Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17. Kids go play elsewhere. Contains adult material.
Chakotay finally finds out what has been holding Kathryn back from a relationship with him.
Thanks to Jess for the title and all the threats of death. I hope I met her halfway. If not, my skull belongs on her shelf.

Old Ghosts, New Demons

by Kat Lady

Part One.

Chakotay slammed the small ball with his racket using the force of a photon torpedo. It ricocheted off the wall of the holodeck and flew back at him, narrowly missing his head. He'd been here over an hour now but his frustrations hadn't abated and so he continued working himself into a sweat, determined to persist in his endeavour to rid his mind of all thoughts of the evening. He'd been grateful to find the holodecks available, although in the middle of ship's night, they were rarely in use, except by the odd insomniac. He wondered if his body would ever adjust to the treatment he inflicted on it of late and his straining muscles debated the point with him but it was the only way he knew to control the raging urges that flowed through his loins. This was his third solitary game in as many nights and his mind as well as his body was growing tired of the need for them and the reason, that reason being Kathryn Janeway.

He loved the damn woman but what she was doing to him was killing him. Every time he tried getting closer to her, she backed off. He'd then begin the entire ritual again, starting with late dinners and quiet conversations, friendship which eventually led to hand holding, but as soon as he tried kissing her, something always came up, a wall of sorts between them, erected by Kathryn herself.

Chakotay was at a loss. Three times this week he'd gotten as far as brushing his lips to hers, only for her to pull back. Tonight, his anger had shown through and he'd stormed out of her quarters, not noticing the tears which slid down her cheeks at his reaction.

Eventually utter fatigue drove him back to his quarters where he showered, hoping to wash away the last of his frustrations with the soothing water. When he stepped from the shower stall, he felt more clear headed and as he dried himself off and calmed himself enough to sleep, he pulled on a tee shirt and a pair of shorts before climbing into bed then just lay there for almost an hour, mulling over the whole situation. He was sure she at least had feelings for him, certainly something more than just friendship, but her reaction each time he tried to kiss her or touch her said otherwise. The fact that she always came back to him confused him too, almost as if she kept changing her mind or couldn't make it up in the first place. Eventually his mind refused to cooperate any further and he ordered the lights out just before exhaustion claimed him.

Kathryn herself continued sitting on her sofa, having shut the lights off almost immediately after Chakotay's angry departure. Her tears were still with her and she always preferred to give them their release in the darkness. She hated feeling this vulnerable but the choice wasn't hers. She knew Chakotay was angry and fed up with the situation and that this evening was probably a last straw for him.

For the last three nights, she'd tried so hard to let it happen. On previous occasions, when he'd tried getting closer, she'd backed off for weeks at a time. Lately she'd forced herself to try and let him in, but as soon as the moment arrived, she'd panicked and pulled back. She knew if she only had the guts to explain to him, he might understand but the more she let this thought take hold, reality always came back to her and the fear she always carried took control. She knew what his reaction would be and just couldn't face it, yet she couldn't stay away from him either, each time believing this time it would be all right. She trusted him to keep their affairs private but the fear of what he'd think of her drove her to keep things to herself. Three nights in a row she'd tried to get past it, but in the end, it had defeated her once again.

She knew if she'd simply faced the first problem head on at the time, this second one would never have come to be, but now all these years later, there was no way to undo the past. She once again cursed her severe lack of courage that kept her prisoner to a sad and lonely existence, but it was so ingrained now, that she couldn't see an end to it all.

Morning found her curled in a tight ball, still on the sofa. She let out a loud moan when she tried uncurling herself, her body protesting at the movement, having been denied any comfort during the night. Kathryn pulled herself up, her cramped muscles fighting her all the way and told herself that she was too old for this, that her body needed better care with the passing years. She still had two hours before she had to report to the bridge and face Chakotay and she spent one of those soaking in the tub, trying to undo the previous hours of discomfort but the sums didn't add up and her body knew it.

When she eventually arrived on duty, Chakotay was already in his chair, doing his best to appear absorbed in some report or other. He barely nodded a greeting before returning to the padd in his hand.

Kathryn was sure the hurt showed on her face and quickly made the correct facial adjustment, her mask fitting well after years of practice. She took her seat and forced all thoughts of the previous evening to the back of her mind.

By the end of the shift, Kathryn was exhausted, more mentally and emotionally than anything else. Chakotay simply nodded his leave and was gone before her mind registered the fact.

All the following week and the next, Chakotay avoided her outside of duty shifts. Kathryn knew she'd blown her last chance with him but she badly missed their friendship. In a last-ditch attempt to salvage something, she called to his quarters late one evening. When he opened the door eventually, Kathryn instantly caught sight of the fact that he wasn't alone. She vaguely recognised a young ensign from engineering and without waiting for Chakotay to speak, quickly excused herself, muttering something about the matter being able to wait until the morning.

Back in her own quarters, her memory of just a moment ago caught up with her and the table laid for dinner for two and the candles came to her. She remembered soft music playing and Chakotay's casual attire.

About an hour later, her door chime went and she called for entrance. Chakotay strode in, immediately seating himself and just glared at her. "Have I got this correct? You don't want me and you sure as hell don't want anyone else to have me either. Is that about right?" He was angry and didn't care if it showed. Kathryn was immediately caught off guard. No answer formed in her mind.

"I saw the look on your face when you saw Tanya in my quarters, all hurt and sad. Damn it, Kathryn, you can't play this game. I'm not a toy for you to play with when you want and then put down until the next time. You've made it clear that you don't want a real relationship with me and I have to accept that. What I can't understand is why. You have feelings for me, I can see that. Damn it, the whole ship can see that. How do you think Tom's betting pool can keep going?" He ran his hands through his hair, trying to sort his thoughts. Kathryn just stood rooted to the spot.

"Silence only. Kathryn Janeway, I'm not leaving here until I get some answers from you. I'm sick and tired of this game of yours. We go forward one step and then back two and the fool that I am, I keep coming back for more. Well, CAPTAIN, no more, understand? This gets resolved here tonight." His eyes blazed into hers, daring her to deny him this one chance to finally force the issue between them.

Kathryn's senses went into full panic mode. The captain disappeared, taking all trace of confidence with her and left in her stead a fragile and unable to cope girl. Chakotay saw the change and stood slowly, his demeanour softening a little.

"Kathryn, just talk to me please. What the hell is going on with you? I've played this game with you for so long now and I just can't do it anymore." He stopped, not knowing what else to say. The only sound in the room was Kathryn's quiet sobs which she did her best to hide.

"Kathryn, I love you. It's that simple and I want a life for us together. It's the most natural thing in the world to want. I have just one question for you. Do you love me? That's it, plain and simple, yes or no." He moved around and took hold of her upper arms then raised her chin up so she couldn't avoid looking at him.

"Well, Kathryn, yes or no? Do you love me?" Her tears only flowed more, her mouth opening and closing but no words coming out. "I see. That's it then." He let go of her and moved away.

Kathryn finally found her voice. "Chakotay, please. Oh God…" She turned away again, not able to face him. "Chakotay, I want to… I…I…can't. I'm so sorry. I can't explain. I can't love you, give you what you need." She couldn't continue.

He looked at her as she fell apart in front of him, no trace of the woman he knew in existence. "I just can't believe what I'm seeing. Look at yourself. You're the fearless captain who's fought the Borg, Species 8472 and nameless others, yet you fall apart like this. Even as Kathryn, I thought you'd more guts than that. I guess you're just afraid to live." His words cut into her and he saw the pain they caused but at this moment he was just too angry and upset to care.

"All right, I understand. I won't ever bother you again. I've got your message loud and clear. You can't. Well, can't usually means won't. Goodbye, Kathryn. Have a nice lonely life." With that he strode out the door, not looking back once.

Kathryn collapsed in a heap on the floor, barely able to breathe, her sobs choking all the air from her. Only this man could reduce her to the shambles she felt at this moment.

Kathryn took the next day off, knowing she was in no fit state to command a ship. Chakotay ignored her absence and went about his duties, totally indifferent to anyone around him. The entire crew noticed his mood, it being impossible to avoid.

During the next week, Chakotay only spoke to his captain, Kathryn ceasing to exist to him. He noticed the dark circles under her eyes and how pale she was but he hardened himself to it all. He wouldn't play this game ever again. He had his own plans now and the next morning put them into action.

He strode into Kathryn's ready room, padd in hand. He once again noticed how tired she looked, older almost, all energy drained from her. He hardened himself again and handed her the padd.

"Captain…" He fought to keep his voice strong. "I wish to formally hand in my resignation. I'm giving a week's notice of my intention to step down as First Officer of this ship." He heard her choked cry but refused to look at her.

"I also wish to inform you that I intend to leave the ship at the first opportunity. The first M Class planet we come to I'll be beaming down. I intend to stay in the Delta Quadrant and start a new life here. That's all. Permission to return to duty." He still wouldn't look at her. It was tearing him up inside to do this but he knew he'd no other choice. Staying now was impossible, seeing her every day and knowing he could never have her. When he got no answer, he made to move towards the door.

Kathryn suddenly found her voice and the pain in it tore at him. "No. Chakotay, please, for God's sake, don't do this." He wasn't going to bend and she could see it. His mind was made up. "Please, Chakotay, talk to me."

"Talk to you? You talk to me, Kathryn." He finally looked at her and instantly regretted it. The sight before him was pitiful. He saw only a broken human being, pain racked and a shadow of what had once been. He suddenly saw the weight she'd lost, making her appear smaller than he'd ever thought possible. "Spirits, why did you ever send this woman into my life? What did I ever do to deserve this?" He looked up to the heavens then looked back at her, tears pouring down her cheeks.

With her already vulnerable state, his words became the straw which broke her back and she felt herself shatter. He moved to her as she fell to her knees, her legs refusing to hold her up any more. He knew nothing he could say at this moment would even register with her so he did the only thing he could think of and ordered a site to site to her quarters, lifting her into his strong arms just before the beam of the transporter caught them.

Kathryn was unaware of where she was and he gently carried her to the bedroom and lay her down. At this stage she was clinging desperately to him, sobbing his name over and over. He couldn't believe she'd break down like this. He gently disentangled himself from her grasp and moved away a little, then hailed Tuvok and made some excuse about the captain having a bad headache and informed him that he'd had them beamed to her quarters so she could lie down. Tuvok as usual simply acknowledged the information but made no comment.

Chakotay then ordered a sedative from the Doctor, daring the medic to question him, but promised an explanation later. Within seconds it materialised in front of him and he quickly administered it to a still distraught Kathryn then just sat back and waited for the drug to take effect. Within minutes, she calmed and only occasionally choked back a sob. Chakotay just rubbed her back, not saying a word until he felt the time was right. He saw within five minutes that she'd fallen into a fitful sleep and stood up, pulling a blanket over her still form. When she woke, he'd get to the bottom of this once and for all. He knew there was more going on now and he was determined to find out the true answers this time.

Kathryn slept for several hours, occasionally crying out in her sleep. Chakotay just sat back and watched her, now and then sitting forward to try and catch her words but they were lost to him. Eventually, he noticed her unconscious state lightening and readied himself for the discussion he'd have with her. He wanted answers and this time he'd get them.

Kathryn eventually stirred and her eyes opened groggily. She sat up in a panic when she saw him just sitting there watching her and pulled the blanket to her tightly.

"Feeling any better?" She barely nodded. "Kathryn, the time has come. I know you're still half asleep but this gets sorted now. This might seem like blackmail to you but either we deal with this now or my resignation stands. It's your choice." He stood up, looking away from the panic and pain that fought for room on her face. "I'll get you some coffee and then we'll talk." His voice was firm, as if speaking to a child.

When he turned back with the coffee in hand, she was standing in the doorway worrying a fingernail then slowly looked up at him. He just nodded to the sofa, indicating for her to sit and Kathryn meekly obeyed, no fight in her. He waited as she drank the strong beverage, giving her the time he knew she needed to sort her thoughts. She delayed over the coffee as long as possible and eventually he took the almost finished cup from her hands.

"Enough delay, Kathryn. Talk." He was taking no prisoners and his tone wasn't lost on her. When her silence continued, he started for her.

"Right then, I'll start. You say you don't love me or rather can't yet this behaviour speaks of the opposite. Suddenly something has come along that can break you like this where nothing else can and I need to know why. Kathryn, please help me understand this." He reached over to her and took hold of her arms, pulling her round to face him. "Talk to me, damn it. What are you so afraid of? You can trust me and you know it. I know you've lost people before…" Kathryn just shook her head.

"What then? I'll ask you again. Do you have any feelings for me?" Without looking at him, she nodded a yes, her voice refusing to work. "Then what's the problem? You stand back and allow other relationships to form on board. What's so different about us? Starfleet is light years away."

She pulled back a little and finally spoke, her words coming in gasps. "It's not…that… It's…it's me… I can't… You deserve more…"

He couldn't get her meaning. "Kathryn, why can't you? What are you talking about? If you still love Mark or if it's protocol with you, I can understand that, yet you say…"

Kathryn interrupted him. "It's not that. I let Mark go a long time ago. Protocol? I know out here it doesn't…"

He shook his head. "Then what? Is it me? Are you afraid of losing someone again? Kathryn, I can't promise to always be here, you know that, but I love you so much and I think you feel the same, so none of this makes any sense. Please help me understand."

She pulled away and stood up, her arms hugging herself tightly. "I do…feel…love you… It's just…"

Chakotay had heard what he wanted to hear most. He jumped up and pulled her to him. "I knew it. Oh Kathryn…"

She just pulled back. "Chakotay, it doesn't change anything. I can't."

He frowned. "Can't what? You just said you loved me."

She turned back to him and suddenly he saw what he thought was anger on her face and found himself confused. "I do love you but I can't LOVE you. I don't expect you to understand. You couldn't even begin to." She drew in a long, unsteady breath.

"Right, you want to know? I'll tell you and then you can leave and go laugh about it. Tell whoever you want. You can all laugh about it and watch Tom's great betting pool fall through the floor. You'll all see what a fake I am." Her tears burst out again and she backed off when he moved towards her.

"You want to know. Fine. I can't…can't…be with you, give you what you need, be with you properly. You're right. I do love you, from here…" She slammed her fist against her heart. "I can't love you properly, the other way, the way you need."

Chakotay moved to her again but she backed off further. "Kathryn, I don't understand what you're saying."

"I can't BE with you. Can't you understand? I don't know how. I've never…" She was almost screaming now.

Chakotay suddenly started to understand or thought he did yet it was impossible. She couldn't mean…
"Kathryn, what are you saying? You've never…?"

"That's right. I've never…been with anyone. I'm a virgin, the oldest in… Is that what you want to hear? I'm not a real woman. Now get out. You know my dirty little secret now, so go and have a good laugh." She finally broke down, dropping onto the sofa where she buried her face in her hands.

Chakotay stood stock still for several minutes as she cried, trying to absorb her words. Reality slammed into him and he immediately went to her, pulling her hands away from her face. Kathryn had expected to hear the door at any second as he walked out on her, expected at least to hear his laughter but instead he was here beside her, pulling her to him.

"Kathryn, I'm not laughing nor am I going anywhere. Please love, talk to me. Tell me." He pulled her into his arms, trying to soothe her any way he could.

"You're not laughing at this? You don't think less of me? Chakotay, I'm no use to you."

It was his turn to show anger. "Is that all you think I want from you? Spirits, Kathryn. You don't know me at all, do you? Listen to me. Sex is a small part of it, that's all. Love is far more than that. If you don't understand that… Do you honestly believe that's all that makes a woman? Is someone who chooses a celibate life any less of a woman than…a prostitute? Having sex doesn't make a woman or a man. What about people who are paralysed? Are they less? Spirits, Kathryn, you have it so twisted and wrong." He couldn't believe the way she thought. "Just talk to me. Tell me."

She pulled back a little. "Sorry, it's just… I've never spoken about this and I thought you'd be put off."

"Why would I? I just don't understand. How or… I'd never have known, the way you've always spoken and acted. You led me and everyone to believe… What about Justin and Mark?"

She was quiet for a minute and he held her hands until she was ready to speak. Finally she pulled herself together and looked at him. "Justin knew. He… Well, I don't know what would have happened, if he'd have waited or kept understanding. Maybe in time I'd have been able to… He was killed before it became an issue." Chakotay didn't say anything, just nodded when she looked to him.

"Later, Mark was… He didn't push. His family were traditionalists, old fashioned. He would have been OK with waiting but it was harder for me by this time. Again I never found out because we ended up here. It was such a problem for me. Wondering, would I be able… I just couldn't tell him."

Chakotay held her hands, his thumbs stroking them. "What happened?" He didn't need to say anymore.

She looked away quickly, clearly upset and even embarrassed. He saw how difficult this was for her. "It was… You know that I was… The Cardassians…"

Chakotay understood now, with just one word. He knew what they'd been capable of, had seen enough evidence of it through the years yet he was confused. "You were…? But you said you were a…" Suddenly the words 'raped' and 'virgin' seemed taboo.

She shook her head. "It… They didn't… Not that but it was… Well, everything but. They would have I think in time but we were rescued before… Or maybe that was the game all along. I don't know." Chakotay slipped an arm around her but stayed quiet, letting her do this herself, knowing she needed his silence. He was grateful when she didn't pull away.

"They beat me, tortured, drugged. Later, I was taken to a cell. They stripped me, tied me. The things they said, the names…" Chakotay just tightened his arm around her.

"They left me like that, hours or days. I don't know. Always touching and hurting. They kept me hanging from the ceiling. It was so cold and the pain. Soldiers would come all the time, laughing and touching me, pulling at me. They'd gagged me but no blindfold." She was back there in her mind, reliving a hell no one should ever have experienced.

"Their hands were always all over me. They would…with themselves, in front of me, against me, They made me watch, using what they saw to… They would…rub it…into me…"

She broke down and Chakotay pulled her into his arms. "Kathryn, oh love, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." He rocked her like a baby and let her cry it all out.

Finally, she continued. "I was still like that when… Justin found me. We never spoke of it later. I think he knew I couldn't. He understood, had seen so much in his time with the Rangers."

She finally looked up at him. "It took years of… I was always trying to wash it off, the feel of… I eventually learned to deal with the memories, put them behind me but I was never able to…after that and…" She played with a loose thread on the sofa, not looking at him.

"Just let it all out, Kathryn. You can tell me everything. You know it'll never go any further. Just let me share the pain." He knew she needed this, that she'd carried it too long. She nodded, her head still down but she let him continue holding her other hand.

With the secret out, her words came easier now. "As the years went by, it just got more and more difficult to let anyone…to bring myself to try. You've no idea how many lies I told." She smiled a little at this.

"Kissing? Well, I knew that from before and was comfortable with it." She tried to fight her embarrassment. Chakotay just gently squeezed her hand, encouraging her. "Mark was fine with that and as I said, he was happy to wait. At one time, I thought I felt ready to try but I knew he'd have to understand first, in case I wouldn't be able to but that meant talking about it which I couldn't so it never came to be. I mean the memories of… Well, where they stopped me at first, now it was the lack of, I guess knowing how or afraid to take that first step and it just got harder as time went by." She swallowed, her throat dry.

"With girlfriends it was… When we spoke, I always had to pretend I knew what they were talking about. They'd all be discussing their boyfriends and what they did, how they did it and I felt so… I don't know. I felt so inadequate, stupid, alone, ashamed, embarrassed, all of those things. I was terrified if I ever said anything, they'd all laugh so I made it up." She glanced up at Chakotay but there was only support written on his face and it eased her words.

"They all just assumed that I was having sex, just like they were. I'd been with Justin and then Mark. We were engaged, for God's sake." She continued pulling at the thread, all her attention appearing focused on it. "I always felt so outside of those women, even here on the ship, listening to B'Elanna talk about Tom, the Delaney sisters…" They both smiled at that.

"So I read. I read everything I could, romance novels even, quoted them, repeated to some women what I'd heard from others. It became a game of hide and seek. I learned all the right things to say and I got away with it, even saying that I preferred to keep some of that private and they understood that. Oh but I envied them their freedom and their knowledge, their experience, the ease they had with it all. It became easy to nod and laugh and agree with them, pretending I knew exactly what they were on about. My sister didn't even know. I became this outwardly confident person. I'd touch people, make all the right jokes, say the right things but it was all an act." She stopped for a minute, gathering herself.

"There was an elderly admiral at Starfleet, never married. Behind her back, people called her 'The Virgin Queen'. She was the consummate professional, top at her job. I used to look at her and I saw the respect she had but I knew she had no one in her life yet it never affected her 'public side' if you like. I guess I tried to be what she was, but what she had that I didn't want was the pity I saw others show her, oh not to her face but it was there so I tried to live both, the confident professional she was and the fulfilled woman I pretended to be and wanted others to think I was." She drew in a steadying breath.

"You say you'd never have known? Well, that's exactly what I wanted everyone to believe. I had to present the whole picture. The chain had to appear complete. I always believed that if anyone thought that even one link was missing, I'd lose all respect. To be the complete captain, I also had to be the complete woman. It's what would be expected. Oh, I know it shouldn't matter, but the fact is, it does. People will always judge, even in this day and age."

"I remember a girl at school. We all matured if you like about the same time, got our periods…" She looked at Chakotay shyly but his expression stayed the same. "I remember her standing back a bit at first then after a while she joined in, saying how bad hers were too when we complained about cramps and so on. She carried sanitary protection in her bag and at the same time each month always cried off swimming just as some of us did. Her timing was bang on every month. Years later we were at Starfleet together and became friends. She confided in me that she hadn't started then at all, that she'd been anaemic and in fact it had been another two years before she got them. All that time she'd studied up on it, lied about it all and lived this false life just to appear like the rest of us and it made me realize that I was doing the same thing. I never said anything to her of course and so my own false life continued."

She looked at him again and finally he spoke. "What about here on the ship? Kashyk? Michael?" Saying their names pained him and Kathryn saw that.

"Kashyk was one kiss. Kissing was easy enough. I'd managed that before. It's amazing what you can learn too from watching others, their behaviour. Besides, I knew it would go no further. I guess I wanted to convince myself that I could at least touch a man, kiss him, pretend I could go further. I guess I needed to do it to feel normal and that there'd be nothing after, no risk of being found out. I think part of me thought if I could fool him, then everyone else would be a pushover, that they'd believe." She was back at the thread and it came free but she continued playing with it.

"Michael was safe, not real. I tried to go further with him but couldn't but no one would ever know. I guess I thought I could, well, practice. All I'd read yet it was all theory. Oh, I know where everything is and… It was also part of the cover. Everyone thought I was normal. Well, as normal as it can be to be with a hologram." She tried to sound lighter in her words but failed. "I guess if I'd made a fool of myself with him, I could always delete him." Her attempt at a laugh turned to tears but she fought them.

"There was also no problem with girlfriends here. None of the women on the ship are ever going to talk like that with me. I'm the untouchable captain. They shut up when I come in." Her sadness at this showed in her eyes. "With you, even kissing was… I just felt you deserved better, the real thing, not the game of false… The pretend world I'd created. And I was afraid of leading you on I guess, when I knew I wouldn't be able to go further. I'm sorry because I do love you so much yet I can't show you."

She dropped her head but he pulled it back to face him. "Kathryn, I just don't know what to say to you. I wish with all my heart that I could take all that away, erase it for you in some way. What I can say is that I love you. YOU. You've nothing, nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Do you understand that? Please don't ever pretend with me." She lifted her hand to his face and stroked his cheek. He placed his hand over hers.

"Can you understand this? What you just did? Touching me like that, looking at me the way you are now, telling me you love me? All that is showing me how much you love me. That's what's important. There are a million different ways to show someone how much you love them and only some of them are physical acts, even less are sexual. Being there to listen, helping with a problem or illness, a gift, a helping hand with something, sitting in silence, perhaps just a look, offering support, all of these and so many others are used to show love more than any act of sex. Not all relationships are sexual or a pairing, in fact most are not. Think of the love between parent and child, brother and sister, between friends. You show your love for these people all the time and there's nothing physical about those relationships, except a hug maybe or a pat on the hand or back. This is the same, Kathryn." He prayed she understood and saw that she did. She pulled him to her and hugged him.

He whispered softly in her ear. "That's right. Kathryn, this means more to me, holding you like this, hearing your words of love, your declaration if you like."

He pulled back from her. "Answer me this. If this didn't exist and I was the one who couldn't, for whatever reason. It could be something like this or a disability, anything. Would you think differently about me? Would it make a difference to how you felt about me?"

She shook her head, understanding fully what he meant. "No, it wouldn't. Chakotay, I'm so sorry. Sorry for all this but also sorry for not trusting you or telling you before."

He hugged her again. "Shhh. It's all right now. Kathryn, don't ever say sorry for this. None of it is or was your fault. We have each other now and that's all that matters but know this. To me you're all woman. You're sensual and sexy, confident and strong, yet soft and caring when that's called for. These things come from the inside, the grace and heart of who you are, not whether you've slept with a dozen men. I love you for WHO you are."

She smiled softly but her sadness still showed. "That's all right for now, Chakotay, but later… I can't ask you to go without but I'm just so afraid, afraid it will bring it all back and I suppose making a fool of myself. I want to, I really do but I just don't know how." She was getting more embarrassed.

"Kathryn, just talk to me. There's nothing you can't say to me. I'm here and I'm not leaving OK?"

"It's just… I want to be able to give you that." He made to reassure her again but she cut him off. "I also… Well I also want to have that, know what it's like, those feelings, that kind of closeness and to share it with someone I love. Oh, I know the… I've read enough but I don't know from the experience side of it."

Chakotay smiled softly at her. "Kathryn, haven't you ever explored your own body even…had boyfriends before?"

She looked away quickly, her words a whisper but clearly embarrassed again. Talking like this was all new territory for her. "When I was a teenager, well, a bit but I always felt guilty and I was terrified I'd be found out. You didn't know my mother. She was… Well, nothing like that was ever spoken about in our home. Sex and related subjects were almost taboo, whether from embarrassment or… It was just never discussed and any mention of it was frowned upon. You just didn't speak that way. I guess she just assumed we'd find our own way and because of that, I always felt it was wrong. I never really had boyfriends either, at least not long enough. I guess I felt they were a poor substitute for science. I always got more from a good book or working on a mathematical theory. The only man in my life I wanted to please was my father." She smiled softly at the memories.

"Even later on at the Academy, well there was never time. Study always came first and while my roommate and other friends were out on the town, I always made some excuse to stay behind. I guess my mother's words of waiting for the right man stayed with me. It was probably the only advice she ever gave us on that subject. At Starfleet, I was sharing a room but even when I was alone, there was still this guilt whenever I tried…" She gave a sad smile at the memory of the girl who was.

Chakotay just laughed softly but there was only love in the sound. "There's nothing wrong with it, Kathryn. It's the most natural thing in the world." She nodded her understanding but a certain shyness stayed yet she found she wasn't as uncomfortable about this as she'd feared.

"Kathryn, it's like this. We can stay as we are and I'll be more than happy with that. Just loving you and having you with me is all I could ever want. Anything else, I can take care of that myself." She looked up at him quickly, embarrassment racing understanding to her face but understanding winning the race.

"If, however, you want to ever try, we can work on that. Just know this. There'll never be any pressure. I love you and want to share our lives together so nothing else matters."

Kathryn's tears returned but their cause now was the love she felt for this man. "I love you so much, Chakotay. I really do. Maybe it's because I love you so much that I want to be able to give you it all, not just for you but for me. Can you understand what I'm saying? I just… I guess I'm saying I need your help."

He pulled her tightly to him again, gently stroking up and down her back. "I'm here for you in every way you want. If this is what you need, if you're sure, then we'll take that road. We'll do this slowly and at your pace, OK? Kathryn, know that you can trust me 110%. I'll never force you into anything, push you into something you're not ready for. If you truly want this then that's fine but it has to be for you. Don't just do this because you feel you have to, that it's for me. This has to be because you want to, no other reason."

They sat for quite some time, just holding each other, giving and receiving comfort. They made no move until hunger forced the issue.

That evening, they shared dinner in her quarters and when Chakotay went to leave, he pulled her to him and just hugged her, then brushed his lips softly across her forehead. "Goodnight, Kathryn. You've made me the happiest man in existence." He smiled softly at her.

She returned the smile. "You've given me so much today. A new life." She traced his tattoo with her finger. "I want to kiss you properly. I'm just not very good, I don't think."

He simply placed a hand on both sides of her head and pulled her to him slowly. His lips brushed across hers but nothing more. She copied his movement and marvelled at the feelings stirring inside her. Chakotay pressed his lips to hers a little more firmly, barely opening his mouth and she followed him. As the kiss deepened, she felt herself responding to it, some inner instinct taking over, telling her what to do that would please him. She knew everyone kissed differently and she wanted to find what was right with him. She felt his tongue caress her lips and joined him. When Chakotay pulled back a little, he saw that her eyes were closed, a look of pure love and peace on her face, joined by a flushed appearance. She slowly opened her eyes to his smile and gave him one of her own.

"That was wonderful." He kissed her gently on the tip of her nose and cupped her cheek in his hand. "I'll see you in the morning, Kathryn. Get some sleep. OK?" She nodded and walked him to the door. His smile stayed with her for the rest of the night.

Part Two.

Over the next two weeks, they shared dinners and trips to the holodeck. Chakotay never took things further than kissing and gentle caresses. Kathryn was an amazing kisser to his surprise and they learned very quickly what suited them both. Chakotay constantly fought his own body when it tried to respond but his fitness level was increasing rapidly from all the extra time on the holodeck.

Slowly bit by bit, their hands entered into the arena and Kathryn began to learn the feel of Chakotay. When they swam together and he held her close in the water, she enjoyed exploring his chest with her hands, moving now to kiss him there. Chakotay was always grateful for the coldness of the water. He explored more of her body too, barely brushing across her breasts but not lingering too long. He noticed her responding, her body making decisions for her.

Chakotay wanted all this to come naturally for Kathryn, the way it should have if life had not dealt her such a cruel blow. He knew for a lot of people that their first time was something best forgotten, adolescent fumblings which left behind regrets in their wake. He wanted her to have only happy memories of it all.

As they changed clothes to leave the holodeck one day after swimming, Kathryn's towel slipped and she gasped slightly, looking to see if he'd seen her exposed breasts. He had but just smiled at her and continued dressing himself. Kathryn was instantly at ease and continued dressing too, less shy now.

Chakotay was amazed about the whole situation. The old-fashioned man part of him, which he didn't like in himself, was feeling good about the fact that he was to be her first but mainly he was just so happy to be with her. He still found it difficult to reconcile the woman he'd known before with the one he saw now. That such a strong person could have such a shy and vulnerable side astounded him yet he knew that everyone had a side like that, that really one couldn't exist without the other. We all had our weakness, just rarely showed it. The fact that Kathryn had allowed him see this side of her spoke of the love and trust she had for him. As he saw it, she wasn't a virgin. She just hadn't engaged in a sexual act with a man and in his mind there was a vast difference between the two.

That evening in her quarters, Chakotay asked her if she would allow him to show her a lesson in trust. She didn't hesitate in her answer that she trusted him with her life.

"This is something we need to get out of the way OK?" She simply nodded her head.

Chakotay went into the bathroom and started filling the tub. He returned and led her back with him. Her curiosity got the better of her and she gave a puzzled look at the filling tub.

"Kathryn, you can trust me, you know that. Just let me do this. We need to get past this now. This has nothing to do with sex. I just want to put any embarrassment we may have with each other aside so we feel comfortable with each other and our bodies." She nodded her consent.

He slowly moved to her and started undressing her and she didn't resist. Her dress fell to the floor and she stepped out of it when he reached down to pick it up. He then stood and holding her eyes with his, unhooked her bra, dropping it to the floor then knelt and removed her panties and lastly her shoes.

He stood back and while gazing at her naked body, slowly removed his own clothes. Kathryn stood before him, letting him see her and finding herself comfortable with his gaze. Her own had wandered to his body and she took it all in, staring now as he removed the last item, his boxer shorts.

He reached out for her hand and motioned for her to get into the tub then gently lowered her into the water, shutting off the flow with his other hand before joining her, getting in behind her. Gently he soaped her back and washed her, then used the spray to wet her hair before applying shampoo. Kathryn leaned back against him and gave in to the sensations he aroused in her as he gently massaged her scalp. When he was finished, he rinsed her hair out then just pulled her to him, holding her.

After a few minutes, she moved away and turned in the water to face him. His smile met hers and he sat back and let her wash him, giving his body over to her hands as she explored and discovered. As her hands dropped under the water, she felt his growing erection and pulled back embarrassed but he just passed it off.

"It's all right. You just have that effect on me. It's natural. Don't worry about it." He turned in the water. "Here, my back needs doing." The moment passed and any awkwardness was quickly forgotten.

When the water began to chill, he stood up out of the tub and reached for a towel then pulled Kathryn up to him. He dried her off and slipped her robe on for her and only then dried himself as she watched, hiding nothing from her. He tied the towel around his waist and sat her in the chair. He brushed out her hair and removed all traces of her makeup then emptied the tub, cleaning up as he went. They were sharing a closeness that went beyond anything physical.

When they were finished, he led her to the bedroom and let her get her own nightdress as he removed his towel and put on his shorts. When she was ready, he led her to the bed, pulled back the covers before getting in first and pulling her in beside him.

He opened his arms and she went willingly into them. He ordered the lights off and she felt him kiss her temple in the darkness before whispering goodnight. That night, Kathryn slept better than she ever had.

They slept together more and more now, sharing each other's living space, dressing and undressing in front of each other. They shared the bath and shower all the time and Kathryn became totally at ease with Chakotay's body and also her own.

As time passed, Chakotay would often stroke her body as he passed her and she learned to do the same with him. He wanted her to learn that the feel of a man's hands on her body was about love and tenderness and erase the memories she had. He wanted to replace the images that could come to her, the ones where hands on her were about hurt and pain. Only when he was happy that she was completely comfortable, did he move on.

As they lay in bed one night, their kisses grew more passionate. Kathryn's body was telling her things her mind was having trouble understanding and Chakotay saw this. His hands roamed over her body and she also explored his, but neither of them touched where the other needed most.

Chakotay trusted his instincts in reading her body and slowly leaned up on one elbow. Seeking permission with his eyes and getting the confirmation he needed, he slowly eased the straps of her nightdress down and started laying small kisses along her jaw and down her throat.

"Just trust me, Kathryn. I won't do anything you're not comfortable with. This is just about you, OK? Just let me show you." She nodded to him in the low light of the room.

He eased her nightdress all the way down and tossed it to the floor. He then stroked and caressed her, continuing to kiss her all over. Finally he moved in on her breasts and gently licked around her nipples before sucking on them. Kathryn's breath caught in her throat at the sensations running through her and her hands gripped the sheets. Chakotay continued, reading all she was unconsciously telling him and gave her other breast the same attention.

What she was feeling wasn't totally alien to Kathryn but sharing it with someone and trusting them in this way was. Nothing before however was ever as intense as this and she couldn't have found words to describe the emotions and sensations that flowed through her. She knew she trusted Chakotay completely but was unsure if she trusted herself and whereas she was now completely at ease with him seeing her naked, she worried that she wouldn't respond properly to him. She had no idea how to react with another person and hoped he'd guide her. Her complete lack of experience in these matters still embarrassed her but Chakotay repeatedly reassured her and so she began to relax more. She felt his mouth and hands on her and the feelings they created flooded her body and mind. She felt overwhelmed and it scared her a bit, making her feel out of control but always there was the trust and love she had for him and because of those feelings, she never wanted this to stop.

Chakotay continued to move lower, licking around her belly button then across the line of her curls, his hands stroking her thighs. Very gently, he moved himself lower in the bed, looking back at Kathryn to make sure she was still all right with everything. What he saw took his own breath away. Her head was thrown back, her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open. He marvelled at how open and honest she was in her feelings and wondered if she'd any idea how sexy she was. He'd been with women who were vastly experienced yet just lay there, betraying nothing. He stared at the beauty before him, drowning in the image and feeling blessed that he'd been chosen by the Spirits for this task.

As gently as he could, he slowly parted her thighs and stroked his way to the treasure that awaited him. He lightly ran his fingers across her delicate folds and marvelled at how instinct worked. Her legs parted further for him, a mixture of that instinct and her ultimate trust in him and he felt tears come to his eyes at it all.

He moved in and gently parted her feminine lips then laved his tongue across her clitoris. Kathryn cried out suddenly and tried to sit up, an almost panicked look on her face. "It's all right. I won't hurt you. Just trust me."

She nodded and lay back down. "I do trust you, Chakotay." Her voice was a breathless whisper. "I was just… I didn't think you would… I've just never felt anything quite like… Oh God…" The sensations swept over her as he worked her, thrilling and frightening her all at the same time.

"Just go with it, Kathryn. Give in to the feelings and let them come. Please don't ever hold back from me." He only received a moan in response and continued.

He alternated between licking, blowing and gentle sucking as he brought her closer to her release. He found he had to almost hold her hips in place, her body's responses taking over everything else. He saw how Kathryn's head thrashed back and forth and her hands gripped the sheets tightly and he fought to control his own urges. Finally, her body convulsed in front of his eyes and her scream came as her body experienced orgasm for the first time at another's hands.

Chakotay continued stroking her, bringing her back down and then he was lying beside her, holding her to him as she slowly came back to him. He knew the look on her face would stay with him for all eternity and offered a silent prayer of thanks that he'd been the one responsible for it. Tenderly he wiped away the moisture that travelled from her eyes to drip onto the sheets. "Kathryn?"

She found her voice at last. "That was… I can't begin to… I just never knew it could be that…so good. Thank you." It was all she could say.

"Thank you for the honour. Kathryn, believe me when I tell you I wouldn't care if you'd had a thousand lovers before me. I mean that. I have to say though that I feel a… I guess I feel honoured to be the first. I don't know what I'm trying to say. Just…I love you." He claimed her mouth before she could say anything more.

Kathryn leaned back after a minute, breaking the kiss, a worried look on her face. "What about you? I mean…" His current state of arousal was clearly evident and Kathryn was quickly losing all her previous inhibitions.

"I'm fine, don't worry about that."

She cut him off. "Please, Chakotay." She seemed shy at first but pushed on. "I've… Well, I was reading…" She slowly reached down and stroked him and he caught his breath. "Let me try. I don't want you to think I'm being forward or think bad of…"

Chakotay tenderly stroked her face. "Kathryn, never could I. I just don't want you to feel any obligation or… This was about you."

She leaned over and kissed him. "Then let ME." She actually blushed. "Just guide me." He just nodded as her hand returned to his now fully erect member.

Kathryn slid down the bed and using her hand, stroked and caressed him, then used both hands, one on his scrotum. Chakotay sensed how unsure she was but found it was his turn to grip at the sheets as he gave in to the feel of her soft hands working over him. Next thing he knew, he felt her mouth on him and her tongue lap at the tip of his straining erection.

Suddenly, it was Chakotay who sat up with a cry. Kathryn jumped back, thinking she'd hurt him and the look on her face showed her distress. "I'm sorry, oh God, I did it wrong. I hurt you." Tears filled her eyes.

Chakotay reached for her, desperate to reassure her. "No, no, it was just… Spirits, it was wonderful, just… I was surprised too." She still looked panicked. "Kathryn, I promise you. It felt so good. I just wasn't expecting…"

She smiled slowly. "I told you I was reading."

He smiled also. "I'll have to see your reading material." He lay back down. "I'm all yours."

Kathryn continued, putting what she'd read into practice. Chakotay stroked her back as she ran her hands and tongue over him. He spoke softly to her, unashamedly telling her what he liked. He knew he wouldn't last long and could feel the onset of his own climax fast approaching. He was afraid of frightening her, that his ejaculation would remind her of the past, so he gently sat up and pulled her head back a little. She looked at him with her uncertainty showing and he just smiled softly at her. He reached a hand down and covering hers, which still held him, he guided both their hands into a rhythm to bring himself to an explosive conclusion. His shout of joy was from the soul and he collapsed back on the bed, pulling Kathryn with him.

When he opened his eyes, the amazed expression on her face met him. "You're all right? I mean, it was good? I did it all right? I…"

He just pulled her down to him. "Kathryn, that was…shooting stars wonderful." He smiled at her and she looked like a child being praised for a top rate report card from school. He'd been worried that bad memories would come to her but saw that she was fine. This was about the two of them now and nothing else existed.

They held each other closely until sleep finally claimed them. Chakotay awoke once during the night, feeling a slight chill and reached down for the blanket to cover them. He lay awake for a while just watching her face by the light of the stars and marvelled again at the fact that she was finally with him. He kissed her softly on the forehead and she stirred slightly, her arms tightening around him. Even in sleep, her complete trust for him was there and his heart swelled. He pulled her into his embrace and drifted off again.

The entire crew noticed the difference in their Captain and First Officer and crew morale was at its highest. Chakotay was walking on air and Kathryn had never been happier in her life. She knew she still had a final step to take and while it scared her, she knew Chakotay would guide her through. He never pushed her or even mentioned taking things any further. For the next few weeks, they were both content to just continue as they had been. It was physically satisfying for them both and Kathryn's 'technique' improved all the time, much to her delight and Chakotay's pure enjoyment.

Chakotay taught Kathryn more about her own body and encouraged her to explore herself, physically as well as emotionally. He wanted her to learn that there was nothing wrong or taboo about it and encouraged her to do what felt good. He watched as she would give pleasure to herself, letting her discover what she liked and what worked best for her. He learned for himself how best to please her and he bathed in the trust they had developed. He also would pleasure himself in front of her, hiding nothing from the woman he loved and in this way found he was also learning himself.

Kathryn became an avid reader of every manual she could find in the ship's databanks and put every item she learned to good use. One evening, Chakotay noticed she appeared a little quiet and eventually got her to open up.

"Chakotay, I was wondering… What I'm trying to say is I guess… Well, can we try…?"

Chakotay smiled gently, wondering what she'd been reading now. "What? You want to tie me up?"

She smiled at him but shook her head. "Maybe later." She smiled but then her face grew serious. "I want to really…be one…to…"

Now he understood. "Kathryn, are you saying intercourse, penetrative…"

She nodded, looking away. "I know it will be, that it will hurt a bit. If we can just go slow."

He took her face in his hands. "Kathryn, if you're sure about this." She nodded her head and he kissed her. "Maybe it would be better to see if the Doctor can help first or…"

She shook her head. "No. I want it to be you, only you."

Chakotay was overwhelmed with feelings for her. "I'll go as easy as I can and slowly. I never want to hurt you."

She just pulled him to her. "I know that. I need to do this. Can you understand?" His answer was to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom.

He undressed them both slowly and worked his way across her body, kissing and stroking every inch of skin he could reach. Finally he lowered his mouth over her centre and brought her to an explosive climax, then just as she came down from it, he worked her onto a second, leaving her panting on the bed in front of him. His hand continued spreading the wetness he'd helped her produce and as her eyes met his, he gently ran a finger around her entrance then slowly inside. Keeping his eyes locked with hers, he slowly let one digit enter her. Kathryn gasped and he stopped immediately. This was something he hadn't tried with her. When he saw he wasn't hurting her, he continued, sliding the finger in and out. She was wet and more than ready but he could feel with just the one finger, how tight she was and he knew it was going to hurt her.

He continued with his one finger, the other hand leisurely stroking over the tiny bundle of nerves above it and when he felt she was ready, he added a second finger. Her tightness made itself known to him immediately and he eased up. "Kathryn, love, you're very tight. Maybe it would be better to just continue like this for a while for a few days and ease yourself in." His concern was clearly evident.

"No, please. I know it will hurt but it's only a short time. Please, Chakotay, I want to do this."

He just smiled gently. "All right, love. I promise I'll be as gentle as I can. Try your best to relax. It'll be easier. Give yourself over to me and to the feelings." She took a deep breath and relaxed herself as best she could.

Chakotay continued as he had been for a while longer, finally entering her with three fingers while bringing her to a third climax. He stayed inside her as she came down from it, then slowly slid his fingers in and out of her before pulling out completely.

Now he picked a pillow up and placed it under her hips, trying to think of all the ways he could make this easier. He willed his own body to control itself, his throbbing shaft longing just to plunge in to her depths and surrender itself. He took some deep breaths of his own and positioned himself on his knees then pulled her hips up to meet him. He hesitated again. "Kathryn, are you absolutely sure? I'm not boasting but I'm not small and…"

She smiled softly. "Please…"

He smiled his understanding then stroked the tip of his penis slowly over her folds, catching her clitoris with each pass. He saw her consciously relax herself and then eased the tip into her opening. She was so tight that he hesitated again, knowing the pain that would follow for her but again she urged him on.

As slowly and tenderly as he could he eased himself in, watching her face for the signs of discomfort and pain he knew would show. He watched as she held her bottom lip between her teeth and stopped each time she winced, even slightly. They had all the time they needed for this and he was determined that this would be as painless as possible for her. He entered and withdrew many times, each time getting a little further. He gently stroked her small pearl of pleasure, easing her and whispering to her with words of love.

When he was halfway in, her tightness finally stopped him and he met with what felt like solid resistance. He knew himself that her hymen would have been broken many years ago through sports and the like but her body had never been stretched in this way before and he knew that there was no way to ease this. He saw that Kathryn understood but still she urged him on. Chakotay pulled out and this time lay over her, positioning himself against her again. His hands urged her to bend her knees on each side of him and he took his weight on his elbows, his hands each side of her head and stroked her face. "Just hang on to me, sweetheart."

She nodded, slipping her arms around his back and felt him enter her to where he'd been before and then encounter her tightness once more.

Chakotay pressed deeper, hating what this was doing to her, hating being the one causing the hurt but still she urged him on. Feeling that it would be better to get the pain over with quickly, he readied himself.

"Ready?" She smiled softly at him and nodded. He saw her swallow and draw in a deep breath then relax herself.

He pressed hard and quickly into her, finally getting all the way in and her cry of pain tore at him. He quickly pulled her against him, soothing words flowing from him. He felt her nails dig into his back but ignored it.

"Shhh, that's it, that's the worst of it. I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He saw her tears and brushed them away with his lips. He stayed still, not yet daring to move. He fought desperately to control his body, the feel of her tightness surrounding him almost unbearable. When he felt her adjust to his size, only then did he start to move in and out slowly, a little at a time. He did his best to keep his pace slow but as he felt it go easier for her, he increased it. Wanting her to come with him this first time, he reached down between them and massaged her where their bodies joined. As his pace quickened, he felt her begin to contract around him and knew she would join him.

When he could hold back no more, he let go and she joined him, crying out in pleasure this time. She felt his release flood her cervix and became aware of a shared closeness never experienced before. Chakotay stayed inside her for several minutes then slowly pulled out, only then noticing Kathryn's blood staining the pillow still beneath her hips from where her soft tissue had torn and a distraught look crossed his face. She sat up with him, smiling softly in reassurance that she was fine and saw the stains for herself of what in centuries before had been considered evidence of the passage to true womanhood. Kathryn knew at this moment that it was what she felt in her heart that made her feel a woman and she gently reached for him. Chakotay pulled her to him and they held each other for a long time.

Finally he eased back, needing to check on her. She reassured him that she was all right, if a little sore and then lay back as he undertook a task of love for him and he gently cleaned her, feeling so privileged to have been allowed into her life like this, to be the one to share this with her. At this place in his life, he knew he'd never felt closer to another living creature as he did now and knew he'd never want to again.

As they fell asleep in each other's arms that night, they were truly one.