|WARNING! If you don't care for explicit mush and romantic sex, please stop reading NOW!
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns all characters used herein, but the story idea is all mine. Tech-type persons, please don't write me regarding misuse of Warp Ten technology--I know what the manuals say, that's why they call this 'fiction'. This story takes place before the events that were revealed in "State of Flux".
SPECIAL THANKS to Linda Ronstadt and Randy Newman for "Feels Like Home" and Mary Chapin-Carpenter for "Jubilee". J/C fans should really listen to these!
THANKS Michelle, for the support and late nights!
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"The Quest" by Becca O.
"Relax. Breathe deeply and let your mind be at peace and harmony with your surroundings." Sensing movement next to him, Chakotay continued quietly, "No--sit still. Movement disturbs the spirit sense that surrounds you." The First Officer and the Captain of the USS Voyager were in the holodeck. A casual look at their surroundings showed a pastoral scene that could have been anywhere--Earth, Chakotay's native world, any one of a dozen or more similar places. That was the beauty of the program, it's non-identification with a specific place. The setting allowed the participants to concentrate on their inner well-being, not recognizable landmarks.
A gentle breeze stirred Janeway's hair as she felt her muscles relax and the tension recede from her being. An errant wind tossed her shoulder-length hair across her face; she had left it down at Chakotay's request. He knew that on more than one occasion, her tightly bound hair had caused her head to ache, and today he wanted her to have no distractions. The sun warmed their bodies as they sat cross-legged by a rippling stream. Snow-capped mountains rose behind them like majestic guardians.
Soon their breathing slowed and each was in sync with the other. Careful not to disturb the aura surrounding them, Chakotay stole a glance at the captain. The look of serenity on Janeway's face was almost enough to cause him to throw caution to the winds. Gods, he thought to himself. He was amazed at the changes that came over her when she allowed herself the luxury of relaxation. It didn't happen very often, but when it did...
Speaking softly he said, "Captain, open your eyes slowly. Look around you." He knew he must continue with their objective or doom himself to eternal embarrassment by saying things he had no right to even think. Lately he had begun to regard Janeway with somewhat less than a professional eye. Slowly Kathryn Janeway opened her eyes and focused on the scenes around her.
Everything seemed clearer, brighter than it had minutes before. She sighed softly, not wanting to voice what was on her mind; she knew that anything she said would disturb the peace surrounding this sacred place. Instinctively she knew that Chakotay's eyes were studying her. She had been aware of his eyes on her at other times, but had never returned his gaze. Until now. The intensely sexual look on his face caught her completely off guard. Her insides were turning somersaults as she tried to form a rational response.
Before the silence could lengthen any further, Chakotay abruptly stood and, reaching for her hands, pulled her to her feet. Janeway was convinced he was going to kiss her, and was somewhat disappointed when he didn't. Instead he said, "There's a place just over the next ridge that I want you to see. Come on." Not relinquishing his firm hold on her hand, he guided her over the steep, rocky path, catching her when she stumbled and slid over the loose rocks at her feet. As they crested the ridge and looked down upon the valley beneath them, Kathryn caught her breath and held it for a long time.
"Oh, it's magnificent," she whispered reverently. Far below was a sculpted valley with a wide river coursing through it. She was totally unaware that she still held Chakotay's hand and of the effect it was having on him. "Was this the place you were telling me about?" she said excitedly as she turned to face him.
"Yes, it is," he answered with a calm forced out of the very depths of his being. Releasing her hand he continued, "Vision questing has been used for generations with my people. We usually set aside special places, with all of our sacred articles around us. That enables our guides to better aid us in our quest."
"Are you sure I can do this?" Janeway asked skeptically. "I only tried once, and if you remember correctly, B'Elanna interrupted us before I could finish."
"Yes. I'm sure you will be very successful this time. Besides, I've been wanting to try something different with you. " Ignoring her raised eyebrow, he continued. "It has been said that many hundreds of years ago, my people experienced a different type of quest."
"Different? Different in what way?"
"In times of great trouble or anxiety, it is said that two people could join together in one single quest. It was a way to lend aid or support to a friend in need."
Smiling suspiciously, Janeway answered, "So I'm the charity case? Do I seem that stressed out to you?"
His eyes sparkling, he chuckled softly. "No, not really, but I do sense that you need assistance in finding that special place you can call your own. It comes more easily to my people; we've been doing it for centuries. On the other hand, your people..."
"Commander, I'm surprised at you! Those old stereotypes went out of style a long time ago. The brave warrior, the frail white woman--really."
Now Chakotay was laughing out loud at the images she invoked. "See? You're relaxing already." Sudden understanding dawned on Janeway. He was baiting her, just to get a reaction. Well, score one for him, she thought, it worked. Playfully punching his shoulder, she turned to move down the ridge toward the river. Under his breath she heard him murmur, "Sounds like an interesting plot for a holonovel."
She thanked the gods that he was behind her and could not see the fierce blush that covered her entire body. Oh, if only you knew...she thought.
The engineering crew had been working overtime. The repairs to the warp core were finally completed. Following the incident with the Sikarians, Torres had maintained a low profile, but was instrumental in repairing the damage done when she had, out of necessity, blasted the controls with her phaser. She and Tuvok had taken the heat for that debacle and she was determined to somehow make up for it with the Captain. Seska and Carey had been grateful to Torres for covering for them, so they were willing to assist in any way.
"When everything is on-line again, we need to test the warp engines." B'Elanna was thinking out loud, not really expecting a response. She jumped a bit when Carey spoke just behind her.
"Is that really necessary?" he asked. "We've run every simulation in the computer banks and so far there are no problems."
"We can't afford to be wrong on this. We need to put Voyager through her paces. It's the only way we'll know for sure that we didn't do irreparable harm to the systems." Torres took her job very seriously, but she also remembered the Captain's threat: one more mistake and she would no longer be an officer on the Voyager. Normally, she wouldn't have cared, but 75 years of doing nothing was not an appealing proposition. With her luck, she'd end up in the kitchen with Neelix; or worse yet, in sick bay with that miserable excuse for a doctor and his goody-goody assistant. She shivered at the thought and turned her attention back to the console.
"Torres to Bridge..."
"Tuvok here. How may I assist you."
"We're ready to begin testing the warp drive, but I can't reach the Captain. We need a senior officers' authorization."
"The Captain is unavailable at present. I am the senior officer in charge. Mr. Paris, prepare to initiate warp drive. Mr. Kim, monitor all sensors. I want to be apprised of any fluctuations, no matter how minor." Tuvok took his place in the captain's chair and said, "Miss Torres, proceed when ready."
"Aye sir," came the response over the comm link.
"Initiating warp drive----now." The ship gave a barely perceptible jolt as it engaged warp one. The engineering crew monitored all systems carefully, and every few minutes initiated the next higher level of warp speed. The Voyager was cruising at warp eight; so far all was well.
Janeway and Chakotay finally reached the bottom of the ravine. The river was much larger than it had appeared from the top of the cliffs. The sound of the roaring water rushed through Janeway like a physical manifestation. These feelings were so new to her. She and Mark had camped many times, but never had she been so aware of the earth around her; the sounds, the smells, the sights....
"This is the place we'll stop. Computer--initiate evening lighting." Chakotay looked around as the sunlight began to fade.
"Why did you do that?" Janeway asked with a puzzled frown.
"It works better by firelight, and a campfire during the day...well, let's just say it wouldn't work." Chakotay set about gathering dried wood while Janeway walked down to the water's edge. She was lost in her own thoughts. Something he said earlier....she just couldn't shake the image of her First Officer in true native clothing. Actually, she couldn't breathe when she thought about it, either. She had a mental image of Chakotay in soft, brown suede. The same suede-brown as his eyes. His tanned chest needed no covering, and his feet were clothed in soft, fringed moccasins. His legs--his legs were shielded from the elements by soft, weathered breeches. His groin--
She jumped with a guilty start. "What..?"
"Everything is ready. Come sit by the fire." Indeed, he had built a small campfire, just the right size for the two of them. He had his medicine bundle in front of him on the soft sand. Patting the sand, Chakotay indicated that Janeway should sit next to him. "Relax, just like before. You must be comfortable to succeed."
Janeway sat and shifted restlessly until she had hollowed out a place for herself in the sand. It was still warm from the sunlight, and she closed her eyes and tried to breathe deeply. Chakotay watched her fidget and wished he knew what she was thinking. With a silent laugh he added that he was certainly glad she couldn't read HIS mind.
Ever since their conversation on the top of the ridge, he had been plagued by a vision he couldn't shake. There was nothing remotely sacred about what he was thinking. He had a picture of Kathryn in his mind--in fact his mind was the only place he dared call her by her given name. He had a very healthy fear of slipping on the bridge some day and saying it to her face. Chakotay saw her by the river, in a flowing, ankle-length gown fashioned from a gauzy, muslin-colored fabric. The sleeves were long, and the wind blew her skirt against her body and held it there, outlining every curve; hinting at the hidden places beneath it. She was wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect her fair skin from the harsh effects of the sun. As the wind tore her hat from her grasp, she turned to him with a shy smile and said...
"Commander? Are you ready?"
Stupid question, he thought to himself, stifling a groan. "Of course. I was just...ah...meditating." Opening his medicine bundle, he breathed deeply and continued. Removing the items inside, he spoke reverently, "Blackbird's wing, a stone from the river, an acunah. Place your hand on it....and concentrate on the stone." Janeway did as she was instructed. It was so much better this time, the captain's ready room just hadn't seemed like the proper place for a ceremony such as this.
As the sparks from the fire danced upward, Chakotay spoke again. "We are far from the places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of our people. Assist us in our quest." Speaking softly to Kathryn he said, "Close your eyes, feel the light surrounding you. Become one with it."
"Warp nine...sustaining warp nine with no difficulty," Paris said over his shoulder to Tuvok.
"Tuvok to Torres--bring us out of warp."
"Aye, sir," she responded, dancing her fingers over the console in engineering. Nothing happened.
"Lieutenant--I said bring us out of warp. That's an order." Tuvok was raising his voice, which, for a Vulcan, was as close to temper as he would likely ever come.
"I'm trying. The ship is not responding," Torres called back with a slight edge of panic in her voice.
"Warp nine point nine-seven-eight," Paris stated. "We've exceeded warp limits."
"Showing signs of stress on decks three and four," Harry Kim announced.
"Warp nine point nine-eight..." Paris' hands began to sweat.
Tuvok slapped his comm badge. "Bridge to engineering. Report."
"We can't break the connection!" B'Elanna yelled. "Attempting override."
The ship was beginning to shake as though held in the grasp of a small child's hand.
"Red Alert. Mr. Paris, the stabilizers. We need ...." Tuvok was interrupted by Paris' latest announcement.
"Warp nine point nine-eight-five..."
"Hull breach in progress on deck seven," called Harry Kim.
"Engineering, you must NOT allow this ship to reach warp ten..."
On the soft sand, the Captain and First Officer had joined hands over the fire. The sounds of insects in the distance simply added to the beauty of the moment. For the first time in hundreds of years, two people were sharing the same vision. What they saw looked remarkably like their holodeck beach, but with a clarity they had only imagined minutes before. They slowly opened their eyes and turned to look at each other. There was a breathless rapture on Kathryn's face that Chakotay had only dreamed of. Chakotay's face held the same expression, but with a look born of a deeper, more spiritual knowledge.
Kathryn was about to ask what happens now when...
"Warp ten achieved..." Paris said in a strangled voice. The bridge dissolved around them in a brilliant blaze of light.
...still holding hands, the air crackled around them as the beach exploded into a thousand fragments of brilliance.
Minutes, hours....days later, Janeway became aware of a dull ache behind her eyes. Struggling to sit up, she looked around. The beach, the river, the campfire...everything was still there. Chakotay--where was Chakotay? Turning to look behind her, she saw her first officer stretched out on the sand as if resting from a hard days' work. "Computer, end program" she called out. Nothing. "Computer, delete current program, authorization Janeway, two-zero-zero-delta-one." Still nothing. Reaching for her commbadge to call the bridge, she was startled to find it missing. As she gazed down to look for it, she realized that not only was her communicator missing, so was her uniform. In its place was a long, muslin-colored gown, with long sleeves that molded themselves to her arms. On the sand next to her was a wide-brimmed straw hat.
Hearing a muffled sound, she turned to find Chakotay attempting to sit up, and failing miserably. She scooted over to him, moving the cumbersome skirt out of the way. Nearing his still form, she gasped softly. Obviously, he had been affected by the phenomenon also. In place of his uniform trousers were the soft, suede breeches she had envisioned earlier...
"Oh....my head..." Chakotay groaned.
"Lie still. You must have hit your head when...when..."
"What *was* that? What happened?"
"I'm not sure."
Chakotay sat up and, wincing at the pain, said, "Computer, end program."
"I already tried that. It didn't work."
"I tried deleting the program, too. No response."
Rubbing the knot of muscles at the base of his head, Chakotay looked at Janeway carefully for the first time. His eyes widened as he took in her appearance. She looks just like...
"Don't be too surprised, Commander. You haven't seen yourself, yet", Janeway said with grim amusement.
Careful not to move his head too quickly, he looked down at himself. He hurt too badly to try to figure this out now. He closed his eyes and groaned again. "Have you contacted the bridge?"
"I would be glad to, but our communicators are also missing", she said with barely disguised panic.
"Well, I wouldn't be too concerned. It was probably just a power fluctuation of some sort. Engineering has been working on..."
"Engineering? If B'Elanna had anything to do with this--"
Chakotay smiled. Well, he thought, at least anger is better than panic.
Trying to gain control of herself, Janeway said, "How do you explain the clothes?"
"I can't. I know that just before..." he stopped in mid-thought, not wanting to reveal what he had pictured earlier. Not yet.
Janeway suddenly remembered her own earlier thoughts and decided to abandon the conversation for the time being. The cool breeze lifted her hair away from her neck and she shivered. Moving closer to the fire, she wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm.
"I'd offer you my coat, but..." Chakotay said with a grin.
"Very funny. Be a good first officer and get us out of here" she replied with grim amusement.
"I'll try, but first we need to warm you up." Standing, he moved toward her. Janeway was both disappointed and relieved when he walked past her, toward the woods further down the beach. She watched with admiration as he gathered wood for the fire. His strong, muscled back made short work of the chore. This was her fantasy and then some.
Minutes later, he returned and built up the fire again. The warmth began to ease the chill surrounding them. He had been aware of the captain watching him and had pointedly avoided her eyes. She was attempting to hide her distress, but he could see through the bravery. It was all he could do not to go to her and gather her in his arms. He wanted to let her know he was there for her, that nothing would happen as long as he was with her.
She wished he would sit with her. She was frightened, an unusual feeling for her. She was usually so in control of things, but then this wasn't like anything she had ever experienced before. What she really wanted was to be held. She needed to feel safe and secure and, deep down, she knew Chakotay would never let her come to harm. But she could never ask him...
And so they sat; each in their own misery, when one small request would have eased their torment.
The later it became, the more it became obvious that they weren't going anywhere for a while. After exploring the riverside and adjoining hills, Chakotay became suspiciously aware that this was no holodeck simulation. In a holodeck, no matter how real it seemed, there were small clues to help you remember where you were. If you concentrated on the distant horizon, for example, you could see the almost imperceptible scrolling of the matrix. There was a barely perceptible shifting as holoimages were replicated just before you picked them up. When he had gathered the wood for the fire, there was no shift in density; just the feel of the rough wood on his skin. He knew he should tell the captain, but saw no point in causing her further distress this night.
Returning to the campsite he said, "I can't seem to find the arch. Our best bet is to stay put until someone figures out where we are."
Moaning a curse under her breath she said, "Tuvok knows where we are. He's the only one I told. He also has the only access code to override the privacy lock I engaged. I suppose he'll be here as soon as he can." She hugged her knees to her chest and rested her head.
"That doesn't look very comfortable. Come on, let's see if we can find a place to take shelter." Chakotay held out his hand. Seeing this as the only wise choice, Kathryn allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. They moved off towards the shelter of the trees, Kathryn pausing long enough to lift her skirt out of harms' way. For the sake of my ancestors, Chakotay thought, seeing the newly bared expanse of skin, now I know why my people fought wars centuries ago. He had a very clear picture of Kathryn in mind; the lone white woman in a western settlement, the attraction between her and the local native chief...the forbidden passion...Enough, he thought, any more of this and I can't be held responsible for my actions.
Seeing the concentrated, almost predatory look on Chakotay's face almost led Kathryn to ask what was wrong, but she thought better of it. He must be trying to think of a way out, she thought. But there was a tiny part of her that almost hoped he wouldn't succeed, at least not too soon. She was beginning to see a side of him that had intrigued her for months.
They came to a small clearing, protected on all sides by dense foliage and decided to settle in here for the night. Unlike the beach, the trees protected them from the wind and the elements, so they would be warm. "I know you must be tired," Chakotay said. If you'd like to get some sleep, I'll stay up and keep watch."
"Keep watch, whatever for? We didn't add any animals to our program, did we?"
Trying to keep things light, he said, "No, but I just want to keep an eye out for the rescue team."
"I am exhausted," Janeway conceded. "Maybe I'll just curl up over here for a while." She moved off to a respectable distance and lay down on a pile of soft, dry leaves turning her back to his concerned gaze. She felt his eyes watching her for a long time, but sleep finally won out and she drifted into a peaceful slumber.
Toward morning, she began to awaken, and for a moment was disoriented; then it all came back to her in a rush. As her mind was processing the details, she became aware of an entirely new sensation. She had been sleeping on her right side, and her left hand had wandered behind her. She was afraid to look, but instinctively knew that she was resting against Chakotay's front. His left knee was trapped between hers and her head was resting on his right arm. She drew in a slow, deliberate breath. Now what? she thought to herself. She shifted, trying to get in a position to move away, when Chakotay moved his left arm over her and securely anchored her in place.
He murmured something in his sleep, and she was shocked when his lips began to move through her hair. She knew she should stop him, but it felt so good--HE felt so good. It had been so long since....She closed her eyes and decided to enjoy the feeling for just a few more minutes.
Chakotay was in that half-world between sleep and awareness. He hadn't felt this comfortable in a very long time. It must be the outdoors, the fresh air...but as he moved his head, he realized exactly where he was. He thought Kathryn was still asleep and gave in to the impulse to press his lips to her hair. He felt her stiffen slightly and knew instantly that she was awake, yet she made no move to stop him. He continued to lie pressed against her back, and moved his mouth ever so slowly toward her neck. Kathryn caught her breath in a short gasp, and then he spoke softly.
"I know you're awake."
Not wanting to break the spell, she said nothing for a moment. She felt him move as if to rise and said quietly, "Please, stay with me. I need you."
His arms tightened around her and she moved her left hand to his arm to hold him in place. They lay that way for a long time, pressed together in comforting silence, when at last Kathryn said quietly, "This isn't the holodeck, is it?"
There was chaos on board the Voyager. Repair teams were scrambling to assess the damage and begin repairs. The engineering crew realized just how close they had come to losing the ship. Most of the main computer banks were off-line, and communication between decks was sketchy, at best. The bridge officers were trying in vain to get a lock on their position in the quadrant, but so far weren't having any success. Tuvok had tried to reach the captain for almost an hour before sending a search team to the holodeck. He hadn't been overly concerned. The holodeck systems were specially configured to send out a buffer matrix in the event of emergency while the holodeck was in use. Any officers within should have sustained only minor injuries.
Arriving at the door to the holodeck, Tuvok requested entrance. There was no response from the computer. Tuvok tried entering his access code manually, but there was still no answer. A repair crew from engineering finally gained access. The massive doors opened, and even Tuvok's Vulcan calm was shaken. There was no program activated, and the Captain and Commander Chakotay were nowhere in sight.
END, PART 1
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