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Author's Chapter Notes:

They are not mine but belong to CBS Paramount but I like to play with them without hurting anyone.

By Crusher

They had been visiting the homeworld of the Nechani a friendly race that were quite happy to show off various treasures to the crew of Voyager.

Chakotay, B’Elanna, Neelix and Kes were being given a tour of the caves and some of the sacred points that could be found there.  Kes became distracted by a noise and moved in the direction of the sound.

Chakotay followed her back down the passage where the tunnel opened into a large cavern.  They found an arch with intricate scrolling.

‘Commander the work is amazing,’ she said in awe.

‘Yes, it is detailed I wonder what the symbols mean,’ he said as he ran his hand along the intricate work.

They continued to look at the carvings on the arch when Chakotay noticed Kes getting to close to the opening.  Grabbing her just before she made contact with the entrance he twisted her around and away from the arch but in doing so he lost his balance.  Falling backwards he was hit by a surge of energy before he was thrown back out of the arch.

Kes ran to the senior officer of Voyager kneeling beside him.  ‘Commander, Commander,’ she called and when she received no response started calling for help.

B’Elanna and Neelix returned with their guide.  Slapping her comm badge B’Elanna called for an emergency beam out to Sickbay.

Janeway entered Sickbay calling out for a report as she moved to the Commander’s bed.

‘Life signs are very weak but stable, it seems that his synaptic pathways have undergone a severe shock that has left the Commander in a coma.  Until I can understand what caused this I will be unable to devise a treatment.

‘We are working on it,’ the Captain said as she looked down at her First Officer.  Her heart constricted as she looked at him. Funny she had this reaction whenever anyone of her crew was hurt but with this man it was that much harder.

‘Harry and B’Elanna are scanning the shrine from Voyager I will have them relay their findings to you.  I have an appointment with the Magistrate to see if I can cut through some of the red tape.’  She explained as she rested a hand on Chakotay’s chest.

‘Captain,’ Kes called as she moved from a console.

‘Neelix and I would like to help,’ the young Ocampa said.

Understanding that Kes felt close to Chakotay because of his interest in the spiritual world Kathryn had an idea.

‘Maybe the two of you could see if the Nechani have any scientific information on the energy field,’ the Captain said with a bit of hope shining in her eyes.  The couple agreed and moved off to do as their Captain bid.

Being left alone Kathryn bent over so she could whisper in Chakotay’s ear that she would bring him back he just needed to hold on.

‘Please understand Captain I am caught in the middle, I am an official of the government not a spiritual leader. I do not pretend to understand why the spirits do what they do.’

‘Then perhaps I could talk to the brothers,’ Janeway suggested.

‘I have requested an audience with the Monks but they consider the matter closed,’ the official said as gently as possible.

Kathryn turned away for a moment as her emotions started to get the best of her.

‘They asked me to express their sympathy for your loss.’

‘There is no loss, Chakotay is still alive,’ Janeway said with the determination she wished she had.

‘Surely there is some way to treat him,’ Kathryn asked  ‘Can’t you insist that the monks treat him.’

‘We have an agreement they don’t involve themselves in the affairs of the government and we don’t interfere in their spiritual matters it has been that way for centuries and it has worked well.’

‘Can you tell me about the sanctuary and what happens there,’ the Captain asked trying to keep control.

‘I will try,’ he said as he gathered his thoughts.  ‘That particular shrine is the one where the monks go to receive the gift of purification, a cleansing of the soul it is one of our most holy places.’

‘You mean the monks can enter it without being harmed,’ the Captain asked with some hope starting to build.

He tried to explain about the ritual and the Captain tried to stay calm but her feelings for Chakotay overshadowed everything.

‘I’m sorry Captain you ask questions about things I don’t know anything about,’ the official said apologetically.

The magistrate left promising to let her know what he could find out.

Janeway returned to Sickbay to check on Chakotay’s status but mostly to see him.

‘Have Kim and Torres be able to get you a report,’ she asked as she moved into the hologram’s office.

‘Yes I received a fascinating lesson on the challenges of getting clear scanner readings through solid rock,’ the Doctor said disgustedly. ‘We were able to detect an intense biogenic field at the sight of the Commander’s accident which would explain why the Commander is dead.’

Janeway looked at the readings on the Doctor’s computer not wanting him to see her response to Chakotay’s condition.  ‘It is my understanding that the monks are able to enter the shrine without being harmed.’

‘I don’t suppose they would like to share the information,’ the Doctor asked as he jumped up.

‘No they wouldn’t,’ Janeway answered as she looked down trying to get her emotions back under control.

‘He’s not responding to conventional or unconventional treatment,’ the Doctor explained and Kathryn looked up at him quickly.  ‘The level of activity is so low I can’t rule out permanent damage even if I can revive him.  The longer the Commander stays in this condition the less likely he will recover.’

The Doctor did not want to tell her but he had to be honest and Janeway had to look away so he wouldn’t see her tears.

Kes and Neelix walked in to Sickbay and went directly to Chakotay’s bed.

‘There’s been no change,’ Kes’ asked in her gentle tones of the Doctor when the Captain and the hologram joined them.

‘No I’m afraid not,’ the Doctor said sadly.

‘We researched everything we could find on the sacred shrine,’ Neelix explained as Kes looked over the readings on the scanner that kept close tabs on Chakotay.  ‘There was no scientific evidence but there was one story.  It was in a very old text and I’m not sure how reliable it is but it was about a boy, a prince who wandered into the shrine and ended up in a death sleep.  Everyone said it was the will of the spirits.’

‘His father refused to accept that and he went through a ritual to seek an audience with the spirits to plead his son’s case and the spirits granted his request,’ Neelix finished explaining.  ‘It was the only trace of hope we could find.’

Kathryn thanked the couple and leaving Sickbay she tried to make them feel like this was a piece of information they needed to help Chakotay.

‘You have certainly done your research Captain,’ the official said as Janeway spoke to him from the upper deck of the bridge.  ‘I remember the story from childhood but that is a very specific case.  The King was able to plead his case because he claimed responsibility for his son’s actions as a father and King.  That is why the spirits listened to him, your case is very different.’

‘No the Captain of a starship is fully responsible for the actions of her crew,’ the Captain said as she moved toward the screen.

‘So she is,’ he smiled at her determination.

‘On that basis I would like to go through the ritual,’ Janeway said as she leaned on the helm control.

‘I will plead your case and let you know.’  He told her and the connection was broken.

Janeway was in her Ready Room with Tuvok awaiting a decision from the magistrate discussing her case.

‘I haven’t heard from him but he said that there was a strong possibility that the monks would allow me to go ahead with my request.’  She told him as she moved about her room.

‘Forgive me Captain,’ he said as he stopped her pacing.  ‘You have never been one to put much stock in religious ceremonies.  What is it you hope to accomplish?’’

‘Are you asking do I expect to speak to the ancestral spirits,’ she asked as she organized her many thoughts.  ‘No of course not but something happens to the monks when they go through the ritual something that allows them to withstand effects of the biogenic field   I want to find out what that is it might supply clues to a treatment.’

‘A kind of physiological change maybe,’ he asked.

‘That’s what I’m guessing,’ she said as she continued her pacing.  ‘The shamans of a sect on Delos 7 practice a ritual that increases the electrical resistance of their skin protecting them from plasma discharges in their sacred caves.  Something similar must happen during this ritual,’ she said as she smiled at him reassuringly.

‘We will have to find a way to allow the Doctor to monitor your physical condition,’ her security officer said seriously as she shot him a disapproving look.  ‘And you have to have a way to call for an emergency beam out if you need it.’

‘As a precaution,’ he said as he looked up at her.  ‘I would be derelict in my duty as Head of Security if I allowed you to proceed without these measures,’ he explained as she gave a heavy sigh of disapproval.  ‘And the commander would be upset with me if anything were to happen to you,’ he added trying to sound convincing that she would be successful in finding something to help Chakotay in his present state.

‘I have been reviewing the Federation cultural files database, most traditional spiritual quest ceremonies involve some kind of physical challenge or a test of endurance,’ she said as she sat down on her couch.  ‘To prove the mastery of spirit over body, my instincts say this one will be quite similar.’

‘A series of ordeals that will result in biochemical changes,’ she finished as she looked up at him.

‘Of course there is always the possibility that the ancestral spirits really do control what happens in the shrine,’ he told her honestly as he sat down beside her.

‘To each his own Tuvok,’ she said as she thought about the situation.  ‘But I imagine if we scratch deep enough we would find a scientific bases for most religious doctorate.’

‘I had a chance to talk to the Commander on several occasions about the vision quest of his people,’ Tuvok told a surprised Janeway.  She never thought of her two senior members getting along well enough to sit and talk about religion.  ‘He explained that his mother had told him about the science behind the vision quest and how it spoiled the mystery behind the quest for him.  The people of this planet might feel the same way about the ancestral spirits and the temple.

‘Under other circumstances I would be willing to go along with them but right now it’s killing a member of my crew.’  Janeway said firmly as she looked at her oldest friend with eyes shining with all the emotions moving through her.

‘The bridge to Captain Janeway,’ came Kin’s voice.

‘Janeway here.’

‘You have an incoming transmission from the planet,’ he answered.

‘Direct it to my ready room Ensign,’ she instructed.

‘I must congratulate you Captain,’ the Magistrate said as he appeared on the screen.  ‘Your creative approach to the problem has intrigued the counsel.’

‘So they have agreed to my request,’ Janeway asked.

‘Yes they consider it an honor that you want to seek the spirits.  The ritual traditionally begins at sunset a guide will meet you at the entrance to the sanctuary.’

‘Thank you I appreciate your help,’ an excited Kathryn said as a ray hope formed in her heart.

‘I’ve been gravelly troubled by your misfortune Captain if you are able to convince the spirits to spare your friend no one will be happier than I.’

The Captain was left speechless by emotion and nodded her thanks before breaking the connection.

Wanting to get on with the test she moved to Sickbay to get the transponder that her security chief wanted implanted under her skin.  She stopped at Chakotay’s bed for a minute to whisper to him and then left.

In the transporter room Harry explained the transponders special feature.

‘Just tap it twice and we will receive the signal for immediate beam out,’ the young man explained.

Tuvok tried to hand Janeway a phaser that she refused stating that she didn’t want to seem hostile.

Entering the sanctuary she moved toward a group but they went off with out speaking to her.

A woman was working on the lighting and after aggravating Janeway with her banging asked for help.  Janeway at first refused not wanting to be distracted from her scanning of the caves but finally she turned to help.

Scanning the fixture with her tricorder she was unable to understand what was wrong but she wasn’t that interested in deciphering it.  She kept looking about for her guide as the woman took her tricorder and after looking it over dropped it in her pocket.

‘I’ll need that back,’ Janeway tried to explain as she reached for her precious equipment.

‘No you won’t,’ the stranger said as she stepped in front of Janeway and the Captain realized who she was.

‘You’re my guide?’  She asked astounded.

‘Guide, special advisor,’ the woman laughed, as she looked the visitor over.

‘Why didn’t you say something?’  A confused Kathryn asked.

The woman just shook her head and walked off wondering why Janeway didn’t ask who she was when she entered.

Passing into a chamber she looked about as some attendants moved forward.  One reached for her hairpins as another reached for her jacket but she jumped back.

‘It’s all right Kathryn,’ the other woman soothed and after taking a calming breath Janeway moved back to them and they started to disrobe her.

She kept thinking of Chakotay as she tried to squash her embarrassment about what she was enduring for him.

Before she new it she was nude and they were painting marks on her face and back.  She wasn’t sure what the significance of all this was when all she wanted to do was gather some information and take it back to Voyager.

‘Would it be breaking any vows of secrecy now if you told me what this ritual will involve.’  Kathryn asked curious about what she would be made to do, what challenges she would have to do to talk to the spirits.

‘What makes you think I know,’ the jovial guide asked.

‘Haven’t you been through this before?’  The astounded woman asked.

‘Don’t worry I will help you find your way?  You have completely committed yourself to this journey and do whatever it takes to save your friend.’  The guide asked Kathryn as the attendants finished with her.

‘Yes,’ Kathryn answered firmly.

‘Our bio scanners detected the microprobe under your skin,’ the guide said simply and Kathryn panicked thinking they would make her remove it and the Doctor wouldn’t get the scientific readings he would need. ‘No it won’t be a problem.  You seem to be fond of your devices.’

‘They have served me well,’ Kathryn said.

‘I’m sure, well lets get going,’ she instructed as she pulled Janeway out of the room

Entering a chamber with a bench she found three elderly people sitting.  Janeway walked in and the doors closed cutting her off from the guide.

‘Who are you?’  One of the people waiting demanded.

‘I’m Kathryn Janeway, is this where the ritual begins?’  She asked as she looked over the group.  They couldn’t be here to endure any tests they were far too old.

They tried to get her to sit but she was impatient to get on with it and asked how long they had been waiting but none of them could tell her honestly.

But Kathryn knew she had to get on with the test if she had any hope in saving Chakotay.

‘I don’t have a lifetime to wait to go through the ritual.’  She said stubbornly as she paced about the room.

‘Did I say anything about waiting a lifetime,’ one of the three said a little perturbed.

‘Certainly not we just said she should wait.’  Another asked the one who asked the question.

But of course Janeway wasn’t listening as she tried to reason it out.

‘Is this part of the test?’  She asked the irritating trio.

‘She thinks we are a test what is she talking about?’  The female of the group asked of her friends.

‘I guess tests make sense to her,’ one of the males answered.

‘She knows what she wants,’ one of them laughed.

‘Well you think she could sit with us and be sociable,’ the woman said hurt that Kathryn couldn’t take time to talk to them.

‘No she is determined she wants to get on with it,’ the one man defended Kathryn’s need to begin.

‘She knows what she wants, she’s not the type to sit around when she has a mission to accomplish,’ the other continued.

Kathryn became frustrated until she finally decided to knock on the door to have the guide greet her.

The woman walked Kathryn into another chamber and asked her what she wanted and Janeway told her that she knew there would be challenges but she would do whatever she needed to save Chakotay.

The woman chuckled as she said to the small woman that they would start the test.

Over the next few hours she endured different tasks.

‘If you maybe give me an idea of what you want, set the boundaries,’ Kathryn said as she gently stroked the wall with paint.

‘No just look into your heart and paint what’s there,’ the woman said as Kathryn dipped her fingers into the paint.

‘Just paint what you feel,’ she said as the picture took form.  ‘What is this a flying creature?’

‘It could be, the wings are shaped with the correct dimensions,’ Kathryn said as she looked at the image critically.

‘What does it look like to you and use your heart not your science to look at it,’ the guide instructed.

‘An eagle,’ Kathryn said as she looked at the guide.  ‘A large majestic bird.’

Kathryn laughed as she finished the painting and the guide watched her.  She explained that her sister was the artist where she was the problem solver.  Janeway explained that she enjoyed math problems over playing outside.

‘You were the scientists doing your math solve a problem get an answer.  The answer is either right or wrong, it’s very absolute,’ the woman said as she looked at Janeway’s painting.

‘I have always found it very satisfying,’ Kathryn said as she looked back at the guide.

‘I’m sure you have,’ the guide said as they moved on to the next test.

Holding a rock as the sweat poured down her face the guide asked what she saw but the exhausted woman couldn’t tell her.  Kathryn finally collapsed and the watching woman guided her to a seat then turned to get the weary subject a refreshment.

Handing Janeway a drink she turned and picked up a covered basket.

‘What’s that?’  A nervous Kathryn asked as she heard an unknown creature moving about.

‘It’s a Nestit they are able to travel from this world to the spirit realm.  They serve as gatekeepers,’ she explained as she sat down across from the Captain.

‘Gatekeepers then I’m ready to enter the spirit realm,’ Kathryn asked cautiously.

‘Do you think you’re ready?’  Came the question and at first Kathryn wanted to say no but then she remembered Chakotay and straightened.  ‘Yes.’

‘Then put your hand in,’ she instructed Kathryn.

She moved her hand forward when she heard a terrifying hiss and hesitated.

‘You can stop right now,’ the guide told her but of course Janeway refused and shoved her hand in to be bitten

Jumping back she felt the venom coursing through and felt she had failed in her test and in turn she had failed Chakotay.  The sole reason for being here and she had not succeeded in saving him.

She came to a bit to find herself in a tomb and she whispered that she was dying.  The guide simply said that we all die and closed the coffin on her.

Coming to her senses she found herself on a cliff being blinded by a bright light.

‘What is this?’  She asked as she looked about the scene in front of her.

‘I’m only here as a voice for the ancestral spirits,’ the guide said from behind her.

‘Can I see them?’  She asked, as she needed to see them so she could present her case.

‘You need proof that we exist,’ an incredulous guide asked.

‘That would be helpful,’ Kathryn said unsure how to proceed.

‘It’s irrelevant,’ she said off-handedly.

‘I don’t want to seem disrespectful but I have gone through every part of the ritual you have asked,’ Kathryn said as she looked back to the storming sea and crashing waves.

‘Everything you have gone through is meaningless you have been told that,’ came the exasperated answer.

‘I know I just what to bring this to completion to make my request,’ Kathryn said as she looked out to the sky.

‘Then by all means do so,’ she was told as the guide stood emotionless.

Janeway looked out at the turbulent ocean and stated the facts pointing to the King’s plea as a point in her case

‘Your request is inconsequential you have what you need to save him,’ the guide answered.

Janeway smiled at the futility of it all and closed her eyes as she gave into the exhaustion.

The tomb opened and Janeway saw her guide.

‘How long?’  She asked as she was helped up.

‘Does it matter?’  The guide said surprised that this woman always needed to know all the facts to make her feel comfortable.

‘I need to know,’ Kathryn said even in her weakened state she needed facts.

‘Thirty-nine hours,’ the guide said as she led a shaking Kathryn to a seat.  ‘And you need to take care you are very weak.’

‘I guess the programs on the holodeck were no match to your tests,’ Kathryn said with a weak laugh.

‘Has it been worthwhile,’ the guide asked.

‘I think so the spirits say I have what I need to save Chakotay,’ Kathryn said as she thought of the data that the Doctor would have received through the probe.

‘Then it must be true the spirits would not deceive you,’ the guide said as she handed Kathryn her uniform and tricorder.

The doctor was excited by the information they had gathered.

‘You need a good nights sleep and food but other then that you’re fine,’ he told the Captain as he finished his scan of her.

‘When can you start treating Chakotay?’  The Captain asked as she jumped down from the biobed and moved to Chakotay’s bed.

‘The ritual might have been grueling on you but I have gathered a lot of scientific data.  The toxin is the key and it’s what creates the natural immunity that the monks use to enter the temple.’  He explained as he set up the scanner on the bed.

‘I have a treatment worked out,’ the Doctor said as he started the procedure.

‘Lets get started,’ Janeway ordered but of course the treatment didn’t work and the Doctor had to stop what he was doing before they lost Chakotay.

Janeway stood looking down at Chakotay and bent over him for a moment.

‘Please hold on Chakotay,’ she whispered to him as she turned and left.

Moving through the caves Janeway was looking for her guide.

‘You meant what you said everything I went through was meaningless,’ Kathryn said as she stopped in front of her.

‘Yes,’ was the simple answer.

‘I did everything you asked of me, you led me to believe that it would help Chakotay.’  Janeway said close to tears.

‘I haven’t led you anywhere Kathryn you’ve taken me along wherever you wanted to go.  This was your ritual you set these challenges yourself.’  She was told as she closed her eyes.

‘It’s true I came with certain expectations but are you saying that you simply fulfilled my expectations,’ an astounded Kathryn said.

‘You would have settled for nothing less,’ the guide said simply.

‘I’m not ready to give up if there’s a way to save Chakotay I will try,’ Kathryn pleaded.

‘You have come back to seek the spirits,’ the guide asked.

‘I don’t know what I’m seeking,’ a disheartened Kathryn said.

‘Then I believe you are ready to begin,’ the guide said and Janeway found herself in the room again with the three elderly people.

‘So you put yourself through a lot of trouble and it was for not?’  Groused the unfriendly male of the trio.  ‘Don’t tell me your science has failed you, all that equipment and knowledge and you can’t bring him back.’

‘No,’ Kathryn said close to tears.

‘Did you ever think that maybe there was something else that could save him?’  The elderly man demanded.

‘What?’  Kathryn asked feeling like a total failure.

‘Look into your heart think with it for once.  You have what is needed to save him you just have to trust your feelings.’  The friendlier of the two males said.

‘I don’t know if I can,’ she confessed.

‘Your science can’t help you,’ the second male said.  ‘Or is that the problem the last time you allowed your emotions to get in the way you lost two people.  Is that when you decided science was the only answer?’

A sob escaped Kathryn as she was transported back to that terrible day all those years ago.

‘Take him back into the field,’ the rude male said

‘But that will kill him,’ Kathryn said amazed at such an outrageous suggestion.

‘He’s already dead you can’t do anymore harm.  Trust your feelings and trust him you would be amazed at the results.’

She looked at the three before her as her thoughts battled within.

‘But realize one thing if you have any doubts, any then you will kill him.’

Leaving the room she contacted Tuvok and asked him to bring Chakotay down to the caves.

Her First Officer’s body appeared on a grav bed.

‘The Doctor was hesitant to let us take the Commander but he felt you wouldn’t endanger the Commander.  What is it you plan to do Captain?’  Tuvok asked as he stood in front of her.

‘I’m going to take him into the field again.’  Kathryn said flatly.

‘Captain you have been under a lot of stress the past few days do you think this is a good idea,’ her security officer questioned.

‘The one thing I am sure of is that I want to save Chakotay and my belief in what I am doing is enough.  I believe in him and most of all I believe in us and to save him I have to take him back into that field.  Please Tuvok help me to the entrance,’ she pleaded and after a few seconds he agreed.

Walking her up the few steps he lightened Chakotay’s dead weight.  He would have been too much for her to walk even the few feet that she would have to traverse.   Putting him down on the ground he pulled the Commander’s unconscious body into a sitting position.

Janeway looked at her old friend.  ‘Thank you Tuvok.’

Bending down she slipped her arms around Chakotay from behind and pulled with all her might toward the arch.   Kathryn dragged him a foot into the arch when she felt the power that was surging through.   The shock of the energy caused Kathryn to lose her balance and she fell on her backside with Chakotay’s head landing in her lap.

Looking down Kathryn watched as Chakotay’s eyes slowly opened.

‘Hi,’ he said tentatively.

‘Hi,’ she whispered as the tears came close to falling.

Kathryn helped a shaky Chakotay to his feet and with him leaning on her they walked out of the arch.

Beaming back to the ship they went directly to Sickbay.

‘You may go back to your quarters Captain,’ the Doctor instructed.  ‘Food and sleep in that order are your instructions.  The Commander is staying here for twenty-four hours and then to quarters.’

Kathryn moved over to Chakotay’s bed.  Looking down at his sleeping face she thanked the spirits for bringing him back to her.

‘Kathryn,’ came the quite whisper.

‘Hi you should be sleeping,’ she scolded him.

‘So should you,’ he said in return.

Kes walked up and said she would escort Janeway to her quarters and after a goodbye Kes took Janeway’s arm and left Sickbay.  Kathryn didn’t realize how tired she was till she was standing in front of Neelix with Kes instructing him to put something together for her to eat.

‘I don’t remember walking here,’ Kathryn said.

‘I know I kept talking to distract you and here we are,’ the young girl smiled at her.

Kathryn laughed at the impish face and thanked her for thinking of her.  Neelix put together soup and some bread for her along with a glass of juice.

‘Eat this and then it’s off to bed,’ Kes instructed her Captain.

‘Yes ma’am,’ Kathryn saluted.

Kes sat and talked to Kathryn while she ate and then helped an exhausted Captain to her quarters.  Kathryn had planned on sleeping a few hours and then check on Chakotay but her body had other ideas.  The Captain wouldn’t wake for thirty hours.

Checking on Chakotay she was told that he was resting in his quarters.

The Captain prepared a report on the events and decided to do a personal log. Once this was completed Janeway had a shower and changed into a pair of worn sweatpants and t-shirt.

Sitting on the couch trying to read, she was interrupted by the chime of her bell.

‘Come,’ she called and the door opened to reveal a smiling First Officer.

‘I was wondering if you would like to share in some dessert that B’Elanna brought me,’ he asked as he gave her his best-dimpled smile.

‘Sure,’ she replied as he put a covered tray on the coffee table.  ‘What do you have,’ Kathryn asked with the excitement of a child showing.

Chakotay laughed as he whipped off the lid to reveal a large slice of chocolate cake.

‘Neelix made this,’ she asked with a questioning look.

‘Yes but B’Elanna promised that it is the best thing she has ever tasted.’  He told her as he handed her a fork and picked up his.

They shared the treat quietly till finally Chakotay sat back and watched Kathryn polish of the cake.  She leaned forward to place the plate on the table when Chakotay noticed her shirt ride up to reveal a mark on her lower back.

‘Kathryn what is that?’  He asked as he sat forward to look at the mark closer.

‘What?’  She asked as she tried to twist so she could see what he was looking at.

‘It looks like ink,’ he said puzzled.

‘Oh I must not have gotten it all off when I had my shower.  They had put the one on my face and then on my back for the test.  Now that I think about it they didn’t draw the one on my back again when I went the second time.’

‘I never did get to see it,’ she said.  ‘They said that the tattoo on my face was to represent an element but the one on my back represented something that meant a great deal to me.’

‘Can I look?’  He asked curious what they could have marked her with.

‘Okay,’ she laughed not sure what it could be.

He slowly rolled down the top of her pants so he could get a better look when his breath caught in his throat.

‘What is it Chakotay?’  She asked as she saw his startled look.

He continued to stare at her unable to answer.  Kathryn became concerned and rose, heading for her bathroom.  Chakotay followed her and watched as she pushed the top and pants out of the way.

Looking at the mark she gasped and turned back to look at Chakotay.

‘Maybe you should tell me about your ordeal,’ Chakotay said as he looked at the mirror and the mark on her back.  The mark was also on display on his forehead.

Kathryn explained what she had gone through and how she had failed.

‘The three spirits sat mocking me and my science and how it failed me.  They told me I had to use my heart,’ Kathryn said as she looked down at the floor.  ‘They said I had been hiding behind my science for too long and that I had to look into myself for the answers.  They told me that since Daddy and Justin I had been hiding.’

She finished her tale on a whisper.

‘Hiding from what Kathryn?’  He asked as he moved forward.

Looking back up at him the tears slipped down her face.  ‘My heart, from loving and being loved,’ she said quietly.  ‘From wanting you,’ she told him.

‘And now,’ he asked as he stopped directly in front of her.

‘No more hiding,’ she told him.  ‘Loving someone is a sacred responsibility and hiding from it is wrong.’

‘Say it Kathryn,’ he pleaded.

‘I love you Chakotay,’ she whispered as she stepped into his arms.

‘I love you too,’ he told her as he held her tight.

Hours later Chakotay walked out of the bathroom and headed back to bed.  He stopped to admire his view.  Kathryn Janeway lay on her stomach naked and barely covered by a bed sheet.  Moving closer he looked at the tattoo on her back.  Reaching out he gently traced the lines that made up his mark.

‘Enjoying yourself,’ came the sleepy voice.

‘I will,’ he said as he bent over and kissed the tattoo.  ‘Of course you know what this means?  Wearing my mark the way you are,’ he said as he slipped up to lay beside her.

Turning to face him she looked at him through sleepy eyes she asked the question.

‘You are mine,’ he told her reverently.  ‘For now and always,’ he told her as he kissed her lips.

When he broke the kiss she smiled at him.  ‘I was yours’ the moment we met,’ she answered with another kiss.  ‘It just took me a little time to admit it but you will never have to question my feelings.’

The End

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