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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     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?



WARNING: This story contains graphic material of a violent and sexual nature.




              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.

PART THREE.



Kathryn took the following day off, needing the time to herself to try and come to terms with everything.  When she had returned from the Doctor, she had 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 had 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 had 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 mass 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 had 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 had 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 had seen the shocked looks of 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 any more.  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 Medic, 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, 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 had 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 had 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 Medic 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 this sooner.  She frowned now as the Medic 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 will 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.

“God 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 and 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…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…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 had 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 had known he intended, still saw her tear stained face as he had lain over her, taking her as he had 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 had 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 would 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 also.”  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 planted 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…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…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, 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 had 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 Medic’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…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 had 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 had 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 Medic 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 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 had 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.

“She didn’t know…”  The Medic sighed and shook his head.  “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 had 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…didn’t trust myself with her…”  B'Elanna knelt down beside him.

“Chakotay, you can be there for her now…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.

“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 had 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…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 and the only 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…abandoned her…wasn’t there for her…”  She knew he needed to get all this out.

“Talk to me 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…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…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 God 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 blackness she saw him sinking into, despite this anger.  She gripped his arm tightly now.   “Oh God…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…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 would 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 shall 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 real 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 would 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 commbadge 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 God 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 had 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 had 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.

Chakotay,

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.

“Chakotay,

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.

“Chakotay,

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.

“Chakotay,

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.
Oh 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.

“Chakotay,
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 confused.  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 to.  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 would 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.  He didn’t understand.

“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 Medic 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 Medic 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 is 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 Medic unsure 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 had 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 medic 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.  In the old days…it wouldn’t have happened…”  He worked for a moment.  “I like to avoid this if I can…  Now we can’t…  Doing a section when labour has already started…  Please Chakotay…wait outside…”  He expected the reaction he got.

“No way…I’m not leaving them…”  The Medic nodded, 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 Medic 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.  “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 Medic 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. 

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART FOUR.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.




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