Many times as a child, I heard my mother use an old Earth expression 'the pen is mightier than the sword'. In later years, the years following her 'forced absence' from our lives, I also heard my father use it. I remember him using a lot of her words, perhaps in some way to keep her with us. She was physically absent from our lives, but her spirit lived with us constantly. I know my father saw her every time he looked at me and I was never sure if that gave him comfort or caused him pain. He never spoke of it and I dared not ask.
I was four when she was taken from us, yet the memory of that day is still with me every waking moment. I was twelve when we achieved her dream of getting home, only she wasn't there to see it, yet I know when the image of Earth filled the view screen, the dream was forgotten and the woman missing was remembered. There was little joy that day, only sadness. The dream was incomplete.
At eighteen, I applied to join Starfleet to right a wrong and find my mother. I, Karla Janeway, daughter of the Captains of Voyager, past and present, could change everything.
The final question on the exam asked us to describe a life-changing event and I gave it everything I had. I don't know if I really believed that my words would have any influence as I had thought at the time that the examiners, who to me were faceless, uncaring Admirals, would ignore my words. My father and the crew of Voyager had failed constantly over the years to get Starfleet to take some action so I guess I set out to shock them, but in the end it was they who shocked me and my mother's words came back to me. My words, filled with all my pain, touched something in them as nothing had before. I guess I'll never get an answer to this, whether it was pity or to save face or concern of what people might think if my words were ever made public but they changed everything. My 'pen' became mightier than any 'sword' and suddenly within four weeks, we were back on Voyager with almost the same entire crew we had come home with, all of them having kept in touch over the years, that final piece missing from their lives also. My father had still captained Voyager since our return, many of the crew having stayed with Starfleet and him, wanting to still be assigned to their old 'home'. I know my father never wanted to be anywhere else without my mother, never wanted to leave the home he'd shared with her.
Starfleet turned me down for training, suggesting I re-apply the following year, when my life was 'more settled' as they put it. In the interim, I could 'gain experience' as a passenger, an observer on this trip, which was really a rescue mission. Our voyage was sanctioned but it wasn't quite official yet no one cared about the wording, only the outcome and so we left with the now fully operational transwarp drive online, to try and undo a past we all wanted to wipe out.
I stood on the bridge beside my father feeling out of place in civvies and fed off his strength and determination. I knew where he'd learned those qualities. I'd inherited some of them. I worried for a time that he would feel that I had succeeded where he had failed, that it was his place to go back for her, but in the end I knew we all saw this as a joint effort. We were not one crew but one family and now we had set out to find the one lost sheep missing from our fold. I prayed for a happy ending.
The transwarp drive, perfected by Seven of Nine during the six years since Voyager had returned to Earth, delivered us to Brenakan space within three short weeks. I saw the change in the crew as we neared the location where we had all last seen my mother. I saw their bitterness and anger as they remembered that fateful day and I saw their determination to undo the terrible injustice which had been inflicted on us all. Most of all I saw my father, greyer now, ready himself for the journey that lay ahead of us. I saw his fear for the outcome and I saw his need for revenge and his battle to control it. My mother would never have wanted that.
The Brenakans had betrayed us to the Demarri, the race who had taken Kathryn Janeway from us all. These Demarri were known for their raids on passing ships and their abductions of the captains of those ships for genetic experiments and breeding programs. It was the Brenakans who had sold us cloaking technology to pass through the Demarri area of space but in the end, it was my mother they sold, to the Demarri.
Captain Janeway, Kathryn and my mother. All three were lost that day but I only remember losing my mother. She went willingly, if you could call it that, but she went in order to save all of us. I only learned later when I was eight, that I had lost a brother or a sister that day also, when my father told me that my mother had been pregnant when they took her. I saw my father's pain for his lost child over the years, every time he saw any child and when I could, I tried to be there for him but I could never take the place of what he had lost. I remember my parents agreeing to the Demarri General's 'bargain', that my mother would agree to go willingly, that the crew would not mount any rescue attempt and that my mother would not attempt to escape. In return, the crew and ship would be allowed to leave unharmed and my mother would be well treated.
Fourteen years passed, each day filled with sorrow and pain and a hole in our lives that nothing else could ever fill. I pray today will be the start of a road that will bring her back to us. I pray we are not too late.
End Personal Log. Karla Janeway.
Voyager arrived at the Brenakan home world and was immediately hailed from the planet surface. Cautiously, Captain Chakotay requested permission to beam down with a small team and was granted permission. What he found gave him more hope than he'd felt in many years.
Much had changed in the last fourteen years and Chakotay and Tuvok found a world with a much-altered Government, one trying desperately to make amends for a treacherous past. They discovered that the Brenakan soldier who had betrayed them was long dead and that the new rulers of this planet wanted nothing more than to try and right wrongs committed by their predecessors. They gave the Voyager crew all the information they needed to find the Demarri world and informed them that there was a civil war of sorts taking place on the planet.
Voyager also met with two other ships on similar missions, there to rescue their captains and they joined forces. They were not the first to return in search of the lost and they wouldn't be the last.
Within another week, they were all in orbit of the Demarri home world and Chakotay and Tuvok beamed down along with B'Elanna and Tom Paris to check out the situation on the planet. Similar teams from the other two ships joined them. Karla had wanted to go, despite not having an 'official' place on this mission but in the end agreed to stay on board at her father's insistence, knowing that fighting him on this issue would only add to his burden.
What the teams found on the planet surface shocked them to the core. Battles raged between Government troops and freedom fighters, many from other worlds also seeking to undo the past.
Chakotay and the others quickly found themselves fighting just to survive and he realized that the freedom fighters instantly recognized them for what they were. He found himself back in his past, his Maquis days, and knew B'Elanna felt the same way. Tuvok and Tom questioned nothing. Their mission was the same.
It quickly became obvious that the Government was fast losing the war and that most of their soldiers were mere boys, their need for manpower so great. At the end of the fight, Chakotay pushed aside his revulsion at having killed and used his image of his wife to keep himself sane. Kathryn had brought a peace to his troubled soul when he'd first met her and the blood lust of his time before her had left him as she'd replaced it. He knew she'd never want blood to be spilled on her behalf and it was this knowledge that had held him together over the years of her absence, despite his temptation to revert in order to get her back. Now he'd broken all that and knew he'd have to deal with his demons later.
After many hours of fighting, Chakotay and the others were making progress. He heard a shout off to his right and saw a member of one of the other ships about to kill a Government soldier. Even from a distance, Chakotay recognized the young age of the soldier. He shouted to the alien about to end the life of the frightened boy and the alien halted. Chakotay approached the young boy, his face bloody and mud splattered, a narrow visor hiding his eyes. As Chakotay came closer to the boy, he heard him gasp and saw him start to shake.
Chakotay turned to his alien ally. "Don't. He's a boy and can be more use to us alive. We need tactical information." The man nodded agreement. Chakotay turned to the young boy again. "It's all right. We don't want to hurt you but we do need your help." The boy continued to shake.
Chakotay suddenly realized that fear wasn't the prevailing emotion with this boy but shock. Suddenly the youth's hand stretched out and Chakotay reached for his phaser, causing the boy to jump back then slowly extend his hand again. Gently the smaller hand reached to Chakotay's face and traced the tattoo there. Chakotay stood stock still, confusion taking over. What happened next changed the world around him forever.
Slowly this young fighter stood back and drew his other hand across his own forehead, wiping the dirt and blood away. As his hand came away with the layers of mud, Chakotay's breath stopped in his chest. There on the boy's forehead was a replica of his own tattoo.
Chakotay heard the others behind him and their shocked gasps reached his ears. The boy then slowly removed the visor and suddenly Chakotay found himself staring into two pools of blue, eyes reflecting a likeness he'd never dared hope to see again - Kathryn's eyes. He felt the ground coming up towards him and then strong arms holding him up. The word he heard next came from the boy and caused Chakotay to drop to his knees.
Back on board Voyager, Chakotay sat in shock and stared at his son as the Doctor scanned him and treated some minor injuries. Finally the Doctor nodded to him, indicating that it was all right to talk with the boy now. Chakotay approached slowly, finally finding his voice. "I…I don't know. I can't take this in."
Instinct and emotion took over and he enfolded his son in his arms for the first time. All thoughts of how this could be fled from him and acceptance took their place. With only a second or two's hesitation, the younger arms came around Chakotay and time stood still as father and son embraced for the first time.
Eventually, when they were both a little more under control, Chakotay spoke. "Your mother? Please…"
The boy looked down at his hands, tears in his eyes again. "I wish I knew. I'm sorry. It's been some time." He couldn't continue. Chakotay nodded and asked the Doctor if they could leave. The hologram nodded silently.
Once they were settled in Chakotay's quarters and when he'd fed his son and let him clean up, they sat facing each other. Karla sat quietly across from them, giving them the space they needed. Chakotay gave his son time to gather his thoughts and tell his story.
The young boy cleared his throat. "I feel I know you. She raised me to know you and who you were." He pointed to the tattoo. "She taught me your ways and about the vision quest." He paused. "She gave me this." He then pointed to his own tattoo. "She said it was who I was, that it would guide me, maybe lead me to you and my sister. She was right." He looked over at Karla. She smiled softly and Chakotay just nodded, his throat too closed up to speak.
"She named me Kolopak, Kol for short, after Grandfather, your Father, said it was all she could give me of you, apart from her words and your mark." Chakotay closed his eyes quickly, but the tears escaped anyway. He felt the boy's hand reach out to his own and opened his eyes again. He could see so much of Kathryn in the eyes before him.
"I'll tell you all I can but I know there are things I cannot tell you, things she kept from me, my mother." Karla and Chakotay stayed quiet, knowing how difficult this would be, difficult to tell and more difficult to hear.
"We had two rooms, small, dirty, in what they called the old city, a slum really. I always felt so loved though. She was always there for me, trying to protect me. She constantly told me stories, stories about you and my sister, my family on Earth, my other one here on the ship. She never really said much about how we came to be on Demarri but I figured it out. I heard others talking about people having been taken." Kol could see his father and sister remember and he saw their pain.
"Yano. She lived next to us. She helped all she could but she had little. Understand that we were all living like that. Mom…she liked me to call her that. Mom taught me to speak her own language, said you had to know where you came from to know where you were going, but I knew she didn't believe that she would ever go anywhere. There was always such a sadness about her. She tried so hard to hide all this from me but I saw. She was always staring at the stars and sometimes at night, I would hear her cry." Kol stopped again, seeing how much his telling this was hurting them but Chakotay nodded for him to continue.
"Yano would take care of me when Mom had to leave, to go away. She never spoke of these times but again, later, I learned where she went." He stopped again. "I don't know if I should tell…"
Chakotay gently laid his hand on the boy's arm. "Please, son…" Saying this caused more tears. "Please, I know it hurts but please understand that I need to know. My imagination is worse than not knowing."
Kol understood and continued. "I don't know it all and I don't think I want to. Yano often left for a time as well. I know there were laboratories, medical tests, drug testing. I saw, sometimes, the results of that, wounds, bruises, cuts, terrible burns and sores she tried so hard to hide. Then there was always the sickness and fatigue. It always took her a long time to come back to us. Not to the rooms I mean but within herself. She tried so hard to hide it from me but as I say, I heard the talk. Other times I knew she left for the Government residences, overnight. I saw what they did. I saw the marks and…" Kol now broke down.
Karla ran to him and cradled him between her and her father. She whispered softly to him. "Shhh, it's all right. You don't need to go on."
He pulled away and now he was angry. "I know what they used her for. For their…entertainment. I saw what they did. I'm sorry, father."
Chakotay grasped his son tightly, his own anger and tears pouring forth yet trying to hold it back in order to comfort his son. Hearing the boy call him 'father' so easily helped.
Kol drew in a deep breath. "As I grew older and understood more, I would get so angry. I was angry at what I saw, what I heard, knew. I grew to hate them all so much and wanted to kill. Mom saw all this and it made her… I knew she didn't want that for me. She was always telling me how wrong it was, hate and killing, that it left scars and stains that could never be taken away, that she didn't ever want me to have to live with that."
He drew in a deep breath. "She told me how the ghosts came to you, those whose blood was on your hands. She always tried to explain but she was always so tired and, in the end, to spare her, I told her I understood but inside…" He looked at his father and saw understanding written on the face of the older man.
"When I was twelve, they took me. The troops, all boys my age. Mom fought so hard and they… One of them clubbed her. I saw the blood on her face and heard her screams after me."
He stopped again to try and slow his breathing. "Later they told me if I didn't cooperate that they could cause her more suffering, even death. They said I could return in two years if I survived. It was all I could do, hope that I would…to get back to her. I just wanted to kill them but I couldn't risk what they might do to her. They knew that. I should have… I failed her." He couldn't continue anymore and broke down completely.
Chakotay and Karla held him tightly until he eventually fell into a fitful sleep, exhaustion taking over. Eventually, Chakotay carried his son into the bedroom and gently laid him on the bed while Karla covered him with the blanket. No words were spoken between father and daughter. None were necessary. Instead they just held each other and cried.
Next morning they returned to the planet to find that the Government had been all but destroyed, only pockets of resistance remaining. Chakotay, along with Karla and Kol set out to try and find Kathryn and Yano.
Kol led the way to where he'd lived with his mother and Chakotay and Karla were shocked by the squalor they witnessed. Chakotay constantly held his daughter's hand in a vain attempt to reassure her but knew it was as much for his own comfort.
When they entered the rooms where Kathryn and her son had lived for almost fourteen years, Chakotay and Karla both broke down. They were dark and tiny but Kathryn's gentle touch was evident in small ways, where she'd fought to make a semblance of a home for her child. Nothing existed in the rooms outside of a small bed and a cot, with a table, two chairs and a tiny chest of sorts. A small window let in the only light and a light material covered the space, a vain attempt to create something of a remembered home from long ago. Long dead stems sat withered in a clay pot on the table, further evidence of the effort to deny a life too painful to bear.
It was evident that Kathryn hadn't been in the rooms for some time and Yano's room spoke of the same emptiness. Finally, they found a woman who spoke of Kathryn and Yano being taken away, Kathryn unconscious. She knew nothing more than that. She thought perhaps they'd been taken to the labs.
Chakotay called on the Doctor and got him to beam down as they searched for the labs. After many hours they eventually tracked down the facility where they believed the two women had been taken. Troops guarded the building but a short fight took care of that, leaving Chakotay with more ghosts to deal with. He'd made sure his son wouldn't kill anymore, leaving him in hiding with the Doctor, knowing there was already enough healing to be undertaken by the boy and also feeling that he was keeping to what Kathryn had tried so hard to attain.
With the area secured, they entered the facility. What they found inside almost destroyed Chakotay and the others. Rows of cots lined the rooms and corridors, littered with the dead and dying. Pained cries filled the air and the stench of sickness and death surrounded them. Chakotay immediately ordered crew with medical training from all the ships down to the surface in an attempt to help. He continued searching for Kathryn and then heard the Doctor call to him from down a long corridor. As he approached, he heard a woman scream at the hologram.
"Let her die in peace. You've done enough to her. Please just let her go. Even like this you keep at her, more tests, your drugs…" The alien woman's tears poured down her face.
Kol ran past Chakotay towards the woman. "Yano, Yano, please. It's all right. He's a friend. He's here to help and…" He stopped short and stood in shock and Chakotay quickly ran to him, his eyes following his son's and then he actually screamed.
There lying on a cot, wires and tubes attached everywhere, was his Kathryn, her arms and face a mass of sores and bruises. A larger tube snaked into her mouth and down her throat, pushing air into her resisting body. Fluids ran through smaller tubes into her skeletal arms and hands and sensors gave off readings, indicating that some form of life existed. Tuvok and Karla, having run at the sound of the screaming, caught him before he fell.
The Doctor moved quickly and scanned the unconscious woman on the cot. Chakotay heard muffled crying from the woman leaning against the wall beside him. Yano was staring at Kol in disbelief.
"They told her you were dead. They… We saw your body." She was in shock and Kol went to her, gently stroking her face.
"Yano, I'm alive. I'm here really." He turned to the others then back to the trembling woman in front of him. "Yano, this is my father and sister. I can't take it all in yet myself but they are here. They came back. This man is their doctor. He's just trying to help." He turned back to Kathryn again, tears in his eyes and spoke in a whisper, almost to himself in a prayer. "Please let her live. Be all right. Please."
Chakotay and Karla pulled him to them and Yano held tightly to Kol's hand, still staring at him in amazement.
The Doctor looked at Chakotay, keeping his words as brief as possible. "We need to get her back to the ship now. All this equipment will have to be transported along with her. It's actually keeping her alive. It's primitive, almost 20th or 21st century but it's working." He pointed to the tube running into Kathryn's mouth. "This is what was known as a ventilator and it's breathing for her. At present, without it, she would die. She's unable to breath for herself. There's something in her system, a drug. Her internal organs are almost destroyed. We need to get her to sickbay now. I'll explain everything later." Chakotay just nodded and let the leader in him take over. He quickly ordered the beam out, taking them all with him, Yano included.
When they arrived in sickbay, Yano broke forward, shocked at how they'd gotten there but then pulled herself together, grabbing for the Doctor. "It was poison. I don't know the name. It kills the rodents in the slums." The Doctor nodded quickly and called Tom Paris.
As the Doctor and Tom worked over Kathryn, Chakotay sat with a still shocked Yano in the Doctor's office. His son and daughter sat with him. Once she'd eaten something, her hunger desperate, Kathryn's only friend for the last fourteen years filled in what they didn't know.
"What I say to you will be hard to hear but that's the way I've learned to be. I've become hard over the last eighteen years but life here has made me that way. I had to be hard to survive. Kath was different as was this young man. They made me soft again." She smiled gently at Kol. "You're a man now, old enough to hear all this, probably already know some of it. I believe you've seen and heard worse by now." Kol nodded slowly so Yano continued.
"I was still at the labs when Kath was brought there. I was tested and made work there, had been there four years. I was also pregnant when I was taken but as others of my race had been taken with me, they took my child." She stopped and tried to deal with the memories then went on.
"I helped her through her pregnancy. For some reason, probably as she was the first human they had seen, they let her keep her child. She was tested all the time, blood and tissue samples, painful procedures, probed and…invasive, you understand?" No one spoke. "When her time came, they refused to help. No treatment but they watched and tested. She was in so much pain, screaming, crying, calling for…" She looked at Chakotay and saw his tears but continued, knowing this all had to be said. Better now than later on.
"I brought Kol into the world, cleaned Kath up. That moment when she first held her child. Her face… For a time it was as if nothing else existed. I feared so much he would be taken but they left us. I never knew why. Later they took him for a while and we both thought that was the end. Kath fought and screamed so much, she eventually collapsed. Later they brought the baby back. Maybe there was nothing they could learn. I don't know. Maybe Kath was more important to them." She looked at Chakotay again. "You never questioned, you understand?" He nodded and Kol reached out a comforting hand to her, which she took and gently squeezed.
"We were housed together thankfully but never free. Over the years, we both had to report for… There were always more medical tests, drugs that had to be tried out. We were never taken together so one of us was always there for this little one." She smiled up at her friend's son. "A lot of the women were used to… They had breeding programs. I…once for me, but I lost it. All the drugs, you see. It never happened again." She swallowed quickly.
"I know they also tried with Kath but it didn't happen. The drugs damaged everything. Maybe it was as well." She hesitated before continuing. "Other times, we had to go, report to…" She stopped here.
Chakotay broke the silence that followed. "Yano, I know. It's OK. Kol told us."
Yano bowed her head a moment and nodded. "We had to go to the palace, whenever one of them wanted… It was… There was no choice, the only way to perhaps get a little extra food, things. We would still have had to go anyway. They made that clear. Some were almost kind. It was just easy to turn off. Others… Others got pleasure from… They enjoyed giving pain, humiliating…" She didn't need to say more. "Kath always came back from those times… Well, it was bad. I healed her as best I could. She was dead inside and only when she would see her son would something come back."
She turned to Kol. "You were her world, the only important… You know that. She would have done anything for you, did…" The boy nodded, not able to speak.
"When she… If she had managed to get a bit of something, extra food for you, that was what mattered. She did it for you and they knew that. Having you to care for, it gave them what they needed to get what they wanted." She saw the pain this was causing but pushed on. "Many others said we 'whored' ourselves but they did the same. There was no choice. There was just Kol, all that mattered." She looked at Kol again. "When they took you, it destroyed her. They beat her that day when she fought to keep you. I'll always hear her screams…" Yano stopped again, needing time. After a minute, she went on.
"That day… I felt so helpless. I tried to fight them too but we were no match for them. We still fought and they beat us, both of us. They enjoyed that, hurting the women. It turned them on and…" Without looking up she continued her story. "They dragged us both back into the hallway, two of them, too strong to fight against. We tried but we didn't have the strength to stop them." She cried now, tears pouring down her face, reliving what could never be forgotten and Chakotay knew what she was going to say.
"They…they raped us. Took turns." Kol jumped up and hugged Yano close to him. This woman was a second mother to him and he cried with her. Karla had turned away and she felt her father pull her to him and went into his arms, seeking comfort when there could never be any. After a time, Yano settled herself and spoke on but still held into Kol's hand.
"They left us lying there. We were nothing to them. Time passed. I don't know how long but it was dark. I pulled myself up and… Kath was just lying there. I thought she was dead for a minute. She just lay there, staring. I felt her pulse. I cried then and managed to lift her upstairs. Another woman in the building helped. I cleaned her and myself. There was nothing else to do, nowhere to go, no one… We slept side by side, just holding on. She slowly came back a bit, to move and walk but she was dead in all but body. Her eyes, nothing there. Eventually, I used the only thing I could to bring her back."
She smiled at Kol. "You, my young man. It was you. You brought her back, when there was nothing to bring back. I told her she had to keep going for you, that you would be back someday and would need her more than ever. It was that fact that got her through. It was not to last though." Yano stood at this point, pulling her hand back. She paced a moment then turned back to them, then looked to Kol.
"They told us you were dead." Her tears burst forth at the memory. "Kath wouldn't believe it at first, held on to her belief that you would come back. We knew you had been sent to fight but still. Eventually they showed us a body, your body, badly burned and cut up." Yano reached her hand to Kol's tattoo. "This. It was there, the only thing on the face visible. Somehow they must have copied… I don't know, but it destroyed what little of your mother was left. She walked out of there almost in a trance."
Yano sat again. "For days she just sat and stared off into space, wouldn't eat or drink, would say nothing. I tried but… I was taken back to the palace one night. They took one look at Kath and left her there. I looked back at her as I left and I thought for a second I saw something in her eyes, I wasn't sure, but then they pulled me away." She stood again and resumed her pacing.
"When I returned the next morning, Kath was just lying there. I thought she was asleep. She looked so pale and then I saw the empty paper fold on the floor. I knew it well. You can purchase it cheaply in the back alleys for the rodents, a powder in this paper. They live everywhere and this kills them. She must have gotten up during the night and found some. I don't know." Kol stood and encouraged Yano to sit again. She sat not even realizing the action.
"I screamed, that much I know. I shock her so hard but she wouldn't waken. I remember soldiers there but I don't know if they were looking for us or someone called them. They took us to the labs. I screamed at them to leave her, to let her go. I understood what she wanted. Understand please that I didn't want to lose my friend but I cared too much to see her suffer. This was what she wanted and I respected that."
She broke down in tears but her words continued. "They wouldn't let her go. They still used her, tested her and watched her. What she had tried to escape and it only continued more. I prayed for her to die. I'm sorry but I did."
Chakotay stood now and embraced this woman who had been there for Kathryn and their son when he couldn't be. He would love her forever for that. "Yano, please. It's all right. We understand. No one could have been a better friend. Please, it's over now, I promise. Everything will be fine." He prayed silently that he'd be proved right.
Chakotay sent Kol and Karla with Yano to guest quarters, insisting that they all get some rest. He marvelled again at his son, the man he'd become and how Kathryn had managed to raise him to be what he was, despite the hell all around them. He knew the strength of will and love it must have taken to nurture something so good within all that evil and thanked the spirits again for Yano and the support she'd been for them. He then prepared himself to face the Doctor, who was waiting in his office and entered the small enclosure and sat wearily, barely nodding to the EMH.
The Doctor tried a weak smile. "Captain…"
Chakotay didn't look up. "It's Commander. We have our Captain back."
The Doctor nodded his understanding. "Commander…I… Right. I've managed to extract all traces of the poison from her system but it had caused considerable damage to practically all her internal organs, which I've managed to regenerate. The poison appears to have been left in her bloodstream for some time. I don't even want to think why. Only time will tell if my treatment has been successful but I can tell you I am very hopeful. I also had to break and re-set some old fractures and there were some…internal injuries I also had to treat. Commander, look at me please."
Chakotay finally met the Doctor's eyes and the pain and sorrow visible there shocked the medic. "Please, tell me she'll come back to me, to us…" The desperation in his voice was overwhelming.
The Doctor nodded slowly. "Chakotay, I truly believe she will make a full recovery. Physically. You must however, prepare yourself…"
Chakotay sighed heavily. "Emotionally she may never be the same. I know that, Doctor." He stood up, raking his hands through his hair. "I know what happened all those years. Oh Kathryn, I'm sorry, so sorry." He fell to his knees, finally letting all the pain of the past days and even years come out. The Doctor did the only thing he felt would help at this moment and he went to the broken man before him, taking him in his arms, giving what he hoped was some comfort.
Chakotay refused to sleep that night and spent the hours following his time with the Doctor sitting at Kathryn's side, holding her hand. He'd never thought he'd feel the gentle weight of her hand in his again and cherished every second now, tracing every line and contour with his fingers. He whispered gently to her, praying she could in some way hear him and vowed they would never again be parted.
Morning found husband and wife lying side by side and Kol and Karla stood silently watching the scene before them, holding each other tightly. A strong bond had already developed between the siblings, the couple before them uniting everything and the missing years ceased to exist to them. They stood watching their parents finally together again and then left them in peace.
Days passed with Kathryn making slow but steady improvement, Chakotay never leaving her side. Every crewmember sent messages, the Doctor refusing visitors, knowing that Chakotay needed this time alone with his family. Yano was the exception.
The Doctor now felt that Kathryn would regain consciousness within the next twelve hours and called Chakotay and Yano along with Kol and Karla to his office. He explained that he thought it better if only Yano was there when Kathryn came around and that he wanted the lights down, disguising the fact that she was back on Voyager. He felt the shock would be too great and they all agreed.
Later that night, the Doctor's scans revealed to him that Kathryn was slowly climbing towards consciousness and he called Yano and lowered the lights. Chakotay, Karla and Kol watched silently from the Doctor's office, unseen by even Yano.
The silence was finally broken by a low moan and Chakotay felt the hands of his children on his arms, sharing this moment with him, knowing the emotions he was going through. Kathryn slowly opened her eyes, confusion filling her mind. The darkness seemed out of place somehow but suddenly the face of her friend was there, reassuring her until her memory returned and with it the pain of losing her son. She jerked back from her friend's hand, crying out.
"No…no. Oh God, please. Yano, please, let me go. Make them let me go." Her sobs tore through her frail body.
Yano pulled her friend tightly to her. "Kath, please, it's going to be all right. It's not what you think. Kath, listen to me, Kol is…"
Kathryn wrenched herself away with the little strength she still had. "No. I failed. I couldn't even do this right. My son, Yano. Please, let me be with him. Please."
Yano grabbed Kathryn's face between her hands and forced her to look at her. "Kath, stop this. Listen to me. You can be with him." Kathryn struggled feebly again but Yano was stronger. "Kath, stop now. Kol is here. He's alive. I'm not lying to you."
Her words eventually got through and Kathryn stopped her struggles, her tears streaming down her face. Yano called behind her into the darkness and Kol slowly made his way to his mother's side. Kathryn's eyes stared disbelievingly towards her son and her only reason for living, then reached for him. Kol ran to her and pulled her to him, his tears joining his mothers.
Chakotay and Karla held each other tightly in the dark office, their own tears running out of control. Yano stepped back, giving mother and son the space they needed. She listened as Kol calmly and quietly explained to his mother how he'd not been killed and then as gently as he could, started to tell her of Voyager's arrival and their rescue, of finding his father and sister. Kathryn slumped in his arms, unable to take everything in. The Doctor stood by, ready with a sedative in case he deemed it necessary.
After some time, Kol was finally able to get his mother to accept that his words and presence with her were not a Demarri trick and that what was happening now was not the result of drugs. Hardly able to see through her tears, Kathryn reached up to her son's face and held him to her.
"Your father? He's really here? Karla?" It was too much and her voice cracked.
Kol nodded slowly. "Mom, I'm real and what I'm saying is real. I know it's hard to take in but please believe me. They are here, I swear to you. Hey, look at my tongue." He stuck his tongue out and smiled. "Didn't you always tell me that I'd get a big black mark there if I ever lied?"
Kathryn only cried harder. "Where, please? Chakotay? Karla?" She tried sitting up and Kol moved behind her to support her. Slowly Chakotay and Karla made their way into the small area of light, tightly gripping onto each other. Neither had taken their eyes off Kathryn the entire time and now suddenly Kathryn's eyes met theirs, from her husband to her daughter and back to Chakotay again. Sobs tore from her throat as she reached for them.
Chakotay reached her first and time stopped as he held her to him, his emotions making breathing almost impossible. Karla stood sobbing loudly beside them until Chakotay reluctantly pulled back, giving his daughter her chance to finally see her mother again. The two women held each other tightly, afraid to let go. Yano, unseen, stepped back into the Doctor's office, nodding to the hologram, her own tears flowing. She looked back at the reunited family all holding each other, their love so evident and she cried with happiness for what they had but also with sadness for what she herself had lost. Suddenly she felt the Doctor's arm around her shoulder in tacit understanding and she leaned into him, grateful for his empathy.
Once the Doctor was happy with Kathryn's progress medically, he began to spend more time on the now former Demarri planet, helping where he could. His superior medical knowledge saved many lives and with the help of all the crewmembers from Voyager and the other ships, life slowly changed on the planet surface. Word spread quickly throughout the Quadrant and soon other ships arrived, there to reclaim the lost lives of their own, some finding what they came for, some only grief. For others, there would never be any answers.
Kathryn was finally allowed back to quarters and was amazed to find Chakotay had changed nothing. All her belongings remained where she'd left them. Kol stepped back to allow his mother this time with Chakotay and Karla. Kathryn was getting to know her daughter quickly and was proud of the job her husband had done raising the girl. She found herself constantly clinging to Chakotay's hand, terrified of ever letting him go again and he was only too happy to keep her as close to him.
They both knew Kathryn had a long way to go and she'd already spent time with the counsellor who was now a part of the crew, a young human woman with kindness, compassion and understanding. She helped Kathryn greatly and day by day, she felt her emotional strength grow. Kathryn knew the past would never leave her completely but she also learned that she would only remain a victim if she let herself. She still found it difficult to accept what was happening around her, at times expecting to wake and find it all a cruel dream but always there was the wonderful presence of her husband and children constantly at her side, offering her all the love and comfort she needed. The crew of Voyager were also all there for her and relationships seemed to pick up where they'd left off, so important was this woman to their lives.
Chakotay also spent time with the counsellor, trying to work through his guilt. He still felt he should have been able to protect his wife and unborn child when they were taken, that he should have been able to rescue them sooner, no end of guilt for what he believed he could have done differently. He also had to work through the pain of the knowledge that he'd killed again and admitted that some of the killing had been more in anger and a need for revenge than just self-defence. Amazingly it was Kathryn who was there to comfort him just as he was for her. Kol also found the counsellor a great help in accepting all the sudden changes in his life and Karla even felt she benefited from her sessions. Chakotay marvelled at how they'd managed without the young counsellor during their time before in this Quadrant.
At the end of the second week, Yano came to see Kathryn with the wonderful news that her people had come for her. She had discovered that her own husband was still waiting for her and that her children were with him, two sons. The two women spent their last day together alone, everyone giving them the space they needed to say goodbye. The bond between them would always exist, could never be broken and no one else could ever share what they had.
Later that night, Chakotay held his wife close to him and soaked up her tears. He didn't speak but hugged her tightly, his silence speaking louder than any words could. Kathryn clung to him, feeding off his love and strength. Finally she spoke and once the words started, they refused to stop. Chakotay held her and let them come, offering what he could as he witnessed the healing process begin. A lot of what she spoke of he already knew, but he remained quiet, knowing she needed to speak of it with him. The pain and anger he felt tore at him but with almost superhuman courage, he held it all in. This long night was for his Kathryn, for her cleansing and healing and he remained a rock for her. He constantly reassured her that the past would not contaminate their future, that nothing which had happened would ever change his love for her. Kathryn repeatedly apologized for events which Chakotay reassured her were never her fault and eventually she gained her peace, his love for her wiping away all the stains of a past which should never have happened.
Towards morning, she quietly drifted into a more peaceful sleep than any she'd had since her nightmare had begun all those years ago and only then did Chakotay let his own tears fall. He cried for all they'd lost, for everything his wife and son, even himself and his daughter had suffered but in the end, he put these debilitating emotions to one side and focused on what they now had. It was this that would get them through. Love would indeed conquer all.
Two months later, Voyager came into orbit of Earth and it was Kathryn who stood in uniform on the bridge beside her captain's chair to oversee their return. She looked older but had gained back some of the weight she'd lost, reclaiming a few years appearance and some colour was finally coming back to her cheeks. She was now learning to be at peace with herself. Chakotay stood to her left where he always had while Karla and Kol stood behind them. There wasn't a dry eye on the ship.
To the entire crew, this was the real homecoming. The family was complete, each member accounted for. In their eyes now, they realized that they'd gotten back two crewmembers who'd been lost. Kathryn thought back on all the tears she'd shed over the last weeks, more from happiness now. She remembered her first time back on the bridge when the entire senior staff had stood to attention and spoken in unison.
"Captain on the Bridge."
She felt her tears start afresh at the memory and then Chakotay's gentle hand on her arm as he whispered softly to her.
"Welcome home love. You did it. You got us all home."
Kathryn broke one final protocol as Voyager's captain. She threw herself into her husband's arms and kissed him.
They were only half aware of the cheer that rang out around them.