Disclaimer:  Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I donít.  Only borrowing                 
                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC 17.  Kids go play elsewhere.  Contains adult material.

Summary:     Can Chakotay bring Kathryn back to him as she lies in a coma, dying?
                      Can he once again find the woman he loves, yet left?




I sit at her bedside and wonder how it ever came to this.  She doesnít stir and I wonder if she ever will again, if she will ever again be the Kathryn I once knew and loved, still love, despite everything that has happened and I know with certainty, will love for all eternity. 

I look at her sleeping face, well she looks as if sheís only asleep but I know this is not the case, know that this Ďsleepí could well be a prelude to her death and ultimately my own, for this time I will stay at her side, even if that means following her into the next life.

BíElanna comes into the room, bringing me a coffee but even this only serves to remind me of what was and as the aroma of the coffee reaches my nostrils, I am assaulted by a thousand memories of what was and what could have been, of happier times but also of the sad times.  I want to blame myself for all this and I know I am to blame for most of it, but as much as I love Kathryn, I have to accept that she had her part in this also.

BíElanna gently touches the side of my face and as I look up at her, I see the concern written there.  She is finally learning to forgive herself for her small part in all this, despite my numerous assurances to her that she has nothing to forgive herself for, but I know my words fall on deaf ears.  I can only assure her that there is nothing for me to forgive her for, but I know the blame she takes upon herself over Kathryn cannot be dealt with by me, only Kathryn can change that and sheís not here anymore. 

Kathryn left a long time ago and I know that was my doing. I sent her away by leaving her behind.  I know she felt she had no choice, but a part of me wishes she had fought more and I wish now that I had stayed with her, but that is the past and I cannot change it.  Someone once said that the past is a strange country, that when you go back, it doesnít recognize you and sitting here looking at Kathryn and gently stroking her hand, I can almost believe that, for there is little here that I recognize.  Oh, the face is the same but there is nothing of the life, strength or courage that was once Kathryn Janeway and part of me is terrified that there never will be again.  All that lies here now is a broken body, which even the best Starfleet doctors seem unable to mend and I know that her spirit is also broken and I donít know if it can never be healed or if we will even get the chance to try.

I finally notice that BíElanna is still sitting beside me and I briefly wonder how long she has been here, then I notice that itís getting dark outside and I get my answer, at least two hours.  She hasnít spoken a word since bringing the coffee and I think that strange, considering all the talking we did a few short days ago and then I wish that all that talking had been done four years ago but I know I cannot turn the clock back, only pray that it doesnít stop ticking altogether.

I look back at Kathryn again and picture the vibrant, brave and caring woman I knew all those years ago, so full of life and I know that at this moment, that woman is dead to me, in a way murdered by my own hand.  If only she had fought back, if only I had not been so weak, maybe things would have been different and none of us would be here now.  I dream, allow myself the luxury of a quick daydream, Kathryn and I happy together, our lives ahead of us having reached home and I again curse my weakness that led to this.

I stroke her face, still bearing traces of the deep cuts and bruises which covered most of her small body when they found her.  I look at the tubes and wires attached everywhere, which are helping to keep the outer Kathryn alive and wonder again about the inner Kathryn, wonder if she is dying or if she is already gone from me.

BíElanna rises and asks if I want to come back home with her but I can see she already knows the answer to that.  This is my home for the foreseeable future and I have to say, the staff here has been very good to me, letting me stay so long and even making up a cot bed for me beside Kathryn.  I tell BíElanna to go home to Tom and the kids, that I will be fine here but I see the sorrow and helplessness on her face and so I reach out and gently squeeze her hand to try and reassure her but as usual I fail miserably.  She reluctantly leaves and once again itís just me with Kathryn and now I can talk to her, praying that in some far corner of her mind, she hears me but I cannot know that for sure, I just badly need to believe it.

Can you hear me Kathryn?  I broke my promise to her and I left, left her for four long years, left her to die a slow, lingering death, although at the time, it wasnít meant to be that way and yet within a few short days that was the way it was.  I thought I was only leaving my own shattered dreams, my own loneliness, not creating shattered dreams and loneliness for her and I didnít think I was leaving her side, never that.  That was one promise I swore I would never break but in the end I did break my promise and she was left to journey on alone. 

I canít believe how thin she is, how frail looking and I marvel that she came through all that surgery to try and repair her smashed body, but I know what a fighter she always was and I think it was more her subconscious that fought for life.  It pains me to admit it, but I think Kathryn started to give up on herself the day I told her and only functioned long enough to get her crew home.  Once that had been achieved, Kathryn Janeway let go completely, despite the best efforts and the love of her crew. 

I know the full story now and it breaks my heart to know I had a part in any of it, to know that I was probably the trigger and all because I was lonely and I curse myself again.

BíElanna told me everything and I am so thankful that she at least was there in some way for Kathryn, insofar as Kathryn allowed her to be.  Once BíElanna had heard my story, she eventually told me about Kathryn and so here I am, full circle, by her side again, loving her and she unable to accept that love.

My mind drifts back four years; I donít even remember the exact stardate, although you would imagine it would be etched in my memory for all time.

I had loved and waited for her for nearly six years but eventually loneliness and my desire for a family wore me down and at this moment, I feel ashamed of that, despite the fact that I know I should accept that I am only human.

That day, when I asked to see her in her readyroom, I think now that she knew what I was there for.  A starship is a small place and news travels fast so I should have known that this news would have already reached her, as there was very little happening on that ship that she didnít hear of.  She put on a good show and masked her feelings well but I know now that inside her heart was probably breaking.  I know Iím not just being big headed about this, later events proved me right.  If only I had known then how much she loved me, that there was even a small chance for us, then I would have waited, waited for eternity but at the time I considered our relationship one sided and so, and I hate myself for it, I gave up, not on loving her, just on the idea of an Ďusí.

I remember her face when I told her I was dating Stephanie Ward and that it had gotten serious.  I was never sure of her true emotions that day, as she turned away very quickly and hid how she really felt, but I just carried on, saying how we wished to marry and asking if she would perform the ceremony.  I was twisting a knife in her heart but because I didnít witness any Ďbloodí, I assumed she was accepting of my news and so I waited patiently for her answer.  When she turned back to me, her mask was in perfect place and she even gave me a small smile and informed me that she wished both me and Ensign Ward her best and like the fool I was back then, I accepted her wishes with relief, not seeing the pain she was feeling, not seeing how hurt she was, not seeing what was in front of my own eyes, not seeing the beginning of the end of Kathryn.

Shortly before the wedding, I did ask her if she was all right with my plans and she had smiled fondly at me and told me that she wished for me what I wished for myself, that as long as I was happy, that was all that mattered, and I believed her.  I felt a sadness for what could have been between us, but I accepted it when she had told me about her damn protocols and why Ďweí could not be. 

I remember my wedding day and the pre-wedding nerves of the night before, how Tom, over many drinks, had convinced me that was all they were, but I still sensed his disapproval.  When I think back, I realize it was my heart trying to warn me but I refused to listen and so I made the biggest mistake of my life. I walked down the road to marriage with Stephanie because I felt it was the only road open to me, that the road that led to Kathryn was barred to me.  I remember Kathrynís performance that day, the forced smiles and congratulations and good wishes and I remember BíElanna and the sad look of disappointment on her face and on the faces of others, even to a certain extent, Tuvok.  I remember how they banded around Kathryn, trying to protect her, but even they were unable to get past her self-built walls.

As we left in a shuttle, for our honeymoon of a few days, I remember BíElanna and the look on her face, the hurt, and she walked off without saying good-bye, her way of punishing me.  None of us knew what was ahead and I guess I was the luckiest.  We all had our pain but I at least didnít have to witness everyone elseís and I suppose mercifully, I didnít have to witness Kathrynís.

Two days into our honeymoon, I realized my mistake and ironically so did Stephanie.  We had both married for the wrong reasons, even if they were the same reasons and we both realized that these reasons were never going to be enough to sustain a marriage on their own.  We had both mistaken need for love and so, because I couldnít face my old life anymore, I decided to start a new one on the planet where we had decided to spend our so-called honeymoon.  Stephanie still longed for earth and so she took the shuttlecraft back to Voyager, along with my resignation and my comm badge.  That decision to resign was the hardest of my life, having promised Kathryn that nothing would ever keep me from being by her side, but at that moment in time, I became a coward for the first and only time in my life.  I couldnít face life without Kathryn, but I especially couldnít face it with her, when she was so close to me and yet so far away.  There were no ill feelings between myself and Stephanie and I shall always be glad for that, but I had expected Kathryn to at least come to see me, try to coax me back, at least say good-bye, but as the days wore on and there was no sign of her or Voyager, I accepted that an end had come.

Over the next few weeks, I tried to move on with my life but Kathryn was everywhere I looked and I knew that I had fooled myself into thinking that I could live without her.  Every sensation, every smell, every sight and sound kept her with me and the pain got too bad, and so began my own long journey home, home to earth, but mostly home after Kathryn.  She became my guiding star on my journey and even though I knew I might never make it, I could not live with myself without trying.

Starfleet and everyone else has told me my journey was a miracle and I suppose they are right, but it was a very lonely miracle that took four years, four long years as I worked my passage on various ships and basically Ďhitch-hikedí my way home.  I didnít know if Voyager would make it either, but I never gave up hope, it was all I had left, apart from my love and memories of Kathryn.

When I finally reached earth, I learned that Voyager had made it, just three short months before me.  I learned that they had made it without any further loss of life and I was eternally grateful for that.  I didnít know at that time that a form of death had occurred, that the part of her that was the Kathryn 
I loved so much was terminally ill, not her body, but her spirit.

Starfleet didnít tell me much and after a few days debriefing and informing me that no charges were looming over me or any of the other former Maquis, I readied myself for my search of Kathryn.  Before setting off, I stopped off for something to eat and that was where I first heard the news.  Two young Ensigns at the table beside me were talking about Voyager and about the irony of it all.  Puzzled, I leaned over to them and asked what they were talking about.  They thought it funny I was perhaps the only person who hadnít heard and then proceeded to tell me about the heroic journey of Voyager, with her captain who had apparently come through so much, only to be killed within two months of getting home and of course how no-one really believed it was an accident.  The floor came up to meet me and I never heard the rest.  I stumbled out of there and must have wandered around for hours, but I donít remember.  I do know that some time later, suddenly there was a man standing in front of me, who gently took my arm and led me away.  Some part of my mind knew him but that was all and so I went with him, not hearing what he said to me or knowing where he led me but suddenly I was in a house, sitting in a comfortable room and the man had taken on the form of Tom Paris and then BíElanna was there too and finally I cried, not caring what they thought.

How long afterwards I donít know but suddenly Tom wasnít there, only BíElanna and all I was aware of outside of her presence, was the emptiness inside me.  I was too late and Kathryn was gone, possibly by her own hand and then it hit me that it was probably by my hand.

And so, it was in this quiet, peaceful room, with my oldest friend beside me, that I learned everything.  We sat for most of the night while Tom took care of their children, twins, a boy and a girl, who hadnít been born when I left Voyager.  I relived the last four years of my life for BíElanna, telling her everything, my pain, my regret and guilt, my fight to get home, my love for Kathryn and finally the pain of my heart being ripped out when I had heard of her death and it was when I talked of this, that I broke down again and cried my very soul out.  I remember BíElanna trying to say something to me but nothing mattered anymore, my very reason for being was gone.  Eventually, it took quite literally, a smack in the face by BíElanna to get through to me and her words started my world again.  She told me in such a soft voice that Kathryn wasnít dead, three soft words ĎKathrynís not deadí and I grasped them with such ferocity, like a float to a drowning man.

And so I learned of their four years and the pain of it nearly finished me off.  Only one thing kept me going and I was reminded of an old story I had heard about Pandoraís Box and like that story, the only thing left to me at that time, the only thing remaining in the box, was hope.

BíElanna related to me a story of horror and it is haunting me now.  She told me in simple language and she spoke quietly but the horror was none the less.

Voyager had gone to look for the shuttle when it had failed to return with Stephanie and me on board.  What they found put the final nail in the coffin of Kathrynís heart, I know that now.  All they found was a debris field and traces of human DNA, but it was enough to identify a Federation shuttle and Ďour remainsí as well as the signatures of our two comm badges.  As far as Voyager was concerned, Stephanie and I had died in a shuttle explosion and there was never any explanation and so they mourned together as a crew for us and tried to go on.  They tried and succeeded to a large extend but it was only a few who realized that while they were going on, they had left Kathryn behind.

BíElanna told me of the harshness of that four year journey home and how much it had cost them.  While there had indeed been no more loss of life, there had been many close calls.  Kathryn had become a barely functioning robot, who only had one purpose, to get her crew home at any cost and that cost had been grave to her.  BíElanna told me of the fights Voyager had been in and how three times Kathrynís recklessness had ended with her fighting for her life in sickbay, how physical pain had seemed to mean nothing to her any more, how she completely disregarded her own safety almost on a daily basis, how nothing touched her any more.

She told me other things I didnít ever want to hear and wish now I didnít know but I suppose I have to know.  She told me of Kathrynís ultimate sacrifice for her crew and her obvious disregard for herself.  They had come across an area of space controlled by a warlord, who demanded Ďtaxesí of various kinds from passing ships.  Kathryn had tried for two days to negotiate with him to no avail when he finally named a price and that price was Kathryn herself and she went willingly, whatever it took.  I learned that when she was finally beamed back to Voyager, there was not an area of her body that was not cut or bruised or a part of her clothing that was not torn and so it quickly became evident just what the Ďpriceí was that Kathryn had agreed to pay for her crew.  BíElanna was the one the Doctor had called on to help with her treatment and as she told me all this, I knew she was sparing me some details out of kindness to me and respect to Kathryn but my own mind filled in the blanks.  Kathryn had been beaten and raped, willingly, as the price to get her crew home, and the saddest part was she never mentioned it or made any reference to it with anyone, and there is apparently no record of it on the shipís logs, so loyal was her crew.  When the Doctor finally released her from sickbay, she went straight back to the bridge and never showed any emotion.  It was like she was dead on the inside and as BíElanna told me all this, I mourned for Stephanie but mostly I mourned for the Kathryn I used to know.

I learned from BíElanna that she had only once in those years, seen a slight letting down of the walls that surrounded Kathryn.  BíElanna had gone to the Aeroponics Bay for some flowers for a dinner she was planning for herself and Tom.  When she entered she thought she heard muffled crying and finally found Kathryn in a corner with tears running down her face, holding of all things, a tomato plant and she heard her utter four words only  ĎChakotay, I love youí.  When she finally noticed BíElanna standing there, she had bolted for the exit and never mentioned the matter again.  When BíElanna had tried to speak of it to her, Kathryn had refused to talk and the captain mask was back in seconds and so BíElanna left it.  All she could do, all any of them could do, was hover close by and try to protect her as best they could.  It was hearing of the tomato plant that caused me the most pain because I understood where BíElanna could never understand itís meaning, knowing nothing of our time on New Earth and I knew then that Kathryn had loved me and whereas that should have caused me joy, all I felt was the deepest pain I have ever known.

When they finally found the wormhole that led them home, Kathryn was the only one who showed no emotion.  The robot she had become went through all the debriefings like the professional Starfleet expected her to be and she fought like a tigress for the Maquis, I suppose her last act of love for me, and when it was all over, she tried to disappear, having resigned from Starfleet, despite their best efforts to stop her.

BíElanna and the others tried their best to keep track of her and it was by doing this that they discovered the news of the final blow to Kathryn and maybe had everything else not happened, I would have been there to help her absorb it but I wasnít there and so she faced the final blow alone, alone once more, thanks to me.

BíElanna told me how they had discovered the news that Kathryn had received immediately upon their return but again kept to herself.  It was the news that her mother, sister, brother-in-law and their young daughter had all died in a dreadful house fire, in Kathrynís own childhood home and how nothing had remained.  She had kept this to herself throughout the debriefings, demanding that it be kept from her crew and Starfleet had agreed with her demand and so on the final day, she had quietly left Headquarters, speaking to no-one, leaving only a recording for the crew, thanking them for their loyalty and friendship and wishing them all happiness in their future lives, and so Kathryn disappeared, only eight short days before my arrival home.

I have beaten myself up so many times, as I sit here beside her, over those eight days, racking my brains as to how I could have arrived quicker, but how could I have known, yet it still goes round and round in my mind, if only I had gotten home sooner, set out sooner, never bloody left in the first place, but once again, I know I cannot change the past.  Other peopleís wise words come to me frequently these days, old sayings and stories and they mock me, call out to me over the years and tell me of the fool I have been.  One comes to mind now of how we should change the things we can, accept the things we canít and have the wisdom to know the difference but it is too late for all that and so all I can do is accept and pray that the outcome of all this will be happy but in the back of my mind, I donít really have that much faith any more.

Why did you do it, Kathryn?  The answer is because of me, that she felt there was nothing left to live for, her work was finished and there was just nothing left anymore.  I suppose it is really a simple answer but so hard to accept. 

BíElanna told me how she and Tom got the call, informing them that Kathryn had been found, found by some hikers beside a lonely mountain river.  The hikers had thought she was dead at first and in a way she was, her injuries were so great and that was how the world believed that she was dead and only those who followed on with the story knew the truth, that she was still alive, if you could call what I see before me now alive.  BíElanna told me how the Doctors had battled for hours in surgery to keep her alive and try by some miracle to repair the shattered pieces that lay before them.  She told me how Starfleet issued the story that Kathryn had been hiking and had fallen into the swollen river, having apparently lost her footing on some slippery rocks, but BíElanna and Kathrynís other close Ďfamilyí knew differently and I think, so did Starfleet but for many reasons, kept quiet about it all.  Of course, gossip always follows and that was what I had heard from those two Ensigns.

How she is still alive, I donít know.  I know her injuries, how her frail body was thrown around that river, crashing off the rocks and I know she could have chosen an easier way to end it all, but I believe that to the end, Kathryn was still punishing herself in some way, and perhaps wanted her end to be that painful, and I cry to think of the pain and panic she must have gone through in those minutes before the darkness came for her.  I also believe she wanted it to look like an accident, but she failed there, perhaps not believing that those around her knew her better and loved her more than she ever admitted to herself, that they saw what she was going through and would have been there for her, if only she had let them.

She actually left a will, made the day before her intended final departure and even that tells me of her love.  She wanted a funeral, simple, but with the practices of my beliefs and she wanted to be buried with her medicine bundle.  I cried even more when I heard that and again when I heard that all her possessions were to go to any family members I might have had.  She hung on to any part of me left to her, right to the end and now when she could have all of me, she is not even aware of it.