Disclaimer:
Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Rating:
NC 17 ****
Summary:
With things already strained between her and Chakotay, Kathryn finds herself blackmailed into spending the night with an alien leader in order to save her crew. Afterwards she must deal with the fallout, physically and emotionally, as Chakotay and the crew stand back, unaware that their Captain is fighting a battle she is rapidly losing.
Warning:
Note:
This story is based around KJ's A Time To Heal. Check out her wonderful stories at
http://koffeeklub.net/kj/index1.html

No Sacrifice Too Great

by Kat Lady

PART ONE.

Kathryn stood in the turbolift, the doors open, a look of shocked disbelief on her face and watched Chakotay's retreating back as he stormed off down the corridor. She couldn't believe what he'd just said to her. She stayed where she was for several minutes as the shock gradually wore off, only to be replaced by hurt. Finally she pulled herself together and exited the lift, walking slowly towards her quarters, his words still ringing in her ears.

She stood in the darkness of her quarters for almost five minutes before she ordered low lighting and forced herself to function. She changed from her evening dress into her night clothes and replicated herself some tea then just sat and let her mind wander back over the evening, her drink now forgotten as it cooled in the cup.


Calistra was a strange but beautiful planet and Voyager had been here for two days now gathering badly needed supplies, having agreed trade terms which had been more than generous and undertaking the repairs B'Elanna had assured them all could not be put off any longer. Voyager had just about limped into orbit of Calistra, many of her systems already shut down and they all knew that finding this planet had in fact saved them. All crewmembers had managed some shoreleave and tonight had been a lavish dinner organized in their honour. Kathryn and the command staff had accepted the conditions laid down for visiting this world, acknowledging that it was the Government's right to say where they could and could not venture on the surface.

Within an hour of First Contact, terms had been set which stated that certain areas of the capital city were off limits and while Kathryn, Chakotay and even Tuvok had private reservations, they accepted the terms, deciding that the Prime Directive applied and that it was the Government's right, it being their planet, to lay down their laws to any visitors. The fact that they'd been promised anything they'd asked for and more, could not be overlooked. In actual fact, Kathryn was so grateful, she would have accepted any conditions.

From their first meeting, Kathryn had been aware that one of the senior leaders of this world, Prefect Garan, had watched her closely, making no secret of the fact and she found his constant study of her left her feeling uneasy. Throughout the following day however, he was courtesy itself and there was nothing in his behaviour which could be questioned. Chakotay had called her attention to the matter at the end of the first day but Kathryn had been in no mood for his, as she saw it, fussing and worrying about her and dismissed his concerns. She'd to spend a fair amount of time with the man and the last thing she needed was a misunderstanding about his attentions or a jealous or mother hen First Officer causing problems and so Kathryn had kept their meetings on a firm business footing, telling Chakotay she could look after herself.

Tonight she'd spent some considerable time in the Prefect's presence, having been seated beside him during the meal and then dancing with him later in the evening. She'd been aware of Chakotay watching her closely but deliberately ignored him, letting him know it. She gave the perfect performance of a captain, well apart from her crew and Garan had seemed pleased with the fact. She was open and friendly with the man but made sure he received no message he could misconstrue.

When the evening had ended, Garan had leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, wishing her a good night and stating that he looked forward to their meeting the following morning. Nothing in his manner was out of place but when Kathryn saw Chakotay's face as they made their way back to the ship, she knew he'd have something to say about the evening. They were no sooner in the lift than he gave his opinion.

"I guess now I know what I've been doing wrong all these years." Kathryn had turned to him, her face telling him he was out of line.

"I shouldn't be your First Officer and friend or even human for that matter. I should just have bought myself a planet here in the Delta Quadrant, gotten some cosmetic surgery, given myself a grand title and bought you. That way at least we'd have had a one-night stand." Kathryn's mouth had dropped open just as the doors had opened. Without another word, he'd shouldered past her out of the lift.


As she came slowly back to her quarters in her mind, she realized she'd been crying as she travelled back over the evening. "Damn you, Chakotay. Damn you to hell. How dare you." She slammed the cup down on the table in front of her and wiped at her tears. She knew she'd done nothing wrong and either way, he'd no right to tell her how to live her life. She'd often considered a shore leave romance but knew she'd never take that step. Kathryn Janeway didn't have one night stands and never would. For her, sex had to be a part of love, something long term and she made no apologies for it. It was the reason she'd been celibate during their voyage and probably would be for the rest of her life if they didn't make it home. Letting Chakotay in, no matter now much she wanted to, was just something that would never happen because she believed she wasn't strong enough to love him and risk losing him every time he went on an away mission and so she kept a wall between them. It never entered her head that she was already in that position. Leaving her tea still untouched, she made her way to bed.


Early next morning, Chakotay called to her ready room with the day's reports and got business out of the way. Finally, when he made no move to leave, Kathryn looked up and frowned at him. "Was there something else, Commander?"

He shifted from foot to foot. "Actually, Captain, I wanted to apologize for the way I spoke to you last night. Your private life is none of my business." He didn't meet her eyes.

Kathryn stood and walked around her desk. "Apologize for the way you spoke to me or for what you said?" She saw him glance at her. "Chakotay, just forget it. I'm tired and I have a long day ahead of me. There's nothing between Garan and me. I'm touched that you care but you've nothing to worry about." She was determined not to show how much his words had hurt her.

Chakotay just nodded curtly. "Permission to return to duty, Captain?"

Kathryn threw her eyes up. "Oh for God's sake, Chakotay, stop being like this. Can't we just be friends? I can't handle anything more, with you or anyone else. I just can't run this ship and have a relationship, with your or Garan or anyone." He stayed to attention but she saw him soften a little. "Chakotay, if it makes any difference, if it was to be anyone, it would be you. I care deeply about you and you know that." She looked up into his eyes. She loved him and knew it, but acknowledging it privately to herself was as far as it could go.

Chakotay shook his head slowly. "Kathryn, I think you lie to yourself. I think you feel a lot more and need a lot more. The only thing standing in your way, in our way, is you. Of course, that would mean taking a chance, allowing yourself to actually feel something." Without waiting for permission, he turned and left.

Kathryn spent the morning going over last details with Garan but her mind was on the situation with Chakotay. Had she been concentrating, she would have seen the way the Prefect was watching her so closely. When the time came for a break, he offered to take her for something to eat in a part of the city which up to now had been off limits to Voyager's crew. Kathryn had simply accepted his offer, her mind elsewhere.

"Well Captain, all the food stuffs are on board and that just leaves the minerals and parts you need, the most important items I might add." They'd just left the restaurant where Garan had taken her and Kathryn had barely managed small talk during their lunch and was once more lost in thought. She snapped out of it when he spoke.

"I'm sorry, Garan, I was miles away. The minerals and parts, yes of course. We're extremely grateful. You've been more than generous. Voyager couldn't have run any more without this."

He smiled and placed a hand on her back. "Nonsense, Captain. I'm only too happy to help. Perhaps there's something you could do for us in return?"

Kathryn looked up sharply but met only a friendly smile. Suddenly a bad feeling started in her gut. "If there's something we have that you want to trade for, although we can't trade technology. Our Prime Directive…"

He interrupted her. "My dear, you informed us of that when you arrived. Actually, our technology is far superior so there's nothing aboard Voyager which would interest us, well not technology anyway." He saw her grow suspicious. "You might have something to trade though. Allow me to show you something. We have plenty of time." He led her down some side streets until one of them opened into a large square. Kathryn looked ahead of her and saw large gates with stone pillars which appeared to lead into some parkland where buildings could be seen. Garan led her to a smaller side gate, nodding to the guard on duty and pointed the way down a long corridor.

"You'll enjoy this, Captain. I sensed that you were more like us from the first moment I met you." Kathryn eyed him carefully but didn't speak. Suddenly Garan opened a door and led them out into a large courtyard, closing it behind him. Rows of seating surrounded the main area and only now did she become aware of cheering and clapping from the crowd assembled there. Garan eased her forward and watched her face.

Kathryn stood rooted to the spot at the sight that met her. She felt as if she'd travelled back in history as she watched the scene before her. Small groups of men fought either each other or what appeared to be computerized machines, mostly one to one, the men's battles to obviously survive, brutal and bloody. She stared, bile rising to her throat, as some won and some lost, their lifeless bodies falling to the ground, their chests or throats ripped out, heads smashed open, often with limbs missing. They fought with various weapons and blood coloured the ground beneath them. Kathryn unconsciously pressed a hand over her mouth and turned away from the sick spectacle before her. Garan's face filled her vision and she closed her eyes a moment.

"Captain, are you all right? Was there something you ate that perhaps is making you ill?" When she opened her eyes, she saw that he was serious, thought that the massacre she'd just witnessed could have no effect on her. She was aware of the crowd cheering more loudly now and drew a deep breath.

"Please, can we leave here? Please get me out of here." Garan frowned and opened the door again and Kathryn practically bolted through the small space.

She felt Garan's hand on her arm. "Captain, whatever is the matter? Surely the Death Fights can't bother you?"

Kathryn stared in disgust at the man before her. "Not bother me? That is the sickest, most savage… My God, how can you people…?" She leaned back against the wall, trying to force the scenes of carnage she'd witnessed from her mind but the shouts of the crowd could still be heard and her mind refused to banish the images it still held.

Garan seemed surprised and simply shrugged. "Have you nothing like this on your world?"

Kathryn stared at him in disbelief. "Centuries ago… We learned how barbaric it was and became civilized." She didn't even try and hide what she was feeling.

Garan paced a little. "Captain, I thought you would enjoy this. I believed in fact that you were like us. You disappointment me, you know."

Kathryn slowly shook her head. "How could you have ever thought that I would…?"

He interrupted her. "You seemed set apart. You didn't show the same sentimental feelings the rest of your crew exhibit. I thought you were strong. You claim to be a captain, a leader, and you acted like one, stood back from those beneath you. I believed you held good qualities like detachment. What I understand some of your people would speak of as 'cold' or 'hard' in someone, we find admirable. You exhibit those qualities to your crew, even those next to you. What was I to believe?"

Kathryn's thoughts swirled and she gasped in air. "Oh God, is that how you see me?"

Garan just shrugged again. "That is how you appear. Are you saying that is not how you are?"

Kathryn dropped her head back against the wall, fighting the tears that she felt starting. "Is that how they all see me? This cold and uncaring…" She was speaking more to herself now. She saw Garan watching her closely. "I guess you're right. They probably do see me like that, even Chakotay…"

Garan waved a hand in the air. "What does it matter? They are simply a crew, workers needed to run your ship. Why should it concern you how they view you? Isn't your goal what's important here, your own personal objectives?"

Kathryn shook her head. "It's not like that. We're a team, a family. I love them all, would die for them."

Garan laughed. "Oh Captain, you'd be useless in the Fights, useless on this world. You're as bad as the underlings here. You're in this position of power and wealth and yet you stoop to the level of those below you? I can't even begin to understand you. Those below us are there for one reason only, to provide entertainment and amusement. If you can't see that…"

Kathryn pushed away from the wall and tried to pull herself together. "Can we please just leave here?"

Garan nodded and led the way. He was silent as they walked into the square again and back the way they had come. Suddenly he stopped and placed a hand on her arm. "The fact that you've seen this means nothing to me. All of Calistran society knows of the Death Fights. The rewards for the winners are handsome and many of the underlings earn a good living from them, while they last of course. There is competition between them to take part in the Fights." He paused a moment. "I told you there was something you could trade with." Kathryn shook his hand off and stared at him, a feeling of horror starting in the pit of her stomach. Garan gave a sly smile.

"That First Officer of yours? He looks strong and healthy. I'm sure he'd do very well in the Fights, would give good entertainment value. We even use these underlings for hunting. Perhaps some of the others on your ship. What do you say, Captain?"

Kathryn just continued to stare at him with horror on her face. "You can't be serious? You…"

Garan started to look annoyed. "Captain, I am the one who decides whether trade takes place on this world. I have the final say. We traded with you, gave you all you required. We agreed some terms for items in return. Well, this is the final item. I require some entertainment and you can provide it. Of course, if you want to go elsewhere for your trade…"

Kathryn covered her face with her hands, her thoughts racing. "We agreed. You agreed. You can't do this. Surely your Government wouldn't…"

Garan roared with laughter. "Captain, my Government knows of all this. The Death Fights are attended regularly by all the Prefects. As to this 'extra' agreement of ours… Let's just say it's a perk of the job for me. I'm not forcing you or anyone to agree to this. I mean, it's not as if we would attack your ship and take your crew." Kathryn's face showed her fear. "As to our 'side agreement', they'll never know. This deal will be private, between us. The rewards are good for someone like me who provides a competitor for the Fights." He smiled at her. "Just know that you won't get your goods without my say so. As to reporting this, it's my word against yours and who do you think they'll believe?"

Kathryn used the wall behind her to hold herself up. "No. No, I can't. I will not let one member of my crew be killed." She stared at him, hate and total disgust on her face. "They won't die or fight just to satisfy your blood lust. It's sick and disgusting. It's… No. I won't."

Garan just shrugged. "You haven't even the energy to leave this planet without our help. What do you plan to do about that?" He was unconcerned and showed it.

Kathryn tried to think straight. "There must be something else…" She looked at him and saw his coldness. "I'd rather let us all die out there than…" She closed her eyes to hide the tears that were starting.

Garan's voice brought her back. "Maybe they would all die here instead." Kathryn's eyes shot to his face. "On this world, going back on a trade agreement results in prison. Do you really want to see your crew perish in a Calistran prison? All I ask is some entertainment in return for what you need. I supply your needs and you supply mine." She saw him look her over and a shiver ran down her spine. "Maybe though there is something else." The smile he gave her was pure evil.

"What else? I won't let them fight for…"

He moved towards her and trailed a finger down her cheek. "Perhaps you could entertain me, Captain. It wouldn't be as good as the Death Fights but enjoyable none the less." Kathryn pulled back from him, knowing exactly what he was talking about. "Come now, Captain, where's all that 'compassion' and 'caring' for your crew. You did say you loved them. Would this not be preferable to their fighting or spending time in our prison? Of course, you'd still keep all you traded for and could be on your way afterwards. Think about it. One night with me in return for so much." He threw his head back and laughed.

Kathryn stared at the ground, her mind racing. Garan's laughter penetrated her mind, broke through to her. She raised her eyes and stared at him and the look on his face told her he knew he'd get what he wanted. She knew also that the look on her own told him the same thing. She had no choice and he knew it. "How do I know you'll keep your word? You could just…"

He slowly approached her. "You'll just have to take my word on that. We'll finalize terms and add our seals in front of witnesses this evening and the rest of the supplies will be given to you tonight. Voyager can take on the supplies while you and I…" He didn't need to say any more. Kathryn simply nodded, knowing she had little say in the matter.


Their trade agreement was sealed that evening and Kathryn kept her head down during most of the short meeting. She sensed Garan's smile on her the entire time and also Chakotay's eyes. When they all stood up to leave, Chakotay approached her. "Captain, we'll be ready to take on the rest of the supplies within an hour. I take it you'll want to oversee…"

Kathryn shook her head and didn't look at him. "You're quite capable of dealing with that, Commander. I'll check your report later." She finally glanced at him and saw him frown.

"Captain, it's usual for you to check this personally, with such an important…" Kathryn saw Chakotay look over her shoulder.

She turned to see Garan approach them. "Ready, my dear?" He smiled with a self-satisfied look on his face.

Kathryn saw Chakotay's eyes go from the Prefect to her and hardened herself. "Actually, Commander, I'll be spending the night here. As I said, you're quite capable of loading the supplies. I'll see you in the morning." She forced herself to meet Chakotay's eyes and what she saw there almost turned her to stone. Hurt and sadness turned quickly to disgust and almost hate.

"As you wish, Captain." He turned and walked off, not looking back once.

Kathryn blinked back her tears and felt Garan's hand on the small of her back. She turned and looked at him, not hiding how she felt. "Let's just get this over with." She waited for him to lead the way.

"Oh Captain, no need to be like that. You can actually get some enjoyment out of this too. I'm not that greedy." He laughed and put his arm around her shoulders and led her away. Neither of them saw Chakotay watching from the doorway, a look of thunder on his face.


Garan acted like a gentleman at first, offering Kathryn drinks. He had taken her to a lavish bedroom with a small bathroom off it. Kathryn noticed immediately that there was a large window covered by light material which overlooked the main square in the city. She looked to see if she could make out Voyager somewhere amongst the lights but couldn't. She noticed too that there was only one door leading into the main room which Garan locked behind them. The room was lit by low lighting and a lot of the furniture remained in shadow but the large bed was clear to be seen. She accepted the drinks he offered, needing something to get her through this night and sat with him on a large couch and tolerated his hand caressing her shoulder and neck.

"You know, my dear, I won't let you get too drunk. I want you to remember our night together." Kathryn looked up sharply. He seemed to read her too well. "Look, you don't have to pretend to like me or enjoy yourself. Personally, I couldn't care less. As long as you keep your end of the bargain, I'll be happy." He reached back and unclipped her hair, his fingers teasing it out. "I've left some clothing for you in the wash room so if you'd been good enough…" She just nodded, swallowed the last of her drink and made her way to the small room.

Kathryn closed the door behind her and leaned back against it, praying for the courage to get her through this. The look of hurt and then disgust she'd seen on Chakotay's face came back to her but she pushed it aside. It was for him and the rest of the crew that she was doing this, but they'd never know that and she didn't want them to ever know of it. She shook her head and focused her thoughts on the present, her eyes finding the clothing Garan had left for her. She fingered the light material and smiled sadly thinking that male tastes didn't change much from world to world. It was almost transparent and left little to the imagination. She changed quickly and tried to shut herself down on the inside, telling herself it was one night and would be over soon, that she could do this and get through it. She had no way of knowing that this one night would have repercussions which would last a long time.


Chakotay stormed around the ship seeing to the supplies, snapping the head off anyone who came near him. B'Elanna watched him and finally cornered him. "Just what the hell is wrong with you? What did we all do on you that you have to take it out on us?"

Chakotay tried to shake her off. "Just leave it alone, B'Elanna. You don't want a part of this." If he thought that would be the end of it, he was wrong.

"I'm already a part of this and so is everyone else on this ship. Your attitude with us is making sure of that." He mumbled an apology but it wasn't enough for the engineer. "You think I don't know what this is about?" He glared at her, daring her to say anything else. "Listen, Chakotay, we all know she's spending the night with that moron, Garan, but at the end of the day, it's her business. I know you're hurting and I'm sorry for that but you can't blame this crew and take it out on them. They're all tired and we've been through a tough time lately. If you want to rant off about this, take it to me later or go to the holodeck, but don't use them. They all understand how you feel believe it or not and feel sorry for you. I don't think any of them approves of what she's doing but they respect that it's her right. In the end, even though it hurts, you have to do the same. All I'm saying is this is not the place and these are not the people to blame." She saw his look of remorse and smiled at him.

"You're right and I'm sorry. Tell them the same. I need to put this away until later and deal with it then and I agree with you, I'm taking this out on the wrong people." He squeezed her shoulder.

"Chakotay, let it go. She's… Look, you deserve to be happy and this is just… It's been years now. If anything was going to happen…"

Chakotay just held up a hand. "Later B'Elanna, isn't that what you said? This isn't the time or place."

She nodded and hugged him. "Come on, let's just get this done." They returned to work and the crew was grateful that for the rest of the shift, their First Officer was professional with them if nothing else. They saw him hide what he was feeling and sympathized with him but they knew there was nothing to be done.


Kathryn slowly opened the door and re-entered the bedroom, feeling cheap in the skimpy outfit which barely covered her body. Garan's eyes were on her immediately and he came towards her, his eyes raking over her.

"Very nice, Captain. Perhaps this will be better than the Fights after all." He ran his fingers through her hair again then gripped tightly and pulled Kathryn's head back. His other hand came to her face and he ran his finger roughly over her lips. "Don't look so frightened, my dear. I'll make sure there are no marks anywhere which can be seen when you're in your uniform." He laughed at the look of panic on Kathryn's face.

"You said nothing about…" Kathryn raised her hands to her hair, trying to loosen his fingers.

Garan just laughed at her. "I didn't say anything about the details. You agreed to spend the night with me and what we do with that night is up to me." Without warning, he threw Kathryn onto the bed. "I'll enjoy this night. You can be sure of that."

PART TWO.

Chakotay lay in his quarters, trying to force himself to sleep. His mind was determined to fight him though and thoughts of Kathryn with Garan haunted him. He tortured himself with images of her moaning beneath him, her fingers running up and down his back as she moved against him and he found himself crying. With super human effort, he hardened himself and forced his mind to think instead of her betraying him and hurting him and tried to use hate against her to dull the pain. Sometime towards early ship's morning, he succumbed to total fatigue and drafted off.


Chakotay's image of Kathryn wasn't far wrong but her moans were of pain. She lay beneath the heavy alien man as he pounded in and out of her, his own satisfaction all that mattered to him. She pulled at the ropes which tightly bound her wrists to the headboard and her ankles to the footboard and felt them dig painfully into her skin. She desperately tried to control her breathing, the other rope he held around her neck shutting off some of her air. She felt Garan begin to falter and knew this round would soon be over. As he shuddered to a finish, his hand on the rope around her throat tightened and Kathryn struggled for air. Within seconds, he saw what he was doing and loosened his grip.

"Sorry, I do get carried away." He laughed as Kathryn fought to pull air into her straining lungs. "I'll give you a little rest now. I need a drink." He climbed off her and headed across the room to the small table which held several bottles of amber liquid. As he sipped at his drink, he looked across at the woman tied to his bed and smiled. He'd enjoyed himself so far and the night was still young. He decided he'd gotten the better deal now and tried to think of what to do next.

Kathryn lay there, trying to control her breathing and let her tears come. She'd hoped that this night would mean having sex with him once, maybe twice. She couldn't have known that Calistran men were capable of engaging in sex again and again. When he'd thrown her on the bed at first and dived on her, she'd tried to bear it as he pawed at her and ripped the light fabric from her body. She learned within seconds what he was into, that inflicting pain turned him on. He bit and clawed at her, pinching, scratching and biting at her delicate skin. Her cries fell on deaf ears as he continued his quest for satisfaction. She felt him bite and squeeze her breasts and then continue down until he was biting and pinching the flash at the top of her thighs. Kathryn struggled against him but discovered quickly that this only made him worse and caused her even more pain. Eventually she lay still and let him take what he wanted. She closed her eyes when she felt him settle himself between her legs and shut out the image of his face above her. She screamed out when he entered her, pain burning through her and heard him laughing and grunting as he quickened his pace. When he finished, Kathryn had had the hope that this was all there was going to be but he quickly shattered that illusion when he grabbed her and flipped her onto her stomach, pushing her legs apart and again entered her, pushing himself in and out until she once more felt him empty himself inside her.

The hours following this had been more of the same as he tried to think of all the perverse ways he could take her. Kathryn finally found to her horror what the shadows in the room hid and when the lights were turned up, she saw an array of odd shaped furniture like objects, trying desperately not to let herself think how he'd want to use them. She came to understand his need to inflict pain and the enjoyment he got from marking her body. She tried screaming louder, hoping that he'd think it was hurting her more and might ease up but all this did was heighten his enjoyment. She found herself slammed over tables and across strange chairs and tied or held down as he took her again and again. He'd taken great delight also in burning her with a candle, holding the flame to her and dropping the hot wax on her skin. He pinned and pressed her down, holding her in place, even when she didn't struggle and she came to understand that restraining her was part of the thrill for him. His last game had been tying her to the bed with rough rope and holding one piece around her neck, as if to tell her he held her life in his hands.

Kathryn looked across at him now and saw him watching her. She knew he was planning his next 'game' and prayed for the morning, wondering if she'd even survive until then. She watched as he approached her and cut the ropes then hauled her up from the bed.

"What's the matter, my dear? Not enjoying yourself?" He pulled her across the room and pushed her against a vertical beam with a metal ring at the top. He pulled the remains of the rope still attached to her wrists through the ring and secured them, then pulling her ankles apart, he tied them both to other rings on the floor. She felt him run his hands up and down her back and tried not to think about what he'd do now.

"Scream as much as you like for this. No one will hear you anyway." She heard him move away a moment then come back. Without warning, she felt something lash across her back and her scream came. More lashes poured down on her back, buttocks and legs as she continued crying and screaming, her tears streaming down her face. She strained desperately against the ropes which held her in place and felt them grate against her skin. Suddenly it stopped and she felt him behind her, his hands probing her and then she felt his penis prod at her anus and cried out again as he rammed himself into her, his grunting in her ear his only communication with her.

Kathryn hung by the ropes holding her wrists in place, nothing but pain consuming her. When he finally cut the bindings, she fell to the floor in a shivering heap and just lay there. He left her there for some time and went to get something to eat for himself. When he returned he dragged her across the floor by her hair, then picked her up and threw her on the bed again. Kathryn screamed out in pain as her back made contact with the bed and she heard him laughing again. Within minutes, he was on the bed with her, a small hand whip lashing across her breasts, stomach, thighs and arms. Kathryn fought to defend herself but the more she did, the harder he whipped her. Eventually she felt herself start to lose consciousness and he saw this, stopping immediately. She felt cold water splash across her face and came back a bit, only for him to mount her again and take his pleasure.

Kathryn passed out at some stage and woke to find herself gripped tightly by the sleeping man beside her. The second she moved, he was awake and laughing down at her. Kathryn turned her head towards the window and saw that it was light outside.

"You've had your night. Let me go now." She tried to move but pain racked her body and she cried out.

"Oh I agree the night is over and I'll keep my word. You've well-earned that. How about once more for old time's sake?" He was crawling on top of her before she even registered his words but she was in no position to stop him. Without even thinking about her movements, she spread her legs and allowed his penetration, her mind trying to leave the room. She could feel him thrust in and out of her and closed her eyes. She felt him pull out and turn her but ignored him as he entered her again, virginally and anally then turn her onto her back again, still scratching and biting at her as he entered her again. At last he began to falter and shuddered to a climax, groaning loudly, his final thrusts brutal against her and she knew how badly torn and bruised she must be. He fell over her, crushing the air from her and she felt his hot breath in her ear.

"Captain, you are some negotiator. Well, you're not actually but I take what I can find. You've been an interesting diversion." He climbed off her and pointed to the bathroom. "Your things are still there. Take your time and wash up. We won't be meeting again, I'm sorry to say, and you'll be on your way this morning so our 'business' is over." He got up and rolled her towards him then patted her backside. "Captain, it's been a pleasure doing business with you." He roared at his own joke, got up and left the room.

Kathryn lay for some minutes, trying to control the pain that washed over her and her tears. Needing to get out of the room as quickly as she could, she eased herself up, crying out in agony as pain pushed its way up between her legs, but forced herself to stand and make her way to the bathroom. Once inside, she locked the door behind her and made herself stare at her reflection in the mirror. What she saw shocked her to the core. Cuts, bites and bruises marred her skin and ugly bleeding welts cut across her from the whipping he'd given her. She saw deep rope burns on her wrists and ankles and to a lesser extent on her neck. She turned slowly and tried to see her back and saw the welts there were far worse. She gripped the side of the wash basin to steady herself as a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over her and fought the pain.

Finally, she gathered herself together and quickly tried to clean her cuts and bites as best she could. When she put her uniform on, she cried out as the material pressed against the injuries and once more had to wait as the dizziness claiming her had passed. When she finally felt she had herself under as much control as she could manage, she checked that nothing showed and saw that Garan had kept his word where that was concerned. She exited the small room and made for the main door, not looking around her once. What had happened in this room would stay here and she didn't need any more reminders. She carried enough of them already on her body.

Just as she reached the door, it opened and she jumped in terror, sure that Garan had changed his mind but found herself looking into the face of a kindly older woman. She held out her hand and offered Kathryn what appeared to be a hypospray of sorts.

"Prefect Garan said to give you this. He said you might have a bad headache from last night and this would help with the pain." Kathryn saw that the old woman knew only too well what had happened during the hours of darkness and she went to decline the offer. "I assure you it is quite safe and it will help you. You'll be able to appear as if there's no pain." Eyes met and a silent communication passed between the two women. Kathryn saw understanding and apology in the sad eyes before her and nodded. She tilted her head back and let the woman press the spray to her neck. Within seconds, she felt the pain ease and nodded her thanks. The woman showed her the way out and Kathryn called for a beam out, turning to find the old woman already gone. Just before the transporter beam took her, Kathryn pulled her sleeves down to make sure the rope burns on her wrists wouldn't show.


When Kathryn materialized on the pad in the transporter room, she nodded to the young ensign on duty. She knew the woman always had a smile on her face but this morning there was nothing. She was polite and nodded a greeting, keeping her words to herself then looked away quickly from her captain and went back to work. Kathryn lowered her head, accepting what she saw as unspoken disapproval and stepped down, turning the grunt of pain that passed her lips into a slight cough but the young woman ignored it.

Kathryn had no sooner exited the transporter room than Chakotay appeared before her. He handed her a padd but his manner was all business. "The report on supplies, Captain."

Kathryn pushed the padd back at him. "Later, Chakotay. You have the bridge this morning. Get us out of here and back on course for the Alpha Quadrant. I'll take the later shift." She entered the turbolift, groaning to herself when Chakotay followed.

"Aye Aye, Ma'am. Whatever you say." He kept his eyes straight ahead and Kathryn leaned her shoulder against the side of the lift, needing something to hold her up.

"Rough night?" He couldn't resist it and his words dripped with sarcasm. Kathryn shot him a look. "I see you agreed a 'price' for our supplies then."

Kathryn closed her eyes. She couldn't do this now. She was in too much pain, emotionally and physically. "Not now, Chakotay."

He looked at her as if he was looking at a piece of dirt and she met his eyes. He shook his head and looked away. "Not ever, Kathryn. Not ever." The lift doors opened and he walked out, not looking back once.

Kathryn managed to hold her tears back until she reached her quarters and when the doors closed behind her, she sank to her knees and gave them the release they needed. She stayed like this for almost half an hour and finally forced herself painfully into a standing position and made her way to her bedroom. She stripped slowly, each movement agony and made for the bathroom. Once more, she saw the evidence of the previous night in the mirror, the bright light showing more than had been visible before. She closed her eyes, trying to blot out the image of her battered body but it was already in her mind and refused to leave. She ordered a tepid shower and cried out as the water made contact with her body, sending shards of needle like pains through her. She tolerated the pain, needing to try and wash the feel of Garan from her skin but it remained. She carefully dried herself and once more tried to clean the many injuries she had, using antiseptic she had in the small cabinet. It was too painful to try and reach the ones on her back and she hoped they'd heal of their own accord. She badly needed more painkiller and contacted the doctor, claiming a bad headache and asking that he send her a hypo. She overrode his objections and he eventually gave in. As the drug dulled her pain a little, she drifted into a restless sleep, plagued with images of Garan and despite her exhaustion, they consumed her sleep.

No one on bridge duty that morning spoke with Chakotay unless it was absolutely necessary. They all valued their heads on their shoulders too much, even Tuvok. Their First Officer sat in his chair for the entire shift and glared at the viewscreen as if the answers he sought lay within the stars which flashed by. When he had to reply to an inquiry, he grunted an answer, leaving the person asking in fear for their life. When Kathryn finally appeared on the bridge at the end of his shift, he barely acknowledged her presence and stormed off towards the turbolift. He was gone before Kathryn managed to painfully turn around.

Voyager's captain spent most of her shift in her ready room, knowing that trying to hide the pain she was in was impossible for more than a few minutes at a time. She sat on her sofa, leaning her shoulder against the upright part and let her tears fall. The pain in her groin was almost unbearable. Her cuts, bites and burns stung and pained dreadfully and she tried deep breathing exercises and anything else that came to mind in an effort to control the pain. She slowly became aware of the sound of someone calling for entrance and dragged her mind back to the present, wiping quickly at her tears. B'Elanna entered with a padd in hand and tried to hide the study she made of her captain but Kathryn saw the young woman's eyes assess her and quickly lowered her head. "Lieutenant, what is it?"

B'Elanna pulled her attention back to the matter at hand. "Captain, I have to report that all systems are back up and running, however there are some problems with the Doctor. His program seems to be going offline every now and then. I'm trying to run down the cause of the problem but it could take some time. He's off at the moment and it will probably take an hour or so before I can get him back but that will only be temporary." She bit her lip. "Actually Captain, this problem could take days to track down. I'm sorry but with everything else…"

Kathryn shook her head. "Lieutenant Torres, just do what you have to do. You've apprised me of the situation and I trust you to handle it. If we have any medical problems in the meantime, I'm sure Tom can handle the simple stuff. Thank you for your report. If there's nothing else…" B'Elanna shook her head. She saw how Kathryn had hardly moved since her arrival and had lowered her eyes quickly, but not wanting to be caught scrutinizing her captain, she murmured a thanks and left.

Kathryn sighed deeply and managed to stand, biting her lip against the pain. Her mind raced as she digested what the engineer had just told her. She steadied herself and drawing in a deep breath, made her way onto the bridge, announcing that she had something to attend to and handed the bridge over to Harry Kim. She made her way to sickbay and was glad to see no sign of the Doctor or anyone else. She quickly helped herself to several hypos of strong painkiller and debated taking some antibiotic but not knowing enough about the drug, left that idea alone. She masked the missing drugs as well as she could in the files and slipped back to her quarters. At least with these, she felt she might get through this until her injuries started to heal. She'd considered taking a dermal regenerator to try and heal herself but knew it would be missed easily and the last thing she needed was the Doctor starting an inquiry into missing supplies.

Over the next week, Kathryn continued to suffer severe pain but with the Doctor's program fluctuating, she was able to procure a constant supply of strong painkiller to mask its appearance when on duty. She spent most of her shift time locked away in her ready room but when she passed crewmembers in the corridor or on the bridge, they always appeared strange with her and she took it as their disapproval in her, telling herself that she'd lost their respect. She found walking or sitting was even a problem, the constant pain between her legs wearing her down. With her physical condition as it was, her emotional barriers were falling and she fought this by putting up an even stronger defensive wall between herself and everyone else. Chakotay for the most part ignored her and spoke to her only when he couldn't avoid it. Even Tuvok seemed at a loss as to how to address her or speak with her.

When she wasn't on the bridge, Kathryn stayed in her quarters, eating only enough to keep herself going. Her injuries didn't seem to be healing the way she thought they should and she found herself feeling ill most of the time now. She still tried to clean the cuts and bites she could reach but they continued to bleed and weep and she covered this by wearing extra tee shirts in case anything might show through her uniform.

A full week after her night with Garan, she was in her readyroom when Chakotay rang for admittance. As usual he was all business and barely met her eyes. Kathryn instantly put her mask in place and waited for him to speak.

"Final details for tomorrow Captain." She frowned and he saw that she'd no idea what he was speaking about. "Ensigns Jones and Lopez, their wedding?" Kathryn closed her eyes remembering now and wondered how she'd manage to get through it all. This was one duty she couldn't delegate and so she just nodded and took the padd form his hand. She was aware of him studying her and turned away quickly. Chakotay looked at her closely and softened a little.

"Kathryn, look… I don't know where to start or what to…" Kathryn dropped her head. "Kathryn, what the hell is happening with you lately? I'm not talking about him or us. I'm talking about your attitude with this crew. You were always removed from us all but lately you've turned to ice. You function and nothing more. What…"

Kathryn was close to losing her temper. "You know what, Chakotay, you say this is about the crew but I think it really is about you. You can't handle what happened and I disgust you because you had this perfect image of me that could never be real."

His temper matched hers now. "You're right in some of that, Kathryn. I meant what I said about you and the crew though. As to me, you're right. I think you do disgust me and it's not just that it wasn't me. If it had made you really happy, I could accept if you had someone else in your life but this… It's that it was someone you didn't even know. How could you stoop so low and let yourself down like that? I thought more of you and I believed you thought more of yourself. You've let yourself down more than anyone and I believe you've probably gone down in the estimation of this crew. I don't think even Tuvok approves."

Kathryn cut him off and turned to him, her face cold. "You know what, Chakotay, it doesn't matter. I'll just have to live with that and so will you. I'm not here to win any popularity contests. I'm here to get this crew home so nothing else matters."

Chakotay just laughed and shook his head. "You believe that if you want to. Basically, I pity you. You're a sad and I believe lonely and unhappy woman and the bitterness that comes from that has eaten you away. I think you slept with him to see if you could still feel something, to see if you were still alive and it looks as if you found out you weren't. Maybe of course it was just a sexual release for you but either way, all that's left is a cold and hard woman." His use of the two words Garan had used tore at her and she barely managed to control herself. Willing her mask into place, she just stared hard at him but he had more to say. "Do you feel anything, Kathryn?"

She lowered her eyes. "You have no idea what I feel." She looked back at him and saw him move closer.

"Neither do you, Kathryn." He reached out and pinched her arm and she jumped slightly. "Did I hurt you? Did you feel that? I sometimes think Tuvok feels more than you do. You've become a part of this ship, indistinguishable from a bulkhead or a console. You move and speak but there's no soul there."

Kathryn hardened herself, wiped her face of anything and forced herself to meet his eyes. "If that's all, Commander." She couldn't do this with him. She badly needed another hypo and was afraid he'd notice something with her. She had to get him out of there and so she fell back on her command mask. Chakotay saw the coldness but not seeing what it hid, turned on his heel and left.

The following morning, Kathryn injected two hypos and managed to get through the ceremony, playing the captain perfectly. Once more she sensed the crew watching her, strange looks on their faces and saw that they rarely met her eyes for long. As quickly as she could, she left the holodeck where the ceremony had taken place and fled to her quarters. She knew she had to put in an appearance at the reception or at least the evening entertainment out of politeness and once more dosed herself with painkiller to get her through. She dressed in slacks and a long sleeved blouse, wearing her usual tee shirts beneath it in case the cuts on her back bled through. Leaving her quarters, a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over her and she bolted for her bathroom, barely making it and vomited for several minutes. As she cleaned herself up afterwards, she studied her reflection in the mirror and saw how pale and sick she looked. Adding more make-up, she forced herself to the holodeck, planning on staying no more than ten or fifteen minutes or just long enough to wish the happy couple 'congratulations' and to have one drink in a toast to their future.

As soon as she entered the holodeck, she knew she'd made a mistake in coming. An almost total silence descended over the place when she entered but B'Elanna quickly diffused the situation by making her way to her captain and welcoming her. Kathryn saw that Chakotay was already there and seemed to be propping up the bar, a drink in his hand. She saw him look over at her then look her up and down. With his first words, she knew everything would fall apart.

"Well, well, to borrow from the title of an old play 'The Ice Queen Cometh'. He ignored the glare B'Elanna sent his way and continued. "Nice of you to come down from your throne and grace us with your presence."

Kathryn closed her eyes and fought the urge to run. "Chakotay, please, not now. I'm just here to wish David and Joanne well."

He laughed. "Don't try and be too friendly now, Kathryn. We can't have you ruining that fine reputation you have or maybe you were in need of some company. Tell you what. I'll get Seven to keep an eye out for more M Class planets where we could stop. Can't have you getting lonely now, can we?"

B'Elanna turned on him. "Chakotay, that's enough."

Kathryn placed a hand on the woman's arm. "It's all right, B'Elanna. I know what he thinks of me. He's told me before. To him, I'm the whore of the Delta Quadrant."

Chakotay's face softened a little. "I never called you that, Kathryn, but since you mention the word, it's obviously what you think of yourself."

Kathryn stood her ground. "It's what you think. It's written all over your face every time you look at me." Neither of them was aware of the silence around them or the crowd gathering. Chakotay's face dropped into a sad expression. "You said if it was anyone, it would be me. Why him, Kathryn?"

She looked sadly at him, her tears starting. "I can't tell you that. You wouldn't understand and I can't…"

His anger returned now. "Maybe I would understand. What was it? Just sex with no emotions, no complications, something you can leave behind?" He spit the words out and was barely aware of gasps from those around him. Kathryn just grew paler.

Harry Kim stepped in. "Commander, please don't do this. Leave her alone."

Chakotay just laughed. "Oh Harry, she doesn't need protecting. She wears solid armour. Nothing hurts her with her shields up. It's us who need protecting from her. She doesn't feel anything, not physical or emotional. In fact, she's already dead." He saw Kathryn lose her battle with her tears and they spilled down her face. "Oh tears, Kathryn. Nice touch. Been taking lessons on the holodeck on how to appear human?"

Kathryn wiped at her face. "Damn you, Chakotay, I don't…"

He cut across her. "Too late. You've already damned me, Kathryn. You've been doing it for years but you just had to twist the knife one last time." He ran his hand through his hair. "Was I not good enough for you? What had he got that I haven't?" Once more his anger returned. "Sorry, I know the answer to that. I forgot his position, power, wealth and of course the 'no ties' element. You know, Kathryn, maybe you should just get yourself a vibrator."

Kathryn choked back a sob and turned quickly. B'Elanna grabbed for her. "No, Captain. Don't leave please. You've every right to be here." The Klingon turned and glared at Chakotay. "Captain, please stay." She pulled Kathryn back and turned her to face the room again. She saw the older woman's tears and wiped them from her face. As soon as her hand made contact, she felt Kathryn's temperature. "Oh Captain, are you ill? You're so hot." She pressed her hand to Kathryn's forehead. "You have a high fever." She turned back to Chakotay. "She's not well."

Chakotay laughed and shook his head. "There's nothing wrong with her. There's never anything wrong with her. Isn't that right, Kathryn? Nothing touches you. Oh sorry, nothing except wealthy rulers of alien worlds. Tell you what, maybe we can recreate him here on the holodeck and you can take him out and play with him when you want to or when the urge comes on. Of course, in your case it's 'been there, done that'." Kathryn cried out and made a run at Chakotay but he side stepped her and she stumbled, falling backwards hard against the wall. As soon as her back hit the hard surface, she screamed out. Harry and Tom, being the nearest, ran to her but she pushed them off. She eased herself away from the wall, badly needing to escape the holodeck and slid along the bar, trying to keep her back hidden in case anything might show through her blouse. Chakotay approached her and reached his hand out to her.

"Kathryn, I'm sorry. Please. I didn't mean… It just hurts and I drank too much. Please, I'm sorry." Kathryn stopped and held her hand up, not wanting anyone near her. She knew the game was up when she heard Harry's voice.

"Oh God, Captain, your back. You're bleeding. Tom help her." As his words rang in her ears, a wave of dizziness and nausea consumed her and she felt herself falling. She reached desperately for a chair but felt the blackness crash down on her just as she felt her fingers touch the edge of it. Chakotay crying her name was the last thing she knew as she fell forwards onto the floor.

PART THREE.

B'Elanna and Tom rushed to their captain. They saw the blood staining the back of her blouse and B'Elanna turned to Harry and told him to clear everyone away then pulled the blouse and the tee shirts up.

"Oh sweet… Oh Captain… What is this?" She looked desperately to Tom for answers he didn't have and heard Chakotay cry out as he fell to his knees beside them. She hid any view of Kathryn as best she could as Harry pushed everyone back. Tom was the only one thinking straight and called for a beam out to sickbay.

As soon as they arrived in sick bay, they discovered that the EMH was still offline and B'Elanna set about desperately trying to get him back. Tom and Chakotay lifted the unconscious Kathryn onto a biobed. Tom grabbed Chakotay's arm. "Come on, hurry. Help me cut these things off her." Chakotay just nodded and helped the young pilot. They were aware of B'Elanna calling down to engineering and speaking with the crew there then she was beside them.

"The Doctor will be up and running in a few minutes." She looked down at the woman on the bed. "How is she? She couldn't have done that with just the fall. She's burning up." She saw Tom look at his tricorder as he scanned Kathryn and started helping Chakotay get their captain's clothing cut away.

As Kathryn's injuries were revealed, they all stood rooted to the spot in shock. Chakotay barely managed words. "What the hell is this? How…?" His hand covered his mouth and he saw B'Elanna mimic his action.

They both looked to Tom. "According to this…" Tom closed his eyes a minute. "These injuries… They're mostly infected. They… It looks like lashes or… There are cuts, bites, some burns… Her wrists and ankles, her neck… They're like rope burns and there's some bleeding and tearing… Well, you know where." He didn't know what to say. B'Elanna burst into tears and Chakotay just stood and stared.

B'Elanna got her voice back just as the EMH appeared. "That bastard…that… It had to be. He did this. Why didn't she…?"

The Doctor pulled her away but his shock was evident. Tom was on the ball and gave a quick report. "Look Doc, I'll tell you what we know. We noticed she was hot, a fever or something. She fell against the wall on the holodeck and we saw blood on the back of her shirt and then she collapsed. We don't know anything more. We're assuming that bastard Garan did this but…" He handed over the tricorder. "She seems to have a massive infection and there are these injuries… There's lash or whip marks front and back, burns, cuts, bruising, the rope burns, bites…"

The Doctor took charge quickly, nodding his understand. "Mr. Paris, I will need your help. Ms. Torres, if you can get to engineering and make sure I stay on line this time. Commander, I need to know more about what's going on here so I am ordering you to go through the captain's personal logs and see if you can find anything about this. I need to know how long ago these injuries occurred and how she's been treating them or was trying to. I need this information now so go to it." He went straight to work with Tom.

As Tom and the Doctor started working on their captain, Chakotay and B'Elanna walked down the corridor in a daze. Chakotay was aware of B'Elanna reaching for his hand and he looked at her sadly. "What I said to her. The things I said."

The engineer clutched his hand tightly. "Chakotay, concentrate on now. She's in good hands so just get what the Doctor needs and think about that only. We'll sort everything else out later."

He nodded and stopped outside Kathryn's quarters. "Ok, all right. You're right. I'll do that." B'Elanna gave him a quick hug and hurried off.

Chakotay entered Kathryn's quarters and drew in a deep breath. First he went to her bathroom and checked around. He found several hypos of painkiller and a small bottle of antiseptic and some gauze but nothing more. He quickly reported this to the Doctor. He then spent several minutes accessing Kathryn's personal logs and what he read almost killed him.

"I died last night. I sold my body to save this crew and ended up losing my soul as well. Pain consumes me inside and out. I've cleaned my injuries the best I can but I can't reach some of them and it's too painful to even try. I can't go to the Doctor with this, can't face him and I'm so afraid of anyone finding out.

I didn't think I'd live to see this morning. I really believed it would be just once or twice with him, straight forward where I could just shut my eyes and get it over with. I couldn't know that bastard could go all night and I could never have known how sick and perverted he could be. I learned quickly how restraining me and inflicting pain turned him on so much. I think I prayed for death at one stage but it never came and there was nothing I could do but endure it all.

I wanted so much to think of Chakotay's wonderful face, his love and kindness to get me through but I couldn't do that. There's only good there with him and I couldn't bring his image into that hell. I didn't deserve to anyway.

The only thing that got me through was the thought that it was me and not them. When he showed me the Death Fights and wanted Chakotay for them and some of the others, I knew I had to stop that any way I could. The images from that will stay with me for a long time and I still hear the cries of the men as they fought to survive and the cheers of the crowds. I don't want to even think about what the hunting he spoke of could possibly be like. When he refused to trade if I didn't hand them over and told me that breaking negotiations resulted in prison for all concerned, I knew I was trapped. We had to have those supplies but mostly I had to save my crew from that horror and death, from that prison. I got them into this and I must do everything I can to get them home again. I tell myself this was just another away mission but it doesn't help.

Thank God that woman gave me the painkiller that got me back here. I knew by her face that she was aware of everything that had happened to me, that she probably heard my screams all night. I guess I'm one of many. Seeing Chakotay in the lift, I barely held it together. He looked at me with such contempt and it hurts so much. The night after the dinner was the same but I guess I can understand it. I've hurt him so badly and that pains me more than these injuries but I'll just have to endure both. I can't blame him for what he said to me and he's right as far as he sees it. I can't ever let him know of all this and it's better he believes as he does. I've managed to get a hypo from the Doctor, claiming a headache. I have a shift to get through and I pray for the strength I'll need."

Chakotay realized he was crying as he read Kathryn's words but pushed himself on.

"Something's wrong. They won't heal and I feel sick all the time now. I know I'm not pregnant, thank God. My booster made sure of that. I wonder now if I caught something from him but I know it's more likely that my injuries are infected. I still can't go to the Doctor but at least with the problems we have with him I can get to sickbay and find the painkillers I desperately need. I know there's no way I could function without them. I just hope I've hidden their disappearance in the files well enough. I can't believe I can stoop so low but I have no choice. They can't know.

I'll give it more time and then I'll try and get some antibiotic. Maybe the Doctor will still be offline and I can do it quietly. I couldn't stand to see Chakotay's face if he knew any of this. He ignores me mostly and I understand. The crew never meet my eyes now and I sense how I've let them down but it's Chakotay's hate I find the hardest to live with. Knowing I saved them from what could have been gets me through though."

Chakotay dropped his head back. "Oh Kathryn, why did you do this? Why didn't you just talk to me?" He wiped at his face and read the final entry.

"I managed to get through the wedding this morning by using two hypos and I think I fooled them. I've taken to wearing tee shirts under my clothes in case the whip marks on my back bleed through. They weep and bleed all the time and I can't reach them. I know they're infected and this will now probably kill me.

I have to face them all again this evening and I pray for the courage to get through it. I saw their faces this morning and I saw Chakotay. He told me what he thinks the other day, about how cold I've become but I have to be that way. If I let my guard down for a second, they might find out and I can't have that. I was in so much pain and just wanted him out of there so I could take a hypo. He told me I was cold and hard, the same words HE used to me. If that bastard saw me that way, thought I was like them, no wonder this crew and Chakotay see me the same way. They deserve so much better. I feel now they'll get that. This infection, if that's what it is, is getting worse and I'm constantly sick and dizzy. I don't think it will be long."

Chakotay sat for some time, his thoughts swirling around inside his head and let his tears flow. Finally, he managed to make his way to sickbay and just as he entered he saw the Doctor come out from his office and point towards a privacy screen. He followed the medic and saw Kathryn lying deathly still on the biobed. He noticed that the Doctor had placed her lying on her side and saw dressings covering her back and chest, even on her arms.

"I believe you already saw the extent of her injuries but I'll explain anyway. The cuts across her back and chest extend down on both as far as her knees. There are deep rope burns on her wrists and ankles, some also around her neck, probably from an attempt to strangle her. She also has deep burns which were most likely caused by a naked flame." Chakotay closed his eyes a moment and leaned against the bed to steady himself. "There is severe bruising, several other cuts and scratches and quite a few bite marks. Most of these were badly infected, particularly the ones on her back where she obviously could not reach them." He stopped and looked at his Commander. "What did you find out?"

Chakotay looked up, his face a mask of pain and related for the Medic what he'd read. "She did this for us. Why didn't she just talk to us or tell us?"

The Doctor shook his head sadly. "I don't have those answers for you, Commander, and they'll have to come later. For the moment, her medical treatment has to come first."

Chakotay snapped out of his deep thoughts. "How is… Will she be all right?" His eyes pleaded with the medic.

The Doctor looked down at his patient. "She's… The infection is widespread and I have her on high doses of antibiotic. These deeper cuts weren't healing and because of how long they've gone untreated, they will take longer to heal now. The infection is also hindering that healing process. I don't believe she's been eating well either and that hasn't helped matters. The bites are also badly infected, even the ones she managed to try and clean." He took a moment and met Chakotay's eyes. "There were also some internal injuries which went untreated but I took care of those easily enough."

Chakotay nodded his understanding. "How did she stand it? Let him…" Chakotay looked to the Doctor, knowing no answers would come.

The medic shook his head. "I believe she fought him in some way. The whip marks on her back… I'd say she was… I believe her hands were tied above her head for those…the angle and the marks on her wrists and ankles." Chakotay groaned. "The ones on her chest and stomach, her legs. I believe they were inflicted from above and… There are several cuts on her arms which I believe are defensive injuries where she probably brought her arms up to try and protect herself." Chakotay turned away, feeling his tears come again and heard the Doctor continue.

"Commander, she has a hell of a fight on her hands. These injuries can heal in time but the infection is well established. Her body is racked with it. Commander, please." Chakotay turned and looked at the Doctor. "At the moment, she's deeply unconscious and I can't say how long… I have no idea how she kept going as long as she did. Without the painkillers she took… I only noticed them missing this morning and then I went offline again."

Chakotay just nodded and sank into a nearby chair. "Can I sit with her a while?"

The Doctor nodded. "There won't be any change for a few days at least if there's going to be any at all. Commander, I have to be honest with you. I can only hope that we caught this in time. If we did, it will take quite some time before we can clear this. Even if she's back on her feet at some stage, she'll still require extensive treatment with the antibiotics for some time afterwards."

Chakotay nodded and looked at the Doctor. "Then we hope and pray." The two men looked at the woman lying before them, Chakotay's prayers already silently being spoken.

Chakotay sat with Kathryn on and off over the next several days as she fought. He'd shared what he knew with Tuvok and B'Elanna, Tom already privy to everything from the medical files. They all agreed this would go no further but Chakotay knew they had to know what had happened. B'Elanna for her part tried her best to console her old friend but his guilt was not to be taken from him.

"She believed I hated her, B'El, and I don't blame her. It must have come across like that. She even thought the crew felt that way."

B'Elanna gripped his arm tightly. "Chakotay, you have to stop this. You were hurting and I know you could've handled it better but she'll understand. The crew don't hate her, never could. They were just embarrassed and didn't know how to act around her."

Chakotay threw his head back. "I was so hurt and if I'm honest, my pride was involved and I lashed out. How could I do that to her? Even if she had wanted… It was her choice and I had no right. Oh Spirits, when I think of the things I said to her and what's hardest is that she said she understood and didn't blame me. How can she be like that? How can she be so damned understanding? She deserves so much better than I could ever be to her." He let his tears fall and didn't care that B'Elanna saw them.

"Chakotay, you can be there for her now when she comes around."

Chakotay turned on her quickly. "Don't you mean 'if'?"

The Klingon shook her head. "I mean 'when'. I believe strongly that she will and then you can be there for her. We can all be there for her. We'll get her through this."

Chakotay looked sadly at her. "I just hope you're right." They both fell into silence watching Kathryn, still and pale, lying before them and prayed for a miracle.

Kathryn regained consciousness early the following evening and the Doctor called Chakotay the minute he noticed the first signs of it. He was there just as she opened her eyes. He saw her confusion and then her memories of everything click into place. She looked towards him and the Doctor a moment then turned away.

The Doctor moved to her. "Captain, you have no need to be embarrassed about this. Let's just deal with this as it is." She slowly turned to look at him. "Captain, there are no recriminations here. We just deal with the facts for the moment." He saw her nod slowly. "I have to ask you why you didn't come to me earlier, why you didn't come to me immediately for that matter."

They saw tears well up in her eyes. "I didn't want to see… I couldn't face your disapproval. I thought I could manage. I didn't want anyone to find out." The tears slipped out of the corners of her eyes and she choked back a sob.

The medic patted her arm. "Oh Captain, am I that bad?"

She looked the hologram in the eyes and saw sorrow there. "No, you're not. I'm sorry. I just couldn't face it. I'm sorry."

The Doctor just took her hand and smiled down at her. "My dear Captain, there is no disapproval here. Now, I've healed all your injuries and you've been here four days. It took a while but they are fully healed now." He saw her nod her understanding. "The infection from those injuries, however, will take a little longer. You can probably return to your quarters tomorrow but you will still require a vigorous regime of antibiotics for at least another week before we can be sure it's cleared completely. I can do that on an out-patient basis. I don't, however, want you back on duty for at least another two weeks and I won't give on this." She nodded slowly, not fighting him and it worried him a bit. "Right then, I'll leave you for a moment but not too long. You need plenty of rest." He saw her look past him to Chakotay and stepped away.

Kathryn looked away as Chakotay approached her. "Chakotay, please, I know how you feel and this only makes it worse."

Chakotay took her hand and she didn't fight it. "No, Kathryn, you've no idea how I feel. Kathryn, listen, you have to know that we… Kathryn, we know what happened, what really happened."

Her eyes flew to his face. "What do…what…?"

Chakotay pulled a chair over and sat, never letting go of her hand. "I read your logs." He saw the shock and horror on her face and she quickly pulled her hand back and it flew to her face. "Kathryn, the Doctor needed to know. He ordered me to. Spirits, Kathryn, why didn't you just come to me first, even Tuvok. We'd have found another way. Kathryn, why didn't you…?"

She stared at him, tears flowing freely now. "I had no choice and you had no right reading…" She was too choked up to continue.

Chakotay shook his head. "The Doctor had to know how long the injuries had been there and what treatment you'd used. Kathryn, you should have told us. We had a right to know." He stared at her, not knowing what else to say.

"It was my problem, my responsibility."

Chakotay stood, angry now. "We're all a team, Kathryn. When will you ever learn that? Why do you always have to take it all on yourself? Me even, what I said to you and you took it, didn't even try and defend yourself. You just let me speak to you like that."

Kathryn looked up at him. "You were right."

He ran his hands over his face. "Spirits, Kathryn, I was wrong and you know it. I was hurt and my bloody stupid pride… I took it out on you. I tried using hate to hide the pain I felt and all the time I was just adding to yours and then on the holodeck… I was drunk and hurting and what I said… That's no excuse though." He looked at her and she saw the pain on his face.

"It doesn't matter." She closed her eyes but opened then again when he spoke.

"Oh, it matters all right. Kathryn, I'll apologise to you profoundly for what I said but I won't accept your forgiveness because I don't deserve that. You'll get through this and I'll help you all I can but you have to know that this crew don't hate you. I know what I said to you before but I was wrong. You read embarrassment for disapproval or whatever it was you wanted to see. They support and respect you more than you'll ever know. I expect nothing from you but you have to accept that they have nothing to do with what I did. They didn't understand what was going on and didn't know how to deal with it. They still don't know and won't find out but it doesn't change the way they feel. Can you accept that?" He saw her nod her head but couldn't read her expression. "As I say, I won't and can't accept your forgiveness for all this but can you at least accept how sorry I am?"

She looked to him, her tears blurring her vision and nodded. "It's all right, I understand. I accept it. I know how you felt and…"

The Doctor came in and interrupted anything else she might have said. "Commander, I'll have to ask you to leave now. My patient needs to rest."

Chakotay nodded. "Kathryn, again I'm sorry, so sorry. I'll let you rest." He turned quickly and walked out.

Kathryn was finally allowed to return to her quarters the next day. The thought that ship's life was going on as usual just outside her door comforted her and troubled her all at the same time. She stayed closeted behind her doors, not able to face her crew. When B'Elanna called by that evening, Kathryn was embarrassed and tried to hide her face. She knew now that Tom and B'Elanna knew her secret but that it was safe with them.

"Kathryn Janeway, this is ridiculous. What are you so ashamed about?"

Kathryn finally looked at the younger woman. "How can you even ask that? They all know what I did."

B'Elanna sat on the sofa. "They should know why. They have that right."

Kathryn cut her off quickly. "No. They think bad enough of me."

B'Elanna shook her head in disbelief. "They think nothing bad of you. Kathryn, why do you do this to yourself? Why are you always taking the blame and seeing things that aren't there? They just don't know how to handle this so they try and avoid it, act as if nothing has happened."

Kathryn sat also. "And what about Chakotay? I know how he feels."

B'Elanna leaned forward. "So do I and it's not what you think. There's guilt and remorse there. He can't forgive himself and can't face you."

Kathryn looked down at her hands. "I don't blame him. I'm dirty. I'm what he said."

B'Elanna's Klingon temper was barely controlled. "Why don't you just get yourself a little bell, Kathryn. You could walk the halls calling out 'unclean unclean'." She glared at her captain and saw a faint smile tug at her lips but it was filled with a deep sadness.

"It's how I feel, B'Elanna. I can't change that."

B'Elanna felt her own tears coming. "Well, it's not how it is and the sooner you learn and accept that the better. Give him some time and yourself also. You can get past this."

Kathryn just sighed deeply and nodded. "Maybe. I hope…" There was nothing more to be said.


B'Elanna called to see Chakotay two days later. She'd just spoken with Seven and was in a foul temper. She hammered on his door and pushed her way in as soon as he opened it.

"Deny it or tell me you'll change your mind or something." She glared at her old friend and saw from his face that what she'd heard was true. "Seven told me." She sat quickly, knowing her legs wouldn't hold her up. "Chakotay, tell me you're not leaving the ship. Tell me Seven was dreaming when you asked her to find this planet. Please say it's not true." She saw from his eyes that her facts were correct and she watched as he sat beside her.

"B'Elanna, please understand. I can't stay here after everything that's happened."

B'Elanna clenched her fists. "You blame her for all this. You still can't get past…"

He grabbed her quickly. "No. No. Spirits, B'El, no. I don't blame her. It's me. It's what I did and said and how I acted. I can't face that or her. I can't get past what I did and said. She deserves so much better."

B'Elanna shook his hand off her arm and stood. "So you just run away and hide for the rest of your life instead of mending this and being there for her." She saw the sadness on his face.

"I'm no use to her now. She could never forgive what I said and did. She deserves someone who supports her and who's there for her, not someone like me who can even think what I thought and then to speak to her the way I did… B'Elanna, it was all unforgivable and she'd be better off without me here reminding her."

B'Elanna paced in front of him. "Seven said you've already been in touch with this planet we're coming to, that you've already spoken with the Government there and arranged to stay."

He nodded slowly. "They're a developing world. They need someone with experience of… I can start fresh there and let Kathryn do the same."

She just stared hard at him. "You've really made up your mind on all this?" He nodded. "Then I guess there's nothing more to say." Without waiting for anything further from him, she stormed out.


B'Elanna went straight to her captain's quarters, ignoring the shocked look she received when she again pushed her way in.

"Tell me one thing. Do you forgive him?" She saw the puzzled look that met her. "Chakotay, what he said to you, all of it. Do you forgive him?" She saw tears fill the blues eyes.

"There's nothing to forgive. I know how he feels though, still feels." B'Elanna shook her head. "He's right. I'm not fit for this. No wonder he doesn't want to be near me."

The Klingon rolled her eyes. "One of you is as bad as the other. I thought at least you were getting past this but I see I'm wrong. He's staying away because he's blaming himself and you're… Ahhhh. I can't believe grown ups can behave so… He's blaming himself, you're blaming yourself and now he's gone one further." She saw Kathryn look up quickly. "That's right. He's decided to leave the ship. Next planet we come to, he's gone. He's already been in contact with them. Seems they're only too glad to have people with experience like his." Kathryn sat quickly. "Please Kathryn, go and see him. Try and sort this. This ship needs you both and so does this crew."

Kathryn just nodded and stood. "Yes, I'll go." B'Elanna smiled to herself and left.


Chakotay opened his door to the hail and expected to see B'Elanna back to give him more of the same. When he saw Kathryn standing there, his face dropped. She didn't wait for an invitation and just walked in.

"B'Elanna tells me you're leaving the ship." She turned slowly and looked into his face.

He barely met her eyes. "B'Elanna has a big mouth."

"Just when were you planning on telling me?" He shrugged, not having an answer. Kathryn looked down at the floor. "I see. Thank you, Commander. You've told me all I need to know." She was gone before he raised his head.


Chakotay sat on the side of his bed for the rest of the evening, trying to sort his thoughts. He knew he was making the right choice but the thought of never seeing Kathryn again ate away at him. Telling himself he'd only cause her pain for the rest of their lives kept him to his decision. Eventually tiredness won out and he fell back on the bed and drifted off into a restless sleep.

Kathryn was still awake and at the final stages of her plan. Her mind had sorted itself quickly once she'd returned to her quarters. Using commands only she knew, she'd contacted the planet next on their route and spoken with a Government Official. She explained quickly that there was a change of plan, that Commander Chakotay would not be arriving with them but that she would take his place. She informed them of the knowledge she held, convincing them of her usefulness to them and they readily accepted her. They agreed with the stipulations she laid down and within an hour, Kathryn had made her way to the shuttle bay and had loaded her few possessions onto a shuttle. Leaving some messages for Chakotay and Tuvok and instructions regarding the changeover of command, she gave one last look around her and then climbed into the shuttle. Using override codes which would fool the sensors, she left the ship which had been her home and crept off quietly into the darkness.

PART FOUR.

When Chakotay arrived on duty the next morning, he found Tuvok working his console with an urgency he'd never witnessed before. The Vulcan looked up quickly and requested a private moment with the Commander. When the doors to Chakotay's office closed behind them, he got straight to the point.

"Sir, I have to report that Captain Janeway left the ship sometime during the night. She masked all sensor readings with codes available only to her. One of the shuttles is missing and I am unable to pick up any trail although it would be logical to assume that she was headed for the planet next on our route, namely Tarak."

Chakotay fell into his chair. "I don't believe this. Kathryn, what are you doing?" Suddenly he jumped up. "Tuvok, check everything again and again but I think you'll find Tarak WAS her destination." He was out the door and headed to Kathryn's quarters before Tuvok even registered his absence.

Chakotay entered Kathryn's quarters and looked around him. Nothing seemed to be missing, most of her personal belongings still on display. He walked into her bedroom and checked her closet and saw now that some clothes were gone and when he checked the bathroom, saw further evidence of her having left. His fist slammed against the wall.

"Damn you, Kathryn." He walked out into the main room again and now saw some padds lying on her desk. He picked them up and activated them, seeing that the top one was addressed to him, noting that the others were addressed to Tuvok and her family. He sat and read the words which scrolled across the padd, almost hearing her voice reading them to him.

"My dearest Chakotay, I've no right to call you that but this is probably the only chance I'll ever get to say it and so I'm taking it. I'll never get to say it to your face so forgive me.

I'm sorry for stealing your idea but this ship needs you far more than it does me so believe me, this is the better way. I couldn't ever be responsible for you leaving and so it's far wiser that I go. I accept why you wanted to leave, how seeing me all the time would be too much. I disgust myself even when I look in the mirror. I know I'm forcing you to remain here and I believe you will, believe that you won't let them down the way I did. It'll be easier for you without me around. I know you and this crew will be better off without me. I can't make decisions anymore and I've proved that. I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to save you all the only way I could see to but I guess I expected too much. I know you can get this crew home where I failed. They wouldn't even be in this Quadrant if I hadn't brought them here.

I've arranged for all the command codes to pass to you and I've handed over full command. I hope I've thought of everything. I hope also in time you can forgive me for what I've put you through and I don't just mean this last two weeks. For too long now I've kept you away when all I wanted was to fall into your arms and tell you how very much I love you. And I do, Chakotay. I love you with everything that I am, although lately that's not very much. You could never forgive me for what I did and I accept that. You said you could never expect my forgiveness but I want you to know that there's none to give. I understand why you spoke as you did and I know the pain I caused you. I wish with all my heart it could have been different.

Please respect my wishes on this and let me go. I know you'll eventually discover where I've gone and so I'll tell you that I arranged terms with the Government there that they'll keep my location a secret in return for the help I can give them. I don't want to be found and I ask you and this crew to allow me that and respect my wishes. You'll all see in time that I'm right in this, probably the only right decision I've ever made on this ship. Not seeing your face every day will pain me greatly but that's what I deserve for my betrayal of you and this crew.

Take care of them for me and take care of yourself. You deserve so much better in this life. I love you, Chakotay. This is the only chance I have to say this and I'm sorry for all the pain and hurt I've caused you. I hope in time you'll forgive me and also forget me and let go of that pain. Learn to put it behind you and go on with your life. Knowing you has made my life and I thank God for that.

I wish you all you could wish for yourself. Tell the others I love them and I'll miss them but they have to understand that this is for the best.

Take care, Chakotay and know that I love you. I don't deserve to say that but I hope you understand.

Kathryn."

Chakotay sat and cried for a long time. Finally he got up and made his way back to the bridge. He called a meeting of the senior staff and informed them of the situation. He kept Kathryn's letter to himself but let them know everything else, all that they needed to know.

B'Elanna burst in. "How did she get away like that? How…"

Tuvok as usual had the answer. "If anyone can fool sensors, it is Captain Janeway. I believe however, she left sometime just after midnight although it is impossible to be completely accurate."

The Doctor interrupted now. "Commander, I hate to have to add to your worries but I have to inform you that without the treatments, the antibiotic course the captain was on, the infection will surface again. She was due a treatment this morning which she has already missed and… She has to have this treatment. Without it…" His voice trailed off, his meaning loud and clear.

Chakotay stood up. "Then we find her. It's obvious where she's gone so we go after her." He saw them all nod in agreement.

Tuvok spoke up. "Can we convince the authorities on Tarak to reveal her whereabouts?"

Chakotay rubbed his face. "They'd better tell us. We'll just explain what the Doctor has just told us. How long before we get there?"

Tuvok already had the answer. "We will be in orbit by tomorrow evening. The captain has at least a twelve hour head start on us. That particular shuttle can reach warp eight. She knew what she was doing."

The Doctor broke in again. "Commander, that will mean she'll have missed two to three treatments. That's more than enough for this to…"

Chakotay held up his hand. "We understand that, Doctor. We'll find her." He prayed he would be proved right.


Voyager entered orbit of Tarak late the following evening and Chakotay wasted no time in beaming down and speaking with the necessary authorities. When he returned to the ship two hours later, he immediately called a meeting.

"They refuse to reveal the location of the captain. They returned the shuttle and her comm badge which she'd requested they do. We can't scan for her either, something in the atmosphere." He raked his hands through his hair. "They said we can speak with another Minister in the morning who has more authority over these matters." He sat heavily and saw the faces of the people around him. They were all as worried as he was.

Next morning, Chakotay and Tuvok arrived at the Government Offices only to be told once more that Kathryn had made a deal with them whereby they'd promised to keep her location confidential in return for her help in building their society. The Minister they spoke with explained as best he could.

"Please understand that we gave our word to your captain. We are a small society and wish no conflict with you but surely you accept the concept of keeping your word. We promised her a place within our society in return for her knowledge and she accepted this. She approached us much as you did, Commander. If this were you we were speaking of, would you really wish us to treat you any differently." Chakotay couldn't argue the point and the Minister knew it.

Over the next three days, Chakotay felt as if he was banging his head off a wall. The Government of Tarak refused to budge on their agreement with Kathryn and repeatedly turned down all requests for information, despite being appraised of the condition of Kathryn's health. Chakotay and the crew were constantly denied access to the surface to even try and locate their missing captain. As the situation dragged on, one of the Officials eventually called on Kathryn herself. He found her in the small apartment she'd been given and her appearance shocked him.

"Captain…"

Kathryn held up her hand. "Please, I asked that you not call me that. I'm not that anymore."

The man sadly nodded his head. "My dear, you don't look at all well. Couldn't our healer do anything for you?"

Kathryn invited him in and shook her head. "He's afraid his medicines will only cause more harm with my different body chemistry. He gave me some herbs but they don't work."

The Official helped her sit when he saw how she almost stumbled. "I believe you would be better contacting your people. They can help and they care so much. They are with us constantly, pleading for information as to your whereabouts. They're just so worried about you as am I."

Kathryn shook her head. "No, Quenn, you promised. We made a deal."

He sat beside her and took her hand kindly. "What will it serve if you're… Kathryn, this could kill you and you know that. Why not at least let your own medic see you? What is it they did to you that's so bad?" He saw her tears.

"It's what I did to them. Please, you promised me."

He nodded sadly. "I know we did. Kathryn, I urge you to please think again. You're worse today than you were yesterday. This is getting very serious."

Kathryn shook her head again. "I'll be fine. I just need to rest and… Please."

He stood slowly. "All right, my dear. For the moment, we'll do this your way but do try and rest. I'll call by tomorrow and see you." Kathryn nodded and smiled her gratitude.

When Quenn returned to the Government buildings, he saw that Chakotay was waiting once more to see him and his Superior. He nodded to the worried man before him and entered the room. His Superior looked up.

"Well, did you speak with her?"

Quenn nodded. "I don't like this. She's ill and I'm worried. I gave her my word though that I'd keep her location private. I might well change my mind though if I see no improvement in her condition."

The other alien nodded. "We could badly use the knowledge she has but I agree that she comes first. Like you, Quenn, I have come to admire and respect her in the short time we've known her. Call again tomorrow and see her. If there's no improvement… For now I'd better see the Commander and tell him the same as I tell him every day." The older man shook his head sadly.

When Quenn called on Kathryn early the next morning, he made his decision quickly. He didn't speak of their agreement and kept his conversation short. He was worried by her condition and noticed that she seemed to have trouble focusing on him. He saw that her breathing was bad and there was an almost glazed look in her eyes. He wrapped a blanket around her as she shivered and made her as comfortable as he could then made his way back to the palace. He quickly reported to Marak, his Superior, and they called Chakotay in, knowing that the man was as always waiting outside to plead with them. Chakotay sat before them, expecting the same words as before.

"Commander, my colleague here has been to see your captain this morning and what he saw… Well, as much as we don't like this, we have reason to go back on our word to her. He's greatly worried about her. She has not appeared well for some time and our healer is unable to help. She was not good yesterday but this morning appears worse again. She's vague and… I believe the time has come for us to go against her wishes. Perhaps you should contact your ship and your healer…" Chakotay needed no further permission. He jumped up and called the ship, ordering a team and the Doctor to the surface. Within ten minutes, they were on their way.

When they arrived at the small apartment, Quenn called out to Kathryn but there was no answer. They entered the small sitting room where he'd left her and saw that Kathryn appeared asleep on the sofa. Chakotay was at her side in seconds calling to her but she didn't wake. He shook her shoulder and she moved slightly, murmuring something he couldn't make out. He pressed a hand to her forehead and the heat he felt there shocked him. He heard her laboured breathing and called quickly to the Doctor and let him take over then watched anxiously as the medic scanned her.

"She's running an extremely high fever again and the infection is worse than before. We have to get her back to the ship immediately." The Doctor stood and arranged for the transport needed. Chakotay managed to thank the two aliens before they left, promising to let them know what was happening.

Marak stepped forward. "Commander, I'm sorry. We were only doing what she asked." Chakotay nodded his understanding just as they disappeared.

An hour later, he sat in the Doctor's small office and waited for the medic to come to him. Eventually he looked up and saw him approach.

"Commander, we're back to square one with this infection. I'm sorry I don't have better news for you. It's probably worse than before, in fact." Chakotay looked up sharply. "I have to tell you this infection has now spread to her lungs and heart, hence her trouble breathing. I've given her as much medication as her system can stand but I just don't know. Time will tell now. We'll just have to wait and see. You have to understand that she was at a critical stage of her treatment when she left and this only… She's very weak and there's little fight in her. All we can do now is hope and pray."

Chakotay just dropped his head into his hands. "Thanks, Doc. I know you're doing everything you can." He felt the Doctor pat his shoulder. He then stood and walked to where Kathryn lay and sat beside her. When the Doctor checked later, he was still there.


Over the next three days, Kathryn was in and out of consciousness but was never lucid. Chakotay tried to soothe her during her delirium as she trashed and murmured words he seldom made out. Sometimes he had to hold her down on the bed, other times it was just her hands twitching. Her head rocked back and forth as her mind took her places he could only imagine at. Throughout it all, Chakotay never left her side, pressing cool clothes to her face and body, desperately trying to bring her temperature down as the infection continued to rage through her. He followed the Doctor's instructions in giving her oxygen when her breathing became too laboured and constantly talked to her, hoping she could hear him somewhere. Gradually, they began to win the battle and her temperature dropped and her breathing eased. As her condition improved, Kathryn remained unconscious, more settled now and Chakotay continued to sit with her. He left her side occasionally to check on the status of the ship and to meet with Marak and Quenn. He thanked the two men and informed them that their captain would recover and saw the news greeted warmly.

Kathryn finally regained consciousness the following morning and if Chakotay and the Doctor expected her to be happy to be back, they were sadly mistaken. She was silent and stared at the ceiling, a look of deep sadness on her face. Chakotay explained how she'd gotten to sickbay and related the events of the past days to her but she barely acknowledged his presence. Chakotay talked endlessly, telling her how much the crew needed her and respected her but she wouldn't answer him.

"Kathryn, you have to get past this. Whatever problems are between us have nothing to do with this crew and your position as their captain. You promised them."

Suddenly Kathryn turned to him. "I promised them a lot. I promised to behave like a captain for a start, not some tramp or slut."

Chakotay grabbing her and shaking her stopped her words. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that again. Oh Spirits, I'm sorry." He let her go and stood back, mortified at what he'd just done to her in her weakened state.

Kathryn wasn't listening. "It's what they all think, what you think. I let you all down. Why else were you leaving? You wanted to get as far away from me as possible."

Chakotay reached out to grab her again but caught himself. "Spirits, Kathryn, you can be so… I was leaving because I couldn't face the pain I'd caused you. I feel so guilty for everything I said and hate myself for it. Seeing you and knowing the hurt I caused you tears me up inside. I was leaving because I love you, not because I hate you. Why can't you understand that? You said you loved me in your letter and yet you left. What happened to 'my dearest Chakotay'?" He couldn't take any more and stormed out, leaving Kathryn crying alone on the bed.

When he returned later, he apologised and Kathryn just nodded her head. He tried speaking with her again but saw that nothing he could say would get through to her, that she'd convinced herself deeply with what she believed and he felt helpless. He looked towards the Doctor who'd just come over and his eyes pleaded with the hologram who he knew had heard everything.

Kathryn suddenly looked up at them, tears pouring from her eyes. "Why can't you let me leave, let me die even?"

The Doctor stepped up and scanned her. "Because, Captain, I'm a Doctor and I'm meant to heal my patients, not let them die." He snapped his tricorder closed and strode away.

Her breathing somewhat laboured, Kathryn still managed to speak. "I'm not Captain. Don't call me that anymore."

The Doctor turned quickly and appeared angry. Even Chakotay seemed shocked. "You are captain of this ship whether you chose to run from that or not. Now CAPTAIN, I am here to heal you and that is my function even if you can't be grateful for that. I've lost too many battles in this sickbay and although I'm just a program to most of you, I do actually feel that loss. When I manage to bring one of you back, that helps alleviate some of that loss. Those people didn't want to die, and in their memory, the least you could do is fight to keep what they no longer have. I thought you of all people would understand that." He suddenly realized what he was saying. "I'm sorry, excuse me. I apologise for the outburst but what I said still stands." He turned and left them staring after him.

After the shock had worn off, Chakotay turned to Kathryn and saw that she'd turned her head away from him. "He's right, you know. I never expected to hear him speak that way, especially to you but he is right and you know it."

She turned to him now. "I'm no good for you all. I can't be there for them or you. Just let me go. You can't force me to stay." She turned away again and he watched her pull herself into a protective ball, her sobs filling the silence of the sickbay. He stood quietly for several minutes, watching and listening before he turned and walked out, not able to take it anymore.


Desperately needing the break from sickbay, Chakotay made his way to the holodeck and Sandrines and sat quietly sipping a drink. B'Elanna joined him and reached for his hand. "How is she?"

Chakotay shrugged. "I don't know. The Doc's sure now that she'll make a full recovery if she follows his orders. She just doesn't seem to care. I just wish I knew this was fixable. She's still convinced I hate her and that the crew feel the same. She's depressed one minute and mad the next that we went after her or that the Doctor is healing her. I just can't get through to her or make her believe."

B'Elanna stared at him. "Chakotay, she'll get through this. Let her rant and rave if that's what she wants or wallow in it if that's the way she needs to be. At least this way she's alive to do that."

Chakotay nodded. "I know that. Spirits, B'Elanna, I don't know what to do. I mean… Oh, I don't know what I mean. I just can't get through to her. She's past caring. She's given up."

B'Elanna looked around her at the crewmembers sitting in Sandrines, some of them watching her with their First Officer.

Suddenly B'Elanna stood up, knowing what to do. "Listen up, you lot. We have a problem and I need you all to help with this."

Chakotay looked up quickly and made a grab for her. "B'Elanna, what the hell are you…?"

She jumped back from him. "Shut up, Chakotay. We do this my way now. You can throw me in the brig later." She turned to the crew present. "How many of you are here?" She did a quick scan of the room. "Most I see, only those on the late shift missing?" Several heads nodded. "Right this is the story and you all have a right to know." She side stepped Chakotay when he made another grab for her and jumped up on the bar so they all had to look up at her.

"Listen carefully now. You all know some of this. I'm here to give you the rest of the story and you can pass it on to the others. I'm breaking a big confidence here so I'll probably be in the brig for the rest of our journey." There were a few quiet laughs but no one spoke.

Chakotay stood, his anger showing. "B'Elanna, don't do this. She wouldn't want this."

The Klingon showed her temper and Chakotay actually stood back a little. "I don't care right now what she wants. This is what she needs. My way now, Chakotay, so shut up and sit down." The crew present were amazed to see their First Officer actually shrink under the engineer's glare and fall into his chair before she turned back to them.

"You know the captain spent the night on Calistra with that bastard Garan. What you don't know is why. Well, I'll tell you now. It was to save our lives. He blackmailed her, told her we wouldn't get our supplies or off his world until she gave Chakotay and some of you to fight in their sick games, something called Death Fights or even be used for hunting. If she didn't agree and she broke the trade agreement, we'd all go to prison. The only alternative he gave her was to spend the night with him." She heard the gasps and cries all around her and looked over to see Chakotay glaring at her.

"I think you all had a right to know that, regardless of what our First Officer or any of the other senior staff think." They all shouted in agreement.

"Right, the other thing you don't know is that bastard beat and tortured her to feed his sick and perverted fantasies and she nearly died as a result of it. She kept it to herself, hid the injuries and that's why she collapsed here that night. Her injuries were badly infected and she nearly died. None of us knew this until after but that's no excuse for the treatment she got from us, the coldness or embarrassment or whatever it was. Where the bloody hell were we when she needed us most?" She once more saw Chakotay as he sat down again and dropped his head in his hands and saw most of the crew drop their heads in shame along with him.

"What you all need to know now is that she left this ship, believing she'd let us all down and wasn't good enough to be our captain, believed she'd failed us all. We got her back but the infection had returned worse than ever because she missed her treatments. She came very close to dying again but she's now lying in sickbay, recovering I'm happy to say, but she still believes the same and it's up to us to change her mind on that." More shouts of agreement filled the holodeck.

B'Elanna thought quickly. "I want to arrange to get as many of you as possible here within the next hour. I'll clear it with Tuvok now. We can run on a skeleton crew for a while. I want you all to get a flower or a gift or something and I'm going to get her here and you can all tell her for yourself. She has to be made realize what she means to us." Clapping and shouting followed and B'Elanna suddenly saw heads huddled together in groups as plans were made. When she looked at Chakotay this time, she saw tears in his eyes.

Voyager's crew went into action almost as if they were at red alert and most of them saw this as every bit as important. B'Elanna spoke with Tuvok who readily agreed, much to her surprise and so with ten minutes to spare, almost every crewmember was back in the holodeck, clutching a rose or small gift. Chakotay sat unmoving at his table, watching amazed at what was unfolding before him. He frowned slightly when he saw that each of them also held a yellow ribbon and looked to B'Elanna for the answer.

"It was their own idea, something they heard from Tom. Apparently it's an old Earth custom when loved ones were away at war or whatever, to tie a yellow ribbon around a tree in the garden until they returned and when they were back safely, it was taken down and given to them." B'Elanna saw tears in her Commander's eyes which he tried to hide and smiled softly at him. "What's that?" She pointed to the small velvet box he held.

He looked down at it and stroked it. "Just my gift." He looked up at her, almost embarrassed and then opened the box to show her. Inside lay a delicate gold ring, two bands intertwined and twisting around each other. "It's a friendship ring." He looked up, his eyes seeking approval.

B'Elanna had tears in her eyes now and she reached out and touched the gold band. "Chakotay, it's beautiful. It's…" She nodded and bit her lip, her eyes saying the rest for her. She cleared her throat and blinked rapidly. "I'll just go get our guest of honour. I've spoken with the Doctor and he's all for it." She smiled at him again and left.

B'Elanna entered sickbay and nodded to the Doctor. She saw that he too was holding a yellow ribbon in his hand and smiled at him and held up her own then made for Kathryn.

"Come on, Kathryn. You have to come with me." She strode over to the bed and grabbed her captain's arms, pulling her up into a sitting position as the Doctor made his way over holding a robe.

Kathryn had a look of fright on her face. "What? B'Elanna, what are you doing? Please leave me alone. Let me be." She looked from one to the other and was almost in tears. She heard the doors open and saw Chakotay enter. "What is this? Please just go."

B'Elanna shook her head. "Can't do that, Captain. Here, take this." She handed over the ribbon and took the robe from the Doctor as he placed his ribbon beside B'Elanna's. Kathryn stared at the pieces of fabric in her hand and shook her head, not understanding. "Captain, it's a yellow ribbon for you." Kathryn just sat staring at them all and let B'Elanna put the robe on for her, not even realizing what was happening.

When Chakotay approached and went to pick her up, she came back to herself and fought him but he was having none of it. "No, Kathryn. You're not fighting this. We've had enough and this is the result. I'm not letting you go. We're not letting you go." He picked her up with no effort and carried the struggling woman out the door as the Doctor's voice followed them.

"It was a mutiny, Captain. There was nothing I could do."


Chakotay entered the holodeck still carrying a weakly struggling Kathryn and ignored her tears. He could see that she was terrified when she turned her head and saw all the crew assembled. He leaned down and placed her in a chair and held her in place. B'Elanna watched Kathryn try and fight the hands pressing her down in the chair and came over, speaking so everyone could hear her.

"Captain, I'm sorry for the way we've done this. I'm sorry that we needed to do this." She looked around her and received nods of approval. "We all know the full story, know everything that's happened to you and why." Kathryn cried out and her hands flew to her face. She weakly tried to stand but Chakotay kept her in place, despite the hurt he saw in her eyes. B'Elanna moved a little closer and pointed to the ribbons Kathryn still held and related for her the history behind them. When she finished speaking, she saw that her captain had tears streaming down her face.

"Captain, this crew wants you to know that they love you, need you and respect you. What you did for us, we can't ever repay you. We acted badly but it wasn't out of anything other than not knowing how to deal with it. Most of us, I believe, were just embarrassed. We stood back because we believed that is what you'd prefer and to be honest, we see you do the same and that's not criticism. The Doctor joked earlier about a mutiny but in a way this is one. We want to end that, the standing back so much. Oh, don't get me wrong. We need a certain amount of protocol and we need the rules and regulations we live by, but out here we're a team but more importantly, we're a family. Captain, family are there for each other. Even a home has some rules but the people are always there for each other. You have to let us in more, let us be there for you the way you are for us. We love you and want you to know that but you have to let us show you that from time to time. I know you feel the same for us but please don't think that we'd ever think any less of you if you show that now and again." B'Elanna looked and saw everyone nodding agreement and saw Kathryn witness it also.

"Captain, you see it as YOUR job to get us home. I have to tell you you're wrong in that. It's OUR job to get home. Can you understand that?" Kathryn was sobbing openly now but barely managed to nod. B'Elanna looked to the crew and nodded to them. Slowly one by one, they approached and laid their ribbon and gift or rose on their captain's lap, each of them bending down to kiss her cheek or hug her at the same time. They all spoke some words to her, words of love, encouragement, whatever had come to them but always from the heart. When the last crewmember had passed, B'Elanna stepped forward again, needing to step over the pile of flowers and gifts which lay scattered around the feet of Voyager's captain.

"That's all of us. The ones who went first relieved the ones who were on duty so every single crewmember on board has spoken his or her piece and given you their gift. You'll see the words spoken by each person written on a tag attached to their gift or flower so you can remember them for all time. Don't worry about them. We have plans to press the flowers, place the messages in an album and have the lot sent to your quarters for you." She looked around her. "Tuvok and Tom had to get back to the bridge and the rest of us also have jobs to do so we'll leave you in peace for the moment." She looked up at Chakotay and smiled as the crew filed out behind her then looked back at Kathryn. She leaned over and whispered softly to her.

"Don't you ever forget this, Kathryn Janeway. I'm sorry if I upset you by telling them." She smiled at Kathryn's shocked expression. "Yeah, it was me. Big mouth Torres. You can throw me in the brig later." Her face grew serious again and she grasped her captain's hand. "Kathryn, I'm serious. Please don't forget what happened here today. Heed it well and take it to heart. If you ever think of leaving us again, I'll phaser you." She smiled softly and leaned down when Kathryn's arms came up to her. The two women embraced tightly.

When the holodeck had cleared, Chakotay watched Kathryn stare around her in amazement. He moved to kneel beside her and wiped at her tears.

"Do you understand now, Kathryn?" She nodded tearfully, not trusting herself to speak. "They know it all and it makes no difference to them. They'd all love nothing better than to go back and kill… Well, you know." He smiled softly. "Kathryn, they love and respect you just the same. You have to let them show you that and you have to let us be there for you the same way you're always there for us. Promise me that, Kathryn. Promise me you'll always let us be there for you in the future, that you understand now that you're not alone with all this." He saw her digest everything and nod to him.

"I'm sorry, Chakotay. I guess I never realized just how much… I was so afraid to get too involved, that if I lost one of them, lost you, I couldn't take it."

He nodded and stroked her cheek. "I understand that but you have to see that you already feel that. Those feelings are there already and you just denied them. Don't waste your life that way. Enjoy what you have while you have it because some people never have it at all." She reached out and touched his face. Chakotay looked down and placed the red velvet box in her other hand along with the ribbon one of the crew had given him. "This is my gift to you." He smiled as Kathryn gasped when she opened the box. "It's a friendship ring. I wasn't sure what to give you that would say what I wanted."

Kathryn just leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Chakotay, I love it. It's so beautiful."

He smiled again, knowing he'd made the right choice as he watched her slip it on her finger. "That's our friendship over anything else. Forever connected and interwoven. I never want to lose that, Kathryn. I so very nearly did because I was so stupid."

Kathryn laid a finger against his lips. "No, Chakotay, I was the stupid one. I didn't see what was under my own nose and I let myself believe that if I held back from you all, it wouldn't hurt if anything happened. I didn't understand that I was causing myself a greater hurt. I'm sorry, so sorry."

Chakotay reached a finger up to her lips now. "Kathryn, enough apologies. We go forward now. I know it'll take time to get over what happened to you, to banish those memories but with time and good friends, you'll do just that." She leaned her head against his and nodded, feeling Chakotay stroke the back of her neck.

"Kathryn, did you mean what you said?" She pulled back and looked at him and he smiled at her. "Did you mean that, in your letter to me, that you loved me?" His heart jumped in his chest when she nodded tearfully but she looked down quickly.

"I meant it but I understand that friendship is all that can be between us. It's more than enough and I understand…" She felt her head pulled back up.

"Oh Kathryn, why can't there be more? Surely what's just happened has taught you something." He saw her tears spill over again.

"It did but…" She looked down at her feet.

Chakotay dropped his hands. "I understand and I don't blame you. After the things I said to you…"

Kathryn's eyes flew back to his face. "Oh Chakotay, no. I didn't mean that. I just didn't think you'd ever want… Not after…"

He grabbed her face with both hands. "What did I just say? We go forward. None of it makes a difference to how the crew feel about you and it most certainly doesn't make a difference to how I feel about you. Kathryn, I love you…" He didn't finish, just leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. It took two seconds for the shock to wear off but when it did, Kathryn returned the kiss, falling into his arms, everything sliding from her lap at the same time.

When they broke the kiss, Chakotay stroked her face and studied her. "Kathryn, I hope and pray this is just the start of something that will carry us for the rest of our lives. I know we have a lot of stuff to work through, dealing with what I said and…" He raised a finger to her lips to silence her when she went to object. "Kathryn, it has to be addressed. I hurt you very badly and it can't just be brushed under the carpet so to speak. I need you to acknowledge how much I hurt you and I need to know you can forgive me for that. You can't just tell me it's all right and there's nothing to forgive because there is. When you say that, you're still just blaming yourself for something that wasn't your fault. You need to let go of that and see that you were the victim in all that happened to you and that I was the one at fault for what happened between us. After that I need to let go of my guilt and learn to forgive myself but we have to acknowledge it all."

Kathryn nodded slowly. "Chakotay, I don't know. All right, yes. It did hurt. I'll be totally honest with you and tell you it hurt like hell but only because it came from someone I loved." This time she stopped him from speaking. "I did blame myself and think terrible things about myself and I know I'll learn to let go of that, especially after all this today. I do however, understand why you said the things you did. I understand how hurt you were and yes, I know you'd been drinking that night but that in itself tells me how much pain you were in because you're not a drinker. Some of it hurt because it was the truth. I had shut everything and everyone out and I needed to be told that. What you said in my ready room that day needed to be said. The rest of it was your hurt and your pain and while it hurt me to hear it come from you, I understand the reason behind it. Unfortunately, we always, all of us, tend to hurt those closest to us the most and we take our problems out on the ones we love best. It's one of those things in life. We try and turn love to hate to cover the pain. I learned that a long time ago when I actually tried hating my father and Justin for dying and when I think of what I put my mother and sister through... So, Chakotay, I do forgive you and I hope you can forgive me for what I put you through. What happened with, on the planet, we put that behind us. What happened between us… We should just forgive each other and move on. Can we do that?" Her answer came in the form of his arms going around her as he pulled her to him tightly.

"God, Kathryn, I don't deserve you." She stroked his hair and laughed. "Some people might say we deserve each other, a certain Klingon for a start."

Chakotay pulled back and looked at her. "Can you understand why she did what she did? You're not angry at her, are you?"

Kathryn smiled and nodded. "I know B'Elanna would never do anything without the best will in the world and yes, I do understand why she did it. I didn't actually leave you all much choice the way I was."

Chakotay just leaned in and kissed her again. Suddenly they were interrupted by the Doctor hailing them.

"Doctor to holodeck 2. Commander, would it be asking too much if you were to return my patient now?" They both laughed and pulled apart.

Chakotay slapped his comm badge. "All right, Doctor. I'm finished with her for the moment." He received a playful slap. "We'll be there as soon as she's finished slapping me." He got another one for that. Chakotay stood and pulled Kathryn with him. Picking her up in his arms, he spun her around. "Your carriage awaits, My Lady Kathryn."

The next day, Kathryn returned to the surface to collect her belongings and to thank Quenn and Marak for all their help and to apologize for all the trouble they'd caused them. As a parting gift, Kathryn presented them with a copy of Voyager's data base of manuals relating to construction and related areas. The Doctor passed on some of his knowledge to the Tarak healer who'd tried to help his captain. Most of what was passed on was invaluable to the society which was still learning but still didn't contravene the edicts of the Prime Directive. The two aliens were beyond words as they received the gift and couldn't thank them enough. As Voyager left orbit, Kathryn felt a deep satisfaction knowing they'd helped shape a future for these people. They'd passed on the building blocks and knew that what would be erected by them would benefit generations to come.

That evening Kathryn and Chakotay sat long into the night just talking and healing. Kathryn opened up to Chakotay and told him everything and while it caused her great pain to remember and speak of it all, it helped cleanse her final wound and she immediately felt it start to heal also. Chakotay cleansed his own heart and started to let go of his guilt and as they fell asleep in each other's arms towards morning, a deep peace settled over them. They'd come a long way and there was still some road to travel but they both knew this road lead to another one, one that would carry them to the future, their future together.

THE END.