by Susan de-fluke
They sat alone together on the sofa by the windows, talking and laughing together. These moments were rare and he took them where he could get them. Just to be near her, to see her smile, to see her eyes light up.
"Chakotay, how about we go to the holodeck?" she asked suddenly.
"I'd love to," came his instant reply.
Neither had noticed the glittering dot of light, as it floated towards them. It disappeared momentarily in side Chakotay's body. He jolted, and fell to the floor. Kathryn was leaning over him a second later.
"Chakotay? Chakotay!" She shook his shoulder and suddenly gasped. And blacked out.
Kathryn stirred, feeling hot. Raising herself slowly, she tried to work out where she was. On the floor of her quarters. Suddenly, without warning, she vomited. Getting up, she rushed to the bathroom.
Chakotay opened his eyes and looked round. What was he doing on the floor? And the floor of the Captain's quarters, no less. He could smell bile. Swiftly getting to his feet, he looked round. Someone was retching heartily, and someone - the same someone, no doubt - had been sick on the carpet.
"Computer, clean the carpet in this room."
A slight buzzing sound lasted for five seconds, and then ceased. Chakotay peered into the bedroom, the bathroom was beyond. The door was wide open. All was quiet.
"Kathryn? Are you all right?"
Bee bop. "0-600 hours. Wake-up call Captain Janeway," the computer droned.
"0-600?" Chakotay's widened. "Whatever hit me last night, knocked me out cold for seven hours," he called. "Kathryn?"
She was sitting on the bathroom floor, trying to catch her breath. She gradually moved to press the manual flush.
"I think we should tell Tuvok what happened, and get to sickbay."
Kathryn stood up, slowly, and nodded.
"Are you all right?" he repeated worriedly.
He reached out to lend her his arm. "Come on, I'll help you get to Sick Bay."
The Doctor appeared from his office the moment the doors parted.
"Something happened to us last night," Chakotay explained. "Something, I don't know what - it felt like it was ripping me insides out. Then I was on the floor, it paralysed me somehow. I don't know what happened after that. I woke up this morning, on the floor. The Captain was suffering with nausea."
"You say 'it' paralysed you. Can you describe what you saw?"
"I didn't see anything. There was no sound, smell, taste, just the sudden pain; the sensation of being ripped apart."
"Well, you're fine now. Nothing is showing up on my scan. I'll treat the Captain. If I need to run further tests, I'll call you back in."
"Will you be okay?" he asked the Captain.
"I'm sure I'll be fine. The Doctor will probably just give me something for the nausea and the dizziness, and I'll join you at morning briefing as usual."
Chakotay nodded, with a slight smile and left.
"Okay, lie down, and I'll begin." The scanner whirred over her for several seconds. The Doctor raised an eyebrow, reconfigured the tri-corder, and redid the scan. This time both eyebrows shot up. "Oh..my..heavens."
Chakotay was aware of their gazes the moment he entered the room.
"I hear you spent the night in the Captain's quarters," came the expected cheeky comment.
Everyone expected it, but not the response it evoked.
"Shut up, Paris! Or I'll strip you of rank, and personally throw you out the airlock!"
Paris stared at him, aghast. And, he knew he had gone too far. The Commander's eyes were smouldering in their intensity. But, it wasn't anger that burned there, it was pure fear.
"What's happened?" Kim asked.
Chakotay sighed and dropped into his seat. "I'm not sure yet. But, I'm willing to bet that something attacked us, leaving us both out cold for over seven hours."
"What?" several voices chorused.
"I have the answers," a voice chimed in. The Doctor and the Captain arrived. Janeway's expression revealed her shock at something. It had been a full hour since Chakotay had last seen her. What had taken them so long? He watched her sit down, face ashen. She laced her shaking fingers together on the table in front of her.
Sprits, if he was afraid, she was terrified. And she would not meet their eyes.
"Last night," she began in a shaky voice. "At approximately 23-41 hours, Commander Chakotay and I were rendered unconscious by some unknown force. It left him unharmed."
What about you? Chakotay almost said, but was interrupted.
"'It'. Can you be more specific?" Tuvok asked.
"It could have been an unknown entity, lifeform, or an energy discharge of some kind," Janeway clarified.
"Ship's logs did not record anything unusual at that time. The question needs to be asked - will it happen again? Is the ship or crew at risk?"
"I can answer that," the Doctor replied flatly, crossing to the wall monitor. "The ships logs would not have recorded this phenomenon, largely because this class of vessel is not equipped to scan the lower levels of subspace. Whether it will cause any harm to the ship, or to the crew, remains to be seen."
"Subspace?" Kim blurted.
"I detected a subspace resonance trace emitting from within the Captain's body," the Doctor said.
"You said, 'it will'." B'Elanna noted. "Are you saying that it's still here?"
"I am." The Doctor activated the screen and showed them a picture. "This is what it looks like."
In horror, Chakotay was on his feet.
"What!?" Kim said.
B'Elanna's jaw dropped.
"My scans revealed this embryo, or fetus as it is now, to be at approximately seven weeks gestation."
Janeway sat frozen in her seat, could not even bring herself to look at the screen. Chakotay stared at the pinkish form on the screen, its heart beating and its limbs twitching.
"Oh, gods," Tom muttered.
"To my knowledge, this has only occurred once before," Tuvok spoke. "To a Betazoid woman on the USS Enterprise D, in 2365."
"I am aware of that incident, but this is entirely different. The child you mentioned had only one DNA marker, his mothers. This child has two. Captain Janeway's and.... Commander Chakotay's."
Stunned silence ensued.
"Bitch," he whispered. Slowly, he turned to her. "You bitch! How did you pull it off, huh? Spike the food, the coffee!?" His voice slowly rose.
"Commander! Haven't you been listening?" the Doctor demanded.
"Don't give me that bull s**t! I've had this little ruse pulled on me before. And, I took it last time, because there was a chance, a very small chance, but a chance nonetheless, that that child WAS mine. But this!?" He jabbed a finger at the screen.
"Commander! This is not a lie!" the Doctor objected.
"I don't want to hear another word of it!" Chakotay bellowed. "I could have taken it from you. But you..." He turned to the Captain, this time he was angry. "After all we've been through, after everything that's happened...and you pull a stunt like this. How could you? How could you stoop to Seska's level?" Don't expect me to jump through that hoop again, because I wont!" Snapping the field commission bar off his collar, and tossing it across the table, he watched it skitter and come to rest against the back of Kathryn's hand.
Still, she did not move, or look up.
"I'm through. I'm through wasting my time on you. Captain!"
Several pairs of eyes followed his exit, and turned to each other uncomfortably.
"When can we expect the child's arrival?" Tuvok asked. "Assuming that is, the decision has been made to allow its continued existence."
"In about fifty hours. Two days from now," the Doctor returned.
Janeway swallowed emptily. "Dismissed," she spoke softly. "It's going to be a wonderful Saint Patrick's Day."
As the hours ticked by, Janeway's body protested at what this entity was forcing upon it.
"I can't stand for too long, my back hurts. If I sit too long, I get pains in my legs. The head aches are unbearable. I could eat this morning. Now, I can't stop eating!" She sighed heavily. "Do you know how many jars of pickles I have eaten? Do you? Take a guess!"
"Sixteen," Neelix put in, helpfully.
Samantha Wildman pulled a face. The only person on board who could truly understand what she was going through, was an Ensign; when the only person who she wanted to share this with was Chakotay. But, he had made his feelings abundantly clear.
"Have you told Commander Chakotay how you feel?" The Ensign asked gently. "I mean, not just physically, emotionally as well."
"He's made his feelings abundantly clear," Kathryn repeated her thoughts out loud.
"I think he was a little shocked, and hurt, Captain. You have kept him at arms length for years, afraid to acknowledge your feelings for each other, and, now, all of a sudden, you announce that he's going to be a father."
Kathryn stared at her.
"I - I meant no disrespect, Captain," Samantha added quickly.
Kathryn attempted a smile but failed. "I know. I know you didn't I just wish I could say something to him. Explain somehow. Forget those words he said."
Chakotay wandered through several rounds of a boxing match, before his coach, Boothby, threw his hands up in despair.
"All right. That's enough!" He stormed into the ring, and almost tore the tooth guard from his mouth. "What in tarnasions are you playing at, son?"
"Your mind isn't on it, and your heart isn't in it. So, out, before I throw you out!"
Chakotay sighed, changed programs, and started running across the Arizona desert. Not another soul kilometres around. Perfect. He ran until he could not lift his feet another step. Collapsing in a heap, he rolled onto his back, breathing hard, and trying to ignore the complaints from his blistered feet, his torn lip, and his tortured body.
"What are you doing?" a voice scorned.
Chakotay looked up, and saw B'Elanna standing over him, hands firmly planted on her hips. He sat up.
"What are you doing here?"
"I asked first. You've been in here a full seventeen hours. There's an irate queue outside the doors."
"I'm in no mood for your jokes, B'Elanna," he snapped.
She hunkered down beside him so fast he almost thought she would pulverize him into the soil. "And, just what the hell is that supposed to mean!?"
Chakotay blinked up at her.
"Stop playing the victim, Chakotay! It doesn't wash this time! I have sat up, half the night with a friend who is terrified out of her mind. She wakes up and suddenly finds that her body has been invaded be an alien entity, for who knows what purpose. She is feeling so frightened and alone that she tried to take her own life, five hours ago. Did you know that? While you were in here wiling away the hours, enjoying yourself, she was in Sick Bay being treated for phaser burns. If the phaser hadn't malfunctioned, Tuvok would be Captain by now."
Chakotay stared at her, unable to form the words.
"What happened to you, dammit!" She shoved him hard, toppling him onto his back. She stood up, glaring at him. "The Captain has effectively been raped, and here you are, wallowing in your own self pity, like a cowardly puff-cat. You make me sick! Where is your honor, pa'taq!"
As if to emphasise her disgust, she kicked a toe-load of sand in his face, and walked away.
B'Elanna turned to see him sat dejectedly in the dirt, looking at her. His dark eyes round and huge. She walked back to him, but for a moment, neither spoke.
He blinked, sending a single tear down his cheek. "I want so much to take those words back...." His chin trembled, and more tears escaped in a gush, a sob of anguish tore itself from his throat.
Kneeling beside him, B'Elanna looked into his eyes, and saw his pain. Gently, she laid his hand on her shoulder, and allowed him to cry.
"The Captain is in her Ready Room," Tuvok told him, curtly. "I suggest you employ a little more tact than you had during your last encounter."
Chakotay nodded. "I will." He straightened his collar, shook his sleeves straight, and sighed nervously...and pressed the buzzer.
He entered. Prepared as he was for this moment, when she turned away from the windows, he could not have been prepared enough. She was enormous. Chakotay, you're staring, that's rude, he chastised himself. He averted his eyes and stood to attention.
He cleared his throat. "Captain, I came to formally apologize for my outburst yesterday. I was shocked, but that was no excuse for what I said, and I was way out of line. I deserve any and all punishments you see fit to throw at me. Sir," he added stiffly. He had never called her that before, and it felt awkward.
He clamped his mouth shut and waited for her response.
And it was a long time coming.
"I'm not going to punish you," a small voice wafted across the room. "B'Elanna tells me, you put yourself through seventeen hours of self torture on the Holodeck yesterday. One program after another. I'd say, that's punishment enough. Wouldn't you?"
Chakotay didn't answer.
"I didn't ask for this to happen, Chakotay. To you, least of all. I did not ask for your DNA to be taken, any more than I asked for my body to be used, in this manner. And, as for combining them..." She sighed, and took a step towards him, but then stopped, folding her arms.
Still he would not make eye contact, although she was looking at him.
"I have had no end of discomfort, and the one person whom I thought would understand, who would be there for me...the one person whom I thought would agree with my decision to carry this child...." Her voice broke then. She swallowed, took a deep breath. "You weren't there."
Chakotay lowered his head.
"When I needed someone to tell me that the decision I made, about the sanctity of life, about your child's life - this is *your* - was the right decision, you weren't there." Her breath snagged on a sob. "And, you have the gall to stand there with your lame apology?"
Chakotay turned to her sharply. "My apology may be lame in your eyes, but it's genuine," he stormed. "It's the truth. It's how I feel. I thought you always wanted the truth from me. Well, here it is. You're not alone. I'm scared too. This is a shock to me. You always made it clear that you wanted nothing from me except friendship, and, no matter how hard it's been for me, I accepted that. I did what you asked, I stayed away. And, then, I found out that you're pregnant...with my child, and I said the first things that came into my head. But I was wrong to do that, and I admit it. I'm sorry that this has happened, and I'm sorry that you're regretting your decision to keep the child. I find your hurt feelings a little lame, Captain," he stressed with spite. "You discussed this with the Doctor, but passed over my opinion as insignificant. You didn't ask me what I would want. I find that a little selfish."
A hand struck his face with a resounding slap.
Chakotay resisted the urge to touch his stinging cheek. He blinked at her. "I think that about sums it up. If you don't want to accept my apology, fine by me. It's obvious you don't want my help either, so I'm not going to bother offering it. Tuvok returned my rank pin. I'll be you first officer. I'll help you run this ship. But, don't expect anything else from me, because I've learned that it's just a waste of my time."
With that, he walked away.
He hovered by the door, glanced at her for a second, and was gone.
Chakotay sighed, and sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing his sore, stiff neck. He was tense, and his fingers weren't working the knots as well as he would like. He slowly became aware of a noise from his bathroom. Curious, he rose to investigate. Switching on the light, he found the room empty. But the sounds remained.
Moving closer to the bulkhead, he soon realized that it was someone crying he could hear. Someone on the other side of the partition wall was crying. He touched the wall, pressing himself to the warm metal. Yes, someone was definitely crying, mere centimeters from him.
She was hunched down beside her bathtub, sobbing her heart out.
"Kathryn," he whispered in despair.
Chakotay sank down beside the bulkhead, listening to her broken heart, until he suddenly realized his face was wet.
"Kathryn," he whispered.
He awoke several hours later, and found himself still sitting against the wall. The crying had stopped. Slipping off his shoes, he crawled onto the bed, and fell into a restless sleep.
She had missed duty call. She had missed the morning's briefing. The computer told him that she was in her Ready Room. Had been in there since 2 am.
"Neelix to Chakotay" the Talaxian broke into his reverie, and his concern.
"Go ahead, Neelix."
"As it's Mother's Day today, I thought we should celebrate with a get together in the Mess Hall, this evening. Will you be there?"
Chakotay thought for a second. Kathryn's baby - their baby - was due any minute, but it - he hadn't asked if 'it' was a girl or a boy - would have arrived by this evening. "I hope so, Neelix, although I can't promise anything."
"Well, if you can, it's Holodeck 1, 19-00 hours. Neelix out."
Tom turned his head to look up at the Commander. "Sir? Would you like me to go and check on her? You know, a neutral party. She may take it better that way."
"Commander," B'Elanna called as she entered the Bridge. "Here's the fuel consumption report. It's not looking good. We'll need a fresh supply of deuterium within the next three weeks, or the engines will stall."
"I'll get this to the Captain," Chakotay responded, and took the P.A.D.D. she was holding. "If I'm not out in two minutes, come in and revive me."
As he walked away, Tom sent her an enquiring gaze. B'Elanna tried to hide her grin, winking at him. She was up to something, he could tell.
He had pressed the buzzer twice. No answer. He pressed the other button, and the doors whooshed aside.
"Captain, here's the fuel consumption update...."
As he approached the desk, he saw her. She was lying back in her chair, fast asleep. These last two days had taken their toll on her, physically as well as emotionally. There were visible tear stains down her cheeks. And, you haven't helped, Chakotay, he thought sadly. When she needed a friend, where was he? Playing the victim, that's where.
A movement caught his attention. Her very swollen belly jolted. Kathryn stirred in her sleep, but didn't wake.
Stepping round the table, he gently rested a hand on her abdomen. Feeling the child moving and kicking made him smile, stirred emotions that two days ago, he would never have believed he would feel. Whatever or whoever had caused this child to miraculously be conceived, he thanked them. Even though he and Kathryn were now further apart then ever, he wanted, more than ever, to heal that rift.
He just wished there was a way to tell her that his heart and mind had changed towards the child that moved beneath his touch.
Kneeling beside the chair, he gently kissed the swell of her body. Then, before his courage could fail him, he planted a kiss on Kathryn's forehead. Leaving the P.A.D.D. on the desk, he walked out. As he was leaving, Tom was just entering. Chakotay placed a hand on his arm.
"Leave her, she's sleeping," Chakotay told him.
Kathryn had woken up when the child had shifted. She felt certain someone else was in the room, but she had been too tired to care whether she opened her eyes or not.
Her back hurt, but her heart hurt even more, and she had cried herself to sleep. She had seen the anger in his eyes two days ago when the Doctor had slapped his face with the news, and had seen the anger in his eyes when she had slapped his face yesterday. Their professional relationship was strained at the very least. Their friendship was in tatters.
She felt a hand touch the uncomfortable protrusion of her stomach, the child moved again. Then felt something she hadn't expected. His face pressed against her abdomen, with a kiss of pure paternal love. Then, those same lips lightly touched the side of her head, with what she knew must have been more than concern or affection.
Then, he was gone. Again.
Kathryn opened her eyes, to see the door of her Ready Room close behind him. The muscles of her abdomen tightened alarmingly, increasing the pain in her back tenfold. She hissed between her teeth, leaning forward in her chair. After fifteen seconds or so, it had eased, and stopped altogether. She had never felt anything like it before. Which meant only one thing.
Ignoring the P.A.D.D. on her desk, she quietly got to her feet. Barely getting half way across the room, she gasped, throwing out a hand to the bulkhead to steady herself. The other hand gently rubbed her tummy, mentally counting the seconds. Yep, this is it. Happy Mother's Day.
Gathering her Captain's mantle around her as firmly as possible, she marched onto the Bridge. "Commander? I'm going to check that maintenance problem on Deck 6 myself. They've been at it long enough. Perhaps I can hurry them up a little."
She barely heard his reply, as the turbo-lift doors shut behind her. Another contraction. She forced herself to breathe slowly. Damn, they were coming thick and fast. She feared she might not get to Sick Bay at all.
"Sick Bay," she rasped.
Please don't let anyone see me like this, she prayed silently.
The relentless march of labor continued. In the three meters between the turbo-lift and the Sick Bay doors, she had two contractions. She gasped, she hadn't even practiced her breathing exercises yet. How the hell was she going to get through this?
She made it. No-one had seen her.
"Activate the EMH," she ordered.
He appeared. "Happy Mother's Day," he smiled, placing a small vase with a single rose poking out of the top.
She doubled over in pain and couldn't stifle the groan that escaped between her gritted teeth.
"I would guess that 'now', is the only word on your mind," he noted.
Kathryn started to nod, but then shook her head.
she shook her head again. "Two words. Hypo-spray! Now!"
Chakotay shifted in his seat and winced. Whatever he had eaten, it was upsetting his stomach. Every half minute or so, it was going into spasm. Tom looked up and frowned, catching Chakotay doubled up in pain. Snatching up a tri-corder, he stepped over to take a look.
"It's nothing. Just something I ate, I think."
"Not according to this," Tom responded. "You're getting Braxton-Hicks contraction, by proxy."
Chakotay looked at him strangely. "I've got what?"
Tom managed to keep a straight face, but how he did it remained a mystery. Even to himself.
"Sympathetic labor pain."
"Chakotay!" she screamed. Her hand gripped the edge of the foam bio-bed cover. "Chakotay!"
"Would you like me to call him?"
"Yes - no. No! Ahh - it hurts!"
"The pain relief I've given you hasn't worked at all." He slapped his communicator anyway. "Sick Bay to Bridge...."
"DON'T YOU BLOODY DARE!" Kathryn's voice screamed across the Bridge.
Chakotay's eyes widened as he looked at Tom, who was kneeling beside him, tri-corder still open.
"Kathryn!" he whispered.
In one bound, he had jumped over the railing, and disappeared into the turbo-lift.
"He's on his way," Paris informed the Doctor, with an amused smile.
Tears were streaming down her face when he arrived.
The Doctor greeted him. "Please! Do something! She's highly agitated, and it's not good for her, or the baby."
"I'll try, but we're not exactly on speaking terms right now." Chakotay winced.
"Are you all right?" You're in pain."
"It's okay. Tom's already told me what I've got."
"What did he diagnose?" The Doctor thought allowed.
"Sympathetic labor pain."
The Doctor's lips twitched upward at the corners.
Chakotay pried Kathryn's hand loose from the bed, and offered his own hand for her to hold, and began to whisper an ancient song. One he could remember from his dreams. "Leyla nay ya hey, noi ho ma hey na hey. Noi sos yo ma, leyla nay ya hey...."
It's mystical rhythmic chant broke through Kathryn's fear. She remembered this song. He had sung it often on New Earth, lulling her into calm, restful sleep.
"That's it, he spoke softly. "I am here."
Kathryn looked up at him, as he gently brushed away her tears. He smiled down at her.
"My back hurts like hell," she stated flatly.
Chakotay nodded. "Doctor, I'm going to move your patient onto the floor."
"I'm not looking for an argument. I know a thing or two about massage, and relaxation. Kathryn is the mother of my child, and I know that laying her flat on her back is not good for her, or our baby. It's hurting her. You stick to the medical side of things, and we won't get in each other's way."
The Doctor's jaw dropped.
Settling Kathryn within his arms, in a more upright position, Chakotay slowly massaged his fingers across her abdomen. Holding her hand during contractions, he continued to gently rub the tension away, singing softly in her ear.
The Doctor had to admit, this was far better than having the Banshee from Hell screeching at him.
Within minutes, the baby was beginning to emerge. Then, with a final heave, he arrived, still in his protective membrane.
"Here he is," the EMH announced wiping his face, and placing him, wailing like a trooper, onto his mother's stomach, warm and wet.
"What a relief," she said breathlessly. "That was painful."
"I know," Chakotay intoned.
"How could you possibly know?" Kathryn groused defiantly.
"Because I felt it with you," He kissed her then. "Well done, Kathryn."
"Would you like to cut the cord?" The Doctor invited.
"What shall we call him?" Kathryn wondered.
"Today is Mother's Day, why not call him Akuntu, it means my mother's son."
Kathryn gazed down at their son. "Hello Akuntu. I wonder where you came from. Why are you here, eh? Why us?"
Suddenly, the infant began to turn blue, and choke. And, in a flash, the Doctor snatched him up and whisked him onto the surgical bed.
"No!" Kathryn cried softly.
A small red sparkle drifted out of the tiny child, and settled over their anxious minds.
*We did not intend any harm to you. Please forgive us*
"Who are you?" Chakotay whispered.
*We are explorers. We found a power in your hearts that intrigued us, and we decided to enhance a dream that you both shared, not realizing that your species takes much longer over the process than do others. We have observed your deep love for each other, even in adversity. Can you not feel it?*
They both gasped in unison, as they suddenly felt, with clarity, what the other was feeling.
"Our son," Chakotay said. "Please?"
*Love comes this way but once* the entity warmed. *Do not lose it*
"We are loosing our son," Kathryn gasped.
"Not if I can help it," the EMH promised, not raising his eyes to look at them.
*Shall we take him back?*
"I'm losing him," the Doctor called out.
"No!" Kathryn gasped.
*You must understand the full meaning of this gift we are not sure if we should leave him*
"Please don't take him," Chakotay sobbed.
The sparkle drifted across the room, and settled on the child and vanished. Slowly, he wriggled, as if waking from a mere sleep, and began to cry for his mother
The EMH brought him back to her outstretched arms. "I'm completely baffled by this. He seams fine now."
"I'd like to do this again," Kathryn abruptly announced.
"You would?" Chakotay looked surprised.
The Doctor was horrified. "Please! Don't bring that Banshee in here again. Next time you can deliver your own. My nerves weren't designed for this amount of stress." He walked off, shaking his head solemnly, muttering under his breath. "Hail Mary...."
RETURN TO CONTEST!!!