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 NINE.


Kathryn had just finished her breakfast the following morning when Chakotay came in to see her.  He put on a mock stern voice.

“Good morning Kathryn.  I do hope you finished all that…”  Kathryn groaned and patted her stomach.

“Doesn’t the bulge here tell you anything?  I’m fit to burst.  Does that answer your question?”  Chakotay grinned.

“OK.”  He inclined his head towards the tray on the locker with the empty plate.  “A clean plate also answers it.”  Kathryn dropped her head back.

“You’re here on a spying mission from Duncan and the Doc…is that it?”  She raised her head again and he saw that she was smiling.  He shook his head.

“No…no spying.  Just a very interested party in your well being.”  He moved towards the bed now.  “Anyway…I have another reason for being here.”  Kathryn tried to read his face.

“Anything wrong?”  Chakotay shook his head once more.

“Nothing as far as I know.  It’s just that Admiral Paris called Duncan earlier and said he wanted to speak to you again.  He’s calling back in a half hour or so.”  Kathryn reached for the bar over the bed and pulled herself up.

“I wonder what he wants.”  Chakotay interrupted her before she began to worry.

“Well…let’s get you ready and we can go over to the office and find out.”  He went to the press and got her clothes.  “It’s better that we use the communications equipment in the office rather than on Voyager.  The office is so much closer…”  Kathryn tried to sit up.

“It’s just about up to the job.  It’ll be great to have up-to-date equipment in there…”  Chakotay came over to the bed now and began to help her.  “It’ll make a great difference to the women’s lives.”  He laid her clothes on the bed.  “Is it OK if I help you dress or should I call Miriam or Dressa…?”  Kathryn smiled up at him.

“I’m sure I can trust you to be the perfect gentleman.  Besides, we are engaged I suppose.”  Chakotay smiled lovingly down at her.

“I need to get you a ring…”  Kathryn reached for his hand and squeezed it.

“I just need you…”  Chakotay leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“I’m an old-fashioned guy.  I want you to have a ring.”  He stroked her hair.  “Now Madam…let’s get those clothes off you…”  Kathryn pretended shock.

“Why Sir…do you speak to all the ladies in that fashion…?”  Chakotay smirked.

“Wouldn’t you like to know…?”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn, Chakotay and Duncan sat quietly in Duncan’s small office and stared at the face of Admiral Paris on the small view screen.  He smiled kindly as he looked at them all in turn.

“I have some news.”  He held up a hand in reassurance when he saw the worried faces before him.  “Nothing serious…just some developments…”  Kathryn exchanged a worried look with the others and then turned back to the screen.

“What’s happened…?”  The old man smiled.

“I’ll just tell you.”  He sobered then.  “It’s nothing to worry about but it is…a delicate matter…”  Kathryn remained quiet as she waited to hear what was coming.  The Admiral played with something on his desk for a moment then looked back up.

“Since the trial…”  He shrugged slightly.  “It’s just that Julie’s aunt has been in touch…”  Kathryn drew in a deep breath and glanced at Duncan for a moment.  She saw his worry.  She turned back to the screen.

“And…?”  Owen shook his head.

“She apparently attended parts of the trial.  No one saw her there as far as I know and I don’t know how she managed it.  Lewis certainly would have said something had he seen her…”  He sighed.  “Anyway…she got in touch with me and wanted to know how Julie was.  She’s been…”  He shook his head.  “She’s a sad woman…filled with regrets and pain...fear…  She was afraid to make contact with anyone before in case Lewis was watching her and learned where the girl was.  She learned that Lewis’s brothers didn’t want anything to do with him and knew that Lewis himself was going to prison for life.  She finally felt it was safe to get in touch with someone.  I guess she saw me at the trial and took a chance.  She was still too afraid to contact you there.”  He sighed again and shook his head.

“She told me she thinks of Julie every day.  She still feels she made the right choice…that it was the safest thing to do…but…”  He shook his head slowly.  Kathryn found herself reaching for Chakotay’s hand.

“She wants her back…?”  She felt herself close to tears.  Owen smiled very sadly.

“She made a painful decision and I agreed with her.  She feels it’s best if Julie stays where she is…that to take her away from there now would be…”  He lowered his head a moment then looked back up.  “It’s a painful fact to her but she knows that they’re strangers now.  Haven is Julie’s home.  She has a family of her own there.”  Kathryn closed her eyes a moment in relief.  She looked to Chakotay and then Duncan and saw their relief also.  She looked back at Owen Paris.

“I feel so sorry for her and yet…”  She swallowed loudly.  “We couldn’t bear to lose Julie…”  The old man nodded.

“I know.  However, she’d like Julie to know about her in time and hoped that perhaps they could get to know each other again later on.  She said she’d hate to tear her away from the one place she really knows and feels happy and at home in…that she wouldn’t do that to her.  She feels she’s had enough to deal with in her life already.”  Kathryn nodded and brushed at a tear which had fallen.

“If you speak with her again…  Tell her she made the right decision.  This is home to Julie now.”  She glanced at Duncan who nodded his agreement.  “Tell her also that we’ll make sure she knows about her aunt and how much she loves her…”  Owen Paris smiled kindly.

“I will.  I have a contact for her.  I’ll make sure she knows.”  He played with something else on his desk for a moment.  Kathryn, knowing her old mentor well, frowned.

“What else Owen?”  He looked up and sighed.

“Lewis’s brothers…were also in touch with me.”  Kathryn again looked worried.

“What do they want?”  The Admiral smiled softly.

“Nothing sinister.  It turns out that Lewis has given up all rights to his property and assets.  He wants everything sold off and the funds to go to his family.  He signed away all rights to them for their own use.  Perhaps it was some strange way of apologizing to them.  Who knows…?  However, it is legally binding and his property is now theirs.”  Kathryn just shook her head, a look of anger on her face.  “They’ve washed their hands of him…want nothing more to do with him.  Lewis knows this but still wanted everything to go to them.  They don’t want anything from him.  They discussed it and then came to me.”  He sighed. 

“They’ve decided they want the bulk of it to go into trust for Julie…when she attains her majority…  Something for her future.  The rest is to go to the refuge for the good of all the kids.”  He tried a smile.  “It’s all legal.  Lewis legally signed everything over to his brothers but they’re too ashamed of him.  They want nothing to do with his funds and asked me to pass it to Duncan to put in trust for Julie and use the rest as he sees fit.  They suggested perhaps three quarters to Julie and the remaining quarter to the refuge.  It is quite a sizable sum.”  He shook his head and managed a sad smile.  “They said they wanted it to do some good.”  Kathryn leaned back and closed her eyes.  She opened them again when she heard Duncan speak.

“Sorry Admiral Paris…  I was just wondering…  I mean…I know Lewis’s brothers were informed about the trial.  I was just wondering how Julie’s aunt heard.  I doubt she was in touch with the family…”  Kathryn looked to Owen quickly, waiting for the answer.  He smiled gently.

“It turns out the wife of one of the brothers has been in contact with the aunt all along.  She didn’t even tell her own husband.  She apparently disliked Lewis from the beginning and came to hate him when he rejected Julie.  The aunt…her name is Jamie Thornton by the way…but that’s between us…  She and her sister-in-law kept in touch secretly.”  He sighed heavily.

“Look…there’s nothing to worry about here.  There has been no publicity about the trial which suited Lewis and his family as much as us.  That was agreed all round but the brothers were there.  Others knew of course…trial attorneys and staff, but it goes without saying that they won’t disclose any details.  Outside of them…there was just the family and the location of Haven was never openly spoken of.  When it was all over, the brothers came to me because they’d washed their hands of Lewis.  I suppose that’s when the wife contacted Ms. Thornton and she came to me then.  I guess that’s really how she knew who I was and that she could trust me, although she did say she attended some of the trial.  I did get their word that none of this will ever be openly discussed.  I got the feeling they just want to forget the entire matter.”  Duncan shook his head.

“Didn’t the brothers want to know about Julie?  I know she’s not a blood relative but they do want the funds to go to her and…  Do they want to see her in the future?”  Owen shook his head sadly.

“I don’t believe so.  I think they feel this is all they can do for her.  They just want to put it all behind them.”  He shrugged.  “Perhaps in time…when wounds have healed…”  Kathryn laughed cynically.

“Their loss.  She has a family who love her.  She doesn’t need them.”  Duncan reached over and squeezed her arm.

“They have their own pain to deal with.  Don’t judge them too harshly.  We just deal with this as it is.”  He turned and smiled at Owen Paris.  “Thank you Admiral.  I’ll take care of everything.”  Owen smiled and nodded.

“I know you will and please…I think it’s about time you called me Owen.”  Duncan smiled.

“Thank you Owen.”  There was a brief silence which Owen broke.  He leaned forward, his eyes settling on Kathryn.

“There’s one more matter…”  Kathryn looked guarded.

“What else…?”  Owen smiled broadly.

“Oh nothing much.  It’s just…”  His grin spread in anticipation of his news.  “A decision has been reached on Voyager…”  Kathryn shook her head in surprise.

“With everything else, I hadn’t actually thought about her…”  The old man smiled.

“Still think of ‘her’ rather than ‘the ship’ or ‘it’…?”  Kathryn pretended hurt.

“Of course I think of ‘her’…and quietly if you please…  She’ll hear you…”  The Admiral and Chakotay laughed, while Duncan just looked confused.  Kathryn grew serious then.  “OK Owen, what’s the decision?  When do they want her back?  Are they going to tear her to pieces for spare parts or make her a museum?”  Admiral Paris sat back with a smug look on his face.

“Neither option actually.”  Chakotay and Kathryn shared a look of vague hope.  Kathryn looked back at the screen.

“Come on Owen.  Don’t keep this to yourself.  Tell us…”  The old man laughed to himself.

“Same old Kathryn.  No patience….”  He grew serious when he saw how anxious she appeared.  “OK…I won’t keep you waiting…”  Kathryn rolled her eyes.

“Not that you’ve been doing that…”  She held a hand up.  “Sorry…go on…”  Admiral Paris reached for a glass and took a drink of water before speaking.

“It’s like this.  Since ‘she’s’ been away…”  He smiled to himself a moment and looked at Chakotay, then Kathryn.  “Quite simply, she’s been officially retired.”  Kathryn drew in a sudden breath.

“Which means…?”  The Admiral smiled gently.

“Just that.  It was decided she wasn’t cost effective.  Initially, she was to be retired and used as a museum or only used for shipping diplomats around…perhaps even cargo.”  Kathryn looked disgusted at that idea but remained quiet.  “Some wanted her for spare parts or teaching history in engineering lessons.”  This time Kathryn looked offended.  Admiral Paris saw this and smiled apologetically.  “Yes, I know.  It is somewhat undignified for a fine lady like her…”  He laughed.  “Now you have me thinking of her that way…”  Kathryn shrugged.

“She grows on you…believe me…”  She nodded quickly.  “Go on Owen…”  The man on the screen nodded.

“The fact is…she wouldn’t be useful to us for training purposes.  With respect, much of her is out of date.  She’s old…past her best…”  Kathryn sighed.

“I should be offended on her behalf at that but I somehow get the feeling some good can come out of it…”  The Admiral nodded slowly.

“This is what was decided.”  He cleared his throat.  “They’re going to build a replica as a museum…  On the outside it’ll look the same but inside they’ll only construct the main areas.  The bridge and engineering will be there but they’ll only build sample quarters.  Sickbay will be included but only an example of the holodecks.  I think the mess hall will also be included.  The details haven’t been ironed out yet…”  Kathryn tried to stem her building hope.

“So what will happen to the real Voyager…?”  Admiral Paris leaned forward and looked straight at Kathryn.  He smiled gently.

“Do you remember a certain conversation we had about having a use?”  Kathryn returned his smile and nodded tearfully.

“It seems a long time ago now…”  Owen Paris smiled as he remembered.

“Yes it does, my dear.  Well, Voyager deserves to have a use too.  She shouldn’t gather dust.”  He saw Kathryn’s face and the hope she showed.  “I guess you should think of this as her being put out to pasture…”  Kathryn blew out a breath.

“Owen…are you saying…?”  She licked at her lips.  “Are you saying they don’t want her back…that we can keep her?”  She watched as her old mentor smiled and nodded.

“Yes…you can keep her.”  Kathryn turned to Chakotay and squeezed his hand.  He tightened his hold on hers and smiled at her.  Kathryn turned back to the Admiral.

“We can really keep her?”  He nodded again.

“Without sounding bad about it…she’s no use to anyone else.  Besides, she really belongs to you now.  We couldn’t separate you.  I guess you adopted each other.”  He leaned back.  “It’s been decided that you should have Voyager and all her shuttles for your own use.  It would be a good back-up home if you ever needed it…perhaps during a storm.  She has a good back-up clinic or sickbay also.  And if, God forbid, you ever needed to vacate the planet for whatever reason, she could carry everyone.”  Kathryn listened intently but said nothing.

“I was thinking that you could also use her to train the kids there for the future.  Engineering for example…or the history of it…if any of them would want careers in that or other related areas.  She’d be a good classroom in her own right and they could learn the basics…  I guess other stuff could be taught on the holodecks.”  Duncan pushed his chair back at that, the others looking towards him at the noise.  The young doctor shook his head angrily.

“Sorry.  It just seems that everyone else has thought of the kids’ future except me.  Even you thought of it…  Everyone thought of it except the ones like me who should have…  I feel so bad about that…”  Kathryn shook her head.  Instead of comforting her friend, she used anger.

“Well Duncan…you had good company because no one else thought of it up until the meeting and you know that.  No one thought that far ahead…including the parents…”  Duncan shook his head at her.

“They had an excuse.  They had their safety to think of.  That had to come first.”  Kathryn gave him an exasperated look.

“Cut the crap Duncan.  You had the same concerns and that’s what you concentrated on.  And you did it.  You kept them safe.  Besides, when things settled down, the women didn’t think of it then either.  They have to be responsible for their own kids.  You’re a great helper here but you’re not their father.  Now leave this and just concentrate on the present.  In other words, shut up and get past it.”  Duncan stared at her a moment and then grudgingly accepted her words.

“OK…you’re right…”  Kathryn smiled at that.

“I’m always right.  I wish you’d remember that.”  She tried to sit up a little straighter.  “Now go and get yourself some tea and calm down.  I need to talk to this man about my ship…”  Duncan laughed softly and nodded.

“OK…I’m out of here.  I know when I’m not wanted.”  He moved to the screen a moment and smiled at the man there.  “Admiral…  Owen…  I just want to thank you for this.  It means a great deal to us.  Thank you.  Thank you for this and for all you’ve done for us.”  The Admiral held up a hand and shook his head.

“Duncan, it’s my pleasure.  I’m just glad to be able to help.  You’re more than welcome.”  Duncan smiled and nodded.

“Well…thank you again…”  He moved away from the view screen and nodded to Kathryn and Chakotay.  “I’ll leave you to it.  If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen.”  Kathryn smiled and nodded.

“OK…”  She waited until Duncan left the office and then let her smile slip.  She looked quickly at Chakotay and saw that his face was serious too.  He nodded quickly at her.  She nodded back and then returned her eyes to the screen.

“OK Owen…it’s just the three of us now.  Talk to me and tell me what’s behind all this.”  Owen Paris looked at her for almost a minute before he spoke.  Finally he sighed.

“I thought you might ask that.  I fully expected it.”  He took another drink of his water and leaned forward.  “Look Kathryn, this falls under the same umbrella as all the other concessions or gifts…whatever you want to call them.  Quite simply, Voyager is no use to anyone here.  Oh, they want a museum.  It would be expected.  If they just build a basic copy, it would be more cost effective.  Voyager herself would take a lot of man hours to maintain.  We’re talking about an entire ship compared to a replica with only a few areas to look after.  Besides, you need a back-up there and you know it.  You also need a way to vacate the planet if that should ever be necessary…and before you say it…I really do mean in case…”  Kathryn eyed him warily.

“Did those in the know suggest this…?”  The old man smiled a moment and then shook his head.

“No they didn’t.”  He shook his head slowly for a moment and then smiled at the two people on his own screen.  “It was my suggestion.  I made the arguments…the same ones I’ve just put to you.”  He rubbed a hand across his chin.  “I sold it to them and they bought it.  It made financial sense to them…which is often the only language they understand.”  Kathryn nodded understandingly.

“So what was your real reasoning behind this?”  Owen Paris smiled softly.

“I’ll be honest with you Kathryn.  There’s no hidden agenda behind this.  The fact is quite simple.  I have people I love dearly on that planet.  My son…my granddaughter…my daughter-in-law…”  He smiled kindly.  “My best friend’s daughter who is like a daughter to me…”  He shook his head slowly.  “Providing for their safety in whatever way I can…  I just want every back-up there is in place for them…  If that sounds selfish then…”  Kathryn smiled and leaned towards the screen.

“Loving someone and wanting to protect them is never selfish, Owen.  It’s what love is all about.”  She dropped her head to the side.  “I’m sorry if I suspected Starfleet of some ulterior motive…”  The Admiral smiled and licked at the corner of his mouth.

“Oh, we both know they’re not perfect but they’re innocent in this case.”  He straightened up then.  “So…  Voyager is yours.  Just take care of her…as if I need to say that…”  Kathryn looked at Chakotay tearfully and then back at the screen.  She nodded.

“I will.  We will.  She’s a part of us…one of us.  She watched over us and protected us through all those years in the Delta Quadrant.  We needed a home and we found one.  Well now she needs a home too and it’s only right that we take her into ours.  She housed us for seven years and now we can house her.  She belongs with us.”  She sniffed.  “Thank you Owen.  Thank you so much for this.”  The old man waved the thanks away.

“It’s my pleasure, my dear.  What did you say…?  Love is what it’s all about…”

^^^^^^^^^^

The women came to their second decision far more quickly than anyone expected.  Within two days they let Duncan know that they wanted to have another meeting and he accordingly reported this to Kathryn.  She sat out in a chair, Chakotay perched on the bed beside her.  Duncan looked down at Kathryn.

“You still have that glow about you…the one that says you have your baby back.  You and that ship…”  Kathryn made a face at him.

“Don’t use the word ‘that’ when talking about her.  She’s highly sensitive.  She might hear you, then you’d have to go out there and apologize to her…”  Duncan scoffed at that.

“Stand in the middle of a field and apologize to a chunk of…”  Chakotay interrupted quickly.

“Don’t even go there Duncan.”  He glanced to his right to see the look of disgust on Kathryn’s face.  “I take it you like living…”  Duncan swallowed a laugh but gave in.

“OK…I won’t say anything more about ‘her’…”  Kathryn narrowed her eyes at him.

“I won’t forget this Duncan.  My baby will have her revenge.”  She laughed then, letting him off the hook.  She leaned back in her chair now. 

“Apart from coming here to insult my ship…did you have another reason?”  Duncan smiled a moment and then sobered.

“Actually...yes.  It’s about the women…”  Kathryn and Chakotay both grew serious now, their joking forgotten.  “They’ve reached a decision.  They all know what that is so they’ve decided there’s no need to have a full meeting like the previous two.  They suggested ‘representatives’ instead…some staff members and a small group of them.”  Kathryn nodded slowly.

“Makes more sense.  As long as they’re speaking for everyone…”  Duncan played with his fingers.

“I made that point to them.  Paula and Jule came to see me.  They elected a small group and asked to speak with a few of us.”  He took a padd from his pocket and activated it, reading from it.

“Paula, Ria, Jaal, Kit, Dara, Lou and Jule…maybe one or two others…”  Kathryn chewed her lip as she listened.

“Who from the staff?”  Duncan continued reading.

“Myself and Jonathan, Lorcha and Cassa, you and Chakotay…”  Kathryn shook her head at that.

“I’m not sure…”  Duncan interrupted her.

“This is what they want Kathryn.  They said they knew you’d argue with it and told me to tell you to ‘shove it’…”  He smiled and shrugged.  “Just passing along the message…”  Kathryn grinned at that.

“I think they know me too well…”  She nodded and smiled.  “OK…we’ll be there.  Who else?”  Duncan looked back down at his padd.

“They left it open for all the staff to attend really.  They wanted you and Chakotay though.”  Kathryn rubbed a hand across her forehead.

“OK…”  She glanced at Chakotay first and then turned her attention back to Duncan.  “Did they give any indication of what their decision is?”  Duncan shook his head.

“No…but I get the feeling they’ll accept most of what’s being offered.”  He put the padd back in his pocket.  “Later this afternoon if that’s OK with you two…”  He looked from one to the other.  Kathryn answered for them both.

“We’ll be there…”

^^^^^^^^^^

When everyone was settled around the large kitchen table, Paula got straight to the point.

“Right…I know the kitchen isn’t the best place to do this but the kids are using the day room.”  Duncan leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table.

“We’re fine here Paula.  We’re near the food.”  Everyone laughed at that for a moment and then grew quiet.  Paula nodded to the other women before turning to the staff members present.

“So…we’ve made a decision.  That decision is to accept help.”  Everyone nodded and Kathryn felt herself letting out a sigh of relief.  She glanced at Chakotay and saw that he looked relieved too.  Paula spoke on.

“We still need to iron out a few points and that’s why we wanted to talk to you.”  Duncan spoke for them all.

“That’s what we’re here for Paula.  What’s troubling you?”  Paula licked at her lips for a moment and then smiled shyly.

“OK…it’s like this.”  She concentrated for a moment until Jule nudged her and handed over a padd.  Paula smiled her thanks and activated it.  “I need this.  My memory isn’t that good.”  Lorcha leaned forward. 

“It’s old age honey.  Comes to us all…”  Paula pretended hurt. 

“Cheek.  Speak for yourself.”  Everyone present smiled or laughed at that.  Duncan shook his head.

“The insults which pass around this place…”  Dara who was sitting beside him playfully shoved him with her shoulder.

“They’re terms of endearment around here Duncan.  You know that.”  Duncan rolled his eyes.

“God forbid anyone ever gets really mad at someone…”  More laughter followed until finally they all became quiet.  Paula waited patiently.  Eventually she seemed ready to speak. 

“As I was about to say…”  She smiled and then looked down at the padd, nodding to herself.  She looked back up, her eyes scanning all those present. 

“We want to accept the deal but on our terms.”  Duncan nodded at that but said nothing.  “I know they call it aid but it’s compensation.  Anyway…we’ll take the compensation but not individually.  We’d prefer it all together.  As we said at the meeting, we don’t want to know what each would get.  We also want it to go into a main fund for the good of us all.  These funds belong to the community…not any individual.”  Duncan nodded again, picked up a padd of his own and began taking notes.  Paula gave him a moment.

“We want the security improvements and the better communications.  We also like the sound of the…panic buttons…is that what you called them?”  Duncan looked up and nodded.

“Yes.  They’d be a way of calling for help if anything happened.  A coded communication would get straight through to someone in the know.”  The women murmured their approval to that.  Paula passed the padd to Kit who took over.  She smiled softly.

“The medical side of things goes without saying.  We know from recent events and from talking to you that we need better equipment and drugs.  Dental and any other areas…veterinary stuff.  However, we’ll leave that to you.”  She looked from Duncan to Cassa to Roberto and then Eugene.  “Look…you all know your own areas better than we ever could.  You know what you need.  We trust your judgement.  Can we leave that to you?”  Cassa answered this time.

“We’ll make a list but we’ll run it by you first…”  She looked at Duncan and the others who nodded their agreement.  Cassa smiled at Kit.  “Anything medical or veterinary…fertilizers for farming…animal feed…anything in those areas…  Well as I said…we’ll all make lists and then let you check them before submitting anything.”  Kit checked with the other women who all agreed to that.  She nodded.

“That sounds great Cassa.”  Jonathan joined in now.

“What else worries you?”  Kit passed the padd to Lou now. 

“We’ve been thinking about the kids…their education…teaching aids…whatever helps in that area.  Hista and Olga can work on that one…”  She looked at the two teachers who were present.  They both nodded and Olga began taking notes of her own.

“We’ll go through what we have already at the school…see what’s needed.”  Lou smiled her thanks.  She checked the padd again.

“Actually…while we’re in this area…”  She shared a smile with the others a moment then grew serious.  “It’s just that…we’d love some more padds and books…old fashioned books…I’ve always loved old books…”  Some of the women giggled at that.  Lou laughed with them and then became serious again.  She looked around at the staff members. 

“We’ve decided that we’d like to improve our own education.  We’ve all let ourselves stagnate here in a sense.  Oh we work together and learn from each other but we want more.  We were educated women of the world before we came here.  We’ve let our minds get lazy in many ways.  We want to change that.”  Kit nodded eagerly.

“Yes…and other things…  Painting perhaps…so painting equipment…drawing materials…  Maybe we could run some classes for each other…pottery and such…possibly even work with glass.  The options are endless…”  Jaal spoke for the first time now.

“Don’t forget music.”  She smiled sadly.  “I so miss music…”  She looked embarrassed for a moment.  “Anyway…I asked Harry and he’s willing to give us some lessons in basic musicianship.  We could get some instruments…for us and for the kids.”  She shrugged.  “Maybe we could replicate some of what we need…”  Kathryn looked around the women with pride.  She smiled to herself as she listened.  Dara leaned forward.

“Games and toys for the kids.  And speaking of education…”  She stopped suddenly and looked at Chakotay.  “Actually…the kids have been asking…about the ruins.”  She pretended to cringe.  “They want to see them but they’d have to be supervised…  So Chakotay…”  She bit at her upper lip.  “Fancy taking tours?  Teach the kids archaeology?  Maybe even some of us?”  She held up a hand as if to soften the blow.  “Small groups of course.  We wouldn’t do that to you.”  They all laughed as they looked towards Chakotay.  He pretended horror and then laughed.

“It would be my pleasure…”  He looked towards Trevor.  “Before that though, it might be an idea to erect some fencing up there…between the site and the river.”  Everyone nodded their agreement to that.  Trevor made some notes.

“What about the site itself?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“I’ll check it over first…make sure all the stone work is safe for the kids to be around.  I’d like to map the site too and see if any preservation work needs to be done.  I’ll write up my findings on the place just to have the work done but I don’t think it should be published.  Maybe in later years.  The less publicity about it, the better.”  Everyone nodded at that.  “Once it’s safe up there, I can take tours…take groups of the kids…”   He smiled now and looked at Kathryn for a moment.  “The kids are bound to be less trouble anyway…”  Kathryn stuck her nose up in the air.

“Huh…I’ll show you trouble…”  Selona laughed out loud.

“Children please…in private please…”  Once again everyone laughed.  When it began to quieten down again, Paula took over once more.

“Right…before this falls apart.”  She took the padd from Dara.  “This will be up to you John…”  She nodded towards the farmer.  “Anything which will improve things…better ways to grow the crops and irrigate the fields.  Perhaps we could grow some stuff like in the hydroponics bay we saw on Kathryn’s ship.”  John made a few notes and nodded at that.

“Sounds fine.  Like the others, I’ll have a good think and make a list.  I’ll bring it to you when I have it…”  Paula nodded her satisfaction at that.  Duncan finished noting something and then looked up.

“Anything else…?”  Paula looked at the padd and nodded.

“Yeah…  Replicators.  I know we said we’d like to keep them to a minimum but…”  She sighed.  “We still want to grow all our own food and make our own clothes but…”  She laughed.  “OK…well most of them…”  The others nodded eagerly.  “We’d want to replicate shoes and such…”  She blushed now.  “Other…personal items…  That kind of thing…”  Lou interrupted.

“Duncan, we’d basically like to be able to replicate the kind of things we now get from the supply runs.  In that way, all your trips can be for pleasure.  You won’t need to worry about making deals and meeting people in secret…”  Duncan leaned back at that.

“Lou, those trips have never been a burden or anything like it…  I agree it would be better for our own protection to be completely independent though.  It would be safer for us and for those who’ve helped.  Their risk was always far less but still…”  Lou nodded understandingly.

“We know that Duncan.  Just make sure you thank them properly for us next time you take a vacation…”  Duncan smiled warmly and nodded.

“I will and it has always been their pleasure…”  Lou nodded.

“It’ll feel good to be totally independent.  As grateful as we are for all the help we’ve received, we want to look after ourselves.  We don’t mind hard work and never have.  This way though, the urgency won’t be there or the fear if the crops fail.  We want to do things for pleasure…because we want to…not because we have to.”  She looked towards Kathryn and Chakotay.

“With our new family members here, we already have an improved standard of living.  We’re happy with that for the most part.  We don’t want some ultra modern world to live in…just improvements to what we already have.”  She looked over at the cook now.

“We think though that Selona would be happy to improve her kitchens.”  Selona’s eyes lit up.  Lou laughed.  “She mentioned needing bigger freezer units and I suppose that’s Peter’s area…”  She looked to the engineer.  “We’d need backup power units and generators?”  Peter nodded. 

“I’ll draw up some plans and make a report.”  Lou nodded at that.

“Whatever we said before about replicators…we do feel we’d need them for the kitchen…recycling units so we don’t have to wash dishes.”  Duncan immediately sought out Chakotay’s eyes, finding that the big man was already looking at him.  Both burst out laughing to the puzzlement of the others.  Chakotay shook his head.

“Sorry people…just a little joke between us…”  Kathryn gave both men a strange look.

“And I don’t think we want to know…”  She watched as Chakotay and Duncan tried to get themselves under control, only to break down again.  She just sat with her arms folded and waited, the others looking on in total amazement.  Finally the two men sobered but smiles still tugged at their lips.  Jonathan shook his head.

“Are you two finished?  Can we move on?”  Duncan nodded and cleared his throat.

“I think so…no…yes…”  He made a greater effort and finally won control.  “OK…sorry…”  He refused to look at Chakotay.  “Right…back to business…”  There was still a trace of a smile on his lips as he looked through his notes.  As he came to one item, he became totally serious.

“Right…there is something here I need to pass on to you.”  He looked up and around the table.  “This is easier as you’ve agreed to accept the compensation…”  He drew in a deep breath and glanced at Kathryn a moment.  “Admiral Paris spoke with us and informed us that Lewis’s family had been in touch with him.  Apparently he signed all his assets over to his brothers.  They want nothing to do with it or him and have requested that most of the funds be given to Julie…in trust for her anyway.  The rest they want to go to the other kids.”  He filled them in on the details, watching all their faces carefully.  When he finished, he put the padd down.

“Any objections to that?  I know you’ll need to discuss this with the others…”  Paula looked at the other women a moment then leaned towards them, quietly communicating with them.  She then turned back to Duncan.

“This is Julie’s private business…or will be when she’s older anyway.  It’s nothing to do with us.  She’ll decide on it for herself when she’s old enough.  And the entire amount should go to her.”  The other women nodded their agreement to that.  Lou scratched at her neck.

“That’s right.  It concerns her only.  She’ll decide for herself.”  She coughed slightly.  “Actually Duncan…that’s something else we wanted to say to you all…”  She looked to the others who nodded for her to continue.  “It brings us to another matter we wanted to talk about.”  She leaned forward a little.  “We had thought of making the village bigger, and in time we will.  For the moment, we’re happy with the size of the shelters but that will change as the kids get bigger and want more space.  If they stay, we’ll have to build more anyway as they’ll want their own places.  For now we like being close together although we understand that those pairing off will want a bit more space, especially if they have kids of their own.”  They all smiled at that.  “Bigger shelters for those who want or need them…that will come later.  Oh, and we now call them houses.  We loved the word shelter at first but now it truly feels like home, so they’re homes or houses.  Homes.  Yeah…homes.”  Duncan shared a quiet smile with Jonathan before speaking.

“That’s fine.  This is about what you want…”  Paula rolled her eyes.

“No Duncan…this is about what WE ALL want.  We finally agree that accepting the deal is up to us…the women…but what we do with that and how this place expands is to be decided by all of us.  We’ll ALL be living here…therefore we ALL have a say  in what way things work.”  Dara raised her hand.

“Actually, there is something else.”  Duncan nodded for her to continue. 

“Go ahead Dara…”  She nodded.

“We’ve discussed this and we’re all in agreement.  It’s the most important thing in all this…”  The others nodded.  “We prefer to keep the location of this place a secret which we know has already been agreed, but just to reiterate it.  We’re not so afraid now…feel a lot more secure…  We have a new family and all that and we trust them completely.  What we have to remember though, is that there are still maniacs like Lewis out there and family members who would just love to know where we are…where the kids are…  It’s sad to say but the reasons for this place still exist and we want to make sure we all remember that.”  Duncan nodded solemnly.

“We’re all aware of that only too well Dara…all of you in fact.  The priority here will always be your safety.  That comes before anything.  You have our word on that.”  All the women smiled their thanks for his words…the staff members, Kathryn and Chakotay along with them.  Paula raised her hand now.

“One other thing Duncan.”  The young doctor nodded.  “We want to invest a chunk of these funds for the kids’ future.  They’ll most likely want to leave here someday and they’ll need funds to further their education or set themselves up in their new lives.”  She smiled a little.  “See…we really have started thinking of the future.”  Duncan smiled and reached for her hand.  He squeezed gently.

“We all missed that one Paula.  Take the advice I was given and let it go.  We’re taking care of it now…”  He smiled at Paula and then shared a smile with Kathryn.  He nodded to himself and sat back.

“Any other areas to be covered?”  Duncan looked around the table.  Jaal leaned forward and nodded.

“Yes, there is.  We wondered if we could ask about who they’ll send?  I know someone has to oversee…”  She looked nervous and tried a smile.  “No harm in asking.”  Duncan shook his head and smiled kindly.

“You’ve every right to ask and it’s important.”  Jaal nodded her thanks.

“We were kind of thinking…from us…  We thought…you Duncan and Kathryn…Lorcha...Jonathan or Cassa…and…”  She frowned.  “Did they say how many?”  Duncan shook his head.

“No…but I think that’s up to you.  You decide how you want this done…”  Jaal looked to Paula who took over.

“We also wondered who they would send.  You mentioned before about one human and one Cardassian.  It doesn’t matter who our group is made up of anymore.  Human or Cardassian that is.  There is no longer human or Cardassian here…just people.  We just want some of OUR people.  It is important though about who they send…”  Duncan saw fear cross her eyes.  “I mean…they wouldn’t be…they wouldn’t…”  Duncan understood immediately.

“No ladies…please…I promise you.  They understand about all that.  No uniforms.  I give you my word on that.”  Kit spoke up now.

“If there’s any chance…  Would it be possible for us to suggest who…?”  She sighed.  “I suppose not…”  She looked down at her hands on the table.  Kathryn spoke up now, surprising everyone.

“I don’t see why we can’t ask for someone…  They have to understand…”  Kit looked up and seized on that.

“If that was possible…    Maybe…perhaps…”  She shrugged.  “It’s just…we like what we’ve heard and know about this Admiral Paris…Tom’s father.  And if the Cardassians need to send someone…”  She looked at Lorcha and then Cassa.  “Is there someone either of you know who you can trust?”  She bit at her lip.  “Or else maybe someone Admiral Paris would trust…would approve.  We’ll trust his judgement.  He hasn’t let us down so far...”  Lorcha exchanged a look with Cassa and then smiled at Kit.

“There was a friend of ours at medical school…  She became a government scientist and medical officer.  We always really liked and trusted her.  She was never involved in anything covert…mainly public health education.”  Kit looked to the others who all nodded agreement to that idea.  Paula spoke again.

“That sounds good.”  She looked at Duncan again.

“If there’s only one or two from here…perhaps you or Jonathan  because you began all this.”  She looked at Kathryn now.  “I think also Kathryn…because she knows both sides…spans the divide if you like.  Tuvok or Tom even…B'Elanna…”  She shrugged.  “I don’t know.”  Duncan leaned his elbows on the table and laced his fingers together.

“Look…how about this.  I’ll take all this to Admiral Paris and run it past him.  I’ll inform him about what you want…what you’ve decided.  As to the rest…the official side of it…”  He shook his head.  “We have time to decide on that part of it.  I’ll tell him how you feel and see what he says about who they’d want to send.  That gives you time to think about who you want from here.”  The women exchanged looks and nodded to each other.  Paula turned to Duncan.

“That sounds fine…”  Duncan smiled kindly at her.

“OK…that’s what we’ll do then…”  He looked around the table.  “Anything else…any other business…?”  No one spoke for a moment until Kathryn leaned forward.

“Actually...I just have one thing…”  She smiled, a little embarrassed.  “It’s kind of a request or maybe an announcement…”  All eyes turned to her.  She shrugged and smiled again.  “There’s kind of an additional family member I hope you’ll accept.”  She almost laughed at the expressions she saw.  “Voyager…our ship…  I hope you’ll agree.  She’s kind of been given to me…to us…and she needs a home.”  No one spoke and Kathryn pushed on.  “She’d be a great back-up home in a storm or a clinic…good for teaching…there’s sickbay…labs…a kitchen and messhall…accommodation…the holodecks…  I mean…in a storm…a second Haven.  And God forbid…if we ever had to leave or even wanted to.  She has shuttles for teaching flying later on…and so much more…”  Paula laughed now with the others and leaned forward.  She held up a hand.

“OK Kathryn…we get the message.  Your ship…your baby…has a home.  We were sort of hoping this would happen.  We didn’t dare ask but it’s great.  It crossed our minds you know.  We just didn’t feel we had any right to ask.  We’d all feel much better and safer with a ‘back-up’ as you call it.”  Duncan rolled his eyes again.

“You lot.  Treating ships and such as if they had feelings…talking to them…”  He looked up.  “Eugene talks to the animals…Selona talks to her food…John talks to the crops and flowers…”  Jonathan laughed at that.

“And I’ve heard you talk to medical instruments.  Not always very kindly but you do talk to them.”  Everyone laughed as Duncan made a face.

“So…  They’re stubborn and outdated.  They need a good talking to…”  He shook his head.  “Oh all right.  We’re all as bad as each other.”  He shook his head again.  “Right then.  Before the final descent into madness…  Is there any other business?”  The women whispered to each other a moment and then turned back to the others.  Paula shook her head, the rest of the women mirroring her action.

“No Duncan.  I think that covers everything for the moment.  If you all make out lists of what you feel we need and check out the details of the handover…”  She shrugged.  “I think that’s all.  If anything else comes to mind, we’ll come to you.”  Duncan deactivated his padd, having made a final note.  He leaned back in his chair.

“Right then.  Meeting over.”  He grinned now.  “Selona…bring on the food…”

^^^^^^^^^^

The next morning, Duncan sat with Kathryn beside him as Admiral Paris reported to them, the young doctor having contacted him the previous evening with the women’s requests.  Chakotay had wanted to be there but was needed elsewhere, helping John and Eugene with some work on the animal shelters.  Owen Paris smiled warmly now.

“Everything has been agreed.”  Kathryn gave a sigh of relief and smiled at Duncan.  She turned back to Owen.

“That was almost too easy…”  The Admiral shook his head.

“Not really.  Most of what Duncan told me was expected.  The funds were already agreed upon.  What you do with them is entirely up to you.  The supplies and equipment were already part of the deal.  Nothing you came to me with was unexpected.”  Kathryn smiled happily but then frowned.

“What about the rest?  Who will oversee it all?”  Owen grew serious.

“Good news there too.  Actually they’re happy just to send me to oversee everything and act on their behalf.”  He held up a hand.  “Don’t worry.  No uniforms.  That goes without saying.  I’ll be wearing civilian clothes.  I’d have decided on that anyway without being asked.”  Kathryn nodded her thanks.

“They don’t want anyone from their government?  What about Cassa’s and Lorcha’s friend?”  Owen shook his head.

“To be honest, I think they want as little contact as possible.  They trust me and as I’m the one who’s had sole contact with you up to now…”  He sighed heavily.  “They’ll pay.  There’s no question there.  In fact, the transfer of their part of the funds has already been made.  I think they just want it to go away…forget it all.  Like us, they’re not proud of what happened.  I gave them the name of that friend and they had no objections with that choice, but they prefer just me.  It’s up to you.  I can get back to them and…”  Duncan leaned closer to the screen and shook his head.

“Let it go Owen.  If they’re happy with just you…that’s fine with us.”  He grinned.  “I’m sure Cassa and Lorcha can see their friend some other time and catch up on all the gossip…”  He jumped when Kathryn elbowed him.  “Ouch…  What was that for…?”  Kathryn playfully glared at him.

“We women do not gossip.  We discuss.”  Duncan leaned closer to the screen and winked at Owen Paris.

“They gossip…”  He turned back to Kathryn, a look of pure innocence on his face.  “Of course you discuss Kathryn…  I never thought anything else…”  They all laughed until Owen coughed gently to get their attention.  Kathryn and Duncan both looked back at the screen. 

“Look you two, I’ll leave you to sort this out.  It’s a weekend and if I spend any more time here in the office, I’ll have a very irate wife to deal with.  The best diplomats on the planet would run from the challenge.”  Kathryn spoke for them both.

“Owen, we can’t thank you enough for all this.  You’ve gone beyond the call of duty here.  We won’t forget all you’ve done.”  The old man looked embarrassed for a moment.

“Just looking out for my own.  I’ve family there…old and I hope new…”  He smiled kindly at Duncan.  “Making sure you’re all right is not duty.”  Duncan smiled his thanks.

“You’re family to members of our family.  That makes you family too…”  Owen nodded his head.

“Thank you.  That means a lot.”  Kathryn watched them both for a moment.

“You know…all this family.  God, we’ll need more funds just to cover birthdays and holidays…”  She groaned.  “I’ll need a secretary just to keep up…”

^^^^^^^^^^

While Kathryn was having her physiotherapy session with Voyager’s Doctor that afternoon, Chakotay took a walk with Duncan and Jonathan.  They needed to check out the far fields where some of the kids had told them an old tree had fallen but each man also needed the break from the others.  Duncan exchanged a look with Jonathan at how quiet their friend seemed.  He nudged Chakotay’s arm.

“You’re very quiet.  Anything on your mind?”  Chakotay looked up quickly.

“Sorry…don’t mean to be unsociable.  I was just thinking.”  Jonathan smiled at him.

“About…?”  Chakotay shrugged and smiled.

“Just something a few of the former crew have mentioned to me.”  Duncan swung a stick he carried.

“Want to share?”  Chakotay smiled sadly.

“Actually…it’s about the kids.  I was telling them about Julie’s aunt and so on.  It seems to have gotten them thinking…”  Jonathan pulled at some tall grass and studied the blades he’d pulled off.

“I have a feeling I know where this is going…”  Duncan shook his head, not understanding.

“Well can you both enlighten me then?”  Chakotay smiled.

“No one has asked anything directly.  This is just musings…”  Duncan nodded.

“OK…so muse…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“It’s just that…  As we’re staying…”  He played with a piece of wood he held.  “Some of them have asked about taking in some of the kids…perhaps adopting…  Eugene spoke to myself and B'Elanna some time ago but that was when we asked about the women here taking the other kids in.  Now that there are so many more here…us staying…”  Duncan looked at Jonathan and then back at Chakotay.

“You know, we’ve both discussed this already because we half expected something like this to come up…”  Chakotay stopped walking.

“You agree with it?”  Duncan shook his head.

“Actually no…”  He held up his hand when Chakotay went to speak.  “Just hear me out.”  Chakotay nodded quietly.  “I take it you didn’t discuss this with Kathryn yet?”  Chakotay shook his head.

“It was only brought to my attention a little earlier.  I’ve heard a few comments but nothing serious…”  Duncan sighed.

“I didn’t think so because if you had, she’d have told you what we’re going to tell you…  Mostly the same reasons Eugene gave you…”  Chakotay frowned.

“And that is…?”  Jonathan took over.

“That it’s better if they don’t.  And there are good reasons…”  Chakotay shrugged.

“I just said I’d run it by you.”  Jonathan smiled kindly.

“There’s nothing wrong with that…and it’s very commendable of them to want this…”  Chakotay nodded slowly.

“But…”  Jonathan shrugged.

“I imagine Eugene told you about the reasons…how picking one and not another would cause problems…if things didn’t work out…who went to who…all of that…”  Chakotay nodded solemnly.  Jonathan smiled sadly.  “Those same reasons still apply…no matter who wants to take who.  It’s just different people but the reasons against it are still the same.  The potential for hurt would still be there.”  He frowned now and studied Chakotay.  “Can I hazard a guess that adopting Julie was on your mind?”  Chakotay looked up quickly.

“I don’t know…maybe…  I didn’t say anything to Kathryn but…”  Duncan sighed heavily.

“Julie is a completely different case but it would be even more impossible.”  He spread his hands.  “When her aunt left her here, she signed a care order over to us.  She is still her legal guardian however.”  He shook his head.  “As to the others…  Look Chakotay…an old saying.  If it isn’t broken then don’t mend it.  The kids here know this life.  For some of them, it’s all they’ve ever known.  They’re happy and settled with the way things are.”  He smiled at Jonathan a moment before patting Chakotay on the shoulder.

“We were thinking though of altering the dorms…making them into separate rooms for one or two kids each…letting them decorate the rooms themselves…whatever they wanted.  It’ll take time but we have that and we’ve also got plenty of extra man and woman power…  Later on…the kids can work things out for themselves.  I expect attachments will form and sleepovers will happen.  For now, I think it’s better to leave things as they are.  Who knows what the future will hold though…”  He was softening his answer and Chakotay knew it.

“OK…I understand…”  They all began walking again.  “I actually think you’re right.  The potential for problems was something I hadn’t thought out well enough.”  Jonathan tossed the grass he held onto the ground.

“You came and discussed it Chakotay.  We listened and gave you an answer which has been long thought out and debated.  That will always happen here.  No one makes a decision on their own.”  Chakotay smiled his thanks.

“A real democracy…”  Duncan smiled and nodded at that.

“That’s right…”  He stopped suddenly, staring ahead.  “Except in some cases…  Holy cow…”  Jonathan and Chakotay followed his line of vision and saw an enormous tree lying on the ground.  Jonathan blew out a breath.

“Oh yes.  This is one of those rare cases where we make the decision.  That thing has to be cut up because if it’s not, you’ll have playground of the year and major injuries.”  Chakotay laughed.

“I think it’s already playground of the year.  Remember who told you about it…”  Jonathan nodded at that.

“Now that I see this thing, I’m surprised they opened their mouths about it at all.  This is the kind of discovery normally kept from the adults.  We’re the spoilsports.”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Well…you two can tell them it’s going.  I want to be the good guy…”  Duncan laughed.

“You’re just chicken.  Besides, you won’t get away with that.  Even the kids know all decisions are unanimous.  We all get the blame when it goes against them.”  Jonathan smiled playfully at Chakotay.

“Welcome to the world of democracy pal.  Now you get to vote on whether you join the logging team or the ‘keeping the kids amused and away from here’ team.”  He turned and began walking back towards the settlement.  “God, I love politics…”

^^^^^^^^^^

As it turned out, Chakotay ended up on the logging team.  He worked for several hours the following morning and then returned to Voyager for a shower.  Most of the crew still had their quarters on the ship until all the new homes were finished.  He dressed quickly and made his way over to see Kathryn.  He noticed immediately that she seemed in a sombre mood and filled her in on his morning, hoping to cheer her up.  She listened and smiled in all the right places but she seemed miles away.  Chakotay leaned over to her now and stroked her arm as she stared off into space.

“Are you all right?  You seem…distracted…this morning…”  Kathryn looked up from her reverie.

“Mmmm?”  Chakotay laughed.

“Is that mmm with five m’s or six?”  Kathryn shook her head.

“Sorry…I was miles away…”  Chakotay slid his hand down to hers and stroked her fingers.

“Anywhere I know?”  Kathryn shrugged.

“Sorry.  Just feeling a bit sorry for myself.”  She tried a smile.  “It’s just that everything else has fallen into place.  Everything else is settled.  I have you…”  She smiled lovingly at him.  “We have a new home, the women have all the security and financial help they need.  Everything is wonderful…”  Chakotay dropped his head to the side.

“Which leaves…?”  He no longer tried to skirt around any issue with her.  He knew what she was talking about and was determined not to brush the subject under the carpet.  Kathryn shrugged again.

“What else…  My legs…  I’m still worried about them.  We have everything else.  If only I could walk now.”  She looked down the bed a moment and then back at Chakotay.  He smiled at her, trying to show all the encouragement he could.

“I still believe you will.  You know that.”  Kathryn smiled softly at him.

“I know you do love.  If only your faith was enough.  It’s been so long now and…”  Her voice trailed off and she sighed heavily.  Chakotay leaned forward.

“Kathryn I love you.  I really do believe you’ll walk again.  I can’t explain why I feel that so strongly.”  He sighed.  “However…and I’ve said this before…”  He squeezed her hand tightly.  “Either way I love you and I’ll always be here for you.  You just hang onto me and let me love you.”  Kathryn smiled tearfully at him.

“I know that Chakotay and I love you too…so much.  I have no doubts that you’ll be there for me but I want to walk again for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not getting depressed about this.  It just gets to me that there seems to be no real reason for me not walking.  They’ve exhausted everything and they still can’t come up with a reason.  Maybe it would be easier to take if there was a real medical cause or something…something explainable that I could accept and understand.”  Chakotay nodded, thinking back to his talks with Duncan and Jonathan.

“Do you want me to talk to Duncan and the Doc again?  Jonathan perhaps?”  Kathryn looked back down the bed and sighed. 

“I don’t know…maybe…  I suppose I’ll talk to Duncan again…”  Chakotay nodded.

“I’ll let him know…”  Kathryn just nodded.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sought out Duncan as soon as he left Kathryn.  He found the young man in his small office sorting through a pile of padds.  He looked up as Chakotay came in.

“Hey Chakotay…what can I do for you?”  Chakotay took a chair in front of the desk and sat wearily.

“I’ve just been over with Kathryn.”  Duncan looked up and gave the man before him his full attention.

“Go on…”  Chakotay folded his hands in his lap.

“We were talking about everything else having fallen into place.  All except one that is…”  Duncan put down the padd he held.

“She’s talking about it now?”  Chakotay nodded.

“The decks are clear, you could say.  She can’t avoid it.”  Duncan nodded at that.

“And…?”  Chakotay leaned forward.

“She can’t understand why she’s not walking when all medical causes seem to have been exhausted.  It’s the first time she’s spoken along those lines…”  Duncan nodded but remained quiet.  “I asked if she wanted me to talk to you or the Doc…even Jonathan.  She said she’d talk to you and I told her I’d let you know.”  He shrugged.  “So I’m letting you know…”  Duncan sighed heavily and leaned back.

“What way was she?  I mean, did she sound…?”  Chakotay interrupted and shook his head.

“She said she’s not depressed and I don’t think she is either.  She just needs to understand this.”  Duncan nodded slowly.

“I’m not sure I should be the one to talk to her.  This is more Jonathan’s or Lorcha’s area.”  Chakotay looked concerned.

“Won’t that lead her to believe that there’s nothing more you can do in a medical sense?”  Duncan leaned back and sighed.

“As hard as it sounds Chakotay, there isn’t anything more medical we can do.  I’ve discussed this with Cassa and Doc and we all agree.  The swelling is long gone.  There just isn’t any medical reason why she can’t walk.  None that we can see anyway.”  Chakotay blew out a breath.

“Then why can’t she walk?  Her mind seems fine to me now.  She’s not depressed.  Everything is great in her life…except this.  What’s stopping her legs working?”  Duncan shook his head again.

“I don’t have the answer to that one Chakotay.  I wish to God I did.  If I knew what was causing this, I’d do something about it.  I feel as frustrated about all this as you both do.”  Chakotay ran a hand through his hair.

“So there definitely isn’t anything medical causing this?”  Duncan shrugged.

“Not that we can see but even in the 24th century, we don’t know everything.  There’s always the chance that we’ve all missed something or else there’s something we just don’t understand.  It might just even need more time.”  Chakotay shook his head sadly.

“But underneath it all, you don’t think that.  You still feel it’s psychological.”  Duncan sighed heavily and leaned forward.

“For the most part, I do.  However, I’ll go over everything again…get Cassa and the Doc to work with me.  If at that time we can’t find anything, then we could bring in Jonathan or Lorcha…”  He scratched at his ear.  “While we’re doing that, you could perhaps talk to the two of them and see what they think.”  Chakotay slid forward in his chair.

“I guess that sounds like the best way…although I’d prefer to wait until you’ve examined her.  That way, I’ll know what I’m dealing with.”  Duncan thought about that a moment and sighed.

“You’re probably right.  I’ll talk to the others this evening and set up an examination for the morning….”  Chakotay nodded and sighed heavily.  He stood slowly. 

“Let me know what you find…”

^^^^^^^^^^ 

The kids quickly got over their disappointment about losing their new playground when they were allowed to take part in the work.  The winter season they were going through was mild but it was still cold enough and the hard work kept everyone warm.  John took charge of everything, instructing the others to keep the kids away from the tree and cutting tools.  They were allowed to help in loading the carts with the freshly cut logs, but that was all.  Jonathan had also come up with the idea that they could decorate some of the logs before they were burned in the large fireplace in the main room.  The rest would be burned in the large furnace which heated the rest of the buildings.

As the task progressed, the kids swarmed around helping as best they could but ended up prolonging the work.  No one minded though, knowing that the kids needed to be involved.

Chakotay helped some of the others pull the laden carts back to the village and chatted away with those he worked with, but his mind was constantly on Kathryn and Duncan’s examination of her which was taking place that morning.

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn lay back now and fixed her clothing as Duncan washed his hands.  He turned to find her watching him.  He smiled kindly but Kathryn’s face remained serious.

“You can’t find anything, can you?”  Duncan made a show of organizing some tricorders and other equipment. 

“I can’t comment until I go over…”  Kathryn’s laugh made his head snap up.

“Oh come on Duncan.  You’re playing for time and trying to avoid the truth.  You can’t find anything wrong and I won’t walk again and no one knows why.”  Her voice broke on her last words.  Duncan moved quickly to the bed and sat down beside her, taking her hand in his.

“I’m doing no such thing Kathryn.  I admit I don’t have any answers at this moment in time but I haven’t talked to the others yet.”  Kathryn sniffed.

“If I was going to walk again…it would have happened by now.”  Duncan shook his head.

“Kathryn, the body has its own rules and timetable.  Mother Nature rules all and you know that.  Sometimes we can see her plan but many times we can’t.”  Kathryn shook her head, close to tears now.

“And sometimes she can be a cruel bitch…”  Duncan shook his head sadly.

“Yes…sometimes she can be…”  Kathryn sighed heavily and dropped her head back against her pillow.

“I’ve wanted to ask you about this for so long now but I was a coward.  I’ve been cursing myself for that cowardice.”  She lifted her head now.  “Tell me the truth.  I won’t walk again, will I?”  Her eyes demanded his honesty.  Duncan just looked at her for a moment and then sighed.

“I don’t know Kathryn and that IS the truth.  I don’t know why you’re not walking and I don’t know what’s stopping the feeling returning.  I’ve done a thorough examination this morning and I’ll discuss the results with the others.  They may well see something…”  Kathryn interrupted him.

“I think that’s just putting off the inevitable.  You’re a great doctor Duncan.  If you can’t find anything…”  Duncan shook his head.

“I’m not so great.  I needed help before.  You forget that I’m cut off here from all the latest advances.  Your Doctor knows far more than I do.”  He held up a hand when Kathryn went to object.  “Kathryn…just listen to me.  Wait until we go over all this.  Let your Doc examine you too and see what he says.  Maybe even let him contact specialists on Earth…”  Kathryn chewed at her lip.

“Duncan…can you just listen to me now?”  He nodded.  “I’ll go along with you on this as far as Doc examining me and so on.  Run your tests but I think we both know they won’t show anything…”  She swallowed quickly and coughed slightly.  “We both know they’ll find nothing and I think I need to get used to that.  Living on false hope isn’t right and that’s what I’m doing.  I know Chakotay believes I’ll walk again but I don’t believe I will…”  Duncan leaned forward.

“You don’t know that for sure Kathryn.  There could well be something we’re just not seeing…”  Kathryn shook her head quickly.

“I don’t think you believe that any more than I do…”  She dropped her head to the side and looked at him sadly.  “The swelling has gone.  There isn’t any medical or physical reason why I’m still paralysed.”  She tried a sad smile.  “I just have to accept it.  I could spend years going from one specialist to another and getting nowhere.  It’s better I just accept my lot and get on with it.  The sooner I accept that nothing more can be done or that whatever is causing this can’t be found…”  She shook her head.  “Hanging on to hope on this…  It’s stopping me planning for the rest of my life.”  Duncan frowned deeply.

“That’s not like you Kathryn.  You don’t give up…”  Kathryn just shrugged.

“Sometimes you have to admit defeat…”  Duncan shook his head.

“Not you.  You don’t…”  He leaned back a little and studied her.  “You’re not worried about Chakotay, are you?”  Kathryn smiled and shook her head.

“No.  I know he’ll be at my side no matter what happens.”  Duncan smiled at that.

“You’ve come a long way with that.  You had so many doubts for so long…”  Kathryn licked at her lips to moisten them.

“I know.  It feels wonderful to finally open my arms and heart to him.  Actually, they were open to him before.  I finally opened my mind to him and that made all the difference.”  Duncan smiled at that and made to stand.

“Well, I’m over the moon for you both.”  He stood now.  “Look Kathryn…give us some time with this.  Let us go over all this again and maybe run a few more tests…”  Kathryn nodded, a resigned look on her face.

“OK Duncan…but be honest with me.  I need to begin accepting this sooner rather than later.  I want to start my life with Chakotay…”  Duncan leaned over and squeezed her hand.

“I understand that.”  He smiled.  “You’ve one hell of a good man there Kathryn.  Hang onto him.”  Kathryn laughed.

“You told me that before and I know it.”  She watched him cross the room and then called out to him.  “Duncan…”  He turned and looked at her.  “If I don’t walk again…  I mean…it would be because…  If you don’t find anything…  It would just mean you can’t find the reason…”  Duncan smiled and tried to school his features.

“Just give me time to…”  Kathryn nodded.

“I know but…  Everything has been exhausted, hasn’t it?  What other reason could there be?”  Duncan didn’t answer that but something must have shown on his face.  Kathryn gave him a strange look.

“Duncan?”  He shook his head.

“Just give us time to look these over…”  He held up the tricorder he held.  Kathryn continued to watch him closely.  Finally she seemed to let it go.

“OK…let me know…”

^^^^^^^^^^ 

Voyager’s Doctor and Cassa both examined Kathryn over the next two days.  Despite being desperate for answers, Kathryn kept quiet and let them get on with their work.  Even when Chakotay visited her, she kept away from the subject, barely mentioning the examinations.  Something nagged in the back of her mind though and it worried her that she couldn’t get to it.  She watched Duncan and the others come and go, trying to read their faces but they just smiled at her and reassured her that they were working on things.  In the end she knew she could only wait.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay sat in Duncan’s small office and tried to make himself comfortable in a chair.  He stared at the small stove there for a moment, some of the newly cut logs burning in it.  The heat warmed his face until he looked away from it.  He looked around at the others present…Duncan, Jonathan and Voyager’s Doctor. 

“What have you come up with?”  He wanted to be direct.  Duncan looked at the others a moment and then at Chakotay.

“We ran every test there is…”  Chakotay nodded.

“And…?”  Voyager’s Doctor gave the answer.

“There’s nothing.  Every test is clear.”  Chakotay sighed heavily.

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad…”  Duncan gave a tired smile.

“It’s good as regards her overall health but as to her walking…”  Chakotay leaned back.

“In that sense, it’s bad…”  Duncan nodded sadly.

“We just can’t find any reason for her paralysis.  There is no medical or physical reason…”  Chakotay sat forward now.

“Which means we have to address the psychological reason now…”  He looked to Jonathan for the answer to that.  “What do you think Jonathan?”  The young man nodded.

“It seems that way…”  He spread his hands.  “I want to talk to her…don’t get me wrong.”  Chakotay frowned.

“You sound hesitant…”  Jonathan nodded.

“I’d also like to give her a bit more time…give the medical side every chance first.”  Chakotay shook his head and looked at all three in turn.

“But you’ve just said that there is no medical reason…”  He looked back at Jonathan  who shrugged.

“I know but…  I’m just afraid of Kathryn picking up from me that there’s nothing more to be done medically.  Then again, maybe that could help.  I just don’t know.  My usual judgement is letting me down here.”  Chakotay stood and began pacing.

“Let me get this straight.  You can’t find anything medical or physical…no reason there as to why she’s not walking.  Is that right?”  He looked at those present and saw them nod.  “OK…so if that’s the case…  Excuse my ignorance but that leaves just one thing.  Can’t you try something in that area?  Can’t you talk to her?”  Jonathan shook his head.

“Saying that and doing it are very different things.  If I talk to her and tell her my opinion…  It could cause her depression to resurface.  If she believes there’s still a chance of walking…something physical that just hasn’t been found…”  He sighed.  “Can you see the dilemma here?  If she knows for certain that there’s nothing physical…”  Chakotay sank back into his chair.

“I can only tell you this.  I know Kathryn and she’d prefer you to be honest with her.  She might surprise you.”  He leaned forward.

“Have you thought of this?  If she knows it’s not physical and you tell her you think it’s psychological…  Maybe that’s what she needs to get her over this.  She might try harder to walk.  If she thinks it’s her mind…”  He smiled sadly.  “I know Kathryn.  She believes anything can be done if you want it badly enough.”  He looked at the faces of the others, seeing they didn’t look convinced.  “All I’m saying is…  While she thinks it could be physical, her mind won’t address any other possibilities.  If she knows the physical causes have been ruled out…”  He shook his head.  “Can you see what I mean?”  Jonathan looked thoughtful.  He shook his head very slowly but Chakotay saw he seemed interested.  He eventually nodded.

“I know what you mean and it has possibilities.”  He leaned forward and laced his fingers together on his lap.  “Let me think about this.”  Duncan frowned.

“You think this is worth trying?”  Jonathan looked at his partner and nodded.

“I’ve heard of cases…”  He looked at Voyager’s Doctor.  “What do you think?”  The EMH shook his head.

“I have to bow to your superior knowledge on this.  I’ve never been programmed in that area.  Anything medical and I can tell you but this isn’t my area at all…”  Jonathan nodded at that.  He looked at Chakotay now.

“Let me think about this.  I need to do some research…read up a bit.  The last thing I want to do is make this worse…”  Chakotay nodded.

“OK…  I just can’t see any other way…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Two days later, as Chakotay was making his way over to see Kathryn, Jonathan called to him.

“Wait up Chakotay…”  Chakotay stopped and turned back to the young man.

“I was going to try and find you after I saw Kathryn.  I just wondered if you’d decided…”  Jonathan nodded seriously.

“That’s why I called you.”  Chakotay frowned.

“You’ve reached a decision?”  Jonathan nodded.

“I’ll talk to her.  I’ve racked my brain and checked case histories…you name it.  I can’t see any other way of moving forward.  Lorcha agrees with me.”  He scratched at his head.  “The only alternative is to leave things as they are and I don’t think that’s fair.  In the end, I’d rather insult her by telling her it’s all in her head than leave things as they are.  If my talking to her helps in any way…maybe makes something click in her brain…  It’s got to be worth it.  I can’t see any other way…”  Chakotay heaved a sigh of relief.

“I think it’s the right thing to do.”  He frowned.  “When will you talk with her?  Should I say anything?”  Jonathan thought about that for a moment and then shook his head.

“Say nothing.”  He inclined his head.  “Are you on the way over there now?”  Chakotay nodded.

“I just finished my last shift of hauling the wood back.”  Jonathan smiled at that.

“That tree will see us through the next ten winters.  This one is so mild we won’t need much wood.”  He sobered then.  “OK…go and see her.  I’ll talk to her after that…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Jonathan nodded at Chakotay as he left and then took his time seating himself beside Kathryn’s bed.  He smiled softly.

“You’ve a good man there Kathryn.  I hope you know that.  Make sure you hang onto him.”  Kathryn smiled slightly and then frowned a little.

“You sound like him.  He said something similar before.  So did Duncan in fact…more than once.”  She frowned further.  “Why are you here?  Is this visit business or pleasure?”  Jonathan pretended hurt.

“Can’t I just visit my friend?”  Kathryn nodded.

“Of course you can but you have me suspicious now.  All this telling me to make sure I hang onto Chakotay…”  Jonathan played all innocence.

“It’s just my observation…”  Kathryn ignored his comment.

“Why?  What’s going on?  And before you say ‘nothing’…I know something is…  You’re acting strange.  The way you said all that…the look on your face…  I’ve seen Chakotay acting a little like that…Duncan even more so…  You’re all trying so desperately to make sure I know how much Chakotay loves me…”  Jonathan smiled, some embarrassment showing.

“We just care…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“I think it’s more than that…”  She shifted a little in the bed.  “You know, I’m not a great believer in coincidences…don’t put much stock in them at all…especially two or three incidences close together…”  She narrowed her eyes as she looked at him.  “What’s going on…?”  Jonathan shifted a little in his chair.

“What makes you think something is going on?”  Kathryn stared hard at him.

“Oh…not much…just a lifetime of experience in dealing with people and learning to read them…years of training at that kind of thing…knowing the people involved well…”  She shrugged.  “As I said…nothing much…”  She watched as Jonathan eased back in his chair.  He knew he was defeated.

“OK…so there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”  Kathryn lay back and nodded slowly.

“I should have guessed that…  Duncan and Cassa haven’t talked to me about their examinations and tests…nor has the Doc…although he still does my physiotherapy.  I haven’t asked them anything either.  And now you’re here.”  She bit at her lip a moment.  “OK…  Go on…  Do you know what they found?”  Jonathan sighed heavily.

“All your tests were clear.”  Kathryn took a moment to digest that.

“So there’s nothing physically wrong with me…  There’s no medical or physical reason why I’m not walking…”  Jonathan nodded slowly.  Kathryn watched him carefully.  “Which means?”  He didn’t answer at first and Kathryn pushed.  “Jonathan, either there’s no reason or no reason they can find…  What else could there be?  I mean…why are you talking to me about this and not Duncan or the Doctor?”  Jonathan drew in a deep breath.

“I’ll just say this straight.  I think you’d prefer that…and we know each other well enough now not to be straight and honest…”  Kathryn swallowed and nodded slowly.

“What’s on your mind?”  Jonathan hesitated a moment and then drew in another deep breath.

“OK…here goes.”  He met her eyes.  “I think you’re not walking because you’re afraid.”  Kathryn frowned once again.

“You think I’m afraid I’ll fall…?”  Jonathan shook his head.

“No.  I mean that you’re afraid inside and that’s possibly stopping the feeling returning.”  A silence hung between the friends for several moments until Jonathan spoke on.  “You also said you’d only marry Chakotay when you could walk again.  I think perhaps you may be afraid of being hurt again and that’s blocking your ability to walk.”  Kathryn just stared at Jonathan as her mind worked through his words.  He held her eyes and pushed on.

“Kathryn, I see this with you…”  He now saw a tinge of anger enter her eyes.  She shook her head.

“You what…?”  Jonathan sighed.

“I’ve seen you…observed you…”  Kathryn interrupted him.

“You’ve been watching me and studying me…?”  Jonathan smiled slightly, hoping to dispel her rising anger.

“Kathryn…there’s a story about the wise old owl…”  He saw her become a little confused at this change in direction and smiled more broadly.

“Well… ‘the wise old owl once sat on an oak…the more he heard, the less he spoke…the less he spoke, the more he heard…why can’t we all be like that wise old owl’…”  Kathryn gave him a strange look.

“Very enlightening.  So you’ve been watching me and not saying anything to me…?”  Jonathan shrugged.

“I watch you and I see a woman for whom it’s all or nothing…”  Kathryn let her anger show a little again.

“Just lay this out straight for me.  My not walking isn’t medical but because I’m afraid…?”  Jonathan went to speak but Kathryn stopped him, her voice rising slightly.  “What you’re really saying is that you think my inability to walk is in my head…  Is that right?”  Jonathan sighed heavily.

“Kathryn…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or feel insulted…”  Jonathan leaned forward now.

“Kathryn…it’s just a theory because we can’t find any other reason…although there is still a small chance that it…”  Kathryn shook her head slowly and folded her arms across her chest.

“So you assume I’m deliberately not walking for…”  Her voice trailed off a moment and she frowned.  “What reason exactly?”  Suddenly she supplied her own answer and she held up a finger.  “Ahh yes…  You think I’m afraid Chakotay will leave or that I’m doing this to make sure he stays…”  Jonathan interrupted her.

“No…to avoid getting hurt again.  I think you could be afraid of him staying here and of things going wrong…and now that we have the women’s decision…  At one time you said you’d only be with him if you walked again…”  Kathryn tried to sit up a little now.

“Yes Jonathan…and I meant it but that was before…”  Jonathan leaned a little more forward.

“I think you’re afraid and I have to tell you that Duncan and Voyager’s Doctor also subscribe to this theory.”  Kathryn lay back again.

“I see.  And here I thought you all knew me better.”  Jonathan sat back a little now.

“We don’t think it’s deliberate…”  Kathryn laughed sarcastically.

“Oh…that’s all right then…”  Jonathan sighed again.

“Kathryn….”  She shook her head.

“No Jonathan…  I’ve moved past all that…”  Jonathan smiled sadly.

“Maybe your conscious mind has…but deep in your subconscious…which your conscious mind has no access to…”  He shook his head.  “You know all this…”  He sighed.  “I think it’s your subconscious doing it though…  The term is psychosomatic…”  Kathryn laughed cynically.

“Sorry…  Run that by me again…because I don’t think I heard you right…”  Jonathan tried to speak.

“Kathryn…”  Kathryn wasn’t having it.

“No…hang on.  You think I’m making this happen with my mind…”  She laughed derisively.  “Oh great.  So you think I’m insane now…”  Jonathan closed his eyes a moment, holding his patience.

“No.  I think it’s psychological…psychosomatic…as I said.  I think it’s your mind’s way of helping you avoid hurt or what you think will hurt.”  Kathryn studied him for a moment and then shook her head.

“Excuse me Jonathan….but that’s bullshit…”  Her friend shook his head.

“Kathryn…I know it’s hard to…”  He shrugged.  “It’s just a possible theory…a possibility…we just don’t know…”  Kathryn held up a hand.

“And just why wouldn’t I want to walk again…?”  Jonathan leaned right back in his chair.

“Kathryn…”  Kathryn shook her head quickly.

“No…no…tell me please…because I’d love to know.  I’m intrigued now…”  Jonathan felt his patience slip.

“OK Kathryn…let me be really straight here.  You see the accident as a warning and it’s terrified you.  You’re mentally and emotionally blocking your own ability to walk…no matter what your conscious mind has accepted…”  Kathryn stabbed a finger towards him.

“So I am insane…”  Jonathan wanted to scream.

“No…no…”  Kathryn glared at him.

“None of you know why I’m not walking.  You don’t have any answers so you have to find some answer or reason for this…”  She stopped now and her expression changed.  “Does Chakotay go along with all this?”  Jonathan quickly shook his head.

“No.  Duncan has talked to him but he doesn’t know what to think or believe.  He’s convinced you will walk again…”  Kathryn lay back against her pillows.

“It’s nice to know someone is on my side and has faith in me.  He should have talked to me about this though…about what you were all sneaking around discussing about me…”  Jonathan felt his patience finally give way.

“Oh for God’s sake Kathryn, no one is sneaking around behind your back.  We care deeply about you.  We love you.  We only ever had your best interests at heart.”  Kathryn glared at him a moment longer and then looked down at her hands.

“Well, thank you for your insights.  Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m tired.  I want to be on my own…”  Jonathan sighed wearily.

“Kathryn…don’t be like this please…”  Kathryn looked up at him.

“Please Jonathan.  I really need to be alone for a while.  Just give me that.”  Jonathan debated pushing her some more but then thought better of it.  Finally he nodded.

“OK Kathryn.  I’ll give you some time to yourself.  I’ll come by and see you again later.”  Kathryn began fixing her sheets.

“Don’t rush back on my account…”  She looked up, a look of apology on her face.  “I’m sorry.  That was rude.”  Jonathan smiled sadly.

“I kind of deserved it.”  He leaned down and patted her hand.  “I’m sorry for all this but I care about you too much not to be totally honest with you.  Maybe a lot of it came out wrong but…”  He sighed.  “You just get some rest and we’ll talk again later.”  Kathryn sighed heavily and finally nodded.

“Thanks.”  Without another word, she closed her eyes, effectively closing the conversation at the same time.

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn lay still until she heard the door close.  She opened her eyes and listened as the sound of Jonathan’s feet receded across the main clinic area.  Finally she heard the outer door close too.  She reached up and grabbed the bar over the bed, pulling herself up into a sitting position. 

“Right.  Let’s just see what’s in my head.”  She drew in a deep breath and pulled the bar to the side.  She then reached out with her other hand and pulled the chair a little closer to the bed.  She nodded to herself and moved the chair again, positioning it as she wanted.  She released the bar for a moment and wiped her hand on the sheets, her palms a little sweaty. 

“OK Janeway…you can do this.  You can prove them all wrong.”  She took another moment to listen carefully for any sound from the main clinic.  She glanced at the old fashioned clock on the wall and smiled.  Everyone would be at lunch now.

Kathryn pushed her sheets back and stared down at her legs.  She swallowed and drew in another deep breath.  Nodding to herself, she reached down and pulled her legs to the side of the bed, easing them over the edge.  She reached again for the bar with one hand and placed the other on the back of the chair.

“You can do this.  If it’s really in your mind, you can push past it.  Mind over matter.  You can order your body to obey you.  If it’s physical, you can still push it.  Make your body do it and show them all.  You can beat this.”  She pushed herself into place on the very edge of the bed, her feet now touching the floor.  She tried moving her legs but nothing happened.  She eased herself forward a little more, trying to feel her toes against the floor but no sensation registered with her. 

“Come on…come on…”  With a further push, Kathryn eased herself off the bed, using her hold on the bar and the chair to hold herself up.  The exertion made her a little light headed and she sucked in several deep breaths.  Her arms began to ache with the effort of holding herself up.  She looked down, her feet flat on the floor now and let her body take some of her weight, willing her legs to hold her up.

^^^^^^^^^^

What happened next caught Kathryn completely off guard.  Her palms had grown more sweaty with her efforts.  Her hand holding onto the bar slipped suddenly.  Her hold on the back of the chair wasn’t enough to hold her up and she felt herself fall. 

Kathryn crashed to the floor, her body twisting as she lost her hold on the back of the chair.  Her eyes vaguely registered a small stool beside the bed just as she hit it.  It caught her across the back and Kathryn screamed out as her body smashed down onto it, a surge of agony running through her.  She rolled to the side and lay there trembling, gasping for breath.

“Oh God…”  She reached a hand out as she panted heavily.  “Oh God…”  Pain stabbed through her from the waist up, running up her spine and into her neck.  She struggled desperately to control her breathing, trying to take in shallow breaths.  Finally it began to slow and she attempted to assess the damage.  She concentrated on her body, whispering to herself now.

“OK…OK…”  She ordered her mind to focus itself as she worked down her body.  She wriggled her fingers first and then her hands.  “All right…”  She stopped suddenly as she became aware of something else now, a new sensation somewhere beneath the pain.  A faint tingling like pins and needles began in her toes and for a moment she thought she was imagining it.  She lay as still as she could as she tried to concentrate on the feeling.  Slowly it spread into her feet and then her lower legs.

Kathryn squeezed her eyes closed for a moment, her hands clenched tightly into fists.  She bit down heavily on her lower lip. 

“Oh God…what have I done…?”  She fought to calm herself as the pain seemed to increase.  She tried to move her head and gasped.  Her neck began to spasm…almost lock.  “Oh please…someone…”  The tingling seemed to move also, travelling up her legs, joined by more pain.  Kathryn cried out as her fear grew.  “Chakotay…”  Tears filled her eyes and spilled over.  She inched her hand forward, not sure what she was reaching for.  The pain grew even worse and just as she felt on the point of blacking out, she thought she heard the door opening.  A fog filled her head and a faint voice came to her.

“Kathryn…?”  She tried to call out but her voice deserted her.  “Kathryn…?”  And then the same voice, more urgent.  “Kathryn…where…?  Kathryn…”  Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder and fresh agony surged through her.  She cried out.

“No…”  She barely managed to open her eyes and saw Chakotay bending down beside her.

“Oh God Kathryn…what happened…?”  She tried to speak but couldn’t, her body consumed in pain now.  “I’ll get someone…don’t move…”  She heard him rush away and some small part of her mind wanted to almost laugh at being told not to move.  Her mind seemed to swim now, images and thoughts swirling around it.  She moistened her lips, even that small movement hurting.

^^^^^^^^^^

The next hours were a blur of voices and pain for Kathryn.  Her mind registered people working around her, Duncan and Cassa, Lorcha whispering to her to try and stay calm, that everything would be all right.  She vaguely registered Jonathan and Chakotay standing away from her, then Miriam and Dressa fussing around her.  And above it all, excited voices and shouts, orders given and obeyed.  She looked up and saw Voyager’s Doctor hovering beside her, his lips moving but she couldn’t understand his words.

Later on, there was only Duncan and Dressa, the EMH standing at the end of the bed studying something.  Chakotay still stood in a corner, his face a mask of pain and worry.  Duncan leaning down and smiling at her and she saw his understanding that his words were meaningless to her as he pressed a hypo to her neck.  Sleep came then, a welcome release from the pain and confusion.  And still Chakotay’s face, etched with worry.

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn fought through the fog in her brain and heard herself groan loudly.  She tried to swallow and moaned at the soreness she felt in her throat.  She tried to force her eyes open as she felt a warmth cover her hand.  Eventually she won and blinked several times to clear her vision.  Chakotay’s face smiled down at her.

“Welcome back…  You had us worried…”  She managed to swallow this time and tried to speak.

“What…”  She painfully turned her head and saw Duncan standing at the end of the bed.  She blinked again as she looked at him.

“What…happened…?”  In a complete contradiction to Chakotay’s smile, Duncan’s face was stern.  He stared at her a moment then shook his head.

“What did you think were you were doing Kathryn?  What possessed you?”  Caught off guard by his tone, she turned back to Chakotay.  His smile had slipped a little now.

“He’s right Kathryn.  What were you thinking?”  She turned away as memories came flooding back to her…trying to stand…falling…the pain.  She bit at her lip.

“What did I do?”  She saw Duncan move towards her, coming around the side of the bed.  He looked at Chakotay.

“Excuse me a minute Chakotay…  I need to talk to my patient…”  His anger was evident.  Chakotay nodded silently and stood, letting go of Kathryn’s hand.  He moved away but still stayed close by.  Duncan sat in the vacated chair.

“Right.  I’ll give you the lecture.”  Kathryn looked at him, seeing his emotions clearly.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean…”  Duncan ignored her.

“You’re an intelligent woman Kathryn.  What in God’s name were you thinking?”  His voice rose as he spoke.  To anyone else it would have come across as anger, but Kathryn saw his deep concern and fear.  She blinked back a few tears.

“I didn’t mean…”  Duncan pushed on.

“You didn’t mean and you didn’t think.  Have you any idea of the damage you could have caused to yourself?  You could have killed yourself…”  He ran a hand through his hair.  “God Kathryn…  You were really sent to try me…”  He sat back and stared at her.  Eventually he softened.

“Why did you try that?  Why didn’t you ask someone?”  He sighed heavily as he shook his head.  Kathryn sniffed.

“I’m sorry.  I wanted to prove you wrong.  I thought I could force the feeling back.  Jonathan said…”  Duncan interrupted.

“Another one…”  He fought a faint smile.  “I almost have another patient there.  He’s beating himself up over this…worrying that he made you do this…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“He didn’t.  He said…”  Duncan leaned forward and laced his fingers together.

“Oh I know very well what he said.  I spoke with him already.  His little talk would have been fine with anyone else.  What he didn’t consider was that this was you…”  Kathryn interrupted him this time.

“Duncan…he didn’t make me do anything…  No one makes me do anything…nor do they stop me doing anything.  This isn’t his fault.”  Duncan sighed.

“He doesn’t see it that way.  If he hadn’t talked to you about this, you wouldn’t have tried anything…”  Kathryn looked towards Chakotay.

“Perhaps, but in time I think I would have…”  Duncan leaned a little closer, bringing her attention back to him.

“I think we both know Jonathan’s talk planted the suggestion in you…gave you the idea…”  Kathryn shrugged and winced in pain.  Duncan watched as a realization grew on her face.  When she looked at him, he was smiling.

“That hurt, didn’t it?”  Kathryn just stared at him in wonder.  She barely managed to nod.  “Hurts down your legs?”  She managed to nod, almost afraid to move or breathe.

“What…?  How…?”  Duncan allowed a smile this time.

“I don’t know and that’s the truth.  From what I can gather, you fell against the stool.  It caught you just above the waist on the upper spine.  You came down on it with some considerable force.  The bruising you had there was evidence of that.”  Kathryn just continued to stare at him then looked towards Chakotay, seeing him smile.  He was also close to tears.

“You mean…I can…  Is the feeling coming back?”  Duncan smiled warmly, his anger forgotten for the moment.

“I believe so.  I’ll test you further a little later.  What do you remember about before?”  Kathryn looked away as she tried to think.

“I don’t know.  It’s images…all blurred together.  I remember pain…pins and needles…  You were there…Cassa and Lorcha…Doc…others…  I felt pain and confusion.  It’s all disjointed images…”  Duncan nodded.

“You felt tingling?”  Kathryn nodded.

“When I fell…  There was pain and then the tingling.  Mostly pain though…”  She shook her head.  “I don’t know.  I was panicked…”  Duncan nodded at that.

“We tested your reflexes and ran other tests.  There’s definitely feeling there…”  He leaned a little closer.  “What can you feel now?”  Kathryn concentrated on her legs.  She winced again.

“I’m not sure.  Stiffness but…”  She looked up in shock.  “I can feel my legs.  It’s not like normal but I can feel them.  It hurts but…”  Her eyes filled with tears which spilled over.  “I can feel them…”  She looked at Chakotay again and saw that he too was crying.  He nodded his head but couldn’t form words.  His eyes spoke for him.  Duncan touched Kathryn’s arm now.

“Well I’ll tell you what I know.  Something happened which I can’t explain.  Neither can the others.  You did something when you fell.  We do know from the tests that you’ll walk again.  You should walk as before but you have to take your time and take it easy.  You have to take this slowly… a bit at a time.  Short walks to build your strength.  That kind of thing.  Continue the physiotherapy…”  Kathryn barely took in his words.  She was trying to force her legs to move.  Duncan saw what she was trying to do and squeezed her arm.  “Kathryn…”  She looked up at him, an almost guilty look on her face.  “What part of ‘slowly’ do you not understand?”  Kathryn had the good grace to look embarrassed.

“Sorry…but you’ve no idea how good it feels…”  Duncan sighed in resignation.

“I give up.”  He looked heavenward.  “What did I do in a past life to deserve this woman?  Was I that bad?”  He looked towards Kathryn and saw her smile.  “Don’t even try that smile on me.  This time it won’t work.  You had us worried sick Kathryn.”  Chakotay moved forward and sat on the edge of the bed.

“It’s true Kathryn.  The risk you took…”  Only now did Kathryn realize what her actions had put them through.  She looked down at her hands and nodded.

“I know.  I’m seeing that now.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t think.  I just heard all this was in my head and it fired something in me.  I wanted to prove that wrong.  Even if it was in my head, I thought I could break that belief or whatever it was.  Mind over matter or something.”  She looked up again.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t think and that was stupid of me.  It was selfish.”  She watched them both a moment and then began to smile.  “It worked though, didn’t it?”  When they didn’t return her smile, she sobered again.  “OK…I’m sorry.  It was very irresponsible.”  Duncan just shook his head in exasperation.

“I give up.”  He stood then looked down at her.  “Think about this Kathryn.  Yes, it worked, but you were damned lucky.  Maybe the feeling would have come back on its own but you could have wiped out all chance of that.  You could also have caused more damage…become a quadriplegic…  You could even have killed yourself.  I want you to think about that.  Take it as a lesson for the future.  When someone with greater knowledge tells you something, trust them.  I’m sorry to be so hard on you but you have to see the seriousness of this.  You put the people who love you through a hell of a time.  You had us worried sick for a while there.”  Kathryn nodded solemnly.

“I’m sorry.  I see that now.”  Duncan moved away a little.

“Yes…well…”  He turned back to look at her.  “Just do as you’re told from now on.  You will obey every last damn order from me and the others.  You’ll seek permission in triplicate before you even scratch yourself.”  He smiled slightly.  “If you do all that, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be out of here by the end of next week.  It’ll take another two or three weeks before you’re walking normally.  All this is only possible though if you do exactly as you’re told.  Now…do we have an agreement on that…?”  He was deadly serious now and Kathryn saw that.  She nodded quietly, her face devoid of any trace of a smile.

“I will Duncan.  I promise you that.  I know how stupid I was and I won’t take a risk like that again.  Now I see a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll do all you say.  I give you my word on that.”  Duncan laughed cynically.

“We’ll see about that.  You forget that I know you very well.”  He moved towards Chakotay and patted him on the shoulder.  “When you’re not with her, I want someone else to take your place.”  He looked at Kathryn as she began to voice her protest at that.  “I’m serious Kathryn.  I’m not taking any chances with you.  I’m having you watched at all times until you’re back on your feet.  And don’t even think of protesting because after today, I’m just not in the mood.  Now if you’ll excuse me…”  He moved away from the bed.  “I have a certain psychologist to take care of and lecture.”  He left the room without looking back.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn as she stared at the closed door.  He leaned over and tapped her arm.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.  I want to talk to Jonathan too.  I think the poor man needs a bit of support.”  Kathryn tore her eyes from the door and looked up at him.  She barely nodded but a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.

“Ask him to come and see me when he can.  You can also tell him from me I was right…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Jonathan was waiting outside, pacing up and down, when Duncan and Chakotay came out of the clinic.  He stopped and turned when he heard the door open and was over to them at once.

“Well…how is she?”  Duncan nodded and smiled.

“She’s fine…”  Jonathan let out a sigh of relief.

“Thank God.  I’ve been kicking myself over talking to her…the way I said it all…”  Chakotay shook his head.

“Jonathan…she’s fine…”  The young psychologist barely seemed to hear him.

“I should have seen she wasn’t ready for it.”  Chakotay reached over and squeezed his shoulder.

“I think we all know she had to be told…that someone had to suggest this or bring it up…”  Jonathan just shook his head.

“Maybe…but to go in there with my big boots and blurt it all out the way I did…”  He turned away slightly.  “She was angry…offended…and yet I walked out of there when she said she wanted to rest.  I left her alone with all that in her head.  I should have known better.”  He sighed heavily.  “God…I’ve more experience than that.  I made a terrible mistake…”  Chakotay moved into his line of vision.

“Jonathan…we all agreed on this course of action.  At most it was a miscalculation…”  Jonathan shook his head vigorously.

“Whatever word you use…it was wrong and it could have been fatal.  I made an error in judgement…”  He stopped when Chakotay laughed.  “What’s so funny…?”  Chakotay smiled and shook his head.

“Oh…I just once heard Kathryn use that exact same phrase…”  He licked at his lips.  “But everything turned out fine in the end there too…”  He saw Jonathan frown and sobered.  “Look Jonathan…do you still believe this was psychological?”  Jonathan glanced at Duncan a moment and then shrugged.

“I suppose so…  Now though…I don’t know…  Maybe…”  Chakotay smiled.

“But you still believe she needed to be told…?”  Jonathan shrugged once more and then nodded.

“Yes…”  Chakotay looked from Jonathan to Duncan and back again.

“Well then…and besides, we backed you up…”  Jonathan shook his head.

“Chakotay…there’s a difference between knocking on a door with your hand and using a sledge hammer on it.”  Chakotay and Duncan both smiled.  Chakotay dropped his head to the side as he looked at Jonathan.

“The door still opens…”  Jonathan rolled his eyes.

“Yes…but the way I did it, I almost knocked the door off its hinges and splintered the wood forever…”  Duncan sighed heavily.

“Well you didn’t.  She’ll walk again.  Just put it behind you.  Learn from it if it helps you but either way put it in the past.”  Jonathan looked doubtful.  Chakotay shook his head.

“Look Jonathan… at the end of the day Kathryn is a grown woman with a mind of her own.  She chose to try what she did.  She knows it was a stupid thing to do.”  He looked towards Duncan.  “Duncan made sure she knew that but I think she’d already figured it out for herself.”  Duncan smiled sheepishly.  Chakotay turned back to Jonathan.  “Kathryn is not one of the kids.  She has to take responsibility for her own actions.  Let’s just be thankful it worked out and move on.  OK?”  He tried to put a stern expression on his face which failed.  Jonathan stared at him for a moment and then nodded resignedly.

“OK.  I know what you’re saying…”  He sighed heavily.  “Just thank God it all worked out…”  Chakotay patted the psychologist on the shoulder once again.

“Oh…and she wants to see you later…”  He saw a look of mild panic cross Jonathan’s face and smiled.  “In essence I think she’ll want to apologize but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an element of gloating planned for you too…  She said to tell you that she was right.”  He moved away and walked toward the clinic.  As he went through the door, he caught a glimpse of Jonathan’s expression.  It was one of total confusion.

^^^^^^^^^^

When Chakotay returned to Kathryn, she was staring down at her legs, moving them slowly, a self-satisfied smile on her face.  She looked up guiltily when she heard the door open but relaxed when she saw Chakotay.  He glared at her playfully.

“What were you just told?”  Kathryn waved a hand towards him.

“Bull…I feel fine…  A little sore but nothing else…”  Chakotay moved towards the bed.

“Kathryn…you’ve aged me ten years since I’ve been here.  For once, will you please follow orders?  Please do as you’re told…for me if no one else…”  Kathryn let her smile slip into a look of tenderness and stopped moving her legs.  She nodded slowly.

“Sorry.  I will.  I promise.  It just feels so great to be able to move my legs…to have feeling there…”  Chakotay smiled his understanding and sat down, taking her hand in his.

“I knew you’d walk again.  The how doesn’t matter…”  Kathryn lay back against the pillows and sighed.

“Do they really not know the how or why?”  Chakotay grew serious and shook his head.

“I don’t think so.  Oh Duncan thinks he was right and the fall corrected the problem.  Jonathan thinks he was right and that once you knew it was your mind…the knowing was what fixed the problem.  They each believe their own science.  I just believe it was divine intervention.”  Kathryn nodded seriously.

“Well I agree with you.  I personally don’t care how it happened.  I can walk again and that’s all that matters…”  She frowned when she saw Chakotay slowly shake his head.  He looked at her sadly and squeezed her hand.

“Kathryn…you could have done so much damage.  You have to realize that you got very lucky.  You could have killed yourself.”  She squeezed his hand back.

“I know.  I am aware of how stupid and irresponsible my little stunt was.  I just didn’t think at the time.  I was mad.  I couldn’t take the idea that all this was in my head.  I do believe it was physical, regardless of what I just said.  I mean…I don’t care how it happened but I believe it was physical.  Something happened when I fell.  Something pushed something back in place or…”  She laughed.  “OK…that’s not a very technical explanation but you know what I mean…”  Chakotay nodded and lifted her hand to his lips.  He kissed it gently.

“Well…whatever it was…it worked.  That’s all that matters.”  Kathryn grinned widely.

“So…what do we do now…?”  She looked like an excited child.  Chakotay pretended to think deeply.

“Oh…we get you back on your feet…”  He playfully glared at her for a moment.  “Slowly…that is…”  He smiled again.  “After that…we get ready for Admiral Paris’s visit and then…”  He looked up towards the ceiling, a look of innocence on his face.  “After that…”  He looked back at Kathryn.  “I think we then need to plan a wedding…”  He gloried in the look of happiness on Kathryn’s face.  “We could ask the Admiral in question to marry us…”  Kathryn grinned widely.

“Oh I like the sound of that…”  She laughed for a moment and then grew serious.  Chakotay noticed immediately.

“What is it?”  Kathryn shook her head slowly, a frown on her face.

“I was just thinking…  Are we overshadowing things?  Maybe we’re being selfish here…”  Chakotay frowned now.

“How?”  Kathryn sighed.

“Chakotay…Owen’s visit will be hard enough on the women...  I mean I know they’ve come a long way but…”  She shrugged.  “Look at it this way.  A Starfleet Admiral is coming here.  Yes, he’s Tom’s father and a friend of mine.  He won’t be in uniform and they know Duncan has been dealing with him and they know he’s a fair man who hasn’t let them down but…”  She shook her head and smiled sadly at Chakotay.

“He’s still a Starfleet Admiral.  He usually wears that uniform.  They still know him as part of what they’ve run from…part of something they fear.  That will always be there for them in the back of their minds.”  Chakotay thought about that and nodded slowly.

“I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t thought of that.  You could well be right.”  He sighed.  “Perhaps it would be better to ask one of the others what they think…”  As the words left his mouth, there was a knock at the door and it opened slowly.  They both looked up to see Lorcha’s head poking in.  Kathryn laughed.

“Well speak of the devil…”  Lorcha feigned hurt and then laughed.

“Cheek.  I come here to see how you are and this is the welcome I get…”  Kathryn smiled warmly at her friend and indicated for her to enter.

“Come in Lorcha.  You’re just the person we need actually.  We’ve been talking something over and your input would be wonderful…”  The young woman smiled at that and walked over to the bed, sitting herself down on the end, careful to avoid Kathryn’s feet.

“Fire away.  I aim to please if I can…”  As Chakotay sat back, Kathryn explained their situation.  Lorcha listened intently and took a moment to think.  Finally she smiled at Kathryn first and then at Chakotay.

“You sure this isn’t cold feet…everything moving too fast for you both…?”  Her warm smile showed she meant no harm with her words and was in fact joking.  Chakotay smiled back and shook his head.

“Not from my side…  I’d marry Kathryn this very moment if I could.”  He smiled at Kathryn.  “You’re OK with this?”  Kathryn smiled lovingly and nodded.

“Same here.  The sooner the better.”  She looked back at Lorcha.  “We’re just worried that it will all be too much on the women…”  Lorcha laughed for a moment and then grew serious.

“OK seriously…”  She shifted slightly on the bed, looking from one to the other.  “Look…your wedding will be a big positive in all this.  They’ll want to be involved in it…”  She looked worried for a moment.  “Will that bother you?  I mean it’s your day and…”  Kathryn looked at Chakotay a moment and then smiled at Lorcha.

“We’d love them to be involved.  We’re all family now…”  Lorcha smiled at that.

“Just as well because I get the feeling this wedding will be hijacked.”  She shrugged.  “This will be something wonderful for them to concentrate on.  It’ll help them.  I guess I mean that the Admiral and his visit won’t be centre stage in their minds and that can only be good.”  Kathryn smiled to herself as she mulled that over.  She nodded when she saw Chakotay’s tacit agreement written on his face.  She smiled at Lorcha.

“I suppose we hadn’t considered that side of it.”  She nodded again.  “Yeah…that would be good.  A real family affair…”  She gazed off into the distance.  Chakotay laughed as he watched her and nodded towards Lorcha.

“She’s planning it already…”  Kathryn shook her head, coming out of her dream.

“No harm in dreaming…”  Lorcha stood up and smiled down at her friends.

“No harm at all.”  She laughed as she made her way towards the door.  “I get the feeling this poor Admiral will be busy though.  I don’t think you two are the only couple with nuptials on their minds.”  Kathryn and Chakotay both grinned.  Chakotay shook his head.

“No…I don’t suppose we are…”  He sighed contentedly.  “Ain’t love grand…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn sat quietly in her bed, playing idly with the sheet which covered her.  She studied it for a moment and then looked up at Jonathan who sat beside her, having finally plucked up the courage to come and see her.  Kathryn waved away his apologies then smiled at him.

“So…it wasn’t in my head after all.”  It was a statement.  Jonathan smiled back and shook his head.

“No…perhaps not…but…”  Kathryn continued, not giving him time to say more.

“It WAS physical…”  Another statement.  Jonathan sighed in mock exasperation.

“Yes…it could well have been…but a lot of what I said to you still stands and you know it…especially about being afraid.  I just didn’t say it right.”  He leaned forward, holding up a hand to stop any protest from Kathryn.  “Look…it’s like as a kid…”  He sighed again and looked softly at his patient.  “Did you ever play that game where you stand and close your eyes and someone stands behind you?”  Kathryn shook her head, a puzzled look on her face.  Jonathan nodded slowly.

“You have to fall backwards and trust the other person to catch you and not let you fall.  It’s very difficult…almost impossible in fact.  The instinct to ‘catch’ yourself can be overpowering no matter how much you love and trust the other person.  It’s like an inner survival instinct and I guess I’m saying that life is often like that game.”  He saw that Kathryn was listening closely.  She nodded to herself before she spoke.

“You’re saying that I needed to trust Chakotay to catch me, even though I thought I already had.”  Jonathan nodded.

“Yes…that’s what I’m saying.  You needed to ‘let go’…”  He smiled softly.  “Think about it and think about yourself.  Look at the fears you had.  You were afraid to trust this other person to catch you.  You were afraid of falling or afraid of him letting you fall.  So instead you stepped back to break that fall or avoid falling at all.  The danger there is that you can end up standing in one place with your eyes closed and you miss it all.  It’s like a leap of faith…except this is a ‘fall back’ of faith…”  Kathryn studied her friend.

“I did let go though, Jonathan.  I had accepted him.  I took that leap of faith and I still had no feeling in my legs…”  The psychologist nodded.

“Maybe not completely though.  I think you let go and let him in on a conscious level.  Perhaps somewhere deep down in your subconscious a part of you was holding back…  I think part of you was still very scared…  It could also have been a delayed reaction or response.  You’d be surprised how the subconscious can fight against something like this…even when you’ve consciously accepted it.  It’s possible your mind fixed the problem after we spoke but it couldn’t before because consciously it didn’t know there was a problem.  Once it faced up to it…”  Kathryn just shook her head as she tried to work it all out.  Jonathan watched her, almost seeing her mind working.  She turned back to him, a puzzled look on her face.

“So even had I not fallen…you’re saying that the feeling would have come back when my subconscious caught up with my conscious or my conscious accepted it?”  Jonathan nodded.  Kathryn shook her head, still looking confused.

“And it all just clicked into place the moment I fell?  I don’t buy that timing.  But then how come when I fell out of bed before…  I mean, why didn’t all this happen then…?”  Jonathan shook his head.

“Because you hit your head that time…not your back.”  He spread his hands.  “Look Kathryn, I can’t explain it all.  You just have to accept it for the gift it is.  You can’t always explain everything…not even you can…”  He smiled at her when she made a face at him.  “Think of it like this.  Could you explain everything that happened in the Delta Quadrant?”  Kathryn shook her head. 

“No I couldn’t.  I learned that sometimes it is just faith and that you have to believe…even when there’s a scientific answer in front of you…”  She smiled softly.  “I learned that once…”  Jonathan watched her eyes take on a faraway look.  She stared across the room a moment and then looked back at him.  “Sorry…I was remembering…”  She went on to tell him all about Kes and the time the girl was dying having disturbed a sacred shrine.  She told him about the ritual she had undertaken before trusting faith in the end and just walking into the shrine on pure trust.  Jonathan smiled in amazement as she told him her story.

“I guess that says it all for me…  Faith can move mountains…”  Kathryn nodded and held up a finger.

“Still though…I was right.  With this it wasn’t my head.  It was my back and my legs…purely physical…”  Jonathan rolled his eyes.

“And maybe it worked on your back and legs because everything was right in your mind…”  Kathryn laughed.

“Enough…I’m walking again.  The how isn’t important in the end.  We won’t agree so let’s just celebrate the result.”  Jonathan shook his head as he smiled.

“Still though…”  Kathryn rolled her eyes.

“You have to try and win Jonathan…”  He shook his head.

“No.  I’m just saying that we’ll never really know.  We each have our beliefs and opinions but we can’t know for sure.  We just have to accept it.”  Kathryn smiled and reached for his hand.  He placed his hand in hers and watched as she looked down the bed at her feet.  She wriggled her toes and giggled like a girl.  Jonathan quickly looked to her face and relished the look he saw there.  She looked at him, her eyes shining.

“I guess I’ll walk down that aisle after all…”  Jonathan squeezed her hand and nodded.  A smile lit up his face.

“I want to see that very much…”  Kathryn dropped her head to the side.

“We could always make it a double wedding you know.  It’s about time you made an honest man of Duncan…”  Jonathan feigned horror.

“The old ball and chain club?”  Kathryn now feigned disgust.

“Are you saying marriage isn’t a wonderful institution?”  Jonathan laughed.

“Yeah…but who wants to live in an institution…?”  Kathryn pursed her lips. 

“Oh I don’t know about that.  I believe in the fairy tale and the happily ever after…”  She studied her friend as she spoke and sat forward now, seeing him staring off into space.  “Jonathan?”  He jumped a little.  “I’ve started you thinking, haven’t I?”  Jonathan quickly shook his head.

“No, of course not…”  He smiled slowly.  “All right…  I guess you have planted a seed…”  Kathryn smiled kindly.

“You already make a perfect couple.  Why not go all the way…?”  Jonathan smirked.

“I thought we already had…”  Kathryn slapped at his arm.

“Jonathan…that’s not what I mean.  You’ve a dirty mind.”  She sobered a little.  “I’m serious.  You really should think about it.”  Her friend stood now, letting go of her hand.

“We’ll see.  Let’s take things one at a time.  We’ll get you up and about first, which I’m informed should only take another two or three days, thanks to all the physiotherapy you’ve already had.  After that, we’ll think about nuptials.”  Kathryn lay back and smiled up at him.

“OK.  I’ll go along with that but I’m not going to forget about this…”  Jonathan moved towards the door.

“Why would I think any differently?”  He waved as he left the room.  Kathryn waved at the closed door and then snuggled down in her bed.  She moved her legs back and forward, relishing the feeling.  She smiled quietly to herself, feeling happier than she could ever remember.

“Whoever is listening up there…thank you…”  She looked up towards the ceiling and smiled.  “Thank you…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Over the next week, Haven was a hive of activity as everyone worked hard to finish the homes for their new family members.  The winter was short and mild after the storms and was slowly easing itself into an early spring. 

Chakotay worked with the others when Kathryn was having her physiotherapy sessions.  Voyager’s Doctor and Duncan insisted she work on her muscles before attempting to stand again which irked Kathryn no end, but she bowed to their superior knowledge on the matter. 

As Chakotay finished work for the morning, he strolled back towards the main compound smiling to himself.  He looked up when he heard laughing and saw B'Elanna and Paula watching him.

“What’s wrong ladies?”  He grinned at them both.  B'Elanna shrugged.

“Oh it’s just nice to see a man happy with his work and life…”  Chakotay spread his hands.

“What can I say?  I couldn’t be happier…”  Paula smiled kindly and nodded.

“It’s wonderful to see.  You’re not alone though.  Everywhere I look I see people with the same expression on their faces.  It’s like someone waved a magic wand over this place or sprinkled happy dust on us all…”  Chakotay grinned as he looked around him, seeing people chatting to each other or laughing together, the kids running in between them all.  He nodded proudly.

“It’s a different place all right.  And spring is in the air.  You can feel it.”  Paula sighed.

“Sure is.  The pet rabbits are at it already…”  She laughed at the looks she received.  “Well they are…  The kids wasted no time in telling me about it in all its glorious detail.  The questions I was asked turned my face red…”  B'Elanna laughed with her.

“What did you say?”  Paula simply shrugged.

“Oh I just sent them over to see Cassa and Miriam.  I delegated.”  They all laughed at that, imagining the two ladies trying to find a way out of the situation.  B'Elanna moved a little closer to Chakotay now.

“Hey old man…speaking of all that…”  She laughed at the shocked look on her old friend’s face.  “Well you know me…always direct…”  Chakotay looked embarrassed now.  B'Elanna shrugged.  “Don’t mind our Paula.  We’re all family.  Anyway…”  She folded her arms.

“Come on now Chakotay…I take it a wedding is on the cards?”  Chakotay’s grin answered that.  B'Elanna smirked.  “I thought so…”  Paula’s eyes lit up.  “So I see it this way…”  She pretended to think.  “Am I right in thinking Owen would marry you both?”  Chakotay rolled his eyes.

“It had crossed our minds but we haven’t made any definite plans…”  B'Elanna nodded slowly.

“Right.  So the date will tie in with his visit…which is when?”  Chakotay shrugged.

“Yet to be decided, but I’d say another few weeks yet.  He has to iron out details and set things up…”  B'Elanna smiled at Paula.

“Plenty of time to organize things…”  She turned her back on Chakotay for a moment.  “I’ll chat with Kathryn…see her with…”  She frowned.  “Who’s our sewing expert…?  Well anyway…we’ll get her measurements…  Different teams to organize the food…  One for decorating the place…and then there’s the…”  She turned when Chakotay tapped her on the shoulder.

“Ehh…excuse me…but just who’s getting married here?”  B'Elanna looked all innocent.

“Why…you and Kathryn…we know that…”  She turned back to Paula.  “Now where was I…?”  Chakotay threw his hands up in the air.

“I give up.  Typical women.  What am I getting myself into?”  Both women laughed as he moved away.  He called back to them.  “Hey B'Elanna…”  She turned to look at him.

“Tread carefully and run everything past Kathryn first.  I do not need an upset bride on my hands.  If I know Kathryn, she’ll have her own very set ideas about what she wants…”  B'Elanna pouted.

“Chakotay…she’ll need help and that’s all this is.  Now go away.  This is women’s business.  Kathryn will understand that only too well…”  Chakotay pouted also.

“What about me?  Doesn’t the man count in all this?”  Paula and B'Elanna pretended surprise as they looked at each other.

“The man?”  B'Elanna looked at Chakotay.  “Chakotay, you’re just the groom.  Whatever gave you the idea that you mattered in all this?”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay bounded into the clinic, having been to Voyager to shower and change from his work clothes.  He knocked on Kathryn’s door first in case the Doctor was still working with her.  Kathryn called for him to enter.  He frowned, thinking her voice sounded a little breathless.  He opened the door and stopped dead.

Kathryn stood upright at the side of the bed, Miriam helping to support her.  Her face was alight with excitement.

“Chakotay…look…I’m standing…”  Chakotay stood still and swallowed the lump in his throat.  He nodded, not trusting his voice for a moment.  “Isn’t it wonderful…?”  He finally found his voice but it sounded choked.

“It’s…beyond wonderful…it’s…”  His eyes met hers and he tried to say more with them.  “I’m so proud of you…”  Kathryn grinned widely.

“It feels so great to be vertical again…”  She moved one leg forward but the Doctor stopped her.

“Hold on there Kathryn.  Let’s do this the right way.”  He went to her other side and supported her.  Together with Miriam, they moved their patient forward very slowly, instructing her as they went.  Chakotay stayed where he was and watched in amazement, witnessing something he hadn’t dared to hope for.  Slowly the three of them made their way towards him, Kathryn looking down at her feet at first as she moved slowly across the room.  She then looked up into Chakotay’s face and grinned.

“I’m walking…  Can you believe it?  I’m really walking again…”  Chakotay nodded and bit his lip.

“Oh yes…”  With just a short distance between them now, Chakotay held out his arms as Miriam and the Doctor supported her into them.  Kathryn fell against him and pulled her arms from Miriam’s and the Doctor’s hold.  She threw her arms around Chakotay’s neck and clung to him.  Chakotay wrapped his arms around her, relishing  being able to hold the woman he loved again.  He nuzzled his lips against the side of her head and whispered to her.

“Welcome home Kathryn…  To finally be able to hold you like this again…”  Words failed him and he sobbed against her.  Kathryn cried also.

“I’ve wanted to be here again for so long…  I missed it for so long.  I love you…”  Chakotay tightened his hold on her.

“I love you too…so much…”  Both were oblivious of the others in the room.

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn gained strength each day and walked a little further each time she was allowed.  She kept to her word and followed her doctors’ instructions to the letter.  By the end of the second week she was walking unaided but she tired easily.  Using a walking cane which Trevor had made for her helped a lot.

The first time she took a walk outside the clinic, everyone lined up and cheered her as she passed.  Kathryn ended up in a flood of tears by the end of it.  As Chakotay slowly walked her back to the clinic, he smiled down at her.

“They love you very much…every single one of them…”  Kathryn nodded slowly and sniffed loudly.

“I know…and it feels wonderful…”  She was watching the ground in case she stumbled on something but looked up now.  “We have a truly amazing family Chakotay.  We’re very lucky.”  Chakotay tightened his hold on her.

“I know that.  I’m luckier than all of them though.  I have you.”  Kathryn tightened her hold on him also.

“That’s the same way I feel…”  They finally reached the steps to the clinic and Chakotay helped her up them.  They walked slowly across the clinic and back to her room.  As Chakotay helped her sit in her chair, he watched her catch her breath.

“OK?”  She nodded.

“I’m just still out of shape.  I’ll be fit again in no time at all.  I get stronger every day.  Thank God the Doc was working with me all the time.  It’s made all this easier.”  Chakotay leaned down and slipped off her shoes, replacing them with her slippers.  Kathryn looked down at him and laughed.

“I could get used to this royal treatment, you know.”  Chakotay pretended to bow as he stood.

“My Lady deserves it.”  He sat on the side of the bed.  “Don’t worry.  When we’re married, I’ll still treat you this way…”  Kathryn lay back in her chair and smiled at that.

“I’ll do the same for you…”  She rolled her head to the side and looked over at him.  “B'Elanna and Paula came to see me…”  Chakotay dropped his head and laughed.

“I thought they might.  They stopped me one day and told me their plans.  Apparently I’m only the groom and I don’t matter.  This is all women’s business.”  Kathryn reached over and patted his knee.

“Oh I’m sure Tom and the others will sort out your part.  Just behave yourselves at your stag night…”  Chakotay’s eyes lit up.

“I’d forgotten about that tradition.  Do you think Owen Paris can add some strippers to that list?”  Kathryn glared at him.

“You’re spoken for now Mister.  Besides, I might just ask him to being some male strippers.  What’s sauce for the goose and all that…”  They smiled lovingly at each other.  Kathryn laughed.

“Do you somehow feel we’ve lost control of all this?”  Chakotay rolled his eyes as he laughed too.

“I’m not even allowed into the kitchen anymore.  When I made a joke about not being needed, I was told they needed a groom to match up the numbers…”  Kathryn laughed along with him.  “And they’re working in the far barn on something.  I’m not allowed over there either.  B'Elanna even had a secret call from Owen Paris.  Tom let something slip about a ‘shopping list’…”  He narrowed his eyes.  “That’s not your male strippers, is it?”  Kathryn continued laughing.

“Not as far as I know.”  She sighed heavily, trying to catch her breath.  “God Chakotay…  I think we’ll just have to turn up…”  Chakotay smiled and nodded his head.

“Sounds that way…”  They smiled at each other and Kathryn reached for his hand.

“Can you believe this will happen?  I keep thinking I’ll wake up…”  Chakotay reached for her other hand and squeezed them both.

“No way love.  This is real.”  He grew serious a moment.  “Actually, Duncan was telling me he spoke with Owen this morning.  They’ve set a date for his arrival.”  Kathryn sat forward now.

“When?”  Chakotay squeezed her hands again.

“He’ll be here in three weeks time.  He’s finalizing matters and he has some other business he has to take care of first.  That’s the earliest he could make it.  Duncan said he believes him because he could see how anxious he was to come here and see Tom, B'Elanna and Miral.”  Kathryn lay back again, her hands slipping from Chakotay’s, a quiet smile on her lips.

“It’ll be good to see him again.  A lot has happened since I last saw him…”  Chakotay nodded.

“Too much…but a great happy ending, thank God…”  Kathryn smiled lovingly at him.

“The happiest…”  She shook her head as she remembered.  Suddenly she sat forward, a thought having struck her.  “Chakotay…I’ve just thought…”  Chakotay jumped as she sat forward.

“What?  What’s wrong…?”  Kathryn waved away his concern.

“Nothing’s wrong as such but…”  She rolled her eyes.  “Chakotay…we haven’t asked anyone about being a maid of honour or your best man…all of that…”  Chakotay closed his eyes a moment.

“I’d forgotten about that…”  He opened his eyes again and smiled.  “Guess our minds were elsewhere…”  He shrugged.  “I’d want Tom as my best man but I’d also want Mike…”  He spread his hands.  “Help…”  Kathryn lay back and smiled quietly.

“You can have both.  Nothing wrong with that.  They kind of represent a marriage in their own right…your Maquis life and your Starfleet life…”  Chakotay thought about that and nodded.

“Yeah…they do, don’t they?”  He nodded again.  “You’re right.  I’ll ask them both.  To hell with tradition.”  Kathryn shook her head and smiled quietly.

“We’re going to be establishing quite a few ‘traditions’ here as we all join together as a family.”  She sighed as she speculated on that.  Chakotay watched for her a moment.

“What about you?  Who will you ask?”  Kathryn shook her head as she tried to think. 

“Well…Owen will marry us…”  She shrugged.  “B'Elanna as maid of honour.  She’s my oldest female friend here…and God help me if I left out Julie as flower girl but I’d love to have all the kids involved.”  Chakotay laughed at that.

“That will be fun…  The cake will fly and we’ll have a food fight…”  Kathryn slapped at him.

“We will not.”  She shook her head.  “Maybe Julie and Car as flower girl and page boy and the rest involved in other ways so they don’t feel left out.”  Chakotay nodded his agreement to that.

“That could work.”  He scratched at the side of his nose.  “Anyone else?”  Kathryn bit at her lip as she thought.

“I’d want to ask Tuvok to give me away…”  She nodded slowly to herself.  “I’d also like to involve Duncan and Jonathan in some way…”  She laughed.  “Hell…I’d love to involve them all but it’s not possible.  It would be unfair to ask some of the women and not others without causing hurt feelings and someone feeling left out.  I couldn’t choose anyway.  Julie and Car could represent them all.”  Chakotay leaned forward and stroked her knee.

“I’m sure they’ll sort things out themselves.  Do you want to ask B'Elanna and Julie yourself or should I say something to them?  We’d better do it soon either way…”  Kathryn nodded.

“I know.  Can you tell them for now?  I’m wiped out at the moment.  Ask them to call over and see me later perhaps?”  Chakotay nodded, noting now how tired she looked.  He slipped off the bed and helped her stand.

“I’ll tell them.  Now…let’s get you to bed…”  Kathryn made a face at him.

“God…you’re so masterful…”  Chakotay leered at her.

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet…”

^^^^^^^^^^

B'Elanna was over the moon when asked to be maid of honour.  She glowed in fact.  Julie almost burst something.  They barely waited for Kathryn to have a nap before they were over to the clinic to see her.

Tom and Mike both showed immense pride when asked to play the roles of ‘best men’.  Tuvok bowed his head and said it would be his honour but Chakotay saw deep pride hidden there also.

He then sought out several of the women and told them of Kathryn’s concern about some of them and the kids perhaps feeling left out and the time and work needed to arrange everything.  Paula smiled to herself first and then at the others.  She dropped her head to the side and smiled sweetly at Chakotay.

“I’d delighted you and Kathryn finally thought of this because we were about to ask you.  We need time to work on outfits and so on.  If you hadn’t said something soon, we’d have asked you anyway.”  She smiled again.  “And don’t worry Chakotay…no one will feel left out.”  Something about the way she said that made Chakotay nervous.  Before he got a chance to ask, Paula and the others were heading off across the grass, heads together as they planned.


^^^^^^^^^^

The next three weeks were a blur.  Chakotay found himself roped into the strangest tasks and eventually realized that he was intentionally being kept out of the way.  He was aware of many of the women coming and going from the clinic, often carrying items he couldn’t make out.  In the end, he curbed his curiosity and gave up asking Kathryn what was going on.

With two weeks to go until the visit, he was practically captured by B'Elanna, Ria and Tom and taken to one of the cabins.  He stood in the centre of the main room and obeyed the order he was given to stand still.  For the next hour, he was pulled this way and that, being measured and scrutinized, B'Elanna and Ria muttering to themselves as they took notes.  Tom just stood and watched, only stepping forward to measure Chakotay’s inside leg.  He grinned up at his former First Officer.

“I’m just here for this bit.  They didn’t want to go where only Kathryn is allowed.”  B'Elanna and Ria roared at that.  Chakotay remained standing still, his face a mix of puzzlement and amusement.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this will be my wedding suit?”  Tom looked up again and nodded, then showed the tape measure to B'Elanna.  She nodded and made another note.  Tom measured Chakotay’s hips now and showed B'Elanna again.  She smiled at her old friend. 

“Nice measurements Chakotay.  Kathryn is one lucky lady…”  Chakotay went crimson as Ria fell about laughing.  Tom feigned hurt.

“Hey…I’m pretty good in that department too.  I never hear you complaining.”  B'Elanna made a face at him.

“Exactly Helmboy.  You never HEAR me complaining.”  Ria sat down now, almost holding her sides.

“God…it was dull before you lot came here.”  Chakotay just sighed heavily.

“Can I go now?  Are you finishing with me?  Can I even ask what this outfit will look like?”  B'Elanna made some final notes and shook her head.

“No.  You can’t ask.”  She smirked.  “Well you can ask but you won’t get any answers.  It’ll be a surprise on the day but you’ll like it.”  Tom stood now.  He looked at Chakotay and shrugged.

“And that’s an order…”

^^^^^^^^^^

A week before the visit, Duncan delighted Kathryn by finally letting her leave the clinic.  As Chakotay escorted her across the compound, he watched as she breathed in the air.

“Freedom.  God, it feels so good to finally leave that place.”  She looked up now when she realized they weren’t going in the direction of her room.  “Where are we going?”  Chakotay smiled softly.

“Well now…that’s a surprise.”  He laughed at the look on Kathryn’s face.  “Patience woman…”  Kathryn pretended to sulk as he laughed.  “It’s not far…”  Kathryn smiled.

“I can walk further than you think.  Miriam has been taking me out too.  I’m almost back to normal on these legs, I’ll have you know.”  Chakotay smiled down at her proudly.

“I know you are but you still need to take it easy.  Remember Duncan said not to overdo it.”  Kathryn nodded.

“I know…and I’ll do as he says.”  She looked over towards her right and stopped.  She gasped in amazement.  “My God…is that the pool?”  Chakotay followed where she looked and nodded.

“Yeah…  They finished it a day or so ago.  It’s still filling.  Duncan has a guard on it until the fencing goes in.  We don’t want a repeat of Car’s little escapade.”  Kathryn groaned at the memory.

“Who can forget?”  She pulled him in the direction of the pool and he gave in.

“Oh come on.  A few minutes to have a look won’t hurt.”  He moved slowly with her until they came to the edge of the pool.  Over half the fencing was in place and Peter and Trevor were working on the rest.  They waved at her.

“Hey there Kathryn…great to see you up and about again…”  Kathryn waved at them.

“Great to be up and about again.”  She looked around her.  “This is great guys.  It’s fantastic.  You’ve all worked so hard.  I can’t believe what you’ve achieved.”  Trevor laughed.

“Many hands making light work…”  He straightened and rubbed at his back.  “We’re almost finished everything…  Just this fencing now…”  He pointed towards the ground.  “It can be taken down too and put back up when it’s needed…”  Kathryn was looking all around her and missed the elbow in the ribs the builder received from Peter.  Chakotay noticed though and frowned at the two men.  They in turn simply smiled sweetly in his direction.  Peter shook his head.

“Well back to work.  No rest for the wicked.”  Chakotay watched them for a further moment and then turned back to Kathryn when she pulled on his arm.

“So where are you taking me?”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn sighed happily as they came to one of the new homes.  She smiled up at Chakotay.

“Is this where you and I will live?”  He shook his head.

“No…  This is where you’ll stay until we can finish building our new home.  Come on inside.  I want to show you something.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn stood in the centre of the main room and looked around her.  She let go of Chakotay’s arm and made for a chair at the table where she sat down.

“They’ve done a wonderful job on these cabins…”  She looked up.  “Sorry…homes.  I keep forgetting that.”  Chakotay smiled at her and sat down at the table beside her.

“Well…they all decided that you’d be more comfortable here rather than your old room.  You’ll stay here until we’re married and then we can stay here until we finish our own place…”  He reached across the table towards a padd which was lying there and pulled it towards him.  “Have a look at this…”  Kathryn grinned at him.

“It’s not a boat is it?”  Their eyes met and they shared the memory.  Chakotay shook his head.

“Give me time on that…”  He squeezed her hand.  “Actually Mike and some of the others have one planned for the river…sailing lessons and pleasure cruises were mentioned…”  Kathryn laughed.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me…?”  She shook her head.  “So this isn’t a boat?” 

“No…this is something I’ve been working on but it’s just an outline although the foundations are underway.  I can’t and won’t decide anything without you.”  He activated the padd and Kathryn saw the rough plans for a house.  She gasped. 

“Oh Chakotay…”  He scrolled down.

“We need our first home.  At first I was just going to build one and surprise you but that’s not right.  We have to do this together.  So you need to help me plan this.  We’re building on the edge of the settlement.  We’ll be close enough to everyone but still have some privacy.  I just need your ideas…what you want…room layout and where you want doors and windows…”   Kathryn smiled and blinked back a few tears.  She looked into his eyes.

“I just want what you want.”  Chakotay leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Well, this is about what we want.  We design this together.  The others will help with it.  It’s your old fashioned barn-raising kind of thing.  They help with ours and we help with theirs.  Peter worked on the plans with me…the basics anyway…foundations and so on which are already well underway.  When we decide what we want, he’ll help with the rest.  Trevor will help with the building…what goes where and that kind of thing…”  Kathryn just shook her head in amazement.

“It’s unbelievable…”  Chakotay nodded and smiled.

“So…I just want your approval of any ideas…your input…  Anything you’d like…”  He grinned.  “It will of course include a tub.  God forbid it should be without a tub…”  Kathryn’s eyes lit up.

“A hot tub?”  Chakotay rolled his eyes and laughed.

“We’ll see.  Providing it’s not the only one…  If it was, we’d have a line of people waiting to use it…”  Kathryn laughed at the image and then smiled lovingly.  She leaned into him.

“It’s all really happening, isn’t it?”  Chakotay put his arm around her shoulder and nodded.

“And no one deserves it more than you do…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay insisted on staying on Voyager even though Kathryn wanted him with her.  A part of him didn’t want the kids seeing them living together but mostly he was afraid of not doing everything exactly right…in case some bad luck visited them.  Kathryn was a bit disappointed but she understood.  She settled into making a temporary home for herself in the new cabin, leaving space for Chakotay’s belongings when he moved in. 

They now had an exact date for Owen Paris’s visit and Kathryn had spoken with him several times, telling the man of her wedding plans.  His happiness on seeing hers made her cry. 

“How about this, my dear?  The first day I’ll get all the business side of things out of the way.  The following day I’ll marry you and Chakotay…”  Kathryn looked to Chakotay sitting beside her and he nodded happily.  Kathryn squeezed his hand and turned back to the screen.

“That would be wonderful Owen.  We should be ready by then…”  She glanced at Chakotay and saw him frown.  “Easy Chakotay…some things are meant to be kept from you.”  Owen Paris laughed.

“Just go with the flow Chakotay.  I remember my own wedding too well.  Let the women take on all the work.  That way you just have to turn up.  It’s much easier.”  Chakotay looked doubtful.

“Maybe.  I just get very worried when I see groups of women clucking together.  They shut up when I come near them and that makes me very suspicious and nervous.  They even kidnapped me and measured me but won’t tell me anything else.”  Kathryn put on a puppy dog look.

“Ahh Chakotay…you’ll love your outfit…”  Chakotay’s eyes widened.

“You’ve seen it?”  Kathryn shrugged.

“Of course.  I know everything…”  She frowned.  “Well…some of it.  They’re keeping lots of things even from me…”  Chakotay looked really worried now.

“And you’re all right with that?  You…Kathryn Janeway…handing over control…”  Kathryn smiled.

“That was my old life.  This is me now…”  She leaned over and kissed Chakotay on the forehead.  “Once I have you…”  Owen coughing interrupted the moment.

“Well…I’ll let you two get on with it.”  Kathryn laughed.

“Sorry Owen…”  The Admiral held up a hand.

“Hey…I still remember being in the first flush of love.  Thank God Janice and I are still in love and still behave like that.  I’m very lucky.  I hope you two will be as happy…”  Kathryn smiled lovingly at the man beside her.

“I know we will…”  Owen smiled warmly.

“Well then…I’ll see you next week.  I’ll be in touch with Duncan before then to make the final arrangements.”  He leaned forward.  “And Kathryn…I’m so happy to see you looking so well again.  You had me worried there for a time.  You deserve everything good in your life…”  Kathryn smiled and nodded.

“I have it now Owen.  Thank you though.  I’ll see you next week.  I can’t wait to see you again.”  The old man smiled.

“I can’t wait either.”  She smiled at the screen as it went blank.  She turned when Chakotay squeezed her hand.

“This time next week lady…”  Kathryn nodded and leaned into him.

“I can’t wait…”

^^^^^^^^^^

The next week flew by with Chakotay hardly seeing Kathryn at all.  He spent most of his time helping to build their new home and fell back to Voyager each night exhausted.  He was more than happy with the progress though.  Kathryn stopped by occasionally to see the work and Chakotay revelled in her happiness.

He sat with her now and ate the picnic lunch she had brought him.  He still marvelled at her walking again and cherished every moment they spent together.  He munched on a sandwich and grinned.

“I take it you made these yourself at the cabin.  I think you’re barred from the kitchen too.”  Kathryn studied a cookie in her hand and nodded.

“I am.  I made the sandwiches and Ria supplied the rest.”  She grinned up at him.  “They’re planning something strange.  I saw five or six of them around the pool arguing about something.  They shut up when they saw me.”  Chakotay shook his head before taking a drink of Selona’s lemonade.

“You think that’s where they’re planning the great event?”  Kathryn shrugged.

“It’s hard to say.  They’re still going back and forth to the north barn.  I thought maybe there…”  They laughed together and shook their heads.  Chakotay sighed.

“All I can say is that I’ve never seen them happier.  This wedding has taken their minds off Owen’s visit completely…”  Kathryn nodded as she studied the skeleton of the roof on their new home.

“It’s done that all right.  Duncan heard from Owen again who asked if he could bring Janice, his wife.  She’s dying to see Tom and Miral…B'Elanna too…  He asked the women and they barely raised an eyebrow.”  Chakotay smiled to himself at that.

“They’ve come such a long way…”  He looked at Kathryn now.  “You’re not upset or hurt about not being a part of the plans are you?  I know most woman love to plan their own wedding and…”  Kathryn smiled lovingly at him and reached for his hand. 

“I’m not actually.  I’m involved in a fair bit and that’s enough for me.  The only part I really want and need to be involved in is when I say ‘I do’…  The rest is decoration.”  Chakotay leaned over and kissed her.  He pulled back and wiped at her mouth.

“Sorry…I’ve smeared you with…”  He frowned and licked at his lips.  “What was in that anyway?”  Kathryn laughed and licked at her own lips. 

“Egg and mayo or whatever the local version is…  They make some strange foods here…”  Chakotay smiled at that.

“I know.  I’ve been the guinea pig a few times…”  He sobered then.  “And to continue from where I left off before that culinary distraction…”  He wiped his mouth and kissed her again.  “I feel the same way.  It’s my vows that matter and nothing else…” 

As they kissed tenderly Trevor let out a shout from the roof, jerking the happy couple apart.

“If you two are quite finished…  Some of us are working here and we need certain people to take over so the rest of us can eat…”  Kathryn laughed up at him.

“OK…OK…I get the message.  You can have him back…for a while.  Just make sure he’s careful.  I want him in one piece for the wedding.”  Trevor nodded knowingly to John beside him.

“There you go.  You have your orders.  She means the wedding night really but won’t say it…”  Kathryn made a face at them.

“Just know that you’re warned, you two.  Bring him back the way you found him…”  The two men saluted, laughing together.

“Once a captain…always a captain.  Can’t stop giving orders…”

^^^^^^^^^^



ON TO PART TEN.



RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.

RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.


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