DISCLAIMER: Everyone belongs to Paramount.  I own nothing.  No imfringment intended
 
 


 






RATED PG13

SEPTEMBER 2000

First place in forever love  Best Angst   Third place in Voyagers Home  First place Neelix Angst
 

It was dark and damp, she was face down on a cold slab, her head hurt to the point where she couldn’t think straight.  She tried to clear her thinking—where was she? What had happened?  Blackness covered her and mercifully took away her pain.

He woke in a cell, dark and dirty, it smelled musty and close, his eyes wouldn’t focus.  He sat up, but there was no light, only darkness and silence.   He tried to stand but his legs were weak—how long had he been here?---where?---why? Questions ran through his mind.  Holding his head in his hands as he sat on the wet stone floor, he searched his memory for any fragment of what had happened to him

~~~^^^~~~

“Report.”  Tuvok exited the lift and took the command chair.

“Nothing---they are gone.”  Ensign Kim looked from his console to Tuvok.  “They were in the ready room and then---- gone.”

“It is illogical for them to have vanished, Mr. Kim.  Computer, locate Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay.”  He did not doubt Harry exactly, it was simply illogical.

“CAPTAIN JANEWAY AND COMMANDER CHAKOTAY ARE NO LONGER ABOARD VOYAGER”

“Computer, when and where were they last located?”

“THE CAPTAIN AND COMMANDER WERE LAST IN THE READY ROOM AT 1300 HOURS.”

“How did they leave the ship?”

“UNKNOWN”

The bridge was silent, no one wanted to be first to move, speak or speculate.  Each officer covered their station, scanned, recalibrated and rescanned— still nothing.  Tuvok moved back to tactical working furiously on long range sensors.

“Tuvok to senior staff, report to the briefing room immediately”

~~~^^^~~~

The Captain woke again, the pain was less; she sat up unable to see in the total blackness.   Out of instinct, she hit her comm. badge---static.  She expected nothing less. She moved slowly to her knees and began to feel her way around the cell.  Moving first to the right she encountered a wall or at least a solid structure; she followed it.  Before she moved very far she stumbled over something—someone—a body?   He emitted a groan.

“Chakotay?”  She ran her hands over the uniform—Starfleet. “Chakotay?”

“Kathryn, what happened?”  He sat up next to her.

“I don’t know.  Where are we?”  She looked around it was too dark to see anything.

“We were in the ready room---then I woke up here.  I can’t remember anything more.”  He reached out to touch her, being unable to see her in the darkness.

“That’s all I remember, too.” She sat close to him to keep contact.  “Can you get up?  We should check for a way out---of where ever we are.”

“Yeah, I’ll go this way,you that way—OK?”  He had placed both their hands on the wall and indicated by touch which direction they would move.

“OK—be careful.”  They each started off in opposite directions.   The walls were short and it wasn’t long before they met on the other side.  “I’d guess it isn’t more than four meters in any direction, there is no opening that I found.”

“No, its strange, I didn’t find one either.”  They sat again, backs against the wall.  It was cold and dark and very eerie.  He pulled her close trying to stay warm.

~~~^^^~~~

Paris, Torres and Kim sat in the briefing room eyeing Tuvok, the doctor was on the view screen –the silence was deafening.  Their sensors picked up nothing, no ships,  no planets--nothing but empty space.

“As you are all aware, the Captain and Commander Chakotay are no longer aboard Voyager.  As of yet, we have found no evidence of how they left, why or where they went.  Our long range sensors indicated nothing, quite literally nothing,  within sensor range.  Likewise internal sensors are unable to shed any light on their whereabouts or method of departure.”

“People just don’t disappear Tuvok.  They have to be somewhere.”

“A logical assumption, Mr. Paris.  The question however remains, where?”

“We should back track, cover every inch of space since we last saw them.”  Harry offered.  ‘B’Elanna can you help me boost the sensors?”

“Yes, he’s right,  They have to be here.  I’ll work with Harry and get Seven to beef up the scans from Astrometrics.”

“Yes, Lieutenant a sound plan and Mr. Paris, take us back the way we came, slowly.  I want you to plot a course so that we can cover the entire area.”   They nodded at him.  “Dismissed.”

~~~^^^~~~

It was a long time, they had no way of knowing how long, before they had contact with anyone.  Finally, a hidden panel opened and the light streamed into the room.  A tall thin Alien approached and they scrambled to their feet.  Even standing, the alien was taller than Chakotay and towered over the Captain.

“Get up” He spoke as he entered.  “You will be moved.”

“I’m Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager and this is my First Officer Commander Chakotay. Why are we here?”

“Captain are you? A puny little thing like you?  Well this is more interesting than I thought.”

“Why have you brought us here?”

“Captain?  Ahh well, that won’t matter soon. You are to be traded for my men.”  He gestured them to move. “This way."

“What do you mean traded?”

“Little one it matters not but, I will tell you.  My men were captured by the Sackett’s and I can not retrieve them without satisfying the Sackett thirst for blood—yours will have to do.”

“I’m afraid that is unacceptable.  What have your men done, that they were captured.”

“Does she always talk so much?”  He asked Chakotay, but didn’t wait for an answer.  He signaled and four men grabbed them and escorted them out of the cell and on to a ship.

“I want to know where you are taking us.”  The Captain called back to him.

“Little Captain, behave yourself and perhaps I will come later and explain.” He smiled as he watched them loaded onto the ship.  “Be careful don’t damage them.”

They were put in the brig, not as nice as the one on Voyager but warm and dry with sufficient light and they were fed.

“Well, what now?”  She shook her head.

“I guess we wait and see.  Perhaps he will tell us more or Tuvok will find us. I’m sure they are aware of out disappearance by now.”

“Whenever now is. I’ve lost all track of time.” She was sitting on the bunk her back against the wall.  She surveyed the room.  It was smaller even than the one on Voyager, one slim bunk, a sink and toilet. Only half the front was open to the guards, half cover with a solid wall.  Barely enough room for two to sit on this bunk and only one blanket, she wondered if they would leave them together.  “Sit Commander, your pacing is making me dizzy.”

“Yes, Ma’am” He answered idly, plopping down beside her.

“Ma’am?  A little formal for some one sitting on my foot isn’t it?”

“Sorry, Kathryn.”   He jumped up allowing her to move her foot.

“Relax, Chakotay—It’s OK.”  She moved over. “Here sit.”

They talked of non-consequential thing for hours, being careful to reveal as little as possible, in fear of being overheard.  Finally, the lights were dimmed and they assumed it to be night.  Having one small cot, which obviously was not designed for sleeping, not for this large race anyway, Chakotay moved to the floor.

“Here take these.”  She tossed him the blanket and what passed as a pillow.

“You keep them I’m alright.”

“Nonsense I have this luxurious bed –it’s the least I can do.”  She smiled and he chuckled taking the items.

They slept, it was a fretful sleep, barely better than none at all.  At some point, she had become unaware of her surroundings because she woke with a start, when the big hands shook her.  Opening her eyes, she was greeted by one of the large aliens standing over her.

“Come”

“Where?”  She sat up running her fingers through her hair.

“Come.”

He tugged on her arm and she stood up, stepping over Chakotay’s sleeping form and followed him out the door.  They turned and twisted down one corridor then another, finally stopping in front of a door. The alien pressed a panel and the door slid open.

“In.” He gestured and she entered, the door closing behind her.

It was quiet, dimly lit, a comfortable looking room with over sized furniture.  She wandered to the view port, they were definitely on a ship.  Where and why still remained and how to get back to Voyager but.... Her thoughts were interrupted by the opening door.  She turned to see the man from last night, the one who brought them here.

“Little one, did you sleep well?”

“Well enough. My name is Kathryn, Captain Kathryn Janeway.”  She squared her shoulders as she faced him. “And you are?”

“I am Abv’tar and I am Captain of this humble vessel.”

“Captain Abv’tar, why am I here?”

“Right to the point, outspoken and direct—spunky, yes little as you are—I believe you are a Captain.”

“What you think of me is irrelevant.  I want to know why you have brought us here.”

“I told you, my men have been taken and I must get them back. I will trade you and the other for them.  I think the Sackett will be intrigued with you.”

“Why us?”

“Don’t take it personally, little one—yours was the first ship we encountered.”

“So you just kidnap the first people you come across?”

“Yes, I do not have time to be fussy—the trial will be soon and I must make the exchange before that.”

“And you intend for me to stand trial in their place?”

“Intelligent also—such a waste, but yes –it is necessary.”

“I see, and am I to know the charges?”

“They do not matter, it all comes out the same…”  He paused when the door opened.  “Bring it in, set it over there.” He turned back to the Captain.  “Join me for breakfast?”

“My First Officer?”

“Don’t concern yourself, he will be taken care of.  I must deliver you in good condition.”  He moved toward the food.  “Please –join me.”

She moved to the table, she was hungry and he said Chakotay would be taken care of.  Why she believed this man she wasn’t sure, but he seemed honest--- without scruples, but honest even about that.  It smelled good she took the seat he offered her.

“Isn’t there an alternative to this trade you are speaking of? Perhaps you could negotiate with the Sackett for their release.”

“We have tried other ways in the past, this is the most acceptable.” He gestured toward the food.  “Please eat.”

“Let me understand this.”  She put some of the food on her plate.  “Your men were taken prisoner and will be put on trial –for what crimes?”

“Crimes of war. You understand,–murder, plunder and such—it is always the same.”

“The same?  This happens often?”  He nodded at her.  “And you simply substitute some one else at the trial?”

“Some one must die for these crimes.”  He spoke flatly and watched her expression, he picked up only the slightest change.

“And so this time it is me.”  She locked her eyes with his speaking with as little emotion as he did.

“I’m afraid so.”

“You must return my First Officer to my ship, certainly I will be enough to satisfy your debt.”

“I think that you would be more than enough payment, however I can not run the risk of your crew attempting to rescue you—certainly you understand.”

“I’m beginning to.”  She considered him.  “Perhaps you could deliver me and return my first officer once you were certain of the trade.”

“So noble –so brave.  I already regret what I know I must do.”

“I am only practical, without her Captain my ship will need her First Officer even more—surly you understand.”

“That I do little one, but I have my own ship to be concerned with.  My men must come first.  Now, finish your breakfast.”
 

After breakfast she was returned to the cell with Chakotay.  He was sitting on the bunk, half empty food tray on the floor in front of him.

“Captain.”  He jumped up when he saw her.  “Are you alright?”

“Yes, Chakotay, I’m fine.”  She sat beside him, gesturing to the tray on the floor. “You didn’t eat much are you OK?”

“Yeah, I had enough.  Where did they take you?  Are..”

“I’m fine, I met with their Captain, Abv’tar, the man we saw yesterday.  It seems we are to be traded for some of his men who are accused of war crimes.  I will stand trial in their place.”

“Why?”

“It seems it’s just their way.  As long a someone stands trial, it doesn’t matter who.  So he snatched the first people he came across and here we are.”

“If only one of us needs to be traded, then maybe he would return you to the ship and…”  He stopped when she placed her hand on his arm, smiling at him.  “You tried that already didn’t you?”  She nodded. “And they won’t send me back either.”

“As I see it Chakotay, we are in this together.  We’ve done some of our best work that way, we’ll find a way.”

“We always do.”

It took them three days to reach the Sackett home world.  During this time she shared many meals with Captain Abv’tar, he had come to truly enjoy her company.  He explained his cloaking device, which had enabled him to sneak up and snatch her from Voyager.   He was intrigued by her capacity to understand even the most complicated of his technology.  He told her of the on going war between his people and the Sackett, how it had gone on for centuries, the rules being redefined over and over through the years.  In the end he offered to trade only Chakotay, if she would agree to stay with him, she refused.

 He came to the cell one more time before handing them over to the Sackett.

“Little one.” He reached out and cupped her face in his big hand.  “This does not have to be. I can still make adjustments to our deal.  Stay with me.”

“Abv’tar, I can’t do that, you know that.”

“Yes, your courage, your fierce loyalty, it is part of your appeal.”  He closed his eyes and when he opened them he smiled at her sadly. “Good bye, Captain Kathryn Janeway.”  He dropped his hand and walked out.

Two guards came and escorted them to the transport site, then stepped away.  They materialized in a cell not unlike the one they first woke up in.  It was dark and cold and silent.  No one came near them for days, how many they weren’t sure.  They had no food, no water, no blankets, nothing but the cold damp stone. They huddled together sharing what little warmth they had and occupied their minds with conversation.  They talked about the ship, the crew, friends and family, they shared childhood secrets, whatever came to mind.

They were sleeping, when the door opened flooding the small cell with bright light.  Two guards came forward and dragged them to their feet, shining bright lights in their faces.  They could hear the footsteps and the voices, but they were unable to see their faces.  Some one raised her chin, turned her face from side to side, and other did the same to Chakotay.

“That one.” A deep voice from the back called out and two men seized Kathryn and dragged her from the cell.

Chakotay was left alone in the darkness.   He sat back against the wall, he tried not to think.  It was a muffled sound at first, slowly it grew louder and more distinct, until there was no doubt what he was listening to.  He tried to shut out the sound of her screams, in the darkness of the empty cell they echoed in his mind till he thought he would scream too.  He prayed for it to stop and when it did, he feared the reason.

Suddenly, he was once again bathed in light, as the big door slid back.  In the back light he saw two large men drag her body across the doorway and toss it in his direction.  She hit the stone with a dead thud, no sound escaped her, the door slammed and he made his way to her.

“Kathryn.” He hesitantly touched her.  She didn’t respond to voice or touch, he felt for a pulse. It was weak but he found it, he drew his hand back trying to examine the warm stick substance –blood he knew it would be.  He carefully checked her arms and legs, slowly moved along her rib cage, nothing broken that he could detect.   He gently lifted her taking her on to his lap as he settled against the wall.  He cradled her, stroking her hair and rocking her, as his own tears washed across her hair.

Chakotay woke to the sounds of her moans, he still held her in his lap, cradled her in his arms.

“Kathryn.”

“Chakotay?” Her voice was raspy and weak.

“Shh I’m here.”  He brushed back her hair.

“Talk to me..”  She lifted her head slightly then rested it again on his chest.   “Tell me a story.”

“Sure.”  He settled back against the wall holding her to him gently.

He talked softly, telling her story after story until her breathing became slow and even and he knew she was sleeping, at least he hoped it was sleep.  He had no idea how long they were here, they had not had food or water and now this.  He rested his head back, maybe if the spirits were merciful he would sleep and they would both die before this cycle could start again.

The sound of the door startled him, the light hurt his eyes, he squinted quickly enough to see someone set something inside the door.  Once it closed again, he gently set Kathryn on the ground and made his way carefully to the object.  In the darkness he stumbled on it, containers of liquid and some sort of mush---food. He briefly wondered about its safety, but it didn’t matter, so he brought it back against the far wall by Kathryn.  There was water in the mugs and they both sorely need water, he took several small sips.  He tore a piece of his T-shirt and dipped it into the cup.  Lightly, he touched Kathryn’s lips, letting only the smallest drops reach her mouth, she stirred. He used a second piece of his shirt, dipped in the cup to wipe her face.

“Chakotay—water”

“Yes, Kathryn, but only a little.”  He dripped several more drops into her mouth.  “Easy a little at a time.  Do you think you can eat something?  I don’t know what it is but it’s mushy and soft.”

“Help me sit.”  She groaned as she tried to change position.

“Easy.”  He helped her lean against the wall.  “Here.”  He put a finger of the mushy substance near her lips. “It tastes bad, but we need to eat something.”

“Ughh, worse than Neelix's.”  He could hear a faint smile as she spoke, in a harsh whisper.

“I’ll remember to tell him you said so.”  He lifted the cup. “Can you sip this?”

They managed only a little of the mush and a few sips of water, it had been too long since they had eaten.  They tried to rest, he pulled her gently over him to keep her off the damp floor.  He flinched with every groan.

“Kathryn, what do they want?”  He knew she would give them nothing—no matter what they wanted—for as long as she could.

“Nothing.”

“What?  Don’t they ask for something? What is this about?”

“Nothing, I have to give them.  They don’t care about us, just their damn war and I know nothing about that.”

“What about the technology Abv’tar told you about?”

“They already know; they don’t want it.   I’m tired.”

“Put your head down, try to sleep.”

“They’ll be back.”

“Maybe not.”

“Yes.”  She was drifting off.

“I won’t let them take you again.”

“You will not resist..”

“Kathryn..”

“That’s an order.  You will only get yourself killed and that won’t help either of us.”

“Kat…”

“An order, Commander.”  She was using up what little strength arguing with him.

“Alright, Kathryn, sleep.”

~~~^^^~~~

It had been sixteen days and still no sigh of the Command team.  Voyager had tracked and back tracked every centimeter of space they had cover—nothing.  No one had contacted them, no ransom, no threats, nothing.  They had no leads and no where left to look.  Tuvok ordered on more sweep of the area, allotted another week and then he knew they would have to move on ---without them.

~~~^^^~~~

The door opened and spilled light on them again, chakotay opened his eyes to see two large figures advancing toward them.  Before he could react, they grabbed Kathryn dragging her away and slamming the door.  It went on forever, the screams stopped, but he knew it was only because she had nothing left to scream with.  They dumped her back in the cell.

They brought more food and water and in a few hours it started again.  It went on day after day; he had no idea how much more she could take.  Every day she had less fight, less life.  She didn’t talk anymore except to remind him of his orders, she never cried, she lay where they dumped her, until he moved her.  He did what he could, gave her food and water, tried to clean her wounds, but he couldn’t even see them.  One day when they brought her back, he could see in the back light that her leg was twisted—broken—or more like shattered.  There was nothing for him to do, he couldn’t even hold her anymore, everything hurt.

They left them longer then, he figured it had been almost a week by count each food delivery as a day.  Kathryn still said little, drank only what he dribbled in her mouth and ate nothing. When the door opened this time there were more of them, five or six that he could see.  Two grabbed Kathryn and pulled her out,  two more took his arms and dragged him behind her.  Chakotay could hear her groan as the twisted leg dragged across the rough surface, the light was too bright for his eyes, he couldn’t see.

They dropped them both in the center of a large room, he could hear many voices.  Then some one ordered them to stand, he was pulled to his feet and hear Kathryn cry out as they forced her upright. He squinted and groped in her direction.  Grabbing hold of her waist he supported her weight—what little was left of it.  A voice droned on in the back of his mind—something about charges and conviction.  He tried to focus—it was about them.  War crimes—sentenced to death and them they were returned to the cell.

Kathryn lay lifeless.  She was breathing, had a weak pulse.  He cried.

~~~^^^~~~

   They finished the search and Tuvok gave the order to move on.  No one wanted to go, including Tuvok, but they had no choice, they had done everything they could.  They set course for the alpha quadrant.

~~~^^^~~~

The guards were back.  No more. -He didn’t care if they killed him, there would be no more.  She had argued with him when she could—told him not to risk himself for her—ordered him time and time again to do nothing—but-- No more.   They reached for her, and he fought back with whatever he had.   He struggled to his feet still holding her in his arms.  Two advanced on him, backing him toward the wall.

“Let him be.”  A faceless voice sounded. “Bring them together.”

Chakotay was pushed forward, he stumbled but he held tight to Kathryn.  He could hardly walk and his vision was blurred in the bright light.   A hand touched his arm, he flinched but it just lay there almost gently.

“This way, let me guide you.”  It was a whisper, meant only for him to hear.  He followed the gentle guidance of the hand.

They were loaded on a transport, god only knew where they would end up this time.  Chakotay sat in a cargo hold, Kathryn in his lap.  His eyes adjusted to the light, it was not as bright in here, but light enough to see.  He looked down at the emaciated woman in his arms and again he cried.

Chakotay was sleeping when the doors opened and someone ordered them taken out.  He struggled to his feet and refused to relinquish his precious cargo.  He was surrounded by guards, weapons drawn.  Well this was it, he thought.  Here he would stand and they would end it all, but he would not give her up.  He heard the voice again and this time it had a face.  A young man large and fair, big dark eyes and wearing a uniform, one he noticed, that commanded respect from the others.

“Let him be.”  He turned to Chakotay.  “Bring her this way.”

He lead them off the transport and into a building.  They traveled a long darken hallway past many doors.  Finally one opened and he was ushered in; it clanged closed behind him and he heard it locked.  It was lighter in here, but not bright.  There was a cot and a blanket, he laid Kathryn down and covered her.  There was a sink with water but it was cold.  He removed what was left of his T shirt and wet it.  Gently he tried to clean her many festering wounds, she moaned and twisted but never became conscious.  So intent was he on his work, he didn’t notice when the door opened.

The young guard entered and watched silently for a few minutes. Many prisoners came here—it was the last stop, none ever left. Well, almost none.

“There is a chance.”  He spoke startling Chakotay.

“What?” It was an automatic response, he turned at the sound of the voice.

“Usually, no one leaves, but you have one chance.”  He took a step closer, carefully eyeing the prisoner.

“What is that? I’ll do what ever I must to get her out.”  He knew he shouldn’t admit that, but it didn’t matter any more

“No. She will never leave, let her die.”  The voice was gentle, but it said terrible things.

“No.”  He turned back to Kathryn.

“It’s your only chance.  The confession is hers.”

“She confessed to nothing; she did nothing.”

“It doesn’t matter—it is still hers —she has been sentenced to die—you will die with her when the time comes, unless she goes now.”

“You mean that if she dies, I might go free?”

“Yes there is a chance, it is her crime—you could go free.  If she dies before...”

Chakotay let the words register.  He slowly moved away from Kathryn and took a step toward the guard.

“What if I die?”  He questioned.  “If I die,  can she go free?”

“No –it is her crime—she will die.”

“I see.”  Chakotay ran his hands through his hair.  “Then, we will die together.”  He quietly walked back and began to clean her. The guard left.

At short time later, the door opened again drawing Chakotay’s attention.  The young guard came in, he carried a bucket and a bag, something slung over his shoulder.  He set them down on the table.

“It’s not much.  The water is warm the rags are clean, some disinfectant for her wounds.”  He turned to go.

“Thank you.”

“I will bring a clean garment for her when your food is ready.”  He never turned back just closed the door behind him.

The water was warm and soapy, it worked much better.  He carefully cleaned out her wounds applied the ointment the guard had left.  Gently he removed the dirty shredded dress she wore and carefully washed and dried her before wrapping the blanket around her.  She never moved never responded, not even a moan, but she looked better, he hoped she felt even the tiniest bit better.

It wasn’t too long before the door open and two guards carried in food trays, placing them on the table.   They left and the young one stepped in and closed the door.  He walked over to Kathryn, sadly looked her over.

“She looks better, but…”  He turned to look at Chakotay.  “Here is a clean garment for her.”  He held out the robe like dress.

“Thanks.”  The young man nodded and left.

The days passed, each one the same as the last.  The guards brought food and water, they never spoke.  The quiet spoken young man never came back. He tended to Kathryn, she took water and sometimes a little food, mostly she laid on the bed in a semi conscious state.   He slept on the floor next to the bed, they had given him another blanket, but tonight she was cold, he put it on her.  She was moaning in her sleep, tossing, the blanket fell on him.  He got up to check on her.

She was damp with perspiration, hot to the touch, as she tossed in her sleep.   The fever frightened him, he had no way of knowing how high it was, but he knew it couldn’t be good.  He wet the rags, placed one on her forehead and used the other to wipe down her body, he needed to bring the fever down.  She moaned, rolling her head from side to side.  Her body shivered, yet her sweat soaked the bedding.

“Kathryn, don’t let go.  Stay with me.”  He whispered to her, as he worked through the night

He told her stories, legends, how much he loved her, all the while her fever climbed.  By morning, Kathryn still seemed no better.   He was so focused on Kathryn, he never noticed the breakfast the guards brought.

“Fever?”  The soft voice behind him startled him.   He swung around to face the young guard.

“Yes, I can’t bring it down.”  He ran his fingers through his hair.

“This will help.”  The young man stepped closer with something that resembled a hypospray and administered it to Kathryn’s neck.  “I will bring another tomorrow.”  He turned toward the door.”

“Wait---why—why are you doing this?”

“There are people here who deserve to die; you do not.  I can’t change things in the end, but I can help along the way. I must go.”’

“Thank you.”  He saw the young man nod, as he exited.

The day was quiet and the night passed well.  As promised the young man returned in the morning and administered another shot.  Two days later, Kathryn was sitting up and talking.  She had eaten a small amount and he breathed a sigh of relief.

~~~^^^~~~

After a few months, the crew began to accept the changes.  Tuvok took on the role of Captain, although he was still called Commander and Tom acted as his first officer.  Much of the time Tuvok remained at tactical and Tom occasionally still manned the helm.  The adjustments were difficult for everyone.

Voyager had come into contact with some hostile races and sustained major damage. Their situation was rather desperate by the time they limped into the space station at Ciardull.  Voyager was in need of supplies desperate for repairs and the crew, having not fully recovered from the loss of her Captain and First Officer, was suffering doubly from the recent fighting. The Ciardullien hierarchy had agreed to their docking and trading of supplies and parts as well as limited use of other space station facilities, by the crew, but the negotiation had been long and difficult.  Commander Tuvok was a brilliant tactician, a more than adequate commanding officer and an ardent negotiator, but the stiff Vulcan manor prevented him from developing the easy negotiating skills the Captain had possessed.

To the surprise of the entire crew, Tom worked both closely and well with Tuvok.  The stiff prudent Vulcan was complimented by the carefree easy going manner of the younger man.  Side by side, they had bargained and haggled, hammering out a workable deal.

“Tuvok, my man.” Tom put his arm around Tuvok’s shoulder, as they entered the mess hall.

“Mr. Paris.”  Tuvok raised his eyebrow.

“Not bad—you were OK—Ya know?”

“I’m glad you found my negotiating skills adequate,” Tuvok removed Tom’s arm.

“Yeah, I mean I’ve seen smoother, but you done good.”  He laughed at the quizzical looks he received from the rest of the crew, B’Elanna included.  “B’E you should have seen him down there, almost as cunning as Captain Janeway.”  B’Elanna was shocked into silence.

“I’m afraid, Mr. Paris, forming my lips into a crooked smile and batting my eyes doesn’t hold quite the same appeal as when the Captain did it.”

When the laughter subsided, Tuvok excused himself, leaving Tom with B’Elanna and Harry.

“Tom, I can’t believe he said that!”  B’Elanna gasped.

“Yeah, something isn’t it?”  Tom sat down with them.

“The Captain always said he had a sense of humor. I never saw it before.”  Harry could hardly stop laughing.

“Guess I bring out the worst in him.”  Tom joked.

“I miss them.”  B’Elanna suddenly dampened the mood.

“We all do, Maquis -----we all do.”

~~~^^^~~~

Each day Kathryn improved a little more, the bruises had faded, most were completely gone.  She had some scars, the majority were hidden by her clothing, one crossed her left cheek, it was still deep pink and angry looking.  Her leg was healing, although she couldn’t put her weight on it yet.  The young guard had not been back since giving her the second injection, but Chakotay told her about him.

They passed the time talking—there was nothing else to do.  They had known each other for six years and were constantly surprised at how little they really knew about each other.  The days were long and the living sparse but tolerable. Now that her body wasn’t causing her constant pain, they shared the bunk, drawing deep comfort from sleeping in each other’s arms.

Their dinner was delivered each night just as it began to grow dark.  This night when the door opened to admit their meals they were treated to a surprise.  The trays were placed in the usual way, on the table, but one guard remained behind.—It was the young man he told her about, their secret benefactor.

“Hello.”  Chakotay helped Kathryn to the table.  “Kathryn, this is the man I was telling you about.”

“I’m glad I get to meet you. Thank You.” She adjusted herself in the chair.  “I believe, I owe you my life.”

“Not me, him.”  He pointed to Chakotay. He didn’t talk or smile much he just watched with a serious expression.  “When dinner is finished, I will come back and take you out.  There is a shower not far and I have some clean garments for you.”  He turned and in his usual fashion walked out without further conversation.

“Thank you.”  They called after him.  He nodded as the door closed.

“Strange –isn’t he?”  Kathryn stared at the closed door.

“Yes, he never says much.  Just does something and leaves—strange.”

“Well, in any case a shower will be nice.I don’t know what it’s like to be clean anymore.”

“I know.”  He laughed and she rolled her eyes.

“You don’t smell any better that I do Mr.”

“Maybe, we shouldn’t.”  He continued to eat, but he glanced up at her.

“Shouldn’t what?  Shower?  Why the hell not?”

“Just getting used to this, if we shower, we’ll have to start all over again, could be worst.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

It was only a few minutes after they finished eating that the guards arrived.  Two cleared away the trays and the third stood silently by waiting for the others to finish.  When the two had gone, he finally spoke.

“You will come with me, quietly.”  He signaled them to the door.

Chakotay put his arm around Kathryn’s waist, half carrying her as they followed the guard.  He led them down a darkened hallway then up a small flight of stairs.  He signaled them to stop and they waited as he unlocked the door, checking the area directly outside it.  He motioned them forward and they followed him across a wide stretch of grass to a row of small cabin like structures.  He unlocked the first one and lead them inside.

The light was soft but they could see the room clearly.  It contained a small table and overstuffed furniture, there were padds and coffee cups scattered around the room.  It was warm and clean and lived it.

“You may go in there.”  He pointed to a door, then looked from her to Chakotay.  “It is a difficult space, you will need to help her.”

“OK.”  They started for the door.

“There are clean garments in there for both of you.”  He sat down and scanned a padd.

“Is this your home?”  Kathryn had noticed several personal items around the room.

“Such as it is, yes.  Now, you must be quick.  Go.”

The room was small, Chakotay saw immediately what he had meant by difficult.  The shower, a real water one, was built so that you needed to step up and then down—deep steps designed for their larger bodies, there was no way to sit except on the floor and it wasn’t inviting. Kathryn could never climb in there, he thought as he adjusted the water temperature.  They needed to be quick he had told them, he would try.  He turned back to find her leaning on the sink already out of most of her clothes.  She was scarred and so thin –and he thought—the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  She blushed when she noticed he was watching her.

“I’ll never get in there by myself.”  She avoided his eyes.

"Was that an invitation, Captain?”  He teased.

“Funny, help me.”  He hesitated and she finally looked at him.  “Chakotay, at this point there is nothing here you haven’t already seen—help me.”

“Yes, Sir.”  He ducked her swinging arm.

He peeled off his filthy clothes and lifted her into the shower.   She held on to the wall to keep her balance, enjoying the feel of the warm water cascading over her.  He forced himself to concentrate on the process of getting clean –it wasn’t easy.  He grabbed the soap and washed himself, quickly shampooing his hair, then hers.  He held on to her waist and supported her weight and balanced her on the slippery floor, so her hands were free to clean herself.  They rinsed off under the warm water and she turned to face him.   She looked up, the crooked smile on her face, he thought she would say something, then a knock on the door.

“You must finish up; it is time to be back.”

“OK.”  Chakotay turned the water off and lifted her out.

He watched her balance on one leg to dry and dress herself, he was tempted to reach out and help, but he knew she needed the independence.  As soon as they were dressed, the guard returned them to their cell.  He accepted no thanks—just nodded and was gone.

~~~^^^~~~

It took two weeks of round the clock shifts, but Voyager was finally space worthy.  She was fully stocked and in the best shape, probably since entering the delta quadrant.   Most of the crew had taken time off to enjoy the facilities of the space station, but the senior staff and a good portion of the engineering staff had worked the entire time.  Tuvok informed them, Voyager would remain docked a few more days so that this remaining crew could have leave.

Tom and B’Elanna were walking the promenade enjoying the small shops and strange wares, hanging there.   A voice shouted her name and B’Elanna turned to see Joe Carey hurrying in her direction.

“Joe, easy –what’s the rush?”

“I’m not sure—maybe nothing, but...”  He gulped some air and Tom handed him the drink he carried.

“Here take a sip and calm down, what is it?”  Tom watched as Joe did as he was told.

“Over there in the bar, a guy ---big guy—he said he saw this uniform before.  He’s pretty drunk so I don’t know if it’s anything, but he said a little woman in red.”

“OH my god—a woman, he said that?”   B’Elanna glared at Tom  “Where—when?”

“I don’t know –like I said he's drunk.”

“OK. Joe, go back to the ship –tell Tuvok—keep it as quiet as you can.”  Tom took B'Elanna’s hand.  “We’ll go have a chat with this guy.  What’s he look like?”

“Big---you’ll see biggest one in the place –humanoid but hell --two feet taller than me.  Has on a gray uniform of some kind –at the bar alone—you can’t miss him.”

“OK –let’s go”

B’Elanna and Tom made their way to the bar.  He was there, just like Joe said –you couldn’t miss him. They moved up and took the seats on either side of him.

“Hey, you dress like the li’le one.”  He noticed B’Elanna first.

“Do you know her?”  B’Elanna’s voice was sweet and gentle—very unlike her feelings.  The alien said nothing, just looked down trying to focus.  “The Captain—did you see her?”

“Cap’in? –yeah –call’d her li’le Cap’n”

“You know her?”  B’Elanna tried again, but the alien just lifted his empty glass and frowned.

“Here, my friend –take mine.”  Tom handed the man his drink.

“Tanks—hey tad’d the uniform---- col’r.”

“Yea, she wears red –like me.” Tom smiled. “Where’d you see her?”

“Ship”

“Your ship?”

“Yup.”  He put down his empty glass and look at Tom.

“Sure, hey barkeep—bring my friend another, and leave the bottle.”  The man smiled at Tom.

“We traded her.”  He swigged down the next drink. And reached for the bottle which Tom pulled away.

“My friend, I need to know.  Now you tell me about the Captain and I’ll give you the bottle---fair?”

“OK—Abv’tar traded her to da Sackett—she dead.”  He reached for the bottle.”

“Dead—how?”  Tom carefully poured the man a half drink.

“Trade—trial-- dead.”   The man reached again for the bottle.

“OK.   I need to know –how, when, where---suppose we go for a little walk and I’ll bring the bottle.”

“OK” The man shrugged and stood up ---way up.  Drunk or sober these people were too small to frighten him.

They left the bar and walked to a more deserted corridor.  Tom tapped his badge and ordered the ensign on the other side to beam all three to sickbay and alert Commander Tuvok.  Materializing in sick bay, B’Elanna erected a force field around the area.

“Doc, this is my new friend—er--.”  Tom shrugged not knowing the man’s name. “Anyway he needs to be sober so we can get some information –can you do that?”

“I will try Mr. Paris, but abducting aliens is not..”

“Doc, he has information about the Captain.”

“Very well, have a seat my big friend.”

~~~^^^~~~

The routine continued, they saw the young man rarely.   Food was delivered and trays removed other than that they had no contact with the outside world.  They finished their dinner and were just talking at the table when he came in.  As always he waited for the other guards to leave, then came and spoke to them.

“I know nothing of your culture.  If you have a deity with which you must settle, it should be soon.”  He stood watching this register with them.  “I have received word it will now be soon, —exactly I do not know—days--  probably by morning.”

Kathryn stood on her good leg and reached across the table to touch him—for the first time he didn’t back away.

“Thank you.”  She rested her hand gently on his arm.  “For all you have done.”

He nodded and turned away as the door closed they hear the whispered “sorry”

She sat down, they both tried to comprehend their situation.  It was difficult.  He reached across the table and took her hands in his, she looked up and smiled.

“So this is it—not how I ever imagined it.”  She laughed.  “We were supposed to go down in a blaze of glory—ya know—starship Captains go down with their ships—they don’t die in unnamed prisons.”

“I know.”  He moved to her side of the table and lifted her up. He carried her to the bed, where they could sit more comfortably and settled down next to her.  “I was beginning to believe it would never happen.”

“Wishful thinking.”

“I suppose.”  He chuckled, a sound she loved, it always made her smile.  “Who would ever want to leave these luxurious accommodations?”

“You could have.”  She looked up at him, he just shook his head.  “Yes, if you let me die—you might have gone free.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard you talking. I heard everything.  The guard, the legends---- when you said-- you loved me.”

“I do love you—I sometimes think I always have—even before I knew you.”

“I thought over time, you had gotten past that.”

“Never, but I though you wanted me too. I tried, I really did..”  He put his arm around her and pulled her close to him.  “Sorry to disappoint you; but I’ll never stop loving you.”

They were quiet for a long while and he thought she had fallen asleep.  When she slipped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest, he felt her shudder and he knew for the first time since they were take from Voyager she was crying. He wondered why—why now?  She wasn’t afraid to die--he knew that.  Hell with the pain her leg still gave her, and no matter how she tried to hid it he knew she suffered with it always, maybe she even welcomed death.  What was it that made her sad enough to cry?

"Kathryn, can I ask you something?”  He needed to know, but suddenly wondered if he had a right to ask.  “You don’t have to answer---I just-need to ask.”

“Chakotay, what is it?”  She picked up her head, quickly wiping at the tears.

“It’s none of my business, really—but ….”

“Just ask.”

“Why did you never marry Mark?”  He leaned in close to watch her face in the semi dark, she struggled with this. “You spent ten years with him and…”  She looked pained and he regretted asking.  “I’m sorry it’s none of my business, I shouldn’t…”

“No—it’s OK. I’m just not sure how to explain.”  She thought about it, looked away, then turned back.  “I was very young when I fell in love with Justin—and lost him, you know that story.”

“Yes.”

“I felt nothing, really nothing, for a long time.  After the pain stopped, Mark was there.”  She smiled but the tears forming in her eyes told him the memory was painful.  “I’d known Mark most of my life—guess he was always there. Don’t misunderstand, I loved Mark, part of me still does.  It was warm and safe, a comfortable kind of love.”  A tear escape and slid down her cheek. “I could have spent my life with Mark, it wasn’t everything I was looking for, but it was a love I could live with. What I really wanted was a love I couldn’t live with out.”  She took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I guess the easiest way to explain is…”  She turned to look at him, fresh tears glistening in her eyes. “He wasn’t you.”

“Kathryn.” It was more of a rush of air than a spoken word.  Their eyes locked, he brushed away her tears.

The door swung open, light flooding the darkness.  Two men with rifles stepped in side, It was time. Kathryn reached up and drew him to her, lightly brushing his lips with her own.

“I love you, Chakotay.”  She deepened the kiss, the guards did not interrupt, but stood silently watching.

“I’m sorry, it is time.”  The voice was soft and sorrowful.  In the months of their stay the guards had come to respect these two.  They were not like the others sent here, there was a dignity about them, an integrity that demanded respect, no matter the circumstances.

Breaking the kiss, Chakotay got to his feet, lifting Kathryn with him.  Her leg had healed badly and she still  needed assistance to walk, he put his arm around her.   She straightened as best she could, squaring her shoulders, and raising her head.  Slowly they made their way to the door, no one rushed them.  The guards had noted early in their stay the deep love and respect with which they treated each other.   The way he had carefully tended her wounds, given her his own food to build her strength, nursed her lovingly all these months and now…..it was time.

They entered the yard, he tried to shield her from the brightness of the sunlight.   There was a large crowd gathered and they cheered loudly at the sight of the prisoners.  Many times in the past they had gathered here for executions.  They had watched guards roughly escort silent prisoners to the platform in the center, there were times when they wildly cheered as groups of soldiers dragged kicking and screaming victims toward the center, chaining them to the posts there.  Today was different and the crowd soon noticed.  The guards didn’t push or prod them, just silently walked behind as they made their way slowly to the center.

Chakotay lifted her to the platform and climbed up beside her, when he bent and kissed her the crown grew quiet.  The guards stepped back and the weapons were aimed.  A shimmer of blue blurred their vision and when it cleared they were gone. Vanished.

They were wrapped in each other’s arms, locked in a final lover's kiss, when they materialized in the transporter room.  The noise of the crowd had faded, and they had no interest in any thing but each other, so that, at first they didn’t notice the change.

“Captain, Commander, welcome home.”  The calm Vulcan voice finally registered and they broke apart, wide eyes.

“Tuvok?”  Her voice was weak and hoarse and showed complete surprise.

“Yes, Captain.”

They stared at one another in disbelief, she tried to step back.  She faltered and he caught her.

“Tuvok, beam us to sick bay.”  He commanded and they shimmered away almost before the words were finished.

The doctor set about working his customary miracles, the scares on her body were gone, her face no longer wore any traces of the long angry slash.  They were malnourished and dehydrated, which would be rectified over the next few days and very dirty, which his sonic shower handled, but other wise in good health.  After two hours in sick bay, the only remaining problem was the Captain’s leg.

“I believe we can repair most of the damage and with therapy and proper exercise you will regain almost normal use of it.”

“Repair how and when?”  Now that they were back, she was impatient to be independent again.

“Patience Captain, according to my scans it is a miracle you are even alive, the use of you leg not withstanding.”

“I do understand that doctor—however, I am alive and I want to know my prognosis.”

“You will need surgery, I will wait until your health is otherwise normal, a few days maybe a week.”

“A week?”  She sat on the biobed, hands on hips wrapped loosely in the blue surgical gown the doctor had given her, indignantly questioning her chief medical officer.

"Kathryn, what’s a week?  We planned on being dead a whole lot longer.”  Chakotay’s physical had been quick and routine, he was already in uniform.

“That’s not the point, Commander.”  She glared at him.  “The point is Doctor, when can I go back to work?”

“Captain, I will let you know that after your surgery, which will be in about a week.”  He turned his back on her.  “Commander, as the Captain is relieved of duty –as by the way, are you—I would suggest you bring her back to her quarters and find a suitably tolerant crewman to assist her until such time as she is able to  move around on her own.  She is officially released from sick bay—thank god.”  He turned back to the Captain.  “So nice to have you home, Captain”

“The nerve of him!”  She stared after the doctors retreating figure.

“Captain.”  He stifled a chuckle.  “Suggestions on a suitable crewman to assist you?”

“What?!”  Total shock showed on her face.  “Well, -er-let’s go to my quarters, er—first.”

“Yes, Captain.”  He tapped his badge. “Chakotay to transporter room one”

“Yes, Commander”

“Please transport the Captain and I to her quarters.”  He picked her up from the bed.

“Aye, Commander.”

They returned to her quarters, never discussing a suitable assistant.  Instead they set up--or rather she ordered him to set up—a senior staff meeting in her quarters in two hours.  She felt they both needed to updated on the status of the ship-relieved of duty or not.

She wore her uniform, although it looked like it could have been his the way it hung on her.  She was seated in the chair, her leg elevated, when the others arrived.  It was good to see them and they were relieved to see the command team again, especially looking so well.  The first hours were spent on a recount of how they were rescued.  She overlooked the apparent kidnapping of the alien from whom they had gotten their information,  He apparently was very happy with his reward and suffered no ill effects.  Probably until the hangover the next day, but that wasn’t her problem.  They updated her on the ship’s status, the hostile encounters and the subsequent repairs.  The meeting lasted about four hours and it was past midnight when Tuvok the, last of the senior staff, went home.

“Well, I think that was productive, how about you, Commander?”

“Yes, Captain.”  He cleared away the coffee cups.  “And holding it here allowed Tuvok plenty of time to remove his personal effects from your ready room.”

“And Tom’s from your office.”  She threw a pillow at him.  “They did have to work somewhere.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”  He caught the pillow and placed it back on the couch.

“I don’t know about you, but it’s been a busy day and I think I need to go to bed.”

“Where to Ma’am?”  He lifted her out of the chair.

“If you would be so kind as to deposit me in the bathroom, I think I can mange to prepare myself for bed.”

“Yes, ma…”

“Stop! Please don’t call me that again.”

“Yes, Captain.”  He sat her in the bathroom.  “You alright, need me to get you anything?”

“A night gown, please—in the bottom draw.”  She pulled her self up and balanced on one foot at the sink.

“Yes-er--OK.”  He smiled and backed out.”

A short time later, she called to him and he carried her into the bedroom.  He had already turned down her bed so it was ready when he deposited her there.

“Good night, call if you need anything.”  He turned and walked out.

“Chakotay.”  She called before he even reached the couch.

“Need something?”  He leaned on the door frame.

“No”

“Was that a test?  Just to see if I would come?”

“No.”

“Than why did you call me?”

“I wanted to ask you something.”

“OK—ask.”

“Where are you going?”

“Kathryn, it’s very late and I‘m tired. I was going to go to sleep.”

“On that couch?”

“Yes.”

“Oh”

“May I go now?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why?  Why are you sleeping on the couch.”

“Because some one has to stay here, in case you need help.”

“I see—do you want to sleep on the couch?”

“It’s better than the floor.”

“Why not the bed?”

“What bed?”

“This bed.”

“I thought since we were back on the ship—I didn’t think you ..”

“Oh—You thought that I wouldn’t want to sleep in you arms—just like I’ve been doing for months—that I would suddenly forget all the things we said –all the things we shared—forget that you loved me enough to sacrifice your life for me—forget that I finally told you the truth about my feelings.”

“Well no –but I thought you said those things because we thought were going to die and would put them aside.  Protocol and all.” He ran his fingers through his hair—god she was making him crazy already.

"I did--but that doesn't make them any less true."

"I see---I think." He shook his head.

"So you’re going to sleep on that little couch?”

“Kathryn –what do you want me to do?”

“What do you want to do?”

“OK.”  He came over to the side of the bed and knelt on the floor.  “I want to stay here –I want to wake up every day for the rest of my life beside you—I want to make mad passionate love with you—I want a dozen children with you  I..’

“Wait—.”  She held up her hand.  “What do you want to do-- tonight?”

“Oh—I want to crawl in next to you and hold you while we sleep.”

“Come to bed, Chakotay.”  She held open the covers for him.

“Kathryn.”  He climbed in and wrapped his arms around her.  “What will the crew think?”

“The crew will think—what ever the hell the crew already thinks—who cares.”  She snuggled into his chest and went to sleep.

The End

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