Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17
When a trading mission to a misogynistic world goes disastrously wrong, the away team members are left to pick up the pieces. Despite being back on board Voyager, the threat still looms. Can Kathryn and Chakotay ever put their lives back together?
The idea for this story came from Betrayed by Crusher. Many thanks for her permission to use it. Check out her stories at http://www.geocities.com/believe1013/

The Dearest And The Best

by Kat Lady

Part One.

Chakotay sat uneasily in his chair and risked a sideways glance at his captain, not knowing whether to laugh or be nervous by the barely controlled expression of anger on her face. He forced his eyes forward again before she caught him watching her and tried to focus on the words of the Ularian Ambassador as he droned on and on about the conditions which had to be met before any trade between Ular and Voyager could be undertaken.

While half his mind took in the long-winded speech of the alien, the other half studied the room in which they sat. Kathryn and four other women from the ship, B'Elanna included, were the only females present and as a result, stood out. The Ambassador was surrounded by male attendants, the only Ularian females Chakotay had seen so far having been quickly dismissed once they'd served their 'master' and his guests with refreshments. The fact that their faces had been covered had not been missed by any of the crew. He let his eyes scan the room, the long table and high backed chairs the only furnishings and the light being provided by small windows high up in the rough stone walls. What resembled tapestries hung from the same walls depicting scenes of previous battles, where members of the Ularian race tore others limb from limb in images of blood and gore.

Chakotay looked once more at his captain and the other women from Voyager, knowing how uneasily all this sat with them. He'd been informed that 'his females' were not permitted to sit at the table with their male counterparts, but were required to sit back from them. They'd also been required to dress according to local custom, their bodies well covered with loose robes and a form of scarf on their heads. They were at least allowed to show their faces and attend these meetings, the only concessions permitted to them as visitors. The Ularian women would never have been allowed to show their faces, especially those who were mated. Their only purpose, according to the Ularian leader, was work and child bearing. Chakotay had actually been proud of Kathryn and especially B'Elanna, when they'd managed to accept these terms without causing a full-scale riot. For now, he forced his mind to concentrate on the matter at hand.

When Ambassador Brolar finished speaking, he rose quickly, his arrogance assuming that no one would question his words, and with a snap of his fingers, left the room, his gesture ensuring that his entourage was right behind him. Chakotay sighed with relief and turned slowly to look at Kathryn, knowing what was coming.

"The damned cheek." Her words weren't loud but he could hear how indignant she was. He saw however, how she understood that they had little choice in the matter. This government refused to deal with females directly or even indirectly, but Voyager was in dire need of supplies and at this moment, the supplies came first and Chakotay saw that Kathryn knew that only too well.

"Am I supposed to be grateful that he at least allows us mere females to tag along behind you superior males?" Chakotay did his best to keep a straight face but was rapidly losing the battle, a fact which only seemed to irk his captain more. He watched as she nodded to the others, silently telling them that they were dismissed and he watched them leave, seeing B'Elanna's struggle to hold her tongue until they were out of earshot.

"This is his world and we're the visitors, Kathryn. We're lucky to have won the concession of having women here at all. Besides, you said it yourself. Voyager badly needs these supplies. It's only for a few days."

Kathryn nodded reluctantly as they stood and slowly let a tiny smile invade her features. "You're probably enjoying this." He bit his lip to keep his laugh from bubbling to the surface. Kathryn smiled a little herself and shook her head. "Tom's certainly trying to make the most of it although B'Elanna isn't letting him away with it."

Chakotay gave up trying to hold his laughter back. "I actually pity Tom when B'Elanna gets him back on Voyager. He'll pay big time."

Kathryn allowed herself a small laugh. "I'd like to be a fly on the wall for that one."

Chakotay's eyes widened. "Really, Captain, are you telling me you have some voyeuristic tendencies I know nothing of?"

Kathryn laughed and slapped his arm. "Watch it, Commander."

Chakotay gave her a mock stern look. "Now woman, remember your place." He yelped when she smacked his arm again. "Watch it. I might just have to report you to Ambassador Brolar and let him deal with you. I mean really. An inferior female daring to strike a superior male." He barely jumped back in time to avoid another smack and stopped suddenly when he saw an Ularian male attendant watching them closely.

He moved back to Kathryn now and took her arm. "Just play along with me. We're being watched."

Kathryn nodded quietly but whispered just loud enough for Chakotay to hear. "Just you wait until we get back to Voyager. Tom isn't the only one who'll need the Doctor."

Chakotay groaned softly. "Oh God, I can't wait." They both nodded curtly to the attendant as they passed and returned to the small cabin like structure they'd been issued with for their stay. The building was on the outskirts of the city, well away from the lights and noise of the main population and they enjoyed the peace and quiet. Kathryn in particular could never wait to get back to their cabin and strip off the restrictive robes and scarf the women had to wear and knew B'Elanna and the others felt the same way. They were cumbersome, hot, and damned uncomfortable.

The rest of the away team had been issued with similar accommodation to that of their captain and commander, near enough to each other for contact but far enough away to ensure privacy for each set of occupants. Kathryn sat quietly now on the bed in their cabin while Chakotay took a shower and let her mind wander. It had been almost two months now since she'd finally let him into her life and just over a month since she'd let him into her bed and she hadn't regretted her decision for one second. She smiled softly to herself as memories flitted across her mind of their time together, tinged with an element of sadness that she hadn't gone to him a lot sooner. Her thoughts then switched to their present situation.

Voyager had been running low on many vital supplies when they came across Ular and within seconds of being hailed by the Ularian authorities, Kathryn had understood that problems lay ahead, the Official on the viewscreen refusing immediately to deal with any female and demanding to speak with the highest ranking male Officer instead. Forcing herself to stay calm, Kathryn had stood back a little and let Chakotay take over with First Contact. From that time on, she'd been permitted to attend negotiations, but only as a silent observer and she knew how hard they'd had to fight for this concession. Tom accompanied them, along with B'Elanna, whose knowledge and expertise was vital but they were reduced to communicating through messages on padds, the women denied the right to speak in the presence of the male Officials. Kathryn had watched with well hidden annoyance and occasionally some humour, as B'Elanna had struggled to contain her temper.

Their away team was also comprised of Harry Kim, Joe Carey and Ensign Gary Cole from Engineering, along with Megan Delaney, Sam Wildman and Ensign Janice Porter who was taking care of checking all their foodstuffs. Kathryn would have preferred to have had Neelix with them but the Talaxian was confined to his bed for the next week with a virus and Ensign Porter who worked closely with him was the next best for the job.

Kathryn smiled to herself as she thought of how they looked, five men with what appeared to be their female attendants in tow. Despite the slight honour of the situation, she felt worried also and shook her head slowly, just wanting this mission over with.

Their hosts had insisted that the away team remain on the surface while negotiations were taking place and the rooms had been provided for them, each 'couple' being paired off. Kathryn was fine about sharing with Chakotay, comfortable now with the crew knowing of their relationship and while she knew that Tom and B'Elanna would have shared rooms anyway, she was well aware that the others were uncomfortable with the arrangements.

She shook her head and smiled at the memory of the terror filled look on Harry Kim's face when he learned that he'd been given a cabin with Megan Delaney. Megan had simply taken everything in her stride, appearing not to mind in the least, while Joe and Sam had seemed embarrassed yet a little eager at the opportunity. Kathryn smiled again to herself, knowing her suspicions regarding this couple were being proved correct. Gary Cole and Janice Porter had simply blushed deeply but had made no comment, their Starfleet training winning out over their personal feelings. The Ularians had simply expected that their male visitors would and should have a female to fill their bed at night.

Chakotay emerged now from the bathroom, a towel draped around his waist, droplets of water still dotting his shoulders and back after his shower. He smiled as he studied his captain and lover as she sat on the bed, her head down as she played with some loose hairs caught within the hairbrush she held. He moved over to her slowly and sat down on the bed beside her. "Are you all right? You look light years away."

She blinked and came out of her reverie, offering a small smile in his direction. "Sorry, love, just thinking about this whole situation. I can't shake off a feeling of… I don't know what I feel. Just…"

Chakotay took the brush from her hands and turned her slightly, stroking her hair before brushing it for her, knowing he was running the bristles through her hair for his own enjoyment more than anything else. He was capable of sitting for hours brushing out her hair, feeling the silky strands through his fingers. "Look, Kathryn, we've only two more days of this then we'll be on our way again. I know they make you very uncomfortable but we've been through this before. We've come across other societies like this."

Kathryn sighed and barely nodded, savouring the sensations of the man she loved running his fingers and the brush through her hair. If she wasn't careful, she'd fall asleep like this. "I know we have but… And it's not just their misogynistic attitudes that bother me or the way they treat their own women. God, they cover them up and treat them as if they barely exist. They serve and provide their children and don't exist outside of that." She sighed deeply and drew patterns on the bed cover with her fingers. "I guess I just feel there's something more sinister here. I mean the way they watch us so closely. Like earlier with that aide and I don't like the hostility I feel from them every time they look at me and the other women, especially me and B'Elanna, as if there's something more I just haven't put my finger on."

Chakotay stilled his hands a moment and nodded thoughtfully. "I know what you mean. Look, we'll just have to be careful for the next two days, maybe even just a day if things keep going as well as they have been with negotiations. Sam, Megan and Janice are fine and aren't drawing any attention."

Kathryn smiled and turned back to face him. "That's because they haven't a relationship to hide. It's a lot harder for B'Elanna and me. Megan, Janice and Sam are also used to… I don't mean this in a bad way but they're used to taking orders from Harry or Joe."

Chakotay nodded his understanding and smiled. "I know what you're trying to say. They're subordinates on the ship and that carries on here. Well, with the exception of Gary who's equal in rank to Janice but…" He held his hand up when she went to speak. "Kathryn, I know what you mean. There's nothing but respect there from these men for any crewmember, the women no different than the men but at the end of the day, Harry and Joe are higher in rank. That's just the fact of the matter and it's bound to show in some way. Technically, that's just the way it is and the way we have to play it up for these people until we get what we want and can get out of here. I know it's above the call of duty asking them to share quarters but it's what's expected here and like the old saying goes, 'when in Rome'…"

Kathryn sighed deeply and nodded, knowing they had no other choice. "I'm well aware that B'Elanna and I are drawing more attention from them. I guess we just appear stronger. As you said, I know it's a fallout from the command structure on Voyager. We're trying to play it down but it's not easy to be someone you're not." She shook her head and sighed. "I just hope we can get this all settled tomorrow. With any luck, we can be out of here by the next day. I'd prefer to leave as soon as we conclude our business but…"

Chakotay blew out a breath. "I know. They have this lavish dinner in celebration of good business or whatever they call it. After tonight, we'll have one more night on this planet and then we're gone. I'd have preferred to leave immediately after the banquet too but it's considered bad manners to do that." He smiled, trying to lighten the mood. "Besides, another night of passion on shore leave with the woman I love isn't too much of a strain. At least in this cabin, we can be ourselves and you can boss me around." He expected Kathryn to laugh but instead saw a worried and serious look on her face and his smile altered quickly to a frown. "Kathryn?"

She shook her head slightly, her voice low and hesitant. "I don't ever make you feel…well…" Chakotay's frown grew deeper and he leaned back a little from her. "I know I'm your captain but when we're alone and off duty…" She hesitated a moment and stared deeply into his eyes, a worried look in them. "Do I boss you around or ever make you feel less…or…?"

Chakotay shook his head, understanding her now. "That was a joke. Kathryn, listen to me. On duty, you're my captain. That was established already and that's the way it works. I have no problems with that and never have had any. You know that. I acknowledged you as captain the first day."

He saw her nod but she still seemed unsure. "I know that but… I mean with us, off duty. I don't pull rank or use my position…"

Chakotay stroked her face and hair. "Kathryn Janeway, you never make me feel less than what I am. In fact, you make me feel more than I ever believed I could be. You don't ever diminish my belief in myself, as a man or as an Officer. We're equals when we're together and I wouldn't want it any other way. On duty, you're my captain and I'll always follow your orders, even when I disagree." He smiled slightly. "When it's just Kathryn and Chakotay, I'd never want us to be anything other than equal in everything we do and say. You've never made me feel otherwise and I love you for that. Our ranks have always stayed outside the door when it's just us. Even before we got together, when we were just friends, that still stood." His face was serious now, getting the truth of his words across to her and he saw her smile and nod, accepting that truth. He smiled now. "However, in bed, maybe I like to be commanded there too sometimes."

She saw his desire and surrendered her serious look. "Oh really? Well, there are times I don't mind being commanded there either. After a long day of being captain, it's nice to have someone else give the orders."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. "Oh I see. Well, in that case…" Kathryn squealed as he jumped on her and pinned her to the bed, his body hard against hers. "Prepare to be commanded then, Captain." He smiled down at her, his desire showing clearly in more ways than one.

Kathryn leered up at him. "Well, come on then, superior male. Take me."

He didn't need to be told twice.

Negotiations went smoothly the next day, Brolar and the other Officials dealing swiftly with Chakotay and the other men, while they totally ignored Kathryn and the women. On the odd occasion when Chakotay needed to check something with Kathryn, the Officials didn't even try to hide their disgust that any male would seek the permission or input of a female on any matter. Kathryn and the other women were well aware of the looks they received from Brolar and the Ularian males but held their emotions well in check.

By the end of the day, all business had been taken care of to the satisfaction of all parties and the negotiations were declared a success by Brolar. He gave them curt instructions about the banquet which would take place that evening and promised that all supplies would be aboard Voyager before that time. With this, he immediately left the room.

"Thank God that's all finally over." Kathryn leaned back in her chair and rubbed the back of her neck, trying to ignore the feelings that stirred inside her as a result of the look on Chakotay's face as he watched her. She hid her smile and knew that within minutes of entering the privacy of their rooms, a satisfying neck rub would come her way. She also knew what it would lead to. She briefly wondered how he could even begin to find her attractive at this moment though, barely able to see any part of her. She shut her train of thought off and spoke to her crewmembers. "Right, that's all dealt with. Now we just need to get through this evening. Relax until then."

They all nodded their agreement and returned to their cabins.

Just before they left for the celebration dinner that evening, Kathryn checked in with Tuvok and ascertained that all supplies had been beamed aboard Voyager. Satisfied with all matters relating to their trade, she informed the Vulcan that they'd return to the ship early the next morning and closed the link.

"I feel better with Tuvok remaining on Voyager and knowing that all our supplies are onboard takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. Once we get through this damned banquet, I'll feel a bit better but I don't think I'll really relax until we break orbit and get on our way again."

Chakotay nodded as he helped her with the fasteners on the back of the restrictive robe she was required to wear. "This time tomorrow you'll wonder why you ever worried about any of it."

She lifted her hand and covered one of his which rested on her shoulder. "I hope you're right. I just still can't shake this feeling." She gripped his hand a little tighter and drew in a deep breath. "Come on, let's just get this over with." She stood and turned into his arms, letting her lips brush his.

"Now, Kathryn, that's not the way to get us moving out of here." He leaned in closer and trailed his lips down her neck through the fabric covering her, Kathryn dropping her head back and letting a slight moan escape her lips.

With superhuman strength, she pulled back. "I know. I know. Oh God, I just want to stay here and…"

Chakotay pulled back too. "Come on, let's go. We'll never get out of here otherwise."

Holding hands, they left the cabin and made their way out.

Voyager's away team gasped as they entered the lavish banqueting hall and witnessed the opulent spread which had been laid on to celebrate the conclusion of their negotiations. Kathryn let her eyes scan the room, immediately noticing the lack of women in attendance, even as escorts. Eventually she noticed a small group in the far corner of the hall and shook her head, wondering if they were there to serve, be watched or were part of the 'entertainment' later on for the Ularian male attendees.

They'd all noticed the marked lack of Ularian females in evidence during their negotiations, except those who brought refreshments into the room where they met for business. These women had always kept their heads well down and backed out of the room as quickly and quietly as possible once they'd set their trays down. During the few times they'd been on the streets of the capital city, the women they saw seemed to stay hidden in the shadows, pulling their female children along with them, while their male offspring walked arrogantly ahead of them, superiority being inbred into them at an early age. Kathryn had been shocked to witness the insolent way these young boys addressed their mothers.

As she stood back a little from Chakotay now to avoid attracting attention, she noticed the other women on the team following her lead. She looked back towards the far corner of the hall and shook her head sadly at the group of Ularian women huddled together, their heads down, not daring to make eye contact with any of the men present. As she looked around her more closely, she then noticed a few women who mingled through the crowd passing out drinks but saw that they had their faces covered for the evening and closed her eyes a moment, an attempt to control her anger.

She opened her eyes again as she felt a hand on her arm and looked up to see Chakotay smiling down at her. He leaned down and whispered quietly to her. "Only a few more hours of this. Three or four at the most."

She smiled back at him and nodded her head. "You read me too well." She looked round quickly as she caught Brolar approach them from the corner of her eye and looked down. She knew well now that looking him directly in the eye was considered an insult. They were close to leaving this world and all supplies were already onboard. She wasn't going to jeopardize their deal now. She turned and looked to B'Elanna, sending her a tacit warning. The young Klingon woman nodded her head slightly, letting her captain know that she was trying her best.

"Ahhh, Commander Chakotay, welcome to you and your…people…" Brolar smiled falsely and met eyes with only the men in the group, ignoring Kathryn and the women. "I do hope you enjoy your evening and that the meal will be to your satisfaction." He hesitated a moment and let his eyes scan the women now, looking through them more than at them. "Perhaps a little later, I could speak with you and your men alone. It's simply a tradition to acknowledge a negotiation well handled. An exchange of gratitude. I'm sure your females won't mind waiting for you here." He looked at Kathryn with a deep disgust. Chakotay looked at Kathryn and met her eyes. She barely nodded but saw that her exchange with her First Officer hadn't gone unnoticed by the Ularian leader. He didn't even try and hide the contempt he felt.

Chakotay nodded to their host. "Of course, Ambassador."

Brolar swept a hand in the air, changing his expression quickly. "Excellent. Well, eat now and enjoy the entertainment. I'll find you later and then you can all retire for the evening and be on your way in the morning." His eyes swept over Kathryn again and she felt herself shiver at the look in his eyes as they raked across her body. Within seconds, he'd moved away.

Chakotay looked at his Captain and saw how uncomfortable she was. "What was that about?"

She shook her head slightly. "I'm not sure. I just want to get this whole thing over with. The sooner we leave here the better."

Chakotay, Tom and the other men were seated at one table in the large hall while Kathryn and the women were seated at a separate table a bit back from them. The Ularians unease with this wasn't missed by anyone. They were making a sacrifice and wanted the fact well known. The food was adequate to their taste buds and Kathryn concentrated on her food and quiet conversation with B'Elanna and Sam who sat each side of her. They spoke softly and discussed mundane matters, making small talk to pass the time. Once Brolar stood at the end of the meal, attendants rushed forward to clear the large tables and drinks were served. Kathryn heaved a sigh of relief as Ularian women, their faces still covered, hastily cleared the table in front of her and placed a drink in front of all Voyager's women. Kathryn eyed the glass and waited until Tom came over and scanned the liquid for her and the others, just as he'd done with their meal. He nodded quickly that it was safe and returned to Chakotay and the others. Kathryn sipped her drink, a not unpleasant flavour resembling blackcurrant and sat back, her mind ticking off the minutes at this stage, rather than the hours.

For the rest of the evening, the hall remained packed with Ularian males, massing in small groups, discussing trade and business, while Kathryn and her small group remained sitting. The only Ularian females present now were those who rushed around refilling glasses. Kathryn saw that Chakotay and the other men were constantly engaged in conversation with Brolar and other senior Officials but he always glanced over at her at regular intervals, his gentle smile reassuring her that she was in his thoughts constantly. She also saw that this wasn't unnoticed by Brolar and his men.

Finally towards the end of the evening, Brolar motioned for Chakotay and the men of Voyager's away team to join him in a side room for the exchange of gratitude. Chakotay glanced at his captain and she nodded her understanding. She caught sight of Brolar's expression at the exchange and felt a cold sliver of something run through her. She looked away quickly and took a drink. 'Only another hour or so.' She repeated her words in her mind like a mantra.

Chakotay sat with Tom and Harry on one long couch, Joe and Gary on another. Brolar droned on about how successful their trade had been and raised his glass, indicating that Voyager's men should join him in a toast. Chakotay noticed immediately that his drink tasted somewhat different and smiled at Brolar.
"Pardon me, Ambassador, but is this the same drink we had outside? I was sure…"

Brolar smiled politely. "It is a slightly different blend to what you ingested earlier."

Tom leaned forward now. "Ambassador, I really should have scanned it. I explained before how sometimes…"

He was cut off as Brolar stood and smiled down at him. "I assure you that it will not harm you in any way. The ingredients are quite safe. No different from what you drank earlier. I've merely added a little something to enhance it."

Chakotay grew instantly worried and looked up quickly. "Ambassador, I must insist…" Suddenly a wave of dizziness washed over him and he looked to the others, seeing that the drink was having the same effect on them. "What was in…?" His tongue felt three times its normal size in his mouth and he forced his head up to see Brolar approach him. He meant to try and stand but instead felt himself fall back against the back of the couch and saw that the others were similarly affected. Brolar's voice seemed to fill his mind as if amplified.

"You are excuses for males. You let your weak and inferior females rule you. No more. What I have given you now is a gift." His words swan around in Chakotay's mind, blocking out all else and he was vaguely aware of some of Brolar's men behind them, pressing something to their heads. He felt a slight stinging and grunted as a tightening sensation filled his head.

The voice droned on, filling his mind. "You let that female captain, that arrogant bitch, control your every thought." Chakotay was vaguely aware of a hand on his shoulder. "She controls you like a child, telling you what to do and when to do it. You have no spine. You need to teach her what her place is. Show her who is really in control." Chakotay's head rolled to the side as the voice continued. "And you…" He registered the leader leaning over Tom now. "Letting that female order you about. Well, no more. Enough of this. I will show you the true way for males to be." Chakotay fought to keep his eyes open but it was a losing battle. The voice continued on, invading his mind completely, taking every ounce of his will with it. He felt another sting to the back of his neck and moaned. After that, everything felt like it was happening to someone else before he slipped away into darkness.

Kathryn was growing impatient as she waited with B'Elanna and the others for the men to return. She fought to ignore the hostile stares they received from the Ularian males and tried to keep her eyes down on the table in front of her or at B'Elanna and the others, seeing the concern she felt mirrored in their eyes also. To her it seemed that almost half an hour had passed and she was growing more and more anxious. Her drink was replaced and she grabbed at it, wanting something to occupy her hands. Suddenly she spotted Chakotay and Tom exit a room at the far side of the great hall, followed quickly by Harry, Joe Carey and Gary Cole. Letting out a deep sigh of relief, her eyes followed their progress across the floor as they chatted amicably with Brolar and several other Ularian males. Kathryn leaned slightly sideways to B'Elanna and whispered to her Engineer. "About time. I was getting worried."

B'Elanna whispered back to her, her voice barely concealing a growl. "I was too. I'll make that fool pay for this waiting and worrying."

Kathryn allowed a small smile on her lips. "Just wait until we're back on Voyager before you do anything. We've one night left on this planet. I just want this visit over and done with. You have my full permission to make him pay big time after that."

B'Elanna smiled at that. "Thank you, Captain. I'll remind Tom that I have that 'full permission' when I wipe the floor with him."

They laughed together as their men finally made their way over to them. Kathryn finished off her drink and stood to join them.

Kathryn studied Chakotay closely as they made their way back to their accommodation after their final farewells with Brolar and his men. As per custom, Kathryn and the other women had stood back and refrained from speaking or making eye contact. Chakotay hadn't spoken since leaving the grand hall and Kathryn remained quiet, giving him time to himself, assuming that he was tired and knowing he'd speak when he was ready, but a strange feeling still disturbed her, a sense that something wasn't quite right. They'd been the last to leave, Chakotay speaking longer with Brolar than anyone else and she'd noticed that his manner had seemed a little more confident with the alien leader than it had been before, as if they shared a secret or something.

They'd already bid goodnight to the other members of the away team over twenty minutes before and now they walked slowly back to their cabin, Chakotay having stated that he needed the air and the exercise. There'd been something in his voice though that was different and Kathryn had simply nodded her agreement. She watched him now as he walked slightly ahead of her, his head down and his thoughts his own. One part of her wondered if perhaps he was wary of being watched and was keeping the act up for any unseen eyes which might be spying on them and yet that strange feeling still nagged at her, refusing to let go.

They finally entered their cabin and Kathryn relaxed as she closed the door behind her, stripping off the robes she wore, her body feeling cooler already. From outside, she'd been able to make out lights on in the other cabins, where Tom and B'Elanna and the others were staying, and knew that they'd all made it back well before she and Chakotay had. She smiled softly now as she watched him, his back to her and she leaned against the door.

"Alone at last. Thank God that's all over with. By morning we'll be on our way." He didn't answer her and she thought he might not have heard her. "Chakotay? Did you hear me?"

His answer was short. "I heard you." He still didn't turn to look at her. Instead he made his way to the bathroom. "Make some tea."

Kathryn watched his back as he entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him. She shook her head slightly. "Don't say please, whatever you do. I'm tired too you know." She pushed herself away from the door and quickly changed into her nightgown and robe, leaving her comm badge on the table. She then went over to the replicator or what passed for one on this planet and ordered tea before she sat and waited for Chakotay to join her. As she sipped at her own beverage, she heard the shower running and watched the bathroom door, trying to dismiss the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that something just wasn't right. She wondered for a moment if she'd upset him in some way earlier in the evening but dismissed that. They'd barely had a chance to speak so there was nothing in that.

Within ten minutes, she heard the water switch off and a few minutes after that, the door opened as Chakotay emerged wearing his dressing gown over his boxer shorts, tying his robe as he went. "Where's that tea?" Once again his voice was clipped.

Kathryn stared at him. "It's there." She pointed to the table in front of her. "It's probably cold now. You didn't say you were taking a shower and whatever happened to 'please'?" She watched as he sipped the tea and saw a disgusted look cross his face.

"It's cold. Make more."

Kathryn stared hard at him. "Of course it's cold. You took ages in there. What did you expect? And don't talk to me like that…" She jumped in shock as Chakotay threw the cup at her, narrowly missing her head, cool tea spilling everywhere and the cup shattering on the floor.

Kathryn jumped up in shock. "What the hell? Chakotay?" Her face was a mixture of shock and anger. "How dare you. What's wrong with you?"

She got no further. Chakotay was on her before she registered his movement. His hands went to her shoulders as he stared down into her face and Kathryn actually found herself shrinking under his glare.
"Don't you dare ever speak to me like that again. Do you understand me?" His voice was menacing as he shook her roughly and Kathryn was rooted to the spot at the venom in his voice.

"What's wrong with you? What happened to you with Brolar?"

His hands gripped her shoulders more tightly now, his fingers digging into her, hurting her, as he pushed her back against the wall. "Don't question me, woman. You're not commanding me now. Just remember that outside of our duty, I'm the man."

Kathryn felt a stab of fear go through her. "Chakotay, something's wrong here. Please let me take you back to Voyager to see the Doctor."

He pulled her away from the wall and then slammed her back against the hard surface, knocking the wind out of her. "So you can try and control me again? I don't think so. It's about time you damned well learned your place and I know just where that is. Under my control."

Kathryn stared in horror at the man looming over her. "Chakotay, this isn't you. What did he do to you? Please love, you're hurting me."

He tightened his grip on her again as tears began to fill her eyes. "They showed me how to be the man that I should be. Not the mouse you try and make me."

She struggled against him and her thoughts flew to the others. "Oh God, he did this to you all. What about the others? I've got to check on them. Chakotay, let me go."

He easily controlled her struggles and laughed down at her. "You're not going anywhere. Now shut up and obey me."

Kathryn pushed hard against him, knowing she had to get away. She wasn't thinking of herself or her own safety, but only of Chakotay and the others. "Let me go. Chakotay, you're not yourself." She felt one of his hands release her a split second before his fist came down on her face, causing her to see stars. She fell back against the wall in deep shock, one hand going to her face, massaging her stinging and throbbing cheek. Tears instantly filled her eyes, more with emotional pain than physical.

Chakotay just stared hard at her. "Don't you dare answer me back. We're not on the ship now."

Kathryn felt her fear rising, trying desperately to force it down in order to think straight. Was this what B'Elanna and the other women were going through at this moment? She lowered her eyes from the sight of the man above her and slid down the wall. She didn't want to see him like this, this stranger replacing the loving and gentle man she loved.

Kathryn cried out now as she felt herself being pulled to her feet and found herself staring into dead eyes, the brown orbs she knew so well filled with nothing she recognized. She felt him shake her roughly.

"You need to know your place in my life and be taught how to behave. You kept me waiting long enough. You have your duty so perform it." He pulled at her, dragging her towards him. Kathryn shook her head, her thoughts swirling in her mind, as tears poured down her face.

"Chakotay, please, this isn't you. Please hear me. Please, love." Her words might as well have been silent. His face didn't change as she began to struggle against him again but it was useless. Each renewed struggle only earned her another smack in the face and she now tasted blood in her mouth, knowing he'd split her lip. She felt him drag her towards the bed, his hands already pulling at her robe and cried out as she realized his intent.

"Oh God, Chakotay, no. Please no. Don't do this. Not to us. Please." She fought him harder than ever, not afraid of what he'd do to her but of what the act would do to them both, with the knowledge of it later on.

Voyager's EMH shook his head as he scanned his patient and studied the readings before him. "And you say he just turned on you?"

B'Elanna nodded, her arms folded as she tried to hide her tears. "I don't understand. It just wasn't Tom. Not the man I know."

The Doctor looked up now and tried a small smile. "What else? I need to know all the details."

B'Elanna nodded, trying to calm herself in order to focus and get her thoughts straight. There was no sign of the engineer the medic normally knew, only a confused and frightened woman, worried about the man she loved.

"They were gone, the men, from the hall for about half an hour. Something to do with an 'exchange of gratitude' with that Brolar and his men. The captain was getting impatient and so was I. The others too. They finally came back and we said our farewells. Well, the men did. Us mere females weren't allowed to speak." Her disgust showed for a moment and a spark of anger along with it. She shook her head sadly now as she remembered.

"Tom was quiet on the way home." She thought a moment. "So were the others, in fact, but I didn't think much of it. I assumed they were as tired as we were and just wanted to get back to the ship and be on our way. I'd had enough of Ular and I know the other women felt the same way, even the men." Her voice trailed off a moment. "Tom was quiet all the way back as I said and then… When we got into the cabin, I told him I wanted a shower. It's so hot with those damned robes on. He suddenly changed and started shouting at me, telling me he would go first as he was the man, that I needed to know my place. He got so angry and… I don't know. I saw a man I didn't know. Tom just became this complete stranger to me. He kept shouting at me, verbally abusive like I've never heard him before and then…then he hit me." She looked up, tears in her eyes and saw the look of shock on the face of the EMH.

"He hit you? Tom?"

She nodded and pointed to the side of her head. "He tried to hit me again, pull me towards the door. Said something about me knowing my place. I think for a minute he was going to throw me out but then seemed to change his mind and tried to push me towards the bed. Said something about my 'wifely duty'. I fought back." The Doctor nodded, knowing that few men would be a match for the physical strength of the woman before him. He saw her let her tears fall freely now. "I knocked him out, couldn't think of what else to do. I knew something was very wrong." She fought her tears and looked down at the floor. "What's the matter with him, Doc? Something's very wrong." She looked up quickly. "What's wrong with him? Why did he act like that?" Her eyes and voice pleaded for answers, something to help her understand how the man she knew could turn on her so suddenly.

The Doctor shook his head and checked his readings again before pressing a hypo to Tom's neck. "I don't know if I have all the answers for you. I'm detecting a drug in his system and I've just administered something to counteract it. There are some puncture wounds at the base of his skull also. I'm assuming that some device was used to stimulate his brain but I just don't know. What I can tell you is that he'll be fine. I've sedated him for the moment. Perhaps he'll be able to tell us more when he wakes up." He smiled slightly at the look of relief on B'Elanna's face. "A mild concussion and he'll have a hell of a headache in the morning." He watched the tough Klingon woman stare down at her husband with tears in her eyes.

Finally she nodded and took a few moments to calm her breathing. She then looked up suddenly. "Oh God, the others. Do you think they're all right? If this was done to Tom, it must have been done to the others too. What about…?"

The Medic suddenly seemed to get on her wavelength and immediately slapped his comm badge. "Doctor to Commander Tuvok, please report to sickbay." He watched B'Elanna now as she stood with her back to him, knowing the emotional pain she was in, as she tried to control what she was feeling. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and felt her shiver. "Ms. Torres, I can't answer your questions right now but I'm worried too." He shook his head, having nothing further to offer by way of comfort. He quickly treated her bruises while they waited for Tuvok.

Tuvok stood and listened to everything B'Elanna and the Doctor told him, nothing showing on his face. As soon as they finished speaking, he went into action. "I would suggest we recall the rest of the away team and…" Before he'd even finished speaking, they were hailed by Megan Delaney, the tears in her voice clear for all to hear.

Within five minutes, a distraught and confused Harry Kim was mildly sedated on a biobed, his aggression plain to see. "Why couldn't you just do as you were told?" He glared at a weeping Megan, her eye already swelling from the blow the man before her had inflicted on her just minutes earlier. Tuvok and B'Elanna watched as the Doctor scanned his new patient and then looked up at them.

"The readings are identical. The same drug is in his system, although not as high as with Mr. Paris. There is also the same evidence of puncture marks at the base of the head as if something was applied there, some device. I can't speculate more without further investigation. It's like they've been manipulated in some way, from what you've said and what I've found. I just can't say at this moment. I'll need to know more first. At least I have something that counteracts this drug and causes it to dissipate quickly." He pressed a hypo to Harry's neck and saw his aggression fade, to be replaced by a deep confusion.

"I told her…I… Why did I?" He stared at those around him, the emotions warring with each other on his face but the confusion winning out. "How did I get here? I was…?" He looked at Megan. "You were…" The Doctor shook his head and pressed a sedative to the young Ensign's neck, watching it take effect immediately. He lowered the young man to the biobed as Megan sobbed quietly.

The Doctor shook his head. "I'd prefer to let the drug work its own way out first, before he tries to understand what's happened to him." As he spoke, Sam Wildman contacted the ship and had Joe Carey beamed back, her story almost verbatim. She stood holding her wrist. A few minutes after that, Janice Porter had Gary Cole beamed to the Doctor's care, her story different from the others. For some reason, Gary had taken his rage out on himself, leaving a very frightened Ensign Porter to get help for him.

B'Elanna turned to Tuvok now with a look of fear on her face and went to speak but saw by his expression that he'd already anticipated her words. Without a word to anyone, he tried hailing his captain and commander. There was no reply.

B'Elanna let her panic show yet tried desperately to control it. "Maybe they're all right. We all left first. They were still there. If we hurry…"

Tuvok ignored her, his calmness controlling the situation. "Can you leave your patients, Doctor?"

The medic nodded as he pressed hypos to their necks, sedating them all. None of them had missed the sense of urgency in the Vulcan's voice.

"They'll be fine. The doses with Mr. Carey and Mr. Cole are low too. Mr. Paris has the highest." He turned now and ran the dermal regenerator over Megan's eye, smiling comfortingly at the young woman. He then moved to heal the deep bruises which were forming on Sam Wildman's wrist. "I've sedated the men and they'll sleep until morning. I'll hail Ensign Myers and she can monitor them until we return." He administered sedatives to Sam, Janice and Megan and ordered them to return to their quarters for rest. With that done, the three of them beamed down to the planet, unsure of what they would find.

Kathryn fought Chakotay with everything that she had, but she was no match for his strength.

"Stop fighting me. You know your place." She struggled fiercely against him, tears pouring down her face, as they crashed against furniture. She vaguely heard items smashing to the floor.

"Please, Chakotay, don't do this. Don't destroy what we have." Her words didn't reach him as he smacked her across the face again and threw her down onto the bed. He was on her immediately, pulling at her clothes and grabbing her wrists, pinning them above her head. She felt his other hand at her breasts, squeezing painfully and then moving down to pull at the hem of her nightdress.

Kathryn realized that the more she struggled against him, the more injuries she was getting and suddenly gave up, accepting now that there was no way she could fight what was about to happen. Sensing her lack of struggle, Chakotay let go of her wrists and leaned back off her, pulling and tearing at her nightgown and robe before ripping her panties away. His hands on her were rough and bruising, as his knees pressed between her legs.

"Open your damned legs. Spread them." His voice was alien to her as his fingers dug into the tender flesh of her thighs. Kathryn obeyed meekly, as sobs tore through her. She felt him hot and hard against her and cried out to him.

"Chakotay, please don't do this. I beg you. I love you. Please don't. You'll hurt me. I'm not ready."

He didn't seem to hear her at all and just tore into her, ignoring her scream of pain. She felt herself tearing as he rammed himself home. His thrusts were relentless, pushing the breath from her with each powerful plunging, the friction inside her increasing the agony with each movement he made. His hands still mauled her body as he took her forcefully, his grunts and moans in competition with her cries. Finally he pulled out and leaned back, then flipped her over onto her stomach like a rag doll, climbing back onto her and forcing his way inside her again. Kathryn continued to cry and scream out, despite her best efforts not to, but he ignored her as he ravished her for his own ends, scratching and biting at her. Once more he pulled out and roughly tossed her over onto her back, entering her again and continuing with his attack. Kathryn fought to breathe as the torture went on and on, pain coursing through her, but throughout it all, she never once felt any hate for the man who was doing this to her. This was Chakotay, the man she loved and someone else had made him to do this to her. This wasn't him. She stared into the dead and glazed eyes above her, recognizing nothing of the man she loved within their depths. A whisper repeated from her lips now.

"We'll get through this. We love each other. It'll be all right." She felt him falter now, knowing it was nearly over and she prayed that they'd survive this. Not her, but they. He thrust brutally against her one final time, filling her and emptying himself inside her, his fluid easing the stinging agony she felt. As he fell over her, crushing her, she whispered tearfully to him. "We'll survive this. I still love you. It'll be all right. It's not your fault." Her hands came up to stroke his hair but her words were wasted on him.

Unable to breath, she pushed hard against him and he suddenly moved, slipping out of her, his fluid running from her. Pain racked her lower body but she managed to ease herself out from under him, knowing she had to get help for him. Not for one minute did she think of her own injuries. She twisted herself away from him and tried to stand up, as shooting pains tore up through her. She cried out and as if she'd suddenly alerted him to her presence, he made a grab at her.

"Get back here, you whore. I'm not finished with you." His words cut into her as she pulled away from him. She managed to stand and tried to move as he lunged at her, falling to the floor in his effort but managing to grab her ankle. Kathryn crashed to the floor beside him, her head smashing painfully off the table close to the bed. Lights exploded inside her head and she lay there for a moment before some survival instinct kicked in. She pulled herself up, kicking his hold off her ankle and made for the door, his voice roaring insults after her. She pulled the door open and ran into the night, not knowing where she was headed, blood pouring from her head wound into her eyes and down her face.

Kathryn was only aware of running and pain. Her vision was getting blurred and her thinking became more unclear and sluggish as the minutes passed. Her bare feet throbbed painfully and spasms consumed her lower body. She remembered her comm badge a moment and went to slap it, only to find that she wasn't wearing it. She looked around her and barely saw that she was in a field of some kind. Agony continued to assault her entire body and a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over. Her head felt ready to explode and what little light there was began to fade as she felt herself falling. After that, she knew nothing.

B'Elanna was letting hate and anger control her now, depending on these familiar emotions to keep her going and deal with the ones she couldn't understand. She was ahead of Tuvok and the Doctor as they entered the cabin which had been shared by their captain and commander. The scene before them stopped them in their tracks for a moment.

B'Elanna shook her head as she saw the upturned furniture and smashed dishes. It was obvious to anyone that a fierce struggle had taken place in this room. She saw Chakotay now, lying on the floor, almost unconscious and rushed to him. Tuvok helped her sit the big man up against the bed and let the Doctor go to work. B'Elanna then saw the crumpled state of the bedclothes and the blood smears on the cover and knew what had happened, even before she saw her captain's torn underwear lying on the floor. She picked the item up and looked quickly at Tuvok and saw that he also knew. She turned away and her eye caught sight of a comm badge on the table. She looked over at Chakotay then saw his uniform on a chair, his comm badge still attached to it. "We have to find her but without this…"

Tuvok nodded grimly and contacted the ship, ordering a scan of their location to trace the captain using her bio signature. A grown was heard then and they turned to see Chakotay starting to come back to himself. His eyes were unfocused for a moment as the Doctor pressed another hypo to his neck.

"I've administered the same agent I used with the others to counter the effects of the drug they were all given, a little more in this case. That was a second dose. As with Mr. Paris, the level of whatever they were given is much higher with the commander. In fact, it's even higher still for some reason. Now as I said before, I believe their brains were stimulated in some way to act with that drug. One probably can't work without the other. I just don't know yet." He scanned his patient. "The drug is dissipating now. He'll be more lucid in a few minutes. I won't sedate him yet."

Tuvok nodded and leaned down to his Commanding Officer. "Commander Chakotay, can you hear me? Can you understand what has happened and where you are?" He saw the confusion in the eyes before him.

"What…? Where am I? Kathryn? Where's Kathryn?" He tried to sit up and looked around him.

"Commander, take it easy. What do you remember?"

Chakotay shook his head as if trying to clear his mind. "I don't…" He looked around him and saw the devastation of the room. "What happened here? Where's Kathryn?"

Tuvok gripped his arm. "Commander, we don't know. We are attempting to locate her at this moment." B'Elanna helped Tuvok as Chakotay tried to sit up suddenly.

"We have to find her. Where is she? What happened?" A wave of dizziness washed over him but he fought it.

The Doctor leaned over and pressed another hypo to his neck. "That's a mild sedative to calm him a little."

Chakotay tried to get loose of the hands which tried to hold him. "Kathryn. Where is she? Where is she?"

B'Elanna leaned into his line of vision. "Chakotay, we don't know but we'll find her. We found her comm badge here. We were hoping you might know."

His eyes flew to those of his old friend. "What happened to us? Why can't I remember?" His eyes slowly surveyed the room now and saw the upturned furniture and smashed plates. "Did someone or something attack us? Oh Spirits, is she all right? Why can't I…?" He struggled to stand and managed to get upright with some help. He continued to look around the room but what he was seeing wasn't registering with him in detail. They watched as he fought fiercely with the fog in his mind.

B'Elanna gripped his hands tightly, shaking him a little to make him look at her. "We'll find her first. She'll be fine. I know she will." She saw him still fighting his confusion.

"Where is she? Where did she go? Did someone take her?" He stared back at her. He tried to move towards the door. "I have to find her. She could be hurt."

Tuvok gripped his arm tightly. "Commander, listen to me. We will find her. I have Voyager scanning for her using her bio signature." He seemed to hesitate before continuing as if deciding how much information to divulge to his Commanding Officer in his present state of mind. "However, we need to find her before we alert the Ularian authorities." Chakotay stared at him, panic starting to take over from his confusion now. Just then, Voyager hailed the Vulcan and relayed a set of coordinates which he downloaded to his tricorder. "I have her location. We must go now." Chakotay nodded and made for the door, B'Elanna supporting him. Tuvok's voice stopped them. "Commander, it would be best if you returned to the ship and let us…"

Chakotay was alert enough to understand. "No way. I'm going with you. Kathryn needs me." They didn't have time to argue and Tuvok merely nodded, conceding immediately. His eyes met B'Elanna's, understanding passing between them.

Tuvok led the way, following the directions to the coordinates on his tricorder. Chakotay pushed himself on, despite how his head felt, his desperation to find Kathryn never once slowing them down. It took them about ten minutes before they saw her, lying face down and deadly still in a field, her torn clothing blowing in the cool night breeze. Chakotay immediately pulled from B'Elanna's grip on him and ran to her, dropping to his knees at her side.

"Oh Spirits, Kathryn, what happened to you? Who did this?" The Doctor pushed him out of the way and gently turned his captain over. Chakotay cried out when he saw her face, blood covering one side of it but not hiding the bruising and swelling already evident, nor her split lip. Some part of his mind registered the bruising already forming on her chest and thighs, along with her torn clothing. It even took in the smears of blood on her thighs but his brain wasn't ready to process what it saw. "Spirits, no. Kathryn." B'Elanna held him tightly to her. They watched the Doctor scan her and nod to Tuvok.

"We need to get her back to the ship now." Tuvok nodded and arranged the transport. Within a minute they were back in sickbay.

Chakotay stood and let B'Elanna hold him up as he watched the Doctor go to work. He looked around him in confusion as he saw Tom and the others lying on the other beds. "What happened down there? Why can't I remember?" He seemed like a hurt little boy as he looked into B'Elanna's eyes.

She smiled gently and led him to a chair. "We're not sure. Look, Chakotay, she'll be fine. We'll worry about the rest later." She could see him becoming more alert, odd things slipping back into place.

"I remember the dinner and Brolar." He felt B'Elanna stiffen beside him and looked up at her. "Was he…?"

B'Elanna gave him a tired smile of reassurance. "Chakotay, just take it easy. The captain will be…"

He shook her arm off his as he struggled with the fog in his brain. "What am I not remembering? Someone hurt Kathryn and I can't remember." He sat rocking himself back and forth for some time, trying to force his mind to some kind of order. Relieved not to have to answer him, B'Elanna just sat quietly beside him, holding him to her.

An hour passed in this way, Chakotay making the odd sound in his throat, his eyes reflecting a spark of memory for a moment, before something seemed to extinguish it. He looked up now when he heard the doors to sickbay open and saw Tuvok enter. As if in tandem, the Doctor came out from behind the privacy screen where he'd been working on his captain and Chakotay was aware enough to realize that the Doctor must have hailed the Vulcan and requested his presence. He looked up now at the medic, his eyes demanding answers.

"Commander, I'd prefer to do this in my office. I also need to treat you."

Chakotay shook his head. "I need to know if Kathryn is all right first. To hell with me."

The Doctor nodded and smiled slightly. "The captain will be just fine. I assure you. She'll sleep for the rest of the night. Once I've treated you, you can see her then."

Chakotay reluctantly seemed to accept this and stood slowly, still unsteady on his feet, allowing B'Elanna's assistance.

He sat now in the Doctor's enclosed office and stared at the desk in front of him. He felt the medic inject two hypos to his neck and rubbed the area for a moment. "Why can't I remember what happened? What did happen?" His mind was clearing a little more and he looked to Tuvok first and then the others, demanding answers. Tuvok looked to the Doctor and nodded.

The medic then sat behind his desk, a hypo containing a strong sedative close by his hand. He had a feeling he would need it. "Commander, I'll explain what I know and I'm aware that this will be hard but please try and stay calm." Chakotay eyed him with a growing fear in the pit of his stomach. "I take it you remember being at the dinner tonight?"

Chakotay barely nodded. "I remember that and then Brolar took us to another room, something about an expression of gratitude for a good negotiation and…" His voice trailed off. "It's not clear after that. I didn't drink much yet…" He looked up. I can't remember but maybe…" His head snapped up. "The others, Tom and… They were with me." He looked out over the sickbay quickly. "Why are they here? What happened to them? What the hell is going on?"

The tone of his voice was rising and the Doctor held up a hand. "Commander, please try and stay calm. I know this is very confusing and most likely frightening also."

Chakotay shook his head and wrung his hands together. "I have… They're not images or memories. They're more like feelings or impressions but I can't…" He looked up now, a light in his eyes like a sudden memory. "A drink. He gave us a drink but different. And his voice, saying something…" He looked around him, confused again. "Where did that suddenly come from?"

The Doctor shook his head sadly. "What I gave you is countering a drug you had in your system. That drug was also found in Tom and the others. The doses you and Tom received were higher though, yours the highest of all, which might explain why it's taking you longer to recall things." He watched the man before him digest this information.

"We were drugged? Was it them? Brolar and…?" He was getting angry now. "Was Kathryn given this also? B'Elanna?" He looked up at the woman beside him, seeing the answer for himself. "If you weren't…" He looked at Tuvok now. "Where are the others? Sam and Megan. Janice."

The Doctor coughed slightly. "They are in their quarters. They'll be fine. You all will."

Chakotay was starting to grow frustrated now on top of his anger but fought it. "Look, just tell me what the hell happened down there. I have a right to know." He watched the three before him exchange guarded looks and saw the medic nod permission to Tuvok. Chakotay turned his eyes to the Vulcan, his glare demanding the truth.

"Commander, we cannot be sure of exactly what transpired while you were in the side room with Ambassador Brolar and the others. We can only deduce that you were all drugged and manipulated or brainwashing in some way. By all of you, I mean the men. There was the drug the Doctor spoke of in your blood streams and also puncture marks at the base of your skulls." The Vulcan seemed uncomfortable for the first time in Chakotay's memory.

"The first I knew of this was when the Doctor hailed me and called me to sickbay. Ms. Torres had transported back to the ship with Mr. Paris." Chakotay looked briefly at B'Elanna but she wasn't meeting his eyes. "Upon the return to their cabin, Mr. Paris had grown aggressive and attacked her. He struck her before she managed to render him unconscious."

Chakotay shook his head in disbelief as his eyes flew to B'Elanna. She looked at him this time and he saw her tears. "Tom attacked you? He'd never… Why?" He stared at nothing now, fighting his groggy thoughts. He tried to control the fear growing in him and forced his breathing to calm down. "The others?" He was terrified suddenly of where this was all going. He looked to Tuvok again.

"Mr. Kim also attacked Ms. Delaney. He struck her on the side of the face. Mr. Carey caused some bruising to Ms. Wildman's wrist. Mr. Cole injured himself for some reason. Nothing serious with any of them."

Chakotay knew he was going into shock but fought it. Fear and dread like nothing he'd ever known before was crawling through him. "They were all drugged or something and attacked those with them." He reached out and gripped the desk in front of him. "I was drugged too and Kathryn… Kathryn was with me." He looked up at Tuvok now, his eyes filled with the deepest pain as he met the Vulcan's eyes. His voice was barely a whisper. "I did it. It was me, wasn't it? I hurt her. I hurt Kathryn. I did that to her. Oh sweet Spirits…" He felt B'Elanna's arms come around him but nothing would comfort him now. "Nooo. Please say I didn't. Please." He stared deeply at Tuvok, his eyes begging the man before him to end this nightmare, tell him he was wrong, that it hadn't happened.

B'Elanna hugged him tighter. "Chakotay, listen to me now. It wasn't you. It wasn't Tom. You weren't yourselves. You weren't responsible."

He pulled away from her roughly and jumped up. "Who was it then?"

She wasn't taking this and let him know it. She used her anger to try and get him to see the truth, to lay the blame where it belonged. "You were manipulated and drugged, just like the others were. That bastard did this to you, to us all. It wasn't you." She reached out to him and grabbed him. She shook him, almost rattling his teeth, knowing it was what he needed. She watched in fear as more memories started to clear in his mind.

"What else did I do to her? I was obviously the worst. What else?" No one answered at first and then the Doctor moved towards them.

"Commander, you saw her. It looked a lot worse than it was. She's fine and will be fine. Look, come and see for yourself."

Chakotay pressed himself back against the wall of the small office, more and more memories coming to him now as the Doctor's treatment continued to work. He shrugged B'Elanna's arms off him. "I remember. It was…" He shook his head, images rushing at him. "You found me. The room, the furniture. Things were smashed." His eyes were filled with pain and horror and he let his tears fall. He held a hand out in front of him to ward off the Doctor as he moved towards him again. "I did that, must have."

Flashes of memory now came back to him. Kathryn struggling against him, him hitting her, pulling at her, screaming at her. He groaned in pain. "Oh Spirits, I threw something at her, tea or… Then I grabbed her, hit her, her face. Then I… Oh Spirits…" He began to sink to the floor. "Nooo…please no. Kathryn." More images poured in on him and his eyes flew back to B'Elanna's face, his eyes wild with pain and horror. "You were there, the place a mess. I saw you, after… And you were holding something." He fought his mind and his eyes dropped to her hand. "Her… You were holding her, her panties, torn. There was blood and the bed, a mess… Oh sweet Spirits… Nooooooo. Please no. Please say I didn't. I couldn't. Please…" He fought B'Elanna's hands on him. "The field. Her clothes. Torn, bruises, blood and on her thighs. I remember." He sat, pressed painfully against the wall, as more and more scenes came at him, each one another piece of evidence which was damning him for all eternity. "Oh Spirits, just take me. Please just take me. Don't let me have done that. Not to her, not her. Please, no…."

B'Elanna's heart broke as she watched him but she hardened herself. She moved to him now and grabbed his arm roughly. "Chakotay…"

He wasn't hearing her. "I hurt her, took, forced…"

B'Elanna shook him again. Another, rougher shake. "Chakotay…" No response.

The memories assaulted him. "I forced her and she fought me then…then stopped. And she was crying, so hard, and I hurt her, badly. And she let me, didn't fight anymore, couldn't stop me. Her tears. And then after… She tried to run away from me and I grabbed her ankle and she…" He gasped in air. "The table. There was blood there. She fell, hit her head, smashed off it. I heard. So loud." He fell back on his heels. "What I said to her, so ugly and she ran. I don't know."

Tuvok looked to the Doctor. "Doctor?"

The medic nodded to Tuvok and leaned over with the sedative but Chakotay's hand reached out to stop him. "Commander, as Lieutenant Torres stated, you were not in control of your actions. Please just let me give you something for now."

Chakotay shook his head. "I've no right but… Please, can I just see her for a moment but someone with me. I don't trust myself. Then you can do what you want with me."

The Doctor sighed and nodded. "Of course, Commander. I'll take you to see her." He helped the big man to his feet and together with B'Elanna, led him behind the screen to where Kathryn lay. Chakotay cried out when he saw her, tears falling freely down his face. He made his way slowly to the side of the biobed and stared down at her. Traces of bruises still marred her pale face.

"Kathryn, I'm so sorry, so sorry…" He went to reach out his hand then pulled back, terrified to touch her. "How bad?" He looked up at the Doctor. "How bad is she? Tell me please. I want the truth."

The medic seemed to consider for a moment and then answered. "The facial injuries… They were easily taken care of. There was a fracture to her jaw and cheekbone but I've healed those, her nose broken, also healed." He saw the pain his words were causing. "Commander, the bruising you see will fade quickly. Most of it has already gone, the cuts too, her lip."

Chakotay barely nodded. "Go on."

The Doctor sighed deeply, an old habit now. "She was lucky with the head injury, from the table when she fell."

Chakotay looked up, his eyes almost dead. "She didn't fall. It was me."

The medic shook his head. "Commander, please. Her head injury wasn't too serious. There was a deep laceration and a small amount of internal bleeding on the brain along with some swelling and a hairline fracture to the skull. There's some concussion but…"

Chakotay stared at him. "Not serious? You say she was lucky? Don't you mean she was lucky I didn't damned well kill her?"

The Doctor shook his head, losing his patience now. "Listen to me now, Commander Chakotay. I know you have a lot of guilt and pain. That's understandable but you have to accept that this wasn't your fault. Consider this too. Those men out there…" He pointed behind him. "They'll also have to face what you're facing now. They were drugged and brain washed in the same way as you were. Do you blame them? Do you see B'Elanna blaming Tom for this? No, you don't. And you can't blame yourself either. What happened was beyond the control of any of you."

Chakotay went deadly still, his voice low. "What other injuries were there?" The Doctor went to turn away but Chakotay stopped him. "Please."

The medic turned back. "Some tearing and bruising. A little haemorrhaging. Nothing more and all easily healed." He looked up now into the pain filled eyes of the man before him. "She'll be fine and you'll be fine. You're both strong people. You'll move past this. You all will."

Chakotay shook his head and laughed, a cynical sound. "Some tearing and bruising. Haemorrhaging." He stood back from the bed. "You just told me that the others would have to face what I'm facing, isn't that right?" His voice was rising as he backed away. The Doctor nodded. "Well, you're wrong. All easily healed? I don't think so. Maybe you have heal the physical but… There's a big difference here. I…" He looked down at Kathryn, tears blinding him. "I beat her and almost killed her. I raped her, for Spirits sake." His voice rose more and his head snapped up. "I raped her. Do you understand that? I destroyed her, everything about her, all that was good and pure, all that was between us." He fell back against another bed behind him. "Oh Spirits, this can't be real, It's a bad dream. A nightmare." The raw pain in his voice and eyes was almost corporeal.

B'Elanna ran to him. "Chakotay, the captain knows it wasn't your fault. She loves you. I love Tom and know he wasn't to blame for this. The captain will be the same."

She reached for him but he pulled back. "How can you say that? Did Tom rape you?"

She shook her head, her own tears falling now. "He would have, was programmed if you like, to do that. It wasn't his fault."

Chakotay laughed cynically. "Of course he didn't because you were strong enough to stop him. Look at her." He swung his arm towards where Kathryn lay. "She hadn't a hope against me. She couldn't have stopped me, couldn't have protected herself, didn't stand a chance." He let his tears fall and didn't seem to notice them. "I beat the shit out of her, verbally, physically, sexually assaulted her, terrorized her and then I raped her and nearly killed her." He fell to his knees. "I deserve to die." He rocked back and forth, gasping for air. Suddenly he began heaving, just as the Doctor placed a bowl under him. Chakotay vomited into it, until there was nothing left in his stomach.

Finally he rolled onto his side on the floor. "Tuvok…" The Vulcan stepped forward. "Put me in the brig. I'm not safe. Please, lock me away where I can't hurt anyone else."

Voyager's Security Officer looked to the Doctor and nodded. The medic leaned down and placed another hypo to Chakotay's neck, administering a strong sedative which worked immediately. They watched as the large man on the floor immediately lost consciousness.

Tuvok sighed. "I'll have him beamed to his quarters for the moment. I'll speak with him in the morning." He turned to the Doctor now. "When do you expect the others to regain consciousness and also the captain?"

The medic shook his head. "They should sleep until early morning. By then the drug will be completely out of their systems. Mr. Paris had the highest dose of the three here but even still, he'll be back to himself by the time they all wake up. The commander will be out of it for a lot longer. That was a very strong sedative I just gave him but his mind will be his own again when he wakes. You can see my treatment was already working very well." He looked at Tuvok with a look of sadness on his face. "I wasn't totally honest with the commander about the captain…" He saw the worried look on B'Elanna's face, Tuvok's expression changing a little also. "Her concussion is more serious than I led him to believe. I can't actually say when she'll regain consciousness. She took a severe blow to the head and lost a lot of blood." B'Elanna turned away a moment and shook her head then looked back at Tuvok, waiting for him to ask the question.

"You do believe that she will make a full recovery though." It wasn't phrased as a question, more as a hope, and the Doctor nodded.

"She will. I can't say when she'll come back to us but she will regain consciousness. It's just a matter of when her body is ready."

They both watched the Vulcan carefully before B'Elanna spoke. "You're in command now, Tuvok. What are you going to do about that bastard?" The Klingon woman didn't mince her words. Ordinarily she would have expected a reprimand for her lack of protocol but as she watched this man stare down at the woman who was more than just his captain, she knew one wouldn't be forthcoming.

"As a male, I can speak my mind and register my 'deep disgust and anger' but there is little that we can do. We are one ship against their entire fleet, which is also capable of far greater speeds than Voyager. They also have cloaking technology." He looked at B'Elanna and saw her anger but also her reluctant acceptance of their situation. "I understand your feelings, Ms. Torres, but…"

B'Elanna cut him off. "I know, I know. I want to go down there and shove his outdated, misogynistic attitudes where the sun don't shine just before I slit his throat but I'm not suicidal either. I want to get their women to rise up in revolt and slay every last one of them." She punched the empty bed. "I'm bloody angry, beyond that even, but I also want to live and I want Tom to live and everyone on this ship. I also know that the best way to beat a pig like that is to move past what he tried to do and render his evil plan void. I know myself and the captain, know the other women will move past this. It'll be hardest on the captain, I know that." She looked at the woman lying on the bed, a woman who'd become one of her best friends. "She'll get over this and move past it. I know that, because like me, she loves her man. Love will get us through this." She shook her head and sighed. "It's them I worry about. The men. Tom and in particular, Chakotay. You saw him tonight…"

Tuvok and the Doctor nodded. "Let's deal with this as we go then." The Doctor arranged to have Chakotay beamed to his quarters. "I believe he's better there than in sickbay. I want someone to be there for him though when he wakes."

B'Elanna looked up and smiled. "I'd be best for that job. I can grab some sleep while he's out of it. He might talk to me more too." The Doctor nodded his acceptance.

Tuvok agreed also. "I will go and deal with this matter. As soon as I've spoken with the Ambassador…" He almost spit the word out. "When I've spoken with him, we can be on our way then. The sooner we break orbit and leave this planet, the better for everyone concerned."

They all agreed, wanting to just put this night behind them and praying that they would be able to.


Tom Paris, Harry Kim, Joe Carey and Gary Cole woke within ten minutes of each other the following morning. They were confused for several minutes before memories of the previous night assaulted them. With Chakotay still sleeping heavily and monitored from sickbay, B'Elanna and Sam, along with Megan and Janice sat to the side of sickbay as the Doctor tried to explain to the men what had transpired. B'Elanna saw that they remembered only too well, the drug well out of their system now. Without its presence, the brain washing or manipulation which had also taken place, was rendered useless. The Doctor explained that they may never be able to understand what had been done to them but that the future was what mattered now. He also reassured them that there would be no fallout from what had been done to them, no side effects in a medical sense. The women saw the pain and guilt on the men's faces and moved forward now to try and reassure as best they could, let them know that no harm had been done and no blame would ever be laid at their doors.

The Doctor stood back, deep admiration for B'Elanna and the other women filling him but he knew that it would take a long time before things were ever back to normal again and before the men were able to accept that what had occurred had not been their fault in any way. He released them all to their quarters with strict orders to rest for the next two days. He then went to check on the captain.

Kathryn still lay unconscious but the medic was satisfied with her vital signs. He stared down at her and shook his head.

"Come back to us, Captain. The Commander needs you. We all need you."

While Chakotay slept on, B'Elanna and the other women accompanied their men back to their quarters. No one spoke during the short walk. They paired off as they had on the planet and went their separate ways.

Harry Kim stood in the centre of his quarters, feeling Megan Delaney's eyes on him. He turned slowly and risked a glance at her, too embarrassed to hold her eyes. She saw what he was feeling and moved quickly to allay his fears.

"Harry Kim, listen to me now. I'm a strong woman and you're a strong man, whether you believe that or not. Sit down and listen to me."

He met her eyes finally and nodded. "Megan, I remember it all and I'm so sorry. The memories… It's like watching myself doing things I know I'd never do, like I was someone else. Who I was before didn't exist."

She cut him off. "Sit and listen." He sat and she pulled a chair over to him. He eased his chair back a little but she reached over and gripped his arm, pulling her own chair closer to him. "Don't do that, Harry. I'm not afraid of you and never will be." He stayed where he was this time as he nodded, his faint smile trying to say what he felt incapable of speaking. "Now Harry, we were friends before this and that hasn't changed. That bastard did this. Not you, not me and not any of the others. It was him. The man who was in that cabin with me last night wasn't you, wasn't Harry Kim." She shook her head when she saw he wasn't convinced.

"Look, Harry, without the sentient element, imagine you're the computer which runs this ship. You program it to do things a certain way and that's the way it will remain. Imagine that's you for a minute. Now someone else comes along and re-programs or alters the commands given to the computer so that it becomes destructive to the ship. It's not and never will be the computer's fault that it acted differently. The programmer is the one at fault. Can you understand and accept that analogy?"

Finally Harry sighed deeply and then nodded tearfully. "I just can't understand how you can forgive me so easily. I remember what I did down there. I remember asking you to make me something to eat…" He trailed off a moment, the images filling his mind to accompany his words, almost as if he were narrating an old film. "I just knew that, believed, that was why you were there, to just serve me and I didn't see you, just this someone who should obey me. My thoughts weren't my own and yet at that moment they felt like the only thoughts I'd ever had. Am I making sense?"

She nodded. "You asked me to make you something and I was tired. I remember just telling you to get it yourself and that I was going to bed." She gauged her words carefully now. "You were behind me suddenly and just hit me." She saw the horror on his face as he remembered. "Harry, it wasn't that bad. I contacted Voyager immediately and had us beamed back. I still had my commbadge on. You didn't even try and hit me again, just kept shouting about me knowing my place and asking why I couldn't have just done as you'd asked. Please Harry, I promise you that no harm, not one little bit, has been done to our friendship." She squeezed his hands and saw him accept her words

"Megan, I don't deserve you as a friend. I can't ever thank you for your understanding and forgiveness."

Megan just laughed. "Oh don't think I won't make you grovel and pay for this for years to come. Next time I'm low on replicator rations…" They smiled at each other and eventually hugged. "Now get some sleep, Kim. Some of us have work to do."

Janice Porter sat in much the same way with Gary Cole after seeing him back to his quarters.

"I must have terrified you, Janice. I'm just so grateful I didn't hurt you in any way."

Janice smiled at him. "It's over with, Gary. I don't understand why you took it out on yourself though." Gary went bright red for a moment. "Gary, you know you can talk to me. We're friends and you know it'll never go any further. I give you my word of honour on that."

He nodded and sat down beside her on the sofa. "I know that." He took her hand in his. "Look, I think I know why." He took a moment and then spoke. "Their attitude to women, seeing them as inferior. I guess I tend to see myself that way. I haven't the greatest confidence in myself as a person. That's the reason I think I took it out on myself. The other reason I guess is…" He watched her face for a moment, as if deciding how honest to be. Finally he smiled softly. "What you don't know but maybe suspect is that… Well, you're not exactly my type." He waited to see if she understood or was shocked. All he saw was a friendly smile.

"You mean that you're gay." It was a statement, not a question. He nodded. Janice squeezed his hand. "Gary, I've guessed that for a long time. It probably has something to do with why I feel so comfortable around you also. I suspected… No. I think I knew actually. Know this though. It makes no difference to me at all but I'm glad you told me." As if a last wall between them as friends was finally demolished, they embraced tightly. When they broke apart, Janice stroked his face.

"Now you get some sleep, my friend. I've a duty shift. Put this behind you and leave it in the past. No harm was done between us. In fact, I'd say it's forged an even deeper and more abiding friendship between us that will last forever." She left him then, leaving behind her a man more at peace with himself than he'd ever been.

Sam Wildman checked on her sleeping daughter and returned to a very uncomfortable Joe Carey. She watched him from the doorway for several minutes before he looked up and saw her. She then moved to sit beside him.

"This doesn't change anything between us, Joe. I just want you to know that. Promise me you'll accept that what happened wasn't down to you in any way."

She saw the battle in his eyes but slowly he nodded. "It's hard and it'll take time but knowing that you still believe in me, I think I can do it. Thanks, Sam."

She smiled and took his hand, raising it to her lips and kissing it. "Look, Joe, you and I have enough guilt in this relationship because of those we left behind on Earth. We don't need any more. I believed in you before and I still do. Nothing that happened down there was you. We put this behind us and move on. It's the only way to beat that pig."

He pulled her into his arms. "Thank you for that. I guess that was something he didn't count on." She pulled back and frowned at him. He smiled and pushed her hair back from her face. "He missed the meaning of what real love is about. He failed to understand mutual respect and trust, what belief in another person can be about, what loyalty and love really are."

Sam smiled lovingly at him. "This changes nothing between us, Joe."

He nodded. "I know and I love you all the more for that." He leaned back now. "I better go back to my quarters and get some sleep. I know you're on duty in another hour. Tonight though?"

She smiled back at him. "Neelix won't mind taking Naomi. Tonight, we'll bury it all."

B'Elanna replicated some tea and took it into the bedroom with her. She found Tom just sitting on the side of the bed, staring at his boot in his hand, as if waiting for it to speak to him.

"Tom?" He looked up, then away. "Tom Paris, don't you dare avoid my eyes. Nothing has changed between us. I won't let you do this to us. That bastard tried to do enough damage without you letting him into our lives here."

His head snapped back up and he looked at her. "It will change things though. B'Elanna, I hit you and tried to… If you hadn't been able to defend yourself…" B'Elanna moved over to the bed and slammed down the two mugs she held. She either didn't notice or didn't care when some of the tea spilled over the rims and onto the locker. She snatched the boot from his hands and threw it on the floor then sat down beside him.

"That wasn't you, Tom, and you know that. You're an intelligent man so don't tell me you don't understand everything the Doc told you." She held her hand up when he went to speak. "You and Chakotay were given the largest doses. Of course you acted more…" She hesitated, searching for the right word.

Tom smiled cynically and shook his head. "See? You can't even think of a word that will lessen the severity of what I did."

B'Elanna jumped up, her temper controlling her now. "Just shut your mouth, Tom Paris, and listen to me." She saw actual fright in his eyes. "This is not about what 'you' did. You did nothing. Neither did Chakotay or the others. You were all under the control of that bastard. I know that. The Doctor knows that and even Tuvok knows it. Everyone knows it. You were not yourself, Tom. The sooner you accept that, the sooner we can get our lives back. I love you and I always will and I know you love me and would never hurt me. You have to accept that because if you don't, he wins and I for one, will never let that happen. If I have to spend the rest of my life beating that into that thick skull of yours…" She was breathing hard now, her temper controlling her body and she looked up and saw her husband smiling slightly at her. "What?"

He shook his head. "I don't deserve you. You're right though. I love you more than my own life." His face saddened then and B'Elanna moved to him, sitting back down beside him and slipping her arm around him. "B'Elanna, I'd rather cut off my hands, than raise them to you." He shook his head. "It's just so hard knowing that I did raise my hand to you, even under the control of someone else. To know that anything or anyone could make me do that. That's not easy to accept."

She pulled him tighter against her. "Tom, let this go. Don't let it stay between us please. I know it would be easier if you'd been able to forget what happened. Since the memory will be there though, we have to learn to bury it and let it go. Personally, I don't believe there's anything there for me to forgive you for, but if you feel you need me saying I forgive you, then know that I do." She saw her words give him comfort. "Tom, nothing can destroy what we have between us. I promise you that on my life."

He sighed deeply. "I'll try, I really will. It won't be easy though so just be patient with me. I can't just shut off the memories that easily because they're still very fresh." He looked at her and saw her understanding. "I remember it so clearly now. I tried to throw you out at first and then pulling you towards the bed and demanding sex from you." He closed his eyes as if this might block out the images. "I remember hitting you. If you hadn't knocked me out or been strong enough. Oh God B'El, I'm so sorry."

She pulled him to her and held him as he cried. "It's over, Tom, it's over and it doesn't change how I feel about you. Nothing ever could. I love you."

He eventually quietened and tried a weak smile. "I love you too and thank you, for your love and trust and faith in me."

She smiled and kissed his cheek. "That's what that bastard didn't count on. His evil plan could never get past that." They held each other for a long time, giving and receiving comfort and love from each other.

Finally Tom spoke. "How are the others? Chakotay in particular. You didn't tell me."

B'Elanna pulled back from him but he didn't miss the sad look that crossed her face. She quickly told him about Harry, Joe and Gary and about how great Megan, Sam and Janice had been. "They'll be just fine. They were given far lower doses."

Tom watched her closely. "What about Chakotay and the captain? If I was given a larger dose, I imagine Chakotay was too."

B'Elanna nodded. "He was given an even larger dose than you were, probably because the captain and I appeared the strongest of the women and were your partners, and with her being the captain…"

Tom tried to read her face, but couldn't. "Did he do the same as me? Did he attack the captain?"

B'Elanna barely nodded.

Tom pulled back a moment. "You were able to stop me because you're stronger with your Klingon blood. The captain is strong but not that strong. Chakotay is a big man. What are you not telling me?" He looked at her now, his eyes holding hers.

She shook her head. "Tom, they'll be fine. Chakotay is sleeping it off. Doc sedated him. I said I'd stay with him and be there when he wakes up. Doc will alert me. It'll be a while yet. It was a strong sedative."

Tom kept staring at her, fear for his friends stirring in his guts. "You're avoiding my question. Where's the captain now?"

She shook her head again. "She's still in sickbay. She hasn't woken up yet."

She felt Tom's hand on her arm and finally met his eyes. "B'El, talk to me. Am I asking you to break a confidence here? I'll understand if I am but maybe I can help Chakotay in some way."

B'Elanna nodded tearfully. "I think you're going to be the only one who will be able to help him, if he can be helped at all."

Tom looked scared. "Talk to me here, love. A strong sedative for Chakotay tells me he was in some state if he needed that. The captain still unconscious in sickbay?" His eyes widened as thoughts fell into place. "Oh God, no." B'Elanna tightened her hold on his hand. "You were able to stop me. She
wasn't. Oh dear God." He looked tearfully at his wife, pain in his eyes. "How bad?" He was afraid of the answer as he saw B'Elanna's tears.

"She'll be fine in time. Tom, please don't ask me to… Come with me and help me with Chakotay and if he tells you then that's OK but please… Besides, I don't think I need to say anything."

Tom pulled his eyes away from her face and stood up shakily. "Oh Jesus." He ran his hands through his already tousled hair. "That bastard. I just want to kill him."

He turned and saw the shock on his wife's face. "Chakotay wasn't responsible."

Tom looked deeply shocked. "No, B'Elanna, sweet God. I mean Brolar. I know Chakotay wasn't responsible. He adores the captain. He'd never do anything to hurt her in any way. He loves her, worships the ground she walks on. He'd die for her, gladly…"

He stopped when he realized what he was saying and saw the slight smile on B'Elanna's face. He smiled also. "OK, I know. Practice what I preach." He moved back to her and pulled her into his arms. "We'll be fine. We'll get through this. We'll also get Chakotay and the captain through this. We'll all move past it." He hugged her tightly to him for several minutes. "What about…? What do we do about Brolar?" He spit out the name as if it were leaving a nasty taste in his mouth.

B'Elanna shook her head. "I talked with Tuvok earlier. He read him the riot act and lodged an official complaint but we both know that means nothing." She sighed deeply. "There's nothing more he can do. Nothing any of us can do and I know how hard that is to accept but it's a fact and one that has to be accepted. You know me and what I'd like to do with him." She smiled at the knowing look on Tom's face. "Yeah, well, even I have some sense. We're no match for them. We couldn't take on an entire planet and win. All we can do is move on, which we're already doing. We broke orbit early this morning and we're well away from there now. Tuvok even left some warning buoys. All we can do is ensure that he doesn't win in what he set out to achieve."

Tom shook his head sadly. "Hasn't he already done that? Certainly where Chakotay and the captain are concerned."

B'Elanna was thoughtful for a moment and then shook her head. "Only if we let him. It's up to us to make sure he fails. I refuse to let that bastard infect the rest of our lives." They locked eyes, signing a silent pack between them.

B'Elanna stood up slowly. "I managed to get some sleep earlier. You need some now. I'll go to Chakotay's quarters and wait for him to wake up."

Tom smiled and stood with her. "I'll come with you. I'm not tired. I did sleep all night, you know, thanks to the Doc, although I know it's not like real sleep. If I get tired later, I'll dose in a chair. I want to be there with you when he wakes up. I think he'll need us both."

B'Elanna nodded her agreement and took his hand. "I'd feel better if you were there with me too. I also think he'll need both of us."

Tom nodded. "What about the captain? How is she now?" He held up a hand. "I'm not asking for details."

B'Elanna smiled sadly. "I know you're not. I checked with the Doc earlier. She's still unconscious." There was nothing more she could say. With silent understanding, they made their way to Chakotay's quarters where they sat and waited for their friend to wake up, knowing the horrors which awaited him when he opened his eyes.

It was another two hours before Chakotay stirred from the deep drug induced slumber which had held his horrors at bay, denying him any nightmares. He moaned loudly and twisted in the bed, his eyes opening slowly, taking some time to focus on the two people sitting watching him. They watched as everything slowly came back to him, invading his mind like slides from some old horror show. They watched helplessly as the memories assaulted him and he sat up in the bed, dropping his head in his hands.

"Oh sweet Spirits, it was real." He rocked back and forth until he felt an arm go around his shoulders. He pulled back quickly and jumped up when he saw it was B'Elanna who had sat beside him. "Don't. I'll only hurt you. I'm not safe to be near anyone, especially a woman."

Tom stood up out of his chair slowly, his face serious. "How do you think what you've just said makes me feel then, Chakotay?" The big man stared at his friend. "I'm slowly learning to accept this and that I wasn't responsible for my actions. You have to know that it wasn't you."

Chakotay cut him off and moved away. "What do you know?"

Tom wasn't having this. "I know what I was like. I have the memories of it all and will have them for the rest of my life just like you."

Chakotay turned on him. "Just like me? I don't think so. Do you know what memories I'll have? You have nothing."

Tom pressed his face close to Chakotay's. "Don't tell me I have no memories. I know what I did to my own wife."

Chakotay laughed, the sound filled with hate. "I know. You hit her and tried to pull her down on the bed." Tom remained quiet for the moment. He saw the anger and pain rise in his friend and let it. "You hit her and tried it on but she was able to stop you. Do you have any idea what I did? Well, do you?"

Tom shook his head. "No, I don't. I can imagine but Chakotay, it wasn't…"

Chakotay shook his head angrily then looked at B'Elanna. "You didn't tell him?" She shook her head. "Why not? Everyone on board should know. They should know so that they can stay away from me."

B'Elanna jumped up. "Cut this out, Chakotay."

He jumped back from her then turned to Tom again, his self-hatred building by the minute. "Let me tell you then. I beat the shit out of her. Did you know that? I heard the Doctor's report." He held his hands up when Tom went to interrupt. "I said the cruellest things to her and I beat her, smashed her face in more like. I broke her cheekbone, her jaw, even her nose. I split her lip and abused her." He dragged his hands painfully through his hair, not seeing the look of pain on Tom's face. "Then of course, I decided to drag her to the bed. I smacked her around a bit more, threw her down and…"

Tom moved to him. "Chakotay, don't." He was ignored.

"I raped her. Just like that." He turned and glared at Tom, tears pouring down his face. "Do you understand what I'm telling you? I held her down, forced myself on her, tore at her, ripped her clothes. I mauled her and took what I wanted from her. I RAPED her, Tom. I destroyed everything about the woman I was supposed to love." A cynical laugh filled the room. "She fought it at first but I soon knocked that out of her. And then she just gave in and let me. Couldn't fight me, Spirits love her. She couldn't. And I took her, turned her over, took it all. Of course, I wasn't finished with that. I had to smash her head off the table and almost kill her, called her a whore."

B'Elanna had had enough. "Chakotay, shut up. First off, she fell against the table. More importantly though, it wasn't you who did that."

Chakotay ignored her too, as if she wasn't even in the same room. "Oh I got the Doctor's report on that too. Tearing, bruising, haemorrhaging. Her head? internal bleeding on the brain, swelling, fractured skull." He turned angrily. "I saw what I did. She made it as far away as she could before she collapsed. I saw the state I left her in, the blood on her head and face, the bruising, her torn clothes, the blood on her thighs."

B'Elanna leapt forward and slapped him across the face. He stood and looked at her with a shocked expression on his face. "You damned well listen to me now, Chakotay. You forget I know you better and longer than anyone on board this ship. I know what you're capable of and what you're not. When you love someone or even care just a bit, you protect that person fiercely. Even after everything Seska did to you, you still couldn't have harmed her. You aren't capable of harming someone you care about. I know my husband. I know the love we have between us. He isn't capable of that either. You were all drugged and manipulated into those actions. And remember you two had the highest doses, yours the highest of all. Only one person is responsible for all this and that's that bastard Brolar. You have to learn to lay the blame for all this firmly where it belongs. You have to do that for yourself and for the rest of us. You also have to do that for Kathryn Janeway."

He turned away with a cry when he heard her name. "I did it, B'Elanna, no one else. She'll never get over this. I saw the hurt and shock, the pain and fear in her eyes when I attacked her. She knew. She knew what was coming. She begged me, pleaded with me. I saw and heard her cries and tears. I heard her screams." He stumbled backwards, shaking his head from side to side. "She tried so hard to fight me but she couldn't. My strength made sure of that. She was terrified, knew what I was going to do to her. And then she just let me, lay there crying. I remember her tears, her crying out and screaming with pain while I just pulled her around and took… I hurt her so much. Spirits, you saw the place, the destruction of it. You know the struggle it took to cause that?" He turned to B'Elanna, tears pouring from his eyes. "You were holding her underwear. I just ripped… You saw the bed, her blood and even after, when she tried to get away. Oh Spirits…" He fell to his knees. "I can't ever go near her again. Oh Kathryn, I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

B'Elanna and Tom both went to him and held him. "How…how is she?" They barely heard him. He raised his eyes to them, the agony written there tearing through them. "Please. I need to know."

B'Elanna looked at Tom a moment. "She's still asleep."

Chakotay saw through the lie and pulled back from their hold. "She's still unconscious, you mean. I knew the Doc wasn't telling me everything."

B'Elanna gripped his arm tightly. "He also said she'll come around and make a full recovery. It's a concussion. I'm not lying to you on that. Look, why don't you go see her for yourself."

She saw the look of terror which crossed his face as he pulled away. "No. No. I can't ever be with her again. I can't ever be alone with her, can't ever trust myself again. She'll always hate me now."

B'Elanna knelt back on the floor. "Chakotay, I know her. She loves you. She could never hate you. She won't blame you for this and will know who's really responsible. She's not like that. She loves you too much."

Chakotay sat back, his face a mask of pain. "Maybe she did, but now?" He looked at them both, his eyes going dead. "Tell me then, the memories of all this with her. Whose fists do you think she'll remember smashing into her face? Whose body will she remember pulling her around, ripping at her clothes, lying over her, mauling her, tearing into her? Whose eyes will she remember staring down at her while she was held down forcibly and raped? Whose hands did all that?" He answered his own questions in a dead voice. "Mine. Always mine. It won't be his she'll see in her nightmares. Only mine. Always mine."

B'Elanna inched over to him. "I think you underestimate the love she has for you, my friend. You also underestimate her intelligence."

Chakotay wasn't ready to listen. "I know. I know whose…" He pulled himself to his feet. "Please, I need to be alone." He saw the worried looks on their faces. "Don't worry. I'm not a danger to myself. I'm too much of a coward for that. I just need to be alone."

B'Elanna shook her head and looked to Tom. He stood up and walked over to Chakotay. "OK, Chakotay, on one condition. You let the Doc look you over first and keep a monitor on you. If you don't, we stay here and you won't shift us. You also talk to me when you're ready. You'll get through this and so will the captain. I also have to work through this and so has B'Elanna. The others too to a lesser degree. I believe we can only do that together." Knowing it was the only way to get rid of them, Chakotay reluctantly agreed. He spent the rest of that day alone at his own request and struggled with the demons which tried to consume him. Not once did he leave his quarters.

Kathryn regained consciousness the next morning to find B'Elanna and the Doctor smiling down at her. It was the first time she could remember coming around in sickbay not to find Chakotay's worried face before her. She blinked several times to clear her vision before the memories slammed into her. She struggled to sit up and her first words told B'Elanna everything she needed to know.

"Chakotay? Where's Chakotay? He needs help."

The Doctor and B'Elanna pressed her back down gently onto the bed. "Captain, Mr. Chakotay is just fine. All the away team members are fine."

She let herself be held down as tears filled her eyes. "Where's Chakotay? I want to see him. I have to know he's all right." She didn't miss the look that crossed between the two standing over her. "What's wrong? Where is he? Something's happened to him, hasn't it?"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Kathryn, he's in his quarters." This was no time for rank. B'Elanna knew the woman before her needed a friend more now. "I promise you he's fine. We're all fine and you will be too." She hesitated a moment but saw that her captain waited for more. "Look, he's just having a hard time dealing with this, accepting it all."

Kathryn shook her head, causing her tears to fall. "He didn't do anything." They saw her fight her memories. "He wasn't himself. I saw that. They did something to him." B'Elanna nodded. Kathryn suddenly tried to sit up again. "It happened to the others too? Please tell me."

The Doctor smiled gently. "Captain, please lie back. I'll tell you." He knew the woman before him would settle for nothing less than the full truth and so he told her everything, knowing she'd see if he was holding anything back from her. He watched as she went from sadness to anger and back again as the story was told. Just as he finished speaking, Tuvok entered sickbay and came over to them.

"Captain, it is good to see you awake."

Kathryn managed a slight watery smile for him. "Talk to me, Tuvok. I need to know everything." B'Elanna and the Doctor moved back a little.

"Captain, we have left Ular and are back on course. The away team is fine." He filled her in on everything, knowing his captain well, how she wouldn't take anything less than a full report. He saw that she already knew some of what he spoke of but made his report anyway. "I left message buoys to inform any other unsuspecting ships of what they might expect."

Kathryn nodded slowly, trying desperately to control her emotions, which were very raw at this moment.
"You acted correctly, Tuvok. There's nothing else we could have done." She looked at the Doctor now. "The others will be OK?"

He nodded and smiled gently. "The women are already back on duty. I wanted them to take more time off but they preferred to work. I can understand that. The men can return to duty this afternoon. The drug is well out of their systems. Physically they're fine and getting back to work is probably the best therapy for them. I'll keep Commander Chakotay off for another day or so. You will remain off duty for at least another three days." He expected a glare of defiance but none came.

She looked down at her hands, her thoughts elsewhere. She looked up now. "I'm sorry, Doctor, I wandered there. Yes, OK. Another three days." She smiled slightly at the surprised look on his face. "I know. I'm not arguing with you. For once I agree. I need some time here." She looked towards B'Elanna now. "How are you really? How's Tom?" The Doctor and Tuvok moved away now, giving them a moment to themselves.

B'Elanna moved over to her friend. "I'm fine. I wasn't bad. Just a few bruises. Tom is slowly accepting this and dealing with the facts. It'll take some time for him to accept that he wasn't to blame in any way, that it wasn't him but we'll get there."

Kathryn saw the unasked question in the other woman's eyes. "I'm fine too. I'm a little sore but mostly I'm angry. I want to kill that…" She drew in a deep breath and looked down at her hands again. "I take it you know?" She looked up guardedly and saw B'Elanna nod. "B'Elanna, I'm fine, will be fine. I'm more worried about Chakotay. Tell me honestly. How is he?"

B'Elanna debated with herself for a moment and then decided that her friend needed the truth. "He's not too good. Oh physically, he's fine. The Doc wasn't lying about that. It's the other side of it, the emotional." She hesitated before continuing. "Tom and I were there when he woke up yesterday morning from the sedative." She pulled a chair over and sat, telling Kathryn some of what had happened with the man she loved, omitting some details. She saw the pain on the older woman's face increase as she learned more and more. Finally, she just lay back and shook her head, letting her tears fall quietly as B'Elanna held her hand. "Kathryn, he'll get past this. He just needs time. It was worst on you and him than any of the rest of us."

Kathryn nodded quietly. "I can't remember how many times I've woken up in this sickbay and always his face was there for me, smiling at me, worried as hell but smiling." She turned her head to look at B'Elanna. "I miss him. I just want to see him."

B'Elanna tried to hide the embarrassed look on her face. "Just give him some time."

Kathryn saw through it. "He doesn't want to see me." It was a question and answer all in one.

B'Elanna shook her head. "No, he doesn't. Kathryn, I'm sorry. You have to understand how much pain he's in over this. He's truly afraid to be near you. He just can't face you right now. He doesn't want to face himself. There's so much pain and guilt inside him at this moment. Please, give him some time. I'm
hoping Tom will be able to help him, that they can help each other."

Kathryn nodded tearfully, to all outward appearances accepting what her friend had said but B'Elanna saw how hurt she really was.

Over the next three days, the Doctor kept his captain in sickbay. She never once objected. He saw how upset she was by Chakotay's absence but she tried her best to hide it. Chakotay for his part had finally gone back on duty, avoiding people like the plague. He constantly refused to be alone with anyone, demanding that Tuvok or Tom, even Harry, accompany him when he needed to meet with someone. Not once did he go near sickbay. Tuvok had informed him of Kathryn's condition, how she had regained consciousness and was asking to see him but he refused constantly.

On the fourth day, Kathryn was allowed to return to her quarters. Before she left sickbay, the Doctor spoke quietly with her. "Captain, I've waited for you to inquire about your condition but not once have you asked me anything."

Kathryn shook her head sadly. "I didn't exactly need to ask you anything, did I?"

The medic shook his head sadly. "Nevertheless, I have to inform you of your condition." She met his eyes and he saw the pain hidden there in the blue depths. "Your head injury was the worst. There was a deep laceration, some swelling and bleeding on the brain, along with a hairline fracture. Your cheekbone, jaw and nose were broken, your lip split and a few other cuts." Kathryn just nodded, accepting his words without emotion. "They are all healed of course and there will be no problems resulting from the concussion you suffered." She still didn't acknowledge his words.

"Of your other injuries…" Finally a flash of emotion. "Some tearing, bruising and a little haemorrhaging. All easily healed."

She looked away quickly. "Thank you, Doctor. May I return to my quarters now?" She finally looked up at him when he didn't answer her.

"Did you hear all that, Captain?"

She swallowed and nodded. "Look, Doctor, I heard you. In my mind, they're just 'by the way' injuries, if that makes any sense. I'm more worried about the bigger picture here. The physical is healed or will be shortly. I'm only worried about healing the emotional. For myself, I can deal with this." She laughed slightly. "Don't for one moment think that I'm in denial about this, although with my track record, you'd be excused for thinking that." She played with her fingers. "I know very well what happened on that planet. I'm not in denial about that. What I am doing is dealing with it as it should be dealt with."

She sighed heavily. "Chakotay was not responsible for what happened. I'm well aware of where the true blame lies. Oh I know in his mind, he feels he raped me." There was no hesitation in her use of the word, telling the Doctor a lot. "Well, Doctor, I've dealt with rape victims before, even victims of domestic violence. As a captain, you see these things. I am NOT a rape victim and I don't for one minute feel like one. I just need to try and convince Chakotay of that." She looked up at the Medic and smiled a little.

"I remember it all very clearly. I was shocked and it hurt but not for one minute did I blame Chakotay for that. I knew immediately that the man doing that to me was not the man I know and love." She showed no embarrassment at admitting her feelings. "His body was there but he wasn't. I knew that at once. I saw into those eyes and Chakotay wasn't there. Even while it was happening, I didn't blame him. My only concern was getting help for him. I loved him before it, during it and still now after it. What hate I feel is solely directed at the one who IS to blame and I hope that he, 'Ambassador Brolar', burns in hell for what he did. However, I refuse to let what he did leave the legacy he intended it to leave and I'll fight until my dying breath to ensure that he fails at what he set out to achieve."

The Doctor smiled at her, actual pride showing on his face. "And I have no doubt that you will succeed, captain. However, let me say this." Kathryn gave him her full attention. "The commander is racked with guilt over what happened." He held up a hand when she went to speak. "Everyone else knows that that guilt is misplaced completely, but that is how he feels. The others are managing to let their guilt go, even Mr. Paris. Talking to him might help the commander more but so far that offer hasn't been accepted. As to you, talk to him by all means, but don't push him on this. I believe it will take him a long time to come to terms with what happened, with what he sees as his actions. Only time will help alleviate those feelings. From what I gather, he refuses to be alone with anyone at the moment, especially the female crewmembers, insisting that Tuvok or Tom be with him at all times. He quite simply doesn't trust himself, doesn't believe it's safe for him to be alone with anyone. Learning to accept what he feels he did is one thing. He also has to deal with the fact that he was controlled like that and made to do what he did. You of all people understand how important self-control is. To lose it or have it taken from you is hard to live with. Don't forget, the commander has had bad experiences before where he had his control taken from him." Kathryn remembered only too well, how he'd been after Riley Frazer and the Vori. "Ultimately, I believe he feels too terrified and guilt-ridden to face you. It's far from easy to forgive yourself for hurting someone you love, even when you accept that it wasn't your fault. Believing it was your fault, makes that a hundred times harder." He sighed and shook his head. "Captain, you have to let this go at his pace."

Kathryn nodded sadly. "I'll try, Doctor." She slid off the biobed. "I think I'll walk to my quarters." Her legs started to give out from under her and she grabbed the bed for support. "On second thoughts…"

The Doctor steadied her and ordered a site-to-site transport for her. "Just take it easy and give it time, Captain."

She smiled her thanks as she disappeared.

Kathryn took it easy that afternoon, then called B'Elanna in the evening, needing the company but also wanting to know what was going on around her ship. She replicated a light meal for them both then sat back with her friend sipping coffee. "The Doctor would have a fit if he knew I was drinking this. Still, it's my first cup." Kathryn smiled.

B'Elanna shook her head. "First cup this evening, you mean. What about the dozen or so you probably consumed earlier in the day?"

Kathryn feigned deep hurt. "Don't you trust me?" She laughed. "OK, it's my fifth cup today but who's counting?"

They both laughed and spoke together. "The Doctor." Their laughter slowly died away and they were silent for several minutes, just staring at nothing in particular.

Kathryn know she was avoiding what she really wanted to talk about, using small talk and laughter to ease herself into it. Finally she spoke. "I hope Tom doesn't mind me asking you here. If you'd rather be with him or feel he needs you…"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Tom's taking a duty shift. Working helps him. He's getting better anyway and accepting this more now."

Kathryn seemed thoughtful before she spoke again. "Have you seen Chakotay? How is he?" She met the younger woman's eyes, pleading for her honesty.

B'Elanna shook her head sadly. "He's back on duty and throwing himself into his work. Basically, I think he's trying to wear himself out so he'll be too exhausted to think." She played with her cup. "He's eaten up by this." She shook her head again. "I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have said that to you."

Kathryn licked at her lips. "No, B'Elanna, please. I need to know. I need to know what I'm dealing with here." She hesitated. "Won't he even talk to Tom?"

B'Elanna sighed and sat forward. "Oh Tom's tried but he isn't getting anywhere. As far as Chakotay is concerned, Tom can have no idea of what he's going through. Tom didn't do this or didn't do that, not like he did." She hesitated. "Kathryn, he told us everything. I'm sorry."

Kathryn frowned. "Told you what?"

The engineer took a deep drink of her by now almost cold coffee. "He told us everything. You know I already knew. I told you that." Kathryn nodded, remembering their talk in sickbay. B'Elanna continued. "I didn't tell you everything. Look, I don't believe he was thinking straight at the time. He'd just come around from the sedative…" She stopped. "Doc told you all about that? Sickbay the night before?" Kathryn nodded. "Of course. I was there. Sorry, it's…" Kathryn just waited quietly for her to continue.

"Anyway, he was beyond upset. It hit him that it was all real, that it had really happened. Tom tried to help but I hadn't told Tom what I knew from the night before. Chakotay lashed into him and when he found out that Tom didn't know… Well, he just let it all out. Started screaming at Tom about how he'd never be able to understand, that he knew nothing. Then he told us how he'd…" B'Elanna hesitated again and Kathryn nodded permission for her to go on.

"Sorry. He said about how he'd beaten you, hurt you and said terrible things. He quoted the Doc's reports of your injuries then said how he'd…" B'Elanna swallowed. "He said how he'd held you down, raped you." She watched her captain's eyes carefully, trying to gauge if she should stop. "He said you didn't stand a chance against him, that he'd destroyed everything about you, what was good and pure, your love. He said how he'd smashed your head… Kathryn, I'm sorry. You know this will never be repeated though. Please know that, from either myself or Tom. I'm sorry."

Kathryn had tears in her eyes and just shook her head. "It wasn't like that." She sniffed. "Maybe to someone else seeing it, it might have looked that way but not to me." She took a few moments and wiped at her face. "Look, I know none of this will ever be repeated. I'll say that first." B'Elanna tried a smile and nodded. "B'Elanna, I knew immediately. The man I know and love would never, could never, do that. I knew something was terribly wrong. He was too quiet on the way home."

B'Elanna nodded her head. "I think that's when I first noticed something too. Thought maybe he was just tired."

Kathryn played with the cold coffee in her cup, dipping her fingers in and out of it. "I thought that too. I knew something was wrong. He asked me to make him tea and then disappeared into the shower. I got changed and made the tea but it was cold by the time he came out for it. He threw the cup at me and I knew then for sure that something was badly wrong. He was shouting and screaming at me and I tried to get away to get help for him. I couldn't though." She lifted her finger and watched the cold coffee drip off it.

"He shook me, pushed me against the wall and hit me across the face. Most of it is a blur really. I was just so shocked and worried about him. I honestly didn't think about myself. I just knew something was badly wrong with him and I had to get help. I then suddenly thought that this was most likely happening to all of you as well and I fought to get away to get help for you all and check on you. Then when he started pulling at me, dragging me to the bed. I was scared then." She looked up tearfully. "Not for what he'd do. That wasn't it. I knew, just knew, what his knowing later on would do to him." Tears fell down her cheeks. "I didn't think about what it would do to me. Only what it would do to us. To us, him and me later on. And it has and I won't let that happen. I won't." Her tears were of anger now.

B'Elanna reached over and took the cup and put it on the table, then pulled the older woman to her. "Kathryn, I'm so sorry. I can't begin to understand what you're going through. Tom tried but I was able to stop him."

Kathryn let herself be held for a few minutes and then pulled back. "You don't feel any differently about Tom though?"

B'Elanna immediately shook her head, no hesitation in the slightest. "Of course, I don't. I love him. That's all there is to it. I know he wasn't in control when he did that. Tom, at least, is starting to believe and accept that."

Kathryn pulled back and hugged herself. "You know, even when… I looked into his eyes… Oh, I was in pain. It hurt." She looked at B'Elanna briefly. "I tried not to cry out or scream but… Anyway, I saw his eyes and they weren't his. They were dead. Chakotay wasn't there. I can tell you this though. Even during, when he was, while it was going on… Not once did I feel anything but love for him. I remember telling him we'd get through it, that we loved each other and that it would be all right, that we'd survive. I told him it wasn't his fault, that I loved him. Even then while it was happening and again when it was over. He didn't hear me though. I know that."

B'Elanna took her captain's hands in hers and smiled softly at her. "I think he's just afraid you'll hate him and will be afraid of him. You have to tell him again, that's all. Now that he's himself again."

Kathryn nodded slowly. "I know that. I'm just not sure he'll see me, let alone listen to me." She smiled sadly. "However, I'm not going to stop trying until he accepts that. I don't care if I have to fight to my dying day." B'Elanna looked at her strangely. Kathryn smiled and shook her head. "Just a figure of speech. Seriously though, I'll fight for him, whatever it takes. I love him and could never hate him. He has to know that."

Kathryn spent the next day off duty also, taking the time to herself to get her thoughts and emotions in order. She reported for duty with the Doctor's full clearance early the next morning but Chakotay was nowhere to be seen. Tuvok reported to her that the commander was in engineering helping with a problem with some of the relays. Kathryn had no choice but to accept that.

Two more days passed this way and Kathryn was growing more and more impatient. She'd tried on several occasions to speak with him in his quarters, but he was never there, spending all his off duty hours on the holodeck or helping out in some department, putting in hours of overtime. She tried requesting time with him during their shifts but he repeatedly gave one excuse after the other. Kathryn got the message and bided her time. Finally, she'd had enough and called him to her ready room during their shift time when she knew he was free. He eventually reported to her, Tuvok in tow.

Kathryn stared at him. "I asked for only you to report to me, Commander. Mr. Tuvok, you're dismissed." The Vulcan actually looked uncomfortable.

Chakotay wouldn't even meet her eyes. "Captain, I asked Commander Tuvok to be here. You can throw me in the brig but I refuse to be alone with you." He said nothing more.

Kathryn just shook her head sadly. "Chakotay, this meeting is off the record. We need to talk badly. This is personal, just between you and me. I'd prefer that to be in private. I trust you."

Chakotay's head snapped up. "I don't. Tuvok stays or I leave with him. Throw me in the brig for…"

Kathryn slapped the desk in front of her. "Oh for God's sake, Chakotay. No one's going to the brig. Just talk to me. Don't let this…" Finally he met her eyes and she actually shivered. There was such a look of pure pain there that it chilled her. "Oh Chakotay, please. Just talk to me." She looked to Tuvok. "Please, my friend, wait outside."

Chakotay jumped back. "No. He stays."

Kathryn stared at him for several minutes and finally nodded her surrender. "All right then. If that's what it takes for you to listen to me." She sighed deeply and sat down. "I'll say what I have to say. Just listen to me before you do anything." She looked up and saw him standing quietly before her but looking down at the floor.

Kathryn shook her head sadly. "You've avoided me for days now and I understand why. I know you're frightened and feel terrible guilt, but there's no need for that. You did nothing wrong." Her eyes dared him to speak when she saw him about to protest. "This is my say." He nodded slowly and looked away. She glanced at Tuvok, who was looking discreetly out the viewport, and took the plunge. "Chakotay, I love you. That stood before all this and it still stands. I loved you then and I love you now. I even loved you during it all."

Suddenly he snapped. "Don't you dare say that." He jumped back, shocked that he had shouted and also as if terrified he'd do something to her. "I know what I did, what 'I' did. Me. No one else. I destroyed…" He shook his head vigorously and held up a hand. "You had your say. This is mine." She nodded slowly. "I destroyed what we had. I did it. My fists. My body."

Kathryn had had enough. Forgetting Tuvok in the room, she jumped up. "No. You were controlled. He drugged and manipulated you all. The others can move past it or work towards that. Why can't you? That bastard tried and failed with the others but you're letting him succeed with us. You and Tom were given far more of that drug, you more than anyone. You couldn't have fought that. Don't let him succeed here. Please, Chakotay." Tears filled her eyes.

Chakotay stared hard at her. "I've news for you. He did succeed. Admit it. Be really honest with yourself. When you think of this, and you will because it'll be with you constantly, it'll be me you see attacking you. You'll only ever remember me hitting you, hurting you, saying those things, my fists, my voice. You'll remember the fear and the pain and it'll always be me, not him, never him. It was MY hands on you, my body that forced, took. Every time I reach my hand out to you, you'll prepare yourself for a blow instead of a loving touch. As to anything more, I raped you. There can never be anything like that between us again because you'll always see that as what it was. There can never be love between us again. It wouldn't even be sex, only memories of rape." He watched her face pale before him, the blood draining from her. He took it as reliving the horror, not for the anger and pain it was.

When she spoke, her voice was tight with emotion. "You've a very selective memory, Chakotay. I remember it all. I do. But I remember eyes that held nothing of the man I know and love. I remember you totally controlled by something no man could have fought. I remember trying to get away from you, not because I was afraid OF you but because I was afraid FOR you. I only wanted to get help for you. Mostly though, I remember my words to you, during and after. I remember never for one second feeling any hate or anything else like that for you. Only love. I told you we'd get through it, that we loved each other and that it would be all right. I told you we'd survive it and that I still loved you and most of all that it wasn't your fault. Even during that time, I saw that and told you that. If you think hard enough, you might just remember that. If you can look past the guilt you've allowed to engulf you, the guilt that shouldn't be there, you'll remember that." She moved out from around the desk to him and saw him back away. She knew by his face and eyes that her words hadn't reached him, that he hadn't allowed them to.

"Chakotay, you didn't do this. If I took your phaser and killed or harmed someone with it, it wouldn't be your fault or you who'd done that. That bastard used your body as an instrument to play out his sick game. You weren't there. The eyes which looked down at me weren't yours. I saw your eyes. I saw into them and you weren't there." She thought she saw him start to accept her words and pushed on.

"Chakotay, please. I beg you. Don't do this to us." His head jerked up in horror. Kathryn couldn't know that her words to him, the same words she'd spoken that night, would slam it all back into him and close down the narrow opening she'd begun to expose.

He stared at her, his head shaking back and forth. "No. No." Her words were the trigger that set off the horror and guilt in his mind all over again. He saw it all unfold behind his eyes, everything he'd done. He turned away from her and let the shutters slam down. When he turned back, his eyes were devoid of anything.

"This is how it's going to be. I won't ever touch or harm you again. I won't ever let any opportunity arise where anything like this could ever happen again. I did this to you and I can't ever forgive myself for that, nor can I ever trust myself with you again. I'll only hurt you. I'll remain your First Officer until you can replace me but no longer than that. I'll do my duty and stay well away from you. I'd like to see Earth again but I don't have any right to ask you to allow me to remain on this ship. If however, you permit that, I'll continue my duties in whatever position I can. Between us, there will be a purely professional relationship. As I say, I'll stay well away from you. I can never trust myself around you again or take any risk with that. I now refuse to discuss this anymore. We won't talk of this ever again. Anything between us is purely professional. In time, you'll see that it's for the best. I hurt you and I can't ever take that back. I'm sorry."

Kathryn just stared at him, tears pouring down her face. "You hurt me? You think you hurt me that night? No, you didn't. Now? This moment now? Yes. Your words just now have hurt me more than anything. I love you and you've just torn my heart out and thrown it back at me. It took me a long time to come to you and you just… I'm not lying to you and yet you seem to think I am. You obviously don't trust me or my words to you. I was there too and I know what happened to us. Us, Chakotay, not to you or to me individually but to us. Not what YOU did but what HE did." She sniffed loudly when she saw he was unmoved by her words, the horror and guilt inside him drowning them out. "Fine, Chakotay. You walk away from me, refuse to hear me or listen to how I feel. You say this is for the best? Well it's not for my best. I love you and need you more at this moment in time than I ever have and you turn your back on me. You hurt me now, not then. You haven't even once said my name." She wiped at her tears and turned away, seeing Tuvok staring at her. And then she ran, out the door and across the bridge, back to her quarters, not caring who saw her.

Chakotay looked up and saw Tuvok watching him closely. Before the Vulcan could say anything, Chakotay held up a hand, demanding his silence. "Don't, Tuvok. Just don't say anything. It's better this way. I don't and won't ever trust myself with her again. I hurt her, no matter what she says to the contrary. I saw that and remember that only too well." He shook his head sadly. "It's better this way, better to hurt her some more in this way now than to risk really hurting her in the future. I can't ever trust myself again. She says she loves me but that's a lie. She can only ever hate me now. She'll never feel safe with me again."

Tuvok walked slowly over to his First Officer. "I feel I must point out that I believe you're in error, Commander. I'm able to stand back from all that happened and view it without the emotions which cloud your memories of it all. I know Captain Janeway well. She would not have told you she loved you and trusted you, if that were not so."

Chakotay shook his head. "That doesn't really matter, Tuvok. The simple fact is that I hurt her badly and can't ever trust myself again. This isn't the first time I lost control like that, was able to be taken over and manipulated or controlled like that. I can almost make a habit of it. Obviously, there's a weakness in me somewhere which allows me to be bent to the shape these others want. I won't ever take the chance that that can happen again, won't put her at risk from me like that. It's better this way." Tuvok actually seemed at a loss for words.

"Right. From now on, I take separate shifts from her, stay out of her way as much as possible. I arrange the rosters so that's easy enough. With anything else, I'm ordering you now to ensure that she and I are never alone together. I don't care if it's a security risk or whatever, on an away mission or a briefing here on-board Voyager, you make damned sure that we're never alone together. That's a direct order, Tuvok."

Voyager's Security Officer reluctantly nodded. There was nothing more he could do.

Over the next weeks, Chakotay kept to his word and avoided his captain at all costs. They were rarely in the same room together but when they were, there was always someone else with them. He rarely shared a duty shift with her and only appeared on the bridge with her when his presence was absolutely unavoidable. He attended whatever staff meetings required his reports but as soon as the briefing or meeting was over, he left immediately.

Kathryn for her part had no choice but to accept the loss. She remained in her quarters mostly when she was off duty, never going to the holodecks or crew functions because she found it too painful to see the man she knew she'd always love. Every time he refused to look at her or walked out of the room when she came in, drove another nail into her heart. And so she tried to make it all easier for him. She knew he wouldn't attend any function when he knew she'd be there so she stayed away.

The crew didn't miss what played out between their Captain and First Officer. They'd have to have been in a coma not to see the tension which existed between the command couple, on the rare occasion they were in the same room, most of it coming from Chakotay. From Kathryn, they only ever saw her sadness and pain. The weight she'd lost over the previous weeks and the dark circles under her eyes spoke their own story. This was a woman who was hurting very badly. They all felt helpless to do anything, even those who'd been on the away team.

Kathryn dragged herself out of bed after another miserable night alone. She rarely slept for more than a couple of hours now but found she didn't care. She stood up slowly then fell back onto the bed as a wave of dizziness washed over her. She stayed sitting for a few moments until it passed and then stood again gingerly, testing her legs. They held her this time and she made her way to the replicator, ordering a coffee. She shook her head as she watched it materialize before her. It seemed to be her staple diet these days.

She drank slowly, her thoughts light years away, then suddenly put the cup down with a thump as a rush of nausea came over her. She dashed for the bathroom, barely making it in the door, before she emptied the meagre contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl. She sat sweating and shaking for several minutes afterwards, forcing down the nausea which remained with her. She closed her eyes and let her head fall against the cool tiles. She felt the build-up of tears behind the lids and opened her eyes, allowing them to escape down her cheeks. This was the third day in a row now she'd been sick, and she knew she didn't need the Doctor to tell her what was wrong.

She rose on shaky legs and went to the wash hand basin, taking a cool drink of water and rinsing her mouth out, before brushing her teeth.

"Some mess you've managed to get yourself into this time, Kathryn." She stared at the stranger's face in the mirror before her, the paleness and lines showing there, almost mocking her. The eyes scared her the most though, empty of all that had filled them only a few months ago, before it had been stolen and replaced by… By what? She looked more closely but there was nothing to be seen in her eyes, only the colour and even that seemed fake in the harsh light of the bathroom.

Voyager's Captain sat quietly in the privacy of the Doctor's small office and waited for him. She looked up slowly when she heard him enter and watched as he sat down behind his desk, his eyes betraying nothing. "You were right, Captain. You are indeed pregnant." He watched for her reaction and saw none.

She barely nodded. "I still don't understand how…" She managed a small tight smile when she looked at the medic. "I mean I know how but not…" She sighed deeply. "I kept my booster up to date, had just had one before Chakotay and I…" She shook her head.

The Doctor smiled gently. "Captain, you know as well as I do that even in this day and age, no method of contraception is one hundred percent."

Kathryn nodded but kept her head down. "It's from that night, isn't it? So much has happened since then that I just didn't notice or think. Oh God, this will destroy Chakotay." She looked up finally into the kindly eyes of the Doctor and saw him shake his head.

"Actually no, Captain." He smiled slightly at the shock on his Captain's face. "That night, as you refer to it, was eight weeks ago now. You are, in fact, twelve weeks pregnant. I'm surprised you didn't notice before when you'd have missed your first period. Of course I know you've never been regular…"

Kathryn stared at him in shock. "You're telling me I was four weeks pregnant when…" She shook her head, total bewilderment on her face. She looked up now. "How come you didn't spot this when I was here?"

The medic looked embarrassed now. "I honestly can't say why it didn't show up before. Of course, I wasn't looking for it but still… I can only assume that because it was still so early and perhaps as a result of the drugs I had to use on you."

Kathryn's eyes widened in horror now. "Oh God, will that have had an effect on the baby? Harmed it?"

The Doctor smiled reassuringly at once. "Captain, I've scanned you very thoroughly. I can assure you that the foetus is perfectly healthy. You have nothing to worry about there. Your own health however leaves a lot to be desired." Kathryn waited for the lecture but it didn't come. "Are you going to inform the commander?"

Her eyes snapped to his. "No. At least, not yet. Come on, Doctor, you can't be the only one on this ship who doesn't know how things are between us. He won't even be in the same room as me. If I tell him this now, he'll just assume that it's a result of that night and spin into an even deeper pit of guilt than the one he's already in." The Doctor nodded his understanding.

Kathryn leaned her elbows on her knees and rested her head in her hands. "I can't believe I didn't know before this. I've only been sick the last three mornings. I should have known before now."

The Doctor shrugged his shoulders. "There are no two pregnancies the same. Morning sickness, which can come at any time of the day, for as little as an hour to all day, varies from woman to woman so much. Some get a few days of it, others have it all the way through. Some get it later, like you have, and some miss it completely or have it from the word go. There are even many documented cases where a woman didn't know she was pregnant until she began to deliver. In your case, you've had a lot of other things on your mind." He played with a padd before him on the desk. "As I said, Captain, the baby is fine but I'm worried about you. I want you to remain here for the rest of the day and let me run some more scans and tests, do some blood work." Kathryn was lost in thought and shock and barely nodded her agreement, leaving the Doctor worried about how easy this had been. "I'll contact Mr. Tuvok for you and arrange for you to have the day off." Again she barely nodded. Taking the ball on the hop, the Doctor stood and left the office. He came back with a surgical gown and handed it to Kathryn. She took it meekly and stood.

"I'll get changed." The medic was in shock. She turned then and smiled slightly. "Oh Doctor, I know what you're thinking, about how easy this is?" He smiled. "Well, I won't fight you on this. This is one time when I'll follow all your orders. And before you faint with shock, I'll tell you." Her face took on a profound look of sadness as she placed a hand carefully over her abdomen. "This baby is all I have left of Chakotay. He or she means everything to me, even within the short time I've known about this. I won't do anything to risk that." With that, she turned and left the office, leaving behind her pain and sadness which hung in the air like a fragrance.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes as she stood over the cursing and twisting body of her oldest friend and First Officer. "You'd be better letting me get down there and fix those. I've far more experience." As if to prove her point, there was a shower of sparks, followed by several loud expletives. "As I was saying…"

Chakotay pulled himself up and glared at her, slapping a hypo spanner into her hand. "All right then, you fix the damned thing." He appeared shocked at the anger in his voice and looked around quickly, making sure others were nearby. He looked back at his friend and softened at the shocked look on her face. "Sorry, B'Elanna, I'm just not in the mood for stubborn relays and bits and pieces that seem hell bent on getting the better of me."

B'Elanna took the spanner and examined it. "Maybe if you treated them with less of that temper of yours." She knew she was skating on thin ice, worried that she'd said the wrong thing but didn't care anymore. She was sick and tired of his attitude and his refusal to move past what had happened to them on Ular. She knew Tom was blue in the face trying to get through to him, even Harry and the others having tried. Daily, she saw the effect it was having on him but she also saw how it was affecting her friend and captain, when she did see her, that was. Kathryn had reduced contact with almost everyone on board, preferring to shut herself away more and more. Her physical appearance was a talking point of the entire ship.

Chakotay glared at her. "Don't start. You don't want to get on to that road with me."

B'Elanna grew bolder. "And why not? It seems to me you've been alone on it long enough." She shook her head. "Chakotay, you've stewed in this long enough. It's time to let it go. You're only hurting yourself and her with this." His eyes flashed a warning to her, one she chose to ignore.

"Kathryn. I'll say her name if I want to. You certainly won't. What you're doing to her now is having a terrible effect on her, but then you wouldn't know that because you never see her. Well, take a close look one of these days because that woman is slowly fading away thanks to you."

Chakotay just shook his head and began working on something else. "She's fine. She's better off and far safer where she is. Well away from me."

B'Elanna drew in a deep breath in an attempt to control her temper. She shook her head and slid down on the floor to repair the fault already there and the added damage Chakotay had caused. "Be like that then."

It was her turn to take it out on the relays.

Two days later, Kathryn again sat in the Doctor's office and watched as the medic studied a padd in his hands. Something on his face made her very nervous. "Something's wrong with the baby, isn't it? You said before that…"

The Doctor looked up and smiled a little. "The baby is just fine. I told you that already and with all the scans and tests I've done since, that has been confirmed. The baby is perfectly healthy."

Kathryn blew out a breath and let relief wash over her. "Thank God. I was so worried." She looked up now and her smile fell away. "There is something though, isn't there?"

He nodded slowly. "I'd really prefer to do this somewhere more private. Perhaps your quarters?"

Kathryn eyed him warily. "No. If you've something bad to say to me, I'd prefer to hear it here." She moved her head to the side. "I'm right, aren't I? You do have some bad news in there." She nodded towards the padd.

The Doctor nodded slowly. "Captain, have you noticed bruises on your body? I mean I know you're a physical person and usually have some bruising from bumps and scrapes but… I mean more than usual and more lately?"

Kathryn thought for a moment, her eyes dropping to a bruise on her exposed lower arm. "Now that you mention it, I think so. Yes. I haven't been visiting the holodeck lately though or done anything else." She looked at him. "Why? What are they?"

Instead of answering her, he asked another question. "Captain, when you were on Ular… Do you remember ingesting anything which hadn't been scanned before you consumed it?"

His question caught Kathryn off guard. She stared at him for a few minutes, then began to think, knowing he'd explain when he was ready. "I don't think so. Tom scanned everything for us. He was always there. I mean, there was never a time when we were out of sight of the men." She stopped as she remembered something. "Except… The only time was when the men were in the side room with that…with Brolar. We waited some time for them." Suddenly she remembered something. "I think… I remember being impatient to get everything over and done with. Someone served me another drink. I just knocked it back. I wasn't in the best of moods." She shook her head again, back in the present. "Why is that important? Is something wrong here? Doctor?"

The EMH held up a hand. "Please, Captain, just let me try and explain." Kathryn nodded and sat back, instinctively knowing that the next minutes and the Doctor's subsequent words would somehow change her life.

"I've had some questions for the last two days. Things which didn't sit right with me." He watched the woman before him carefully. "I failed to understand why your pregnancy didn't show up for one thing, but that can happen. Then there was your health. It's true you hadn't been eating well and had been through a lot, but still. Something just didn't sit right in my mind though. I assumed you were rundown, anaemic perhaps, hence the bruising." Kathryn remained quiet, fighting down the knot of fear which began to grow in her stomach. "You know I ran several deep scans and any number of other tests on you. I ran your blood work several times even."

Kathryn leaned forward now. "And you found something there. Is that what you're saying?"

The Doctor nodded sadly. "At first I thought it was something which would have happened to you anyway but now I know it wasn't. I checked and re-checked. That's why it's taken me two days."

Kathryn rubbed the side of her face. "I'm not understanding you here, Doctor."

He sighed deeply and met her eyes. "You're ill. You've developed a problem."

Kathryn bit at her lip. "Doctor, please just spit it out. Tell me what you're trying to say. It's obviously serious."

He nodded. "It is. I'm sorry, Captain, I'll just say it straight." He watched as she waited. "You're developed a disease of sorts, very like leukaemia. That's something which up until the end of the 21st century…"

Kathryn interrupted him. "I know what it was and I know what it did. How on earth could I have…?" She closed her eyes a moment. "You said 'like' leukaemia and then asked me about what I'd eaten or drank on Ular. Are you saying…?"

The Doctor leaned forward now. "I believe you were given something in that drink which caused you to develop this."

Kathryn sat back in shock. "They poisoned me? That bastard gave me something? How can you be sure?" Her eyes widened in horror then. "Oh God, what about the others?

The Medic indicated the padd in his hand. The fact that his captain would think of the others before herself, was no surprise to him. "I've checked them all. Without their knowledge, I might add. They are fine. This only affects you." He swallowed, despite not needing to, but using the habit to take an extra moment to think. "First off, there is no way you developed this naturally. I re-checked through all your old exams and tests. I checked your DNA samples even. It didn't exist in you and genetically, you would never have developed it. Secondly, there is nothing on this ship which could have re-produced what I found in your blood, therefore it had to have been given to you from outside the ship. I also learned that this 'toxin' for want of a better word, could only have been ingested. There is no other way to transfer it. On top of that, you were well scanned after your last away mission before the one to Ular. There was nothing there. I scanned you when you returned from Ular but I was more concerned with treating your injuries. It would have been too soon perhaps to show up anyway. That's the way this works. It also explains why it hid your pregnancy from my scans."

Kathryn looked horrified. "You said the baby was fine but if this thing is in me…"

The Doctor held up a hand again. "It isn't affecting the baby. I've checked and re-checked that. I can also 'treat' the baby while you carry it to ensure that it's safe. Much like they treated unborn babies for HIV and Aids in the 20th and 21st centuries."

Kathryn fought to accept his words but knew there was more. "What else? Can we treat this? I seem to remember that leukaemia became curable and is almost unheard of now."

The Doctor put the padd down on the desk before him. He hesitated a moment. "Captain, this disease is attacking you. Like I said, it resembles leukaemia but is not the same. That is just the closest disease I can compare it to." He met her eyes. "I have actually come up with a treatment although I don't believe the one who gave this to you intended a cure to be found. It's only because of its resemblance to leukaemia and my own extensive medical knowledge that I was able to find a treatment. As I say, I can treat it in you but…" He laid his hands flat on the desk. "If I treat you, it will affect the baby or you could well lose it. The child would be affected either way." His eyes were filled with sorrow.

Kathryn merely nodded, trying desperately to control herself and take everything in. "Let me understand this." She tried to stop her hands from shaking. "If you treat me, I'll be cured, but I'll lose the baby or at the very least damage the child badly." The Medic nodded solemnly. "If you don't treat me, you can still keep the baby safe, is that right?" He nodded again. "And if you don't treat me?" She left the rest of the question hanging.

The Doctor steeled himself. "You will die." There was no easy way to say the words.

He saw his captain pale before his eyes. "I see." She stood slowly, wondering if her legs would hold her up but needing to look somewhere else for a moment, other than at the man before her. "How long do I have if I don't get this treatment?" She turned slowly to look at him.

"I'd say about five to six months, perhaps a little longer."

She nodded and drew in a deep breath. "Long enough to have the baby." Her eyes scanned the room a moment then looked back at the Doctor. "Can you treat me once the baby is born?" She already knew the answer.

He shook his head. "That would be too late to begin…"

She smiled slightly, not knowing what else to do. It was that or cry and she knew she'd do enough of that later on. "Can you keep me alive long enough to deliver this baby safely?" She looked to him, pleading for one right answer at least.

He nodded slowly. "I believe so." He knew the reaction his next words would receive but he had to say them. "Captain, as your Doctor, I have to recommend that you terminate this pregnancy and begin treatment immediately. I know it goes against everything we both…"

Kathryn rounded on him, just as he expected. "No. No way. This baby comes first. I could never kill or harm my own child." It was the first flash of the captain rather than Kathryn he'd seen since she'd arrived. His suggestion though, decided everything for her. "Do what you have to do to keep this baby alive and healthy. I don't care what it is. Try and keep me alive long enough to deliver." She stopped now and stared at him. "Do you know? Do you know if this is a girl or a boy?" Her change in direction caught him. He nodded. "I want to know."

He tried a smile. He understood her need to know, to make the baby more real, to know what and who she was fighting for. "It's a boy, Captain."

Kathryn actually smiled gently and caressed her stomach. "A son. You'll have a son, Chakotay." She brought herself back. "I'm sorry."

She sat again and shook her head. "That bastard. I knew he resented me but this?" She shook her head and smiled sadly then, fighting her tears. "Sorry for that slip, Doctor. Just do the best you can to save our son. That's all I ask. I don't care what I have to go through. Even if I…" She sighed. "I suppose I better ask you what I can expect."

They locked eyes and the Doctor nodded slowly. "I'll treat you weekly for about an hour. That's for the baby. There won't be any easy way to do this. It will be rather painful and invasive." She understood and he saw that. "I'll also have to begin treating you both on a daily basis to ensure you get the vitamins and nutritional supplements you'll both need. I'll need to check you daily also to run scans and test your blood." She nodded as he went on, but he saw the struggle for control. "You'll get tired quite easily as time goes on and find it more difficult to keep food down. I'll give you special drinks for that, which will help a little. The nausea, vomiting and dizziness which you have started to experience…"

Kathryn shook her head. "I thought that was normal morning sickness. I guess it explains why I'm so late getting it because it wasn't morning sickness at all though without it I still mightn't know about the baby, my mind elsewhere."

The Doctor looked away a moment. "I can give you something to help with this also but nothing too strong. You may have the odd fainting spell." He scratched at his face, at an inch which didn't exist. "You'll find yourself with less energy, growing weaker and I can give you painkillers later on. Eventually there will be coma and…" He didn't need to finish and barely met her eyes.

Kathryn drew in a shay breath. "I think I get the picture. Old Captains never die, they just fade away, except in this case they die also." She smiled an apology then closed her eyes a moment. She'd tried not to think there might be pain involved. She forced herself to try and hold it together a little longer. "Sorry Doc, just some bitterness coming out there." He said nothing. "So does this thing have a name?"

He shook his head. "As I said, the closest I've seen to it is leukaemia. What you have appears to be a manufactured disease. Perhaps it is a recognized disease on their world but I've no way of knowing and I've never seen it before. However, I recognize it for what it is, the makeup of it. I suppose in a way, I could liken it to you finding a star or nebula. They are all different to the layman and you may not know the name of it but to you, it behaves the same and in a way you'll recognize. Sorry, Captain, I just can't explain it better than that."

Kathryn stood slowly. "That's OK. If you want to name it, go ahead. None of the names I could suggest would be acceptable or permitted in public." She swallowed her anger before it got too close to the surface. "Look, Doctor, I need time on my own to think about all this. Know this though. I want you to do whatever it takes to save this baby. If I fall into a coma… Sorry, when I fall into a coma later on, you keep my baby alive by whatever means you need to use. Keep me alive to let my son live. After that, I don't care what you do with me." She turned and left before she fell apart completely and for that, she wanted complete privacy.


Kathryn took the following day off, needing the time to herself to try and come to terms with everything. When she'd returned from the Doctor, she'd sat on the sofa in the dark for several hours, just trying to get her mind to accept all that had been revealed to her. Her hand constantly stroked her abdomen, subconsciously reassuring the small life which lay within that she would do everything in her power to protect him. Finally, she'd dragged herself to her feet and replicated something to eat, suddenly mindful of what she was putting into her body now that she had another to consider. She'd then taken a long bath before forcing herself to bed, determined to rest her body if not her mind. Sleep had eluded her that night as she tried her best to sort through the tangled mess in her mind. Eventually towards morning, sleep claimed her and she welcomed it, relishing the few hours of oblivion it would bring her.

When she'd woken this morning, her thinking had been calmer, an acceptance there which hadn't been ready to present itself the previous day. With this acceptance, came a sort of order, a clearing of the way so she could see a route forward, for however brief a time she had left. She reported to the Doctor for her check-up and listened as he passed on more advice to her, even making notes for herself. She then returned to her quarters and studied the diet sheets and facts she'd been given, determined to follow them to the letter. This was no longer about her now, only the life of the one she carried.

The next day, Kathryn returned to duty, the trauma of the previous few days clearly telling on her. She'd seen the shocked looks on the faces of those around her, too polite and aware of protocol to say anything. She knew she looked ill and that the crew were worried about her but there was nothing she could do to reassure them. She had enough to worry about just thinking about herself and her son now.

Over the following weeks, Kathryn tried to take better care of herself. She knew the crew worried about her and spoke about her behind her back, but she realized that there was no malice in their gossip, only concern. B'Elanna repeatedly tried to coax her out, to even just get her to talk, but Kathryn constantly resisted. Every time she reported for her duty shifts now, she saw the worry on the faces around her, Tuvok, Tom, Harry and others and she always tried to smile her reassurance to them that she was fine. If Chakotay was worried or concerned about her, she never knew, as she rarely saw him anymore. He spent his working hours off the bridge as much as possible and Kathryn let him. In her mind, it was her presence which caused him pain, constantly reminding him of that night and so she did her best to make things easier for him. She loved him too much to do anything else, despite how much it hurt her. She reported to the Doctor daily and silently endured her weekly procedures to ensure the baby remained free of the disease his mother carried and which was slowly killing her. Kathryn knew the Doctor was unhappy with her lack of progress and spoke to him about it.

"Doctor, I'm doing everything you've told me to. I'm trying my best to keep food down but I just can't. The drinks you gave me help a little but sometimes even they come back." She looked down at her body. "I'm not even showing, well very little. Even that's not normal."

The Doctor patted her hand. "I know in a normal pregnancy you would be well showing by now but this isn't a normal pregnancy, Captain. You've lost a lot of weight and your clothes are hanging on you. You will begin to show soon but I doubt anyone will notice. How have you been otherwise?"

Kathryn shrugged. For once she was honest with the Doctor, knowing he needed all the information available to him. "I constantly feel ill, I can't eat, feel light headed so many times each day, I can't begin to count. No matter what I eat, it comes back within minutes. I've no energy. The bruising is a big problem too. I'm tired trying to hide them and even the ones that don't show are sore."

He nodded his understanding, sympathy clearly written on his features. "I understand you're locking yourself away from everyone."

Kathryn looked at him as if he wasn't thinking straight. "How on earth can you expect me to socialize? Sorry. I manage my shift and do most of that in the ready room. Thank God this is such a quiet area of space. Under normal circumstances…" Her mind drifted a moment, trying to remember the last time things had felt normal to her. "Normally, I'd be bored to tears. Now I'm just glad of the quiet to try and sort things out. I have to plan for the future…" She saw his sad expression. "Not mine. His." She caressed her stomach. "I have to think of him now and plan for his future. I have to make sure there's someone there for him." The Doctor shook his head, not knowing what to say. "So anyway, I'm so tired all the time, all I can do at the end of my shift is crawl back to my quarters. Besides, I'm not up to being with people and bumping into Chakotay only makes things worse for him."

The Doctor looked at her and shook his head. "I really wish you would talk to someone else about this. You can't do this all alone, Captain. It's too much on you, physically and emotionally. You need support. As to worrying about anyone else, you really should only be thinking of yourself you know. Commander Chakotay can…"

Kathryn wasn't ready to get into this. "I can manage fine on my own. Thank you, Doctor. I'll see you tomorrow." Before he had time to say anything else, she was gone.

Next day, Kathryn had to leave the sanctuary of her ready room. Several gel packs had developed problems and B'Elanna requested her captain's expertise in engineering to help solve the resultant problems they were causing. Kathryn for her part worked quietly alongside the young Klingon and tried to ignore Chakotay, who'd also been dragged into the repairs. It hurt her terribly as she watched him, his attempts to ignore her and stay well away from her obvious to all present. She didn't miss the glares B'Elanna sent his way either. After nearly two hours, Kathryn hauled herself up off the floor from under the console where she'd been working. As soon as she stood, a strong wave of dizziness swept over her and she grasped the edge of a workstation to try and steady herself. She stared unseeing ahead of her, dark edges creeping in around her line of vision and vaguely heard B'Elanna call to her. She tried desperately to hang onto consciousness but lost the fight. The last thing she saw was the floor coming up to meet her.

B'Elanna tried to catch her captain as she pitched forward, barely reaching her head to avoid it hitting the floor too hard. She looked up quickly to get help and saw Chakotay staring in fright at the sight before him. B'Elanna snapped out of it quickly and hailed sickbay, calling for a beam out.

Voyager's engineer waited patiently in the Doctor's office and watched through the glass of the enclosure as the Doctor treated his captain. For the hundredth time, she cursed Chakotay for not coming to sickbay or at least calling to inquire how Kathryn was. She shook her head as she remembered how thin and pale the older woman had looked lying on the floor of engineering and cursed herself for not noticing how bad she looked sooner. She frowned now as the Doctor made his way towards her. "She'll be fine, Lieutenant. Just fainted."

B'Elanna stared at him a moment. "Just fainted? Maybe that's what happened just now but there's more to this."

The Doctor ignored her and accessed his computer terminal. "She'll be just fine."

B'Elanna wasn't going to be put off that easily. "I think she's far from fine. I don't think she's been 'fine' for some time but every time I try and ask her anything personal, she backs off into a corner. And I don't think this is just to do with the situation with Chakotay either. I saw how pale and thin she is, how ill looking." The EMH tapped a few keys on his console. "You know, Doc, when I think of it, you didn't seem all that surprised when I had us beamed here. You didn't ask any questions about what happened or anything like that. It's almost as if you were expecting this."

The Doctor looked up quickly then away again. "Doctor-patient confidentiality, Ms. Torres. The captain is under my treatment now and will be fine. I don't recall reading anything in your file about your medical training. Good day."

He looked up eventually and saw B'Elanna still staring down at him. "Fine. I'll ask her myself." She saw the Medic's expression soften and tried to read what his eyes were saying.

"I'm sorry, Lieutenant. Forgive me." He hesitated a moment, as if trying to make a decision. Eventually he spoke. "I believe that would be the best thing."

B'Elanna nodded and smiled a little. The Doctor was trying to tell her more without saying anything at all. She nodded knowingly. "I'll do that. When can I speak with her?"

He smiled a little more now. "I'll be ready to release the captain back to her quarters within two hours. I'll recommend plenty of rest and good food. I don't see having the odd visitor as a problem."

B'Elanna nodded. "Right then. Call me when she's ready to leave and I'll come by for her." She then turned and left.

B'Elanna made her way straight to Chakotay's quarters, having ascertained from the computer that he had returned there. She rang his chime twice before he allowed her in. "Where the hell were you? Do you really care nothing about her anymore?"

He kept his back to his old friend. "I knew the Doc would take care of her."

B'Elanna pulled at his arm and swung him around to face her. "Don't you even want to know what happened? Don't you care at all?"

He pulled from her grasp. "I can't STOP caring but I have to stay away from her. I can't ever trust myself near her again. Besides, all I'll do is bring back the horror of that night for her."

B'Elanna threw her hands up and almost screamed. "Kahless, Chakotay, I can't believe you're still carrying on this stupid charade. You won't harm her like that. What you're doing to her now is far worse. Did you take a close look at her lately? Have you really looked at her?" He didn't answer. "Of course, you haven't. You hardly ever see her. Well, look next time. She's lost weight, she's pale and sick looking all the time, locks herself away. She collapsed today and the Doctor didn't even seem surprised. He just took it in his stride as if he expected it. And another thing for you to think about. Tom just told me he discovered something while working a shift in sickbay and according to him, the Captain comes to see the Doc a lot these days, although there's no record of it. It's all in an encrypted file the Doc has. I think there's something serious going on here and I for one intend to find out what it is." Chakotay looked at her strangely but said nothing.

"Oh I asked the Doc but of course, he couldn't tell me anything. He didn't seem to mind though when I said I'd ask her myself and covertly encouraged me to talk to her." She watched the man before her, as he fought himself.

"I'm glad she has you for a friend. I can't be there for her anymore." He turned away and sat down on the sofa, dropping his head into his hands. "I'd prefer to be alone now if you don't mind. Thank you for reporting to me."

B'Elanna just stared at him. "I just can't believe you, Chakotay. I thought I knew you well. You're making the biggest mistake of your life here and throwing away the best thing to ever happen to you. You're also badly hurting the person you once claimed to love more than anyone else in the known world. I can understand how you feel, better than you think. I saw what Tom went through over all this but he's moving past it and so are the others. It's about time you did too and stopped letting that bastard win."

Chakotay's head snapped up. "None of the others did what I did. You weren't there. You didn't see her." He stood up quickly, as if moving would dislodge the images in his mind. "I can't… I just can't face her like that. Seeing her day to day around the ship is bad enough. I see her face and how what I did is affecting her."

B'Elanna walked up to him and stared coldly at him. "You're letting yourself wallow in this false guilt. Well, snap out of it, Chakotay. What you see is the hurt you're causing her now, not anything that happened then." When he didn't react, she turned away and made for the door. "Just stay in this place you've locked yourself in then. It's a sad and lonely place and I hope you're happy there. I'll take care of Kathryn. Don't you bother yourself."

When he looked up, she'd gone.

B'Elanna reported to sickbay as soon as the Doctor hailed her and walked up to a surprised Kathryn. "I'm your escort to take you home." She forced the smile on her face, trying to hide her shock at how pale and ill her captain still looked. She didn't miss the flash of hurt and pain in her eyes either, knowing she was remembering the many times Chakotay had done this for her. "Come on, I'll even allow you a coffee but don't you dare tell the Doc. He'd kill me." Kathryn looked down quickly but moved away from the bed and made for the door, B'Elanna following closely behind.

Once B'Elanna had her friend settled on the sofa, she moved to the replicator.

"Tea for me too, B'Elanna, please."

B'Elanna turned and smiled. "Kathryn Janeway turning down coffee?" The sad look on the face before her made her forget any attempt at joking. "Tea it is then." She replicated the drinks and joined the older woman on the sofa.

"Kathryn, you can tell me to mind my own business and even threaten to throw me in the brig but I'm not leaving here until you talk to me. You've been putting me off for weeks now and after today… Look, I'm not blind. I can see something far more is going on with you, outside of the situation with Chakotay, that is." She saw Kathryn flinch at the mention of Chakotay's name. "You know you can trust me one hundred percent. I won't repeat anything you say to me, not even to Tom. I do, however, feel you need someone to talk to and although he said nothing, the Doc kind of gave me that impression too." She leaned a little closer to Kathryn. "Look, Kathryn, you can tell…" The sadness she heard in the voice which cut across her words, almost stopped the breath in her chest, along with the words themselves as they were blurted out.

"I'm pregnant." Kathryn didn't raise her head.

B'Elanna just stared. Finally, she found her voice. "Pregnant?"

Kathryn looked up now. "Yeah, pregnant. With child. Expecting."

B'Elanna held up her hand. "OK." She sighed. "Does Chakotay know?"

Kathryn looked panicked for a moment. "No, and you can't tell him."

B'Elanna shook her head, still in shock. "Kathryn, apart from the fact that I think he has a right to know, you can't do this on your own. OK, strike that. You won't be on your own, not now that I know, but still."

Kathryn shook her head sadly and stood up. "It's not as easy as you think."

B'Elanna watched her wring her hands together. "Kathryn, I'm sure if Chakotay knew, it would make all the difference to him. Maybe this is what he needs to…"

Kathryn turned to her quickly. "No, B'Elanna. I know him. He'll only assume that this is a result of that night. It'll make him worse."

B'Elanna stood slowly. "And it isn't from that?"

Kathryn looked down at the carpet and shook her head. "No. It was about four weeks before that. I'm a little over four months along." She smiled slightly. "It was probably our first time or thereabouts. It seems my booster failed or something."

B'Elanna's eyes widened and she looked down at her captain's abdomen without being able to help herself. "Four months? Are you sure? I'd never have guessed." When she looked into Kathryn's eyes, she saw a faint, sad smile.

"I know I don't look it but it's that far back, besides I haven't been with him since, that's for sure. He won't come near me. He won't even look at me and there won't ever be anyone else." She moved back to the sofa and sat down. "I know I'm not showing."

B'Elanna watched her closely for a moment and then moved to sit beside her. "That's why you fainted today and have looked so ill for some time now?" Kathryn nodded, trying to fight her tears. "Oh, Kathryn." B'Elanna slipped her arm around the narrow shoulders and was shocked for a second when Kathryn fell against her, sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh honey, let it out. I'm here." She rocked her friend back and forth, rubbing up and down her back, trying to soothe her.

After about ten minutes, Kathryn finally seemed to gain back some control. "B'Elanna, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that to you. You've enough problems of your own."

B'Elanna smiled gently at her and smoothed her hair back from her tear stained face. "We're friends. Good friends. That's what friends do for each other." She frowned a little now. "Tell me everything, Kathryn. I know there's more to all this."

Kathryn was quiet for several minutes, fighting desperately to keep the words in but they had a mind of their own. Between further bouts of tears, Kathryn finally let it all out. By the end of it, both women sat holding each other, the tears of one indistinguishable from the other.

B'Elanna held her friend to her, fighting her own emotions. Deep pain and sadness for the woman in her arms raged with hate at the alien who had done this and also anger at Chakotay, the one who should have been here holding Kathryn, helping to ease this is what little way it could be eased.

"Promise me you won't tell Chakotay. Please, B'Elanna, I'm begging you. I know he'll see it for himself soon enough but for the moment… Please, B'Elanna, I love him too much. I just want to spare him as much as I can." The young Klingon reluctantly agreed. "I won't ask you to keep this from Tom though. That's not fair on you. Besides, I might need him knowing now, especially over the coming months."

B'Elanna fought a fresh onslaught of tears and tried to keep her voice steady. "Tom and I both love you, Kathryn. You know that. We'll do this whatever way you want to." Something just told her that Kathryn needed to hang onto what little control of her life she had left. Helplessly lost for words, she just stayed and rocked the woman in her arms for another hour or so, until she fell asleep.

Tom and B'Elanna became rocks for their captain and friend from that night on. B'Elanna now accompanied her on her visits to the Doctor, staying with her and holding her hand, especially for the weekly treatments. One or both of them shared dinner with her most nights although Kathryn still couldn't manage to keep much food in her stomach, and one of them was always around with lunch or gentle reminders to take a nap in the afternoon if she looked like she needed one. Tom also became an added link to the Doctor for Kathryn, putting her mind at rest a bit more and helping her understand everything that was going on inside her own body. Mostly though, the young couple were a constant source of love and support which she so badly needed to get through what lay ahead.

They all spent time on the holodeck together, Tom and B'Elanna knowing that Kathryn's mind as well as her body needed care and a deep and abiding friendship developed between the three of them. And so it was to B'Elanna that Kathryn entrusted several padds on which she'd written letters to Chakotay and her son, adding to them from time to time. They were her only way to speak with the man she loved and her only link to her son, the boy who would grow up never knowing his mother. Kathryn's only request of her friends was that they give her son to Chakotay to raise if he was acceptable to that and to be there for them both whenever they could. If Chakotay wasn't up to that, she asked them to raise the boy and they agreed.

Chakotay noticed Tom and B'Elanna hovering around their captain more and more but he didn't let on. He was just happy that she had someone there for her. B'Elanna also wasn't pushing him to talk anymore and he was glad of that. Slowly though, his old friend's earlier words were sinking in and he began to look a little more closely at Kathryn, finally seeing for himself how thin, pale and ill she looked. She also seemed exhausted each time he saw her. He stood back and watched over the next couple of weeks, on the rare occasions he saw Kathryn, a desperate battle taking place inside him. One part of him was terrified to even be on the same ship as her lest he do her any harm physically. Images of himself as he had been, when he hurt her so badly, remained with him, refusing to shift. He still heard her cries and screams, her desperate words for him not to do what she'd known he intended, still saw her tear stained face as he'd lain over her, taking her as he'd wanted, hurting her and destroying everything that could ever have been between them. In his mind now, he was only continuing to cause her emotional harm, no matter where he was. The other part of him wanted nothing more than to go to her and pull her into his arms, to take away all the hurt and pain he'd caused, to beg her to forgive him. As it was to turn out, matters would be taken out of his hands.

Chakotay had the bridge, unable to get out of duty there due to the fact that Kathryn had let it be known that she'd be in her ready room all day going over supply lists and didn't want to be disturbed. He sat now and watched the viewscreen before him, the stars flying by almost hypnotizing him. He thought it strange that his presence had been requested on the bridge when Kathryn was, to all intents and purposes, already on duty there. He knew she spent her days locked away in her office and usually accepted his absence from the bridge. He had no answer as to why this day should be any different.

He squirmed in his chair, not used to sitting in it of late and studied the other bridge crew, all making a point of appearing totally absorbed in what they were doing. He watched B'Elanna, making some repairs to a console, as she made eyes at her husband. She constantly seemed to be looking towards the doors to the captain's ready room and he frowned now. Suddenly he realized that Tom was doing the same and that their eye contact wasn't about silent messages of love between them but a form of communication. Chakotay shook his head, unable to understand and returned his eyes to the viewscreen.

Suddenly Harry's voice broke the silence. "Commander, there's a ship decloaking off our port bow. It didn't show up on scanners until now."

Chakotay jumped up. "Raise shields. Tuvok, can you…?"

The Vulcan was ahead of him. "Sir, the signature is…" His hesitation was enough cause for alarm and Chakotay turned to look at him, trying to read something on the usually blank page of his face. "The signature is…Ularian." Dead silence filled the bridge for several seconds.

Chakotay quickly snapped into command mode and hailed the captain. "Captain to the bridge. Priority."

Kathryn laid back on the sofa in her ready room and tried to quell the nausea which washed over her. She felt drained of any energy today and was obeying Tom's orders to lie down. She had agreed, asking for the excuse of working on some reports, rather than returning to her quarters. She wasn't ready for Chakotay and the crew to know of her situation just yet. She rolled unto her side now and wiped at her face with the damp cloth she held.

"Oh baby, you're not helping me here." She was slowly getting used to the sensations of carrying the small life inside her. Feeling the baby move, no matter how small Kathryn herself still was, reassured her that her son as still alive, something she constantly worried about. Today though, his movements only increased the sick feelings which rose in her throat.

She sat up slowly now and reached for her glass of iced water, the only thing which seemed to help. She looked down at her abdomen and shook her head. She was showing now but no one noticed, her uniform hanging on her thin frame hiding the swelling to all eyes but those who knew. She was just about to try lying back down again when Chakotay's voice rang round the ready room, causing her heart to jump. His words sent her into captain mode but the sound of his voice still tore at her heart. Without another thought, she was on her feet and headed for the bridge.

"Report." She didn't move as fast as she normally would when hailed to the bridge under a priority. It registered with Chakotay for just a moment how Tom and B'Elanna watched her closely, worried looks on their faces. He quickly dismissed this and made his report, trying his best to avoid Kathryn's eyes. "Captain, a ship has decloaked off our port bow. Sensors failed to detect it until just now."

Kathryn looked at him then turned to Tuvok, who finished what her First officer was trying to delay saying. "Captain, the signature is Ularian." None of them failed to see the shocked look on their captain's face as the blood seemed to drain from her, but she hid it quickly. It registered with Chakotay for a moment, how gaunt her face was.

"On screen and hail them." Chakotay saw her stiffen her shoulders and pull her famous mask into place quickly. He knew only too well how hard this was on her, on all of them and he felt a surge of admiration for his captain. His attention was then drawn to the face which appeared on the viewscreen, a face they had all prayed never to see again. Brolar.

"Captain." He showed genuine surprise. "I certainly didn't expect to see you again. I truly thought you'd be dead by now."

Kathryn hardened her face and fought her emotions with super human strength. Chakotay saw her and also heard the gasps from Tom and B'Elanna. "Sorry to disappoint you. What do you want?"

Brolar shook his head and laughed. "Never mind, Captain. I'm a patient man. I'm sure it's only a matter of time. I'd say, in fact, that by the look of you, that time won't be long in coming. I can wait." He seemed to think. "On second thoughts, I can't wait. I'm here to destroy you and your ship."

Kathryn fought for control. "You followed us all this way to destroy us? What did we ever do to you?"

The alien laughed, a course sound. "I really shouldn't tell you but since you're all going to die within the next few minutes, I'll let you know. That's the only reason I'm talking to a mere female now." The expression on his face grew venomous. "You destroyed my world, Captain, and now you shall all pay with your lives."

Kathryn forced herself to move closer to the viewscreen. "We did nothing to your world. You're the only one who…"

She didn't get to finish as the alien face before her broke into a study of pure hatred. "Did nothing? What about those message buoys you placed in orbit around my planet? Do you know what they did to trade on my world? Do you have any idea of the result of those?" His face twisted cruelly. "They brought another race to our world, one led by weak females. They attacked us and our way of life, contaminated our females with their vicious thoughts and words, gave them ideas above their own place. They rose up, took from those who had cared for them, fed them, tended them."

Kathryn laughed now. "Those who dominated, abused and enslaved them you mean? You're telling me they finally fought back?" Kathryn let her satisfaction show. "We have a saying 'what goes around, comes around'. I believe it applies here. Well, know this, Brolar. I'll die happy knowing this."

Brolar screamed, an almost primeval sound. "You whore, you'll pay for this. I'm here to watch you die in agony." He lowered his voice a little and stared at her with hate filled eyes. "It'll be quicker than the way I planned for you to go but you'll still die and you'll go to that death knowing you're taking your crew with you. I do hope the last weeks have been painful for you. It looks that way from your face. I take it you do know it was me who had you poisoned?"

Kathryn showed no emotion as Chakotay's eyes flew to her face. "Kathryn, what's he saying?"

Brolar laughed evilly. "Didn't tell him then? Maybe you didn't know yourself." He shook his head as he looked at her. "No, you know all right. I can see it in your face. I can see the results for myself. Well goodbye, Captain. It'll be a pleasure watching you all die. To think I actually tried to save your men and show them the way."

Kathryn moved and spoke so quickly, no one registered it for several seconds. She was beside Tuvok at Tactical, ordering red alert, issuing orders and working the weapons herself. They all watched as several shots targeted the ship on their screen, showing little damage. Kathryn continued to bark orders to Tom, the pilot instantly obeying. Voyager rocked under two incoming hits, the bridge crew hanging onto whatever was in reach. Sparks flew and consoles exploded, Kathryn's voice still heard above the noise of battle, no one questioning her orders and then there was a small flare in space. Voyager rocked heavily under a hail of weapons fire, which ceased as the flare grew until it engulfed the ship before them. The resultant explosion rocked Voyager once more and then all was still. They'd survived. Brolar and his ship hadn't.

It took Chakotay only a second or two to realize that he wasn't hearing Kathryn's voice anymore. He heard environmental controls kick in, the faint spark of several shattered consoles but nothing else. He looked around and then he saw her. In two steps, he was beside her, the crumpled uniform on the floor at the bottom of the steps to Tactical. "Kathryn?" His voice was choked as he took in her appearance.

Blood flowed from her head and forehead as she seemed to fight for breath. The pain in her eyes almost spoke on its own. "I'm sorry." Her voice was a faint whisper. He met her eyes and saw her tears.

Suddenly B'Elanna was beside them and Kathryn looked to her. "Save him. Don't let him die. He's all I have left. Pain there. Oh God, no. I can feel it. Can't lose him."

Tom was beside her now as B'Elanna gripped her captain's hand. "Easy, Kathryn. It'll be all right." If anyone was shocked to hear Tom Paris use his captain's first name, they kept it to themselves.

Kathryn looked at him slowly, her eyes glazing over. "Tom. Don't let him die. Please save him. Don't let me lose him too."

Tom stroked her face. "It's OK, Kathryn. You'll be fine." He looked to his wife. "Help me raise her hips. She's losing a lot of blood." B'Elanna silently obeyed.

Chakotay just continued to stare down at Kathryn, his thoughts swirling and tears filling his eyes. Everything else was forgotten but his love for this woman.

Slowly she looked back up at him. "I'm sorry. So sorry. Forgive me. I love you always." She gasped in pain and then cried out. "Oh God. Please no." Her breathing was getting worse and then suddenly the Doctor was there beside them. Chakotay saw Kathryn struggle to remain conscious as she looked to the medic now.

"Remember you promised. My right. Save him. All I have left. Whatever it takes." Her eyes rolled back in her head then closed. She never saw Chakotay fall to his knees beside her, tears streaming down his face, never heard his words, torn in agony from his throat.

"Oh God, Kathryn, I love you too. Don't die. Don't leave me. I'm sorry, so sorry. I love you."

Tom and the Doctor worked frantically over Kathryn for the next five hours, battling to replace the blood she lost. For a long time, it seemed to flow from her body faster than they would pump it into her. Tom occasionally tore his eyes away from his work to stare at her face, the paleness there astounding him. How she could still be alive at all was beyond understanding. Finally, it had turned and the blood loss lessened gradually. The Doctor looked at Tom and shook his head in amazement. "How that small life has managed to hold on is amazing."

Tom was almost afraid to speak. "Do you think we've saved the baby?"

The Doctor shook his head. "For now, but it's a battle we haven't won yet."

Tom nodded solemnly, watching as the Doctor worked on Kathryn's deep head wound, which he'd only treated temporarily, the internal haemorrhaging and threatened miscarriage demanding the Doctor's skill first. "What about Kathryn herself?"

The Doctor didn't speak for several minutes as he concentrated on a delicate piece of surgery. Tom assisted him as he waited for an answer. Finally, the medic leaned back and nodded to himself. "We've done all we can with that. Look Tom, I don't have any answers. She's in a deep coma. The shock and blood loss… The head wound was…"

Tom met the Doctor's eyes and nodded. "I know." He sighed deeply and squeezed his eyes closed to try and control the tears he felt threatening. He forced the words out. "She's not ever going to wake up from this, is she? We've lost her." He forced his eyes to look to the Doctor and saw the saddest look he'd ever seen on the hologram's face.

The Doctor merely shook his head. "No, Tom. I don't believe she'll come back to us. The head injury was just too severe. Add to that the internal haemorrhaging, the punctured lung and then of course her condition with her body already so weakened. All I can do now is try my best to honour her final wish. I'll do all in my power to keep her alive so that her child can live." They finished off Kathryn's treatment in silence. There really was nothing more to say.

Tom helped the Doctor settle Kathryn, checking the computer which would help keep her alive as long as they could. He listened to the reassuring hiss of the machine as it controlled her breathing and checked the input of blood and fluids which would nourish her and the baby over the coming days and weeks, hopefully months. Despite knowing she couldn't hear him, Tom leaned down and whispered into her ear, needing to say the words.

"Keep fighting this, Kathryn. Don't give up on us. Your son needs you." He looked up and saw the Doctor smile gently at him. "No harm in it."

The Doctor shook his head. "No harm at all."

B'Elanna jumped up when the Doctor and Tom came into the office, her eyes going from one to the other, trying desperately to read their expressions. "How is she? Is…?"

Tom squeezed her hand. "She's still with us." His eyes said so much more though. "What about Chakotay?"

B'Elanna shrugged, too choked up for a moment to answer. Finally, she swallowed and found her voice.
"He's actually sitting out in the corridor." She raised her eyes to her husband's. "He looks so lost and in pain but he wouldn't come in."

Tom looked to the Doctor then back at B'Elanna. "Does he know? About the baby, I mean, and the rest I guess."

B'Elanna shook her head. "I didn't tell him and he hasn't seemed coherent enough to ask anything. He's just sitting there, hugging his knees and rocking back and forth. He keeps saying her name."

The Doctor shook his head and left the office.

Chakotay felt lost in some place where only inner pain existed as he experienced a myriad of emotions. His mind felt as if it was struggling in a fog. The images which had haunted him for so long, of Kathryn lying on the bed in the cabin as he'd hurt her, were suddenly absent from his mind for the first time in months. Now they were replaced by her lying on the floor of the bridge, blood pouring from her head, her eyes pleading with him. He couldn't see outside of that and yet her words continued to invade his mind, with no understanding of them attached.

It took several minutes for the hand on his shoulder to register with him and he slowly looked up into the face of the Doctor, a kindly look there, one he wasn't used to seeing. "Commander, please come inside with me. We need to talk."

Chakotay just stared at him. "She's… Where is she?"

The Doctor knelt down, his eyes level with the broken man before him. "She's still with us. She's in the surgical bay. Commander, we need to talk. Please come into the office with me. It's OK. B'Elanna and Tom are there. Come on, you can't stay sitting here." Slowly Chakotay raised himself, his large body protesting the movement after so long spent in one position.

The Doctor led an almost childlike Chakotay into his office as B'Elanna moved away from the chair she'd occupied during her silent wait. She helped the medic ease her old friend into a sitting position and then just took his hand and held it tightly.

Slowly Chakotay looked around at them all. "I don't understand. Things he said about poison and… She was badly hurt up there, wasn't she? And before that… I don't understand. Later on… What was she saying? What did she mean?" His mind was struggling to cope with an onslaught of thoughts, memories, images and emotions.

The Doctor sat on the desk before him now and touched his shoulder. "Commander, I need you to concentrate for me. There's a lot I need to tell you and it's going to be difficult to hear and take in. Just know that you have good friends here for you."

The words seemed to penetrate the fog in Chakotay's mind and he looked up, a look of deep fear on his face. "She's not… Please don't say that."

The Doctor shook his head. "I told you she's still with us. Commander, please just listen to me."

Chakotay nodded slowly, his eyes not looking at anything in particular. "She said she was sorry. Why? She's done nothing. It was all my fault. She even asked me to forgive her. I don't understand."

The Doctor shook his head. "Commander. Chakotay. Chakotay." He saw he still didn't have the big man's attention.

"I don't understand what she meant. Asking you to save me and not let me die, that I was all she had left, couldn't lose me, couldn't lose me too, she said." He looked at the Doctor. "What did you promise her? She said that. And what was that about poison? What did that bastard do to her?" Suddenly now he was starting to panic.

B'Elanna gripped his arm tightly as Chakotay's eyes pleaded with the Doctor now for answers. "Chakotay, I need you to listen carefully to me now."

Chakotay nodded like a child. "Sorry. I'm listening."

The Doctor nodded solemnly. "Chakotay, I have to tell you that Kathryn… Kathryn is…" He sighed. "When she spoke of 'saving him' she didn't mean you. Chakotay, Kathryn is… She's pregnant. The Doctor had finally gotten used to using his captain's given name, at her insistence. She'd told him that due to their current situation, being called 'Captain' didn't help her.

At this news, Chakotay appeared to go into shock. "She's pregnant? Oh God, what have I done to her?" His mouth opened and closed a few times, words failing him. B'Elanna gripped his hand tighter. Finally. he found his voice again. "Me. I did that to her as well, as if the rest wasn't bad enough."

The Doctor had expected this response and shook the man before him now. "Chakotay, listen to me carefully now. Kathryn is almost five months pregnant. She was four weeks gone before your visit to Ular. Your child wasn't conceived that night. I give you my word on that."

Chakotay just stared at him, his tears starting now. "She was already…? She didn't say." He sat still, not feeling a part of his own body.

The Doctor sighed and shook his head. "She didn't know. She began to experience what she thought was morning sickness." He spoke softly as he unfolded the story for the shattered man before him.

As he spoke, Chakotay just stared at him, his mind barely taking in the words he was hearing. Despite everything though, they got through to him, tearing his heart to shreds. Pain and guilt washed over him, guilt of a totally different flavour to that which he'd lived with for so many months. "And all I did was add to her pain. I should have been there for her but I was so afraid of hurting her. I didn't trust myself with her."

B'Elanna knelt down beside him. "Chakotay, you can be there for her now. You can be there for your son."

His eyes flew to hers. "A son? That's what she meant on the bridge?" She nodded tearfully, then looked away a moment. Slowly she raised her eyes to the Doctor, begging him to say the words.

The Doctor nodded. "Chakotay…"

He looked back at the Doctor. "There was so much blood. Did she…? Has she…?"

The Doctor shook his head. "She didn't lose the baby. He's fine so far." The medic hesitated now, no training or programming preparing him for what he had to say.

"Chakotay, Kathryn is dying." No reaction. It was as if the man before him had turned to stone. "She was poisoned by that…" Unsure if his words would be understood, the Doctor told Chakotay everything. "Coupled now with the injuries she received today…"

Chakotay barely blinked, the only outward sign that he was still alive. Brolar's words now made sense to him also and alongside his pain, a hate bubbled within him of an intensity unlike any he'd even felt, even for the Cardassians. He stared at the Medic. "How bad?"

The Doctor looked around the room a moment before his eyes settled back on Chakotay. "She received a very serious head injury, several broken ribs, a punctured lung." She sighed. "There was considerable haemorrhaging internally and she almost lost the baby. With her condition already…" He quickly told him details of Kathryn's illness from the poison.

Chakotay slumped in his chair, a broken man. His words were a faint whisper. "She won't come back to us, will she?"

The Doctor shook his head sadly. "I don't believe so. I'm so sorry, Chakotay. She refused any treatment because of the risk to the baby. She also rejected any suggestion of a termination in order to save her life. She knew what she was facing and she made her choice. It was her wish though that she be kept alive in any way to try and ensure the life of your son. For now, I have her on full life support." At these words, Chakotay jumped up and ran out of sickbay.

B'Elanna made to go after him but Tom gripped her arm. "Let him go, love. He needs some time. He's had a lot, well a lot all at once."

Her pain filled eyes went to her husband's face and she nodded. "OK. You're right. I'll give him some time."

Chakotay got back to his quarters in some way. He would never be sure of how exactly. He sat in the darkness, the stars through the viewport mocking him. He sat slouched in a corner and just stared out at them. He knew in some way that his brain had to be working, telling his body to breathe and push blood around, but his mind seemed to have ceased to function, no clear thoughts coming to him. Jumbled images and memories vied for space within his mind but the one constant was Kathryn's face. He sat for more than three hours, his thoughts starting to clear and revisited the past months. He didn't hear the door chime and only registered B'Elanna's presence when she sat on the floor in front of him and touched his face. Eyes filled with silent agony moved to hers and she pulled him to her, rocking him like a baby. She only knew his tears were there when she felt their moisture seep through her uniform.

"Chakotay, I'd move planets to be able to do something for you." She heard faint choking noises from the back of his throat and eased him back a little. "I've spoken with Tuvok. Doc felt it was time he knew everything. He's going to take command for the moment." She saw that running the ship was the last thing on his mind right now.

"I failed her, constantly failed her." He stared ahead at nothing.

B'Elanna stroked his face. "No, my friend. She understood. She loved you, still does wherever she is. And I know you love her and always will. Chakotay, I know how hard this is, but you have to think of your son now. It's what Kathryn wanted more than anything. You have to think of that now and maybe in some small way, it'll help you through this."

His expression didn't change. "I let her down and abandoned her. I wasn't there for her."

She knew he needed to get all this out. "Talk to me, my brother."

He slowly looked at her. "I just couldn't face what I did to her, the guilt and pain, the memories of it all. I didn't trust myself to ever be near her again and I was so sure she'd never want me close to her again. I found it so hard to live with what I did, what I felt I did. I couldn't accept that I hadn't some part in it all."

B'Elanna shook her head. "You were so wrong. You have to accept that none of what happened was your fault. Not in any way."

He drew in a ragged breath. "Maybe. In the end though, I still hurt her. I thought staying away would help but I just hurt her again. Either way…"

B'Elanna held his hands tightly. "Chakotay, I can tell you this. She loves you and never once blamed you for anything. All her hate was directed at that bastard. In her eyes, we were ALL victims. Even back here on the ship, she never blamed you for staying away. She still saw that as his fault, his doing. She saw herself as having lost you and Brolar as the one who took you from her. All she had left was the baby. He even took that from her."

Chakotay shook his head and winced, as if the movement caused him pain. "I thought she was talking about me on the bridge. I didn't know."

B'Elanna nodded slowly. "All she cared about during the last weeks was hanging on long enough for him. I think she saw him as all she had left of you." She looked up. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I'm not helping you."

He rubbed at his face. "No, I need to know and yes it hurts but I damned well deserve that pain."

B'Elanna's face grew stern. "Stop being like that with yourself. Blaming yourself about this now is just another way of letting Brolar win again."

He looked at her, seeming desperate to believe her words, but his despair won out. "I've lost her, haven't I? She won't ever come back to me. I won't ever get the chance to tell her." He dropped his head back. "Oh thank the Spirits she at least had you and Tom there for her. I can't stand to think what she's been through." Anger entered the arena now. "If that bastard wasn't already dead…" B'Elanna wasn't going to watch this spiral down into the blackness she saw him sinking into, despite this anger. She gripped his arm tightly now. "Oh Spirits, it takes this, her being injured, what he did to her… It takes all that for me to see."

B'Elanna smiled softly. "To see how much you love her?"

Chakotay shook his head sadly. "No, not that. I never stopped loving her, never could, but to see that I can't be without her." He squeezed his eyes closed. "I was just so afraid of hurting her again, thought she'd be afraid of me and then on the bridge, her words made me think that she was afraid for me but I couldn't understand."

B'Elanna sighed deeply. "She was afraid for the part of you she had left. Your son."

He nodded, letting his tears fall. "I just thought that she wouldn't ever want me near her again after that, after what I did, that I'd just remind her and bring it all back. And even later when I stayed away, I was so sure she wouldn't want to see me even around the ship. Not after all that."

B'Elanna gripped him tightly. "Chakotay, it was all she wanted. She only ever wanted you, nothing more, and then she found out about the baby and he was all she had." She knew her words weren't really helping him so she changed track.

"Listen to me carefully now, Chakotay. You can't undo what's gone. What you have to do now is be there for your son. Kathryn fought very hard to get him this far and even though she's unaware of it, she's still fighting for him now. She wanted him to go to you and asked Tom and I to be there for you to help." She handed him several padds, which she took from her pocket. "She's been giving me these for a few weeks now. Wanted you to have them. I know she meant later on but I think now is the best time. Some are for you and some for the baby." She shifted herself and stood slowly. "Read the ones to you. I don't know what they say but they were very important to her. I'll come by in an hour or two and check on you. After that, we'll see." Chakotay didn't look up as she walked to the door. As the doors closed behind her, she turned and saw him activate one of the padds.

Chakotay watched the words scroll across the padd for several minutes before reading them. He tried to mentally prepare himself for what they'd tell him. He pulled himself up stiffly and made for the sofa then began to read, Kathryn's voice in his head, as if she were almost reading the words to him.

"Dear dearest Chakotay,

This is what is most likely the first of many letters I'll write to you and I know you may not want to read them, but I'm hoping you will. I'll need to backtrack with some of them, so bear with me.

It's been nine weeks since that bastard ripped our world apart and now that I know so much more, I need to write these to you. I'll start.

Where do I start? I guess by telling you what I feel inside me. It's the same as what I felt that night and it remains the same now. I love you. Pure and simple. Well, maybe not simple but what I feel for you is pure. Never doubt that. I loved you before all this, during all this and since all this. I will always love you."

Chakotay stopped reading a moment and looked up. Kathryn's words on the bridge came back to him. "I love you." Even then. She still loved him. He looked back down at the padd in his hands.

"Chakotay, I have to say this first. You were not to blame for anything that happened to us. I want you to believe that with everything that I am. You didn't do anything wrong. I've said these words to you before. Once to your face and hundreds of time inside my own head. Would you really have felt this way had it been me who'd been controlled? I know you. You'd be feeling the same way I am right now and trying desperately to convince me of what I've been trying to get you to believe. Does any of this make sense? I'm most likely wandering a bit but I can't seem to find the right words.

'I love you'. They are the only words which are important to me. 'You did nothing wrong' are words that come a close second. Chakotay, for me please, try and remember all the details of that night. I know this will cause you pain, but try and concentrate on what you've left out of your memories. Try and remember my words to you. If you listen carefully, you'll hear them. I tried to tell you in my ready room that day, but I could see you still weren't ready to accept what I was trying to remind you of.

I have never blamed you and I never will because nothing that happened was within your control. Try and talk to Tom and the others and let them help you. Mostly though, I want you to think about what we had between us before all this started. Remember that love, Chakotay? We believed that nothing could ever tear that from us. Don't let something do that now, even if it's just inside your own heart and mind."

Chakotay went onto the next padd.

"Chakotay, I walk this ship, well from my quarters to my ready room and back but I don't see you. Do you know how that hurts? Do you understand the pain I feel from missing you?

I called you to my office. You'd avoided me for so long and you came. You brought Tuvok with you but you came. I saw the pain in your eyes. Did you see the pain in mine? You seemed so afraid to be near me. Don't you know you could never hurt me like that? You were controlled, programmed to do what you did. Why can't you understand that? You kept backing away from me and I spoke to you but I saw you weren't listening, that your pain and guilt drowned my words out. I'll remind you.

I remember that night and this is how I remember it – as it was Chakotay. You were so quiet all the way back and I worried about you. When you shouted and threw the cup, I was shocked and knew immediately that something was badly wrong with you. I also knew that Brolar was behind it. I asked you what was wrong and wanted to get you back to Voyager and the Doctor. I remember my words to you. 'This isn't you. What did he do to you?' Do you remember that Chakotay? Doesn't that tell you something? Doesn't it tell you that I knew even then that this wasn't you?

I knew they'd done something to you. And then I thought of the others. I tried to go to them. Chakotay, I didn't for one minute think of myself, only of getting help for you and the others. I tried to get past you, told you that you weren't yourself. Chakotay, some of this will hurt you but I have to say it. Physically it hurt when you hit me. Emotionally it hurt too. Knowing I couldn't get help for you and seeing what that monster had done to you, that pained me the most.

I knew it wasn't you. I saw your eyes and they were dead. I kept telling you 'this isn't you', asking you to hear me. My love, you were programmed, drugged, used, abused, brainwashed, manipulated, controlled and so much more. I knew what was going to happen. Chakotay, I want you to know that I was never afraid of what you would do to me. I was only ever afraid of what all of it would do to us. Yes, I cried and I struggled. It wasn't against you though but what was controlling you. Chakotay, you were an instrument, a tool in his sick and cruel game.

As it was happening, I gave up fighting. I knew his control would only make you fight more and that later it would be worse on you. I stopped struggling and fighting. When I was on that bed, yes, I cried. I felt it and you know, Chakotay, it was his hands I felt, not yours. You weren't there. The man I knew and loved wasn't there. It was his hands which tore at my clothes, hurt me, held me down. It was his body that took me. It was never you. My tears were for us, for what he was taking from us. I cried not for what you did to me but for what he did to us. Can you make that distinction, Chakotay? You have to, if we're ever to save anything of what is between us, even if it's only in memory.

I admit it all hurt. I know you remember my tears, cries and screams but you didn't cause them. I beg you to accept that. You have to if what we have and had means anything to you. You know I love you and I know you trust me, so trust me now when I tell you I'm not lying to you. And Chakotay, I fell against that table. Him again and not you. He caused all this and because of that, I fell.

During it all, I never once felt any hate for you. This was you, the man I loved, with someone else using and controlling you. Someone else made you do these things. It wasn't you and I know that. Chakotay, I stared into your eyes and they were dead. There was nothing of you there. I remember my words to you during that time and after it and I want you to think really hard because if you do, you'll remember them. Do that for me please. Remember. I told you. 'We'll get through this', 'we love each other', 'it'll be all right'. I prayed that we'd survive all that. Prayed that WE would survive it all. Not ME but US.

Remember what else I said to you after it all? 'We'll survive this', 'I still love you', 'it's not your fault'. I lay there and said those words to you and they were from my heart. Remember I stroked your hair? I tried to get away to get help for you. I didn't think about any injuries I might have had and you tried to grab me. That's when I fell. I caught my ankle and fell, then hit my head on the table.

I ran. I was bare foot and my feet hurt. I remembered my comm badge but I'd left it at the cabin. I was in a field. I was in pain and then I was dizzy and felt sick. I remember falling and then nothing.

And then I woke up in sickbay to an even greater pain. That bastard had won with you. Can you understand that what followed hurt me far more than anything on that planet?

I love you Chakotay. I'll write more later."

Chakotay rubbed at his face, wiping the tears which flowed down his cheeks. 'Oh Spirits, Kathryn, I'm so sorry."

He stood shakily and went to the replicator, ordering strong coffee, but even that caused him more pain, the smell of the beverage instantly bringing Kathryn to him with it. He took the cup and sat again, and forced himself to relive that night in his mind, forced himself to remember honestly. His mind took him back to the cabin and that day in her ready room and finally he let go of the 'selective memory' Kathryn had spoken of. Using this and Kathryn's words, he revisited what he'd tried so hard to forget and the truth came forth and with it a degree of self-forgiveness and peace. Wiping the tears from his face, he nodded to himself, knowing he'd just won a small battle. He sighed deeply and sniffed, then looked down at the padds in his lap. Taking up the next padd, he began to read again.


I keep thinking about the ready room and the pain in your eyes. I saw how frightened you were and I saw your pain and guilt. Please let it go. The guilt is not yours but his. I loved you then and I love you now.

You spoke to me of it being your fists and your body – that is not so. It was his, not yours. You destroyed nothing. He tried to do that but he can't if we don't let him. Can you understand that? When I think of us together, which is all I do now, I remember the love we have. Your touch to me is gentle caresses. I remember your lips soft on mine, your fingers stroking and exploring every inch of me, knowing their way so well. Your touch lifts me and takes me to places I never knew existed. Your body joins with mine and we merge onto another plane of existence. Writing this isn't helping my body right now. Sorry, I'm trying to be serious here. What I just said is serious though."

Chakotay stopped a moment and looked towards his bed, almost seeing them both lying there, the light from the stars shining on their bodies as they cried out together in passion and love. He stilled the memory and took up the next padd.


You have to know that you could never have fought what was done to you." He sensed anger in her words now. "I miss you so much and that bastard took you from me. You swore to me that I'd never be alone but I am. I'm so alone now, I almost want to end this miserable existence."

Chakotay was shocked by the pain and anger of the short letter. It gave him an insight into how much pain Kathryn had gone though, more than any of the other letters. He took the next one.


I have to say this, make sure you understand this.
I was never afraid OF you, only FOR you.
You hurt me by letting him win.
This happened to US not just to YOU and not just to ME.
It happened to US.
I still love you."

He shook his head. Her last letters were so short. He could read her pain and depression between the lines. He forced himself to read on.


Over the last weeks, I've tried to stay away from anything outside of duty. I tried seeing you so many times but you didn't want that. I know you stay away from anywhere you think I might be so now I'll help you. I'm staying locked away here in my quarters. I'm just trying to make it easier for you. I'm so lonely. I've never felt so alone in my life. God, I miss you so much. Life isn't worth living without you."

Chakotay leaned his head back, feeling his tears run from his eyes. He gripped the padd tightly in his hands. "Oh Kathryn, I'm so sorry." He raised his head again and forced his eyes back to the padd.


This morning changed everything. I know I haven't exactly been taking care of myself recently, not eating or sleeping well but this was not right. I got up and felt so dizzy. I had one sip of coffee and bolted for the bathroom. Third day in a row. I saw the Doctor and he confirmed it. I'm pregnant.

You'll most likely know all this by the time you read this. Is it me or have the way I'm writing these letters changed? I feel now as if I can talk to you through them. I've missed that so much. I'd give anything for a fight with you even. Just something to have you in the same room and to see you. I miss you so much. I'll come back to this. I need some time."

The next letter was on the same padd.

"I'm pregnant. I told you that. I had so long dreamed of us hearing news like that together but I was alone for this. I was terrified at first that our child was conceived on that night because while it wouldn't matter to me, I knew what that news would do to you. Well Chakotay, he or she wasn't. I was four weeks pregnant by then. I can't believe that. I never knew, never suspected. Doc said my booster must have failed or maybe it hadn't kicked in at that time.

Remembering our first night together I can understand how it might have happened. Sorry, too painful. The memories comfort me but I know they won't help you. So Chakotay, you're going to be a father and I can't share it with you. I know you've enough pain and I can't add to that. I know you'll assume it was from that night. Ask the Doc. It wasn't. I have a reason to live now. Everything from this moment on is for this child, the only part of you I have left."

Another letter followed.

"When Doc told me about the baby, there was such a mix of happiness and sadness. I kept telling myself that something good had come out of all Brolar did to us. I know now he did more. Two days ago, I was filled with happiness to know that I was carrying your child, our child. The sadness was there too because I couldn't share it with you but this was still our child. Now I've lost him too. Not to you. You'll know him. I pray for that. No, I've lost him, before I'll ever have him. I'll never know my own child, never hold him in my arms. Yes, Chakotay, you're going to have a son. Carrying a child for you was my dream come true. Oh God, I'll never know him, see him grow, his first step, first word.

I have to stop this. It's too hard. Practical things. Oh God, this is so hard. I still can't take it in. OK here goes. Straight out is best. Chakotay, I'm dying. I wonder now when you'll read this. Maybe of course, this letter will not be necessary. I don't know what will happen to me, not really. Well I do, but I'm trying not to think about that. Will I still be here as you read these words or will I have left you? I don't know. Actually, strike that. I may have left you in the physical sense, but I'll never leave you completely. I'll come back to this. I need to pull back a little for a moment.

OK Chakotay, Doc will explain all the details. I can't at the moment. Too emotional and onfused. What's important is that there's a child of ours on the way and I won't be here for them. I need you to take care of this baby.

I was poisoned on that planet. He hated me that much. Doc as I said will explain everything. I know he told me I could save myself but the price was too high. This baby, our son, means everything to me. He's all I have left of you. Besides, living without you isn't living. I've told the Doctor to keep me alive as long as he can, in whatever way he can, so that our son has the best chance of surviving. I won't know about the end, won't see him born but I hope you can bring yourself to be there. He needs you, needs his father. He's the one gift I can leave you. Love him for me and tell him about me some day. I love him so much already."

Chakotay threw the padds down, his body racked with sobs. He stayed curled on the sofa for some time, before slowly regaining some control and forcing himself to read on.

"I've been so alone and in so much pain for the past weeks. I can't tell anyone. I need so many treatments to keep my body going. The weekly one is the worst but it means the baby can be free of this disease which is killing me. I curse that bastard daily, hourly even. If it wasn't for this baby, I'd end it all.

I fainted today. I was in engineering. You were there. It was so painful to be that near to you and not be able to reach out to you. I felt the floor come up to meet me and then nothing. B'Elanna took me back to my quarters after the Doctor released me and I couldn't take it anymore. I told her everything. Oh God the relief."

Chakotay scrolled ahead to the next letter.

"It's been easier in some ways these last weeks. Having Tom and B'Elanna with me helps a lot but nothing can fill your place. I'm giving these letters to B'Elanna to hold for you. I hope they help you in some way. They help me so if they pain you, throw them away or curse me. It won't matter. All that matters now is this little one. I'm still barely showing because I can't keep anything in my stomach but it's such a comfort to have B'Elanna with me for my treatments. I need someone. I just wish so much it was you.

OK Chakotay, when I'm gone and please God our son arrives all right, I'm begging you to take him and raise him. Tom and B'Elanna will help you all they can. If you can't, I've asked them to raise him for us.
You name him. I want you to do that. He's going to be your son now. He'll never be mine. He won't ever know me. Just tell him I loved him beyond my own life. Just the way I loved his father."

Chakotay sat and cried for some time then checked through the rest of the padds. Kathryn had written nothing further, thinking she still had time to write more. All he found was her Will, mainly ensuring that command of Voyager would pass to Chakotay with Tuvok as First Officer, stating how she trusted them to get her crew home. The bulk of her property, she wanted left to Chakotay and the baby. There were a few smaller items she wanted to go to B'Elanna and Tom, even some things for her mother and sister. She stressed how she wanted Chakotay to take their son and raise him, if that was his wish. Otherwise, she nominated Tom and B'Elanna. Chakotay sat shaking his head, fighting his tears and losing. He picked up one of the other padds and glanced at the first lines then dropped it back down, shutting it off.

"My darling son,

I'm your mom. You'll never know me but I want you to know this. I love you more than anything in this world. I also love your father and I want you to take care of him for me because I can't be there."

When B'Elanna called just over an hour later, she found her old friend on the floor beside the sofa tightly gripping a sweater of Kathryn's, holding it to his face, inhaling her scent. She went to him immediately.

"Chakotay, please don't do this to yourself." She sat and held him for nearly half an hour.

Finally, he pulled himself back from her arms. "I need to see the Doc. I need to know it all."

B'Elanna nodded. "I'll arrange it."

Chakotay learned everything over the next two days. He insisted on the medic giving him every detail of Kathryn's condition and made Tom and B'Elanna tell him everything they could, without asking them to break a confidence. By the end of the week, he knew more than he wanted to but he took what he knew and sequestered himself in his quarters for over a day, seeking his spirit guide and trying to purify himself of all that had dwelt within him over the past months. He didn't ask to see Kathryn once, not feeling worthy of that yet. Finally, he found some semblance of peace and began to let go of his earlier guilt.

Tom was on duty in sickbay that night and leaned back against the wall. He was sitting on the floor, finishing off the supper B'Elanna had brought him. She sat curled up beside him. The Doctor had deactivated himself over two hours ago. The only sounds in the sickbay belonged to the machines keeping Kathryn alive. Tom sat up suddenly and looked to his wife. He whispered quietly. "I thought I heard the door."

She shook her head and whispered back. "I didn't hear anything."

Tom stood quietly and walked slowly through the darkened sickbay. Within a minute, he was back to B'Elanna. He motioned for her to come with him and placed a finger to his lips, telling her to be quiet. With a puzzled expression on her face, she followed him.

Without making a sound, Tom led her to the door of the surgical bay and heard her quiet gasp behind him. Chakotay stood there, his eyes riveted on the still form of Kathryn. Tears flowed down his face. He just stood there, occasionally taking a step towards her and then back. He made to reach out several times also but each time, drew his hand back. Tom felt a tug on his hand and nodded. They eased back out the door and left their friend as he took his first step back.

Chakotay visited Kathryn in sickbay every night after that, keeping the visits secret. Each time Tom and B'Elanna watched him as he moved a little closer to Kathryn each time. Eventually, they found him sitting beside her, just watching her. The following night, they found him holding her hand. This time he looked up and caught them.

He smiled gently, yet sadly at them. "Thanks for standing back and letting me do this at my own pace." He smiled again at their shocked expressions. "Didn't think I'd know you were there? My heritage left something in me you know."

The young couple eased their way into the small surgical bay and smiled. B'Elanna nodded her head. "I should have guessed something would be there. You maybe can't light fires but…" She quickly saw the memory her words conjured up and shut up. "Sorry."

He nodded his understanding and looked back at the woman lying on the bed before him. He stroked her hand. "I've missed this so much. I didn't realize…" He smiled at their frowns. "Her touch, the feel of her skin, her hand in mine." They both nodded their understanding.

Tom patted him on the back. "I've work to do and B'Elanna needs her sleep. You stay here with her as long as you want. Talk to her. I'm a great believer in patients hearing what's said to them. If you need me, I'll be in Doc's office." When Chakotay looked up, they'd both gone.

That night, the first of so many, Chakotay sat with Kathryn and poured his heart out to her. He held her to him, careful of the tubes and wires attached to her body. He'd been shocked at first when he saw her hooked up to all the machines which were breathing for her and keeping her body alive but was used to them now. It had taken him over a week to get this far. Now he felt as if he'd never left her. Mostly he chatted to her or read stories. Other times, he broke down and begged her forgiveness. Throughout it all though, he made a vow. As long as she remained with him, even in this way, he'd never leave her side again.

Over the following weeks, Kathryn's medical condition remained unchanged. The Doctor monitored her constantly, surprised at the readings he got. "I had honestly expected her condition to deteriorate but I'm happy to say, it has remained unchanged. I can only assume that since she's in a coma and not moving around… The hormones are also playing a part in all this, which is impossible to predict." He shook his head, tapping his tricorder. "Of course, the nutrients are staying in her system now." He smiled at Chakotay. "She's grown too, hasn't she?" Chakotay nodded and smiled, his hand reaching out to stroke the now very noticeable swell of Kathryn's abdomen, where their son lay content, oblivious of the heartache around him.

"I can't believe how much." He lowered his head. "I just wish she could know all this." He couldn't continue and turned his head away. The Doctor quietly left him alone.

Kathryn's condition deteriorated very slowly over the following weeks, much to the Doctor's delight. She was now in her seventh month of pregnancy and Chakotay and B'Elanna took turns in washing her, using her usual soap and shampoo and gently massaging her muscles, rubbing creams in to keep her skin from drying out, ever careful of the bruises which littered her body.

It was during all this that Chakotay finally learned how to deal with his guilt for what had taken place on Ular. The guilt he felt over his behaviour since remained but he was slowly dealing with that also. As time was healing him though, it was slowly taking away the woman he loved.

The crew, who by this stage all knew of their captain's condition, came and went, taking their turns in sitting with her and attending to some of her needs. Sam Wildman took on the job of washing and brushing her hair, occasionally adding a little makeup to help her colour. The crew even decorated the surgical bay with bright pictures and even did Kathryn's nails. Chakotay had to laugh one day when he came into sickbay and found Janice Porter painting her Captain's toenails. She looked up embarrassed.
"I noticed once that she painted them herself. I just thought…"

Chakotay smiled and shook his head. "Thanks, Janice." She smiled and went back to her task. Chakotay watched her for a while and then sat down. "How's everything with you and Gary?" Janice looked up and smiled again. Gary Cole was a changed man and had 'come out' since his time on Ular. Not one person on the ship had batted an eyelid. One young ensign had even welcomed the news and a budding romance had begun.

Janice smiled at Chakotay now. "I'm sure you've heard about the love affair of the year." Chakotay nodded. Everyone had. "He's very happy. He and Jonathan were made for each other. Jonathan even has a friend who…" Janice blushed.

Chakotay laughed. "I've heard about those double dates of yours. They're a legend." He smiled again. "I'm happy everything worked out for you."

Janice grew serious as Chakotay's expression grew sad. "I wish it could be the same for you, Sir."

He tried a smile and nodded. "I know."

The Doctor coming in to check on Kathryn stopped their conversation before it got any further. He looked slightly shocked when he saw Janice and his patient's painted toenails. "Whatever next?" He looked around the small room, at the assortment of flowers and small gifts and shook his head but they both saw his smile.

When Kathryn entered her eighth month, her condition suddenly began to change. The Doctor was monitoring her closely and called Chakotay aside one day. "Chakotay, her condition is changing. It's starting to deteriorate at a faster rate now." He seemed to hesitate as if deciding how to phrase his words. "Look, I'll tell you this now."

Chakotay sat, feeling he'd need to. "Just say it, Doc."

The medic nodded. "Right. Up to now, I was more than happy with her condition. At first, I would have expected her to be critical at this stage, perhaps for her not to even be with us." He looked away a moment from the look of pain which met him. "As things have turned out, the disease slowed down considerably, mainly I think down to the fact that she is in the coma and is able to keep the nutrients in her body. As I told you, I believe her hormones have something to do with this also. At first I thought they were triggering this disease and then it looked as if they were suppressing it. Now, I just don't know." Chakotay nodded his understanding. He knew this.

The Medic continued. "Over the last day or so, that has changed. The disease is once again 'on the move' shall we say. So now I'm faced with a dilemma."

Chakotay frowned, not understanding. "Is there a problem with the baby?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No, the baby is fine. He's just fine." He moved around his desk and sat. "For the past while, mainly because this disease seemed to be slowing up so much, I began to entertain hopes that…" He saw a spark on the face before him. "I began to hope that maybe the baby would come in time, or we could deliver him in time, to attempt some treatment against this disease." Chakotay grasped his words. "Now of course, it's speeding up again and I don't believe the baby is ready just yet. Originally I'd have waited for her to go into labour naturally and help the baby come that way. With recent events, I was planning a section in the next two weeks or so, which would leave me with the hope of beginning treatment for Kathryn and also delivering a healthy baby."

Chakotay tried to control his emotions. "And now the disease is taking that hope away?"

The Doctor nodded. "It's moving in that direction. I'm hoping it will, at worst, continue as it is. I need to buy another week at the very least for this baby." Chakotay shook his head, trying to grasp the hope that had been offered to him yet afraid to at the same time. "Chakotay, I wasn't sure whether I should say all this to you. I didn't want to get your hopes up, but I feel you should be appraised of the situation."

Chakotay rubbed at his face. "No, you were right. I need to know everything." He sat forward. "So if her condition remains the same, you can take the baby in a week with no risk to him and Kathryn has a hope?"

The EMH nodded. "There isn't any guarantee with this, Chakotay. There is the hope but you have to appreciate what all this has already done to her body."

Chakotay stood slowly. "I know that." He ran his hands through his hair. "What's causing the coma mainly? Is it the disease or the head injury?" He looked to the Medic for an answer.

"The disease hasn't helped but it's mainly the injuries she sustained on the bridge. Even without the disease, the head injury alone would most likely still be causing the coma. Now I say most likely, but with the disease, it's guaranteeing it. There are still answers I just don't have."

Chakotay tried a smile. "I know. I'm sorry." He shook his head. "I need to get back." He turned and left.

Over the next few days, Kathryn's condition remained much the same. On the fourth day, it grew worse again, leaving the Doctor unsure of what to do. "I'm still not happy to take the baby just yet. He's small." Chakotay's face was a mix of pain, the struggle there for all to see. The Doctor knew it was his decision though. "Chakotay, I have to make this decision. I'm following Kathryn's orders, her last wishes to me. She wanted this baby saved at any cost. I have to abide by her wishes. It's what she wanted."

Chakotay stood shakily. "I know. It's just…" He reached out his hand and stroked Kathryn's abdomen, trying to caress his son also. He was still amazed how much she'd grown over the last weeks. He'd even taken some holoimages of Kathryn's 'bump' in the slim hope that someday she might see them. He stroked gently over the stretched skin and suddenly jumped.

The Doctor looked up. "What is it, Chakotay?" None of them used rank anymore in the sickbay.

Chakotay shook his head. "It was like a kick but different. I mean, I've felt him kick many times but this was…" Chakotay had grown to love feeling his son move inside his mother. They were bittersweet moments he shared with Kathryn, even though she was totally unaware of them. Before he had a chance to say more, a monitor sounded. Chakotay looked up frantically. "What…?"

The Doctor was already going into action, calling Tom to sickbay. "She's going into labour. I'm going to have to try and stop her. It's too soon. If I can even delay for another day or two…"

Chakotay stood back, refusing to leave Kathryn as Tom and the Doctor tried to stop her labour. Eventually B'Elanna joined her friend and gave him what support she could. Chakotay became aware of the Doctor speaking to him after some time and forced his mind to concentrate.

"Chakotay, we can't stop the labour. Your son is coming now whether we like it or not."

Chakotay stared at him. "You said…"

The Doctor held up his hand. "I said I'd prefer to wait longer but he should be all right with the correct care."

Chakotay bit down hard on his lip and prayed. Tom's shout called the medic back. Chakotay then began to panic. "What's wrong? Tell me."

The Doctor didn't answer for a moment. Finally, he looked up. "I'm going to have to section her. I had hoped to help her along with a natural birth, despite the fact that she can't push. The contractions stimulate the lungs. In the old days, it wouldn't have happened." He worked for a moment. "I like to avoid this if I can but now we can't. Doing a section when labour has already started in this way. Please Chakotay, wait outside." He expected the reaction he got.

"No way. I'm not leaving them."

The Doctor just shook his head, not pushing the issue. "Mr. Paris, laser scalpel." Chakotay could do nothing as Tom and the Doctor fought to free his son from his mother's womb. He heard odd words, knowing that the baby was partly in the birth canal and other comments he didn't understand. Eventually he watched amazed as the Doctor pulled a squirming bundle from Kathryn's open abdomen. And then came the sound he knew he'd never forget. His child's first cries.

"Please record this." He stared in amazement at his son, all slimy and to him strange colours but he was beautiful.

B'Elanna's hand gripped his tightly. "It's recording and I have the holoimager. Chakotay, he's beautiful." Chakotay could only nod.

"Chakotay, do you want to do the honours?" The Doctor held the scalpel up, offering the new father the chance to cut the cord.

Chakotay swallowed and nodded. "Is he all right?" Tom and the Doctor both grinned and nodded together.

Chakotay followed the instructions and smiled to himself. "B'Elanna?" She nodded and took some images. Just then the Doctor went to take the baby but Chakotay stopped him.

"Don't take him yet. Can I have a moment please?"

The Doctor frowned and nodded. "Just one though. We need to check him and get him into a medicrib. He's still very small."

Chakotay nodded. "Just one moment. He needs to meet his mother." Chakotay reached down and lifted his son gently and laid him across Kathryn's chest, the baby's head against her neck. He leaned down and whispered softly.

"Kathryn, we have a son. He's so beautiful, just like his mother but he needs you." He took her limp hand in his and stroked the tiny body with it. "Do you feel him? That's your son, Kathryn. He needs to know your touch." B'Elanna tried to take images with tears blurring her vision. Tom was in good company with her. If the Doctor had been capable, he'd have joined them. "Kathryn, fight for him now. He needs you so much. I need you. Feel how soft he is?" He continued holding her hand, allowing her to stroke their child all over his tiny body. "Fight for him, love. Please." He stood back now and nodded to Tom, who took the baby and began seeing to him, while the Doctor went about closing Kathryn's incision.

Suddenly the Doctor called Tom back and a stab of fear went through Chakotay. "Tom, get back in here now."

Chakotay watched as Tom rushed to the Doctor's side. "What's wrong?"

The Doctor barely glanced up. "Chakotay, you'll have to wait outside. There's a rupture. She's haemorrhaging badly. Please wait outside." Chakotay stared in horror at the amount of blood flowing from the wound in Kathryn's abdomen then felt B'Elanna's hands on him, pulling him away.


For the next hour, B'Elanna sat with a silent Chakotay as they waited for news of Kathryn's condition. They watched the small body in the medicrib, the tiny hands and feet stretching out, seeking contact with something. Chakotay slipped his hand inside the crib and stroked the tiny limbs, watching as the baby settled. Finally, the Doctor came out to them and smiled guardedly.

"We've stopped the bleeding but it's weakened her greatly. We came very close to losing her. I'm getting fresh blood into her as fast as I can." Chakotay never took his eyes from the Medic's face. "I've started her on treatment for the disease too. At this stage now, I believe it was the disease which was suppressing her ability to fight the injuries she sustained, her ability to recover from them. It's also most likely the reason for this haemorrhage. Her blood isn't clotting the way it should but I've given her something to help with that. It should help with the bruising also. I've started her on a rigorous course of treatment, along with other drugs but it may be too late. I'm sorry for how hard that sounds. I'm afraid only time will tell now."

Chakotay stayed sitting, not trusting his legs to hold his weight. "The baby?"

The Doctor checked the infant and smiled. "He's just fine, small of course but he'll make that up."

Chakotay stood now, rather shakily. "Can I see Kathryn?"

The Doctor nodded and smiled. "Tom's just settling her now. Go on." B'Elanna helped her friend across the sickbay and behind the screen. She held him as he gazed down at Kathryn, lying so still and pale, the computer still keeping her with them along with the fluids and blood which flowed into her veins.

Chakotay nodded to himself and reached out his hand, gently stroking her face. "Fight this, love. Please. Our son needs you." He looked behind him and saw Tom, B'Elanna and the Doctor watching him. He looked back at Kathryn again and then turned away. Suddenly exhausted, he just passed out on the floor.

Chakotay remained unconscious for almost twenty-four hours with help from the Doctor. When he finally opened his eyes, the Doctor was smiling down at him. "Welcome back, Chakotay. It's been twenty-four hours since you collapsed. I sedated you also to make sure you got some rest. The baby is fine and there's no change with Kathryn." The Doctor's face was almost smug, knowing he'd covered everything his new patient would ask about.

Chakotay nodded, a slight smile on his face and eased himself into a sitting position. "Thanks, Doc. I think you covered everything there." He rubbed at his face. "I guess I needed that more than I thought." He shook his head to clear his mind. "No change in Kathryn?"

The Doctor shook his head. "I'm taking that as a positive sign actually. She hasn't improved but at least she's no worse and that's more important at the moment. Baby is improving in leaps and bounds. Quite a demanding young fellow. Reminds me very much of his mother."

Chakotay smiled, despite himself but it was tinged with sadness. He looked up now to see B'Elanna coming towards them.

"About time you woke up. Baby has had me waiting on him hand and foot."

Chakotay looked at her. "Baby?"

B'Elanna shrugged. "What else can we call him? He hasn't got a name yet. The whole ship is calling him 'Baby'. I think he's starting to recognize the name. Everyone's been by to see him. The gifts are piling up so I put them in your quarters. Doc was getting fed up falling over toys and booties." They both looked at the medic and laughed.

"This is a sickbay not a department store. Besides, I didn't mind the smaller items too much but that bear…"

B'Elanna explained when she saw her old friend frown. "Some of the crew replicated this stuffed bear. Don't ask me how because it's half the size of the ship. I don't know how they managed to move the thing, much less get it through the door. Gave the Doc here quite a start at 03:00 in a darkened sickbay."

The Doctor just shook his head and moved off. "See how you'd react to a furry monster appearing before you in the dark. Still, on this trip, I should expect things like that. Then of course there's Mr. Neelix…" He walked into his office still muttering to himself.

Chakotay was still laughing as he slid off the bed. "Come on, I better go see 'Baby'." He groaned. "We can't just call him that."

Chakotay finally got to bring his son home a week later, 'Baby' having gained enough weight to make the Doctor more than happy. Tom and B'Elanna accompanied their friend, knowing how hard it was for him to do this without Kathryn at his side. He stood holding the infant for several minutes and looked around his quarters. He smiled at the crib and other baby necessities which the crew had gotten together and provided. B'Elanna watched him with a sad smile on her face. "Everything you need is here."

Chakotay shook his head. "Not everything." They were all silent for a long moment.

B'Elanna broke the sombre mood. "We put the bear in Kathryn's quarters. You wouldn't have room to move in here otherwise." Chakotay just nodded as he continued to look around him. "Have you a name yet? This 'Baby' thing is getting crazy."

Chakotay shook his head. "No. I want to wait and see if Kathryn comes back to us. Naming him is something we need to do together. For now, despite how terrible it sounds, 'Baby' will have to stay with him." As if to add his opinion, two tiny hands swung in the air, accompanied by a gurgle. Chakotay smiled down at his son. "If that's all right with you." Another gurgle answered him, which Chakotay decided to interpret as a 'yes'.

Over the two weeks following the birth, Kathryn remained in her coma, but began to show small signs of improvement. Chakotay took only limited shifts and spent the rest of his time with Kathryn, alongside taking care of his son. The Doctor was expressing Kathryn's milk to feed the baby and Chakotay also insisted on laying the child on her chest and letting him feed there, again taking Kathryn's hand and stroking the small body with it. He constantly took holoimages of the baby, determined that if Kathryn came back to them, she'd be able to see in some way what she'd missed. Barely an hour went by when 'Baby' wasn't with his mother, except when he slept during the night in Chakotay's quarters and even then, he was still getting his mother's milk. During the day though, Kathryn's son was almost always with her, crewmembers taking turns in looking after their captain and her child, laying the baby in her arms and letting him nap there.

As they moved into the third week, Kathryn's condition began to improve at a steady rate, giving the Doctor more hope than ever. By the end of the third week, he was quietly confident that she would be cured. Her bruises were beginning to fade, her blood clotting on its own now but he worried that she still remained in the coma.

By the beginning of the fourth week, it was one extremely happy hologram who informed Chakotay that all traces of the disease had been eradicated from Kathryn's body. Chakotay sat holding his son, his hand patting the boy's diaper.

"I can't believe… Doc, there'll never be a way for me to thank…" He choked up and the Medic nodded.

"We still have the coma. I mean her injuries are healed and the disease is gone but it's had a rough effect on her body. We can only hope that she'll find her own way back to us now. I do, however, believe she'll wake up when she's ready."

Chakotay smiled and nodded, kissing his son gently. "Hear that, Baby? Your mom's coming back to us."

The Doctor actually laughed. "That name is going to stick, you know."

Chakotay laughed and nodded. "I know. I'll go tell Kathryn to hurry up. He needs a name badly now." He stood and went back to where he spent most of his time now, at Kathryn's side. He leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"Wake up, Kathryn. Fight to come back to us now. The little one needs you."

Over the next few days, Kathryn began to show more and more signs of waking from her coma. B'Elanna noticed Chakotay's nervousness, despite his happiness. "What's going on with you, Chakotay? What are you afraid of?"

He stroked the baby's head as he lay across his mother suckling on her breast, small contented murmurs coming from him. "I'm just nervous. I know now that she'll come back to us but…" He sighed. "I'm just afraid of how she'll be with me. I mean after everything I did."

B'Elanna looked shocked. "I thought you'd dealt with that. Chakotay, don't tell me you're still feeling guilty about all that. I thought we'd settled that. I mean you finally talked to Tom and let him help you."

Chakotay smiled as he remembered how he'd finally opened up to the young pilot one night, pouring his heart out but gaining a deep healing in the process. He shook his head quickly now and cut her off. "No, B'Elanna, I don't mean all that. I still have some guilt about that, well more bad feelings, bad memories but I've accepted that and dealt with it, although I still have to deal with it with Kathryn. I guess that's part of it but mainly… What I mean is the guilt I feel for the way I treated her and acted with her after all that. When I think what she went through alone for so long and then thank the Spirits she had you and Tom but I still wasn't there for her. I think I'm worried that she won't forgive me for all that."

B'Elanna jumped up and glared at him. "Don't be so damned stupid, Chakotay. I told you how she felt. She loved you and forgave you everything. She understood completely how you felt and why you were the way you were. She understood why you acted as you did. It hurt her but she understood and accepted that. She always loved you. Up until the time of the attack she felt that way. I know with certainty that she'll still feel that way. Apart from what she said about 'Baby' as she lay there, do you remember her other words?" They both shuddered at the memory of the attack and Kathryn lying so badly wounded on the floor of the bridge. "She told you she loved you, that she was sorry. Remember that more than anything. In what to her was probably her dying breaths, the last things she'd ever say, telling you she loved you was there with her." Chakotay nodded silently. He felt B'Elanna's hand on his arm. "She loved you and loves you. That's all there is to it."

He tried a smile and succeeded. "Thanks, friend. I needed to hear that." His attention went to the baby, who seemed to be finished feeding. Chakotay watched the concentrated look on the small face for a moment and then sniffed the air. "Guess I have a job to do."

B'Elanna made a face. "Rather you than me. I've done my share. That one strikes me as particularly nasty." They laughed together as Chakotay left sickbay to change his son.

Chakotay made faces and strange noises down at his son as he finished changing him. Arms and legs flailed in the air as the baby gazed back at him. "Is that better now? Anything else Sir desires?" He picked up the small body and lay him in his crib, turning on the musical mobile. Instantly all attention was turned to that. "Forget about me so easily, huh? Thrown over for a mobile? Be like that then. You'll be back to me when your tummy's empty again." He straightened up and watched his son, knowing he could study him for hours without tiring.

Suddenly the Doctor's voice filled the room. "Doctor to Chakotay. Get down here. It looks like she's trying to wake up." It took Chakotay two minutes to get Sam Wildman to sit with his son and then he raced for sickbay. As he entered, he saw Tom helping the Doctor as Kathryn struggled against the tube down her throat. He saw and heard her gag on the obstruction and stood back nervously, B'Elanna beside him. The Doctor pulled the tube out as Kathryn gasped for air, her hands subconsciously going to her face to help them. The medic grabbed the suction tube and forced it between Kathryn's lips, her breathing easing almost immediately. He then began tapping her face.

Five minutes later, Kathryn groggily opened her eyes for the first time in months. Chakotay saw her take her time to focus on her surroundings and also witnessed her confusion. He stood back, not really understanding why as Kathryn's eyes settled on B'Elanna. She tried to lift her hand but appeared too weak. Her voice was a mere whisper, hoarse from misuse and from the tube having been in place for so long.

"B'El…" She drew in a shuddering breath and tried again. "B'El…" They all saw things begin to slot into place in her mind and watched as they were reflected in her eyes. Chakotay watched as Kathryn's hand slowly made its way to her stomach and feel around there. The Doctor stepped forward to reassure her but before he uttered a word, Kathryn cried out, her voice straining.

"Nooo…my baby…" She forced her voice, making an almost strangled sound as her tears fell. "No, all I had left. I lost him." The Doctor tried to restrain her and raise his voice above hers but Kathryn wasn't hearing him. "Told you…save him…not me. Let me die…he's gone…" Chakotay stood rooted to the spot as the Doctor tried to get his patient to hear him but she was beyond understanding. Making a quick decision, the Doctor grabbed a sedative and injected Kathryn with it. She drifted off slowly, tears running from her eyes still, her whimpers fading away.

"I'm sorry. I had to do that. She needs to take this slowly. I can't have her this upset so soon." Chakotay nodded his understanding but his voice seemed to have deserted him. He reached out a hand and stroked Kathryn's hair.

It was a further six hours before Kathryn came around again. Chakotay was instantly alert when he heard faint moans coming from her. Once more he stood back, letting Kathryn see B'Elanna first. The Doctor stood ready with another sedative, although he was reluctant to use it. B'Elanna smiled down at her friend and took her hand. "Hey there…" She watched a replay of earlier as Kathryn fought to focus and get her bearings and then the confusion was replaced by pain.

"Oh God. I'm sorry,"

B'Elanna squeezed her hand tightly. "Kathryn, listen to me…"

Kathryn shook her head, not hearing her friend's words. "Chakotay must hate me. Be so angry. I killed his son, couldn't save him…"

B'Elanna shook Kathryn's shoulder now. "Kathryn, listen to me please."

Kathryn's tears fell heavily. "Is he all right? He must hate me. I killed the baby. Why didn't I die too?" Her voice was still very hoarse, barely above a whisper. "Oh God, I'm sorry, so sorry. Let me die too."

B'Elanna shook her again. "Kathryn, listen to me. The baby's fine. He's fine."

Kathryn didn't seem to hear her for some time, her tears and whimpers all that came from her. Slowly though, as B'Elanna persisted, she seemed to hear her. Confused, tear filled eyes slowly turned to her. "Alive? No, you're lying. I felt it, lost him…"

B'Elanna shook her head vigorously. "You didn't lose him, Kathryn. You've been unconscious for a long time. The baby is fine. Doc delivered him. Kathryn, I'm not lying to you. He's fine. Your son is fine." She smiled gently. "He's a demanding and greedy little sod with a wail loud enough to waken half the Delta Quadrant." She smiled when she saw her words reaching the woman lying before her. "We won't even discuss what happens at the other end. If we could use that to fuel the ship, we'd be home already."

Kathryn just continued to stare at her, her mouth trying to say the words even her mind was having trouble forming. "He's… I didn't…?"

B'Elanna shook her head and looked towards the Doctor, who moved forward now. "Kathryn, I delivered 'Baby' nearly four weeks ago. He was small but he's more than made up for that."

Kathryn suddenly tried to sit up. "Where…? I need…"

The Doctor gently pushed her back down. "You'll see him. His 'daddy' has been taking excellent care of him." He smiled up at Chakotay and motioned with his head. Chakotay hung back nervously for a moment and then moved into Kathryn's line of vision. She stared at him, tears flowing from her eyes. He immediately saw the love in her eyes and suddenly felt an enormous weight lift off him.


He smiled, fighting his own tears and then just fell on her. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn, I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?" He felt her hand weakly come up and stroke his hair, pushing back the memories this triggered. The Doctor and B'Elanna discreetly stood back.


He eased himself back a little and stared into her eyes, the blue depths he thought never to look into again. "I'm so sorry for everything I put you through."

She shook her head, overwhelmed at this stage. "It wasn't you."

Chakotay shook his head. "I'm learning to live with that. I mean here on the ship after and then everything you went through on your own with the baby. I'm so sorry."

Kathryn shook her head. "It's OK. I love you. If you still…?"

He stared deeply at her. "I love you. I never stopped and I love our son so much."

He saw the desperation in her eyes. "He's really all right? Is he…?"

He pressed a finger to her lips. "I promise you. Everything B'Elanna said was true. He's fine. He's…" He turned when he heard a noise behind him and saw B'Elanna standing there, holding 'Baby'. He grinned and stood up, taking the sleeping form from her and leaned down to Kathryn.

"There's someone here who's desperate to meet you." He watched as Kathryn's eyes grew wide as she stared at her son for the first time. He gently laid the small body on her chest and took her
hand, once more stroking the soft skin. This time, she was able to do it herself.

"He's really ours? He's OK?" She tore her eyes away from the baby a moment and saw Chakotay nod.

"He's more than OK. He's great." He covered her hand as she examined the baby. "Kathryn, you were unconscious for a long time. I know it all."

She looked up at him with pain in her eyes and then alarm. "How am I still here?"

He reached out and stroked her face. "Doc can tell you later in detail. You just need to know that he cured you. You'll get to see this little one grow up and take those first steps." He stared at her and saw that she knew he's read her letters. He smiled sadly, confirming it for her. "I read them." He looked away a moment. "Look, Kathryn, for now you just need to concentrate on yourself. Baby is fine. He has an entire ship waiting on him hand and foot. You thought you commanded this ship? Well, you've been overthrown. Baby controls everything now. He has the entire crew wrapped around his little finger."

Kathryn shook her head, trying to take everything in. Chakotay saw how tired she was. "Baby? Hasn't he got a name?"

Chakotay smiled and met B'Elanna's eyes. "Actually no, it's just that. He's called 'Baby'. Almost seems to know it. It's what everyone calls him." He looked at her and smiled. "I know it sounds awful but I couldn't name him on my own, not without his mother."

Kathryn swallowed loudly, fighting her emotions as Chakotay wiped some of her tears. "You've been taking care of him? You don't mind?"

Chakotay grew serious now. "He's our son and I love him so much. I know when he was conceived but it wouldn't matter to me even if it had been that night." She saw the flash of pain on his face for a moment and then it was gone. "He's our son. Made from our love."

She nodded slowly and looked back at the tiny form in her arms. "I've missed so much and he won't know me and yet he seems content." She looked back up at Chakotay and saw him smile.

"Actually, he knows you very well. The minute he was born, I laid him on your chest and took your hand…" He mimicked his actions of that day, taking her hand again. "I took your hand and let you stroke him all over." He saw the tears in her eyes. "You've even been feeding him all the time. I lie him on you and he feeds. Doc even expresses your milk so he can have that at night. The crew have helped with taking care of you and they keep him with you all the time during the day. Kathryn, he knows you. That's why he's happy there. He knows your feel and your touch, even your smell. I've also got a pile of holoimages and recordings for you. You won't miss anything." Kathryn just burst into tears, everything getting too much for her. B'Elanna came forward and reached for the baby, the Doctor behind her.

"Kathryn, let B'Elanna take him back to his crib now. He'll be fine and won't be far away. You've dealt with a lot here today and it's too much, too soon. You need time to take all this in." Kathryn nodded, her eyes never leaving her son as B'Elanna lifted him. Sensing the disturbance, 'Baby' began to fuss and then wail.

B'Elanna threw her eyes up. "See? I told you. Loud enough to waken the dead." She pulled a comforter from her pocket and placed it in the baby's mouth, getting instant results. "That's better. Come on, Baby. Time for your nap. You need one and so does your mom."

Kathryn stared tearfully at them both, her hand gripping Chakotay's tightly. "See you later, Baby." She smiled at Chakotay. "We have to get him a name."

He nodded and smiled. "I know." He grew serious and held her hand tightly. "Look, Kathryn, you still have some healing to do and so do we." She nodded her understanding. "We'll do that. For now you need to rest and get back on your feet. You'll need all the energy you can get with that one." He looked towards the door as B'Elanna left, then back at Kathryn.

The Doctor was hovering close by and smiled down at his patient. "Kathryn, he's right. You've been through a lot and you're still very weak. Now you can see that Baby is fine…" He shook his head. "He's fine and you're going to be fine too but you have to rest. You'll be back on your feet in no time."

Kathryn nodded and smiled at him. "I owe you so much."

The Doctor smiled and adjusted the sickbay blanket on the bed. "Just remember that when I'm fighting to get you down here for your yearly physical."

Kathryn shook her head. "I promise. I won't give you any more trouble. Well, not much anyway."

The Doctor shook his head and smiled down at them both. "We'll see. A few minutes and then you leave, Chakotay. My patient needs her rest."

Chakotay smiled his consent as the Doctor went back to his office. He leaned in closer to Kathryn now.
"Everything will be all right."

She nodded, still gripping his hand. "I know. I have him and I have you." The was just a touch of a question in her eyes.

Chakotay smiled sadly. "You have me if you still want me. I don't know how you can ever forgive me though." He felt her finger against his lips and looked into her tearful smile.

"None of it was ever your fault. I love you. We put this behind us and move forward. I know we still need to deal with some of this but we will."

He nodded, fighting his own tears. He saw her fight to keep her eyes open and squeezed her hand again.
"Sleep now, love. I'll be back to you later."

She nodded, easing back in the bed. "So tired." He kissed her gently on the lips and felt her respond. When he pulled away, she smiled at him. "I've missed that."

He stroked her face. "I've been saving those for you too. I'll show you when you're out of here."

She gripped his hand but he felt it loosen as she slipped off. Only when he was sure she was asleep, did he leave.

Chakotay sat in his quarters and let his head fall back against the back of the sofa, his arms stretched out to the sides. He let his tired mind process the events of the past hours. He sighed deeply to himself. It had taken a lot for him to let go of his guilt over events on Ular and then that had been replaced by his guilt over his treatment of the woman he loved following all that. Now just when he'd begun to let go of his second load of guilt, Kathryn had returned to him, instantly forgiving him everything. Instead of her faith in him reaffirming his progress, he felt it knock him backwards.

A faint sound from the other side of the room drew his attention and he stood quickly, going to check on the baby. He looked down at the sleeping child and smiled, then stroked his back. "Dreams visiting you? Hope they're good ones." The baby settled and slept on. Chakotay moved back to the sofa and sat again.

He knew the time would come soon when his son would no longer sleep here, that Kathryn would take him into her quarters and he found himself dreading that day. He'd become so used to having the baby share his life and his quarters. For a moment, he dared to entertain the hope that maybe all three of them could share that life and then pushed it away, not needing the pain. He sat up then. Knowing and believing Kathryn that she held nothing against him over everything that had happened was one thing. To believe that she'd ever want to let him into her bed again was another and yet… He smiled as he remembered how they'd been together in sickbay, how she'd let him kiss her and hope surged in him again, only to be tempered with his own fear and doubts, his own lack of trust in himself. Did he really trust himself to be alone with her again? Knowing his mind was too tired to delve into this and had started working in circles, he pulled himself to his bed. That night he dreamed of running through a field with Kathryn, a more grown up version of their son barely ahead of them as he squealed delightedly at each new discovery he made.

Kathryn made good progress over the following days. Her eyes lit up every time her son was brought to her and she easily slipped into nursing him. She spent hours staring down at him, committing every feature of his small face to her memory. She played with his fingers and toes and ran her hands over his skin, learning the feel of him. She inhaled his special baby scent and cradled him to her as she hummed softly to him, watching his eyes slip closed as he drifted off to sleep. It amazed her how relaxed her child was with her, despite how new all this was to her.

Kathryn was nursing her son quietly in sickbay when she looked up into the smiling face of her baby's father. Chakotay delighted in the fact that she made no attempt to cover herself up, comfortable with him seeing her breast-feeding. She smiled at him and nodded towards the contented baby. "He knows where everything is better than I do. He just latches on immediately."

Chakotay sat down beside her and studied the tiny mouth as it suckled greedily. "You know what they say about the way to a man's heart."

Kathryn laughed softly. "I know. It's through his stomach. Well, it's certainly true for this little one." She stared down at the wonder in her arms. "I miss him when he's not with me. It's almost as if I'm afraid I won't see him again."

Chakotay saw the smile slip from her face and pushed down his own pain. "He'll be with you soon enough in your quarters. If you'd prefer to have him here with you at night…"

Kathryn looked up quickly. "Doc prefers things the way they are. He said he wants me to sleep through the night for the moment. I know it won't be long until I'm out of here though." She didn't miss the look of pain Chakotay tried to hide. "You've gotten very used to having him, haven't you?"

He tried to smile, to cover what he was feeling but failed miserably. "He's become such a part of my life now. Not having him there will be…" He cleared his throat. "Sorry." He tried to change the subject. "How are you feeling today?"

Kathryn continued to look at him. "Chakotay, I don't want to take him away from you. He's our son, not mine or yours." She looked down at the baby again. "There has to be some way." She looked up and Chakotay saw that she looked slightly embarrassed. "Maybe it's too soon for you or maybe we could… If you were OK with it, I mean. That we could…" She sighed at her sudden lack of verbal skills. "What I mean is… Well now we're a family and if you didn't mind… If you wanted… I mean I'd love it and I think he would but…"

Chakotay saw hope dangled before his eyes and grabbed at it. "Kathryn, are you saying you'd be willing for us all to live…well, together or…?"

He saw her slow smile and she nodded. "If I'm being too forward or pushing too much. If this is too fast…"

Chakotay let his mouth fall open then pulled himself together. "Kathryn, are you sure? I'd love nothing more. I spent hours agonizing last night over losing him. Missing him before he even left. If you're sure. I mean, can you feel safe or…"

He saw a flash of anger in her eyes. "I see. You think I don't or won't feel safe with you? Chakotay, I thought you'd moved past that, that we were past that. I know we need to talk and sort some things out still, but we can't do that with a wall between us. There's been a wall of someone else's construction between us for far too long now. It's well past time we knocked the bloody thing down."

Chakotay just stared at her for some minutes before coming back to his senses. "I'd love that." He thought quickly. "Do you mean we could knock the wall between our quarters down?"

Kathryn laughed at him. "Well, yes. What wall did you think I meant? I don't think the one into the corridor would be such a good idea. Too many crew members passing by."

Chakotay took the ribbing in good humour. "All right. Make fun of me." He grew serious again. "We could use my living room for a nursery. He seems settled there and yours for a living room, as it is now, although there's an enormous stuffed bear there at the moment that the crew replicated for him. We'd still have our bedrooms…"

He saw her face fall. "Chakotay, that still leaves a wall. I meant that we share…"

Chakotay drew in a deep breath. "You mean you'd… You'd still want… Would trust me…?"

Kathryn got really annoyed now. She shifted the baby slightly. "Chakotay, get out of here and deal with this. Don't come back until you're ready to put all of this behind you. I'm not going to repeat myself. I want us to share our lives. Every part of that. I want you in my life, in our son's life and in our bed. If you still have problems with all of that, get out now and stay away until those problems are far behind you. We've let that bastard take enough from us. I refuse to let him in anymore. I love you and trust you one hundred percent. The sooner you learn to accept that, the better. I'm not going to live under the shadow of this anymore. It's caused too much pain already. I don't want you to stop and remember or think, every time you reach out to me. I just won't have that."

She softened her voice a little. "We'll talk before we do this. I still have to be here for a few more days. We'll talk and get it all out of the way before then. They can start work on that wall and have it finished before I leave here. If you can't accept that, then as I said, get out." She held his eyes for a moment more and saw the shocked look on his face.

Her voice rose again. "So go on. Get out and exorcise your demons and then come back here but not before." She looked down at the baby again and saw that her raised voice had woken him. Making small cooing noises, she comforted him. Looking up again, she stared hard at Chakotay. "You still here?" At just that moment, B'Elanna came in and instantly sensed the tension in the room. Kathryn nodded to her then looked back at Chakotay.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Go and sort yourself out. I'll make the arrangements with B'Elanna. Now get out and don't come back until you're right in the brain department."

Chakotay nodded his head, still in shock and backed away. B'Elanna watched him bump against another biobed before he turned and walked out. "What was all that about?"

Kathryn smiled, a smile of the cat who'd gotten the cream. "Just sorting out the men in my life. Chakotay needed a swift kick in the ass and I just gave it to him." She lifted the baby and switched him to her other breast. "He needed to be told in no uncertain terms that enough is enough. I took that for too long and all it did was make me miserable. It caused me nothing but pain. I let him wallow in his self-inflicted guilt but no more. I've come too close to death for comfort and managed by God's will to come out the other side. I won't take that crap anymore. That bastard will not win, even from his space grave or wherever he's rotting." Her tone made even B'Elanna want to shrink into the wall. She just stared at the woman before her and nodded. Her Captain was back.

The following day, Chakotay still hadn't shown his face. B'Elanna had taken 'Baby' to him for the night and brought him back again to Kathryn the following morning. B'Elanna hadn't questioned Kathryn further and one look at Chakotay's face stilled her tongue with him also. When she got a call that afternoon to take the baby for a few hours, she meekly obeyed and took him. Kathryn was mad and B'Elanna saw it.

Once Kathryn had received the Doctor's permission to take an hour or so on the holodeck, she contacted Chakotay, 'demanding' that he meet her in Holodeck 2 at 15:00. He knew better than to refuse. He paced anxiously now as he waited for her, barely taking in his surroundings. His mind registered a plain room with simple furniture, nothing which would draw attention. He turned quickly when he heard the doors open and faced a Kathryn with her features tight with controlled anger. She ordered a privacy lock and strode towards the almost cowering man before her. She motioned for him to sit.

"Right Chakotay, this is make or break with us. Talk to me. You go first and spill your guts. Say it all now and I'll listen. Start at the beginning. Then I'll talk and you'll listen. I won't interrupt you and you'll afford me the same consideration." Chakotay sat and nodded. Kathryn moved across from him and sat also. He saw her face soften and drew in a deep breath before he began.

"After the dinner…" He looked up at her but her expression was neutral. "I remember the drink tasted different and Tom said something to him, to Brolar about it. I felt dizzy and everything sounded far away then. I felt something stinging and pressing at the back of my head. I don't remember anything after that." She barely nodded.

"The rest is blank or was. It came back to me later. I've no real memory of what I did at the time, only remembering back on it. I think… I don't know. It's hard to tell the difference…" Kathryn nodded her understanding but didn't speak.

"We walked home and my mind felt cloudy. It's the only word really. Understand that I still can't really tell what's remembered at the time and what's from afterwards." He shook his head. "Anyway, I remember feeling annoyed, frustrated or something. I remember taking a shower, telling you to get tea and then…" He stood up, needing to move around. "I remember shouting at you that the tea was cold and throwing the cup at you." He shivered. "I just remember rounding on you, shouting and screaming at you, pushing you against the wall hard, hurting you. I remember punching you in the face, seeing blood, your lip, telling you about your duty to me and about you knowing your place." He looked at her slowly, trying to read her expression but there was nothing to read. Kathryn saw the pain that telling all this was causing him though.

"It's only later on I remembered your words to me. I shut them out, you see." He walked over to a table and ran his hand over the smooth surface, trying to avoid looking at his own reflection in the surface. "What I remember most is…" He turned away from the table. "I remember pulling you, at you, pulling you towards the bed, tearing at your clothes and you crying out. 'Don't do this to us'. I remembered that and hearing you use those same words in your ready room that day, it slammed it all back to me again." Kathryn lowered her eyes, remembering only too well. She'd wondered about that. Just as she'd seemed to be getting somewhere, he'd closed down again. Now she remembered her words from the cabin and how she'd unwittingly used them again that day. No wonder he'd backed off.

"I remember hitting you, hitting and hitting, seeing your tears and hearing your cries." He stopped to take some deep breaths. "Throwing you on the bed, that stays with me. Tearing at your clothes, hurting you, hitting you, you pleading with me. 'Don't do this'. I pinned you down and you'd no way to fight me. I tore your clothes and then, then you stopped struggling and I went on, tore your gown and panties, mauled you…" He wiped at the tears he now felt on his face.

"I remember saying terrible things. 'Open your damned legs', 'spread them'." He turned quickly. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn, I'm so sorry." She ignored him, just staring back at him, letting him know he had to finish. He took some minutes to regain some control and went on.

"You lay there. 'Don't do this'. Your words, but I didn't stop, couldn't… I just tore into you and your scream… Oh Spirits, your scream. How I must have hurt you so much." Kathryn forced herself to keep looking at him. "And I just took, turned you, took again, then back and you were crying and screaming in pain." He fell to his knees but Kathryn didn't move. He had to do this on his own first.

"It was only after that I remembered your words to me, what you said. It came back to me after I'd read your letters. All I remembered at first was you pulling out from under me and screaming at you again, calling you a whore, that I wasn't finished with you and then trying to grab you, you going down… and the sound of your head hitting the table." He stopped again and stood shakily then sat down on the chair.

"After that, B'Elanna was there with Tuvok and the Doctor. Whatever he gave me worked pretty quickly but everything was still mixed up. I saw the state of the place. I didn't know where I was at first. I was confused. I remember more hypos and I knew something had happened to you but I didn't know where you were." He ran his hands through his hair.

"I just wanted to find you and didn't know how. I thought maybe we'd been attacked and someone had taken you. I tried to move when Tuvok found out where you were, Voyager told him where, your bio signatures." Kathryn remained quiet. She'd read all the reports on this. "They didn't want to let me go with them at first but nothing would stop me." He stood again. "And then we found you. Tuvok was worried about the Ularian Authorities finding out." He shook his head. "We found you, lying in a field, so still, your clothes blowing in the breeze. I ran to you, saw your face and head, so much blood, bruising, swelling, cuts, your lip…" He turned in a circle.

"It was only later that I remembered the bruising on your chest, your thighs…" His eyes showed his pain. "It came back to me later you see, your torn clothes, smears of blood on your thighs…" He turned away from her now and didn't speak for some minutes.

"When we beamed back to the ship… I couldn't understand why Tom and the others were lying there. I just worried about you. I was so confused. I guess because of the higher dose. I sat for an hour or so trying to remember yet afraid to. Tuvok came in then and later the Doc. I remember thinking that the Doc must have called Tuvok. He took me to the office and treated me again, more hypos, said you were fine and would sleep until morning. After that I started to remember everything and oh Spirits…" He sat again. "You know all this."

He sighed and spoke through it all again, how every detail had come back to him. "When I remembered what I'd done to you…" His pain was desperate. "I wanted to die there and then. When I saw you, I couldn't touch you. I was terrified to. I felt I just had to get away. I.asked Tuvok to lock me in the brig." He spoke on for several minutes, filling in every detail for the silent woman before him.

"Later, I just couldn't face you. Didn't think I'd ever trust myself with anyone again. I knew I had to stay away from you, that being close to you was too risky for you. Even you seeing me would only cause you pain and I couldn't do that so I avoided you at all costs. And then you insisted on seeing me and I brought Tuvok. You know all of that. After that, I just moved from day to day, determined to stay out of your life. B'Elanna tackled me constantly but I shut her out, thought I knew better. When you collapsed in engineering, I forced myself to shut that off too. B'Elanna had a go at me again and tried to tell me you weren't well, that I'd see that if I just looked. Later on, I noticed all right but I still couldn't stop the pain and guilt I felt. The longer it went on the harder it was to let it go." He noticed a carafe of water and some glasses and walked over to them, taking one and filling it. "This real?" Kathryn barely nodded. Chakotay drank deeply then refilled the glass.

"I saw Tom and B'Elanna with you more and more and started to look more closely at you. You were shutting yourself away at this stage so I didn't see you much. Then that day…" He walked back to his chair and sat. "That bastard, and what he said to you, and it didn't make sense and then you were hurt and… Your eyes and your words, they got through to me and I remember thinking that it was too late. It took some time for me to let it all sink in. I sat in the corridor while they worked on you and then they brought me in and told me everything. That pain was worse than before and I ran. B'Elanna and Tom got me through that." He rubbed at his face.

"I came to sickbay one night and just watched you and then the next night and the next. It took a week for me to get the courage to touch you and those two were watching me all the time but once I felt your touch again, I couldn't let go. And so I pulled myself out of it and made myself be there for you in any way I could. Everyone was there for you." He told her about Janice painting her toenails and saw a slight smile. He spoke on then, filling in every last piece of the picture, everything he could think of, even the smallest details.

"And you came back to us, to me, and I grew afraid again. I'd managed for the most part to let go of the guilt and some of the pain and suddenly it was back. I was scared and felt so vulnerable. Of course, having 'Baby' made all the difference." He sighed, as if a great weight was lifted from his shoulders. "You know the rest."

Kathryn finally seemed to acknowledge him and nodded. "OK, Chakotay. Feel better with that out?" He smiled slightly and nodded. Kathryn bit her lip and stood. "Now you get my side of it. Sit." He obeyed as she started pacing.

"Most of this you read in my letters to you but I'll say some of it again because after today, we won't speak of this. This room here is the past and what's spoken of here will stay here. I'll delete this program when we leave and that will be that. It'll be over." She walked over and poured herself a glass of water then sat again, too tired still to stay on her feet.

"I'll repeat some of this, the important stuff so you have it ingrained in your head. I was shocked, yes. All I wanted was to get you back to Voyager and to the Doctor. I told you then it wasn't you, asked you what Brolar had done to you. Chakotay, I knew, knew immediately that it wasn't you. I can't stress that enough. It clicked that this was also happening to the others and I tried to get to them. I told you that you weren't yourself. I couldn't get away though. I saw your eyes and they were dead. I kept saying 'this isn't you', trying to get you to hear me. He'd controlled you so well though. You hit me a few times." She didn't look at him. "You pulled me to the bed and tore my clothes and yes, I knew what was going to happen. I remember saying 'don't do this to us'. I didn't realize when I said that to you again in the ready room and I'm sorry for that. I set it all off with you again, just as I saw myself getting somewhere." She took a drink of her water.

"I was never afraid of what you were going to do to me. Not once. I was afraid of what it would do to us later, what your knowledge and memory of it all would do to us, and I was right. I fought you and struggled to try and stop that, not to stop you. My words were 'don't do this, don't destroy what we have'. I know now that sounds as if I was speaking to you directly but I wasn't really. I think I was just trying to reach you in some way, reach some part of you that might have been left unaffected." She took a deep breath.

"You threw me on the bed and tore my clothes and I just stopped struggling. You didn't need that. I fought at first because I needed to stop what was happening so you wouldn't have to face the knowledge of this later on and I failed there. You had sex with me then under his control." She looked right at him. "YOU did not rape me, Chakotay. Know that. I wouldn't be able to say that word if you had, if I had felt as if I'd been raped. I can say the word easily. That should tell you something. You had sex with me, your body, under his total control. That's all there is to it. I told you I loved you. I remember that so clearly and that was during it all. That should also tell you something. Not once during all that, never once, did I feel any hate for you. This was you, the man I knew and loved, with someone else making you do all that. It wasn't ever you. I stared deeply into your eyes during that time and I saw the deadness there. You weren't there. There wasn't even the tiniest part of you there." She took another drink, her throat dry.

"I told you we'd get through it, that we loved each other and that it would be all right." She saw by his eyes that he remembered. She needed to confirm that though. "You do remember that?" He nodded, saying nothing. "I prayed for us, prayed that we'd survive. Not me but us. I prayed that WE would survive it all. I said that too. I told you we'd survive it, that I still loved you and that it wasn't your fault. All that was afterwards and I stroked your hair. Do you remember that too?" Once more he nodded.

"After that, all I knew was that I had to get help for you and the others. I didn't think about any injuries I had. I just had to get out of there and so I ran. I fell. It was a pure accident that I hit off that table. I could just as easily have fallen the other way and done nothing to myself. Either way, it still wasn't your fault. Anyway, I passed out in the field and then woke up here." She crossed her legs and played with the remains of the water in her glass. "You must accept that it was only your body that was there. Your mind, the engine that runs who you are, wasn't there. It was under the total control of a madman." She was handing Chakotay his absolution and he saw it.

"Later on, I was so hurt when you didn't come to me but I slowly learned to accept and understand what you were going through. It felt so bad not to see your face when I came around. I was so used to that." She smiled slightly to herself.

"When I finally saw you in my ready room that day, you looked so frightened, so filled with pain and guilt. You spoke of it being your fists and your body that did it all and I'll tell you again now that it wasn't. You were the instrument. If I let myself think of then, it will always be of him. It'll be his fists and his body I'll hate, never yours. I told you before. I loved you before it, during it and now. I'll also tell you that I'll always love you. I know how hard it was to accept and that you'd had bad experiences before with being controlled but you got past those and you have to move past this too, because what you'll lose, what we'll lose, if you don't is too much. You personally destroyed nothing. You have my word on that and if you love me like you say, you'll take my word and the truth and honesty you know it's spoken with. You destroyed nothing but he tried to and he'll fail." She shook her head, speaking on about how things had been before the attack by Brolar, most of which she'd already spoken of in her letters.

"I also told you that I was never afraid OF you, only FOR you. I'll say that once more. I never hated you. You only hurt me afterwards by turning away and letting that bastard win but I hope that's behind us now. I also have to say again that this happened to US not to YOU or ME but to US. When I woke up from the coma and discovered that the baby was all right and that you were there for me again, all I wanted was to put it all behind us and move on. I found that some of those ghosts were still hanging around however and now I'm going to get rid of them. Now, I hope I've made all that clear and that we can finally leave it behind us and move on. Can we?" She looked him straight in the eye now.

"Kathryn, I want nothing more. It's still hard to accept and know that I was capable of those actions, no matter how much someone else was controlling me. That's something I'm learning to accept. Tom's been a great help and I'm almost there."

Kathryn nodded her head in understanding. "I do understand that and I'm just happy to see you move past it. Control comes in many guises though." She licked her lips. "Chakotay, it took me so long to accept that I couldn't control it all in my own life even. I held you away for such a long time, believing I could do all this alone, that I could be in total control. Well, I couldn't. No one has total control of their life. Sometimes, it's someone else who takes that control from us and other times it's ourselves who take it or even give it away. A mental illness can take it even, which is still not curable, even in the 24th century. There's loss of control there. This is the same, you know." She leaned forward. "For all the discoveries, to the far reaches of space, the human mind is still the greatest unknown, the vastest un-chartered territory of all. If it can't be understood, it can't ever be controlled by us. Others can control it for a time but in the end, we take that control back, barring mental illness, that is. You were not to blame, Chakotay." She saw his troubled expression.

"I wish I'd listened to you. You had a feeling down there about it all and I didn't take you seriously."

Kathryn shook her head and sighed. "Chakotay… Yes, I had bad feelings, suspicions but there was never any way to have foreseen all that. Besides, I could have given the order any time to pull out." She shook her head again. "Look, it's over. We can't change the past or un-ring that bell. Thinking and talking about what we could have done differently gets us nowhere." She saw him accept her words slowly and went in for the kill. She stood now.

"As I said, we've spoken of all this now and it gets left behind in this room. We delete it just as we will this program. I'll lay the rules for this now because I think it has to be me but that's simply because of how you've viewed all this and so in this I'm the one laying down the law and you'll listen. I fought at first and then I stopped. Well I'm fighting again. Fighting for us. I've been passive for too long where we're concerned. We both have." Chakotay just stared up at her. "I think I didn't fight m

ore when we were back here, because I gave in. I felt too weak, emotionally and physically. I shouldn't have done that. Seeing that bastard's face again stoked the fire inside me, the one I'd let die down. Well, not any more." She turned to him now and squared her shoulders.

"We stand up to this and we fight it. We fight for us. We face this, just like we face up to any other enemy we've met out here. This is no different. We've beaten the Borg, Species 8472, countless others. We made our mistake when we let all this get to us individually, instead of standing together and facing it head on. We let it in and lay down under it. We won't ever allow that to happen again, Chakotay. We stay together and work together, because together we're stronger." Chakotay barely nodded, lost in admiration for the woman before him. "Seven once told us that our individuality would be our undoing. I didn't agree with her and still don't in the sense she meant it. As I see this now though, in this case, well she was right."

Kathryn sighed. "You know, it suddenly struck me that I'd give my life, gladly die for this ship and this crew. You would too. I know that." He nodded. "Yet when it came to us, to our relationship, we stood back. When it was threatened, instead of fighting for it, we just took it, took what he did to us." She shook her head sadly.

"Are we only capable of standing up to protect others? We didn't fight for US and that was our mistake, but I'll be damned if it's a mistake we ever allow again. We let that bastard onto this ship, brought him back with us into our home, instead of leaving him behind. He's dead now and I'm glad. I hate to have to say that about any life form but in this case, I'd be lying if I said otherwise. He's gone physically from our lives. Now we get rid of him psychologically. No more, Chakotay. I won't have him in our lives, in our home or in our bed. He also won't be in our heads anymore because I won't stand for it. I won't lose you to this. You let go of your guilt now. I tried the 'softly softly' approach with you for too long and it didn't work. Now I get tough because you need to be shaken into this. It was like watching you drowning and I was standing on the bank calling and beckoning you to me, when I should have just gone into the water after you and dragged you out by the scruff of your neck, so that's what I'm doing now." Chakotay felt he'd lost the power of speech. The strength of the woman standing in front of him was amazing and a surge of pride and love for her ran through him, almost knocking him out of his chair. Kathryn nodded to herself, finally feeling in control of her own life again. She wasn't quite finished though.

"I told B'Elanna to go ahead with the changes to OUR quarters. I also told her that you needed a kick in the ass and I meant it. I think I've given you one. Enough is enough Chakotay. I told you to exorcise your demons and I hope you have and that this has helped in that. I let hurt live with me for too long, just as you let guilt live with you for too long. We both took the fallout of what happened for far too long a time and it only caused us more pain and made us miserable. I felt almost suicidal at times, I'll admit that." She saw the pain in his eyes. "In a way, I was as bad as you. You let your pain and guilt eat at you, instead of using anger against the one who caused all this, the one who was to blame, the one who was responsible. I let my hurt and pain invade me, instead of getting angry at him and fighting back, fighting to keep you from what he was still doing to you. I was weak. We both wallowed in self-inflicted negative feelings for a long time. He put them there but we kept them there and inflicted them on ourselves. That's to our shame but no more." Her voice rose and she stepped closer to him. This was Kathryn, using everything she had of the captain which she held within her.

"I came too close to death and came out the other side. I almost lost it all, as did you. I won't take this anymore. I won't let that bastard win or control anything else about our lives. We have each other and we have a beautiful son. Nothing is going to take that away. I claim it all back, Chakotay, and that means you too, in exactly the same way as we were." Her face softened and her voice lost a little of its hardness. Chakotay thought he saw just a hint of mischief.

"I've another three days in sickbay and then I'll be home. I'll be home to our quarters and I expect to see you in our bed. With the exception of sensitive breasts, there's nothing wrong with the rest of me and I fully expect you to take care of that when I get home. It's been a long time and I'm horny as hell. See to it." She turned and walked away, leaving a man almost turned to stone in shock. Her voice reached him from the other side of the room.

"This is over now, Chakotay. I'm going to delete this program and everything that's been spoken of within it. Except the last part of course. That still stands." He turned and looked at her, seeing a smug grin on her face. "I'd stand up if I were you. When I delete this, the chair goes too. Your ass isn't holographic and it'll hit that floor. I want that ass intact. I need it." He nodded, still in shock and stood. He heard her give the order and the room disappeared around him.


She walked back to him. "No, Chakotay. No more on this. There's you and there's me. We love each other. We will now live together. We have a beautiful son, who by the way, had better have a name by the end of this day because I refuse to call our child 'Baby' any longer. We have a loving past and a glorious future. There is no more. Nothing else matters. And that's an ORDER." He stared at her for a few minutes, drinking in the fire in her eyes and the love there with it. He let it all slip away from him and smiled softly, finally taking the absolution she offered.

"Aye Aye, Ma'am. Whatever you say."

She lowered her head to one side. "Don't you forget it, mister. Don't ever test this Irish temper again. I'll always fight for what I love, Chakotay. I just let that slip for a while but I'm back now and I claim what's mine. I know we agreed that between us there would never be any rank but this has to be the exception to that rule because too much is at stake here. Now – to quote another famous Captain – Make It So." She leaned up and kissed him on the lips. "I'd better get back to Doc before he sends out a search party. Besides, you've exhausted me. I'll talk to you later and you better have a few names to suggest." With that she turned and left the holodeck, leaving behind her a man finally at peace.

That evening, Chakotay sat beside Kathryn in sickbay and watched her sleep. She looked so small and delicate, he had trouble equating her with the woman who'd stood with him earlier on the holodeck. She seemed so at peace, her face totally relaxed in sleep. Within minutes, she began to stir and slowly opened her eyes, meeting his. "Hello, love."

He smiled at her. "Hello yourself. I didn't think you were ever going to wake up."

Kathryn yawned and stretched. "You exhausted me earlier. Mind you, I plan to have you do a lot of that in the coming days and weeks." Her eyes challenged him, watching his reaction closely.

He didn't let her down. He leaned down and whispered softly to her. "You might regret saying that. I plan to use you in ways you've never dreamed of. You'll have trouble walking when I'm through with you."

Kathryn gloried in his words and the freedom with which he spoke them. For just a moment though, she saw a glimmer of doubt in his eyes and jumped on it. "Chakotay, we agreed."

He shook his head. "I just want to be sure you're all right after the baby."

She relaxed and nodded. "I'm fine. Down there wasn't affected anyway and the scar from the section is long healed. Enough time has passed for all bleeding, or lochia as Doc calls it, to have stopped as well."

He nodded and smiled slowly. "Well, in that case, my words still stand. Just you wait…" He slipped a hand under the blanket and stroked her thighs. He pulled it back quickly when he heard the Doctor cough behind him.

"If you two could please wait until you're back in your own private quarters. This is a sickbay and that is not part of my patient's treatment." They both had the good grace to blush. They waited patiently as the medic scanned his patient and nodded to himself.

"Everything's fine, Kathryn. I should be able to release you in another day. I'd normally tell you to take it easy for a few days after that but I guess I'll have to settle for just keeping you off duty for an extra few days. You'll probably need the rest." He looked pointedly at Chakotay and left.

Kathryn groaned. "Caught in the act. He makes me feel like a teenager again."

Chakotay's eyes widened. "And just how many 'compromising positions' were you caught in as a teenager, may I ask?"

Kathryn just tapped the side of her nose. "A woman has many secrets, Chakotay. That's one of them. Now, tell me. What about our son. He has to have a name. This 'Baby' lark has gone on long enough."

Chakotay laughed. "I think it suits him." He held a hand up in surrender at the glare he received. "OK, OK. I don't know, Kathryn. I'm stuck here. You mentioned your Irish roots earlier. Maybe 'Sean'. I don't know, love."

Kathryn lay back and considered that. "I like it."

Chakotay shrugged. "I checked it out. It's the Irish version of John, which means 'the Lord is gracious' or 'Grace of the Lord'. I thought it fitting. I also considered naming him after Tom, who's done so much for us but then I thought that one 'Tom' was enough."

Kathryn laughed. "I agree with that. It might just invite trouble. Sean." She tried out the name on her lips and smiled. "Sean. Yeah, I like it. If you're sure?"

Chakotay nodded and reached for her hand. "Sean it is then." As if hearing himself called and knowing his new name, they heard the wailing before seeing their child. 'Sean' was carried into sickbay by B'Elanna.

"Here, Janeway. Take your brat. I've had enough for one day. It goes in one end and straight out the other. I told you before, if we could fuel Voyager on that stuff, we'd be home by now." Kathryn smiled and took her son, who stopped crying immediately as he made straight for his 'meal', much to the annoyance and amazement of B'Elanna. "Why won't he do that for me?"

Chakotay laughed. "Because you may have the equipment, B'Elanna, but it doesn't work for him the way he wants it to." He watched as Kathryn slipped her breast free and let the baby latch on. "See? If you could do that for him, he'd love you and shut up for you."

B'Elanna shook her head. "I let Tom do that but it doesn't shut him up." Kathryn and Chakotay stared at B'Elanna now, their faces set in shocked amusement. B'Elanna smiled sheepishly. "Well, I'm honest." She laughed then and turned away.

Chakotay called her back. "Oh B'Elanna." She turned back. "This is Sean, by the way. Spread the word. If Kathryn hears 'Baby' one more time, brig time may be involved."

B'Elanna clicked her heels and saluted. "Ensign Sean Janeway. Pleased to meet you." They all laughed just as the Doctor appeared behind them.

"About time. I can finally amend my records." He shook his head. "Ensign, huh? Being the command team's son has its privileges. Promotion already."

Two days later, Kathryn was finally released from sickbay with a clean bill of health. Chakotay stood back proudly as Kathryn carried a sleeping Sean into their new quarters, her eyes inspecting every detail of the work which had been done in her absence. He saw her nod her satisfaction although she eyed the large bear a little nervously.

"I love it. It's just perfect." She turned to Chakotay and smiled at him. He knew she was looking for doubts on his face. She didn't find any. "B'Elanna and Tom are taking Sean tonight?"

He nodded and smiled. "I think she gave our son a talking to. He's behaving himself much better with her now. If she can intimidate Tom, a baby should have been a walkover for her."

Kathryn laughed. "Maybe, but this is our son. He'll never be walked on by anyone. We'll make sure of that. In this case however, I'll make an exception."

"How much stuff does one little kid need for just one night?" Tom struggled with the bags he carried as B'Elanna held Sean.

"Come on, Paris, let's get a move on. I think these two want us out of here. They must be frustrated as hell after so long." She grinned widely as Kathryn almost choked on her tea. "We'll bring him back in the morning and not too early either. I know at your age you'll need your sleep after all that strenuous activity. Now are you sure you can manage?"

Chakotay took a step towards her. "I'm not too old that I can't whip your butt, Mrs. Paris. Do the terms 'toothbrush' and 'deck plates' mean anything to you?"

B'Elanna feigned fear and backed away. "Oh yes, Sir. Just leaving, Sir." She grinned again then. "I'll alert Tuvok. Tell him to ignore any moans and creaks he hears." She was gone before the cushion could hit her, Tom trying to keep up.

Chakotay held Kathryn close to him as they sat on the sofa. They'd been sitting cuddling close together for almost an hour now just relishing the peace and quiet as well as the closeness they were sharing. Chakotay turned his head and kissed the side of her head. "Happy?" He felt her nod against him.

"Very. Totally relaxed too." She turned her head up to look at him and smiled softly. "What about you?" There was only a trace of worry in her voice.

He smiled. "I'm very happy. I couldn't be happier. I've everything a man could want." Kathryn raised an eyebrow and he laughed. "Well, almost everything." Holding her eyes a moment longer, he then leaned down and brushed his lips to hers. No further words were necessary. Kathryn pushed herself up a little and leaned into the kiss, feeling a deep passion stir in her. She moaned against him.

"Oh Chakotay, I've missed you so much, missed this." She wound her arm around his neck and pulled him closer to her, her mouth pressing down on his firmly. Chakotay didn't need any further invitation. He deepened the kiss, prying her mouth open and pushing his tongue inside. Kathryn groaned deeply in the back of her throat, both her hands pulling at him now. Finally, they broke away, needing air, but their hands were still busy.

"Chakotay, I need you. Very badly. We've time later for finesse. It's just been too long." His mouth devouring her neck answered for him as his hands swept over her body. When he began to stroke around her breasts, he stopped and looked at her. Sensing his eyes on her and feeling his hands stop their movement, she opened her eyes and looked back at him.


She shook her head quickly. "No, Chakotay, don't even go there. I'm fine."

He smiled and shook his head. "I know that. I just meant… Well, how sensitive are you? How should I…?"

She relaxed again. "I'm very sensitive and I'm leaking a little but you can still… Ohhh…Mmmm." His fingers were brushing over her nipples before she even finished her sentence. "Oh yes. You learn quickly." He just grinned and pulled away from her. Seeing her dismay, he grinned and leaned down, pulling her into his arms, before picking her up and making his way to the bedroom.

"Oh you are the masterful one tonight." She leered at him and he growled back.

"You ain't seen nothing yet. lady." He threw her down onto the bed and flopped down beside her. His mouth and hands were busy in seconds, divesting her of her dress and underwear, exposing her to his eyes inch by inch.

"You're more beautiful than ever." He trailed his lips around her sensitive breasts as his hands moved down, followed in time by his mouth. Kathryn was busy with her own hands, almost ripping the clothes from his body. Eventually, he sat back a moment to help her, as naked as she was within minutes.

Kissing and stroking her body, licking and nuzzling into every crevice, Chakotay soon had Kathryn squirming beneath him. As he slowly and gently spread her legs, he could already smell her arousal and as he drew nearer, felt her heat. Kathryn was almost bucking against him already, desperate for his touch, that which she'd been denied so long.

"Don't tease, Chakotay. Please. I need you too badly."

He looked up from his task and smiled at her. "Don't rush me. I need to show you what it's really about. I need this, Kathryn. I need to love you." She understood and nodded, biting her lip to try and control the desire which was threatening to consume her.

Chakotay returned to her body, slowly drawing nearer and nearer to where she needed him most. He took his time, almost torturing her in his slowness. Kathryn felt ready to explode by the time his mouth finally came down on her and she screamed out. She felt his hands reach for her ankles, as he pushed her legs up, using his hold to spread her as wide as he could. His assault was relentless, bringing her to the brink, only to pull back and start the build-up all over again. Using his shoulder now, he leaned against one of her legs and slipped a hand beneath the other, keeping her open to him. The fingers of his other hand pressed gently against her opening, exploring and gently probing, seeking entrance to her body. Kathryn lay almost insensate as he worked her and then screamed out again when he drove two fingers into her, his mouth sucking greedily on her small bundle of nerves at the same time.

"Oh sweet God. Oh please. Chakotay yesssss. Do it." Kathryn's head thrashed back and forth, her hands not knowing where to grip. Chakotay grinned against her, drowning in the trust she had in him and her physical reaction. He added a third finger, quickly understanding that he wasn't hurting her, despite how long it had been since they'd been together. He pulled his fingers from her then drove them back in with some force, repeating his action again and again. He flicked his tongue over her clit and then sucked hard on her. Kathryn screamed at the top of her lungs as her world exploded around her, her inner muscles clamping down on Chakotay's fingers, drawing him in deeper. He rode the wave with her, his hand still pumping her as he lapped at the rush of fluids she produced. Even before she settled, he was bringing her back, up and up, before dropping her over the edge once more.

Kathryn lay in a stupor, her body almost shivering in the aftermath of the two shattering orgasms. She felt Chakotay lower her legs and come up over her and forced her eyes open. He smiled down at her and licked his lips. Kathryn growled and pulled him down to her, claiming his lips and sharing her taste with him. She wriggled her hips, allowing him to settle between her legs.

"Give it to me. Give it to me hard. I need to feel you inside me."

He shifted slightly until she could feel his hard length against her opening. "Now who's the masterful one? Hard, Kathryn?"

She nodded, panting now. "Oh yes. As hard as you're able."

Chakotay grinned down at her. He adored her lack of inhibitions with him. "Sure you're not going to regret those words?" He pressed against her and withdrew, teasing her mercilessly. Kathryn pulled at him, moving her hips down to him, trying to impale herself on him. He pulled back a little more.

"Chakotay, please."

He moved slightly. "Well, seeing as you ask so nicely. Are you sure you want it all?"

She squirmed again. "Chakotay, don't do this to me."

He stared deeply at her a moment longer, eased himself up and pressed against her once more. "OK, lady. You asked for it." Before she was able to drew a breath, he surged into her, bringing another scream from her throat. He watched her face closely for any signs that he'd hurt her but all he saw was a look of rapture.

"Yesssss…. Oh God." She pulled at him and raised her legs each side of him, trying desperately to deepen the penetration. "More. More." He obliged, pulling almost all the way out before ramming himself home again. Kathryn bucked against him, her hands clawing at his shoulders and back. "Give me everything. Give me it all." She threw her head back, savouring each sensation. "Oh God, I've missed you so much. Yessss." Chakotay alternated between long and short strokes, filling her each time. He ground himself against her on each forward thrust then pulled back, before slamming back into her. Kathryn continued to cry out, urging him on further and further.

Making a quick decision and taking a risk, Chakotay pulled out of her completely and locking eyes with her a moment, reached for her and went to turn her over. She smiled at him, her eyes showing their full understanding and giving her permission. She rolled herself over, helping him and felt his hands on her hips.

"Give it to me. Please, Chakotay." She knew he needed her consent and encouragement and wriggled her bottom against him. She felt him slip an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. He pushed two pillows under her hips and settled himself behind her. She felt his fingers probing her, teasing her clit as he pressed into her again, sliding in easily. Kathryn moaned loudly as she tried to push back against him. He began pumping her hard, his fingers pinching her small nub as she cried out, trying to get her arms and knees under her to give herself more control.

She pushed against him. "More." He pushed harder into her, the fingers of his other hand tracing around her anus, before pressing in a little. Kathryn groaned loudly. "Oh yes. There please."

Chakotay grinned. He'd been more than a little surprised at the start of their relationship to learn that Kathryn very much appreciated anal sex. He certainly had no objections and was in fact more than happy to oblige her. He pulled out of her, his fingers still working her clit and pressed against her anus. He spread her wetness before plunging into her rear. Kathryn cried out, grinding herself back against him.

"Oh God, Chakotay. Harder. More." He pounded in and out of her, pumping her ass as fast as he could. With her helping him, he didn't need to hold onto her hips and pressed his fingers deeply into her vagina, accompanying the thrusting into her ass. Kathryn lowered her head, pulling at her own hair as she pressed back onto him, meeting his thrusts with powerful ones of her own. Chakotay knew she was close and pumped even harder, willing his body to retain control. He felt her come, her inner walls gripping his fingers tightly and then her wail.

Before her orgasm was over, he pulled himself from her and tossed her over onto her back. With her inner muscles still spasming, he drove himself back into her, pushing past her clenching muscles, ramming himself in as far as he could go. He rode her mercilessly, his hands gripping her hips tightly, lifting her almost off the bed and bathed in the raw lust he saw on her face. "Take me. Do it. Yessss." Kathryn had also surprised him with how vocal and open she could be and he loved her for it. It did his ego no end of good. "Yes. Yes." She pushed against him, watching him.

"Take it. Take everything I'm giving you. Take me into you. All the way in. Hard. Fast. Feel me ramming myself into you." He knew she loved him to talk like that to her and he loved the freedom it gave him. He heard her panting, knowing his words were doing wonderful things to her. They locked eyes as he continued pounding her.

He knew he was losing all control and fought to hang on a little longer until she came with him. He slammed himself against her and ground his pelvis against hers. "Come on, Kathryn. Come for me. Scream for me. Feel my prick inside you. Ramming you. Taking you. Pounding into you." His words were like a trigger and he felt her come again. She threw her head back, her hips arching against him.

"Oh Goddddd….." Her scream could probably be heard on the bridge, but neither cared at that moment. As she gripped him tightly, he joined her, his ejaculation exploding from him, filling her before being forced back out. Chakotay fell over her, both their bodies slick with sweat.

It was almost five minutes before either of them gained enough breath to speak. Kathryn weakly pulled herself onto her side and lay her head against his shoulder. "Welcome home, lover. I badly needed that and that was the best ever."

Chakotay grinned like a Cheshire cat at her. "I wasn't too bad, was I? I was afraid I'd be out of practice."

Kathryn shook her head. "Oh no, you were beyond perfect. I'm sure they heard us on the bridge. Well, they certainly heard me. We'll get the knowing smiles and grins tomorrow."

Chakotay stroked her hair. "So what? It's made me think though. We'll either have to use the holodeck a lot or get B'Elanna and Tom to baby-sit more. Sean won't get much sleep with us."

Kathryn smiled and then frowned. "Isn't that supposed to be the other way around? He's supposed to keep us awake all night."

Chakotay pulled her to him. "It is but then most kids don't have you for a mother."

He jumped at the slap he got. Kathryn stuck her tongue out at him. "You can make enough noise yourself, mister."

They cuddled together and were quiet for a long time. Chakotay nuzzled her hair. "You still awake?"

Kathryn nodded against him. "Yeah. Just enjoying the afterglow."

He stroked her back. "It was good, wasn't it? We were, I mean. Nothing's changed. It was even better, in fact."

Kathryn sat up now and stared deeply into his eyes. "I never expected it to be any other way. We just had to trust in each other again and take it all back. We love each other. That's all there is to it. That answers everything." She played her fingers over his chest.

"I was reading about love. Nothing else to do in sickbay but read. Two things stayed with me. One was a biblical passage. It said that if we haven't got love, we're nothing, that love is patient and kind, never jealous, conceited or proud. It isn't selfish and doesn't keep a record of wrongs. It also said that love never gives up and that its faith, hope and patience never fail. It's eternal. After everything else has passed, three things will remain. Faith, hope and love and that the greatest of the three is love." Chakotay felt himself choke up. "I also read another verse. A poem or hymn, I think. I loved the words. 'The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar, the dearest and the best'. I think they say what I'm trying to say. It boils down to this, Chakotay. I love you." They both had tears in their eyes and just gave way to them. They held each other tightly, glorying in what they shared.

"I love you too, Kathryn." No more words were needed between them.

As their son slept quietly on, his parents came together again, sealing their love for each other, the love that would never die, the love that would act as the finest example their son would ever have, the one that would guide him through his life and on down through the generations yet to come.