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

Rating:         
R – for occasional sexual references and the odd swear word.

Summary:    
Back in the Alpha Quadrant, debriefings and parties over, Kathryn and her crew go their separate ways. Unable to settle and with her life empty, Kathryn struggles to find a purpose for herself and a place to feel really needed, totally unaware that most of her former crew are equally lost and unhappy.  With the help of some new friends, she finds that purpose and a new life but then tragedy strikes, leaving her and her adopted ‘home’ and ‘family’ in dire need of help.  Can the former Voyager crew come to their rescue before it’s too late?  And in doing so, can they also ‘save’ themselves and build a new life they can all share?

Thanks:        
To Judy –
my ever patient beta and friend.  For your encouragement and ‘whippings’ I thank you.  You worked so hard on this and lost so much sleep.  It wouldn’t have been finished without you.

To KJ –
for it all and for keeping me sane at times. 

To Pat - 
For friendship and encouragement.



THERE’S A PLACE FOR US.

By KAT LADY.



PART THREE.


Chakotay was vaguely aware of a small cry leaving his throat as he looked towards the woman lying in the bed.  Time stood still then as he looked at Kathryn for the first time in so long.  The unconscious figure lying there was not anyone he recognized at first, but slowly he began to see pieces of the woman he had known and loved for so long.  His ears picked up the soft sounds of the oxygen being fed into the space around her under the plastic covering.  He heard other sounds too, of machines keeping check of her vital signs and the rasping of her laboured breathing.  His eyes scanned her and he noticed her hair, damp against her face and spread out around her head.  He saw the beads of sweat on her face, the paleness of her skin.  Her face seemed sunken to him and her arms lying out over the covers looked so thin.  He looked at the intravenous lines snaking into her veins, supplying blood and other fluids.  And then he noticed her wrists and looking downwards, her ankles, and he cried out, his eyes flying to Duncan.

“My God…you have her tied down like an animal…  What is this…?”  Duncan moved towards him quickly, having anticipated the other man’s reaction.

“Please…I know what it looks like but you must understand.”  He saw that the large man didn’t.  “This is for her own good…for her own protection.  At this stage…the virus makes them feel like things are crawling under their skin.  She was clawing and tearing at herself…pulling out the IV lines.  If you look, you’ll see we’ve had to do the same with some of the others here.”  Chakotay just stood shaking his head.  Cassa’s voice drew his attention to her.

“She was hurting herself.  We had to restrain her.  We had no choice.  Call it the lesser of two evils…cruel to be kind.”  Her face showed her sadness.  “It hurt to have to do this to her but she was thrashing around so much.  We had to secure her…bind her ankles and wrists.  It was the same with the others.  She’s in so much pain…delirious…”  Chakotay just groaned and brought his hands up to cover his mouth.  He nodded silently to show his understanding.  He saw now the self-inflicted scratches on Kathryn's arms.  It was only then that he saw the deep scars on her face and neck.  He turned to Duncan, his eyes filled with pain.

“What happened to her…?”  Duncan frowned.

“I told you…the virus…from the water…”  Chakotay shook his head and looked back at Kathryn.

“No…I mean…her face…her neck…the scars…”  He looked back at the young doctor again.  Duncan nodded his head slowly, understanding now.  He sighed deeply.

“She was attacked here.  They’re from knife wounds.”  He saw the shocked look on Chakotay’s face as he went on.  “Our security…such as it was…failed.  We’re not sure how but…  I guess he knew how to evade or control the sensors…”  He shook his head again.  “A man came here…we believe the same one who poisoned the water…”  He saw the shock and disbelief on Chakotay’s face as he went on.  “He knew one of the children here.  His wife had been raped by a Cardassian soldier and she had refused to terminate her pregnancy which was as a result of that rape.  We have many similar stories here.”  Chakotay barely nodded.  “She died in childbirth but her last request was that her child be saved.  Her sister arranged to have the child brought here.  This man obviously found all this out and came after the child.  I guess he was mentally unstable but either way…he blamed the child for his wife’s death.  He only saw the Cardassian in the girl and hated her…blamed her for his wife’s death.”  He sighed deeply and folded his arms. 

“He came here…tried to get to the little girl.  Kathryn was with her at the time and defended her.  She bore the brunt of the attack before we were able to reach her to help.  He ran off, but as I said…we’re certain he’s the same one who planted this virus in the school water supply.  Anyway…he cut Kathryn badly.  He slashed at her face and neck…stabbed her in the chest…cut her arm…  It was touch and go for some time and we almost lost her…blood loss…collapsed lung…”  He sighed.  “We healed her as best we could but…”  He shrugged and Chakotay saw the barely controlled anger there.  “As usual…our equipment wasn’t good enough to heal the scars completely so they’re still there.”  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment, his mind filling in the images.  He nodded slowly.

“That would be her all right.”  He looked towards Kathryn in the bed.  “Everyone before herself...especially a child…”  He turned back to Duncan, trying to think past his emotions.  “You believe this was the same man?”  Duncan nodded. 

“We’re sure.  We now know someone came here to put poison in the water and that caused this virus, or whatever it is.  We managed to install some security imagers after the attack on Kathryn.  They’re not very good but they picked up something.  My Engineer reported back to me a short time ago and said something showed up.  It’s just on the one imager…one which was well hidden.  It’s a grainy image but it seems to be him.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Give it to me later.  One of my people is good with things like that.  Harry Kim.  He might be able to clean up the image.”  He looked to Duncan who smiled and nodded his thanks. 

Their attention was now drawn to the curtain being pulled back.  A young woman looked in and nodded to Duncan and Cassa and then finally at Chakotay.  Duncan introduced her.

“This is one of our nurses…Miriam…”  Chakotay smiled at the dark haired young woman.  She smiled back and then stood aside.  Voyager’s EMH entered alongside two other people who had joined their crew.  One was a doctor, the other a biologist.  Chakotay nodded to the three men and introduced them to Duncan and Cassa.  Duncan shook hands with each man in turn and then went on to tell them all he knew.  Chakotay listened as he watched Kathryn closely.

“This virus or whatever…it’s indiscriminate.  It attacks all the major organs…the brain…the heart.”  Duncan looked down at Kathryn.  “She’s the worst…drank more of the water than the rest of us and yet was the last we knew was sick.  She drank the water after the others but more of it.”  He sighed deeply.  “She hid her symptoms from us.  The last day before she collapsed…she worked here with us…worked herself into the ground tending to the others…the children…sat with them…nursed them…got no rest or sleep…probably ate nothing either.  It drained her.”  He was quiet for a moment as he remembered.  “We thought at first it was contagious but then realized the sick had already been exposed.  We’ve had no new cases since we discovered where this came from and isolated the water supply from the school.”  He rubbed at his face, trying to wipe away the weariness he felt and looked again at Voyager’s Doctor.  The EMH held up a medical tricorder.

“May I?”  Duncan nodded and watched silently for a moment as the Doctor examined and scanned Kathryn.  Chakotay looked on, trying to control his emotions.  He looked at Kathryn’s face carefully and suddenly noticed traces of dried blood around her nose.  Duncan spoke on.   

“She slipped into this coma early this morning.  Before that she was in and out of consciousness.  When she was conscious, she was delirious mostly…getting worse and worse.  She was crying and calling out to…”  He glanced quickly at Chakotay and then turned away.  “She saw things…horrible things that weren’t there… screamed herself hoarse from that and her pain…”  He shivered visibly at the memories, his mind still hearing the screams.

“Now…her liver and kidneys are failing…her skin has the yellow tinge from that, which you can see.  We’re keeping the lights low because they hurt her eyes.  We’re giving her oxygen this way because her lungs can’t now take in the air they need and fluid keeps building up in them no matter how often we treat her and try to drain it.  It’s even attacking her nervous system and pneumonia is starting to set in.”  Voyager’s Doctor nodded gravely as he listened.  “She suffers terrible pain…even in this state you can see that.  We had to secure her because she was hurting herself…clawing at her skin and pulling at the tubes.  She has muscle spasms and convulsions…fitting… vomits during them although how I don’t know because there’s nothing in her stomach.  We have to use the suction tube when that happens or else she’d choke on the bile.  She suffers nosebleeds and has had some vaginal haemorrhaging because her blood isn’t clotting the way it should.  Her temperature is very high...fever…  We think it’s spiked but then it goes up again.  We sponge her down to try and control it but it only helps for a short time...if at all.  Her immune system is shutting down and all we have are basic antibiotics, which are practically useless.  Even her joints are swelling and painful.  Her breathing is very bad and getting worse.  You can hear that for yourself.  And now her heart and major organs are weakening…”  He looked towards the bed sadly.  “We’re pumping fluids into her as fast as we can but she’s still dehydrated…  We’re fighting a losing battle…”  He looked at Chakotay again quickly, his eyes apologizing for his words.  Chakotay just closed his eyes.  Duncan turned back to the Doctor.

“We’ve managed to get some idea of what this is…although with our basic lab equipment it’s not much.”  He sighed.  “We understand this poison in how it works…well…to some extent anyway.  We know what it can do.  We can treat the symptoms in some way but our treatment doesn’t even touch the virus caused by the poison.  As I said…we haven’t the equipment or the lab facilities to search for a cure…nor the spare personnel.  The people we do have don’t have the expertise anyway.”  The Doctor smiled gently.

“We’re here now and we’ll do everything we can.”  Cassa reached over and handed the EMH a padd.

“This is Kathryn's medical history since she’s been here…along with everything up to the present…her last observations and readings.”  The Doctor nodded and took the padd.

“I need to examine the others too.  As to the ‘virus’…  If you can show us what you’ve got so far, we’ll work from there.”  He made to move away and Chakotay stepped forward, desperation etched on his features.

“Doc, can’t you…?”  His hand reached out towards Kathryn.  The Doctor smiled sadly and shook his head.

“Chakotay, bear with us here.  We need to understand this a bit more before we try anything.  I know it’s very hard.  I can’t treat what I don’t yet understand.  I also can’t treat the symptoms without hiding the virus and for now, I need to see the virus in order to deal with it and understand it.”  Chakotay looked down at Kathryn again then back at the Doctor.

“It’s just…”  The EMH patted his arm, trying to comfort the large man.

“Look…  She’s stable enough for the moment.  This equipment is working well enough.  It’s doing its job.”  He indicated the oxygen tent and monitors.  Chakotay just shook his head.

“Can’t you move her to Voyager…to sickbay…?”  The Doctor looked at him and shook his head.

“She’s too ill to move…and I wouldn’t risk the transporter in her condition.”  He softened his voice.  “Chakotay, I’ll monitor her constantly.  Any change and I’ll be here immediately.  First I need to study her readings and the history of this thing...assess her condition.  I’ll have a much clearer picture then.  I know how difficult and frustrating this is but please just trust me…  We really are doing the best we can for her.”  Chakotay nodded slowly, his eyes going back to the woman on the bed.  The Doctor turned to Duncan and Cassa and smiled encouragingly at them.  “You’ve done an amazing job here with what you have.”  They smiled their thanks although neither looked as if they believed the Doctor’s words.  Duncan shrugged. 

“Thank you, Doctor…all of you…”  He looked at them all in turn as he spoke.  “We’re trying our best.”  He sighed.  “I can’t understand how some of us escaped this.  It could be said we were lucky and yet…  Maybe we were stronger or something…  Some of us…the stronger as I say…were sick but fought it and recovered…  Some were barely affected by it…very mild…others not at all…no effect…or maybe they had a natural immunity to it…I don’t know…”  Voyager’s EMH nodded at that.

“We’ll test you all.  There might actually be an answer in there somewhere.  Now if you could just show us where to go…”  Duncan nodded as if only half hearing the Doctor.

“Kathryn was already weak…not completely over the earlier attack…worked so hard…”  He smiled sadly, explaining to the EMH about the knife wounds on Kathryn.  “I nagged her so much…we all did.  She just wouldn’t take care of herself…”  He looked at Chakotay now, pain in his eyes.  “She was such an easy victim for this.  She worked at the school…that last day before this all happened…I found her there…scrubbing the floors…and drinking the water…didn’t know…  She was exposed then…”  He rubbed at his eyes.  “The older ones used there…the kids…drank some of the water before that…the day before…the previous night…I think…  Anyone already sick was worse…succumbed more easily…like Kathryn…”  He looked around him desperately.  “It was in the water…the tank leading to the school…the school…for the kids…but we all used it for meetings…all the adults…but it was a school…kids…how could he…?”  Cassa moved towards Duncan now.

“Duncan…you’re exhausted.  You’ve got to get some sleep and eat something.  Come on…”  He pulled back from her.

“She worked beside us all that last day…when they were all sick…and I didn’t see…”  He looked at Chakotay, a stricken look in his eyes.  “I’m sorry…so sorry…I didn’t see…”  Chakotay went to say something but Cassa beat him to it.

“Duncan…she hid it from us all.  You know she even took some hypos to treat herself…  It’s not anyone’s fault…”  Duncan just kept shaking his head.

“I should have seen it before she collapsed…I didn’t…I should have…should have been able to prevent this from happening at all…didn’t take security seriously enough…should have known he’d come back…”  Cassa suddenly slapped him across the face.

“Stop this now, Duncan.  You’re babbling.  You’re no use to anyone…least of all Kathryn…in this state.  Now go and eat something and then get some rest.  If you want to help us…this is the way to do it…”  Duncan seemed to come out of it now and stared at Cassa.  He swallowed loudly and nodded.

“I’m sorry…you’re right…yes…I’ll…”  Cassa nodded to Miriam to take their friend and watched as the other woman led him out.  She turned to Chakotay now and smiled sadly.

“He’s hardly stopped since all this began…”  Chakotay reached out and gripped her arm.

“It’s all right.  I understand…we all do…”  He looked to the Doctor and the others who nodded.  “We’re here now and we’ll do everything we can.”  She nodded slowly as the EMH stepped forward. 

“Chakotay is right.  Try not to worry so much.  As he said, we’ll do everything we can.”  He smiled warmly.  He indicated one of the two Starfleet personnel who had come with him.  “One of these men will attach a kind of monitor to Kathryn and to the more serious of the other patients.  We’ll be able to keep track of their conditions as we work.”  Cassa nodded and tried to smile.  The Doctor squeezed her arm.  “Now…if you could just tell us where to go…”  She nodded and drew in a deep breath.

“Of course.  Sorry.  We’re all under stress here…”  She moved away and looked out through the curtain.  Chakotay saw her nod to someone and then a young Cardassian woman came in.

“This is one of our nurses…Dressa.  She’ll show you everything you need…”  The Doctor nodded to Chakotay then left with his two companions.

^^^^^^^^^^

Silence followed for a few moments, save for the gentle noise of the machines and monitors surrounding Kathryn's bed.  Finally Chakotay looked up at the young Cardassian Doctor.

“I’m very grateful for all you’ve done for her…”  She nodded her understanding.

“She’s a good friend to me…to us all here…  We love her very much.”  Chakotay nodded at that and swallowed.  Cassa smiled softly.  “I see that you do also…”  Chakotay didn’t even try and hide his emotions.

“Yes…I do…but I let her down…gave up on us…and I’ll live with that for the rest of my life…”  Cassa pulled a chair over to the side of the bed.

“You’re here for her now and that’s what matters.  Please…”  She pointed to the chair.  “Stay with her a while…talk to her.  I’m a great believer in that.  I truly believe that patients can hear what’s being said to them.  Talk to her…touch her…let her know you’re here…  Take your time and then we’ll all talk and try to get to the bottom of this…”  Chakotay smiled gratefully and sat down.

“Thank you Cassa…I’ll stay a while.  It’s been a long time since…”  He felt her hand grip his shoulder.

“I’ll just be outside if you need me…”  When he looked up, she’d gone.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay wasn’t sure how long he sat with Kathryn, just stroking her hand and arm under the plastic covering and whispering softly to her.  He relished the closeness, knowing it would be impossible outside of that moment and then chided himself, feeling guilty for the thought but still he continued. 

As he sat whispering to Kathryn and listening to the sounds of the machines, he slowly became aware of someone beside him and looked up into B'Elanna’s face.  She smiled softly at him.

“Hey there old man.  How are you?”  Chakotay felt no embarrassment at his old friend finding him as she had and simply shook his head.

“I don’t know.”  He looked back down at Kathryn.  “It’s not me anyone should be worried about anyway…”  B'Elanna knelt down beside him, her expression soft and caring.

“How’s she doing…?”  He shook his head.

“Not very good…”  He didn’t trust himself to say more.  B'Elanna gave him a few minutes as she looked at her former Captain, reaching under the edge of the oxygen tent to stroke her leg through the thin blanket which covered her.  Finally Chakotay spoke again. 

“How are things going?  I’m supposed to be leading this…  overseeing…  I’m sorry…I’m not much help…”  B'Elanna smiled softly at him when he looked at her.

“You’re where you need to be.  Don’t worry about the rest of us.  We all understand.  Besides, we’re a team.”  Chakotay nodded gratefully and sighed.

“Thanks.  I had to see her…couldn’t have just…”  He shrugged, at a loss for words and saw that B'Elanna understood him.  He smiled softly at her.  “How are things anyway?”  B'Elanna pursed her lips.
 
“Better than expected actually.  We have things fairly under control or rather I should say ‘so far so good’.”  Chakotay nodded at that.  “It was hard at first...still is in fact  The women were terrified with so many of us suddenly beaming down, even though we came in small groups and have kept the numbers to a minimum.  They seem a little more used to us now…or maybe just not as frightened as they were.  They stand well back but they aren’t running off the way they were...well…only some of them.”  Chakotay nodded again slowly.  “It’s not too bad with the women amongst us.  They stay back from us but they run from the men.  The kids just cling to the adults and stay well back too…with the exception of a few…who come forward a bit more.  I think they’re more curious than anything…and that curiosity is bypassing any fear they have…”  She licked at her lips.  “Two of the staff here…Jonathan and…I think her name is…Lorcha… something like that…  They’re talking with the women and kids…counselling them I guess…  They’re working hard to try and help them accept us and hopefully in time, integrate with us.  I think they were working with them before we arrived actually…which has also helped.”  She smiled to herself, thinking back over the past few hours.  Chakotay sat back and stretched his legs out.

“What about work progress?”  B'Elanna scratched at her cheek.

“We’ve a team up at the school…taking samples and passing them to the Doctor who’s in his element.”  Chakotay smiled slightly.  “He’s really getting on top of things.  Between himself and the Starfleet lot, they’ve already set up a working lab here…beamed down piles of equipment…and he’s flitting back and forth between here and the ship.  He’s ordering people around like I don’t know what and no one is asking any questions of him.  He says jump and they ask how high.  Even the Starfleet people are letting him take the lead.  If it was any other situation, I’d say he’d be on the power trip of his life.”  Chakotay managed a small smile at that as he leaned back a little and stretched some more.

“Any problems with the staff here and our lot?”  B'Elanna shook her head.

“They’re working together as if they always have been.  That guy Duncan…one of the doctors here…he’s actually been sedated to make him rest…”  Chakotay nodded.

“He was exhausted…heading for a breakdown in a way…”   B'Elanna stood up and sat on the very edge of the bed, careful of the oxygen tent.

“He’s asleep anyway and the rest are working with us.  Others on the staff here have some basic medical training and they’re working with the Doctor in taking blood samples and running simple tests.  They’re then reporting back to the Doc.  It’s all running very smoothly.  Another team is checking the other water supplies and the stream and river…even the supply into the dwellings and other buildings.  We’ve a team checking the entire area for anything…part of Tuvok’s lot actually…security.  They’re going over the surveillance equipment and sensors…checking what images they got.  Apparently they have this bastard on one of the imagers.  Harry’s working on that.  They’re also mapping out what improvements can be made.  Another medical lot are checking over the people who appear healthy…just to be sure.  Others are just doing what they can, where they can…basically just to feel useful.  They’re looking to see what can be done for this place once the crisis is over.  It sounds like mayhem but it’s all actually running very smoothly.  A few of our women are helping with the nursing and the patients are slowly accepting their presence.  They feel safer with women.  We’ve made sure there are always women present with our groups, in fact.  It also helps that some of the staff here stay with them.  The women trust their own and when they see the staff trust our lot…they relax a little.  Any time we’re near the women or the kids, in fact, we make sure we have a staff member with us.  We wouldn’t approach them on our own.  We also keep the numbers as small as possible when dealing with them or working near them.  Seven has stayed on Voyager and is working from there.  We were afraid she might be a bit much for them this early on.  Anyway, she’s more help there.”  Chakotay shook his head in amazement.

“It’s like you read my mind with what to do.”  B'Elanna laughed softly.

“I suppose we just know your way.  It comes from years of working together.  We were also trained damned well thanks to seven years on Voyager and it’s amazing how easily we’ve all slipped back into that.  Kind of like we’ve never been apart.”  Chakotay nodded his agreement at that.

“I guess you don’t need me then…”  He smiled softly as B'Elanna slapped his arm.

“Very funny.  We do actually.  They need you in a few minutes.  There’s a meeting in the main room…an ‘assess where we stand’ kind of thing.  We need you for that.  Is that OK?”  Chakotay nodded slowly, looking towards Kathryn again.  He leaned over and stroked her arm. 

“Yeah…I’ll come.”  He stood stiffly then leaned down, brushing his lips to Kathryn's arm.  He then pulled the plastic back in place as he whispered to her.  “I’ll be back later.”  B'Elanna swallowed a lump in her throat at the tenderness of the large man.  She looked at Kathryn more closely then and frowned. 

“What happened to her face?”  Chakotay straightened up and moved away from the bed.

“She was attacked here…the same bastard it seems.  He was here before.  They’re knife wounds…the scars from them.  She was defending one of the kids he came to harm.”  He looked at B'Elanna and saw that she was still stroking Kathryn's leg.

“She hasn’t changed then…”  She looked up and stood also.  Chakotay smiled and took her arm.

“No…she hasn’t.”  He looked back again and then made for the curtain.  “Come on…let’s sort this out…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Those who weren’t needed elsewhere were gathered in the large meeting room when Chakotay arrived with B'Elanna.  He nodded to his own crew members, seeing the Doctor there also.  He smiled towards a groggy looking Duncan who sat nursing a cup of tea.  The young doctor smiled at him.

“Sorry about earlier…  I guess I was more tired than I thought.”  Chakotay smiled his understanding as another man came up behind Duncan and tapped his shoulder.  He recognized him from earlier and remembered that his name was Jonathan.

“And he’s going straight back to bed as soon as this meeting is over…”  Duncan sighed his surrender.

“I promised, didn’t I?  Stop being such a nag…”  Chakotay smiled at the two men.

“B'Elanna…our Engineer…has filled me in a little.  How’s it going from your point of view?”  Jonathan shook his head and smiled.

“It’s amazing.”  He pointed across the room.  “Look at the women.  I can’t believe how well they’re taking all this.  Oh, they’re still frightened but we’re working on that…talking about their fears and helping them overcome them.  We also had time before you came to work with them.”  He smiled again at Chakotay.  “A few of them are actually beginning to work with your lot when one of us is there.  I’m still in shock.  I think the fact that they know Kathryn knew you all before has helped.  In their minds, if she trusted you then they can trust you too.”  Chakotay shook his own head.

“She certainly seems to be loved and respected here by everyone...”  Jonathan smiled at that. 

“You have no idea.  Look over there.  That’s ‘Mommy Kathryn's Get Well Corner’.”  Chakotay looked where indicated and saw a corner of the room filled with flowers and small handmade toys.  Childish drawings and homemade cards filled the wall.  He turned back with a puzzled look on his face.  Jonathan explained.  “The kids…even the adults…  They wanted to have them in her room at the clinic but we didn’t want to take any risk with germs or anything.  This was the compromise…”  Chakotay smiled at Jonathan.

“Mommy Kathryn?”  Jonathan nodded.

“We’re all Mommy or Daddy whoever…  The kids like it.”  Chakotay looked at B'Elanna as he shook his head in amazement.  Their attention was then drawn to another man who was calling for everyone’s attention.  Jonathan whispered to Chakotay and B'Elanna.  “That’s Peter Walker…our Engineer…  He’ll introduce everyone first and then we’ll get moving.”  Chakotay nodded and took a chair, B'Elanna taking the one beside him. 

Peter Walker got the meeting going as Jonathan had predicted by introducing everyone from the refuge staff and the women present.  Chakotay stood and did the same with those from the crew who were in attendance.  He saw many people nod to each other, seeing that introductions had already been made in many cases.  Peter then waited a moment for silence before reporting to everyone.

“OK people…I won’t take up much of your time because we all have a lot of work to do.”  He looked down at the table a moment before looking back at the people gathered around him.  “The facts are…  We know the poison which caused this virus was planted here deliberately…placed in the water supply to the school.  We know that those who drank that water are now sick, although some seemed immune to it or weren’t as badly affected.  You’ve all been tested and the results of those tests will be available to us shortly.  Our new friends here are working well with us so I think we can safely say we all trust each other.”  Many heads nodded at that and Peter smiled.

“OK…our current situation is that security is at its highest now…thanks to Tuvok here and his team…”  He pointed to the Vulcan who nodded.  “That’s a big concern to you all so that will hopefully make us all feel better.  They’re also working on the images we got so we can try and identify this bastard.”  He paused.  “Now…our main problem…  Our staff and the Starfleet medical and scientific personnel are working hard on this, especially Voyager’s Doctor here…”  This time he pointed to the EMH who smiled gently.  “He’s already begun some treatments which have helped greatly.  You’ve seen other members of the Starfleet team working in many other areas but I’ll let them explain that to you all later.  For now, we need to concentrate on the medical side of all this.  I’ll let the Doctor here explain in more detail…”  Voyager’s EMH stood and smiled at everyone as Peter sat down.

“Firstly, I must thank you all for being so helpful.  I know how hard this is on you all and how frightened you all must be.  I can assure you that you have nothing to fear from us and that we’re only here to help in any way we can.  Please know that we’re doing everything we can to find a cure for this and we’ve already made some good progress.  No one else is at any risk now.  The cause of the virus…the poison in the water supply to the school…has been completely isolated.  The stream which feeds the tank there has been checked and cleared.  We’ll empty and clean that tank later and safely dispose of the contaminated water…treat it first.  We’ll then re-fill it.”  He looked around at everyone.  “We intend to deal with this in a two pronged manner…attack it in two ways…fight it from two fronts if you will.  First of all, we find a way to fight and kill the virus and secondly we need to repair the damage it has caused to those affected… strengthen their immune systems again.”  He looked around at the staff from the refuge and then at the women. 

“I know there are still many questions…and I don’t have all the answers.  I wish I had.  It’s impossible to know exactly how long this poison was in the water or how long it took to work, but we have some idea.  It seems to have been for a short enough period from what I can tell and that actually helps.  It means less time inside the person affected…although the damage is still great.  It will, however, make it a little easier to deal with in many of the cases.  We’re lucky also in that the one who did this had little or no knowledge of your water system.  He didn’t know that a separate system fed the school and probably believed that the one system fed the entire settlement.”  One of the women spoke up, anger overriding her nervousness.

“In other words…if he had known or if we’d had only one feed to all the buildings…we might all be dead by now and no one would have ever known…”  There was a deadly silence for a moment.  The Doctor tried to reassure them.

“I know it’s hard to believe this now but I really believe we will get on top of this.  The children…from what I can gather…only drank a little of the water.”  Another woman spoke, smiling shyly.

“Most of them hate ordinary water.  They prefer to come to the kitchen and try and sweet talk Selona into parting with her lemonade…”  Many of the other women smiled at that.  The Doctor smiled also.

“Thank God kids are the same everywhere.”  He grew serious again.  “Look, we will get through this.”  A third woman stood now, her nervousness clearly evident.

“I need to say something.”  The Doctor nodded and smiled.  She looked at him and then at the others before speaking.  “I need to say…  I need to thank you.  You’ve just said ‘we will’…not ‘you’ or ‘us’…and that means a great deal.  I know we were terrified at the thought of anyone coming here and many of us are still frightened.  I know I am.”  She smiled softly.  “What I’m trying to say is ‘thank you’ to all of you…”  She looked at Chakotay and B'Elanna, then at the others.  “I guess we knew that if Kathryn trusted you all…then we could.  We knew Duncan and the others here did and that helped too.  We’ve only known you a short time and yet…even in that time…see that we can trust you and that you’re here to help us.  I guess…”  She sighed deeply.  “I guess we let some bad people make us forget that there are so many good people still out there.  We let ourselves forget that for too long.  It’s just a pity it took something like this to remind us.  So thank you for helping us and thank you for reminding us that good is still out there…  Just be patient with us.”  She looked around again, seemingly shocked that she had managed to say so much and sat down again, clearly embarrassed.  Chakotay shook his head and stood.  He smiled gently at the woman who had spoken.

“I want you to know…all of you…that what the Doctor just said goes for us all.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I agreed to come here before I knew about Kathryn…and the others here did the same.  However, once we did know that she was here…  I have to tell you that that made us a million times more determined.  Many of you won’t know but she was our Captain for many years and we all love and respect her more than anything.  We would have come anyway but once we knew it was Kathryn…”  He shook his head.  “I just want you all to know that we’re here to help you anyway…regardless…and that we’ll do everything within our power to find a cure for this and I believe we will.  Afterwards…if you’ll permit it…we’d like to stay on and help in any other way we can…but that’s later on…  For now…”  He hesitated, not sure what to say.  The same woman who had just spoken stood again.

“Sir…we know what you mean and again we thank you.  We also believe you’ll save us and our children…our friends…”  She looked over towards the corner of the room where all the cards and small gifts were for Kathryn.  “Can I ask…?”  She licked at her lips.  “Can I ask how Kathryn is…?”  She looked from Chakotay to the Doctor to Duncan.  Duncan smiled gently at her.

“Ria, she’s still very ill…we don’t know…”  Chakotay saw tears in the woman’s eyes and lowered his head a moment.  He looked up again and saw her nod silently.  “We’re hopeful though…we really are…”  Peter Walker stood again, determined to break the sombre mood, knowing everyone would feel better if they had something to do.

“OK people…I think that’s about it…”  He looked to Voyager’s Doctor who nodded his agreement.  “I suggest we get some rest and something to eat.  Selona has prepared a kind of buffet dinner…known around here as a ‘grab what you can’ dinner, so just go and help yourselves.  We’ll divide back into our earlier groups after that and get back to work.  We can also relieve those still working.    Hopefully by then, we’ll have more positive news…”  At that, everyone began to slowly stand and move away. 

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay watched as people drifted off after the meeting.  He smiled at several of the women but only received a polite nod in return from most.  He saw their nervousness and understood.  He sighed sadly to himself then turned suddenly to his right as he sensed someone standing beside him.  He smiled at Mike Ayala, the man holding a cup of tea towards his former Captain.

“Thought you could use this…”  Chakotay smiled his thanks and took the offered cup.

“Thanks Mike.  You’re a mind reader.”  The younger man shrugged.

“Nah…  You just looked as if you needed it.”  Chakotay took a deep swallow and sighed gratefully.

“You’re not wrong there.  Thanks again…”  Mike smiled as Chakotay drained his cup.

“Another one?”  Chakotay shook his head. 

“No…thanks anyway.  I need to get back…”  He shrugged and saw that his old friend understood.  Mike just nodded understandingly.

“How is she really?”  He saw the answer for himself in the pained look on the face before him.  Chakotay shook his head and swallowed, looking out over the room.  Mike understood and patted the older man on the arm.  “She’ll be fine.  Our Doc is the best and the Starfleet lot are great too…”  Chakotay turned to look at him at the sound of a small laugh.  Mike shrugged.

“Sorry.  It’s just…  How times change.”  He smiled at the frown on Chakotay’s face.  “I just said something good about Starfleet.  I must be getting old or soft or both…”  Chakotay smiled also and reached over to squeeze the other man’s shoulder.

“You’re neither soft nor old, Mike.  The answer to that just takes us back to Kathryn Janeway.  She’s the one who changed us all and brought us peace.”  Mike’s smile softened as he nodded and Chakotay returned it.  They were both silent for a moment, quietly reflecting, until their attention was drawn to the door as two young girls burst into the room, one obviously chasing the other.  They both stopped dead when they saw the two men, a look of fear in their eyes.  They stood frozen to the spot until Selona went over to them.  She leaned down to the children and whispered to them quietly then gently ushered the two frightened girls into the kitchen with a promise of large glasses of lemonade.  She smiled apologetically at Chakotay and Mike who nodded their understanding to her.  Chakotay sighed heavily as he watched them leave the room.  He turned back to Mike, shaking his head and saw that the other man’s expression matched his own.  Mike shrugged and shook his head sadly.

“I’m actually getting used to the women and kids running from me although that doesn’t make it any easier.  Mind you, it’s not as bad as it was when I beamed down first.”  He looked at Chakotay and shrugged helplessly.  “They run from me…from the other men…  They’re scared of us.  The women are…”  He sighed.  “You can see it in their eyes…see the fear…  I’ve done nothing wrong…done nothing to hurt them and yet…I still feel guilty…”  He dropped his head to the side, his eyes still on Chakotay.  “Does that make sense?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I don’t know.  Maybe we’re just aware of being men or something.”  He sighed deeply and looked towards the closed kitchen door.  “The fear in the eyes of those kids when they saw us…  That’s like a punch to the guts.  We caused that.”  He looked towards Mike again and saw him shake his head.

“No.  Other men caused it.  We just remind them.”  He smiled slightly when he saw Chakotay frown.  “Jonathan told me that.  I already had a similar conversation with him about this.  He’s one of the psychologists here.  I’ve told myself that he knows best.”  Chakotay tried to draw comfort from that.

“The staff here tried to prepare them before we arrived and I understand they’re still counselling them…”  Mike nodded his agreement to that.

“They are…and it has helped a lot.”  He shoved some hair back from his face.  “I mean…not all of them run when I come along.  At this stage, some of them are…I guess…more curious than anything.  At least, it seems that way.  The kids in particular.  Kids have less fear anyway.”  He forced a small laugh.  “Some are still terrified, like those two.  For others, it’s like they’ve gone from terrified to scared to nervous to curious.”  He shrugged again.  “I think the kids will find it easier to get over their fear than the women will.”  He looked around the room, his eyes not settling on anything in particular.  “It’s like the kids …”  He stopped a moment to formulate his thoughts then waved a hand in the air.  “It’s…  The kids seem able to get past their fear…because maybe it’s not as ingrained or they don’t understand enough to be that afraid or…  I see them about to move past that fear and then they see the women’s fear…their mother’s fear…and they hang onto it…almost as an act of loyalty…like they think they’ll let their mother down if they don’t act or feel the same.”  He looked back at Chakotay, who nodded slowly.

“Maybe…  I think the women can get past their fear too though because they can understand better.  The women’s fear is added to by the trauma they suffered…the actual act…whereas the kids…”  He sighed.  “I don’t know.  I’m not sure what I’m trying to say.  I guess the kids who witnessed what happened to their mothers will find it easier to fear than the ones who didn’t witness anything.  Then again, they have their own traumas…”  He looked down at his hands.  “I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.  This is that guy Jonathan’s area.  We’ll just have to hope that time will build trust…”  Mike nodded at that.

“I’m hoping the same thing.  The few who are working with us seem to be gaining that trust more easily even though they still look to their own constantly for reassurance.  Working together helps us all.”  Chakotay smiled and nodded.  He straightened up and put his empty cup down on a table beside him.

“Then let’s do some.  I need to do something to…”  Mike slapped him on the back gently.

“It’s a good therapy, that’s for sure.  Come on…I’ve plenty for you to do…  It helps the mind to re-charge in one area while it’s occupied in another.”  Chakotay smiled at him.

“You’re spending too much time with that psychologist.”  He nodded.  “OK…lead the way.  Just don’t expect miracles.  My carpentry skills are a bit rusty…”   

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay worked with Mike and some of the others for a few hours, organizing things and overseeing all the work.  He then made his way back to the clinic to check on Kathryn.  He saw a young girl near the door as he approached and smiled at her.  As soon as she saw him, she raced away.  He shook his head sadly and entered, heading to where Kathryn was.  He found Duncan and Miriam with her. 

“I’m sorry…I’m…”  The young doctor and nurse had Kathryn rolled onto her side, her hospital gown open from the back.  Duncan looked up and smiled softly. 

“It’s all right, Chakotay.  You can wait.  I’ll be finished in a moment.”  He reached over to Miriam for a small regenerator.  “Kathryn has developed fairly bad bed sores.  I’m just trying to treat them.”  He looked up at Miriam again.  “Dressings…?”  She  handed him some gauze pads.  He looked up when Greta poked her head behind the curtain.

“Sorry…I need Miriam…”  Duncan nodded at the woman beside him to leave and smiled at Chakotay. 

“Can you help me here please?”  Chakotay nodded and moved towards the bed slowly.  “If you can just hold her…”  Chakotay nodded again and swallowed the lump in his throat, wanting to cry.  He forced himself to control his emotions and just concentrate on helping the young doctor.  As his hands made contact with Kathryn's skin, he felt the heat radiate off her body but also felt how thin she was.  He saw for himself now how bad the bed sores were as Duncan covered them.

“Doesn’t the regenerator heal them?”  His voice sounded choked.  Duncan smiled sadly, his eyes apologizing for him.

“Your Doctor is bringing some of yours down as soon as he can.  Working on a cure is his priority at the moment.  I’m sorry.  We don’t have regenerators which can fully heal deeper cuts or sores.”  He looked towards Kathryn's face.  “You saw that from the scars on her face.”  He looked back at Chakotay and smiled sadly again.  “I know that must still shock you.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I do understand…”  Duncan sighed and continued his work.

“I try to…understand that is.  I just can’t accept it most of the time.”  He finished what he was doing and let Chakotay help him roll Kathryn back.  He then covered her again with a light sheet and replaced the oxygen tent around her.  The two men stared down at her for a moment before Duncan spoke again.

“Chakotay…”  Chakotay met his eyes, tearing his gaze away from the woman lying before them.  “To us the regenerators we have are a luxury, believe it or not.  We heal the only way we can and that’s the old fashioned way.  With our funds, food and medicines come first…are more important.”  Chakotay smiled his understanding.

“I know that and I really do understand.  Please Duncan, I wasn’t trying to…”  He looked back down at Kathryn.  “It’s just…”  Duncan filled in the rest.

“It’s just that it’s her…and that’s hard…  I understand that too…”  Chakotay nodded, still staring at Kathryn.  He felt something stir inside him and wondered for the first time if perhaps there was something between Kathryn and this man, outside of their working relationship.  As soon as he had the thought, he pushed it away.  Getting her well was all that mattered.  He turned now when he heard someone enter behind him and saw Miriam return.  Duncan moved towards the woman.

“Miriam, I’ve finished the dressings.  Just run the usual checks.  I’ll be back a little later.”  Miriam moved towards the bed.

“I don’t think so.  Cassa is taking this shift.  Jonathan is on the lookout for you, demanding that you get back to your bed and get some rest.  He said you broke your promise to him.”  Duncan shook his head and laughed slightly.

“OK OK…I’ll go…  He’ll make my life a hell if I don’t…”  He smiled at Chakotay.  “Care to walk with me?  I don’t recall you eating anything earlier so I’ll walk you as far as the kitchen…”  Chakotay hesitated and Duncan pushed.  “You can come back and sit with her then.  Miriam knows where you are if you’re needed…”  Chakotay smiled softly and nodded.

“All right…just something quick…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay smiled to himself as he looked around at all the activity as he and Duncan made their way towards the main building.  He saw the young girl he had seen earlier sitting on the ground near the door to the clinic and again smiled at her.  This time she just stared at him but didn’t run and he assumed it was because Duncan was with him.  He turned to the young man now.

“They’re all working so well together…  Well…some of them…”  Duncan smiled his agreement.

“I’m amazed at that myself.  I worried so much about the women accepting all this.  I knew our staff would be fine but the women and the kids…  Seems I needn’t have worried so much after all.  Jonathan and Lorcha worked with them before you came and continue to do so, which has helped.  I guess confronting a fear often reveals that there was little or nothing to fear in the first place.  Still though…look what led to all this…”  Chakotay looked at the man.

“You couldn’t have foreseen…”  Duncan stopped walking and shook his head angrily. 

“Couldn’t I?”  He sighed deeply.  “Sorry but you’re wrong.  I should have seen it.  The very nature of this place…the reason for it…suggested the need to be more vigilant.”  He shook his head as he looked around him.  “This could have happened at any time.  In a way…it was waiting to happen.  Then of course it happened…when Kathryn was attacked.  If that wasn’t the biggest warning to what could follow…”  Chakotay tried to offer some support.

“You did what you could…”  Duncan laughed sarcastically.

“You think so?  Yeah…we did a great job…”  He smiled apologetically.  “Sorry… again…”  He sighed deeply once more.  “I don’t know.  I sometimes think now that by cutting ourselves off…isolating ourselves in this way…we left ourselves open to something like this…had no protection.  We looked so inward that we didn’t see what was outside.  Hiding like this…”  He gestured around him.  “Hiding like this is what left us so open and vulnerable.  We were hidden from those who could harm us but by extension…when that harm came…we were hidden from those who could help.  I wonder now if those outside should be aware of what happened to these people.  When the truth is known…that truth can protect you.”    He shrugged and looked at Chakotay.  “Of course, maybe I’m wrong.  We always had to consider the women’s fear but still…  We could have met somewhere half way on it…”  He rubbed a hand across his forehead.  “Maybe by cutting them off from everyone else…we just kept them as victims…kept them feeling different.  They got used to the isolation and hid within it…saw no other way.  It’s so easy to get used to something…like this way of life…when you’re isolated with it.  They were offered no other choice.  I see now that they need to mix…maybe not totally…but with non-victims they can trust.  What I’m seeing now practically proves that.”  He sighed and began walking slowly.  Chakotay followed and gripped his arm, stopping him.

“I don’t have the answers for you, Duncan.  I don’t know about the future here.  All I can see or think about right now is Kathryn…”  Duncan nodded his understanding.  “I can however tell you that we will get past this.  I really believe that.  When that time comes…soon I hope…we’ll all get together and work something out.”  He smiled sadly to himself.  “I’ll tell you something personal.”  He shrugged and shook his head, meeting Duncan’s eyes.  “When I was on Voyager with Kathryn…when we were together…  Well…I once told her something…and I’ll tell you now…tell you the same thing…”  Duncan frowned slightly but his face held a kindly understanding.  “I told her once that she was not alone…”  Chakotay looked out over the compound a moment, his mind wandering back to the moment.  He shook himself and looked back at Duncan.  He smiled now, a little embarrassed.  “I told her that then and I meant it.  I still mean it although…”  He sighed.  “I broke that promise for a time.  I was stupid and I left her alone.  I mean to make up for that now if I can.”  He looked Duncan straight in the eye, his face serious.  “I’ll tell you the same thing.  You and these people here…  You’re not alone now any more either.  If you’ll just let us…we’re all here for you…”  He was surprised for a moment as he saw tears fill the other man’s eyes.  Duncan blinked quickly and nodded, then cleared his throat.  He gripped Chakotay’s arm tightly.

“Thank you, my friend.  That means a great deal.”  He hesitated a moment.  “Kathryn is a very lucky woman to have you as a friend.  I hope to God that…”  He shrugged and smiled.  “Well, you know.”  Chakotay smiled and nodded.

“I know.”  He moved off slowly.  “Come on.  Let’s get something to eat.  There’s work to be done and sleep to be had for you.”  Duncan rolled his eyes and laughed. 

“It’s unbelievable.  Has Jonathan recruited you or what…?…”   Chakotay laughed with him and tapped the side of his nose.

“Ah…that would be telling.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Voyager’s Doctor never stopped over the next twenty-four hours.  He seemed quite irate when those working with him needed to take a break and then instantly apologised, admitting that his anger and frustrations weren’t aimed at those around him but rather at his inability to find the cure he desperately sought.  He worked alongside the Starfleet medical and scientific personnel and liased with the staff from the refuge constantly.  They all worked flat out to find a serum which could be administered to their patients and were getting quite close to their goal. 

Chakotay stood silently and watched these people work for several minutes.  Finally the Doctor’s voice cut across his thoughts.

“Chakotay, I’m sure there’s something more useful for you to do than stand in that doorway all day…”  Chakotay almost jumped to attention.

“I wanted to get an update from you actually.  I was just waiting for the right moment to ask…didn’t want to disturb your thinking.”  The Doctor shook his head at that, not looking up from his work.

“Very noble of you but until I find what I’m looking for, there won’t be a right moment.  Now…what can I do for you…?”  Chakotay swallowed back a smart retort, knowing that they were all on edge.

“As I said…an update…”  The Doctor turned and looked at him briefly.

“We’ve cleaned and treated the tank…disposed of the contaminated water safely.  The tank has also been re-filled.  That’s that problem solved.”  Chakotay showed some anger. 

“Isn’t finding a cure or treatment for this more important…?”  The Doctor turned and glared at him before his face softened.

“Chakotay…please trust me to know what I’m doing.”  Chakotay held up his hands and nodded in apology.

“I’m sorry…I’m just…”  The Doctor handed a phial to the man beside him and whispered an order.  He then made his way over to Chakotay.

“Look Chakotay…just trust us here.  We needed to treat the water and clean the tank first because the last thing we need here is any new outbreak.  As long as that contaminated water remained there, that was a risk, especially with kids around.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.  “You must also understand that in treating the water, we gained valuable insights into this…into what we’re dealing with.”  He played with a padd on the table beside him.  Chakotay cut in.

“Couldn’t the treatment you used on the water be used on the patients?”  The Doctor shook his head.

“I’m afraid not.  We could treat the water without fear of harming it.  Water can’t feel and can’t be further damaged.  Treating people…well…the cure…any serum we develop…must be just right.  If it isn’t, we risk causing more harm.  It might kill the virus but it could also destroy internal organs if it isn’t right…and maybe even kill the patient.”  Chakotay lowered his head.

“Sorry.  I should have thought of that…”  He looked up into a kinder expression on the holograms’s face.

“It’s all right, Chakotay.  I do understand.”  He leaned against the table now.  “I can tell you that since we treated the water, we’ve developed an inoculation against this.  I know it doesn’t help those already affected but at least it guarantees us that everyone else will be safe in case there is any possibility of another source of this virus or others getting re-infected.  We’re also extremely close to a cure for this.  What we have so far will only help those least exposed or affected, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s a big step at that.”  He watched to see if his words gave any comfort but saw that they offered little.  Chakotay nodded slowly.

“That’s good, Doctor.  Keep at it.  I’ll leave you in peace…”  He turned to go but felt a restraining hand on his arm.  He turned to find the Doctor smiling gently and holding up a hypospray. 

“Before you go…and disappear on me…”  The Medic answered the puzzled look he saw.  “Your inoculation…”  Chakotay sighed and nodded, exposing his neck.  He heard the small hiss and then felt a slight sting.  “There you go…”  Chakotay rubbed at his neck a moment and nodded.

“Just let me know the minute you have something.  I’ll be over at the clinic…”  Without another word or waiting for an answer, he turned and left.  The Doctor watched his departure and looked down at the hypo in his hand.

“I just hope I don’t let you all down…”  He turned and went back to work.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay made his way towards the clinic, watching the work taking place around him in amazement.  He was still stunned at how many of the women and children were mixing more and more with everyone, slowly at first by working nearby and then moving in alongside them.  He stopped now as he heard his name called and turned to find Harry Kim running towards him.

“Chakotay…that image…”  Chakotay smiled at the excited and eager face.

“Let me guess.  You’ve pulled off another miracle?”  Harry actually blushed.

“It’s pretty good if I may say so myself…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Well…let me see it…”  Harry pointed towards the meeting room. 

“One of B'Elanna’s lot from Engineering helped me.  He’s just putting the finishing touches, if you like, to the image.  We’re quite proud of the clarity we’ve achieved…”  Chakotay smiled and followed Harry, almost running to keep up.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay and Harry entered the dayroom to find Jonathan and a few other staff members studying the image.  They then passed it to Duncan who sat groggily at the table nursing a hot mug of tea.  Chakotay saw the doctor study the image and then nod.

“I’m sure it’s the same bastard…”  He looked up at the others.  “Are we all in agreement on that…?”  Chakotay saw all those present nod.  Jonathan nodded his head too.

“Oh it’s him all right…I was pretty close…”  He looked to John Wilson.  “You agree, John?  You got closest of all…”  The farmer nodded his head angrily.

“It’s him all right.  I won’t ever forget that fucker…”  He looked up apologetically and glanced around quickly, making sure none of the kids were around.  “Sorry…excuse the language…  It’s just…”  Jonathan patted his arm.

“No apologies necessary, John.  We all feel the same way…”  Suddenly B'Elanna stepped forward, her expression somewhat guarded.

“You said something about this guy having been ex-Maquis…?”  Jonathan nodded.

“As far as we know.  That’s what we were told anyway…”  B'Elanna nodded and reached her hand out.

“May I see the image?”  Jonathan frowned and handed over the padd he held.  Despite the puzzled look on his face, he didn’t ask any questions.  B'Elanna took the padd and offered a small explanation.  “I knew some Maquis.  Maybe he might look familiar to me…”  Jonathan just nodded to that.

Chakotay watched B'Elanna as she studied the image for almost a full minute.  When she looked up, her eyes immediately sought out his and in that moment, Chakotay knew the man they sought had been identified.  His eyes asked the question and hers gave the answer.  She nodded slowly and held out the padd to her former Captain.

“See what you think…”  Chakotay held her eyes and nodded as he took the padd.  He looked down slowly at the image and then closed his eyes.  When he looked up again, every eye in the room was on him.  He nodded.

“Yeah…I know him…knew him…  We knew him.”  He held up a hand, expecting questions from all directions but none came.  “I’ll explain…”  He looked around and made his way towards a chair at the main table.  He decided to fill in a little background.

“B'Elanna and I were members of the Maquis way back when…”  He looked at the faces around him, expecting to see disapproval at the least and quite possibly hate.  All he saw was mild curiosity.  He realized that the only hateful emotions in the room were aimed at the man in the image who had tried to destroy their world.  Chakotay shook his head in amazement.  Duncan saw his reaction and explained.

“Kathryn mentioned that some of her crew were former Maquis.  We didn’t know who and it doesn’t matter to us anyway.  It’s not important to us.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks.

“To make a long story short, we ended up in the Delta Quadrant with Voyager and Kathryn.  All that was a long time ago and it’s well in our past now.”  He looked down at the image he held again.

“I knew this man.  I didn’t know him well and didn’t really want to.  Our paths crossed a few times but…”  He shook his head.  “Let’s just say that when I fought, I did it for what I believed was a just cause.  I also had a code of honour I adhered to.  B'Elanna was at my side and she followed that same code.  Everyone with us did…”  He looked up at B'Elanna and smiled, receiving a kindly nod in return.  He glanced at Tuvok also and saw the Vulcan nod his agreement.  He nodded back and then continued.  “There were others however.  There were always others…those who had their own ideas about how to achieve an end and they didn’t exactly care what they had to do to reach that end…”  Chakotay shook his head and smiled to himself as the words of Admiral Paris echoed in his mind and he found himself finally understanding what the old man had been trying to explain.  At the end of the day, in a war situation, some members of the Maquis had been every bit as bad as the Starfleet and Cardassian soldiers he had heard about.  Every army had its rogue soldiers, its bad apples.  People were people, good and bad alike, with the same loves and hates.  In or out of uniform, in war or at peace, there would always be good and evil.  He made a silent vow to himself never to forget that.  He looked up into the faces of those around him and shrugged. 

“Sorry…I drifted there a moment.  It’s hard when you suddenly realize that your own can be as capable of evil as your enemy…that people are people.  Admiral Paris tried to explain that when he briefed me.  I think I’ve just finally understood it.”  Jonathan smiled and leaned forward.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of people, Chakotay.  I learned that during my training but most people have to find it out the hard way.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.”  Chakotay smiled his gratitude but he didn’t look convinced.

“I have to tell you that several of those who came here to help are also ex-Maquis.  Is that a problem for you…?”  Jonathan looked around at the others a moment.  They all shook their heads, appearing surprised to even be asked such a question.  Jonathan looked back at Chakotay and frowned.

“Not a problem to us.  Why should it be?”  Chakotay shook his head and then shrugged.

“OK…maybe not you and the others here…but what about the women?  How will they feel about us when they know that…?”  Jonathan sighed and cut across him.

“Listen Chakotay.  They won’t feel any differently about you being ex-Maquis…no differently than if you were ex-Starfleet or ex-Cardassian forces.”  He shook his head.  “A uniform is a uniform to these women.”  He raised an eyebrow.  “It’s the ‘ex’ part that will matter to them.  If you were wearing a uniform, it would be a very different matter.  They’ll learn to judge you by what you are now.  You’ll eventually earn their trust or you won’t.  Good and evil in all…isn’t that what you said?  They too learned that before you did and they also learned it the hard way…probably the hardest way possible…”  Chakotay sighed and smiled his thanks.

“Admiral Paris used almost those exact same words.  He said that to the women here, a uniform was a uniform and that any man was capable of evil…that it wasn’t marked on him…”  Jonathan nodded and smiled.

“Wise man, this Admiral Paris…”  Chakotay nodded agreement.  John Wilson cut in.

“Paris.  I’ve been working here with a guy from your group.  I think his name is Paris too…Tom anyway…”  B'Elanna smiled softly.

“They’re father and son.  Tom is also my husband.”  John pursed his lips and gave a half smile.

“Any kids of yours will have brains then…”  B'Elanna laughed and nodded her head.

“Her name’s Miral and she’s on Voyager.  And yes…she’s perfect in every way…”  John laughed and stood, scraping back his chair.

“I’ve always admired the modesty of parents…  My own were no different when they saw the genius they had created…”  Jonathan rolled his eyes and smiled at Chakotay.

“I constantly wonder how I put up with this lot…”  Duncan rubbed at his head as he answered that.

“Because you love us all and we love you too…  God, we must be hard up…”  Chakotay joined in the laughter, finding he liked these people more and more with each passing hour.  He looked over to B'Elanna to share the moment and saw her deep in thought, chewing on her lower lip.  He leaned forward.

“B'Elanna?”  She ignored him, not seeming to hear him.  “B'Elanna…?”  He tried a little louder now and she suddenly jumped and looked up.

“Sorry…I was lost in thought there.”  She studied her old friend for a moment, still sorting her thoughts and then spoke.  “Chakotay…can you remember his name?”  She watched to see if any memory came to her former captain and saw him think.  When no answer was forthcoming after a minute, she supplied the answer.  “Well…I do.  John Lewis?  Am I right?”  She almost saw a light go on in Chakotay’s mind.

“Lewis…John…”  He nodded.  “You’re right.  I remember that.  I also seem to remember that he’d trained a little with Starfleet.”  He scratched his head.  “Hang on…it’s coming back.”  B'Elanna was too impatient and filled in the rest.

“I remember him more now.  He did his initial training with Starfleet all right.  He then left and became a mercenary for a while.  Better rewards.  I can’t remember his reason for being with the Maquis but I seem to remember part of it was personal…something about a brother still in Starfleet who was killed by the Cardassians.”  Chakotay nodded as he listened and then looked up quickly and saw his own sudden thought reflected on B'Elanna’s face.  They spoke together.

“He was a chemist…”  Chakotay nodded and looked at the others.

“I remember now.  He had trained as a chemist…was quite expert at it in fact.”  Duncan seemed wide awake now.

“That ties in perfectly.  With his training, getting past our inadequate security was simple.  With his scientific knowledge, contaminating the water here must have been easy for him.  Creating the virus wasn’t even a problem.”  He sighed deeply.  “So what do we do now?”  Chakotay was already out of his chair and looked over at John who had remained standing.

“With your approval, I contact Admiral Paris with the information we have and a copy of the image and we let Starfleet hunt the bastard down.  It’s my guess he headed back to Earth to hide out somewhere he knows.  He must know that we’re here now and he wouldn’t risk hanging around.  I’ll get Tuvok on this too and he can gather as much evidence as possible from here.”  Duncan looked at the others in turn and they all nodded their agreement. 

“OK Chakotay.  We go along with that.  I just want him caught.”

^^^^^^^^^^

By the time Chakotay contacted Admiral Paris and finished briefing Tuvok, two hours had passed.  He checked in with the Doctor once more and saw that the Medic was bent over several blood specimens as he ran tests.  Chakotay didn’t dare disturb him and left quietly.

He slowly made his way over to the clinic, breathing in the fresh air deeply in an attempt to feel more alert.  He smiled to himself now as he saw for the first time, several children playing together near the swings.  They eyed him nervously and quickly looked to their mothers for reassurance.  Having received it, they looked back at Chakotay and watched him as he crossed the compound.  He smiled gently at them but they just stared back, watching his every move.  He noticed one little girl who stood alone near the clinic, watching the door and recognized her as the same child who had been there earlier.  As he approached, he smiled at her when she turned to look at him.  She met his eyes briefly before she turned and ran.

Chakotay entered the clinic and was relieved to see fewer patients there now.  Dressa was the nurse on duty and she smiled at him as she saw him scan the room.

“A fair few have recovered thanks to your Doctor.  We’ve sent them over to the dorm to rest and recuperate there.  Galan and Greta, our nursing aides, are taking care of them.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks for the information.

“I’m delighted, Dressa.”  The young Cardassian woman seemed impressed that he remembered her name and smiled broadly.

“You look exhausted.  You really should get some rest…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I just want to check on Kathryn…”  His words were cut off as Duncan stuck his head out of the curtained off area where Kathryn was.

“Dressa…quickly…”  He didn’t seem to see Chakotay as he disappeared back behind the curtain.  Chakotay raced after the nurse as she ran after Duncan.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stopped dead on the other side of the curtain when he saw the scene before him.  The oxygen tent had been pulled away and Cassa was leaning over the bed, trying to hold Kathryn down.  Duncan spoke with Dressa quickly.

“She’s convulsing…get me a tube…  I’ll have to incubate her.  Her airway is swelling and closing…  She can’t breathe…”  Chakotay watched, feeling he had turned to stone, as Duncan suctioned away some vomit first and then fought to get the tube down a struggling Kathryn's throat. 

Suddenly Kathryn went limp in the bed and for the first time, Chakotay became aware of the sound of one of the monitors as it screamed an unbroken tone.  Duncan shouted above it.

“She’s arrested…”  Cassa knelt on the bed and began heart compressions.  Dressa moved to the bed and placed a mask over Kathryn's face, squeezing the attached bag and forcing air into her lungs.  Chakotay just stood rooted to the spot, his lips moving in silent prayer as the people before him fought to save the life of their patient.  He saw Duncan use equipment he had thought was long obsolete, as he ripped open Kathryn's gown and placed pads on her chest.

“Clear…”  Chakotay jumped and let out a cry of pain as Kathryn's body went rigid for a moment and arched off the bed as a surge of electrical current went through it in an attempt to re-start her heart.  He watched this three times, his eyes darting from Kathryn to the monitor beside her and the flat green line it showed.  Finally he saw the line change and the tone became interrupted, small bleeps replacing the continuous wail.  He took a small step forward and watched as Duncan and Cassa worked, attaching more monitors and tubes to their patient.

Eventually, Chakotay became aware of someone shaking his arm.  He turned slowly and looked into Duncan’s face.  It was only then he realized that tears were streaming down his face.  He wiped at them quickly and saw understanding on the doctor’s face.  He also saw deep worry.

“Chakotay, we have her back but it was close…”  Chakotay barely nodded.

“What are…?  The machines…tubes…?”  Duncan squeezed his arm.

“It’s old equipment but it works.  It’s keeping her alive until your Doctor gets here.  Dressa is getting him now although the monitor he had on her has probably already alerted him.”  Chakotay swallowed the large lump in his throat.  Duncan sighed and looked towards the bed.  “She’s on full life support now and the coma is deeper…”  They both looked up as the curtain was pulled back and Voyager’s Doctor rushed in.  Chakotay stood back, barely hearing Duncan make a report to the EMH.  He stood watching Kathryn, as a machine did her breathing for her, her chest gently rising and falling.  He saw Cassa attach monitors to small disks on her chest, before closing her gown over and covering her up.  She checked the flow of the IV lines and then turned slowly, seeing Chakotay for the first time.  Without a word, she pulled a chair over and eased the large man into it.

“Just sit back here a little until they’re finished and then you can move closer.  Talk to her then…”  Chakotay barely nodded and let himself be led.  He sat and stared at Kathryn, tuning out the rest of the world.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Voyager’s Doctor leaned down and laid a hand on his arm.  He slowly turned to look at him, his eyes pleading for answers.  The hologram smiled and pulled over another chair, then sat also.

“Chakotay, I’m leaving her on this equipment for the moment because it’s working and also because I don’t want to risk upsetting or moving her in any way and I still wouldn’t take a chance with the transporter.”  Chakotay squeezed his eyes closed a moment and then opened them again.

“I’m going to lose her…”  The Doctor shook his arm.

“Chakotay, listen to me.  We’re doing everything we can.”  Chakotay looked away.

“I need the truth…not false comfort…”  He looked back at the Doctor and saw anger.

“Chakotay, I don’t lie.  We are doing everything we can.  I can tell you that Kathryn is very ill…the worst case here.  You know that already.  This virus was…  Her condition was more advanced than the others because she was exposed to more of the water…drank more of it.  The others were also stronger and fitter to begin with.  Her natural immune system was badly affected…also more than the others and they’re fighting it better.  We’re almost there.  I’ve administered some treatment to her just now which will hopefully act as a stopgap until we find a cure for this…and we’re close to that…very close.  I believe it’s just a matter of hours now.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Does she have hours…?”  His eyes searched the Doctor’s face for the truth.  He saw the Medic nod slowly.

“I believe so…”  He sighed, a habit at this stage.  “We have to believe that.  We’re really fighting this, Chakotay.  We’re fighting very hard to find this cure.  We just have to have faith…”  Chakotay nodded slowly, desperately trying to find comfort in the Doctor’s words.  He looked over at Kathryn in the bed.

“She can’t breathe…”  His voice was a plaintiff cry.  The Doctor nodded slowly.

“I know.  The virus has attacked all her internal organs…weakened them so much.  That’s why we have her on full life support.  The machines will breathe for her and take care of all her bodily functions until she can do them for herself again.”  He  shook his head.  “Chakotay, try and have that faith.  I know it’s very hard but try.  We’re working flat out.  We will find this cure for her.  I really believe that.”  Chakotay tried a very weak smile for the Doctor and nodded.

“I’ll try…”  His voice choked up and he swallowed.  Cassa knelt down beside him now and smiled softly at him.

“You can sit beside her now, Chakotay.  Talk to her and tell her to hang on.  She’ll hear you.  I really believe that.”  Chakotay nodded again and stood, letting Cassa move the chair for him and then ease him back down into it.  After that, his world shrank to just Kathryn before him and the words he spoke to her.  Nothing else existed or mattered.

^^^^^^^^^^

It took Chakotay some moments before he realized that someone was shaking his arm.  He looked up into the face of Tom Paris.

“Chakotay…hey…”  Chakotay shook himself and nodded.

“Sorry, Tom.  I was…”  He saw the young pilot nod and smile.

“It’s OK…I understand.  How is she?  Any improvement?”  Chakotay shook his head sadly.

“No.  If it wasn’t for these machines…  They’re doing everything for her…”  Tom nodded his understanding. 

“Doc explained.  He’s very close.  They’re just testing the serum now…  They’ve used a…I suppose…a weaker version if you like…on the less severe cases and the results seem positive…look very promising…”  Chakotay tried to grasp what comfort he could from that and nodded.  Tom smiled softly.  “Chakotay…we need to talk to you in the office.  My dad is talking to Duncan and Tuvok at the moment and he wants to talk to you too…”  Chakotay looked reluctantly from Kathryn to Tom.  He then suddenly realized that Cassa was also with them.  She smiled softly at him.

“I’m here with her, Chakotay.  You go on.  I’m sure it won’t take long.  If there’s even the slightest change, I’ll call you immediately.  She’s holding her own at the moment…”  Chakotay stood shakily and nodded.

“All right…just for a moment…but you call me immediately…”  Cassa smiled and nodded.

“You know I will…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay knew his appearance must have shocked Admiral Paris and he saw the sympathetic look on the face of the old man.

“Chakotay, you look exhausted.”  Chakotay just shrugged.

“What’s wrong?”  The old man smiled sadly.

“I wanted to let you know that we’ve caught him.”  Chakotay looked shocked.

“That quickly?  How…?”  Admiral Paris smiled.

“Let’s just say it was a priority…Kathryn and all that.  Also…the information you supplied helped enormously.  You were right.  He had returned to Earth.  He obviously believed that no one knew his identity.  He felt safe in his day to day life…such as it was.  He was actually at his registered address…openly going about his life...as arrogantly as you like.  Our security team spoke with neighbours and they confirmed that he had just returned from being away.  They also confirmed details of his background.  We’re still putting some things together for evidence but it’s pretty damning as it is.”  Chakotay sighed and looked at Tuvok beside him.

“Was Tuvok’s evidence any use?”  The Admiral smiled.

“Very helpful.  Damning, in fact.  Coupled with what we found at the house…”  He shook his head angrily.  “We found samples of the virus even.  He had a lab in the basement of his house…was working openly on everything.  He was so sure of himself, so arrogant, that he left evidence all over the place.  In fact, he openly admitted everything when we arrested him but we still need the evidence to back that up and of course, if he decides to change his mind and plead not guilty.  There’s always some Defender who will try and talk him into believing that he can get away with this.”  Duncan stared at the screen.

“He admitted it?”  Admiral Paris nodded, his face angry.

“He admitted wanting to kill them all…especially the kids.  He called them the ‘spawn of evil’…”  He seemed to hesitate and Chakotay noticed.

“What else…?”  The old man swallowed and drew in a deep breath.

“He also said…”  He shook his head.  “He must have learned Kathryn's identity somehow…or recognized her.  He said…  ‘if I took that…that Starfleet…whore… with me…so much the better’…”  Admiral Paris saw the anger and pain on Chakotay’s face.  “Chakotay, I’m sorry but we have him now.  I have it on good authority that with the evidence we have and the confession, the bastard will spend the rest of his days locked away.  We’ve already had him examined and he’s been declared physically fit and mentally competent to stand trial.  We didn’t want him pulling that one on us…the diminished responsibility excuse…”  He looked down at his desk for a moment and then back up.  “Plenty of time later for this but just to put you on notice.”  He looked towards Duncan and Tuvok in particular.  “Those directly involved will have to give evidence at the trial…Kathryn included…”  He looked at Chakotay now, who shook his head.

“You mean if she lives…?”  No one missed the pain and anger in his voice.  Duncan reached over and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“She’ll be there, Admiral.  You have my word on that.”  Chakotay looked up at the doctor and smiled weakly.  He nodded his thanks.  Admiral Paris cleared his throat.

“I know she will…and the evidence can be given by sub space link so no one need face him directly.”  He smiled kindly.  “Well gentlemen, I have work to do here.  I’ll keep you informed.  I just wanted to let you know that you can rest easy now.  Thank God he failed.”  Duncan thanked the old man and cut the transmission.  He stared at the blank screen for a moment. 

“Until the next time…”  He looked up at the others and shrugged.  “Well, we didn’t see this coming.  No one can say for certain that this couldn’t happen again.  All it takes is for some other nut to come here and try and get his revenge…”  Tom stepped forward and gripped his arm.

“Duncan, it won’t happen again.  Just believe me when I tell you that.  Whatever happens, we’ll make sure of that.  Don’t ask me how just yet, but we’ll work something out…”  Duncan sighed and smiled.

“OK.  I’ll take your word on that.”  He shrugged.  “One step at a time.  Let’s just get over this first and get everyone well…”  Tom nodded and smiled.

“That’s the spirit.”  Duncan drew in a deep breath.

“Come on, Chakotay.  Let’s get back to the clinic and get Kathryn well again…”  The two men shared a smile.

^^^^^^^^^^

When Chakotay and Duncan entered the clinic, they saw Cassa attending to another patient.  She looked up at them and nodded.

“Kathryn's still the same.  I’m keeping a close eye on her.”  Duncan nodded his thanks and led the way back to the curtained off section.  Chakotay almost bumped into him as he stopped dead just inside the curtain.  He turned to Chakotay and placed a finger to his lips, indicating silence.  Chakotay frowned until Duncan drew the curtain back a little more so he could see.  As he looked towards the bed, he was vaguely aware of Cassa coming up beside him.  He heard her gasp as she saw what they were witnessing.

A small girl stood hesitantly beside the bed and placed a hand on Kathryn's arm.  Tears fell silently onto her cheeks as she looked at the woman lying there.  Suddenly her little voice was heard.

“Mommy Kathryn…?  Mommy Kathryn…?”  She inched forward.  “Mommy Kathryn…wake up…  You said you’d help to make my cart…  You promised…”  She sniffed loudly.  “Please Mommy Kathryn…don’t go away…please…I’m sorry…don’t leave…I’ll be good…”   She wiped at her face as she stared down at Kathryn. 

Duncan let out the breath he’d been holding and shook his head.  He turned to the others and smiled tearfully.  He saw the puzzled look on Chakotay’s face and whispered an explanation.

“That’s Julie…Kathryn's little shadow.  She’s the one that bastard came here to kill.”  He shook his head.  “This is the first time she’s spoken…the first time since she came here…”  Chakotay shook his head too and looked back to the small girl.  He suddenly remembered her as the child he had seen several times by the clinic door.  As if suddenly sensing them there or hearing them, she looked up in panic and began to back away.  Chakotay found himself moving towards her slowly.  He kept his voice low.

“Julie, is it?  It’s OK.  I won’t hurt you.  I’m a good friend of your Mommy Kathryn…an old friend…  It’s OK.   You talk to her again because I believe she can hear you and that will help her.”  It took some minutes as he watched the fear fade a little to be replaced by confusion.  She looked towards Duncan and Cassa and saw them nod their reassurance.  Seeming satisfied, she slowly moved closer to the bed, reaching for Kathryn's arm again.  Chakotay smiled gently and pulled over a chair for her and one for himself, leaving a safe distance between them so the child wouldn’t feel too threatened.  Together they sat there for the next hour and talked to the woman they both loved.

^^^^^^^^^^

Julie jumped as the curtain was suddenly pulled back and Voyager’s Doctor entered with two other men.  She backed away quickly into a corner until Chakotay moved towards her and spoke softly.

“Julie, it’s OK.  This man is also a friend of your Mommy Kathryn.  He’s a Doctor.  He’s here to make her better.”  The Medic, reading the situation, smiled at the small girl and nodded.  She stayed where she was, her hands holding the curtain tightly.  Chakotay looked away from her for a moment, his eyes asking the question of the Doctor.  The EMH looked to the girl and then the others.

“Perhaps it would be better if…”  Chakotay looked at Julie and saw her grip the curtains even tighter.  He knew it wouldn’t be easy to get her outside.  Miriam, having joined the group, took over.

“Julie, why don’t you come with me?  We need to let the Doctor do his work.”  She smiled and held a hand out towards Julie.  “Tell you what…we’ll go over to the dayroom and make a nice card for Mommy Kathryn and we can hang it over her bed.”  She slowly approached the young child.  “Just think.  Your card will be the only one here and it would be lovely for her to see it when she wakes up.  You’d like for her to be able to see that, wouldn’t you?”  They all watched the small girl bite her lip as she considered this.  Finally she decided and nodded slowly, moving towards Miriam and then taking her hand.  She whispered something and Miriam bent down to hear her.  “What was that, honey?  Flowers?  I think flowers would be perfect on the card.  I know how good you are at drawing them.”  Miriam turned back, a look of amazement on her face at Julie speaking.  She then smiled and nodded at them all as she led the girl out.  Duncan nodded his thanks and called softly after them.

“You can come back later, Julie.  You make that card first and then come back.”  The child nodded at him and then left with the nurse.

As soon as Julie and Miriam left, all eyes turned to Voyager’s EMH.  No one spoke but their eyes said it all.  The Doctor stepped forward and held up a hypospray.  

“This is the serum…as small as it looks.  We can’t be one hundred percent sure but it’s worked on all the others.  Every test we ran before that was successful too.  I’m going to administer it in stages...in the form of a simple hypospray.  We’ll know within four hours if it’s beginning to work.  If the first dose shows promise, we’ll administer the second and so on.”  He looked at the hypo in his hand.  “You must understand that the virus in Kathryn's case is far more advanced so I’ve no way of knowing how long this will take.  We can’t even say with certainty that it will work.  At the very least, it will alleviate and arrest the symptoms and buy us more time.  However, I will say that I believe it’ll work.”  He looked up at Chakotay in particular, hoping his words would offer hope and saw that they had.  Chakotay nodded slowly.  He watched as the Medic pressed the hypo to Kathryn's neck and heard the soft hiss as the serum was injected into her.  He looked to her face then, a part of his mind expecting to see some sudden miracle but everything remained the same.  The Doctor’s voice broke through to him.

“Chakotay, I need you to understand that even if this works, we’ll still be only half way there…”  Chakotay looked up quickly.

“You said…I mean…”  He shook his head.  “If the serum works…then she’ll be cured of the virus…”  The Doctor nodded slowly.

“Yes, she’ll be cured of the virus…but…”  He studied the empty hypo in his hand a moment and then looked back at the large man before him.  “You have to understand that the damage caused to her body by this virus has been considerable.  We have two battles to fight here before we win the war.  It’s the same with the others…although the damage there is far less…”  Chakotay just groaned and rubbed a hand across his face.  He felt the stubble there and realized how much he’d neglected himself since arriving at Haven.  He shook his head slowly.

“You’re going to tell me ‘one battle at a time’…”  He looked at the Doctor and received a small encouraging smile.  He saw the hologram nod.

“Yes, I am.  We concentrate on this one and then worry about the next.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay refused to move from Kathryn's side over the next hours.  Julie now sat in his lap, having developed a deep trust in him which shocked everyone.  No one could understand it.  Jonathan tried to explain that the child saw Chakotay as her only link to her ‘Mommy Kathryn’ now and was ‘transferring’ to him in the interim.  Whatever the reason, no one objected.  Julie’s card, with its multicoloured flowers, hung proudly over Kathryn's bed.

Chakotay found he lost track of time as people came and went, administering more doses of the serum and checking Kathryn's readings.  He spoke softly to Julie, telling her stories about the woman they loved and listened as Julie told some of her own.  It seemed that once the child had found her voice again, there was no stopping her.  She still displayed elements of fear and shyness but with Chakotay, she seemed to push them aside.

Finally, after sixteen hours, time in which both man and child had fallen asleep together after the meal Cassa had brought them, Chakotay’s eyes snapped open as he felt someone gently shake his arm.  He looked into the eyes of Duncan and held his breath until he saw the man smile and nod.  The doctor’s voice was a whisper, to avoid waking Julie.

“It’s working…  Your Doctor feels that one more dose will eradicate the virus completely.”  Chakotay dropped his head back and let out a long breath.

“Oh Spirits…thank you…”  He suddenly turned worried eyes back to Duncan.  “What about the rest…her condition…?”  The smile slipped a little from the young doctor’s face.  He hesitated a moment.

“It’s not good but…”  He tried a tired smile.  “We’re hopeful.  The biggest fight is over with…or just about anyway.”  He looked down into Julie’s sleeping face, making sure the child wasn’t listening.  “It’s still going to be some fight but…”  He shook his head, a trace of anger on his features.  “If it was just us here…we’d lose her.  With your Doctor…well, he’s able to regenerate those internal organs which have been all but destroyed by this thing.  It’ll take some time but he can do it.  We’d have been dependent on transplants…even if we could have found suitable donors and in time...and we’d never have been equipped for the surgery…”  He sighed.  “In this day and age…”  He smiled ruefully now.  “I know.  I know.  I’m like a broken recording.  It just makes me so damned angry.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.

“You believe she’ll come through this though?”  Duncan smiled softly but Chakotay saw the hidden trace of doubt there.

“I think she will.  It’ll be a long struggle, and even afterwards she’ll have a long period of recuperation…one in which I’ll tie her down if I have to…”  Chakotay saw the young man look towards Kathryn, deep emotion on his face.  Chakotay felt something stir inside him again and found himself asking a question he didn’t want to ask.

“You really care about her, don’t you?”  Duncan turned back and smiled, then nodded.

“Yes, I do.  I love her.”  Duncan saw the look on Chakotay’s face and went to explain.  “Chakotay, I should tell you…”  His words were interrupted by Julie stretching in Chakotay’s arms.  The two men shared a look for a moment and then looked to Julie as she sat up.

“Mommy Kathryn?”  Chakotay tore his eyes away from the other man’s and smiled down at the child.

“She’s much better.  The sickness is nearly gone.”  Julie craned her neck and looked at Kathryn, then back at Chakotay.

“Why is she still asleep?”  Chakotay smiled.

“Because the sickness is nearly gone but her body still needs to get better.  She needs to sleep and get plenty of rest.  It’s like when you fall and cut yourself, the cut heals but it’s still sore for a while?”  Julie nodded her understanding, her large eyes watching Chakotay’s face closely.  “Well, Mommy Kathryn still needs to get over her soreness, even though the cut is healed.  Do you understand, honey?”  Julie watched him quietly for a moment, thinking about that.  Slowly she nodded.

“I think so.  The…water sick thing…made her sick and hurt her…and now it’s gone and it’s not hurting her anymore but she’s still real sore from it…?”  Chakotay smiled and nodded.  Duncan took over.

“Very good, Julie.  Inside her is still sore and we need to make that better.  She’ll stay asleep until she’s all well.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay came and went over the next three days.  When he wasn’t with Kathryn, he was overseeing the work Voyager’s former crew had undertaken, apologizing to them all for not helping more.  Everyone assured him that they understood only too well, joking that he’d only get in the way anyway, that they worked better without ‘one of the bosses’ watching them all the time. 

The Starfleet scientific and medical personnel had almost reinvented the clinic, in between treating their patients.  Technological advances could be seen everywhere, from the water supply to the power systems.  Everywhere Chakotay looked, he saw his people working alongside the residents of Haven, toiling away to improve conditions.  More of the women had gotten over their fear and were helping where they could, the kids joining in where they were allowed.

Feeling that their stay would now be extended, Chakotay met with his crew and discussed landing Voyager on the planet’s surface.  They all agreed it would make sense, saving energy on ship’s systems and so on.  Chakotay then spoke with Duncan and the other staff, asking their permission, which was given.  They made sure all the women and children were well aware of what was happening so they wouldn’t be terrified by the large ship landing nearby.  Tom easily brought her down in a large clearing on the far side of the village and shut down all non-essential systems.  He disembarked to a rousing cheer and mock saluted.  He made his way over to Chakotay, laughing at the kids who now ran around the landing struts in total awe.

“You think we’ve created a tourist attraction?”  Chakotay shook his head as he also laughed.

“I think so.  It might be a good idea to take small groups at a time on short tours…just to make sure there aren’t any lingering fears.  It would also help add a bond between us.”  Tom nodded at that.

“That’s not a bad idea.  Perhaps Tuvok or Vorik…maybe even T’Pel…  They’d be perfect for the job of guides.”  Chakotay shook his head, a smile on his face.

“You want to bore the pants off them all?”  Tom smiled wisely.

“No.  I just don’t want my baby overrun by a gang of kids who think everything in sight is a toy or a souvenir.  Voyager will lose its appeal if the tour is boring for them.”

^^^^^^^^^^

As Chakotay made his way slowly back from the fields the next day, he met with B'Elanna, who looked badly in need of a bath.  He smiled softly at his old friend.

“B'Elanna…you look a mess.  You also look very tired.”  She pushed her hair back from her face, smearing more dirt across her cheek, adding to what was already there.  She gave him a big grin.

“I am tired.  Actually, I’m exhausted.  You know what though…?”  Chakotay smiled at the happiness he saw on her face.  “It feels wonderful.”  Chakotay laughed as he saw the sparkle in her eyes.

“It does seem to suit you…”  B'Elanna laughed with him.

“It’s what the Doctor ordered…or would anyway.  Seriously Chakotay, for the first time in ages I feel really useful.  I’m achieving something good here.  Everyone else feels the same.  OK, so I’m shattered when I get back to the ship at night and I’d love to have more time with Miral and Tom, especially Miral, but I feel alive for the first time in…”  She laughed again and swiped at his arm.  “You know what I mean.  I have a use once more.  We all feel the same.  People are alive again.”  Chakotay nodded his understanding and looked at those working around him.

“I can see that.  I keep seeing it everywhere I go.”  He sighed and turned back to his friend.  “Tom is happy too?”  She nodded.

“He is.  Like me, he’d love more time with Miral and we miss each other but we’re working together some of the time so it’s not that bad.  As to that daughter of ours, we can see her on and off during the day.  She’s now spending her days with the kids here in the daycare they have set up.  She’s mixing well.  I’m not sure she even misses us half the time.  She gets caught up in some game or other and doesn’t notice us leaving.  Nice to be missed huh?”  Chakotay laughed and shook his head.

“Guess she has her mother’s independent nature…”  B'Elanna laughed and then grew serious.

“How’s the Captain doing?”  Chakotay shrugged and shook his head, letting his own smile slip.

“Hard to say.  The virus is out of her system but she still has a long way to go.  She’s still very weak and the virus caused a lot of damage…”  B'Elanna reached out and gripped his hand tightly.

“She’ll come through this.  You know that.  She was always a fighter.  From what I’ve seen and heard, she hasn’t changed.”  Chakotay sighed and bit his lip.

“I hope so.  I keep telling myself the same thing but at times, it’s hard.  Doc’s hopeful and so is Duncan…and they’re working on her constantly.”  Chakotay shook his head.  “Duncan…”  He caught himself and stopped speaking but B'Elanna knew him too well.  She pushed at him.

“What about Duncan…?”  Chakotay just shook his head.  “Chakotay…what about him?  I know you too well.  I can read you.  I thought you liked and trusted him…”  Chakotay shook his head quickly.

“Oh, I do.  That’s not…”  He shut up again but once more, B'Elanna pushed at him.

“Talk to me, old friend.  What is it?”  Chakotay didn’t speak for almost a minute and looked around him, making sure no one could overhear him.

“I think there’s something between him and Kathryn.  Actually, I more than think it.”  He shook his head.  “He told me he loved her and I’ve seen the way he is with her…the way he looks at her.”  He sighed deeply.  “I guess I just thought… hoped…that there would still be a chance…or…”  He rubbed at his face.  “Who am I kidding?  Of course she’d have moved on.  I screwed it all up.”  B'Elanna took on a stern look.

“Just listen to me now.  You actually don’t know anything.  What you do is this.  You get her better first and then talk to her.  Wait and see what the situation really is.  You could have this all wrong.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“The man admitted to me that he loved her…”  B'Elanna blew out a breath.

“So what?  I can honestly say that I love you.  That doesn’t mean that we’re involved in that way.  You can grow to love someone in many different ways.”  She shook her head.  “Chakotay, they’ve all been working very closely together here and they’ve been through a tough time.  They’re bound to be close to each other.  I look at them all here…the staff…even the women.  They all have a deep affection for each other…a bond…”  She reached over and stroked his face.  “All I’m saying is…  Just wait and see.”  Chakotay nodded slowly and tried a tired smile.

“All right, oh wise one.  I’ll wait.  And you’re right.  Getting her better is all that matters in the end.”  B'Elanna took on a smug expression.

“I’m always right.  I thought you’d know that by now…”  Chakotay swatted her arm.

“Get on with your work before I remind you of all the times you’ve been wrong…”  B'Elanna laughed as she moved off.

“I’m not sure I could spare the one hundredth of a second it would take to list those times…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay felt a cold fist squeeze his chest as he stepped through the curtain and saw Voyager’s Doctor leaning over Kathryn with Miriam assisting him. 

“Doc?  What’s wrong?”  He moved to the bed quickly only to see the Hologram look up and smile.

“Relax, Chakotay.  Everything is fine.  She’s making very good progress.  It looks as if I won’t even need to regenerate any of her internal organs.  Everything is healing on its own.”  Chakotay let out the breath he found he’d been holding.

“Sorry.  I saw you and…”  The Doctor held up a dermal regenerator and smiled again.

“A little something extra to my services…”  When Chakotay frowned, the Doctor looked back down at Kathryn and pointed to her face.  “What do you think of my cosmetic abilities?”  Chakotay moved closer and looked at the face of his former Captain.  He drew in a sharp breath.

“Her scars?  You’ve healed them?”  He looked back at the Doctor only to find a self-satisfied expression there.

“Of course.  Quite simple really with the right equipment.”  He let his smile slip and turned to Miriam.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean…”  Miriam smiled sadly.

“That’s perfectly all right, Doctor.  You’re right.  Our equipment was hopeless for things like this.  We existed on the basics.”  She leaned a little closer to the Doctor.  “Just don’t say that to Duncan.  None of us need to hear his usual tirade about all this.”  The Doctor nodded.

“I won’t…and I apologize again.  I wasn’t programmed with tact, I’m afraid.  I’m still trying to learn that.”  They both smiled and then turned to Chakotay, seeing that he was still staring at Kathryn.  The Doctor spoke softly to Miriam.

“I think we’re finished here.”  She picked up his meaning as she smiled and nodded then moved away.  Before she left, she guided Chakotay to a chair and sat him down.  She whispered softly to him.

“I’ll be outside if you need me.”  He barely nodded, still staring at the woman before him.  He didn’t even hear them leave.

^^^^^^^^^^
  
The next week passed slowly with Kathryn improving all the time.  Chakotay spent as much time as he could with her, Julie always tagging along with him.  The only time the girl left his side was when he was needed for meetings with staff or crew.  During those times, she reluctantly joined in with the other children.  When he worked in the fields or helped in other areas, she trotted along beside him, helping where she could.  When the work was considered too dangerous for her to be around it, she would sit a short distance away and watch him.  Roberto, Haven’s dentist, remarked on her to Chakotay one day.

“I see Julie’s become your shadow now…”  Chakotay looked towards the young girl and smiled.

“I think I’m just the stand-in until Kathryn's well again.”  Roberto laughed and nodded.

“Maybe.  Still though, I think with that one, you have a pal for life.  I think once she’s formed a bond, she’ll keep it.  It strikes me that way anyway…  Of course, none of them come too close to me…”  Chakotay frowned at the young man.

“Why not…?”  Roberto shrugged then smiled.

“OK…so it’s not that bad.  They’re fine with me most of the time.  They just know I’m the dentist and that’s never far from their minds.  It’s kind of a standing joke around here.  Kids and dentists don’t mix.”  Chakotay laughed as he helped fix some roofing slats in place on the new food store they were building.

“You just need to bribe them better.  You need a reward system after each visit.  Candy may not be good for their teeth but they’ll love you for it and a little of anything isn’t too bad for you…”  Roberto leaned back and thought about that. 

“Not a bad idea.  Not a bad idea at all, Chakotay.  I’ll work on that one.”  He pulled some felt over the slats Chakotay had just placed.

“So how are your lot settling in here?  Anyone need their teeth fixed?”  He roared with laughter.  Chakotay rolled his eyes.

“Haven’t you heard that adults feel the same way about dentists as kids do…?”  They both laughed.  Chakotay stopped work for a moment and leaned against the edge of the roof they were working on.  “Actually, they’re all very happy here…or they will be when Kathryn's well again.  We’re all very worried about her.”  Roberto leaned over and patted Chakotay’s arm.

“She’ll be fine.  Nothing can keep that one down.  You’ll see.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks.  “But outside of that, they’re all OK here?”  Chakotay nodded slowly.

“They are.  It’s like they’ve all come back to life having been asleep for a long time.  They’ve an energy about them that was missing.  I’m the same.  Having something useful and worthwhile to do every day makes all the difference.  We have a purpose when we get up in the morning.  And of course, we’re all back together.  Most of us anyway.  A few stayed behind but the rest of the gang are here.”  Roberto studied the man beside him.

“It must have been very tough out there.”  Chakotay shrugged.

“It was at times and we suffered some terrible losses…good friends.  That was the hardest.”  He looked off at nothing as he remembered, faces passing through his mind.  He pulled himself back and smiled.  “There were good times too though.  We were a family and we were together.  We made a good home for ourselves out there.  When we got back, all that was pulled away from us and we were lost.  Coming here is like finding it again.”  Roberto smiled his understanding.

“I know that feeling.  I get it every day here.”  He looked out over the trees.  “I was working day to day…normal dental practice…good living but nothing at home at the end of the day.  A good life many would have wanted but it wasn’t enough for me.  I reached a stage where I felt I was just on autopilot…going through the motions.”  Chakotay nodded and smiled.

“How did you get here…?”  The young man smiled.

“My cousin, Eugene…the vet…  He knew Jonathan from school…back when they were fourteen or fifteen.  They met up one day when Jonathan was on Earth for some business.  They had been good buddies and got talking.  Jonathan trusted him and told him about this place.  Eugene trusted me and the rest as they say, is history.  We’re never regretted it for a moment.  Most of the others have a similar story.”  Chakotay played with some nails in his hand.

“How did it all start?”  Roberto pulled a flask from his belt and took a long drink of lemonade then handed it to Chakotay, who also drank.

“It was started by a Cardassian woman who couldn’t keep her child but wanted her to be safe.  She had the money to start this place off.  She knew Cassa, who had done some training with Duncan, and the idea took shape.  Cassa brought the Cardassian staff in, just as Duncan and Jonathan brought in the ones from Earth.  Every story is much the same…always with people they knew they could trust.”  He went on to tell him how the children had been found and how the women had come to the planet.  “Most of their stories are much the same too and it helps them help each other although it always takes time when someone is new.”  Chakotay shook his head sadly.

“Do children and women still come here now?”  Roberto shook his head.

“We haven’t had anyone new in some time.  Most came just after the war ended and for a time after that.  The kids were still found and rescued for a year or so after that, but we haven’t had anyone for…I guess over a year…year and a half now…maybe even two.  Kathryn was the last.  The most recent kids were the hardest to work with because they’d been living on the streets for a while in various places.  We picked them up one at a time.”  Chakotay sighed deeply as Roberto told him everything he could.

“You wish for a perfect world, don’t you?”  The other man placed his flask back in his belt.

“That’s only in fairy tales, Chakotay.  Real life will never be like that.  We can dream though.  Nothing wrong in that…”  They both turned as they heard Galan call to Julie that lunch was ready.  He called up to Chakotay and Roberto also.

“You two are allowed a lunch break as well.”  He held Julie by the hand and pointed up to Chakotay.  “They have to work for their food.” The small child giggled at that as Galan led her away.  She waved back at Chakotay.

“See you later…”  He smiled and waved back at her.

“Bye, honey.  I’ll see you at lunch…”  He turned quickly as a voice came from the other side of the roof and a head popped up.  Trevor, the builder, was smiling at him.  He looked from Chakotay to Roberto and shook his head.

“Neither of you is getting anything until you get this roof finished.  You’ve both been nattering there like a pair of old women for the past half hour.”  Roberto made a face and smiled at Chakotay.

“Remind me what I was saying about not regretting a thing about this place…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay and Roberto were just finishing their work when Greta came running towards the cabin they were working on.  She shielded her eyes and looked up towards the roof.

“Hey, Chakotay…  Duncan said to come get you…”  Chakotay stopped immediately, a fear running through him.

“What is it, Greta?  Is it Kathryn…?”  She smiled and nodded.

“Yeah…it’s Kathryn…but it’s good.  Duncan says it looks like she’s starting to come round.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat quietly and watched Kathryn as she showed the first signs of regaining consciousness.  He saw her battle to open her eyes and sat forward a little.  Duncan stood beside him and whispered quietly.

“Her eyes will still be very sensitive to light.  That’s why we have the lights so low.”  Chakotay nodded quietly as he glanced around the dimly lit space.  “She also won’t just wake up and be instantly alert.  You do know that?”  Chakotay looked up at him and nodded.  “She’ll be in and out of it for some time…pretty unfocused and confused…  That’s quite normal and to be expected.”  Chakotay looked back at Kathryn and nodded again. 

“I know.”  He rubbed at his face and sighed.  “I’ve sat with her like this more times than I care to remember…”  He looked up at Duncan again, half intending his words to carry a message to let the other man know how he felt.  It was almost a warning off.  He shook his head quickly and realized that now wasn’t the time for that.  He also knew that he had no claim on this woman and that it was all probably too late anyway.  To see her recover and then be happy was all that mattered now.

Chakotay leaned forward again now as a moan escaped Kathryn's lips.  He looked up a moment to see Voyager’s Doctor and Cassa hovering close by also.  He laid a hand gently on Kathryn's arm and squeezed.

“Kathryn…?  Can you hear me…?  Kathryn…?”  She turned her head slowly as if following the sound of his voice and groaned softly.  Her lips moved and she uttered something.  Chakotay leaned a little closer.

“Kathryn…?”  He saw her fight to open her eyes and finally succeed.  They were unfocused for a moment as she looked around her and blinked several times.  She licked at her lips and tried to speak.

“Where…?”  The single word seemed to exhaust her but she tried again.  “Where am…?”  It was too much for her and she gave up.  Her head rolled to the side and she struggled to focus on the figure she could make out there.  Slowly her vision began to clear.  Chakotay saw the confusion there and then a flash of pain as she finally made out his face.

“Kathryn…don’t try to talk.  Take your time…”  She didn’t seem to hear his words, just his voice.  He saw her eyes fill with tears.

“Chakotay…?”  She drew in a ragged breath.  “How…?”  Chakotay stroked her cheek with one finger.

“Don’t try to talk…”  She tried to shake her head.

“Dream…not here…”  Chakotay smiled softly.

“I’m here…”  She shook her head again, causing her tears to slip from her eyes.

“Am I dreaming…?  How…don’t understand…”  Chakotay saw her begin to grow a little agitated.

“Kathryn, it’s all right.  Just try and relax…”  Duncan tapped Chakotay on the shoulder and whispered to him.

“It’s too much for her right now.  Just give her time.  Let me…”  Chakotay nodded, feeling tears of his own begin.  He stood quickly and let Duncan take his place.  He watched the young man calm his patient before exhaustion caused her eyes to slip closed again.  Duncan looked over at Chakotay, who simply nodded and then left, needing to be alone for a while.

^^^^^^^^^^

When Chakotay returned, Kathryn had again regained consciousness.  He watched from across the room as Duncan whispered softly to her, calming her and reassuring her as he had been unable to and he felt a stab of jealousy go through him.  He heard Kathryn fight to speak, her voice weak and her words a little slurred, demanding answers to questions she was barely able to ask.  Duncan seemed to know her well and gave her the answers even before she had asked some of the questions.

“They’re all recovering.  You were the worst and you’re on your way back now.  And yes…Julie is fine.”  He reached up and took the card which the little girl had made.  He held it for Kathryn to see and smiled as tears filled her eyes.  He placed the card back over the bed and smiled down at Kathryn.  “You need plenty of rest now, lady.  This is one time when you’re going to obey me.  If you don’t…”  Chakotay heard Kathryn's hoarse answer.

“You’ll spank me…”  Duncan nodded and laughed.

“You better believe it, honey.”  His face grew serious then.  “Kathryn, you’ve no idea…  We almost lost you.  Don’t ever do that to me again.”  Chakotay turned away a moment as he witnessed a deep look of tenderness pass between Kathryn and Duncan.  He swallowed the lump in his throat.  When he turned back, he saw Duncan look over at him.  He nodded and then turned back to Kathryn.

“There’s someone here to see you.  I’ll let him answer your other questions for you.  Well, I’ll let him tell you about it all.  I want you to stay quiet and rest.”  He leaned down and kissed her forehead.  “I’ll see you later…”  He smiled and squeezed her hand in his.  Chakotay saw Kathryn hold his eyes and nod also.  Once again he turned away, not wanting to witness the closeness between them. 

Chakotay looked up now as Duncan tapped his arm.  He tried to read the man’s eyes but couldn’t.  He forced his emotions down and drew in a deep breath.

“How is she?”  Duncan glanced over at the bed a moment.

“She’s doing well.  It’ll take some time for her to regain her strength but she’s getting there.  She’ll push to get there before she’s really ready of course but I’m not going to let her.”  He shook his head slightly.  “She needs plenty of rest for now.  Even apart from this, she wasn’t fully recovered from the stabbing.  She’s free of the virus now but there’s still some lingering damage to her nervous system and she’ll need physiotherapy later on.  Aside from that, she’s healing well…her internal organs and so on.  They’re healing on their own and there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damage, thank God...nothing like we’d feared anyway.  It’ll just take time.  For the moment though, she needs to recover some strength first.”  He sighed deeply.  “Just go easy with her.  I didn’t answer her questions about what’s been happening with Starfleet.  She remembers you being here but she seems to think she was dreaming.  Just take it slowly.  She’s a little out of it.  She’s still very weak and she’s in some pain.  I’ve given her something for that but it’s making her drowsy.  Her speech will sound somewhat slurred and she’ll tire very easily.  Just don’t let her push it.”  Chakotay nodded and sighed also.

“OK…”  He moved away from Duncan and made his way to the chair the young doctor had vacated.  He sat down slowly and studied Kathryn's face.  Her eyes were closed and for a moment he wondered if she’d fallen asleep again.  He made a slight noise and saw her open her eyes.  She looked around her before seeing him.  Once again, he saw confusion.

“Chakotay…?  How can…?”  Chakotay leaned forward.

“Hello, Kathryn.”  He smiled gently.  “And no, you’re not dreaming…now or the last time.  I’m really here.”  He saw her fight her building tears.

“How…how are you here…?  I don’t understand…”  Chakotay heard how slurred her words were.  He took her hand and was grateful she didn’t pull away.  She didn’t seem to notice in fact.

“I could say my Captain needed me…but mainly it’s because my friend needed me.  So did those kids…”  Kathryn just shook her head slowly, not seeming to understand.

“I don’t…”  Chakotay saw her fight to make sense of everything.  He leaned closer.

“Sleep now, Kathryn.  We’ll talk later and I’ll explain it all.  Everything’s fine.  Just sleep for now…”  He saw her fight to stay awake but her body had other ideas.  Finally it won and her eyes closed.  Chakotay just stayed where he was, holding her hand, until her breathing evened out and he knew she was asleep.

^^^^^^^^^^

The following morning, Chakotay spoke with Admiral Paris and recorded a statement for Starfleet, detailing everything he knew.  He began with his initial meeting with the Admiral and finished with a report on the present conditions on Haven.  As instructed by Admiral Paris, he withheld locations and names, using a prearranged alias for each person and place.  He then sat back and listened as the rest of the crew made similar statements, followed by the much longer and more detailed accounts from the Haven staff, even many of the women, who sat in semi-darkness while giving their evidence in order to protect their identities.  Even Julie, disguised in the same semi-darkness, managed to haltingly tell her story, before breaking down in Lorcha’s arms and being led away.  The child’s evidence however, was vital, as was Tuvok’s, who submitted his precise and detailed report, along with the security tapes and other evidence he had.

“This will keep us going for the time being.  I’ll get a statement from Kathryn when she’s better.  There’s a very slim outside chance that we’ll require your presence at the trial but I’d personally doubt it.  It’s beginning to look as if Lewis’s defence team are advising him to plead guilty and take his chance that way.  If he does, it’s unlikely you’d all be needed to appear to give evidence.”  Admiral Paris looked tired.  Chakotay leaned towards the monitor.

“You said before that the evidence was overwhelming and that he’d already confessed…”  The old man nodded.

“That’s true, but often in cases like this the Accused has second thoughts.  He can always say that he was harassed or coerced into that confession.  In that case, a trial is necessary and all the evidence needs to be presented.  If that happens and he’s then found guilty, his sentence would be harsher and I’d say he knows that.  Certainly his lawyers will have advised him of that.  If he pleads guilty now and saves the Federation the necessity of a trial, it might well go easier for him.”  Chakotay felt his anger grow.

“Are you saying he could get a lighter sentence?  After what he did…?”  Admiral Paris held up a hand to calm things down.

“Chakotay, I understand how you feel.  I think even his own lawyers feel that.  I get the impression they wouldn’t mind losing this case but they’re bound by their oath to represent him and they will do that as best they can.  All I’m saying is that if he pleads guilty, he might get a year or two knocked off whatever sentence he would get if he was found guilty after a trial.  I guess even a year can make a difference.”  Chakotay looked at the others and saw his own anger mirrored on their faces.  He blew out a breath and shook his head.  Tom leaned towards the screen.

“Dad, what about…?  You said something before about…that he may try to plead insanity…”  Tom’s father smiled slowly, a satisfied look on his face.

“That won’t wash and he knows that now.  Our best people examined him and declared him fit and sane to stand trial.  Oh, he tried to put on an act but they saw through it.  At first, I thought he must have been insane to do this.  Having seen him and listened to him, I see now that he’s just evil.  That’s my opinion anyway.  There’s something about his eyes.  You find you don’t want to look into them.  They’re like dark, deep pools of evil…”  His voice trailed off and he shivered suddenly.  He looked back at the screen.  “Sorry.  It’s just…the less time I have to be around that bastard…”  Tom laughed slightly.

“Nice to see you’re so unbiased, Dad…”  The old man smiled softly at his son.

“Unbiased usually means there are two or more sides to consider…different ways of seeing something.  This boils down to good and evil…right and wrong…  There is only one way…”  He looked down at his desk and cleared his throat then looked back at the screen.  “Right then…that’s all for the moment.  I’ll keep you informed.  Now, where’s that grandchild of mine…?”  Chakotay laughed at that and stood, gesturing for them all to leave.  On his way out, he called to B'Elanna, who had been sitting outside with Miral once her statement had been given.

“Hey…there’s someone inside there on subspace who wants to talk to someone special…”  B'Elanna smiled and stood.  She held out her hand to her daughter.

“Come on…let’s go talk to granddad…”  The little girl squealed and was into the room ahead of her mother.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay stood in the centre of the dayroom savouring the glass of lemonade he’d helped himself to.  His throat was dry from having given his statement and he felt physically and emotionally drained.  The cool drink refreshed him. 

He turned as he sensed someone standing beside him and smiled at Jonathan.  He raised his glass a moment.

“Just what the doctor ordered.  I helped myself.”  The younger man smiled softly.

“It’s there for everyone.  Only the kids are limited on how much they drink.  It’s a real bone of contention with them.”  Chakotay drained his glass and smiled, his eyes wandering the room. 

“I’m just glad I’m all grown up then…”  Suddenly his eyes settled on one corner of the room and he frowned.

“Was that there before?”  He looked to the other corner where Kathryn’s pile of cards and gifts lay, then indicated the first corner.  “Is it just me or was there only one ‘Kathryn’s corner’…?”  Jonathan smiled and followed where Chakotay looked.

“That’s a new pile.  The original one over there…”  He pointed to one corner.  “That’s from the women and kids here…”  He then pointed to the other corner.  “That one there is your lot.  They started it a few days ago.  They wanted to put something there but didn’t want to intrude on the kids and women.  It’s also a smaller pile which I think is intentional…  It’s very considerate of them.”  Chakotay stared at the new pile of cards and gifts and shook his head.  He felt close to tears but controlled them.

“I didn’t know…”  He swallowed and went to take a drink, then realized his glass was empty.  Jonathan just smiled and patted his arm.

“They’re an amazing bunch of people…as wonderful as the ones here.  They can’t visit Kathryn and this is the next best thing they can do.  They also considered the women and kids though, and that makes them very special.”  Chakotay just continued to shake his head.  Jonathan looked back towards the corner.  “Very special…”  With that, he turned and left Chakotay to his reverie.

^^^^^^^^^^ 

Chakotay spent the rest of the morning helping to build new shelters and renovate the existing ones, knowing that Duncan and Voyager’s Doctor would be with Kathryn all morning.  He enjoying the fresh air and the feel of wood in his hands again.  He worked alone this time and the fresh smells and the work brought his mind back to New Earth many times.  He found himself stopping occasionally and just staring off into the distance as he remembered. 

Towards lunchtime, he headed back to Voyager and spent an hour taking care of reports and ship’s business.  He smiled to himself as he finished up, amazed that even on the ground, there was still work to be done on the ship.

He then made his way to the mess hall and replicated a light lunch for himself.  He was grateful to find the place deserted, knowing that the crew preferred to eat with the others now at the main buildings.  He sat quietly and let his thoughts and memories visit wherever they wished.  Eventually, he shut them away and headed back to the village, needing to check on Kathryn again.

^^^^^^^^^^ 

Chakotay stood just inside the curtains and watched Miriam settle Kathryn.  She picked up a basin of water and a used towel and smiled down at her patient.

“That’ll make you feel a lot more comfortable.  Do you need anything for pain?”  Chakotay heard Kathryn's weak voice.

“I’m fine…I…”  She hesitated a moment.  “Yes please…I do need…”  Miriam laughed. 

“There’s hope for you yet, Kathryn.  I’ll get something now.”  She looked up and saw Chakotay.  She raised a hand, indicating that he should wait a moment and he nodded.  He stood back out of Kathryn's line of vision until Miriam had administered the pain relief and then moved over to the bed.

Chakotay sat for several minutes and just watched Kathryn, her eyes closed as she relaxed and let the pain medication kick in.  He noticed the lights weren’t as dim as before and surmised that her eyes were less sensitive now.  As he studied her, she finally opened her eyes and focused on him.  Her eyes were a little glazed but she seemed more lucid this time.  Chakotay watched as she licked at her dry lips.

“You really are…are here…?”  He smiled softly and nodded.  Suddenly he saw a look of panic cross her face and a deep pain filled her eyes.  Her hand flew to her face and she turned her head away quickly.  Chakotay immediately understood.  He reached for her hand and gently pulled at it. 

“Kathryn…”  She tried to weakly pull away from him, her other hand moving to her face now.

“Don’t…look…at me…  I’m…please…I’m…it’s…ugly…scars…”  Chakotay stood now and looked down at her, gently pulling her hands away.

“Kathryn, I saw them already.”  She fought harder to turn away from him but he took her face in his hands and turned her head towards him, careful not to hurt her.  “Kathryn…they’re not there anymore.  Doc healed them while you were unconscious.”  Slowly his words made their way into her mind and he saw her use her fingers to feel where the scars had been.  Finally she seemed convinced.

“They’re…gone…?  Nothing…?”  Chakotay sat down again and smiled.  He nodded his head.

“They’re gone…not even any redness…”  He saw a faint doubt still linger in her eyes. “Kathryn…I promise you.  There’s nothing there to see anymore…and even if there was…so what?  Kathryn…you’ve nothing to hide from me.”  He held her eyes and smiled, watching a mix of emotions cross her face.  He decided to take a chance and took her hand in his.

“Kathryn…don’t hide from me.  We’ve hidden too much from each other for too long…”  He saw her frown as if she was trying to understand his meaning.  He felt unsure of it himself and didn’t even try and elaborate.  He also knew that now was not the time for any discussion like this, that it was too soon anyway and so he dropped it.  He smiled again and squeezed her hand, quickly changing the subject.  “I suppose you’re wondering how I got here…?”  She nodded slowly.  Chakotay shrugged.

“We came to help…”  Kathryn frowned.

“We…?”  Chakotay smiled softly and nodded his head.

“We.  I’m not here on my own.  More than half the crew came with me, along with some Starfleet people.  Tom and B'Elanna are here and even brought Miral with them.  Tuvok and T’Pel and Harry Kim…Ayala…the Doc…  I could go on and on.  You’ll see them all later on.”  She looked stunned and he watched as she tried to digest it all.  “Some stayed behind…Sam Wildman and Naomi…several others…but most wanted to come and help.”  He saw her nod slowly. 

“Seven…?”  He heard the pain in her voice even though she tried to hide it.  Chakotay’s smile slipped a little.

“Seven came too.”  Kathryn looked away.

“I see.”  Chakotay watched her silently until she turned back to him.  “The women…children…they weren’t…scared of you all…?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“They were frightened of us at first, but once they saw Duncan and the others accept us, they slowly began to trust us too.  Knowing you had known us before helped as well.  They also saw that they had no choice.  They needed the help.  As to Seven, she mostly works on Voyager.  She’s been out and about a few times but we let them know about her first.  They accept her now.”  Kathryn stared back at him.

“Voyager…?  I don’t…”  Chakotay laid his hands on the side of the bed and nodded.

“We eventually landed her on the far side of the compound.  It saves energy.”  He smiled gently.  “I should start at the beginning…”  He went on to slowly and quietly tell her how Duncan and the others had contacted Starfleet and how Admiral Paris had called him in.  He told her how the others had become involved but left out how lost they had all been before that.  He filled her in on everything, knowing the woman before him only too well.  A lot of the Captain still remained and nothing short of a full report would suffice.  He even gave her details of the capture and arrest of Lewis.  Kathryn remained quiet as he spoke and told her everything.  When he finished, she waited almost a minute before she said anything.

“I remember Duncan asking me about contacting Admiral Paris and Starfleet.  I didn’t think it would be you…the others…even Voyager…”  Her voice trailed off a moment and Chakotay didn’t miss the pain in her eyes.

“Kathryn…?”  She turned her head back slowly and swallowed.

“Sorry.  I just never thought…well…didn’t think I’d ever see…not again…it…”  Chakotay nodded his understanding.

“I could say the same.  I didn’t think I’d ever see you again either.”  Kathryn looked sadly at him.

“Until you knew I was here and agreed to come…?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“That came later.  I agreed to come here and help before I knew about you being here…”  Kathryn nodded and turned away again.

“I see.”  She said nothing more and simply stared off into the distance.  Chakotay drew in a deep breath.  He decided to change the subject a little.

“You’ll be amazed at the work that’s been done…the building…the improvements…  The crew works flat out and they work so well with the women here now…even with the kids.  I’ve even made a good friend here myself.  I think you know her actually.  Little thing by the name of Julie…?”  At the mention of the child’s name, Kathryn turned back to him quickly.  A small smile graced her face.

“You made friends with Julie…?”  Chakotay smiled and nodded.

“Oh, we’re quite a team now.  She sits on my lap and chats away to me…”  Kathryn gasped at that.

“She…talks…?”  Chakotay nodded.

“We found her here with you one day…crying and talking to you.  You were in the coma.  She was terrified when she saw us but nothing was taking her from your side.  I’d seen her at the door a few times…hanging around the place.  I guess she was building up the courage to come in.  Once she was in, she wasn’t leaving again.  We made friends and it seemed that once she had talked, there was no stopping her after that.  Jonathan said she was ‘transferring’ what she had with you onto me.  I guess I was a substitute for you until you woke up for her.  I think she also saw me as a link to you.  Jonathan seems to think that anyway and I guess he’s the expert.  He thinks she trusted me because I shared her worry over you…that it was something we had in common…that we both cared about you.”  Kathryn smiled softly to herself.

“I knew she could do it…  She’s been through so much…”  She nodded to herself and looked towards the child’s card, which now sat on the side locker.  Chakotay saw her mind drift to things he knew nothing of.  Suddenly she yawned.  Chakotay smiled and laid a hand on her arm.

“You’ve been through a lot yourself Kathryn and I’ve exhausted you.  Duncan and Cassa will have my head if I tire you out.”  She frowned slightly.

“It sounds so strange…you talking about them…Duncan...Cassa…knowing them now…  So much has happened…I missed…”  Chakotay smiled softly.

“I didn’t think about how strange it would be for you.  I’m sorry.”  Kathryn shook her head a little.

“No…it’s good…just…strange…and Julie…talking…”  Chakotay bit at his lip.

“I’m sorry she didn’t talk for you first…  I didn’t…”  Kathryn smiled slightly.

“I’m just happy that she talked…  Doesn’t matter for who…”  She yawned again and turned her head away a little.  Chakotay stood slowly. 

“You should rest now and try and get some sleep.”  Kathryn smiled and turned back to him.  She seemed almost shy.

“I guess you’re right.  I am tired.  It’s hard trying to take all this in…”  She yawned again then suddenly looked at Chakotay as if only now noticing his appearance.

“You’re not wearing your uniform…”  Chakotay looked down at his clothes and then back at her.  He smiled softly.

“No.  None of us are.  Admiral Paris told us how it would be for the women and children if we turned up in uniform.  Besides, the crew have been dressing in their own clothes since they were let go from Starfleet.”  Kathryn shook her head slightly.

“Thank you.  It would have terrified them…”  She yawned again and Chakotay saw her eyes begin to drift shut.  She opened them again and looked a little embarrassed.  He just smiled at her and nodded.

“Let go Kathryn.  Everything and everyone will still be here when you wake.  Sleep now.”  She nodded again, a faint smile gracing her lips before her entire face relaxed and she drifted off.

^^^^^^^^^^

Needing to keep himself occupied and busy, Chakotay joined the others again and worked on some extra animal shelters which were being erected.  He looked around him at the others, each engrossed in their work and each other.  He smiled then as he saw T’Pel leading a small group of children towards the dayroom, returning from some outing or other.  He nodded to himself as he thought about how well the Vulcan woman worked with the children, especially at the gentle manner she used with them, with just the right amount of discipline and guidance. 

He shook his head as he turned back to his work, concentrating for several minutes.  He stopped for a moment to wipe at his forehead and glanced up to see Harry Kim and Seven arguing over something.  He put his tools down and made his way over to them.

“I’m telling you it’s a great idea…”  Harry’s voice was raised slightly.  Seven just stared back at him.

“I fail to see the reason for this.  It is unnecessary.  It will require space and materials which could be used for something important…”  Harry laughed and cut her off.

“It is important, Seven.  Fun is always important.  It’s vital to the mental and emotional health of the kids especially…”  Seven wasn’t being convinced.

“The materials needed and the physical expenditure…”  Harry threw his hands up in the air.

“Seven, listen to me.  Stop talking and thinking like a Borg.  Forget the ‘materials needed’.  What we need is all around us.  As to the ‘physical expenditure’ as you put it…  Hey…I’m more than willing and I bet you the others are too…”  Seven looked up now as she noticed Chakotay.  Harry followed her line of vision.  “Hey, Chakotay.  Listen.  What do you think of…”  Seven cut him off this time.

“Chakotay, please explain to Harry that a swimming pool is totally unnecessary and a waste of…”  Chakotay’s eyes lit up at the idea.

“A swimming pool?  Whose idea was that?  That’s great.  I’m sorry I didn’t think of that myself.  It would be so much safer than the river.  The kids would love it.  Hell,  I’d love it…”  Harry’s face set itself into a self-satisfied smirk as he looked at Seven.

“What did I tell you…?”  The ex-Borg just shook her head.

“I will never understand the frivolous waste of…”  Harry interrupted her as he tapped her on the shoulder.

“Seven, chill out.  Tell you what.  When the pool is finished, you can take a swim and let the water do it for you…”  Seven just shook her head and walked away, muttering to herself, the sound of Harry’s and Chakotay’s laughter following her.

^^^^^^^^^^

Word spread quickly about the pool, and as Chakotay made his way towards the clinic to check on Kathryn, a number of crew members were already surveying and measuring for it under the watchful eye of Peter Walker, the resident expert.  Several kids were buzzing around the place, too excited to stand still.  Chakotay laughed to himself as he entered the clinic.  He met with Miriam and asked about Kathryn and was told that she was still sleeping.  Satisfied that she was all right, he told the nurse he’d be back later.  He smiled as he left, seeing Julie helping Greta change the linen on a bed.  He locked eyes with Miriam and nodded.  The nurse whispered to him.

“Well, I can’t shift her out of here.  She sneaks in to see Kathryn every chance she gets.”  They both studied the girl for a moment.  Miriam shook her head and smiled at Chakotay.  “You should have seen her face when Kathryn thanked her for the card.  She positively glowed.  She loves the fact that it’s on display and is the only one.  Mind you, Kathryn’s face when Julie talked to her took the prize.  I feel honoured to have witnessed those two moments.”  Chakotay smiled back.

“Someone once said that we should enjoy the small moments in life, because the big ones are few and far between.  Personally, I think it’s the small ones that make life worth living.”  Miriam nodded her agreement to that.

“You’re not wrong there, Chakotay.  Seeing her here like this is amazing.  She chats away to me all the time…even to herself when I’m busy.  I can’t get her out of the place.  She can’t be in with Kathryn all the time though so I might as well give her something to take her mind off things and keep her occupied.  Besides, it saves me a job…”  Chakotay grinned and patted Miriam’s shoulder.

“You’re a total softie, Miriam.”  He waved over at Julie as she looked up, as if sensing the adults talking about her.  “You’re going a great job, honey.  I’ll be back in a little while.”  The smile he received almost melted his heart.

^^^^^^^^^^

With Kathryn sleeping, Chakotay made his way back to the ship and took a much needed shower.  Washed and shaved and donning fresh clothes, he felt a lot better.  Preferring to eat with the others this time, he headed back to Haven.  As he crossed  the main compound, he spotted B'Elanna sitting quietly on a bench nursing a cool glass of lemonade.  Miral played contentedly nearby with Tom and several other young children.  Tom seemed to be failing miserably in keeping any kind of order and was being used as a human horse, two children clinging to his back while one of them whipped his backside with a twig.  Chakotay moved towards B'Elanna and sat down beside her.  They locked eyes and laughed together.  B'Elanna shook her head.

“I never have a holoimager when I need one…”  Chakotay sat back.

“I just never thought the Tom Paris I met all those years ago would end up like this…”  B'Elanna turned and smiled at him, growing a little more serious now.

“I guess it took me some time also…to see all that good in him.”  She looked back at her husband.  “He’s one damned good man, Chakotay.  Outside of you, he’s the only man I would truly trust with my life and the life of my daughter.”  She turned back to Chakotay again and raised a hand to his face.  “I know that what I have is just waiting there for you too, you know.”  Chakotay felt his smile slip.

“I’m not so sure about that.  I’m even more convinced than ever that there’s something special between Kathryn and Duncan.”  He held up a hand when B'Elanna went to speak.  “B'Elanna, you haven’t seen them together.  There’s something very special there between them.  I see such a closeness there…a bond.”  He sighed deeply.  “You forget too that I hurt her badly.  I walked away and not just walked away but I did it with another woman.  She’s not going to forget the hurt that caused her.”  He looked towards Tom and the kids a moment, then back at his old friend.  “She came here and found a new life for herself.  He was there for her and I wasn’t.  They’ve lived and worked here all this time.  They’ve shared so much together…things I can never share with her.  They’ve shared all that and have that history now.”  B'Elanna actually snorted.

“And you two haven’t?  Chakotay, you shared seven years in the Delta Quadrant…seven hard years.  I call that a life and a history together.  I doubt he can match that.”  She laughed.  “Besides…if it comes to it…fight for her.  We women love men to fight over us.”  Chakotay shook his head and smiled despite not feeling like it.

“Are you trying to turn me into a Klingon?”  B'Elanna laughed and shrugged.

“I’m not that good a teacher…but I could give you some pointers…”  Chakotay playfully slapped her arm.

“Very funny.”  He shook his head now and let the smile slip from his face completely.  “I don’t know.  I guess I just wait and see.  Even if they aren’t involved, there’s no saying that she’d even want me now.  I told her Seven was with us and I saw her face…saw the look there and the pain.  Oh, she tried to hide it but I saw it.”  B'Elanna drained her glass.

“Did you tell her that you and Seven are past tense…that she’s with the Doctor now?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“No I didn’t.  She was tired and I didn’t think it was the right time or place to talk about Seven other than to say that she was with us.”  B'Elanna stared hard at him.

“That should have been the first thing you said to her…”  Chakotay sat forward.

“No it shouldn’t have been.  We talked about what’s been happening.  She wanted and needed to know what’s been going on here.  I kept it business.  Anything else would have been personal and it’s too soon for that.  B'Elanna, she’s still quite ill…weak and…”  B'Elanna took his hand and squeezed, cutting across him.

“You’re right.  I’m sorry.  You know her better.”  She leaned forward, lowering her voice a little.  “Chakotay, just don’t let this go.  All of this…our coming here…it had to be for a reason.  It’s like you’ve been given a second chance.  Don’t blow it.  You have to at least try or you’ll never find peace…”  Chakotay squeezed back on her hand.

“I know that.  My sister said much the same thing.  I just need to go slowly…  This is her life now and I have to respect that.”  B'Elanna sighed.

“Well, know that Tom and I are here for you if you need us.  All of us are.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks.  “Check with them too for me as to when we can visit the Captain.  I asked Duncan and Cassa before but they said it would be better to wait until she’s stronger before she has too many visitors.”  Chakotay smiled and stood.

“I’ll find out for you.  I know she’d love to see you again.  At the moment, she just tires very easily.  As soon as she’s able though, I’ll let you know.”  He leaned down and kissed his old friend’s forehead.  “Thanks, B'Elanna.  You’re one hell of a friend.”  The Klingon woman laughed.

“Just don’t tell anyone.  You’ll ruin my tough reputation.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Over the next week, Chakotay split his time between working with the crew and staff of Haven and visiting Kathryn in the clinic.  He watched quietly as she slowly made progress, gaining a little more strength each day.  When she was awake, they talked casually about the work and improvements which were well underway and about the people around them.  Kathryn spoke briefly of how she had come to Haven, about meeting Duncan and Jonathan after spending some time travelling.  She made no mention of the relationship between the two men or how lost and lonely she had been before meeting them.  Chakotay, for his part, talked briefly of his work and told her more about the crew who had come with him but still didn’t speak of how lost they had all been before he had contacted them about the mission.

For the most part, they danced around each other in their conversations, except when they spoke of John Lewis.  Kathryn had finally demanded all the details about the man who had tried to kill them all.  She listened quietly now as Chakotay told her everything he knew, about Tuvok’s investigation, the evidence they had found, the images they had of the man and about how he and B'Elanna had recognized him.    He went on to tell her about Starfleet’s capture of him, the investigation and search of his home and the possible upcoming trial. 

“Do you think there will be a full trial?”  Chakotay leaned back in his chair and shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so…or more so…hope.  Admiral Paris seems to believe that there will be something but that it’ll be short.  A hearing rather than a full trial.  The man isn’t stupid.  He knows he won’t get out from under all the evidence there is against him.  He made his confession and was cleared as fit and sane to stand trial.  I get the impression he almost wanted to be caught in the end but I don’t really know.  Maybe he was just arrogant enough to believe he’d get away with it.”  Kathryn stared down at her hands as he spoke.  She was sitting propped up in her bed, a pile of pillows behind her.

“Even with all I’ve seen in my life…during the Cardassian war…in the Delta Quadrant…”  She looked up at him, a deep look of sadness on her face.  “Even with all that, I still can’t believe someone can be so evil as to try and murder innocent children.”  Chakotay shook his head and sighed.

“History is filled with men and women like that…ones who were that evil.  The Holocaust during Earth’s Second World War stands out in the mind.  Over a million children were murdered just in the gas chambers alone.  No one knows how many others died in the war itself…in the fighting and bombings.  Outside of that even, we’ve no idea how many children were abducted and murdered over the centuries by individuals or groups.”  He shook his head, as if trying to dispel the images his words brought with them.  “You believe there’s always good in people, Kathryn.  With all you’ve seen, you always think it can never be any worse.  For me…I guess it’s different.  With all I’ve seen, I’ve reached the stage where nothing shocks me anymore.  I believe there can always be something worse…that it’s just in the nature of man.”  Kathryn shook her head, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

“I don’t know.  I’m just thankful it’s all over.  Well, almost over.  I gave my statement to Duncan and he passed it to Admiral Paris.  I hope it’s enough and no one will need to give evidence.”  She looked directly at him.  “Do you really feel he’ll plead guilty and save the Federation a full trial?”  Chakotay shrugged again.

“I think so.  As I said, Starfleet and Admiral Paris think so also.  Apparently his legal team advised him to do that.  He might save himself a year or so in prison if he does.  He knows he’s going to prison one way or the other.  It makes sense, hopefully to him anyway, that this way, even a year off his sentence will be worth it.”  Kathryn twisted her hands together angrily.

“I don’t ever want to see him be released.  This is a case where I wish I believed in the death penalty…”  She looked up at Chakotay and he smiled sadly at her.

“No you don’t.  I know you, Kathryn.  You’ve never believed that taking life is right, no matter what the reason.  Self defence goes without saying and you have to try and live with that…but I know you…and you could never condone the taking of a life…even one as miserable and evil as that bastard’s.”  Kathryn nodded reluctantly, acknowledging how right he was.  She smiled softly.

“I know you’re right.  You can’t deny me the fantasy of imagining him dying in agony though, can you?”  Chakotay smiled also.

“No I can’t.  I’ve had a few thoughts in that area myself.”  They held eye contact a moment longer and then Kathryn looked away, seemingly embarrassed.

“So everyone is getting on all right together?”  She was changing the subject but keeping the conversation casual and they both knew it.  Chakotay went along with it.

“They’re all fine.  They work well together now…now that the initial fear has been overcome.”  Kathryn nodded at that, staring down at her hands again.  An awkward silence followed until Kathryn tried to make herself a little more comfortable.  Chakotay was on his feet immediately.  “Here…let me help…”  He reached for the pillows but Kathryn held a hand up.

“I’m fine.  Really.  I can manage.”  Chakotay paid no attention.

“Just sit forward a little.  Here…lean on my arm…”  Kathryn spoke a little more loudly now.

“Chakotay…please…  I can manage on my own…”  Chakotay stood back quickly, feeling hurt.

“All right.  I’m sorry.  I was just trying to help.”  Kathryn nodded but didn’t meet his eye.

“I know but I can manage.  I’m fine…”  She said no more as Dressa came in from behind the curtain, a smile on her face.

“Guess what, Kathryn?  We have a nice room for you now.”  Kathryn smiled at the other woman, forcing her voice to sound normal.

“A room?  Where?”  Dressa smiled at Chakotay then turned back to Kathryn.

“Well, the good news is that we have all this space now because everyone is well enough to be discharged from the clinic.  They still have to rest up in the dorms or in the shelters for a while longer but they don’t need nursing anymore.”  She fixed the bed clothes as she talked.  “The other good news is that we now have a room…a private room if you please…where we can put you.  You know the one.  That side room where we had been housing the spare beds and supplies.”  Kathryn nodded slowly.

“I know the one you mean.”  She was quiet then as Dressa began to fix her pillows.

“God honey, you must have been uncomfortable with these pillows the way they are…”  She leaned Kathryn forward against one arm and fixed the pillows with her other hand.  Kathryn said nothing but she saw the hurt look on Chakotay’s face.  She knew the embarrassed look on her own face wasn’t lost on him.

“I was fine…”  Dressa didn’t acknowledge that and chatted on.

“Anyway, we can’t house you behind this curtain forever.  We also need to get cleaning this place before they begin the decorating, which our new friends have so generously offered to do for us.  We’ve already cleaned your new room to a hospital standard.  With you in there, we can do the same with the rest of the place.”  Kathryn laughed at that, the sound a little forced.  She was desperate to break the tension.

“You just want me out of the way…”  Dressa laid Kathryn back against the pillows and feigned a look of shock.

“Whatever gave you that idea?”  She laughed at her own joke.  “OK…I’m just going to get your meal.  I’ll be back in a minute.  You better eat it all too.  Selona’s orders and you don’t want to cross her.  After that, you take a nap.  Duncan’s orders.”  Kathryn smiled and mock saluted.

“Aye aye ma’am.”  Her words brought back a flood of memories to her and Chakotay and they looked at each other for a brief second.  Chakotay quickly looked away and ended the moment.

“I better head back to work and let you eat in peace…and get some rest.”  He met her eyes again and forced a smile.  “I’ll call in later this evening to see you…if that’s all right…?”  His last words were almost an afterthought.  Kathryn nodded and smiled.

“That’s fine.  Thank you.”  He nodded and smiled also.  Not knowing what else to say, he turned and left, leaving Kathryn cursing herself.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay called back to see Kathryn that evening, not sure if he was doing the right thing.  The strain between them, which seemed to be growing, had not gone unnoticed by him and he knew Kathryn felt it too.  Miriam showed him to the room where Kathryn had been moved and he thanked her.  He knocked gently on the door and then pushed it open.  He saw Kathryn lying back in the bed, fast asleep.  He noticed for the first time that she had a little colour in her cheeks and smiled to himself.  He stood watching her for almost ten minutes before backing out of the room and closing the door quietly.  When he turned around he saw Miriam watching him, a mop in her hands as she leaned on it.  Chakotay shrugged.

“She’s asleep.  I wouldn’t wake her.  She needs the rest.”  Miriam smiled at him, her eyes indicating that she knew more than she was letting on.  She nodded as if letting him know that he wasn’t fooling her for a minute.

“She’s been through a lot, Chakotay.  Sometimes patients…people who have been that ill…well…they can snap at those around them.  They’re not always themselves for a while.  She’s still recovering and…”  Chakotay smiled and nodded.

“I know.  I do understand.”  He wanted out of there and moved towards the door.  “Just tell her I called by.  I’ll see her tomorrow.”  Miriam just nodded.

“I will.  Good night…”  Chakotay was gone before the words were out of her mouth.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay visited Kathryn during the next few days but their conversations remained casual.  He felt something beneath the surface between them and was sure she felt it too, but it went unspoken.  It was like they were both paddling in shallow water, neither willing to go in any deeper in case the water went over their heads. 

Kathryn was now allowed a few visitors but the time limit for each was strictly monitored by Duncan and the medical staff.  Kathryn tired easily and still had a way to go with her recovery.  The staff usually had to pry or bribe Julie out each evening, and when she wasn’t in her ‘Mommy Kathryn's’ room, she was helping clean out the rest of the clinic just to be near her.  When she couldn’t manage to get near the clinic, she could always be found with Chakotay, trotting along behind him or sitting watching him work, occasionally helping when she was allowed.

During the time Chakotay spent with Kathryn alone, he felt her almost standing back from him.  They were fine when they stuck to safe subjects like the ongoing work and the people around them, but the past and anything connected to their own friendship was forbidden territory.  Nothing was ever said directly to that effect and it was as if a tacit agreement existed between them not to speak of it. 

As the days wore on, Chakotay felt her shutting him out more and more.  He watched silently as Duncan tended to her and tried not to be hurt by the closeness and tenderness he saw demonstrated between them.  He tried telling himself that this closeness existed between Kathryn and all the other staff at the refuge, but he never managed to convince himself.  And so he accepted whatever she offered him, grateful for any part of her, but it still hurt like hell.

It actually made him sad to see the closeness she permitted with the people she worked with now when she had been unable to allow that same closeness to have existed with the crew on Voyager.  He knew that had been different though.  Here Kathryn was an equal whereas in the Delta Quadrant she had been the Captain and had carried most of the command burden and responsibility alone, unable to be too close to anyone. 

^^^^^^^^^^

Next day when Chakotay entered Kathryn's room, Miriam was helping her put on a dressing gown.  Kathryn sat on the edge of the bed, attempting to balance herself using one arm while trying to slip the other into the sleeve of the gown which the nurse held.  She looked up now and acknowledged Chakotay.  Before either could say anything, one of the boys knocked on the door and called to Miriam.

“Mommy Miriam, I fell down.  My knee hurts…”  The small boy tried to keep his tears back but was failing.  He pointed to his cut knee.  “It hurts real bad…”  The nurse smiled and nodded. 

“It looks very sore, Tam.  I’ll clean it now and make it better.”  She turned to Kathryn.  “Can you manage on your own for a few minutes?”  Kathryn smiled and nodded.

“Go on.  I’m fine.”  She smiled at Tam.  “This young man needs you more than I do.”  The child smiled and waved at Kathryn. 

“We miss you, Mommy Kathryn.  When are you coming home?”  Kathryn's face softened into a look Chakotay had rarely seen before.

“Real soon honey.  I promise.”  Satisfied with this, the boy left with Miriam, his limp not as bad now.  The nurse poked her head back in the door.

“Chakotay, make sure this patient of mine doesn’t try and paint the walls while I’m gone.  She’s still very weak.”  Chakotay exchanged a smile with the nurse and nodded.

“I’ll do that.  I’ll make sure she behaves herself.”  He smiled over at Kathryn and saw that she wasn’t looking at him.  She was trying to get her other arm into the robe.  Chakotay moved to her and reached his hand out.  “Here.  Let me help you.”  Kathryn pulled back.

“I can manage…”  Chakotay felt stung.

“I’m just trying to help.”  Kathryn looked up a moment.

“I know.  I’m sorry.”  She struggled on and finally managed to get the gown on.  She then tried to ease herself off the bed and stand.  Chakotay saw how weak she still was as she sat back down again immediately.  He moved back to her.

“Kathryn, you’re not ready to try that…and especially on your own.  Just let me help you…”  Kathryn snapped at him now.

“I can manage on my own…”  She instantly seemed to regret her words when she saw the hurt look on his face.  “Chakotay, I’m sorry.  It’s just…”  He stepped back.

“I just want to help you and be there for you…”  Kathryn sat back and sighed deeply.

“I know that.  It’s not that…it’s…”  Chakotay moved towards her again and took her arm.

“Just let me help you stand.  You can lean on me and take a few steps…build your strength that way…”  He pulled gently on her arm and she immediately pulled from his grasp.

“Please don’t…”  It was like a slap in the face to him.

“I’m only trying to help you.  Why do you shut me out like this…?”  Kathryn heard the deep hurt in his voice and saw the pain in his eyes.  She tried desperately to cover her words.  She felt tears spring to her eyes and blinked quickly.  

“Chakotay…it’s not that…it’s just…  I’m sorry…I’m just…”  Chakotay cut across her.

“It’s OK.  You don’t have to explain.  I understand only too well.  You have a new life here…new friends…  You don’t need me coming in here like this…intruding on your life…”  Kathryn shook her head, her face a mask of sadness.

“It’s not that.”  She sighed deeply.  “Chakotay…I just need to…to try…  I need to try and do this for myself…”  Chakotay nodded, pretending he accepted her words.  He tried to understand but it still hurt dreadfully.  The words were out before he knew it, his honesty shocking him.

“You don’t want me here, do you?  You’d rather I left.”  Kathryn's eyes filled with tears, her words caught in her throat.

“Chakotay…I…”  He shook his head, feeling a lump in his throat.

“It’s OK.  I do understand.  I really hurt you…I know that…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“It’s not that.  I promise you…”  Chakotay felt his emotions take over.

“Then why do you shun every bit of help I try to give you…?  I’m just trying to be a friend.  I thought we always had a good friendship…”  Kathryn looked up at him, her eyes sad.

“We did…do…”  She looked down into her lap.  “It was just so long ago now and…”  She finally looked up at him and he saw the sadness in her eyes.  He sighed sadly, finally venturing into the forbidden territory.

“And it was before Seven…”  They just stared at each other a moment and when Kathryn didn’t answer, Chakotay nodded.  “As I said…I really hurt you…”  He turned away a moment and stared out the window.  When he looked back, Kathryn had her head down again.

“Look Kathryn…I can’t change the past.  Seven happened and I can’t undo that.  You’ve moved on now too and I’ve no wish to interfere with that.  You’ve made a new life for yourself here and…”  He swallowed.  “If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.  I just thought we could at least be friends…”  Kathryn shook her head as she looked up and frowned.

“Of course I’ve moved on.  What did you want me to do?  I had to find some kind of life for myself…some use…  Coming here has been…well…it saved me…”  Chakotay sighed heavily. 

“I don’t just mean that.  Are you happy?  Personally I mean…”  Kathryn frowned more deeply.

“I’m happy working here…as happy as I can be…  I’ve made some very good friends and the women and kids have been great…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“That’s not what I mean.  I’m not saying this right.  I shouldn’t be asking at all, in fact.  It’s none of my business…”  Kathryn shifted a little on the bed, trying to make herself comfortable.  She was tiring now but she tried to hide it.

“Chakotay, I don’t know what you’re asking me.  I don’t even know why you’re asking me.  I do know you’re right about one thing.  We can’t change the past.”  Chakotay moved a little closer and smiled sadly at her.

“I know that but we can still have regrets, can’t we?”  He looked sadly down at her and shook his head.  “I wish…”  They both looked towards the door as they heard it open and Miriam came back in.  She looked from one to the other and blushed.

“I’m sorry.  I’m interrupting.”  Chakotay moved first and made towards the door.

“Don’t apologize Miriam.  It’s all right.”  He glanced back at Kathryn a moment and then moved to the door.  “I have to be going.  I promised Tom and Harry I’d help them…”  As he reached for the door, Kathryn's voice stopped him.

“Chakotay, I wish too…”  He nodded, not trusting himself to speak and left the room.

^^^^^^^^^^

Miriam took one look at her patient and saw her drop the act.  She saw how tired she was and knew she’d been hiding it from her visitor.  As she helped her off with the dressing gown and eased her back on the bed, she smiled softly.

“Let’s leave that walk until tomorrow…”  Kathryn nodded and sighed.

“Good idea.  I’m more tired that I care to admit.”  Miriam smiled and began fixing the blankets.

“I didn’t mean to barge in like that.  I get the feeling I was really interrupting something important between you both…”  Kathryn shook her head and lay back wearily.

“There’s nothing…important or otherwise…between us…  It was all a long time ago and even then…well…there wasn’t ever anything…”  She looked up at Miriam sadly.  “Oh, there was a good friendship once but even that’s lost now.  There are perhaps a few embers of it but…”  Her voice trailed off and she sighed deeply.  Miriam sat on the side of the bed.

“If that man doesn’t care deeply about you then I’m a horse’s ass…”  Kathryn smiled at that. 

“I guess that makes you one then.”  She smiled again.  “Sorry Miriam, but you’re wrong.”  The young nurse shook her head.

“Do you think so?  Tell me this then.  Why did he come here…?”  Kathryn looked down at her hands and twisted her fingers together.

“He came here because of the kids and because Starfleet asked him to.  He told me already that he had agreed to come here even before he knew about me.  So I’m afraid your argument doesn’t hold water, my friend.”  Miriam made a show of folding the dressing gown she held.

“Maybe to start with but…”  She looked down at Kathryn.  “Honey, I know what I see with him and he cares very deeply about you.”  Kathryn lay her head back.

“Maybe once he did.  It’s probably just the ghost of that which you think you’re seeing…an old habit that’s hard to break…  Besides…his…girlfriend…or whatever…maybe even his wife by now…is here with him.  He also has a great teaching job back on Earth.”  She sighed wearily and closed her eyes.  “Miriam, I’m tired.  I can’t do this.  I’m sorry.”  She opened her eyes again and looked at her friend.  Miriam nodded understandingly and patted Kathryn's arm.

“All right, honey.  I understand.  I’m sorry I asked.  You try and rest now.  You still have a way to go before you’re well again.  Duncan will just eat me alive if I don’t take care of you.”  Both women smiled at that. 

^^^^^^^^^^



ON TO PART FOUR.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.

RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.


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