Amantium Irae

************************************************************

\”Amantium Irae\”

************************************************************

Voyager Story II

************************************************************

by Emily Odd, A.K.A. Emmy Odd @ aol.com

************************************************************

Immature love says: \”I love you because I need you.\” Mature love
says: \”I need you because I love you.\”
-Erich Fromm

************************************************************

\”So what is this place, Harry?\” asked Clare as the door to
the holodeck slid away before Ensign Harry Kim, the half-Klingon
Chief Engineer B\’Elanna Torres, and an exubrant Junior Ensign
Clare Edwards at their heels.

\”Its a program Tom wrote. It\’s a recreation of a tavern in
Marseilles he used to frequent. The senior officers come here
all the time.\”

Clare\’s brows knitted at the words \”tavern,\” and \”Tom.\”
\”Do you think… Captain Janeway…??\”

Harry felt wise and mature, as the young always do, at the
sight of the worry in Clare\’s face. \”What Captain Janeway
doesn\’t know won\’t hurt her. If you don\’t tell, I won\’t.\”

Clare smiled gratefully. \”Well, then, what are we waiting
for??\”

As they stepped inside, a buxom woman entwined her arms
around Harry. \”And how are you, ma ch‚rie??\” Before the young
ensign could say a word, she kissed him on the lips. Harry
struggled to pull away from her vise-like grip. Finally, she
pulled away and growled seductively, \”Monsieur Tom will be happy
to see you.\” She rumpled his hair, and then she saw Clare, with
a mixture of shock and glee on her innocent face. \”Well, well,
Harry, I see you\’ve brought a little friend with you. She is
your girlfriend, no?\”

Harry blushed, eying B\’Elanna\’s fiery face. \”She\’s a
little young to be my girlfriend, Madame.\”

\”Ahh, but love has no age, and she is a pretty face,
Harry.\” countered the hologram, cupping Clare\’s face in her
hands. She scrutinized it carefully, ignoring B\’Elanna. \”Rather
like the lady who is playing pool with Tom and the foreign man
with the strange tattoo. The lady wastes her time with such a
man.\” Her accent and curl of her lip as she described Chakotay
implied her sensuous advances on the Commander were coldly
received.

Clare shook her head from the vise-like grip of the
hologram, and gasped at Harry and B\’Elanna. \”Captain Janeway!!\”

That wasn\’t the best thing for Clare to do, considering she
had yelled at the top of her lungs. A shining brunette head
popped up, and a merry voice called, \”Did someone call my name?\”

Clare sunk into a chair and hid her head in her hands. She
was done for now. She could feel hands around her throat… and
a warm, throaty, tender voice saying… \”Hello Clare, care to
join me and the Commander in a game of pool?\”

Clare stuck her head up. To her surprise, the Captain and
the Commander were smiling at her, and Captain Janeway was
holding out a cue for her. Clare breathed relieved. \”You aren\’t
going to yell at me, Captain??\”

\”Why should I? It\’s not a brothel, even if Tom did design
it.\” Janeway smiled at Paris. \”No offense, Tom.\”

\”None taken.\” Paris walked over and rumpled Clare\’s hair.
\”If she\’s your prot‚g‚, Captain, can she play as good pool as
you?\”

\”I\’ll leave that training to you, Tom.\” smiled Janeway.
\”I wouldn\’t want her getting too good.\”

\”I HAVE played pool before, Captain, and I\’m not that bad,
either.\” mumbled Clare, I bit chagrined. She didn\’t mention she
was the best on Explorer. She wanted to size up the competition
first.

\”Well, then, let\’s get started.\” Tom gave Clare the thumbs-
up, and Clare felt less afraid of Paris at that moment.

************************************************************

After 5 games, Janeway had beaten them all but two times,
when Clare, who was a bit rusty, wiped the floor with her elders.
Chakotay and Paris stared at each other while Janeway and Clare
hugged each other triumphantly. Janeway yawned, and laid down
her cue. \”I\’m too tired to beat you all anymore. I\’m going to
bed. I\’ll see you in the morning.\”

Tom scowled at the pool table. \”Not before I show you this
shot, Captain.\” Janeway sighed, and said, \”I\’m too tired to see
straight, Tom, make it quick.\”

Tom yawned, but willed himself to make his patented
\’miracle shot\’. He pulled his cue back, and ripped a hole in the
fabric lining of the table. Janeway clapped absently.
\”Wonderful, Tom, NOW can I go to bed?\” She was rewarded with a
stony stare as Tom grabbed some darts and hurled them at the
dartboard. He slung them recklessly, and hit Janeway square in
the neck. She slumped forward, and Chakotay grabbed her around
the waist. Clare, Tom and Harry could only gasp and stare at one
another as the Commander carried his Captain to Sick Bay.

************************************************************

\”Commander!\” Kes grabbed a tricorder and scurried over to
where Chakotay was laying the Captain\’s limp form on the nearest
biobed. \”What happened to Captain Janeway??\”

Kes and the Doctor, who had appeared moments before, stared
at the blood on Chakotay\’s sleeve. Chakotay looked grimly at Kes
and the Doctor. \”Tom threw a dart recklessly, and it hit her in
the back of her neck.\” he muttered morosely. \”Why didn\’t the
fail-safes work?\” he muttered.

The Doctor turned Janeway\’s body over to inspect the wound.
Kes winced and turned away. Autopsies and wounds are one thing
when it\’s history, but it\’s different when it\’s a person you
know. Chakotay\’s eyes widened at the crude bite the dart had
made in the graceful neck. \”Well, the Captain was extremely
lucky. It barely missed the jugular vein. I\’ve stopped the
bleeding, and she should regain consciousness in a few hours.
She\’s lost alot of blood,\” he added sardonically, eyeing
Chakotay\’s sleeves and shoulders, \”and I recommend she rest in
her quarters for a few days after she regains consciousness.\”
Janeway moaned, and the Doctor sighed.

************************************************************

A film of sleep blurred Janeway\’s vision. She blinked
slowly, and Chakotay\’s visage came into focus. She was so close
she could see the dark circles under his deep-set eyes.
\”Chakotay,\” was all she could will her parched vocal chords to
say, and her voice seemed far away to her ears.

\”Yes, Captain,\” intoned the Commander, brushing her cheek
with his hand. \”We were all so worried. The Doctor didn\’t know
when you would wake up, so I\’ve stayed here the whole time. Are
you feeling better?\”

Janeway struggled to sit up, her mind frantically trying to
put the pieces together. \”Chakotay?\”

\”Yes, Captain?\”

\”I\’m so confused…\” her hand went to the back of her neck,
and winced at the pain, her eyes watering.

Chakotay winced sympathetically. \”You were hit in the neck
with a dart by Tom Paris.\”

\”How…?\” Janeway said, puzzled.

\”The fail-safes must have malfunctioned, but B\’Elanna
hasn\’t found anything wrong.\”

Janeway struggled to smile dispite her confusion. \”Not a
dignified way to be injured. How long have I been unconscious,
Commander?\”

Chakotay managed a wry smile at his Captain\’s vigor. \”About
5 hours, Captain. The loss of blood knocked you out cold.\”

Janeway\’s eyes widened as she saw the blood, her own,
covering his still-uncleaned uniform. \”I see, Commander.\”

Chakotay looked down at the blood, and tried to smile.
\”Tom and Clare have been worrying the whole time. Harry\’s been
trying to calm them down, but they keep burying their heads in
their hands.\”

Janeway laughed, then winced from the movement. \”Poor
Harry. So it takes my injury to bring those two rakes together
without killing each other. I suppose you should go tell them
I\’m all right, Commander.\”

Chakotay furrowed his brow. \”Is that safe, Captain? The
E.M.H. isn\’t on if you… relapse.\”

Janeway tried to look as happy as she could. \”Commander,
go tell them I am perfectly healthy. I will meet you on the
Bridge in 10 minutes.\”

\”But Captain, the Doctor said that…\”

\”No \’buts\’ Commander!\” snapped Janeway shortly, leaping out
of her biobed. She lurched backwards unsteadily, and Chakotay
rushed to catch her. Her temper cooled slightly when she saw
Chakotay\’s penetrating gaze as he held her in his grasp. But
Kathryn Janeway wasn\’t about to be cowed by a pair of strong arms
and an anxious glance, however… appealing. She wrested herself
from him, and shot him a defiant look. \”Thank you for your
concern, Commander. I will meet you on the Bridge in 20
minutes.\” Chakotay turned to watch the unbowed figure stride,
alibet shakily, out of the room, and the Commander shook his
head.

************************************************************

Exactly 20 minutes later, Chakotay stepped onto the Bridge,
where Janeway was seated in her Captain\’s chair, in complete
command of the crew milling about her. Except for the scar now
half-hidden by her collar, it was almost as if last night\’s pool
incident had never happened. Chakotay stood back, taking the
improbable scene in. Any doubts, had he had any, as to Janeway\’s
resiliency against anything disappeared. Harry Kim\’s youthful
voice announced, \”Captain, there is an M-class ship off the port
bow.\”

Janeway\’s resonant voice resounded through the room. \”Long-
range scans detect any lifeforms, Ensign?\”

\”No, Captain.\”

\”Very well, then. Enter the planet\’s coordinates into the
logs, and continue on at set coordinates.\” Chakotay slipped into
his chair beside Janeway\’s stealthily, but not even his silent
footfalls could fool the alert, busy figure beside him. Janeway
spun around in her seat, smiling. \”Commander, good to see you.
I trust that Tom and the others are having a good rest before
they return to their posts?\”

Chakotay grinned at the pale face, lined with recent pain,
smiling into his. \”They\’ll be back here in a few hours. They
look worse than you do, Captain.\”

\”That\’s the first complement you\’ve given me, Commander,\”
beamed Janeway. \”I… ahh…\” Janeway slumped over the arm of
the Captain\’s chair, her hand clutching the back of her neck,
groaning in agony.

Chakotay tapped his comm badge quickly. \”Bridge to Sick
Bay, initiate Emergency Medical Hologram and prepare for injured
Captain.\”

************************************************************

A few minutes later, the Doctor and Chakotay studied the
pain-ridden, unconscious Captain lying in the biobed once again.
\”She would have been fine, but she refused to rest.\”

\”Stubborn little…\” sighed Chakotay, checking himself at
the last minute. Lucky he did, for at that moment, the hand that
was enmeshed in both of the Maquis\’ stirred. Janeway pulled
herself upright, and Chakotay sat beside her. \”The Doctor says
you are to stay in your quarters until I hear from him and the
swelling from the bruise goes down. I\’ll…\”

Ensign Kim\’s voice cut off Chakotay. \”Captain, there\’s a
Kazon ship approaching from behind the M-class planet.\”

Before Chakotay could stop her, Janeway blurted out,
\”Evasive maneuvers, Ensign. If they don\’t see us, we don\’t have
to fire on them. Get as far away as possible. If that doesn\’t
work, try to reason with them. Don\’t fire unless they fire on us
first.\” Janeway turned to Chakotay. \”You\’d better get to the
Bridge, Commander.\” Dispite the overwhelming urge consuming him,
pleading with him to stay, Chakotay strode out of Sick Bay.
Janeway sunk to her pillow, drained by her facade in front of
Chakotay.

************************************************************

\”The Kazon ship is pursuing, Commander.\”

\”Lock on the engines, and fire.\” he said blurted
instinctively.

\”The Kazon ship has been destroyed.\”

************************************************************

Right before drifting into a long healing sleep, Janeway
heard echoes of Chakotay\’s order to fire.

************************************************************

The next day, Chakotay entered Janeway\’s Ready Room. He was
greeted with a stare so compelling that it physically sickened
him. The subsequent explosion was still more painful. Janeway\’s
face set her mouth in an unlovely snarl, and vented almost a year
of repressed stress in her first officer\’s face. \”Commander, you
committed direct insubordination when you fired on that ship.
What the hell were you thinking!?!\”

\”Captain, I make no apologies for my actions. They were
following us!\”

Eyes flashing, Janeway slapped him soundly. \”That\’s the
flimsiest excuse I\’ve ever heard. Have you no respect for my
intelligence!?\”

Mustering up almost superhuman courage, Chakotay stared
into Janeway\’s eyes, which were gleaming with a cold blue fire,
daring him to oppose them. His hands tingled to retaliate. His
normally placid soul now seethed with indignation at her cutting
words, but Chakotay was amazing in his patience with the red-hot
fury before him. He snapped but once. \”Captain! They would
have powered up their weapons in a few seconds, it was a
lose/lose situation.\”

\”You don\’t know that! Was it worth it? Did it give you a
good feeling? Was it like when YOU were captain of your ship?
Was it an old Maquis tactic to make friends out of enemies???\”
snapped Janeway. She was not yelling at the man before her, nor
his actions, she was yelling at the crew, the Kazon, herself.
She lost control at that moment, uncapable of doing anything but
verbalize all that she had gone through lately.

Chakotay cracked at last. \”This has nothing to do with the
Maquis!\” he roared vehemently.

Janeway looked at Chakotay. His bitterness sobered her.
Her eyes widened, and she turned away. \”It hurts me more than
you know Commander, to think that you would do such a thing.
Have I no influence on you at all, Chakotay?\” Janeway, her voice
strained, now spoke with her back to him. She madly repented the
insane display she had just put on for Chakotay, desprately
wishing that he would leave, and this nightmare would end. He
walked over to her, and she turned around to confront him again.
The fire in her flashing eyes was drowned with budding tears.

He grabbed her arms and stared into her eyes, which had
lost the hatred in them, and darted around the Ready Room,
avoiding his glance. He compelled her gaze to lock with his. He
tried to clear his throat. \”Captain, that ship was powering up
their weapons to fire on us. Nevertheless, it wasn\’t grounds to
destroy them. I have been racked with guilt ever since. I
didn\’t sleep last night. I haven\’t been able to commune with my
spirit guide. I am beginning to think that everyone and
everything I care about has forsaken me.\” he murmured strangely.

The choked melancholy which pervaded his words, and the
strange look in his eyes hit home for Janeway at that moment.
She had never realized how much Chakotay had meant to her, not as
a first officer, not as a confidant or advisor, not even as a
friend… through the joys and triumphs, sadness and loss,
revelations and discoveries of the past few months, they had
shared more together than she and Mark had in their shared
years… and to think he thought she could ever forsake such a
bond as they had… She touched his hand, as she had many times
before, but with new meaning in it now, her fettered soul, locked
away from pure, unrestricted human contact for so long, crying
out in that light touch. She lifted her eyes, and they locked
with his. \”I would never forsake you, Chakotay. Know that.\”

Her simple words, combined with the touch of her hand,
broke down all the resolve Chakotay had amassed in his heart in
the past months. Forgetting himself, he held her head in his
hands, and kissed her as he\’d wished to almost since he first saw
her months before. Barriers, Maquis and Federation, Commander
and Captain, Seska and Mark, fell in an instant of utter bliss of
a single moment, far from Earth, from family, from even the room
in which they stood.
But all good things must end. The moment ended, seconds
after it had begun, but the transformation in the two who shared
it was forever. Janeway stared, dizzy, up at Chakotay. It felt
so warm and secure with his hands cupping her face, but a vision
of Seska\’s horrible face darkened the sweet moment. Janeway
stepped from his embrace, and sank into her chair. She had never
felt so close to Chakotay the man, or so distant from Chakotay,
her first officer. She was glowing, but a million questions had
begun to cloud the bliss. Her head sank into her hands, and she
could not even lift her head to acknowledge Chakotay\’s departure.
It could be said she didn\’t even know he was gone until the first
chill of loneliness for him swept over her. She realized then
that she loved him.

************************************************************

Chakotay stared out of the windows in the empty Mess Hall,
his thoughts of the woman in her Ready Room, and the woman who
had cursed him to forever doubt himself about his feelings about
Janeway; whose harsh voice echoed, \”And you are a fool to follow
her!\” when he thought of Janeway\’s soft hair, her shining eyes,
her warm smile… His heart quickened as a slender woman\’s hand
touched his shoulder. His face fell when he saw B\’Elanna
hovering over him. \”What\’s wrong, Chakotay?\” asked B\’Elanna.

Chakotay turned away. \”I can\’t tell you, B\’Elanna.\”

B\’Elanna grabbed his shoulders and turned him around.
\”We\’ve been through alot together, Chakotay. I look up to you,
respect you. You\’ve helped me out a thousand times. Let me help
you for once, Chakotay.\”

\”You can\’t, B\’Elanna! Just leave me alone!\” Chakotay
snapped.

\”Chakotay, you\’ve never been this angry! What is with
you?\” For once, B\’Elanna Torres was afraid.

\”I\’m sorry, B\’Elanna. This is one quest I must make
alone…\”

************************************************************

\”Your shot, B\’Elanna.\” Tom Paris poked Torres in the back
with his cue.

\”Oh! I\’m sorry Tom… I\’m just thinking.\”

Tom leaned over the pool table. \”No kidding, B\’Elanna…
what about?\”

Kes felt the Klingon\’s ridged forehead. \”You\’re not sick,
B\’Elanna?\”

\”No, I\’m just worried about Chakotay. He hasn\’t spoken to
anyone in hours. After his shifts, he just sits in the Mess Hall
or his quarters, looking out the windows.\”

\”Captain Janeway\’s been acting strange, too. She just sits
in her chair on the Bridge. She\’s still a great captain, but her
heart\’s not in it. And she won\’t look at Commander Chakotay at
all.\” said Harry Kim.

B\’Elanna lowered her voice and looked around at the rest
of them. \”You know what I think… I think that Janeway
threatened him!\”

\”Threatened him?\” Kes looked puzzled.

\”She probably hates all the Maquis, and she probably wanted
to keep Chakotay in line, so she threatened him. That\’s the only
thing that would hurt him so much.\” whispered B\’Elanna harshly.

\”What about… love?\” said Harry, staring at B\’Elanna.
\”Maybe he\’s having a liaison with one of the ensigns, or some
other subordinate.\”

B\’Elanna confronted him. \”Do you mean to imply…?\”

\”No, B\’Elanna! It\’s just that if she told him not to
see… someone… that might be the reason they\’re acting
strangely.\”

\”Yeah right, Harry. \’Love\’ isn\’t a part of their
vocabulary anymore.\” mocked B\’Elanna.

************************************************************

Janeway and Chakotay sat in their commander\’s chairs,
averting their eyes to each other, numb to the ebb and flow of
their harmonious crew surrounding them. Their reverie was
disrupted by Harry\’s youthful voice. \”Captain, there\’s another
M-class planet directly ahead.\”

Janeway waved her hand lazily. \”Scan for lifesigns.\”

\”Little, Captain. It seems that the only life on the planet
is restricted to a 10-mile radius in the Northern Hemisphere, and
the planet is releasing some sort of ionic burst every 10 hours.\”

Janeway rose up from her chair, alert and attentive.
\”Amazing… it must have caused the fail-safe malfunction.\” The
sparkle in Janeway\’s eye became evident when presented with this
scientific quandary.

\”That\’s not all, Captain. It seems that the planet is
reversing orbit to \’face\’ us.\”

Chakotay stood up behind her, amazed as Janeway. But the
dazzle was short-lived. \”Captain, it seems as if they\’re
powering up some kind of…\” But he was cut off by blinding
burst of light. The crew blinked their eyes, and stared in
horror as the place where Chakotay and Janeway had once stood,
now empty. Harry Kim hurriedly pressed buttons, then looked up
at Tuvok. \”I don\’t know where they are, Lieutenant.\”

************************************************************

Chakotay looked around. He was in a grassy path, edged by
dense hedges. It looked like a hedge maze of sorts. He
instinctively tapped his chest, only to find his comm badge was
gone. No tricorder, either. He turned a corner, where he found
Janeway in the same plight. She paled when she saw him.
\”Commander… it seems we are the only ones here. My tricorder
and comm badge are gone.\”

\”Mine too, Captain. But where is here?\”

\”I don\’t know, Commander. But we aren\’t going to find out
sitting here. Let\’s go.\” Janeway walked briskly down one path.

Chakotay ran to catch up. \”Captain…\”

Janeway stopped abruptly. \”Yes, Commander?\”

\”We aren\’t going to learn anything if we are… preoccupied
and unable to communicate.\”

\”I don\’t know about you, Commander, but I am not
preoccupied, and we\’re communicating right now.\”

\”You know what I mean, Captain. A few days ago…\”

\”It would have happened eventually, Commander. Maybe not
with me, but B\’Elanna or Kes. It\’s just a stress-oriented
reaction. I\’ve almost forgotten about it.\” Janeway set her
mouth, hoping desperately he\’d believed her bald-faced lie.

\”I wish I had more \’stress-oriented reactions\’ then,
Captain. I usually only kiss women I\’m in love with. Thank you
for enlightening me.\” Chakotay grinned at her.

Janeway turned to hide her burning face. She strode off in
one direction, calling back blithely, \”Anytime, Commander. Now,
can we continue?\”

Chakotay jogged behind Janeway. \”Of course.\”

************************************************************

They reached a clearing a few hours later, and the sun was
high in the sky. Stopping under a shade tree, they found words
carved into the trunk:

\’For speech to amplify,
emblazon labels in
lifeblood\’s pump on
Creator\’s Creation\’

\”I know the tree is \’Creator\’s Creation,\’ but what of
\’Emblazon Labels in lifeblood\’s pump\’??\” frowned Janeway.

\”Blood… pump… heart pumps blood… HEART!\” Chakotay
felt around the trunk, until he saw a wedge of bark shaped like
heart. He pulled out a knife and began carving \”C\” and \”K.J.\”
into the heart.

Janeway\’s eyes widened at the sight of the knife, and her
cheeks burned at the sight of the initials. \”Wicked little
thing. We\’ll have to have a talk about carrying it around
Voyager.\”

Chakotay grinned at his handiwork. \”We\’ll have to talk
about alot of things back on Voyager, Captain… there!\” He
said, yanking out the piece of bark, uncovering… \”Our comm
badges!\” laughed Chakotay, handing one to Janeway. She pinned it
on, happy and relived. It was as if a part of her was restored.
She tapped it hesitantly.

\”Janeway to Bridge.\”

Harry smiled at Tuvok. \”Good to hear your voice, Captain.
Is Commander Chakotay with you?\”

*Boy IS he…* thought Janeway, glancing at Chakotay.
\”Yes, he\’s here. It seems we\’re in some sort of maze. Can you
beam us out, Mr. Tuvok?\”

\”Too much distortion, Captain.\”

\”We\’ll keep you posted as to our status. We seem to be in
some sort of puzzle at the moment, Lieutenant.\”

\”Puzzle, Captain?\”

Janeway smiled at the mental image of Tuvok arching his
eyebrow at Harry Kim. \”I\’ll explain when we get back. Janeway
out.\”

Janeway looked at Chakotay. They stood before 2 hedge-
lined paths, each looking exactly like the other. \”Which way do
we go, Commander?\”

\”Well, we won\’t get anywhere standing here. Let\’s just
take one.\” said Chakotay, striding toward one path. \”Captain?\”

Janeway started, shaken from a haze. \”Oh! I\’m sorry,
Commander. My mind was somewhere else…\”

\”I see.\” Chakotay smirked knowingly, admiring the fleeting
blush on Janeway\’s face. He stepped to the opening, and added,
\”Don\’t bother, Captain. It\’s a reflective surface. Quite well
done, too.\”

Janeway walked over to the other path. Her face fell.
\”It\’s a mirror, too.\”

\”Not to worry, Captain.\”

Janeway spun around, trying to find the source of
Chakotay\’s voice. Suddenly she was grabbed from behind by a pair
of arms. Her scream was muffled by a hand over her mouth. She
pulled her elbow back, and knocked the wind out of her assailant.
The attacker\’s breath rushed over her neck, and she gasped.
\”Chakotay!\” she cried, rushing over to where the Commander lay,
doubled over. \”I\’m so sorry… I didn\’t…\”

Chakotay grinned at her. \”I\’m fine, Captain. But how did
you know it was me before you turned around?\”

Janeway concentrated on his tattoo so as not to falter.
\”Your… breath,\” she murmured.

Chakotay struggled to his feet with Janeway\’s help. Maybe
it was the exertion that brought crimson to his face, or
something else; either way, he recovered quickly. \”I didn\’t mean
to frighten you, Captain. I found that the hedge here is another
mirage. We can pass through it…\” He grabbed Janeway\’s hand and
pulled her through the seemingly dense hedge. They found
themselves in a dazzingly white area. The hedges from which they
had come were encrusted with snow. Chakotay inspected the area.
Underneath the thermal fabric of her uniform, Janeway shivered
horribly. The ground under their feet was icy… it WAS ice.
Janeway impulsively swept away snow from the ice, uncovering
another verse like the one in the tree trunk:

\”Take a mortal plummet
to get the privity
you desire…\”

\”Privity… information… our tricorders!\” said Janeway,
dropping to her knees to inspect the phrase. The ice cracked
beneath her, and she slipped into the water with a loud splash.

Chakotay spun around. \”Kathryn!\” he yelled. The only
thought in his mind was to save her. He jumped into the hole in
the ice. Everything went black, and his muscular form sank.

************************************************************

\”Bridge to Commander Chakotay… Bridge to Captain
Janeway… Captain, can you hear me??\” Tuvok\’s voice jolted
Janeway from unconsciousness.

She tried to move her right hand, but it was stuck under a
heavy weight. She lifted her free left hand, and tapped her comm
badge awkwardly. \”Janeway here. What\’s the problem?\”

The Vulcan\’s voice calmed her. \”Well, we\’ve been trying to
communicate with you and the Commander for an hour, and you
haven\’t responded. Is there something wrong?\”

\”We\’ve been unconscious. We fell into a icy pond.\”

\”Captain?\”

\”It\’s a long story. Suffice to say I… we… are now in
some sort of…\” she wiped sweat off her brow, \”desert. It is
very strange here, Lieutenant.\”

\”Yes Captain, we noticed your sensor logs from your
tricorder.\”

\”Excuse me, Mr. Tuvok? We haven\’t had our triquarters for
some time.\” Janeway felt around the ground and found her
tricorder. Using her one free hand dexterously, she found that
it had scanned everywhere they\’d been. \”I stand corrected, Mr.
Tuvok. We\’ll keep you posted. Janeway out.\”

The weight covering most of the left side of her body
shifted, and a groan issued from near her head. Janeway
struggled to turn to her left, and saw that the massive weight
pinning her down was her first officer. \”Chakotay!\” she laughed
hoarsely.

Chakotay writhed until he was nose to nose with the
Captain, and colored deeply. He jumped up quickly, covering his
embarrassment with deep apologies. \”Captain, I didn\’t… I
thought…\”

Janeway, unburdened of her muscular oppressor, lounged on
the ground, gradually getting the feeling back into her leg and
arm. She smiled whimsically at her florid first officer. \”It
seems that we have accomplished the end of the rhyme in the ice,
however Bohemian the trip. We have our tricorders now, at
least.\”

\”Good! Now we can scan for a way out of this oven!\” grinned
Chakotay, wiping the forming sweat from his forehead. He picked
his tricorder from the hot sand, and scanned the area. \”Nothing!
Not a lifesign anywhere! Except for cacti and dust, there\’s
nothing!\”

No messages anywhere around here, Commander? Then how are
we going to get out of here??\” Janeway hugged her knees, and
wrinkled her brow, desperately thinking of ways to get out of
this arid wasteland. Her stomach wrenched inside her, and she
was half-unconscious and weak from hunger.

Suddenly, a bright light shone before them, and it came to
the Captain… they were not alone. It wasn\’t a space anomaly
that brought them here… it was a being. The light grew
brighter, and it shaped itself into the form of a small child,
which approached the Captain. \”Captain Janeway. I am glad you
came here.\”

Janeway smiled at the being. \”It wasn\’t by choice…?\”

\”My name would have no significance to you, Captain.\”

\”How do you know my name, and how did you find us?\”

The being smiled at Janeway. \”Captain, we have \’met\’
before.\”

Inexplicable recognition swept over Janeway. \”You were the
wave that \’crushed\’ our ship?\”

The being looked pleased. \”Very good, Captain. Suffice to
say I know many things in your logs and your own mind that no one
on this ship knows.\” She turned to where Chakotay had silently
observed the whole conversation. \”Ahh, YOU must be Commander
Chakotay. Your logs were very deep, in human terms.\” She smiled
conspiratorially at Janeway. \”I see.\” she murmured mysteriously.

Chakotay turned to Janeway, mystified. Janeway fumbled
strangely. \”Nothing to concern you, Commander.\”

Chakotay shook his head, smiling. \”And I see, Captain.\”

\”What is the meaning of all this? This planet, bringing us
here, going through all this?\” queried Janeway.

\”We needed to test the two of you, and the mettle of your
crew. This planet, and everything on it, is a facade. The 10
square mile of life you scanned alerted us on the other side that
you had entered our range. After studying your fascinating logs
and your extraordinary psyche, we decided to determine whether to
invite you to join us.\” the creature said placidly.

\”Join you? Facade? Other side?\” Chakotay and Janeway
exchanged puzzled glances.

\”The 10 square miles you found is really a gateway to the
other side, where my people reside. We had to disguise The
Gateway in order for you to get close enough for us to bring you
here.\”

Janeway brought her hand to her forehead thoughtfully, and
gestured at the being. \”If the planet we are supposedly on is an
illusion, where is here?\”

The being glowed brighter, and smiled warmly. \”You are in
Sh\’a Habir\’a, beyond The Gateway.\”

Janeway and Chakotay looked at each other, and their
combined gaze fell on the glowing being smiling placidly at them.

************************************************************

Chakotay spoke directly to the being for the first time.
\”But how can we speak to our crew if we\’re in… wherever we
are?\”

Despite their situation, Janeway\’s heart lept up when she
heard \”OUR crew.\” She smiled to herself. \”Wait a second.
You\’ve told us WHERE we are, and HOW we got here, but you haven\’t
told us HOW we get back, and WHY we\’re even here!\”

The being beamed irritatingly again. \”Closer observation
of you and your commander under stress. You are quite
remarkable. The ones you call the Kazons were not as…
intuitive as yourselves. The co-leader was very intelligent, but
her mind was too stealthy and cruel for our purposes. It was
clouded with deception.\”

\”Seska!\” whispered Chakotay hoarsely. Janeway could see
the amazement in his eyes.

\”Yes, I believe that was her name.\” the being said.

\”Seska is alive?!?\” gasped Janeway.

Chakotay sucked in his breath. \”And a co-leader of the
Kazon!\”

\”You would never have to worry about that again, Captain
Kathryn Janeway.\”

\”What?\”

\”Join us here in Sh\’a Habir\’a. Live forever free from
pain.\” smiled the being.

************************************************************

Janeway stared at this gorgeous creature, who was extending
her hand toward her. \”I don\’t understand. Why me?\”

The creature glided nearer to Janeway, who backed away,
somehow afraid. \”You are the possessor of a amazing mind,
Captain Janeway. If you stay here, you can use your mind to its
full potential, and achieve perfect harmony.\” She waved a slim
hand, and a man\’s form appeared from thin air. Mark ran toward
Janeway. A searing pain shot through Chakotay\’s heart as Mark
caught her up in his arms, and kissed her. Janeway opened her
eyes, and looked at Chakotay. She saw with shock the longing and
pain in their depths. Instinctively, she pushed herself from
Mark, and stood between the two men. Then Mark\’s form
dissipated, and left Janeway standing before Chakotay, with the
being smiling slightly malevolently. \”Your every wish can be
granted, if you come with us, Captain Janeway!\”

Janeway shook her head. \”No. I can\’t leave my crew.\”

\”If you come to us, Captain Kathryn Janeway, I will send
your crew home.\”

With a faint shimmer, the creature was gone, leaving
Janeway to ponder the fate of more than 100 people, and Chakotay
to reflect on the possibility of life without the Captain.

************************************************************

Janeway turned to Chakotay. \”I can\’t think, Commander.
Help me.\” she pleaded.

Chakotay shook his head. \”This is your decision, Captain.
I have no right to decide your fate.\”

She moved to touch his shoulder, and he grasped her hand in
his. \”You have every right to help me, Commander. You are my…
\” her voice failed her, and Chakotay realized he hadn\’t breathed
during this episode. He released her hand, and she hugged him
tenderly, and turned away. Somehow, this action was more sweet
to him than the kiss, which seemed far away now.

Janeway began to pace. \”I have no right to sacrifice the
futures of an entire crew for me. I might as well give up.\”

\”NO\” exclaimed Chakotay so urgently Janeway spun around.
\”What about YOUR future, Captain? We might still get home some
day. Who knows whether they\’ll really send us home, either?
I… wouldn\’t feel right captaining a Federation starship home,
either.\”

\”I must stay, for all of you.\” Janeway set her mouth in a
tight line. At that moment, the being appeared beside Janeway.
She touched Janeway on the shoulder, and an aura of bright light
surrounded her. She shuddered and moaned as she sank to her
knees. It was as if the very life was sucked out of her by this
calm banshee, unruffled by Janeway\’s screams. Chakotay could
take no more. \”NO!\” he yelled, wrenching Janeway from the
creature\’s grasp, and threw his knife at it.

************************************************************

A huge explosion rocked the ship. Dispite this, Harry
smiled, over his eyes from the motion. \”Lieutenant, we\’re able
to get a lock on Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay.\” Clare
sighed, relived.

For the first and only time in his life, Tuvok yelled.
\”Beam them out NOW!!\”

************************************************************

Chakotay rubbed his eyes, and found that one of his hands
was sore and inflamed. He sat up, and found he was in Sick Bay.
A loose Maquis tunic had replaced his uniform, which lay at the
foot of the biobed, slightly burned on the cuff. Beside the
uniform was a twisted, melted knife. The events that had caused
the burns came flooding back as he looked around, his eyes
finally coming to rest on the still figure in the next biobed.
\”I see you\’re awake, Commander,\” a grating, faintly sardonic
voice boomed from behind him. He jumped, and found the Doctor
standing behind him. \”And I see your reflexes are in working
order.\”

Chakotay glared at the Doctor. \”Why\’d you yell at me,
Doctor? Are you programmed with a sadistic sense of humor now,
too?\” he growled.

\”I\’m sorry, Commander. My volume must have been turned up
a little high today.\” The Doctor moved to inspect Chakotay\’s
hand. Chakotay winced. \”A little sore, but you should have the
full use of it in a few days.\”

Chakotay\’s gaze went back to Janeway. \”And the Captain…
is she…?\”

\”Oh no, Commander. Simply getting a well-deserved sleep.
She suffered strange burns, like yourself, near her shoulders and
upper back, but she is resting comfortably now, and should be
fine in a few days. For all you two have been through from the
looks of your sensor logs, you are amazingly hardy. Nothing
could kill that woman, I don\’t think.\”

Chakotay grinned in her direction. \”I hope not, Doctor, I
hope not.\”

************************************************************

A week later, Janeway sat in her quarters, deep in thought.
The beep of her door jarred her for a second, and with a absent
\”Come,\” she relapsed into her reverie. A youthful shadow slipped
at her knee, and laid her head on Janeway\’s lap. Janeway shook
the cobwebs from her head, and smiled down at the young ensign\’s
softly shining face, and stroked her soft brown hair. \”Clare.
How are you?\”

Tears welled up in her big hazel eyes. \”We were so afraid.
First the darts, then you just… disappeared. I was afraid I\’d
lost my parents for the third time.\”

Janeway hugged the crying girl. \”My poor Clare. I had no
idea…\”

Clare looked up admiringly. \”Of course, Captain. You\’re
my hero. And if I\’d lost that…\”

Janeway clapped her hand over Clare\’s mouth. \”But you
didn\’t, and you won\’t for a long time yet. Now go. If I
remember correctly, you have a duty shift in a few minutes, and
Tom doesn\’t like you to be late.\”

Clare beamed. \”Yes, Captain.\”

As she left, Janeway turned around in her chair. She had
almost sacrificed herself for her crew, but her crew needed her.
She was glad that Chakotay had saved her from making the biggest
mistake of her career. Her thoughts turned to Chakotay. She ran
over everything she\’d ever said and done, analyzing every
conversation, every sarcastic comment, every unconscious
innuendo. \”Mating process!\” she laughed, wondering how she ever
said that aloud.

Then she sobered. Other than that inoppertune comment, she
was still in shock as to why she loved Chakotay, and even more
puzzling, why Chakotay was even friendly to her. She represented
everything he had fought AGAINST. She was deep in thought when
another beep interrupted her. \”Come.\”

By then she had come to the conclusion that Neelix had
spiked the Auturian salad with Barvan tomatoes that day. She
turned to reach for her PADD to find out the effects of Barvan
tomatoes on brain waves in humanoids, when her groping hands
found another hand on the table behind her. She turned around,
and looked up at her first officer. \”Hello, Commander. Found a
new M-class planet to explore that you needed to tell me about?\”

He turned her chair around, and sat before her in an
adjacent chair. He stared at her solemnly. \”You know what I\’m
here about, Captain.\”

She sighed. \”We can\’t forget it, can we?\” she murmured, as
if pronouncing the inevitable.

\”No.\” Chakotay leaned forward. \”And I don\’t want to, and I
don\’t think you do, either.\”

\”But what about the crew?\” Janeway said, forehead leaning
on her hand.

\”It isn\’t the crew\’s concern unless it interferes with our
leadership of this crew, and right now doing nothing is affecting
us more than not.\”

\”But what about … ?\”

\”She\’s dead.\” Chakotay said sharply. \”No matter what that
– – creature – – says… And the Seska I thought I knew never
even existed outside of my imagination. Seska was a myth, but
you are real.\” he eyed Janeway pointedly, \”But the more
appropriate question is, \’What about Mark?\’\”

\”Mark,\” Janeway sighed. \”He\’s 75 light-years away, taking
care of my dogs… I thought I could live with memories for the
rest of my life, but… \” Janeway hung her head. \”I\’ve changed.
These past few days – – this entire mission – – has questioned
everything that identifies me as Kathryn Janeway. I\’ve changed
my outlook, and Mark doesn\’t fit anymore.\”

Chakotay, practically on his knees before her, stroked her
cheek and looked up at her with a new light in his eyes. \”Do I,
Kathryn?\”

Hearing his entonement of her name, Janeway could not
speak, nor nod her head. But the soft shine and glitter of her
intense blue eyes spoke more eloquently than any simple \”yes\” or
\”no\”. His hand went to her face, and they looked into each
other\’s eyes for what seemed an eternity. Slowly, as if in a
dream, their lips met, and Janeway slipped to the floor beside
Chakotay. Her rigid chignon fell in a scatter of pins, and the
soft scent of her hair filled Chakotay\’s senses. After the
longest moment of his life, he pulled away and slipped from her
quarters, leaving Janeway, eyes half-closed, stunned and glowing.
For better or for worse, neither would ever be the same again.

************************************************************

Fin

************************************************************

Comments are appreciated

************************************************************

All characters and the Star Trek Voyager name, except for Clare
Edwards, belong to the owners of the copyrights thereof,
Paramount, UPN, ect. This story is for entertainment purposes
only, and distribution is encouraged (keep my name on it,
though!).

************************************************************

In this series:

Voyager I: Prot‚g‚
Voyager II: Amantium Irae
Voyager III: D‚tente
Voyager VI: Puppy Love
Voyager V: Parti Pris
Voyager VI: Roles

************************************************************

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.