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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     Behind her crew’s back, Kathryn makes a deal with an alien leader to

                      ensure Voyager’s safe and speedy passage across his space.  As

                      Voyager travels on, following her orders and believing that she will

                       rejoin them soon,  she becomes a subject for cruel medical

                       experiments which threaten her very life. 





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

                        If you are offended by such, please do not read on.









THE PASSAGE.

By Kat Lady.





PART THREE.





Chakotay was only vaguely aware of the transport back to Voyager’s sickbay.  He became conscious of the Doctor sitting him down at the top of the medical table Kathryn lay on and being told to keep talking to her, reassuring her.  He sat for the next hour and stroked her hair, once the Doctor had managed to stop the flow of drugs into her body and remove the vice from her head, horrified to see that there were needles embedded in her skull from the helmet.  Chakotay quietly whispered to her as his eyes watched the Doctor and Tom slowly try to remove the other needles and probes.  Chakotay had asked if Tuvok could mind meld with Kathryn in order to relieve her pain in any way, but the Doctor was reluctant to try it in case it caused more harm to what he believed would be her already fragile mental state.  Instead he urged Chakotay to keep doing as he was.



Giving Kathryn a short break from their efforts, the Doctor and Tom moved away and Chakotay followed them across the room, letting B’Elanna take his place for a moment. 



“Can’t you give her anything for the pain, sedate her…?”  The Doctor shook his head.



“There are too many drugs in her system…  Don’t you think I’d give her anything to ease this if I could…?”  Chakotay saw the raw pain on the face of the hologram and nodded.



“I’m sorry…it’s just…I feel as if I’m going mad…to even think what she must be…”  Tom gripped his arm.



“Chakotay, hold it together.  She needs you…”  Chakotay tearfully nodded and returned to take his place beside Kathryn.  The Doctor and Tom exchanged pained and knowing looks.



Just as they were about to resume, Tuvok entered sickbay, holding what appeared to be a journal.  Chakotay saw immediately that the Vulcan’s face showed barely controlled anger and disgust.  He let his eyes drop to the book he carried before Tuvok approached him and the Doctor.



“We found this.  It appears to be comprehensive notes of all his…  Everything done to the Captain is catalogued…”  Tuvok said no more and the Doctor nodded and took the journal.  Chakotay felt a surge of rage wash over him, unlike anything he had ever known.



“Where is that bastard now…?”  Tuvok drew in a deep breath, fighting for control.



“Dead.”  He said the word with satisfaction in his voice and showed no shame in it.  “They have a practice here of…  It appears to be a space form of keelhauling.  They beamed him into space and dragged him along behind their ship.”  Chakotay’s eyes widened but his hatred for the alien consumed any disgust or pity he might ever have felt.  Tuvok stared deeply at his Commander.  “I evoked the Prime Directive and didn’t interfere with them.  I believe the others were treated in a similar manner, including the two assistants.”  Chakotay barely managed a small smile, revenge and the need for it driving it.  He watched as Tuvok’s eyes were drawn to his Captain before he gently placed a hand on her shoulder.  With that, he turned and walked from the room.



Over the next two hours, the Doctor and Tom worked steadily, reading from the notes they had, their anger growing all the time.  Chakotay forced the scenes from his mind  and concentrated on whispering whatever comfort he could to Kathryn.  He tried desperately to control his raging emotions, knowing she needed his calm reassurance more than anything.  Finally, most of the needles and probes had been removed and the Doctor motioned for Chakotay to come to his office, leaving Tom to comfort their patient.



Once inside his office, the Doctor took a moment to compose himself before speaking to Chakotay.



“There are still the probes…”  Chakotay knew where he meant.  “They are attached to her internal organs.  I can’t remove them without surgery and there’s no way I can inflict that pain on her as she is.”  Chakotay sank into a chair, his jaw almost breaking as he ground his teeth together.  “I’ll have to wait a little longer until the drugs are out of her system before I can sedate her for surgery to remove them.”  He moved around his desk and sat.  “I’ve had to leave the tube down her throat also.  She still can’t breath for herself until the paralysis wears off.  I can’t even give her a painkiller…”  The Doctor closed his eyes as Chakotay fought the pain that ripped through him.



“She’s in agony…isn’t she…?”  Chakotay knew he was torturing himself.  The Doctor opened his eyes and merely nodded.  “Even her vocal chords are…  she can’t…”  He stood quickly and turned away.  “How much longer?”  He finally turned back to the Doctor and saw the desperation on the face before him.



“At least another two hours…”  Chakotay covered his face with his hands.



“She can’t take that…there’s no way…”  The Doctor stood slowly.



“Commander, I don’t believe at this stage that…  the mind has ways of closing down almost…to protect…her body will feel the pain but I believe her mind…  I believe she’s probably catatonic at this stage…  There’s no way she could endure…”  He stopped and looked sadly at Chakotay.



“You’re saying her mind has descended into some sort of…”  The Doctor nodded.



“Just keep talking to her…whatever you can do…”  Chakotay just nodded and left the office.  Tom looked up as he approached and stood up, letting Chakotay take his place.  He said nothing, just gripped the shoulder of the larger man, a small smile of reassurance all he was capable of.



Chakotay sat talking and whispering to Kathryn for the next two hours, unaware of what he was saying most of the time.  He suddenly looked up and saw the Doctor scanning Kathryn before nodding and pressing a hypo to her neck.



“I can take her into surgery now…”  They were interrupted by Kathryn suddenly choking, her body tensing.  Chakotay jumped back and let the Doctor take his place.



“Tom, get in here now.  She’s trying to breath for herself.  Help me get this tube out.”  Chakotay watched horrified as they struggled to remove the tube as Kathryn continued to fight it, gagging on the obstruction.  Within minutes, the tube was removed and Kathryn’s body spasmed as she vomited.



“Hurry, get her on her side and get me some suction before she chokes…”  Tom worked quickly and Chakotay watched as they cleared her airway and then heard her draw ragged breaths into her body, struggling to get air into her straining lungs.  Eventually she seemed to breath a little easier and Chakotay relaxed a little.  She still appeared unconscious but small, heartbreaking moans and cries came from her.  Chakotay moved to Kathryn immediately, taking up where he had left off, talking quietly to her as the Doctor and Tom prepared her for surgery.  The Doctor pressed two more hypos to Kathryn’s neck and then she was quiet.



“That’s a strong painkiller and sedative…I need to take her in now…This is a good sign…the paralysis wearing off…breathing for herself…”  Chakotay nodded and stood back, pressing a kiss to Kathryn’s head first.



“It’s going to be all right now…I love you Kathryn…”  He knew she couldn’t hear him but he needed to say the words.



Some time later, Chakotay became aware of the Doctor standing before him.  He looked up with eyes that were red and bloodshot, not needing to speak.  The Doctor smiled slowly.



“We got them all out.  They were deeply attached to her internal organs.  I had to go in through the wound…  I also removed…there were other tubes…catheter and I believe to…flush her out or something…”  He stopped and sat on the edge of his desk and sighed deeply.  “The wound…from their surgery…nothing was removed or altered… It looks as if it was just…exploratory…”  He didn’t try and hide the anger he felt.



“And she would have been conscious for that…unable to move…”  Chakotay let his tears fall and fought to control himself.  “Will she be all right?  Will…”  His eyes pleaded with the Medic.



“Physically she will recover completely.  I’ve removed the scar…and her body is clean of all the drugs now…  The sores and blisters…the rashes…where he tested I believe…I’ve healed those…  I’m also taking care of her nutritional needs which were badly neglected…and I’m pumping her with fluids to offset the dehydration she suffered and to try and counteract shock…there won’t be any side effects from the drugs…I’ve made sure of that…although much longer and…”  He hesitated a moment before continuing.  “Commander, emotionally…I can’t say…  Everything done was catalogued and…”  Chakotay closed his eyes and nodded as the Doctor told him everything.



“The needles which were embedded in her head…they weren’t the first.  These were simply to…I don’t know…most of it…”  Chakotay watched the hologram battle emotions he had never been programmed with.  “Most of this…totally unnecessary…nothing medical about it…it was pure torture…”  He stopped, knowing his Commander didn’t need any more pain.



“This was done before…the needles in her scalp.  There are many puncture wounds there, apart from these…  The others I believe penetrated her skull…were used to stimulate her brain…incur reactions…emotions…images…crude and ancient…”  He stopped again.  “Commander, I’m sorry…you shouldn’t hear this…”  Chakotay blinked back tears.



“I need to know what she suffered…to help her later…”  The Doctor nodded his understanding.



“This second…vice…whatever…was used merely to hold her head and cause pain…none of it…the straps or needles…none of it necessary…  Most of these so-called experiments were about inflicting pain and fear…to feed his sadistic…”  The Doctor stopped again to control himself.  “He wrote it all down…every small detail…everything he did…like he was observing something not alive and feeling…”  The Doctor actually punched the door as Chakotay dropped his head and let his tears fall.  Finally he controlled himself.



“Where is it?”  Chakotay looked up now and drew in a deep breath and saw the Doctor frown.  “The…journal…”  He saw the Medic about to object but cut him off.  “Doctor, I need to know what I’m dealing with here.  When you’ve done your bit, I take over but I can’t work in the dark.  Believe me, the last thing I want to know about is what happened but I need to…”  The Doctor laid a hand on his arm and nodded his understanding.



“I understand Commander, but who will be there to help you afterwards?”  They stared at each other for a few minutes.  Finally Chakotay stood.



“Getting her back is all I need…”  He stood and waited and finally the Doctor handed him the journal.



Checking on Kathryn first, Chakotay kissed her face gently then left sickbay with the evidence of her torture.  He made his way to the holodeck and programmed in a grey room, no furniture or anything that would ever remind him of this time, just grey walls, floor and ceiling.  He sat on the floor, his back to one of the walls and opened the pages then began to read, willing himself to shut down until the words had been gone through.



An hour and a half later, Chakotay flung the journal across the faceless room and gave in to his tears.  His body was racked with sobs and he howled out his pain to the empty space.  Images assaulted his mind of what Kathryn had endured at the hands of Pakar and his assistants and an emotional agony consumed him, manifesting itself as almost physical.  He hugged himself and rocked slightly, words tumbling from him.



“Oh God Kathryn why…why did you go…why didn’t you just tell me…how did you survive that…?”  He sat for some time and then stood, knowing he had to get out of this room and desperately needing to be with Kathryn again.  He picked up the journal and stared at it a moment, the words imprinted in his mind, their coldness almost penetrating through the cover into his skin.  Pakar had written his notes in such a calculating way, no sense that what he had been describing had been a living, sentient and feeling women, merely an object to be tested.



“Bastard…I hope it was agony for you at the end…I hope you’re burning or rotting somewhere…”  Without looking back, Chakotay left the holodeck, deleting the program for all time.



Chakotay sat with Kathryn for the rest of the day, just holding her hand and whispering to her.  He saw the weight she had lost in her time away, her face gaunt but her body now free of all visible evidence of what she had been through.  He listened to her even breathing and prayed that somewhere, her mind was at peace in some way.  He looked up as the Doctor approached and sat back to let him examine Kathryn.  When he was finished, the Doctor spoke.



“She’s doing very well.  Her breathing is back to normal.”  Chakotay nodded and sat back against the biobed, taking Kathryn’s hand again.



“I take it you took care of…made sure there wouldn’t be…”  Chakotay looked up at the Doctor, unwilling to say the words.  The Medic nodded, knowing what he was alluding to.



“She won’t be pregnant.  I took care of all that.  There was considerable tearing but I’ve healed that…”  Chakotay swallowed the anger he felt rising again.  He looked up when the Doctor made no move to leave.  “Commander, we do have one other problem…”  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment.  “I know you read…”  Chakotay opened his eyes and stared at the Doctor.



“What else…?”  The Medic hesitated then spoke.



“You know he used something in her eyes…”  Chakotay felt a stab of fear go through him.  “The substance…it burned…her retinas were damaged and I’ve healed what I can but…”  Chakotay felt his grip on Kathryn’s hand tighten and forced his hand to relax a little.



“What are you saying?”  The Doctor looked away a moment then met Chakotay’s eyes.



“I believe her sight…I believe she’s blind… but I won’t know for sure until she wakes.  If she is…I can’t say if this will be temporary or…”  Chakotay stared at the Doctor a moment longer then dropped his head.



“Oh dear God…how much more…?”  He felt the Doctor’s hand on his shoulder.



“Commander, it’s better we just wait and see…I just wanted you to be prepared.  She’ll panic when she can’t see…”  Chakotay drew in a ragged breath and nodded then resumed his vigil as the Doctor left.



Some time later, Tuvok reported to him that all was peaceful on the planet and that they were underway, Alla’s people escorting them back through the subspace corridor to save time, even though the fake storm was no longer in existence.  Chakotay merely nodded then filled Tuvok in on Kathryn’s condition.



“Captain Janeway is a strong woman and she also has many friends onboard.  I believe she will beat this.”  Chakotay managed a small smile, praying that the Vulcan would be proved right. 



Kathryn remained unconscious for another day while Voyager emerged from the corridor and continued on its way.  Chakotay left sickbay only long enough to thank Alla and his fellow freedom fighters.  He accepted the escort they offered for the remainder of their journey through their space, knowing Alla needed to know that Kathryn would recover.  He allowed the young alien to see their Captain for himself and watched the play of emotions cross his face.



“She’s very beautiful.  When I last saw her…”  His voice trailed off.  Chakotay moved over beside him.



“She is beautiful.  Alla, again I thank you for all you’ve done.  Please, I don’t ever want you to feel any of this was…well you know…he was still your father…”  Alla turned quickly, anger on his face.



“That Commander, was merely a biological accident.  That is not the meaning of the word ‘father’.  A stranger has shown me more.  You, just now, forgiving me…that is more the act of a father than anything I have ever known.”  Chakotay felt himself choke up and just nodded.  “Commander?”  Chakotay nodded and cleared his throat.



“Commander…you love her yes?”  Chakotay didn’t deny it for a moment.



“Yes Alla, I love her.  I love her with everything that I am.”  Alla smiled softly.



“I’m glad.  She’ll be well looked after then.  You’ll take good care of her, get her back…”  Chakotay nodded.



“She has us all here, her family.  We’ll all take care of her.  I’ll always be here for her.”  Alla surprised Chakotay by embracing him then he turned and left.



Kathryn regained consciousness the next evening and Chakotay and the Doctor were at her side.  They spoke quietly to her but received no reaction from Kathryn.  Chakotay watched fearfully as the Doctor waved a hand in front of her eyes but she didn’t even blink.



“I can’t tell Commander.  Just give her time.  Her mind needs time to sort through everything that has happened.  It will take time for her to accept and deal with this.  Her senses are still in shock.  Just continue as you have been…”  Chakotay nodded and took his place again, beside the woman he loved.



Over the next week, as they finally cleared what had been Katani space, Kathryn showed no response to anything around her.  Chakotay rarely left her side and when he did, someone else always took his place, constantly talking to Kathryn and touching her gently.  When she was awake, she would simply stare unseeing at the ceiling, before her eyes would close again and she would sleep.



Tom and the Doctor worked tirelessly with Chakotay as they tried to constantly stimulate her senses and get some reaction from the unmoving woman before them.  At the end of the second week, their efforts were rewarded with small movements and sounds and within another few days, Kathryn slowly started to re-emerge.



At first, she would simply tighten her hand around Chakotay’s when he spoke with her but he worried that she never looked towards him.  Finally, he forced the issue and held her face gently as he looked deep into her eyes.  Within a few minutes, a few tears escaped her eyes and her hand came up to his face, feeling the contours there.  Her eyes appeared unfocused and Chakotay knew in that moment, that she couldn’t see him.  He looked up and saw the Doctor standing beside him, having witnessed everything.



“Kathryn love, your eyes were damaged a little, but you’ll be fine.  Just let me be your eyes for a little while…”  He prayed that she could understand him and pulled her to him as she suddenly sobbed loudly.  “All right love, you’ll be all right.  I’m here…”  He held her and rocked her like a baby as suddenly it all came out at the same time and her small body shook with emotion and deep, racking sobs tore through her.  Chakotay just held her tightly until she grew calmer but still she didn’t speak.  Eventually exhaustion won over her and he lowered her limp form back down onto the bed, only the occasional sob coming from her now.



“Kathryn, you’ll be all right.  I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.  It’s all over now and you’re back on Voyager.”  He thought he detected an understanding from her as she slipped off to sleep.  He looked up and saw the face of the Doctor watching him.



“You can’t promise that Commander…”  Chakotay cut him off.



“It’s what she needs to hear now Doc.  She can’t handle anything else…”  The Doctor raised an eyebrow slightly.



“Perhaps you’re right.” 



Over the next week, Kathryn slowly took more steps back to Chakotay and the others.  She uttered small words but her entire demeanour was meek as he helped wash and feed her, guiding the food gently to her lips, constantly talking to her and letting her know what was happening around her.  He did nothing before telling her first in case it frightened her.  As he prepared to feed her breakfast one morning, he turned to find her looking right at him and he stopped dead.



“Kathryn?”  He put down the tray he carried and moved closer to her.  “Kathryn, what is it?”  He held his breath and leaned down to her.  Her hand came up to his face as her eyes flickered over his features.



“Blurred… fuzzy…”  Chakotay exhaled and called the Doctor, who examined her closely.  Finally, he returned to his office where Chakotay waited, a small smile on his face.



“Well, this has given me a lot more hope.  She can make out light and shade along with basic shapes although the images are blurred.  I believe though, that given time and rest, her sight will return.”  Chakotay slumped in his chair, relief washing over him.  Thanking the Doctor, he returned to Kathryn to feed her.



As the days passed, Kathryn’s sight slowly came back.  The Doctor let her return to her quarters and Tuvok took over running the ship while Chakotay continued to tend Kathryn.  She rarely spoke but she allowed him to help her with everything.  Within a further week, her sight was fully restored and with it, Chakotay saw the ghosts which dwelled within her eyes.



A further week on and with Katani space well behind them, Kathryn was physically back to what she had been.  She had gained back the weight she had lost and spoke with Chakotay now about day to day things and the running of the ship but never made mention of what she had been through.  He knew she had accessed the ships logs on all that had happened but again, she didn’t speak of it to him and for the  moment, he was loath to bring the subject up with her, until he felt she was ready to handle it.



She grew angry when the Doctor refused her permission to return to duty and Chakotay bore the force of her temper that evening when he called by.



“Kathryn, he’s just doing his job.  You’re not ready to return to duty yet and you know it…”  She turned angrily on him.



“I’m perfectly fit and able to return to duty.  I have a clean bill of health…”  Chakotay crossed quickly to her.



“Kathryn, you are physically fit and able but you know as well as I do that you’re not…”  She turned away from him quickly but he pulled her back to him.  “Kathryn, I’m not going to let you do this.  You have to face what happened…you can’t hide from it…you always deny…”  She pulled herself from his grasp and tears sprang to her eyes.



“I know damn well what happened.  I don’t need to be reminded…”  She backed away and stumbled as her legs hit against the coffee table and he jumped forward to catch her.  To his shock, she cried out and tried to break away from his hold.



“Kathryn, you’re all right.  You’re safe…”  Suddenly the dam which had housed her emotions broke and the deluge poured forth.  Kathryn collapsed in his arms as she cried and screamed out all her pain and anger, her fear and terror, her small fists pounding off his chest.  Chakotay did the only thing he could and held her tightly to him until the storm passed.  Half an hour later, he held her trembling form in his arms as she finally opened up to him.



Chakotay continued holding Kathryn to him for the rest of the night as she poured out her feelings and opened up to him in a way she never had before.



“The pain…I’ve never known such pain before…but feeling so trapped and helpless…being so afraid for all of you…that was the hardest…”  He stroked her back and stayed silent.



“At the end…after he’d…”  She looked up at him briefly.  “You know it all don’t you?”  He merely nodded and saw her acceptance.  He watched as she battled her embarrassment and shame, emotions he knew she should never feel but would.  Finally she continued.



“After that…I fought him…the first real struggle I put up…and then I couldn’t move and…everything was inside my head…I couldn’t beg them to stop…couldn’t see…only feel what they did…their hands…and the pain…humiliation…I had no control…only inside my own head…and I tried to fight it there but…I could hear my own screams in my head…and then I remember him opening my eyes and then burning when he put the drops in…and I saw his face…dead looking…I was nothing to him…even when he…before…I was nothing…he was taking something so previous from me and it was nothing to him…”  She broke down again and he held her, rocking her, soothing her.



“Just let it all out Kathryn.  He can’t ever hurt you again.”  He continued to rock her until she was ready to go on.



“I remember it all…before…imagers or something…down my throat… everywhere…and I thought I’d choke…and  I was so ashamed and humiliated all the time…I think he enjoyed that… and when…the cramps and I felt my body let go…and despite the pain…I felt such shame…”  She paused to catch her breath.  “They just went on and on…the pain…I felt everything…and then I couldn’t breath and they were pushing something down my throat and I could breath again…and those probes…in me…”  He gripped her tighter.  “When he cut me…oh God…and I could feel something inside almost… moving inside…their hands in me…and …I felt I would go mad and maybe I did…the pain was still there but I seemed to leave or something…in my mind…then there was silence but still waves of pain and I felt so alone…but then I heard you…your voice…others I knew…as if from far away…not the words just the voices…and I didn’t know what was real anymore…and after that…there was just the pain and your voice but it’s…more like a dream…but you were there and I felt hope for the first time…and I wanted to call you…but I couldn’t…but I heard you…you were there…”  Chakotay rubbed up and down her back.



“I’m always there for you…”  That caused a fresh wave of tears.



“You are, aren’t you… always there for me…”  He stroked her hair.



“You know I am…”  She wiped angrily at her tears.



“And all I do is push you away…treat you as bad as he…”  He pulled her back to him.



“Kathryn don’t do this to yourself, please don’t…”  Kathryn was beyond comfort now as she berated herself, needing to feel some punishment for crimes she had never committed.  She pulled herself away from him and stood shakily.



“No, I do…I hurt you all the time and still you’re there…I deserved that pain…after the pain I caused you…”  Chakotay jumped up, his own anger showing now.



“Don’t ever let me hear you speak words like that again.”  She heard the threat in his voice and backed down.  “What he did…Kathryn… for God’s sake…”  She lowered her head.



“I’m sorry…I just still feel so…”  She looked up at him.  “You know what he did…those needles…into my brain…what I felt…it was…everything…overwhelming me…every image…every emotion…and you were there…and I knew how I felt about you and what pain I’d caused you…  Look at you…there for me…looking after me…helping me…  Who’s there for you Chakotay?”  He made a move towards her and she backed off a little.  “You’re only thinking about what all this has done to me.  What’s it done to you?”  Her eyes pleaded with him.  He stared at her and sat back down.  He was silent for a long time and felt her sit beside him.  Trusting his instinct and giving in to his need, he started speaking.



“I had a very different kind of pain…guilt too.  I knew there was something more…I should have tried harder to stop you…shouldn’t have left you…”  He looked deeply into her eyes.  “I wasn’t there for you…to stop it…protect you from that…”  She reached out to him and pulled him into her arms.  Suddenly he was clinging to her and it was she who comforted him as he cried out all his pain.



When he pulled himself together, he looked at her face and saw suddenly that helping him had helped her, that his needing her as he had, had given her something else to concentrate on.



“I’m sorry, I should be helping you…”  She wiped her small hand across his face, taking his fallen tears with it.



“Oh Chakotay…I’m so sorry for what I put you through…”  He went to object to her words but she pressed her fingers to his lips.  “No, hear me out please.  I’m talking about before…when I turned away from you and then when I went behind your back.  I knew what he wanted although I didn’t know it would ever be like it was.  I actually trusted him when he said simple tests and just talk.  I think though I knew it could come to this but…  I couldn’t tell them…couldn’t ask them to take all that time… and I…I’m sorry…I know I should have talked to you…let you in…with everything…the ship…with me…”  She drew in a shaky breath.



“I know he was to blame for all that happened and you’re telling me I wasn’t at fault and for that…for what happened…I accept that…but Chakotay…I do have to take the blame for what led to it all…  I know my own denial of what I felt for you…my shutting you out…thinking I could do it all…my own guilt for stranding us all here…not seeing that you and the crew would have accepted the extra time…  for all that…I have to accept the blame…I’m just so sorry…”  Her eyes were awash with tears as he cupped her face in his hand.



“Kathryn, we’ll get through this, I promise you.  You can’t live in the past though.  I know it will take a long time before we get past this, to get over what happened and let go of the pain and memories but we have to look forward now not back.  I’m not saying you can just put it away that easily but self-recriminations of any kind are not a help.  We deal with what happened and move past it.”  She nodded tearfully and pulled him to her.  He held her tightly, thinking of all the times he had thought he would never even see her again.  She gently pulled back and studied his face.



“Chakotay, thank you for being there for me, for all you’ve done…”  He just smiled gently, his love showing through.  Her next words stunned him.  “I love you…”  He saw her watch his face carefully for his reaction.  What she saw was his eyes fill with tears.



“I love you too…”  He pulled her back to him and kissed the side of her face.  They stayed silent then as they held each other, a deep cleansing and healing taking place.



Kathryn returned to full duty a week later.  Outwardly she appeared like her old self but there was now an openness about her that all the crew noticed.  Chakotay smiled constantly to himself as he watched her go about her duties and delighted in her progress.  She still spent her evenings and some nights just talking to him, getting go of everything that had happened and learning to accept the events of her ordeal  without painful memories attached to them.  The Doctor was finally willing to give her full clearance and Kathryn actually hugged him when he cleared her, as she thanked him for all he had done for her.  She made sure Tom, B’Elanna and Tuvok were also thanked for their part in her recovery, as well as the entire crew who had risked their lives in her rescue.



At the end of her first week back, Chakotay was surprised to receive a message from Kathryn to join him on the holodeck.  When his shift ended, he changed out of his uniform quickly and made his way to meet her.  When he entered, he found himself in a woodland scene at twilight.  He moved forward and saw Kathryn sitting on the ground before a small fire, the smoke rising lazily into the air.  He stopped dead in his tracks though, when he saw what she held on her lap. 



He watched fearfully as she flipped through the pages of Pakar’s journal.  He warily stepped forward and saw her look up when she heard him.



“Kathryn?  Kathryn please…where did you get…please say you haven’t read…?”  She smiled sadly at him.



“I knew it existed…saw him write in it…”  She swallowed loudly.  “I also knew from the Doctor’s report about it and knew you’d read it.”  He sat down slowly beside her and saw her grip the book tightly in her hands.  “I made the Doctor give it to me and yes, I have read it.  I sat here all afternoon…  I needed to…  It actually helped to read it, to know how detached he was from what he did to me…easier to hate him maybe…although I want to let that go too…”  Chakotay watched her face carefully but saw little emotion.  Finally she turned to look at him.



“I asked you here to help me with something.  It’s something I want us to do together…”  He frowned slightly and she smiled.  “I want to burn this…”  He nodded slowly.  “I want to watch it burn and turn to ashes.  Can you understand?”  He nodded again and held his hand out for hers.  She lifted her small hand into his large one and squeezed gently.  “Ready?”  He bit his lip and nodded.



Kathryn held the journal up and waited until he placed a hand on the soft cover then together they dropped it on the fire before them.  Chakotay pulled Kathryn into his arms, her back to his chest, delighting in the fact that she was so at ease with his touch, as they silently watched the pages which had housed such words of horror, go up in smoke.  When there was nothing left, Kathryn turned in his arms.



“It’s gone now.  I have the safeties off so it’s really burned and gone.  We can start again now.”   Chakotay, not trusting himself to speak, just stroked her cheek and nodded.



They left the holodeck, deleting the program on their way out.  As the doors closed behind them and they stepped towards the future, only a faint wisp of smoke lingered for a moment, then vanished into nothingness.



THE END.



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