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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:         NC17.

Summary:     When Naomi goes missing, it re-opens Kathryn's painful past.  This

                      story covers the subjects of child abuse and incest. 

                      Please read the warning at the beginning of Part One before

                      reading this story.




“One day I was just sitting on the grass…no one around…  I’d had a flashback and had just come out of it.  I remember sitting there, sweating and shaking after it…tears pouring down my face.  Suddenly I looked up and this woman was standing there…smiling down at me.  I was mortified and tried to get up…to run or hide…  I couldn’t stand though…my legs…pins and needles.  She just sat down beside me and smiled.  ‘That was some flashback’.  I stared at her…my mouth hanging open.  Eventually she explained that she was Louise Carter and that she was a Starfleet Counsellor, back early for the next term…something about catching up on reports.”  Kathryn shrugged. 

“To this day…I couldn’t tell you what else she said or what I said…  I only know I was suddenly in her office and I was crying my eyes out…while she just sat there and let me.  I do know that it was morning when I met her…but when I left her office, it was getting dark.  That long.  She listened as I poured my heart and soul out…  God knows how I was able to do that, but apparently because I’d kept it all inside me up to then, it was like a valve opening and the dam burst.  I suppose in a way…the fact that she was a stranger helped…  The relief I felt was…I can’t describe it…it was so great.  It was all there you see…I remembered it all.  Some victims block it out…all of it or just some of it and don’t remember it until years later.  The simplest thing can trigger it.”  She shifted slightly.

“Abuse devastates a child and the effects last into adulthood.  I learned all this from Louise.  It can be so severe that a lot of victims don’t remember it until twenty or thirty years later.  The ways you used in order to cope as a child, stay with you when you become an adult and let you ‘blank out’ the memories.  To survive, you separate yourself from your body and pretend you weren’t there.  It’s like thinking the abuse happened to someone else and as an adult, that comes out as memory loss.  It’s a protective measure.  If you don’t remember the abuse, it seems as if it didn’t happen and then you won’t have to deal with it.  I often wish I’d been able to do that…could have been that way…and yet a part of me is glad I remembered because I’ve been able to deal with it and move past it.  Otherwise, I’d still have to face it because I believe it always does come out at some time.”  Chakotay nodded.  He was learning things he didn’t really ever want to know.  Thinking about such evil disgusted him, making him feel he’d be forever tarnished by it.

“It’s different for every victim.  Sometimes it’s a rape or attempted rape which will trigger the memories, even a too real dream that will bring it back.  It might be hearing about someone else having been through the same thing, perhaps something as simple as a touch or someone sneaking up behind you…anything really.”  She smiled sadly.

“It would be nice if life was simple and you could just forget and move on.  The fact is that any ‘unfinished’ business from childhood affects adult attitudes, feelings, behaviour and relationships.  You basically need to get in touch with the pain from then in order to deal with it now.  If you had no outlet for your feelings at the time, the problems remain and you need to address them and get help in order to be at peace with yourself.”  She licked at her lips and then shook her head.

“Some kids are told they’re lying if they tell.  ‘Oh, daddy or Uncle whoever, could never do that’.  When it’s not addressed, you can feel that maybe you have imagined it or made it up in your own head and since that’s mostly what you’d love to believe anyway, those feelings can continue when you start to remember.  I’d come close to that as I said but I guess with me, because it went on longer, the memories were always there and I knew it had happened.  I couldn’t deny it.  This was a total takeover of my body, my mind, every part of me, by someone I knew, trusted and loved.  I looked to him for protection and he betrayed that and made me live in fear.  I lost my innocence, grew up overnight and was robbed of my childhood.  I was left with the feeling that I’d asked for it even, because I used to cuddle him.”  She shook herself.

“Sorry…I can get carried away…  I’m jumping ahead.”  Chakotay just smiled his reassurance.  “So it all came out to Louise.  I guess, as I said, it was ready to come out…waiting to burst out of me.”  She sighed deeply and looked up at Chakotay.  “That’s probably why I’m able to talk to you now so freely.  Oh I trust you and have for a long time and that’s a major factor…but it’s also…  I think in my mind, I was building up to telling you and now…  I suppose I was prepared to talk to you…had almost rehearsed for it.  Maybe that’s why it’s so easy…alongside how I feel about you…”  Chakotay smiled softly at her and nodded.

“I’m honoured that you trust me enough and that I can be here for you.  Thank God you had Louise too…”  Kathryn smiled softly, the image of the woman filling her mind.

“She was great.”  She was quiet for a moment and then went on.  “I poured it all out and Louise listened but most importantly to me, she believed me.  And then she spoke.  I think in some part of my mind, even at that stage, I knew I’d just stepped onto a new road…one that would lead to a healing.  Anyhow, she explained about flashbacks and I learned why I was having them.  You see, I’d locked all this inside me so much…that now it was coming out...regardless of what I wanted.  She told me that it was like I’d kept all this somewhere inside me because I wasn’t able to express it or tell anyone at the time.  The child I’d been then was still inside me, unable to express all these thoughts and feelings and it was like all that part of me had been put into a time warp until it could come out in the present…when I was ready.”  Kathryn laughed slightly.  “I didn’t really feel ready though…yet the relief…”  She wiped the back of her hand across her forehead.

“She told me that when this happens, the child in me is experiencing the past as if it were happening today.  When the flashback happens, it’s like you forget that you have an ‘adult’ self available for comfort, protection and grounding.  The extreme feelings and sensations I was having, were so frightening because they weren’t related to the reality of the present and that’s how they often just came out of the blue at me.”  She cleared her throat.

“I thought I was going crazy.  I really did.  It honestly never occurred to me to seek help like this.  I’d spent so long not telling anyone, that the thought now of telling someone just didn’t occur to me.  I honestly thought some of those flashbacks would kill me.  They consumed me.  I was totally out of control with them…at their mercy.  I couldn’t find any trigger for them either.  I wasn’t anywhere near home…there weren’t that many men around…I don’t know…they just happened.  Louise told me that mostly it is something…a smell or face…that will trigger them…but not always.  In my case, my mind had just had enough.  It was that different schedule again.  My body would be doing one thing and my mind was deciding something else.”  Chakotay hugged her to him.

“She was able to help you though…?”  Kathryn nodded quickly.

“I often believe she saved my life.  I’ve no way of knowing how I’d have ended up without her.  Most likely locked away in a padded cell somewhere.  This was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder…full blown.  She actually praised me for having coped so well.”  She laughed sadly.  “I looked it up in a manual on psychiatry.  It’s the normal experience of a person, experiencing an event that is outside the range of normal human experience’.”  She laughed again but he heard the tears in the sound.  “I fit that bill…”  Chakotay ran a hand up and down her arm.

“I thought I was going insane.  That was apparently because ‘the child in me didn’t know there was the adult survivor there to help’.”  She shook her head.  “Sorry…I said that…  I can forget what I’m saying with this.”  She cleared her throat.  “As it turned out, I did a lot of talking to that ‘child within’.  It works for a lot of survivors but it didn’t help me that much.  In my mind, that child was long gone.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“What did you do instead…?”  Kathryn was so grateful for how he was speaking with her, how he was taking all this.

“I learned to deal with the flashbacks for what they were…  My horrific memories.  I told myself that the worst was over and that I’d survived it.  I constantly told myself that they were only memories and couldn’t hurt me.  I learned how to ‘ground’ myself.  That could be just stamping my feet on the ground to let myself know that I could run…get away from them.  Touching things…that helped too.  Holding something.  I learned how to breathe properly.”  She laughed at that.  “I know how that sounds…but when you’re frightened…you can almost forget to breathe and then because you’re panicking…your body loses oxygen and that in turn causes more panic…pounding in the head…tightness…sweating…feeling faint…shakiness and dizziness.  A full blown panic attack in other words.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.

“What else…?”  Kathryn thought a moment.

“I learned to re-establish myself in the present.  Used the five senses for that.  Look around me…at colours…shapes…people nearby…anything really.  Listen to the sounds around me…birds or music…whatever was there.  I’d touch things around me…even my own hands or the ground I was standing on.  I used to carry ‘taste’ pills with me…suck on them…little pills with a strange taste to them…nothing you’d normally encounter…”  She smiled sadly.  “I almost expected Louise to suggest candy but she was smarter than that.  That would not have helped.  Took me a lot of years to eat that stuff again.  Still don’t really like it.”  She sniffled.  “I even had a little box with cream perfume in it that I could smell.  Anything that helped me.  Afterwards, especially if I was in my room or when I got back…I used to just wrap myself in a blanket.  I felt safe that way.  Louise was always there for me too.  I only ever had to call her if it got too bad.  Over time though, I got better.  I knew them for what they were.  Suddenly I knew I wasn’t alone…that I didn’t have to keep this quiet anymore.  Afterwards, I’d try and sleep or soak in the bath.  I learned to find great comfort in the bath.  That stayed…”  She smiled softly at him and saw him return it.

“How long did you work with Louise?”  Kathryn shook her head.

“Years actually…  I still saw her from time to time…maybe once…twice a year…up to the time we left.”  Chakotay seemed shocked and Kathryn just smiled at him.  “It takes a very long time to move past all that…”  He smiled but looked embarrassed.

“I’m sorry…I didn’t think…  I’ve just never known…”  Kathryn nodded sadly.

“Be very thankful for that…  I don’t mean that to sound…”  She sighed.  “People are ignorant of it all.  It sounds so horrible to them that they stay away from the subject.  Unfortunately, that ignorance leads to…I guess…not seeing it if it’s right there under their nose…and so it continues.  It’s a crime that has been around for…as far back as you can go probably.  You’d think in this day and age it would have been stamped out or whatever…  It’s still there though and probably always will be…because people can’t believe it can be in their own family for a start.  As I said before, we were this perfect Starfleet family…and look at us…”  Chakotay nodded.

“Anyway, I studied hard and saw Louise all the time.  Nearly every day at the start and then every second day.  The worst of it came out in the first two years.  I learned everything I could…read all I could even…although Louise wasn’t sure about me doing that…but I needed to.  I learned that incest is the most common form of child abuse.  Physical abuse is way up there too though, and is often part of the sexual abuse.  It’s abuse, sexual and physical, of the child by the very people who are supposed to care for them.  It’s the violation of trust that damages the child most.”  She smiled sadly.  “Told you I knew this stuff well.”  Chakotay rubbed her arm again, making sure she was close enough to the heat.

“Those first two years must have been very hard on you…with your studies as well…”  Kathryn nodded slowly.

“They were…but the strange thing is…  I think my studies helped me.  I escaped into them.  Everyone else was partying and burning the candle at both ends if you like.  I just concentrated on my work.  It helped with that and it helped with me.  Life can be strange.”  She smiled softly.

“So…I faced up to it all.  Most kids are terrified of the dark…I guess if it happened that way for them.  I overcame that slowly.  It was more to do with not being able to see what was there in the dark, although I still associated it with him coming into my room when he stayed.  My sleep was still bad…but the nightmares eased over those two years.  What I didn’t like was water…especially on my face…swimming…hated that…a feeling that I’d suffocate…”  Chakotay frowned.  “I hated anything near by face…eating certain things…  I was nervous of swallowing…probably why I ate so little.”  She hesitated when she saw he didn’t understand.  “It was…I was afraid of…of gagging…do you understand…?  Afraid of suffocating…?”  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment, suddenly understanding, and pulled her tight against him.

“Oh Kathryn…I’m so sorry love…”  She leaned into his strong embrace, drawing comfort from him.

“I made myself get past that too.  I had to.  I even learned to…well…be able to touch myself…  I used to feel…I guess…alienated…from my own body…not ‘at home’ in it…I’d ignore what it was trying to tell me…if I was sick or hungry…but I had to get past that.  If I had a cut or sore…I had to tend it…  Even more important though was…well…my own health…checking my…breasts…self-examination…checking for lumps…  It was difficult to do because touching there was…a reminder…but I had enough sense to know it was too important to ignore.”  He nodded slowly.  “I’d never seen a Doctor, you see…after…”  Chakotay looked really shocked and Kathryn shook her head sadly.

“I guess it was another way for my father to deny it all.  I think for him it was over.  Seeing a doctor would have made him face it…maybe let others know too…  I don’t know…  Maybe I’m being too hard on him.  It’s possible he never knew how far it went and didn’t think I’d need one.  Maybe Uncle Robert told him lies…said nothing had happened and my father believed him.  I don’t know.  He could have asked though…made sure.  As it was, I saw no one and didn’t think or know to go myself either.”  She shook her head.

“I was mainly a healthy child…no real illnesses.  I never needed to see the Doctor much as I grew up and when I did…it was mostly for colds or sprains.  I never had cause to be examined so nothing was ever noticed.  Besides, Uncle Robert always knew when my physical was due and made sure I had no marks that would arouse suspicion.  He was a medic himself, after all.  I can remember times when my parents would actually ask him to check me out if I seemed ill.  Can you believe that?”  She sighed sadly. 

“Anyway, Louise insisted that I get checked out…came with me.  I saw this female medic…a very kind and gentle woman.  She was great…so understanding and supportive.  I think Louise took all her patients to this woman.  Anyway, she checked me over and…  Oh it wasn’t easy…the examination…but Louise stayed with me throughout…held my hand even…  Well…there was…damage…and scar tissue…and I needed some surgery…  It seems I’d never have conceived without it…not that I will anyway but…”  He saw the deep sadness on her face, heard it in her voice, and hugged her a little tighter.

“I spent those first years covering myself up too.  I think I wore the most ugly clothes I could find.  I even wore my uniform a size too big.  I was trying to cover myself, you see?  Trying to hide my body…  I was terrified of drawing any attention to myself.  It was strange actually…after the wild summer I’d been through…  Here I was…suddenly terrified of men and sex…  I even thought for a while that I was gay…”  She laughed a little at that.  “One area I didn’t go in, thank God…was hurting myself.  I had the ‘I hate myself’ period, but I never tried the self-destruction road…unless you count that summer…”  She smiled sadly.  “I wasn’t into hurting myself though…  Somehow I just felt I’d had enough pain…physical and emotional…  I didn’t need more.  I pushed myself though.  I worked so hard and it was only later that I came to realize I was doing that as much for myself as for my father.  My reports to him mattered to me.  I was still trying desperately to please him…atone for sins I felt I’d committed…the hurt I’d caused him.  I still felt I’d let him down in some way.”  She shrugged and leaned a little closer to the heat.

“I’d kill for some of Neelix’s leola root stew now…even that would be good…”  Chakotay leaned forward with her.

“I’m hungry too.  Do you want some more water…?”  She shook her head.

“I’m OK for the moment.  We better save it if we can…we don’t know how long we’ll be here…”  Chakotay nodded at the sense of that, marvelling how even now, going through laying herself so open to him, she could still think logically.  They were quiet for a while and Chakotay leaned to the side a little.

“If you don’t want to answer…or can’t…”  Kathryn turned and smiled at him.

“You can ask me…  It can’t be worse than what I’ve already told you…”  He nodded.

“I just wondered…  Were you ever…suicidal…?”  He regretted asking her as soon as the words were out but she didn’t seem to mind.  She shook her head almost immediately.

“Strangely…no…I wasn’t…not really…  Maybe at the height of it…I don’t really know for sure…  I think more…wishing I was dead…rather than…wanting to do it…  Can you see the difference…?”  He smiled a little and nodded.  “For a lot of it I was too young to understand about trying to end it all…and later on…  I don’t know…  Maybe once or twice I did think about it but not seriously…  Don’t get me wrong.  I was depressed…sometimes paralysingly so…I had bouts of seemingly endless crying…and then I’d be angry again…and still the fear…  I was actually afraid of being angry…  As I say…I had a time of hating all men…  At one time, I thought I was gay or at least wanted to be…”  She shook her head and actually laughed.  “I think I actually had a crush on Louise for a while…”  Chakotay said nothing.

“I knew later on it was just…  She was my saviour…and I loved her for that…but it  wasn’t sexual…just safe love…deep gratitude…all of that…  For a while I felt dependent on her and confused that with something else.  She knew of course…had had it before from patients…  We actually laughed about it one day…”  Kathryn looked thoughtful for a moment.

“My biggest fear…later on…was freezing in a crisis…going into shock or shutting down…  A lot of survivors go through that…  I was OK though…I passed that test too…thanks to the help I’d had from Louise.  I’d never have gotten through the Academy without her help.  Subconsciously, I think I chose this career for the control and structure it offered.  And I did become a control freak…”  She smiled.  “You’d never have guessed, would you…?”  She shook her head.  “Maybe getting stranded in the Delta Quadrant was probably going too far though, in a search for total control…”  Her joke fell flat with her and she shook her head.  Chakotay just stared at her. 

“I think you’re amazing Kathryn…what you’ve come through…  You’ve been so strong and brave…  I’m lost in admiration for you…”  His words flowed over her and she glowed under them.

“Thank you.  That…that means so much to me…”  He smiled softly.

“I mean it…”  She nodded and reached for his hand, squeezing gently.

“I know you do.  You know Chakotay, you’re one of the few people in my life…one of the very few I’ve trusted…  Only the second person I’ve spoken to about this.   That’s quite an honour…  I don’t trust easily…”  He returned the squeeze on her hand.

“Don’t think I don’t feel totally honoured by that either.  I’m humbled by it even.  Thank you…”  She smiled and looked towards the rocks.

“Trusting anyone took time.  Most victims have enormous problems with trust.  A lot will become perfectionists…like me I guess…”  She smiled a little.  “Others have phobias…  Denial as I said before…  It’s a big problem which thankfully I didn’t have…not seriously anyway.  When you deny as a child, it stops you from enjoying a normal adult life.  You don’t trust your own perceptions or senses even.  You can end up in other abusive relationships because it’s all you know or expect.  You won’t trust your own decisions…second-guess yourself.  I had to learn to get past that one.  There’s the problem for some survivors of being extremely anxious of authority figures.  They’ll opt to be passive all their lives because it’s more comfortable and they’ll be afraid to take any risk.  Familiar misery rather than risk unfamiliar change.  Assertion is also extremely difficult.  I had to move past all these because I was in Starfleet.  Going into command was the best thing for me.  I learned to deal with all that.  I needed to let go of it all because I was going into command and going into command helped me let go of it.  A double-sided coin as the saying goes.  With rank and as a Captain, I could hide behind that, giving me this strong outer cover or shell.  It was like my armour.  I mean, one part of me had trouble taking orders, while another part felt I wouldn’t cope without someone telling me what to do.  It took a lot of work, but I overcame all that and found the balance.”  She bit at the side of her nail for a moment. 

“Letting go of the guilt, the shame, the low self-esteem.  I felt worthless for a time even.  I doubted the smallest kindness by anyone.  I suspected everyone of having an ulterior motive.  They only wanted something from me…that’s all I saw…  Oh I craved real love but I couldn’t tell the difference with it…so I avoided it…  Love to me was ‘taken’ not ‘given’.  I felt abandoned for a long time too…by my father in particular…  I felt so let down by him…  I’d let myself become a ‘victim’ also.  If someone asked a favour…I went all out to do it for them.  I’d do anything for someone else… I felt incapable of saying ‘no’…but I couldn’t take anything in return…  I’m sure they all thought I was the strangest person they’d ever come across.  I kept to myself a lot too.  Oh I’d work with people but outside of that…I stayed alone.  Whereas some survivors block out those years…I remembered it all…carried it with me everywhere.  I felt I had this enormous secret hanging around my neck…which I did of course…but I couldn’t tell anyone…didn’t trust them enough…so I only had Louise…  I think I also felt…and this was a throwback…that no one would believe me or listen to me anyway…  It was just too hard to open up…”  She turned and looked at Chakotay.

“The odd time…I still find it hard to believe that you’re my friend…  I trust you and…I love you…I do…”  She saw tears spring to his eyes at her words.  He gripped her hand tightly.

“I trust you too and you know you can always trust me.  I know you know that I love you too…real…pure…good love…”  She nodded, too choked up to answer immediately.

“I’ve known that for a while but…at first…  I found it hard to…to accept that…that you could love me…for me…  I guess I still in some way…felt that…if you loved me…you just wanted sex…”  She held a hand up at the hurt look on his face.  “I know that’s not the case Chakotay…I know that only too well…  I’m saying that at first I thought like that…  It was all I’d known…”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.  “As I say, I wanted to tell you all this for a long time and tried to so many times…planned to…  I was just always afraid…afraid that you’d turn away…be sickened by it…disgusted at me…”  She was staring at her feet now, almost as if she was addressing them instead.  Chakotay tugged at her hand.

“Kathryn…?”  She turned suddenly, tears filling her eyes and he saw a flash of hurt and anger.

“Why aren’t you disgusted at me?  Why aren’t you sickened by this…by what I was…?”  Chakotay let a flash of anger cross his own face.

“Because I love you and because you know damned well that none of this was your fault.  You were and are the victim, Kathryn.  Nothing that happened was your doing…”  She shook her head quickly, knocking the tears from her eyes, sending them running down her cheeks.

“What about the whore…the slut I became…?”  Chakotay grabbed her other hand now. 

“I won’t ever tell you this again Kathryn.  I never want to hear words like that from you again, do you hear me?  You did nothing wrong.  Everything that happened was his doing and I know you know that.  What you’re saying now is just a result of telling me all this…reliving it.  You don’t believe that and I know it and I will never believe it either.”  He watched her face closely as his words made their way into her brain and he saw them find their place there, absorbing into her understanding.  She nodded slowly and leaned into him.

“I know…I’m sorry…I don’t know why I said all that…”  Chakotay held her to him.

“It’s just traces of old self-doubt and how you felt then coming out from telling this now.  You can’t talk of what happened and remember that, without also remembering and revisiting how you felt at the time.  One goes hand in hand with the other.”  She pulled back a little and wiped at her face, then attempted a watery smile.

“How did you get to be so wise…?”  Chakotay smiled gently and wiped some of her tears away.

“I’m more than a handsome face, you know.  Anyway, it’s common sense really.  No matter what event any of us remember, we also remember how we felt at the time.  It’s the same.  Good or bad.”  Kathryn nodded slowly, digesting this.

“You’re right.  I guess some of it remains though or rather comes back now and then.  A part of those feelings will always be there.  It’s like something giving off a scent and you take it from the room but the scent remains…traces of it stay for a time.”  Chakotay nodded and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“You don’t really feel like that and you know it’s not that way.”  He was telling her and not asking.  “I know you don’t…”  She smiled, reassuring him a little.

“No, you’re right.  Most of the time, I know that.  It’s just the odd time…like this…  I guess I just never had a ‘Chakotay’ before, to help with that…”  She smiled, almost reaching a laugh.  “Every good home should have one…”  Chakotay squeezed her hand and smiled softly, but she didn’t miss the look of sadness he tried to hide. 

“What about…Justin…and Mark…?”  He was afraid of asking too much.  Kathryn just smiled.

“I’d come a long way by the time I met Justin.  I’d healed a lot…and I’d even healed…no…papered over the cracks with my father.  On the surface…it was normal…and that suited him.  I’d learned to forgive him I suppose…although not forget.  I think we would both have been too embarrassed to discuss it anyway.  It was always there though…just never spoken of.  At one stage, I was actually more angry at him than at my Uncle.  I felt he’d betrayed me more.  In the end though, I knew it was my Uncle who deserved all the blame.”  Chakotay nodded.

“And then the Cardassians came along…and undid so much…”  Chakotay’s eyes flew to her face and he saw a faraway, haunted look there.  She turned suddenly and looked at him,  trying for a small smile.

“I was terrified.  I was so sure it would all happen again and I knew I couldn’t take that…knew I’d crack…go mad.  I really expected it though.”  She shook her head.  “Starfleet would never have sent me had they known my history…might not have even taken me on in the first place…but nothing was known.  My father made sure of that…and Louise…everything with her was confidential.  I sat there and listened to Admiral Paris and his screams…going slowly mad…  Every Cardassian I saw was my Uncle…I saw him there…actually saw him…”  Chakotay slipped his arm around her.  “Justin was with the Rangers…rescued us before anything happened to me…but my nerves were shot to hell…and he saw that.”  She drew in deep breaths.

“My father came to see me once after I got back.  His eyes searched my face.  I saw him…watched him looking at me.  I remember giving him a brief report of what had happened…how I’d been untouched but had to listen to the Admiral.  I saw relief on his face…the closest he could come to saying anything.  He nodded and I smiled for him and that was that.  He left.  He left and I fell back to Louise a total wreck.  This time though, I was more determined to heal.  I’d met Justin and for the first time, I’d found a man who seemed kind to me.  He cared and showed it…not by looking at my body but into my eyes.  His smile was gentle and he talked to me…not at me.  Suddenly, I wanted to heal for him as well as myself.  We started dating but never went far.  I kissed him a few times and he seemed to find my shyness attractive.  So I worked hard with Louise.  She knew what I was doing and why and she let me.  She guided me well and controlled the rate I worked at, but she let me do it my own way for the most part and it felt so good.  I let go of so much.  I even wanted to get rid of my name for a while.  I hated that I shared the same name as him…but then I thought of my parents and let that go.  I decided this bastard wouldn’t control the rest of my life and started placing the blame and anger where it belonged.”  She smiled, some pride showing. 

“I accepted that the pain was temporary but that denial and the consequences of it, are forever.  When you tire of the consequences and become willing to work diligently on the incest issue, only then are you on the way to living your life as a survivor rather than a victim.”  She smiled slightly.  “Louise’s words.  So…I accepted that the abuse had happened, that I couldn’t have stopped it, that I wasn’t responsible in any way and that it had hurt me.  These were big steps.  I accepted that it wasn’t my fault but I forgave those around me also.  I had to.  It would have eaten away at me otherwise.”  She looked at him sadly.  “You see, I have accepted all that.  You were right about just before.  It was a moment of regression…self-doubt…but they happen.”  Chakotay smiled softly and nodded.  “So I felt my loss and I grieved.  I mourned for my lost childhood and tried to move on.  I honoured my pain…as Louise said…honoured it and moved on into the present and looked to the future.”  Chakotay smiled proudly at her and she seemed almost shy.

“Did you tell Justin…?”  He saw a cloud cross her face as she shook her head.

“I was going to…I think…but…”  He nodded, knowing the rest but let her say it.

“He was killed along with my father…before I ever got that chance.”  He let her grieve quietly for several minutes, paying her silent respects to the two men.  Slowly she looked up and smiled a little.

“There was a time when I wondered if my father had ever said anything to Justin.  He was always so patient with me…but I’ll never know for sure…although I don’t think so…”  Chakotay nodded slowly.

“That must have been a terrible time for you…”  Kathryn pressed her lips tightly together. 

“It set me back a lot…and I ran for Louise again…  I actually felt for a while that I’d been responsible for their deaths…outside of the fact that I wasn’t able to save them.  I felt that because they’d been around me…something bad had rubbed off on them…that I’d cursed them in some way.  All crazy thoughts…but a part of how you feel with that in your life.”  She wiped at some tears.  “I had the survivor guilt then on  top of the rest…  Then I sank into a deep depression which Phoebe eventually got me out of to some degree.  Louise got me the rest of the way.  As a result of all that though, I gained another symptom I hadn’t had before but Louise nipped that in the bud.”  She smiled softly at the curious look on Chakotay’s face.  “ I began to take risks… ‘daring the fates’ she called it.  I was a bit of a legend for a time and of course  Louise heard about it.  She brought it up one day and we talked about it for a long time.  It’s common enough…and sometimes the opposite comes about…terrified to take any risks at all.  I got sense in the end…”  Chakotay smiled slightly.

“You do still take a lot of risks…”  Kathryn shook her head as she smiled.

“I know but…  There’s a difference in that I at least think about the risks involved now and have an idea of the outcome if you like…I weigh it up.  I’m the Captain.  The risks I take as that are calculated…  I’ve been trained for them…  OK, I admit…where my ship and crew are concerned…I’ll risk myself for them but it’s for them and not a blind, couldn’t-care-less kind of risk taking, just for the sake of it or because I feel nothing or don’t care.  Can you see the difference?  I take the same risks you would…”  His smile was soft but she saw that he conceded the point to her.

“She really helped you…”  Kathryn's face was deadly serious.

“I don’t believe I’d have survived without her.  I was a mess when I got back but I slowly worked through it all again and began to heal once more.  God…there was so much back and forward in those years…”  She shook her head and smiled.

“I hid behind my rank…then…and later as a Captain…as I said already.  You see, I could hide behind the uniform and the rank…be someone else…anyone but ‘Kathryn’ because in my mind, ‘Kathryn’ was weak.  Starfleet and the uniform and rank were great ‘body and mind’ armour.  I could feel like someone else…almost like an actress playing a part.  Also, of course, I saw it as having saved me in a way.  Starfleet had gotten me away from home.  Going into space later on…that was my way to ‘run away’…to escape…  I finally found somewhere I could run away to…”  Chakotay shook his head and tightened his hold on her.

“What about Mark…?”  Kathryn looked around her for a moment, as if to check if anyone was listening.

“Mark…  Mark was…”  She smiled.  “Chakotay, this is strictly between us…”  She smiled at the look on his face.  “OK, I know…I’m sorry…  I’ve just been so used to keeping this to myself…”  She smiled again at his frown.

“Mark was…is…  Well, he’s…gay…”  She smiled again at the shocked look on Chakotay’s face.  “I know…  Look…we were good friends…and I felt very safe with him.  It was almost as if I sensed it about him.  As our friendship deepened and nothing physical came of it…I trusted him more and more.  I never told him what had happened but I think he suspected that something bad had happened to me.  I think he just assumed that I was a rape victim…a one-off crime…that kind of thing.  He seemed to know I had trouble with physical closeness.  It was strange because he’d known me a long time and must have known about my famous summer, but he never said anything and he never knew about how I was when I was younger because I kept it so well hidden.”  Kathryn laughed, more to herself as she remembered. 

“He told me one night…about being gay…just came out with it.  I wasn’t surprised and he saw that.  He knew he could trust me and I confirmed that to him.  After that, our friendship deepened even more.  I learned to hug with him…and feel safe about it.  We’d lie together at night and talk and I felt so secure.  He helped me with physical closeness in many ways.  We met with his parents a few times and with my mother and Phoebe.  I guess they just assumed that we were a couple.”  She grew serious now. 

“You have to understand…  In some circles it’s still a stigma…to be gay, I mean.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.  “I suppose our ‘couple’ image was a good cover…and although that wasn’t how we meant it to be…hadn’t thought of it in fact…  Well, as I said, it became a good cover.  Mark’s parents would have been horrified had they known…probably would have disowned him.  That’s just the way they were.”  She began playing with the dust again.

“So he had his ‘private life’ and I kept to myself…and to the outside world we were a happy couple.  He was never going to be anything other than what he was and I couldn’t see myself wanting anything different either.  I couldn’t ever imagine wanting to be with a man ever again…despite how I’d been with Justin.  I guess we were both living this lie but it was good for us.  So…we got engaged…agreed to marry even…and it suited us both down to the ground.  We had a better relationship than a lot of conventional couples…”  Chakotay nodded quietly.

“He got married later though…?”  Kathryn smiled warmly.

“That letter…  It sounded so like a ‘dear Jane’ and I wondered for a long time about it.  I know he genuinely felt as if he’d betrayed me in some way…our friendship that is… but I also couldn’t help wondering if it was worded as it was because…well…in case…others saw it.”  She looked at him slowly.  “I know the way I acted when I got that letter.  It wasn’t that I was deliberately lying to you about how I felt…  I’d just lived with that act for so long…it was just second nature for me.  Having this fiancé at home also made me feel safe out here…something else to hide behind…more armour...making me feel normal.  Besides, I did…do…love him still.  I did feel as if I was losing something.”  He nodded his understanding and she smiled her thanks.  “I’m just glad he found another woman though…another to be there for him in that way…  Maybe she’s gay too…  I knew of quite a few people at the Academy who were gay…men and women…who married as a cover…and it’s very sad…  Another damn stigma…something else we hide…  Like all this…  Keep it hidden away…the skeleton in the closet…the dirty laundry.  If they just shone a light on it…it would go away perhaps…wouldn’t be a dark and dirty secret anymore…  It might even stop it.”  He heard her anger.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way people are, Kathryn.  There will always be the ones who deny these things or who judge others…no matter that they have no right to…”  She nodded slowly in agreement.  “Did you…?”  He didn’t continue and Kathryn looked at him.

“Chakotay, don’t be afraid to ask me something.  I trust you…”  He smiled, a look of embarrassment on his face.

“I’m afraid of upsetting you by asking…”  She smiled but there was a serious look in her eyes.

“No…I’d prefer you ask me whatever it is.  It’s better that people are educated about this and other matters.  If more people knew about this…knew what to look for…weren’t so afraid of the subject…then less children would be victims of abuse.”  She shook her head.  “I can’t really talk either…  I’ve been as guilty for keeping this secret…  I never confronted my father…and I should have.  When he died, I regretted that and yet…  Oh I don’t know…  There was just so much unfinished…unresolved… between us.  For a brief time, I felt that with him dead, I’d never have to face it with him and then I felt so guilty for thinking that way.  I still felt ashamed of what had happened to me when I shouldn’t have…  Maybe if people had known more…they’d have been more aware…prevented it happening to even one other child…  In the end though…I wouldn’t have been that strong.  It was hard enough with just me knowing…without others knowing also…”  She was thoughtful for a moment and then she smiled at him.  “Sorry…I can get carried away…  What did you want to ask me…?”  Chakotay still looked embarrassed although he delighted in the ease with which Kathryn spoke with him now.

“It’s just…  You mentioned about…your own body…having trouble…touching yourself…but getting past that for…checking yourself…your health…and I wondered…”  He was beginning to go red.  “I know you’ve always hated your physicals…  I guess I just wondered if that was part of it…how you…other women survivors… how you coped with…medical procedures…I guess…women’s things…”  Kathryn smiled softly.

“That wasn’t so hard now, was it?”  She smiled at his embarrassment then shook her head.  “It’s a very valid point though…a good and serious question…  One that’s rarely addressed in fact…”  She licked at her lips.

“I guess it has to do with a feeling that you’re losing control of your body again.  A lot of survivors have difficulty with medical procedures.  Women will be afraid of going for smear tests…”  She smiled, only slightly embarrassed.  “They’ll even be  afraid to have children because of what that entails…from the medical side of it.   Some are even afraid to have kids because…  Some abusers were actually abused themselves as children…  I guess some survivors…men and women… are afraid to have children…in case they become abusers also…  I’m not sure I understand that though…  I couldn’t even begin to imagine…  The thought of ever doing anything to a child…even hitting them…  To do that to my own child…after what I’ve been through…  I don’t know…  I don’t understand it at all…although I suppose there has to be something to it…”  She coughed slightly.

“My gynaecological exams…  They still bother the hell out of me.  Oh I know most women hate them, because they’re uncomfortable and embarrassing anyway.  To me, I’m also in this vulnerable position again, physically and emotionally… with no control and I can feel myself being touched…  Well you know…”  He smiled comfortingly at her.  “It’s so much easier when it’s a woman medic, like Louise’s friend who saw me before.  I always went to her after that.  Out here, I’ve no choice.  Oh I’m not stupid.  I know I need them but I still have to force myself to go…although I avoid them as long as I can.”  She smiled sadly.  “I’m also afraid of being unconscious…sedated…as if something could happen and I wouldn’t know…”  She shook her head and laughed a little.  “Still… he’s a hologram which helps a little.  Mind you, you should have seen me when I heard he’d been altering his program… was experimenting with sex…”  Her laughter didn’t quite hide the tears.  Chakotay managed a small smile.

“He doesn’t know…?  Our Doctor…?”  Kathryn shook her head.

“There isn’t anything in my medical files…in any of my records.  I never felt able to tell him either.  Maybe it would have made things easier if I had but…  I didn’t anyway.  I think there’s still a part of me that feels…  If there was an official record of it…then it would be more real…or…  Maybe knowing it’s not recorded anywhere is another denial but I don’t think so.  I think I just feel safer, knowing it’s not recorded in some place where it could be found.”  Chakotay nodded and was quiet for a moment.

“You said earlier…that…that he was…dead now…?”  Kathryn nodded very slowly, her eyes on her hands now.  She knew who he meant.

“He died about a year after my father…”  She looked up briefly.  “I was so afraid that he’d come to my father’s funeral…would be there…”  She looked at the floor, as if remembering.  “He didn’t…wasn’t there…thank God…  Maybe he didn’t know even…although he must have.  It was big news.”  She laughed cynically.  “I like to think if he had put in an appearance…that I’d have killed him…”  She shook her head.  “A lot of counsellors encourage you to try and forgive the abuser…tell you it’s part of the healing process.  Louise didn’t encourage or discourage me in that.  I preferred hating him.  I forgave him and hated him all at the same time.  It was more important to me to forgive myself…my father…even to some extent…my mother…”  She looked up at him now.

“A year after my father…  My mother called me home to tell me he was dead…had been found at his home.  Apparently he’d been dead some days…”  She shook her head sadly.  “In a way…even though I hate to admit it…I got satisfaction from knowing he died alone…  A part of me wanted him to have had a horrible death…”  She shook her head again.  “My mother anyway…she seemed upset and I wanted to ask her what she knew…if she knew anything.  I mean…he’d disappeared from our lives suddenly…  Surely she had questions…and yet…”  She shrugged.  “I wanted to ask her what my father had told her back then…but I didn’t…”  She looked back down at her hands.

“I couldn’t do it…attend his funeral…although a part of me wanted to make sure he was really dead…”  There was a lot of bitterness in her voice.  “I told her I was needed back at the Academy and she just accepted that.  When I think about it now…she didn’t question that…just said that she understood…  So…maybe she did know…or at least suspected something…I don’t know…”  She shrugged again. 

“I came home again about a month later.  There was no mention of the funeral and that suited me just fine…  And then a crate arrived…some of his belongings and I almost ran.  My mother opened it in front of me and took out books and odds and ends…and then…  Oh God…she pulled out a pile of holovids and images…and I just froze…”  She drew in a deep breath.

“Someone was watching over me because a neighbour called at that moment…a God-sent one in my eyes.  My mother came back in and told me she had to go out for an hour or so.  I plastered a smile on my face and said that was fine.  The minute she was out the door, I grabbed them all…every image…every vid…and I forced myself to check through them…  Some were just family shots…outings of us all together…but the rest…”  She dropped her head and felt Chakotay taking her hand.

“They were…?”  She nodded, her head still down.

“The bastard kept them…every last one as far as I could see…”  He squeezed her hand tightly.  “I sat there…felt as if I’d turned to ice…frozen to the spot…and then like a robot…I just took the ones of me…the few of other kids…walked out to the small tool shed…and smashed them to pieces…and it felt great…cleansing…  I cried my eyes out as I did it…but it felt wonderful…”  She looked up at him slowly.

“For a long time, I’d wondered about them…  Where they were…what he’d done with them…what other sick bastards he’d shown them to…?  Did he use them to…with himself…when he was alone…?  I felt sick thinking about that…  I mean he had images of other children…maybe some are still out there…  I often wonder who those other children were…where they are now…what they went through…”  She shook her head.  “I wondered how many more victims he’d left behind him or if I had been the only one…  I wondered what he’d been doing all those later years…if he’d been doing it up to the time of his death…  I mean all those years…before me…during that time…after me…  Were there others…?”  She swallowed and shook her head and pulled herself back.  “Anyway…I left the family ones in the crate and my mother never noticed others were missing…had only seen the ones on top anyway.  I guess whoever packed the stuff hadn’t looked…  I think we’d have heard about it if they had…”  She laughed bitterly.  “God…if my mother had seen them on her own…”  She grew serious again, not wanting to explore that thought. 

“For a brief moment, I actually considered letting the authorities see those images and vids…even the ones of me.  The thought that his reputation was still intact after his death was…I don’t know…  I think I wanted everyone to know what he had been…have his memory tarnished for all time and his reputation ruined…  I hadn’t the guts in the end…and I also thought of the kids in the other images…what it could do to them.  At that stage, it would only have hurt the victims and not him so I let it go.  I actually said a prayer for them as I got rid of the images… prayed they were finding a resolution too…”  She smiled at the look of pride on Chakotay’s face.

“What did I do after that?”  She shook her head and answered her own question.  “I ran back to Louise again…”  She smiled sadly.  “I was stronger this time though…stronger each time…and with him dead…oh it felt good…  Finally I felt he could never find me again.  I’d never meet him by accident or anything…  He was gone and I was going to let him go…”

“Does your mom know now…or Phoebe…?”  Kathryn shook her head sadly.

“No.  I never told them.  I don’t think I ever will either.”  She sighed deeply.  “What good would it do now anyway?  Maybe it might help me in some small way and answer a few questions but I care about them too much to open that up to them now.  Besides, even for myself…I’d only be re-opening a can of worms that’s far better left closed.  I know I’m telling you about it …but…  I guess I just wanted you to know…not have this secret between us…but mainly…I needed to...and have for a long time.  And then of course…it’s been building up and up lately…”  He smiled and nodded his understanding.  He thought back on the last few weeks and how she’d been.

“How do you feel about yourself now…?  I don’t just mean this minute but…”  Kathryn smiled a little at that.

“I know what you mean.”  She seemed to think.  “First off…  Talking to you has helped no end.  Think how I was when we ended up down in this cave first…and look at me now.  You’re a good counsellor, Commander…”  They both smiled softly.

“You did all the work…”  Kathryn nodded and smiled a little at that.

“I couldn’t have done it without your support though…or the trust I feel in you.  Talking about it is only part of it.  Having the right person to tell and who’ll listen and believe is the other side.  Take it from me…I know.”  She sighed sadly.  “For such a long time, I didn’t know what to do with the memories.  I could face them, had dealt with them…but I didn’t know where to put them.”  She shrugged.  “In the end, I just imagined a waste bin of sorts in the back of my mind and pushed them in there.”  She shook her head and scratched at her chin.  “Sounds crazy maybe, but it worked for me.  They were still there and I knew it…and they’d pop out from time to time but mostly I could ignore them.”  She smiled sadly again and then grew serious.  “As to how I’ve been otherwise or how I am since we’ve been out here…”  She hesitated and seemed a little embarrassed.  “There hasn’t been anyone…”  She sighed again.

“For a long time…even though I was healing well…  I still saw sex as…dirty, I suppose.  I still couldn’t connect it with love…the love that most people take for granted in a relationship.  I envied other women their carefree attitude to sex…their ease with it…no ghosts lurking in the shadows.  I’d never…have never…known sex in that way…”  Her face held a poignant expression at her words and it saddened Chakotay deeply.  “I was only seeing the act and not the fact that when real love is with it…it’s actually not sex at all…but ‘making love’…”  She shook her head.  “Maybe I’d never have been able to work that out with Justin…I won’t ever know…and with Mark it wasn’t ever going to be an issue.  For a long time, I was afraid to be touched but I felt safe with Justin.  We kissed and cuddled a little bit…but it never went past that.  With Mark…it was just friendship and there was no threat there…so touching him or having him touch me was different…it was safe because I knew there was nothing sexual there.”  She shook her head.  “It’s strange, because now I can touch people all the time…I do touch them…  Mind you, it’s only when there are others around.  Except with you though…I can touch you when we’re alone and I feel safe…  That amazed me.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks but looked at her sadly.

“So you’ve never known…”  He blushed.  “I’m sorry…I’ve no right to…”  She smiled at him and shook her head.

“No Chakotay, it’s OK.  God…we don’t exactly have any areas left we can’t talk about, now do we?”  They shared a smile before she looked away, playing with the dust again.

“I was afraid of the act…still am I think…  I got past my fear of men but not the sex.  I’ve always been afraid to…even on my own…”  She looked up at him briefly and he saw her embarrassment so he just smiled reassuringly at her.  “At this stage, it’s not the touching myself that bothers me so much.  I do that when I wash or at my time of the month…  It’s the…”  She drew in a deep breath, as if it would give her courage.  “I’m afraid of the feelings…the climax…”  She looked back at him again and saw only love and support on his face.

“I can understand that…I can really…”  She seemed relieved at that.

“So many times…I’ve been tempted…wanted to…masturbate…”  She shook her head at the word.  “I’m just afraid the feelings will bring it all back…remind me too  much…  I was afraid to try a relationship because of that…in case all my defences just went up and I ran…or worse…like before…whoever it was wouldn’t stop…”  Chakotay squeezed her hand to help her go on when she faltered a little now.  “I was afraid of the physical feelings…the emotional…  Any number of things could trigger it…so I stayed away from all that…and so I settled with Mark and it was safe…”  She sighed and dropped her shoulders a little.

“And I’ve stayed that way.  Out here…well that changed things.  I was cut off from my support…  As I said before though…I don’t really have time to think about that…”  Chakotay saw the sadness in her eyes.

“And you’ve still never…on your own…?”  He prayed he wasn’t being too forward.  She just shook her head.

“And I probably never will…  I don’t think so anyway…  Maybe some day…”  She looked up.  “I don’t know.  I’m a survivor…I know that.  I’ve moved past the worst of it.  Don’t get me wrong.  Being a survivor isn’t something you recover from.  It’s not a disease.  It’s something that happened to me and will always be a part of me.  I’ve grown strong…with the right help…and I’ve done that well.  I’ve moved forward and haven’t allowed myself to get caught in the darkness of what happened…the pain or the fear.  I’ve let go of all that went with it and replaced it with good stuff.  I know it’ll always be there but when it raises its head…like now…I react from different levels of understanding and different emotional spaces.  To quote Louise…  ‘Being a survivor doesn’t mean living in pain for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t mean remaining a victim for the rest of your life.’”  She smiled sadly.

“So I’ve beaten it for the most part…with the exception of the odd set-back like this one…”  She shrugged.  “I’ve mainly succeeded.  I got through it…through the pain…and learned that the only way to deal with all that…with the pain…is through it.  I also learned that the courage needed for that is…  I guess that courage is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and not stopping.  I left the bad stuff in the past and embraced a future for myself.  I can’t have a relationship with a man but you can’t have it all.”  She met his eyes and saw the love he felt for her there.  She felt tears prick her eyes.

“Can you understand now, Chakotay?  I’d be afraid to.  It’s not really the man I’m afraid of…but the sex.  A part of me…a big part of me wants to…to have what most women take for granted…but that other part of me would be really terrified to …  I’d react and you’d think it was you I was afraid of…when it would be the memories that I was reacting to…and I’d hurt you with that and …and that wouldn’t be fair on you or on me …”  Chakotay reached for her hand again and squeezed.

“That’s why you didn’t ever… With me I mean…”  He was answering his own question, not really asking one.  “Not the reasons you gave…about parameters and Starfleet rules…”  She nodded tearfully.

“I’m sorry…  I tell myself that all this happened to the child and now that I’m a woman, I can leave all that behind…but my mind has other ideas…”  He shook his head and squeezed her hand a little tighter.  “I am sorry.  I just couldn’t come out and say it…”  He nodded his understanding and saw her smile sadly.  “Can you imagine it?  ‘Oh no, Chakotay…it’s nothing to do with parameters or getting this ship and crew home.  No…it’s because my Uncle abused and raped me.  Now can I get you a coffee…?’”  She dropped her head and gave in to the tears.  “I’m sorry…”  Chakotay reached for her and pulled her to him.

“Oh love, you’ve nothing to be sorry about.  Come on…let me hold you…”  She nodded against him, feeling safe there.  He held her for a long time, rocking her gently.  When he heard her tears lessen, he eased her back.

“Kathryn, listen to me.  In my eyes, we already have a relationship.  It’s based on everything that’s important.  We know we love each other…”  He looked deeply into her eyes and she nodded.  He smiled softly.  “We have love and trust…friendship… respect…   We can talk for hours and share our lives.  We have fun together.  We’ve laughed and cried …been through the good times and the bad…shared meals … ”  He dropped his head to the side.  “Some were good…some were…”  He smiled and she managed one in return.

“I’m not that bad…”  He feigned shocked.

“Of course you’re not.  You’re a wonderful cook.  You replicate better than anyone I know…most of the time…”  She swiped at him for that.  “Seriously love…  What we have between us is better than what most people have or will ever have.”  He smiled tenderly at her now and stroked her cheek.  “You’re my best friend and I love you.  That’s all that matters.”  She just broke down again and clung to him.

“You’re mine as well…and I love you too…”  Her words were choked out but he heard them and just hugged her closer to him.  They remained like that for a long time.  Finally he felt her shiver in his arms.

“Are you cold…?”  She pulled back and nodded. 

“A bit…”  She looked up at the opening…seeing it was only slightly darker than it had been.  “We must be long over our time to have contacted the ship…”  Chakotay nodded and eased forward, directing his phaser at more rocks.  Instantly a warmth filled the small space.

“We didn’t wander off the track so I’m sure it won’t be much longer now …  Come on…come closer to the heat…”  She smiled and snuggled against him.

“I must have had you going crazy since Naomi went missing…especially after we found her…”  Chakotay didn’t deny it.

“You had me crazy with worry about you.  I’ll admit that.  I just couldn’t seem to get through to you.  We seemed to be growing closer and then suddenly, I saw you move further and further away from me.  I’ve seen that with you before…”  He hugged her tighter to him when he saw the sadness in her eyes.  “It’s OK…I understand now about those times.  This was different though.  I couldn’t understand what I was seeing…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“I was starting to get paranoid.  Even after the Doctor swore to me that she was fine…that nothing had happened to her…that she hadn’t been touched in any way…  I still worried…  I suddenly found myself watching all the male crewmembers when Naomi was around them…even when she wasn’t.  If they played with her…touched her…showed her any attention at all.  And of course they all were fussing around her…worried about her.  They just cared.  Even the women made me suspicious…”  She looked up and saw the frown on his face and shook her head.

“Didn’t you know that women can abuse children too…?”  He seemed shocked at that.  “Oh yes they can.  It’s not unheard of at all.  A lot of the abuse will be physical but there’s a lot of sexual abuse there too.”  She sat up a little, her face a mask of seriousness and saw the shocked look remain on his face. 

“Almost a quarter of a million kids a year are abused in our part of Earth alone.  That’s just those they know about.  Most will be girls, about three quarters but a third or so will be under seven and another third under six.  And as regards women…  Of the men who report it…sixty percent of male survivors report that their abuser was a woman.”  Chakotay just sat there stunned.

“I’d…no idea…I never knew…”  Kathryn smiled softly.

“That’s not your fault Chakotay.  How could you know?  You should but that’s not your fault either.  No one is educated about this.  They should teach more about this in schools.  Oh they warn the kids not to talk to strangers…  ‘Never go off with someone you don’t know’.  That’s fine.  Unfortunately…the main danger comes from those they DO know.  That’s not to say people should get paranoid and think that every innocent cuddle or kiss is suspect but they should be aware of what to look out for…how to look for the signs that more might be going on.  It’s not always just friends or fringe family…uncles…  It’s often the parents…  I’ve heard about cases where the mother knew the father or step-father was abusing the child but did nothing…either through fear of getting hurt herself or fear of losing her man.  Louise told me of one woman whose attitude was ‘At least when he was at her…he wasn’t bothering me’.  Can you believe that?”  She was angry now.  “Those women need to be educated to know that their child must ALWAYS come first.”  She shook her head sadly, almost in disbelief.

“Sometimes I still have such anger.  At least it’s directed towards the right place…”  Chakotay nodded sadly.  She smiled lovingly at him now.

“You’ve no idea how much you’ve helped me here today.”  He squeezed her hand.

“I’m honoured that you trusted me so much and so happy I was able to help you.”  She smiled.

“I didn’t even need my padd…my steps…”  He frowned and she laughed, leaning into him, feeling totally safe and secure.

“It’s like a list…a set of rules you recite to yourself.  Support groups give them out.  I never attended one of those…preferred working one to one with Louise.”  She began reciting from memory.  “We were powerless over what happened…  We can restore our lives…  We make a decision to do that…  We are not afraid to face our memories…  No more secrets…  We admit to the wrong that was done to us…  We remove and put away the hate and pain…  We will treat ourselves with respect, compassion and acceptance…  We will remove unhealthy and self-defeating consequences of the abuse…  We will stop hating ourselves…  We will recover…  When we find ourselves in a pattern still controlled by the abuse, we’ll admit it and when we stop, we’ll congratulate ourselves and enjoy that…”  She smiled softly.  “Those are the twelve steps.  I don’t actually need the padd.  I learned them off my heart a long time ago and have recited them often.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I’m amazed at you….so proud…  Kathryn, what you’ve come through…that you survived at all is…  but to have come to where you are now…”  He felt lost for words.  Kathryn smiled shyly but he saw determination there too.

“A part of becoming what I am now and having gotten where I am is…  A part of it feels like my revenge on him…  Oh I wanted it for myself anyway…but…  I guess it was ‘I won’t let this or him beat me’.”  She smiled proudly.  “For the most part as I said, I’m healed…well consider myself healed anyway.  I have to think like that.  I’m healed and I just have the odd relapse.”  Chakotay pulled her closer and kissed the side of her head.  They sat quietly for several minutes.  Suddenly a voice floated down to them.

“Captain…Commander…are you there…are you both all right…?”  Chakotay and Kathryn pulled back from each other and looked up, barely making out the face of B'Elanna Torres.  Kathryn smiled.

“B'Elanna?  We’re fine.  We’re a little cold and pretty hungry but we’re mainly OK…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“B'Elanna…ignore the Captain.  She has a bad gash on her thigh that needs medical attention as soon as possible.  I’ve cut my head and done something to my arm but it’s not serious.  As soon as you can please.  Can you beam us out of here?”  Kathryn glared at him.

“No can do.  Something in the rock.  I have ropes here and can pull you out.  Just give me a minute or two to rig something up.  Can you both manage that?”  Chakotay smiled at the glare he was still receiving.

“That will be fine.  Let us know when you’re ready.  Oh and the Captain is just dying for some of Neelix’s leola root stew.  Can you let him know…?”  He got a smack on the shoulder.  B'Elanna’s voice drifted back down to them.

“Are you sure it wasn’t the Captain who got the bang on the head…?”  They heard her laughter.  “Sorry it took us so long to find you…  It’s not easy to scan here.  Just a minute or two more…”  Chakotay looked back at Kathryn now and saw her face grow serious.  Her voice was more like a whisper now, ensuring that B'Elanna wouldn’t hear her.

“Chakotay…thanks again…”  She held a hand up when he went to speak.  “No…  I mean that and I want to say it again.  I’m also sorry for what I put you through these last weeks.”  She looked towards the glowing rocks for a moment.  “Look, before we leave this charming cave…  I’m glad we talked…well glad I talked…talked about this to you.  I’m also glad I told you here…the worst of it I mean…well all of it…”  He frowned at her and she smiled again.

“What I’m trying to say is…  If it had been…if I’d talked to you on the ship about this…in our quarters or somewhere…I’d always associate there or the ship with telling you.  This way…here…  I can leave it behind…leave this place behind…”  She smiled again and shook her head.  “Am I making any sense here?”  He just looked at her with love stamped all over his face and nodded.  His hand cupped her cheek.

“I understand…”  Suddenly B'Elanna’s voice filled the cave and broke the mood.

“Oh come on you two…  So that’s how you kept warm…  And I thought those heated rocks would have been enough…”  They pulled apart, just a little guilty.  “Too late now.  I know what you were up to…”  Chakotay’s eyes flew to Kathryn's, worried that the Klingon’s words might have upset her but instead saw her smiling and then she laughed.  He too now laughed and looked up to the opening.

“Torres…you like those plasma manifolds, don’t you…?  You like them clean…?”  Her head jerked back.

“Didn’t see a thing…  Trick of the light…  Rope number one coming down…”  The rope came down, the sound of her laughter with it. 

Chakotay shared a last look with Kathryn as he helped her with the rope, tying it around her waist and shoulders.  Their communication was silent but it spoke volumes.  She smiled at him softly and nodded.

“See you on the surface…”  He returned the smile and shouted to B'Elanna.

“Ready here…”  As Kathryn was lifted free of the cave, he took a moment alone to rein in his emotions and lock them away.  Later on, in the privacy of his own quarters, then he would deal with it all.  For now she still needed his strength.