Disclaimer:
Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Rating:
NC 17. Kids go play elsewhere. Contains adult material.
Summary:
Can Chakotay bring Kathryn back to him as she lies in a coma, dying? Can he once again find the woman he loves, yet left?

The Sun Also Rises

by Kat Lady

Part One.

I sit at her bedside and wonder how it ever came to this. She doesn't stir and I wonder if she ever will again, if she'll ever again be the Kathryn I once knew and loved, still love, despite everything that's happened and I know with certainty, will love for all eternity.

I look at her sleeping face and while she looks as if she's only asleep I know this is not the case, know that this 'sleep' could well be a prelude to her death and ultimately my own, for this time I'll stay at her side, even if that means following her into the next life.

B'Elanna comes into the room, bringing me a coffee but even this only serves to remind me of what was and as the aroma of the coffee reaches my nostrils, I'm assaulted by a thousand memories of what was and what could have been, of happier times but also of the sad times. I want to blame myself for all this and I know I am to blame for most of it, but as much as I love Kathryn, I have to accept that she had her part in this also.

B'Elanna gently touches the side of my face and as I look up at her, I see the concern written there. She's finally learning to forgive herself for her small part in all this, despite my numerous assurances to her that she has nothing to forgive herself for, but I know my words fall on deaf ears. I can only assure her that there's nothing for me to forgive her for, but I know the blame she takes upon herself over Kathryn cannot be dealt with by me, only Kathryn can change that and she's not here anymore.

Kathryn left a long time ago and I know that was my doing. I sent her away by leaving her behind. I know she felt she had no choice, but a part of me wishes she'd fought more and I wish now that I had stayed with her, but that is the past and I cannot change it. Someone once said that the past is a strange country, that when you go back, it doesn't recognize you and sitting here looking at Kathryn and gently stroking her hand, I can almost believe that, for there's little here that I recognize. Oh, the face is the same but there's nothing of the life, strength or courage that was once Kathryn Janeway and part of me is terrified that there never will be again. All that lies here now is a broken body, which even the best Starfleet doctors seem unable to mend and I know that her spirit is also broken and I don't know if it can ever be healed or if we'll even get the chance to try.

I finally notice that B'Elanna is still sitting beside me and I briefly wonder how long she's been here, then I notice that it's getting dark outside and I get my answer. At least two hours. She hasn't spoken a word since bringing the coffee and I think that strange, considering all the talking we did a few short days ago and then I wish that all that talking had been done four years ago but I know I cannot turn the clock back, only pray that it doesn't stop ticking altogether.

I look back at Kathryn again and picture the vibrant, brave and caring woman I knew all those years ago, so full of life and I know that at this moment, that woman is dead to me, in a way murdered by my own hand. If only she'd fought back, if only I hadn't been so weak, maybe things would have been different and none of us would be here now. I dream, allow myself the luxury of a quick daydream, Kathryn and I happy together, our lives ahead of us having reached home and I again curse my weakness that led to this.

I stroke her face, still bearing traces of the deep cuts and bruises which covered most of her small body when they found her. I look at the tubes and wires attached everywhere which are helping to keep the outer Kathryn alive and wonder again about the inner Kathryn, wonder if she is dying or if she's already gone from me.

B'Elanna rises and asks if I want to come back home with her but I can see she already knows the answer to that. This is my home for the foreseeable future and I have to say the staff here has been very good to me, letting me stay so long and even making up a cot bed for me beside Kathryn. I tell B'Elanna to go home to Tom and the kids, that I'll be fine here but I see the sorrow and helplessness on her face and so I reach out and gently squeeze her hand to try and reassure her but as usual I fail miserably. She reluctantly leaves and once again it's just me with Kathryn and now I can talk to her, praying that in some far corner of her mind she hears me but I cannot know that for sure, I just badly need to believe it.

Can you hear me, Kathryn? I broke my promise to her and I left, left her for four long years, left her to die a slow, lingering death, although at the time it wasn't meant to be that way and yet within a few short days that was the way it was. I thought I was only leaving my own shattered dreams, my own loneliness, not creating shattered dreams and loneliness for her and I didn't think I was leaving her side, never that. That was one promise I swore I'd never break but in the end I did break my promise and she was left to journey on alone.

I can't believe how thin she is, how frail looking and I marvel that she came through all that surgery to try and repair her smashed body, but I know what a fighter she always was and I think it was more her subconscious that fought for life. It pains me to admit it, but I think Kathryn started to give up on herself the day I told her and only functioned long enough to get her crew home. Once that had been achieved, Kathryn Janeway let go completely, despite the best efforts and the love of her crew.

I know the full story now and it breaks my heart to know I had a part in any of it, to know that I was probably the trigger and all because I was lonely and I curse myself again.

B'Elanna told me everything and I'm so thankful that she at least was there in some way for Kathryn, insofar as Kathryn allowed her to be. Once B'Elanna had heard my story, she eventually told me about Kathryn and so here I am, full circle, by her side again, loving her and she unable to accept that love.

My mind drifts back four years. I don't even remember the exact stardate although you'd imagine it would be etched in my memory for all time.

I had loved and waited for her for nearly six years but eventually loneliness and my desire for a family wore me down and at this moment, I feel ashamed of that, despite the fact that I know I should accept that I'm only human.

That day, when I asked to see her in her readyroom, I think now that she knew what I was there for. A starship is a small place and news travels fast so I should have known that this news would have already reached her as there was very little happening on that ship that she didn't hear of. She put on a good show and masked her feelings well but I know now that inside her heart was probably breaking. I know I'm not just being big headed about this. Later events proved me right. If only I'd known then how much she loved me, that there was even a small chance for us, then I would have waited, waited for eternity but at the time I considered our relationship one sided and so, and I hate myself for it, I gave up. Not on loving her, just on the idea of an 'us'.

I remember her face when I told her I was dating Stephanie Ward and that it had gotten serious. I was never sure of her true emotions that day, as she turned away very quickly and hid how she really felt, but I just carried on, saying how we wished to marry and asking if she would perform the ceremony. I was twisting a knife in her heart but because I didn't witness any 'blood' I assumed she was accepting of my news and so I waited patiently for her answer. When she turned back to me, her mask was in perfect place and she even gave me a small smile and informed me that she wished both me and Ensign Ward her best and like the fool I was back then, I accepted her wishes with relief, not seeing the pain she was feeling, not seeing how hurt she was, not seeing what was in front of my own eyes, not seeing the beginning of the end of Kathryn.

Shortly before the wedding, I did ask her if she was all right with my plans and she'd smiled fondly at me and told me that she wished for me what I wished for myself, that as long as I was happy, that was all that mattered, and I believed her. I felt a sadness for what could have been between us, but I accepted it when she had told me about her damn protocols and why 'we' could not be.

I remember my wedding day and the pre-wedding nerves of the night before, how Tom, over many drinks, had convinced me that was all they were, but I still sensed his disapproval. When I think back, I realize it was my heart trying to warn me but I refused to listen and so I made the biggest mistake of my life. I walked down the road to marriage with Stephanie because I felt it was the only road open to me, that the road that led to Kathryn was barred to me. I remember Kathryn's performance that day, the forced smiles and congratulations and good wishes and I remember B'Elanna and the sad look of disappointment on her face and on the faces of the others, even to a certain extent, Tuvok. I remember how they banded around Kathryn, trying to protect her, but even they were unable to get past her self-built walls.

As we left in a shuttle for our honeymoon of a few days, I remember B'Elanna and the look on her face, the hurt, and she walked off without saying good-bye, her way of punishing me. None of us knew what was ahead and I guess I was the luckiest. We all had our pain but I at least didn't have to witness everyone else's and I suppose mercifully, I didn't have to witness Kathryn's.

Two days into our honeymoon, I realized my mistake and ironically so did Stephanie. We'd both married for the wrong reasons, even if they were the same reasons and we both realized that these reasons were never going to be enough to sustain a marriage on their own. We'd both mistaken need for love and so, because I couldn't face my old life anymore, I decided to start a new one on the planet where we'd decided to spend our so-called honeymoon. Stephanie still longed for earth and so she took the shuttlecraft back to Voyager, along with my resignation and my comm badge. That decision to resign was the hardest of my life, having promised Kathryn that nothing would ever keep me from being by her side, but at that moment in time I became a coward for the first and only time in my life. I couldn't face life without Kathryn but I especially couldn't face it with her when she was so close to me and yet so far away. There were no ill feelings between myself and Stephanie and I shall always be glad for that, but I'd expected Kathryn to at least come to see me, try to coax me back, at least say good-bye, but as the days wore on and there was no sign of her or Voyager, I accepted that an end had come.

Over the next few weeks I tried to move on with my life but Kathryn was everywhere I looked and I knew that I'd fooled myself into thinking that I could live without her. Every sensation, every smell, every sight and sound kept her with me and the pain got too bad, and so began my own long journey home, home to earth, but mostly home after Kathryn. She became my guiding star on my journey and even though I knew I might never make it, I couldn't live with myself without trying.

Starfleet and everyone else has told me my journey was a miracle and I suppose they're right, but it was a very lonely miracle that took four years, four long years as I worked my passage on various ships and basically 'hitch-hiked' my way home. I didn't know if Voyager would make it either, but I never gave up hope. It was all I had left, apart from my love and memories of Kathryn.

When I finally reached earth, I learned that Voyager had made it, just three short months before me. I learned that they'd made it without any further loss of life and I was eternally grateful for that. I didn't know at that time that a form of death had occurred, that the part of her that was the Kathryn
I loved so much was terminally ill, not her body, but her spirit.

Starfleet didn't tell me much and after a few days debriefing and informing me that no charges were looming over me or any of the other former Maquis, I readied myself for my search of Kathryn. Before setting off, I stopped off for something to eat and that was where I first heard the news. Two young ensigns at the table beside me were talking about Voyager and about the irony of it all. Puzzled, I leaned over to them and asked what they were talking about. They thought it funny I was perhaps the only person who hadn't heard and then proceeded to tell me about the heroic journey of Voyager, with her captain who had apparently come through so much, only to be killed within two months of getting home and of course how no-one really believed it was an accident. The floor came up to meet me and I never heard the rest. I stumbled out of there and must have wandered around for hours, but I don't remember. I do know that sometime later, suddenly there was a man standing in front of me who gently took my arm and led me away. Some part of my mind knew him but that was all and so I went with him, not hearing what he said to me or knowing where he led me but suddenly I was in a house, sitting in a comfortable room and the man had taken on the form of Tom Paris and then B'Elanna was there too and finally I cried, not caring what they thought.

How long afterwards I don't know but suddenly Tom wasn't there, only B'Elanna and all I was aware of outside of her presence was the emptiness inside me. I was too late and Kathryn was gone, possibly by her own hand and then it hit me that it was probably by my hand.

And so it was in this quiet, peaceful room, with my oldest friend beside me, that I learned everything. We sat for most of the night while Tom took care of their children, twins, a boy and a girl, who hadn't been born when I left Voyager. I relived the last four years of my life for B'Elanna, telling her everything, my pain, my regret and guilt, my fight to get home, my love for Kathryn and finally the pain of my heart being ripped out when I had heard of her death and it was when I talked of this that I broke down again and cried my very soul out. I remember B'Elanna trying to say something to me but nothing mattered anymore. My very reason for being was gone. Eventually, it took, quite literally, a smack in the face by B'Elanna to get through to me and her words started my world again. She told me in such a soft voice that Kathryn wasn't dead, three soft words 'Kathryn's not dead' and I grasped them with such ferocity, like a float to a drowning man.

And so I learned of their four years and the pain of it nearly finished me off. Only one thing kept me going and I was reminded of an old story I'd heard about Pandora's Box and like that story, the only thing left to me at that time, the only thing remaining in the box, was hope.

B'Elanna related to me a story of horror and it's haunting me now. She told me in simple language and she spoke quietly but the horror was none the less.

Voyager had gone to look for the shuttle when it had failed to return with Stephanie and me on board. What they found put the final nail in the coffin of Kathryn's heart. I know that now. All they found was a debris field and traces of human DNA, but it was enough to identify a Federation shuttle and 'our remains' as well as the signatures of our two comm badges. As far as Voyager was concerned, Stephanie and I had died in a shuttle explosion and there was never any explanation and so they mourned together as a crew for us and tried to go on. They tried and succeeded to a large extend but it was only a few who realized that while they were going on, they had left Kathryn behind.

B'Elanna told me of the harshness of that four year journey home and how much it had cost them. While there had indeed been no more loss of life, there'd been many close calls. Kathryn had become a barely functioning robot who only had one purpose, to get her crew home at any cost and that cost had been grave to her. B'Elanna told me of the fights Voyager had been in and how three times Kathryn's recklessness had ended with her fighting for her life in sickbay, how physical pain had seemed to mean nothing to her any more, how she completely disregarded her own safety almost on a daily basis, how nothing touched her any more.

She told me other things I didn't ever want to hear and wish now I didn't know but I suppose I have to know. She told me of Kathryn's ultimate sacrifice for her crew and her obvious disregard for herself. They'd come across an area of space controlled by a warlord who demanded 'taxes' of various kinds from passing ships. Kathryn had tried for two days to negotiate with him to no avail when he finally named a price and that price was Kathryn herself and she went willingly, whatever it took. I learned that when she was finally beamed back to Voyager, there was not an area of her body that wasn't cut or bruised or a part of her clothing that was not torn and so it quickly became evident just what the 'price' was that Kathryn had agreed to pay for her crew. B'Elanna was the one the Doctor had called on to help with her treatment and as she told me all this, I knew she was sparing me some details out of kindness to me and respect to Kathryn but my own mind filled in the blanks. Kathryn had been beaten and raped, willingly as the price to get her crew home, and the saddest part was she never mentioned it or made any reference to it with anyone, and there is apparently no record of it on the ship's logs, so loyal was her crew. When the Doctor finally released her from sickbay, she went straight back to the bridge and never showed any emotion. It was like she was dead on the inside and as B'Elanna told me all this, I mourned for Stephanie but mostly I mourned for the Kathryn I used to know.

I learned from B'Elanna that she'd only once in those years seen a slight letting down of the walls that surrounded Kathryn. B'Elanna had gone to the Aeroponics Bay for some flowers for a dinner she was planning for herself and Tom. When she entered she thought she heard muffled crying and finally found Kathryn in a corner with tears running down her face while holding, of all things, a tomato plant and she heard her utter four words only 'Chakotay, I love you'. When she finally noticed B'Elanna standing there, she'd bolted for the exit and never mentioned the matter again. When B'Elanna had tried to speak of it to her, Kathryn had refused to talk and the captain mask was back in seconds and so B'Elanna left it. All she could do, all any of them could do, was hover close by and try to protect her as best they could. It was hearing of the tomato plant that caused me the most pain because I understood where B'Elanna could never understand its meaning, knowing nothing of our time on New Earth and I knew then that Kathryn had loved me and whereas that should have caused me joy, all I felt was the deepest pain I've ever known.

When they finally found the wormhole that led them home, Kathryn was the only one who showed no emotion. The robot she'd become went through all the debriefings like the professional Starfleet expected her to be and she fought like a tigress for the Maquis, I suppose her last act of love for me, and when it was all over, she tried to disappear, having resigned from Starfleet, despite their best efforts to stop her.

B'Elanna and the others tried their best to keep track of her and it was by doing this that they discovered the news of the final blow to Kathryn and maybe had everything else not happened, I would have been there to help her absorb it but I wasn't there and so she faced the final blow alone, alone once more, thanks to me.

B'Elanna told me how they'd discovered the news that Kathryn had received immediately upon their return. It was the news that her mother, sister, brother-in-law and their young daughter had all died in a dreadful house fire, in Kathryn's own childhood home and how nothing had remained. She'd kept this to herself throughout the debriefings, demanding that it be kept from her crew and Starfleet had agreed with her demand and so on the final day, she'd quietly left Headquarters, speaking to no-one, leaving only a recording for the crew, thanking them for their loyalty and friendship and wishing them all happiness in their future lives. And so Kathryn disappeared, only eight short days before my arrival home.

I have beaten myself up so many times, as I sit here beside her, over those eight days, racking my brains as to how I could have arrived quicker, but how could I have known, yet it still goes round and round in my mind. If only I'd gotten home sooner, set out sooner, never bloody left in the first place, but once again, I know I cannot change the past. Other people's wise words come to me frequently these days, old sayings and stories and they mock me, call out to me over the years and tell me of the fool I've been. One comes to mind now of how we should change the things we can, accept the things we can't and have the wisdom to know the difference but it's too late for all that and so all I can do is accept and pray that the outcome of all this will be happy but in the back of my mind, I don't really have that much faith any more.

Why did you do it, Kathryn? The answer is because of me, that she felt there was nothing left to live for, that her work was finished and there was just nothing left anymore. I suppose it is really a simple answer but so hard to accept.

B'Elanna told me how she and Tom got the call informing them that Kathryn had been found, found by some hikers beside a lonely mountain river. The hikers had thought she was dead at first and in a way she was, her injuries were so great and that was how the world believed that she was dead and only those who followed on with the story knew the truth, that she was still alive, if you could call what I see before me now alive. B'Elanna also told me how the doctors had battled for hours in surgery to keep her alive and try by some miracle to repair the shattered pieces that lay before them. She told me how Starfleet issued the story that Kathryn had been hiking and had fallen into the swollen river, having apparently lost her footing on some slippery rocks, but B'Elanna and Kathryn's other close 'family' knew differently and I think, so did Starfleet but for many reasons, kept quiet about it all. Of course, gossip always follows and that was what I'd heard from those two ensigns.

How she is still alive, I don't know. I know her injuries, how her frail body was thrown around that river, crashing off the rocks and I know she could have chosen an easier way to end it all, but I believe that to the end, Kathryn was still punishing herself in some way, and perhaps wanted her end to be that painful, and I cry to think of the pain and panic she must have gone through in those minutes before the darkness came for her. I also believe she wanted it to look like an accident, but she failed there, perhaps not believing that those around her knew her better and loved her more than she ever admitted to herself, that they saw what she was going through and would have been there for her, if only she'd let them.

She actually left a will, made the day before her intended final departure and even that tells me of her love. She wanted a funeral, simple, but with the practices of my beliefs and she wanted to be buried with her medicine bundle. I cried even more when I heard that and again when I heard that all her possessions were to go to any family members I might have had. She hung on to any part of me left to her, right to the end and now when she could have all of me, she's not even aware of it.

PART TWO.

I'm vaguely aware that it's getting light outside, another dawn and suddenly I'm also aware that two nurses are tending Kathryn, trying to make her as comfortable as possible, and I wish there was some medicine that could take my pain away, but only Kathryn herself can do that.

Her Doctor is speaking to me and I struggle to make out his words, 'she seems a bit stronger', 'keep talking to her', 'possibly getting through to her somewhere' and I grasp whatever small hope is thrown my way and so begins another day, possibly more hopeful than the previous few days.

I hang my medicine wheel above her bed and plead with her to find her way back to me and I feel a little more hope than I did yesterday. The nurses have turned her and she lies facing me now and so I sit and stroke her face, her arms and hands, in what I hope is a soothing manner and continue talking to her, hoping I'm talking her back to me, to all of us. There's a part of me that wonders, even if she does come back to me, what kind of Kathryn she'll be. I know the high risk of brain damage from the head injuries she sustained but I still believe that a Kathryn like that would be better than no Kathryn and then I think that's selfish because I know she'd never wish to live that way, but my desire to just once more look into her eyes is too strong and so I continue my work, to bring her back to me.

B'Elanna arrives with Tom sometime later and insist I take a break, but to leave her side for long tears me up. I've been away from her too long already but I reluctantly agree to get something to eat with B'Elanna while Tom keeps watch. Suddenly there's a doctor in front of us, telling us to come back and with my heart racing, we're there in seconds.

The sight that meets us nearly kills me and I quickly realize that Kathryn's heart has stopped and that they're fighting to bring her back. I hear her name roared loudly and realize it's my voice, screaming and pleading with her not to leave me, and by some miracle I believe she hears me for the next charge that goes through her small body brings her back to me. I'm vaguely aware of one of the doctors telling me that she will not survive another attack like this one, but I can only think that this happened because I left her and I vow to her that it will not happen again and so for the next two days, I only leave her side to use the bathroom off this room and even then, I keep talking to her through the door, so she'll know I haven't left her.

Dawn once more and I know I'm exhausted, having slept fitfully throughout the night, dozing at her side, keeping her hand in mine but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've taken over a lot of her care myself and thankfully the nurses let me, showing me how to wash her, turn her and massage her muscles and I feel better, knowing I'm doing something for her, however small, hoping that somehow my touch, along with my voice, can reach her somewhere through her darkness.

I spend hours just talking to her, reading to her from her favourite stories, living for just a small sign from her and finally it comes, a small ray of hope. As I read to her, holding her small hand in my large one, I imagine I feel her fingers move and hardly daring to hope, I keep talking, making up part of the story now, and look down at her hand. Suddenly my voice is gone and is replaced with tears as I witness our first miracle, as her fingers are indeed moving, however slowly. I call for the nurse and she seems as happy as I am as she confirms my miracle. Her doctor examines her and tells me what I want to hear, that she's responding, that it's a step forward, however small and my hope grows a little bit more, my faith increases. He also tells me that there's a long road ahead but I know I'm worthy of the challenge, that the greatest prize of all awaits me at the finish line and so I press on, day after day, seeing more small miracles, her medical readings improving, more small movements, until late one evening, when the hospital is settling down for the night, I feel her hand actually grip mine, so gently and I look to her face and get my reward as I see her eyelids flutter and as I keep talking to her, calling to her, they open slowly. I hold my breath and watch as she tries to focus and can almost see her mind try to process information about this new world. I gently speak her name, as I press the call button for the nurse but there's little response from Kathryn, so I tell myself to be patient but there's a small fear building in me as I see only emptiness in her eyes.

I stand off to one side and let the staff examine her, but I can see that they're getting little response either. All I can see is that same emptiness in her eyes and I hear her doctor telling me that this withdrawal may well have started before her accident, as he calls it, and that it'll take time, but that's all right. Time is what I have lots of.

And so begins our second battle, as day after day I try and rid her eyes of their emptiness and I know my goal can be achieved as tests have now ruled out brain damage. Kathryn has to find her own way out of this now but she'll have lots of help and so I sit her out of bed and talk until I'm sure my voice will fail me. I read to her, show her pictures, bring in everyone close to her and we all take our turn, even the twins. I dress her in her own clothes, feed her and brush out her hair and notice how it's lost its shine and I try and swallow the lump that keeps coming to my throat as I remember how many times I've dreamed of doing this, just never wanting or imagining it to be this way.

I take her outside and show her the flowers and the trees, point out birds and children, anything to get her attention, and at night sometimes I lie beside her and just hold her, whispering softly to her, calling her back to me, gently stroking her back and her hair and suddenly I'm aware of something wet on my neck and I pull back gently to look at her and witness Kathryn's first tears. The emptiness is still there in her eyes and still she doesn't speak but I know with certainty that what I'm doing is working, that I'm getting through and I pray she knows that this is real and not some dream so I continue talking until she finally falls asleep and that's when I'm most afraid, afraid that she won't wake up. That's when it's the loneliest and I lie awake and listen to her breathing, so afraid it will stop.

I continue day to day, slowly watching my Kathryn battle back to me and then she speaks my name, a whisper, and I don't know if it's a memory or if she's speaking to me but I don't care as it still feeds my hope and my faith. She focuses on me now and sometimes her eyes follow me around the room but there's still a deadness there and I know a lot more time is needed for our journey to be completed. I understand that she's withdrawn somewhere safe to her, someplace where no shadows can fall over her, where there's no hurt or pain and I know that if she comes out of this, she'll have to face that pain but at least this time, I'll be there to share it with her.

I leave her briefly from time to time now as I want to take her home and I know I'm presuming a lot about our future relationship but it's all I can do and so I search for a house where I think she'll be happy, with a garden and an open fireplace and I eventually find the perfect one, traditional in style, spacious yet cosy and homely and I allow myself to dream again as I imagine sitting with Kathryn on winter nights in front of the big, stone fireplace, curled up safe with our dreams and hopes for the future. I take her to visit and she seems at ease there.

I notice her eyes every time I return from being away from her and I think I see something there, almost as if she is afraid I won't return after an absence and is now experiencing some form of relief at my return. It seems as if she has come to know me around her but I'm not sure she relates me to the Chakotay she knew or maybe she is just afraid to, afraid of another loss, or maybe she still feels this is a dream.

Each day sees her gain some strength physically and soon I have her up walking on her own but she seems reluctant for me to move away too far from her, as if she'll fall and there won't be anyone there to catch her. I stand facing her, urging her to walk towards me and hold my hands out to her and she will walk to me, but her eyes never leave mine when we do this and so I hold eye contact with her, realizing that this is also a lesson in trust for her and I repeat my own promise to myself that I'll never again let her down.

She's like a child in many ways and so I dress and feed her, wash and groom her and she lets me, for which I'm grateful but lately I've noticed a curiosity in her eyes as she watches me and it's as if she's trying to place me or tie me in with something hidden deep in her mind, so I keep quiet and let it come in its own time but mostly she's relaxed with me and that feels good. She'll lie against me as I read to her or talk to her and I'm uncertain if she understands all my words although I know she understands when I tell her it's time to eat or wash or sleep but I've still to hear her voice again, apart from my name that one time.

I now let her wash on her own and bit by bit I try to get her to gain a little independence, but never move far from her side and I think she understands what I'm trying to do. She's in the bathroom as I tidy up a little when I hear her voice again in a way I don't wish to. I hear her scream and rush to her in the bathroom only to find her slumped on the floor with blood on her hand and a look of sheer panic on her face. Her eyes go to mine with a pleading for understanding and I panic too a little, but then I see where the blood has come from and I understand but don't know how to make Kathryn understand. I hear the outer door open and hear B'Elanna come in, calling to us and thank the Spirits for her timing. I try and comfort Kathryn, telling her everything is all right but I'm out of my depth here and I know it, so I finally persuade Kathryn to let B'Elanna help her and sit outside and listen to my oldest friend try and talk Kathryn through what she can't understand but seems to accept and I imagine B'Elanna someday thinking back to this as she goes through the same thing with her own daughter as she becomes a woman.

It's a calmer Kathryn who leaves the confines of the bathroom with B'Elanna, grasping her hand tightly and she seems to be actually a little embarrassed but when I stand up and hold my arms open to her, she immediately walks into them and welcomes my embrace as I whisper reassurances to her and B'Elanna goes to report this to the nurses and returns with some painkillers for Kathryn to take care of any cramps she may have. She lets me put her to bed and hold her until she sleeps and I almost understand what motherhood is about.

I finally take her home for good after a few weekend visits and overnight stays to get her used to her new home. She loves the garden and walks around it for long periods at a time, rediscovering the simple pleasures of flowers, birds, bees and butterflies and I could watch her face all day as she meets these new elements in her life. She still won't sleep alone and I have to admit I don't want to either and she seems to accept it as natural that I should share her bed and hold her in my arms as she falls asleep each night.

B'Elanna and Tom come today for Kathryn's birthday and bring with them my present to Kathryn. Her whole face lights up like never before as I give her the puppy and I glory in the joy and happiness I see there as she hugs the puppy to her and then sit stunned with the others as for the first time she responds with her own kind of conversation to the puppy, in the form of cooing sounds which only he seems to understand but is music to my ears.

I listen to her in the garden day by day as she 'talks' with her new friend and a small part of me is actually jealous of their relationship but I feel elated at her development and bit by bit she grows until I hear her humming to herself.

I teach her how to feed herself and dress herself and slowly she's gaining more independence. I also make her responsible for her puppy and she enjoys tending him, feeding him and grooming him. I start to teach her more words and now embark on getting her to speak to me, taking on the doctors' advice of not giving her some things unless she tries to ask for them, but it's not easy, especially when her tears come and she seems to think I'm punishing her for something and then I have to harden myself for her own good, but it does eventually pay off and we slowly make progress.

B'Elanna is teaching her to read again and I often feel, watching them, that this knowledge is just below the surface but she's holding it back and so I start to slowly introduce new elements to Kathryn and instantly regret it. I show her a picture of her family and at first there's no reaction but later, in the middle of the night, there's a reaction and it scares the life out of me. She wakes screaming and there's agony in those screams and it takes over an hour to calm her as she clings to me like a lifeline so I leave that idea for a while.

I start to talk of space and starships and again at first there's no reaction but gradually a cloud passes over her eyes and so I shy away again and ask about her puppy and ask when she'll choose a name for him and explain about names. I see her ponder all this and she tells me the name 'Molly' and for a second I see some spark in her eyes, which is gone just as quickly, but it gives me great hope, and so the boy puppy got a girl name.

As the days go by, I leave little reminders of her previous life around the house but never make any mention of them and I watch her pick things up and study them for a minute then shy away from them as quickly, but I still leave them around and gradually she comes to accept them as part of the house but never asks how they got there.

She's now able to do most things for herself but I never let her near anything dangerous and in this she's still as a child but I see her eyes changing all the time. There's no longer any emptiness there, but instead there's a childish innocence and lately I see more and more serious looks cross her features, especially if she's unaware that I'm watching, and I wonder what's going on inside her mind. I also notice she has long moments of silence and I start to worry. She's never used my name since that one time back in the hospital and calls me Tay but I see her look at me with a strange expression when Tom or B'Elanna let my full name slip from time to time and she sometimes looks as if she's about to ask me something but then stops herself and so I let it go.

We sit at the fire in the evening and she curls into me. Tonight she's quiet and I feel something on the horizon but don't push, knowing everything will come in its own time and in its own way. Finally, she looks up at me and asks me who Chakotay is and I tell her softly that I am, watching her face intensely but there's no reaction and she just seems to accept this. She then asks me a question I don't know how to answer and I don't know where it came from but it worries me. She asks me what Voyager is and all I tell her is that it was the name of a starship and I see her file this information away in her mind and leave it for later.

Spring is back and I realize that I've been home a year and I marvel at Kathryn's progress in that year, despite the dour prognosis she was given in the beginning, when she wasn't even expected to live but she's come on in leaps and bounds and even beyond my greatest hopes for her. I teach her to use a computer again, thinking it will help her development but I underestimate Kathryn again and at the time don't realize where it will lead. Day by day I leave her, happily playing away at her new toy, discovering holonovels she's now able to read and games she enjoys playing.

It's taken me a few days to fully notice the change in Kathryn, mainly because I was so busy with my own work but suddenly I see it. I first notice her lack of singing and realize she's not as attentive to Molly or as talkative with me and when I ask her about it and see her eyes, a chill runs through me and suddenly she asks me to tell her who she is and I'm rooted to the spot. When I find my voice, I tell her she's Kathryn Janeway but I see she already knows that and that that wasn't the answer she wanted from me. I ask her who she thinks she is but she turns away and when I turn her back to me, I see her tears and in that instant, I realize my mistake in letting her near a computer and not considering the information she could access, that I'd underestimated Kathryn Janeway and the woman she was and the fact that she'd not really gone but was there all the time, just hidden and frightened and resting.

And then the floodgates open and all hell breaks loose and all I can do is be a buffer against the storm and hold her until hopefully it passes, but it takes a long time and yet in the grand scheme of things, a very short time. I'd always thought that if or when this came, it would be over a period of time, weeks or months, memories slowly regained and added to bit by bit, one piece accepted and dealt with before the next one assaulted us, but in the end it comes in a matter of hours and they're the longest and darkest hours of my life in a way and certainly the most painful.

I hold her tightly, despite her feeble protests, as she's mentally assaulted again and again by memories too painful for anyone to bear and I absorb her screams and cries of pure agony as they invade her mind, demanding to be acknowledged and I feel so helpless and guilty for my part in all this but there's nothing I can do. Finally, I feel her body surrender to itself and exhausted, she collapses into me. I carry her upstairs and call her doctors for advice but there's little they can tell me except to let it all come and if it gets too bad, to use the sedatives I got from them and so I settle on the bed with her, a hypospray in one hand and stroke her hair and face with the other and await the nightmares I know will come.

They come and the fresh assault is worse than before and I have to physically restrain her to stop her hurting herself but this only makes it worse and I scream out inside myself as I have to ask myself what kind of memories assault her that my restraining of her makes them worse and I know now for certain that B'Elanna kept details from me and I understand why, but at this moment in time, I need to know to avoid more damage and so I do the only thing I can and sedate Kathryn and I hold her close to me and rock her until she's once more asleep.

Tom stays with her as she sleeps and I sit in the kitchen with B'Elanna and hear the full, terrible details of what she knows, but even her knowledge is limited and we both know that the full horror is known only to Kathryn. She tells me of the rope burns Kathryn had on her wrists and ankles and even around her throat. She tells me of the whip like cuts across her body, on her back, on her chest and stomach and across her legs, back and front. I learn of the burns on the palms of her hands and on the soles of her feet, even on her scalp, some of them probably having been caused by electrocution style devices and I can't look at B'Elanna as she tells me all this, couldn't have looked at anyone, only urge her to go on whenever she falters. Finally she tells me of the severe internal injuries Kathryn had, the ripping and tearing and of the internal bleeding the Doctor had struggled to control and I know now why that bastard had finally let her go, that it was because there was nothing left for him to destroy and I know that if I could travel back to the Delta Quadrant at this moment, I'd rip him apart. All I can do from here is not let him succeed in what he set out to do. I will not let him destroy the woman I love.

I fear the coming days now as I sit and watch her sleep, a false, sedated sleep and pray for guidance, pray for the strength to deal with what's to come. She finally stirs and as her eyes open and she sees me, I see the realization dawn and know that she's back to me, that everything is back with her and I see the pain it causes her and I actually wish for the way it was before, for her to still be in that place where the pain and memories can't touch her, but I know this had to come.

She pushes herself up into a sitting position, still staring at me and I anticipate her first question as she just asks me with one word - how? As simply as I can, I explain what happened to me and how I got home and I give her the main details of the past year, but I see she remembers most of that and she seems almost embarrassed as I see her think back to everything we've been through together in that time and I know that the road ahead just got longer.

She has dressed herself and sits at the kitchen table with me now as I try and coax her to eat. She nibbles at bits and pieces but doesn't speak at first. Finally, almost afraid to meet my eyes, she asks if I know everything. Just that, and I know what she's alluding to, the rape and her suicide attempt, so I just answer with a simple yes. She nods her head at this but makes no further comment and I feel I have to allay the fears I know she's feeling and so I tell her gently that what went before makes no difference to the way I feel about her, and then I finally say the words I've waited over ten years to say to her, and I tell her how much I love her. I tell her how sorry I am and I beg her forgiveness. She doesn't look up at me but I see the tears come and watch as they drop into her lap and she knows I've seen them. I get up to go to her but she jumps up and backs off, only telling me she doesn't deserve that, that she doesn't deserve anything, and the pain in her eyes rips through me but I have my quest and I push on but still she backs off. I tell her I know she loves me too and plead with her to just give us a chance and for a split second I think I see hope in her eyes but that's quickly replaced with the pain and she continues to back off, now pleading for some time alone and like the bloody fool that I am, I agree.

I can't sit here any longer with my agony and wish I hadn't agreed to give her time alone and finally give in to my fears. I'm gravely worried about her and so I return to the house from the far field where I sat out my wait, and as I enter the house, my fears grow, for it's too quiet and I notice Molly in her basket, her water and feed bowls filled. I charge upstairs and into every room, check downstairs again, all around the garden but there's no sign of her and I know with certainty that she's gone somewhere to finish what she started and I curse myself for giving in to her wishes, for not forcing the final hump in the road we had to travel.

Tom and B'Elanna are here in no time after my call to them and suddenly I know where to find Kathryn and pray I won't be too late. Tom arranges the transport we need to get there and arranges for the one we'll need once we're there and for the medical treatment I pray will be in time.

We beam to the site of what was once Kathryn's safe haven of childhood and for a few seconds I stand shocked at the blackened ruins that once housed such happiness and such dreams. We split up and search through the debris and charred remains and suddenly I see her, lying deathly still and curled into a fetal position, in amongst all this carnage and my heart almost stops, and I wonder briefly if Kathryn in her mind somewhere felt she should have died here with them and was trying to fulfil that and so I run to her, desperately feeling for a pulse and I see the empty hyposprays which had contained the sedatives and curse myself for not hiding them better. I call to B'Elanna and together we lift her, her face and hands and clothes soiled with black soot and within seconds Tom gets us transported to the help I pray again won't be too late.

Once again, I sit at her bedside and pray and wonder how all this could have happened and once again she doesn't stir. I do the only thing I know how to do for I've had plenty of practice at it, and I sit beside her and talk to her and stroke her face and hands, calling her back to me once more.

Tom and B'Elanna come and go as much as they can, but they've two small children who need them and so I sit here, never leaving her side and talk endlessly into the night and I know that if she returns to me this time, I'll probably chain her to me and never let her out of my sight again.

The doctors have told me we reached her with probably minutes to spare but they can't tell me for certain that their treatment will be successful but I believe that we've come too far this last year for us to fail at what I believe to be the last leg of our arduous journey and so I continue with the only treatment I believe will work, talking and touching and reaching into her mind to drag her back to me.

Late evening again, our special time when all is quiet and it's just the two of us and I call her back to me again and this time she answers me. Once again, I feel her hand move in mine and look to her to await her eyes opening, mentally preparing myself for the confusion I'll see there and then the following pain, but I've grown stronger this past year and I have enough strength for the two of us. As she looks at me and I see everything find its place in her mind, I follow my instinct and just pull her into my arms, almost crushing her thin frame and suddenly my own tears come, come from deeper in me than I ever thought possible and then I'm aware that she'as joined me in my tears, that my reaction and tears are what it takes to finally reach her and we continue into the night, clinging to each other, pouring out all our pain and grief but a cleansing is taking place and with this cleansing, comes a healing and suddenly I'm aware of a light in my mind, beckoning us towards the end of that long road.

Our home. No longer a house but a haven, keeping out all tempests, all ghosts, anything that can harm us. These last few weeks have been mentally torturous and exhausting but we were up to it, with our combined strength and determination and I believe we've made it. I know there'll be the odd set back but there's nothing we can't face together and as we once again sit by the fireplace, late in the evening and just hold each other, the final piece falls into place for me. I once again tell Kathryn how much I love her and this time she answers my prayer and in her soft voice she tells me finally just how much she loves me, how much she's always loved me and my happiness is complete. All that has past, all the pain, fades with the setting sun and I know the promised dawn awaits us.

THE END.