was just trying to hurt you."

She sniffed loudly. "He succeeded."

Chakotay shook his head sadly. "Only if you let him. Kathryn, we all care deeply about you. We love you. Do you really think we'd all feel this bad about what's happened if we didn't?" She said nothing but he saw his words sink in. "You should have told me, Kathryn, told someone at least." He watched as she fought to hold it together.

"I just wanted to forget it, put it behind me. I didn't want you having to deal with it on top of what you were already going through." She looked at him, more tears filling her eyes. "It hurt so much to say the things I said to you in the brig. To know I was hurting you so much. I'm so sorry. I just believed it was the lesser hurt and I had to stop you finding out at any cost."

Chakotay leaned over and brushed her tears away. "Kathryn, please love…" He sighed and looked around him before looking back at her. She tried to sit up a little more and he leaned over and helped her, adjusting the back of the biobed for her. When she seemed comfortable, he gave a weak smile and sighed again. She was finally starting to open up to him and he felt he owed her the same.

"Kathryn, just listen to me." She nodded, not taking her eyes from his face. "It's bad. I admit that. It's bad and terrible and so painful to know what happened to you. It's worse though, knowing that you couldn't and didn't tell me. To know you went through all this alone is…" He rubbed a hand over his face and looked at her.

She was crying harder as she cut him off. He hated to see her cry. "I couldn't tell you. I knew how much you'd blame yourself and the guilt you'd feel. I also knew how the crew would feel and I was terrified of them being divided again. We both worked, all of us, to become one before. I couldn't see that threatened so I hid it. I had to."

Chakotay dropped his head. "I should have seen it though. I mean, I saw the bruise on your face and deep down, I didn't believe you when you said you fell." He went on to tell her about his conversation with Tuvok, apologizing for discussing her without her knowledge. He looked at her and saw her pain. "I'm sorry. I know this isn't helping you but I just feel so guilty for not pushing you more. As time passed, I just knew there was more, that something had happened and instead of trying to find out… God, I had enough suspicions."

Kathryn sighed. "You did try and I pushed you away, remember?" She twisted her fingers together. "You know me. When I pull back from someone, I do it at warp speed. It isn't down to you, Chakotay. We could drag this around forever and blame even the ship for accepting the data stream but in the end, it was Thiro. No one else." She shook her head. "As to…" She swallowed. As to what happened…" She drew in a deep breath having said that. "He was under control. It wasn't him. It wasn't any of you. I had to let it go and cover it all up." She wiped at her own face. "I don't know anymore. I thought I was doing the right thing and still think that but I still killed him."

Chakotay's eyes locked on her face. "Kathryn, you killed no one. What are…?"

She cut him off again, growing more upset now. "I did. He wanted me to punish him but I just couldn't because it wasn't his fault. He needed to talk, explain and apologize to me and I couldn't face it with him. I couldn't talk to him about it. I abandoned him because I wasn't strong enough to face it. He needed help. It's my fault he's dead."

Chakotay's voice rose now as he cut across her. "Listen to yourself. You did what you did because you saw who was really to blame for what happened. You just said yourself it was all Thiro. Practice what you preach, Kathryn. I'm sorry. I'll say his name…" He saw her prepare herself for hearing it. "Peter is dead because of Thiro. No one else."

She sat up more, gripping the side of the bed tightly. "No, I have to take the responsibility."

Chakotay wasn't going to accept that. "No, Kathryn. Thiro killed him. He was the one really holding that phaser. I've entered that in the log as his cause of death and Tuvok has backed me up." He saw her struggle to absorb his words. "We left the rest out. I'm not sure how you feel about that."

She nodded slowly. "Thank you. I couldn't face it, Starfleet knowing, what they'd think." She was quiet for a few moments and Chakotay watched her, seeing her fight more tears.

He sighed and leaned back, her negative thinking rubbing off on him now. "You still should have told me. I'd have had my guilt with or without you holding all this back from me. He was my crewmember."

Kathryn turned on him, snapping out of it at his words. "We've had this before. He was 'our' crewmember."

He jumped up now. "No, Kathryn, not this time. I know I was wrong in sickbay that day. I do see this as 'our' crew and I shouldn't have said that. In this case though, I'm right. He was 'my' crewman." He drew in a shaky breath. "Everyone on this ship is racked with guilt over all this. They felt that way even before they knew what had happened to you and now it's worse. I'm torn apart over all this. He was 'my' crewmember. I was the one who brought him on board your ship."

Kathryn stared sadly at him. "Not 'our' ship?"

He shook his head sadly. "I'm talking about then. He was part of my crew and I brought him on board your ship." He paced and raked his hands through his hair. "He had some things right though." He turned and saw her looking at him, a frown on her face. He shrugged. "Maybe he was right what he said."

Kathryn narrowed her eyes a little. "What do you mean?"

Chakotay moved a little closer to her. "He told me…" He sighed deeply. "When he told us all, I jumped up, wanted to kill him." He watched her face carefully, gauging her reaction to his words. "He told me I was as bad, in how I'd let you think I was going to kill you, that you'd die when we were in the ready room with Tuvok." He saw a flash of pain cross her eyes at the memory. "He was right. I let you think and believe that you'd die."

Kathryn shook her head sadly. "It's not the same." She held up a hand when he went to object. "Yes, I thought and believed but you knew… You knew you never had any intention of hurting me. You knew that. You never would have hurt me, despite what I believed at that moment."

Chakotay shook his head. "That's splitting hairs, Kathryn. The damage to you, the hurt, was the same. You didn't know what I was thinking. He was right. I was as bad. I could have done the same and been capable of…" He stopped speaking and pressed his lips together tightly when he heard his own words. "Sorry, it's just…" He frowned when he saw a slight smile on her face. "What?"

She shrugged. "You're doing to yourself what you're telling me I've been doing. Placing the blame in the wrong place. You tell me to stop and you do the same to yourself. Anyway, I know you'd never have hurt me that way. You'd never have done that and I know it." She gave him a slight smile before he sat down again.

"Maybe. I have to believe that. Still though…" He shook his head. "I just know that I hurt you, so in a way, I was as bad. I threatened you. And later, when you needed me, I wasn't there for you. I wasn't there to protect you. I let you down."

Kathryn's small hand covered his. "I was wrong too, in many ways. I still think I was right to try and protect you and I'll be honest, for you and this crew, I'd do the same again. Maybe I should have told you but…"

Chakotay squeezed her hand, leaning in a little closer to her. "No buts about it. You should have. Maybe it's right that the crew didn't know but you should have told me. I just want to be there for you and help you. It hurts more to know you had all this on your own and I wasn't there for you. When you withdrew like that, I thought I'd lost our friendship. I thought I'd lost you and that hurt so much." He dropped his head to the side a little, his expression deeply pained. "I brought him here. If you'd never met me…"

The words stilled in his mouth when Kathryn reached out her hand and stroked the side of his face.
"If I hadn't met you? I don't want to think about that." He looked up and saw the most tender look of love in her eyes. She seemed momentarily shocked and embarrassed at her own action and pulled her hand back. For the first time, she took a step forward, a step towards them, but then pulled back just as quickly, her eyes so sad.

"I tried so hard, you know? I tried so hard not to care. About you. About them. I never meant to be this weak or this vulnerable. I tried so hard to stay back from you all, just like I'd been trained to but I couldn't. Not out here. And I still try, try very hard but…" She sighed and leaned back. "I fought so hard to get you all together, join the crews and it worked. I stood back and I saw friendships forming, people working together, old hatreds fading and then… Then Thiro threatened it all and I failed you all. I failed in my duty to protect my crew. I was so obsessed with getting answers and concentrating on Tuvok, that I didn't see the rest, didn't see the bigger picture, the full threat."

Chakotay leaned in closer to her. "Caring about people doesn't mean you're weak or vulnerable. Besides, I'm the one who failed. That I couldn't protect you eats me up inside. I've tortured myself knowing that while I was strutting around your bridge, he was hurting you, that you were being…" He stopped short, unable to say the word. "I wasn't there to stop it, to protect you."

Kathryn stared at him tearfully. "It wasn't your fault. It never was and besides, it's OUR bridge." His eyes held hers, showing his pain yet they acknowledged her use of the word 'our'. She saw gratitude there, but the pain was predominant and he shook his head sadly.

"Even afterwards. That you couldn't come to me later and confide in me, that you kept all that from me, in your mind to protect me, that just… That you couldn't let me be there for you. Kathryn, that kills me. It's like a double blow. One blow wounded me deeply but the second one kills me." He watched tears escape her eyes and fall down her cheeks.

"I didn't mean to do that. I just couldn't tell you. I wanted to spare you that, protect you from it. I knew how you'd feel afterwards and would have enough to deal with. I couldn't do that to you, to all of you."

He reached his hand up and cupped her cheek, his thumb wiping at her tears. "Kathryn, I know you were only trying to protect us and in some way I can understand that but think about it this way. Since this happened, we all see you hurting, shut away from us and closing it all out. Kathryn, that hurts more." She sniffed loudly and leaned into his hand. "Kathryn, don't shut me out, shut us out. Talk to me. Let me be there for you and help you through this. To help you…it's like I can salvage some part of my soul. By letting us, letting me, be there for you and helping you heal, that helps us and me heal also." He smiled softly for a moment, before his face grew serious.

"We're one crew. One family. Isn't that what you were trying to protect all along?" She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. "One crew. One family." He repeated the words, stamping them into her mind. "If one limb is injured, it affects the whole body. The healing of that limb is a joint effort. The entire body is involved. Again, one ship, one crew, one family." She nodded again as he wiped away more of her tears. "I know what you were trying to protect, love. You just went about it the wrong way. You tried to do it alone and that doesn't work with family."

He stroked his thumb over her cheek gently. "I know it's hard to deal with this and I know you find it easier to hold all this inside you but you can't, Kathryn. It'll eat away at you and destroy you." She looked up tearfully at him.

"Kathryn, you can and will get through this. I know it's very hard on you. I don't just mean dealing with what happened but knowing that the crew knows. It makes no difference to them, you know."

Suddenly a spark of life as she looked directly at him. "But they all know. It's knowing that they all know. How can I face them again? They know it all." Chakotay sat forward and took her hand, grateful when she didn't pull away.

"So what, Kathryn. It doesn't change how they see you or feel about you. You had their love and respect before this and you still have it. Probably even more so now. You were their captain then and you're still their captain now. You always will be. When something bad happens to one of them, you want to know about it and be there to help them." She nodded in reluctant agreement. "They all feel terrible about this. Letting them help you, will help them too. You're always there for them. Don't deny them when they want and need to do the same for you. Don't deny me. Let me be here for you."

She shook her head, more tears forming in her eyes. "It's hard."

Chakotay squeezed her hand. "I know it is. Kathryn, you're the strongest person I've ever known and I know you're used to being there for others and that it's not easy when it's you who needs the help. I know you hate feeling you need help, that you believe you have to be above it all in some way but…" He sighed. "Kathryn, every one of us needs help at some stage in our lives. I know it's often hard to admit that and even when we've admitted it, it's hard to accept that help, but needing and accepting help from those who love us is not a sign of weakness. Being able to ask for it and accept it is a sign of strength."

He saw his words sink in as she stared at him tearfully. "It's still hard."

He took her other hand and squeezed that also. "I know, but it's easier when you're not on your own." She nodded tearfully.

She did nothing for several minutes, her head down and he remained quiet, giving her time. Suddenly she looked up at him and her tears spilled over, all her defences down and he leaned in, letting go of one of her hands and cupped her cheek, acting on pure instinct. They'd been skirting around the edges of all this and now he saw them reach the centre of it.

"Could you…?"

He frowned slightly. "Tell me what you need, Kathryn."

Her face crumpled and he saw the dam finally burst. "I need you to hold me…if you could…" Before the words were out of her mouth, he was standing and gathering her into his arms, pulling her tightly to him. "I couldn't stop him… I tried…I…"

"I know, sweetheart. I know. You did nothing wrong." She clung to him, sobs racking her small body as she shuddered against him. He felt her hands grip the back of his uniform tightly as she fought for breath between her cries. "Let it all out, love. I'm here." She cried even harder as he rocked her to him, stroking up and down her back.

"Oh God, Kathryn, I'm so sorry for what's happened to you. We will get through this. I promise you that. I'm here for you and you're here for me. We have each other. That's all that matters." They were both crying as they clung to each other, giving and receiving comfort, gaining strength.

Eventually, as she quietened, he eased her back down but continued to hold her as she still choked back the occasional sob. She looked exhausted, her eyes red and puffy. He smiled softly at her, one hand wiping away her tears and saw that she was deeply embarrassed.

"You needed that, love. You needed the release. It needed to come out. Please don't ever be embarrassed in front of me." She sniffled and nodded as he sat back down, drifting into a world of her own for a moment.

Slowly she came back to him, and for more than an hour after, they held hands, whispering quietly and opening up completely. They spared each other nothing, needing to cleanse the wound before it could heal properly.

"I'm so sorry, Chakotay. I'm so sorry."

He tried to smile. "I'm the one who's sorry, Kathryn. You did nothing wrong."

They stared at each other for a moment, until Kathryn shook her head and spoke. "I'm so sorry I didn't let you be there for me before but you're here for me now." She sniffed loudly as Chakotay stroked her face, seeing her eyes red and swollen. She was taking the step again.

He took her hand, brought it to his mouth and kissed the back of her fingers. "I'll always be here for you as long as you want me."

She looked a little sad at that. "I always pushed you away. I never let you in. I'm so sorry for all that."

Chakotay kissed her fingers again. "Hey lady, this is the first day of the rest of our lives. No looking back. OK?"

Kathryn managed a watery smile. "You'd still want me that way? I mean after…"

Chakotay's face grew stern. "Don't you dare even think that, let alone say it. I've always wanted you and always will. I love you, Kathryn Janeway. Don't you know that by now?"

She shrugged a little. "I hoped that you still did. I wasn't sure. I know I love you." They stared deeply into each other's eyes.

Chakotay stroked her face, drowning in the wonder of finally hearing the words from her. He felt himself choking up and swallowed. "Nothing else matters then." He leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose, earning a smile for himself.

Kathryn played her fingers over the back of his hand and lowered her eyes. "Just tell me we'll get through this."

He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. "We will. You know we will, but you have to let me help you through this. I wasn't there for you before. Let me be there for you now."

She nodded tearfully. "We're going in circles here."

Chakotay nodded solemnly. "You're right. We need to stop all this and just accept that Thiro takes all the blame. We move on from that and deal with what we need to deal with. We heal and move on. You just take my hand." He squeezed her hand in his. "You just take my hand and walk with me on this road."

Kathryn nodded tearfully. "As awful as it sounds, this has brought me to you and made me see just how much I need you and love you." She raised her eyes and looked at him now. "I know I can't get through this without you and I wouldn't have been able to admit that before now. I tried to get through on my own and made a lousy job of it." She smiled tearfully. "Is that progress?"

Chakotay smiled gently at her. "It certainly is. It's a very big step." He smiled softly, B'Elanna's words coming to him once more. "Look love, I know we've a hard road ahead of us but together and with one hell of a backing team, we'll get through this. This is the hardest part, the start, but the day will come soon when all this will be completely behind us. All that matters is that we travel together, walk the road together. Once we have each other, we can do anything, get through anything." They hugged tightly again and then were quiet, just holding each other, touching and silently communicating. Neither of them was aware of the Doctor, standing in his darkened office with a quiet smile on his face, before he turned away and nodded to himself. He knew his job was done now and that his patient couldn't be in better hands.

Chakotay smiled softly at Kathryn as she lay facing him, one hand holding one of hers, the other stroking over her hip, delighting in the fact that she was so comfortable with him. He looked up suddenly at the figure of a young woman before them.

"Ensign Davis? This is a private area." Kathryn looked up at his voice and felt his hand pull from hers as he stood up. She tried to sit up, turning her head away, not wanting anyone to see her as she was and heard Chakotay speak again. "I'm sorry. I must ask you to leave."

The young woman blushed but didn't move. "I will, Sir. I just need to say something to the captain first. I know you've no secrets between each other and I trust you too so I don't mind speaking with you here." She moved around so she could see her Captain's face and drew in a deep breath.

"Captain, I'm very sorry for intruding in this way but I have to say this." Kathryn wiped at her face and went to speak but the young woman held up her hand. "Please just hear me out. Please." Kathryn nodded but kept her eyes down.

"First of all, the crew miss you. We love you, respect you and admire you so much. We're so sorry all this happened to you but we want you to know that we're there for you. We know what he said but none of that is true. We've never thought anything bad about you, only ever good. That will come to you in a greeting with flowers later on. I'm just letting you know in words." She cleared her throat and drew in another breath.

"Why I'm really here and no one knows this, that I'm here or what I'm going to say to you. It's not easy so I'll just say it and I'm trusting you both with this. Once I leave here, what you do with this information is up to you." Kathryn looked up slowly and met the young woman's eyes. "I'd just ask you to keep this to yourselves, although I already know that you will." She drew in a deep breath.

"Right. In my last year at the Academy, I was… I mean that… What happened to you happened to me. You're probably not ready to hear the word yet." Kathryn locked eyes with her now. "I won't go into detail right here but… What I mean is… I know what you're going through. Only too well. The thing is… I'm there…here…if you want to talk to me. It can be captain to ensign, or woman to woman, whatever, and nothing will ever be repeated. Everything would be, even this, would be outside of our professional relationship and completely off the record. If you want the commander or someone else with you, I can take that. It will or would be in the strictest confidence and I'd just ask the same in return because I've never spoken of this with any member of the crew." She coughed slightly and cleared her throat.

"I won't for a moment pretend I know exactly how you feel because it's different for every woman, even for the men it happens to." She blushed deeply. "Sorry. I'm not saying this well. It's just… Maybe I could be of some help, understand without you having to explain things or… Sorry." She looked at Chakotay and then Kathryn before suddenly finding the floor of great interest. "Look, this conversation either never took place or it did. That's up to you. Just think about it." There was silence for a moment and the young woman grew more uneasy. "Captain, I'm sorry. Maybe I was wrong to come this way or… I'll leave you in peace. I shouldn't have come. I'm sorry."

She turned to leave but Kathryn's voice stopped her. "No, please wait. Denise, isn't it?"

The dark haired young woman nodded. "Yes, Ma'am."

Kathryn smiled slightly, ignoring the term. "Thank you, Denise. I know it took a lot of courage to come here today and I'm very grateful. I'm sorry this happened to you too." They smiled softly at each other a moment. "I may well take you up on the offer to talk. At this moment, I'm still pretty raw, but maybe in time, when I feel able…"

Denise Davis nodded. "I just wanted you to know you're not alone." Kathryn smiled over at Chakotay at those words. "I mean, I'm here and I understand. I just wanted you to know that." She looked at Chakotay also. "I know coming here like this probably wasn't the best idea and I was going to just say it to the commander first on his own and let him tell you but then I got embarrassed and… Maybe this is too early but I wanted you to know that someone is here who understands. Sorry, I'm fumbling."

Kathryn smiled softly. "I understand and again, thank you for your trust in me. It won't be betrayed. It helps at this moment to know that there's another woman who understands." Denise smiled and nodded, then casting an embarrassed glance at Chakotay, she left.

Chakotay watched Kathryn for a moment as she looked at the now empty space where Denise Davis had stood.

"You just never know, do you?" She looked up at Chakotay and smiled. "There's nothing in her logs about that. I'd have remembered." She gazed into the distance a moment. "There was a gap though, if I remember right. She was off sick for a month or so, took exams late, only barely made it to come onboard Voyager." She looked up at Chakotay and saw him smile.

"How do you remember that? You've the most amazing memory for this crew, even the ex-Maquis and Ransom's lot."

Kathryn smiled and shrugged. "I just remember, I guess."

Chakotay sat again and took her hand. "No, love, you care. That's why you remember." He saw how pensive she looked.

"You'd never know. About Denise, I mean."

Chakotay shook his head. "The woman I know is the life and soul of the party. Very popular. A great worker too, very diligent and hard working. I don't think I've ever heard one complaint about her."

Kathryn smiled and shook her head. "I haven't either. Looking at her now and knowing… It gives me hope." She smiled at him again. "She gives me great hope that there's life after this."

Chakotay squeezed her hand. "There is, Kathryn. We both know that. We'll get through this together."

Kathryn was allowed to return to her own quarters the next day and took several days off. She ate and slept better than she had in weeks and even ventured out to visit Sandrine's on her last night before her return to duty. Apart from the numerous comments of 'great to see you again, Captain' and 'welcome back, we missed you', the crew treated her the same as they always had. She sat quietly with Chakotay, sharing a bottle of wine and relaxed.

"You were worried about this, weren't you? Seeing them all again, I mean."

Kathryn played with her glass and nodded. "It was pretty obvious, wasn't it?"

He smiled and nodded. "And now?"

She shrugged. "Now I wonder what I worried about. They're great. Oh I know they know, and they know that I know that they know, and so on." She smiled at the look on his face. "You know what I mean. We all know and know that we know, that kind of thing." He smiled his understanding. "It's not as bad as I thought though."

Chakotay leaned towards her and refilled her glass. "So you're glad you came now?"

She half covered her glass with her hand, indicating she had enough. "I am. Really. It's easier and better for me to get this out of the way here, rather than on duty. The hard bit is over with now." She looked up and around her, seeing Denise Davis bent over the pool table, her face a mask of concentration as she lined up a shot. Kathryn watched her draw back the cue and hit the ball straight into the corner pocket. A loud cheer rang out and Denise stood back, rubbing her nails on her uniform as if polishing them and then pretending to use them as a mirror, preening herself.

"Piece of cake."

Kathryn laughed to herself and heard Chakotay join her as he followed her line of vision. "She's a good example for me to follow. If she can do it and pick up her life again, so can I." As she spoke, Denise turned and caught her captain's eye. She smiled gently and barely nodded before going on to the next shot. In the brief second the two women locked eyes, a silent message of understanding passed between them and Chakotay saw it.

"I made extremely discreet inquiries about her." Kathryn turned back to look at him. "She has a reputation as the soul of discretion. She's apparently quite famous for keeping secrets. I learned that a lot of the crew talk to her as an almost unofficial ship's counsellor. She's never betrayed a confidence."

Kathryn digested that and nodded. "That's good to know. I'll talk with her soon. I know I've been using these few days to concentrate more on getting myself back to normal physically. I need to concentrate on the rest now. I've kind of been putting it off."

Chakotay smiled and nodded. "I noticed that. I wasn't going to say anything though, because you need to proceed at your own pace, do things as and when you're ready." Kathryn reached over the table and took his hand, surprising him as much as herself. She saw that several crewmembers were looking and smiled before they looked away.

Kathryn smiled to herself and shrugged. "That'll give them something to talk about although I doubt it surprises them that much." She smiled up into Chakotay's face. "Are you surprised?"

He positively beamed back at her. "Extremely pleasantly so." He covered both their hands with his other hand. "I'm honoured, in fact." He looked down at their hands a moment. "Look Kathryn, you take this at your own pace. You talk to me if and when you're ready and only then. I'm here for you constantly and you know that. Everyone is."

She smiled back and nodded, close to tears. "I know. And I know I've been putting it off a bit but once I get back into a routine, I'll feel better and can deal with it then. I just need to feel in control of one part of my life before I tackle this. Can you understand that?"

He smiled softly and nodded. "I do understand."

She sighed. "I know I've a lot of hard memories to face and deal with, a lot of demons to cast out and I know it won't be easy but with you beside me…" She squeezed his hand. "I'll make it. We'll make it."

Kathryn returned to duty the next morning and relished being back. The routine gave her the sense of control she badly needed, exactly as she'd predicted. At night, Chakotay usually joined her for something to eat before they settled themselves down on her sofa. Then came the hard part.

Kathryn spent weeks of such evenings with Chakotay, dissecting her memories and dealing with each one. She took Denise Davis up on her offer and spent many hours with the young woman, finding her words and understanding almost like a balm for her wounds. And between the two, Denise and Chakotay, she began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It didn't stop her from having her bad nights though, when she'd drag things back into the arena of her mind. This evening, Chakotay sat watching her as she paced, the subject of her guilt over the death of Peter Jenkins, being the topic for the night.

Chakotay tried to answer her questions as she constantly baited him. "God Kathryn, I thought we'd dealt with this. You were not to blame in any way for his death. Thiro is the only one responsible."

She turned on him. "Thiro started it but it was the way I handled it afterwards that led to him taking his own life."

Chakotay shook his head. "He'd have felt that way no matter how you handled it afterwards. He just couldn't live with what he'd done. Do you really think he could have led a normal life, living and working among the crew when they knew it all? Come on, Kathryn. It would eventually have come out. Even had you thrown him in the brig, what kind of life would that have been? You're going to have to accept that it's past now. No one can go back and do it differently or alter it in any way. You have to accept it and move on, deal with it." He looked her in the eyes and saw her tears.

"Let it go, Kathryn. You've been telling me that for weeks now and I'm slowly starting to move past my own guilt. You shouldn't even have any at all so what you've taken on, let it go."

She wiped at her face, not acknowledging his words, trapped into her own guilt. "Sometimes, I think I let him, made it happen, deserved it or…"

Chakotay just stared at her, unable to believe the words he heard coming from her mouth. "Spirits, Kathryn, I can't believe you're saying this, that I'm hearing this coming from you."

Her voice grew louder as her tears increased. "Well, maybe I did. I didn't fight him."

Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. "You couldn't."

He saw her anger grow, her voice rising. "I should have been stronger, for me, for him, helped him later on." She moved towards him. "I had a chance to scream, call for help. Did you know that?" Chakotay barely shook his head. "I didn't though. Why didn't I?"

Chakotay reached out to her but she pulled back. "Kathryn, where's this coming from? Don't do this to yourself. You were doing so well."

She didn't seem to hear him. "You must despise me, my weakness."

He moved towards her again, but once more she pulled back. "Kathryn, no. Please."

Tears were running freely down her face now. "You'll never see me the same. I'm dirty now." She moved back towards him. "I know you said you'd still want me but you couldn't. You couldn't want me now."

Chakotay felt his own tears threaten and looked at her sadly. "That's not true, Kathryn, and you know it. I would want you. I always have. It makes no difference to me."

She advanced on him, her eyes wild. "Come on then. Prove it." She began tearing at her clothes. "Prove to me that I don't disgust you. Prove to me that you can stand to touch me, can bring yourself to."

Chakotay shook his head, his eyes filling with tears. "No, Kathryn. Stop this. Don't do this. You're not ready for that."

Her anger grew. "That's just an excuse. Admit it. You can't stand to touch me." She ripped open her blouse, exposing her bra. "Look at me. I disgust you. You can't even look at me."

He dropped his eyes to her chest, losing the battle with his tears now. "I can look at you and you're beautiful. Kathryn, please." She grabbed him and pressed herself against him, her lips seeking his.

Chakotay groaned at the contact, fighting his own body's responses. "Kathryn, please, you'll regret this. You aren't ready."

She just rubbed herself against him, tearing at his clothes now as his hands fought hers. "Prove it, Chakotay. Prove to me that I don't disgust you." She continued to bait him, her words filling his mind as her hands tortured his body.

Chakotay tried to push her away, afraid of being too forceful and hurting her. "Kathryn, stop it. You'll regret this and hate me."

Her hand slipped inside his pants, which she'd managed to get open and she stroked him now, finding him already semi-erect. "Show me you still want me. Prove it."

Chakotay fought as long as he could as she pushed him to the limit, until his body made the decision for him, his mind unable to take any more. As if in a dream, he found himself shoving her against the bulkhead, his hands pushing her skirt up around her waist, tearing at her panties, just as her hands pushed his pants and boxers out of the way.

Everything took on a surreal quality in Chakotay's mind. He was vaguely aware of Kathryn's hands on his body, her mouth on his. He saw his own hands rip her bra, exposing her breasts before his mouth latched on. Almost against his will, his hands went to her hips, moving down, roughly stroking over her thighs, before slipping into her folds, finding her wet and ready for him. He teased her, heard her panting and moaning as he brought her closer to the edge.

Kathryn pushed herself against his hand, her own finding his hard length, stroking up and down it, trying to pull him towards her. "Now, please. Oh God."

Chakotay pulled his hand away, grabbing her bottom and lifting her. He felt her legs go around his waist as he positioned himself against her hot centre. Kathryn pushed herself down towards him just as he surged into her and groaned loudly at the sensation which consumed him. He saw her head snap back as she cried out. "Oh Goddd…"

All Chakotay knew was a feeling of being home, of being where he belonged. He withdrew and plunged forward, repeating the action again and again, feeling his control slipping from him rapidly. He was vaguely aware of Kathryn's fingers clawing at his back, her thighs gripping his hips, her moans and cries and then she screamed at the same moment he felt her inner walls clamp down on his hard member, triggering his own release. He felt her shudder in his arms as he released himself deep inside her. Kathryn dropped her head onto his shoulder as she clung to him, trying to bring her breathing under control.

Chakotay panted as he slipped from her and eased her back. He saw her face then, tears pouring down her cheeks and guilt slammed into him, sending him to his knees, bringing Kathryn with him to the floor. "Oh sweet Spirits, what have I done? Oh Kathryn, I'm sorry, so sorry." He buried his face against her chest but her hands pulled him back to face her.

"Chakotay, I'm sorry. I needed that…I…"

Chakotay pulled away from her. "Oh Spirits, what have I done? I'm as bad as him." He crawled away but she followed him, pulling at his arm.

"Chakotay, no. You did what I wanted you to do, made you do."

He didn't seem to hear her. "I'm as bad. Worse. And I've no excuse. The only thing controlling me was raw lust." He finally met her eyes. "I'm so sorry. You should call security."

Kathryn reached for him and grabbed his shoulders. With a force that belied her size, she shook him.
"Chakotay, stop this. You didn't do anything. I'll force myself to say this but you're acting like you believe you raped me too." She watched his tears, matching her own. "Think, Chakotay. You didn't force me. It was the other way around. I forced you. I needed that. I needed you."

Chakotay pulled himself from her grip. "No. I did it. I didn't stop, couldn't stop, couldn't have…" His hand flew to his face as his cheek stung and he realized that Kathryn had slapped him across the face.

"Stop it. I didn't want you to stop. I deliberately pushed you to the point of no return." Her voice dropped suddenly, tears running freely. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I pushed you into this, used you, but…" She wiped at her face. "I needed you, needed that, to prove to myself…" She squeezed her eyes closed a moment then looked at him again. "I'm sorry. Can you understand?"

Chakotay's mind fought to accept everything that had just happened. Without thinking he moved away from her and tried to stand up.

Kathryn's hands suddenly grabbed at him frantically. "No, please. Oh God, please don't leave me. I'm sorry." He stared at her in shock as she pulled back from him, shocked at her own actions. "I'm sorry." Tears poured down her face. Chakotay stared at her, not believing what he was seeing, his mind still fighting to understand. She looked so sad and vulnerable. He stood shakily, fixing his clothes. She looked up at him, her face a mask of pain. "I'm sorry."

Chakotay found himself reaching down to her, pulling her up to him. She stood shaking in front of him and let him fix her clothes. Without a word, he moved her towards the sofa, reaching down for a blanket which lay there and draped it around her shoulders. He then eased her down onto the couch. Leaving her for a moment, he replicated a brandy and held the glass for her as she drank it, her hands shaking badly as she clutched the blanket tightly to her. "OK?"

She nodded as he placed the glass down on the coffee table. "Chakotay, I'm so sorry." Her eyes held his desperately. "You have to accept that this was my doing. I swear to you that you haven't done anything I didn't want you to do." She sighed and shook her head, sniffing and wiping at her nose. She stared fixedly at him, her voice shaky, yet strong. "You didn't force me. I swear to you." She drew in a deep shuddering breath.

"God, Chakotay, don't you think at this stage I know the difference?" Her point got through to him and he nodded. "I needed this and maybe you can't understand that but I needed it badly, to prove to myself that you could still want me, could touch me." She sniffed loudly again and tried a weak smile. "I admit it's not the way I dreamed our first time would be but…" Her tears returned. "I'm sorry, so sorry." She leaned towards him hesitantly, her eyes pleading with him. Chakotay found he couldn't move for a moment and saw the pain of rejection in her eyes.

"It's OK. I understand. If you want to leave…" The pain in her voice cut into him deeply and he just grabbed her and pulled her to him tightly.

"Oh God, Kathryn, I never want to leave you. I love you." She clung to him, her body racked with sobs as he held her, stroking up and down her back.

She slowly calmed, struggling to catch her breath. "I was so afraid you couldn't really want me, that you were just saying that. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for doubting you. I was so sure you couldn't really want to touch me and now all I've done is hurt you."

He wiped at her tears. "Kathryn, I'm sorry. I'm the one who lost control and hurt you."

She shook her head. "No. Chakotay, you didn't hurt me. I wanted you to lose that control, pushed you to lose it. Whose hands pulled at and opened your clothes?" She pulled back a little from him and smiled shyly. "Besides, women who are forced don't have…have orgasms." Chakotay found himself amazed at her words as well as her shyness.

He smiled and nodded though, not having thought about that. "OK, point taken but still…"

Kathryn shook her head and sighed. "Still nothing. Look, I know I've gone about this the wrong way, but I didn't know how else…" She saw him about to speak and pressed a hand to his lips. "Please, Chakotay, just sit here and listen to me." He nodded slowly. She took a deep breath and was quiet for a moment, taking time to sort her thoughts.

"Chakotay, you know why I didn't scream for help?" She locked eyes with him and he saw her tears build again. He barely shook his head. "It was because of what he'd said to me and that's been hurting me more, haunting me in fact, about how no one would want me or would bother with me. He said how no one else would want to touch me, the almighty, untouchable captain." Chakotay moved to take her hand but she held back.

"He said that to everyone I was the cold bitch who sat on the bridge, the sad, lonely, old woman who had no one, that I wasn't a real woman, not a woman at all, completely asexual, a machine." Tears spilled down her cheeks. "He said I was already dead and afterwards that I probably hadn't felt a thing." She looked at Chakotay. "All that has stayed with me because he was right. I remember his words. They're ingrained in here." She pointed to her head. "And here." This time she pointed to her heart. "I just cried, didn't care at that moment what he did to me. Oh I fought him at first but after his words, I just… I still struggled but it was instinct, not real. All I knew was what he'd said. It was like the last shred of what was left inside me died with his words."

Chakotay once more went to speak and moved to hold her but she pulled back. "Kathryn, don't do this to yourself."

She cut him off. "Please just listen. Let me say all this. I need to." He nodded and sat back. He knew deep down that she needed to do this.

"Afterwards, he said he'd probably done me a favour, that I probably hadn't felt it but I did." Her voice rose a little. "After a while, I did feel it but I couldn't let myself so I gave in completely and became what he'd said I was." Fresh tears filled her eyes and escaped down her cheeks. Seeing her pain tore at Chakotay but he held himself back.

"I let myself die and I held out until I cracked that day you came and told me he was dead. I probably would have cracked in time anyway, and then…then in sickbay and I had to face it and you were there for me and you gave me such hope and I began to feel again, but deep down I still couldn't believe it.., despite all these weeks and talking to you and Denise." She wiped at her face, her skin feeling tight with the salt from her tears.

"I needed proof and I forced you tonight, so I could prove to myself that I'm not a lost cause, that I still can feel, that I'm still a woman and mainly that you'd still really want me and could bring yourself to touch me. It's not that I didn't believe you or thought that you were lying to me. I just had so much self doubt." Chakotay refused to wait any longer and pulled her into his arms. He held her as she cried out her pain and when she began to quieten, he eased her back, wiping her tears away.

"Kathryn, you never stopped feeling. Everything you did proved that." Her eyes were glued to his, desperate for his absolution. "His words wouldn't have hurt you if you didn't feel and care so much. You wouldn't have fought so hard, sacrificing yourself, almost your own sanity, in order to protect me and this crew, if you didn't feel for us and care about us so much. All of this has hurt you so much. Well, Kathryn, people who don't feel anything, don't hurt." At his words, Kathryn burst into tears again and fell into his arms. He held her for a long time, letting her tears cleanse and heal her.

Eventually she pulled back, her face and eyes red and puffy from her crying. Chakotay went to the bathroom and fetched a cool cloth, then washed her face, smiling gently at her. "Better?"

She nodded. "Chakotay, I'm still so sorry for what I've put you through, all of this before now and tonight."

Chakotay dabbed at the tip of her nose with the cloth and smiled. "I'm always here for you, Kathryn. Please don't ever doubt that for one moment. I love you with my life and want to be with you forever."

Kathryn took his hand and squeezed, staring deeply into his eyes. "Then take me to bed." She saw a look of deep doubt in his eyes and smiled, squeezing his hand tighter. "Chakotay, take me to bed please. Make love to me as it should be. Let me feel like a woman again, a woman who loves you, making love with the man she knows loves her too. Let me wake up with you beside me in the morning and know I'm not alone anymore. Let me have you hold me, tell me you love me as I'll tell you that I love you and I'll know it's real and not some dream."

Chakotay cupped her face in his hand. "Are you sure about this?"

She nodded. "I need to feel. You make me feel alive again. I've been and felt dead for so long and he was right about that."

Chakotay pressed his hand against her mouth. "No, Kathryn, he was wrong. You were alive. You just let yourself be alone for a long time and it felt that way. Kathryn was always alive though. She wasn't dead. Just hidden. I know. I see her from time to time and I'd love to see a lot more of her." He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it.

"Then please, take me to bed and make love to me. Be with me. I want this, want you and I love you."

Chakotay felt tears cloud his vision as he nodded. Silently, he stood and reached down, pulling her to her feet. He stared deeply into her eyes, blinking to clear his own vision and smiled. Within the blue depths, he saw all he needed to know. He saw the sincerity of her words and her love for him. He nodded and leaned in, brushing his lips to hers before pressing down more firmly. He felt her arms come around his neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss and he went willingly, easing her mouth open with his tongue before letting it explore the warm cavern of her mouth.

Kathryn moaned deeply in her throat as her own tongue explored Chakotay's mouth. She felt him nip at her lower lip and pressed her body more firmly against him. She immediately felt his growing arousal and smiled to herself. She didn't need to force away any bad memories or images from her mind, because the man holding her was filling her mind beyond anything she'd ever thought possible. All her senses, all her thoughts, every emotion and feeling, all came together and focused on the man holding her, the man she loved. She pulled at him, trying to remove his clothes again but he broke the kiss and took hold of her hands gently. He smiled down at her.

"No, Kathryn, you're not the only one who dreamed about our first time and how it would be. I want to make love to you slowly. I want to worship your body and stroke and kiss every inch of you. I want to take time, learn about you and what you like, find out what pleases you. Don't rush this."

Tears filled her eyes at his words and she nodded slowly. "Show me then." He nodded slowly and smiled, then bent down and picked her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. He smiled gently as he lowered her to the edge of the bed and kissed her on the forehead.

"Wait here. Don't move." She nodded slowly and watched as he left the room, returning a few moments later, carrying some candles which he lit, placing them around the room.

"Computer, lights off." Suddenly the room was filled with the gentle flickering light of the candles, their delicate scent filling the air. Chakotay then pulled Kathryn to her feet and slowly undressed her, stopping to kiss and caress each inch of skin he exposed.

Finally she was naked and stood before him a little embarrassed. "Can I undress you?"

He nodded and stood still as Kathryn repeated his actions, trailing her lips over his skin as he fought to control his body. When she had him undressed, he kissed her again. "Kathryn, I love you. Don't ever forget or doubt that."

She smiled and nodded. "I won't. I love you too. So much."

They gazed into each other's eyes for some moments and then Chakotay eased her down on the bed. "Lie on your stomach for me." She didn't question or hesitate and lay down, rolling onto her stomach as he'd asked. She felt him move her hair aside and then sit beside her. "I want you completely relaxed." She felt something warm pour onto her skin and then his hands, spreading it, working what she guessed was oil into her skin as he stroked and kneaded her muscles.

"Mmm…that's wonderful." She closed her eyes and relaxed, as his hands worked over her body, from her neck and shoulders, down to her feet. His touch aroused her but she forced herself to give in to the calming and relaxing sensations which washed over her.

"Roll over for me." She opened her eyes and did as he asked, smiling up at him. With her eyes half closed, she watched as he poured more of the warm oil onto her body and worked it into her skin, his fingers caressing her breasts and then her shoulders and down her arms. He then moved to her feet and Kathryn closed her eyes as she felt herself almost floating. He worked his way up her legs then, over her thighs and around her hips, before stroking over her stomach and back to her breasts.

When his hands stilled, Kathryn forced her eyes open and smiled softly at Chakotay as he gazed down at her, wiping his hands on a towel. "You've no idea how beautiful you are."

She blushed slightly. "No, I'm not but thank you."

His face grew serious. "Kathryn, I'd never lie to you. You are beautiful. You have to believe that."

She felt her tears threatening to return and nodded. "With you, I feel it." She tried to sit up. "Can I repay the debt?"

Chakotay gently pushed her back down. "Next time. Tonight, now, is only about you. Please."

She nodded and lay back down. "Your dream?"

He nodded and leaned down to her, his fingers stroking over her hair, before entwining themselves in it. He leaned further down, his lips claiming hers, raising her head slightly as he deepened the kiss. Kathryn's arms came around him, pulling him to her tightly until he broke the kiss and trailed his lips over her face and neck, licking and gently nipping at her skin. "Tell me if you don't like or want something, if I hurt you or upset you."

Kathryn nodded. "I will, but there's nothing. Not with you. I trust you with my life."

He took her hand and kissed her fingers. "Thank you for your trust. I'll never betray it." He kissed her fingers again. "Lie back. Let me love you." He gently pressed her hands down at her sides as his mouth worked down towards her breasts. Still holding her hands down loosely, letting her know she could pull them free at any time, his mouth captured one of her nipples, causing Kathryn to moan loudly, arching up off the bed, seeking more contact. She continued to gasp and moan as he worked his way from one breast to the other, licking and blowing over her skin, kissing and nipping gently until she thought she'd explode.

Just as she thought she could take no more, he moved down her body, trailing moisture paths over her skin with his tongue, blowing over them and creating long forgotten sensations in Kathryn. He let go of her hands and moved down in the bed, paying attention to her legs now, his hands stroking over her skin. Kathryn's hands gripped the sheets as he worked his way back up, spreading her legs slowly, trailing his tongue up her inner thighs then blowing on her downy cover. Kathryn shuddered deeply as he exposed her core, his fingers gently opening her to his eyes.

"God, you're so beautiful." His voice was a whisper, a deep reverence in it. As he lowered his mouth over her, Kathryn's hips jerked and she cried out.

"Oh God…Chakotay…that feels…oh…" His arms kept her thighs open to him, as his tongue and mouth explored her so slowly, she thought she'd pass out. He slipped one finger gently into her opening, moving in tiny circles, while another spread her wetness and pressed against her anus. His mouth continued its welcome assault on her clitoris as he built her up and up, almost painfully slowly.

"Please…Chakotay…" He ignored her pleas, taking his time. Eventually he slipped both fingers in a little deeper, Kathryn crying out as his mouth latched onto her small bundle of nerves, sucking on it. She felt the pressure mount as his tongue flicked her, his fingers slipping in deeper now, a second finger joining the one in her vagina. He pumped her slowly, building speed as he sucked harder, feeling her inner walls tighten on his fingers. He felt her clench around him, as the final build-up began and pumped her harder. With one last strong pull of his mouth on her bundle of nerves and a last flick of his tongue, he thrust hard with his hands against her, pushing deeply into both her entrances and felt her explode. A scream erupted from her lips and her back arched up off the bed.

"Chakotay….oh sweet….oh God…" She lay trembling and shaking for several minutes as he continued to pump her and work her, lazily licking over her folds until he'd built her back up again.

"Chakotay…I can't…I…oh God…" With skill, he once more brought her to the apex, holding her there before letting her crash over the other side, his fingers still working her but bringing her down this time.

He finally withdrew from her and came up over her, his loving smile meeting her eyes when she opened them. "Are you all right?"

It took three attempts to get her speech working. "God, that was… I've never…I…"

Chakotay smiled softly. "That good, huh?" She barely managed to nod, her breathing slowly coming back under control. Chakotay kissed her softly. "I just wanted to please you."

Kathryn stared lovingly at him. "Please. I need you inside me."

He smiled and nodded, moving over her slowly. "Let's see if I can make round two as good as round one." Kathryn's eyes widened as he claimed her mouth. Within seconds she almost forgot her own name.

Chakotay worked her like a master, easing down her body and building her up with his mouth again before sitting back on his heels and taking hold of Kathryn's hips. He gently pulled her towards him, her legs spread around his hips and rested his rigid shaft at her entrance. He locked eyes with her and pulled her closer to him, slipping inside her.

Kathryn looked at him through hooded eyes. "More."

He smiled and honoured her request, pulling her quickly and tightly against him, filling her as she cried out and dropped her head back. "Oh Godddd…."

He withdrew and thrust forward several times, his fingers playing over her clit as he moved. He saw Kathryn's hands clenching and unclenching as she panted. Chakotay suddenly pulled out of her and Kathryn almost growled in protest before he rolled her over onto her stomach, lying over her from behind. He kissed and licked down her back and around her buttocks for a minute, then lay back, his hand between her legs, keeping her worked up. He spread her legs slowly and settled between them, sitting back on his heels once more. He lifted her hips, pulling her to him, and impaled her with his hard shaft as she cried out. He saw her hands grip the pillow as she tossed her head back and forward, grinding her face into it. "Oh God…oh…"

He thrust repeatedly into her then withdrew as she cried out. He pressed a finger against her anus and worked it in part way. "Kathryn?"

She knew what he was asking. She hesitated for a split second, never having done this before. "Please." She didn't need to think. She knew she trusted him. She felt his fingers spreading her fluids and then felt his head press against her. She relaxed, not needing to even tell herself to do so and felt him press in quickly, penetrating her deeply.

"Uuuhhhh…ohhh…" The sensations that washed over her took her completely by surprise. She'd expected discomfort, maybe even a little pain but all she felt was arousal unlike anything she'd ever felt before. "Ohhh Goddd…" She felt his hands grip her hips, holding her in place as he pumped her and she felt herself building once more. Suddenly, something in her took over and she managed to get her elbows underneath her. She struggled to get her knees beneath her body also.

Chakotay stopped immediately. "Kathryn? Oh God, am I hurting you?"

She managed to get one knee under her and pushed back onto him. "Please Chakotay… harder… more…"

His worry disappeared to be replaced by surprise, almost shock and then he grinned. He let her get her other knee in place and knelt behind her, gripping her hips tightly. "More? Harder?"

She braced herself on her arms and pushed back. Suddenly she couldn't get enough. She felt a fleeting shock at her own actions but let it go quickly. "Yesss…more…harder…yes…"

He heard her breathing quicken and smiled to himself. He thrust deeply onto her as she cried out and leaned over her back a little, one arm around her waist, slipping his hand between her legs, working her up with him.

"Chakotay…oh yessss….please…" Kathryn pushed back against him with amazing force, as if possessed. Chakotay somehow managed to work his other hand down and pressed three fingers into her vagina, causing Kathryn to scream out. He felt her inner muscles grip tightly on his fingers and plunged more deeply into her tight ass, quickening the pace of his fingers. With a loud scream torn from her throat, Kathryn shuddered around him, as the most powerful orgasm of her life exploded within her. Chakotay pulled from her quickly and rolled her onto her back, stunned by the beauty of her face, still in the throes of her orgasm. He quickly spread her legs and plunged back in, filling her and feeling her vaginal muscles contracting around him. He thrust hard against her, building his pace, his eyes on her face.

Suddenly her eyes snapped open. "Ohhh…"

He grabbed her thighs and raised them each side of his body, plunging and withdrawing, penetrating her as deeply as he could.

Kathryn's hands gripped his shoulders, her nails digging in. "Ohhh…wha…."

Chakotay forced himself to hang on. "Come with me, Kathryn. We go over the edge as one." Her eyes held his and he saw her disbelief.

"I've…never…I…Ohhhhh…" He ground his body against hers and felt her inner walls clench tightly.

"Stay with me, Kathryn. Hold my eyes. I want to see you when you come."

She fought to keep her eyes on his as a wail erupted from her throat. "Aaahhhhhh…."

Chakotay felt her clamp down hard on his shaft, triggering his release and milking him. He saw Kathryn's pupils dilate as her climax claimed her and she held his eyes as long as possible. As his own release washed over him, he strained his back and closed his eyes.

"Kathrynnnnn…oh God…Kathryn…" He fell over her, subconsciously aware enough to roll to the side, and pulled her to him. Kathryn clung to him, panting hard and with tears streaming down her face. Neither could speak for several minutes. "Kathryn, are you all right? Please, honey."

She looked up at him. "I'm sorry, I don't know what happened, what came over me. It was just…"

Chakotay smiled widely and stroked her face. "Kathryn, what on earth are you sorry for?"

She seemed shy. "I lost control and… I've never known that before and I…"

Chakotay propped himself up on one elbow. "Never known what?"

She blushed deeply. "When you…we…from behind."

Chakotay grew concerned now. "Are you saying you've never done that before? Anal sex, I mean?" She nodded shyly. "Kathryn, why did you let me go ahead? Why didn't you say?"

She played her fingers over his chest. "I trust you completely and I wanted to."

He didn't look convinced. "I'd never have… I thought from before, when I pressed there, that it was OK, that you'd…" He closed his eyes. "Oh God Kathryn, I'm sorry." He opened his eyes to see her worry.

"No…no. I wanted to, and it was… I never knew it could be so… And it seemed to take over and…I…" She bit her lip. "I've never been so forward before…and… You didn't mind that I…? I mean…it was your dream and I…"

Chakotay took her face between his hands. "My dream was simply to please you, love you and bring you pleasure. That you felt that safe and loved with me, trusted me that much… I'm deeply honoured, Kathryn. You've no idea what it means to me. You let go. You were yourself completely. The amount of love and trust it takes for that, especially after…" He paused. "To trust me like that after you were so betrayed. Kathryn, I'm so honoured and I love you for that, so much." He leaned in and kissed her softly.

"Chakotay, I've never felt closer to anyone as I do with you. I've never felt safer. You stirred feelings within me…" She blushed again. "Not just the physical, although that was beyond anything I've ever known, much less believed possible. It's like you awakened something inside me, this sexual being I never knew was there. It was…" She hesitated and Chakotay stroked her face.

"You can talk about anything with me, Kathryn."

She smiled and nodded. "I know and that's even amazing to me." She scratched at her chin. "I was lucky before if I managed once, for me I mean, one orgasm. My best was one and a half…" He frowned and she blushed again. "Mark almost got me there a second time but it didn't work and he never cared much for… I mean, with his mouth, only his hands."

Chakotay just nodded. "Then that was his loss."

Kathryn smiled shyly again. "With you, it was… God Chakotay, four times and one by just, well…"

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. "You've never had an orgasm just from penetration?"

She shook her head. "Never, and then to discover… I've never even done it from behind, even without…" She drew in a breath. "Even without anal sex." She seemed proud of herself and Chakotay smiled.

"Well then, I'm doubly honoured. Kathryn, I always want us to talk. No matter what it is. We tell each other what we like and dislike. If we want to try something, we discuss it. Nothing is off limits…"

Kathryn grinned. "OK, but I'm not doing it in the middle of the bridge with Tom Paris and the bridge crew watching."

Chakotay pouted. "Damn, that was first on my list. Come on, love, it'd be fun."

She swatted him. "Maybe when we get home and Voyager is in dock, I'll clear the ship and then…"

Chakotay grinned now. "Lady, I'll hold you to that." He grew serious now. "You're not sorry in any way about us?"

Kathryn's mood matched his now. "Never. I'm sorry I waited so long and I'm sorry for what it took to bring me to you, but no."

He pushed a stray lock of hair back from her face. "And you're OK about that, with us, with…?"

Kathryn stroked a finger over his lips. "I'm fine. One has nothing to do with the other. I know that. As I am here with you bears no relation to what happened before. I'm not stupid. I know I still have some things to deal with but I'm getting there and this has been an enormous step, the physical side I mean. The emotional side, how much I love you and trust you, that's separate and was there already."

Chakotay almost cried and pulled her into his arms. "I love you so much, Kathryn Janeway."

She held him tightly. "I love you too, Chakotay." They held each other for some time, until Chakotay pulled back.

"Let's get a shower and I'll make up the bed again. It's kind of messed up. Then we'll sleep and in the morning, we'll wake up beside each other and tell each other again how much we love one another, exactly like we planned."


"Oh God. These hard floors weren't made for this, or my aging back."

Chakotay laughed and groaned at the same time. "It was worth it though. You're incredible."

Kathryn grinned and rolled over on top of him, licking her lips. "Well, I did promise you this."

Chakotay groaned again and sat up, taking her with him. "I know you did." He smirked. "Think they've missed us from the party yet?"

Kathryn shrugged. "Who cares? Rank has its privileges."

Chakotay rubbed an elbow. "You're sure there's no one on board? Even the Starfleet Engineers?"

Kathryn shook her head. "I did a full scan, covered all security aspects."

Chakotay shook his head and looked around the deserted bridge. "I'll miss this place."

Kathryn grew sombre with him. "It's only for six months until she gets her re-fit. In the meantime, we can take a much-needed vacation. Mom's dying to get to know the twins, as is Phoebe."

Chakotay smiled softly and staggered to his feet, readjusting his uniform. "Are you sure your Mom's going to be able to cope with two kids, especially at their age? You know what they say about the terrible twos."

Kathryn shrugged. "She's survived Phoebe's four." She groaned at that. "I can't believe my prissy sister has four kids."

Chakotay grinned. "Auntie Kathryn." He jumped back to avoid the fist that flew his way.

"Shut up, Uncle Chakotay and help me up."

He did a mock salute. "Yes, Ma'am." He pulled her to her feet and helped her with her uniform. They just smiled softly at each other for a moment and then slipped their arms around each other.

"You're not sorry you turned down the chance to return to the Delta Quadrant?" One look at her face answered that. "OK, I agree with you there. What about the promotion though? Admiral?"

She shook her head quickly, not needing to think about that. "No. I'm a captain and that's all I want to be. Short hops on Voyager in the Alpha Quadrant are fine by me. Besides…" She turned and played with the extra pip on his collar. "Captain Chakotay will be with me alongside our wonderful son and daughter. We're equal partners in crime now." She smiled and dropped her head to the side. "We're really setting a precedence with this. Two captains on one ship with their kids in tow. I still can't believe they went for it."

Chakotay stroked her hair. "They know a good thing when they see it. Besides, they'd agree to anything for their golden girl. We're all superstars now." Kathryn grinned at that. Chakotay smiled softly. "No regrets then?"

Kathryn shook her head. "None. We have it all. We'll still have the space travel but we'll have so much more time at home and in the end, that's all that matters." She gazed lovingly at him. "You, my husband, you and our children, love and family. Nothing else matters. It's all by the way. I learned that a long time ago."

Chakotay nodded and hugged her tightly. "We learned it together." They kissed long and slow. "Come on. We'd better get back before a search party comes looking for us or the kids start screaming."

Kathryn took a last look around then looked up at her husband. "There's one other thing I'd like to do."

He wasn't sure and yet he thought he knew. "OK. Want me to come with you?" She nodded and held out her hand. With a last look behind them, they left the bridge.

It didn't take long and Chakotay stood back as Kathryn stood in the middle of Peter Jenkins' old quarters.

"If anywhere, I think here. Rather than engineering, I mean." She looked back at Chakotay and he nodded. Kathryn turned back and looked around the room, cleared now, the young ensign's belongings returned to his family. Such was the loyalty of Kathryn's crew, to her and Chakotay, and to Peter Jenkins, that nothing was entered in any logs, official or private, about how the young man had really died or what had led up to it. 'In The Line Of Duty'. His family was proud of him and asked no questions. Their son was dead but he had died honourably and that was all that mattered.

Thiro was also dead. They'd discovered that within two days of their return. The circumstances surrounding his death were sketchy at best but no one really cared. His body had been interred on an obscure planet somewhere, his fanatical and delusional ideals buried with him.

Chakotay watched his wife closely as she looked around her, knowing her thoughts and memories but relieved to see they brought her no pain now, only a sadness which she could leave behind her.

"Goodbye, Peter. Rest well. I hope you're at peace. Thank you for all you gave me." She felt a few tears slip down her face and then Chakotay's hand on her shoulder. She nodded tearfully, remembering another time when they'd stood like this, in another place, after Amelia Earhart and the 37's, when all their crew, their family, had elected to remain onboard. She smiled now and turned to look up into her husband's face and saw that he also remembered.

"Let's go home, Chakotay. Let's go home."