Infinite Kisses

By Jade East (
© Revised November 2003
Rating: PG
Series: Star Trek: Voyager

Voyager and the characters belong to Paramount. I am just borrowing them for fun.

Warning for those of you who don't know about Unimatrix Zero: there is a minor reference to it.

Voyager's command team attended the festival on the last day of shore leave on the planet called Tyu' Nats. The Natsues insisted that Janeway and Chakotay be present for the entire party. Beside a large feast and program of dancing and singing, there were many speeches and toasts to be heard. The captain had the beverages analyzed beforehand so as to prevent any adverse efforts on the crew.

The Doctor assured Captain Janeway that the wines to be served were only mildly alcoholic. The fruits used to make the different wines contained no toxins or harmful components. He suggested that Voyager's crew would benefit from eating the fresh fruits.

Toward the end of the evening both Kathryn and Chakotay were becoming weary of all the speeches. "I hope the toasts are more interesting." Chakotay whispered quietly.

"Me, too," Kathryn replied softly.

"At least, we'll have wine to dull the boredom if they aren't."

"Commander, we're guests here." Although she seemed to be admonishing him, the twinkle in her eyes and slight upturn at one corner of her mouth belied her tone.

As he saw Kathryn's expression and a half smile, Chakotay's thoughts wandered. Spirits! How I'd love to kiss that beautiful mouth. In the next second, years of habit brought his mind to the present and nearly banished all such thoughts.

A short time later their hosts signaled for the servers to bring in the wine for the toasting. After making sure all of the guests had full glasses and decanters in front of them, the toasting began. The Natsues honored everyone in the crew and everyone from the Natsues' leadership delegation. The captain was glad that the wine was only mildly alcoholic because even though she sipped with each toast, she knew she would have become intoxicated with stronger drink.

Surreptitiously Chakotay watch the captain drink her wine with each toast. With each swallow of wine he took, it became harder for him bring his mind under control. He began to merely touch his mouth to the wine, hoping to keep a restraint on his thoughts. However, one of the servers asked him if something was wrong with the wine when the he noticed that Chakotay's glass remained full. Chakotay knew he couldn't risk insulting the Natsues, so he began to drink the wine again.

The evening's revelries concluded with one final toast. The toastmaster spoke, "May your dreams be sweet, your rest be refreshing, and your dearest wish be fulfilled."

The captain and the commander waited until the whole crew had been beamed aboard before they left the planet's surface. It was 0200 hours when they materialized on the pad in Transporter Room 2. Chakotay was quiet as they walked out into the hallway.

"Are you all right, Chakotay?" Kathryn asked.

"Yes, I'm fine, just tired," he said shortly.

The captain could tell that he was keeping something from her, but she didn't push. As they made their way to the deck where their quarters were located, they didn't speak. In front of her door she bade him goodnight and went in.

Chakotay stood for several seconds staring at the closed door. She looked so beautiful tonight. He shook his head. The wine must be stronger than the doctor thought. His mind was filled with thoughts for Kathryn, much more than usual. But no, if the wine had been fortified, he might have had the courage to kiss her. I wish I could kiss her just once.

After entering his quarters, Chakotay knew he should go to bed, but he could tell sleep wouldn't come until he got some guidance. He retrieved his medicine bundle from its place and sat on the floor and unfolded the skins. As was his practice, next he placed his hand on the akoona, but as the device did its psychoactive work, he found himself immediately in a familiar forest scene.

Chakotay was confused. He hadn't even begun his normal chant, yet he was in his vision quest. He stood up and looked around. He could not see his animal guide or his father. Suddenly he heard a rustle in the underbrush.

"Father, is that you?" he called out.

"Of course not." Was the answer.

"Kathryn?" Chakotay could not believe his ears, but a few seconds later Kathryn walked into view. She was dressed in the garments of his tribe. "How did you get here?"

"I walked." She smiled as she came to stand in front of him. "You called me here."

"I called you? When? How?" Sweeping his hand through his hair, he turned around trying to find a clue as to what was going on. "I don't understand!"

"All night I heard you calling me. Your voice got stronger and stronger. I'm glad you finally came where I could find you." She reached out her hand and touched his arm. "Let's go to my hut. It's not far."

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn, trying to figure out what kind of vision this was. She had never appeared in one of his vision quests. However, many times she had been the reason he went on a quest, just like tonight.

Kathryn tugged on his arm once more. "Come, my angry warrior."

The mention of the name "angry warrior" made him decide to follow her. Try as he might he could not seem to end the vision. Maybe it has to run its course, he thought.

Kathryn smiled again as he took her hand and walked with her through the trees. She began to tell him about the small clearing where her hut stood and about how it had taken her weeks to clear the land and build the cabin. It was her gift to him.

"Close your eyes, Chakotay," she ordered. "I want to see your face when you see the hut."

She guided him along the last hundred meters and stopped. "Keep them closed." Leaving him at the edge of the clearing, she dropped his hand.

"Open your eyes now."

Before him was a small log cabin. The design was an ancient one, belonging to his people. Over the door was a wooden plaque carved with the same design as his tattoo. There hung many different implements showing that the hut was being used as a home.

"Well, what do you think of our home?" She had been watching for his expression; it was one of shock. Her voice quavered as she asked, "Did I remember everything?"

Chakotay found his voice, "Did you say 'our home'?"

"Yes, of course." She stepped closer to him. "Who else?"

"This isn't real." He shook his head.

"Of course, it is." She stopped in front of him and put her hands on his chest. "Does this feel real?"

The small hands caused heat to radiate to all parts of his body. He remembered the sensation of her hands on his chest. "It feels like you," he said in a husky voice.

"Good." She smiled up at him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and began to pull his face to hers. "And how does this feel?"

As Chakotay watched her mouth come closer, he held his breath and gathered her in his arms. He closed his eyes as their lips met. White light flashed behind his closed lids. At first he thought it was in response to the kiss, but suddenly he realized could longer feel Kathryn in his embrace. He opened his eyes quickly. He was no longer standing the clearing in front of the hut but was lying on a woven mat in a tent.

As he rose and frantically searched the enclosure, the flap covering the entrance was pushed back. Sunlight shone through the opening with such intensity he was unable to see who came in. As the flap fell back into place, the person walked toward him slowly. When Chakotay's eyes adjusted again to the dimmer light, he could see a person dressed in a long white multi-layered robe. It was similar to an ancient nomadic Arab garment with a hood draped down far enough to hide the face.

The person stopped a few feet from where he standing and pushed back the hood. Chakotay was shocked to see the familiar face of Kathryn Janeway. This can't be, he thought.

"What's wrong, Lord Chakotay?" She looked concerned. "Didn't you sleep well?"

"Why am I here?" he didn't answer her.

"It's only a hour past dawn and this is your tent. Where else would you be?" She smiled, thinking he was teasing her.

"What are you doing here, Kathryn?"

Her smile grew even bigger, as she replied, "It's Lady Kathryn, you know. And I'm here because I heard you call me. I was gathering water from the dew distillers when I first heard you." She reached down to a pile of clothes. She held out a robe similar to what she wore. "You'd better put this on. Emet will be coming with your breakfast anytime now. We don't want her to be shocked. She wouldn't approve of me coming in here while you're still only wearing your inner clothes."

He looked down at the simple tunic and drawstring pants he had on. Kathryn helped him don the robe.

She wrapped the long sash around his waist and tied it. She patted his arm as she returned to the entrance of the tent. She leaned out and called, "Emet, is the lord's breakfast ready?"

"Yes, my lady." Was the reply.

"Bring it at once. He's hungry." Kathryn dropped the flap and looked back at Chakotay. "Come, sit." She motioned toward a short table with cushions around it.

Chakotay sat down on one of the pillows, as Kathryn joined him at the table.

"My lady?" a voice called from outside.

"Come, Emet," Kathryn commanded.

The servant entered quickly and deposited the tray of food on the table. She was small with a sun-browned face. She bowed to each of them and left.

Kathryn pushed the food closer to him. The tray was filled with dried fruit and a flat brown bread. There was also a decanter and a couple of cups. Kathryn poured hot liquid into the cups and handed one to him. He sipped from the cup. It was strong, sweet coffee.

"You must eat, my lord." She picked up a piece of fruit and put it to his lips. He took the morsel into his mouth. "The fathers are planning much for you today. You'll need your strength."

She changed the subject, "I'm so glad that this is the last day before our joining ritual."

"Joining ritual?" he asked.

"Don't tease me. I know that I made you wait a long time, but I want you now as much as you want me. In one more day we will be joined forever." Kathryn's glance was intense, full of longing as she reached out to touch his cheek.

Chakotay blinked as the emotions she conveyed hit him. What's happening? Am I dreaming? Without thinking, he took her hand from his cheek and kissed it. She smiled and leaned across the table. He inclined toward her and their lips met. For a second he tasted the sweetness of her lips before white light flashed around him.

Captain Janeway arrived on the bridge about five minutes before her shift officially began. Despite having less than four hours of sleep, she felt refreshed. A faint smile crossed her face when she noticed the commander's chair was empty. The fact that Chakotay was usually early for his rotation made her wonder if he would be late. After greeting the rest of the bridge crew she went to her ready room. She replicated her second cup of coffee of the morning, sat at her deck, and began to read the various reports that were stacked in front of her.

Tossing the engineering report back on her desk, she checked the time. Over an hour, I have been reading for over an hour. Kathryn stretched and rotated her shoulders. As she replicated another cup of coffee, she decided to invite Chakotay in to discuss the festivities of the previous night.

She tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Chakotay."

There was no response.

"Computer, locate Commander Chakotay."

"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters," the computer voice intoned.

"Chakotay, please respond." When she didn't receive an answer, Captain Janeway thought. He must have had more wine than I did. She didn't want to embarrass him, so she decided to personally go to his quarters to see how he was doing.

"Tuvok, you have the bridge," she said as she entered the turbo-lift.

Arriving at Chakotay's quarters, she tried the chime. There was no reply, so she keyed her override code on the pad. As the doors opened, she saw that the lights were dimmed to 25%. Janeway was surprised to see Chakotay sitting, crossed legged on the floor with his medicine bundle open before him.

"Chakotay." When he didn't react, she walked over to him and touched his shoulder. Again she said his name, louder this time. Again there was no response. Concern filled her mind, as she reached her hand to his neck to check his pulse. His skin was cold, but his pulse was strong.

She slapped her comm badge. "Janeway to sickbay."

"Sickbay here."

"Doctor, come to Commander Chakotay's quarters immediately."

"On my way, Captain."

A few minutes later the Doctor entered the room. "What is the problem, Captain?"

"Commander Chakotay seems to be stuck in a vision quest. I can't get him to awaken." Janeway was trying to control the panic she was feeling.

The Doctor bent down and began scanning the commander with his tricorder. "He's in a deep state of unconsciousness. It seems to be similar to the state he was in when we encountered the aliens in chaotic space. He needs to be in sickbay so that I can treat him."

Chakotay was transported to the medical bay. The Doctor attached a cortical monitor to the base of commander's neck. The Doctor tried a hypospray of a strong stimulant as Janeway watched from the side.

After a few moments the doctor said, "It is not working." He studied the readings from the monitor.

Janeway stood next to him, trying to understand the data displayed.

"His brain wave patterns show that he is in a deeply altered state of consciousness. I'll do an analysis to see what might have caused it. His akoona wouldn't cause this." The Doctor entered the protocols for the diagnostic.

"I will keep you informed, Captain. You need not remain." He told her as he walked into his office.

Janeway wanted to stay and do something to help, but she knew the Doctor would do everything possible. Before she left, she stood next to the bio-bed. Kathryn placed her right hand on his cheek and whispered, "Please come back to me, Chakotay. I need you."

The captain returned to the bridge and her ready room, then summoned Tuvok.

"Captain?" Tuvok stood stiffly in front of her.

"You have noticed that the Commander is not at his post."

"Yes, Captain, he is in sickbay," he stated simply.

"You've already checked on him." She wasn't surprised.

He nodded and waited for her to explain.

"Chakotay is unconscious. He apparently attempted a vision quest and became trapped. The Doctor is trying to find out what happened and why Chakotay can't be revived. Are we still in communication range of Tyu' Nats?"

"Affirmative. We will be for at least twelve more hours."

"Good, we may have some questions for them. Inform the bridge crew that the commander is ill. There is no need to say more at this time. Dismissed."

Janeway forced herself to resume reading the reports. She was finishing a particularly long report from astrometrics when she was summons by the Doctor.

"Captain, please report to sickbay."

When she arrived in sickbay, the Doctor motioned for her to join him at the video monitor on the wall above Chakotay's bed.

"I have analyzed the commander's blood. I think I have found the problem. There is evidence of a psychoactive substance not related to his akoona. The substance is familiar to me however. There was a small amount of it in the wine samples from Tyu' Nat that I analyzed for you. There was so little of it in the wine I knew it would not affect the crew adversely."

"But it affected Chakotay," Janeway interrupted.

"Yes," Doctor admitted, "I believe it affected him because he used his akoona so soon after drinking the wine. The combination of the two must be what is keeping him unconscious."

"What can we do for him?" Kathryn asked.

"He is stable for now, so I will continue to monitor him to see if I can figure out some way to revive him. I would suggest, however, that you contact the Natsues. They may be able to help."

Chakotay blinked and looked around him. He was no longer sitting on the floor of the tent, but was standing in the middle of opulently furnished room. Looking down, he saw that he was wearing a dark blue, brocade uniform that appeared to be the uniform of an officer. He couldn't figure out the rank. Footsteps sounded outside the large carved door, and it opened

"Commodore Chakotay, I am so glad to see you. I thought I heard your voice." Kathryn hurried to him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

Chakotay stiffened when she lifted her mouth to kiss him. He put her away from him and walked to the window. Wind and rain lashed at the glass. He shivered as he stared at the storm.

"What is wrong? What have I done?" Her voice was choked with tears. "Please tell me, my love." She touched his arm, trying to turn him to look at her.

"I don't know." He shook his head. "I'm confused."

"You are not well, and all I could think of was my own wants. Forgive me." She gently guided him to one of the settees in the room. "Lie down and I will pour you some sherry."

I need to find out what is going on. He thought as he sat down, allowed her to pull off his boots. He was feeling tired and cold, so he lay down.

Kathryn brought a small glass of sherry to him and knelt beside him.

He slipped it slowly, enjoying the warmth that flowed through him.

"Thank you," he said as he gave the empty glass back to her. "Could tell me where I am and how I got here?"

"You're in my home, of course. I think Pierre said you arrived in your carriage. You must not have recovered sufficiently from your illness. I'll have Pierre fetch my physician. The military doctor must have overlooked something." She reached out and touched his face. "You still feel cold. Let me get you some more sherry."

After she handed him another glass of sherry, she rang for the butler.

When he arrived, she said, "Send a courier for Dr. Bozaret."

"Right away, Mademoiselle!" He bowed and immediately left the room.

A feeling of lethargy came over Chakotay as he laid there. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

Kathryn pulled a chair close to him and took his hand. "The doctor will be here shortly."

"Tell me about us. Tell me how we met." He leaned on up one elbow.

"You like to hear me tell the story, don't you?" She smiled. "I'll try."

She began, "I first saw you at the Spring Ball in Paris. You looked so handsome in your dress uniform. We didn't meet that night because there were so many ladies surrounding you. I didn't think you even knew I was there until a week later. You called on my father and asked to see me." She blushed. "My father was so happy that he called me down to meet you that moment. Your reputation for bravery in battle was introduction enough for him."

"I saw you at the ball and fell in love with you." Chakotay knew that it must have happened that way. He had fallen in love with Captain Kathryn Janeway when he first saw her on the viewscreen of his Maquis ship.

"Yes, that is what you said." Kathryn looked down at her hands "But I wasn't easy to convince. I made you wait for years. I'm sorry I was so stubborn."

"What now? Where do we go from here?" he asked as he put his head back on the cushion and closed his eyes.

"We are to be married in three weeks, but first you must get well." With worry etched across her face, she lifted one of her hands to touch his cheek. She whispered, "Please come back to me. I need you."

There was something about her voice that stirred him; it seemed so real. "Kathryn, I need you, too. And I love you."

Without thinking he pulled her down to him to kiss her. For an instant her mouth was warm upon his, but in the next instant there was white light.

"Chancellor B'jod, we need to know as much as possible about the wine that was served to us for the toasting last evening. Commander Chakotay is unconscious, and our doctor is unable to revive him. The doctor reports that there is a substance present that could cause hallucinations." Captain Janeway was in her office, speaking on her own video comm unit.

"I am sorry to hear about your commander, but this has never happened before. Why, you told me yourself that your ship's doctor analyzed the wine before the farewell party, and found nothing harmful." The alien was clearly on the defensive.

"What you say is true, and I am not trying to suggest your people meant to harm anyone. I just need to know as much as possible about the substance, how it affects the body, and how we might counter its affects." Her voice took on patient diplomacy.

The chancellor visibly relaxed, a slight smile of relief crossed his face. "I'll see to it that all of the information we have is transferred to you. However, I must tell you I know of nothing that will neutralize the affects. In fact by now no one of your crew should be experiencing anything from the wine. You should all be refreshed. The substance you are talking about is called Eltaip. It makes partakers mildly susceptible to autosuggestion. That is why we always close our parties with the toast 'May your dreams be sweet, your rest be refreshing, and your dearest wish be fulfilled.' Our people usually make a wish before they retire for the night. Most dream of a fulfillment of that wish. And everyone awakens refreshed, even with little actual sleep. Did you not experience such, Captain?"

Janeway realized that she did wake up feeling more invigorated then she expected after such little sleep. "I did wake refreshed," she agreed.

"And if you polled the rest of the crew who attended, you would find the same answer. Eltaip has never before caused the problems you have described. We sincerely regret Commander Chakotay is unwell as a result," Chancellor B'jod said.

After signing off her communication with B'jod, Janeway headed for sickbay. She had made arrangements for the data the chancellor would send to be directed to the sickbay. When she entered sickbay, the Doctor was making a scan of Chakotay.

"Captain, I was just going to call you," The expression on his face told her he was excited about something. "I have made several observations. At first, it seemed that the commander was going deeper into this state of unconsciousness."

"Then, I have noticed a pattern to the descent. Before each deepening, there is a neutral electrical spike, almost a surge in his brain waves. The last spike did not take him deeper however. It may signal that he is coming around."

Kathryn felt hopeful as she told the Doctor, "That is good news. Maybe with the data the chancellor is sending, you will be able to bring Chakotay around even sooner."

"I hope so, Captain."

Chakotay did not have to open his eyes to know he was in a different place. The air was cool and moist as after a rain. He slowly opened his eyes to see an alpine lake. He was sitting on an outcropping of rock near the lakeshore. Lake George! Chakotay's memory of the captain's holodeck program surfaced.

He looked around him. The sailboat they had used was tied to the small ramp. He jumped down from the rock and walked toward the boat. As he walked, he looked down to notice he was wearing his own uniform. The sight of the familiar red and black heartened him. He still did not understand what was happening, but he now had hope that he would find answers.

When he reached the ramp, he heard off key humming coming from the sailboat. He called out, "Hello?"

"Chakotay, you're early." Captain Janeway straightened up from her work. She was wearing a simple white sleeveless dress with blue ribbon trim on the neck and hem. "I was hoping to be ready before you got here. Remember it's my turn to plan the day. And I thought we agreed no uniforms." She wagged her finger at him.

"I'm sorry," he said, not knowing what else to say.

"Oh, it's all right. I think you left a change of clothes in the boat house." She pointed to the tiny wooden building at the shore end of the ramp. "Go change while I finish."

This seems right, but how did I get here? He thought as he followed Kathryn's orders. Inside the shack, he found a pair of khaki pants and a black tee shirt. He quickly donned casual clothes and went back to the boat.

"That's better," she smiled at him as she held out her hand to him. "Come aboard, Chakotay."

He took her hand and jumped into the boat. Janeway untied the boat from its mooring and pushed it away from the ramp. She stowed the ropes and adjusted the sail and rudder. When everything was right, she sat next Chakotay in the midsection.

"We don't have to be back for 24 hours. It should only take us an hour and a half to reach the cottage." She threw her head back and laughed. "How did you finally persuade me to let go like this? I'm the one who wanted and planned this outing. I have no guilt or trepidation about leaving Voyager. My only regret is that it couldn't be longer. Can you believe that?"

The look on Chakotay's face was one of disbelief. "I'll believe it when I"ve seen it happen."

Kathryn leaned her head on his shoulder and slid her hand through his arm. "I'm up to the challenge, Commander."

Chakotay put his hand over Kathryn's and sighed contentedly. He had no words to express his heart. He had dreamed of a time when she would be as free as she was at this moment. The two of them sat in silence, enjoying each other's company for the duration of the trip across the lake.

As they came close to the other shore, Chakotay could see a small stone cottage. It looked as if it had grown there instead being built. "Is that where were going?" he asked as he pointed at the cottage.

"Of course, I know how you love this place." She squeezed his arm before she reached to move the tiller so as to keep the boat on the right course.

Again Chakotay was confused. He couldn't remember ever being at this part of the lake or the cottage. It was an appealing site, and one he surely wouldn't have forgotten if he had been there before. As they neared the shore, he decided to tell Kathryn what had been happening to him.

"Captain, I have to tell you something,"

"Please call me, Kathryn," she interrupted. "I left the captain on the other shore."

"All right, Kathryn." He took a deep breath. "I can't remember this part of the lake or the cottage. In fact I don't remember any plans to take time off." He passed his hand over his face.

"What do you remember?" she asked softly.

"I have been having dreams or visions. I'm not sure which. But before that we attended the final festival on Tyu' Nats last night. It was late, but I needed help from my animal guide. I got out my medicine bundle and touched my akoona. The next thing I knew I was in a forest and you were there."

"We never attended any festival last night on, what did you call it, Tyu' Nats?" Kathryn said with concern in her voice. "We had dinner in the mess hall and retired early so that we start out early this morning."

Their conversation was interrupted by the scraping sound of the boat bottom against the lakebed. Kathryn jumped out and grabbed the rope.

"Help me secure the boat, and we'll finish our talk inside."

He got out and helped her moor the boat and put down the sail. After she handed him a large bundle from the bottom of the boat, she lifted another into her arms. They walked the small distance to the cottage. Kathryn opened the door and entered. Chakotay stood just outside the door, staring at the quaint little building.

"Please come in," she urged. "I want to put the things away and make us some coffee."

He brought his bundle to the table where she had put hers. The room was small but cozy. It reminded him of a cabin he had once visited with his father. The one room served as kitchen, dining, and living area. In the back was a doorway with a curtain blocking a view of the interior.

The floor was cover with a large woven rug. A sofa stood in front of the stone fireplace that was flanked on either side by a window. The sofa was padded with a soft blue-gray fabric and had a matching footstool in front of it.

"Why don't you sit down, Chakotay? The coffee will be ready in just a few minutes." She smiled him from the sink. "Then we'll talk."

As he sat down, he noticed that everything was ready for a fire. He stood, found some matches on the rough mantel and used them to light the fire. Within minutes the flames began to warm the room.

When Chakotay went to sit down and put his feet on the footstool, he realized how wet his boots had become from assisting Kathryn with the boat. He reached down to pull them off when Kathryn surprised him by pushing his hands away.

"Since you already started the fire, at least let me help you. I forgot to remind you to take these off when we came in." She pulled off his boots and socks and dried his feet with a towel. "Now you can relax."

When Kathryn went back to the kitchen, Chakotay turned to watch her for a moment, and he said, "You don't like to do that kind of thing."

"No, I don't usually, but I do like to spoil you sometimes."

Chakotay leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The smell of fresh brewing coffee filled his senses. He listened to the sounds Kathryn was making as she opened and closed doors and drawers. Again contentment soothed him.

Several minutes later he heard her voice next to him. "Here you are. Fresh coffee, cream and two sugars." Kathryn handed him the steaming mug when he opened his eyes, then joined him on the sofa. She pulled her feet up under her and began to drink from her cup.

"Now Chakotay, we should talk," she said. "You don't remember last night the same as I do. And you don't remember this cottage?"

"No, I don't. I remember coming to the lake with you a few times, but never to this place. How did it get here?"

"You told me you started to work on it right after the refit." She stopped to recall. "That was about a month after I was freed from the Borg. Do you remember when I was assimilated?"

"How could I forget?" he shuddered.

"Do you remember the night after I got back when you and the Doctor ordered the three of us off duty for forty-eight hours?"

"Yes, I found you on an inspection of engineering. I escorted you back and ordered a lock down of your quarters to keep you there." He smiled at the memory. "You were not happy."

"I wasn't happy until you replicated me a bowl of coffee ice cream. You asked questions about the emotional impact of assimilation on me. We talked for hours. You even replicated me another bowl of ice cream and a cup of strong chamomile tea."

"I remember when you finally started to yawn, I left so that you could sleep," Chakotay told her.

"I did start to yawn and you did leave, but don't you remember what happened before you left?" She touched his arm with her hand.

"I remember saying good night. Nothing more." He shook his head.

"You stood up to leave after you saw me yawn. You told me to sleep well. I asked you not to leave. I could not let you go without telling you I loved you. Being with the Borg had made me miss you so badly. I promised myself I wouldn't let protocol come between us. I kissed you." Kathryn flushed with the memory. "I tried to get you to stay, but after you kissed me, you insisted I needed rest. That's when you left."

Chakotay stared at her in disbelief, "You told me you loved me?"

Kathryn scooted closer to him and took one of his hands, "You don't remember I love you? Do you remember loving me?"

"I can hardly remember when I didn't love you." He put his arms around her.

"If you still love me, we'll be able to do what it takes to figure out why you don't recall things the way I do." She sighed as she laid her cheek against his chest. "I could stay here nearly forever."

"Or at least until you ran out of coffee," he teased.

"Yes, until then." She laughed as she moved to wrap her arms around his neck. "I could even live with less coffee if you'd kiss me."

"I think I can handle that." He lowered his head and kissed her. At first he tasted the coffee on her lips, then the light flashed white.

Captain Janeway left the bridge at the end of her shift. She went immediately to sickbay. The Doctor was in his office at his computer.

"Captain." He looked up. "There was just another spike, but this time he has gone deeper. I wish I could figure out what is going on."

"I'm going to stay here for a while, Doctor." She pulled a stool next to Chakotay's bed. "Don't let me keep you from what you were doing."

Kathryn sat down as she looked at Chakotay. He seemed so pale and still. She touched his chest above his heart and was reassured by the steady beat she felt. She sat with her hand on his chest for a long while. If only I could find a way to reach you, Chakotay. The thought repeated over and over in her mind.

Finally she withdrew her hand and stretched her shoulders, passing her hand over her eyes. She felt so weary. It was as if her source of energy and motivation were gone. Walking back into the office, she asked, "Was there any useful information in the data from Tyu' Nats?"

"The data was informative, but there is nothing to help me treat the commander." The Doctor frowned.

"I would like to read what you received."

"Yes, Captain." He handed her a PADD.

Kathryn went back to the stool and began to read.

Chakotay groaned in frustration as he opened his eyes. He found himself standing in front of rock formation. A few feet away he could see an opening in the rock wall. Two young men, barely in their teens, stood with spears in hand at the entrance. Two flame torches lit the path into the cave. The young men apparently had heard Chakotay's groan.

"My chief!" One of them left his post and rushed to meet him. "How goes the hunt?"

"I don't know." Chakotay suddenly felt weak. "I need to find a place to sit down."

"Of course, let me help you." After instructing the other, the young man guided Chakotay into the cave. After they had walked for several meters, they came to an open area. The young man led him to a low flat rock.

"Sit here, Chief Chakotay, and I will fetch your mate." He hurried off toward one of the several tunnel openings that led away from the entrance.

Chakotay dropped his head into his hands. What is happening to me? I have to figure this out. Am I dreaming? Am I dead? He tried to recall every incidence. The kiss! Every change and flash of white light came after a kiss. His thoughts were interrupted by a shout.


He looked up to see Kathryn running toward him. She was wearing a heavy fur robe and her hair was pulled back in a long braid. As she reached him, she dropped to her knees in front of him and took both of his hands in hers.

"My chief, if you have no further need of me, I will go back to my post." The young man seemed embarrassed.

"You may go," Chakotay managed to say.

"Thank you, Torok," Kathryn said softly.

Torok smiled at the kindness of his chief's mate. After bowing to them both, he left them alone.

"How goes the hunt?" she asked him when he didn't speak.

"I don't know." Chakotay shook his head. "I don't belong here, but I don't know how to get back."

"Mate of my heart, you must be ill." Concern was etched on her face. "Let us go the healing waters."

She stood and pulled him to his feet. She did not let go of his hand as they followed a twisting set of tunnels. The tunnels were dimly lit by torches. Occasionally they would pass young men, each carrying a spear. Chakotay thought that they must be sentries like the ones at the entrance.

As they passed yet another sentry, Chakotay commented, "They are very young for such duty."

"Yes, but with the elders at the hunt, they have their chance to prove themselves. You told me how proud you were of your first sentry post." She smiled as she leaned against him in the narrow passageway.

As they entered a large room, he could smell a hint of sulfur in the heavy, warm air. Across the room was a pool of bubbling water. Steam rose from the surface.

"My chief, are you ill?" a thin man dressed in brightly painted skins greeted him.

"He can't remember the hunt, Rewij. I brought him to you," Kathryn told the man. "I thought the waters would help him."

"It's good you brought him." Rewij nodded. "I'll prepare him for the soaking."

The healer produced a small bowl into which he poured powders from various pouches that hung from his belt. He mixed the powders with a small amount of water from the pool.

"Chieftess Kathryn, help me remove Chief Chakotay's robe."

The fur robe he was wearing had several leather ties. Kathryn carefully untied them all and removed the garment from his shoulder. Chakotay saw that he was wearing a loincloth and soft hide leggings. The healer stood in front of Chakotay and began to apply the paste to his chest, face, and arms. He directed Chakotay to sit on the edge of the pool. Kathryn removed the fur boots from Chakotay's feet. Chakotay felt bewildered by the whole routine. He was about to protest when Rewij spoke.

"I'll erect the healing screen and leave you to enter the waters." Rewij told him.

From against a far wall Rewij pulled a large branch frame that held a stretched animal skin. He walked to the entrance. He backed through the opening and leaned the frame cross the opening. "I'll come if you call," he said before he walked out of sight.

"Come, you must get in the waters." She reached for the laces of his leggings.

"No, I can manage." He stopped her hand. "Turn around."

"But, my heart, I don't understand. Why do you fear my gaze?" She stared at him with hurt and disbelief in her eyes. "I'm your mate. I have gazed upon you many times."

"Please, just do as I ask, Kathryn."

"Very well." She turned her back to him.

He quickly removed the last of the garments and stepped into the pool. The water was hot but not unbearably so. As he sat on a ledge located below the surface of the water, he was covered up to his mid chest. The places on his body where Rewij had put the paste began to radiate a soothing sensation into his body.

"You can turn back now, Kathryn."

She sat on the rock edge and placed her hand on his head. "How do you feel now?"

"I feel relaxed, calm." He looked into Kathryn's blue-grey eyes. "You look beautiful."

She blushed as she smiled down at him. "Your love makes you see things."

"My eyes see what is in front of me. My love allows me to hold it here." He pointed to his heart.

"Your words are my heart's food and drink." She leaned toward and kissed him before he could react. As before he felt her lips just before the white light blinded him.

"Captain," Doctor called from his office.

Janeway went into the other room. "What is it, Doctor?"

"I observed another spike and the commander is even deeper into unconsciousness." A frown wrinkled the Doctor's long brow.

The captain looked at the record of Chakotay's brain wave activity. Kathryn touched the pad with the command to replay the complete record and watched with intense concentration as it was displayed on the monitor. Entering the repeat code again, she waited until she saw what she was looking for and stopped the playback.

"This is the time he did not go deeper?" She asked as she pointed to a spike in the brain pattern.

"Correct," the Doctor relied.

"According to this record, the spike occurred just after I first left sickbay this morning after we transported Chakotay here." She took a deep breath before speaking again. "I spoke to him before I went back to the bridge. I think he heard me."

"Studies have shown that an individual in a coma has heard and even responded to someone talking to them, but Chakotay is not in a coma."

"True, but talking to him can't hurt."

The captain left the EMH in his office and went back to her vigil at Chakotay's side. Kathryn marveled at how alone she felt at this moment. She remembered feeling this way after her assimilation by the Borg. She missed her ship and her crew, but until this moment she did not realize how much she missed Chakotay. He had helped her in so many ways since she came back.

Coffee ice cream and sharing! She smiled as she recalled his thoughtfulness. He had been her anchor. She had been able to return to her balance as captain because of him. I want to repay him. I want to help him come back to us. I need him to come back to me!

Tears stung her eyes as she looked down at his silent form. "Chakotay, can you hear me? Please fight this. Fight it for me." Her voice cracked with emotion.

Before Chakotay opened his eyes, he heard a roar of voices from all around him. Looking about him, he found he was standing in an arena. The crowd in the stands was shouting. Above the noise of the crowd, trumpets sounded. A gate opened in the far end of the arena. The man walked through in the opening as the people in the stands cried out even louder than before.

The man wore body armor and carried a shield and a knife. As he reached the center of the field, he turned toward the arena and bowed. There was a raised platform at that side of the stadium. A person on the platform stood and motioned for the crowd's silence.

"Warriors to the front!" he shouted.

The man on the field turned and glared at Chakotay. Suddenly Chakotay understood that he was a warrior as he saw that he wore the same armor and carried the same weapon and shield. He moved as quickly as he could to the center of the field. As he reached the spot where the other warrior waited, he saw that the other was a massive man, nearly 15 centimeters taller than Chakotay.

The man on the platform, obviously a noble of some sort, raised his voice once more, "Warriors, Antillus and Chakotay, this challenge has a truly worthy prize. Of course, remaining alive to see another day is a great prize, but today the victor of this battle will win his freedom and the hand of Mistress Kathryn." He gestured with his hand behind him.

Chakotay gasped when he saw Kathryn sitting in a chair on the platform. When her eyes met his, the longing and fear in them gripped his heart.

He whispered, "Kathryn."

She mouthed his name.

"Let the battle commence!" the noble shouted. The other warrior began to move around Chakotay. Chakotay held his shield in front of him. Antillus lunged forward and nearly caught Chakotay in the shoulder with his blade. Chakotay countered, but only landed a glancing blow to his opponent's armor. Over and over the two men rushed and retreated in the battle. The fighting raised clouds of dusts that made breathing difficult, and the heat from the blazing sun began to sap Chakotay's strength.

Antillus circled Chakotay as he paused to catch his breath. The spilt second of weakness was the opening Antillus had waited for. He lashed out with his blade, cutting the flesh of Chakotay's upper left arm. At first he felt no pain from the wound, but when the fine dust fell into it, a fire of agony flooded over him.

The hopelessness of the situation made him consider merely allowing Antillus to finish him off. Lightheadedness from loss of blood made Chakotay slow down. He was feeling the inevitability of defeat when he heard Kathryn's voice above the crowd.

"Chakotay, can you hear me? Please fight this. Fight it for me."

Her words filled him with strength. He stood to his full height and lifted his shield as the next blow nearly met its mark. He would not let this barbarian take his love and his life from him. As Antillus rushed headlong at him again, Chakotay was ready for him. Chakotay aimed his knife at a small gap in Antillus' armor. The force of the warrior's forward motion helped to plunge the blade deep into his chest. Chakotay stood back as the larger man fell. After a few shuddering movements, Antillus was still.

As the dust settled, for several seconds the only sound that could be heard was Chakotay's rapid breathing. All at once the crowd erupted in loud cheering. They threw flowers and coins onto the field as they began to chant his name.

Chakotay dropped his shield and walked slowly across to the platform. He picked up a red rose from the ground as he went. When he reached the platform, Kathryn was already at the bottom of its stairs. He handed her the rose. She took the flower from his hand before she threw herself into his arms.

Chakotay felt a tinge of pain from his shoulder, but he ignored it as he wrapped both his arms around her.

"Kathryn, you are my life."

"Chakotay, you are mine."

He lowered his head to kiss her. In that instant before their lips met, he wondered if the light would come. The instant later when her mouth touched his, he saw it.

"Captain." The Doctor walked into the room. "Did you speak to the commander?"


"After the latest spike, he is closer to consciousness. I think you should continue to speak to him." He was excited.

"I will." Kathryn felt hopeful again. She turned to Chakotay and took his hand as she leaned closer to him. "Chakotay, I know you can hear me. Please keep climbing back to me. Don't give up."

The first thing he became aware of was the cold. He opened his eyes to look around him. He was sitting up against an icy wall with his arms wrapped about his knees. His perch was only a meter wide and slightly over a half a meter deep. On the ground next to him was a small bundle. The bundle contained rope, pitons, and an ice ax. Chakotay recognized the climbing gear. He had never been much for climbing, although he had climbed with Tom Paris on the holodeck.

The wind swept some of the snow into his face. He shivered as the snow fell into the neck of his coat. The clothes he was wearing were not sufficient to keep out the chill. I have to get moving or I'll freeze. He got to his feet and tried to stomp warmth into them.

Lifting his gaze to the way above him, he thought he could see a spot of color about a hundred meters above him. The spot of red color moved as if it were a flag being waved. He waved his hand. The red disappeared, but he thought he heard a shout. The wind, however, stole the sound before he could understand the message.

He decided to begin to climb up to the person who was calling to him. Pulling from his memory everything he could recall about mountain climbing, he began to make footholds with the ax. After he had made them as far up as he could reach, he began his ascent. He made his way slowly up the face of the mountain. Securing himself with rope and pitons, he rested frequently before chopping more footholds.

About a third of the way up, Chakotay came to another small ledge. Managing to pull himself over the lip of the overhang, he, at least, felt warmer than when he started. He looked up to see the red flag waving at him again as he rested on a small rock. He waved back. Once more the red flag dropped out of view and he heard someone shout, "Chakotay!"

"Kathryn!" he shouted back.

Knowing that she was waiting for him spurred him on. Foothold, piton, rope were repeated in seemingly endless succession. Despite the warmth of exertion, the chill of the wind bit at him and dehydrated him. Sleepiness plagued him as he tried to hammer the footholds. He slipped as he moved to the next hole. If he had not secured the rope, he would have fallen to his death. He managed to gain his place on the ice wall, but he began to lose his fight with sleep. Just as he was giving in to the drowsiness, he heard someone speak.

"Chakotay, I know you hear me. Please keep climbing back to me. Don't give up." It was Kathryn's voice.

She needs me. I have to go on. He pushed away the fog of sleep. With renewed energy, Chakotay pulled himself up again. Lifting his eye upward, he saw that he was only two meters from his goal. Kathryn was leaning over the edge, waving the red cloth with was not a flag but a coat.

He climbed the last few feet almost without effort. All of a sudden Chakotay was in Kathryn's arms. She tried to wrap the red coat around him without taking her arms from around him. Finally as his senses returned, he took the coat from her and slipped it on.

After he donned the wrap, he gathered her back to him. If I kiss her, I will end up somewhere else. He fought against his desire to kiss her.

"Chakotay, please kiss me," Kathryn begged.

He threw caution to the wind as he kissed her. Her lips were cool under his before the white light dazzled his sight.

Chakotay delayed opening his eyes because they felt so heavy. He was laying down on a firm but not uncomfortable surface. His whole body ached and his head throbbed as if he had a hangover. He became aware that someone was holding his hand. Finally his curiosity compelled him to look around. He was in sickbay. Kathryn and the Doctor stood next to his biobed.

"Kathryn?" His voice cracked.

"Welcome back, Chakotay. You had us worried." She held his hand tightly.

He opened his mouth to speak but managed only a whisper, "I'm thirsty."

"I'll get you something, Commander." The Doctor went to the replicator and brought him back a cup of sweet tea. "This should help."

Kathryn helped Chakotay sit up enough to drink from the cup. After several sips he laid back down.

"Thank you." His voice sounded stronger. "Why am I here?"

"You have been unconscious for over 18 hours," the Doctor responded.

"Unconscious?" He closed his eyes. Is this realty, or just another vision or dream?

"Chakotay, are you in pain?" Kathryn whispered the question.

"No, I'm just confused." He squeezed her hand tightly, as he turned to the Doctor. "Doctor, how long before I can leave here?"

The Doctor used his tricorder to scan Chakotay. "You're fine except for mild dehydration, and you seem to be experiencing a headache. I'll give you a mild analgesic. I would say, if you promise to drink plenty of fluids in the next twenty four hours, you may return to your quarters in thirty minutes."

The Doctor administered the pain medication. As he put down the instrument, he said, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a great deal to enter into my log about your condition. It would make another fascinating paper if there were some place to publish it." He walked into his office and began to dictate his log.

Chakotay sat up, letting his legs hang over the side of the bed, and asked, "Kathryn, tell me what happened to me?"

"Do you remember the farewell party on Tyu' Nats?"


"After the party, do you recall going on a vision quest?"

"Yes, I touched my akoona, and before I could began my chant, I was in the vision. I couldn't wake from it." He lowered his eyes. "Then something would happen and I would be in another scenario. Over a half dozen different places and times, the only constants were you and I."

"I was in your visions?"

"Every one," he said simply.

"What happened in your visions to change them?" Kathryn asked.

"I'd rather not say right now. I'd like to know why I got stuck in the visions."

"The wine we toasted with has a mild psychoactive substance in it. It makes anyone who drinks it mildly susceptible to autosuggestion. That is why the last toast speaks of sweet dreams, refreshing rest, and fulfilled wishes. The Chancellor told me their people make a wish before retiring after a toasting and dream of the fulfillment of the wish. The Doctor thinks your problem happened because you used your akoona so soon after drinking the Natsues' wine." She was so relieved to be talking to Chakotay that she was close to tears.

She blinked rapidly to fight against the tears and cleared her throat before continuing, "The Doctor monitored your brain functions. He noticed that there would be a neutral spike in your brain wave. At first you went deeper into unconsciousness after each spike. Then you seem to be rising a level. After the next spike, however, you began a down turn. After studying the record, I figured you had responded to my speaking to you the time your consciousness rose."

"You asked me to come back to you and that you needed me," he interrupted her.

"I did." She nodded.

"In my visions, you talked to me, but each time you actually spoke to me, it was different. I was empowered. You brought me back, Kathryn," he said softly.

Chakotay looked down at their hands, still entwined. He looked up see Kathryn watching him, her eyes were filled with tears.

"What's wrong, Kathryn?"

"When you were laying there, I was so tired. I felt like I had lost all my energy and motivation. I was so afraid we wouldn't be able to bring you back." As she spoke, the tears ran down her cheeks.

Chakotay lifted his free hand and wiped the tears away with his fingertips. A smile lit his face and he said, "Permission to hug the captain."

"Permission granted," she said as moved into his arms.

He gently gathered her in his arms. They stood together, her head resting on his chest, his cheek against her hair. I must be dreaming! Chakotay thought. He pulled back and dropped his arms.

Startled by his sudden movement, Kathryn looked up at him and asked, "What is it?"

"This might be just another dream," he responded sadly.

"But it isn't. Nothing can change this but you or me." She rested her hands on his chest. "Now tell me what changed your visions."

He couldn't meet her gaze. "We kissed."

Kathryn smiled as she watched him blush. "We kissed?"

"Yes." He still did not look up.

"I guess the only way you will know for sure if this is realty is if we kiss now."

He stiffened and looked quickly into her eyes. "Are you sure, Kathryn?" he whispered breathlessly.

"Absolutely!" she said as she leaned toward him.

Chakotay put his arms around her again and lowered his mouth to hers. As he touched her lips, he held his breath, waiting for the flash of white light. He saw no flash of light, but he did feel desire flood his senses. Kathryn put her hands behind Chakotay's head and pulled him closer. The kiss deepened. Finally Chakotay lifted his head and tightened his hold on Kathryn.

"A wish come true," he sighed into her hair.

"What do you mean?" She pulled back slightly to see his face.

"When I left you at your quarters last night, I wished I could kiss you just once. I guess that's why I kept dreaming about kissing you." His eyes were filled with love. "But this kiss was the real fulfillment of that wish."

"I have a wish, too." She pulled his head down to her again to fulfill that wish.