She was lying asleep on a biobed. Chakotay watched her, relieved that she was alive and yet sad at the same time. She was so thin. Her skin looked like it had been stretched thin over her face, and there were deep shadows under her eyes from both her weight loss and lack of sleep. The Doctor had worked for nearly two days straight to repair all her injuries. She had a severe concussion and internal bleeding. The Doctor had been forced to add a sort of gel underneath her skin to support her skeletal structure until she had fully rejuvenated, otherwise her hip bones might cut right through her skin.

It had been almost a week since she was rescued. The Doctor had kept her unconscious to let her body have the chance to fully recover. Chakotay probably would have waited in sickbay the whole week if the Doctor hadn't used security to keep him out. The Doctor would not allow anyone to visit her since she had been rescued, not disclosing any reasons for it. Now, he finally allowed Chakotay to come when he believed that Janeway would awaken soon. She had a restraining field over her to prevent her from moving too much while her body was still adjusting to the gel.

"You needn't worry about her, Commander," the Doctor told him, coming up from behind Chakotay. "She'll be perfectly recovered, if she takes care of herself, within the next two months or so."

"If she takes care of herself," Chakotay countered, without looking away from Kathryn.

"It's true that the captain's notorious when it comes to ill health; she's a regular doctor's worst nightmare." the Doctor replied. "She never ate enough, slept enough, took enough breaks from duty. However, I've noticed that after near brushes with death, patients usually begin to take better care of themselves, at least for a while."

Chakotay glanced back at him momentarily. "I sure hope so. Either way, she's better off than she was with the Bromalians."

"You have no idea." The Doctor replied.

Chakotay shifted. "Doctor, I've been getting the impression you aren't telling me everything."

"If I haven't, Commander," the Doctor said, "It's because of patient-doctor confidentiality. Surely you can understand that." Chakotay was about to speak when he heard an intake of breath from behind him. He immediately turned back around to notice Kathryn stirring.

"I believe she's regaining consciousness. I'll leave you two alone." The Doctor retreated back into his office. . A few seconds later, Kathryn opened her eyes.

"Welcome back," Chakotay whispered. Janeway didn't reply, but her eyes met his, and she glanced around the room, as if in a daze.

"Are you feeling all right?" He asked. She stared at him, in shock, for a moment before she nodded mutely. Chakotay impulsively reached out a hand to touch her face, and she stiffened and shrank back. He was surprised by her reaction, and let his hand drop back to his side.

"We got your message." Chakotay whispered, determined to keep talking to her. "If you hadn't sent that, we probably would never have found you. I don't know how you knew we were on the planet."

She flinched, as if remembering something, but still didn't speak to him.

"Listen," Chakotay began. "I know we weren't exactly getting along when-- before you were gone, but I hope we can still reconcile all that." When he still didn't receive a response, he said, "If you want me to leave you alone--"

"No," she interrupted, a note of urgency in her voice and on her face. It faded away as quickly as it had come. "Please stay."

"So, she can speak," He said, a shadow of a smile on his lips as he tentatively reached out, then he took her hand in his. "Is there anything I could do for you?" He asked. "Anything at all?"

She stared at him blankly for a second, then answered, "How long until I return to duty?"

"Not anytime soon," Chakotay told her firmly. He saw resentment flare up in her eyes, as if she believed he was challenging her authority, and he quickly said, "The Doctor just performed a surgical operation on you. It may take a week or so for you to be in condition to even walk."

"What kind of surgery?" She demanded, her voice still not very loud. It occurred to him for the first time that it was only quiet because she couldn't make it any louder.

"He'll explain that to you later," He replied.

Janeway paused for a second, as if in thought. She didn't look so fragile to him now that she was awake, but there was something different about her that he couldn't quite put his finger on. "Did Neelix escape?"

Chakotay nodded. "He got away in the nick of time. He told us about your abduction, but we didn't arrive at the planet in time to save you."

"How did the Bromalians know where we were?" She asked. Chakotay paused. He wanted to step around this subject for the moment, or at least until she was in better shape.

"We can go over the technicalities later--"

Her voice was sharp, and had an edge to it like he'd never heard before when she said angrily, "I want to know now. How the hell did they know where I was?"

"Kathryn, try to calm down--"

This made her even more furious. "Damn it, don't patronize me, Chakotay! Tell me how they knew!" When he still wouldn't reply, she said, in a voice that would have been a yell if she had full strength, "Damn you! I don't want to be protected from the truth!"

"Renhika did it." Chakotay blurted out.

The fury in Kathryn's face faded into bleak shock. "What do you mean?"

"She heard at the senior staff meeting about your negotiation." Chakotay had to fight back his emotions, his shame about admitting this. "She sent a message to the Bromalians, she sabotaged the warp core. She set the whole thing up." He finally said it, waiting for Kathryn's explosion. Who had he been protecting? Had he been protecting her or had he been protecting himself? Kathryn's face didn't grow angry like the woman he once knew would have. Instead, it paled a little, but there was a sense of resignation coming from her.

"Why?" Her voice was once again low and quiet.

" Because, she was... jealous of you." He replied. "Jealous of the... the friendship between us." Kathryn stared up into his eyes... no, she wasn't staring into his eyes. She was looking right below his eyes, at his nose. It dawned on Chakotay that she hadn't looked him squarely in the eyes like she used to this whole time. She had been staring just below them, or in the spot in between his eyes.

"Jealous?" She whispered. Kathryn didn't say another word to him, but her gaze drifted to the ceiling and remained there. Chakotay stayed by her side until she was once again asleep. He was reluctant to leave her, but he still had to do his duties to the ship. He vowed to himself to help her recovery as best as he could. It was the least he could do.


"Chakotay!" B'Elanna called out, a few days later. She ran to catch up with him in the corridor. "How is she?" She asked when she was at his side.

"Why don't you go and see her yourself?" Chakotay asked. The mood of the ship had grown lighter than it had been in months. Everything was getting back to normal. They were on course to the Alpha Quadrant and Janeway was back. The only unrest was the hostility towards Renhika.

"I would have. Tom and I actually tried, but the Doctor said that there were to be no visitors except for you and Tuvok, Captain's orders," B'Elanna replied.

"I can't believe that," Chakotay said. "Surely there's a mistake of some kind."

"Well, you can see her, why don't you ask her yourself?" B'Elanna's suggestion seemed reasonable, but if Kathryn didn't want visitors, then he didn't want to push it on her. "I'm sure the Captain has good reasons for what she does," Chakotay assured her. "It's probably nothing personal against the rest of you... lower officers." If B'Elanna hadn't heard the jest in his voice, she probably would have belted him. Instead, she playfully elbowed him in the ribs.

"Well, at least now the love between the two of you can thrive unimpeded." She said, smiling.

"Well, I'm going to give her a bit of time first." Chakotay said. "Five months in enemy hands. She hasn't told me anything about it, but I can only imagine what they put her through."


Janeway was awake once again, somewhat relieved that Chakotay wasn't in the room. The Doctor was deactivated. and she was left lying in the darkened sickbay in silence. She felt isolation again, and was somewhat comforted by it. She couldn't seem to feel comfortable around others. She felt that if she made one slip, they'd know everything... Kathryn felt her insides flip in her stomach, and she couldn't help but feel shame. Why hadn't she ever given Mordus more of a fight? She might have been able to fight him off, if only just one of those times, she might have saved herself a little.

She felt revulsion choke her up and she rolled over onto her side. She didn't deserve her crew. Her confidence was gone, replaced by a self-loathing Kathryn had never felt the likes of in her life. It seemed to her like every decision she had made recently, minor ones, such as what she wanted for dinner, came slowly to her, rolling into her mind like a stone as if she had not ever thought for herself before. Chakotay-- She felt so distant from him. She needed him. Someone who she could talk to about everything. And yet- it seemed to her as if he was separated inexplicably.

If I had said 'yes' to him that night, this never would have happened. The thought dawned on her. If I hadn't fought with him over Species 8472, none of this ever would have happened. She curled up into a fetal position, her mind going over a thousand alternate scenarios that would have prevented her falling into Mordus's hands. The pain was so terrible on the inside that she could barely focus her mind. It was like the time when Vaila was torturing her. The pain was so great that she couldn't understand anything being said or answer any questions. Now, it was like that and even worse. The only difference was that it wasn't physical pain. And yet, the pain wasn't coming out. It was all packed together in a tight box, weighing down her soul. She couldn't let it out, nor would she dare venture into it. She couldn't face it. Not yet.

Tuvok had once gone over some mind exercises with her, ones that helped a person deal with grief and anguish. She knew that, if she went to him, he would be able to help her.

But that requires a mind meld. She cringed when she thought of Tuvok learning of her weaknesses, when she thought of his contempt, and quickly dismissed the idea. She had spoken to the doctor about returning to duty. He had relieved her of command not only until her body had settled into this gel, but until she reached 90 pounds. Kathryn hadn't realized how much weight she had lost, but it was to be expected. The Doctor had given her injections of what she needed, and she apparently had already gained back five of the pounds she lost. Janeway was looking forward to the prospect of having something other than Brexian Pokash. At this thought, she once again felt revulsion choke her up.

"Captain, is there anything I can do for you?" The Doctor asked. Kathryn felt somewhat comforted by his presence. He was just a hologram and was less perceptive of her than anyone else.

"When can I return to my quarters?" She asked.

"It's not so much a matter of when. You could go back now. However, you're still in need of constant monitoring, and I don't want you to walk yet, so you'd need a person to stay with you. That's the only reason that keeps you here," he replied.

Janeway sighed, and rolled over onto her side. "Could I have a sedative?" She didn't want to lie here all night and relive the entire thing. She just wanted to sleep, to fall into oblivion.

The Doctor seemed reluctant, but soon he pressed a hypo against her neck, and Janeway felt sleep take her.


When she woke, there was a hand stroking her forehead, gently smoothing back her hair. For a moment, she forgot that she had been rescued and reacted accordingly, flinching and jerking away from the hand.

She opened her eyes, not allowing any sign of her stress escape her... only to see Chakotay. He was staring at her, his dark eyes large and concerned. "Kathryn," he whispered, his voice gentle, "How are you feeling?" She glanced around, realizing that she was in her quarters. "How did I get here?"

"The Doctor said you wanted to return to your quarters and needed supervision, so here I am," He replied.

No, no, no. That's exactly what Kathryn didn't want. Chakotay could always tell when something was wrong. He read her better than anyone on the ship

"You make it sound," Janeway said, trying to cover up her alarm with jest, "Like I'm a child."

He smiled at her, and Kathryn put in an effort to smile back. It was a thin, close-lipid smile, yet it comforted him to see.

"Do you want something to eat?" He asked. Kathryn wasn't hungry in the least, but she wanted to gain the weight that was necessary to get back to duty as soon as possible. She nodded to him, and he left the room momentarily, coming back with an unidentifiable substance.

"I hate to make you eat Neelix's food first thing back, but the replicators are all down and I figured you didn't want any combat rations. I would have cooked myself but--"

"It's okay," Kathryn interrupted, sitting up in bed so that she could sit the food on her lap. "Anything other than Pokash would be delicious. Hell, I could even eat some of his leola root soup." Chakotay chuckled, watching as she raised a spoon of it to her lips, not too intently, but just enough that he could be assured of her eating.

The substance at first tasted somewhat unfamiliar to her, then the taste became discernible. She nearly gagged as her stomach churned. It tasted exactly like the pokash. She began to get sick again. "What the hell is this?" She demanded.

Chakotay was puzzled, but took the tray when she handed it back to him. "It's Talaxian Plomaran. You don't like it?"

Kathryn had eaten Pomaran once before she left, and she didn't remember it tasting anything like this. She realized he was waiting for a reply, and she shook her head. "I'm not as hungry as I thought I was."

He stared for a moment, then he took the tray away.

When he came back, he asked, "Do you need anything else?"

Kathryn sighed. "I just need a sedative." He caulked his head at her. She met his curious gaze and spoke, "Is there something wrong with being tired?"

He hastily shook his head. "No, there's nothing wrong." Still somewhat confused, he reached into the medical kit and sedated her, and she once again slipped into darkness.


Four days later, Chakotay had arranged to take two weeks off to take care of Kathryn in case she still needed it. He read some reports from one of the chairs in her quarters. After a while, he found his eyelids growing heavy. He started to make his way over to the couch to settle down for the night when he heard her cry out, or at least he thought he did.

He came in to find her tossing and turning in her sleep, mumbling some imperceptible words. Chakotay kneeled by her side and placed a comforting hand on her, running it gently up and down her arm, soothing her. Her eyes popped open and before she was even fully awake she had pulled back away from him, throwing an arm up in front of her, her face haunted. Awareness came fully back to her, and she glanced around as if unaware of her location, slowly lowering her arms and letting her muscles relax. Chakotay was shocked.

He had never seen her actually express... for no better word... fear. She always managed to hide her emotions, to be indifferent to them; this unnerved him, even if it had only been for a split second.

"What did they do to you?" He murmured. Kathryn stared at him for a second, then mutely turned away from him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, watching as she tensed up again when his eight pushed down the side. "Kathryn... I know you're hurting. I--" He started to reach a hand over to her.

"It was just a nightmare, Commander." She snapped. He was broken out of his reverie. He almost drew back his hand, as if burned, but instead, he slowly lowered it onto her shoulder. It was not much, but a silent gesture of support. She stayed tense for a few moments, then relaxed underneath his touch. She didn't say anything to him, though; she just sat, staring at the wall, facing away from him. Telling him would be dealing with the pain, admitting it to herself, and she wouldn't-- she couldn't do that yet. Maybe just a little more time...


The Doctor had finally said it was all right for her to walk around, with help. Kathryn, helped by Chakotay, made it all the way across her quarters over to her table. She sat down, waiting for Chakotay to lay out breakfast. She grew sick just looking at the oatmeal he was preparing, but when the time came forced the barest minimum down her throat just to calm her growling stomach.

Kathryn happened to venture a look out the window, the first time she had actually done it since her rescue; she noticed the stars rushing by against the black, never-ending tapestry. This sight which had always been so commonplace to her all of a sudden seemed new, and she was shocked by the vastness of the space. The darkness stretched on forever, infinitely. During her confinement, the thought of endless space had been a comfort to her, and yet, when actually encountering it, it was terrifying. Kathryn began to feel the vague, deceptive feeling of her mind drifting, like it had in the box, and she suddenly felt small, insignificant. She quickly averted her eyes to look back at the table. The food was putrid and every single time she noticed it a wave of revulsion went through her. It all-- all of it-- tasted like Pokash.

She let her eyes move up a bit and she focused on Chakotay. Kathryn had begun, over the past few days, to feel threatened by him, in the same way she felt threatened by Mordus. Mordus had violated her, forced her to do his will and reveal things about herself that she would never reveal to anyone. Chakotay-- she felt threatened that he was going to somehow... force her into revealing what she didn't want to reveal, the same way Mordus did. She shuddered. Kathryn, there's no basis whatsoever for comparing Chakotay to Him. And despite her constant reassurances to herself, the threat was still there.

Chakotay noticed her gaze, but he didn't look up. He allowed her to stare at him under the perception he didn't notice for a while longer, allowing her to sort out whatever thoughts were going through her head.

She'd been in a shell ever since she came back, and he'd been trying unsuccessfully to coax her out. He knew she was in pain, and that she wouldn't let herself express it. Kathryn had always been the type to deal with her emotions privately, but he knew this was something she wouldn't be able to deal with on her own. He didn't know what happened to her, but he knew it must be terrible. He had seen her hurt before, but he had never seen her quite like this. He wanted to help her, but he wasn't quite sure how to go about it.


Janeway entered the bridge around 0200 hours just to avoid a cheerful reception. She knew from experience that Alpha shift would applaud, putting her on the spot. The night shift consisted of junior officers, and they'd be far too intimidated by her to try anything of the sort. She reached the bridge at the startled glances of her crew. They hadn't seen her this entire time, and were surprised and delighted to see her again. Kathryn noticed that some of them were shocked at her appearance, but they still stared at her with the same awe that they always held her in. It had better stay that way, too. She thought to herself, sitting down in her chair.

Kathryn shifted slightly. It didn't feel right. After five months with Chakotay in the chair, the chair had reformed to fit his larger frame. She frowned, but brushed the problem aside, trying to assure herself that this was all right. She was at ease here on the bridge. She wasn't a victim, she was an officer. She was the Captain. It was the closest she could get to recapturing her old life.

Tuvok was the first from the senior staff to arrive. He knew her well enough not to make a fuss over her return, and he coolly nodded to her. Janeway nodded back, grateful that he, at least, would spare her all that nonsense. Chakotay also acknowledged her without ceremony, not making a big deal out of her return. However, he'd been taking care of her for a while, so this wasn't too new to him.

It was a different matter when Paris arrived. Paris immediately headed over to her. "Captain! It's great to see you! How are you--" Janeway wasn't in the mood to answer any questions.

She glanced coolly up at Paris and said, "You're on duty, Lieutenant." Paris was taken aback; he hadn't seen her for so long and she was acting almost as if nothing had ever taken place. But he took his cue with a glance from Chakotay and took his station.

When Kim came on the bridge, his face lit up and he looked like he was going to bound right down to the Captain and tell her when Paris shot him a warning look and gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Harry was puzzled, his face falling slightly, like a dog who's master had just reprimanded him, but he went to his station with only a word of greeting with Janeway.

Kathryn shifted in her command chair, all too aware of the unnatural quiet that had settled over the bridge. Usually, there was faint conversation, or joking around. Today, there was none. She felt Chakotay's eyes on her, but she didn't meet them. Instead, she stared at the floor or at the ceiling, or she watched the back of Paris's head. She didn't need to look out the view screen. It would be terrible if she got sick when people were already so concerned about her.

The sooner I make the transition, the sooner it will all be over.


They had shaken their pursuit (led by the infamous Vaila Hath'Hart) for a while, and had a chance to go on shore leave. Chakotay invited her to go for a walk with him, and she quietly refused. The last thing she wanted right now was to take a break. She couldn't when she already had so much work to do from neglecting her duties for so long.

She stayed holed up in her ready room for two days straight, going over reports and system's diagnostics, anything to keep her mind busy. Kathryn was put off when Chakotay finally barged his way into the ready room and refused to leave unless she accompanied him to the mess hall. "You need some fresh air." He explained. "The ventilation system makes sure of that for me." Janeway replied, not looking up from her work. He continued to cajole her until she finally agreed to take a break.

Upon entering the mess hall, Janeway began to feel uneasy for a few different reasons. First, the far wall was practically all windows, showing off the vast, expansive space beyond. Second the smell of Neelix's food that reminded her so much of Pokash, which reminded her of her time as a prisoner, which reminded her of Mordus. And third, the numerous crewmembers who had briefly stopped talking to stare at her. Chakotay shot them a glare, and they all turned back to their conversations. She walked half in a daze, following Chakotay to a table. He went to get their food, and Kathryn sat, back to the window, trying to ignore all the curious stares that were once again directed her way. A few people walked up while he was gone and greeted her, and Kathryn tried to muster good humor, but she found it difficult. She was relieved when Chakotay was back, and no one else dropped by.

Neelix hadn't seen her, and she spotted him carrying a tray out of the mess hall. "Where's he going?" Janeway inquired, trying to make small talk to make this meal less awkward.

"Feeding Mehta," Chakotay mumbled almost imperceptibly, staring down at his food and not looking at her.

"She can't stay in the brig forever," she murmured. Chakotay nodded with a bit of a sense of resignation.

"I... I know. We have to have the Captain's evaluation of her before she can be approved..." He faded off, watching Kathryn's eyes. She seemed to be looking at him, and yet her thoughts were very far away. "Listen, I don't think anyone's going to blame you if you don't do it. If you want me to--" He began.

"No. I'm going to do it," Kathryn spoke with conviction. She met his gaze and held a confident front. He seemed to relax slightly when he saw the change in face-- a spark of the old captain coming back to life.

Janeway noticed his change in demeanor throughout the meal-- he didn't patronize her as much, didn't treat her like a fragile flower that would shatter at his touch-- and she was satisfied that she looked confident enough. Now, if only she felt confident.

"So, you're back," Mehta remarked tonelessly, without turning to face Janeway as the captain entered past the lowered force field. One security guard accompanied her, taking a position in the corner of the brig, while the other stood immediately outside the force field which he raised again.

"Surprised?" Janeway asked her, not so much a question as a mild taunt. She began to prepare her padd to input Mehta's answers to each question.

Mehta was watching her intently.

"As a matter of fact, I am. I thought he'd kill you. I hoped he'd kill you. If I had known he'd leave you alive, I probably would have done the deed myself," The woman said.

"Mehta," Janeway said, turning coolly to face the Lieutenant. "I'm doing an evaluation on whether or not you're fit to stay in your quarters or if you'll have to remain here in the brig. I suggest--for your own good-- that you think about that before you speak. Got it?" She wasn't going to let Mehta-- of all people-- see how her imprisonment had affected her. All she would show the woman was the same person that had existed five and a half months earlier.

Mehta settled back on her bed where she was sitting facing Janeway.

"Now," Janeway said, "To get on with the evaluation--"

Mehta laughed bitterly. "I think we all know what the result of this 'evaluation' will be. You hate me, Kathryn, you always have. You'll find me unfit and I'll stay in this shithole for the rest of the journey."

Janeway smiled dryly at her. "At the rate we're going, you're probably right. Now, as for the first question--"

"So what happened? Did anything bad happen to you? Anything at all? Christ, I want to think I destroyed your life somehow." The other woman smiled wickedly to herself. "Why didn't he kill you?"

Janeway ignored her remarks and began, "Do you believe that you can conduct yourself civilly around fellow crewmembers-- i.e. not attacking, threatening, or provoking in any way, shape--"

"I think I know why," Mehta ranted on.

"I'll take that as a no." Janeway imputed the data in the padd.

"I think I know why." Mehta repeated again, louder. Janeway glanced up at the other woman shrewdly. Had she taken leave of her senses during these months? Mehta leaned her elbows onto her knees so she could look squarely at Janeway. "I think you fucked him. Just like you wanted to fuck Chakotay. That's why--"

Kathryn was fed up. "Lieutenant Mehta," Janeway said, standing up. "It's apparent from this evaluation so far that you don't intend on leaving this cell anytime soon. When you feel the need to cooperate, just tell a security guard and I might be able to fit another evaluation into my schedule. Until then," Janeway felt a small rush of triumph as she said, "Enjoy your cell."

Renhika didn't reply, but she tossed a lock of her dark hair over her shoulder and began to laugh, standing up. Janeway ignored her in disgust and signaled the security guard to lower the force field, turning away from Mehta.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the security guard smirk at Mehta, mocking her.

It was that moment that Renhika let out a cry and rushed towards Janeway. Kathryn acted more out of instinct than conscious thought. Before the security guard had a chance to react, Janeway swung her fist around and connected with Mehta's left jaw right before Mehta had a chance to pounce on her. The larger woman twisted and stumbled back, falling onto the floor, shocked by how quickly Janeway had stopped her. The security guards both had their phasers out, and Janeway took the chance to smile at Mehta, a smile that showed all of the contempt she felt for the woman lying before her. How could I ever have dreaded confronting this nutcase?

"Five months in a shithole of a cell didn't slow down my reflexes." She paused as Renhika struggled to get her feet under her. "And yet three months in the brig seems to have slowed yours. Very interesting." With that, she turned and walked out, shutting out all the profanities that Mehta began to scream at her.

When Kathryn entered the corridor, she felt a great weight lifted from her chest. It had taken her so much effort to show her most positive face to Mehta. A matter of pride. She hadn't let that woman feel as if she had won. She glanced back at the door she had just exited and wondered briefly, How did I make so many enemies?


"We see an end!" Chakotay exclaimed, a large smile lighting up his face as he glanced down at Janeway. Even Tuvok, standing next to him, had relief written on his face.

"An end...?" Janeway asked, confused.

"Long distance scans show Bromalian order activity ends approximately 500 light years from our position," Tuvok noted.

"About six months more," Janeway murmured to herself. Six months.

Chakotay circled around the bridge to stand at the same level as her. "So, what do you think, Captain? Shall we have a celebration? Have Neelix throw a party?" A light of mirth glinted in his eyes.

"We're not out the woods yet, Chakotay," Janeway said, walking resolutely over to her chair and sinking down into it.

"Maybe not, but we see an end. A celebration might help boost morale," Chakotay pointed out, taking his seat next to her. He watched her as she thought over it, trying to see if she had any reaction to the news. His heart sank when he saw the same indifference that she'd held up for the past two months.

Finally, she glanced at him with a shrug and said, "I'll leave it up to you, Commander." She glanced briefly around the bridge. Chakotay recognized it as the gesture she had when she was about to go to the ready room. Kathryn noticed a merriment in the air that hadn't been there this morning. She stood up and said over her shoulder, "You have the bridge, Commander. I'll be in my ready room."

Chakotay waited a few minutes before he followed her. At his entry, Kathryn glanced up. "What can I do for you, Commander?" He approached her slowly, keeping a distance so as not to invade her personal space.

"I ready your report. It's very... brief." He took the seat across from her with an infuriatingly smug expression. Who the hell does he think he is? He's my first officer, not my psychiatrist.

She lowered her eyes to the smooth surface of her desk, willing herself not to give away any sign that she was telling a lie. "There's not much to say. It was very brief." She tried to make it dismissive and indifferent, but he knew her too well.

"Brief!" Chakotay exclaimed. "I don't call five months very brief! I was with the Kazon for two days and I had a longer report than you!" He realized that he had raised his voice and made it quiet down again. "Are you sure you didn't leave anything out? You have that-- box, that device, and then they just dumped you in a cell and left you there for the rest of the time?"

"That's right," Kathryn replied.

He frowned. "Then, Captain, how did you end up on Shrelton, half beaten to death?"

"What are you, my interrogator?" She asked, glaring at him.

"If it concerns the safety of this ship, then I am." He snapped. She winced and he immediately regretted the harshness of his words. His expression softened, and he lowered his voice again. "I'm sorry, Kathryn. I'm just concerned about you. How did you get there?"

Janeway glanced at him, almost meeting his eyes and then averting her gaze to the wall behind him at the last moment. "I don't remember."

"Are you sure--" He began, but she cut him off angrily.

"I said I don't remember! What, do you think I'm lying?" Her gaze was intense, but still not focused into his eyes.

He sighed. "No, I don't think you're lying, Kathryn. I just-- I just think that maybe you should have a mind meld with Tuvok--"

"You do think I'm lying!" Janeway cried incredulously.

"No, I just think it will help you remem-"

She stood up, her mask once again covering up her emotions, and pointed towards the door. Voice edgy, she crowed, "Unless you have anything else to talk about, you're dismissed!"

Chakotay glanced up at her, thinking No, I can't let this happen. He took in a breath to speak when her expression hardened and she said icily, "Dismissed, Commander."

He realized that he wasn't going to get anywhere today, that he had taken the wrong approach with her, and he left. There was nothing else he could do. She wasn't going to talk to him about it, no matter how much he pushed her.


It was nearly three weeks later with no progress that Chakotay came to the realization that she wasn't about to change. She was cool and precise on duty, performing her job well as always, and yet, she was a different person. She wasn't confronting her pain and dealing with it, she was denying it. Her anguish was so intense that it overrode all of the rest of her emotions, and by suppressing it, she suppressed everything else at the same time.

Chakotay knew he shouldn't expect her to recover right away, but this had gone on for too long. Her demons were in full force, causing her to eat almost nothing, speak even less, stay holed up on the ship during shore leave, and appear on the bridge earlier and earlier to the point where she was getting almost no sleep whatsoever.

Chakotay had seen Cardassian torture victims behave something like this. He knew from experience that giving the person space was good, but there comes a certain point where if you don't interfere, they never recover-- usually the person killed themselves to stop the demons. The downward spiral in the aftermath usually required help, from a psychiatrist or a counselor. Unfortunately, there was no one onboard in that position, so Chakotay had to take matters into his own hands.

He arranged with Torres for he and Janeway to have an hour and twenty-two minute turbolift malfunction. They had the same shift, so they would usually exit the bridge at the same time. It was underhanded tactics, he knew, but every time he tried to be alone with her, she'd find some excuse to leave.

When the day came, he and Kathryn were riding wordlessly in the lift. She had fatigue written all over her face, although she tried to hide it behind her mask of indifference. She stumbled and nearly fell when the turbolift abruptly jerked to a halt. Chakotay grabbed her arm to balance her. She jerked away from him like his touch was fire and glanced around.

"Janeway to engineering," She said. Kathryn grew frustrated when she tried it a second time and got no response. She balled up a fist and hit the wall, an unusual display of agitation on her part. Chakotay quirked an eyebrow at her, and she gave him an almost-sincere, sly smile. "Sorry about that."

"It's all right," He said as he leaned back against the wall to slide into a sitting position. Kathryn glanced at him momentarily, shifting her balance awkwardly from foot to foot, before she followed suit and sat, back against the far wall. They sat in silence for a few awkward minutes before Chakotay dared brooch the forbidden subject.

"You know," Chakotay spoke up, "I wish Kes was still onboard."

Janeway smiled faintly. "I miss her too."

He nodded. "You might at least talk to her."

Janeway grew agitated when she realized the direction this conversation was heading. She closed her eyes. "It's none of your business, Commander." Her voice was low as she opened them again and said, "I'm okay, it's over. Let's just move on."

"No, you're not okay. That's fairly obvious, Kathryn. You still can't seem to eat anything, you avoid people, and you're jumpy all of the time now. You say, 'Let's move on', but you are the one who isn't moving on."

She flared up at this. "Well, forgive me if I can't bounce right back from it! The Kazon had you for two days; the Bromalians had me for five long months! You want me to talk about it, but it's not as easy as you want it to be!" she said angrily, displaying more emotion than he'd seen in a long time. He took that as a good sign.

"You haven't told anyone about your time there, Kathryn." He inched a little closer. "You have a whole ship of people that care about you, and they want to help you. I just wish you could trust us. Trust me."

Kathryn laughed bitterly. "That's all I get nowadays, isn't it? People want to help me, people feel sorry for me. I'm damn sick of it, Chakotay! I just want everything to be as it was, to return to my old life and the way people would treat me then, not this! I can't stand it, Chakotay; I can't stand people treating me like I'm going to break any moment now!"

"People feel sympathy for you," Chakotay roared, standing up, "Because for five long months, we didn't know if you were dead or alive! We were worried sick about you! I was worried sick about you, Kathryn! Every night, I'd lie awake wondering if there was some way I could have prevented it, if I had just been there, or seen Renhika for who she was sooner! If I hadn't been angry with you, then maybe, just maybe, I could have saved you. And now you're back, and we still feel as if we've lost you! Kathryn, you have to understand, your pain is our pain. As long as you hurt, I'll hurt."

Kathryn stood up, her eyes shooting daggers at him and she said with a chilly voice, "So, that's what this is about. You want to ease your own pain, isn't that it, Commander? Don't even say this is on the pretensions of helping me; you're just trying to ease your own conscience. The only one you're worried about is yourself!"

Chakotay stood, wide-eyed, staring at her in a shocked, openly vulnerable state. "Kathryn," he didn't hide the pain the statement had caused, and for the first time since she had been rescued, she felt her heart wrench. "You know that's not true." He said quietly, somewhat meekly, then he sank back down to the ground. Without realizing it, Janeway found herself sitting on the ground again, too.

"Look," she finally found her voice again, "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I didn't mean that."

He shook his head. "No, it's my fault, Kathryn. I shouldn't have forced you to speak about the subject."

"Well, we're trapped in a turbolift, and we don't seem to talk about anything else anymore," she whispered, leaning back against the wall with a sigh.

"I'm sorry about trapping us in here, too." Janeway glanced up at Chakotay, in the eye for the first time.

"You-- you did this?" She asked. Chakotay wasn't sure how she'd react, so he nodded mutely. Kathryn stared at him in shock for a moment, then a flush stole over her face. Chakotay inched closer to her, concerned, but was halted in his steps when a faint chuckle escaped her lips. It grew into full laughter

.Chakotay chuckled with her, glad to see something he hadn't seen in a long time. His laughter died off when a pained expression came over her face, but she was still laughing.

Kathryn felt the walls collapsing around her as she struggled to stop doing what she was going to do. Am I going to laugh or am I going to cry? She wondered. Suddenly, more than anything, she wanted someone else. She wanted someone to shine through the darkness. As she realized it, her eyes began to sting with unshed tears, the tears she had held back for the nine months. She tried to fight them, but as Chakotay's arms came up around her, cradling her, sensing her emotions, suddenly she didn't want to fight them anymore. She had spent her entire life doing things on her own, dealing with everything in her own way, and now, she wanted nothing more than to let someone else have the burden for a while. She just wanted to give in to the pain that threatened to destroy her, even if just for a little while.

He felt her body, stiff in his arms, begin to relax, letting out the flood of emotions. It was all coming out, cleansing her soul, the repressed pain and despair and humiliation.

Her arms were around his waist, clutching him. He did the best he could to comfort her, kicking himself for not taking such aggressive steps earlier. Finally, her crying died down when the strength left her. She didn't seem asleep, just exhausted. She was limp in his arms, her eyes smoky and distant.

He gently brushed the remaining tears off of her cheeks, thanking the designers of Voyager that her quarters were so near the turbolift. He knew she wouldn't want her crew to see her cracked resolve.

The lights finally powered back up as the turbolift resumed its destination. When it halted, he checked the corridor. Seeing no one, he lifted her up into his arms and carried her to her quarters. He lay her down on her bed. She had taken a big step already today, and he was about to leave when he heard a faint, "Wait." Chakotay turned back around. Kathryn was sitting up, her legs dangling over the side of the bed. "Please don't go. If-- if I don't speak now, I don't know if I ever will."

He slowly approached her again, and he was about to take a seat next to her on the bed when her unmasked emotions showed a flash of panic across her face. "Do you want to go sit on the couch?" He asked her. Kathryn nodded, and she gingerly got up, clutching onto his arm as they approached the other room. They sat down on the couch, and he sat close enough so that she could feel his presence, but not too close as to alarm her.

Kathryn closed her eyes for a few moments, trying to collect her thoughts. Finally, she whispered, "I don't want to fight with you."

Chakotay laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. "I don't want to fight with you, either. I promise you, I'll never get into a worthless rivalry like that with you again."

She smiled, a genuine smile that reached her eyes, and she took his hand, pledging her own promise without words. She felt a new sort of closeness with him, one that she had forgotten, one she hadn't felt since their fight right before her ordeal. It gave her a comfort, a sense of security.

"Chakotay," She whispered. "I don't want you to be-- to be ashamed of me." Kathryn desperately wished she could find better wording, and faltered, not sure where to go from here.

He lifted up her chin in one of his hands and he caressed her cheek. "Kathryn, I'd never be ashamed of you, no matter what. If you told the Bromalians anything, I'm sure we'd all understand, and I would understand. Five months--"

"I didn't!" She declared.. "I didn't tell them anything. I just--" She nearly choked when she found herself fighting back tears again.

"Just let it out." Chakotay whispered, pulling her to him once again. She leaned into his arms, into the comfort the protection he offered. Protection from herself.

"You- you know most of it," she whispered. He didn't say anything, just stroked her hair, his breath falling at an even rhythm. She kept her head on his chest, listening to his heart beat, feeling it rise and fall.

She closed her eyes and relished the feeling of him as she recounted her horrific tale. She told him about Mordus, how he had saved her life, and how kind he was the first few weeks of her time with him, then of how he started getting more and more possessive.

"When I was in Mordus's captivity, he wasn't trying to get information from me. That-- that man wanted me for something else-- for a sense of..." she faded off with a shaky breath. "I'm still not quite sure what he wanted. It was like he wanted to... to own me. And he became worse and worse as it went along." Her courage faltered, and Chakotay held her securely, allowing her the time she needed to continue. Tears once again began streaming down her face as she said, "I tried to escape once, but he caught me. When he dragged me back to the cell, he beat me, severely. Then he-- he," she choked back her tears, but was unable to contain them as she sobbed, "It was humiliating. It was so humiliating. I tried to fight... but I couldn't. It was like I had slowed down..."

Chakotay held her in his arms, feeling the blood burning through his veins as he realized what she was saying. He held her to him, comforting her, at the same time trying to hold down the murderous rage that tore at him. "It got worse as time went on, too." She was saying. "He would try the... make me do the most... degrading things he could imagine. He didn't care about the information, he just got pleasure out of my pain. And by the end, I wouldn't even fight him."

Her voice broke as she once again felt sobs begin to rack her throat. "I don't know why I gave up. I-- it was a weak thing to do. I should never have--"

"Kathryn," Chakotay whispered vehemently into her ear, "What that bastard did to you was not your fault. Don't you ever blame yourself. Don't ever." She clung on to him. Kathryn related more to Chakotay, more in detail, getting it out of her system. When she finally was done, she was trembling, the stress of the past nine months wearing her out. He brushed his lips lightly against her forehead, his arms holding her protectively to his chest, as if he could protect her from her past. She was so vulnerable at this moment that he wondered how anyone-- anyone could hurt her like Mordus had. He was shaking too, out of rage, feeling the long suppressed hatred of his earlier life resurfacing in him.

"I promise you one thing," he whispered, his voice shaking with anger, "I will kill him. I swear to god, I'll rip his throat out for what he did to you."

"No," she said firmly, finding herself suddenly in the position of giving comfort to him as he had to her. "No, just let it go. He's light years from here, and there's no way you'll ever get him."

Chakotay pulled back at arm's length. "But after what that man did to you... he can't just get away with it. I don't know how--"

"This is exactly what he'd want!" Janeway snapped. "He'd want us tearing ourselves apart to get at him. He's too powerful, too high up, we'd never be able to get to him. Let it go, Chakotay. It's the only way we can beat him. The only way we can win."

He drew her to him again, and they held each other for hours, finding mutual comfort in one another's arms.

After he left, she had no trouble sleeping. She had pleasant dreams about Chakotay and Voyager, not the terrible nightmares she'd been having for ages.

In the days that followed, she began to change, brimming with a new found confidence, one that she thought she'd lost, a feeling of orientation. Space was no longer luminous and intimidating, she could eat food without thinking of her imprisonment. She was no longer a stranger in a strange land, no longer an outsider. She felt something new; she was herself again. She was Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the Federation Starship Voyager, and no one was going to change that. No matter how much they tortured her, no matter what they did, they'd never take her identity from her again. Never.


After five months of rigorous fighting and hardship, they exited Bromalian space. The ships that had been constantly pursuing them were called off, not daring to venture into unknown territory. When Tuvok announced their exit over the speakers, applause and cheering broke in all regions of the ship. They had survived the most dangerous leg of their journey with few casualties. They had defied the Order successfully, and in the end, they had prevailed, in the end, a more united crew than they ever had been before.

Amidst the applause on the bridge, Janeway and Chakotay shared a glance. This had a special meaning for the two of them. They had come through the most difficult and turbulent times in their relationship and through their hardship, were closer than they ever had been.

Confined in her quarters, former Lieutenant Renhika Mehta was sulking, thinking of opportunities lost, ones she'd never had. I should have killed her myself, She thought angrily. She knew from the last time Chakotay had filed a report about her that he was perfectly happy out there without her, glowing with a new light, probably running around with Janeway at that. At that thought, Mehta was hit by the realization that she was a failure. She sat back down on the bed in the quarters that had become her cell and wallowed in her misery.

On the planet Rekresh, High Admiral Amaroth, in his rage and chagrin at his failure to apprehend Voyager, banished Mordus. He took away all of Mordus's possessions, his wealth, his title, and put a contract worth 2,000,000 in standard currency on his head (the most adamant of the bounty hunters being none other than Mordus's ex-associate, Vaila Hath'Hart).

He didn't especially hold a grudge against his old friend, but he needed someone to take the fall. He was immensely upset by the word that resistance groups had earned literally millions of new members from this recent, unprecedented turn of events, and he sat in his office, rubbing his head in stress. The Bromalian Order was crumbling apart around him and he could do nothing to stop its fall.


Chakotay was sitting in his quarters that very same night. Kathryn was across from him, devouring the food he'd cooked. Her appetite had returned with a vengeance, with the force of a starving person's.

Later, they were sitting together on the sofa, talking. "Do you remember a time long ago," he began, "When I asked you if there was a future for us?"

Kathryn looked over at him from where she had been gazing dreamily out at the stars and mutely nodded. Chakotay then said, "You told me no."

She leaned back into the couch, studying him. Then she spoke, "That was a long time ago. A lot has happened since then."

Chakotay raised his eyebrows. "How much has happened?"

"A lot." Kathryn smiled. "Have you ever heard that everything happens for a reason? When I was in captivity, all I knew was how haunted I was that you and I... During what I thought was the last time we'd ever seen each other, were mad at one another, how sorry I was that I left so many things unsaid." She sighed. "I'm just sorry that it took... my ordeal, to see you for what you are to me." She had never spoken, even on New Earth, so openly about their relationship before.

"And what might that be?" Chakotay asked, playful jest in his eyes, but underneath he was very serious.

Kathryn didn't reply, but she leaned towards him. He closed his eyes and his lips met hers, hungrily pressing against her softness. Her tongue slipped into his mouth, and her arms crept up around his large frame. The kiss was powerful, and yet so gentle at the same time.

When they finally broke the kiss, they stared into each other's eyes. Kathryn took his hands in her hands, a silent promise to him. It was going to happen, just it was going to go slowly. She still wasn't fully over her ordeal, probably she never would be, but she was living again, and that was the important thing.

They both found themselves looking out the window at the stars rushing by and the vast, open space. It dawned on both of them at the same time that this was not only the beginning of a new adventure in space, but it was the beginning of something else, something far more valuable. Voyager was venturing into the unknown, as were they.

Kathryn smiled and leaned into him as she stared out at the stars. Nothing was going to keep them apart now. They had their entire lives ahead of them, all of eternity.