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 FIVE.



They spent a leisurely two hours over their meal and the wine, chatting about the crew and recent events.  They lay back on the sofa, feet propped up on the small coffee table, shoes off, totally at ease in each other’s company.



“Did Tom behave himself for the rest of the shift?”  Kathryn laughed.



“He was like a little lamb.  Barely a squeak out of him.  I think he’s terrified I’ll let his little secret slip to B'Elanna.  You’ll probably have his complete cooperation too, since you know about this…”  Chakotay nodded his head and smiled evilly.



“I think I might just enjoy that…”  Kathryn nudged him.



“Just don’t go too far.  Tom has a way of bouncing back from these things.  He always lands on his feet…”  Chakotay shook his head as he refilled their glasses.



“I’ll be careful.  I’m not going to do anything to risk the enjoyment I can get from this…”  They were quiet for a while as they sipped their drinks.  Chakotay watched Kathryn quietly, almost seeing her thoughts sort themselves in her head.  He’d had a feeling all evening that something was on her mind but didn’t push.  He knew she’d tell him if or when she felt ready.  He studied her covertly.  There was definitely something different about her and he found himself comparing how she had appeared on the bridge earlier with how she seemed now.  He then joined those two images and compared them with how she had seemed the previous evening.  Before he came to any conclusion, she turned and smiled at him, catching him in his study.  She smiled as his face flushed and he took a drink of his wine to cover his embarrassment.



“I told you before about that…  I don’t mind you watching me…”  He smiled softly and met her eyes.



“I know.  You look lovely tonight…”  She smiled her thanks.  She was wearing a sea green dress with three quarter length sleeves, which he hadn’t seen before and the colour suited her.  It was gathered in at the waist and fell to just below her knees.  He sensed her watching him now and pulled his attention back to her.  She returned his smile for a moment and then her face grew serious, a slight flush coming to her skin.



“Can I…  Can I tell you something?  A confession, if you like…”  He let his own smile slip a little and softened it.



“You know you can.  You can always tell me anything…”  She blushed.



“I need to tell you…want to…to tell you…something…”  She was stumbling a little over her words.  “It’s a bit…embarrassing…  I’m a bit embarrassed…”  Chakotay placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled gently.



Don’t be…  Please Kathryn, you never need to be…”  She nodded and smiled.



“I need to tell you that…  I used you…without your permission…”  She looked at him and he saw her biting at her lip.  He frowned slightly.



“How…?”  She drew her top lip between her teeth for a moment.



“Last night…  I need to tell you…what I did…last night…  What I…”  She shook her head and he squeezed her shoulder, a little concerned now, and it showed on his face.



“Kathryn, there’s nothing you can’t tell me…”  She nodded and replaced her top lip with the bottom one, chewing on it for a moment.



“It’s about…what we talked about…before…what I asked…”  Her shyness was amazing to him.  “It’s…”  She drew in a deep breath.  “You made love to me…last night…”  Her eyes were anxiously fixed on his face, waiting for his reaction.  All she got was his gentle smile.



“Do you want to tell me about it…?  Did you dream…?”  He saw her relax a little as she dropped her eyes to her glass.  Chakotay kept his hand on her shoulder.



“No…it wasn’t a dream.  It was…  I’d been half planning it for…weeks I suppose…building up the courage slowly…and last night…”  She took a gulp of wine, hoping to steady her voice.  “I had a light meal…then a bath…  I used the bath oil…the scented candles…played music…relaxed…like you said…”  Chakotay smiled inwardly but said nothing.



“Afterwards…I took the candles into the bedroom.  I stood in front of the mirror for a long time…then I dropped the towel…”  She glanced up at him for just a second.  “I really looked at myself…for the first time in…I don’t know…  Really looked at my body…and then…”  She sighed deeply.  “I…touched…touched myself…”  She looked up at him again and saw his gentle smile.  He nodded for her to continue.



“I was frightened for a while…at some of the feelings…afraid to…”  She swallowed some more wine.  “I lay on the bed…naked…”  She looked up once more and smiled shyly.  “Very daring for me…”  Chakotay just smiled back, letting her do this at her own pace.



“I lay there…the stars with me…the candlelight…the music…and I touched myself…let it happen…but I was thinking about you…”  He squeezed her shoulder slightly, a gentle reassurance and saw her smile.  “My breasts…down…and… there…”  He nodded slowly.  “I concentrated on just the feelings…pushed everything else away…just the feelings and…and you…kept thinking only of you…”  She looked at him, her face red.  “It was my hands and fingers…but it was your touch…or how I perceived your touch to be…”  She kept looking at him, waiting for him to show annoyance or something but all she got was his soft smile and it gave her courage. 



“I looked up at the ceiling and…it was your face I saw…looking down at me…and…I used you…”  She stopped speaking, lifted her legs down off the table, then leaned forward and placed her glass down, then leaned back again.  Chakotay stroked her hair now.



“You tried it…?”  She looked back at him, her shyness clearly evident.



“No…actually…I…succeeded…”  He saw the red flush cross her face and smiled at her.



“I’m very proud of you, Kathryn…”  She seemed to glow under his words but still appeared very nervous.



“But I used you…your image…and I wasn’t sure I had the right… thought maybe you’d be angry…annoyed at least…”  Chakotay shook his head, his smile still there. 



“I’m not angry or annoyed.  Why would I be?  I’m honoured.  I’m glad I could help…that you trusted me that much…felt safe with me…”  He smiled again and Kathryn smiled back, deep embarrassment on her face as she blushed deeply.  She dropped her head and stared down into her lap, twisting her fingers together.



“You were good…”  She looked up briefly and saw his smile widen.  She dropped her head back down, her skin growing redder, a deep embarrassed smile on her face.  “Actually…you were very good…”  She swallowed and laughed slightly.  “Both times…”  She looked up now and finally met his eyes, her face bright red but her smile growing a little.  Chakotay laughed slightly and shook his head.



“Was I?”  She nodded shyly.  “I’m glad…I’m very happy for you…”  He smiled very softly.  “You did seem different this morning…”  Kathryn seemed to relax a little now at his reaction.



“I felt different.  I was sure everyone would notice it…see it.  I thought I’d look different even…”  Chakotay leaned forward and lowered his legs to the floor.  He put his own glass down then leaned back and reached for her hand.



“How do you feel now…?”  She shrugged and smiled shyly.



“I’m OK…I’m fine…  Actually, I’m good…great…  I…”  She bit her lip and he squeezed her hand.



“Kathryn, please don’t be embarrassed with me.”  She nodded and smiled again.



“I touched…there…just followed what felt right…and used…my finger…in…”  She stopped, waiting to see if she was embarrassing him but his expression didn’t change.  “It…hurt…stung…just for a minute…”  He nodded his understanding and squeezed her hand a little tighter.  “It faded quickly…and the feelings…they came…and I let them…went with them…and I felt panicked for a moment…afraid even…but I fought it…and afterwards…  I thought I’d feel guilty…or ashamed…dirty even…but I didn’t…didn’t let myself think like that.  You’d really helped me believe I could do it.”  He nodded again and smiled his reassurance to her. 



“I’m so happy about that.  You should never have felt anything bad about it.  You deserve to feel good.  So you were OK…?”  She nodded.



“I didn’t let myself think of before…just concentrated on what I was feeling now…and on you…”  She smiled shyly again.  “I felt the sensations without fear or guilt for the first time…”  He smiled his understanding.  “I think I didn’t think of it because it was different…it wasn’t like before…  It was completely different.  It felt safe and I…I had you…  Most importantly…I also knew I could stop it at any time…and I’d still be safe…”  She hesitated a moment.  “I even called out your name…when I…when it happened…each time…”  She looked up at him, her expression half happiness, half worry.  Chakotay just smiled and opened his arms to her.  She went willingly and let him hold her.



“I’m very proud of you.  I’m also so happy for you.”  She pulled back just a little and looked up at him.



“I actually cried immediately afterwards…but it was good crying…  I’d just let it happen… followed my instinct…”  Chakotay stroked her cheek.



“And you were comfortable with that…?”  She nodded.



“Yes…I was…and it felt good…”  She blushed again.  “I don’t just mean that part of it…  I felt free…I guess…”  Chakotay kissed the side of her head.



“I’m so happy for you and I know I keep saying that, but I am, and if I helped in any way…I’m happy I was able to…  I also thank you for telling me… feeling comfortable with me and trusting me enough to tell me…”  Kathryn lay a hand on his chest, relaxing into his embrace.



“It feels wonderful to be able to trust you so much and to be able to talk to you like this…”  Chakotay kissed the side of her head.



“You always can…”  He stroked her arm a moment.  “I just so glad it was a good experience for you…”  He felt her nod against him.



“It was good but…”  He frowned and leaned back a little so he could see her face.



“Kathryn…?”  She shrugged a little.



“It was good but…I felt…  It was lonely too…solitary…  I mean it felt what it was…  Oh, I felt I’d taken a big step…achieved something…but…  In the end….it was just… physical…”  He nodded his understanding.  “I enjoyed it…for what it was…and it made me realize that I could and did enjoy…the physical…the release…that I needed it…you know…?”  He nodded slowly.  “I just missed…  I missed something I’ve never had…and I don’t know how I could do that…but I did…”  Chakotay stroked up and down her arm.



“What was that…?”  She smiled sadly.



“I missed…  I missed what should go with it…  The love…the comfort and tenderness…the loving touch and caresses…the whispers…lying in someone’s arms afterwards…all that I’ve heard about but never had…and I think I need that more than anything else…  I need all that can go with it…  I fell asleep alone…  I even pressed my hand to my lips and pretended that you were kissing me ‘goodnight’…I wanted you to hold me afterwards…and I was alone when I woke up…”  He suddenly felt dampness against his shirt and realized that she was crying.  He pulled her tightly against him.



“Oh Kathryn…oh love…”  He didn’t know what to say.



“I wanted you beside me…not just in my mind…  I’m only seeing that now.”  Chakotay rocked her as he heard her sobs.



“Kathryn…I’m sorry…  I wish I knew what to say…I…”  She pulled back and looked at him now, tears running down her cheeks.



“I missed you…wanted you there…  Could you ever…?”  She sniffled loudly.  “I’m sorry…I’ve no right to ask…”  Chakotay held her back a little further from him so he could see her face clearly.  Her tears upset him.



“Kathryn, what are you saying here?”  She shook her head and wiped at her tears.



“If…perhaps…maybe…next time…you’d be there…I’d really like…  I want to…to be with you…”  Chakotay found his breathing suddenly very shallow.



“Kathryn, think about this please.  I know what you’re asking me here but…and I know…  Kathryn, are you sure…?  This is a very big step…”  She nodded slowly.



“I know…but I want to…for you…and…”  Chakotay cut her off.



“Kathryn, this has to be your decision.  Yours only.  You need to be very sure about this…that this is what you really want.  There’s too much at stake here.  You have to do this because it’s what you want.  I don’t want to ever think that you’re only doing this because you think you should or because you feel you owe me something or a hundred other reasons.  It has to be because you want this for yourself.  You owe me nothing and you don’t owe anyone else anything either.  If this is what you really want…  I just want you to be sure…”  Kathryn just stared at him with tearful eyes.



“I do want this.”  She wiped at her tears again.  “I guess I feel this is the final step I need to make to be free of all this but I don’t want you to think I’m only using you for that.  I want it for me because I feel it’s my right and it’s been denied to me.  I also want this because I love you…”  Chakotay felt tears come to his own eyes but he still held back.



“Kathryn, listen to me now.  I want you to do this for me.”  She nodded.  “I think it would be better for you to continue as you are for the moment.  This is still very new to you.  Continue like this for now.  Become comfortable with your own body and then maybe I could stay over with you one night, or you stay here, and I’ll just hold you.  Maybe I could just stay with you afterwards…after you’ve…”  Kathryn shook her head quickly.



“Chakotay, that’s not fair to you…”  He pressed a finger to her lips.



“It’s my choice.  I’ll just hold you…sleep beside you.  I think you should take this slowly, OK?  I don’t want you to rush this, Kathryn.  It would be better if…”  She pulled back more now, her tears returning.



“Chakotay, I know what I’m saying.  I want to do this.”  She pulled back again and sat forward.  “Look at me up to this.  Even now.  I’m still letting him win.  I’m letting him deny me a normal life…deny us even.  I have to do this.  I want to.”  She turned to look at him, tears sliding down her cheeks.



“Louise helped me no end but I could still never reclaim it all or have what I felt I was entitled to by right.  That last part…this… always eluded me.  I told her everything that had happened and that was one thing… but when I thought about it…I felt it was safe to tell her, because she was a stranger to me and I knew she could never repeat it.  I never had the guts to take that last step though.  There was still this whole area of my life that he controlled.”  She reached for the wine and took a long swallow.



“I’d never told someone I knew…never let myself trust someone to do that…  I never let anyone get close enough for that.”  She sighed and shook her head.  “To have a normal loving…physical and emotional…relationship…just like everyone else…  He always still stopped me from doing that.  I have to be stronger than him now.  I have to be.”  She stared deeply into his eyes now, pleading with him almost.



“Chakotay, I love you.  I want to be with you in every way.  I don’t want to let him stop me doing that.  He’s already controlled so much of my life…had a hold over me for too long.”  Chakotay saw her pain.  “I’ve been running from this my whole life.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of running and hiding and I’m lonely.  I’ve this big empty space inside me and I’ve let him invade it for too long, instead of filling it with what should be there.”  Her next words tore at him.



“It’s been a very solitary journey, Chakotay…”  Her eyes swam with tears as she pleaded with him.  “Please help me with this.  Where I want to go…it’s a journey that can’t be taken alone.”  She looked down suddenly, more tears falling.  “Of course…if you can’t…bring yourself to…don’t want…I’ll understand…”  She jumped suddenly as she felt him grab her upper arms and pull her to him.



“How can you say that…?  Oh Kathryn…I’m sorry…”  He pulled her to his chest and held her as she cried.  When he eventually heard her quieten, he eased her back a little.  Staring deeply into her eyes, he stroked her face, wiping her tears.



“Kathryn, please just hear me out here.  First off…I love you more than my own life…more than anything I can think of.  Please don’t ever think that I wouldn’t want you or want to be with you.  I just want you to try and understand me now.”  He shook his head a moment.



“I don’t want you to feel you have to beg me for this.  I’m not being weak here but I would always have been afraid to ever make this move.  You have to try and understand this from my side a moment.”  He sighed deeply.  “What you’ve been through in your life…  I can’t ever begin to understand the pain you’ve had…  I can’t take that away…or undo what’s been done.  I just feel so helpless…so useless.  I’m powerless to do anything for you and that makes me feel…  I feel so angry and inadequate.  I also can’t help but think of my own gender.  A man caused you all this pain and I’m a man too.  As a man…I feel guilty for what was done to you…guilt by association or something…collective responsibility if you like.  I’m terrified of hurting you in any way…physically or emotionally…even by saying the wrong thing…  It would kill me to know that I’d brought it all back to you or caused you hurt or pain…simply by saying or doing the wrong thing…  It would be my body…as a man…that you’d see…”  He squeezed his eyes closed a moment and shook his head, not caring that she saw his tears.



“Please don’t ever think that I wouldn’t want to be with you though… to touch you and hold you…just because of all that.  I love you…  From that side of it…nothing that went before makes any difference to how I feel about you or how I see you.  You could have been a prostitute for all I care.  I’m just terrified of hurting you in any way…and I was afraid to ever suggest that we had more…in case I frightened you or hurt you or…  I know I wanted this and pushed for it before…before I knew…but now…  I’m sorry…I’m saying this all wrong…making a complete mess of it…”  He lowered his head but looked up quickly when he felt her hands on his face.  Her tearful face met his eyes.



“You couldn’t ever hurt me, Chakotay.  I promise you that.  The first day I saw you…on the bridge…  I was this Starfleet Captain and you were supposedly this terrorist…the rebel Maquis leader…dangerous…a murderer…whatever.  In those first moments, you showed me more respect and caring than that bastard did my entire life.  Can you understand that?  I was your enemy…someone you were meant to hate and despise…and still you showed me more than he ever did…someone he was suppose to love and protect.  Can’t you see that?”  Chakotay nodded tearfully and pulled her to him.



“I love you Kathryn Janeway…  I don’t deserve you…”  They rocked together for several minutes before they pulled back a little.  Chakotay looked into her eyes now.



“Kathryn, are you sure about this?  I still want you to take your time with this.  We’ve plenty of time.  We do this slowly…  We already have the relationship and we already love each other.  The rest can come slowly.  I’d love nothing more but I just want you to think about this and be absolutely sure.  I don’t ever want anything to ruin what we already have.”  Kathryn nodded tearfully.



“I’ll do what you said.  I’ll take the time and think…continue as I am…but I still know my answer.  I want to be with you because I love you and trust you…feel completely safe with you…and I know we’ll be OK…that it won’t be anything but good…  What we’ve shared the last few months…has given me more strength and courage than I ever had…  I’m ready for this because you’ve made it possible…”  Chakotay stroked her face again.



“Don’t dismiss what you achieved like that, Kathryn.  You did all the work and came all this way on your own.  I know Louise helped enormously but you did all the work.  The strength and courage needed for that, came from you.  You did it.  You beat it.  As to us, it will be good with us.  I know that.  Nothing from the past will ever come into this, no matter what it is.  What happened…or previous relationships…they won’t exist.  It’ll be different with us.  No two couples are the same anyway.  Even for one person, each relationship they’ll have had will be different.  Just as long as you’re sure, Kathryn.  Think about it as I said and if you change your mind…it doesn’t matter.  I’m perfectly happy with what we have…”  Kathryn stroked his face now.



“I love you.  I love you for understanding…for your patience with me…for being there…for listening…holding me…helping take the pain away…for loving me…for it all…”  Chakotay pulled her back into his arms.



“You’ll always be safe with me Kathryn, I give you my word of honour on that.  I swear it on my life.  I’ll always love you and I’ll never hurt you in any way.  I swear it.  You’ll never be alone again…no more loneliness…no more solitary journey…  We share it all now.  It’s time to stop running…  You’ve been running alone for too long.  It’s time to rest.  You’re home.”  He held her tightly as she clung to him, heard her sobbing as he whispered softly to her, rocking her, caring for her.  He held her long after she fell asleep in his arms, finally home.



^^^^^^^^^^



There was no way they could have hidden the closeness between them from the crew, and Chakotay worried that Kathryn would be upset with that.  He had already warned Tom Paris to keep his mouth shut about the betting pool they all knew existed.  Kathryn for her part, seemed more at peace with herself, than any crewmember could ever remember.  She was sleeping and eating better than she ever had, and it showed, much to the Doctor’s delight.  She found herself touching Chakotay more and more in front of others and seemed totally at ease with it.  When they attended parties on the holodeck, she danced closely with him, not caring who was watching.  As she led the way, Chakotay followed and relaxed more.



^^^^^^^^^^



Several times now in the past month, he had stayed over with her, when they had worked late into the night.  The first time, Kathryn fell asleep beside him on the sofa and Chakotay had sat awake all night, in case she woke up and was upset.  The second time, Kathryn caught herself before she fell asleep and asked him to stay with her when she saw how tired he was too.  They had made their way into the bedroom and lain together, just holding each other and Chakotay had relished the trust he felt from her at his presence in her bed.  At first she had seemed nervous and he had worried that they were going too fast, but Kathryn had quickly assured him that what he was seeing wasn’t nervousness but embarrassment, something which quickly passed because she pushed it away.  She pressed home the point to him that she trusted him completely and in this way, eased his concerns. 



From then on, he stayed other nights.  Kathryn slept well when he was there, curled into his warm body, totally at peace with herself.  Chakotay, for his part, was very proud of his own self-control as she spooned herself against him before falling asleep. 

On those nights he stayed with her, he would lie awake for some time, listening to her soft breathing, his face pressed into her hair, inhaling the delicate scent of her shampoo.  She always slept soundly, nothing disturbing her mind while it rested, something he had been worried about.  He had feared his physical presence beside her would trigger some horrors from her past, especially if she woke during the night and forgot he was there, but it never happened.  On a few occasions, she had woken, needing the bathroom, but had been as secure with him being there then as she had been when she had fallen asleep first.  He knew she was continuing as she had said she would and occasionally spoke of it with him, never going into too much detail, either out of embarrassment to herself or for him but he saw her grow more and more at ease with her own body and delighted in the fact.



As the days passed, Chakotay began to slowly touch Kathryn a little more, stroking her hair or her hand, holding her against him as they sat on the sofa, but always asking her permission first.  When he slept over with her, he would hold her until she fell asleep and marvelled as how at ease she was with it all.  He was desperate to show her how much she could trust him and she constantly thanked him for that. 



One night as they sat on the sofa, listening to soft music, he looked down to see her staring up at him, studying his face.  She smiled softly as he met her gaze and then reached up, tracing her fingers over his tattoo.  Chakotay remained still but relaxed, letting her fingers explore the dark lines.  Slowly, her hand trailed down over his cheek and then to his lips, her thumb stroking over them.  She removed her hand eventually, letting it drop into his shoulder, her eyes moving from his eyes to his lips and then back again.  She leaned forward very slightly and Chakotay, taking his cue from her, reached up his own hand and stroked her cheek.



“May I kiss you?”  Kathryn nodded, her lips slightly parted.



“Please…I’d…like that…”  Chakotay smiled softly and leaned down slowly, bringing his lips to hers as gently as he could.  One hand moved around her back, resting there only but not applying any pressure.  He brushed his lips across hers and heard her intake of breath.  He pulled back, worried for a moment, until he saw her face.  Her eyes were closed and a look of peace sat on her features, like none he had seen before.  She slowly opened her eyes, missing his touch already and smiled softly at him, her eyes silently telling him that she was fine.  Once more, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers.  For long minutes, he just moved his lips over hers, pressing a little more firmly now.  Kathryn, for her part, leaned in also, adding to the pressure from her side.



Chakotay moved his other hand to the back of her head, slipping his fingers through her hair, the silkiness caressing his skin.  Again, he didn’t apply pressure and simply caressed.  He now opened his mouth slightly and felt Kathryn follow him.  He felt her hands on his back, pressing softly into him, easing him towards her a little more.  Tentatively, he allowed his tongue to snake forward and caress her lips, Kathryn again following him, as if learning from him or waiting for him to lead the way.  As they tasted each other slowly, their kiss deepened, until Chakotay nibbled gently on her lower lip, before slowly slipping his tongue into her mouth, sweeping the warm cavern he found.  He heard her moan softly from the back of her throat and felt her arms tighten around him.  Constantly on the alert for any sign of discomfort on her part, he took his time, applying only a little more pressure against her back and head, leaving her plenty of room to pull back any time she felt she needed to.



Kathryn was going nowhere though.  She mimicked all of Chakotay’s actions, tasting him as he tasted her, her hands moving over his back, learning the feel of his muscle structure.  One of her hands then went to his head, her fingers playing through his hair.  She almost clung to him now as the kiss deepened even more and Chakotay responded to her but didn’t let go of his caution.  Finally, he eased back, needing air as much as wanting to give Kathryn a break.  He stroked her cheek and smiled down at her, his eyes taking in her lips, swollen from their kiss.



“Are you all right?”  He still stroked up and down her back and felt her hands still on his own.  She nodded and smiled back at him.



“I’m fine.  I feel in a way…like that was…my first real kiss…”  A slight frown pushed her smile away then.  “I’m not very good though…”  Chakotay shook her very gently.



“You’re wonderful.  Please don’t think otherwise.”  She didn’t argue, didn’t need to, because she believed him.  She saw the sincerity in his eyes.  She smiled again and flushed slightly.



“Can I have another one then…?”  Chakotay obliged and then just held her to him.  He had no intention of going any further.  He held her until she fell asleep in his arms and then gently carried her to bed, slipping in beside her.  She stirred and opened her eyes sleepily.



“Night, Chakotay…”  She snuggled into him, feeling totally safe and secure, giving him a gift she didn’t realize she was offering and he accepted it with open arms.



“Night, love.”  He kissed her on the cheek as she drifted off, a faint smile still on her lips.



^^^^^^^^^^



As time passed, Chakotay spent more and more time in Kathryn's quarters.  As he dressed and undressed, he subtly allowed her to see more of his body, without going too far.  Feeling comfortable seeing him now in various stages of undress, Kathryn slowly began to feel more at ease with him seeing her also.  She would padd around her bedroom in her underwear, looking for her uniform, knowing he was watching her from time to time, something he deliberately didn’t hide from her, and she felt at ease with him completely.  She would leave the shower or bath with just her towel wrapped around her, knowing she was safe with him, that he would never do anything to hurt her.  All of this was a lesson in trust, Chakotay determined to show her that she was safe with him, that even when he watched her, she would know he would never cross the line and touch her in any way without her permission.  Kathryn learned the lessons well, knowing now that even when she was in what she felt to be a vulnerable position, like when she was half dressed, she could trust him. 



At other times, Chakotay would give her neck and back rubs, easing out the knots from muscles, which had remained inactive too long from sitting too many hours pouring over padds and reports.  She felt perfectly safe with his hands on her body and Chakotay never once gave her any reason to doubt him.  Some nights, she would lie back on the sofa, her feet in his lap, as he kneaded her feet and calf muscles, occasionally tickling her.  As she relaxed, Chakotay was painfully aware of how delicate a line he was walking and he was terrified to cross it.  He never touched her knees, remembering only too well her telling of how her uncle had touched her there. 



One evening, as he was rubbing moisturising cream into her legs, his hand slipped in the cream over her knee and he jerked his hand back quickly.  Kathryn sat up immediately and stared at him and Chakotay felt his blood almost freeze, terrified he had hurt her emotionally.  She just smiled sadly at him.



“Chakotay, you’re not him.  Your hands aren’t his.  Please don’t be afraid with me.”  Their eyes were locked and she saw his worry.  “Chakotay, please don’t.  Can’t you understand by now, that I trust you completely?  I KNOW you won’t hurt me.  Being so careful with me…that reminds me more.  Please just be yourself with me.  If anything you do upsets me, I’ll tell you.  I trust you and now I’m asking you to trust me on this.”  Her words made their way to him and he accepted them.



“I’m sorry…I just worry so much…”  Kathryn smiled her understanding.



“I know you do and I understand that.  Maybe I’d be the same if I was in your shoes…but please take it from me…you’re not upsetting me.  I really do feel completely safe and secure with you.  I can talk to you about anything…have in fact.  I can tell you anything…say anything…and not be worried by it.  I trust you with my life, Chakotay.  Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that I trust you with my mind and body also?”  Chakotay felt tears fill his eyes and nodded, not trusting himself to speak.  Kathryn reached a hand out to him and he took it.  “I know you would never, ever, hurt me, Chakotay.  If I had any doubts or fears in that direction, I wouldn’t be lying here with you like this.”  He nodded again and found his voice.



“I wouldn’t ever do anything to harm you, Kathryn.  I’d die…kill myself…before I ever hurt you.  That’s fine though in the sense, that I’d never intentionally hurt you.  What about unintentional hurt though?  I’m afraid of doing something that will cause you pain and I won’t know about it.”  Kathryn shook her head sadly.



“That applies to everyone, Chakotay.”  She smiled slightly.  “Remember me telling you about Sam’s words about the past and how they meant something to me that she could never know?”  Chakotay nodded.  “You told me that that was a way for the spirits to talk to me.”  He nodded again.  “She spoke those words and they could just as easily have hurt me.  We say and do things every day that we can’t ever know about.  We can’t know if we’re hurting someone.  It’s just a part of life.  You could make a passing comment to someone and say ‘oh you know how mothers or fathers or whoever can be’.  You wouldn’t know that their mother or father had been killed the previous day or something else terrible had happened.  We’re not psychic.  If you didn’t want to ever hurt someone by saying the wrong thing, you’d never open your mouth.”  She smiled softly at him.  “Just take my word on this please.  Trust me as I trust you.  If you upset me or I remember something, I’ll tell you.  If you do something I can’t take, I’ll let you know.”  She dropped her head to the side, her expression serious.



“Did you ever think that I could hurt you just as easily?”  He frowned at that.  “I could make some quite innocent but to you, insensitive comment, some Starfleet rhetoric about the war and you’d think of your family, and that would hurt you.  I wouldn’t mean to hurt you but I would.”  Chakotay shook his head.



“This is different….”  Kathryn pulled her hand back and held it up to cut him off.



“No it’s not.  The subject is different but the easily made, unintended mistake would be the same.”  She shifted her arms behind her, leaning on her elbows to prop herself up.



“Chakotay, I’ve come a long way since it all happened.  I always tended to divide my life into ‘before Louise’ and ‘after Louise’.  Once we were stranded out here and I couldn’t go to her, I had to manage on my own and I did.  So then it became ‘since Louise’.”  She shifted slightly to get more comfortable.



“I had the odd setback but they got fewer and fewer as time passed.  I learned to acknowledge what happened without feeling the pain associated with it.  In the past few years, I’ve had very few of those setbacks and I dealt with them fairly easily.  The incident with Naomi brought about what you saw because I was going through one of those times when it happened.  I was slightly shaky with that and then being close to you again and trying to decide whether to tell you, had me a little more off-balance.  So when Naomi was taken, I struggled to stay on my feet and then in the cave, I just fell, couldn’t stay standing any longer.”  She smiled lovingly at him.  “You were there to pick me up though…”  Chakotay smiled sadly.



“I was the trigger there, wasn’t I?  In the cave I mean…when I removed my shirt…”  Kathryn smiled a little and shook her head.



“Not the way you think.  It was just the action at that precise moment.  It wasn’t you, Chakotay.  I wasn’t afraid of you.  Normally, that action wouldn’t affect me in any way.  It was just the straw that…as I said…at that precise moment.  I was agitated,

upset, everything was pressing in on me and it was the tiniest last nudge needed to topple it all.  The dimness down there probably didn’t help me either and was part of the reason for my reaction, coupled with everything else.  It all just came together in a set way but at least having you there helped get me past it fairly quickly.  You were there to ground me…someone I trusted… and that can make all the difference.  If it had happened when I was alone or with someone else, it would have been a lot harder.”  Chakotay nodded as he subconsciously still rubbed at her feet.



“I didn’t help talking about family holidays before that either…”  Kathryn shook her head and smiled again.



“That goes back to what I said before…about none of us being able to know how our words will affect anyone else.  Chakotay, let it go.  We were there and now we’re here.  All you need to accept now is that I trust you and feel perfectly safe with you.”  He smiled at that.  Kathryn sat up a little more.



“You know, I felt safe with Justin and then later with Mark.  I probably felt safest with Mark out of the two, because I knew he was no threat to me…no physical attraction.  I have to tell you though, that I feel even safer again with you.  Above all else in my life, I know that you won’t ever hurt me and that I’m safe with you.  I’m more sure of that than I am about anything in my life.”  She saw that finally she had him convinced.  His hand tightened on her foot and he smiled.



“Thank you for that.  You’ve no idea how much that means to me…”  Kathryn smiled softly at him.



“It’s the truth.”  She pulled her feet down from his lap and sat up, then took his hands in hers.  “Chakotay, listen to me.”  He watched her carefully as she took a moment to be sure of her next words.



“I want to say this right.”  She moistened her lips.  “I still want us to be together but I want to make sure that you understand something first.”  She stared deeply into his eyes, making sure she had his full attention.  “I’m not afraid of you in any way.  If I’m honest, I’m not even afraid of men in general.  I learned to get past that a long time ago.  I know that not all men are like that, only thank God, a very few.  I’m probably not even afraid of sex.  I probably appear nervous with you at times but it’s more shyness because this side of us is still new.  What I am afraid of is my own reaction to it and the memories it might trigger in me.  What I need to do is learn to separate those things and I’ve come a good way in doing that these last few weeks.”  She smiled shyly as if making her point and shook her head.



“Look at me now…  I’m able to talk to you this openly and I’m fine with that.  That’s a combination of how far I’ve come and how much I trust you.”  She lifted one hand and rubbed at her chin.



“I thought going this slowly would help…now I’m not so sure…”  Chakotay sat forward.



“Kathryn, I don’t want you to rush anything…”  She smiled back at him.



“I know that but I don’t think I’m helping myself by holding back…not with the way I am…”  She sighed deeply.  “It’s like knowing there’s something in the dark corner and being afraid to turn on the light.  The longer you delay putting the light on, the more scared you get.  This way, I’m just torturing myself.”  She grew serious and seemed to hesitate a moment, then found the courage she needed.  “Would you do something for me…with me?”  Chakotay nodded his head immediately.



“Whatever you want…”  Kathryn squeezed his hand again.



“I guess I’m more asking you to help me with something and you’ll think I’m the daring one but…would you take a shower with me…?”  She watched his reaction closely and saw a flash of deep apprehension cross his face.  “Chakotay, I can always just get out if I need to…”  He was quiet for just a moment.



“Kathryn, are you sure…?  Please think carefully about this.”  She stood up and pulled at his hand, but looked a little hesitant for just a moment.



“I’m sure…please…”  She seemed a little more certain now that the words were out but he still thought he detected a trace of nervousness.  He knew however, that she needed to try this, but he still had deep reservations and felt the need to voice them as honestly as he could.



“Kathryn, you’ll be seeing me naked and in a place…  I’m afraid that…”  Kathryn held his eyes.



“I know that…and you’ll be seeing me…but Chakotay, this comes down to trust again.  I’ll be embarrassed, I know that, and in some way, you probably will be too but that would be the case anyway.  The battlefield is in here…”  She pointed to her own head.  “It’s me who has to fight that battle and I’m determined to do that.  I need to speed it up a little though, because I see now that there are things here we both need to get past.  Can you understand what I mean?”  Chakotay nodded, finding himself suddenly filled with an avalanche of admiration for the woman before him and at her strength and courage and the big step she was taking.



“I understand and I’m very proud of you.”  He watched her smile as she accepted the praise.  “OK love, but the minute you feel in any way that…”  Kathryn pressed a finger to his mouth.



“I will…I promise…  Chakotay, I need to try this…”  She hesitated again for just a moment and then spoke.  “Promise me one thing though…”  He nodded, holding her hand tightly.  “I know I said I can always…get out…or stop…  If I start to…if I appear as if I want to…  If I seem too nervous or…”  Chakotay smiled at her softly.



“You can end this at any time and I’ll stop it immediately.  You know that.”  She smiled but shook her head.



“I know and that makes all the difference…in two ways…”  He frowned now.  “I mean that it helps and hinders at the same time…”  He dropped his head to the side,  not understanding her.  “I mean that…it helps to know I can stop at any time but I think I also need…  I have to do this and while that helps…it also gives me an easy way out…”  Chakotay pulled her back down on the sofa beside him.



“Kathryn, listen to me.  You can’t push this.  If you force yourself or force this, it could cause untold damage to you…”  Kathryn nodded slowly and looked down at their still joined hands.



“I don’t mean that.”  She looked up at him.  “I mean that I need your reassurance, your gentle persuasion…a mild urging if you like, if I begin to falter.  Does that make sense…?”  He nodded his understanding. 



“I think I know what you mean but…  Kathryn, I’m terrified of upsetting you in any way.  If I set you back, it’s me you’ll always associate that with.  If I hurt you…”  She cut him off.



“You won’t.  If I really need to stop, I’ll let you know.  What I’m asking you…and I know it’s asking a lot and putting you under a very heavy obligation, a lot of pressure, but what I’m asking is…  I’m asking you to help me with this…help me along and encourage me…  I don’t need you to tell me that I’m safe with you and that I can trust you, because I already know that.  I just need you to be there with me and tell me I can do it, even if I seem sure that I can’t.  I’m more afraid of trying than doing.  It’s the thought of it…the thought of trying… that’s hardest to get past, rather than the doing.  I just need that little push…”  Chakotay smiled and nodded his understanding.



“OK Kathryn, I understand that.  Just do one thing for me.  I want you to trust me with something too…  I want you to trust me to know when or if to stop all this, if I also feel that I can’t handle it or that it’s too much on you.  Is that all right?”  She nodded and smiled softly, then stood up, still holding his hand.  Chakotay stood with her and let her lead him to the bathroom.



^^^^^^^^^^



They undressed slowly, separately, glancing at each other occasionally.  Chakotay didn’t miss the flush on Kathryn's face but knew it was embarrassment more than anything else.  Finally undressed, Kathryn forced herself to stand still and let Chakotay look at her.  She took his breath away.



“God, you’re beautiful Kathryn…”  She bit at her lip and felt tears fill her eyes.  She saw the way he looked at her, an almost reverent look and relaxed.  There was nothing lustful in his gaze, only love and admiration of her beauty.  She blinked her tears away and let her eyes wander over his body, admiring what she saw, especially how well toned his muscles were.



“So are you…”  Her voice was barely above a whisper and she didn’t know what else to say.  She looked away and then back, then away again, clearly embarrassed and seemed to hesitate now.  She didn’t speak further, silently asking him to make the first move.  Chakotay just smiled reassuringly at her.



“Let’s turn the water on or we’ll get cold standing here…”  He slowly reached to the shower controls and turned on the water, testing the temperature with his hand before stepping into the stall.  He turned then and held out a hand to Kathryn, his eyes looking directly into hers.  “Come on, it’s lovely and hot.”  She hesitated only a  second before taking his hand and joining him, then concentrated on the hot jets of water as they poured down on them both.



Chakotay reached for the bar of soap he saw on a small shelf and began to work up a lather on his hands before soaping himself.  Kathryn stood still for a few minutes, watching him closely.  Her mind raced as she prepared herself for battle against the onslaught of bad memories she expected but they only appeared briefly, her mind acknowledging the events, rather than remembering them.  She watched the man before her, his presence taking more of her attention now and smiled softly to herself.  She forced herself to concentrate on what has happening in the present, taking in every sound and smell, branding it in her memory, using it not to push away the past, but replace it.  This was Chakotay.  She trusted him and was safe with him.  Nothing else existed. 



Chakotay was well aware of how still Kathryn was standing and worried about where her mind was.  He knew he had to let her work through this for herself though and concentrated only on washing himself.  He almost jumped when he felt her hands on his back and turned slowly to face her.  Her eyes met his and she smiled.



“I’m fine…really…I’m fine…”  She seemed amazed at her own discovery and he smiled back at her, his love for this woman clearly showing.  He handed her the soap and she took it, holding it under her nose and inhaling the delicate fragrance, adding more stitches of memory to the new tapestry she considered her life to now be.



Kathryn rubbed the soap between her hands, still holding Chakotay’s eyes and then rubbed the lather over his chest.  He stood still and let her lead the way.  He filled his mind with how much he loved her, and ordered his body to stay relaxed as she worked her soft hands over his skin, caressing rather than washing.  She turned him then, and soaped his back, her hands following the direction of the suds as they moved downwards.  Chakotay braced himself against the tiled wall and went with the feelings which flowed over him.  Her felt her hands move down over his buttocks and then on down the back of his legs.  Her hands on him were soft and gentle as she tugged on his leg, indicating that he turn. 



He moved slowly and looked down, seeing her sitting on the floor of the shower.  She washed his feet and lower legs, then stood, working her way upwards over his thighs.  Her hands washed over his genital area, with only a slight hesitation on her part and Chakotay knew she was battling with herself and forcing herself on.  He was battling with himself also, ordering his body to obey the commands of his mind.  There was no way be would betray her trust in him.  He stayed very still, then felt her hands move up, stroking over his stomach and chest, then to his arms.  She didn’t meet his eyes as she worked, all her attention on her task.  She took each of his hands in turn and soaped them also.  Finally she met his eyes and smiled, pulling him under the spray and rinsing the soap from his body.  When she seemed satisfied, she smiled up at him, a look of triumph on her face.  Chakotay stared at her, his smile soft, then reached up and cupped her face in his large hands.



“Do you have any idea of how proud of you I am?”  She nodded slowly.



“About as proud as I am of myself…?”  He shook his head.



“More so.  You’ve every right to be proud, Kathryn.  You’ve taken a huge step…”  Kathryn smiled softly, droplets of water caught on her eyelashes.  She handed him the cake of soap.



“Half a step…I’ve only taken half a step…”  He held her eyes for a moment and saw the trust there.  He took the soap and smiled.



“Turn around…”  She did as he asked and placed her own hands against the tiles.  She felt his hands, soft yet strong, as they stroked over her back and shoulders, then down to her waist.  All Kathryn was aware of, all she allowed herself be aware of, was the feel of his hands and the hot water pouring down over her body.  Chakotay’s hands moved down over her buttocks and she forced herself not to tense, determined to beat this.  The brief moment passed then as she felt him washing the backs of her legs and turned when he asked her to. 



She faced him now and saw that he was watching where his hands were, rather than looking at her face.  His hands skimmed over her shoulders and arms, then down to her hands.  They then returned to her chest and spread the lather over her breasts.  Kathryn caught her breath as he made contact with her nipples and his eyes flew to hers.  She smiled softly and nodded to him.  Chakotay continued, accepting that she was fine.  He worked down, watching as suds caught in her thatch of curls. 



Kathryn leaned back against the tiles as he moved his hands over her hips and stomach and then made a decision.  She moved her legs slightly apart, the movement not missed by Chakotay.  Without looking back up at her, he allowed one hand to briefly pass beneath her, washing her only, and then withdrew quickly, before working his way on down her legs.  For Kathryn, it was another battle won.  Finally, he pulled her under the spray and rinsed her off, as she had done with him.  Not sure of his next move, Kathryn made one of her own.  She threw herself into his arms and hugged him.



“Thank you, love.  Thank you.”  Chakotay pulled her tightly against him.



“Thank you, love.  Thank you for the honour and the trust.”  They stayed like that for some time, the water surrounding them, almost cocooning them, as they just held each other.



Eventually, aware of wasting resources as much as anything else, they shut the water off and stepped out of the shower stall.  Chakotay quickly wrapped a towel around his waist and then set about drying Kathryn off.  She allowed him his task of love and stood quietly as he dried into each crevice, nothing sexual about his movements.  Kathryn smiled at him lovingly.



“Chakotay, I know you felt it would be better to go slowly and I know I kind of pushed for this but…”  He turned worried eyes to her then saw her smile.  She shook her head a little.  “Chakotay, I’ve never felt more at peace than I do at this moment…”  Relief washed over his face and he pulled her to him.



“You deserve that peace, love.  I’m honoured I’m able to share it with you…”  They held each other for some minutes and then Chakotay pulled back and wrapped the towel around her.  “Go get changed into your nightgown.  I’m going to replicate an old treat of my mother’s…  hot chocolate made with milk…”  He laughed as her eyes lit up. 



“Sounds shamefully wonderful…”  He nodded and laughed.



“Oh it is…especially when you sprinkle chocolate on top…now go on and curl up in bed and I’ll introduce you to this gastronomic sin…”



Kathryn lay against Chakotay and drained her mug, then ran her finger around the froth still at the rim and licked it clean.  Chakotay shook his head and smiled.



“Would you like seconds?”  She blushed and placed the mug on the bedside locker.



“No, thank you.  One sin a night is enough.  Thanks though, that was indescribably delicious.  Now I know why I made you my First Officer…”  Chakotay feigned hurt.



“Is that the only reason?  What about my dashing good looks, my computer like brain, my skills with…”  Kathryn laughed and pressed a hand to his lips.



“Enough, Chakotay…  besides I can’t promote you without putting myself out of a job so you’re wasting your time with self-flattery.”  She turned and snuggled down against him.  “I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me tonight…”  He saw her eyes already starting to close and just hugged her tightly to him.



“You did most of it yourself.”  He kissed the top of her head.  “Go to sleep now.  I’m very proud of you.  I love you.”  Her eyes were already closed and her voice was soft.



“I love you too…”



^^^^^^^^^^



As the days passed, the crew continued to marvel and be happy at the ever-growing closeness between their Captain and her First Officer.  Tom had been ready to clean up on the betting pool, until B'Elanna warned him off.  Being a man who knew when to quit while he was ahead, he sat back and watched with the rest of the crew, just as happy as they were to see his Captain finally find what had been waiting there for her all along.



For Kathryn herself, she truly believed she had never been happier or more content and secure in her life.  In her mind, she felt as if all the pieces were finally coming together for her, yet knew it had been a very long and dark road she had had to travel to get there. 



Chakotay stayed over with her almost every night now, holding Kathryn in his arms, as she slept better than she ever had.  They shared every meal and more often now, the shower, totally at ease with each other since that first time.  Most of their off duty hours were spent together on the holodeck.  B'Elanna had finally found out about Tom’s copy of his ski program and had modified it so all the crew could enjoy the sport, without any risk of injury whatsoever.  It turned out to be almost as popular as Sandrine’s.



Early one evening, Chakotay had taken Kathryn to the resort, revelling in seeing her so carefree as they sped down the slopes, the chill wind making her cheeks red and adding a healthy glow to the rest of her face.  Finally exhausted, they had left the others to clown around with a snowball fight and had returned to Kathryn's quarters, Kathryn desperate now for one of Chakotay’s hot chocolate drinks.



As they sat sipping them now, she lay back on the sofa totally content and propped her feet up on the coffee table, having rid herself of her ski clothes and boots.  Chakotay hid his amusement at the big floppy slippers she wore.



“God, I’m not sure if that was good for me or bad…  I’ll be sore in the morning.”  Kathryn smiled over at Chakotay as he rubbed the muscles in his right calf.



“YOU’LL be sore…?  Oh yes…that’s it…”  He kneaded the muscle and then relaxed.  “I don’t know whether to thank Tom or kill him.  Mind you, if B'Elanna hadn’t altered that program, he’d probably have done the job himself.  Did you see the first version?”  He shook his head in disbelief.  Kathryn laughed and nodded.



“See it I did.  So did the Doctor.  I thought he’d blow a circuit or something.  He was only short of steam coming out of his ears.  He was shocked to say the least.  I think Tom got an ear-bashing from him about risking life and limb…”  Chakotay smiled as he drained his cup. 



“Ah well…all’s well that ends well…”  He frowned a little.  “Wasn’t that the name of an old play or something…?  Apart from being an expression, I mean…”  He looked to Kathryn and saw her nod.



“A playwright named Shakespeare… 16th century Earth or maybe 15th… I’m too sore to think…or maybe tired or…”  She sat up a little.  “Did you ever feel like that?  You don’t know what you feel?  I’m on this adrenalin high from that workout and now I don’t know whether I’m tired or could run for miles.”  Chakotay put his mug down on the table and nodded.



“Oh I know that one well.  Best thing for that is to just wind down slowly and then decide how you feel…”  He smiled over at her.  “Do you want those muscles massaged?”  Kathryn finished her own drink and nodded. 



“My legs are the worst…”  She swung her legs up into his lap and leaned back.



“Where’s the worst area…?”  Kathryn sat up again and looked at him, a serious look on her face.



“Actually, my thighs…  Are you all right with that?”  Chakotay stilled his hand on her legs.



“Are YOU all right with that?”  Kathryn just smiled and lay back down.



“I’m fine…damned sore…but fine…”  Chakotay nodded slowly.



“Where exactly?  The back?  We were going downhill so it’s usually the back that’s affected with that.”  Kathryn barely moved her head and nodded, then turned over.  She folded her arms and lay her head on them.



“That’s the spot, all right.”  She closed her eyes and felt him move up the sofa, then his hands on her thighs.  She felt no fear, no discomfort, no apprehension but she was aware that Chakotay did.  He finally seemed to snap out of wherever he had been and began to knead the muscles.  Kathryn groaned and raised her head.



“Oohhhh…oh God…”  Chakotay stopped immediately, terrified he had upset her in some way.



“Kathryn?  Are you all right?”  She turned her head and saw the deep worry in his eyes.  She smiled softly and then grimaced.



“I’m all right but my muscles aren’t.  Dear God, they’re more sore than I thought.”  As he saw how relaxed she was, he let out the breath he found he’d been holding.



“No pain…no gain…”  Kathryn rolled her eyes.



“You don’t say…  Well it had better be worth it.  OK, OK, give me the pain if there’s a gain in there somewhere.  Just make it a quick return…”  She lowered her head and felt him start working again, kneading more gently this time. 



^^^^^^^^^^



Kathryn jerked awake and sat up.  She looked around her quickly and saw Chakotay sitting at the end of her sofa, reading from a padd. 



“Sorry…I fell asleep…”  He didn’t look up from his reading.  She moved down to him and glanced at the padd in his hand.



“That’s my story…”  She went to grab it but he pulled it from her grasp, holding it away from her as he laughed.



“Kathryn Janeway, I never knew you were into reading such stuff…”  Kathryn blushed.



“It’s not that bad…  Anyway…B'Elanna loaned it to me…”  Chakotay’s eyebrows shot up, in a fair imitation of Tuvok’s.



“Not that bad?”  He held the padd out in front of him and began to read.  “Her chest heaved with desire as he approached her, his trusty mare slowly coming to a stop.  Agnes knew that this man answered all her dreams and almost swooned as he dismounted and his eyes held hers…”  Kathryn reached out and grabbed the padd.



“All right, so it’s a bit…”  She blushed again, her face redder now.  Chakotay shook his head and smiled softly.



“I don’t know.  Why don’t women ever swoon for their men anymore…?”  Kathryn stood up and made her way to her desk then shoved the padd into a drawer.



“Maybe the men aren’t worth swooning over…”  She laughed as Chakotay put on a puppy dog face and stuck his lower lip out.



“I think I’m worth swooning over…  I can be cute…devastating…charming…”  Kathryn rolled her eyes.



“Modest…?”  Chakotay shrugged, his smile threatening to break out into all out laughter.



“One of my lesser known attributes, I’ll grant you, but still there in abundance.”  Kathryn snorted.



“Lesser…?  It would hardly rate as a speck on the viewscreen…”  They held eyes for several seconds and then dissolved into howls of laughter.  Kathryn practically fell towards the sofa and flopped down beside him.  It was some time before they were able to regain control of themselves.



It took Kathryn a minute to realize that Chakotay had stopped laughing and was staring at her.  She smiled at him and cocked her head to the side.



“What?”  He smiled still and shrugged.



“It’s just wonderful to see you so happy.  Laughter suits you.  You should wear it more often.”  She playfully slapped at his arm.



“I’ve had a wonderful teacher of late…”  Chakotay’s face grew very serious.



“All I’ve ever wanted was to make you happy and make your burden lighter.  Just to stand by your side.  There’s nowhere else I ever want to be…”  He saw her eyes fill up with tears and her hand reached out to his face.



“Oh Chakotay…you make me very happy and as to making my burden lighter…”  She shook her head.  “On this ship…you’ve done that so many times…even when I went my own way…and still you were there for me…”  She caressed his cheek.  “As to the rest…to my life…  I don’t think I have to tell you what you mean to me where I’m concerned.  Lighten my burden?  You’ve practically removed it.  I never dreamed I could come this far with you…with any man…but especially with you.  You’ve completed me…helped me be what I was meant to be…”  Her tears overflowed and she threw herself into his arms.  “Stay with me tonight…be with me…”  Her voice was slightly muffled against his chest and he eased her back a little and smiled down at her.



“Of course I’ll stay with you…”  She smiled softly and shook her head.



“No Chakotay, stay with me… BE with me….”  Her eyes scanned his face as she tried to read him.



“Kathryn, are you saying…?”  She just nodded.



“Please…I feel ready…I think…I am…”  Chakotay eased her back a little more.



“Kathryn, I only want this if you’re more than sure…”  She nodded and looked around the room a moment, then back at him.



“I want to…”  She tried a smile.  “I need to…  It’s…”  She shook her head, frustrated with herself almost.  “The issue isn’t about my trust in you…it isn’t about you…”  She saw him watching her very closely.  “It’s about getting past my own fears…my own bad memories.  I can’t let them or him beat me any longer.  I want to do this.  I’m just asking you to help me with that.  It’s kind of like the shower but…”  She shook her head again.  “No…that’s not right…  That’s just a small part of it.  I want to be with you because I love you…  That’s first and foremost…  The rest…well I need to get past that for myself.”  She shifted slightly in his arms.



“It’s the difference between…thinking and reacting.  Can you see that?  I’ll think about it from time to time.  It’s there and it happened.  I can choose though, when to think about it and not let this be one of those times.  As to reacting, I can stop that too if I make myself.  It’s having someone with me…someone I want to do this for, as well as for myself.”  She leaned back from him a little.



“Have you ever been reading something…a story…and been deeply immersed in it.  You could be reading about it raining and when you stop reading…you get up and look out the window and for a moment, you expect it to be raining there…are so sure it will be.  You were so involved in the story that you expected it to cross over into real life.  One becomes part of the other.”  Chakotay nodded slowly, understanding what she meant.



“I can choose to let that happen to me…OR…I can put the story away from my mind before I stand up and think only of the day I know is outside that window.  Maybe I’m not making much sense here but…  I know the difference, Chakotay.  I want and need to be with you.  I just might need a little help again.”  Her eyes almost pleaded with him.  Chakotay felt tears fill his eyes and pulled her to him.



“I’m here for you…  You never have to ask.  This is about what you want, Kathryn.”  He felt her tracing a pattern on his chest before she pulled back again.  Her eyes were sad.



“Teach me?  Show me what to do?  I don’t know how to be…to act…”  Chakotay stroked her hair.



“Kathryn…”  She shrugged.



“It sounds awful…but I don’t know how…  Not how as in…  I mean how to act…”  She laughed cynically.  “My ‘experience’ outside of…him…of that…was to lie there and just let it happen…”  She pulled away now and sat forward with her elbows on her knees.  “God, that sounds…you must be disgusted with me…at me…”  Chakotay leaned over quickly and grabbed her shoulders, pulling her around to face him.



“Listen to me now, Kathryn.  We’ve been through this before but I’ll say it one last time for you and then it ends.  I am not and never could be disgusted with you.  I love you.  Plain and simple.  What happened to you in your life was a crime…  I can’t find the words I want to describe it but they wouldn’t be in any dictionary.  You were a victim of terrible evil but you survived.  That is the past now.  You beat it all and now you’re here…the woman you are…”  Tears flowed down Kathryn's face.



“I still need your encouragement…your guidance…pushing me a bit if I falter… please Chakotay…”  He barely nodded.  “I know how to have sex…”  He heard the pain in her voice.  “I don’t know how to make love.  I don’t know how to be with you.”  Chakotay pulled her to him as she broke down and cried into his chest.



“Oh sweetheart…  I don’t know either, you know.”  She managed to pull back a little and looked up at him, a puzzled look on her face.  He smiled down at her.  “I mean that this is new to us…  No two people are the same, Kathryn.  What pleases one, won’t please another.  We learn what we like from each other and it’s no different than the way we’ve learned about what we like in other areas.  We took time to know each other’s favourite foods…hobbies…that kind of thing.  I know you can’t compare that completely, but as far as getting to know each other is concerned, it’s not that different.  Besides…”  He shook his head.  “Look…sex is…it’s a physical act between two people who feel little or nothing for each other.  When two people love each other like we do…it automatically becomes ‘making love’.  That’s all there is to it.  Don’t sell yourself short.”  Kathryn's vision was blurred with her tears and she tried to blink them away, sending them running down her cheeks.  Chakotay reached up and gently wiped them away.



“Kathryn, just be you.  All of it is entirely up to you.  There is no right or wrong way, only what you’re comfortable with.  You’re in control of this.  You act on what you feel and follow your heart.  This isn’t about some exam or test…someone judging you.”  She shook her head.



“But I don’t know how to act…”  Chakotay smiled softly at her.



“Just be yourself…as you want to be.  Listen to your own body and what it’s telling you.  Do what feels good or right, just the way you have been.  Nothing between us has anything to do with the past.  We’ll be making love, giving pleasure to each other.  There is nothing wrong or dirty about that.  This is new and fresh…”  Kathryn sniffed and nodded a little.



“It’s just that before…”  Chakotay caught her hand in his, a stern look on his face.



“Kathryn, there is no ‘before’.  There’s only ‘us’ and ‘now’.  There’s no ‘before’ for either of us.  We love each other and that’s all that matters.  Just know that you control everything between us for this…”  Kathryn squeezed his hand.



“I know and I love you for offering me that control and I feel very safe knowing that it’s there but I’m asking you to lead me here.  The only control I need, is to know that I can stop and I have that.  As to the rest…I’m asking you please to guide me…”  Her eyes were pleading with him almost and he slowly nodded.



“I understand what you’re asking me but you’ll guide yourself.”  He was silent for a few moments and then looked deeply into her eyes.  “Kathryn, I need to know that you’re completely sure about this…”  She smiled gently at him and nodded.



“I’ve never been more sure of anything…except how I feel about you...”  That brought tears to Chakotay’s eyes.  He smiled softly at her, his hand holding hers still.  She lay a soft hand on his leg.



“Chakotay, I love you.  You’ve made my life by giving me the gift of your love.  What I knew before…”  She sat forward a little more.  “Look, I debated with myself for so long…as to whether I should tell you everything and then how to tell you.  I kept you away for so long and hurt you a lot…”  She shook her head and held up a hand.  “Please…let me say this…”  Chakotay nodded his consent.



“Telling you was the best thing I ever did…no…the second best.  I was so relieved when I finally told you…”  She smiled a little sadly at the memory.   “I could have picked a better way to tell you…”  She shook her head and grew serious again.  “Trusting you and letting you into my life was the best thing though.  You helped me to discover myself.  You helped me discover my own body even and  re-taught me how to separate what I feel now with then.  When I should have been able to separate the Captain from Kathryn…I couldn’t and I let the Captain take over, mainly to hide behind her.  On the rare occasions I let Kathryn out, I was two people again.  There was the woman and then the child and I often think the child was better able to cope.  I’d forgotten so much…what I’d learned.  I’d no one to remind me anymore…until you…”  She shook her head sadly until Chakotay reached up and stroked her cheek.



“Kathryn, we’re all different people in different areas of our lives.  Look…the Captain is fine.  She knows her place now.  We deal with Kathryn only.  You let the child go.  Take what you need from her and let her go.  You incorporate that into the woman.  The child did her job.  She protected you and you survived.  The part that is ‘you’ now…she isn’t woman or child…she’s just ‘you’…just Kathryn.  Surviving as you did…that’s a testament to you…the strength of you…the courage you have.”  Kathryn smiled and bit her lip.



“You’re the strongest woman I know, Kathryn Janeway.  I feel I’m supposed to be strong for you… and I know that’s a man thing…even in this day and age.”  He smiled and shook his head.  “It’s turned out though, that you’re the strong one…and I’m so very proud of you…”  Kathryn blushed and tried to shrug it off.



“I’ve just had longer to live with it…”  Chakotay grew serious very quickly.



“No Kathryn…you’re one very strong woman and he didn’t and couldn’t beat you.  Always remember that.  Don’t ever diminish what you’ve achieved.”  He cupped her cheek gently and used his thumb to wipe away some tears.  She nodded tearfully and let him pull her into his arms.  He held her for several minutes, thinking his next words through, then eased her back and spoke softly to her.



“Kathryn, just hear me out on this.”  She nodded.  “I’m asking you to trust my judgment on this.”  Again she nodded.  Chakotay drew in a breath.



“I’ll stay with you tonight but like before only…”  He pressed a finger to her lips when she went to protest.  “I know you feel ready but I don’t think tonight is the right night.”  She remained quiet when he removed his finger and waited for him to explain.



“Kathryn, we’re speaking like this…and there are other things we need to talk about first.  I want to be with you.  Don’t ever doubt that.  I just want to make sure that it’ll be perfect for you.  We needed to talk like this first.  If we made love now… tonight… I don’t think it would be the right time for us.  It would feel like…maybe a test or an experiment…and I don’t mean that in any hurtful way.  There’s no hurry here.  When we make love for the first time, I want it to be right for us…to be… not really spontaneous… yet not planned either, if that makes sense.  I mean that it should come naturally…be and feel right.”  He smiled tenderly at her.  “The other part of this is that I’m also so afraid of hurting you…”  She shook her head quickly.



“Chakotay, you won’t…  I’ve told you I feel one hundred percent safe with you… trust you with my life…know that I can…  I love you and trust you.  You won’t hurt me…couldn’t…”  Chakotay shook his head.



“That’s not what I meant…”  Kathryn reddened a little suddenly, getting his meaning now.



“Oh…I see…”  She smiled shyly.  Chakotay squeezed her hand.



“Yes, I’m also afraid of hurting you emotionally, by reminding you but I’m terrified of hurting you physically and I will…  I don’t want your memories of this to be a time of pain…  There’s been enough of that in your life…  I just want everything to be perfect for you…  I’d die if I hurt you…”  Kathryn stroked the back of his hand and shifted on the sofa.



“Chakotay, I’ll be fine.  I know there’ll be a little pain after so long…”  Chakotay sighed.



“Kathryn, I don’t want you to have any pain.  Maybe you should ask the Doc…get a muscle relaxant or…”  She cut him off.



“No.  I don’t want to talk to him and I don’t want him knowing…not yet anyway.”  She licked at her lips.  “Chakotay, I want this to be real.  Too much in my life has been false and covered up.  I don’t want this to be anything like that.”  Chakotay still looked worried.



“Maybe…maybe a lubricant…”  He stopped dead and the blood seemed to drain from his face.  “Oh God…I’m sorry…I didn’t think…  Did he…?”  He was terrified now that he’d opened a horrifying memory for her.  Kathryn looked confused for a moment and then understood.



“Chakotay, it’s all right.  No…he…never…”  He didn’t think about his reaction.



“Bastard…”  He stopped dead again.  “Sorry…I just…I’m sorry…”  Kathryn grabbed his hand tightly.



“It’s all right.  Please Chakotay.  Look, this is our time now.  It’s all up to me.  He’s dead and gone…not here anymore.  He’s only in my mind…can only hurt me again…if I let him…let him control me still from beyond the grave.”  She took his other hand now.



“Listen to me.  This is only about us…about our love…about what love really is and I know that now because you showed me that.  As I said, I know there’ll be a little pain but this is very different.  This is only physical pain.  It’s the emotional pain that’s ultimately the hardest to take.  Even the physical though…”  She thought for a moment, wanting to get her words just right for him.  “Chakotay, the pain I knew before…the physical pain…  That was inflicted…deliberate…  Can you understand what I mean?  This will be good pain and I won’t feel a loss of control with it because I know it’s not the same and I know that the control is there for me.  I can stop if I need to and I know that you’ll stop if I ask, despite how unfair that would be on you…”  Chakotay squeezed her hands.



“You know I’ll stop at any time.  Don’t worry about me please.  This is about you…about us…about loving each other…feeling safe…trusting.”  Kathryn nodded seriously at him.



“I know…”  He stroked her hair softly.



“When we come together…it’ll be…there will only be that moment…that time.  I’m not going to tell you to ‘just forget about the past’ or ‘don’t think about what went before’.  We’ll be creating something new…something in the ‘now’…something between us that’s good and pure.  We just concentrate on that.  Everything else will fade away.”  Kathryn leaned into him, fighting more tears.



“How did I ever get so lucky…to find you…have you in my life…?”  Chakotay hugged her tightly until she leaned back a little and smiled up at him.  “For you…  I’d swoon for you…”  She laughed through her tears at her own joke as Chakotay kissed her on the cheek.



“I’ll keep you to that.”  He rubbed his hand up and down her arm.  “Are you OK with waiting a little longer then?”  Kathryn nodded against him.



“You’re right, I know that.”  Chakotay held her, rocking her gently against him.



“Look Kathryn, we choose a time when we know we have the evening to ourselves, maybe the morning off too.  We have dinner, relax, a bottle or two of wine and if you’re comfortable and ready, we just let it happen naturally.  What do you think?”  Kathryn was quiet for a few moments, thinking it through and then pulled back and looked up at him.  She nodded, a smile on her lips.



“That sounds perfect.  It sounds…the way it should be…the way normal people…”  Chakotay smiled sadly and tickled her under the chin.



“We are normal people, Kathryn.  This is natural because it’s about two people who love each other and want to be together.  Nothing else enters into the equation.”  She lowered her head a little and kissed his fingers.



“You’re right again.  I’ll have to stop you always being right…”  She laughed a little as he smiled back at her.



“What about…  Kathryn… where…  What I mean is…”  He sighed.  “Do you want to stay here or go to my quarters or the holodeck…”  Kathryn sat up a little more.



“I want to be here.”  His face was serious as she spoke on.  “Chakotay, I know what you mean.  You’re afraid that if something goes wrong, I’ll have to live with the memory of that here but nothing will go wrong and that’s a leap of faith if you like but really it’s just a small step in distance in my mind.  I know it will be perfect, otherwise I wouldn’t say it.”  Chakotay’s eyes were misty as he stared at her.  He could feel himself shaking almost.



“My Kathryn, I wish I was a poet…someone with the right words…because at this moment….words fail me to express what I feel inside for you.  ‘I love you’ sounds overused and doesn’t come near expressing the depth of my feelings for you.  If I hugged you right now, I’d be afraid that I’d squeeze you to death…”  Kathryn's tears joined his and she leaned into him, hugging him tightly.



“I’ll take that chance.  Anyway…what a wonderful way to go…”  His arms tightened around her as he hugged her fiercely.  They remained like that for a long time.



^^^^^^^^^^



ON TO PART SIX.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.



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