Disclaimer:
Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Rating:
NC 17
Summary:
Kathryn reaches breaking point and copes with her inner pain, guilt and loneliness by self-injury. When Chakotay discovers her secret, he and the Doctor come together to help her overcome it and get her through.
Note:
This story involves the subject of self-injury and for this reason only I have given it the NC 17 rating. I have tried to ensure that the facts contained within are as accurate as possible and most have come from people who live with this but if any offence is caused, it is not intended and I apologize. There is no shame involved with this subject. Sufferers are as sane as you and I. They just deal with their emotions differently. See also note at end of story.

Out Of Darkness Into Light

by Kat Lady

PART ONE.

Chakotay fell into bed totally exhausted and tried to shut his mind down in order to sleep but the more he tried to switch off, the more active his mind became. Today had been the sixth attack in as many days by a squadron of ships manned by a race they knew nothing of who called themselves the Abadi. They attacked constantly, stating simply that they laid claim to this region of space and the word 'diplomacy' was totally alien to them. The crew had no choice but to brave the attacks, knowing that to go around would take months.

Voyager's First Officer sighed and turned onto his back, hoping they'd finally seen the last of these Abadi now that they were finally past the borders of this area of space. While other species they had encountered denied the claims of the Abadi, it made no difference to Voyager and her crew when their ship was under almost constant attack. Chakotay wondered how Kathryn coped with it all, with the responsibility which sat on her shoulders and the burdens she carried alone despite not having to. He felt alone himself now, his 'fling' with Ensign Carter from Cartography well over, despite its intensity for almost two months. He knew the reasons his relationships never lasted was down to him, that he never put his heart into it. He also knew it was loneliness which drove him to these women's arms and sometimes thought it was hurt he saw on Kathryn's face when she saw him with one of them even though she had made it clear that a relationship between them was impossible. Kathryn's claim that a relationship was impossible had been over a year ago and Chakotay wondered often if she felt differently about it all now but neither of them had ever broached the subject with the other, so things between them had remained unchanged. A good friendship, one he desperately depended on, existed between them but nothing more and Chakotay was always aware that as much as he tried to give Kathryn in the nature of that friendship, she rarely took him up on it, whereas she gave of herself to him constantly, listening when he needed it or simply keeping him company. No matter how much he wanted to be there for her, she never seemed to let her guard down.

He turned onto his side now, forcing his mind to shut off and closed his eyes, using images of green fields and sunshine to lull him to sleep. Within ten minutes, he was running through those fields, his dreams taking him on a restful journey.

Kathryn Janeway's mind was anything but peaceful at that moment as she sat on the floor of her bathroom, the cold tiles offering no comfort. Tears streamed down her face but her crying gave her no release. In her right hand she held a small blade, her left arm lying across her legs with the soft flesh of her inner arm facing her. Kathryn squeezed her eyes tightly shut and forced the tears to stop then blinked several times to clear her vision. She studied her upturned arm as if the limb was alien to her, belonging to someone else. She could barely make out faint scars, healed as well as they could be with the small dermal regenerator which she kept hidden in her bathroom cabinet. She shivered suddenly and gazed around the small room and let her mind drift back to earlier in the day.

She'd almost broken down on the bridge, the closest she'd come to it in fact, all from the pressure of the constant attacks but had managed to hide it well and knew she'd fooled them all, even Chakotay. When Tuvok had shown no signs of having noticed, she knew she'd pulled it off but she also realized how close she'd come to falling apart and it scared the hell out of her.

Feelings of worthlessness and not being good enough, fear of failure and being seen to fail, a terror of letting them all down even, washed over her and her tears started again. She knew these feelings came even when they were passing through calm areas of space and the boredom was driving the crew crazy. Often those times were worse as she had the time to consider every decision she'd ever made and wonder if it had been the right one or good enough. A memory of something her father had once said to her filled her mind, of how 'war was mostly boredom punctuated by sporadic explosions of fear' and since being in the Delta Quadrant, those words had proved themselves to her many times.

Kathryn sighed deeply and wiped at her tears, asking herself how she'd come to such a sorry state of affairs. As her feelings intensified, she gazed down at her arm again and knew she would do it. As if she was watching someone else's hand, she gritted her teeth and saw herself move and the blade press against her arm until the blood flowed. As the red liquid ran down her arm and into the small bowl on her lap, a feeling of intense relief came over her, flowing through her entire body and she dropped her head back, closing her eyes and going with it. Gradually her breathing slowed as a calmness spread over her and she opened her eyes, the room blurring as a wave of dizziness washed over her. Judging the time by the amount of blood which filled the small bowl, she eventually dropped the blade and pressed her hand over the small wound. When the dizziness passed, she stood slowly and unsteadily and studied herself in the mirror. In the bright light of the bathroom, she saw how pale her face was and reached for the dermal regenerator, quickly sealing the cut. As she gazed back at her reflection, a strong feeling of self-loathing took over at what she'd just done but this feeling was always preferable to how she felt before cutting and Kathryn was honest enough with herself to admit that she was now addicted to this, that she'd continue with the practice until… She shrugged at her image and staggered out to the bedroom, the brief relief of earlier starting to dissipate.

As Kathryn stood in the centre of the room, her mind cleared just enough for her to remember to clear up in the bathroom and hide the evidence of what she'd just done. With this achieved, she fell across her bed, just managing to pull off her uniform. As she lay there, semi naked in the low lighting, she remembered how this had all started just two months previously.

It had been a rough week, not unusual in the Delta Quadrant and Kathryn had been feeling guiltier than usual about stranding them here. She'd just returned from Sandrine's, having witnessed Chakotay in a quiet corner with his latest girlfriend and felt lonelier than she normally did. It had been a simple accident, a glass dropped in the sink and as she'd lifted the pieces out to dispose of them and turned to exit the small space of the bathroom, her foot had caught on her nightgown and she'd fallen. She knew instantly that the glass had fallen beneath her and when she checked herself, a shard of glass protruded from her arm. Instead of immediately attending to the injury, she'd sat mesmerized as her blood had flowed down her arm. What she'd never forgotten had been the feeling of relief which had surrounded her, the sight of the blood giving her a feeling that she was really alive and here was the proof. She had felt all the tension drain from her as the pain on the outside smothered the pain on the inside for that moment. Within a minute, she'd snapped to her senses and had attended sickbay and had the deep cut treated but over the following week, her mind had constantly drifted back to the incident and the feelings which had accompanied it.

Her next 'cut' as she came to call them started out as more of an experiment than anything else. Ever the scientist, Kathryn had told herself she wanted to see if the feeling she'd experienced had been just a 'one off', if she'd imagined it or if there had been something more to it. What she denied to herself, was the fact that she desperately wanted to experience the same feelings again. Pain had shot up her arm when she cut it and she'd looked away quickly and reached for the regenerator but as the same feelings washed over her she'd halted and studied the blood flow instead. Within a minute she snapped out of it and immediately healed the self-inflicted injury. She resisted for several days until something else went wrong for her and once more found herself seeking the temporary relief cutting herself brought her.

Since that time, Kathryn found herself 'indulging' in her newfound practice every other day almost and at times, like this past week, on a daily basis. Faint logic stirred in the back of her mind that this couldn't continue, especially as she was not eating enough or resting enough to help her body cope with what she inflicted upon it and the blood loss it suffered but this thought was quickly passed over as total fatigue beat it down and eventually she drifted into a dreamless sleep.

When Kathryn awoke the next morning, her usual feelings of disgust visited her and she desperately pushed them aside. Instead of the good breakfast she knew she should consume, especially after her blood loss, she found herself as usual reaching for coffee and nothing more. As she dressed and studied herself in the long mirror of her bedroom, she could clearly see how much weight she'd lost in the past two months and when she put on her uniform, saw that it still showed. Undressing again quickly, she pulled on extra undergarments and then donned her uniform again. She studied her reflection closely and saw that she would just about pass, knowing that most of the crew never studied her that much anyway, afraid of being caught scrutinizing their captain. The extra layers of clothing gave Kathryn's body a warmth she badly needed. She realized she felt the cold more lately but gave it no further thought as she set about applying her make-up. The fact that she used more make-up than ever registered with her but she knew she had to mask the signs of her recent habits and cover the paleness of her skin. Finally satisfied with the disguise, she made for the bridge and another day of pain and at the same time, utter emptiness.


Kathryn spent most of her shift in her ready room, Voyager not encountering any more Abadi ships and she allowed herself the hope that maybe they were past the attacks which had plagued them for the previous week. Chakotay reported to her that they had indeed passed through the disputed region of space and that what lay ahead looked calm and peaceful. He informed her also that all repairs were well in hand and that they'd be back at peak efficiency by that evening. Kathryn had nodded acknowledgement of his report and felt his eyes on her. Not looking up to give him fuel for his study, she had quietly dismissed him.

Over the next few days, Kathryn noticed Chakotay watching her more than usual and suspected that he was beginning to notice something different about her. She went out of her way to avoid him, either finding something she just had to do in some other section of the ship or sending him on fool's errands.


The beginning of the end came for Kathryn when she was in her ready room one day and was standing on a stool to reach some items on the top shelf behind her desk. Chakotay had signalled for entry and come right in, not waiting for permission. Being the gentleman he was, he had immediately offered to help her down but Kathryn had waved him off.

"Kathryn, don't be stupid. I'm just trying to help." He reached for her waist and lifted her to the floor. How light and thin she was registered with him immediately and shocked him. "Kathryn? Spirits, woman, what do you weigh? You were never this thin or light."

Kathryn just pushed him off and grabbed the padds he'd brought with him. "What was it you needed me to see?" She studied one of the padds, not seeing the words but giving a wonderful performance of someone engrossed in the text.

Chakotay was not to be put off however. "Kathryn, don't change the subject." He reached for the padd and snatched it from her hand, ignoring the glare he received. "What's going on with you?" She glanced up and saw him study her face closely. "And since when did you start to wear so much make-up?"

Kathryn turned away quickly, about to dismiss him but he was right behind her and pulled her round to face him then grabbed her face and studied her more closely. "Spirits, Kathryn, what the hell is wrong? Are you sick? What are you trying to cover up?"

Kathryn twisted from his hold and turned on him. "My personal appearance and life are my own business and I'll thank you to remember that. Now Commander, if there's nothing else, I'd be grateful if you'd return to your duties and let me continue with mine." She grabbed the padds up and turned her back on him. "Dismissed, Commander."

Chakotay knew when to back down and simply nodded. "Yes Ma'am."


Throughout the rest of his shift, Chakotay couldn't get Kathryn out of his mind. She'd weighed little more than a child to him and yet she looked as she usually did. She felt light but it didn't show so much. He thought deeper but nothing more would come to him. He also realized that how much make-up she wore really was her own business but something still bothered the hell out of him. Why change her usual habits? The extra make-up was fairly recent as far as he could remember. The deeper he thought the more came to him. He realized he never saw Kathryn in the mess hall anymore, although that meant nothing. Most of the crew avoided Neelix's cooking if they could. Socially she seemed to have faded from sight but then he knew he hadn't really noticed especially while his relationship with Sally Carter had been at its height. He suddenly remembered that as he'd helped Kathryn down, he'd clearly been able to feel her bones and it struck him that even beneath the thick layer of make-up, her skin had actually appeared pale. As he thought on, it came to him that he hadn't actually spent much time with her outside of ship's business in the last two months or more and felt guilty for it. Friendship was about give and take and it dawned on him now that he was the one doing most of the taking or at least had been. When the end of his shift arrived, Chakotay had made a decision and acted upon it immediately.


Chakotay entered a deserted sickbay to find Voyager's EMH bent over a tray of small dishes with strange colours in them. The medic looked up and smiled. "State the nature and all that. What can I do for you, Commander?"

Chakotay didn't return the smile and indicated to the small office. "If we could. In private please." The Hologram nodded, picking up that this was serious. He followed his visitor into the glassed-in enclosure and sat, waiting for Chakotay to begin. "Doc, look this is strictly confidential."

The Doctor leaned forward. "Commander, you know quite well that all medical matters are…"

Chakotay held up a hand and leaned forward also. "No, hear me on this. I mean 'strictly' confidential. That means no record whatsoever. It means never spoken of, never noted anywhere, nothing to say this ever happened. This stays between us until or unless I deem it should be otherwise." The Medic nodded his agreement.

Chakotay drew a deep breath and rubbed at his face. "It could well be nothing but… Call it a gut feeling." He looked to the EMH and saw that he had his total attention. "I have this…friend. I'd rather not say who at this moment and before you say anything, it's not me." He saw the Doctor smile gently. "I'm worried about this friend, very worried. I think something is wrong but I can't be sure and I've only just noticed so I can't say how long…" Chakotay stood up and paced.

"I don't know. Maybe with everything these last days, even weeks, probably even months, I just haven't… What with the Abadi attacks, the recent shortages we had… I mean we barely made it to restock. Maybe I just wasn't looking. Whatever it was I didn't see until now. Maybe it's because I see this person every day or never really looked…" He stopped, lost in thought until the Doctor coughed slightly then he paced again.

"Sorry, I just keep remembering more and more. The more I think… This person has… They've lost weight, quite a bit I think, but it doesn't show or maybe….maybe…." He stopped and looked at the Doctor. "Maybe it's just well hidden. I noticed too that they're quite pale and wearing more make-up than usual. Why didn't I see?"

The medic interrupted him. "I can take it we're speaking of a woman then." There was no trace of a smile when Chakotay's head whipped around.

"Yeah, it's a woman. She… I never see her in the mess hall any more, never see her eating at all in fact. Socially, she just doesn't appear any more. Why the hell didn't I see this before now?" He met the Doctor's eyes and sat. "All right, so we both know who I'm speaking about."

The Doctor smiled sadly. "With the level of concern you're showing and talking about not eating and being underweight… There's only one person we can be speaking of." The Doctor held up his hand. "All right, Commander, no names." Chakotay smiled gratefully.

The Doctor took his turn now. "First off, I can't just drag her in here to examine her. You know how she is, and secondly that would let her know that she'd been discussed behind her back and that wouldn't go down well at all. Commander, I can see you're very concerned but the… She's always been like this. What makes now any different?"

Chakotay shook his head slowly. "Doc, I can't explain this. Call it a hunch or some sixth sense, I don't know. There's just something there I can't put a finger on. I just know something is very wrong. Maybe if I'd been around more or… I don't know. I can't name something for you but I can say that I know with everything that's in me that something is badly wrong here."

The Doctor signed. "Have you tried talking to her? Asking her if anything's wrong?"

Chakotay stood again and smiled sadly. "Already been thrown out of her ready room for that. Basically I was told where to go."

The Doctor gave him a look that spoke volumes. "And you want me to have a go? She can't terminate your program."

Chakotay shook his head and rubbed his temples. "Look, when is she due for her physical?"

The Doctor knew without checking. "Annual physicals start next month. Ah, I see. Bring them forward. That might work. I have been considering starting them a little earlier. All right, Commander, I'll start with the bridge crew in the morning. I'll think of something." Chakotay looked a little less worried and stood, the Doctor coming around his desk to him. "We'll take care of her. Try not to worry. She's probably just doing her usual act. Never could take care of herself, that woman." He hesitated a moment and then coughed. "Ah Commander, tell me to mind my own business but… Look it's plain to even a hologram that you love her." He ignored the look he knew was directed at him and went on. "Why have you two never…"

Chakotay made for the door. "Because it was made clear that that was out of the question. Does that answer it for you?"

The Doctor heard the bitterness in his voice and nodded sadly. "Sorry, Commander."

Chakotay sighed deeply and moved off. "Yeah, me too, Doc. Me too."


Chakotay called by his captain's quarters on the way back to his own but the computer informed him that she was unavailable and he decided to let the matter drop for the evening. He hoped the Doctor would find something when he checked her over the next day. At least if a physical cause to this was ruled out, he'd know where he stood.

As Chakotay made his way to his own quarters, Kathryn was once more sitting on her bathroom floor, the blade in her hand. She sat and cried but her tears refused to give her the same relief that cutting and bleeding herself gave her and despite her own denials that she'd stop this, a small part of her knew she couldn't, that there was nothing to replace it. Hurting herself relieved tension like nothing else could and she knew she cut her arms because she felt she had no other way to express herself. Feeling this pain was better than feeling nothing. It occurred to her that she was on a treadmill with no way to get off, that she was trapped on it.

Kathryn sat and reflected how empty her life was and she cried harder. Guilt washed over her as she blamed herself for stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant, fear that she would fail to get them home again but mostly there was loneliness and as usual when she thought like this, it was Chakotay she thought of. Hatred at herself now surfaced and she cursed herself for her decision of a year ago, when she'd pushed him from her life and then had to sit back and watch him with others. As all these feelings built into a crescendo of emotion, Kathryn dug the blade into her arm and rode the wave of relief which flowed over her. As she studied the blood drain from her body, she forgot everything else expect the blessed release.


Within five minutes of their shift starting next day, the Doctor appeared on the bridge and announced his plans. Chakotay watched Kathryn's face carefully and saw actual fear there for a moment before she turned away.

Harry Kim coughed then spoke. "Doc, we're not due them for another month yet."

The EMH shook his head. "Really Mr. Kim, surely you're not afraid of a little exam now. I'm starting the physicals early this year because you lot constantly break appointments and give no consideration to the schedule I spend hours working out." The Doctor could have earned himself an acting award. "Every year it takes longer to get through you all and every year I get further behind with my other work. Now, I override you all on this matter so what I say goes. I'll be starting with the bridge crew, in alphabetical order so perhaps I could have you, Commander Chakotay, first and then you, Captain…" Kathryn turned quickly and nodded but Chakotay saw she was preoccupied and looked worried. The Doctor just gave them all a satisfied grin. "Good, it's nice to see the command team setting a good example. Commander, if you don't mind…" Chakotay just nodded and tried to act as if this were the last thing in the world he wanted. It was in fact the last thing but he knew it was the only way to get Kathryn checked out.

When Chakotay returned from sickbay, Harry Kim approached him. "Ah Sir, the captain was called to engineering. B'Elanna needed her for something, so I'm to go next." The look on the young ensign's face was priceless and Chakotay knew he'd rather jump out an airlock. Chakotay nodded at the young man and closed his eyes. Within minutes, a call came for him from the Doctor, asking if the captain's absence was unavoidable and when Chakotay checked engineering, he found that B'Elanna had indeed called for her captain's assistance. He informed the engineer to let the captain know that the Doctor wanted to see her as soon as she was free. There was nothing more he could do.

When his shift ended, Chakotay called by sickbay and saw the Doctor finishing up with the first of the engineering staff. He waited patiently in the small office until the Medic joined him. "Well, did she show up?"

The Doctor shook his head. "No sign of her and I couldn't very well make too much of it without arousing her suspicions."

Chakotay sighed. "She's avoiding this and I saw her on the bridge this morning…"

The medic interrupted. "Commander, I'm on your side here. I think you're right. I made a point of studying her closely and I see exactly what you're talking about. I saw her face and she hid it quickly but I believe our fearless captain was terrified at the thought of coming here. Oh, I know no one likes to see me for these exams but this was far more than that."

Chakotay sat and shook his head. "I wasn't sure if I'd imagined that or not. You think I'm right to be worried then?"

The Doctor nodded solemnly. "Without wanting to worry you more, yes I do. First thing tomorrow, she will report for her exam or I'll have Mr. Tuvok and a security team drag her here." Both men smiled at the image that came to them. Chakotay nodded and left, nothing more to be said on the matter.


Kathryn paced her quarters, trying frantically to think straight. She fought the build-up within her and forced herself to think rationally.

"God, Kathryn, how rational is cutting her arms every night and bleeding yourself?" Talking to herself aloud helped her. "How do I get out of this one?"

The Doctor turning up on the bridge that morning had thrown her completely. She hoped she'd managed to hide her reaction but knew that Chakotay had been watching her. What she couldn't do and knew it, was hide from the Doctor for much longer and once she'd seen him, she knew he'd discover exactly what she'd been doing. B'Elanna calling her had been a Godsend and she'd practically run for the turbo lift in her haste to get off the bridge. When Chakotay had called down with the message from the Doctor, she'd almost panicked again but thankfully the problem with the warp core had been more complicated than the Klingon engineer had anticipated and she'd needed to stay until well past her swift.

Kathryn desperately wanted to find relief in her by now usual way but worried that the Doctor would notice such a freshly healed cut. Common sense told her to just go to bed and try and sleep but she knew that was impossible in her present state of mind. The urge however won and Kathryn found herself walking to the bathroom, promising herself that this would definitely be the last time. She knew she should have tried to eat something first, but as happened a lot lately, the thought of food turned her stomach and she ignored the thought.

Entering her bathroom, she started her ritual, laying down her towel and the dermal regenerator. She placed her small bowl and her blade beside that. Trying to delay as long as possible, she changed into her nightgown first, dropping the clothes she took off on the floor at her feet, but the feelings continued to build until Kathryn thought she'd burst. Unable to resist the call any longer she returned to the small bathroom and sat on the floor. Once more her tears came and she cried bitterly before pressing the blade to her arm. She was thinking clearly enough to use her right arm tonight, having used her left for the last two nights. As soon as the blood flowed and she saw the bright red colour fill the bowl, all the tension left her body and she felt alive again, the negative falling away to be replaced with the relief. She dropped her head back and let it sweep her along, taking her to her special place.


Chakotay stopped outside Kathryn's door and debated calling on her. Using the excuse of not having received any report on the earlier problem in engineering, he pressed for entrance. He tried twice more before deciding to use his override codes, knowing Kathryn would probably kick him out but at this stage he was passed caring, the need to check on her more important to him.

He entered the living area and saw no sign of her. Not thinking to call out, he looked into the bedroom and not finding her there either, debated leaving. A faint sound caught his ear and he found his feet taking him towards the bathroom, telling himself that she'd probably kick his ass in the brig for this. The bathroom door was open as Chakotay approached and he looked in. Seeing Kathryn on the floor, blood pouring from her arm, he dropped to his knees immediately.

"Oh Spirits. Kathryn, what happened? How did you do this?" He looked around for a broken glass or anything she might have cut herself on. He then noticed her head back and slowly she lifted it and looked at him but there was a vagueness in her eyes and a glazed look. Chakotay reached for the towel he saw and stopped when the regenerator which had been caught within it clattered to the floor. He looked at it puzzled and then suddenly the scene cleared for him. He now saw the bowl on her lap and looked to her other hand which she'd quickly moved under her leg. He grabbed the hand and pulled but it was empty. He rolled her slightly and saw the blade then, tinged with blood and everything slammed into him at once.

"Oh good Spirits. Kathryn, what in…" He saw her tears then freshly fill her eyes and he grabbed the towel and pressed it to her arm. He stood quickly and called the Doctor. "Chakotay to sickbay." The Doctor's voice returned immediately. "Doc, can you go to a secure comm link?" The medic didn't question anything and was back in two seconds. "Have you anyone else there?" He bent and pressed on the towel on Kathryn's arm when he saw her blood was soaking through.

"Commander, I'm quite alone."

Chakotay shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Erect a privacy screen. I'll be there immediately." The EMH never questioned the First Officer and just confirmed that what had been asked would be done.

Chakotay bent down now to Kathryn and wiped at her tears. "Oh honey, what have you done to yourself? Why?" She wasn't capable of answering him and he saw it. He placed the bowl out of the way and moved to pick her up as she struggled briefly, trying to get up. She got herself standing and swayed then fell back against the wall. Chakotay watched as her pale face grew even paler and her eyes lost their brief focus. He watched as they rolled back in her head and saw her start to go down. He caught her just before she hit the tiles and swept her into his arms then ordered a transport for them both to sickbay, using codes no one would be able to trace.

The Doctor was waiting when they appeared in sickbay and Chakotay laid Kathryn on the bed. The medic took in the scene before him, his unconscious captain and a blood soaked towel wrapped around her arm. He raised questioning eyes to Chakotay.

"I found her in her bathroom. She had a blade and had obviously cut herself. The blood was filling a bowl or something. She also had a small dermal regenerator." The Doctor just nodded and asked the man to wait in his office.

Within twenty minutes, he appeared in the doorway and beckoned to Chakotay to join him behind the screen. "I've healed the cut. Simple enough." He looked at Chakotay and sighed. "She's anaemic, badly so and she's also drastically underweight and malnourished. Treatment at the moment as you can see comprises of blood transfusions and getting the fluids and the nutrients she needs into her body. I've also sedated her and I'm going to keep her that way until I'm happier with her condition." Chakotay nodded and saw that the Doctor appeared almost nervous as he lifted the sheet back from Kathryn's still form. When Chakotay looked down he gasped in shock. While the Doctor had placed another drape to cover her breasts, he could still see her upper chest and neck area and the bones clearly evident beneath her skin. He looked to her shoulders and arms and saw the same. The Doctor now lifted one of Kathryn's arms and ran a finger along the inner flesh.

"There are numerous healed wounds, most of the scars still there. Her other arm is in the same condition." Chakotay looked closely and saw the faint lines himself and closed his eyes, pressing down on the side of the bed to hold himself up. The Doctor's voice broke into his mind.

"Needless to say, she wasn't skilled enough with the regenerator to completely heal these. I'll do that in time. Commander, I think we should have the rest of this conversation in my office. She's not in any danger now." Chakotay just nodded and took a deep breath. The Doctor moved away and Chakotay stood a moment and looked down at the sleeping woman before him. Her paleness shocked him and he saw now just how thin her face was.

He leaned down and kissed the side of her face gently. "Oh Kathryn." Words failed him as he felt tears fill his eyes. Placing another kiss on her lips, he followed the Doctor.

PART TWO.

Chakotay sat wearily and faced the medic. "Doc, talk to me. Tell me just what the hell is happening here. What's going on? I don't understand this."

The Doctor held up a hand and leaned forward. "Commander, I'll try and explain briefly but understand that I'll have to research this myself. There's only so much room in my own memory. Basically, she's self-harming, inflicting these injuries on herself."

Chakotay looked shocked. Hearing the Doctor speak the words confirmed what he'd seen but hoped had misunderstood. "Why would she do that? She seems rational. I mean she's not insane or anything. She seems in control and runs the ship. I know she's seemed as if something was wrong but… Was she trying to kill herself? What is…"

Once more the Doctor interrupted. "Commander, please. This has nothing to do with being 'insane' or wanting to kill herself. Those are popular misconceptions. This is about having found a 'coping mechanism', I admit a rather self-destructive one, but a way of coping none the less. From what I remember of this, they are never trying to kill themselves. Look, she's safe for now and I'll get right onto researching this and I'll speak to you again in the morning when I know more. In the meantime, I suggest you try and get some rest yourself." Chakotay shook his head in disbelief at what the evening had thrown at him.

The Doctor touching his arm brought his attention back. "I'm going to have to relieve her of duty, you know that." The medic saw the understanding in the First Officer's face but also his deep concern. "Don't worry, Commander, I've simply entered that she's anaemic and needs some rest. I had to enter that in the logs to explain the use of the blood. At the moment, that will cover it. I would, however, suggest that you share this with Mr. Tuvok. You're going to need his assistance over the coming days and weeks." Chakotay nodded, knowing he could trust the Vulcan, especially where their captain was concerned. "Speak with him this evening if you can and I'll meet you both back here in the morning when I should have more answers for you."

Chakotay nodded slowly and got up. "Is this down to me? I haven't exactly been there for her lately."

The Doctor shook his head. "Commander, from what I do recall, this has nothing to do with anyone except the person themselves. As I say, I'll have more for you in the morning." Chakotay nodded again and left, his face a mask of pain.


Chakotay sat in his quarters for almost half an hour studying the carpet and tried to get his mind to cooperate with him. Finally he placed a call to Voyager's Security Officer and asked him to come to his quarters. As usual the Vulcan showed no surprise and simply stated that he'd be there presently. When he arrived, he just sat and waited to hear what his Commanding Officer had to say.

"Tuvok…" Chakotay tried to organize his thoughts and word everything right. "What I'm going to say… Well, I'd like for this to remain in this room for the moment. I know I'm asking a lot of you, wanting you to leave this out of the logs but…"

Tuvok nodded. "This has to do with Captain Janeway?" Chakotay nodded. "You have my word then. If it doesn't concern the safety of this ship and her crew, then I see no need to write it up."

Chakotay sat down again, his relief showing. "It only concerns Kathryn herself." The Vulcan nodded, not showing any surprise at Chakotay's use of his captain's name. He sat and listened as Chakotay related the events of the evening and his concerns which had led up to it.

Finally, Tuvok spoke. "I have heard of this condition before. I believe there are many forms of it. I recall reading of holy men in various societies flogging themselves and similar cases although they are not exactly related. Does our Doctor believe he can help the captain?"

Chakotay looked at the man before him, amazed at his calmness and acceptance and was grateful for it. "He wants to see us both in the morning. He wants to research this more himself."

Tuvok nodded his understanding. "I suggest you try and get some rest until then. It's only logical that we have all the information we require at hand before making any decisions."

Chakotay smiled softly despite the situation. "You're the calm in the storm as usual, Tuvok." The Vulcan simply raised an eyebrow, accepting the compliment.


Early the following morning, the two men sat in the Doctor's small office and listened as the hologram passed on his findings. Chakotay had checked on Kathryn and saw little change in her, except some colour starting to show on her face from the transfusions.

"I'll explain this as simply as I can so please bear with me, gentlemen." They both nodded but remained silent. "This condition is hard to explain but I'll do my best." He sat back and activated a padd in his hand.

"Self-injury, also referred to as self-harm, self-abuse or self-mutilation, is basically an attempt to deliberately cause harm to one's own body and the injury is usually severe enough to cause tissue damage, as we've seen here. It is not a conscious attempt at suicide though. There are three types of self-injury. The rarest and most extreme form is Major Self-Mutilation which results in permanent disfigurement like castration or limb amputation." The Doctor looked up briefly and saw the shocked faces before him.

"Another form is Stereo Typic Self-Mutilation, mainly consisting of head banging, eyeball pressing and biting. The third form, which I believe we are probably dealing with here, is Superficial Self-Mutilation and this usually involves cutting, burning, hair pulling, bone breaking, hitting, interference with wound healing and basically any method used to harm oneself." He lay the padd down and continued.

"It has been reported that many people who self-injure and this goes back far into history, but they usually have a history of sexual or physical abuse but that is not always the case and I don't believe we are dealing with that here. Some come from broken homes or have had emotionally absent parents, again I don't believe that applies here. In short, there are many factors that could cause someone to hurt themselves as a way to cope and that is the bottom line here. It's about coping, blocking out, releasing built up feelings and emotions. People who self-injure are usually perfectionists, perhaps unable to handle intense feelings or are denying them and they often can't express their emotions. Understand that when I say 'can't', I mean that they either cannot show them because they are physically unable to or because their situation will not allow it. In our case, I believe the latter applies. The captain can't be seen to be weak or show emotion. At least that's how she sees it. I believe she's doing this as a way to show that emotion and those feelings and also as a way to punish herself."

Chakotay leaned forward. "What the hell would she be punishing herself for?"

The Doctor held his hand up. "Please. I don't think it's any big secret that the captain blames herself for us being here."

Tuvok nodded. "Guilt travels with her constantly."

The Doctor agreed. "That fits with all this. They punish themselves for many things, sometimes just to feel alive. This is usually done to relieve intense feelings such as anger, sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt and emotional pain, most of which applies to the captain. They cut and bleed themselves in an attempt to try and relieve all the emotions they are feeling internally. External pain overrides the internal or perhaps they feel nothing on the inside and this way, feeling pain externally is better than feeling nothing. They can feel so numb that seeing their own blood helps them feel alive because they feel so dead on the inside. Dealing with physical pain is far easier than dealing with emotional pain. Afterwards, they are usually left with a peaceful and calm feeling. Since those feelings are only temporary, they will continue to self-injure until they deal with the underlying issues and find healthier ways to cope."

Chakotay sat back in total shock. "I can't believe this. I just… Can we help? What can we do now? How?"

Once more the Doctor silenced him. "It's very difficult for someone with this to ask for help, to admit that they are doing this at all, mainly because they feel shame and guilt about it. Of course, in this case, it's now out in the open. She's going to have to be taught that there is no shame in this, that it's all right for her to ask for help and accept it. Not easy I know, but that's what has to happen. She has to want to stop also and we have to give her a reason to do that. At the end of the day, she must know that she has to stop. She also has to understand that she is not insane, crazy or evil or whatever other term she will use. People who do this are in fact very normal and sane and just have a lot of emotional pain. They do this just to cope because they may never have learned any other way to do that and so we have to teach them other ways. They often suppress their emotions and then this arises, no pun intended, Mr. Tuvok." The Vulcan nodded his understanding.

"I discovered during my research that 97% of people who do this are women and around a thousand in every hundred thousand will exhibit some form of self-harm. They are often depressed and in a lot of cases there are eating disorders involved."

Chakotay leaned in. "You think she also has an eating disorder? She's so thin."

The Doctor cut in. "I can't say at this moment in time but I don't think so. I believe her weight loss and not eating is mainly self-neglect and not caring. This is a fairly recent problem with the captain, the last two months or so."

Chakotay cut back in. "How do you know that? Can you tell from the scars? Wouldn't previous ones have healed themselves by now?"

The Doctor shook his head. "I know because two months ago is the last time I saw her for medical reasons. She'd broken a glass in her bathroom and slipped with it in her hand. She fell on some of the glass and cut her arm. She came to me immediately. I examined her arm closely and I would have seen any evidence of other wounds. I believe she experienced something that night which stayed with her and later on, tried to recreate it. The seeds were probably sown at that time and it became a place she visited again and when the same feelings came, a pattern established itself. We're lucky in the sense that this is so recent. This usually affects females in their late twenties or early thirties who have been doing this since their teens, in some cases as young as eight years old. They are almost always intelligent women, well educated, from good homes and backgrounds. I believe that as women are often socialized to internalise anger, this is the reason why it shows in the female so much. Men are socialized to externalise their anger, fighting, sports like boxing and so on. You also have to look at the captain and see that in her position she has this appearance to maintain, the cool and calm leader, in total command and control." The Doctor leaned back in his chair.

"72% of self-injuries involve cutting like this. The bleeding is rarer but is also about release. Understand that bleeding was at one time used as a medical treatment. An alarming one third of patients however, expect to be dead within five years." Chakotay jumped up. "Commander, please sit down." He did.

"Look, I know all this is difficult to take in. Why anyone would do this is almost impossible for you to understand but you just have to accept that she has done this because she was faced with strong emotions and overwhelming situations alongside her guilt. This was her way to cope and while she would feel guilty or angry, even disgusted at her actions afterwards, it wouldn't be the oppressive feelings which she had had before she cut herself. Basically, it calms the body and this is what she needed most."

Chakotay rubbed his hands over his face. "Why didn't I see this or notice it sooner?"

The Doctor smiled sadly. "Because she hid it well. We're lucky here because some sufferers carry on for years before anything is discovered. It's also easier in this day and age. In former times, injuries and scars were a lot harder to hide. She had a dermal regenerator but thankfully she wasn't skilled enough with it. This could have gone unnoticed for a long time. People like this become masters at hiding it. Also, Commander, why would you even consider it or think to look for this? Mind you, I have no idea how she planned to pass her physical although I'd say she hadn't thought of that." He sighed. "Gentlemen, you have to understand that this is an addiction. Someone can literally become dependent on the 'rush' if you like, which they get from cutting and bleeding themselves. It becomes a habit that must be broken and she must be made to understand that while this gives her temporary relief, it can do nothing but severe damage in the long run. She probably even had a ritual involved with this, laying out what she needed. I'm hoping in this case that the addiction hasn't been too ingrained, that it's easy to break at this stage."

Chakotay was still blaming himself. "I should have noticed before now how thin she was becoming. I should have seen…"

The Doctor was having none of it. "Commander, I checked her quarters and I noticed the clothes she had taken off. There were quite literally several layers which would have hidden her frame quite well. If you had worn what she was probably wearing every day, you'd have most likely suffered heat stroke. In her condition, I imagine the extra clothing would have been welcome. She'd have had a hard time controlling her body heat, and she would probably have felt cold most of the time. Look, bottom line here, this has probably been building up for some time, these feelings, no way to express herself, internal pain, depression, guilt, all of it. It's possible she was close to a complete emotional breakdown and instead found this way to deal with it." He sighed.

"You also have to look at her past and I checked through her personal files and I really had no choice on this. We have a woman here, the daughter of a top Admiral who followed in her father's footsteps, so a lot was expected of her. I imagine earning her father's approval was very important to her. When she entered Starfleet, she had some big shoes to fill. She is as we know a perfectionist anyway and I imagine a great deal was expected of her, by her family and by Starfleet, and living up to that would have been difficult. In a way, she's still doing that, living up to what she believes this crew expects of her. When her father died along with her fiancé, again guilt in her life, she pushed herself on more. I understand that she was the protégé of Admiral Paris and from what I can see with our Mr. Paris and the way he thinks he failed the man, well if the Admiral himself felt that, he would have transferred that expectation from his son to the captain. Once more, having to live up to the almost impossible. With us being here now, she feels guilty for that and blames herself most likely. She sees it as her sole responsibility to get this crew home and can't fail them. She tries to be what they expect of her and in her eyes, that probably means not being seen to be weak or herself or even human."

Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Doc, she knows that's not the way it is. This crew only want her to be happy."

The Doctor smiled. "Commander, listen to me. I didn't say it WAS that way. I said it was the way SHE sees it. She was probably, as I say, close to breaking point and this accident happened and opened a door to her, a way out, a release. I don't have all the answers and only she can tell us how she feels. All we can hope for is a solution to this." The Doctor looked at both men in turn.

"I've kept this out of the official logs and I'd prefer to keep it from the crew." Both men nodded their agreement. "I've entered in a recommendation for a leave of absence, citing anaemia and overwork etc. I take it I have your full cooperation with this." They both nodded again. "Good, because she is going to have enough to face as it is. I suggest that you take command for the present with Mr. Tuvok backing you up." He looked at Chakotay who nodded his head, Tuvok silently agreeing also. "I'm going to keep her sedated for a few more days and at that time, I'd like you to take over basic care, Commander."

Chakotay's head shot up. "Doctor, I know nothing of this. I'd only fail her and what if she doesn't want…"

The Doctor threw his eyes up. "You two are closer to her than anyone else on this ship, especially you, Commander. You also have more experience of counselling than anyone else. Take these few days to read up and learn how to handle this, a kind of crash course. I know it's not much but it's all we have. I'll tutor you as best I can. I think she will also benefit with some help from you, Mr. Tuvok. Meditation techniques, anything like that. We are all in the dark here and we have to give light to each other. What's important now is that we all know that none of us is to blame for this. We concentrate on getting her through this, nothing else, and keeping it as quiet as we can. Are we all in agreement, gentlemen?"

Chakotay looked at Tuvok and the Vulcan nodded. "I agree completely. I'll take over command when the commander is taking care of the captain. We will work this out."

Chakotay smiled his thanks at the Vulcan. "Thanks, Tuvok. You're a good friend to her." Tuvok merely nodded.


Over the next three days, Chakotay spent every spare minute studying and reading everything he could lay his hands on and the Doctor schooled him in between.

"First off, don't avoid the subject with her. Let her know that it's perfectly all right to talk about this but try and follow her lead. Let her know you have no aversion to speaking of this but she must also know that you respect her space." Chakotay nodded, making notes.

"You will have to make the initial approach. Let her know you know what's been happening and ask her to help you understand. It is vital that she knows you will never judge her over this. You must be available constantly for her. If she needs to cut herself, let her know that you can't see her do this because you care too much to see her hurt herself but let her know that you won't stop caring if she does it." The Doctor smiled softly and Chakotay looked puzzled at him.

"Sorry, Commander, this one is just… I'm quoting here now so don't think… You should make it clear from your behaviour that the person doesn't need to injure themselves to get displays of love and affection from you. Be free with loving and caring gestures even if they aren't returned. Don't withdraw your love. The way to avoid reinforcing self-injury behaviour is to be consistently caring so that taking care of the person after an injury is seen as nothing special or extraordinary."

Chakotay smiled too now. "All right, I get it. A perk of the job." They both smiled at this and the Doctor read on.

"You need to provide distractions. Get her talking by all means and the more she opens up the better. As I said before, I'm hoping this is the early stages or that it's not a severe case and we can pull her back quickly by providing what she needs in her life. I'd be more worried if this had been going on for years. However, if she feels the need to cut or bleed, go to the holodeck, play games, read to her, talk about other things, anything at all. She can learn about deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, probably from Mr. Tuvok and its best if she's not alone very much. A hot bath, listening to music, other good ways to relax. I'd also encourage her to write about how she feels, in a journal or somewhere and taking up a sport or something later on would be good. It'll teach her ways to relieve her tension in a positive manner. If she's depressed, talk to her. You can't cajole her out of it or ignore it but you can acknowledge how she feels and still do something distracting." Chakotay nodded, feeling he'd never remember all this.

"If she does feel the need to hurt herself, keep a supply of ice near by, preferably made from red dye." Chakotay looked at the hologram as if his program had just malfunctioned.

The medic just smiled. "Let me explain. Holding ice in the hand and squeezing it can be painful but it won't injure. Placing red ice on the arm or area she wants to cut in… Well, it melts and runs off, looking like blood, or an elastic band around the wrist which can be snapped against the skin or even using red ink on herself to make marks. Let her smash up the holodeck, slash at cushions or other objects with her blade. Commander, these are just tools, help aids if you like. What you don't do is hide every sharp object or take her replicator off line. It would only encourage her to use alternative methods. What you also can't do is ever lose your temper with her or let her see that this makes you angry, even when you feel it. Let her know her removal from duty is temporary until she gets better. Take her flowers, show you care."

Chakotay smiled again at this. "She'd hit me with them."

The Doctor's face remained serious. "I'm not so sure about that. Commander, she's one lonely woman even when she doesn't have to be. She needs to be trained into having people in her life, into letting them close to her. Personally, I think… Commander, I prescribe you for the captain's treatment."

Chakotay laughed out loud at this.

"Commander, I'm actually quite serious. In basic form it's like this. There are areas of the captain's life, holes there if you like, these gaps where she has no one and other spaces filled with the wrong things, her guilt for example. She cuts and bleeds herself to feel something if there's nothing there or to feel something which will replace that inner pain. We have to re-educate her and fill in those gaps. Remove the causes of the problem and the problem won't be there to be dealt with."

Chakotay stood and paced slowly. "Do you really think all this will work?"

The Doctor looked up him. "I hope so and yes, I believe so too. Our first problem is going to be her reaction when she wakes. I'd prefer to let you handle that. She's going to be embarrassed and ashamed but your matter of fact manner will make all the difference. Let her know there's nothing to be ashamed of, that this is a problem which can be dealt with and most importantly, that you feel no differently about her because of it." Chakotay closed his eyes, running through it all in his mind. "Let her know that you'll be staying with her full time when I release her to her quarters, that I insisted she remain under your care but that this is to help her and not because we don't trust her. It's also vital that she understand that you can separate who she is from what she's done and that you care about her independently of this, outside of it. She has to know there's no shame in this and that you're there for her unconditionally. She needs to know that you love her."

Chakotay sat heavily. "I should tell her that?"

The Doctor patted his arm. "Maybe not in words and not straight away but in everything you do. Anyway, if you think about it, would it really be such a surprise to her? If everyone else knows, isn't it logical that she would also know? The fact that nothing has happened between you… Well, there's time now. She needs you and she needs to fill her life with friends and learn that it's all right to drop the mask and still have everyone's respect. I also for the record, believe she loves you too. I may be just a program but the eyes work and I can process information, actually think for myself, if you understand what I mean."

Chakotay looked at him. "I don't know, Doc. I know I love her but I hope you're right. I always thought she didn't want a relationship between us because she didn't feel love for me or even close to it. Maybe she was just afraid or… I don't know. I guess we'll see."

The Doctor stood and smiled. "Well, I'll let her waken slowly. I'll administer the last sedative tonight and let her come around slowly in the morning and I'll release her to your care by early afternoon." Chakotay thanked the Doctor and left. He spent the rest of the evening in Kathryn's quarters, clearing up and preparing them for her arrival home the next day.


Voyager's First Officer reported to sickbay the following morning, having met with Tuvok and ensured that all was under control. The Doctor approached him as he entered. "She should wake within the next ten to fifteen minutes. I've left the privacy screen in place and I've put a chair beside her for you. Just take your time with her and reassure her. I'll be in my office if you need me."

Chakotay sucked in a deep breath and nodded. "Thanks, Doc. I'll do my best." The Medic patted his arm and left him.


Chakotay walked behind the screen and studied the woman lying on the bed before him. He saw how much more colour she had to her face and she didn't look quite as thin. He knew she'd gained a little weight while under the Doctor's care and that her anaemia was no longer a problem. He sat down and picked up her hand, turning her arm towards him. Running a finger along the soft skin, he could find no trace of any scarring and smiled softly to himself when he thought of the good work the Doctor had achieved. He only hoped he could do as well. He sat back, still holding her hand and waited.

PART THREE.

Within five minutes, Kathryn began to stir and Chakotay stood up and leaned over her, still holding her hand. Slowly her eyes fluttered open and he saw her fight to focus and eventually look to him. "Hey there. Welcome back." He saw her confusion as she tried to slot her memories into place and watched her emotions reflect in her eyes as it all came back to her.

"What…what time is it? How long?" She tried weakly to pull her hand from his but failed.

"It's about 13:00 hours. Actually, you've been here for several days. In fact, this is the fifth day." He saw her shock and he pushed on. "The Doctor healed your cut and says you can return to your quarters in a little while provided you have someone nurse you and that's me." He smiled at her and saw that for just a moment she thought she'd gotten away with it. He decided to be straight with her.

"Kathryn, I know what you've been doing." He saw the fright in her eyes. "The Doc said you were malnourished and very anaemic but he's taken care of that." He saw her eyes change as guilt and shame filled them.

"Kathryn, it's all right. I know, the Doctor and Tuvok know but that's it and it stays that way and there'll never be anything in the logs regarding this. You have to believe that you've nothing to be ashamed of here or embarrassed about. There's no shame here. What we need to do now is help you get better." Kathryn finally managed to pull her hand away from his hold and rolled her head to the side away from him.

He barely managed to hear her words. "I'm sorry. You must think terrible things of me, that I'm mad or…"

Chakotay pulled her head back to him. "Kathryn, I don't think any differently about you now than I did before. That you cut and bled yourself is a completely separate issue. It has nothing to do with our friendship and it never will." He saw the faint stirring of hope in her eyes. "You need to get well and I just want to help you with that. Talk to me, help me understand why you needed to find a release this way, help me help you to find an alternative. Let me be there for you the way you've been there for me so many times."

She tried smiling and failed. "Why would you want to do that for me? You must think terrible things…"

He leaned closer and pushed her hair back from her face. "I want to do this because you're my friend and because I love you." He saw her surprise. "What, you didn't know that?"

She smiled shyly and nodded. "I guessed that maybe once…"

He stroked her cheek. "Still, Kathryn. I still love you and always will. As to what I think, well, I told you. It's because you need a bit of help and friends help each other. Know this though, you're not mad, crazy or insane. You're not deranged or out of your mind. I've been reading up on this and what you did is called a 'coping mechanism'. I'll explain it more to you later and let you see what I've been reading. You're also not the first person to do this and you won't be the last. Kathryn, you'll get through this but you have to stop, do you understand? You also have to want to stop. It'll take time to work through everything but we have plenty of that. I just want you to let me be there for you, let me help you. Will you do that?" Her tears filled her eyes now and fell as she nodded. Chakotay just stroked her face again and smiled. "I'll just see the jailor about getting you out of here and then you can go home. I just hope you can put up with me around you all the time." She tried smiling again but ended up crying more. "Kathryn, just one more thing first. I don't want you thinking that me staying with you is… I'm there to help, nothing else. This is not because I don't trust you, OK? If you want to kick me out, you can." He saw her finally find a smile and he squeezed her hand. "I'll be back in a minute."

Kathryn lay back, her thoughts swirling around. She couldn't believe what Chakotay had just said. She was sure she'd have seen disgust and horror on his face, at the least a certain amount of shock but there had just been support and concern. The fact that he seemed to be playing the whole matter down, that he accepted it, helped her enormously and she felt a little hope for the first time since all this had started.


Over the next week, Chakotay was a rock for Kathryn as he applied all he'd learned to the situation and acted upon the Doctor's advice. Kathryn only cut herself once after she returned to her quarters. Chakotay had found her in the bathroom but had said nothing as he helped her heal the injury. He held her as she cried afterwards, giving her his love and support and never mentioned it again. It was what she needed and she gained strength from it.

Within a few days, they discovered that Kathryn wasn't as addicted to cutting and bleeding herself as they had thought and the Doctor's earlier hopes started to bear fruit. Chakotay talked with Kathryn well into the early hours most nights and she slowly began to open up to him as he began to fill some of the emptiness she felt. He discovered that the feelings she'd experienced, her guilt and loneliness, her emptiness and anger, all the negative emotions she felt, all had a basis somewhere, that they weren't imagined in any way. Most could be traced to something which could be rectified.

"Chakotay, I can't really describe it all or even how it started. All right, I know the night it started." She smiled at him and told him how she'd slipped with the broken glass and the feelings which had come over her.

"I felt dead inside, as if there was nothing in my life and suddenly seeing my own blood like that… It was like proof that I was alive." She looked to him embarrassed but saw only understanding written on his face. "It was the greatest feeling of relief, like being hot and having cool water poured over me or something. I don't know but I felt better for it. Anyway, I came out of it and attended the Doctor and he fixed me up." She twisted the corner of the cushion she held. "I told myself it was just an experiment when I tried it again, just to see if I'd imagined it all but it was the same. It just felt like letting the pressure out, like all inside me would explode and this let the steam out. Sometimes I had all this pain inside and feeling it on the outside helped me. Other times I'd feel nothing at all and when I cut, then I'd feel the pain but it was better than feeling nothing at all. I guess I could make the pain show or something, that I could feel it on the outside and deal with it there." She looked back at Chakotay and he just nodded for her to continue.

"If I had feelings on the inside, the outside pain would drown them out and… Oh Chakotay, I'm not sure I understand any of this at all. It feels like it just happened and I had no control over it. One day I was feeling bad and the next I'd found something to help it, even if it was only for a short time. I knew it was wrong but it just felt so good and it became stronger than I was and I felt that at least I was accomplishing something for myself in a life I felt I had no control over. Can you understand any of this?" He reached for her hand and held it.

"The more I did it, the less physical pain I felt but watching the blood was… I don't know what to call it. I just know how much better I felt after it. I think there was an element of punishment about it too, that as I'd caused so much pain to this crew, I should feel some as well. Afterwards I would feel almost reborn but it never lasted long and so… Oh I'd feel disgusted about myself afterwards but that was nothing to what I felt before. I knew it was wrong and thought it was sick even but I still did it. I always thought that people who did this should be locked away and I wondered how I'd reached this point but the urge would be there to just feel something or drown out the other pain and so it would happen again and again." She looked to him with tears in her eyes.

Chakotay smiled softly and squeezed her hand again. "Do you still feel the urge or the need to cut yourself?" He saw her think about this.

"Not as much and I haven't as you know since that one time and I think that was because I was afraid of what I had to face and afraid I couldn't do it, and I was still embarrassed and ashamed but you didn't show anger or disappointment in me and it gave me a strength and a will to try harder and having you here, talking and other distractions…"

Chakotay frowned. "Kathryn, love, I'm not on guard duty you know. I just want to be here to help and support you."

She squeezed his hand. "I know that and I didn't mean…" She reached down and pulled her sleeve up, showing him the band she'd placed there. "In the last week, I've only snapped it four times." She smiled and bit her lip. "I've only used the red ice twice but it helped. I feel as if seeing it running away, the blood or the red colouring, it's like the pain flowing out of me, like water from a faucet." Chakotay nodded and smiled. He'd known she'd used the ice but hadn't mentioned it to her, letting her tell him if she wanted to. "I always felt so calm afterwards, the way I think I should feel all the time."

Chakotay reached over and stroked her cheek and she let him. "How do you usually feel, Kathryn?"

She frowned and looked down at their joined hands. "Empty, depressed, alone, guilty even. Things happen to us and I'm afraid I won't be able to cope with them, that I'll let you all down or get you killed. I know it's my fault that we're all here in the first place and I feel so guilty over that. I feel life passing me by and I've no one to… I guess I always thought I'd be married at this stage in my life, at least have someone, have a child. I feel alienated from everyone because I feel I have to be and if I don't stand back, they won't respect me or… I feel I've failed you all and failed myself too. Other times I just feel numb or totally dead inside and I don't know which is worse, then I can feel so angry that all this has happened to me and I want to lash out but as I'm to blame, I lash out at myself and blame myself for the mess I see myself in. I miss my home, my family and friends, my dog even. I miss having someone to come home to. I miss friendship and someone to hold me and I miss… Well, I miss sex even, although I think that's more the closeness I miss." She looked up, suddenly embarrassed but Chakotay was just staring at her, a look of deep sadness on his face. She saw tears in his eyes and felt her own fill up.

Without any warning, he leaned over and pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly and she gloried in it, savoured it as he embraced her and cocooned her to him. She let her tears go and for the first time it felt good and she experienced relief from them instead of seeing her own blood. They clung to each other for a long time, each giving way to their tears and drawing comfort from the other.


That proved to be the biggest turning point for Kathryn and she improved from that night on. Tuvok helped her with meditation and she took up painting again. She visited the holodecks and found ways to relieve her tension though sports and other fitness programs. Sometimes she'd just swim at the beach or walk through woodland to relax and slowly she learned to experience a great calmness from these instead of cutting herself. She regained her appetite and began to enjoy food. Talking nightly with Chakotay helped her deal with her feelings of guilt and her fear that she couldn't cope or wasn't good enough and she slowly began to learn to like herself and accept that she didn't run the ship alone. She came to accept what was and move on from it and she began to interact with the crew more, visiting Sandrine's in the evenings and no one questioned why she was off duty. Friendships developed in the strangest of places and she discovered shared interests with some crewmembers she'd never considered before. The more she opened up to them, the more they came.

One night as she lay back against Chakotay, she talked to him about all this. He brought a smile to her face when he told her he had a story for her.

"Another ancient legend?" She smiled and remembered how good it had been back then on New Earth and how different things could have been if she'd just made different decisions then but using her newly found thought processes, she put it aside and concentrated on the now.

"No, this is just a story. It's about a farmer who slaved away to protect his crops using scarecrows and so on but he was very lonely. One day, he decided to take down the scarecrows and invite all the birds and animals onto his land. He stood in the field all day, his arms in the air, calling to them all but not one bird or one animal came near him. They were afraid you see, of the farmer's new scarecrow." Kathryn bit her lip and choked back a sob. "Just let your arms down, Kathryn, and they'll all come to you. I think you've just discovered that. We're all a team here on this ship. I told you before and I'll tell you again. You are not alone here and I don't just mean with me. Every crewmember is there for you personally and professionally and I think you see that now. I think you can also see that you've probably gained even more respect from them than you ever had before if that's possible."

Kathryn sniffled and nodded. She looked up and smiled at him then held up her arm and snapped the elastic band. When she saw his puzzled expression, she laughed. "Not that. I just wanted to make sure I'm not dreaming."

Chakotay roared and pulled her to him and they lay together for a long time, finally drifting off to sleep together.


The next time Kathryn saw the Doctor when he called on her, he informed her that he was delighted with her progress and told her that she could finish her sessions with him now if she felt ready but that he was always available if or when she ever needed him. Kathryn thanked him and told him she felt she was ready for that step but that she'd continue with Chakotay.

The Doctor smile proudly. "I should imagine you won't need him much longer either. You can finally have your quarters to yourself again." He turned his back and didn't see the almost panicked look that crossed Kathryn's face. The thought of Chakotay returning to his own quarters hadn't occurred to her and she'd grown to love having him with her. Now suddenly she had to face being alone again, even if only in her own rooms and she found it terrified her.

When the Doctor left, Kathryn stood in the centre of the room and heard only silence and it consumed her. Without warning, some of her old feelings returned to her and she paced up and down, trying to calm herself. It came to her now that she'd grown dependent on having Chakotay with her and she wondered if she'd really come that far at all, if she'd only traded one addiction for another. Taking deep breaths, she fought to control the urge to cut herself and made for the replicator instead and ordered some red ice. As she watched it materialize in front of her, her mind cleared and the truth hit her. The reason she didn't want Chakotay to leave was because she was in love with him, that her dependency on him wasn't a fear of not being able to cope on her own but about not wanting to. The ice forgotten, she wandered towards her bedroom, this new discovery overwhelming her and sat heavily on the edge of the bed. Her tears came and she let them.

When Chakotay returned a little later, he entered quietly and looked around for Kathryn. His eyes were drawn to the replicator and he saw the container of red ice sitting there. Worried, he made his way towards the other room and found Kathryn still sitting on the side of the bed, tears streaming down her face. She jumped when she saw him, a look of panic on her face. Chakotay hid his disappointment well and approached her.

"Kathryn, love, what happened? I saw the ice and… I thought the Doctor was calling on you today." She nodded and he saw her look away embarrassed. She stood quickly and tried to push past him but he blocked her. "Kathryn, what happened? Did he upset you or something? Talk to me." He refused to let her past no matter how hard she pushed.

"I'm all right. I didn't do it. I fought it." She struggled weakly against him.

"Kathryn, it's all right. You'll get through this. The fact that you went for the ice over anything else shows that and then to resist even that. I'm so proud of you. Kathryn, please. It's all right. Just tell me why you felt the need."

She stopped pushing against him and hid her face. "It wasn't… It's nothing. He just reminded me. Please, Chakotay…"

He grabbed her by the shoulders. "No, Kathryn, we've come too far these last few weeks. I know it'll take longer than that but we've made wonderful progress. The Doctor told me he thinks you're ready to finish with him and that you won't need me for much longer…" He saw her turn away quickly at his words, still hiding her face and suddenly it all slammed home with him.

"Oh Kathryn, sweetheart, is that it? That IS it, isn't it?" She looked up at him and the sadness on her face tore at him. "Are you afraid you won't be able to continue on your own? Kathryn, you've come so far with this and you'll be fine. We've achieved so much and you've done so well and you won't be alone…" He saw her shake her head.

"I got scared about something and then it scared me about why it was and I thought at first it was for one reason and then I realized it was for another one and while it's better for me that way that it wasn't the first, it still is and…"

Chakotay moved her back towards the bed and sat them both down. "Kathryn, I don't understand what you're saying. What scared you?" He tilted her chin up so he could see her face.

"I'm afraid to tell you…and embarrassed and… I can't…" Chakotay smiled softly at her, his thumb caressing her cheek.

"Honey, there's nothing you can't tell me or talk to me about. I love you and that won't ever change." He took a deep breath, determined to speak the words. "Look, I know what you said before about us and that there can't be anything between us and I accept that from you but I can't or won't hide what I feel from you. I'll always be here for you, right next door." He saw the pain in her eyes and something clicked in his mind.

"Kathryn, you don't think… You do. You think that because you don't need me like that anymore… Oh, Kathryn, you're not going to lose me, I swear it. I'm not leaving you or deserting you." He pulled her into his arms and kissed the side of her head. "I'll only be next door. You're not losing your friend."

Kathryn cried on his shoulder for several minutes and then pulled back, wiping at her own tears. "Chakotay, I don't…" She looked up and around her, tears and frustration on her face.

"Kathryn, I've told you that you can say anything to me. What is it? Please, love."

She looked at him and drew in a deep breath. "I…I don't…want you to…" She ducked her head down again but he forced her to look at him.

"You don't want me to what? Don't want me to leave?" He found himself barely breathing.

Kathryn just looked at him, her eyes swimming in her tears and nodded her head. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I'm… You've done so much for me and now… I'm not being fair on you. When the Doctor said about me not needing you, I got scared. Then it scared me that I'd become dependent on you, maybe instead of what I'd been doing and that that was the reason but then…then I realized that it wasn't and that it was because I just didn't want you to go because…because of how I feel about you and…"

Chakotay's face lit up. "Kathryn Janeway, are you telling me you love me and want me to live with you?" When she saw his huge smile, she managed one of her own and nodded. "Are you sure?"

Once again, she nodded. "I'm sure. I mean if you want and… It's just these last weeks I've realized how much…" She laughed when she saw the expression on his face, like a child awaiting something previous. "I've realized just how much I love you, that I probably have for a long time and I either couldn't admit it or was maybe too scared to. I mean I do think I could cope alone and that's thanks to you and all and I know you'll always be my friend but I don't want to be on my own and… I want more. I want you."

The breath was squashed out of her as he pulled her to him and hugged her so tightly, she thought her ribs would crack. "Oh Kathryn, I never thought I'd hear you say that. You've made me so happy."

She pulled away a bit. "I've made you unhappy. I've wasted so much time. If I'd just made the right decision a year ago, none of this would have happened and I wouldn't have caused you hurt and pain."

Chakotay pressed a finger to her lips. "Kathryn, you can't think like that. Looking back is no use to anyone. Surely that's what you've learned most from all this. We all have regrets in our lives, about why we did this and not that, why we made one decision over another. The fact is that you weren't ready or the time wasn't right for you or us. You made what you felt was the right decision at the time with what you saw before you. None of us can see or know the future. We can try and plan for it but that's all. Now, do you really want me to stay because I have to tell you, I've been trying to delay going. I mean I wanted you to be all right but the more you improved, I felt guilty for thinking that it was getting nearer to when I'd have to leave you and I'm sorry for how that sounds."

Kathryn pressed a finger to his lips now. "No regrets, remember?" He nodded, tears suddenly filling his own eyes. Cupping her face gently, he studied her for a moment then leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. He heard a soft cry from her throat as she leaned into the kiss and felt her press herself to him, knowing that it had been a long time, too long, since she'd been kissed or held this way. Their arms slipped around each other and Chakotay deepened the kiss. Kathryn clung to him, finding everything that had been missing from her life in his arms and she felt as if she'd finally come home.

As they lay in each other's arms later, Kathryn studied the sleeping man beside her. The feelings which flowed through her were unmatched by anything she'd ever known and for a brief moment, she looked back on what she'd missed up to now but she quickly banished these thoughts. The future lay in her arms now, here in the present and that was what she'd concentrate on. She knew there might be times in the future when the ghosts of the past months could come back to her but she felt she had an armour to protect her now, that even if this ceased someday, the memory of it would sustain her and nourish her. She'd been strengthened by this man, by his love for her and the love she had for him and it filled her completely. Their love would always be a shield she carried, protecting her against whatever life threw at her. He'd helped her become the person she was now and it would be as a testament to that love that she'd remain that person, for herself and for him.

Kathryn slipped quietly from the bed and recorded these thoughts while they were still so fresh with her. She glanced back through the earlier entries in the personal log she'd kept throughout it all which Chakotay had encouraged her to write and marvelled at how far they'd come, how far she'd come. She smiled softly and offered a silent prayer of thanks for whoever was listening and closed the entry. Later she'd show Chakotay what she'd written, would share this with him.

For now, she stood and walked back to the bed and slipped quietly back into Chakotay's arms. She kissed the side of his face softly. "I love you."

He murmured in his sleep and tightened his arms around her. "I love you too". Kathryn snuggled against him and slowly drifted off, finally at peace with herself and the world around her.

THE END.

Without any understanding of self-injury, it might seem impossible that a woman like Kathryn Janeway would reach a point where she would self-injure, but it is most often women like her who are victims of this and I hope that has been made clear in the story. One of the most famous women who self-injured was the late Princess Diana. This subject, just like rape, incest and child abuse, is considered taboo by society and it is this attitude which causes victims to feel ashamed or embarrassed when they have no reason whatsoever to feel that way. Just like something hidden in a dark corner, the fear of what's there goes away when you shine a light on it. The greatest problem is our own ignorance, probably the worst form of self-abuse there is.

From the point of view of this story and as a piece of fan fiction, Kathryn Janeway overcomes her problems in a short space of time and I in no way intended to give the impression that this can be dealt with in this manner.

If you are a sufferer, I urge you to seek help. There is no shame in this and you owe it to yourself. If you know someone who suffers, give them your love and support, the same as you'd want from them. Educate yourself and be the friend they need.