Disclaimer - Yeah, Paramount own them.
For Gilly, who said "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if...?"
To fully appreciate you'll have to know the events of 'Unity' and 'Survival Instinct'. Set just after the events in 'Survival Instinct'. I've taken a few liberties with the events of 'Unity', so ner ;P
In case you don't know or don't remember, Sarah Jenkins is the blonde on the bridge from the episode 'Warhead'.
Bluebonnets in a field.
His hand, wrapped around a stone.
A Borg cube travelling at warp.
Sunrise on Romulus.
A blonde girl running.
A Bird of Prey exploding.
A man, humming.
"Don't be afraid, Chakotay. We're here to help you. Open your mind to our thoughts and concentrate on getting well. Hear our voices. Open your mind to our thoughts. Our collective strength can heal you. You're safe with us. Feel the connection. We're with you. See who we are. Know us. You're not alone. Our strength is your strength. We can overcome your pain. We welcome you into our thoughts. There is nothing to fear. We won't let you die. We're all one circle; no beginning, no end..."
No beginning. No end. A terrifying loss of identity.
He woke quietly, despite the passage of time since he had last had the nightmare. A slight gasp was all that escaped as he quickly came back to consciousness, aware that he was in bed, by himself, that no one was standing over him. But...
...he could feel their eyes watching him. Could see himself watching them.
"Don't be afraid, Chakotay."
He could feel the pressure of the neural transceiver against his neck. Immediately his hand reached up to grab it and he was ridiculously relieved when he found nothing there.
Imagination. In his mind. That's all it was.
"No beginning, no end..."
They were lurking in the darkness of his quarters; he could feel them just on the edge of his perception. Shoving the blanket to one side he swung his legs around until he sat on the edge of the bed. Leaning his elbows on his knees he rested his head in his hands.
"Shit," He muttered hoarsely, trying to relax the muscles that wanted to tighten so he could run the hell out of there.
The nightmare. He hadn't had it for two years. It had always been a variation of them same thing - the images and memories of the people he had linked with in the new 'co-operative'. He'd become so used to waking unexpectedly during the months that followed his experience that he had learned to stop waking by yelling out. It had never made the nightmares any easier to face, but at least he could stop others worrying about him.
Noticing for the first time the faint sheen of sweat on his face, he wiped it off and considered taking a shower.
Chakotay looked towards the darkened doorway of the bathroom.
On command the room illuminated and he could feel some of his fear dissipating. Ridiculous, really. The resurfacing of his old dreams was easy to blame on recent events; that was all.
Forcing a chuckle, he stood from the bed and walked into the bathroom.
"You've looked better."
Chakotay rolled his eyes as he sat opposite B'Elanna. To her left sat Tom, and next to Chakotay sat Harry. "Thanks, B'Elanna."
Tom smirked. "She's got a point thought, Chakotay. You been up to any interesting night time activities that we should know about?"
Chakotay prodded his food without looking at it. "Nothing that would equal what you and B'Elanna get up to."
Grinning at B'Elanna's response, Chakotay continued. "It's nothing so exciting and entirely my own fault. I started reading a book last night and couldn't put it down."
Harry spoke. "Which book, Commander?"
"The Dictates of Poetics by T'Hain of Vulcan," He deadpanned.
Amid the snorts sent in his direction, a new voice spoke.
"I was unaware that you had an interest in the works of T'Hain," Tuvok stated, overhearing from the next table.
The other three occupants of Chakotay's table turned towards the First Officer and smiled, eager to see how he would dig himself out of this one.
Smiling easily, Chakotay kept his face relaxed while his brain was racing for a reply. "I have to admit that I haven't read a great deal of his work, but I found this one..." He paused, deliberately "...fascinating."
Tom chuckled. B'Elanna shook her head. Harry smiled.
Tuvok rose an eyebrow, picking up his tray and standing from his table. "I have to report to the bridge, but I would like to continue this conversation at a more appropriate time."
"I look forward to it," Chakotay replied, smiling.
Nodding, Tuvok walked away.
It was only after the Vulcan moved away that Chakotay saw who had been sitting on the table one over from Tuvok's; Marika Willkara.
His smile faltered.
Something in his brain...moved.
A man, humming.
Loosing the ability to hold anything, his fork cluttered noisily onto his plate.
"Chakotay, are you okay?"
A man, humming.
Gods, which one of them had spoken? Someone was touching his arm...that had to be Kathryn. No, Kathryn wasn't here. It had to be B'Elanna.
Then it was gone.
His vision restored, he sat up and looked at them.
They were staring at him with concern, B'Elanna leaning across the table to touch his arm.
"I'm fine," He assured them, and at their disbelieving stares continued with "Just a headache. I'll see the Doctor about it later."
"See that you do," B'Elanna insisted, then sat back in her chair, still frowning.
Chakotay nodded towards Marika. "How long has she been here?"
Tom shrugged. "Since before we turned up. I've seen a few people go up to her, but she turns them all away."
Still nodding, Chakotay continued studying her. She was slouching in the chair, her arms folded tightly against her chest, a tray of food on the table which obviously hadn't been touched. She looked....angry, confused, lonely, distraught...she looked like she didn't know how she was supposed to feel.
Reclaiming his fork Chakotay began eating his breakfast, chewing thoughtfully, unaware of the interest he was receiving from the others.
"Earth to Chakotay; hello?"
It took the combined effort of Kathryn's voice and her hand waving in front of his eyes to make Chakotay realise that his mind had wandered again. Blinking, he sat straighter and tried to focus on their conversation in the ready room. "Sorry. I'll try to pay more attention."
Shaking her head, she smiled fondly. "I'm not angry with you Chakotay; just making sure you're okay. You do look a little tired."
"My own fault," He assured her. "Stayed up too late last night."
She rose an eyebrow. "I thought that was my prerogative."
He grinned. "As Captain of Voyager it's your prerogative to do many things, however...staying up past your bedtime isn't something only you're allowed to do."
"Ah," She said, smiling. "Then I apologise Commander. Feel free to get as little sleep as you please."
"Thank you," He retorted kindly, before abruptly changing the subject. "Have you seen much of Marika Willkara?"
Kathryn's smile faded slightly. "Not really. It's obvious that she wants to be left alone, but..." Leaning back in her chair, she sighed. "I just think it's sad that she's chosen to spend whatever time she has left here but won't talk to anyone. She keeps rebuffing everyone who tries."
"So I've heard..."
Catching his tone of voice, she leant forward and studied him. "You're thinking of talking to her, aren't you?"
"I'm considered it," Chakotay agreed. "To be honest I feel a little uncomfortable about the whole situation because of my own experience with the Borg," He deliberately avoided her gaze as he spoke. "Which seems strange. You'd think after everything I went through that I'd understand better than almost everyone. Except Seven," He added, an afterthought.
"I think you do understand," Kathryn said softly. "I think that's why you're uncomfortable but I know you're going to talk to her anyway."
He shook his head. "I think it's entirely possible that you're able to read my mind."
"If only," She answered, leaving him to ponder that comment as they returned to work.
Bluebonnets in a field.
His hand, wrapped around a stone.
A Borg cube travelling at warp.
Sunrise on Romulus.
A blonde girl running.
A Bird of Prey exploding.
A man, humming.
"Don't be afraid, Chakotay. We're here to help you."
He woke, the dream still vivid in his mind. With other dreams the images began to vanish the moment he woke, mere afterimages left behind that made him wonder if the dream had occurred exactly as he remembered it.
He remembered all of this one. All of it. They were fragmented, obviously, but he remembered every fragment.
Swearing, he pulled himself out of bed. A sonic shower failed to rid his body of the tension as it had managed to do yesterday morning.
Pulling on his casual clothing, he glanced at the chronometer.
Sighing, he left his quarters.
Somehow he had known she wouldn't be sleeping, known that she had always had difficulty sleeping, even before being assimilated. As the computer had informed him, he found her in the airponics bay. She was in a corner, sitting on the floor, her eyes closed.
He studied her for a while; the wrinkling above her nose, the dark hair, the beret still resting on top of her head, the blue outfit she never seemed to change out of.
Eventually she opened her eyes, and spoke. "Well, at least you haven't asked me if I want to talk about the Borg yet."
He took a few steps closer. "I figured that if you want to, you would." He didn't know what the hell it was, but there was something about her...something damn familiar.
A man, humming...
For a moment he could feel something in his brain moving, but this time he managed to control it.
She closed her eyes again. "You are a bad liar."
"Perhaps," He answered, moving closer until he was looking down at her. "Did you know I was connected to a collective?"
Marika's eyes snapped open and she stared at him. "You do not have any implants."
"No. I wasn't assimilated, merely connected. And it wasn't to the hive mind, exactly. A smaller version who called themselves the Co-operative."
"You volunteered?" She asked, dubious.
Slowly, he lowered himself to the floor and sat opposite her. "I didn't have a lot of choice. I was dying; they could heal me."
Tipping her head to one side, she frowned. "You didn't enjoy the experience."
It was a statement, but Chakotay found himself considering what had happened. Orem, Riley...the...residual effects they had shared. He lowered his head. "No. They took advantage of the connection. I didn't...appreciate it."
Marika looked at him for a few moments. "I have studied your personnel file."
Surprised, he lifted his head. "But you need access level-"
"Your security on this vessel is especially lax, despite Commander Tuvok's efforts," With that slight rebuff, she continued. "You were the Captain of a Maquis vessel."
She lifted her chin. "I was unaware of the existence of the Maquis, so I also assimila-" Stopping abruptly, she closed her eyes painfully. When she opened them again she continued "I...read a great deal of information on the subject. If I had still been with Starfleet when the treaty was signed, I would also have joined the Maquis. So would Biral, my husband."
Surprised at the reference to her husband, he continued with it. "Was he...?"
"Yes," She stated, trying not to show the bleakness of her expression. "We worked on the Starship Excalibur together. I was an engineer and he worked in Stellar Cartography. He always used to tease me that it was the people in engineering who were stealing the power he needed." For the first time, a faint smile appeared on her lips. "Of course, he was usually correct." The smile vanished as if it had never been there. "After the ship was attacked we were taken and separated. I did not see him again."
Chakotay frowned in sympathy and understanding. "I'm sorry..."
A man, humming.
Marika blinked. "It is not your-what are you humming?"
He frowned. "I'm not humming."
"You were," She insisted. "It sounded like something Biral used to hum to me. A prayer."
A man, humming.
He shook his head. "I don't..." And suddenly and unexpectedly, the words came out: "The Arms of The Prophets."
Recognising the name of the prayer, Marika leant forward, eyes wide. "Yes!"
And the image in Chakotay's mind was a hundred times clearer. A maelstrom of memories and thoughts. The man, humming...
Marika continued, amazed. "He used to hold my head in-"
"-his lap and-"
"-hum the prayer. He always said that-"
"-you're not alone. And you watched the sunset together on your honeymoon and he used to think that you drank too much and he cried when you lost the baby and he still misses you so much."
With each word he seemed to move closer, but at the last thing he said, Marika's eyes went wide. "How do you know...?"
Something moved in his brain.
Shouting, he clutched at his head and fell on his side.
A man, humming...
"For I have seen the celestial temple..."
It was the Doctor's favourite word. It absolutely had to be.
Kathryn Janeway had burst into sickbay a little after 0300 after hearing that her First Officer and closest friend had collapsed, to find the Doctor and Marika standing on opposite sides of the still-unconscious Chakotay. Surprised at Marika's presence she made a mental note to ask her why she was there later, then arrived next to the biobed and spoke.
"What caused this?" Her hands rested on the edge of the biobed.
The EMH said nothing at first, tapping at the tricorder he was holding, frowning, then turning to a console, tapping a button, then frowning again. Then, he spoke: "Hmm."
Narrowing her eyes, Kathryn glared. "Doctor!"
Sniffing, he looked at her. "No need to raise your voice Captain. I apologise for keeping you waiting but I wanted to confirm some readings."
"And what readings are they?"
"That there's nothing wrong with him."
It was not what she had been expecting. "There isn't? Then what caused this?"
"We're not sure. There's quite a story behind it..." He nodded to Marika, who picked up on his que.
"We were in the airponics bay, talking. About the Borg. I mentioned my husband to him...and then he started saying things; things that only my husband could know." Her voice still sounded amazed, which was saying something for her. "He mentioned something about how my husband still missed me...then he grabbed his head and passed out. I contacted sickbay and we were transported here."
Frowning and confused as hell, Kathryn Janeway tried to decide on a course of action; what needed to be done first. "So it was in the middle of a conversation about the Borg that this happened?"
"Yes Captain," She confirmed.
Janeway tapped her com badge. "Janeway to Seven."
There was a slight pause, no doubt as Seven disengaged her regeneration cycle. "Go ahead."
"Report to sickbay immediately. Janeway out."
Assured that the comm line was closed, she turned her attention back to Marika who was glaring at her already. "Aside from yourself and Chakotay, Seven has had first hand experience with the Borg. Not to mention the fact that she was a drone for eighteen years. She could prove helpful."
Conceding her point, Marika looked a little less concerned, but her wariness remained.
The Doctor attached a small circular device to the Commander's neck, then held his tricorder over Chakotay again. "The only abnormal readings I'm getting are signs of heightened stress; apart from that he seems perfectly normal."
Marika shook her head. "I can assure you, he was not 'perfectly normal' in the airponics bay."
"I'm sure he wasn't-"
Chakotay stirred and everyone immediately turned their attention to him. They watched as he slowly blinked his eyes opened; how his eyes widened when he saw them.
Wanting to reassure him, Kathryn touched his hand. "Don't be afraid, Chakotay. We're here to help you."
Chakotay's eyes seemed to widen even further. A hand suddenly reached up and felt the device on his neck.
He went berserk.
His arms flailed, passing straight through the hologram but hitting Janeway hard. "Get the hell away from me!" He yelled even as Kathryn hit the wall and landed on the floor sharply. Leaping up from the biobed, he backed himself into a corner, grabbing something - anything - from the medtray and waving it in front of himself to keep everyone away. "Stay away from me!"
With his free hand, he clutched at the device and pulled hard.
The Doctor approached cautiously. "That's simply to monitor-"
"I know what it's for," Chakotay spat, pulling the device off and lobbing it at him. "So you can know me, isn't that right? So you can assimilate me. So I can be lost."
"Commander," The EMH appealed, unable to reach the medtray for a hypospray and equally worried about the Captain who was still lying on the floor. "It's for no such thing."
That was the moment Seven made her appearance. She barely had time to assess the scene before her when Chakotay yelled again.
"No," Seven stated calmly, advancing towards him. "No longer. You have nothing to fear from me."
He shook his head. "Liar. You're lying. Where's my wife?" The question was a desperate plea.
It was then that Marika knew what to do. "I'm here, Biral," She said, stepping towards him.
It was the first time he seemed to notice her. "Marika?" He whispered, oblivious as Janeway groaned and Seven helped her to stand.
"It's me," She assured him, reaching out carefully to touch his face.
He lowered his arm and dropped the tool he was holding, then almost as quickly raised both hands to clutch her head. "I thought they..."
"Never," She lied. "I was always here. I was always me."
"I thought they...," He repeated, a single sob escaping.
"No," Marika insisted, placing a hand over one of his.
Smiling, he pulled her closer then took a step back to study her. "What's with the hat?"
He didn't receive his answer, because that was the moment the Doctor injected him with the contents of a hypospray.
"Wha-?" Chakotay/Biral asked dumbly, before his body went limp.
Surprised, Marika helped the Doctor catch him and, once assured that the Captain could stand by herself, Seven helped them lift the First Officer onto the biobed.
After she stepped back, Marika glared at Seven. "Your assistance is no longer required."
Seven rose her eyebrows.
Janeway sighed, trying to ignore the pain in her back, her butt, and the unbelievable stinging where Chakotay had hit her face. "Marika...thank you for your help, but perhaps you should go to your quarters. We'll call you as soon as he wakes."
From her expression, Marika looked unable to believe that she was being sent out. Without a word, she turned and walked out of sickbay.
A short while later, Janeway sat on the edge of biobed two, frowning as she studied the still form of her First Officer while the Doctor fixed the injury on her cheek. Chakotay could pack one hell of a wallop when he wanted to. Feeling a sudden flare of pain, she tried not to wince.
Standing next to them, Seven volunteered her opinion on something. "She is an angry individual."
Knowing who she was referring to, Kathryn nodded, not paying attention when the Doctor asked her to stop moving. "Perhaps she has good reason, Seven."
The ex-Borg seemed to agree, nodding. "The Bajorans are an angry people."
Janeway rose her eyebrows. "That's a hideous overstatement."
"Although not without some level of justification." Seven countered.
"Only some. Besides, I was actually referring to her assimilation and her treatment...by you."
The younger woman looked even haughtier than usual. "I was confused. I was Borg. She is aware of that."
"Yes," Janeway agreed. "But sometimes that doesn't make it any easier to live with." She held Seven's gaze until the Doctor spoke.
"All done," He stated proudly "Despite the patient's apparent need to move constantly, thus hindering my progress, I believe I've done quite a good job."
"I'm sure you have," The Captain placated quickly. "Now, can we turn our attention back to Chakotay please?"
"Certainly," The Doctor replied, turning back towards biobed one and activating the console next to it. "Although the experience may have been painful for you and somewhat confusing, it provided me with some fascinating sensor readings."
Kathryn held up a hand. "Let me guess - your readings are showing that there was suddenly a huge amount of activity in his brain, caused by the resurgence of memories he previously did not have full access to."
The EMH smiled. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Captain?"
"Yes Doctor. I believe I am."
Seven didn't. "What are you referring to?"
Turning back to the Doctor, Janeway smiled. For once Seven of Nine had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. If Chakotay hadn't been injured, it would have been a marvellous day.
Word had somehow managed to spread quickly. At 0700 Captain Janeway called for a meeting of the senior staff, also asking Marika to attend. They sat around the table in the conference room - sans Chakotay - looking rather grim.
Janeway began, standing and resting her hands on the head of her chair. "On stardate 50614.2, Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan encountered the survivors of a Borg cube that had been damaged. Separated from the Collective, they formed their own community on the closest planet and began rebuilding their lives as individuals. On initial contact, Kaplan was killed and Chakotay was seriously injured. The only way he could be treated was to link minds with their 'mini-collective' which would pass on tremendous regenerative powers and heal his injuries. Later on, they used the residual link between them to control Chakotay's action and force him to activate the apparently dead Borg cube so they could use the power from the generator." She paused then, collecting her thoughts. "They were successful, and formed the 'Co-operative' that they were sure would control the disharmony that had grown between certain individuals." Again, she paused.
"This morning, while in the middle of a conversation with out guest, Marika, he began displaying unusual behaviour. Began saying things that Marika assures me that only her husband could know. As far as she knows, her husband was assimilated at the same time she was but she has never seen him since." Stopping, she nodded to the Doctor.
Nodding back in response, the hologram stood and walked over to the console display and at the hit of a button a computer picture of Chakotay's brain was shown. "It's our belief that Marika's husband - Biral - was one of the people Commander Chakotay linked with when he was injured."
There were a few murmurs and shocked expressions and he waited for them to subside. Marika said nothing, already having been informed earlier.
The Doctor continued. "This also lead us to believe that during the link the Commander obtained huge amounts of information about Biral and the other members of the link, but the amount of information was simply too huge for his brain to cope with which is why he can't normally access that part of his mind." As if indicating the specific part of the brain he was referring to, he pointed to a yellow section of the diagram.
Tom leant forward. "You said 'normally'?"
"Yes," The Captain answered, walking towards the Doctor. "Marika's presence has somehow opened up a...gateway of sorts to the memories and thoughts of her husband. But, of course, the amount of information is still so large that he can't process it properly. Hence his strange behaviour."
A few moments of silence descended over the room as they contemplated her words.
It was B'Elanna who spoke first. "Do you realise the odds of this happening? That Chakotay would meet her husband, and then we'd all meet Marika? And Seven, that's not a request for the percentage."
Seven rose an eyebrow. "I was not about to volunteer any such information."
Janeway smiled. "Yes, B'Elanna. I know it sounds unlikely but-"
"Weird is part of the job," Harry interrupted, only looking slightly apologetic and grinning although no one except him and the Captain had any idea why.
"So in essence," Seven said "he is confused between being Commander Chakotay and Biral. He is unsure of his identity."
The Doctor nodded. "Yes."
"It is like my experience with the repressed thoughts of the assimilated."
"Well it's slightly different, but yes, I suppose it is quite like that."
Neelix planted his hands on the table. "So the question now is...how do we treat him?"
Janeway turned towards the Doctor. "That is it indeed, Mr Neelix."
"I'm surprised you didn't say anything," Janeway began.
Marika looked at her, revealing nothing. "I could not add anything to the briefing, so there seemed little point in my saying anything. You had informed me of your theory beforehand, so there was nothing surprising and nothing I could offer."
They were in Janeway's ready room, having headed there after the meeting had ended.
Sighing, Kathryn sat on the sofa and indicated for Marika to sit next to her. "Please," She insisted.
The Bajoran hesitated, before stiffly sitting next to her. Janeway regarded her seriously. "What would you like us to do?" She asked softly, carefully.
"Chakotay," She responded. "As it's your husbands personality - or at least some form of it - that seems to be emerging, I think that we have to at least ask for your opinion."
Studying her, Marika tipped her head to one side slightly and absently rubbed at the Borg implants still in her leg. "What I would like is irrele-not required. What needs to be done-"
"You can't be sure of that," The Captain insisted. "Perhaps what you would like is exactly what needs to be done to help him."
"Perhaps," Marika nodded. "But perhaps what I would like would injure Commander Chakotay even more."
"He hasn't been physically injured at all yet."
"No, not yet. But the mental strain would most likely become intolerable. Chakotay does not seem the type of person who would enjoy sharing his mind with Biral for very long."
Kathryn couldn't argue with that. Losing his mind was something Chakotay was terrified of, with good reason. "Marika...I'm not saying that whatever your suggestion is that I'm going to agree with it, or that we'll implement your idea immediately. I'd just like to hear your thoughts on the subject."
Considering her words, the woman almost shrugged. "What I would like? What I would like, Captain, is to speak to my husband. To hear his voice reply. To hold him. To make love to him. To laugh at something silly," the word 'silly' sounded ridiculous the way she spoke it "that he had said, purely to make me smile. What I would like...is to see him again. Can you do that?"
"Doctor to Janeway."
Kathryn jumped suddenly, grateful for the reprieve from the cold eyes that were staring at her. "Go ahead," She answered, staring at a wall as she listened.
"From the readings on my console, I'd say that the Commander will be coming round soon. I thought you and Ms Marika would like to know."
"Thank you Doctor. We'll be there shortly," Janeway responded, automatically assuming that Marika would want to be there. "Unless you don't want to?" She queried, turning her gaze back to her.
Marika shook her head. "Not at the moment. Something tells me I don't want to be there right now."
Frowning, Janeway left her ready room, wondering what the hell she was talking about.
"For I have seen the celestial temple..."
A man, humming...
A man, screaming...
A man, feeling the molten fire in his veins, feeling his skin move, his capillaries expanding...
A man, sobbing.
A hand on top of his, squeezing gently. A voice of beautiful familiarity. He concentrated on it, focused, trying to find some kind of reality that belonged to him.
When he opened his eyes, they were wet. Dampness clung to his face.
More importantly, his reality was looking down at him with concern.
"Kathryn," He whispered, the only thing he was capable of saying at that moment.
She seemed inordinately relieved at something, at the very mention of her name, and she smiled broadly. Her hand squeezed his tighter.
A man, humming...
It seemed to break the spell and he blinked heavily, assessing his situation. He was in sickbay, obviously, on a biobed. Kathryn was standing to his left and the Doctor was hovering at his right, the tricorder that never seemed to leave his hand plainly evident.
"Welcome back," Kathryn murmured.
He remembered everything then.
Marika. Biral. The loss of the child. Screaming on the biobed, hitting Kathryn. Hitting Kathryn. Finding his salvation in the familiar yet unknown eyes of his wife. The fragments of memories that seemed to be invading his mind with increasing frequency.
Really becoming aware of the tears on his face he tried to move his hand away from her to remove them. Realising his intent, she stopped him with a firm "No," and wiped them away herself. He said nothing as her hands brushed over his face, quickly and efficiently. The job complete she removed her hands and smiled at him again.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm sorry," He responded, despite the confusion of his mind being able to recall exactly the feel of her face as he struck his hand against it.
"Nothing to be sorry for," Kathryn assured him, knowing what he was referring to. "Tuvok was right though - you do have a mean left jab. With the arguments we've had, I'm surprised you haven't hit me before."
She reached for her best friends hand again. "It's okay, really. I'm absolutely fine."
"Of course she is," The EMH interrupted, drawing their attention to him as he continued his scans. "Despite her own efforts not to be, she was successfully treated."
Chakotay looked back at Kathryn, frowning.
Exasperated, she explained. "The Doctor seems to have a theory that I avoid sickbay as much as possible."
Chakotay shrugged. "He has a point."
Apparently deciding to drop the subject right there, she proceeded with an earlier one. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay, at the moment. Confused as hell, but okay. Do we know what caused all this to happen?"
Janeway met the Doctor's eyes, then looked back down at her First Officer. "Well, we have an interesting theory..."
Arching his neck uncomfortably, Chakotay tried to become accustomed to the feel of the cortical monitor that the Doctor had insisted he had to wear if he left sickbay. The EMH wasn't at all happy with the First Officer leaving sickbay so soon, but at Chakotay's insistence that he would wear the monitor and Kathryn's insistence that she'd force him to 'take it easy' (he didn't quite know what her plan was but he was looking forward to it), he'd eventually allowed them to leave.
He was starting to have second thoughts.
The metallic grip of the monitor against his skin reminded him too much of the nightmare.
"Kathryn," He suddenly said, surprising himself, pausing in the corridor.
She stopped next to him, smiling. "Yes?"
"Do you mind if we don't go to the mess hall? I'm just not in the mood to be stared at and you know how annoyingly cheerful Neelix can be..."
Kathryn chuckled. "Of course. I understand. Come on," She suggested, heading towards the turbolift.
He was only slightly surprised when they arrived at her quarters. Stepping in, she immediately ordered the lights on and walked towards the replicator. "Make yourself at home. What would you like? My treat."
Chakotay smiled, falling back onto the sofa. "In that case...hasperat."
He blinked. "Sorry, I meant mushroom soup." Disturbed by the slip he closed his eyes and leant his head against the back of the sofa. This was so maddening. He could remember the way Grandfather would say things he didn't mean...
The sofa dipped and he was surprised to find Kathryn sitting next to him already, holding out a bowl to him. "Here," She told him. "Eat up."
Smiling a tired thanks, he took the bowl. She merely sipped at a cup of coffee.
The spent five minutes in silence, Chakotay trying to fully absorb their 'theory', and both trying not to worry that they didn't have a cure for him.
She spoke. "You haven't eaten anything."
He closed his eyes again, still feeling the warmth of the bowl in his hands. "I've been having nightmares. Even before this."
"Nightmares?" Kathryn asked carefully.
Nodding slowly, he exhaled heavily. "They're...disturbing. Extremely so. I started having them after my experience with the Co-operative, but I didn't tell anyone."
Smiling enigmatically, she leant towards him a little. "I knew."
Hardly surprised, he continued. "I hadn't had them for years until...about two nights ago. And I feel like my nightmares are happening when I'm awake." Finally opening his eyes, he looked at her. "I don't know what's real. I can't decide if I should want hasperat or mushroom soup, Marika or..." He stopped, closing his eyes again. "And I have a pounding headache."
"Maybe we should go back to sickbay."
Opening his eyes, he smiled. "No; this one's just stress."
Nodding, she lowered her mug to the coffee table and pulled the bowl from his hands, placing that on the table. Taking his hands, she turned them palms-upward. "I know who you are, Chakotay. These are the hands that helped to build a much-needed alliance. These are the hands of my First Officer and best friend. These are the hands that - despite my own efforts - I have come to depend on," She smiled, gently. "These are the hands that are extremely good at massage."
Chuckling, he shook his head. "Kathryn,"
"These are the hands of a man who is terrified at the prospect of losing himself, but there will always be someone to guide him, even if he doesn't like it."
Chakotay smiled, looking down at both their hands. "Thank you."
The silence was comfortable. They remained like that, hands joined, peaceful expressions on their faces, for quite some time.
He was utterly exhausted. He lay on his front, sprawling inelegantly over his bed, trying to get the sleep he knew he so desperately needed.
His eyes were refusing to co-operate. He'd been staring at his pillow for the last hour, since leaving the peacefulness of Kathryn's quarters at her insistence that he really should get some sleep. She was right, of course. He may have been unconscious in sickbay, but that wasn't real sleep. What he needed was healthy, completely natural sleep.
His eyes were refusing to co-operate. He'd been staring at his pillow for the last hour, and he knew every slight wrinkle on the cover by heart.
If he had somehow had the energy, Chakotay would have sighed.
There was no doubt in his mind about this particularly subject - he knew who was at the door. Had been expecting her to arrive for some time. Had wondered how long it would be until she finally made the decision.
"Come in," Chakotay uttered, somehow managing to drag himself up until he sat on the edge of the bed. So tired...
The doors hissed open and she walked in quietly, her feet padding against the carpeted floor. It only struck him at that moment how ridiculous it was having carpets on a starship. He found himself smiling at how stupid it was. What a waste of resources; time and energy.
When she sat next to him on the bed, his head was lowered.
"I wish there was something I could do to make it go away," She whispered.
Shaking his head slightly, he tried to laugh but failed. His eyes were drooping. "Not your fault..."
She touched his shoulder and within seconds he was wide awake; blinking quickly. He lifted his head and stared at her. "How did you do that?"
Marika stared at her own hand as if it belonged to someone else. Which it had, once. "I...don't know," She admitted, still looking and sounding surprised. Continuing to study her hand she rubbed it with the other one harshly before stilling her movements.
"It's difficult, isn't it?"
Her hand clenched. "What is?"
Blinking, she lifted her head defiantly. "I have not been connected to the Collective for-"
"I know that," He interrupted softly. "But even so you've been a part of your 'Triad' for some time. You're used to hearing the thoughts of what feels like so many people."
She struggled to keep her features blank. "I do...think of them. Two of Nine and Four of Nine. I mean," She sobbed, "P'Chan and..." She couldn't say anything else, clamping her mouth together tightly.
"Maybe you should talk to Seven."
"No." Marika stiffened, leaning away.
"She'd understand better than anyone," Chakotay insisted.
"NO," She insisted, firmly. "She would 'comprehend', but she wouldn't 'understand'." Standing, her frustrated steps carried her to the other side of the room. "Can you grasp the magnitude of what she *did* to me? Yes, it was the Borg who took my individuality but afterwards...when I had it back...she took it again. She. An individual! She makes the Cardassians look benign," Marika spat.
When she turned back to face him she was surprised to find him standing next to her.
"Okay," He began quickly. "You can't talk to Seven about it. But you should find someone to talk to about it."
"Why?" Marika demanded. "The human obsession with talking to counsellors or 'people who can help' frustrates me. Why should I work out my feelings? Why can't I stay amid the confusion?"
"Fine," Chakotay argued. "You want to stay there, stay there. That's your right, and God knows you're entitled to it. But answer me this; why are you here?"
"I came to help you!"
"Yes! Whether either of us likes it or not, some part of my husband is inside you and I know him almost as well as you do. I thought," She paused, taking a breath. "...that I could help, somehow. That perhaps I could be useful."
Taking a few steps back, Chakotay rubbed a hand over his face. "I don't see how..."
A man, humming...
A man, humming...
"No, don't touch me. Please. It'll start-"
The view was glorious. The sun was just starting to settle over the horizon, the light filtering over the land and through the window.
"It's beautiful," She whispered.
Pausing his humming, he looked down at his wife. Wife. The word was still so amazingly new to him. The ridiculously large grin that had been on his face for most of the day returned. "I think I have the better view," He replied, "But I agree - it's beautiful."
Rolling her eyes fondly, she looked up at him. They were on the bed together; he was sitting up, resting his back against the wall, and she had her head in his lap, her neck turned towards the window.
"I think," She began carefully "That as much fun as it is watching the sunset with you, there is something else I'd much rather be doing."
He rubbed his hand over her beautifully soft hair. "Hmm? And what's that?" As if he didn't know.
Lifting her head, she moved until the sheet that was covering her body fell away, exposing her nakedness. "Well...first of all, you're wearing far too much clothing."
Glancing down at his pants, he lifted an eyebrow at her. He'd thrown them on earlier when dinner had been delivered to their room, and he only remembered now that they still hadn't eaten it. He didn't think they were going to anytime soon. "I see. And what else?"
Grinning wickedly, she elegantly picked up a pillow and held it over her chest. "You have to arm yourself."
Frowning, he tried to figure out what she was saying. "Arm myself...?" Then it hit him. Then she hit him. "Marika!"
She merely laughed in delight, moving further away but staying on the bed as he grabbed his own pillow and began retaliating.
After a few hits, he seemed to get the upper hand. With one quick hit he managed to briefly stun her and grab the pillow away from her. Within moments he'd thrown both pillows to the other side of the room and had his lips on hers, lowering her, her hair fanning out on the bed.
It was only later that he realised she had let him win.
Something in his brain was moving. The monitor on his neck flashed and beeped wildly. Mere moments after he fell to the floor and Marika shouted his name, the transporter beam captured him and he rematerialised in sickbay.
Her gaze landed again on his untouched bowl of mushroom soup, resting on the edge of the coffee table.
After Chakotay had left, Kathryn had spent a great deal of time remaining where she sitting, staring at nothing. Ten minutes ago she had finally moved, tugging off her shoes then pulling off her uniform jacket, and had stretched out on the sofa. Her left hand rested on her stomach, and her right had gone upwards, the back of her hand resting against her forehead as she contemplated the situation.
There were times when she hated her decision to keep Seven on board. So many conflicts - personal and otherwise - would have been avoided. So many terrible situations averted. But overall she couldn't actually say that she regretted it. Seven had saved the ship and crew several times over, and there was no way for Kathryn to know if they would have survived without her presence. And, she had to admit, that on her hardest of days it had been her own lessons with Seven regarding humanity that had kept her in touch with her own.
Yet for all that...there were times when she hated her decision to keep Seven on board. Take the latest occurrences, for example. If Seven of Nine hadn't been onboard, the former members of her unimatrix wouldn't have tracked her to Voyager. In all likelihood they would never have boarded the ship. In all likelihood, her First Officer would be fine and completely unaware of the memories that still existed within him.
And yet...didn't he have a right to know those memories? The thoughts of those he linked with? Clearly they didn't mind him knowing otherwise they never would have linked with him.
But if those memories were harming him...
Her gaze landed again on his untouched bowl of mushroom soup, resting on the edge of the coffee table.
She had never understood his appreciation of mushroom soup; never been able to share his fondness for it. It tasted alright, but that was it as far as she was concerned.
Perhaps...perhaps she should try to share his appreciation. She would taste the soup and try to study it as he would, trying to gain some insight into the way his mind worked. Hoping that it would help her to develop a solution, somehow.
Moving her hands, she sat up slowly and swung her legs over the edge of the sofa. As her feet touched the floor she leant forward and grabbed the spoon resting against the bowl. Picking up the spoon, she sighed when a few drips fell back into the bowl and the contents rippled. Lowering the spoon back in, she stirred the soup slowly, carefully.
Okay, here she was. She was Chakotay. She was sitting on his sofa, about to take a sip from his bowl of soup. Over to the right was the chair with the Native American pattern on it; to the left in a drawer was his medicine bundle. Somewhere in the room there was a picture of her that she knew he took on New Earth when he thought she wasn't looking, but that he always hid when she came into his quarters. Which wasn't that often, admittedly.
Turning the spoon, she scooped up a spoonful of his soup and lifted the utensil. As it made the journey to her mouth, she was thinking...she was trying to think what he would. If the treaty had never been signed, if the Cardassians hadn't murdered the people living on his home planet, he could well have been on that planet now eating and enjoying a mushroom soup that had been made with real mushrooms, grown by himself or someone he knew.
If none of that had happened, he would probably still be in Starfleet, would probably be a Captain, could be in his quarters or the ready room with his own XO, enjoying the soup replicated by a computer that didn't require constant maintenance as they discussed ships business and the latest reports from Starfleet HQ.
If all of that had happened, he could be about to eat the soup, knowing that it had some special meaning to him. Perhaps his father or mother used to cook it. Perhaps it was their 'speciality'. Perhaps he had memories of himself as a child, waiting anxiously for the soup to be ready.
The spoon made it to its destination. Opening her mouth, Kathryn savoured the taste.
It was cold, obviously.
Screwing her face up, Kathryn put the spoon back in the bowl quickly and pushed it away slightly.
Perhaps, it had no special meaning. Perhaps - despite all her theories - he simply liked the taste.
Leaning back against the sofa, she rubbed a hand over her tired face. "Congratulations Kathryn; you've done it again. You've analysed the hell out of something and ended up getting absolutely nowhere."
Sighing and shaking her head, she dragged herself up from the sofa and made her way over to the bedroom. Not bothering to get changed she headed straight to her bed, pausing only long enough to study the plant she'd been given as a gift.
Finding herself smiling, she ran her fingers over a few of its leaves. It leant towards her, and she could have sworn that it was purring. Grateful for even that amount of companionship, she whispered it a "Goodnight," before removing her contact and falling onto her bed.
Landing with an "oof" she remained where she was, quite happy to stay there for the time being as she tried to sleep while trying to ignore the sickening feeling of dread that was clutching at her stomach.
There was something terribly wrong with her best friend.
Propping up one eyelid, she frowned. With a certainty she couldn't explain, she sat up.
Then it happened.
"Doctor to Janeway,"
"Please report to sickbay immediately. Commander Chakotay has had another 'experience'."
"On my way," She stood even as she responded, speed walking to the door of her quarters. She remembered at the last moment to put her shoes on, and then she speed walked all the way to sickbay.
Why the hell was that woman always in sickbay with him when there was something wrong with him?
Janeway silently fumed as she barged in the room. "Report," She barked, causing the Doctor and Marika to look over at her.
Marika began immediately. "We were in his quarters, talking-"
"-about your husband?" Janeway interrupted, coming to a stop beside her.
Trying not to sigh, the Captain put her hands on her hips. "I don't mean to sound rude, but if this keeps happening when you're discussing your husband then maybe you shouldn't."
Wide eyed, Marika took a step back but when she spoke her voice was firm. "I was only trying to help."
Realising that she had crossed a line and that the unconscious person lying in front of her would normally have pointed it out, Kathryn lifted one of the hands from her hips and massaged her temples, closing her eyes. "I apologise, Marika. I haven't been resting very well and I do not appreciate my First Officer passing out when he should be sound asleep."
The EMH finally spoke. "Well, Captain. As troubling as it may be for you to see the Commander like this, his tendency for passing out in the presence of Ms Marika is quite helpful."
Janeway rose an eyebrow doubtfully, and both hands returned to her hips. "Really?"
"Indeed. Because the cortical monitor was on for the entire 'experience' - he didn't rip it off this time - I was able to get some more precise readings."
"It's not quite what we thought."
Hesitating, the Doctor decided how to begin. "There certainly are a great deal of memories from the Co-operative that he doesn't have access to. However, he could have access to them if he so wished and - though no doubt somewhat confusing - he would eventually be able to make sense of them all. But, consciously or unconsciously, he doesn't want those memories to surface."
"Makes sense," Kathryn nodded. "Worried about a loss of identity, individuality. He wouldn't want to share his brain with anyone else."
"It wouldn't be quite like that, Captain..."
"I know," She waved him off. "Just using it as an example." Her gaze fell to Chakotay. "But...some of these memories are forcing their way through and if he keeps resisting..." Janeway lifted her eyes to look at the Doctor. "He'll be injured?"
Nodding solemnly, he tried not to sound quite so pessimistic. "I'm detecting signs of neural damage already."
Janeway's hand went back up to massage her temples. "Stupid man," She muttered, unaware that she had spoken aloud. "Do we have a plan to help him yet?"
"I do have some theories that I'm examining, although nothing concrete yet."
"Make sure that you keep me updated every hour-"
"Captain," The Doctor interrupted kindly. "Have you slept at all since this started?"
She lowered her hand. "It hasn't been that long since all this started," She defended.
"That's not the point and you're avoiding the question. I am quite capable of looking over the Commander while he remains unconscious. You, however, are going back to your quarters to sleep."
"That's an order, Captain."
Opening her mouth to argue, she paused. No doubt the Doctor could and would get Tuvok to enforce these orders if he needed to. And Chakotay...her gaze fell to him once more...if he had been awake he would have threatened to carry her back to her quarters himself.
A small smile tugged at her mouth. "Alright," She conceded, suddenly exhausted, surprising both the Doctor and Marika. She turned to go.
When she turned back, the Doctor was next to her with a hypospray. He handed it to her.
"What's this for?"
"To help you sleep. I'd prefer the natural method, but at least this way you'll be getting some rest."
Thinking that he knew her too well she smiled at him fondly. "Thank you."
Turning, the hypospray clutched tightly in her hand, she walked away and moved out of the room.
Seven of Nine was distracted.
She disliked the experience immensely, and it was fortunate that she was working in Astrometrics alone, and there was no one else there to witness her distraction.
No matter what she worked on - realignment of Astrometrics sensors, boosting the efficiency of energy distribution - her thoughts always returned to the same subject: Marika.
Since being separated from the Collective, Seven had become accustomed to these 'random thoughts' that she had eventually discovered were a natural part of being an individual. However, her thoughts on Marika Willkara seemed to be even more frequent than usual.
The console she was trying to work on beeped. Realising that she had input an incorrect algorithm she frowned. She did not make errors. Stiffening her back, she re-input the information in and, again, it beeped. Frustrated, she tried once more with still no satisfactory result.
Standing straight from her slightly bent position over the console, her hands clenched tightly. This was ridiculous, and inefficient. There was no need for her to become so angry and so frustrated at her inability to input a correct command. There was no need for her to become so angry and so frustrated that her thoughts continued to return to the subject of Marika Willkara.
Clearly there was some malfunction with her biological systems. She would regenerate for several hours and, if that did not repair the malfunction, she would report to sickbay for her weekly medical several days early. No doubt the Doctor would be surprised by her willingness, but she had discovered to her own benefit that sometimes it was worth surprising the Doctor - although she still wasn't quite sure how the benefit manifested itself.
Logging off the console, she turned and walked out of Astrometrics.
"Doctor to Seven of Nine."
Continuing her journey along the corridor, she responded. "Seven of Nine here."
"Please report to sickbay immediately. I require your...perspective."
"Very well, Doctor. I will be there shortly. Seven of Nine out."
Maintaining the course she had been travelling on she arrived at her first destination: the turbolift. Once inside, instead of ordering it to the deck eight she ordered it to deck five. Several moments later she exited the turbolift and stepped into sickbay.
She observed the scene before her. Commander Chakotay was once again lying on biobed one, unconscious, and to his left stood Marika, studying him.
Hearing the doors open and close, Marika turned her head to see who had entered. Her expression darkened in recognition. "What are you doing here?"
Raising her chin a notch, Seven responded. "The Doctor requested my presence. Perhaps if you paid attention-"
"Ah, Seven!" The EMH interrupted quickly, suddenly appearing from his office. "This way, please. I'd like a little word with you..." Shoving her into the office, he threw a smile back to Marika. "Please, continue what you're doing. Don't mind us."
Glaring briefly, Marika then did as he suggested and maintained her silent observation of Chakotay.
In the office, Seven watched as the Doctor slid behind his desk and collapsed into his chair.
"She hasn't exactly been in what you would call a 'cheery disposition'..." He muttered.
Not seeing the relevance, Seven forged ahead with the conversation. "What is it you require, Doctor?"
Sighing, he leant back in his chair before quickly leaning forward and looking up at her. "I've been looking at various methods for treating the Commander and I have to admit that I haven't been very successful. However, there is one method I would like to try..."
"And for this you require my assistance?"
"And your perspective," He added, then hesitated. "I believe that what is affecting Commander Chakotay is almost entirely psychological. Certainly, the memories within him exist and certainly Marika's presence seem to be having some effect on those memories...but I'm honestly not sure if there is any way we can convince the Commander to open the door in his mind, as it were. Whether he found reason to or not, I believe that unconsciously he just wouldn't want to, and nothing can change that."
Seven nodded. "The Commander has expressed his fear of senility before."
"Exactly," He continued, encouraged. "What I would like you to do is to create a connection between the Commander and Marika not entirely dissimilar from the one you created with the 'Triad'."
It was not what Seven of Nine was expecting to hear. "That is an unanticipated theory, not to mention complicated. To facilitate the connection between the members of my unimatrix I injected all three drones with nanoprobes that created new interlink nodes in their left hemispheres. The Commander does not have the appropriate microcortical implants for me to do that, and neither does Marika since you removed them. And, may I remind you that it was the removal of these implants that left her and the others only a month to live?"
"Clearly some surgery would be needed...and may I remind you that the removal of said implants was purely done at your request?"
"Yes, at my request and insistence and I do not regret that decision. However, I do not believe Commander Chakotay would appreciate having Borg implants inserted into his brain, nor do I believe he would appreciate knowing that they could have possibly fatal consequences."
Standing from his chair, the EMH stepped around the edge of the desk. "He would not require that level of surgery - the connection can be made through a neural transceiver worn by both subjects. Seven...I certainly know that there are risks inherent in this procedure, but if we don't do something the neural damage will become too great and he will die anyway!"
That caused her to pause. "What benefits will this procedure have?"
Seeming relieved, he rested against the edge of the desk. "If they are connected then they will share their thoughts. They won't be able to keep a single thought to themselves and as disturbing as it may be, I believe it will enable the Commander to access the memories he is resisting."
"Yes. I have gone over all my sensor data several times and worked my way through several possible outcomes. It is my belief that after all the memories are revealed the Commander will not be bothered by them anymore. He will still remember them, but they will not cause him such distress."
"But you have no way of knowing for certain?"
The Holodoc sighed. "Not one hundred per cent, no. But then things aboard this ship are rarely one hundred per cent."
"True enough," She conceded.
Gratified, he forced a small smile. "Well then, if all goes to plan and I somehow manage to get everyone's permission, can I count on your assistance?"
Turning slightly, Seven studied the still form of Commander Chakotay and tried to ignore the form of Marika.
"I will give it serious consideration," She responded. "Have you informed anyone else of your plan yet?"
He hesitated for several seconds. "Not yet. I thought I'd discuss it with you first and refine the plan as best I can. I thought I'd leave it as a final option if nothing else works. A back-up plan."
Her gaze did not move from the people on and around the biobed. "You will find it difficult to convince certain people, and if they do not wish to be helped in that way..."
"I'm aware of that. But if it means the difference between life and death, I have to try."
"Doctor!" Marika called.
Running out of his office he reached the biobed and pressed buttons on the console at its side. "Looks like he's coming round." His fingers played over the console for a moment, then he looked up at Marika. "I really think it would be for the best right now if you left."
The Bajoran looked offended. "I do not wish to."
"I can understand why you wouldn't want to, but I think it's best for the Commander's mental health if we minimise contact between you and him for the time being."
"Your presence clearly has some effect on him," He insisted. "I am asking you as his friend to leave the room."
Marika's mouth tightened, and she refused to look at Seven. "Very well," She said crossly and walked out of the room.
A few moments later, Chakotay groaned. "Gods," He muttered, reaching a hand up to his head. "Please tell me the other guy looks worse than I feel."
"Actually," The Doctor responded lightly, "The 'other guy' is a female who is certainly more attractive than you are Commander."
"Thanks Doc," Chakotay groaned again and tried to sit up. He gasped when he realised Seven was there. "Borg!"
Concerned, the Doctor activated the tricorder he quickly grabbed from the medtray, but just as quickly Chakotay relaxed and lay back down.
"Sorry," He said, casting a look in Seven's direction. "Some instincts are difficult to fight."
"That is not surprising considering your current predicament."
He chuckled. "Predicament. That's a good word for it. Well, at least I didn't wake crying this time."
"Crying?" She queried, confused.
"Yes," Doc responded, tapping a few buttons. "It wasn't the Commander's most dignified awakening."
Mock-glaring at the hologram, Chakotay then turned his attention back to the woman. "Actually Seven, I have a favour to ask. Considering who it is you have to talk to, it's quite a big one..."
He could have sworn that he heard her approach from six decks away, could have sworn that he heard her swearing all the way from deck eleven as the turbolift made its torturous journey up to deck five. He could have sworn he heard the running footsteps and yelps from crew members trying to avoid her and if there had been security guards at the doors to sickbay, she would have drop kicked one out of the way and broken the other ones nose before barging in.
There were no security guards, obviously. That didn't prevent her from barging in, and that's exactly what she did.
The doors to sickbay hissed open and she stormed in, barely pausing as she stopped next to Chakotay's biobed. "Is it true? Were YOU responsible for sending that Borg Bimbo to speak to me?!" Her glare didn't let up, but her eyes also seemed to be pleading with him, trying to convince him to tell her that of course he hadn't and that her faith in him would be restored.
He was sorry to disappoint her. "Yes. Look, I'm sorry if Seven rubs you the wrong way-"
"Rubs?" She laughed loudly, then snorted. "Rubs?! Let's get something straight, Chakotay. This woman doesn't rub me the wrong way; she drags me, kicking and screaming."
"Only because you let her."
She bristled, crossing her arms over her chest. "What are you implying?"
"I'm not implying anything, B'Elanna. I'm telling you. You're too easy to provoke. I know it. You know it. Tom knows it. Everyone on the damn ship does! And Seven...Seven absolutely knows it."
Huffing, she glared at him, but then seemed to loose a little of her anger. "How are you feeling?"
Chakotay wasn't about to get into nightmares and the experience of losing his mind with her. "Okay."
Unfolding her arms, she grabbed one of his and leaned towards him. "Don't bullshit me."
"I'm not," He insisted, wincing at her grip which she then released. "I'm okay. I'm not perfect but I'm okay."
She didn't look satisfied. "That's so damned typical of you! You tell everyone to share their most innermost feelings but you never do it yourself."
"That's not true..."
"Yeah, sure Chakotay. Whatever you say." Frustrated, she glanced about sickbay. "Where's the Doctor?"
"In his office. I'm fairly sure he tried to say hello when you stampeded in here but you ignored him."
"He's quite right," Came the Doctor's voice as he stepped out of his office. "And, not only did you ignore me, I'm sure you're not making my patient very peaceful."
"I'm just saying hello," She retorted.
The EMH sniffed. "I'm glad to see you're doing so in such a pleasant mood."
"Alright," She said through clenched teeth. She looked back at Chakotay. "So...Seven was telling me the truth? You really want me to have a word with Marika?"
He smiled gently. "Yes, you and Ensign Jenkins."
"Jenkins? Another blonde bimbo?"
"She's hardly a blonde bimbo."
"Oh please, Chakotay! Have you seen the way she throws herself at Harry?"
"Just be glad she doesn't throw herself at Tom."
She thought over his words before responding with "Good point. But why her?"
"She knows how to enjoy herself."
B'Elanna rose her eyebrows wolfishly. "What does *that* imply?"
Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Nothing of that sort, B'Elanna."
Leaning towards him, she poked his chest with a finger. "You keep telling yourself that, Chakotay. When you're ready to be honest, I'll be here to listen."
He shook his head. "Get lost, Torres."
She grinned at him. "Aye sir."
They both watched her go.
"Curious," The Doctor stated after the doors closed.
"Somehow I think that if I told her to 'get lost' I wouldn't receive quite the same response."
Chakotay lay on his side, staring at a sickbay wall. It had been about fifteen minutes since B'Elanna had left and the Doctor had retreated to his office to work on possible solutions.
The truth was, despite what he had told B'Elanna, Chakotay wasn't okay. He was terrified. He had a pounding headache which didn't seem to abate no matter how much he tried to relax or how many hyposprays the Doctor gave him. He hadn't had any for a while now, as the Doctor was worried about overloading his biological systems.
And, of course, there were the visions. Or, perhaps, the memories.
They certainly weren't as intense as when Marika was there, but they were deeply disturbing; more like his nightmares than anything else.
His hand, wrapped around a stone...
He remembered that moment well. His search for his father.
A blonde girl running...
...into the arms of her Grandfather. Riley. Texas barbecue. Blue bonnets.
A Borg cube travelling at warp.
Flashes of insights, knowledge, thoughts. A confusing and terrifying jumble.
He almost missed it, but he became aware then of the sound of doors hissing open. His mind locked onto that sound, trying to drag him away from the memories.
A hand touched his back, caressing lightly. Another rested on his arm.
Sighing - although in pleasure or suffering he wasn't sure - he resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to face the one person he was useless at hiding from.
Beginning to turn, he lowered himself onto his back slowly, giving her the time to remove the hand that was touching him. He glanced at the Doctor's office briefly, knowing that the hologram must have been aware of her presence but had elected not to emerge.
Tiredly, he looked up at her. "Hello."
"Hello," She responded, smiling at him despite the concern tugging at her eyes. "How are you?"
"B'Elanna came to see you," He replied, not giving her the answer she was looking for.
She didn't deny it. "Yes. She was concerned about you so she stopped by my quarters-"
"Shouldn't you have been on duty?"
Kathryn hesitated. "Usually, yes. I was under orders to get some sleep."
Chakotay rose his eyebrows. "You haven't been sleeping well?"
Janeway sighed, then smiled at him. "This is what B'Elanna's talking about. You get so concerned for other people that you don't take care of yourself."
"I don't want to worry anyone needlessly."
"Maybe I *want* someone to worry about needlessly; have you considered that?" She demanded.
He smiled, somewhat flattered. "I can honestly say that I haven't."
"Well think about it," She ordered.
"I promise that I will..."
A man, humming...
The mood changed in an instant. His smile rapidly transformed into an expression of anguish. He sat up quickly. "I'm so sorry..."
"Biral?" Janeway whispered.
There were tears in his eyes already, and he reached out a hand to touch her cheek. She didn't pull away, worried it would spook him.
"I'm so sorry..." He repeated.
"It wasn't your fault," She murmured.
"You should never have been on that away mission."
"They needed an engineer," She responded inanely, not knowing anything else to say.
Suddenly he grabbed both sides of her head, surprising her with the intensity of his grip. "They could have sent anyone! They didn't have to send you...the one person who was pregnant..."
"Oh, God." Kathryn's stomach dipped as she realised what he was talking about. How was she supposed to comfort him for the loss of a child that had never really been his?
Grabbing his hands she managed to pull them from her face. Her own eyes were starting to feel a little moist. "It was absolutely needless," Kathryn whispered to him "But *I* am here. I am not going away and we're staying together with or without a child."
He sobbed and pulled her closer. "When you died on the planet...when the shuttle crashed and I held your dead body..."
Not entirely sure what he was talking about, she continued to hold him, murmuring comforting platitudes.
Eventually, his crying subsided and they remained like that - he sitting on the edge of the biobed, she standing between his legs with arms wrapped around each other - for a few moments.
Chakotay's voice was shaking when he next spoke. "Kathryn...?"
Unbelievably relieved, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment before opening them and forcing a smile on her face as she stepped away and looked at his face. Utter confusion covered his features and she reached up to rub a tear away. "You're going to be just fine," She told him with conviction.
Holding his hand, she spoke loudly. "Doctor, now would be a good time for you to come out of hiding."
Christ, she had never seen him like this.
On different occasions Kathryn had seen Chakotay being terrified, concerned, happy, disenchanted, angry and peaceful.
Never like this. Nor did she want to.
He was sitting where he had been earlier, on the edge of the biobed. No matter what she said or how she tried to encourage him, he refused to look her in the eye, so his head was lowered heavily. It was as if he didn't want to her to see how badly this was affecting him.
There was no way she couldn't be aware of it, because despite his own efforts at hiding his face, his hands had latched onto her. Each of his hands grasped one of her wrists and squeezed tightly - not enough to be painful, but enough so that some of her skin bunched together and when he eventually chose to remove his hands, she knew there were going to be white finger marks left behind.
She didn't think he was going to be removing his hands anytime soon. It seemed to her that his hold on her was the only thing keeping him upright.
Kathryn was surprised at how gentle the Doctor's voice was. Still staring at her First Officer's down-bent head, she spoke just as quietly. "Yes?"
The EMH stepped a little closer, worried at how Chakotay was going to react.
He didn't move.
Relieved, the Doctor continued. "Can I have a word? In private?"
Inexplicably tired, she nodded towards her wrists. "I don't think that's possible."
Finding something to grin about, the hologram suddenly had a hypospray in his hand. "Worry not, Captain. This won't make him fall asleep, but it will help him relax."
"Very well," She silently gave him permission and he proceeded.
Chakotay moved slightly as he noticed the hypospray being used. Shaking his head slowly, his grip loosened and he fell to his left side. Janeway and the Doctor moved quickly, nearly faltering under the sudden movement of his weight, but managed to lower him gently down and swing his legs up onto the biobed.
Blinking heavily, Chakotay's words were slurred. "Kath...Mari...KathMari..." He laughed at something only he found funny.
Frowning, Janeway looked at the Doctor. "What exactly was in that hypospray?"
Rolling his eyes, the Doctor walked over to his office. Janeway followed.
"I've analysed the results from the Commander's latest 'experience' and it seems to confirm what I suspected;" Reaching his desk he activated the terminal and swivelled it round for her to see. "More and more memories are trying to emerge. The ones that are causing the problems are the ones that are succeeding in their quest to emerge; because the Commander is resisting them so strongly they're having to 'force' their way through."
Nodding, Janeway nodded towards the diagram she was looking at. "What are the green sections?"
"Neural stress," He answered, a little too grimly for Janeway's liking. "As far as I can determine at this point, it will only get worse. I'm assuming that it's the nature of the way he received the memories that has started all the trouble; 'normal' repressed memories wouldn't have such a severe effect."
"It's never a good idea to mix man and machine." Janeway muttered.
"Most of the time," He conceded.
Sighing, Janeway turned off the terminal and then used the same hand to rub at her forehead. Christ...
"There's something else,"
Her hand froze. Her body became even more tense, if that were possible. "Just tell me."
"I'm not sure how wise it is for you to spend time with him in this condition."
Dumb struck, she lowered her hand and gaped at him before regaining her control. "And why not?"
Deciding there was nothing left to loose, he barged on. "For similar reasons as to why I asked Marika to stay away from him."
"And they are?"
"Marika's presence obviously effects him because he has memories of her from her husband, Biral. No doubt actually seeing her and speaking to her is likely to bring those memories to the fore."
She studied him, flatly. "Your point about me being...?"
"Well, from his latest experience it seems to indicate that your presence also has some kind of effect, bringing forth the memories from Biral, and not from any of the other people he linked with. I can only assume that there's a connection. Either your presence reminds him of something that caused him anguish-"
"What a lovely thought."
"-or your presence reminds him of his wife."
"I look nothing like Marika."
"You're both stubborn; determined." He faltered. "And I was actually referring to the possibility of romantic feelings."
Now was not a good time for her to turn red. Now was not a good time to be reminded of a situation she had been avoiding for years. "I see. That's a hell of a theory from one occurrence."
"Perhaps, but it's not an occurrence I'd like to risk again. As his Doctor, and as his friend."
"I'm his friend as well," Kathryn responded quietly. "I will not avoid him completely. I will, however...minimise my contact with him as much as possible."
Knowing it was the only concession she would make, he smiled. "Thank you Captain."
Stiffly she nodded. "I really should get back to the bridge anyway. I was due back on duty hours ago."
"I'm sure Commander Tuvok enjoys being in the Captains chair."
"I'm sure he loves it," She retorted, walking back into the main sickbay area "but he'd never admit it."
Blatantly ignoring the Doctor's request from just a few moments ago, she walked up to the biobed and touched Chakotay's arm.
Her hand touched his arm.
He smiled. He remembered her doing that on their wedding night but wearing a lot less clothing.
When she spoke her voice seemed far away, and her face looked even farther away.
"Chakotay...I'm going back on duty now. The Doctor will be here to watch over you and I'm afraid I'll be too busy to visit you a lot," Her hand seemed to tighten, but he really wasn't sure about his sense of touch "But I'll never be more than a com badge away."
He really didn't understand a word she was saying. "'Kay. Do you have a pillow? I still have to...get yoo..."
She smiled her agreement. "Of course. I'll bring one next time."
Then she was gone, and the bald man was looking down at him.
He yelled and struck out. When his hand went right through the bald man, he passed out.
"Could you at least pretend that you like me?"
B'Elanna looked at the woman she was sharing the turbolift with. "I do like you," She lied.
Sarah Jenkins snorted. "I know very well that you don't, but if we're going to go through with this we really shouldn't be bitching at each other. She needs all the cheering up she can get."
Clenching her teeth, B'Elanna smiled. "Okay. No sweat."
The blonde nodded. "Good."
B'Elanna's teeth clenched together once more. Kahless, what had she done to deserve this?
Thankfully she didn't have much time to think about it as the 'lift came to a halt and as the doors opened B'Elanna and Jenkins stepped out onto deck seven. Reaching the first intersection they turned a corner, then paused outside a door.
"This is it," Torres announced.
Jenkins nodded. "Press the button then."
It was all she could do not to growl. "Okay. No sweat." She pressed the button.
It had barely finished beeping when the voice from within responded. "Come in."
After the doors opened, they peered inside to see Marika sitting on the sofa of her assigned quarters, staring at them.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice was not pleasant, and she didn't look as if she'd been getting any sleep at all.
B'Elanna and Sarah barged into the room.
"We," B'Elanna began "are here to get you."
"Why?" Marika demanded, head moving to look between the two of them as they skirted around the coffee table and stood on either side of her.
This time Jenkins grinned. "Because you're going to have the time of your life. Just imagine it; a holodeck, a reprogrammable male, and chocolate ice-cream."
"Sounds like Heaven to me," B'Elanna agreed.
"I thought you'd think so," Sarah retorted, then nodded.
At the same moment both she and B'Elanna grabbed an arm and pulled the Bajoran off the sofa.
A few moments later a stunned and utterly confused Marika was practically carried out of the room.
"Wait, wait a minute," Sarah Jenkins enunciated clearly, pressing the thumb and index finger of her right hand together to emphasise her point, while the remaining three fingers pointed at a forty-five degree angle. "So you're saying...you're trying to tell me...that you...how is it possible that you've *never* had ice cream?" She completed finally, destroying her carefully constructed hand position by thunking her entire arm down onto the table.
B'Elanna quickly picked up her drink so it wouldn't spill.
On the other side of the table, Marika scrutinised the two women who were clearly enjoying themselves a little too much. She was well acquainted with the 'relaxing' effects of synthehol, but these two seemed to be relaxing a little more than usual. "I don't understand why you find it so hard to believe. I'm not human. I was only on Earth long enough to complete my studies at the Academy. Ice cream isn't a Bajoran delicacy."
Sarah's hand lifted up and waved it aimlessly through the air. "I know, but still...never? You must have seen other people eat it."
Marika held back a frustrated sigh. They were in a holodeck recreation of a bar called 'Sandrines' - not a place she was acquainted with personally, but she thought she'd heard the name passed around while she was at the Academy. Torres and Jenkins had insisted that they were there to 'have a good time'. Marika couldn't classify it as such. At best it was interesting.
It didn't help matters that her thoughts rapidly returned to Biral and Commander Chakotay, no matter what the topic of conversation was. And she had the worst headache she could ever remember enduring.
"Yes," She admitted. "I saw other people eat it. It just never appealed to me; I've never been a lover of sweet foods." Then, almost as an afterthought, "I remember Biral eating it. His favourite flavour was raspberry." She paused, remembering the way he would tease her about never treating herself. "He loved raspberries. It was a human food that he became addicted to. He even programmed special foods into the replicator in our quarters..." Trailing off, the small smile that had appeared on her mouth vanished when she realised how she had been rambling on. Sitting stiffer on the chair, she attempted to look nonchalant and succeeded.
A not-very-subtle and not-very-all-there Sarah elbowed B'Elanna in the ribs.
"Watch it!" She yelled, rubbing her side but getting the hint. Beginning to shake off the effects of the synthehol she had ingested, B'Elanna leant forward and spoke to the Bajoran as Sarah looked innocent and whistled towards the ceiling absently. "You don't talk about your husband much."
Marika stared at her flatly. "Considering recent events, he's all I talk about."
"Alright, okay," B'Elanna gave in quickly "You certainly mention the fact that you have a husband and that there's some kind of Borg-stupid-brain-connection between him and Chakotay," She took a breath "But I mean...on a personal level. Like the fact that he loved raspberries."
Comprehension began to dawn. "I see," Marika started "So the whole point of us coming here to 'have fun' was actually for poor old Marika to drag a few ghosts out of the cupboard and try to find some peace before she dies. Isn't that right? Isn't that what Chakotay told you to do?"
Jenkins gaped at her, the fuzziness beginning to fade from her brain as she became more alert.
B'Elanna remained calm. "No," She replied honestly.
"No?" Marika retorted, disbelieving.
"No," B'Elanna confirmed. "Chakotay didn't tell us to make you face any demons. He didn't tell us to act as counsellors. We just thought you might like a little fun."
Marika frowned, her facade cracking. "He really didn't say that to you?"
"He really didn't."
A very confused Sarah nodded her agreement although she believed it to be an absolute fabrication.
Marika said nothing.
A now-fully alert Sarah prodded the bowl from her side of the table to Marika's. "Try some."
She regarded the bowl dubiously. "What flavour did you say it was?"
Jenkins grinned meaningfully. "Chocolate."
In understanding, Marika nodded. "I have tried chocolate. Perhaps this will be enjoyable."
"Finally," B'Elanna muttered. "Some encouragement."
If she heard her, Marika gave no indication. Picking up the spoon resting on the edge of the bowl, she dug into the ice cream and levered a small portion free. Lifting the spoon, she placed it in her mouth, closed her lips, and pulled the spoon out.
Allowing the ice cream to melt on her tongue, she frowned, studying the experience.
It was warmer than she thought it would be, although that could have been related to the fact that the bowl had been on the table for several minutes. It was milky. Chocolatey. Sweet. Dissolving rapidly.
When it was gone, she lowered the spoon to the bowl and released her hold on it.
Two sets of eyes studied her expectantly.
"It was satisfactory."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "You sound just like Seven."
In that instant Marika's anger flared. "Do not compare me with her."
Jenkins held up her hands as if to ward off any incoming missiles. "Give the Lieutenant a break. It was a bad analogy."
"If accurate," B'Elanna insisted, not withering under the glare Marika sent her. "You two have a lot in common, whether you like it or not."
"Not," Marika confirmed. "I wish to termi-end this discussion."
"Not a problem," Sarah said, leaping up from the table and heading over to the replicator she had added to the programme. "Besides, I did promise you reprogrammable males."
The Bajoran almost smiled. "Perhaps that would be 'fun'."
Sarah winked at her. "I thought so. However, I'm determined to find a flavour of ice cream that you 'love', whether or not you like sweet foods..."
"Sarah, not everyone 'loves' ice cream." B'Elanna retorted.
"Of course they do. They just don't know it yet." Facing the replicator, she requested her order. "One bowl of...coffee flavoured ice cream. Three scoops and three spoons."
The order materialised and Sarah picked up the bowl and walked back towards the table.
"This will be another new experience," Marika informed them.
"How so?" B'Elanna asked, sipping at her drink.
"I have never had coffee."
B'Elanna gaped at her.
Sarah lost her grip on the bowl and it fell to the floor, shattered fragments exploding and ice cream splattering against her trousers and the floor.
"Man, are *you* on the wrong ship!"
Kathryn ground her teeth together. She knew damned well who was at the door, who had been contemplating beeping at her door for the past hour and had finally concluded that sufficient time had passed that it was now acceptable for him to express his concerns.
"Come in," She ordered anyway, knowing it was pretty much a lost cause when it came to Vulcans.
He of course entered promptly and she idly wondered if he might have come here with a PADD under subterfuge. Then she realised how silly that thought was. There were any number of reasons that the chief of security would have to visit his Captain. To bring a PADD that didn't require any relevant data would have been highly illogical.
Resting her elbow on the desk, she leant her chin on her hand and gazed up at him. "When did I start thinking like you, Tuvok?"
He sat opposite her. "When you are uncomfortable with a situation."
She rose her eyebrows but remained exactly where she was. "Interesting theory."
He clearly saw no need for the banter to continue. "You have been in here for six hours."
"Your point being...?"
"Computer records show that you have accessed the replicator eighteen times."
"Your point being...?" Kathryn repeated, knowing where this was going anyway.
"Each of the eighteen times you requested coffee and nothing else."
"You require nutrition, and rest."
"What I *require* is for you to let me-"
"I will summon the Doctor if I need to."
Backing down, but only slightly, she pulled away from the table and leant back in her chair. She was almost thankful for his doggedness. Sighing, she felt her eyes close. "I've tried resting." They opened again. "It doesn't work. Every time I try to relax...I see him."
"Commander Chakotay's condition has not improved?"
Absently she shook her head, the palms of her hands now resting on the table as she looked at the stars without really seeing them. "No. But it's more than that. I've never seen him so...utterly defeated. I've seen him accepting his situation, trying to build on the remnants of what's left...but it's as if there's some huge part of him missing."
Tuvok nodded slowly, several times. "I doubt the Commander's condition will improve if you do not rest."
"I am merely stating what the Doctor would say if he were here."
She looked at him, exasperated. "Alright. I will try. Again. To get some rest." Standing from her desk, she stepped around it and walked to the upper level. Sitting on the edge of the sofa, she frowned at him. "I don't know which of you is more irritating."
He stood, raising an eyebrow as she lay down on the sofa. "The Doctor, obviously."
"Neelix may disagree."
"Perhaps," Was all he allowed.
Waiting until she closed her eyes, he turned to go.
She was quiet. "I don't want to loose him."
"I agree that his loss would be detrimental to morale throughout the ship."
Smirking, she kept her eyes closed. "Somehow I thought you'd say that."
Tuvok continued. "We will not 'loose' him, Captain."
"Why do you say that?"
He was quiet. "He would not leave you."
Tuvok sat in command on the bridge, reading over the latest security reports. Ensigns Paris and Kim were at their respective stations, for once not participating in the banter that so frequently interrupted their work. He understood the need most humans had to engage in such banter as it often raised morale. However, it also disrupted normal working conditions and he frequently found himself at odds with just how much he should tolerate.
He spoke of this to no one, of course.
The sounds of turbolift doors hissing open drew his attention to the rear of the bridge where Ensign Vorik appeared, on a direct course for the Captains ready room. Acknowledging his intent, Tuvok stood with the PADD he had been reading still clasped in his right hand. "Ensign Vorik, may I enquire as to your actions?"
The young Vulcan paused just before reaching the steps that lead down to the ready room. Turning, his hands clasped carefully behind him, he responded. "Lieutenant Torres has not reported for duty, nor has she responded to my com badge hails." Tuvok could almost hear Ensign Paris sitting up in his chair when Vorik continued. "As Commander Chakotay is indisposed, I thought it best to advise the Captain."
Understanding, Tuvok nodded and placed his PADD on the arm of the chair he had been sitting in. "You were right in thinking to inform the Captain, however she is not to be disturbed unless it is deemed absolutely necessary. I will look into this matter."
Vorik nodded. "Very well, Commander. I will return to my duties." He promptly turned and advanced to the turbolift.
As the door closed, Tuvok faced the conn. "Ensign Paris, you have the bridge. I will return shortly."
"Aye sir." He replied cautiously as he called for a replacement then approached the big chair, frowning.
One of them was laughing. It wasn't Marika - she hadn't laughed at all since they'd arrived here, but at least she'd smiled a few times. No, it had to be her or Jenkins, but B'Elanna honestly couldn't figure out which one it was.
After drinking even more synthehol they'd deleted the piano and ordered a comfortable sofa for them to sit in. They weren't so much sitting in it now as much as they were lying across it, and even Marika was slouching against it with a slight smirk on her face.
Catching her breath and deciding that perhaps she had been the person laughing the loudest, B'Elanna gave a new instruction to their work in progress.
"Computer: add an oval shaped birthmark to the left butt cheek, about two centimetres in diameter."
It did as instructed and the revolving hologram continued turning until they could see it.
Jenkins snickered. "So...where did you get the inspiration for that one? As if I didn't know..."
B'Elanna grinned evilly. "Let's just say I'll have good blackmail material if Tom and I ever break up."
Giggling, Sarah gave the next command. "Hmm...computer; change his hair. Give him...dark curtains." Observing the new results, she frowned. "No. That's too neat. Maybe five years ago. Make it a little more messy."
Sarah sighed. "Give him Ensign Kim's haircut!" Watching the new results, she smiled in satisfaction. "Much better."
Rolling her eyes, B'Elanna turned her head towards Marika. "Come on. It's your go."
"I am not sure I want to participate."
Sarah chuckled. "Specify." She said, then laughed hysterically.
After Jenkins had calmed, Marika continued. "I am not sure it is morally correct to include body parts or anything else from members of the crew."
Quite seriously, B'Elanna nodded. "I did wrestle with the ethics at first...for all of two seconds. Look, Marika, we're just here to have some fun. And it's not like we're going to do anything with him once he's completed. It's just for fun. Making the perfect man. Although," She glanced towards their hologram "he's looking more like a badly assembled collection of body parts than the perfect man."
"Which is almost as much fun as making the perfect man," Sarah added.
"Very well," Marika sighed, tried not to smile, and decided to get into the spirit of things. "Computer; retain his haircut but added a little grey to his hair colour."
Sarah almost objected, but paused when she saw it. "That looks a lot better than I thought..."
Marika continued. "Make his skin tone slightly darker. Increase his height by four centimetres. Make the base of his nose slightly smaller. Give him brown eyes."
"Wow," Jenkins whispered. "When she gives it a go, she really gives it a go."
B'Elanna ignored her, instead watching the woman who had stood up from the sofa and was slowly approaching the still-rotating hologram. "Computer: stop the hologram from rotating."
As instructed the hologram stilled and Marika looked up at his face.
Silently, B'Elanna pulled herself up from the sofa and stood next to her. "This is him, isn't it?"
"It is a good likeness, if not completely accurate."
Sarah stood on Marika's other side. "He was quite a bit older than you."
The Bajoran smiled. "Yes, he was. He was fond of saying that it gave him wisdom. He never meant it, of course. He always thought I was the wise one." She shook her head. "He never learnt not to start a pillow fight." She leered towards the other women meaningfully. "I always had ways of making him give in."
Pleased, B'Elanna grinned. "Glad to see I'm not the only one who tortures the man she loves."
Jenkins joined in. "It'd be no fun if we didn't."
That caught B'Elanna's attention. "You don't have a man."
"That's not the point. Just because I don't have a man doesn't mean I can't torture one."
Marika looked at Jenkins. "You are referring to Ensign Kim."
Sarah glared at her, then the hologram. "Should we add a tattoo?"
Shaking her head, B'Elanna sighed. She was usually the one losing her temper. "Sarah-"
All three heads turned to see Tuvok walking into Sandrines.
He obviously saw it, but said nothing about the fact that the three of them were standing in front of a naked man. "You are late for your duty shift, and have not acknowledged several attempts at contacting you through use of a com badge."
"Yes, yes," She said, rushing over to stop him from coming any further. "Sorry, I..." She lowered her voice considerably. "We were asked to keep Marika company. To keep her happy."
"Chakotay, but via Seven. You've got to admit that she should have some fun."
He merely lifted an eyebrow. "If you insist. And as this was at the Commander's instruction, I will find someone to assist Ensign Vorik if so required. But that does not mean you should ignore com badge hails."
She smiled, relieved. "Thank you, Tuvok."
Uncomfortable with the seriousness of her expression of thanks, he simply nodded. "I must return to the bridge. Continue with your..." He glanced towards the hologram "...activities."
After he was gone, Sarah ran up to her. "That was a smirk!"
B'Elanna frowned. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm telling you, that was a smirk!"
"She is correct," Marika volunteered. "The movements of his facial muscles could quite clearly be classified as a 'smirk'."
"Really?" B'Elanna asked, studying the hologram with a hand on her hip. "I may have to bring this up at the next staff meeting."
A man, humming...
A man, screaming...
A man, feeling the molten fire in his veins, feeling his skin move, his capillaries expanding...
A man, sobbing.
A man, humming.
"He's not talking, Chakotay."
"He keeps making that damn irritating noise."
"Dammit! Will you *do* something instead of just saying 'I know'?"
A man, humming...
"He's not talking, Chakotay."
His eyes opened. The Doctor was looking down at him. His lips were moving which indicated that he was saying something, but Chakotay could hear nothing except for the sound of his own breathing.
The humming again. The stupid humming. Why the hell wouldn't he shut up?!
She should be here. She should be here with him. She would be there, later.
He knew now. Knew that the terrifying prospect had become a reality. Knew that the thought that he could protect her was utterly futile. Futile. He detested that word.
It was no longer true. She would be there, and so would he.
In The Arms of the Prophets...
The feel of her hair in his hands...
The humming stopped.
The glass fell from her hand, shattering on the floor. Her hand limp, her whole body limp, Marika slid from the chair onto her knees, landing on the pieces of glass without noticing.
Somehow managing to not collapse completely she remained on her knees, head bowed, caught somewhere between sobbing and screaming.
B'Elanna and Sarah were by her side in an instant, hands grasping, touching, searching.
Marika moaned low in her throat, tears she didn't know she was capable of shedding escaping from her eyes.
She ignored their words of concern, hushes of reassurance. Her hand grasped fiercely on the first arm it came into contact with.
"Get me to sickbay," She ordered, voice catching. "Now."
Kathryn's eyes opened.
She could hear something, she was certain of it.
Frowning, she carefully propped the top half of her body up by pushing her hand against a cushion. She looked around the ready room, not really expecting to see anything but checking just in case. After a careful study with her own eyes, her initial thoughts seemed to be confirmed; there was nothing in here that could be making a noise. But she heard something, she was certain of it.
Sighing, she removed her hand from its position and fell back onto the sofa. Perhaps she was just too tired. It really hadn't been all that long since Chakotay's 'illness', but the constant strain of worry always sapped her energy.
Wasn't this one of the reasons she had resisted forming personal attachments?
God, now she sounded like Seven.
Turning, she snuggled further towards the back of the sofa, trying not to think about how ridiculously indulgent she was being. God Bless Tuvok.
Relaxing, she closed her eyes with a smile on her face.
Paris burst into sickbay to discover the Doctor working as frantically as he had ever seen him over the disturbingly silent form of Commander Chakotay.
It had only been a few minutes since Tuvok had returned to the bridge to resume command and informed him that B'Elanna was fine. That was when he had received the urgent hail from Doc summoning him to sickbay.
Reaching the other side of the biobed he responded to the yelled instructions from the Doctor, who muttered to himself at occasional moments. Tom was no idiot. True, B'Elanna would frequently disagree - and so would Harry, occasionally. And Neelix, now that he thought about it - but he had paid enough attention to know that things were not looking good.
The understatement of the century, perhaps.
A noise interrupted their loud shouts and as he recognised the familiar tingle of the transporter beam he immediately looked at the floor a few feet away from the biobed. Three forms solidified - B'Elanna, Jenkins, and Marika.
"Help them," Was all the Doctor said, never taking his hands or his eyes off the console.
Grabbing a tricorder from the med tray with one hand, Tom opened it with the other and descended on the small group, taking readings. "What happened?"
B'Elanna winced at the strength of Marika's hand against her arm. "She just collapsed," She began urgently. "We were in the holodeck when she fell from her chair onto her knees and started crying. We tried to help but she told us to get her to sickbay and we started walking but the further we got the more groggy she became, so I called for an emergency transport. She landed on shards of glass," B'Elanna continued, nodding at her knees.
Acknowledging her statement he nodded once, double-checked his readings and tried to ignore the Doctor's worried mutters. He looked at B'Elanna and Jenkins. "Help me get her onto biobed two."
Quickly although perhaps not particularly efficiently, all three grabbed different body parts and hoisted her indelicately up onto the biobed.
Marika said nothing. Gave no protest, voiced no refusal to co-operate, said nothing about the pain she must have been feeling. Her head lolled on her shoulders, but somehow her gaze managed to focus on Chakotay's still form.
Tom had already made a journey to the med tray and back. Injecting the contents of a hypospray into Marika's neck he looked fiercely at B'Elanna. "That should help with the pain, although something tells me she's not really aware of it. Try to keep her awake. Don't touch her knees." He waited until both she and Jenkins nodded their understanding, before rushing back to help the Doctor.
"I've managed to get some oxygen flowing through his lungs," The EMH reported "But it's all provided by the sickbay systems. He's not breathing on his own at all, and I can't see any cause for this..." He shook his head, amazed.
As she watched them continue their work with a great deal of apprehension, B'Elanna was surprised to feel Marika's hand grasping at her arm again. She looked at the Bajoran, whose eyes seemed no clearer than they had earlier, but her head didn't seem to move quite so much.
Her lips were moving.
Jenkins frowned as she noticed it too, and they both moved closer.
She was whispering, words both too quite and distorted for them to understand at first, but the longer she spoke the louder the words became until B'Elanna was able to pick out a few words. Blinking sharply, she glanced at Jenkins who confirmed silently that she too had heard it.
"In the arms of the Prophets..."
It was the same phrase repeated continuously, until all B'Elanna could think to do was to say them with her. It was keeping the woman alert and awake. That was all that mattered.
Jenkins evidently thought the same because she joined in shortly herself, and all three spoke the same words again and again.
"In the arms of the Prophets, in the arms of the Prophets, in the arms of the Prophets, in the arms of the Prophets..."
Their words grew louder until they were speaking at a normal volume and they continued, unheeding of the brief glare the Doctor sent their way.
The longer they continued, the clearer Marika's eyes seemed to get until she jerked forward, releasing her hold on B'Elanna and extending a hand towards biobed one. "You're still humming," She insisted. "You're still humming."
Chakotay's body jerked.
Paris stepped back in surprise. "What the hell just happened?!"
Marika shook her head, ignoring the others. "You're still humming!" She shouted this time, grinning madly, before passing out.
Grabbing her, shocked, B'Elanna and Jenkins lowered Marika back carefully until she was lying down.
"I've got a pulse," The Doctor announced, frowning. "It's his own, this time, but it's barely there." An idea formed and he quickly tapped his com badge. "Doctor to Janeway. Please respond." Nothing. "Doctor to Janeway." Frustrated, he shouted again. "Ensign Jenkins!"
Surprised, she nevertheless didn't hesitate and ran over to stand next to him. "Yes Doctor?"
"Find the Captain. Now. I don't care if she's painting her toe nails. I don't care if she's in the middle of fighting the Borg or recovering from a bout with Neelix's latest culinary disaster. Just find her. Now."
"Aye sir," Sarah responded, before running out of the room intent on her goal.
When she was gone, the Doctor looked at Tom. "Mr Paris, I think now would be a good opportunity to clean up Ms Marika's knees."
"Uh, sure Doc," Tom agreed for once easily. Confused and not having the vaguest idea of what the Doctor was up to, he grabbed the medical instruments he needed and joined B'Elanna by biobed two.
This was one hell of a strange day.
"Hello, don't mind me," Sarah announced quickly and loudly as she stampeded onto the bridge and continued walking in that manner until she reached the ready room doors. She beeped for entrance and when she got no response entered a code Harry had informed her of, claiming it was a 'Maquis manoeuvre' Tom had taught him.
She didn't much care where it came from, as long as it got the doors open.
It was only as the doors opened and she began to step through that she realised quite a large crowd had gathered behind her. Tuvok only managed to get "Ensign-" out before she was all the way through and the doors shut, cutting him off.
She didn't question the fact that the Captain was apparently asleep on her sofa. She didn't have the time to think it odd, or think that perhaps she needed the rest. All she did was leap up to the slightly higher level that the sofa resided on and took a chance with her life by grabbing the Captains shoulders and shaking her.
Kathryn Janeway was awake in an instant, and nearly whacked the side of Jenkins head with her hand. Fortunately, reality resumed itself quickly and she paused part way. Blinking the sleep out of her eyes, she attempted to sit up and look dignified. "Ensign, what is-"
"Sorry, don't have the time," Jenkins interrupted, grabbing the Captains arm and pulling her off the sofa. "You're to report to sickbay immediately. You can put me on report later if you want, but we've got to go." She began to drag her Captain towards the doors.
Planting her feet firmly on the floor, Kathryn refused to move. "Wait a minute - why do I have to report to sickbay?"
Jenkins shrugged. "All I know is that Commander Chakotay is deteriorating rapidly and the Doctor asked me to get you to sickbay ASAP."
The Captains eyes went wide. "Chakotay's worse?"
Sarah nodded. "A hell of a lot."
Janeway tapped her com badge. "Janeway to transporter room. Beam myself and Ensign Jenkins directly to sickbay. Energise."
When Tuvok entered the ready room a few seconds later, there was no one there.
The humming had started again.
Gods, no. No, no, no.
Why wouldn't it go away? Why wouldn't it leave him alone?
"He's not talking, Chakotay."
He knew he wasn't talking. The bastard was humming, and he wouldn't stop!
"Dammit! Will you *do* something instead of just saying 'I know'?"
Where was his wife? Where was his life?
She had summoned him back - they were supposed to be together.
"Arm myself...? Marika!" Laughter.
"Biral, I'm here."
No, I don't think you are. I think you're deceiving me. This is some Cardassian trick, an evil ploy to give you Starfleet secrets-
Why was that name so familiar? Why was there a loud buzzing in his ears? Why was he suddenly thinking about - of all things - tomatoes?
"Chakotay, do I have to order you awake? Because I will if I have to."
And the word came to him then. It rushed into his mind with sudden realisation, and it was as if at the speed of that realisation he was flying along, the wind in his hair as he looked at the scenery of nothingness and it was black and white and everything and nothing and somewhere, reality intervened. His chest was on fire as he rose up, back arching, head pounding, fingers splaying, a white brilliance filling his vision from above and he was at that instant two people: Biral, Chakotay, Stellar Cartographist, First Officer, Bajoran, Human, husband, best friend, hopeful and hopeless optimist...and then the universe receded to one word, a singular word that he knew would solve everything because for all his doubts, for all that had happened, he knew that only one word could make the situation right.
The brilliance faded.
He collapsed back onto the biobed.
Somewhere he could hear the muted sound of beeping. Somewhere he could hear the muted sound of talking.
He stared dumbly at her, mouth open and unable to close, wanting to say something but unable to speak, and there was a wetness on his face that wasn't his own.
Her hand reached out and all he could hear then was the sound of his own raspy, shallow breathing as the word caressed his head, comforting, reassuring, familiar.
Chakotay tried to speak, tried to say "He's not talking," but still nothing aside from his breathing and a strangled gasp escaped.
"Shhhh," the word whispered, hand still rubbing his head automatically as if she wasn't aware she was doing it.
If he could move...if he could see B'Elanna...she would understand.
"We have to keep him awake," A male voice that he recognised said.
"Not a problem," The word retorted, voice calm. She looked down at him and it occurred to him that there had been a time when he hated her. "Right, Chakotay?"
Only if she had brought a pillow, this time.
Marika's head was pounding when she opened her eyes. That was no surprise. Her head had been pounding for a majority of the last day, and it probably didn't help matters that she had been utterly unable to sleep. She knew why, of course.
Sensing movement to her right, she turned her head slightly and watched the Doctor approaching, frowning heavily. Marika had not known him for a great deal of time, but even she believed she knew what that frown indicated; he was not happy with her.
He didn't ask her how she was feeling. He didn't ask her if he could get her anything for the pain. Her knees at least weren't hurting, which probably meant they had been healed.
When he paused next to the biobed, his frown disappeared in his only attempt at civility. "How long has your head been hurting?"
It was not a question she had been expecting to hear, but one she probably should have anticipated. He would have by now performed a detailed scan and have carefully read over the results. "Most of the day."
He digested the information slowly, although why he did escaped her: it was obvious he had already reached that conclusion himself. "I see," He began. "Do you recall what I said to you after I removed the micro cortical implants and you woke up?"
Trying not to groan, she forced herself up into a sitting position. "Aside from the fact that I had approximately a month to live?"
The hologram did not seem to appreciate her attempt at sarcasm. "Yes. Besides that."
Closing her eyes angrily, she repeated the words verbatim: "...and if you feel any pain, any pain at all, please let me know immediately. It could be important to your-"
"-treatment," The Doctor concluded, eyes angry. "And I was right. The deterioration has begun already."
This was no surprise either. She knew what the headaches indicated. "Everyone knows that I am dying Doctor, and that nothing can be done. I see no point in delaying it."
"There's no point in aiding it, either," He insisted. "Besides, don't you think that someone might have something to say about that?" He turned to one side slightly, giving her an unobstructed view of a barely coherent Chakotay and Ensign Paris who was hovering over him.
When she said nothing, the Doctor turned back to face her. "I'm surprised you haven't asked about him yet."
"I knew he wasn't dead," She responded instantly, then caught herself. Lowering her eyes, she asked. "How is he?"
"Confused, but at least he's breathing by himself."
Knowing the effect her words had on Chakotay, she continued. "How did you still get a reaction from him after I became unconscious?"
It may have been her imagination, but she thought she saw him look away for a quick moment. "The Captain," He answered, eventually.
"Of course," She said quietly, not ignoring the pain in her chest. She was unaccustomed to it.
"As it seemed that it was your voice that brought him back, I concluded that the Captain might be able to achieve something similar. Of course, that went right against my own advice earlier that you both stay away from him, but it's better that he's alive with neural damage than dead with neural damage."
Marika wasn't entirely sure that she shared his point of view or that if she did she would voice it in quite that way, but she nodded anyway.
She studied what she could see of Chakotay's legs.
"How long do I have, Doctor?"
He seemed to pale at the bluntness of her question, which was ridiculous. He was a hologram. He was programmed to respond to certain situations with a needed detachment. At the very least, it confirmed her theory that he hadn't told her everything.
"I'm afraid that the degradation is accelerating much faster than I anticipated. A few days, at most."
A few days, at most.
She didn't feel like she was dying. Aside from the headache and her inability to sleep, she didn't feel ill at all.
A few days.
That was impossible to comprehend.
Fortunately, she didn't have the time.
"There's something else."
Something else? What else could he add to the fact that she would shortly be dead? "Go on."
"There's no way to tell exactly how long the Commander has, but after recent events I would have to say that it won't be very long and at all peaceful." He hesitated, and waited for her silent nod. "There is an...idea, that I've had. I wanted to use it only as a last measure, but at this point and considering your condition, it may be the only way we can help him."
Intrigued, she leant towards him. "What do you want me to do?"
Tom's voice interrupted them. "Uh, Doc..."
They looked over to see Tom leaning a little closer to Chakotay than he liked. He was being pulled there by Chakotay himself, who had reached up and had a handful of Tom's uniform in his grasp.
"I could use a little help here," Paris pointed out, obviously.
"Where's B'Elanna?" Chakotay demanded hoarsely, eyes dark.
The Doctor tried to placate him. "She's back on duty Commander, despite my advice, as is Ensign Jenkins. The Captain is-"
The doors to sickbay opened then, and the Captain entered with a cup in her hands.
"-bearing coffee, obviously."
Chakotay paid no attention, grabbing more of Tom's uniform into his hand. "Get B'Elanna. That's a damn order!" Then he released him so fiercely that Paris thumped against the wall, but within moments he was hitting his com badge. "Paris to Torres. Please report to sickbay at your earliest convenience. By that I mean; get your ass up here, now!"
The Captain rose an eyebrow. "Mr Paris, I don't believe that is appropriate language for a Starfleet officer."
Tom displayed his disagreement by exhaling heavily. "Oh stop with the Tuvok impersonations and give me that damn coffee. I think I need it more than you do."
"Okay, what is it now?" B'Elanna demanded as she strode into sickbay. She really should have been getting some rest. The 'quality time' she and Jenkins had spent with Marika had certainly been well spent, but now she was making up for it in engineering and didn't want to waste any more time than possible.
Tom was by her side immediately, shushing her. "Umm, Chakotay asked for you."
She paused. "He did?" She had no idea Chakotay was coherent enough to ask for anything with any amount of sense. It was only then that she noticed the large coffee cup in Tom's hands.
Noticing her glance at it, he shrugged. "I needed the caffeine."
Grabbing the cup from him, she walked decisively towards the biobed. Marika was awake on her own biobed, sitting up. The Captain and the Doctor both stood to Chakotay's right, so B'Elanna approached from his left.
"Coffee?" She asked, cautiously.
He shook his head, either not understanding or not wanting to. "He's humming." He told her urgently, as if needing to get the information out to someone who would understand.
B'Elanna frowned, heavily. "Who is?"
Angry, frustrated, he tried again. "He's not talking, B'Elanna!"
And it returned. The information she had tried to repress, the occurrence she had tried to hide, the memories she had determined to erase from her mind returned hastily, and she felt an almost physical blow to her head. Instinctively her hands released the cup and it fell, rebounding from the floor, the contents splattering the carpet, her uniform and the legs of the biobed, and as Tom asked what was wrong and a chill passed through her entire body, all she could think was, "Not this, oh God not this." Not again. Not again.
Shaking her head, she took a step back, seeing nothing except for the pair of despairing brown eyes that were staring at her.
Oh God, not this.
Kathryn Janeway stood in the Doctor's small office area, watching grimly as her chief engineer repeatedly walked back and forth in the confined space between doorways. She had certainly seen B'Elanna upset before, had certainly seen her frustrated, but there was something about this frustration...something that had even more intensity.
It was - she knew immediately - something of an extremely personal nature. Or, at the very least, B'Elanna considered it such. Right now that didn't matter to the Captain. If B'Elanna knew something about what was happening to Chakotay, Janeway needed to know.
If she heard her, the engineer gave no response, continuing her brief journey.
She tried again. "Lieutenant."
Still nothing; the only response being the sound of her footfalls against the soft carpet.
Kathryn tried a new course. "B'Elanna,"
Somehow that grabbed her attention. The half-Klingon paused by the doorway that led into main sickbay, and slowly turned to face her.
"What's wrong?" Kathryn continued. "What is it?"
B'Elanna closed her eyes briefly, as if trying to force some thought from her mind. Her hands clenched together, although whether it was in anger or nervousness, Kathryn couldn't tell.
Sighing, B'Elanna's hands crushed together and Kathryn decided then that it could almost have been caused by embarrassment, but then B'Elanna released her hold on her own hands and Janeway didn't know if that was the right assessment at all.
"It..." B'Elanna began, then took a deep breath and looked directly at her Captain and took a step towards her. "It...was a very long time ago. And it isn't something I want to discuss."
Janeway shook her head. "B'Elanna, you have to give me something more than that! Chakotay's life could depend on it."
B'Elanna looked at her darkly. "Trust me on this, Captain. If Chakotay were coherent enough right now he wouldn't want to discuss it either." Her tone became quieter, sounding as if she were far away. "I'm surprised he brought the subject up in front of you. I suppose that shows just what a bad state he's in..." She turned away from Janeway and studied Chakotay, who was still awake but didn't seem aware of anything. "I'm not sure what I'd do if he died. He's been a part of my life for what feels like so long..."
Surprised at the younger woman's confession even though it was something she already knew, Kathryn stepped forward until she was only two feet behind her. "You'll survive. You'll move on."
"Survive, yes," B'Elanna agreed, still unmoving. "But move on? That'll take some time, even if it happens at all."
"Of course it will, B'Elan-"
Torres turned then, and faced the older woman. "And you're just the same, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager." Unheeding of the glare she was receiving, B'Elanna continued. "You tell me that if Chakotay dies we'll all move on quite happily-"
"-I didn't say *that*."
"-but you're just the same as me. I know, I know it's absolutely galling for a strong, protocol addicted woman; you shouldn't *need* anyone. But you do, just as I do. It goes against everything you want to believe in, but it's true."
Janeway's furious anger was carefully contained. "Thank you for that assessment, Lieutenant, but if you're so worried about not being able to deal with Chakotay's death then why won't you tell me what I need to know?"
"Because I was asked not to, a long time ago. Not even to you."
Both annoyed and reassured at the 'even to you', Kathryn almost growled. "That doesn't help at all!"
The engineer's expression didn't change. "I will tell you that it involves a man humming, which is how it could be related to Marika's husband. That's probably what caused the connection."
"If you won't tell me anything else, how are we supposed to help him?"
"The Doctor will think of something," She stated with absolute certainty.
"B'Elanna, as much as I want to believe that we can't guarantee-"
"The Doctor will think of something," She insisted.
Janeway stared at her. "I hope for your own sake that you're right, B'Elanna."
The Doctor was staring at her anxiously.
Marika was sitting on the biobed, ignoring his silent request that she make her decision a little faster. It was an interesting request, one that required a great deal of contemplation.
And then, she realised, it didn't require any real thought of all. She probably should have said no, probably should have screamed that there was no way she was going to be linked to another person ever again, probably should have insisted that this time she was going to fight to keep her individuality.
The problem was, she was incomplete as an individual. Since she had been separated from the others and they had left, she had been unable to deal with the thoughts of a single person; even her own thoughts. Because of her experience with the Borg and with the Triad, she could no longer be alone.
And for that she hated the Borg and Seven of Nine even more.
She would not allow Chakotay's experience with them to ultimately end up killing him, even if her own was killing her.
Meeting the Doctor's gaze, she nodded and said a single word; "Yes."
Relieved, he thanked her, then walked over to his office to inform the Captain.
Watching him go, Marika turned her head back towards Chakotay and noticed that Ensign Paris - who was still hovering over the Commander - was watching her.
He took a few steps towards her and spoke quietly. "Thank you for doing this. I can't imagine what it must be like..."
She said nothing about that. "He is your friend?"
"Uh," He smiled, then chuckled. "Not exactly. But it will mean a lot to B'Elanna. And the Captain." He added, trying to make it sound like an afterthought.
Marika knew better. "Of course it will. And whether you like it or not, he is somehow your friend."
"Really? Why do you say that?"
She almost smirked. "Because he is B'Elanna's."
"Do you really think this will work?"
The Doctor nodded in response to the Captains question. She and B'Elanna were studying him curiously, having just heard his idea for treating Commander Chakotay. "While I can't guarantee it, I do think it's the most promising option at the moment. Marika is quite agreeable."
"She is?" Janeway and Torres asked together, surprised.
"Yes," He confirmed. "She's agreed and when I asked Seven she said she would give it 'serious consideration'. I'm sure I can persuade her to help us as well."
Janeway closed her eyes then and rubbed her hands over her face. Two ex-drones and Chakotay....this wasn't going to be pretty. "There is a problem, though..."
Apparently having the same thoughts, the Doctor nodded.
So did B'Elanna, who then spoke. "Persuading Chakotay to let two former Borg become involved in a procedure in which one of them would basically invade his mind."
Sighing, Kathryn rubbed her hands over her face again. This was not going to be pretty at all.
After summoning Seven to sickbay, Janeway, Torres and the Doctor walked over to biobed one in anticipation of her arrival. Paris and Marika were staring at Chakotay curiously, with good reason.
He was humming.
Recognising the tune with a horror she wouldn't acknowledge, B'Elanna looked at Marika. "In the Arms of The Prophets..."
The Bajoran nodded.
Janeway frowned. "That's the name of the tune he's humming?"
Understanding, Kathryn moved closer still and reached out a hand to touch his wrist.
The Doctor grabbed her forearm before she could.
Swivelling her head, she frowned at him heavily.
He immediately released his hold. "Captain, please be careful," He told her softly. "Whichever personality is most dominant - or even if it's a combination of both of them - neither of them is going to pleased with the idea of being linked in some version of a Collective. He hit you once, before-"
"He won't do it again."
"He hit you once before," He repeated. "And as much as I don't like the idea myself, I think we should activate the restraints."
"No," She responded immediately. "He has been through far too much already. I will not have him chained like some animal."
"It would hardly be like that. Captain, please-"
"No." Her voice was like stone, utterly unmoving. "He will not hit me," She insisted, and said it with such conviction that in that instant she convinced Tom and B'Elanna.
The Doctor finally capitulated. "Very well. But if I believe for any moment that you are in danger, I will activate the restraints."
He could see her jaw stressing, no doubt as she ground her teeth together. "Very well."
Turning her attention away, she reached out with her hand and touched Chakotay's wrist.
The humming stopped. He said nothing.
The word lingered in the air for a long time, and Kathryn feared she was never going to get a response. Instead of waiting, she pressed on. "We have an idea that we think is going to make you better, Chakotay. If it works as we think it will, you won't be confused anymore. You'll simply be you: Chakotay."
He finally said something. "Alone?"
Encouraged that he seemed to be understanding, Kathryn smiled and squeezed his wrist. "Yes, alone. No more Biral. Just Chakotay."
"No more humming?"
Although she couldn't fully guarantee it because she wasn't aware of the entire 'humming' situation, she agreed to that anyway. "Yes. No more humming."
That seemed to disturb him. He shifted on the bed, but gave no indication of becoming violent.
Kathryn continued. "Chakotay, we need your permission. You have to let Seven and Marika help you."
A grin appeared on his face, and he laughed. "Did she bring a pillow, this time?"
Janeway glanced back at Marika who was looking wistful. "We used to have pillow fights," She explained softly.
Disturbed, Kathryn looked back at her First Officer. "No, but she'll have one next time. I promise."
"We watched the sunset..."
Increasingly upset by his behaviour, she clutched at his wrist even harder. "Chakotay, stay with me. Stay as Chakotay."
It seemed to work. "Why do Seven and Marika have to help me?"
Licking her lips, she tried to brace herself for what she knew would be coming. "Marika has to link with you, Chakotay."
He understood that all too well, it seemed. Before she had even stopped talking his body began to tense and he tried to pull away from her. "No..."
The Doctor's hand hovered over the controls for the restraints.
Deciding that a double offensive was the best way to proceed, B'Elanna copied Janeway's movements. Her own hand reaching out, she touched his other wrist. "Let us help you, Chakotay."
He was lying on the bed, his head pounding, his thoughts confused. He knew he was dying and with that came the inevitable conclusion that he had never had enough time to do everything he wanted.
The people standing around him were his salvation.
But if he let them help him, that would mean losing a part of himself. A part of who he was. That was unacceptable.
He met each of their gazes in turn, lingering on the person to his left the longest. He could sense no malice or hidden agenda from her, but the worst mistakes often came from those who were trying to help you.
He was dying...
He was useless...
They spoke the words.
"Don't be afraid, Chakotay. We're here to help you. Open your mind to our thoughts and concentrate on getting well. Hear our voices. Open your mind to our thoughts. Our collective strength can heal you. You're safe with us. Feel the connection. We're with you. See who we are. Know us. You're not alone. Our strength is your strength. We can overcome your pain. We welcome you into our thoughts. There is nothing to fear. We won't let you die. We're all one circle; no beginning, no end..."
The Doctor pulled her to one side. "Captain, he clearly doesn't want us to perform the procedure."
She couldn't deny it, but she wouldn't agree with him either. "Perhaps, but can you honestly say that at this moment in time Chakotay has enough mental stability to make that decision himself? He has no idea what's best for him!"
"It's obvious that he's not exactly clear-headed-"
"My point exactly!" She spat. "He doesn't fully understand the situation or even what's going on around him. In cases like this I can, as his commanding officer, make that decision for him. Isn't that correct?"
"Yes," He admitted.
Kathryn nodded firmly. "Good. Then on Chakotay's behalf I am ordering you to begin the procedure."
The EMH barely hesitated. "Very well." His attention was drawn to the sickbay doors as they hissed open. "Seven!" He exclaimed, grateful for the opportunity to step away from his Captain. "Just in time, I see."
She paused in front of him. "I apologise for the delay. I was in the holodeck and thought it best to change into my normal clothing before attending."
He rose his eyebrows. "Dare I ask what programme you were running?"
Seven's eyes looked towards Tom, but quickly skittered away. "You may not."
Intrigued, Tom grinned. Annoyed, B'Elanna glared.
Janeway stepped forward. "Let's get started, shall we?"
There was someone sitting to his left. There was someone standing to his right.
Tipping his head back he tried to see who they were, and after several attempts he managed it and immediately wished he hadn't.
He tried to scream, tried to move but his legs wouldn't work and...
...and then he looked forward and saw her walking towards him.
And he knew then that she was responsible for this. She had told them to do this, made them do this to him and what little reality he had was shattered, because the one person he had thought would save him was doing just the opposite.
He hated her for it.
Would always hate her for it.
"Bitch," He muttered, then felt a pressure on his neck and realised that it was now. This was happening, now.
"Bitch," He muttered again, then screamed as he was sure he felt the molten fire in his veins, his skin moving, his capillaries expanding...
"Bitch," He tried to mutter one last time, but his thoughts were no longer his own.
When she was next aware of anything, it was the sound of sobbing.
Then the darkness receded, and she could see. Or, as it was not actually the 'real world', she saw figuratively.
This was unlike any link she had undertaken previously. That had simply been a simple exchange of information and memories with nothing emotional behind it. But this...this seemed to be nothing except emotion.
She was dimly aware that somewhere, Captain Janeway and the others were watching, monitoring her condition. Even Seven. She still could not forgive Seven for what she had done, but she had thanked her for co-operating with this procedure. It would most likely be the last contact she would have with her husband.
Chakotay was lying on the floor of a grey room; four walls, no door, and no apparent source of light either, but there had to be some coming from somewhere because she could see.
The sobs were coming from him.
Reaching him quickly, Marika bent down and touched his back. He jerked away immediately but his head moved slightly, as he turned his neck to look at her. Only one eye became exposed; dark, angry. The rest of his face was shrouded and - from what little she could see - covered in tears.
"What are you doing here?" He demanded thickly.
"I came to help."
"I don't want your help. Get out! No one belongs here except me."
Marika considered touching him again. "Really?" She asked sarcastically, then nodded towards the one object that was sitting in a corner of the room. "Then who does that belong to?" When he didn't respond and continued to glare at her angrily, she stepped over him towards the object. She bent to pick it up-
"Don't touch that!" He yelled, finally seeing enough reason to get off the floor and move towards her.
Her hand stopped just short of touching it.
He arrived in seconds, pushing in front of her to place himself between Marika and the plant. "Get out!" He snarled.
"You're becoming very agitated over a simple plant."
"I don't care."
"Oh, but I think you do," She took a step towards him, and he backed against the wall. "There is nothing here you can hide from me, Chakotay. I know how it terrifies you, but if you bothered to look at me you'd know I'm not trying to hurt you. I was part of a Collective for years; I know all about sharing information from one brain to another." The tiny smile that had appeared on her face froze. "You are still trying to hide from me. This is killing you Chakotay! Are you really so selfish that you would deny Voyager a First Officer?" Narrowing her eyes, she stared into his. "Are you really so selfish that you would deny me my husband, and Janeway her best friend?"
A loud thumping noise distracted her, and she looked to her left to see a door that had not been there previously. Large and metallic, it was obvious that someone was knocking on it from the other side. Pulling away from Chakotay, she took a confused step towards it.
It was quiet at first, but she thought she heard something. Leaning towards the door, she carefully placed her ear against it and listened.
Shocked, she stood up. She recognised the voice. It was a voice she would never forget no matter how many times she was assimilated. Heart pounding, she looked for a handle. When she saw it, her hands greedily latched on and she pulled, hard, with no effect.
"Please don't," The quiet, pleading voice behind her said.
"I have no choice," She insisted, pulling again.
"You have no idea what this is about." Chakotay continued, voice still maddeningly calm.
"No, but if you'd help me I will! Help me with the door!"
"I can't. I can't."
Frustrated, she screamed and gave the door another pull. This time it opened and as she stepped through she was positive she could see Biral's face and feel his arms and a sense of utter joy and then-
Gods, he hated it here.
Chakotay sighed in disgust, and used some more of what precious water he had from his canteen. Slurping greedily he only allowed himself a few drops before closing the canteen and sighing again.
The planet was blistering hot. One of the many downsides to being a member of the Maquis was being unable to be particularly choosy about where you placed one of your bases. It had to be well hidden, obviously, and able to be well defended, but that often meant you had to endure some of the more inhospitable aspects of nature.
Not for the first time, he was thankful there were no biting insects. Or at least none he had encountered yet.
Ayala walked slowly by on patrol. The two men nodded silently to each other, sharing a mutual respect and understanding that they didn't need to fill a situation with unnecessary words. It was an understanding he also shared with B'Elanna most of the time, but on certain days - like today - she wouldn't shut up.
She announced her emergence out of the shelter with, "Kahless! If it gets any hotter out here you might as well roast me over a fire!"
He found himself smirking anyway.
He really should have been in the shelter with her. Not only was it marginally cooler and away from the grinding heat that had caused more than one case of sunstroke, but there was work to be done.
The smirk vanished. He had needed the break. Had to get away from what he had been doing, if only for a little while. Besides, B'Elanna had been in there keeping an eye on things, and O'Donnell was standing guard outside the shelter in case the prisoner somehow escaped and tried anything.
Considering his current condition, Chakotay didn't think that occurrence would be particularly likely, but they couldn't take the chance.
Slowly, a grime and sweat-covered Torres sat next to him in what little shade the dead tree provided.
He silently offered her his canteen and she just as silently opened and drank from it.
After a few more moments of silence, she handed it back to him.
"He's not talking, Chakotay."
His voice was resigned. "I know."
"He keeps making that damn irritating noise."
There was no way he couldn't be aware of that. "I know."
B'Elanna growled. She always growled. "Dammit! Will you *do* something instead of just saying 'I know'?"
Silently sighing, he turned his head towards his closest friend which seemed to take an enormous effort in the heat. Saying nothing, he gradually stood up, taking as much time as he needed, then held out a hand for her. B'Elanna took it, pulling herself up quickly but nearly pulling him over in the process. They chuckled together, but nervously. He didn't like this. He didn't like doing this at all.
Leaving the shade of the tree behind, he winced under the strength of the sun, not in the mood to take in the view of the sandy slopes several other Maquis had managed to find shelter on. Instead he headed immediately for the shelter the prisoner was being held in. As he stepped closer, he could hear the noise.
O'Donnell was frowning heavily as they passed him. Chakotay paused. "Irritating the hell out of you, right?"
The other man rolled his eyes. "Even more so since I discovered myself humming along with it without even realising."
"You know what he's humming?"
O'Donnell nodded. "Can't remember the name, but I'm pretty sure it's a Bajoran prayer of some kind."
B'Elanna nodded. "In The Arms of The Prophets, I think."
Chakotay stared into the relative darkness of the shelter. "Probably heard it from one of his own prisoners at some point."
"Sick bastard," Torres spat, then stampeded into the room.
Chakotay glanced at O'Donnell and they rolled their eyes together before he walked into the shelter.
It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust, but he knew what he would find. He didn't like what he would find, even after all the Cardassians had done to him, his family, his friends. He didn't think himself a violent man by nature; just someone who did what needed to be done and was unsettled by it.
Their actions could easily be justified; the man being held in here was personally responsible for the deaths of dozens, possibly hundreds of innocent people. There was no way he could doubt it; it had been Seska's own sources that had helped dig up the information. She had wanted to be here for this and he would have eagerly agreed - she always enjoyed this part of their job with more relish than he did - but she had a meeting with a contact that couldn't be postponed.
When Chakotay's eyes became used to the dimness, he approached the prisoner. His arms were held in chains that hung from the wall, his clothing ripped and dirty. His hair was far from the immaculate state the Cardassians liked to portray, and his head hung forward.
Still he hummed.
Determined not to let the sound annoy him, he studied the small metal devices placed at various places around Legit Damer's body; wrists, ankles, neck. "Are they...?" He asked quietly, directing the question towards Torres.
She glared at the Cardassian as he continued humming, then produced the inducer controls from somewhere. "Ready to go," She confirmed, looking almost as disturbed as he did. "Do you want me to do it?"
No. He wouldn't let her. He wouldn't let her have this on her conscience. She had too much as it was. "I'll do it," He offered easily, trying to sound as if he wasn't bothered, as if some part of him wasn't dying.
There was no way she could mask her relief, and Chakotay didn't blame her in the slightest.
Taking the controls, he studied them, then flicked his eyes towards the Cardassian, letting the anger he usually tried to restrain burn in his stomach.
Lowest setting first, he told himself. Lowest setting first.
The inducer controls landed on the floor, creating a small dust cloud.
B'Elanna spoke, trying to make an impossible lightness of the situation. "Well that was a colossal waste of time."
Tired, Chakotay leant against a wall and closed his eyes. "We got a name."
"All that effort for one name? And not even a name I recognise. Do you?"
He ignored the question and the fact that he didn't, instead focusing on the steady stream of sweat making its way down his back. He wished more than anything that he could be somewhere else...
"Hello gorgeous," a voice said, and Chakotay smiled. He was the happiest he had been for her appearance in a long time. She waited a few moments in the doorway, no doubt as her eyes adjusted, and when they did she frowned and casually dropped her bag to the ground. "I see I missed all the fun. I was hoping to catch the end of it..."
"It's a shame you couldn't make it earlier," B'Elanna retorted, grinning.
Seska smiled, sashaying over towards Chakotay. "A girl *has* to keep in contact with her contacts, you know." Pausing in front of her lover, she held up a hand that was holding something. "Look what I got."
It took a few moments for realisation to set it. "A tricorder?"
"Can I have a look?" B'Elanna asked, and Seska threw it to her. Their last one had been damaged and she had - as yet - been unable to fix it. If she could compare the two...
Seska turned back to Chakotay and studied him. "Are you okay?"
His eyes strayed towards the dead Cardassian. "I will be."
She shook her head and wrapped her arms around his neck. "You should have let someone else do it. You know how it always affects you."
He lowered his hands to grasp her sides. "And you know I can never let anyone else do it."
Seska regarded him fondly. "You've always been so predictable..."
It wasn't so much his name that caught his attention, more the way it was spoken. It sounded confused, horrified, shocked, terror-filled...and when he looked over, he saw that B'Elanna's expression reflected just the same.
Seska's arms pulled away from him.
"What is it?"
B'Elanna had the tricorder open and, hand shaking, she turned it towards him, holding up the readings. "Chakotay," Was all she could say again as her lips pursed together and her eyes filled with tears.
Reaching her in two large strides he grabbed the instrument and studied it.
It took all of two seconds for his mind to process the information. It took less than a second for him to loose his hold on the tricorder and utter hysteria to set in.
He didn't remember a great deal about what happened next; just that when it was over his hands were bleeding, the wall was dented and Seska was shaking her head repeating the phrase "I don't believe it," again and again.
A hand touched his back as he still faced the wall, hands clenched, denial and horror mingling together in his brain.
"What do we do?" B'Elanna's shaky voice asked.
"No one," He rasped. "We tell no one."
Her hand withdrew. She left the shelter quietly.
Another hand touched his back. "I'm sorry," Her voice wavered, almost a sob.
He turned and held her harshly, realising that she must have been feeling a hundred times worse than he did; knowing that somehow, someone in her line of contacts had been betrayed and been informed Legit Damer was the man they were after, when he was simply a surgically altered Bajoran.
"Not your fault," He muttered repeatedly, now longing more than ever for the sound of humming.
Two hours later, he still hadn't left the shelter. Seska had left about an hour ago, after staying with him in silence for what felt like an eternity. He could imagine what a good job she and B'Elanna would be doing out there - telling everyone that the bastard Cardassian had died as he deserved to, but not before he had given them a vital name. Of course, Chakotay wanted to be alone to consider his next course of action on how to go about the next stage of their plan.
They were probably forcing laughter, making jokes about some imagined words the 'Cardassian' had said; how he had pleaded everything he owned for his life. How he had sacrificed every remnant of his self respect.
Chakotay's eyes burned hotly.
What was the point of this deception? Why disguise a Bajoran as a Cardassian? Perhaps, somewhere along the way, the people responsible for the transformation - probably the Obsidian Order - had bigger plans for him. And, obviously, either something had been done to his mind or this Bajoran was a traitor.
His stomach turned with the certainty that it was the former option.
Perhaps, they had simply been trying to demoralise the Maquis.
Dragging himself up from the dust-covered floor, he unlocked the chains that still held the prisoner, avoiding looking at his face. As the chains released the body fell forwards. Chakotay took the brunt, almost collapsing under the weight, the heat, the futility of what he was doing.
Despite his efforts, the body did not go down gently. It thumped to the floor noisily, Chakotay pulled down by the weight, a sob escaping as he landed with it.
He refused to cry again. Refused to.
Disentangling himself from the body, he groaned as he turned it over until it was facing the ceiling, then Chakotay backed away until his own body came into contact with the wall. He remained there, sitting on the floor, panting and trying to ignore his growing dizziness and nausea.
A hazy form appeared in the doorway.
Her voice was uncharacteristically low. "Need some help?"
Chakotay nodded as best he could, still fighting for breath. "Go...get to the ship. Use the transporter to beam me and the body somewhere where I can bury it."
Moving further into the room, her features became clearer. Pausing beside the body, she stared down at it. From behind her back, she produced two shovels and a signal locator.
Realising her intent, he tried to sit up straighter. "B'Elanna-"
"I'm going with you." She told him. "I won't let you do this alone."
"I just know you too damn well, Chakotay."
Feebly climbing to his feet, he watched as she placed the signal locator on the body. Then she activated her own.
As they dematerialised, it occurred to him that he was entirely too predictable.
This time when she was aware of herself, they were in a place of utter darkness. Again, there must have been light somewhere because she could see Chakotay sitting in front of her. His head rested in his hands, and he was rocking back and forth, trying to find a comfort he didn't deserve.
Tears on her own face, Marika sat next to him and touched his shoulder, hoping the movement would have the same effect it had once had before.
It didn't. It make no difference at all.
"It's okay," She whispered, pressing a kiss to his hair. "It's okay. You are forgiven."
His utter misery remained, her words falling on deaf ears. At the very least, now, he wasn't hiding from it anymore.
Still touching him, still murmuring to him, she paused when she noticed their surroundings were becoming lighter. "What's happening?"
His sobbing subsided. "It's your turn,"
"My turn for what?"
He looked up and she followed his gaze.
"Long time no see."
It was the sound of his voice that seemed to make it real for her. Standing on shaky legs, she nervously approached him. "I almost thought I wouldn't see you."
Extending his arm, he touched her face and smiled. "You think I'd let this occasion pass unnoticed? You still owe me a pillow fight."
She smiled, fully, genuinely, the first time she had done so since before being assimilated. She covered his hand with one of her own. "You have no idea how much I've missed you."
"Yes he does," Chakotay informed her roughly, still sitting on the floor. "He misses you just as much as you miss him."
Marika smiled. He would be the only person to know that. "I don't think I can ever thank you for what you've done."
He met her gaze, then the gaze of the man who both was and wasn't her husband. "Just leave me alone." He pleaded desperately. "Please."
Marika faced the image of Biral. "Can I go with you?" She asked quietly.
A gentle smile graced his features, sharp against the now-white surroundings. "I wouldn't be me if you didn't."
Smiling, at peace for the first time in years, she leant towards him.
Still feeling as if he were in the darkness, Chakotay watched as Marika embraced her husband, closed her eyes, and let her life go.
The silence was sickening. For the first time in his life, he didn't know how to be alone.
"I can't explain it, Captain. She just...stopped breathing."
For anyone else, Kathryn Janeway would have shouted that it wasn't good enough, that he had to keep searching until he found an acceptable explanation for what happened. She couldn't have simply stopped breathing.
Kathryn had her own theory, and as she sadly watched the sheet being pulled over Marika's body by a dismayed Tom and B'Elanna, she heard a groan.
Turning back she ignored the Doctor who was scanning an exhausted Seven - the experience had been a great deal more taxing than she had anticipated - and touched Chakotay's shoulder.
After a few moments, his eyes opened. She almost cried when she saw how free of confusion they were, but instead said his name.
He looked at her immediately, whispered her name, then was sitting up and threw his arms around her, clutching at her body. Surprised, she returned his hold fiercely.
"I...saw her die," He forced out the hot words against her neck.
Tears threatened to spill out of Kathryn's eyes. "You're here now," She assured him, squeezing tighter. "You're here now." That was all that mattered.
Tom and B'Elanna moved beside the biobed, relieved to see Chakotay apparently back to normal, but neither Chakotay nor Janeway noticed them as she tried to console the utterly inconsolable.
Tom stirred as he woke, not entirely sure what had dragged him from his fitful slumber. After a few seconds his mind kicked in and he knew where he was; in B'Elanna's bed.
They had yet to actually move in with each other - and he was still avoiding the entire issue - but they would frequently spend the night in one of their quarters. Tonight, it was hers.
The last three nights, it had been hers. As with every night he had hoped she wanted to talk, to get out the grief she was feeling. As with every night she rebuffed his words and simply informed him that she wanted him to hold her, and that was all she would admit.
What had woken him? B'Elanna, of course. Especially the lack of B'Elanna.
Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with one hand, he used the other to push himself up from the bed and look at the empty space where she was supposed to be sleeping or at least attempting to. Throwing aside the cover and stumbling about in the darkness of her bedroom, he decided to give up his mission to find a robe and stepped quietly through the doorway that led to the main section of her quarters.
There were no lights on. B'Elanna was sitting on her sofa, staring at something on a portable computer console.
She didn't acknowledge his presence in any way until he sat next to her, and only then it was just a slight nod.
Leaning forward, he examined the picture closely. "Is that who I think it is?"
Her voice was a monotone. "Verad Biral. Bajoran. Stellar Cartographist aboard the USS Excalibur for two years, before the ship was attacked by the Borg. Age: 53 Earth years. Entered the Academy on stardate-"
"B'Elanna," He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer.
When she spoke this time, it was at least with emotion. "She...she showed me what he looked like, on the holodeck. I am so glad that she never had the opportunity to discover how bad her mental image of him was..." B'Elanna lost the ability to speak then, her throat too constricted to force any words out.
Closing his eyes that were burning with something he didn't want to admit, he squeezed her tighter.
Sniffing, she leant forward and pressed a button on the console. Obviously activating a file she had looked at earlier, the computer worked for a moment until an image of Marika was brought up next to the picture of Biral.
After a silence of five minutes, he spoke.
"Cute couple, huh?"
At last, she was finding something to smile about. He felt immeasurably lighter. "You know B'Elanna, something occurs to me..."
Finally pulling her gaze away from the console, she turned her head to look at his face. "What's that?"
"We've never had a pillow fight."
They stared at each other, measuring, waiting, knowing something was going to happen.
Both of them moved.
She made it to the bed first.
When Seven walked into sickbay, she was surprised to see Ensign Jenkins sitting on biobed one, staring at biobed two. She had been looking for the Doctor, but the matter was not urgent. "Ensign?" She asked, walking towards her.
She didn't move. "I have no idea what I'm doing here."
"Are you ill?"
Confused, Seven paused beside her. "Ensign?"
"I really didn't know her all that well. It was just a few hours we spent together on the holodeck...well, a few hours we spent with B'Elanna on the holodeck. Did she mention that? I haven't had so much fun in ages. I remember that she'd never had coffee before. Can you believe that? On *this* ship?"
Now knowing who she was referring to, Seven nodded once. "It does seem rather ironic, given the Captains predilection for caffeine."
Laughing to herself, Jenkins finally moved her head to look at the ex-drone. "You didn't get to know her that well, did you?"
Seven felt the absurd need to defend herself. "I had been linked to her previously. I knew her thoughts, and memories."
"When she was a Borg, yes, but not as an individual."
"No," She admitted reluctantly. "She did not forgive me for what I had done to her, and I decided that it would be for the best if I did not try to force the issue."
"A shame." Sarah replied quietly.
"Indeed," Was all Seven would agree, before changing the subject. "Is the Doctor here?"
"He's off-line for his usual maintenance. It's a good thing B'Elanna doesn't know Vorik's doing it yet - she'd be spitting nails already."
Seven rose an eyebrow. "Although highly metaphorical, your statement carries a great deal of accuracy in its sentiment."
Chuckling, Jenkins shook her head. "Seven, we've got to do something about the way you speak."
"There is nothing wrong the way I speak."
"That's exactly my point! There is absolutely *nothing* wrong with the way you speak. I mean...it's a little freaky."
Seven regarded her dubiously. "'Freaky'?"
Jenkins nodded, quite seriously. "Absolutely."
"Well..." Seven began. "If you believe you are able to withstand my 'freaky' dialogue, my business with the Doctor can wait until a more relevant time and I am now due to report to the mess hall for some nourishment. Would you care to accompany me?"
Jenkins held up a finger. "You're just doing it to get a reaction now."
"Do not be ridiculous." Seven retorted, but was betrayed by the faint smile at the corner of her mouth.
"Come in," She beckoned, knowing exactly who had just beeped for entry into her quarters. Expectedly, Chakotay walked in. Unexpectedly, he was dressed in casual clothing.
Shifting on her sofa and also dressed in casual clothes, Kathryn closed the book she was reading with a resounding thump.
He stared at her.
She waited for him to speak.
Eventually, the silence broke.
"I don't feel like I knew her at all. Isn't that ridiculous? I mean...I have her memories and Biral's memories all up in my brain somewhere...but right now I can't say that I knew her at all."
Placing the book on the coffee table, she stood from the sofa and approached him. Pausing in front of him, she studied his anguished features with concern.
He continued, his voice sounding awed. "I can remember perfectly the first time they met, the way it felt when they fell in love, the first time they made love, their honeymoon, the way she would always pretend to lose pillow fights but the fact that he always knew, the joy of her pregnancy, the despair of her loss...the way they would confuse the hell out of each other and both like and hate it at the same time...but now..."
"It's as if something's missing?" Kathryn prompted.
"Missing?" He asked, then ran a hand quickly over his face, his hair. "Something's always missing."
"I don't know the hell I'm talking about. The words are coming out but I don't know what any of them mean."
His eyes looked as if they were dying. Taking his hand in her own, she pulled him gently over to the sofa with no resistance. Waiting until they were both sitting down, she faced him. "I want you to tell me about them, Chakotay. About Marika and Biral."
Smiling wryly, he tried to thank her for her offer. "I don't know if I can. I don't know if I want to," He admitted. "I can remember all these things, these details, but it's still a big jumble. I *do* remember hating you for allowing Seven to make the connection." He didn't wait for her to comment. "And as irrational as it may seem, I still feel some of that now. I know it was to help me. I know that without it I would have died. But there's still a part of me that-"
"-hates me," She finished quietly. Kathryn nodded. Perhaps that was to be expected, but it didn't matter. What mattered was that Chakotay faced what had happened, and learned to move on. She had hoped to use the subject of Marika and Biral as a way of leading to another conversation, but perhaps it was best to be blunt after all.
Sighing, she smiled at him, knowing that when she said this he would try to pull away, that he would know that B'Elanna had betrayed him by finally giving in and deciding that she needed to know...but there was no other way around this. It needed to be done.
"Okay, Chakotay," She told him gently. His hand was warm. His presence - as always, even like this - reassuring. His face a welcome sight. She squeezed his hand. "Okay, Chakotay," She repeated, knowing there was no way she was going to let him run away from this one. "Tell me about the man who was humming."
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Suz's Voyager Fanfic