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:
Kathryn finds herself trapped in a cruel and abusive marriage with Mark. Can Chakotay help her before it's too late?
Warning:

When Home Is Where The Hurt Is

by Kat Lady

Part One.

Kathryn sat huddled in the corner of the bathroom with the light off and hugged her knees to her chest, the cold tiles chilling her to the bone. Her tears had long since dried but she still hurt all over. She knew the bruises were already making themselves visible on her body. Her face as usual was unmarked. He always made sure of that.

The house was quiet now and she prayed he'd finally fallen into a drunken sleep somewhere. Tomorrow, the cycle would start all over again. He'd be filled with remorse, begging her forgiveness, reciting the familiar litany of how sorry he was, how he never meant to hurt her, how he loved her and always the empty promise that it would never happen again. Until the next time.

Kathryn always acted as she was expected to. She would say the words, just like the actress she'd become, well-rehearsed in her lines. Yes, she forgave him and yes, she loved him too. There was no other choice.

'How the mighty have fallen' crossed her mind. She remembered being the once strong and proud Captain of Voyager, afraid of nothing, in total control of her life, and now she'd been reduced to this. What thought she'd ever given to battered wives, had always come out on the side of the opinion that it only happened to weak souls who allowed it or the badly educated who could find no other path for themselves but always the weaker and poorer of society. Never would she believe it could happen to strong women, those with their own life. She groaned to herself thinking how wrong a person can be, that some ignorance can only be removed by experience.

Her thoughts took her back to Voyager's homecoming, the celebrations and happy faces. It didn't last long. Chakotay left and she couldn't blame him. She'd never given him any indication that things could be different when they returned and once he'd seen Mark waiting for her, he'd departed the following morning and she'd never heard from him again.

Kathryn came back to an aged and feeble mother, one with little time left. Phoebe had simply met with her estranged sister once, cast her a cold look and told her that now that she was finally back, it was her turn to look after the old woman and left. Kathryn heard nothing more from her sister. Gretchen Janeway's last request was to see her daughter marry the man she was meant to marry and with her true love gone, Kathryn found herself giving in, trying to make something right for her mother before she died. Guilt was a powerful motivator.

Mark had been so attentive before the wedding, explaining how his first marriage had been such a mistake, how his sorrow and loneliness had driven him to it. Kathryn fell for it all and despite not loving him as she loved Chakotay, she married him and as she saw her mother's face, shining with happiness, at that moment felt her decision had been right.

Six months later now, she knew she'd made the biggest mistake of her life. All had seemed fine for the first two or three weeks but as time had passed and she continued working for Starfleet and seeing her former crew, Mark's behaviour had changed. He became more and more moody, then jealous and possessive. Eventually to keep the peace, Kathryn agreed to work part time only and within a short time, severed ties with her former crew, surprising herself with the excuses she managed to come up with. At first, Mark seemed a little happier but not for long. Within two months of their marriage, Kathryn found out what she'd gotten herself into.

B'Elanna had called by during their dinner one evening and despite a polite front from Mark to their guest, Kathryn could feel the underlying resentment and anger from him. No sooner had the former engineer left, than Mark exploded and Kathryn bore the brunt of his rage. When his tirade of angry words allowed, Kathryn attempted to speak up for herself. She quickly learned what a mistake she'd made when his fist had connected with the side of her head, sending her sprawling backwards over the table. As she lay stunned on the floor, she'd become aware of him screaming further abuse at her before dragging her by the hair into the centre of the floor, then kicking her in the ribs.

Within minutes, his actions had sunk in and he was all apologies and tears, promising her it would never happen again, how he'd drunk too much wine at dinner, the stress he was under at work, all the excuses he could think of, and Kathryn had been too afraid and stunned not to accept them.

He had pulled her up and started kissing and hugging her, again saying how much he loved her and how sorry he was, before pulling her to bed and taking her as he wanted. Kathryn endured his rough 'love making', doing her best to keep her tears under control. Later, he held her tightly and told her how it would be best if they never spoke of this again, how it could get out and how 'dangerous' and 'upsetting' it would be to her mother if she ever heard of it. The threat was made and understood. Kathryn nodded her agreement in the dark. She knew she was trapped.

Days passed before the second attack but before long, it became almost a nightly occurrence. Kathryn quickly learned the rules. She never spoke now of her work or anything that happened in her day when he wasn't there. Sometimes it helped, other times he felt she was keeping things from him by not speaking. It was a no-win situation.

Gretchen's condition continued to deteriorate and Mark knew his hold on Kathryn would continue as long as she lived. Kathryn knew it too and so she endured the nightmare she lived. He never left marks on her face, making sure to always inflict his blows where the marks would be well hidden by her clothes.

Not all his beatings were physical. He constantly put her down, ridiculing everything she did. He accused her of being unfaithful and having probably 'opened her legs' for every alien in the Delta Quadrant as well as every man on the ship. The house was never clean enough, his dinner was either too well done or not cooked enough, too much or too little. His clothes were not cared for correctly, his personal items touched, the bed not made right. He found fault with everything and took it all out on his wife. He constantly reminded her that she was not the almighty Starfleet Captain any more. She was his wife, his property now and she'd better not forget it.

He was drinking more and more and the nightly beatings always ended with him dragging her to bed, taking from her what he told her was his 'husbandly right'. Some nights now, he didn't bother going as far as the bed and took her wherever he felt like it. The fact that she could never have been ready for him didn't enter his mind and he ignored her cries of pain, his own satisfaction being all that mattered. More and more, he did his best to degrade her with his perversions and Kathryn found she'd no choice but to go along with them.

As the weeks passed, Kathryn's resistance dwindled to nothing. The self-confidence she'd always been so proud of vanished completely and a shadow remained of what had once been 'Captain Janeway of Voyager'. Mark beat her down in every way possible until she'd no strength left to fight anything. She started to believe his words when he told her how useless she was and how pitiful she looked. It was true that if someone tells you something enough times, you start to believe it. Even 'Kathryn' started to disappear.

Kathryn's only purpose was attending to her mother. Gretchen Janeway was too weak at this time to notice the change in her daughter, how pale and withdrawn she'd become or if she did, she never spoke of it.

To the outside world, Kathryn became a wonderful actress. No one seemed to suspect a thing and if they noticed the weight she'd lost, they made no mention of it. She became a master at covering up her weight loss and the paleness of her skin, along with the dark circles under her eyes. Her skills with clothing and makeup were used to the full and appeared to do the trick. She learned to walk in a way that hid the pain she suffered from the beatings and constantly checked herself to make sure no bruises showed.

Tonight had been one of the worst yet. Kathryn realized Mark had already been drinking when he arrived home. Within minutes of slamming the front door, he'd picked fault with everything. He'd screamed at her for her appearance, telling her how ugly she'd become and what a terrible excuse for a woman she was. When she'd placed his dinner on the table, he'd simply picked the plate up and hurled it at the wall, screaming at her that a pig couldn't be expected to eat the excuse for food she offered him. He'd then grabbed her by the hair, pushing her to the floor and had rubbed her face in the spilled food, demanding that she eat it. He roared at her, his words hurting as much as physical blows.

"You're a worthless bitch. You're nothing. You're not the high and mighty Captain around here and you better remember that. You're mine now. What you thought you were before is past. Who did you think you were? You deserve everything you get. You're asking for it. It's what you want and I'm just the man to give it to you."

What had followed had been a blur of pain for Kathryn as she'd been slammed off furniture and walls, his fists pounding her body repeatedly. It had ended with him forcing her over the table, ripping her pants down and taking her roughly while he continued roaring abuse at her. When he'd finished, he'd slammed her against the wall again before heading off in a hunt for more drink.

Kathryn had somehow managed to crawl up the stairs and lock herself in the bathroom, trying desperately to hide herself away until he passed out somewhere. She'd cried herself dry, hopelessness washing over her, knowing there was no escape from this hell. She knew her mother would be unable to handle the situation and so she had to endure it, day by day, until he eventually killed her. Kathryn knew it would come to that someday. She managed to heal a lot of her injuries with a small dermal regenerator she had, but knew that there were deeper injuries she was unable to diagnose and that these went untreated. There was no way she could attend any doctor without questions being raised.

Kathryn slowly pulled herself up and made her way to the mirror, putting on the small light there. She saw immediately that bruising had formed at the side of her eye, where her face and head had smashed off the wall and hoped her make up skills would cover the evidence. She tried to think up a story to explain the mark, knowing the old 'I walked into a door' wouldn't suffice.

She gently eased open the door and saw that Mark had managed to make his way to bed, his snoring echoing around the room. She crept down to the kitchen and applied ice to her bruised eye, hoping this would arrest the swelling. She wanted desperately to cry, but her tears had long ago dried up, leaving behind a dead person on the inside and a robot on the outside.

Next morning followed the usual pattern of Mark's apologies and promises and Kathryn just nodded. She was too tired for anything else. She did her best with her make up but knew only a miracle would cover the mark. Everyone at worked accepted her story of falling over a shoe she'd left on the bedroom floor and had tripped on in the night as she made her way to the bathroom. Most laughed with her, admitting the same had happened to them at some time.

The weeks passed and Gretchen's condition remained the same. Mark visited with Kathryn all the time now, being the perfect son-in-law and making the old woman laugh constantly. Kathryn did her best to join in and appear normal. Mark never left them alone, afraid Kathryn would speak out but knowing that she'd probably never say a word to hurt or upset her dying mother.

As the beatings and verbal abuse continued Kathryn began to believe somewhere in her mind that she deserved them. She had no pride or self-respect left anymore and her work suffered greatly. Eventually Starfleet called her into an Admiral's office and questioned the fall off in her work, asking if they could help in any way. Kathryn put them off with her well thought out excuses but eventually it was agreed that she take a long leave of absence, her employers advising her to see someone in the medical field but not going into detail.

Kathryn had simply nodded her acceptance and finished work the following week. Mark had appeared delighted at first but within days complained about the loss of her salary and then came his suspicions of what she did with her days. He started appearing home at odd hours, constantly checking up on her. On two occasions, he'd found B'Elanna at the house and as before was polite while she was there but made Kathryn pay later.

Kathryn was glad to be free of work, having almost run out of excuses for her bruises and marks. He no longer cared now whether her face was cut or bruised. His drinking was getting worse and his own work suffered. Gretchen was getting worse too and Kathryn spent a great deal of time with her mother, Mark always hovering close by.

B'Elanna was worried about her friend and former captain. There was something going on but she couldn't get a fix on it in her mind. That Mark was hitting his wife never entered her head. Like most women who've been fortunate enough not to have experienced this, she also believed as Kathryn had that it only happened to certain types of women. The Kathryn Janeway she knew could never be a victim of anything like that. She'd accepted Kathryn's stories for the bruises she saw but lately she wasn't so sure.

She'd spoken with Tom about her worries but Tom had suggested simply that after eight years in the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway probably only wanted to get away from her former life and start a new one. He told her that their captain had always been a physical person, keeping fit with hoverball and other sports. Bruises were par for the course. His words made sense and for a time, B'Elanna accepted them. After her last visit however, her worries resurfaced and one day she found herself speaking to a girlfriend about it. She mentioned no names but filled her friend in on all the details. What her friend said surprised and disturbed her greatly.

"B'Elanna, you think because she was once a strong and great leader, that this couldn't happen to her? I suppose looking at me, you'd say it could never happen to me either. Am I right?"

B'Elanna was caught off guard. "Joanne, what are you saying? You…?"

The other woman smiled sadly. "Yes, my dear. I took it for four years before I finally got the courage to leave. He followed of course and cried to me that he couldn't live without me. I'd heard all the excuses before of how it would never happen again but this scared me a lot more. I asked myself if I could have any death, even his, on my conscience. I gave in, of course, and I went back. Oh, it was fine for a month and then it started all over again. I took it for another four months and then I reported him. He finally went too far you see…"

B'Elanna was shocked. "The other… Beating you. That wasn't going too far?"

Joanne shook her head sadly. "You have to be in the situation to understand. Fear controls you. Fear of him, of what's outside. They always have some hold. You say your friend's mother is dying? That's some hold. You also say she was very strong before, strong and proud? When you have that behind you, there's a lot of shame in admitting that this could happen to you. There's the fear and shame of failing at something in the eyes of those who know and love you. Then there's the embarrassment of admitting to what's going on. When you're in the situation, it makes sense. Think yourself lucky you don't understand. Me? I got pregnant. Oh B'Elanna, I wanted that child, thought it would save us. One kick to the wrong place ended that."

B'Elanna was crying now and a great dread also came to her. A fear that this could be happening to Kathryn. "What can I do for her? How can I help? I have to see her…"

Joanne interrupted. "I can tell you now that she'll deny everything. While he has this hold… B'Elanna, there are only two ways out of this for her. She'll either be carried out dead or…" B'Elanna cried out but Joanne pushed on. "She'll either be killed by him OR she'll leave herself. B'Elanna, there's a form of addiction here. Only she can do this. I know. She'll deny it to you until the day she dies. She has to end this herself. Also I have to tell you, be very careful when you go to see her. They get very possessive these men. You're a threat to what he sees as his. He'll believe every man is sleeping with her and every woman trying to take her away either in friendship or to split them up. There's no way to understand the thoughts of these men. They need total control. Everyone and everything outside of her is a threat to his life, even she herself will appear a threat to him. He needs her to fear him and in that way he can control her. Only by her feeling small can he feel big. He'll need to totally control every area of her life. I wasn't even allowed to use the bathroom with the door closed. You can't explain the way they think." Joanne herself was crying at this stage with the bad memories. B'Elanna took her hand and squeezed it. Joanne went on.

"You can try and talk with her but I doubt you'll get anywhere. She'll only become more afraid if she thinks you know or suspect. I'll talk to her if you get that far but I tell you again, she'll deny it completely. Look, let me see her, on some pretext or other and I'll tell you. I'll know just by looking at her." B'Elanna nodded.

The following day, B'Elanna and Joanne hid across from Kathryn's home and watched until Mark left for work. They waited a further ten minutes, then crossed the road and knocked. After a few minutes, Kathryn finally answered the door. B'Elanna was shocked at her appearance.

Kathryn had on an old dressing gown, her hair was mussed and she wore no make up. A fading bruise marked her cheek and a slight swelling was starting at the side of her eye. She appeared afraid when she saw B'Elanna and then became flustered.

"B'Elanna, you've caught me at a bad time. I was going out." She turned her face away, trying to hide it.

B'Elanna saw red and pushed her way in, forgetting everything Joanne had told her. "Bullshit, Kathryn. I know what's going on and I'm here to stop it." She held her hand up as Joanne tried to nterrupt. "You're coming with me now. This is going to stop."

Kathryn's reaction shocked B'Elanna, her anger matching the Engineers. "What are you talking about? How dare you just barge in here and..."

B'Elanna cut her off. She was on a run, and there was no stopping her. "Mark. What he's doing to you. Cut the crap, Kathryn. I know he's beating you. Don't even try and deny it."

Kathryn cut her off now. Fear appeared on her face for a second but was quickly replaced by anger. Only Joanne noticed the switch. "B'Elanna, how dare you. You're talking nonsense. Mark beating me? What rubbish. How can you even think…? B'Elanna, I don't have time for your fantasies. I have a mother who's dying and that's my only concern at the moment. Now please, leave my home and go daydream someplace else. Do you really think if something like that was happening, that I'd take it? Come on, you know me better than that."

Joanne stood quietly back and listened to Kathryn use all the arguments and excuses she'd used over the years and saw that B'Elanna was actually being taken in by them, actually being convinced by the older woman and she wasn't surprised. She heard Kathryn's 'explanation' for the current state of her face and how plausible it sounded. "Oh, she's good," Joanne thought. "She's almost as good as I was at this. He's really done a number of her. He's got her right where he wants her."

While B'Elanna was falling for Kathryn's words and looking only at her eyes, Joanne was taking in the whole picture. She alone saw how Kathryn held herself, using the wall behind her for support. She saw the mask in place on her face and the barely controlled shaking of her hands. She also noticed her breathing, as if each breath was painful and she knew that sign well. She then noticed the bruises on Kathryn's wrists and neck. She knew from personal experience what they meant only too well. This went further than beatings and emotional abuse. She was transported back in time as she watched this woman and she saw herself years ago.

B'Elanna was looking at her own feet now, feeling a bit foolish. She believed her former captain and felt very foolish for thinking anything else. She mumbled her apologies and looked to Joanne to confirm or deny this. Joanne just smiled softly. "Ready to go?" She knew nothing would be achieved this way. This was a deadly game and how you played it decided the outcome.

B'Elanna nodded and once again apologised to Kathryn. "Kathryn, I'm sorry. I really thought…"

Kathryn just smiled softly. "B'Elanna, I thank you for your concern but God…if something like that was happening, do you really think I'd take that? After everything we went through in the Delta Quadrant? Come on."

"I know. I see that. Kathryn, again please…I'm sorry. I just worry about you, after you cut yourself off…"

Kathryn smiled softly. "B'Elanna, after eight years out there… I need my life back, do you understand? My mother needs me too. I have to have my own life now. That's all past. You need to go on with your own." B'Elanna smiled again and hugged Kathryn. Only Joanne saw the pain cross Kathryn's face when the younger woman squeezed against her ribs.

Kathryn was panicked for the rest of the day. She felt she'd convinced B'Elanna but the other woman who'd spoken perhaps three words, worried her. Who was she? Kathryn had felt she knew more than she let on, almost as if she knew despite being a total stranger. She put these thoughts from her mind and set about applying her make up, her disguise that showed the world a happy woman and hid the pain within.

Back at B'Elanna and Tom's home, the two women sat and talked. B'Elanna seemed happier and Joanne waited for the right time to speak. Before she got a chance to say anything, Tom called from the front door that he was home. He came into the kitchen with a big grin on his face.

"You'll never guess who I have with me. Talk about a bolt from the blue." He stood back to make way for the older man behind him. B'Elanna jumped up with a squeal of delight, Kathryn gone from her thoughts for the minute.

"Chakotay." She ran to him and hugged him tightly.

"Hey old friend. You can't get rid of me that easily." He hugged her to him.

Later, as the four of them sat over dinner, Chakotay finally asked about Kathryn. He tried his best to sound casual but failed. He loved her and the others could see it.

B'Elanna glanced to Tom and Joanne and smiled with embarrassment. She quickly explained everything, adding how stupid she'd felt when she found out her imagination had run away with her and that she should have listened to Tom. Tom just smiled.

Chakotay didn't join in and looked worried. "Are you sure, B'El? If there was even the slightest chance that anything like that was going on…" He was starting to show fear and anger.

B'Elanna laughed. "Chakotay. I saw her this morning. I talked with her. It was just my imagination. She's fine really. I saw for myself."

Joanne cut her off. "You saw what she wanted you to see."

Three pairs of eyes turned to her. Unashamed and unembarrassed, Joanne filled Chakotay and Tom in on her earlier conversation with B'Elanna and their plan to see Kathryn and for Joanne to judge the situation for herself.

Chakotay spoke now and his fear showed strongly. "Joanne, you think she's being…"

"Chakotay I know what I saw. Look I'm sorry to worry you but take it from me, I'm an expert at this. What I saw this morning was myself a few years ago. God, don't you think I know all the signs? I was a master at the game and the woman I saw this morning is playing that game too. She's good at it, I'll say that. Said all the right things, had all the right moves. She's learned the rules well." She saw Chakotay's pained expression.

"Look, again I'm sorry if it hurts you but this has to be said. The woman I saw this morning was me. I'm not a telepath and I don't need to be, but I can tell you this. That woman has been beaten by her man. She's been mentally and physically abused by him for some time now and judging from other bruises I saw, it's… Well let's just say he has other ways in which he controls her, and I know what I'm talking about with that also." She looked down and traced circles on the table with her fork. Finally she looked up and met Chakotay's pained eyes. He quickly lowered his head to his hands and groaned. Tom just sat there shocked and B'Elanna started crying, covering her mouth with her hand.

Suddenly Chakotay snapped his mind to order and jumped up. "That bastard. I'll kill him myself." He made for the door but Joanne's shout stopped him.

"Chakotay, please. Listen to me carefully here. If you go over there now, I can tell you she'll deny it all. It's evening now and he'll be there. What do you think will happen after you've gone? If you storm in there and accuse him of this, she'll deny it and later when you've gone, he'll take it out on her. She'll pay the price. Think about this."

Chakotay slumped against the wall. "What are you saying? I just leave this alone. Let that bastard hurt her, maybe kill her?" He ran his hands roughly through his hair, his thoughts in turmoil.

Joanne looked at them all sadly. "Look, let's all sit down and work this out. We need to plan this carefully but as I already told B'Elanna, Kathryn has to want to leave."

Chakotay stared at her in disbelief. "Joanne, you can't tell me she wants to stay with that. Are you mad? She's afraid to leave. She just needs help to do it. She just needs…"

Joanne was losing her patience. "She just needs what? A knight in shining armour to come charging in on a white horse and rescue her? You've no understanding of all this. You think this is just about beating and hitting her? You think that it's just about taking sex when he wants it?" Chakotay cried out at the thoughts and images that came to him.

Joanne pushed on. "Chakotay, let me educate you on this. The woman you knew no longer exists. What's there now is a shell of that person. He's chipped away at her bit by bit until there's little left. He's taken her self-respect, her confidence, her belief in herself. You've no idea of how that kind of a man works. He controls her every movement and thought now. He has her at the stage where she probably believes she can't function without him, that she's worthless. If she has any thoughts about leaving, she knows what will happen. He'll find her and make her pay and it'll be worse than before. She believes this. She'll also worry about her mother. He has her over a barrel and she knows it."

Chakotay shook his head angrily. "So we wait until her mother dies or until she's killed? No, Joanne, I can't accept that. I just need to talk to her, let her know…"

Once more Joanne cut him off. "Chakotay, please. I understand how you feel, I really do. I know how painful and frustrating this is. Look, I counsel women now, women who went through what I did and the story is always the same. Feelings of self-worth non-existent, belief that they're worthless and so on. They look in the mirror and see this ugly, stupid and worthless creature staring back at them because that's what they've been conditioned to see. These men control their women one hundred percent. Most of these women even believe that they deserve what they're getting. I know you can't understand any of this but believe me, as someone who went through it, that's the way it is and you can only ever understand that when you've lived it."

They all stared at Joanne, fighting to understand what she was telling them. Tom broke the silence.
"OK Joanne. You're the expert. Sorry for how that sounds." Joanne waved away his concern.
"With what you know then, what can we do? How do we help her? I can't stand to think of her under that roof for another minute so how do we stop it?" They all looked to her for the answer.

"This will take planning. Look, the best thing is for me to try and talk to her. I'm the stranger and it'll probably be easier that way. There's no way she'll admit to anyone she knows anything about what's really going on. The best way to do that is for you three to make sure he's away from the house. Keep in touch with me regarding his movements. That way I can reassure her that he won't find out I was there. It's a start and I can assess how far he's gone and how much he's destroyed." They all nodded reluctantly.

They all sat up late that night, making arrangements to put their plan into action, but imagining what the night hours were bringing for Kathryn was uppermost in their minds. Chakotay worried constantly about her and the images in his mind haunted him. Thoughts of what she was going through at the moment of their sitting there safe, plagued him.

Early next morning, they were just ready to leave the house to put matters in motion, when a call came in for Tom. It was Admiral Paris telling his son that Gretchen Janeway had passed away during the early hours. Kathryn and Mark had been with her at the time. They all sat down again, the wind taken completely from their sails.

Joanne was the first to speak. "Look, I know this sounds callous, but this means that she's safe for the moment." They all looked at her, their questions unspoken.

Joanne explained. "With this… Look, there'll be a lot of people around now. Starfleet and family. There'll be arrangements to be made. From what B'Elanna told me, the mother was married to an important Admiral and these things don't go privately. He won't have much time alone with her and he'll make sure with so many people around that nothing will show." Her meaning was clear. Mark wouldn't risk anyone seeing evidence on his wife of his 'control' of her.

"We have to act carefully now. With her mother's death, he'll lose some of his control or at least feel as if he's losing it. He's going to be unpredictable. What we can do now is keep a close eye on her. One other thing…" She seemed to hesitate and then continued.

"Chakotay, I can see how you feel about her. What I need to know is if Kathryn herself knows and more importantly, if Mark could know. It's highly likely that if just Kathryn knows, she's said nothing to him. Wouldn't dare. If he knows and sees you around…"

Chakotay cleared his throat. "I… Yes, I love her but I never told her. Not directly. I believe she knows how I feel but I'm not sure. Him? I never met him or spoke with him. I saw him briefly the day we got back but I don't think he saw me. What Kathryn told him, I can't say." The former First Officer seemed to have aged ten years overnight.

"Right, that's good. I don't believe she'd have said anything so I doubt he'd know you or maybe only recognize your face. If he has suspicions… Chakotay, listen to me. You… I hope you can act. At the funeral, you must act as if you don't love her. You must keep your feelings hidden. Join the others, shake her hand, say how sorry you are but for God's sake, hide everything else, do you hear me?" Chakotay nodded slowly.

"He's going to be on the alert now. He'll feel his power over her slipping. He'll depend on her grief and confusion during this time to exercise his control but he'll know that won't last. He'll look for any excuse to accuse her."

B'Elanna stood up at this time and her Klingon temper was showing. "If that… If he touches her again…"

Tom went to her. "Honey, come on now. This won't help Kathryn. We all have to act now. We'll treat him with the same respect you'd show any friend at a funeral. Be nice to him, smile sadly at him, say how sorry we all are…"

B'Elanna growled. "Punch his face in and send his teeth down his throat…" Despite the situation, they all smiled softly.

Joanne broke in. "Tom's right. How we play this will decide the outcome." They all reluctantly agreed and started making fresh plans.

PART TWO.

In the end, their flawless performances were worthless. Chakotay and the others kept their emotion in check throughout the almost state funeral which Starfleet had laid on. Chakotay's heart was breaking as he looked covertly at Kathryn and saw her pain and grief. She wore black and it emphasized her paleness even more. She looked like a ghost. Her face was gaunt looking and her eyes were sunken with dark circles under them. She wore more make up than Chakotay ever remembered seeing on her and he wondered just what it hid. Mark kept an arm tightly around her the entire time. Chakotay knew it was meant to project an image of comfort but that it really meant control. Kathryn herself seemed in a trance, barely nodding to people as they filed by muttering false condolences, putting on their funeral faces. Admirals and old friends alike passed Kathryn and Mark, offering their hand and a few words of empty comfort.

As Chakotay, Tom and B'Elanna came closer, he studied Kathryn and saw that she was almost dry eyed. She seemed in shock. Tom and B'Elanna passed first and Chakotay switched to study Mark. He saw suspicion in the man's eyes but Tom and B'Elanna performed perfectly. Kathryn acknowledged them and her tears flowed more now. She didn't speak, just nodded at them. As Chakotay shook Mark's hand, he peripherally saw Kathryn's head snap up at the sound of his voice but he ignored it and went on speaking to the enemy he wanted to kill. Mark's eyes narrowed as he studied the man before him but Chakotay kept his gaze steady. He moved on to Kathryn and she spoke for the first time, whispering his name.

"Chakotay…"

He steeled himself and gained control. "Captain. My sincere condolences."

He acted perfectly. Kathryn seemed hurt by his coolness but covered it well. Mark was watching her intently and Chakotay moved off slowly with the others, not looking back. He ground his teeth together in anger. Up close, he'd seen what had been hidden from further back and what was probably unseen by anyone else who didn't know this woman as he did.

He saw where her thick make up covered old bruises. He saw the weight she'd lost. He saw the deadness in her eyes, all life gone from them. Not even helplessness dwelt in them anymore. Something had flickered there upon seeing him but at his reaction or rather lack of one, it had died quickly, bringing tears to Chakotay's own eyes. Cruel to be kind came to his mind.

Outside following the burial in the adjoining cemetery, Mark made his way with Kathryn towards Chakotay and spoke with him, keeping a close watch on Kathryn's reaction. There was none.

"Commander Chakotay, yes?" Chakotay nodded. "I understood you'd left Earth. It was most kind of you to return for the funeral." He was testing and Chakotay knew it.

"Mr. Johnston. Yes, I have left. I return occasionally to visit B'Elanna and Tom. I was staying with them for a couple of days when we heard the sad news." Mark was studying him closely but Chakotay's performance was perfect.

"Actually, I was due to return this morning but under the circumstances… Well, I felt it was only proper to pay my respects." Mark never took his eyes off the man in front of him and Chakotay noticed his arm tighten around Kathryn.

"How kind of you. Wasn't it, my love?" He looked at Kathryn and she nodded, not looking up. Mark was still suspicious and Chakotay knew it. He decided his 'cruel to be kind' stance would have to go a step further.

"Yes, I wanted to see Tom and B'Elanna in person and ask Tom to be my best man. I'm getting married in four weeks time and I wanted them both there as by best friends."

Kathryn's head snapped up and she stared at Chakotay. With great difficulty, he ignored her. Mark smiled widely but said nothing and Chakotay pushed on.

"Actually, breaking tradition completely. I've asked B'Elanna to do the honour with him. Couldn't leave her out."

Mark was grinning now. "No harm in that. Hear that, Kathryn? The Commander's getting married. Isn't that wonderful?" Kathryn only nodded again but her tears showed and she looked down at her feet.

Chakotay spoke again. "I'm sorry. It's not the place to speak of such happiness. I wasn't thinking. Captain, my apologies." He bowed his head in salute. Protocol.

Mark was enjoying himself and barely hid the fact. "Nonsense. Life can't stop. Gretchen wouldn't want it any other way, would she, Kathryn?" No response came. Her reaction hadn't gone unnoticed by Mark and Chakotay could see it. It worried him. He needed to speak with the others quickly.

"Actually Commander, it's Mrs. Johnston now. She's no longer a captain, are you, my dear? Retired now. I'm more than enough for her." He laughed and then remembered where he was.

Chakotay wanted to kill him but managed to control himself. "Well, Mrs. Johnston, Mr. Johnston, I better head off. I've a transport to make and an anxious fiancée waiting. Again, my sincere condolences." He nodded and shook their hands again, careful to keep both handshakes the same. He knew Mark was watching every move. Kathryn was looking at him and he briefly met her eyes. The pain there tore at him but he forced himself to ignore it. With a brief smile, he turned and left. He had to get away quickly before he broke down.

Back at the house, they discussed the situation. Chakotay was pacing. "I think I fooled him but, oh B'Elanna, Kathryn's face, her eyes… He's suspicious of her, I know. She gave it away. She reacted and damn it, he saw that. I'm sure he believed me but he knows she feels or felt something, that there was something there. I'm more scared than ever for her now. We've got to do something. She'll be alone with him tonight." He was getting more and more worked up.

Joanne cut in. "I agree. This changes everything. With everyone gone home, he'll feel safe to… Against everything I know, I think we should go over there just to check." She thought for a minute.
"B'Elanna, bring over some food, a gesture of… whatever. Say you know she wouldn't feel like cooking tonight or something. Anything." B'Elanna nodded and within ten minutes they were on their way.

Mark had started drinking the minute they arrived home from the funeral. They'd seen everyone off at the cemetery, Mark explaining that Kathryn was in too bad a state to have anyone back to the house and they'd all accepted this.

Within an hour, he was ranting and raving at her, drunk from rage and alcohol. He screamed abuse at her as he paced unsteadily around the room.

"That's your story, isn't it? You were a Maquis whore on top of everything else. You filthy slut. Only he doesn't want to know, does he? Found someone else. I told you before. No man would want you. You're only good for a quick fuck. Actually come to think of it, you're even useless at that. You're nothing. I should get a charity award for keeping you." His rage was growing and she knew the fists would follow.

Kathryn just sat and took it all. She knew he was right. She had nothing anymore and was nothing. Even Chakotay had forgotten her and was getting married. What little of anything that had lived inside her, curled up and died. Her mother was now in the ground and Chakotay was gone. There was nothing Mark could do anymore to hurt her. She hoped now he would kill her and prayed for it. In a flash, she saw him advance on her. He grabbed her hair and pulled her to her feet.

"You filthy whore…" He slammed her into the wall and she bounced off it, her head smashing off the small table that stood there. She cried out involuntarily and curled herself into a tight ball in a vain attempt to protect herself. He grabbed at her again and the rest was a blur. Fist after fist came down on her, on her face as well as her body, his feet joining in. She felt herself fly over furniture and he was always on her again almost before she landed. He continued screaming at her about how even her own mother had died to get away from such a worthless daughter but it meant nothing to her now.

He dragged her up again but she was unable to stand. She felt his fist smash against her face again and blood spurt from her nose, running down the back of her throat, causing her to gag on it. He hurled her against the glass doors of the living room and she felt the glass smash and tear into her back and the back of her head as she slid to the floor in a heap. Her scream was hoarse now, her voice almost gone. She felt the blackness approach and then dimly somewhere in the distance over the sound of Mark's abuse, banging on the front door.

B'Elanna and Tom were approaching the door, Chakotay hiding in the bushes nearby with Joanne, when they heard the smash of glass and Kathryn's hoarse scream. B'Elanna dropped the dishes she was carrying immediately and started pounding on the door, shouting for them to open. Even from their hiding place, Chakotay and Joanne heard the noises.

In a flash, Chakotay was at the door kicking it in within seconds. The scene that met them stopped them in their tracks for a minute. The room was in chaos, smashed furniture and glass everywhere and splattered throughout it all, Kathryn's blood.

Mark stood waving on his feet in the centre of the room, still screaming abuse at his wife and Chakotay's rage took over. Before he knew what was happening, he'd dived on the object of his hatred and was smashing his face to a pulp. Tom pulled him off and got through to him by telling him that Kathryn needed him more.

He pulled away quickly and looked around the room and the devastation of the place then he saw B'Elanna kneeling beside the crumpled form of Kathryn and heard Joanne calling for a doctor and a transport.

Chakotay was at her side instantly and burst into tears when he saw her. She was barely conscious and blood poured from her nose and a large gash on her forehead. Beneath her head and back, more blood pooled. He cried out her name and she seemed to hear him. "Cha…" The sound came out in a gurgled whisper.

"Shhh, Kathryn love, it's all right. I'm here. It's going to be fine. You're safe now. No one can hurt you any more, I promise…" His tears poured from his eyes and fell on her.

Still she tried to speak. "You…married…" She had no strength.

"Kathryn, oh love no. No. It was a lie. I had to say that. Kathryn, there's only you, only ever been you. Please Kathryn, I love you…" He cried harder as he saw her eyes close and he prayed she'd heard him.

"Kathryn, no…stay with me please…" Tom was pushing past him now with sheets and towels he'd found and tried his best to stem the flow of blood. Kathryn seemed to grow paler by the minute in front of their eyes.

Chakotay went into a total panic now. "Kathryn. Don't leave me, don't die on me. Please, Kathryn." He felt B'Elanna grip his arm and then Tom was trying to pull him away. It took a moment for him to realize a doctor had arrived and that they were in the way. He stood back and watched the medic fight to save Kathryn and he prayed harder than he ever had in his entire life.

He vaguely registered this doctor standing and arranging the transport. He saw security men arrive and then the tingle of the transporter taking himself, Tom and B'Elanna to the hospital, Joanne having stayed behind to help with the questions which would need to be answered. Just as the transporter beam took them, Chakotay caught sight of the pool of blood on the floor where Kathryn had lain and his heart tore with pain.

Hours passed slowly at the hospital, every approaching doctor questioned by Chakotay. None had any answers for him. Joanne arrived some time later and informed them that Mark had been taken into custody and had been charged with attempted murder and numerous counts of assault and rape. Chakotay wouldn't face any charges as Admiral Paris had been notified and had become involved in the case.

After about four hours, their own EMH came towards them, having been called in when Kathryn's identity became known at the hospital. "Please sit down." The Doctor looked grim.

Chakotay was very upset. "Doctor, please. How is she? Will she be all right?"

"Commander, please calm down, all of you in fact. She'll be fine. The gashes on her back and the ones on the back of her head were the worst. She lost a great deal of blood. She's receiving transfusions now and the cuts have all been healed. It was touch and go for a while but…" They all heaved sighs of relief. "Her facial injuries are also healing. I've even replaced the teeth she lost." Chakotay balled his fists in rage but managed to hold his temper.

"There were a number of other injuries, older… This has been going on for some time. Some were healed, probably by the captain herself in some way, but others went untreated. If she hadn't been seen now, they could well have killed her. Her kidneys were failing, probably due to repeated kicks or blows…" Chakotay lowered his face to his hands. The Doctor looked at B'Elanna, both of them remembering when she'd been in a similar situation, only her injuries had been self inflicted.

"Will she recover fully?" Tom spoke for the first time.

"Yes, she will. However, she'll probably be unconscious for some time. The body makes its own way in matters of recovery and right now she needs plenty of rest. I have to tell you that there'll be other concerns. She'll need a lot of counselling. I know little of situations like this but from what I've learned, it won't be easy…"

Joanne cut in now. "I'll take care of that, Doctor." The medic looked at her, his question as to her identity clearly written on his face. Joanne gave him a brief summary of who she was and what had been happening.

The Doctor just nodded. "I'll bow to your superior knowledge of this. You can see her in a few minutes. They're moving her to a room now and a nurse will come get you. If there's anything else… Well, you know where to find me." They all just nodded and thanked the hologram who'd been through so much with them.

"I'll kill that bastard with my bare hands…I'll…" Chakotay stood.

"Join the queue." This came from B'Elanna.

Tom broke in, the only voice of reason. "I'll help you but Kathryn comes first. That piece of trash will wait. If I know my Dad, he's making sure Starfleet's 'guest' isn't too comfortable." This brought a slight smile to all their faces.

Over the next twenty four hours, Chakotay sat at Kathryn's side, refusing to leave her. Joanne had spoken with Tom and B'Elanna and now spoke with Chakotay as to what would come next.

"Chakotay." She kept her voice low and watched the big man hold Kathryn's small hand in his. "You need to understand that the hardest part is yet to come." His eyes spoke his questions. "Basically, Kathryn is going to have to be de-programmed."

Chakotay frowned. "What do you mean? We have her away from him. He can't hurt her anymore. I know she'll need time to get over this, to forget, but…"

Joanne sighed. "Chakotay, listen to me. He's out of her physical presence but he's still in her mind. He can still hurt her. Look, he's made her totally dependent on him and destroyed her own free will, despite the pain and fear he inflicted on her. She's scared now. No, she's terrified now. She'll feel she can't cope on her own. Men like this destroy the spirit too, not just the body."

Chakotay interrupted. "No Joanne, not Kathryn. She's strong, a fighter…"

Joanne broke in. "Chakotay, she WAS strong, WAS a fighter. He destroyed that, killed it in her… Listen to me please. What he did to her, that's what she expects now. I know this is very hard to understand but everything you remember of the woman you knew is gone."

Chakotay shook his head. "No, I refuse to believe that…"

"Chakotay, it's gone. Her will is gone, her confidence, her belief in herself, her strength. Kathryn Janeway will have completely retreated into nothingness, beaten and driven off… What spirit she had before will have been almost destroyed by him… beaten down into nothing…"

Chakotay groaned. "You're saying there's nothing…"

Joanne shook her head slowly. "I'm saying that we can only hope that what was taken from her can somehow be revived. We can only believe that somewhere inside her, Kathryn is being kept safe in some place. I guess all we can do is pray that her spirit, the woman who was Kathryn Janeway…that she can be found, rescued, brought back, mended…but Chakotay, I have to tell you it's a long and pain filled road. When someone has been beaten down like this, it's just a hell of a lot harder to repair that than it is to mend the body. Physical injuries…a dermal regenerator, a good Doctor… This? I just hope you're up to the challenge."

Chakotay looked down at the woman in the bed. "I'm here for her, whatever it takes…"

Joanne smiled sadly. "I hope you know what you're saying, my friend, because I can tell you now, it's going to get harder before it gets easier. What I put her through… You're going to hate me at the end of it. If you think this is painful for you now, wait until I start work on her."

Chakotay closed his eyes. "Look Joanne, B'Elanna trusts you and so do I. I'll work with you and do whatever you say."

Joanne just smiled again. "We'll see."

When Kathryn came around the next day, Chakotay's face was the first thing she saw. He expected to see confusion, followed by relief that she was safe, expected her to be glad to see him even. What he saw was total fear.

"Mark…where's Mark…?" She tried in vain to sit up and Chakotay gently pushed her back down. Joanne stood in the corner, nothing about the scene unfolding in front of her surprising her in the least.

"Kathryn, it's all right, you're safe. He's not here. He was arrested, charged… It's all over." Chakotay hoped his smile and his words would reassure her. He was mistaken. She continued to be afraid and agitated.

"No, he didn't do anything. I'm fine…I fell…I…"

"Kathryn love, he can't get to you. Trust me please. You're safe." She stilled a little but the fear stayed in her eyes. Suddenly Chakotay began to understand what Joanne had been talking about.

Over the next two days, Chakotay stayed with Kathryn but she rarely spoke and when she did, her fear dripped off her words. Her eyes bespoke of their own terror. Joanne never said a word and just stood back and observed. If Kathryn noticed her, she gave no indication of it.

Chakotay and Joanne both noticed that when the nurses brought her food, Kathryn always looked to them as if seeking permission to eat. At one stage, Kathryn in her fearful state, knocked over a glass of water and the absolute terror in her eyes tore at Chakotay's heart. He could see she expected some punishment for her 'crime'. He'd never thought to see Kathryn Janeway in this way, so totally filled with terror and panic. She was totally withdrawn, timid and afraid beyond understanding.

When Chakotay went to push her hair back from her face one time, she'd jerked back in the bed, terrified out of her mind. He saw she waited for him to strike her and her reaction sent him rushing from the room in tears.

At the end of the week, word came to the hospital that Mark Johnston was dead and Chakotay felt no remorse for feeling satisfaction with the news. Mark had been found hanging in his cell at Starfleet HQ and no one questioned how a prisoner had been allowed to keep his belt during his detention. Chakotay himself would never question it and he realized then that Starfleet took care of their own.

He gently told Kathryn of Mark's death but received little reaction at first. Slowly however, over the following days, her fear seemed to wane slightly. At this, Joanne gradually began to move in. Bit by bit, she eased herself into Kathryn's days and spoke with her more and more. Kathryn's counselling had begun but she was unaware of it. It was now Chakotay's turn to sit back and observe.

It pained him to see how Kathryn still sought permission to do anything, how she seemed to need someone's approval for even moving. The fear in her eyes was still there but he thought he could detect a little less each day. He prayed it wasn't just his own imagination and wishful thinking.

Within a further week, Kathryn had started doing small things for herself, only occasionally looking for approval or permission. Chakotay felt great hope at this but Joanne warned him that the toughest part was still ahead.

He stood back and watched silently as day by day Joanne counselled Kathryn and gradually began to bring her back. Outwardly she seemed to gain strength but Joanne knew differently. Kathryn needed to fight for herself, hit back in some way and Joanne knew she'd have to be forced into this. She knew Kathryn in part still blamed herself for everything she'd received from Mark and that she still believed she had in some way deserved it. She continued pushing forward, trying to get this terrified woman to believe in herself again.

Finally she got Kathryn to accept that she'd been the victim and over the following week, the woman Chakotay had known began to reappear slowly. It was difficult and painful work and many times Chakotay had to almost physically stop himself from dragging Joanne from the room as she pushed at Kathryn to come back. Seeing Kathryn's tears and inner pain tore him up and he often found himself going to her to comfort her when it seemed too much or when she cried and it always seemed to help. Joanne however tackled him about it.

"Chakotay, you have to stop this and let me do my work. I know your history with Kathryn but you have to accept that with this, I know better. You can't be there for her or run to her whenever she needs you or cries out. She'll only learn to depend on you."

Chakotay was shocked. "Why shouldn't she depend on me? That's what I'm there for."

Joanne shook her head. "Chakotay, listen to me. She has to learn to depend on herself first and foremost. At this moment in time, she's like a child who'll never learn to be independent if mom or dad always run to the rescue. She has to learn to stand by herself, learn to feel safe on her own. She has to pick up the pieces of her life by herself, needs to in order to get back to who she was. I know you love her and only want to help and be there for her, but the best way to do that is to let her do this for herself. She has to do it herself so that later on, she'll know she has the power within herself to overcome anything." Chakotay finally nodded his understanding and agreement and let Joanne continue despite the pain it caused him. For the rest of the day he stood back and ignored Kathryn when she cried and it nearly killed him.

The next day, Joanne cornered Chakotay outside Kathryn's room. "Chakotay, today is going to be very hard for us all but I need your promise that you'll trust me one hundred percent." He nodded. "Hear me now, Chakotay. What I do here today will hurt a lot but you have to stay back and let me work. You're going to want to kill me later but this has to be done. You have to trust me and stay out of it, OK?" The progress Chakotay had seen and their talk of the day before made him trust this woman, who'd become a good friend to them all.

Kathryn smiled at them when they entered her room. There was a little more colour to her face and Chakotay smiled gently at her, then took his place in the corner. Joanne started as usual, getting Kathryn to admit how she'd done nothing wrong, that she was the victim and so on. Chakotay smiled to himself. She'd come a long way.

Suddenly, Joanne's track changed and she turned on Kathryn. "Kathryn, you know I don't believe you. I think you believe yourself a victim still. I don't believe you can stand up for yourself at all."

Kathryn looked up at the change of tone in her new friend's voice. "No…no…I… Joanne, please. I know what he did was wrong, that I didn't deserve…" Chakotay saw her tears starting and felt a fear start in him. This was going to hurt and he knew it. He steeled himself for what was to come.

"Really? I bet if he walked in here right now you'd cower in the corner there and take it all over again." Joanne kept her face hard. She hated this part.

"I wouldn't. Please, Joanne…" Her tears tipped over her eyelids and she looked to Chakotay for help. He forced himself to stay where he was.

"Kathryn Janeway, you're a coward. You've learned nothing from me."

Kathryn's voice rose slightly but panic was starting to set in. "I'm not…I…I have learned…" She looked to Chakotay. "Chakotay…?" He forced himself to ignore her when all he wanted to do was grab her and hold her tightly to him and take away all the pain.

"Kathryn, you're still weak."

"No…I'm…"

"Yes, you are. I'm smaller than you and I could knock you senseless. I heard all about what a good fighter you used to be, but I guess that woman is long gone." Joanne kept her voice hard.

"She's not…I can…stop this please…" Kathryn's tears poured down her face. She was in turmoil now.

Joanne advanced on the woman sitting on the edge of the bed and raised her fists. "Weak, Kathryn. I could smash your face in and there's nothing you could do about it. You'd wilt in front of my eyes."

Kathryn made to raise her hands but dropped them as quickly. She could hardly get her words out. "Joanne please… Chakotay, stop this…" Chakotay fought a fierce battle with himself but remained where he was, his own tears coming now.

Joanne went in for the kill. "Kathryn, I could pound you to a pulp and you'd let me. Of course, that's what you enjoy isn't it."

"No…no…"

"Oh I think it is. You let it happen before and you couldn't stop me doing it again now. In fact… I know. I'll beat the hell out of you and then I'll get Chakotay to throw you across the bed there and take what he wants. You'd enjoy that, wouldn't you?"

Kathryn's anguished cries and Chakotay's shouts came at the same moment. Joanne was ready for him.

"Stay out of it, Chakotay." He'd jumped up but turned quickly, his fist pounding the wall now. Kathryn jumped up from the bed, backing away from Joanne.

"Did you enjoy being raped, Kathryn? Enjoy the beatings? Come on, Chakotay, I wouldn't even need to hold her down for you."

Chakotay shouted again but Joanne pushed on. "Come on, Kathryn, let's all have some fun with you. See, I'll start with a small slap in the face." She raised her hand and slapped Kathryn across the cheek. Kathryn just cowered and did nothing.

"Come on, Chakotay, join me. I'll beat her up and you can fuck her. This excuse for a human being, this so called strong woman won't stop us. She won't fight back." Kathryn cried harder and Chakotay watched the scene in front of him, sobs tearing from his own throat.

Joanne slapped Kathryn again. "Ready, Kathryn? Come on, you know you want it, know you'll enjoy it."

Suddenly time stopped. Out of nowhere, Kathryn's fist came up and made contact with Joanne's face. She screamed through her tears. "No…stop it… I won't let you…"

Instantly it registered with her what she'd done and she slumped back against the wall, in total confusion at her actions. Chakotay gasped, falling back into his chair. He looked from Kathryn's shocked face to Joanne's. What he saw there was a slow knowing smile, despite the trickle of blood that escaped her split lip. This had been her plan and it had worked. Kathryn Janeway had finally fought back.

As time passed, Kathryn continued to fight for herself. Joanne made her fight Mark on a holodeck and despite knowing he was dead, Kathryn fought his image, gaining strength with each blow she delivered. This brought back painful memories but she dealt with them and with Chakotay at her side, allowed to do things his own way now by Joanne, the former Kathryn Janeway emerged once more. She would never be anyone's victim again.

Joanne explained to them both that ordinarily she felt Kathryn would have been strong enough to resist Mark but circumstances had been against her. After eight long and hard years getting her crew home, her defences had fallen. She'd thought she'd lost Chakotay, having waited too long, and this also left her feeling alone. To find her mother so ill and dying and then Phoebe's defection, all combined to make for a very vulnerable woman. Mark had appeared and offered a crutch. Joanne explained how men like that were experts at manipulation and in Kathryn's weakened emotional state, she'd been a choice victim for him. She made Kathryn realize that in these circumstances, any woman would have fallen foul to what unfolded. She explained how these men used emotional blackmail and fear, in Kathryn's case, her mother finding out. By alienating Kathryn from her friends and former crew, the way had been clear for him.

"Kathryn, I know he wasn't like that before when you were engaged to him, but you weren't married to him then. I believe this would have happened anyway. Men like that…well, they are what they are. A man is either capable of that or he's not. He'd have found a way to do this, no matter what. I can almost guarantee that his first wife experienced the same thing."

Kathryn accepted all this and gained strength from it. Within a further few weeks, the previous months and their terror and horror, began to recede for her and she faced life afresh. She enjoyed her friendship with Tom and B'Elanna again and regained her life fully.

After her last session with Joanne, Chakotay took Kathryn to where Voyager was docked and asked her to go to her old quarters and put on her uniform. He'd received clearance for his plan and Admiral Paris had been more than happy to assist him. Puzzled, Kathryn did as she'd been asked. She savoured the feeling of having been asked something and not told, something most people took for granted.

When she emerged, Chakotay was waiting for her, dressed in his own uniform. Silently he led her off the ship, down the ramp and when they reached the bottom, he stopped and took her in his arms.

"Now we start. Now we're home." It was all he said and all he needed to say. Their lips met and nothing else existed.

THE END.