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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     When a trading mission goes disastrously wrong, Kathryn gives her

                      life to save her crew, leaving shattered lives behind her.  Voyager

                      continues on without her, until an alien ship catches up with them,

                      bringing a story which might just give some hope.

Note:- This story is based around and continues on from Ragpant’s wonderful ‘A Duty To The Ship’.  I just couldn’t take the sad ending.  Well you know me.  I’d strongly recommend that you read this story first.


Note:- The scene at the end of this story (THAT kind of scene) was written before I read Shayenne’s fabulous story ‘Show me How It Can Be’ and put me to shame.  The small similarities are not intended in any way.  I’ve re-read Shayenne’s story so many times now and can’t recommend it enough.




The next hours took on an unreal quality for Chakotay, as he waited for news.  At times, the hours seemed to crawl by, yet again he would feel they had only just arrived.  He sat for some moments and then stood and paced, before sitting again, unable to keep still.  Every now and then, he looked towards the door to the surgical bay, but it remained closed, hiding behind it the struggle for life he knew was taking place inside the small room.

Finally some five hours later, his head snapped up when he heard the door slide open and saw Voyager’s EMH emerge, his surgical gown covered in Kathryn's blood.  Chakotay’s eyes bored into the Doctor’s and he watched as the man removed his soiled clothing and discarded it, before making his way to his office where Chakotay had waited.

“Doc please…tell me she’ll live…tell me…”  The Medic held up a hand and motioned for him to sit before easing into his own chair behind his desk.

“Cap…”  One look at the man before him, stopped him.  “Commander…I can only tell you that her condition is critical…I’m sorry I have no better news…  I’m amazed she came through so much surgery at all…”  The Doctor averted his eyes from the sight before him, Voyager’s First Officer as a broken man.  It was a sight he had become far to used to seeing of late.

“Commander…I’ve managed to remove all the bullets.  As I said before, one of them was nestled very close to her heart but I’ve removed it safely.  Her wounds were extremely serious…the internal damage extensive…but that is the least of our worries…”  Chakotay shook his head, trying to filter some hope from the Medic’s words.  “Our biggest problem now is the infection which unfortunately is well established and the resultant fever.  Her temperature is extremely high and the risks to her heart from all this strain…”  Chakotay stood quickly and turned away.

“Commander…those people kept her alive against all the odds.  By rights, she should have died almost immediately.  The blood loss and shock alone…  I’m sorry for how that sounds but I believe you can draw strength from that.  That she’s come this far is a testament to her own strength.  I truly believe this would have killed a lesser person…”  Chakotay turned quickly and fixed the Doctor with a painful look.

“I know what you’re saying…and I know it should help…it’s just…God I feel so useless…so helpless…  Oh God…why didn’t I go back immediately…why didn’t I…?”  The Doctor stood abruptly.

“Commander Chakotay…this will not help…  It won’t help you and it won’t help her either.  We deal with what we can now…”  Chakotay held his hands up in surrender.

“I know…I know…it’s just…”  He saw the Doctor understood only too well.  “I’m sorry…”  The medic nodded his understanding. 

“Tom is making her as comfortable as possible.  You can see her in a moment and sit with her for a while.  It’ll be some time before we know…”  Chakotay shook his head, trying to force himself to function.

“How long before…?”  The Doctor came around from behind his desk and patted his Commander’s arm.

“The next twenty-four hours are the most critical.  If she gets through that, she has a better chance…  She won’t be out of the woods but she will have a good fighting chance.  The next twenty-four hours following that will tell us everything…”  Chakotay nodded and turned to stare though the glass panel which cut the small office off from the rest of sickbay.  He idly traced patterns on the glass, watching the smudges his fingers made.  The Doctor’s voice made him turn around again.

“Commander, you must be prepared for…well especially the next twenty-four hours…”  Chakotay just stared at him.  “I’m saturating her system with antibiotics and many other drugs…  We have to control this infection and bring her fever down…  I’ve also added painkillers to this cocktail of drugs…  We must hope that her system can take this rigorous treatment but without it…  This is her only chance…despite how risky it is.”  He hesitated a moment and then decided to be totally honest. 

“I must also warn you that she will most likely suffer more seizures…more of what we witnessed earlier.  I’ve healed her wounds so she won’t suffer any more blood loss.  All her internal and external injuries have been healed and I’m giving her fresh blood transfusions as we speak.”  They both looked up at the sound of the door to the surgical bay opening again and saw Tom emerge, his own gown blood splattered.  The young pilot nodded to them both as he removed the gown and threw it away.  He then made his way to the office.

“She’s comfortable Doc….”  The Medic nodded and smiled slightly.

“Go sit with her Commander…  I’ll be right here if you need me.  I’m monitoring her extremely closely…”  Chakotay nodded his thanks and gripped the Doctor’s arm then Tom’s.  Unable to find the right words, he turned and left.  He missed the sad look which passed between Tom and the Doctor.

Over the next twenty-four hours, Chakotay refused to leave Kathryn's side and the Doctor gave up trying to move him.  Together they battled endlessly to save the life of the woman lying before them.  Kathryn had several seizures, her body arching and spasming as the infection and fever raged through her.  She cried out in agony and desperation, despite the painkillers, as Chakotay and the Doctor or Tom helped him hold her down.  Each time though, Chakotay’s quiet whispers seemed to penetrate the waves of pain and reach her somewhere and she would slowly settle, her eyes staring at nothing, a pained yet glazed look in them, before they slipped closed once more.

Chakotay spent hours sponging her body down with cool water, in the hope of bringing her temperature down and noticed that the coolness of the liquid always seemed to sooth her in some way.  When the episodes of delirium took over, she repeatedly called out to him, her cries tearing into his heart like knives.  During her quieter times, he just sat beside her and held her hand, reading to her from anything he could find, praying that his voice reached her and brought her comfort.  At the end of thirty-six hours, the Doctor appeared more hopeful and informed Chakotay that her temperature had fallen and the infection was lessening.

“We still have a way to go Commander…you know that…”  Chakotay nodded his understanding but he couldn’t help the tinges of hope which crept into him.

“I know that Doc…I just feel she’ll fight this…  I know she won’t let go that easily…”  The Medic nodded his head.

“I’m sure you’re right but none of this has been easy…  She’s fought like I’ve never seen anyone fight before…  You must expect that even if she comes through this, it will take her some considerable time to get over it…  She has a long road ahead of her…”  Chakotay sighed deeply.

“I know all that…but I also know the fighter she is…”  He looked up and saw the Doctor smile his understanding.  A sudden thought came to him now.  “Doc…I wanted to ask…”  He looked away a moment then back.  “Did you know anything about…about her tattoo…?  I saw it…”  The Medic hung his head a moment then looked back up.

“She requested that quite some time ago…about a month after the two of you returned to the ship from that planet where you both contracted the virus… I’m sorry…I shouldn’t really be discussing this…  She swore me to secrecy…”  The Medic smiled slightly.  “Since you’ve already seen it though…  I remember we were both nervous…  Her first tattoo and my first time drawing one…  She gave me a holoimage to work from…I think I did rather well actually…”  Chakotay managed a small smile.

“It’s perfect…I just never knew…she never spoke of it…”  The Doctor shook his head sadly.

“No, she wouldn’t have… more’s the pity…”  Chakotay frowned as the Doctor smiled now.  “Come now Commander, do you really think none of us know what’s between you both…”  Chakotay shook his head sadly.

“There’s nothing between us…not like that…”  The Doctor moved a little closer.

“As I said…more’s the pity…”  He smiled at the look on Chakotay’s face.  “What I meant was…  well it’s plain to see how you both feel about each other… it’s only the two of you, and especially the Captain, who think a relationship wouldn’t be welcomed by every member of this crew.  You forget Commander, that as this ship’s only Doctor, I hear just about everything.  There isn’t one crewmember who would object in the slightest to the two of you being together.  In fact, they would welcome it with open arms.”  Chakotay shook his head sadly again.

“I know that…  I just wish she did…”  Chakotay felt the Doctor’s hand on his arm and looked up.

“Perhaps it would be wise to tell her that then Commander.  She’s going to have a lot of time on her hands over the coming weeks.  She certainly won’t be allowed to return to duty until I’m completely satisfied that she’s ready.  Look, at this stage, I truly believe she’ll recover fully from this.  Use that time well and make her see how wrong she’s been…”  Chakotay managed a bigger smile this time.

The following day, Chakotay and Tuvok agreed it was best to break orbit and move on.  They both transported to the planet to say their goodbyes and to thank Danus, Coren and Tamar for all their help.  Chakotay returned to the village with Tamar and Tuvok and spoke with Seena and the other women who had cared for Kathryn so well, thanking them for all they had done and telling them that she would most likely make a full recovery.  He explained as gently as he could that they had to leave, telling them of their long journey to reach home and was grateful to see that they understood.  As Voyager moved on, Chakotay and the crew all felt a weight lifting from them.  There were too many bad memories on Solus, despite how everything had turned out.

Another three days passed while Kathryn remained unconscious but her seizures had stopped and her breathing was almost back to normal.  The Doctor reported to Chakotay that the infection which had raged through her body was finally out of her system and her temperature was almost back to what it should be.  All signs of her fever had also left.

“Why doesn’t she wake up…?”  Chakotay was showing the strains of the past two weeks, in particular the past days.  He had barely left Kathryn's side, leaving only to beam down to Solus that one time or to check on the ship and grab something to eat.  He had even taken to sleeping in a chair by her side or stretched out on one of the adjoining biobeds.

“Commander, you know as well as I do that the human body…mother nature if you prefer…makes its own way in these matters.  The Captain will come round when her body is ready for that, not before.  It has been through a terrible trauma and needs time to recover…”  Chakotay smiled apologetically.

“Sorry Doc…I just want…  I want to see her open her eyes so much…know that she’s really back with me…with us…”  The Doctor smiled and nodded his understanding.

“Just as long as you give me your word that the moment she comes round, you’ll go to your own quarters and get the sleep you so badly need.  The Captain will need her sleep too…despite having been unconscious for so long…  She’ll need real sleep…not what this is…”  Chakotay sighed and closed his eyes a moment.

“I promise…as soon as I see her…”  Almost as if sensing his words or even hearing them, Chakotay felt Kathryn's hand move slightly in his.  The change in his expression alerted the Doctor first, just before the monitor sounded.

Kathryn moved her head slightly, her eyes moving under her eyelids as she fought towards consciousness.  Chakotay leaned over and whispered into her ear, using his voice to guide her.

“Kathryn…Kathryn…follow my voice…come on…open your eyes…Kathryn…come on…”  She murmured slightly and barely managed to pry her eyelids open before closing them again.  Immediately the Doctor ordered the lights to 50% illumination.  Chakotay smiled his thanks and called to her again.

“Kathryn…come on now…open your eyes…it’s not as bright now…come on Kathryn…fight this…”  He was finally rewarded by her eyes opening, showing him the blue depths he loved so much.  “There you are…  Kathryn…look at me…”  She managed to turn her head and slowly focused on him.

“Chak….”  Her voice sounded hoarse and she licked at her lips, trying to wet them.  Chakotay’s face broke into a tearful smile.

“Yeh…it’s me…who were you expecting…?”  She seemed extremely confused and he saw her try to work things out in her head.

“You can’t be…  you have to leave…get them safe… leave me…”  Chakotay fought to keep the pain from showing on his face.

“Kathryn…listen carefully to me…  we’re all safe… it’s over…we got back to the ship…  I’ll explain it all later but we got you back… you were hurt but…Kathryn you’re back on Voyager…you’re safe…”  He saw how confused she still was and squeezed her hand tightly.  The Doctor now moved around to her and she moved her eyes to him.

“Doc…I don’t…”  The Medic smiled gently.

“Excuse me Commander…”  Chakotay reluctantly let go of her hand and stood back, allowing the Doctor to do his work and watched as he scanned his patient.  “Captain…it’s all true.  You’re back on Voyager and you’re going to be fine.   Mr. Tuvok and Mr. Collins are both fully recovered.  You had some bad injuries but they’re healing very nicely.”  Chakotay saw her slowly accept the Doctor’s words.  “Now Captain…I want you to get some real sleep for me and hopefully the Commander here will keep his word and return to his quarters, where he’ll join you in the land of nod.”  The Medic stared pointedly at Voyager’s First Officer.  Chakotay gave in and nodded.

“All right…I did give you my word…  Just reassure me that she’ll be fine…”  One look from the Doctor and he shut up.  “All right…I’ll just have a quick word and then I’ll go…I promise…”  The Doctor snapped his tricorder shut and moved away, shaking his head.  Chakotay moved back to Kathryn's side and took her hand again.

“You heard him…you’re going to be fine…”  He felt his throat closing off and said nothing more but even in her weakened state, Kathryn saw the effect everything had had on him.

“You’ve…”  She tried to clear her throat.  “You’ve been here…how long…?”  Chakotay just smiled.

“Oh on and off…a few days…someone had to keep an eye on you…”  Kathryn just stared at him.

“Why…?  I don’t deserve…  you’re always there for me…”  She tried to turn her head but his finger on her chin stopped her.  He looked deeply into her eyes.

“Well…you are my bonded one…”  He saw that his words confused her and smiled.  “I’ll explain later…for now well…just know that I’m here and that we’re all fine…  Just sleep Kathryn…rest and get well again…”  She nodded and blinked back a few tears.  Chakotay played his instinct then leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.  “Sleep well Kathryn…I’ll be back later…”  She managed a small smile before her eyes slipped closed again.  Chakotay studied her for another moment then bent and brushed his lips to hers.  She smiled slightly in her sleep.

Over the next few days, Kathryn amazed the Doctor with a remarkable recovery and within four days, was already demanding to return to her own quarters, although she never asked about what had happened on the planet and no one mentioned it to her either.

“Captain…”  The Medic appeared stern.  “You’re well enough now to take this.  I can tell you that you came extremely close to dying…”  He saw how shocked she was at his words but he pushed on.  “I don’t mean to shock you or upset you with that but you have to accept how close you came this time.  You cannot push yourself like this.  I’ve often allowed you to have your own way, even when I thought better of it but not this time.  You will remain here for another two days and then…and only then…will I allow you to return to your quarters if I’m satisfied with your progress.  Now Captain, do we understand each other?”  Kathryn just stared at the Hologram and managed to nod.  Her eyes went to Chakotay now who had been standing to her right.  He moved over to her as the Doctor returned to his office.

“You took that well…”  He couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

“Can you believe him…the nerve…?”  Chakotay’s smile slipped a little now.

“Kathryn…he’s right…  You have to know how close we came to losing you…”  He stopped and looked away, unable to say more.  Suddenly he felt her soft hand on his.

“Chakotay…I’m sorry…I understand…”  From out of nowhere, an anger filled Chakotay.

“No Kathryn…I don’t think you do…  You have no idea of what we…what this crew… what I… what we all went through over the past weeks…”  Suddenly feeling ashamed for almost attacking her, he turned away, pulling his hand from hers.  When he looked back, tears were running freely from her eyes.  “Kathryn…I’m sorry…it’s just…”  He reached for her hand again and clutched it tightly.  He was afraid he’d break down if he said anything else.

“Chakotay…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to upset you …  What happened down there…”  He squeezed her hand and nodded.

“Look…now is not the time…  We’ll talk in a few days…when you’re out of here and well on the road to recovery…”  He managed a small smile and she returned it.

“Oh you’ll wait until I can defend myself a little better…?”  He shook his head.

“Something like that…”  They were silent for a moment, just staring at each other, until the Doctor returned and threw Chakotay out.

True to his word, the Doctor let his patient leave sickbay in two days time and Chakotay escorted her back to her quarters.

“You know it’ll be another week before you’re allowed any coffee?”  Kathryn sighed deeply and shook her head.

“Knowing our Doctor, he has my replicator monitored…”  She grinned at Chakotay now.  “You could get me one from yours though…”  Chakotay laughed and shook his head.

“Oh no woman….you’re not dragging me into this…  I’m with the Doc on this one.  I’m bowing to his superior knowledge on your medical condition.  He knows what’s best for you…”  Kathryn pouted.

“Traitor…”  She smiled then.

Chakotay only stayed long enough to replicate her some tea and see her settled.  She was more tired than she let on and finally agreed to take a nap, her lack of argument telling Chakotay just how worn out she really was.  He returned that evening and prepared some dinner for her, staying only an hour afterwards, before letting her return to her bed.

This set the pattern for the next two days, time in which they both still avoided talking of what had happened on Solus.  Eventually the Doctor gave Kathryn permission to return to limited duty and she jumped back in, having been nearly out of her mind with boredom and badly needing the distraction from her thoughts.  She delighted in the crew’s reaction to her, refusing to hide their feelings at how happy they were to have their Captain back. 

As the days passed, Kathryn slowly began to sense a change in Chakotay, although he never spoke of anything, simply being there for her as he had always been.  She couldn’t help but notice though, that there was something bothering him, something he kept hidden just below the surface but which was beginning to show a little now.  She casually questioned him occasionally but he constantly assured her that he was fine.  Finally she had had enough and left a message for him to meet her on the holodeck after their shifts had ended, knowing they finally had to speak of what had happened.

When Chakotay entered Holodeck 2 that evening, he found Kathryn sitting on a beach she had programmed in.  He slowly made his way towards her and managed a smile.

“Why did you want to meet me here?”  He tried to keep his voice even.  She smiled at him and patted the sand beside her, watching him as he sat down slowly.

“I thought we needed some time together…”  She ignored the nervous look on his face.  “I’ve brought a picnic dinner but I thought we could take a swim first…  I’ve left some swimming shorts for you there beside that towel…”  Without giving him time to think about it, she stood quickly and slipped her robe off then headed towards the water.  Chakotay stared after her for a moment, admiring her body.  He saw that the swimsuit she wore was designed to cover her back and shoulders, hiding her tattoo from view.  The image of it filled his mind for a moment and he wondered how she would react when she learned that he knew of its existence.  He decided to leave that thought alone for the moment and turned away before starting to undress.  Suddenly the air was filled with Kathryn's scream.

Chakotay jumped up and raced towards her and grabbed her from behind, pulling her back out of the water, which had only reached to her knees.  Kathryn twisted in his grasp, her heart pounding and stared into his face.  The look of fear there almost stopped her breath.

“What’s wrong…are you hurt…what happened…?”  He was close to full panic as his hands gripped her arms tightly, bruising her.

“I’m fine….”  She couldn’t understand his reaction and pulled a little from his painful grasp.  “Chakotay…what’s wrong…?”  She saw tears fill his eyes.

“You screamed…I thought…”  His eyes searched her face.

“The water was cold…”  Her confusion grew and suddenly she saw him grow angry as he started to shake her.

“Don’t ever do that again…you scared the hell out of me…I thought…”  He stopped dead when he realized how hard he was shaking her and instantly dropped his hands.  “Oh God I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…”  He stood back from her but Kathryn moved towards him.

“Chakotay…I don’t understand…”  She saw his anger re-surface as he glared at her.

“Of course you don’t…you have no idea…on top of which you don’t care…”  He watched her shaking her head, seeing that she didn’t understand.  “You’ve no idea of what you put us all through…what we went through…”  He stared at her a moment longer and then turned and marched away.  Kathryn stood shaken for a moment as she rubbed her arms where his fingers had pressed into the flesh so forcefully.  Finally she found her voice and ran after him, picking up her robe and slipping it on as she went.

“Chakotay….Chakotay wait…”  He kept walking and finally she managed to catch up with him and move in front of him, almost being knocked over.  “Dammit Chakotay… don’t you dare walk away from me like that…”  She saw the pain and anger still in his eyes.  He spat his words out at her.

“Is that another order, Captain…?”  His words cut her to the quick with their harshness.  Tears sprang to her eyes as a wave of hurt washed over her.  She stood for a minute, shaking her head then backed off a little.  Without warning, she turned and ran.

It took Chakotay several minutes before he was thinking straight and by the time he came back to himself, Kathryn was nowhere in sight.  He asked the computer for her location and was informed that she was on Holodeck 2.  Instead of searching for her, he ordered the program to shut down, knowing he’d see her immediately then.  His eyes now scanned the empty metal room but there was no sign of Kathryn, only her commbadge lying on the floor near him, where she had taken it off.  He cursed loudly and picked it up.  He’d have to look for her now but he knew she’d most likely have headed back to her quarters, wearing only a swimsuit and robe.

He quickly left the Holodeck and almost ran to her quarters, where he rang her bell three times, receiving no answer.  He used his override code and entered but there was no sign of her.

“Computer, locate Captain Janeway using her bio signature…”  The flat voice of the computer came back to him.

“Captain Janeway is in Storage Bay 3.”  He shook his head, grabbed a blanket and left.

Chakotay entered the Storage Bay and shivered.  Trust Kathryn to pick the coldest spot on the ship.  He searched around for several minutes, not wanting to call out to her and cause her to run again.  Finally he heard muffled crying over in the corner and followed the sound.  The sight that met him brought tears to his own eyes.

Kathryn sat huddled in the corner behind a storage bin, her knees drawn up to her chest, her head down and her arms wrapped around her legs.  He saw the beginning of bruises on her arms where the short sleeves of her robe had fallen back and shivered.  Her entire body shook with sobs.  Chakotay quietly knelt down in front of her and gently reached out and touched her leg.  She jerked her head up, a look of fright on her face.  Tears poured down her cheeks.  She tried unsuccessfully to move away from him and stand up but he grabbed her and held her in place.

“You’re not running from me again Kathryn…”  She turned her head away from him.

“Just leave me alone Chakotay…”  He pulled her back to face him.

“Kathryn…I’m sorry for what I said…for hurting you…  I just wanted you to know…to understand…”  He sighed deeply.  “Kathryn…come back to your quarters or mine…you’ll freeze down here…”  He rubbed her arms.  “You’re already cold…and you’re bruising…I’m sorry for that…”  She sniffed loudly.

“I’m fine…just let me be…and before you say it…that’s not an ‘order’…”  Chakotay smiled sadly.

“I guess I asked for that one…”  He shook his head.  “Kathryn, I’ve said I’m sorry.  Just come back and talk to me.  Kathryn please…”  He watched her closely as she studied the floor in front of her and finally she nodded.  He stood now and pulled her up with him, slipping the blanket around her shoulders.  “Come on…you’re cold…”  She said nothing as they left the Storage Bay and returned to her quarters.

Kathryn sat quietly now as Chakotay replicated tea for them both.  He studied her as he sat down on the sofa beside her.  He set the cups down and reached out to pull the warmer blanket he had thrown around her shoulders, a little tighter.

“Feeling any warmer…?”  She barely nodded and reached for her tea.

“I’m fine…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Kathryn… look…once again…I’m sorry if I hurt you… you just scared me… When you screamed… it brought it all back…and I just reacted…”  He looked at her and saw her turn her head to him.

“I don’t understand…”  He nodded and reached for his own tea.

“How much do you remember?  I mean on the planet…”  He looked back at her, finally touching on the subject they had both avoided and saw her remember.

“Do you mean after you left…?”  He shook his head, trying to control his emotions.

“Yeh…I mean after that…after you ordered us to leave you there…”  She heard the bitterness in his voice.

“Ah…so that’s what this is about…  Well I guess we do need to talk about this…”  She smiled softly.  “Chakotay…you’d have done the same thing and don’t deny it…”  She saw from his face, which he now averted from her eyes, that she was at the truth.  Finally he spoke.

“All right…you’re right…”  He drew in a deep breath.  “I’d have done the same but you have to understand that if it had been me…”  He looked up at her again.  “If it had been me…you’d be the one sitting here saying my words now and you know that…”  Kathryn smiled a little.

“Touché… so what do we do now…?”  She met and held his gaze.  He shook his head.

“I guess we talk.  Try and explain to the other what each of us is feeling…and then attempt to understand each other…  Can we try that?”  Kathryn nodded her head.

“Sounds good… Do you want to go first?”  He shook his head.

“I asked you first…”  She nodded and took another sip of her tea then placed the cup back on the table.  She pushed the blanket back from her shoulders, warmer now and played with her fingers.

“I don’t have much memory of…well later…  You know the first bit…you were there…”  She looked up at him briefly and saw the pain the memory caused.  “I remember looking behind me…seeing you crossing the clearing…knowing you were into the passage…  I was still firing and then…  I don’t know…  Somewhere in my mind I knew I’d been hit…but there was no pain for a minute…”  She pulled at a fingernail.  “I remember seeing the gun fall from my hands and then… there was this…this…slash of pain…right across my body… strangely…I don’t remember seeing any blood…  I felt myself falling…and I remember hearing a scream…but I didn’t know if it was mine…”  She looked up into Chakotay’s eyes and the pain there, along with the memory of his earlier reaction, told her the scream had been hers, that he had heard it.  She nodded sadly.  “I see it was my scream and that you did hear it…”  She looked away a moment then back at him again when he spoke.

“We all heard it Kathryn…it haunted me for…still does…”  She waited to see if he was going to say more and when it didn’t, she continued.

“I remember a soldier standing over me…his head blocking the sun from my eyes… then there were others…”  She licked at her lips now.  “The first one had just looked down at me…said nothing… but the other one…I think a leader or something…he screamed at me…spat on me…said something about leaving me there…letting me die in my own blood… then they left…”  She blinked back her tears and reached for her cup again but didn’t drink, just needing to have something for her hands to do.

“I don’t know how long I lay there… I know the pain was… it was all consuming…and I couldn’t breathe very well… I felt cold and…I couldn’t move… and then…then the first soldier was back… and he looked down at me again…”  She swirled the liquid in her cup, unable to look at Chakotay now.

“Finally he raised his weapon to me…and I thought he was going to finish me off… and I was in so much pain… I guess I…”  She finally looked at him but said no more.

“You asked him to end it for you…to end your pain…do it quickly…”  Kathryn's eyes grew wider.

“How did…?”  Chakotay pulled his eyes from hers.

“I spoke with that soldier.  His name is Tamar…and he was a plant in their army… He came here…led us to you…  He told me everything…”  He looked back at her and saw her tears return.  “Your words still haunt him…”  Kathryn gasped now and her hand flew to her mouth.

“I’m sorry…I didn’t know…didn’t realize… oh Chakotay…  I’m sorry”  She put her cup down and reached out to touch his arm.  “I’m sorry you had to find out like that…it was just…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I thought you’d know all this…would have read the reports, especially since coming back on duty…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“I guess I’ve been avoiding it…  Oh I started to read them several times but then…I don’t know…  I guess it’s been haunting me too…”  She looked at him sadly and moved her hand down his arm towards his hand.  Chakotay pulled from her hand and stood quickly.

“You know why I’m so angry?”  He looked back at her as she shook her head.  “It’s because I do understand…  I understand only too well…because I’d have done the same… It just hurts like hell because I know what you went through…because I understand it more than I want to…and I can tell you the rest too…”  He kept his eyes locked on hers and saw her tears.  “He fired into the ground above your head and you thought he’d done it…finished it for you…you said my name just before he fired…”  He ignored the sob which tore from her throat.  “You then watched him walk away…he thinks you tried to call after him…perhaps beg him to do it…”  He saw from her eyes that he was right, a look of something akin to guilt there.  “When they came back…”  He watched her closely.  “That’s right…Tamar’s Commander came back to check his work…but you’d passed out at that stage…and they thought you were dead.  Do you remember him putting something into your uniform?”  Kathryn looked confused now and then remembered.  She nodded slowly, as she stared back at him.  Chakotay shook his head.

“Kathryn…that was a homing device…something the Resistance used to locate their fallen soldiers.  He gave his up for you…in the hope that the villagers would come for you and find you…  It was all he could do for you…”  He shook his head again and sat down beside her.

“They came all right…they took you back and tried their best to treat you.  Tamar’s brother Coren and another man named Danus contacted us…  Tamar found you again and brought us to you…  You were bad Kathryn…close to death… We took you back here and you know the rest…”  He sighed again.

“What you also don’t know is how we all heard your scream when you were shot and had to live with the memory of that for days afterwards… then when Tamar spoke with us and told us about what had happened at the ravine…”  He rubbed a hand across his forehead.  “We didn’t know for some time if you were alive or dead…there was hope suddenly after so much pain and yet…  Then we found you…  You’ve no idea of the guilt I still feel for not going back immediately after the attack or at least a little later…for letting you stay in the first place…”  Kathryn reached for his hand.

“You followed my orders…just as you’d have expected me to do…you couldn’t have known…”  Chakotay stared at the floor.

“That doesn’t help me…doesn’t take away how I feel…”  He leaned back then and told her about Seena and the markings they all carried and how he had seen the tattoo she carried on her shoulder.

“That’s what you meant in sickbay…about me being your bonded one…?”  Kathryn looked away now, deep embarrassment on her face.  She felt Chakotay’s hand on her arm.

“Why didn’t you tell me…?  Why did you get it done…?”  She forced herself to meet his eyes.

“I…I…wanted…needed…something of you…it seemed the only way…”  Tears balanced on her eyelids and she blinked, causing them to run down her face.  Chakotay reached up and gently wiped at them.

“Oh Kathryn…you didn’t need that…not when you can have it all…you’ve only ever had to say…let me know…I’m here for you…always have been…”  She dropped her head.

“I didn’t…for a long time…I couldn’t…and then…when I felt that I couldn’t go on…not on my own…then… I thought you’d stopped…given up on me…and I was afraid to say anything…couldn’t bear to hear you say you didn’t feel anything anymore…”  She felt him lean over and gently grip her elbows.  He shook her softly, getting her full attention and making her look at him.

“I never have and never will stop loving you…  when I had to leave you there… Kathryn…that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do…and I only did it because… I knew it was what you expected of me…that I understood that I’d have done the same…that it was all we could have done…but I came so close to knocking you out too and taking your place…and even now…I wish I’d done that…can’t forgive myself for not… but my biggest regret was knowing that we had no more time…that we’d never said those words to each other…and then I got your last message…when we…when the computer…and I heard your words…”  His tears joined hers now and he didn’t attempt to hide them.  “It was as if you had the chance to tell me…even after what I thought was your death…but I’d still been denied it…the chance to say it to you…”  He swallowed deeply.

“Kathryn…I’m sorry…I know my anger is the last thing you need…that you need my support more than anything to get through all this…but you have to understand…”  He shook his head sadly.  “I was so angry with you for making that sacrifice…for giving your life for us… and we all felt that way…I guess it was survivor guilt or something… I know you felt you had to do that for us but you have to realize that for me at least…I’d rather have died…I’d rather be dead than live with the knowledge that I was alive at the cost of your life…can you understand that…?  Even Tuvok can’t deal with this…”  He spoke on for a long time, telling her everything that had happened, wanting nothing unsaid between them.  He downloaded all the reports and let her read them, sitting quietly as she read through them, a silent witness to her tears.  In the end, they clung to each other, finding a solace and a release in each other’s arms, beginning what they both hoped was the start of a deep healing.