Chakotay leaned against the door to Kathryn's quarters, drawing in several deep breaths and mentally prepared himself for what lay ahead. Finally he lifted his hand and entered his code into the small panel and waited as the doors slid open.
He entered into the dim and silent sitting room and with just a small hesitation made his way to the bedroom. He paused in the doorway and looked at the woman sitting in front of him before making his way to her and gently stroking her hair. She turned slowly and looked up at him, her face tired and pale.
He kept his voice low. "How's she doing?"
"Sleeping at last." She didn't need to say any more. Her short and simple words told him all he needed to know.
"It was bad? Earlier?"
She nodded and he saw the tears come to her eyes. "Chakotay…"
He dropped his hand to her shoulder and squeezed gently. "It's OK, B'Elanna, I know. Go home to Tom now and rest. I'll take over." His eyes settled on the sleeping form of Kathryn, her peaceful pose giving no indication of what had been or what would be again shortly.
"Chakotay, you can't keep this up either. You're worn out as it is. Let Tuvok take over for a while and run things. He's offered enough times." She knew he was near breaking point.
He just nodded his head. "Maybe you're right. I'll talk to him in the morning. Has the Doctor been yet?"
"He was by earlier when she was… He's due again any time now."
Chakotay met her eyes. "How bad was it?"
The engineer debated diluting her words but knew her old friend would be able to tell. He needed her honesty more. "Pretty bad. Doc needs to talk to you actually." Silence followed for several minutes as they watched the gentle rise and fall of Kathryn's chest.
Chakotay sighed sadly. "Go on, B'El, you've done enough, more than enough for one day. I'll see you later."
She patted his arm gently. "You know where I am if you need me and Tom will take over in the morning. Take care of yourself, OK?" He nodded, barely hearing her words, his attention on the woman lying in front of him. He vaguely heard voices in the other room and realized that the Doctor had arrived.
"Commander, I need to check…" Chakotay stood back and watched the medic as he ran his scans. He waited until he saw the Doctor turn from the bed before moving to the other room, the Doctor knowing to follow.
"Well?" There was no need for anything else.
The Doctor hesitated a moment and then spoke. "As you can see, she's sleeping peacefully for the moment." The Doctor finally met Chakotay's eyes and he saw the questions there. "I take it Lieutenant Torres told you she had some problems earlier in the day?"
Chakotay nodded. "You should have called me."
The Doctor pressed a firm hand on the commander's arm. "You have enough to deal with and anyway I got here quickly and we dealt with it."
Chakotay sighed deeply. He briefly wondered when they'd all started to speak in code so much, none of them actually saying the words. "How bad was it really?" His expression dared to medic to hide anything from him.
"As bad as it's been. She did more damage to herself than to Ms. Torres." The Doctor saw Chakotay's look of fear and reassured him. "Commander, it was only bruising. Nothing serious. As I say, I was here almost immediately and together we got things under control. The captain's exhausted so there wasn't much fight in her."
Voyager's First Officer sat on the sofa and ran his hands through his hair. "How much longer?"
The Doctor moved towards him, wishing he had more answers. "I wish I could say. It will be at least another week and after that, well, after that it will lessen. You know that. Physically, she came through the worse before." He sat also. "Commander, I have to tell you that… Well, with this stage of…" Again they avoided the words. "With this stage… I believe we haven't seen the worst of it yet." Chakotay's head shot up and he groaned. "Commander, you can't do this alone."
Chakotay shot him an annoyed look. "I can. Anyway, I'm not. I have the others."
The Doctor cut him off. "That's not what I mean and you know it. You're taking all this on yourself, emotionally and physically, as well as trying to run this ship. I've personally had enough. I'm ordering you to hand the reins over to Commander Tuvok until this situation is… Commander Chakotay, again I'm telling you that you can't do both and you know it. Take a leave and look after her. Anyway, even when you're on duty, your mind is here so you might as well be here physically as well. Let the others take care of her from time to time and get the sleep you need, take the breaks you need. In that way, it will be better for you and for her."
Chakotay nodded knowing the medic was right. "All right, Doctor. I'll let Tuvok know."
The Doctor smiled knowingly. "I've taken the liberty of already informing him."
Chakotay smiled for the first time in weeks. "When she's better, I'm going to get her to teach me her famous 'death glare' then I'll have a weapon against you."
He felt the Doctor pat his shoulder. "I'll leave some hypos with you for later." They both understood the meaning behind that.
"Isn't there anything else you can give her? Something stronger? They don't work…"
The EMH looked down at the carpet. "We've been through this before. I can't take the risk and you know that. Using what I did before… Well, I couldn't have known then and either way I'd have had no choice, but now if I give her… Commander, you know we have enough problems as it is."
Chakotay stood and nodded. "I know. I'm sorry. I do understand. It's just seeing her this way."
The Doctor was at a loss. Nothing in his databanks equipped him to deal with this. "Perhaps you should take a break tonight and let someone else…" Chakotay shook his head. "Commander, later it's going to be bad and you're tired after your shift."
Chakotay's glare was close to Kathryn's. "No. I'm fine and I'm staying with her. Please Doctor, I'll call if…when…"
The Doctor let the matter drop. "All right. Call me the minute…" They both knew the Doctor would be returning before too long.
Taking the opportunity while Kathryn still slept, Chakotay quickly replicated something to eat and drink for himself. He used his new special codes to operate the replicator and sighed deeply to himself, knowing there'd been no other choice but to deny Kathryn access to it.
He finished his small meal quickly and re-cycled the dishes then moved to the bedroom. She was still sleeping, hadn't moved position and he was glad of that. At least for the moment, she was free of the terrifying nightmares which plagued her. He pulled a chair over to the bed and fell wearily into it then just sat and waited for what was to come.
"Oh Kathryn…" He felt tears come to his eyes as he looked at her. Even like this, she was beautiful. He sat back and watched her, taking in the sight before him and let his mind drift back, back to when life had been normal, as normal as it could be in the Delta Quadrant.
They'd finally moved towards a relationship together and neither of them had ever been happier. They had both decided to take things slowly and just savour what was happening between them. They hadn't slept together yet and had planned some time off on the holodeck, a 'weekend away' from the ship. Both of them wanted their first time to be special, something which would carry them into their autumn years with the memory of it. They never got that chance.
It had been a routine stop at an average planet. Nothing had warned of what was to come. Kathryn had simply gone down for shore leave and had been there one minute and gone the next. It had taken almost three weeks of bribing for information and exhaustive searching before they discovered what had happened to their captain.
Kathryn Janeway had been taken by slave traders and sold to work in the mines of a brutal race. The crew had been covertly told that their captain had not been the first and would no doubt not be the last to be taken in this manner. It had taken Voyager another two weeks to locate the mines and a further two days to rescue their captain. What they 'rescued' was a shell of what had been. The fact that Kathryn had survived as long as she had was a testament to her own strong will and Chakotay knew when he first saw her that it was her spirit which had gotten her through and nothing else.
When they beamed her back to the ship and finally managed to escape the planet's fighters, an even greater battle awaited them in sickbay.
Chakotay remembered looking down at her as she lay on the biobed. There'd not been a part of her skin unmarked and whip marks had marred her back. Cuts and bruises covered her small frame and she was skin and bone. Her hands and feet were the worst, cut and bloody, her toe and fingernails almost torn out. Her eyes had been swollen from the constant dust and grit in the mines and bruises littered her face and neck. He remembered her hair, dull and matted with dried grasses and other unknown dirt. Her skin had been filthy and Chakotay had held himself back from gagging at the stench that filled the air around them. He'd stood back then as the Doctor fought against time to treat the injuries they could see and the more serious ones which were hidden from view. He'd watched the battle to save her and the fight to control the seizures which gripped her.
Chakotay had suddenly been aware of the Doctor standing beside him and one look at the EMH's face had told him there was bad news to come. He knew the Doctor had taken blood and tissue samples and was awaiting the results. His eyes had asked the questions for him and the scene played itself out in his mind again now.
"Commander, can you come into my office please?" The medic moved off and Chakotay followed.
"What have you found?" His worry was clearly evident in his voice.
"Her injuries were easy enough to treat, although if much more time had passed…. Mostly broken bones, cuts and bruises, some of which were quite deep and a lot of the cuts were badly infected. There was some internal bleeding and bruising but that's healing now. Most of these injuries, I believe, were the result of beatings, meant to injure but not kill." Chakotay knew about that from the Cardassians and he barely held his anger in check.
"You know I performed a full blood screening to determine what was causing the fitting?" Chakotay just nodded, not trusting himself to speak and the Doctor continued. "There is a drug in her system which I can't identify but I know of similar ones. This drug was probably injected in a crude manner. I found puncture wounds on her arms…"
Chakotay broke in now. "How harmful is it? Can't you just flush it out?"
The Doctor held his hand up. "Please, let me explain. This drug is slow acting, time released if you like. It was probably given to all the prisoners. Commander…"
Chakotay knew he was trying to ease his words. "Doctor, just spit it out."
The EMH nodded. "Very well. From what I can see, it's highly addictive. Probably used to keep the prisoners under control. I believe the seizures we saw were the first stages of withdrawal from this drug. She probably would have received another dose at this stage although I can only speculate on that. Of course it could also be a side effect of the drug or a result of being on it as long as she has." The medic waited to see if what he had spoken of was understood by the man sitting in front of him and saw realization slowly dawn.
"You're saying she's addicted to this drug?" The Doctor nodded. "Wait, let me get this straight. She's addicted to it but surely you can just…"
The medic stood. "Commander, what I'm saying is that, yes, she's addicted. However, because this is released slowly, it will be a day or two before she begins to feel the withdrawal fully. There's nothing I can give her. The drugs I've used to save her life will only have added to the problem. All I'll be able to give her will be very mild sedatives if it gets too bad and mild pain relievers. Even that won't help much."
Chakotay just sat stunned. The Doctor felt it better to discuss things as they arose and leave the matter for the moment. As he explained this, Chakotay just nodded. Finally he had gone to her. At least he could feel he was doing something for her this way.
Chakotay had gently bathed her, using her favourite soap and then had washed out her hair, the familiar scent of her shampoo filling the space around them and replacing what had been before. He'd spent over an hour teasing out the tangles and matts in her hair and brushed it until it was free of all the debris of the planet. He knew it would be some time before the shine returned to it and wished he could wash away the memories which would come to her later as easily as he'd washed away the dirt and grime on her skin.
He'd then sat quietly and watched her as she slept, her mind at peace for the moment. Chakotay had thought about her injuries and knew that her captors would have known the fine line between hurting and killing, knowing that if they injured a prisoner too much, they'd be down a worker. This drug had obviously been given to each prisoner to keep them in line, their quick addiction to it ensuring they stayed close to their supply.
Chakotay sat now, once again watching Kathryn sleep. That had been five days ago and she had been back in her quarters three days now.
When Kathryn had regained consciousness, Chakotay had slowly explained everything to her about the drug. She'd been fairly lucid then and had sat quietly as the Doctor explained that only time would rid her body of the effects of the drug. Kathryn had not spoken of her time in the camp and Chakotay hadn't pushed her for any details, knowing she'd speak of it all when she was ready. She needed all her strength now for the immediate fight.
He remembered how proud he'd been of her as she'd faced what lay ahead, telling them she knew it would be bad but that she wanted to fight this with all she had in her. Chakotay and the Doctor both knew she had little understanding at that time of just how bad it would get and they tried to prepare her for it but Kathryn was being the captain, desperately needing to feel in control again and believing that there was nothing she couldn't face.
Chakotay had watched helplessly as she'd struggled against headaches and muscle cramps, freezing one minute and sweating the next, kicking the thin blankets off herself to try and cool down. He knew this was nothing compared to what was to come and tried his best to help any way he could. She was still fairly lucid and kept telling them that she could take this, not to interfere, that she would beat this.
Within another day, it had all changed. The Kathryn they'd known had disappeared. She'd gone through spaces of agonizing spasms then stages of shivering or sweating, screaming at them to help her. Other moments of clarity came and then she'd cry for minutes then switch to anger and then fear. She ran the gamut of emotions within minutes, throwing herself at Chakotay or the Doctor, yelling at them that they were trying to kill her.
Eventually, the Doctor had used one of the mild sedatives but it had had little effect. Kathryn had finally collapsed with exhaustion and it had then been decided to move her to her own quarters and keep the round the clock watch which was now in place. Chakotay and B'Elanna, along with Tom took most of the hours, Tuvok filling in when he could. The Doctor had advised keeping this from the crew and they'd all agreed. They also knew that whoever sat with her needed to be strong enough to restrain her if that need arose and it came about many times.
It had gotten worse since the return to her quarters. During Chakotay's time with her, he'd witnessed her usual shivering and sweating and he could help with this, providing cool clothes or warm blankets.
When her body locked itself in agonizing cramps and spasms, he tried his best to work them out for her. What he found harder to deal with was her screams. She'd scream in pure terror at horrifying images visible only to herself, throwing herself around the rooms in a desperate attempt to escape. Other times, these monsters invaded her sleep and he would pull her to him, trying to talk away the horrors for her. The worst time had been when he'd exited the bathroom to find that she'd replicated a knife and had slit her wrists and cut at her throat. The Doctor had healed the cuts and her replicator was taken off line. They'd also removed every sharp object in her quarters.
Day after day, she grew worse and her paranoia built to dizzying heights. She accused them all of trying to kill her, of keeping her prisoner in her own quarters, of mutiny and trying to take the ship from her. Within a short space of time, she'd switch and a few times now she'd thrown herself at Chakotay and even Tom, demanding that they 'fuck her'. The first time she'd tried this, Chakotay had been too shocked to move but had eventually pulled her off him and managed to get her into the shower, knowing the water would switch her thoughts to something else. He remembered how embarrassed Tom had been when he'd reported the same behaviour to him and the Doctor. They were used to it now. When they turned her down, she'd fly into a temper telling them that they all hated her and just wanted to see her dead.
She had other moments when she'd beg them to get her some of the drug, to just take the edge off what she was feeling and then in her now lesser lucid moments, demanded that they ignore anything she said. It was during these moments, that Chakotay knew the real Kathryn still existed somewhere in there and this gave him the will to carry on. She had times where she re-lived all the terrible moments of her life and she cried her very soul out then, Chakotay feeling totally helpless.
The Doctor was giving her nutritional supplements. Nothing she tried to eat or drink would stay in her stomach and Chakotay would hold her head as she knelt over the toilet, her small body heaving with the retching. Afterwards, he'd clean her as she lay limp on the bathroom floor, staring off into nothingness.
She started to stir slowly now and Chakotay was instantly alert. He listened as she started to cry out but her words meant nothing to him. He knew most of what she spoke of and did meant nothing to her and that she was, for the most part, totally unaware of her words and actions. He knew the drug she'd been given was still coursing through her system, working its evil, despite the best efforts of their Doctor and realized that this had been the plan when the drug had been administered in the first place.
She cried out louder this time and he knew the pain she must be in. At times, he'd tried different herbal teas and old remedies his mother had taught him about but they helped little.
Within minutes, Kathryn woke fully and Chakotay tried to gauge what was to come this time. As he reached towards her, she sprang up on the bed and jumped back away from him. He saw the wildness in her eyes and tried gently talking her down from the level of fear he saw building in her.
"Kathryn, please." He saw her absolute terror.
"Who are you? Please don't hurt me." That she didn't know him tore at Chakotay. He prayed for strength.
"Kathryn, it's me. Chakotay. You know me. Come on, love, you're safe. I'd never hurt you."
Kathryn quickly jumped off the bed, trying to escape him. He caught up with her in the other room and stopped short for a minute. Her screams filled the room as she huddled in the corner, yelling out at the creatures and horrors she saw before her and cried out at the voices only she could hear. Within seconds, she changed and turned on Chakotay now, shouting that she wanted to be free and demanding to know why he was doing this to her, asking why he hated her so much.
He stood and let her work this out for a minute and he saw her appear totally confused but moved to her quickly as she started on herself now, pulling at her hair, crying out that she had to get it off her as it was eating her. She fought him fiercely as he tried to restrain her without causing her harm but she had a strength that shocked him. In desperation, he ordered the computer to summon the Doctor and within seconds the medic appeared. Together they held her down but she quickly fought them off and began throwing herself at the walls and furniture, screaming about things crawling inside her, her nails tearing at her skin causing bloody scratches to rise. Once again they managed to get hold of her and bodily carried her back to the bedroom.
As they held her down on the bed, she screamed at them that they were trying to rape and kill her and finally the Doctor tried one of the sedatives but with no effect. As a final resort, hating themselves for it, they secured her wrists and ankles to the bed, knowing there was no other way to stop her doing serious harm to herself. When she realized that she was restrained, her tears came and she begged them to kill her one minute and let her go the next.
Finally exhausted from her constant struggles, she fell quiet and cried herself into a fitful sleep. Chakotay moved into the other room, unable to take it.
The Doctor, having healed her scratches, followed and stood awkwardly, waiting for Chakotay to gather himself together. "She should sleep for an hour or so now."
Chakotay just nodded, not turning to face the Doctor. Finally he found his voice. "You wouldn't want to treat an animal the way we…"
The Doctor cut in. "Commander, you can't beat yourself up over this. What we have just done… Well, we have no other choice. She's capable in this state of inflicting serious harm on herself. You know we have to do this."
Chakotay finally turned and faced the Doctor. "I know that. It just doesn't make it any easier."
Silence followed as the two men sorted their thoughts. The Doctor broke it. "As hard as this is, I suggest we keep her restrained, at least until we deem it safe to." Chakotay rubbed at his face before nodding his agreement and the Doctor left.
Once again, he took his place beside her bed and continued his vigil.
True to the Doctor's prediction, Kathryn awoke again within the hour. She immediately discovered that she was tied and panicked, twisting and struggling against her bonds. Chakotay leaned into her view and was shocked by the look of alarm in her eyes. "Kathryn, please understand. You were hurting yourself."
Her emotion changed instantly. "You just want to rape me, you bastard. You want me like this so you can take what you want."
Chakotay felt pain grip him. "Oh Spirits, Kathryn. Why do you say these things?"
She laughed now, her emotion changing again. "Well, go on. Have your fun. Kill me when you're done. You'd be doing me a favour." He groaned and turned away but her voice followed him.
"What's wrong with you? Not man enough for me? Come on, I know you want me, that you've always wanted this." Chakotay felt himself losing control and turned back to her. His rage was showing and she saw it.
"You want to hit me, don't you? I can see it. DO IT." She was screaming again, the rest of her words drowned out by her own cries. Chakotay sat beside her and tried to reason with her but he was getting nowhere. Finally exhausted once more, she slipped off to sleep again. He noticed how easily she tired when she was like this and saw it as a blessing.
Within another hour, she awoke again and Chakotay prepared himself for more of the same. She was quieter this time and he watched as she slowly looked around her before her eyes rested on him. He tried a soft smile.
"Chakotay?" She was confused and looked lost and hurt and he felt the pain again.
"Kathryn, it's all right." She never remembered much when she was herself again and he never knew what to tell her. She pulled at the restraints and looked to him to explain and reassure her.
"Kathryn, I'm so sorry but we had to." He watched as her eyes filled with tears and she tried unsuccessfully to blink them back.
"Was I that bad?"
He knew she wanted him to be honest but he always tried to sugar coat the truth. "You were hurting yourself." He didn't know what else he could say. He saw her absorb this and watched her tears fall more.
"I'm sorry. I don't remember." Suddenly her head snapped back to him. "Oh God, did I hurt anyone? Are you all right?" She was really panicked now but he quickly reassured her and saw her relax slightly.
She looked sadly at him. "Can I have some water please?" She was like a lost and frightened child and his heart was breaking seeing her like this. If he could have turned the ship around and gone after the bastards who'd done this to her, he'd have killed them all with his bare hands.
He gently cradled her head as she drank, careful not to let her choke on the cool liquid. She pulled her head back and nodded that she'd had enough. Chakotay put the glass down and stayed sitting on the bed beside her. He watched as her mind drifted to places he knew nothing of and he saw the pain her thoughts and memories brought her. Slowly her eyes slipped closed again and she drifted off. He barely caught her whisper. "Don't let me go, Chakotay."
Tears came to his eyes along with a swell of emotion and he leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Never, love. Never." He didn't know if she heard him or if she understood.
Over the next two days, Kathryn lived through hell and Chakotay and the others caring for her shared it. Twice she broke free of her bonds and the struggle to re-secure her was fierce each time. At one stage, she actually broke her own wrist and screamed out in pain. When the Doctor came to mend the break, she screamed at him and accused him of causing the injury in the first place.
Chakotay was amazed at the strength she possessed despite her condition but learned to harden himself against her pained pleas to release her. He saw the muscle spasms were worse when she was tied but knew they couldn't take any risks with her, afraid she'd wound herself again. He massaged her muscles, trying to bring her some relief when they locked on her and sometimes she understood that he was trying to help her. On other occasions, she screamed in fear of what he was doing and then within minutes, would try and coax him to go further, attempting to talk him into 'making it' with her. She used cruel words on him and they cut deeply for a time until he told himself that these things came not from Kathryn but from the effects of the drug.
Sometimes she was so pitiful that Chakotay almost relented and untied her and Kathryn quickly learned to use this against him but he was ahead of her. He even learned to change the bedclothes with her still secured. He was grateful that she understood nothing of his care of her, knowing how proud a woman she was and that she'd be mortified if she was aware of how he needed to clean and wash her, taking care of all her bodily needs. When she was physically sick, he'd hold her head to the side and then clean her up, soothing words flowing from him in the hope that she'd understand them and gain some comfort from them. The only time he took off now was to eat and sleep and even this he did in her quarters while Tom or B'Elanna kept watch over their captain. Kathryn couldn't be left alone for a second in case she was sick again and choked on her own vomit.
Chakotay was worn out physically and especially emotionally. Kathryn was using every game she could come up with to try and get to him and a few times, while someone else watched her, he quickly retreated to his own quarters to release his emotion and pain in privacy.
Within the last day, Chakotay saw that Kathryn was starting to remember her 'lost' hours more and more and on the more frequently occurring times she was herself, he saw how embarrassed she was by her behaviour. He constantly tried to tell her that none of this was her fault and he saw her accept this but knew she was mainly trying to change the subject as quickly as she could. Kathryn wasn't ready to acknowledge any of this on a verbal level and so Chakotay let things lie.
By the sixth day in her quarters, Kathryn was a lot calmer but was still far from over her withdrawal. The Doctor felt it was now possible to undo her restraints and Chakotay prayed he was right. Kathryn could still not be left alone for even a short period of time and more and more Chakotay saw her annoyance at this, knowing she was someone who badly needed her privacy.
As they passed into the seventh day, he saw her accept the situation and she even told him she understood the need for the constant supervision. Her paranoia was almost gone and her mood swings were settling down but the physical symptoms were still strong, although nothing like what they had been.
As Kathryn resurfaced, Chakotay noticed that she was far quieter and more withdrawn than he'd ever seen her. He knew a lot of this was due to the memories of what she'd suffered at the camp and also embarrassment at her behaviour during her withdrawal. He also understood that the loss of control she'd suffered was something Kathryn Janeway would take a long time to get over. Slowly with the Doctor's permission, he allowed her time to herself in the bedroom. She was finally able to take care of her own personal needs in private too and Chakotay saw that she understood when he hesitantly told her the Doctor had insisted that she leave the bathroom door unlocked when she used it. Chakotay did his best to explain that it wasn't her they didn't trust but what the drug was capable of making her do.
Within another two days, most of the physical symptoms had lessened to almost nothing and became more of an annoyance to her than anything else. The biggest advantage they had was the fact that Kathryn herself was determined to beat this addiction, that it was her body which had been dependent on the drug and not her mind. She was managing now to keep small light meals down and slowly Chakotay saw the woman he'd known before emerge from the chaos of what he'd witnessed over the past week or so and he welcomed her with open arms.
By the end of the second week, the only sign of what Kathryn Janeway had been through showed itself in the occasional trembling of her hands and an uneasiness she found difficult to shake. She still suffered some headaches and muscle cramps but even these were diminishing. Chakotay watched as her restlessness grew and knew she badly needed to get back to her life and so he gradually allowed her to review reports and deal with small amounts of ship's business. This slow easing back to her previous life was the therapy she needed and within a further week, Kathryn appeared almost back to normal.
Chakotay knew however there was still a way to go, especially emotionally and so he sat back and bided his time. The Doctor was happy with her medical progress and finally declared her fit for limited duty but delicately urged her to speak with someone, either himself, Chakotay or Tuvok. While she'd beaten the physical, the medic knew she'd still to face the emotional.
Kathryn herself knew she was avoiding dealing with the memories of her time at the camp and her time during her withdrawal. She knew for the sake of her mental health that she needed to speak of it all and also that a report would need to be filed on the entire situation.
As Chakotay led her back to her quarters one day after one of her many visits to sickbay, she was quieter than usual. When they entered her quarters, he replicated tea for them both and sat beside her on the sofa, feeling she needed to open up to him and sensing that she was working up to this.
"Chakotay, I…." She risked a glance at him and saw that he was simply waiting for her to continue. "What I put you through, you and Tom, B'Elanna, even the Doctor."
He interrupted her. "Kathryn, don't worry about that. You'd have done the same for us. Remember when the Doctor was in need, how you sat with him?" He saw her shake her head.
"This was quite different. Chakotay, I know what I was like. I remember a lot more now and I made the Doctor show me my medical file." She saw the pained expression on his face. "I needed to know. Not knowing what and how I was…"
He nodded, his eyes showing her he understood. "We were happy to be able to be there for you."
She laughed softly at this but was clearly embarrassed. "I think what you did, what you had to do for me went above and beyond the call of duty. This wasn't in the contract when you took on the job." She was making patterns with her fingers, avoiding his eyes.
Chakotay laid a hand on her arm. "It may not be in any Starfleet contract but it is in the contract you make with someone as a friend."
She looked up at him and saw the love there and a rush of feelings came over her. "What I did and the things I said to you all."
He smiled gently. "That's not relevant now. Having you back to us is all that matters." He pulled her to him now and they stayed like that for a long time.
Chakotay finally realized that she'd fallen asleep in his arms and seemed more at peace than she had been in a long time. He kissed the top of her head and hugged her tighter. "I'm here, love. You're safe." As if she heard him, she snuggled closer.
Once the Doctor knew his captain was addressing the problems he was unable to cure with a hypo spray, he finally gave her permission to return to the bridge for limited periods each day. Getting her feet back under her on her own bridge had a remarkable effect on Kathryn and she improved no end. She made a point of speaking with Tom and B'Elanna separately, inviting them to her quarters for dinner and opening up to them in a way she never would have before. Their words almost mirrored Chakotay's about what friendship was all about. Both felt they owed their captain for the lives they had now, for having found each other and had been only too happy to try and repay the debt they felt they owed her.
Tuvok graciously accepted his captain's thanks in his usual manner and accepted her embrace without too much embarrassment but Kathryn saw past his armour and knew that her gratitude meant more to him than he let on.
Slowly, Kathryn and Chakotay fell back into their relationship and late one evening, sharing a light meal together, she finally worked up the courage to speak of the missing weeks. Following a silence in which Chakotay knew the camp was an almost physical presence in her quarters with them, she finally pulled back the curtain and allowed him to witness what she had endured.
"I remember little about being taken." Her voice was shaky and she studied the carpet as if the words she needed were scattered there, waiting for her to pick them up. "I remember being hit with something from behind and then only vague images, being carried, voices and shouting, moving in a ship or something. The next clear memory I have is of waking up at the camp. My uniform was gone and I was in a…I don't know…a kind of camp uniform. We were all the same. There were numbers or letters on it, different to the others. We all had them. I don't know when they… While I was out of it or who undressed me…" Chakotay saw that all this caused her great distress, the not knowing what had happened while she'd been unconscious but he stayed silent and let her tell her story.
"It was a shack of some kind, wooden or something, I think. I remember others there, different races, men and women or what passed for them. The shack was filthy and the smells…" She looked to the man beside her then away just as quickly.
"The days there are a blur. Not that I don't remember but they all rolled into one time. Can you understand?" Once again she met his eyes and continued when he nodded, still silent. "I lost track of time passing. Each day was like the next. We were pulled out of the shacks at first light and taken to a large building. The guards would hit out at us if we didn't move fast enough for them. There were hundreds of us, all in the same shacks, perhaps thirty or so to each, all mixed, men and women together. There was no difference gender wise to the guards. We were just prisoners, worse than animals." She paused and drew in a shaky breath.
"In this building, we all had to line up and guards came to us. The drug, a needle of some kind or syringe, old like we'd have had hundreds of years ago. It was… They weren't gentle." She lowered her head but Chakotay saw the tears in her eyes all the same. "They gave us water and some kind of mixture to eat. It was always… Things crawled in it. I couldn't take it at first and I remember gagging but…" She gave a small laugh. "Starfleet training." She turned to Chakotay again and saw his small smile full of empathy.
"I knew it was eat or die. The water was almost stagnant, foul tasting but we all grabbed at it. We were always thirsty, maybe from the drug or the food mix." At this stage she draw her legs up to her chest, hugging them to her as if gaining security from the gesture. "Then we worked." Chakotay saw the memories pass across her eyes.
"The heat was terrible and the stench. People died, Chakotay." She looked to him, her tears falling now and he gently laid a hand on her arm and squeezed. "The bodies were just left there while the rest of us worked, hacking away at the rocks for the ore, worked around them. We were never allowed shoes of any kind and nothing for our hands. That rock just tore through the skin…" She looked down at her hands as if almost expecting the evidence of all this to still be visible.
"Hours and hours with no respite. Later we had to carry the bodies of the dead back with us. There was a pit…" She rubbed at her face, at the tears there. "I often thought they were the lucky ones…" Chakotay finally moved and pulled her to him and she went desperately into his embrace, clinging to him. Within minutes she pulled back and continued. "Thanks." He just smiled and stroked her hair.
"We were then taken back to the main building and the morning process would be repeated. I knew within a day or two that the drug they gave us was addictive. Always just before we were given it, those two hours or so, I felt myself… I don't know. Agitated or jumpy. Within a few minutes of the dose… None of it seemed so bad I guess or we saw it that way. I fought those shots at first, terrified of what it was they were giving me. I saw most of the others though, almost pushing to the front for their dose, saw how the guards laughed at them, as if sharing a secret only they knew, which of course was the case." She pulled her legs back to herself and hugged them again.
"The nights were the worst despite how the drug made me feel. I never seemed to be able to turn my mind off or stop remembering before. Remembering you." She turned and gripped his hand then pulled hers back again to keep her other one company around her legs.
"I used to lie awake and listen to the others and it almost became a study, watching how people drew strength from each other. They paired off, some of them, sleeping together. Some just held each other, others… Well, I guess it was just sex to them, a physical release or maybe just to feel alive. I don't know." Once again she wiped at the tears on her face.
"One night, one of them came to me. I'd been crying and was trying to keep quiet. I remember being so scared, afraid I wouldn't have the energy to fight him off but… He saw immediately that I didn't want that and he just backed off and left me. They were like that. It was just comfort with them. He was only trying to give me some of that comfort and find some himself." She swallowed loudly and drew in a shaky breath, trying to pull in the strength she needed to go on.
"The guards at least, thank God… They never tried anything like that. I guess we were beneath them for that or maybe because we smelled so bad. Washing ourselves just didn't exist. Toilet facilities were wherever you were. Dignity wasn't a part of your life anymore. The guards may have ignored us at that level but it didn't stop the beatings. Maybe the other would have been better." Chakotay put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him but stayed quiet.
"One day, I cut my hand badly, blood everywhere. I stopped working to see it. Big mistake." She leaned further into him. "They were on me in a second, screaming at me and hitting me. I'd been beaten before by them but this was worse. They always seemed to know just how far they could go although sometimes that didn't work too well. The pain was… When I felt myself black out, I prayed it was all over, I really did." She was silent for some minutes now, memories assaulting her.
"I came around. It was getting dark and I was in…" She broke down completely now and Chakotay did the only thing he could. He hugged her to him tightly and gave the only comfort he could. When she settled a little, he got up and replicated some tea, letting her sip at the soothing beverage and calm herself. When she finished her drink, she spoke on.
"Chakotay, it was the worst of all my time there." Her tears were back instantly at the memories of it. "I woke up and I couldn't see where I was, didn't know. I was cold and in so much pain. It took me some time to understand…" She looked at him and he saw the pain in her eyes.
"I was in…in the…pit. All those bodies… I was lying with them…on top of…" Once more she broke down and Chakotay again just held her as she tried to deal with the memories.
"They must have believed they'd killed me with the beating or maybe that I was beyond help… I don't know. I do remember crying out, screaming. Someone pulled me out, who I don't know, then I was in a building. They were giving me more drugs, doing things. I can't remember much but I guess it was a doctor or someone who was there. After that I remember being back in the shack and it was night. Next morning I was pulled back to the main building and then to the mines. During that day, I wondered if I'd dreamed the whole thing but the images of those bodies stayed and I knew it had been real."
She stood up now and paced. "The others… I guess they tried to comfort me a little but mostly it was just each for themselves, just about survival. They spoke to me but I couldn't understand their words. I wished so much I could have, maybe even spoken to them so that they knew what I was trying to say. The guards? I could never understand them either although maybe that's just as well." A small smile played on her lips but got no further.
"I remember the despair, feeling so helpless, the pain and fear, praying Voyager would come." She stopped pacing and turned to Chakotay. "I can deal with those things, Chakotay. I can push all that away in my mind and deal with it. What won't leave me is the bodies, their dead eyes staring, the feel of their cold, almost as if they were grabbing at me and pulling me down with them. Some were rotting and the stench…"
Kathryn fell to her knees in racking sobs and Chakotay was with her instantly. He lifted her and carried her to her bed. He reached for one of the sedatives and quickly pressed it to her neck. Within a minute, it took effect, not having the drug from the camp impeding it. As she slipped off into oblivion, Chakotay called the Doctor and had him check her. When he was satisfied that she was all right medically, he sat and related to the Doctor all that had come out of her time away from them, knowing the medic needed to know.
The Doctor just nodded. "The sedatives will help when it's too bad but only time will heal this. Her friends, you in particular, that's the best medicine now." Chakotay just thanked the Doctor and then went and sat beside Kathryn for the rest of the night.
Slowly over the next month, Kathryn's own self defence system kicked in and with the help of her good friends and Tuvok aiding her with meditation rituals, she dealt with her demons and became a stronger person for it. Gradually the nightmares receded and the flashes of memory which came during the day also diminished. She knew the images would always stay with her but she learned to control them rather than have them control her.
Chakotay took the time to point out to her that it was mainly down to her own strength of will that she had survived everything and that he and the others had simply been crutches who'd helped along the way. He needed her to know that she could recover on her own, that her strength as the person she was remained with her.
The other thing Kathryn found hard to deal with was the knowledge that while she was back, there were still hundreds and probably thousands still in the camps. It took her a long time to accept that there were some things she had no control over, that regimes like this had always existed and always would. The Doctor pointed out to her that this was known as 'survivor's guilt' and that it was actually natural to go through it after an ordeal like hers.
After three months, Kathryn Janeway returned to duty full time. She knew she'd been changed by the experience but was determined that it would never effect who she was as captain and certainly not in how she was with the people around her. It slowly dawned on her that most of the changes could be positive if she only let them. She took more time with people, considered them more, listened more. Her proprieties changed and she now found that getting home came second to the crew's welfare. The crew also saw this change in their captain and welcomed it. They found her more approachable and Voyager was a happier place for it all.
Finally, she and Chakotay set out on their much delayed weekend away. They had three days and cherished every second of their time together. The first night they simply lay wrapped in each other's arms, whispering quietly into the night before dreamless sleep claimed them.
The next day, Chakotay presented Kathryn with a beautiful woodcarving he'd made for her. All around the edges, tiny rosebuds curled around each other and in the centre, he had carved words, words which Kathryn could carry with her and gain strength from.
'God Grant Me The Strength To Change The Things I Can – To Accept The Things I Can't And To Have The Wisdom To Know The Difference.'
As she ran her hands over the polished wood, letting the feel of it flow into her fingers, she felt her tears come and eventually looked up at the man she loved, who'd been there for her throughout everything. Too choked up to speak, she simply let her fingers speak for her as she reached to his face and gently caressed his cheek. He brought his hand up and covered hers, letting her know everything she needed to know with just his touch. "Just let me be a light for you, Kathryn. Let the light we create between us banish all darkness and all shadows."
That night they joined as one and they both knew the memory of the experience was the one which would come to them before they closed their eyes on this life for the last time. As Chakotay had lain over Kathryn and entered her slowly, joining their bodies fully, the sweetness and tenderness of it all swept over her, filling every fibre of her being. She felt as if she'd discovered the meaning of life and all the answers to all the questions ever asked, that she had finally found the reason for her existence. As she gazed into his eyes, she realized that they were literally looking into each other's souls. Afterwards, they lay so close they were almost one. They awoke twice more during the night and each time their joining was as spiritual as the first.
Kathryn had been afraid that when their time on the holodeck came to an end, something would be lost when they returned to 'real life'. She was mistaken. What they had carried with them. She realized that what they shared wasn't the setting or the time or any other variable but the connection and the love they had between them and that no matter what life would throw at them in the future, as long as they had each other, in life or death, they would always be one.