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.







THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER.


By KAT LADY.





PART FOUR.



Voyager’s Doctor strutted around and tutted to himself.



“I just can’t let you people out of my sight for more than a few minutes.  Can’t you all learn to take care of yourselves and stay away from situations where you can get hurt?  Oh no.  If there’s even a hint of risk or danger, you’ll go after it.  If there’s anything that can cause you harm, you go looking for it.  And who’s left to fix you up afterwards?  That’s right…it’s the hologram…  He can fix anything…”  Kathryn's weary voice halted his tirade.



“Doctor…can you continue this later?  Preferably when we don’t have to listen to it…?”  They were behind a privacy screen and Chakotay tried to hide his smile as the Medic just shook his head and went on muttering to himself under his holographic breath.  Chakotay walked over to Kathryn now as she lay on the biobed.  In the light of sickbay, he could see just how bad the gash on her leg was.  Before he had a chance to speak, the Doctor looked towards her.



“Captain, if you would be so kind as to undress.  Please remove your pants.  And you Commander, if you wouldn’t mind taking yourself out of here and letting Mr. Paris take care of that cut on your head…”  He went back to the padd in his hands.  Chakotay looked down into Kathryn's face and smiled softly.



“Will you be all right or would you like me to stay with you?”  He saw she knew what he was really saying and she smiled softly in return.



“I’d love you to stay…  Please…I’m still a bit raw…  Ordinarily…I would be fine…would make myself be fine…  It’s just…”  He smiled gently and took her hand.



“I’ll stay.”  She nodded her thanks and then shook her head.



“I’m being selfish though…  You’re hurt too…you need…”  He squeezed her hand.



“I’m fine.  It’s not serious and it can wait another few minutes.”  He saw her relax a little more and felt her hand squeeze his in return.



“Thanks…”  They both looked up to see the Doctor watching them, appearing surprised to find Chakotay still there.



“I want Chakotay to stay with me so don’t even ask…”  The Medic heard her tone of voice and merely nodded. 



Chakotay kept his back turned as the Doctor worked over Kathryn's thigh.  He’d felt her cringe a little as the Medic had helped her undress to slip on a sickbay gown and now he smiled down at her and chatted away about trivial matters but he was constantly aware of her discomfort…both physical and emotional.



“Another injury treated…another patient good as new…”  The Doctor’s tone was smug as he looked at his Captain. 



“Thank you, Doctor.  Can I return to my quarters now?”  Chakotay helped her to sit up.



“Of course you may, Captain.  Just call me when you decide to test the strength of the bulkheads with your skull on the way back there…or someone attacks us…or…”  Kathryn just glared at him.



“Thank you, Doctor.  Remind me to have a word with B'Elanna about your ‘sarcasm subroutines’…  Now I believe the Commander here is in need of your assistance also…”  The Medic just shut up and went to work.



^^^^^^^^^^



Chakotay brought Kathryn a coffee and sat on the sofa beside her in her quarters.  He sipped at his own tea a moment and quietly watched her as she lost herself in the experience of her favourite beverage.  After several minutes, Kathryn broke the silence.



“Thanks for staying a bit.  I’ll get some sleep in a while.  You need some too.”  He didn’t argue with that, knowing his tiredness showed clearly on his face.



“I’ll get some, I promise.”  He fought the yawn which suddenly appeared, as if to emphasise the point and smiled with it.  “I know…I know…”  Kathryn just shook her head.



“How long were we down there…?”  Chakotay swallowed another yawn.



“I think about five hours…  maybe six…”  Kathryn nodded thoughtfully, staring across the room at no fixed point.



“Five or six hours…to tell about a lifetime…”  She shook her head and smiled sadly.  “That feels strange…  A part of me even feels as if it didn’t happen…or happened a long time ago…or…I don’t know…”  Chakotay reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder, earning another smile for himself, this one not as sad.



“I’m glad I told you…  I don’t regret that…”  She looked down at her cup.  “I guess I feel…a lot…lighter…relieved…like a weight off my shoulders…”  She looked up into his face and saw that he understood.  “It feels good…”  He squeezed her shoulder.



“I told you…  You’re my best friend and always will be.  I love you and that too will always be the same.  It won’t change anything about how I feel about you…”  He suddenly shook his head.  “Actually…to be honest…  I guess I do feel different with knowing…   A part of me wants to hold you forever and never let you go…to remove all that…  I guess I feel closer to you…and that feels wonderful…yet I feel guilty for gaining that feeling in the way I have…”  He shook his head again.  “I’m rambling here…not making sense…”  Kathryn put her cup down and reached for his hand.



“I know what you mean.  I feel so much closer to you now too…and even though it’s because of all this…  Look Chakotay, let’s just accept this.  I’ve spent years learning to accept what I can’t change and I’m not always successful but I do still keep on trying.  I love this new closeness I feel with you already.  Just as long as it doesn’t change things between us…take anything away…or make you see me differently…  If it adds in any way…that’s good.”  He smiled back at her, reassuring her.



“It won’t ever take anything away, I promise you that and the only difference in the way I see you is…I guess…unbelievable admiration that you survived it all.  It doesn’t change the woman I’ve known and loved for the last number of years.”  She smiled her thanks softly and then they were quiet as they finished their drinks.  Eventually, Chakotay stood stiffly.



“We’d better try and get some sleep.  I’m tired and you look exhausted.”  She smiled and stood with him, her leg still a little stiff and sore.



“I am actually.”  Without warning, she leaned into him and hugged him.  Chakotay hugged her back immediately.  “Thanks, friend…”  Chakotay held her to him.



“You’re very welcome, friend.” 



Kathryn saw him out and then got undressed, shedding the sickbay gown and robe she wore.  She recycled them along with the remains of her uniform, then slipped into her nightgown.  They had beamed back to her quarters earlier and Kathryn had asked Chakotay to stay, needing to wind down from the intensity of their time earlier.



She stared hard at her face now in the bathroom mirror, expecting to see some change in her eyes at least.  She felt different and thought she detected that difference in the eyes which stared back at her.  She shook her head now and willed her mind to shut out the previous hours, then made her way to her bed.  As she lay there and ordered the lights out, she smiled softly into the darkness and turned her eyes towards the stars, letting them sooth her.  The hours she had spent with Chakotay and all she had told him, slipped across her mind, without any conscious thought on her part.  They filed across without any words or emotions accompanying them and she acknowledged what came to her.  With them, came a peace, a calmness not experienced before and she smiled at nothing in particular.  She felt her eyelids begin to droop and gave into the tiredness which swept over her now.  Within minutes, she slipped into a dreamless sleep.



^^^^^^^^^^



Sleep didn’t come as easily for Chakotay as he lay in his bed next door.  He tossed and turned for over an hour, mostly staring out at the stars and let his tears flow, something he couldn’t remember having done since boyhood.  His mind wouldn’t stay easy and Kathryn's words repeated themselves, accompanied this time by the emotions he had hidden so well from her.  With no witness this time, he allowed the pain he felt to surface and gave vent to it.



Unable to find any rest, Chakotay got up and wandered around his quarters for some time, then replicated some tea, which failed to soothe him in the usual way.  He tried sitting, then standing, then pacing, but his mind continued to race.  He had found it difficult to leave Kathryn’s quarters earlier, not wanting to ever let her out of his sight again.  He knew that wasn’t the way to handle this though, that she needed things normal again, to see that her telling him wouldn’t change things between them.  He thought back to what he had told her about how she had been acting with Naomi and how making the child feel different wouldn’t help her.  The old adage of ‘practice what you preach’ came to him. 



Everything Kathryn had told him, swirled around inside his head now and without meaning to, he found himself sitting at his desk and accessing his computer, arguing with himself as to the wisdom of what he was doing.



For the next hour or more, Chakotay sat staring at the screen as he called up facts and figures, details and medical information.  He searched the database to exhaustion.  A part of him had hoped that learning more would help him, while the other side of him believed he was only fuelling his own pain and anger.  He read the words as they appeared before him.



“Incest is sexual relations within the family unit, where an adult or older sibling uses a child or young person for personal sexual needs.  Child abuse, as a general term, covers sexual, physical, emotional or psychological abuse.  Sexual abuse relates to any adult or older person using a child for sexual needs.  The abuse can include any form of sex or related aspect such as fondling, exhibitionism, intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, taking images of nude children and even child prostitution.  In almost all cases, the child is abused by someone they know, love and trust.  Sexual abuse includes sexual touching and fondling, exposing children to adult sexual activity or pornographic images, having children pose, undress or perform in a sexual fashion on holoimages or in person, peeping or spying on the child, rape or attempted rape.  It involves forcing, tricking, bribing, threatening or pressuring the child into sexual awareness or activity.



In most cases, the signs will be there.  Unfortunately, parents and carers are rarely equipped to recognize them.  The signs of abuse, the evidence to support it, differ greatly from child to child.  Very few children feel able to tell about the abuse they are suffering, for varying reasons, or are too young to understand, leaving the signs often misunderstood or ignored.  Even when adults or parents are told, they often have trouble believing for themselves that the abuse is taking place.  At times, the child is not believed. 



The result of abuse in a child’s life varies enormously.  Some become very passive, while others become destructive, filled with hostility or aggression.  Some commit delinquent acts, crimes or fire starting, or have self-destructive behaviour.  Some children will mimic adult sex play or behaviour, with other children or their toys, displaying a sexual knowledge, either through language or behaviour that is way beyond their normal years.  Some have unexplained pain, swelling, bleeding or irritation of the mouth, genital or anal area, urinary infections or sexually transmitted diseases.  Some even develop drug and alcohol problems and sexual activity or pregnancy at an early age, even running away from home or attempting suicide.



Abuse scars virtually every facet of the victim’s life, leaving them with little or no self-esteem, leading to an adult with a stifled emotional growth.  There are many social maladjustments which arise from incest and abuse, including alcoholism, drug addiction, promiscuity or prostitution, all used to deaden the painful memories and expel reality.  Some victims, if they feel they were abused as a result of their physical appearance, will overeat and become obese in a misguided attempt to defend themselves by trying to look ugly.  Others develop bulimia or anorexia as a form of self-punishment or may even self-injure.  For some, they reach the ultimate self-victimization act - suicide. 



The abuse has a devastating effect on the child, the effects of which last into adulthood.  The damage can be so severe that a lot of victims don’t recall what happened until they are in their twenties, thirties or even their forties.  The coping mechanisms they used to survive emotionally as children, stay in place into adulthood and can allow the victim to block out the memories.  The sexual molestation invades the very soul of a child and in order to get through it, they learn to separate from their own body and pretend they weren’t there.  This shows itself as memory loss.  There is usually something which will trigger the memories in later years and this differs from victim to victim.  For some, it will be a rape or attempted rape which will trigger the memories, maybe even a dream that seems too real and will precipitate a memory.  Maybe it could be hearing about someone else having suffered the same thing.  It can be something as simple as a touch or someone surprising them from behind.  Unfinished business from childhood affects adult attitudes, feelings, behaviour and relationships. 



Abuse is a total invasion of a child’s body, mind and privacy, by someone they usually know, trust and love, someone meant to protect them, leaving feelings of deep betrayal in later years.  Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.



Incest is the most common form of child abuse.  Physical abuse comes second, although it is often part of the sexual abuse.  It’s an abuse of the child’s personal and sexual boundaries by the very people entrusted with their care.  Incest is basically the use of any child to meet the sexual or sexual/emotional needs of one or more persons, whose authority is derived through ongoing emotional bonding with that child.  It’s the abuse of a power relationship, not just a blood relationship.  It’s the violation of trust that damages the child most, leaving them problems with trust for many years, if not the rest of their lives.  Victims will often suffer from phobias and can spend their life in denial.  The denial system in the child prevents the survivor from enjoying an unencumbered adulthood, leaving them unable to trust their own perceptions or senses.  Some will even subconsciously seek out other abusive relationships because it’s all they know and what they expect.  They are unable to trust their own decisions and can regard authority figures with anxiety.  They might be passive all their lives because it’s more comfortable and they may be afraid to take any risk, preferring misery rather than risking change.  Assertion is also extremely difficult. 



In all cases, the adult survivor will carry the trauma and scars of the abuse until proper counselling is sought.  Even with counselling, the effects can last a lifetime.”



Chakotay closed his eyes and groaned, letting his head fall back.  He felt soreness and stiffness in his neck and shoulders from leaning over the screen for so long.  He was also very aware of his own tears.



Some of what he had just read, he knew already, from what Kathryn had said earlier.  Seeing it on the computer now though, gave the knowledge a coldness and reality which hadn’t quite touched him before and opened the entire matter up for him, making him think of other children also.  He forced his eyes back to the screen and read on. 



What he learned now, matched everything Kathryn had told him and he rubbed at his temples, trying to ease the tightness he felt building there.  Finally, he accessed the files which would give him the cold facts and figures, not sure if he wanted to know them.



“A woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes but most cases go unreported.  Only about thirty percent are reported.  Sixty eight percent know their assailant.  One in four of those attacks are in a public place and most will be between 18.00 and 06.00 hours.  Half the assailants will be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  In a third of cases a weapon is used.  Half the victims will have injuries other than the rape injuries and three quarters will require medical care.  These figures relate to adults, men and women. 



Almost two hundred thousand children a year are abused and they are just the cases known about.  Three quarters will be girls.  A third of those will be aged four to seven.  A third will be under six.  One in two rape victims will be under eighteen years old…one in six will be under twelve.  Sixteen to nineteen year olds are three and a half times more likely to be victims.  One in three girls will be abused by the age of eighteen, one in four boys by the age of fourteen and one in six boys by the age of sixteen.  An average of five point five children out of every ten thousand enrolled in day care are sexually abused.  An average of eight point nine out of every ten thousand will be abused in the home.  Fifteen out of every one thousand children will be abused…most of them by someone ten or more years older than them.  Almost half of the women and a third of the men will never report it.  Of the men who report it, sixty percent of male survivors report that the perpetrator was female.  Ninety five percent of victims know the perpetrator.  Around seventy percent of offenders are under thirty-five years old and know their victim and eighty percent of those fall within normal intelligence range and sixty percent of them gain access to their victims through seduction or enticement.”



Chakotay dropped his head and cried, feeling pain in his hands and wrists from having squeezed his hands into fists.  He couldn’t believe the facts he had just read, and he knew they only related to Kathryn's part of Earth.  His breathing seemed to cause pain in his chest as he shook his head, as if he could deny the facts in some way.



Without warning, even to himself, he jumped up from the chair and snapped the computer off, unable to look at the words a moment longer.  In his mind though, they remained, and he knew they were still within the database.  Even if he could erase the words for all time, what they related to could never be undone.  He ran his hands over his face and shook his head again.  These weren’t just words and figures.  They related to real people…children…some as young as four…children like the one his Kathryn had been.  It struck him that at this moment, countless children were enduring abuse as he stood there.  Suddenly he felt an unbearable rage build within him and after a quick inquiry to the computer, he dressed and headed for the holodeck.  Calling up his old boxing program, he spent the next hour pounding a punch bag, which took on the persona of someone he had never even met.  An hour later, he fell to the floor exhausted and cried like a baby.



“Damn you to hell…you bastard…I hope you’re rotting or burning wherever you are…”  Kathryn's words…her descriptions of the horrors she had lived through, repeated in his head, torturing his already agonized mind with the images they brought.  “Damn every one of you bastards to hell…”  Images of children he didn’t even know came to him, imagined little faces filled with innocence, love and trust, which would be destroyed by evil men and women who, in his mind, had no right to life.  He wanted to stand there and watch them all burn and die in agony.  At that very moment, he doubted even the Cardassians could ever be that evil.



Eventually, he pulled himself up from the floor and made his way back to his quarters.  He inquired about Kathryn from the computer and felt a little better when he learned that she was asleep.  As he stood in the shower and let the water pour over his tired body, he leaned his head against the tiles and cried once more.  While Kathryn had gained a peace from having told him everything, she had unknowingly inflicted him with the knowledge that he may never know peace again.



In time though, he shut off the water and dried himself.  The physical exertion had drained his body and like its counterpart, the emotional turmoil also exhausted his mind.  His crying had brought about a tiredness he now welcomed.  Finally, he fell across the bed and drifted off to an uneasy sleep.



^^^^^^^^^^



Kathryn and Chakotay both reported for duty the next morning.  He was already on the bridge when she appeared and he smiled up at her, seeing that she looked rested and mostly at peace with herself.  He prayed she wouldn’t notice the effects his own night had had on him.  He saw her looking at him closely and nodded to her, his gentle smile and kind eyes answering her unasked question.  He knew she was worried that in the light of day, things might be different between them, that having had a night to digest everything, her opening up to him would change the way he saw her.  His smile and the look in his eyes, instantly soothed her fears and she relaxed.



Kathryn sought out Naomi later on in her shift and apologized to the young girl for having ‘broken their date’.  Naomi didn’t seem in the least put out and seemed only worried that her Captain had been hurt.



“You can see I’m just fine, honey…”  Naomi nodded and seemed satisfied with that answer.  Kathryn smiled over at Sam now.  “Tell you what Naomi…  I happen to know that Neelix has just baked a batch of those cookies you like so much.  Why don’t you head down there and see if you can talk him into giving you some?”  Naomi was more than eager and was almost out the door when she stopped and looked back.



“I’ll ask him to give me some for you and mom…”  With that, she was gone.



Kathryn was quiet for several moments, leaving Sam feeling more than a little awkward.  Finally their eyes met and they both laughed.  Kathryn then grew serious.



“I wanted to speak with you, Sam…  Just me…not the Captain…”  The other woman nodded and smiled softly but she still seemed a little nervous.  “I know I’ve been…   Lately I’ve been…  Chakotay helped me to see that I’ve been…going over the top a bit…with Naomi…”  She saw Sam about to protest and held up a hand.  “Sam, I have…  I overstepped the mark and I know it.  I wanted to apologize for that.  I really meant no harm.”  They both smiled at each other.



“I felt very guilty…  I felt I’d let you both down…that as Captain I should have been able to protect you…Naomi in particular…  I should have been able to protect her better and should have prevented what happened.  I’m like that with all my crew.”  Sam leaned forward.



“Captain, it wasn’t down to you.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I know you care deeply for her and I welcome that.  I’m honoured by it.  It wasn’t down to you though.  We were off the ship and we both have to accept that we can’t protect her all the time.  None of us can protect anyone all the time.  That’s just the way life is.  I’m her mother and I felt guilty for quite a while.  Why wasn’t I watching her more closely?  Why didn’t I see him watching her?  Why this?  Why that?  Captain, it happened.  Thank God it turned out the way it did.  I’ve tortured myself thinking what could have happened to her but in the end…  Look, that will get me nowhere.  All it will do is take away precious time that I could be spending with her.  It’ll creep in and ruin what I have with her…the relationship we have.  So I tell myself that it’s over.  And it is.  I have her back safe and sound and she was unharmed.  Oh I know I’ll never forget it all, and I’ll always be a little nervous and watch her more closely in the future when we’re off the ship, but I can’t let what happened take over and I can’t smother her either.  I still think of poor Thal…so I know how lucky I am.  I’ve no intention of letting anything ruin what I have with her.  The past is…  It’s the past.  No matter how bad it was, it is still the past.  It’s gone and it can only contaminate the present and the future if we let it.”  She suddenly looked frightened when she saw tears in her Captain’s eyes.  “Oh Captain, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you…”  Kathryn blinked back her tears quickly and shook her head.



“Oh Sam… no…please…  It’s just what you said…  It made me think of something else…  Please Sam…  You didn’t do anything.”  She stood slowly and smiled down at the younger woman.  “Thank you….”  Sam frowned.



“I don’t understand….”  Kathryn smiled softly.



“No, I know you don’t.  Let’s just say that…”  She thought a moment.  “Let’s just say that without knowing it or meaning to…you’ve helped me with something.  Thank you.”  Sam smiled but continued to look a little puzzled.



“I’m glad I was able to help…”  Kathryn smiled and nodded and they both turned when Naomi burst in, crumbs still around her mouth and a half eaten cookie in her hand.  She held out two small parcels.



“Neelix sent these for you…”  She shoved the rest of the cookie into her mouth and handed one parcel to Sam and the other to Kathryn.



“Why Miss Wildman, thank you so much.”  Naomi just nodded, her mouth too full to answer.  “Well, I have to get back to the bridge.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow about re-scheduling our holodeck time for early next week…if that’s all right…?”  She looked at Sam, who nodded.  Naomi swallowed quickly and nodded eagerly.



“Thank you Captain…  I can’t wait…”  Kathryn smiled again and then shared a knowing look with the girl’s mother.  Taking her parcel, she left, feeling happier now.



^^^^^^^^^^



Chakotay sat with Kathryn in her quarters that evening, finishing off the reports on their time away from the ship.  They sipped at some wine and sat back.



“God…I hate reports.  I’ve always hated them.”  Chakotay smiled and shook his head.



“There isn’t a person in Starfleet who likes them.  I don’t think you’d find a living soul, in any Galaxy, who enjoys them.”  She laughed and shook her head.



“It used to help me to know that even the top Admirals still had to file the damned things.  That got me through quite a few of them…”  Chakotay smiled at her and nodded his head.  He had worried earlier that spending the evening together would be a little awkward but found those worries unfounded now.  He had also been afraid that he would have had trouble being himself with her again but found that everything was fine.  They chatted on about trivial matters for some time and then fell quiet.  Kathryn then turned her head towards him.



“I went to see Naomi and Sam today.”  He merely nodded and let her tell him about it.  He sensed from her words that she was happy with how her visit had turned out.  “Sam’s words though…  It’s strange how we can say something to someone and never have any idea that it could mean so much more to them….”  He thought about that.



“In my mind…I believe that’s the Spirits talking through other people to help us…”  Kathryn digested that and then smiled.



“Maybe you’re right…  I like that…”  She smiled over at him again and then just lay back, enjoying the peace and quiet, feeling safe in his company.  She felt him mimic her as he lay back also.  She turned her head again to look at him and as if feeling her eyes on him, he turned to face her.



“You know what I like?”  He shook his head and watched her consider her words before speaking.  “I like that…  that even now…now that I’ve told you…we can still spend an evening just like this…like we did before…”  She sat up slightly.  “You knowing…  Me having told you…  I mean…I finally told someone…outside of Louise…and the world didn’t stop.  I’m still here.  Nothing terrible happened.”  He sat up slightly also but remained silent.



“There’s still this residue of…fear I guess…there from my childhood…that if I told…it would all crash down around me and someone would die or….”  She smiled, embarrassed a little.  “But we’re still here and I’m still in one piece.”  He reached for her hand and squeezed gently.  She lost some of her embarrassment.



“It also hasn’t taken over everything.  It hasn’t changed our friendship…our relationship…or who and how we are with each other.  More importantly…it hasn’t changed how we act and behave with each other.  I was so afraid it would.  It’s lovely that we can still sit here like this and talk about everything and anything…other things…just like we always have.  What we had before still exists.  It hasn’t taken over from that.  I suppose in a way, it’s deepened our friendship.  I was so afraid it would change everything…”  Chakotay brought her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it.



“It won’t change us.  I give you my word on that.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I worried a little about that too…that I would let you down and be different…but I feel the same with you…like we always have been.”  She smiled at him and nodded, silently thanking him for his honesty.  “You seem so much more at peace today…  I was worried that you’d regret having told me.”  She nodded again.



“I am more at peace …and no…I don’t regret telling you…  I’m glad I did…although I did worry about that for a while when I woke up this morning but then I saw your face on the bridge and knew it was all right.”  Her expression grew serious then.  “What about you…?  I was worried that knowing it all would…  You looked very tired this morning…like you hadn’t slept much…”  He nodded slowly and decided to be honest with her.



“I had a lot of pain and anger last night.  I got rid of it in a healthy way though.”  He told her about his night and saw that it upset her.  “Kathryn, please don’t be upset by this.  I needed to know as much as I could and I was shocked to the core by what I learned…”  He told her some of what he’d read.  She smiled sadly and nodded.



“I’ve read all of that and more…  Somehow, reading about it all and how it had happened to others, helped me.  It made me feel I wasn’t alone in what happened to me.  It helped to know that there are others out there who understood what I had gone through and would know what I was feeling…even though I felt so bad…knowing that anyone else had known that…”  Chakotay squeezed her hand in a show of support.  “You didn’t get much sleep then…?”  He smiled softly and shook his head, then told her about his time on the holodeck.



“I dealt with it my own way.  It hurt me to know what happened to you.  If I didn’t care about you so much, I wouldn’t have felt that but as I do care so much…”  He sighed.  “It’s just natural.  It’s very hard to know that someone you love has been through something like this.  It hurts that they were hurt.  I was also…”  He hesitated a moment.  “I was very angry…still am angry…”  She squeezed his hand to encourage him to continue.



“Sorry…  I tried so hard to hide how I felt from you yesterday…especially the anger I felt.  I wanted to show you love and support more…  It’s just hard.  I want to kill him for what he did to you…”  He looked down at their joined hands, afraid he had gone too far with his words and would only upset her.  He suddenly felt her hand under his chin, lifting his face to hers.



“Chakotay, you’ve no idea…”  She shook her head and blinked back tears.  “Yes, I need your love and support and I thank you for them so much.  I also want your honesty though.  I love you and it matters a great deal to me how my best friend is feeling.  However…and this may be hard to understand but…”  She stared across the room a moment, trying to formulate the right words, as if something she saw there would give her a clue and help her.  She smiled a little when she looked back at him.



“Your anger…the hate you spoke of…that you felt for him…the others who do this…  You’ve no idea how much that means to me.”  She smiled when she saw him frown.  “Your anger…it…it validates mine…how I felt and still feel in so many ways…  Does that make any sense?  By feeling as you do…  It’s like you’re really on my side…there with me…understanding what I feel…showing me that you care that much…  If it meant little to you, you wouldn’t feel that…  You care enough to get this angry and that feels good…  It helps a lot actually…  I don’t want you to feel you have to hide that from me though…  ”  Chakotay smiled warmly and stroked over the back of her hand with his thumb.



“I won’t then.  I was just afraid of hurting or upsetting you…”  She smiled and leaned into him, delighting him in her trust.  He slipped an arm around her and held her to him.  “I’ll always be here for you…I promise…”  She nodded against him. 



“I know…”  They fell asleep like that.



^^^^^^^^^^



Over the following weeks, their relationship remained unchanged for the most part.  They shared a wonderful friendship but an even deeper closeness grew between them.  Most nights they worked on reports and then shared a quiet dinner or spent time on the holodeck together.  They attended crew functions side by side and Chakotay wallowed in the sense of peace he felt, as he saw Kathryn's ease with him.  He knew the crew saw a difference in their Captain, having overheard many comments in the course of his work.  He also saw Kathryn relax more as a person, spending time with B'Elanna and Sam even.  She still took Naomi to the holodeck but her routine of time spent with the child had returned to normal. 



Only occasionally would they talk about Kathryn's past and their time in the cave.  Most of their conversations were as they always had been and Chakotay saw how this helped Kathryn all the more.  In his mind, the events she had spoken of had already shattered her life once.  He would die before he let the memories of those events come back to inflict the same damage again.  Their friendship flourished and Chakotay saw ‘Kathryn’ thrive along with it.  Having allowed the ‘Captain’ to prop her up for so long, using her rank to hide behind, she now allowed the woman to come out.  It was Chakotay who saw Kathryn return.  To all other eyes, the Captain was back to her old self, with the exception of a more carefree attitude and a peace she hadn’t exuded before.  The crew saw their Captain happy and it rubbed off on them.  Voyager was a happy ship.



^^^^^^^^^^



About three months after their hours in the cave, Chakotay was sharing an evening on the holodeck with Kathryn.  They had opened one of Tom’s programs, set on Earth in the mid 20th century.  The area they walked sported an amusement park and boardwalk and they strolled along a pier now, the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.  Kathryn linked her arm though Chakotay’s and seemed lost in the beauty of the setting sun.  He watched her as they walked and then pulled his eyes away quickly as they reached the end of the pier and sat down.  They continued to watch the sunset for several minutes before Kathryn spoke.



“I wish you didn’t feel embarrassed about watching me…”  She looked up at him and saw the embarrassment on his face.  “You see…that’s what I mean…”  Chakotay looked away for a moment and then back.



“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean…  I can’t help it.  You’re…”  Kathryn leaned her head to the side to see his face better and smiled.



“You can say it.  Maybe I’m not being very modest here…but…”  He met her eyes and smiled shyly.



“You’re beautiful.  I can’t help but look…especially in this light and…”  He shut up quickly, afraid of saying too much and upsetting her.  “I’m sorry…”  She just smiled.



“Thank you.  That makes me feel good.”  Her acceptance of his words and her ease with them, relaxed him a little.  They seemed shy with each other though and were quiet for some time.  He watched Kathryn from the corner of his eye and saw that she was thinking deeply, one hand absentmindedly stroking the worn wood of the pier they sat on.  Finally she looked up at him and he saw a serious look on her face.



“I’m being very unfair with you, aren’t I?”  He frowned.



“How?”  She shrugged and smiled sadly.



“I’m not stupid Chakotay.  It’s not fair to you…me being this close to you…yet denying you…”  Chakotay leaned a little closer.



“Kathryn, please…”  She quickly pressed a finger to his lips and he saw her eyes water slightly.



“It’s true.  You’re a man with normal needs.  A man who loves me.”  He went to speak but she pressed her finger a little more firmly against his mouth.  “Please…let me finish.  I’m not upset by this.”  He nodded, his eyes never leaving hers.



“I pushed you away for a long time and you never knew why.  I gave you so many excuses.  Now you know why and we’re closer as a result of that.  With that though,  I’m still holding you back…”  Chakotay tried to shake his head to object but Kathryn held up her other hand to still him.



“I can tell the difference.”  She licked her lips, which suddenly felt dry to her.  “I know the difference between normal, healthy, physical needs and abnormal, unhealthy, physical needs.  I know how difficult this is on you and it’s not fair.”  He pulled his head back from her hand, determined to speak this time.



“Kathryn, I love you.  You know that.  What we have together is wonderful.  It’s more than enough for me.”  He blushed now.  “Any ‘physical needs’ as you call them…that I have…  Well… I can take care of them myself…”  He waited to see if he’d gone too far with his words but she just smiled sadly.  “Kathryn…listen to me.”  She looked at him slowly.  “I love you and you love me.  That’s all that matters.  We have everything we could want together.  I’m very happy.”  She smiled softly and seemed to accept his words.  As the light faded from the sky, they walked back slowly, holding hands.  They fell back into their easy way with each other and let the subject drop.



^^^^^^^^^^



About a week later, they were relaxing after dinner in Chakotay’s quarters, when Kathryn raised her head from studying her wine glass.  She seemed slightly embarrassed.



“Can I ask you something…?”  Chakotay just smiled at her and nodded.



“You can ask me anything…you know that.”  She smiled and nodded her head slightly.



“I don’t want to embarrass you…”  Chakotay leaned towards her a little.



“You won’t…now ask away…”  She smiled shyly and played with her glass, something to occupy her hands.



“You mentioned before about…”  She hesitated and drew in a deep breath.  “You said about…your physical needs…”  She didn’t look up.  “You said you could take care of them…yourself…”  Finally she raised her head and he saw her face redden.  Chakotay kept his face serious and nodded.



“That’s right.  Kathryn, I’m fine.  I told you…”  He stopped, sensing there was more to this than what she was asking him.  He waited until she was ready to say more.



“I never told you about…the hologram…”  She met his eyes.



“Michael…?”  She shook her head.



“No.  He was just…I guess for show…  Nothing happened there…”  Chakotay nodded but remained quiet.  “I had another one…of…me…”  She saw him frown and shook her head.



“It was sad actually…  I don’t know why I did it…”  Chakotay reached for her hand and just patted it.



“Do you want to tell me about it?”  She nodded.



“It’s…  I created this hologram of myself…programmed it to act…”  She smiled and sighed at the same time.  “I guess to act in every way that I couldn’t…”  She looked deeply into his eyes, expecting pity or disgust but finding only support.  “I…my holographic self…was this sexually, confidant woman…a sex kitten if you like…”  She laughed at the memory.  “She was everything I wanted to be…thought I could or should have been…if things had been different.  I wanted her to be the way normal women are…to see myself acting as they would…”  Chakotay leaned towards her a little.



“Do you really think ‘normal’ women are all like that?  Kathryn, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ anything or anybody.  Everyone is different.  Women who’ve never had anything bad happen to them are often…  I don’t know.  I haven’t all that much experience myself.”  He smiled shyly at that.  “I know for a fact that some women just don’t like sex…for no reason whatsoever…just the same as some men don’t.”  Kathryn just shook her head sadly.



“Maybe…but they’re not afraid of it…”  She looked close to tears and Chakotay reached his hand out to her shoulder and squeezed gently.



“Oh Kathryn…”  She shook her head.



“I altered her so many times…and in the end…I just deleted her…”  Chakotay sighed.



“I wish I knew what to say to you…”  She smiled sadly.



“You’ve helped…talking like this I mean…listening…  It’s wonderful to be able to talk to you like this…so openly…and feel safe doing so.  I’ve needed that for so long…had to keep all this to myself.  I’ve things inside…things I’ve never talked about…and…”  Chakotay smiled softly.



“You can always talk to me Kathryn.  You know that well by now.”  She nodded and turned more to face him.



“I know.  It’s just…  I was thinking…  I mean…you’re at ease with your own body…and I’ve never felt that…”  She bit her lip and looked down, and he waited until she was ready to say more.  Finally she looked back at him.



“I…I tried…a few times…myself…”  He nodded, encouraging her.  “I mean…a part of me…wants to…needs…the physical…what I know is…the physical release…”  Her eyes pleaded with him for understanding and he didn’t disappoint as he smiled back at her.



“I got so far and then…I was afraid…  I’m afraid I’ll always associate those feelings with…  I’ve nothing else to associate them with…”  She looked to the side.  “I’ve never had them outside of…never had…the feelings…  By that I mean physical feelings…  I never had them with…when I…  I never had them…with anyone else…those other men… and I was never with…someone I loved and trusted…to…”  She looked back at him, her eyes silently asking him to help her with this.  Chakotay was just terrified of getting her question wrong.



“What are you asking me, love…?”  He wasn’t going to take any chances.  She shook her head.



“I don’t know.  I think I’m just telling you…maybe asking…  Do you think I should…maybe try…?  I don’t know…  I’m not sure what I’m trying to say…”  She looked lost and helpless.  Chakotay reached over and pushed her hair back from her face.



“All I can say to you is this.  There is nothing wrong with it…pleasing yourself…giving yourself pleasure…”  He smiled as he saw her blush.  “Kathryn, men and women…from the beginning of time, have done this.  There is nothing dirty or wrong with it.  It’s very natural.  If you decide to try…just go slowly…be patient with yourself.  Take the time to learn about your own body…”  She still seemed embarrassed but he saw she was taking in every word.



“Take time to yourself…when you know you won’t be disturbed… somewhere you feel safe and comfortable…take a bath…relax…light candles…fix the mood…play music…whatever way you’d normally just relax.  There’s no right or wrong way…  Just trust yourself…  You can always stop if you need to.  There’s no pressure.”  She nodded slowly, some of the redness leaving her face now.



“Thanks.  I hope I didn’t embarrass you…by asking I mean…”  He smiled softly at her.



“You didn’t, love.  You can always ask me anything.  If I know the answer, I’ll tell you.  If I don’t, I’ll find out for you.”  To ease her out of the conversation and her still evident embarrassment, he refilled their glasses and they moved onto other areas of conversation.  By the time she left, they were completely at ease with each other once more.



^^^^^^^^^^



Over the next few weeks, Chakotay occasionally wondered if Kathryn had acted on their conversation but she never mentioned anything and he would never bring it up with her himself.  She continued to seem totally at peace within herself and he delighted in that.  They still spent most of their evenings together and socialized with the crew on a regular basis so by the end of the third week, their conversation of that night left his head completely. 



Over the following week, their shifts alternated as several crew members fell victim to a mild virus which turned out to be uncomfortable for the patient but completely harmless.  Kathryn and Chakotay found themselves taking separate shifts to cover for missing crewmembers, Chakotay opting for the night hours rather than have Kathryn's sleep pattern disturbed.



He passed her in the corridor on his way to the bridge now and smiled.  She looked a little tired but her face lit up when she saw him.



“Hey there.  How was the day…?”  She smiled and shook her head.



“Next time we split shifts, you get Tom Paris as part of the deal.  He was really in one of his moods today.  I think he’s sulking because B'Elanna won’t let him try a new ski program he has.  Personally, I’d encourage him all the way…”  They laughed together. 



“Tom strapped down with broken bones for a week or so in sickbay?  Think of the peace and quiet…”  Kathryn shook her head.



“I’m not sure I’m bad enough to do that to the Doctor though…  I know he can drive me crazy too but even he doesn’t deserve that…”  They laughed again.  Chakotay made to move off.



“Tell you what…  This is my last night duty.  How about I ‘buy’ you dinner tomorrow night?  I’ll sleep while you’re on duty tomorrow and can have something prepared by the time your shift ends.  We’ve hardly had five minutes together to chat over the last week…”  He saw her smile eagerly.



“I’d love that.  Is 19:00 OK for you?”  He thought quickly.



“That’s perfect.”  He smiled again.  “So, anything exciting planned for this evening…?”  She lowered her head a moment, and he couldn’t see her eyes.



“Just relax…  A bath…a good book and bed…”  She looked back up at him, just as two crewmembers came around the corner.  Chakotay thought he saw something on her face which he couldn’t read but dismissed it.



“Well I’d better get to the bridge and keep young Mr. Kim in line.  I’ll see you in the morning…”  She smiled softly and nodded.



^^^^^^^^^^



Kathryn entered her quarters and ordered the lights on low.  She drew in a deep breath and closed her eyes a moment.



“Get a grip, Kathryn.”  She chided herself and then smiled.



She entered her bedroom and stripped off her uniform, slipping on a comfortable robe, before making her way to the replicator and ordering a light meal for herself.  She took her omelette to the table and ate slowly, eating some bread along with it.  She sipped at the glass of wine she had allowed herself and stared ahead at nothing, her thoughts mixed now.  Finally she finished her meal and recycled the dishes then turned away from the replicator before stopping.



“You can do it, Kathryn…come on…”  She turned back to the replicator and within a minute, took the second glass of wine, the small bottle of bath oil and the scented candles she had replicated.  She smiled now as she walked towards the bathroom.



Ten minutes later found her slipping into her bath, the scent of jasmine filling the air, as the candlelight flickered around the small room.  She sank down into the water and immediately felt the heat soothe her tired muscles.  The soft strains of classical music drifted over her as she sipped at her wine.  She drained the glass and let her head fall back, forcing her mind and body to relax. 



It was only the water cooling which forced her to leave the tub and she stood slowly, letting the water drip off her body, then reached for the towel, wrapping herself in its  softness.  She drained the tub and took the candles with her to the other room, placing them around her bedroom.  She then made her way over to the full-length mirror and stood before it.



It took her a few minutes before she finally stepped right up to the mirror and opened the towel.  She slowly let it fall to the floor and stared into her own eyes, before allowing them to drop to the reflection of her body.  Slowly, she looked herself over, before bringing her hands up, pulling and turning herself this way and that, examining her figure.  She lifted her hands and cupped her breasts, studying her nipples in particular.  Tentatively she ran her fingers over them and stroked gently, then a little more firmly.  She sucked in a breath as the sensation her actions caused and pulled her hands away.  Taking a moment, she closed her eyes and then opened them again and repeated her action.  This time, she continued, forcing herself into relaxing and trying to enjoy the feeling her caress caused.



As the perfume from the candles reached her, she allowed her hands to move down her body, stroking over her stomach and then further down.  When she reached her thatch of hair, she stopped and drew in several deep breaths.  As slowly as she could, she slipped a finger through the hair and down into her folds.  She stopped immediately and held her breath, willing her mind to relax and telling herself that she could stop any time she wanted to.  She then moved her finger down a little further and gently explored herself, almost holding her breath as she felt herself shiver.  Finally she pulled her hand away and studied herself for a minute more before walking to the bed.



Kathryn lay down now on the cool sheets, having pulled the blanket back.  She took several deep cleansing breaths and once more explored her breasts.  She trailed her fingers around them and up and down her neck, trying to enjoy the touch.  She smiled suddenly to herself and brought Chakotay’s face into her mind, knowing she was always safe with him, even if it was just in her mind.



Kathryn now closed her eyes and let the perfume in the room and the soft music guide her.  Chakotay’s face filled her mind as her hands and fingers worked their way over her body.  She felt herself respond now, determined to think only of Chakotay and force away any unwanted thoughts or memories.  As she pinched and twisted at her nipples, her breath caught in her throat and she moaned slightly.  She let one hand wander down over her stomach and gently traced patterns over her skin, concentrating only on the physical touch and the feel of it.  Still stroking and twisting a nipple, her other hand moved down between her legs and she forced them to part slightly, her fingers finding their own way.  As she traced over the sensitive skin of her inner thighs and then through her folds, she stopped suddenly and her eyes snapped open.  She smiled slowly in the candlelight, as if having just discovered a secret.  She was wet and she was enjoying this.



Kathryn closed her eyes again, her fingers becoming Chakotay’s, and forced her mind back to where it had been.  Her fingers traced through her wetness now and she moaned again, enjoying this new sensation, new in the sense that for the first time, it wasn’t coupled with fear or guilt because she was refusing to allow it to be so.



Moving her fingers to wherever felt good, Kathryn worked by instinct, slowly building the sensations which passed over her.  She lowered her other hand now and stroked and rubbed herself, the area slick by this stage.  She bent her knees and parted her legs further and then tensed for only a moment before slipping a finger inside herself, ignoring the slight sting.  Throughout it all, she kept the image of Chakotay’s face before her, using ‘his touch’ to guide her.  Without any effort on her part, she felt her hips begin to move and allowed it.  As the sensations built, she went with them, letting them build up and up, forcing down a rising panic and anything which threatened to come at her from her past, keeping Chakotay with her the entire time.



Finally she pinched gently at her small bundle of nerves and felt the end approach.  As the feelings intensified, she forced herself to concentrate on them only, still picturing Chakotay in her mind.  Her breathing quickened as she climbed and then it happened.  One last firm stroke, one last push of her finger inside herself and she came, her hips arching off the bed, the sensations taking over and smothering all else.  She cried out as it washed over her, but the cry contained only one sound.  Chakotay’s name.



Afterwards, she lay bathed in sweat with tears pouring from her eyes.  She still stroked herself gently as her mind tried to work through what she had just experienced.  She felt the remnants of her panic subside, telling herself that she was still in one piece.  She faced the last of her fears and let them go then as she felt herself building once more and worked with it, shuddering in her second release.



“Oh God…Chakotay…Oh…”  She fell back against the bed and smiled through the fresh tears.  “I did it Chakotay…I did it…”  She barely had enough strength to ease out of bed to extinguish the candles, then crawled back between the sheets.  As she felt sleep claim her, she imagined Chakotay’s arms around her, keeping her safe, staving off the bad memories and a lonely ache filled her.  Just as she drifted off, she pressed her fingers to her lips, carrying her own scent.  She kissed them and let them ‘kiss’ her back.  “Night love…I wish you were here with me.”  Her words trailed off as she slipped away to a dreamless state.



^^^^^^^^^^



Kathryn woke early the next morning, coming to life slowly, the memories of her experience of the previous night with her immediately.  She stretched lazily and smiled to herself, pushing away any negative feelings, along with the remnants of her fear and guilt.  As she sat up now, she realized that she had slept nude and shook her head.  She felt more free than she could ever remember feeling.



She pulled herself from the bed and spent over fifteen minutes in the shower, letting the water caress her.  She stroked over her body as she soaped herself, pushing aside any guilt which threatened, as she enjoyed the feel of her own body, something she felt had been too long denied her, because of the past.  She suddenly felt now as if she was finally on the road to reclaiming it, taking back what should have rightfully been hers all the time.  It felt like being reborn, a part of her coming alive which had been too long dead.  Eventually, she shut off the water and stood before the bathroom mirror, once more studying her body.



“Not bad for your age, Kathryn…”  She smiled at herself and watched her face closely, half expecting her reflection not to cooperate.  She took time with herself now, rubbing cream into her skin and powdering herself with talc.  “You deserve a little pampering…”  Her image didn’t object.



When she appeared on the bridge bright and early, Chakotay looked up quickly.  He smiled gently at her, his mind trying to decide what seemed different about her.  Kathryn returned his smile and made for her chair.



“Quiet night, Commander?”  She tapped at her console, forcing her smile to ease down.



“Aye Captain.  Nothing to report.”  Kathryn nodded without raising her head.



“Well, as I’m here, why don’t you get off to bed early.  Grab some breakfast for yourself.”  She finally looked up and smiled softly at him.  Chakotay stood slowly, stretching his large body and nodded.



“I’d appreciate that, Captain.  I can never understand how the quiet shifts are more tiring…”  He moved to stand in front of her.  “I’ll see you later…?”  Kathryn immediately caught the true meaning of his words and nodded, her smile intensifying.



“You will indeed.  Sleep well, Commander…”  Chakotay nodded again and made his way to the turbolift.  He was about to turn back and make eye contact with her again when Tom burst from the lift.



“Damn woman…”  He blushed deeply when he saw Chakotay staring at him.  “Sorry Sir…”  Kathryn turned around now and smiled.



“Problems, Mr. Paris?”  Tom muttered to himself as he made his way to his station. 



“Nothing I can’t handle in retaliation, Captain.”  He watched the puzzled, yet amused faces of the Command team as they watched him and smiled a little.  “B'Elanna took my program…the ski slopes of Tallis Prime…?  She stole it…”  Kathryn bit her lip to stop herself laughing out loud and shared a look with Chakotay.  “She thinks it’s the only copy…”  Realizing his slip, he shut up immediately.  Kathryn shook her head.



“Don’t worry, Mr. Paris, your secret is safe with me.  It’s safe that is, depending on how well this shift goes…”  Tom got her message and sat quickly.



“I’ll be the consummate professional all day, Captain.”  Chakotay caught Kathryn's eye and smiled.



“Good luck…”  She smiled back at him as he entered the lift, leaving him with a feeling that he’d missed something.



^^^^^^^^^^



Chakotay woke around 17:00 and spent the next two hours getting ready for his dinner with Kathryn.  He felt completely relaxed and looked forward to the evening and the chance to catch up with her.  They’d had so little time alone lately and he missed their dinners together.  He missed his friend.



Prompt as always, Kathryn arrived at his quarters with a minute to spare and handed him a bottle of wine. 



“I wasn’t sure what you had planned so I brought a Rosé.  I hope that’s all right?”  Chakotay took the bottle and smiled at her.



“That’s perfect but you shouldn’t have… This is my treat tonight…  Besides, I owe you for two dinners if I remember correctly…”  Kathryn shrugged and smiled.



“Who’s counting…?”



^^^^^^^^^^



ON TO PART FIVE.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.



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