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 am vaguely aware that it is getting light outside, another dawn and suddenly Iím also aware that two nurses are tending Kathryn, trying to make her as comfortable as possible, and I wish there was some medicine that could take my pain away, but only Kathryn herself can do that.

Her Doctor is speaking to me and I struggle to make out his words,  Ďshe seems a bit strongerí, Ďkeep talking to herí, Ďpossibly getting through to her somewhereí and I grasp whatever small hope is thrown my way and so begins another day, possibly more hopeful than the previous few days.

I hang my medicine wheel above her bed and plead with her to find her way back to me and I feel a little more hope than I did yesterday.  The nurses have turned her and she lies facing me now and so I sit and stroke her face, her arms and hands, in what I hope is a soothing manner and continue talking to her, hoping I am talking her back to me, to all of us.  There is a part of me that wonders, even if she does come back to me, what kind of Kathryn she will be.  I know the high risk of brain damage from the head injuries she sustained but I still believe that a Kathryn like that would be better than no Kathryn and then I think that is selfish because I know she would never wish to live that way, but my desire to just once more look into her eyes is too strong and so I continue my work, to bring her back to me.

BíElanna arrives with Tom some time later and insist I take a break, but to leave her side for long tears me up.  I have been away from her too long already but I reluctantly agree to get something to eat with BíElanna while Tom keeps watch.  Suddenly there is a Doctor in front of us, telling us to come back and with my heart racing, we are there is seconds.

The sight that meets us nearly kills me and I quickly realize that Kathrynís heart has stopped and that they are fighting to bring her back.  I hear her name roared loudly and realize it is my voice, screaming and pleading with her not to leave me, and by some miracle I believe she hears me, for the next charge that goes through her small body brings her back to me.  I am vaguely aware of one of the Doctors telling me that she will not survive another attack like this one, but I can only think that this happened because I left her and I vow to her that it will not happen again and so for the next two days, I only leave her side to use the bathroom off this room and even then, I keep talking to her through the door, so she will know I havenít left her.

Dawn once more and I know I am exhausted, having slept fitfully throughout the night, dozing at her side, keeping her hand in mine but I wouldnít have it any other way.  I have taken over a lot of her care myself and thankfully the nurses let me, showing me how to wash her, turn her and massage her muscles and I feel better, knowing I am doing something for her, however small, hoping that somehow my touch, along with my voice, can reach her somewhere through her darkness.

I spend hours just talking to her, reading to her from her favourite stories, living for just a small sign from her and finally it comes, a small ray of hope.  As I read to her, holding her small hand in my large one, I imagine I feel her fingers move and hardly daring to hope, I keep talking, making up part of the story now, and look down at her hand.  Suddenly my voice is gone and is replaced with tears as I witness our first miracle, as her fingers are indeed moving, however slowly.  I call for the nurse and she seems as happy as I am, as she confirms my miracle.  Her Doctor examines her and tells me what I want to hear, that she is responding, that it is a step forward, however small and my hope grows a little bit more, my faith increases.  He also tells me that there is a long road ahead but I know I am worthy of the challenge, that the greatest prize of all awaits me at the finish line and so I press on, day after day, seeing more small miracles, her medical readings improving, more small movements, until late one evening, when the hospital is settling down for the night, I feel her hand actually grip mine, so gently and I look to her face and get my reward as I see her eyelids flutter and as I keep talking to her, calling to her, they open slowly.  I hold my breath and watch as she tries to focus and can almost see her mind try to process information about this new world.  I gently speak her name, as I press the call button for the nurse but there is little response from Kathryn, so I tell myself to be patient but there is a small fear building in me as I see only emptiness in her eyes.

I stand off to one side and let the staff examine her, but I can see that they are getting little response either.  All I can see is that same emptiness in her eyes and I hear her Doctor telling me that this withdrawal may well have started before her accident, as he calls it, and that it will take time, but thatís all right, time is what I have lots of. 

And so begins our second battle as day after day, I try and rid her eyes of their emptiness and I know my goal can be achieved as tests have now ruled out brain damage.  Kathryn has to find her own way out of this now but she will have lots of help and so I sit her out of bed and talk until I am sure my voice will fail me, I read to her, show her pictures, bring in everyone close to her, we all take our turn, even the twins.  I dress her in her own clothes, feed her and brush out her hair and notice how it has lost itís shine and I try and swallow the lump that keeps coming to my throat as I remember how many times I have dreamed of doing this, just never wanting or imagining it to be this way.

I take her outside and show her the flowers and the trees, point out birds and children, anything to get her attention, and at night sometimes I lie beside her and just hold her, whispering softly to her, calling her back to me, gently stroking her back and her hair and suddenly Iím aware of something wet on my neck and I pull back gently to look at her and witness Kathrynís first tears.  The emptiness is still there in her eyes and still she doesnít speak but I know with certainty that what I am doing is working, that I am getting through and I pray she knows that this is real and not some dream so I continue talking until she finally falls asleep and that is when I am most afraid, afraid that she wonít wake up.  That is when it is the loneliest and I lie awake and listen to her breathing, so afraid it will stop.

I continue day to day, slowly watching my Kathryn battle back to me and then she speaks my name, a whisper, and I donít know if it is a memory or if she is speaking to me but I donít care as it still feeds my hope and my faith.  She focuses on me now and sometimes her eyes follow me around the room but there is still a deadness there and I know a lot more time is needed for our journey to be completed.  I understand that she has withdrawn somewhere safe to her, someplace where no shadows can fall over her, where there is no hurt or pain and I know that if she comes out of this, she will have to face that pain but at least this time, I will be there to share it with her.

I leave her briefly from time to time now, as I want to take her home and I know I am presuming a lot about our future relationship, but itís all I can do and so I search for a house where I think she will be happy, with a garden and an open fireplace and I eventually find the perfect one, traditional in style, spacious yet cosy and homely and I allow myself to dream again as I imagine sitting with Kathryn on winter nights in front of the big, stone fireplace, curled up safe with our dreams and hopes for the future.  I take her to visit and she seems at ease there.  

I notice her eyes every time I return from being away from her and I think I see something there, almost as if she is afraid I wonít return after an absence and is now experiencing some form of relief at my return.  It seems as if she has come to know me around her but Iím not sure she relates me to the Chakotay she knew or maybe she is just afraid to, afraid of another loss, or maybe she still feels this is a dream.

Each day sees her gain some strength physically and soon I have her up walking on her own but she seems reluctant for me to move away too far from her, as if she will fall and there wonít be anyone there to catch her.  I stand facing her, urging her to walk towards me and hold my hands out to her and she will walk to me, but her eyes never leave mine when we do this and so I hold eye contact with her, realizing that this is also a lesson in trust for her and I repeat my own promise to myself, that I will never again let her down.

She is like a child in many ways and so I dress and feed her, wash and groom her and she lets me, for which I am grateful and lately I have noticed a curiosity in her eyes as she watches me and it is as if she is trying to place me or tie me in with something hidden deep in her mind, so I keep quiet and let it come in its own time but mostly she is relaxed with me and that feels good.  She will lie against me as I read to her or talk to her and I am uncertain if she understands all my words although I know she understands when I tell her itís time to eat or wash or sleep but I have still to hear her voice again, apart from my name that one time.

I now let her wash on her own and bit by bit I try to get her to gain a little independence, but never move far from her side and I think she understands what Iím trying to do.  She is in the bathroom and I tidy up a little, when I hear her voice again in a way I donít wish to.  I hear her scream and rush to her in the bathroom, only to find her slumped on the floor with blood on her hand and a look of sheer panic on her face.  Her eyes go to mine with a pleading for understanding and I panic too a little, but then I see where the blood has come from and I understand but donít know how to make Kathryn understand.  I hear the outer door open and hear BíElanna come in, calling to us and thank the Spirits for her timing.  I try and comfort Kathryn, telling her everything is all right but I am out of my depth here and I know it, so I finally persuade Kathryn to let BíElanna help her and sit outside and listen to my oldest friend try and talk Kathryn through what she canít understand but seems to accept and I imagine BíElanna some day thinking back to this as she goes through the same thing with her own daughter as she becomes a woman. 

It is a calmer Kathryn who leaves the confines of the bathroom with BíElanna, grasping her hand tightly and she seems to be actually a little embarrassed but when I stand up and hold my arms open to her, she immediately walks into them and welcomes my embrace, as I whisper reassurances to her and BíElanna goes to report this to the nurses and returns with some painkillers for Kathryn and so she lets me put her to bed and hold her until she sleeps and I almost understand what motherhood is about.

I finally take her home for good, after a few weekend visits and overnight stays to get her used to her new home.  She loves the garden and walks around it for long periods at a time, rediscovering the simple pleasures of flowers, birds, bees and butterflies and I could watch her face all day as she meets these new elements in her life.  She still wonít sleep alone and I have to admit I donít want to either and she seems to accept it as natural that I should share her bed and hold her in my arms as she falls asleep each night.

BíElanna and Tom come today for Kathrynís birthday and bring with them my present to Kathryn.  Her whole face lights up like never before, as I give her the puppy and I glory in the joy and happiness I see there as she hugs the puppy to her and then sit stunned with the others as for the first time she responds with her own kind of conversation to the puppy, in the form of cooing sounds which only he seems to understand but is music to my ears.

I listen to her in the garden day by day as she Ďtalksí with her new friend and a small part of me is actually jealous of their relationship but I feel elated at her development and bit by bit she grows until I hear her humming to herself.

I teach her how to feed herself and dress herself and slowly she is gaining more independence.  I also make her responsible for her puppy and she enjoys tending him, feeding him and grooming him.  I start to teach her more words and now embark on getting her to speak to me, taking on the Doctors advice of not giving her some things unless she tries to ask for them, but it is not easy, especially when her tears come and she seems to think I am punishing her for something and then I have to harden myself for her own good, but it does eventually pay off and we slowly make progress.

BíElanna is teaching her to read again and I often feel, watching them, that this knowledge is just below the surface but she is holding it back and so I start to slowly introduce new elements to Kathryn and instantly regret it.  I show her a picture of her family and at first there is no reaction but later, in the middle of the night, there is a reaction and it scares the life out of me.  She wakes screaming and there is agony in those screams and it takes over an hour to calm her as she clings to me like a lifeline so I leave that idea for a while.

I start to talk of space and starships and again at first there is no reaction but gradually a cloud passes over her eyes and so I shy away again and ask about her puppy and ask when she will choose a name for him and explain about names.  I see her ponder all this and she tells me the name ĎMollyí and for a second I see some spark in her eyes, which is gone just as quickly, but it gives me great hope, and so the boy puppy got a girl name.

As the days go by, I leave little reminders of her previous life around the house but never make any mention of them and I watch her pick things up and study them for a minute then shy away from them as quickly, but I still leave them around and gradually she comes to accept them as part of the house but never asks how they got there.

She is now able to do most things for herself but I never let her near anything dangerous and in this she is still as a child but I see her eyes changing all the time.  There is no longer any emptiness there, but instead there is a childish innocence and lately I see more and more serious looks cross her features, especially if she is unaware that I am watching, and I wonder what is going on inside her mind.  I also notice she has long moments of silence and I start to worry.  She has never used my name since that one time back in the hospital and calls me Tay but I see her look at me with a strange expression when Tom or BíElanna let my full name slip from time to time and she sometimes looks as if she is about to ask me something but then stops herself and so I let it go.

We sit at the fire in the evening and she curls into me.  Tonight she is quiet and I feel something on the horizon but donít push, knowing everything will come in itís own time and in itís own way.  Finally she looks up at me and asks me who Chakotay is and I tell her softly that I am, watching her face intensely but there is no reaction and she just seems to accept this.  She then asks me a question I donít know how to answer and I donít know where it came from but it worries me.  She asks me what Voyager is and all I tell her is that it was the name of a starship and I see her file this information away in her mind and leave it for later.

Spring is back and I realize that I have been home a year and I marvel at Kathrynís progress in that year, despite the dour prognosis she was given in the beginning, when she wasnít even expected to live but she has come on in leaps and bounds and even beyond my greatest hopes for her.  I teach her to use a computer again, thinking it will help her development but I underestimate Kathryn again and at the time donít realize where it will lead.  Day by day I leave her, happily playing away at her new toy, discovering holonovels she is now able to read and games she enjoys playing.

It has taken me a few days to fully notice the change in Kathryn, mainly because I was so busy with my own work but suddenly I see it.  I first notice her lack of singing and realize she is not as attentive to Molly or as talkative with me and when I ask her about it and see her eyes, a chill runs through me and suddenly she asks me to tell her who she is and I am rooted to the spot.  When I find my voice, I tell her she is Kathryn Janeway but I see she already knows that and that that was not the answer she wanted from me.  I ask her who she thinks she is but she turns away and when I turn her back to me, I see her tears and in that instant, I realize my mistake in letting her near a computer and not considering the information she could access, that I had underestimated Kathryn Janeway and the woman she was and the fact that she had not really gone but was there all the time, just hidden and frightened and resting.

And then the floodgates open and all hell breaks loose and all I can do is be a buffer against the storm and hold her until, hopefully it passes, but it takes a long time and yet in the grand scheme of things, a very short time.  I had always thought that if or when this came, it would be over a period of time, weeks or months, memories slowly regained and added to bit by bit, one piece accepted and dealt with before the next one assaulted us, but in the end it comes in a matter of hours and they are the longest and darkest hours of my life in a way and certainly the most painful.

I hold her tightly, despite her feeble protests, as she is mentally assaulted again and again by memories too painful for anyone to bear and I absorb her screams and cries of pure agony as they invade her mind, demanding to be acknowledged and I feel so helpless and guilty for my part in all this but there is nothing I can do.  Finally I feel her body surrender to itself and exhausted, she collapses into me.  I carry her upstairs and call her Doctors for advice but there is little they can tell me, except to let it all come and if it gets too bad, to use the sedatives I got from them and so I settle on the bed with her, a hypospray in one hand and stroke her hair and face with the other and await the nightmares I know will come.

They come and the fresh assault is worse then before and I have to physically restrain her to stop her hurting herself, but this only makes it worse and I scream out inside myself when I think what kind of memories assault her, that my restraining of her makes them worse and I know now for certain that BíElanna kept details from me and I understand why, but at this moment in time, I need to know to avoid more damage and so I do the only thing I can and sedate Kathryn and I hold her close to me and rock her until she is once more asleep.

Tom sits with her as she sleeps and I sit in the kitchen with BíElanna and hear the full, terrible details of what she knows, but even her knowledge is limited and we both know that the full horror is known only to Kathryn.  She tells me of the rope burns Kathryn had on her wrists and ankles and even around her throat.  She tells me of the whip like cuts across her body, on her back, on her chest and stomach and across her legs, back and front.  I learn of the burns on the palms of her hands and on the soles of her feet, even on her scalp, some of them probably having been caused by electrocution style devices and I canít look at BíElanna as she tells me all this, couldnít have looked at anyone, only urge her to go on whenever she falters.  Finally she tells me of the severe internal injuries Kathryn had, the ripping and tearing and of the internal bleeding the Doctor had struggled to control and I know now why that bastard had finally let her go, that it was because there was nothing left for him to destroy and I know that if I could travel back to the Delta Quadrant at this moment, I would rip him apart.  All I can do from here is not let him succeed in what he set out to do.  I will not let him destroy the woman I love. 

I fear the coming days now as I sit and watch her sleep, a false, sedated sleep and pray for guidance, pray for the strength to deal with whatís to come.  She finally stirs and as her eyes open, and she sees me, I see the realization dawn and know that she is back to me, that everything is back with her and I see the pain it causes her and I actually wish for the way it was before, for her to still be in that place where the pain and memories canít touch her, but I know this had to come.

She pushes herself up into a sitting position, still staring at me and I anticipate her first question as she just asks me with one word - how?  As simply as I can, I explain what happened to me and how I got home and I give her the main details of the past year, but I see she remembers most of that   and she seems almost embarrassed as I see her think back to everything we have been through together in that time and I know that the road ahead just got longer.

She has dressed herself and sits at the kitchen table with me now as I try and coax her to eat.  She nibbles at bits and pieces but doesnít speak at first.  Finally, almost afraid to meet my eyes, she asks if I know everything, just that, and I know what she is alluding to, the rape and her suicide attempt, so I just answer with a simple yes.  She nods her head at this but makes no further comment and I feel I have to allay the fears I know she is feeling and so I tell her gently that what went before makes no difference to the way I feel about her, and then I finally say the words I have waited over ten years to say to her, and I tell her how much I love her.  I tell her how sorry I am and I beg her forgiveness.  She doesnít look up at me but I see the tears come and watch as they drop into her lap and she knows Iíve seen them.  I get up to go to her but she jumps up and backs off, only telling me she doesnít deserve that, that she doesnít deserve anything, and the pain in her eyes rips through me but I have my quest and I push on but still she backs off.  I tell her I know she loves me too and plead with her to just give us a chance and for a split second I think I see hope in her eyes but that is quickly replaced with the pain and she continues to back off, now pleading for some time alone and like the bloody fool that I am, I agree.

I canít sit here any longer with my agony and wish I hadnít agreed to give her time alone and finally give in to my fears.  I am gravely worried about her and so I return to the house from the far field where I sat out my wait, and as I enter the house, my fears grow, for it is too quiet and I notice Molly in her basket, her water and feed bowls filled.  I charge upstairs and into every room, check downstairs again, all around the garden but there is no sign of her and I know with certainty that she has gone somewhere to finish what she started and I curse myself for giving in to her wishes, for not forcing the final hump in the road we had to travel.

Tom and BíElanna are here in no time after my call to them and suddenly I know where to find Kathryn and pray I wonít be too late.  Tom arranges the transport we need to get there and arranges for the one we will need once we are there and for the medical treatment I pray will be in time.

We beam to the site of what was once Kathrynís safe haven of childhood and for a few seconds I stand shocked at the blackened ruins that once housed such happiness and such dreams.  We split up and search through the debris and charred remains and suddenly I see her, lying deathly still and curled into a fetal position, in amongst all this carnage and my heart almost stops, and I wonder briefly if Kathryn in her mind somewhere, felt she should have died here with them and was trying to fulfil that and so I run to her, desperately feeling for a pulse and I see the empty hyposprays which had contained the sedatives and curse myself for not hiding them better.  I call to BíElanna and together we lift her, her face and hands and clothes soiled with black soot and within seconds Tom gets us transported to the help I pray again wonít be too late.

Once again, I sit at her bedside and pray and wonder how all this could have happened and once again she doesnít stir.  I do the only thing I know how, for I have had plenty of practice at it, and I sit beside her and talk to her and stroke her face and hands, calling her back to me once more.

Tom and BíElanna come and go as much as they can, but they have two small children who need them and so I sit here, never leaving her side and talk endlessly into the night and I know that if she returns to me this time, I will probably chain her to me and never let her out of my sight again.

The Doctors have told me we reached her with probably minutes to spare but they canít tell me for certain that their treatment will be successful but I believe that we have come too far this last year for us to fail at what I believe to be the last leg of our arduous journey and so I continue with the only treatment I believe will work, talking and touching and reaching into her mind, to drag her back to me.

Late evening again, our special time when all is quiet and itís just the two of us and I call her back to me again and this time she answers me.  Once again, I feel her hand move in mine and look to her to await her eyes opening, mentally preparing myself for the confusion I will see there and then the following pain, but I have grown stronger this past year and I have enough strength for the two of us.  As she looks at me and I see everything find its place in her mind, I follow my instinct and just pull her into my arms, almost crushing her thin frame and suddenly my own tears come, come from deeper in me than I ever thought possible and then Iím aware that she has joined me in my tears, that my reaction and tears are what it takes to finally reach her and we continue into the night, clinging to each other, pouring out all our pain and grief but a cleansing is taking place and with this cleansing, comes a healing and suddenly Iím aware of a light in my mind, beckoning us towards the end of that long road.

Our home, no longer a house but a haven, keeping out all tempests, all ghosts, anything that can harm us.  These last few weeks have been mentally torturous and exhausting but we were up to it, with our combined strength and determination and I believe we have made it.  I know there will be the odd set back but there is nothing we canít face together and as we once again sit by the fireplace, late in the evening and just hold each other, the final piece falls into place for me.  I once again tell Kathryn how much I love her and this time she answers my prayer and in her soft voice she tells me finally just how much she loves me, how much she has always loved me and my happiness is complete.  All that has past, all the pain, fades with the setting sun and I know the promised dawn awaits us.