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

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

Summary:     When Voyager is boarded by alien soldiers, Kathryn is separated
                      from her crew and held on the bridge.  As she struggles just to stay
                      alive, Chakotay must come up with a plan before it’s too late for
                      them all.







THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF YOU…
by KAT LADY.



PART TWO.



Chakotay, Tuvok and the others, along with Nardar and some of his men made their way towards the turbo lift when they suddenly heard the doors open.  Weapons were drawn immediately and minutes passed while Nardar and his men decided if they would trust these three young soldiers.  Once the soldiers had reported to him, weapons were lowered. 

“Can you check if this transport has already taken place?”  Tuvok was already at the nearest computer access point. 

“Commander, they have already transported to the shuttle bay.  May I suggest that I take the bridge along with Mr. Kim and the rest of you…”  Chakotay, Tom and B’Elanna were already running. 
“Tractor that shuttle if it launches at whatever cost and contact the Doctor.”  Chakotay shouted back over his shoulder.  The Vulcan nodded to Nardar, then headed towards the bridge.  Nardar and his men set off after Chakotay and the others. 

Trajor saw his men aboard the shuttle and then turned to Kathryn, still in his vice like grip.  She was struggling to stay standing and he noticed the glazed look in her eyes. 



“I can’t say it’s been a pleasure Captain, in fact you and your crew have caused me nothing but trouble, especially you.”  Kathryn was aware enough to see the madness in his eyes and she felt uncontrollable terror build in her.  He dragged her towards some storage barrels and slammed her against them.  “I should have finished you off at the beginning.” 

Kathryn screamed in agony as she hit the barrels and slid to the floor.  She saw Trajor advance on her and felt him drag her to her feet.  The pain of his fists raining down on her and his boots kicking her took over everything, knocking her to the ground again and she screamed and cried out continuously.  She was aware of his laughter and then the kicks and blows ceased.  She felt herself pulled onto her back but her hands bound there kept her half on her side.  She looked up at this mad man through swollen eyes and saw the very devil himself.  She saw him raise his weapon and knew she would die.  Her only thoughts were that she wouldn’t get her crew home and more importantly, that she had never told Chakotay how much she loved him.  At what she believed was the moment of her death, his face came to her and she filled her heart and mind with the image.  She heard the weapon discharge and felt the pain of it hit her a split second before her world ended.

Chakotay and the others were quickly joined by Nardar and his men outside the doors to the shuttle bay.  “On my mark”  Chakotay looked to Nardar and his men and saw that military training changed little from world to world and he knew he could depend on them.  They burst through the doors just as the shuttle doors were closing.  Chakotay’s fist smashed the wall.  “Tuvok.  Report”  he shouted. 



The Vulcan’s voice, calm as usual came back to him.  “Attempting to tractor the shuttle now Commander.  Do you have the Captain?” 

“She’s not here Tuvok.  The bastards took her with them.”  He was walking in small circles, pacing.  Her face was all that was in his mind but it alternated between happy and smiling and as it had been the last time he had seen her.  “What’s taking so long?”  This was killing him.

“Tuvok to Chakotay” Chakotay’s head snapped up.  There was something in the Vulcan’s voice. 

“Report” 

“Commander, I am unsure of what occurred but I have to report that the shuttle just…” 

“Damn it Tuvok, what?” 

“Commander, the shuttle just…exploded.”

Chakotay’s world stopped as his pacing increased.  “No, no, no,” his mind screamed “not Kathryn, not my Kathryn.”  He felt someone’s hand on his arm but he shook it off.  They were talking to him, saying something but for him there was only her face.  His pacing circles were getting wider and more erratic and then suddenly he stopped as his eyes fell on something.  He was vaguely aware of B’Elanna beside him and she followed his line of vision.  He heard her gasp and knew what he was seeing was real.  Sticking out at the side of one of the barrels was part of a foot and instantly he and B’Elanna moved.

As they rounded the side of the barrels, he stopped dead then dropped to his knees.  Kathryn lay deathly still, an ugly wound in her chest.  He quickly felt for a pulse and heaved a huge sigh of relief when he found one, however weak.   He heard Tom call for a transport to sickbay and then suddenly they were there, lifting Kathryn onto one of the biobeds and the Doctor was running around and pushing him out of the way.  He stood to the side and took in the sight of her battered and bloody body, her hands still tightly bound behind her back. 

“Get this off her wrists now, Mr. Paris” he heard the Doctor shout. 

Everything else around him took on a surreal quality.  He was aware of the Doctor scanning her, injecting her, doing things he didn’t understand.  He knew B’Elanna was holding onto him but only Kathryn occupied his mind. 

“Ms. Torres, please take the Commander to my office.  The Captain requires immediate surgery.  Please wait there with him.”  The Doctor didn’t look up from his frantic attempts.  Chakotay felt B’Elanna lead him to the Doctor’s office and sit him down and then finally his tears came and she was holding him.

Chakotay sat in the Doctor’s office and let his mind chase his erratic thoughts around inside his head.  He was in some way aware of B’Elanna beside him throughout all this.  Time became an enemy and a friend.  In one sense, he wanted it to pass quickly because the waiting and not knowing was torture, but on the other hand, if the Doctor was going to come to him with bad news, then he wanted that moment delayed forever.  Finally, that moment came and he was aware of the Doctor standing before them.  He felt B’Elanna rise but he stayed sitting, not trusting himself to stand. 

“She’s out of surgery” the Doctor informed them. “The biggest problem was the chest wound she sustained.  It caused massive internal damage and bleeding, damaging her heart also. I’ve managed to stop the bleeding, although it was touch and go for quite a while.  Her heart stopped twice during surgery and as a result of that, alongside the severe blood loss and shock, this has left her in a very weakened state.”  Chakotay felt himself grip the arms of the chair, fear becoming his master.  The Doctor continued grimly. 

“She also suffered a fractured skull and a blood clot had formed on her brain.  From what I can deduce, she received several blows and kicks to the head.”  The Doctor’s face reflected the disgust he felt.   “I’ve been able to successfully remove this clot but I won’t be able to tell how successful I’ve been until she regains consciousness.”  He paused a moment before continuing. 

“ She had several broken ribs and a punctured lung, which was taken care of easily enough, although her breathing won’t be back to normal for some hours yet.  Her weakened state doesn’t help.  Her body is physically and emotionally exhausted.  She is also severely dehydrated and in dire need of nourishment, and she’s suffering from hypothermia.  That’s being taken care of as we speak.  I’m giving her fluids, nourishment and blood intravenously and I’ll keep her heavily sedated for the next two days, mainly to prevent any swelling to her brain and also to give her the best chance of recovery.  I healed most of the deeper bruises and the rest will heal in their own time.”   He put his padd down on his desk.

“ There was some particularly bad bruising on her feet and several of her toes were broken.   I believe her feet were stamped on.   Later, she will require physiotherapy for her feet and also her hands.  The circulation was cut off there quite badly.  Her other problem, as if she hasn’t enough, is the drug she was injected with.  This reacted badly against her system and I’m attempting to flush it out.”  



Chakotay barely trusted himself to speak.  “Will she recover Doctor?”  He felt B’Elanna grip his hand tightly and was aware that Tom had joined them.  The Doctor looked at Chakotay. 

“Commander, she’s strong and a fighter.  If anyone can win this battle, it’s the Captain.  I believe she has a good chance and if anyone can make a full recovery, she will.  The next couple of days will tell.  If she comes through that she should indeed make a full recovery.” 

Chakotay felt more hopeful with this.  When he had first seen her in the Shuttle Bay, he had feared she was already dead.  The injuries she had sustained, he felt sure would have instantly killed a lesser person than Kathryn Janeway.  He made his way towards her still form, lying on the bio bed and felt his throat close off painfully at the sight of her.  There was still bruising evident on her face and she was extremely pale.  He could see she was still not breathing normally and noted that the Doctor had placed her on oxygen.  His eyes took in everything.  The intravenous lines snaking their way into her body, the bandages on the chest injury showing above the sheet and her hands, still carrying a slight bluish hue.  He noted also that the Doctor had placed thermal blankets around her, to bring her body temperature back to normal.  He heard the monitors keeping track of her vital signs and heartbeat.  He realized the Doctor was standing beside him and looked around to see if anyone else was close by but no one was. 

“Doctor, there was something else…I wanted...needed to ask.  Was Kathryn…was she…touched in any other way?…that bastard...he insinuated that he...”  He looked at the Doctor, pleading almost.  The Doctor knew what he was alluding to.  “Commander, I can assure you that my examination of the Captain was thorough and while there was indeed heavy bruising to her thighs, there was no evidence of…any other crime committed.  Even had she been unconscious, I would have found evidence of that.  I can assure you there was none.”  Chakotay felt the relief flood him.  “Thank you Doctor.  I had to ask…you understand.”  The Doctor nodded and just patted his arm.

B’Elanna came up beside him and put her arm around him.  “She’ll make it Chakotay, she will.  You know her, the fighter she is.  It’ll take more than this to beat Captain Janeway the invincible.”  He smiled softly and took B’Elanna’s hand.  “She’d better make it, B’Elanna.  I know I couldn’t live without her…”  She squeezed his hand.  “She will old friend, you’ll see.”

Chakotay sat at Kathryn’s side for the next hour, softly whispering to her and gently stroking her face and hair.  He heard the door to sickbay open but didn’t look up until he heard Tuvok’s voice. 

“Commander, how is the Captain?”  Chakotay filled him in on the Doctor’s report and Tuvok’s comments almost mirrored those of B’Elanna. 

“I have known the Captain for many years and I know she will also win this battle.”  Chakotay looked up at Kathryn’s oldest friend and again realized the respect he now felt for the Vulcan. 

“Tuvok, in case I don’t say it later…throughout all this, you’ve been…”  He was unaccustomed to speaking on a more personal level with this man and vowed to change that.  “My report will reflect your…well, you know…I’ll be putting in a commendation for you…” 

Tuvok barely managed to keep his surprise and what appeared to be pride and satisfaction from showing.  “Thank you Commander.  I must report that Nardar and his men have been given quarters and I have ensured that environmental controls have been set according to their needs.  The controls on the rest of the ship have been returned to normal.” 

“Two birds with one stone, eh Tuvok?” 

“Commander?” 

“This way, we ensure that we keep our word, that they are not being held as prisoners but also that they won’t venture out of their quarters as it would be too warm for them.”  Tuvok as usual showed nothing on his face.  “Good work Tuvok.  Can you manage on the bridge for a while?  I’d like to stay…”  He didn’t need to say more. 

“Commander, everything is running smoothly.  We are en route for Nardar’s home world, about three days away and the crew is coping well.  I will keep you informed of everything.”  At this point he looked at Kathryn’s face.  “Her ship is in good hands.” Chakotay actually saw the respect and affection that Tuvok felt for his Captain on the Vulcan’s face. 

“She already knew that Tuvok.  She’s always known that.”  Once again Tuvok, barely contained himself. 

“Thank you Commander.   That…means a lot to me.  I should return to the bridge.  I’ll report to you.”  He turned and was gone before Chakotay had time to answer. 

“You know what Kathryn?”  Chakotay stroked her arm.  “I think I’ve just witnessed a miracle.  I believe I actually embarrassed him” and he leaned down and brushed his lips to hers.

As Kathryn continued her fight over the next two days, Chakotay rarely left her side.  He ate and slept in sickbay and only left to check on the progress of repairs and to speak with Nardar and his men.  He knew now that the explosion on the shuttle had been caused by pilot error, nothing more and again thanked the spirits and any other Deity he could think of, that Kathryn hadn’t been aboard.  He learned more about Trajor and it shocked him.  It shocked him that the gentle family man the soldiers spoke of could change into the man they had known and even though it scared him dreadfully to even think it, he realized that Trajor had once been Kathryn Janeway.

Chakotay was dozing next to Kathryn, his arm gently lying across her, when he suddenly felt her move slightly under him.  He looked up and saw her eyes flutter open.  For a minute there was panic there and then her eyes turned to him and he instantly saw the questions there. 

“It’s over Kathryn.  You’re going to be fine.  The crew is fine and the ship is fine.”  He knew this was all she wanted to hear, that other details could wait.  She smiled gently at him and he watched then as memories came back to her, haunting her, her pain and humiliation, her loss of control.  He reached out and gently took her small hands in his. 

“Kathryn it’s over.  Let it go love.”  She looked at him and he saw her eyes filling up. 

“It’s not that easy Chakotay.”  He reached one hand up and wiped away her tears. 

“I know it’s not easy Kathryn but you’re strong and you’ll get through this and you’ll even be stronger for it but don’t hold on to the negative things from all this.  Look for the positive and take those things with you into the future.  Leave everything else behind you where it belongs.  You have a wonderful crew,  a crew who are your friends and you know I’m there for you always.” 

She suddenly pulled her hands out of his and for a minute he thought he had overstepped the mark with her, getting too close again.  He knew his disappointment showed in his eyes and he quickly closed them, not wanting her to see it.  “Why won’t she ever let me be there for her?” he thought. 

This thought was stopped in its tracks when he felt her hands on his face.  He opened his eyes and met hers.  “Chakotay, I…”  

“Ah, Captain, you’re awake I see.”  Chakotay groaned.  The Doctor had the worst sense of timing. 

“Sorry to interrupt but I need to examine the Captain.  Commander, if you don’t mind..?” 

Chakotay realized that Kathryn’s hands were still on his face and he delighted in the fact that she had left them there.  She held his eyes for a minute longer and then smiled at him. 

“I guess..later?”  He took her hands and gently squeezed them and just nodded, not trusting himself to speak. 

“Commander, may I recommend that you take yourself off to your quarters and get at least eight hours sleep, before you fall down and then you won’t be any use to the Captain or anyone else on this ship.”  Chakotay nodded, not taking his eyes away from Kathryn. 

“Go on, the Doctor’s right.  I need you in top condition.”   Finally he tore his eyes away from her and stood up.  “I’ll see you later OK.” 

She smiled back at him and he saw true promise in that smile for the first time.

He should have known that very little could keep Kathryn Janeway tied down for long and true to her self, she was out of sickbay to see Nardar and his men off Voyager when they reached their home world.   She had reached a compromise with the Doctor.  Attend to the duty of seeing their ‘guests’ safely home and then back to sickbay for one more day.  Taking Chakotay’s advice, he having spoken with most of the crew, they decided not to take up the offer of shore leave, which had been made to them.  Kathryn was not alone in wanting to move on and try and put the entire matter behind them. 

When Nardar, Gaal and the others had left and they were on their way again, Chakotay insisted that it was time for her to return to sickbay and keep her promise to the Doctor.  She eventually caved in and Chakotay knew that a lot of her objections had been an act.  He could see that the whole episode had affected her more than she was letting on and he worried about her.  They had not had a chance to talk properly about it all and he knew that she would be unable to heal emotionally until she did so.  He also knew that despite her strong act for the crew and her insistence that she was fine, underneath this had taken a heavy toll on her.

“Tell you what My Lady Kathryn, how about dinner, on me of course, tomorrow night, once you’re released from sickbay.  Now tell me that’s an offer you can refuse.”  He smiled down at her and noticed how weary she had become in the last few minutes, letting go of the mask.  He also noticed painfully, how she was trying to hide the difficulty she was having with her walking, letting herself link her arm through his for support. 

“How can I refuse?”  They had reached sickbay and as soon as the doors opened, they came face to face with the Doctor.  Kathryn sighed. 

“Doctor, we did promise.” 

“Just making sure Captain.  I know how much you love being here.” 

Chakotay saw her over to the bio bed and helped her sit up on it.  She didn’t object and this told him just how tired she was.  “Just get a good nights sleep Kathryn.  It’s behind us now.”   He saw the look that crossed her face and knew that it would take quite a while before it was behind her in her mind. 

“Kathryn, I’ve told you before that you’re not alone, that we’ll face things together and this is no different but we can only do this if you let me help you and be there for you.  You can put on any act for the crew but this is me and in front of me, in private, please let me be there for you.  No matter what you think, needing a friend, needing a shoulder now and again, that is not a sign of weakness.  For someone to admit now and then that they need a bit of help, some comfort, well I see that as a sign of strength.  Please, will you do that for me?  Let me be there?”  She smiled at him and there was just the slightest hint of mischief in her eyes. 

“I’ll try Chakotay, really I will but you have to understand that it’s difficult to change the habits of a lifetime.”  He returned her smile. 

“That’s all I ask, now get some sleep, obey the Doctor and if you’re a good girl, I’ll break you out of here tomorrow.” 

“You’ve got a deal.”  She lay out on the bed and before either of them knew it, she was fast asleep.

True to his word, Chakotay was there at noon the next day, a lock-picking tool in one hand. “Any sign of the jailer?”  His smile lit up his face and infected hers. 

“Oh Chakotay, you certainly know how to put a smile on my face.”  She was dressed and ready. 



The Doctor came over to them.  “All right Commander, very funny.  Captain you may return to your quarters but I want you here for a check-up every day for the next week and for your physiotherapy, and during that week, even though I know I’m speaking to the wall there, plenty of rest and good food.  You know the drill by now and I shouldn’t have to go through this with you every time, but do you ever listen to me…?” 

“Doctor, I’ll make sure she obeys this time.  You have my word on that.” 

“Fine, Commander, I’ll keep you to that.”  Kathryn stood, hands on hips, showing a flash of her old self.  “I am here, you two.  I can actually speak for myself.” 

“Yes Captain.” The Doctor seemed resigned.  “You can speak for yourself but unfortunately for me, you can never listen for yourself.  Now go and please try at least to do some of what I’ve said.”
Kathryn was already halfway out the door, Chakotay running to catch up.

When they reached her quarters, the first thing Kathryn wanted was a cup of her coffee.  She sat on the couch as Chakotay replicated it for her and herbal tea for himself.  He had to hold the cup for her, knowing that her hands were still unable to grasp anything with any strength and she allowed his assistance, despite her obvious dislike of being dependent.  He could see she was still weary and despite her protests that she was fine, Chakotay insisted that she take a nap during the afternoon and once again she caved in.  She was more tired than she let on and was asleep again almost before her head hit the pillow.  Chakotay stood in the doorway of her bedroom for quite a while, just watching her and marvelling at how beautiful she looked to him.  He watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest and it registered painfully with him how close he had come once again, to losing her. 



“Gods Kathryn, I love you so much it hurts.  Why can’t you let me in?  Why can’t you admit that you need someone?”   He stood there for several more minutes watching her and thought again of Trajor and what he had become.  There was no way he was going to let that happen to this woman.  He knew what loneliness, feelings that life was wasted, the things left undone could do to a person and he would die before he let that happen to her.  He knew that someday she would suddenly realize that life had passed her by and that she had little to show for it.  He felt it himself occasionally.  He wanted a wife, children, a home and not the bitterness that crept in when these things were denied to someone.  She suddenly cried out in her sleep and he was at her side in one stride, sitting on the side of the bed, gently rubbing her back and whispering soothing words in her ear.  As if she heard him, she eased back into a more peaceful sleep.  He stayed a little longer and when he was satisfied that she had settled into a good, deep sleep, he left to prepare for their dinner.

When Kathryn finally awoke, she was first aware of soft music playing and she stiffly got out of her bed and followed the soothing melody into the other room, slipping her robe around her shoulders on the way.  Chakotay was lighting candles on the table and looked towards her with a smile, having caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye.

“I was just about to wake you.  Dinner is just ready and you must be hungry.”  He gave her one of his dimpled smiles and was rewarded with one of hers. 

“I actually am hungry, believe it or not.  Must be all that exercise I had sleeping this afternoon.  I’ll just get dressed OK?”  She went to move back towards the bedroom and just managed to hear Chakotay’s soft words.  “You look fine to me just as you are.” 

She turned back to him and saw his face redden when he realized that he had spoken aloud.  “Kathryn I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…”  His tongue knotted up in his mouth and his brain followed suit.  She smiled at him again. 

“You mean I don’t look fine like this or you’re sorry I heard?”  He didn’t know where to look and his tongue stayed tied up.  Kathryn was suddenly enjoying her teasing of him but finally decided to let him off the hook.  “Chakotay it’s fine, honestly and I’m flattered.  Don’t worry about it.  I’m not going to throw you out or kick you ass in the brig.” 

Maybe it was having stared death in the face, but tonight suddenly she felt more alive and daring than she had in a long time.  “Maybe I’ll stay like this then, if you like it so much.”  She was rewarded by the look on his face, his mouth falling open.  “Of course, if you would prefer I change then…”  Suddenly he got the use of his vocal powers back.  “No, no…I mean…you’re fine…I…” 
“At ease, Commander, let’s just eat.”  He nodded, relief pouring from him, replacing his earlier acute embarrassment.

During their dinner, Kathryn found herself feeling at ease for the first time since Voyager had been boarded.  With a full stomach and a cup of coffee, she leaned back on the sofa and let her eyes close, as Chakotay cleared away the dishes.  She opened her eyes again as she felt him sit beside her and met his concerned face. 

“Are you all right Kathryn.  If you’re tired…”  She reached out and took his hand in hers.  “No, I’m not tired.  I’ve done nothing else but sleep these past few days and to be honest…”  She looked down into her coffee cup as if seeking inspiration there and then felt Chakotay’s fingers under her chin, pulling her back to face him. 

“Kathryn, what is it?  Please, just talk to me, let me in.”  He saw tears invade her eyes and decided to stay quiet, giving her time to sort her thoughts and time to gain the courage she needed to open up. 

“It’s just…well…I’m…I’m afraid…to sleep”   She felt her tears roll down her cheeks but Chakotay just stayed as he was, giving her all the space she needed.  “I mean, I do sleep but it’s down to pure tiredness and then I dream, terrible dreams…the Doctor woke me a few times in sickbay from them…I feel…so alone in those dreams and so terribly afraid…and I keep reliving that moment…”  She couldn’t continue and this time Chakotay took her cup, putting it on the table in front of them and just pulled her into his arms, offering whatever security he could.

Chakotay rocked her back and forth like a child for some time, letting her gain back her control and uttered whatever soothing words he could.  Finally she eased back from him and wiped her face. 
“Chakotay, I’m sorry…I’ve no right to put this onto you…”  The look of love on his face almost stopped her breathing. 

“Kathryn,  don’t ever feel sorry for coming to me with anything.  That’s what I’m here for, what I want to be here for, either as a First Officer in a professional capacity or as a friend in a personal one.  I really don’t need to reiterate this…”  She sniffled some more and gave him a weak smile. 
“I know that Chakotay, really I do.”  He pulled her tighter into a hug and then eased back, using one hand to tilt her face towards his. 

“Kathryn, I don’t mean to push you, and if you’re not ready to talk about this, I’ll understand,  but you said…well, that you keep reliving ‘that moment’ and…”  She looked back into her lap at this and he could see her biting her lower lip but eventually she looked up at him and the pain he saw in her eyes tore at him. 

“Kathryn, please…you’re scaring me…what moment?…the Doctor said there was no evidence of anything…anything else…”  He was terrified of what she might say.  Kathryn instantly understood what he meant and quickly reassured him. 

“Oh God Chakotay, no there was nothing like that…”  His relief was almost corporeal. 

“What then?  Kathryn please…”  She met his eyes straight on and he saw her tears start up again and so he gripped her hands tightly. 

“It’s just…that moment…the shuttle bay.  When Tra…when that bastard raised his weapon and pointed it at me…Chakotay I was so sure that was it, that that was my last moment and I can’t get it to leave me alone, the memory of it…”   He felt her pull her hands from his and the next instant they were around his neck and she was hanging onto him for dear life.  His own arms came around her slim form and he held her tightly to him. 

“Shhh love, I’m here, it’s all right.  It’s done with, over now.  He’s dead and can’t ever hurt you again”  He held her tightly like that for a long time, feeling her shaking with the fearful memory and her tears.

When Kathryn eventually felt more composed and in control of herself, she finally opened up to Chakotay.  She told him everything.  She told him of the beatings, the humiliation, Trajor cutting away her clothes, how she believed he would rape her on the bridge in front of the soldiers, the kicks, stamping on her feet in the lift, injecting her with the drug.  She told him how the pain had almost taken over everything, how the cold had eaten into her, her desperate hunger, thirst and tiredness.  She told him of the vague memories she had of being dragged to the Cargo Bay and being dimly aware of the entire crew seeing her that way.  She told him then of the beating in the shuttle bay and how she had actually felt the pain as the weapon discharged at her chest, how she had felt she knew with certainty that she was going to die in that second. 

“How could he do that Chakotay?  What makes any life form do that to another..? I know I’ve faced death before, but this…”   She broke down again at this and couldn’t continue.

Chakotay stroked her back and held her tightly.  He spoke gently to her, feeling that if he didn’t speak his mind now, he might never get another chance like this one.  He didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was, but this to him was a case of being cruel to be kind and so he told her what he knew of Trajor, what Gaal, Nardar and the others had told him of the man they had known, before a hard and sad life changed that man from a gentle, family man, into the monster who had had no other goal in life but to get his men home at any cost to him or anyone else.  He watched Kathryn’s face as he told her all this and could see that it was indeed hurting her to learn about it all.  He knew that she would equate it with her own life and her own determination to get her crew home. 

“Kathryn, I’m not telling you this to hurt you, nor am I saying that you could ever be anything like him, but you have to see what being so tunnel visioned can lead to, how shutting yourself off, allowing no one into your life, what this can do to you, and no Kathryn, I’m not saying this just to get you to let me into your life.  I just want you to let someone in.  I want to be with you more than anything and you already know that, know how I feel about you, but I would rather be without you and see you with someone else, than see you on your own.  Can you see what loneliness and blind ambition can do to someone?  Gods Kathryn, the thought of that ever happening to you…”  It was his turn to feel tears spring into his eyes and now she was comforting him. 

“Chakotay, I know you’re not trying to hurt me, that you’re saying this to…save me, I guess.  I didn’t know about him, what his past had been, what turned him into what I saw.  I do know that, and I hope I’m not being presumptuous here, but I know how you feel about me, that you love me, yes?”  He nodded   “I do love you, more than my own life…”  She reached her fingers up to his lips and gently caressed them. 



“Chakotay, when I told you about that moment in the shuttle bay, well I didn’t tell you everything.”  She saw his worried look and continued.  “What I didn’t tell you was that I had a, well I had another moment before that, a split second or so before that to be exact and I guess that’s haunting me just as much if not more than when I thought I would die, although they are related, as moments in time.”

“Chakotay, have you ever heard that someone’s life can flash before their eyes at the moment of their death or what they conceive to be the moment of their death.”  His eyes were riveted to her face at this stage and he realized that he was breathing very slowly.  “Well, I believe I experienced something like that, not my whole life zipping by me, just what it was now, what I…no,  it was more a case of what could be flashing past my eyes, what I thought at that moment would never be.  Can you understand any of this?  I’m not sure I can.”  She took a deep breath and continued, her eyes not leaving his for a second. 



“Two things came to me in those seconds.  I always thought fear of the unknown would have been uppermost in my mind, but that wasn’t the case.  Those two things, well one of course was that I wouldn’t get this crew home, although I knew you or Tuvok would finish that job for me, but the second, the most important…well, that was you.” 

Chakotay found at this stage that he was now actually holding his breath and his thoughts were swimming.  “Surely she can’t be about to say…can life be that good to me?…can she finally be able to admit?…”  Kathryn’s next words changed his life forever. 

“Chakotay, the last thing that came to me was you, your face, your smiling face.”  She stroked his face and stared deeply into his eyes.  “My very last thought was that I hadn’t told you that I loved you, and while your face was my last image and the only last image I would ever want, and while it brought me peace, it also brought me the greatest sadness I have ever known.  I knew at that precise moment that I had wasted my life, the reason for it.  I knew that by denying myself letting you into my life, that it had been an empty life, devoid of its true purpose.  By not loving you, no…by not telling you that I loved you and not letting you love me the way you want to, God Chakotay, I wasted so much.  I have to tell you now.  Chakotay I love you.  Plain and simple.” 

If Kathryn had been about to say anything else, she was never given the chance.  Her lips were suddenly covered by Chakotay’s.  The kiss was gentle and yet the most passionate kiss she had ever received and she felt herself drowning in it.  Raw emotion , pure love, invaded every fibre of her being.

When they finally came up for air, Chakotay grasped her face in his hands.  “Kathryn,  you have made me the happiest man who ever lived.  I love you so much.”  She traced his tattoo with her fingers, something she had always wanted to do. 

“Chakotay, I love you too.  I guess it’s true that something good can always come out of anything.  I guess this is what you meant by finding the positive in all this and leaving the negative behind?”  He just nodded and that was the only answer she would get that night as his lips claimed hers again.   


THE END.



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