DISCLAIMER: Everyone belongs to Paramount.  I'm just having fun; I'll return everyone and all their space toys when I'm done.  No infringement intended.
 
CLEAR AS ICE

RATED   G

Negotiations complete, the Captain and her first officer were returning home, agreement in hand.  Voyager was in orbit around the fifth planet in this system, it would take another twenty minutes for the command team to reach her.  The Zralies were a civilized and advanced society, but they didn't permit foreign ships past the fifth planet.  It was part of their security and they had much to protect.  The Captain had successfully negotiated for food supplies, which would be delivered to Voyager by a Zraly ship and dilithium crystals, which could be mined on the third planet.  Shuttles would have to be used for transport due to the distance Voyager was forced to keep.  It would be a slow process, but the quality of crystals was well worth the extra time.  Kathryn had just poured them each a coffee when the shuttle took a hard bounce sending the precious liquid flying across the cockpit.

"What the hell was that?"  Kathryn grabbed the console to keep her seat.

"Unknown spatial disturbance--and apparently a waste of good coffee."  Her first officer flashed her his famous grin.  “No damage."

"Not to the ship, but that was the last of the coffee."  She wiped coffee off the console.

"Fate worse than death!"  He gave her a mock look of fear.

"And that would be?"  She gave him the Janeway death glare.  "Remember, I out rank you. Consider that before you answer."

"Another twenty minutes in this small space and you without coffee! Spirits help me!"  He glanced at her from the corner of his eye.

"I promise you twenty minutes of peace; fly well. I guarantee nothing beyond that!"  She held on again as the ship lunged to the port side.  "What the.."  She checked the console; it detected nothing.  She looked up and was startled by Chakotay's expressions.  "What is it?"

"We're being pulled.  I don't know by what. I can't keep the ship on course." Chakotay's hands flew over the console, but still the flyer was being pulled off course.

"Tractor beam?" She could see no evidence of a tractor, but she couldn't detect any other irregular reading either.

"Don't know, but I'm losing it!"  His voice showed something just short of panic. "Hang on!"  He shouted as he made a grab for her.  It was the last thing she saw or heard, before her world went dark.

~~~^^^~~~

The Captain and the Commander were two hours over due, for their rendezvous with Voyager.  Tuvok had been in communication with the Zralies several times and confirmed their departure time.  Voyager was performing continuous scans without any sign of the shuttle.  The Commander’s request for permission to bring Voyager deeper into Zraly space had been denied.  Tuvok was told he would have to await the arrival of the supply ship and the results of it's scans as it crossed the region of space into which the delta flyer had vanished.

While they waited, preparations were put underway to begin mining operations on the third planet.  The three shuttles which would be used to transport away teams and equipment were also having their scanners enhanced so that the fourth planet, which was too far from Voyager could be carefully scrutinized.

"Commander, the Zraly supply ship is hailing us."

"On screen, Mr. Kim."  Tuvok settled somewhat uneasily in the command chair.

"Commander Tuvok, I am Captain Benji, we bring your supplies and request docking instructions."  A very striking, but short humanoid alien with green eyes and skin, which glowed silver faced Tuvok.

"Captain, we will transmit the coordinates.  Have you completed the necessary scans?"

"Yes, Commander.  I'm sending the information now, unfortunately we were unable to locate your shuttle."  The color on his face deepened and the glow became more intense.

"I see, were you able to give me scans of the planets between our location and your home world?"

"Yes, to some extent. We will be docking in five minutes; I suggest you look over the information I have sent you and we can meet to personally discuss it."

"I will do that, Captain."  With that Tuvok signaled Harry to end transmission and turned his attention to the information being fed to his terminal.

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn’s eyes fluttered open; finding the light blinding they slammed shut again.  She tried to remember where she was, but the pain was making concentration difficult.  Her head hurt, the light had intensified that, it was hard to breathe, like a great weight on her chest.  The captain gingerly moved her hands, then her feet; she could move them but she was pinned by the weight on her chest.  She tried opening her eyes again and was forced to close them. In the seconds they had been open, Kathryn registered her surroundings; she was in a shuttle.  She fought to remember why.  What happened?  She couldn't breath; her world went black.

~~~^^^~~~

Shuttle bay two was alive with activity.  The Zralian ship had delivered the first of their supplies and Neelix was checking in and directing the storage of the food stuffs.  B'Elanna was on hand to supervise engineering supplies, checking carefully against her lists.  Tuvok entered in search of Captain Benji, only to find him anxiously awaiting their conversation

"Captain."
 
"Commander, have you reviewed the scans?"

"Yes, as you said they reveal very little.  Is there anything you might add?"

"As you know, we found no trace of your shuttle, the Captain or the first Officer. However, Tzar, the planet closest to our home world is notorious for hiding wreckage."  The Captain shifted uncomfortably.

"Would you prefer to talk elsewhere?"

"No, it is no secret among my people, the planet is wrapped in a gaseous cloud which repels our scans and has been known to disintegrate small vessels trying to pass through it.  The atmosphere just above the cloud sometimes becomes magnetized and sucks small ships directly into the cloud.  I'm afraid that if this happened to your officers, there is no hope of finding them"

"I see and this Tzar, can it sustain life?"  If their ship survived the cloud, could they survive the planet?"

"Only for a short time.  Unless the life support systems remained in tact, which is unlikely, they would most likely freeze with in hours."

"Then it seems we must concentrate our efforts on this planet first."

"Yes, if that were possible.  You see none of our ships would risk travel there and your shuttles would most likely be destroyed."

"Could a ship such as Voyager pass through the cloud?'

"I'm not familiar with you exact specifications, but, yes, I believe she probably could.  However the Consult would never permit it."

"Not even as the only hope of saving the Captain and Commander Chakotay?"

"I'm afraid not.  No foreign vessel is allowed any closer, under any circumstances.  I'm sorry there is nothing more I can do."

"Thank you, Captain, your information may prove most helpful."  Tuvok turned to leave the bay. "Lieutenant Torres." He waited for her to look up. "Please call a senior staff meeting in the briefing room in twenty minutes."

"Aye, Sir.”  She watched as he exited the shuttle bay, then hit her comm. badge.  "Torres to senior staff.  Please report to briefing room in twenty minutes. Torres out."

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn drifted into consciousness, it was cold; sleep--she wanted to sleep.  Her head pounded and her lungs fought for each breath.  Heavy, something felt heavy--cold-need to move, Kathryn’s thoughts were disjointed; she forced her eyes open.  The light was bright and it forced her eyes closed again.  She turned her head and squinted, struggling to stay wake.  Shuttle, the delta flyer, she began to remember. She and Chakotay were on their way…Chakotay!  Kathryn swung her head around meeting both the object of her search and the reason for the crushing weight on her chest.  Chakotay, she remembered he grabbed her.  He had tried to shield her as they crashed.

"Chakotay."  She forced the word out.  He didn't answer.  With all the strength she could muster, she tried to shove him aside.  Once, twice she pushed.  The third time she pushed with her arms and tried to roll them over with her legs; he moved and she pulled herself out from under.  "Chakotay."  Still he didn't respond.  She felt his neck; a pulse-weak but present.  She looked around trying to take stock of the situation.  The flyer was in on piece, lights and oxygen were working, but it seemed cold.  She checked herself over quickly, grateful to discovered no major injuries.  Her head ached, large bump, maybe a cracked rib or two.  Her arms and legs worked; nothing broken.  Kathryn crawled to the med. kit and retrieved the tricorder.

She ran it over Chakotay.  Many, many bruises, internal injuries, broken ribs, compounded by a sever blow to the head.  He was unconscious; his body temperature dropping.  She had to warm him up.  It was getting colder in here.  Kathryn unpacked the emergency supplies; they had only three blankets.  She placed the first on the floor of the shuttle and rolled him onto his back on the blanket.  She unwrapped the others and placed on over him, saving the other to wrap herself.  She left him then to further investigate their situation.

~~~^^^~~~

The senior staff filed into the briefing room.  The chairs at the head of the table remained noticeable empty.  Waiting until everyone was present, Tuvok quickly went over the supplies received.  He took reports form Neelix and B'Elanna and was updated on the status of the away team’s preparation for search, as well as the mining operations.  Then he filled them in on the information on the planet Tzar, he had received from Captain Benji.

"I have already officially requested permission for Voyager to proceed to this planet in search of our missing crew.  The Consult is considering the request.  I fully expect it to be denied."  He looked carefully at each officer, making mental note their individual reactions.  "I believe at this time we should proceed with plans to mine the dilithium and search the surrounding areas with shuttle craft, while we await the Consult's answer."

"Do nothing while the Captain and Commander may be dying?"  Neelix was visibly upset.

"Not nothing, Mr. Neelix.  We will proceed as planned.  Maybe we will find them in another location."

"Come on, Tuvok.  From what this guy said, that planet is our best bet and they will freeze if we don't get there soon."  Tom was his usual brash self.

"I agree, Mr. Paris. That is why I am sending a shuttle to scan the planet.  If indeed we find sighs of the flyer or her crew, I fully intend a rescue operation with or without permission of the Consult."

"I could take a shuttle in. B'Elanna could reinforce the shields."  Tom looked to Torres for conformation.

"Yea, we could, but we don't know what we're up against. I think out best bet is to bring in Voyager."

"You are correct, Ms Torres.  Which, Mr. Paris, is why you can't go off ---half cocked, as you would say.  I believe our safest course is to land Voyager on Tzar and for that Mr. Paris, I need you.  Understood?"

"Yes, Sir. Understood."

"Very well, send two away teams for the dilithium; have them mine as much as possible and be back to Voyager in three hours.  Mr. Paris, take a shuttle to Tzar and get what information you can.  We will send out other search teams to other locations.  All Crewmen are to be back aboard Voyager within three hours.  At that time, if we have no evidence to the contrary, Voyager will proceed to Tzar.  It will not be easy.  Once the Zraly know what we intend I'm sure they will endeavor to stop us.  We must be ready.  We will meet back here in three hours.  Let's get on it--dismissed."  Tuvok knew, as did the entire staff, that what they proposed to do was against regulations.  The Captain would not approve, not even to save herself; they would do it anyway.

~~~^^^~~~

The Captain surveyed the damage to the flyer.  Most of the life support was functional, but no heat, and from the view out the port this place required heat.  The flyer would hold some heat; but not forever.  Communications were barely functional; she received only static anyway.  They had water and emergency rations and could use the flyer for shelter.  They desperately needed heat.  She could move around but Chakotay was still unconscious.  She ran the tricorder over him again; his body temperature dropped another two degrees. She needed another source of heat.  She placed her blanket around his head and down his shoulders.  Then she spotted the coffee cups.  They were designed to hold heat.  She removed his boots and then her own, taking her phaser she gave several short blasts to each cup and used her socks to cover them than placed them under the blanket next to his feet.  They would hold that heat and keep his feet warm for an hour or more.  Her own feet were colder now in her boots without socks; she moved around the shuttle to warm herself.  The Captain checked and rechecked the systems.  Life support just barely working, oxygen, light, but no heat, she tried to reconfigure the power source.  There was too much damage; the relays were fried, the back up systems totally off line.  If she could reroute the power from the lighting, maybe they could maintain some warmth.  She forced the panels open, but had nothing but her rapidly freezing fingers to work with---it was cold--too cold.

~~~^^^~~~

The Consult contacted Tuvok less than an hour later; the answer, as expected was no.  Although he could sympathize with their plight and did indeed like the Captain very much, Voyager would not be allowed any closer to their homeworld.  The Consult felt that if the Captain's shuttle had been pulled down into Tzar’s atmosphere, there would be no chance of survival.  He assured Tuvok that they could pursue any search pattern they wished with small craft, but any attempt to bring Voyager closer would be considered and act of aggression and the Zraly would respond accordingly.

Tuvok reviewed all available data including that sent to him by the Consult.  Transport through the atmosphere of Tzar was not a viable option and any small craft they sent would most likely suffer the same fate as the Captain's ship.  Pending the reports from Tom and the other scout ships, he would do whatever was necessary to bring back the Captain and the Commander--dead or alive.  The decision was now his and he made it as logically as was within his power.  Voyager could proceed without one or the other if absolutely necessary; but not both.

As each away team reported back the evidence all leaned in the same direction; Tzar.  Tom had not found anything yet.  He would make another pass and return to Voyager.

"Paris to Voyager."  Tom's voice interrupted Tuvok's thoughts.

"Go ahead, Mr. Paris."

"I think I've got them.  The signature is definitely Starfleet.  Yea, they are down there!"

"Life signs, Mr. Paris?"

"Can't pick up any.  I am barely getting a fix on the flyer, but they are definitely down  there!"

"Acknowledged.  Return to Voyager, Mr. Paris.  I await you on the bridge."

"Acknowledged, Paris out."  Tom understood Tuvok perfectly, they would be taking Voyager in.

~~~^^^~~~

The cold was affecting not only her fingers, but her thinking as well; Kathryn needed to get warm.  She removed the coffee cups and heated them with her phaser again.  Replacing them carefully at Chakotay's feet; she scanned him again.  His vital signs very weak, his temperature another degree lower; they both needed to get warm.  She slid under the blanket with him.  Chakotay’s fingers were almost as cold as hers; she needed to warm them before permanent damage was done.  Kathryn rubbed his hands vigorously between her own, blowing warm air on them; the process warmed her hands too.  She brought her feet as close to his as her height would allow, she could feel the warmth from the coffee cups.  The warmth was welcome.  Kathryn snuggled in close trying to share what body heat they had.  Rubbing her hands up and down his arms, along his body, sliding her feet up and down his legs as she tried to stimulate circulation and produce heat.  All her training told her that the most effective way to share heat was skin to skin; she couldn't imagine removing their clothes in this cold.  She tried to keep moving, keep both their circulation going, she had to keep producing heat.  It was getting difficult.  Kathryn was very tired, she wanted sleep.

~~~^^^~~~

The senior staff filed into the briefing room.  They already knew of Paris' findings and no one had any doubt they were going in; this was just a formality.  Tuvok took the place at he head of the table.  He again studied each face and he knew there would be no objection here.

"As we suspected, Mr. Paris has found evidence of the delta flyer on Tzar.  We are unable to pick up any life signs due to interference.  Our request to bring Voyager in for a rescue has been denied, and in fact it was made clear that any attempt to do so would be considered an act of aggression."  He looked at each officer: clearly receiving their approval.  "Such an act could be considered a violation of the Prime Directive as well.." He took an uncustomary deep breath. "As acting captain of Voyager, I am ordering you to proceed with this mission and I alone will take responsibility for the consequences."

"Tuvok, we're in this together.  No one here would want to do any less."

"Lieutenant Torres, I appreciate your support and that of the entire staff, but the responsibility remains mine."  They nodded. "We will bring Voyager in at maximum impulse and descend into the atmosphere as swiftly as is safely possible.  Once we are within the atmosphere of the planet, we should be able to get a lock on the flyer and tractor it in, providing the Captain and Commander are aboard, we may not have to actually touch down. Mr. Paris, can you reverse in mid landing?"

"It's never been done, but I don't see why we couldn't"

"Torres we will need maximum power to shields for entry.  And weapons at the ready.  I estimate it will take the Zraly only ten to fifteen minutes to recognize our actions and retaliate.  I expect they will be waiting for us when we leave the atmosphere of Tzar."

"We need to power down the warp core to prepare for landing it will take time to power up again.  Escape will be at impulse or we stand and fight."  B'Elanna knew they were already aware of this.

"B'Elanna can we power up the core on our accent?"  Tom knew they couldn't out fly the Zraly at impulse.

“Yes, once we are sure we won't be landing, we can start to power up but it will take thirty to forty minutes.

 "How about establishing a low orbit, just under that cloud thing until we can go to warp?"

"We will be able to hold such an orbit for only a minimal amount of time.  We can try to leave the atmosphere on the far side in hopes they won't expect us there."

"We are coming out blind.  Our sensors won't be able to detect their ships through the cloud; we won't know what were up against until we break orbit."  Harry too needed to state the obvious.

 "We will proceed to power down the warp core.  Reroute all possible power to shields and weapons.  When all systems are at the ready, we will go to red alert and maintain that until we have retrieved the flyer and her crew and cleared Zraly space.  When we go to red alert, Mr. Paris will bring us in at maximum impulse and begin decent through the atmosphere of Tzar.  Mr. Kim you will perform continuous surface scans and locate the flyer.  We will
attempt to tractor it into the shuttle bay and return to orbit without touching down.  If this is not possible we will land and proceed with a ground search.  I do not believe the Zarlies will attempt to follow us down.  I believe our time within the atmosphere of the planet will be without conflict.  Whether or not we touch down, upon accent we will power up the warp core.  We will leave the planet's atmosphere at red alert and be prepared to fight out way out if necessary.  Is this clear?"

"Aye Sir."  They replied in unison.

"Doctor you will be on stand by; we do not know what condition the Captain and Commander will be in.  We must be prepared for their injures as well as casualties we may incur in the ensuing conflict.
 
~~~^^^~~~

She could feel the sun's warmth on her face.  The sand was hot on their bare feet and she and Chakotay raced toward the water.  She was laughing as he chased her, catching her and tumbling into the----snow---the ice covered him---his eyes glazed and she could no longer see his breath.  He was sinking---sinking under the ice---NOO! Not again!  She screamed.  She opened her eyes--her heart pounded---the flyer--she remembered--it was a dream.  Gods she had fallen asleep—no she had to stay awake--they would freeze.  Chakotay!  She sat up---gods be alive---and ran the tricorder over him--no change.  She used the last charge from the phaser to heat the coffee cups; they needed more heat.  She opened their uniforms and pulled him closer.  His fingers were blue, she rubbed them, blowing on his hands.  He stirred.

"Chakotay, can you hear me?"  She shook him.  He mumbled not really conscious. "Chakotay" He rolled toward her not awake.  She took his hands and placed them inside her uniform, under her arms to warm them; gods they were cold.  She slid her hands inside his jacket, slipping under the turtleneck to expose the warmth of his skin.  She moved
in closer, skin to skin, share the heat.  Her feet kept moving up and down his legs.  Her arms around his body hands moving up and down his back.  She had to keep moving--keep circulation going--generate heat.  Suddenly, she laughed.  Poor Chakotay, they were here, bare chested together her hands and feet caressing, touching rubbing his body; he wasn't
even aware.  If he were awake, if she wasn't so cold--if --oh gods what is wrong with you?---keep moving--stay awake--stay alive.  She was tired--she lay her head against his shoulder, her arms wrapped around him, legs tangled as she moved against him to generate heat.  She was drifting.  Suddenly hands slid around her back, gentle caresses; her eyes flew opened.

"Chakotay?'  His eyes were open, he looked at her but not really conscious.  "Chakotay"

"Cold."  He moved his hands up her back and drifted off again.
 
~~~^^^~~~

They were ready.  The red alert klaxon sounded and Paris looked to Tuvok.

"Engage, Mr. Paris"

"Aye Sir."  Paris went to maximum impulse and headed toward Tzar.

"Mr. Kim, any reaction from the Zraly?'

"Not yet, sir."

"We'll be entering the cloud and starting decent in four minutes.'

"Sir, I'm detecting ships.  Four Zraly ships on an intercept course."

"Time to intercept, Mr. Kim?"

"Six minutes."

~~~^^^~~~

The shuttle was sinking in the water.  It was covered with ice -Help them; she needed to help ---Justin!  Kathryn worked frantically to save them; they were sinking.  Justin!  She could see him in the window--Justin--she had to save him.  It was sinking, he was covered in ice---eyes staring straight ahead--ice -water-sinking----Justin-Justin--- Chakotay!  Gods-Chakotay was dying--save him--Chakotay!  She woke with a start.  She could see his breath in the cold air, feel his heart beating against her breast.  Thank you, who --whoever--thank you.  Move she had to move and stay warm.  Keep moving.

~~~^^^~~~

"Entering the cloud starting decent."

"Scanning the surface, Nothing--wait--I've got it."

"Life signs, Mr. Kim?"

"Yes---one--no two! Locking on the tractor; got them!"

"Shuttle bay one.  Prepare to receive the flyer."

"Shuttle bay one to bridge.  We've got them."

"Acknowledged."  Tuvok turned to Paris "Begin accent."

"Aye." Paris moved Voyager back up toward the cloud. "Were going up"

"Bridge to transporter room one"

"Graysin here"

"Ensign Graysin, get a lock on the Captain and Commander in shuttle bay one and transport them to sickbay.”

"Aye, Sir."

"Bridge to Engineering."

"Torres here."

"Bring the warp drive back up."

"Aye"

"Mr. Paris, put us in a low orbit, just below the cloud and hold it."

"Aye, Sir."

The Captain and commander materialized wrapped together in a blanket on the floor of sickbay.  The Captain was dazed but trying to grasp her surroundings.  The Commander was unconscious, with and apparent death grip on the Captain.  The doctor and Ensign Wildman were waiting.

"Captain, Captain."  The doctor repeated until he gained her attention.  "Captain, you're in sickbay. You can let go now."  He tried to move her away from the Commander.

"Doctor?"  She slowly sat up drawing her uniform around her.

"Yes, Captain. You're in sickbay.  How are you?"  He ran the tricorder over her.

"OK, I'm OK."  She pushed the tricorder.  "Chakotay.  He's been unconscious since the crash."

"Yes, Captain.  I will see to the Commander."  He signaled Samantha.  "Let Ensign Wildman help you and I'll check him over."

She nodded and allowed Sam to help her up onto the biobed, reluctant to take her eyes off him.  The doctor transported Chakotay onto the next biobed.  He scanned him quickly and set the diagnostics, pulled a blanket over him and turned to the Captain.

"Captain, he will be alright."  He tried to ease her down on the bed.  "Please lie down and let me take care of you while the diagnostics run."  She did as he said but continued to look at Chakotay.  "Captain, please look at me. I need to see your eyes.  That's a nasty bump you have.  Sam, hand me that hypospray."  Kathryn protested.  "It's OK, just for your headache---you won't sleep."  He continued her exam.

"He hasn't been conscious, except he said he was cold once.

"Yes, well both your temperatures are below normal, but you did a fine job, there will be no permanent damage from the cold.  I'll let Samantha regenerate your cracked ribs and tend these bruises.  You will be fine, although I will want you to rest."

"Chakotay?"

"I'm going to him now.  He may need surgery for some internal bleeding, he has some broken ribs, but he will be fine in time." He saw the sudden recognition in her eyes, as the red alert klaxons blared again.  "Captain, you must remain here."

"What's happening?"  She sat up and began straightening her uniform.  "Janeway to bridge"

"Yes, Captain."  Tuvok responded over the noise.

"What's happening?"

"We are under attack. The Zraly forbade us to rescue you and I went against their wishes."

"On my way."  She moved off the biobed on shaky legs and no boots.

"Captain, I must insist..."

"Stow it doctor. My ship is under attack."  She marched out of sickbay on her way to the bridge.

 She entered the turbolift, ordered it to the bridge and slumped against the wall.  Taking as deep a breath as her ribs would allow, she forced herself into Captain mode.  The Captain tugged on her uniform and braced for whatever lay a head.  The doors to the lift opened on the bridge and the Captain, hair a mess, half a uniform and barefooted, exited.

"Report."

"Three Zraly ships are attempting to surround us, weapons powered."  Tuvok gave up her chair.

"Hail them, Mr. Kim"

"No response, Captain."

"Captain, they are ..."  The ship rocked from several blows before he could finish.

"Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Paris.  Target their weapons Mr. Tuvok, fire at will."  She grabbed her cracked ribs as the bridge rocked. "Can we out run them?"

"Bridge to engineering."  Tuvok gave in way of an answer.

"Torres."

"Lieutenant how long before we have warp?"

"Give me five more minutes."

"B'Elanna let us know as soon as you have it."  The Captain ordered.

"Aye Captain."  They could hear the surprise in B'Elanna voice.

"Mr. Tuvok, take out those weapons!"'  The bridge rocked again, forcing a gasp as she slammed into her chair.  "Damage."

"Shields holding 95%--no damage reported."  Tuvok reported as he returned fire.. "Direct hit on lead ship.  Minimal damage to shields.”

"Hit them again, Mr. Tuvok.  I want some place to go once we have warp; make a hole."

"Firing. Shields down.  Weapons off line."

"Target their engines and fire."

"Targeting engines.  Direct hit--engines off line."

"Mr. Paris, lay in evasive pattern beta four and bring us about.  Mr. Tuvok lay down a spray of phaser fire as we come about.  Let's see if we can make that hole."

As the ship came about and Tuvok fired randomly, the remaining Zrayl ships scattered leaving the Captain her desired exit.

"Engineering to bridge.  Warp drive on line."

"Acknowledged, B'Elanna.  Mr. Paris execute beta four; warp three."

Voyager dropped slightly lower than the other ships, faced squarely toward the opening and accelerated to warp, leaving the surprised Zraly ships behind.

"Pursuit?"

"Negative, Captain."  Tuvok responded. "No sign of them."

"Mr. Paris, resume course for the alpha quadrant, warp four."  Using her arms, she lifted herself out of the command chair. "Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge."

"Captain, I must explain..."

"Tuvok, not now."  She cut him off.  "When I return. I will expect full reports from all senior staff.  Right now I think I'll have these ribs looked after."  She tried to smile as she held her side and made her way to the lift.

"Oh, Captain?"

"Yes, Mr. Paris?"  She stopped but didn't turn to face him.

"You might want to find your boots, before you come back."  He smirked but didn't face her either.

"Thank you, Mr. Paris. I believe they are in the flyer, if you aren't busy perhaps you would like to retrieve and polish them for me."

"Love to Captain, but I'm very busy flying the ship right now."

"See you keep your mind on that, then.  Mr. Tuvok I'll be in sickbay." The Captain stepped into the lift allowing the doors to close before turning around.  No one actually saw her smile.

The silence of sickbay only served to accentuate the constant beep of the monitor.  Her smile left as she entered searching for the doctor and finally spotting him across the room.

"Doctor."  She addressed him in a low solemn voice.

"Captain, how nice of you to come back."  His sarcasm was not lost on her, but she tried to ignore it.

"How is the Commander?"  She glanced in his direction.  He was alive that was all she could tell from here.

"As I told you before, he will recover."  His tone was kinder at first.  "However I do need to operate to correct some problems---that is if you will stop rolling the ship."  His acid tone returned.

"Yes, well it will be steady now.  How soon will you operate?"  She tried not to react to his tone.

“Right after I finish with those ribs. I assume you want them healed or have you grown to like the pain?"

“Yes, I would like them healed."  She bit back at him and stopped to regain control.  "Can't Samantha handle that?"

"She could, but she isn't here; she has other duties.  There really is no reason I can't assist you.  I am qualified."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It’s just that you could be doing more important things."  She tried to sound contrite.

"Well, what could be more important than my Captain?  Nothing I'm sure."  He walked over to the biobed and waited.  "If you're ready?"

Realizing giving in was faster than arguing she sighed and climbed on the bed.  He regenerated her cracked ribs, cleaned up several abrasions and administered another hypospray to reliever her continuing headache.

"There that wasn't so bad now was it?"

"Fine doctor. What about Chakotay?"

"I will operate now.  I don't suppose it would do any good to tell you to rest?"

"I need to meet with the senior staff and find out what happened with the Zraly, then I promise I'll rest."  She hopped down off the bed. "Doctor, please let me know when the surgery is complete."

"Of course, but you might have a little faith; he will be fine."  He grumbled as he turned away to prepare.

"Thank you, doctor" She started for the door.

"Oh, Captain."

"Yes?"  She was just a little exasperated.

"You might want to put on your boots before returning to the bridge."

"Thank you.  Why is it everyone is concerned with my feet?"  She mumbled to herself as she left sick bay.

She headed for shuttle bay one to retrieve the boots everyone seemed so concerned about.  Once there she found Ensign Bruscia polishing her boots.

"Ensign."  She spoke softly trying not to startle him.

"Captain, I was just about to return them to you."  He was very obviously nervous.

"Thank you, I can take them."  She held out her hand. "It's not necessary to polish them for me; however I do appreciate it.  Thank you, again."  She smiled as she took them and spun around to leave.

"My pleasure Captain, any time."  He saluted her as she turned.

"At ease Ensign."  She smiled and placed a hand on his arm.  "Be careful.  Didn't anyone ever tell you never to volunteer?"  She laughed and left the shuttle bay; boots in hand.

She stopped briefly at her quarters to grab a pair of socks and put on her boots, before returning to the bridge.

"Mr. Tuvok, if the reports are ready, I'll have them."

"Yes, Captain."  He handed them to her.

"Fine, give me half an hour to look these over, then I'll meet with the senior staff in the briefing room."

"Aye, Captain."

The Captain entered the ready room, crossed immediately to the replicator for coffee and settled on the couch to review the padds in her hand. She looked them over, all basically the same.  Kathryn was dozing when Tuvok called.

"Tuvok to Janeway"

"Yes, Tuvok?"

"Captain, the staff is gathered in the briefing room when you are ready."

"Thank you."  She glanced at the chronometer, knowing she was very late or Tuvok would never have called.  She was forty minutes late.  "I'll be right there.  Janeway out."  The captain straightened her uniform and ran her fingers through her hair, must be more tired than she thought.  One look in the mirror said that was true.  She crossed the bridge to
the briefing room.

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting."  She looked at the knowing faces around her, they understood, maybe a little too well. "I have read your reports."

"Captain, I must take responsibility for the entire operation as Acting..."  Tuvok didn't get to finish.

"Yes, Mr. Tuvok, according to the reports--everyone feels the same way.  All of you claim responsibility, but, you are correct as Acting Captain of Voyager it was your responsibility."

"My act of aggression was a violation of the Prime Directive and I take full responsibility.  I am prepared to face the consequences of my actions."

 "Admirable, but sometimes the Prime Directive must be open to interpretation; especially here in the Delta Quadrant."  She sat down.  "I do appreciate what you did, even though I may not have made the same decision myself."  She looked at each face in the room.   "What you did, you did efficiently and together, a united crew, which speaks well of all of you, as do those reports I just read.  Mr. Tuvok, as Voyagers acting captain it was your call.  As such, it was within your rights to make that decision and I respect that.  I will not begin now, to second guess you."

"Sickbay to Janeway"

"Janeway here, doctor."

"Captain, the surgery is complete, the Commander came through it fine.  Just as I predicted."

"Thank you, doctor.  Please notify me when he regains consciousness.  Janeway out." She ended the transmission before her could offer a reply.  "To continue, in the future perhaps a little more diplomacy would be in order.  However, for now, I again thank you for your efforts.  Let's put this behind us and move on.  Dismissed."  She smiled as she rose.  "The doctor has requested I rest and judging from my untimely nap which caused a delay in this
meeting, I'm afraid, for once, I must agree with him.  Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge, I'll be in my quarters."  Turning toward the door she was again stopped by Tom.

"Captain."

"Yes, Mr. Paris?"

"Nice boots."

"Thanks to Ensign Bruscia, he does nice work--don't you think?"  She turned toward the door, than back.  "Of course, Mr. Paris, you may feel free to polish them at any time."  She exited before he could answer.

Entering her quarters, Kathryn went straight to the bathroom, a generous amount of scented bubbles and gallons of hot water were the perfect prescription.  Removing her shining boots and carefully setting them aside, she smiled to herself as she discarded her uniform, tossing the rest of her clothes in the recycler.  Kathryn pinned up her hair and slipped into the steaming tub, submerging herself to her chin and resting her head on the edge of the tub. She could feel the tension leave her body as the heat seeped into her muscles.  Soothed by the hot water and warm scent of the bubbles, she soaked in the tub reheating the water until she began to resemble a prune and forced herself to rinse off with a hot shower.  Wrapping her hair in a towel, she pulled on a thick terry robe and made her way to the replicator. Kathryn wasn't very hungry and settled on a mug of soup and some crackers, which she finished before changing into her blue silk nightgown and brushing out her hair.  She contacted sickbay to check on Chakotay and remind the doctor to call her
as soon as he woke, then curled up on the couch with a book.

“Sickbay to Janeway."

“Janeway here."  Her very groggy voice answered as she searched for the time.

"Sorry to wake you, Captain, but you wanted to be informed of the Commanders condition."

"Yes, doctor, is he awake?"

"Not exactly, but he is calling for you.  I thought you would like to know."

"Yes, thank you.  Doctor what time is it?"

"Oh my, it is 0300 hours. Perhaps I shouldn't have..."

"No that's fine, doctor. I'm on my way.  Janeway out."

The captain sat up looking around, trying to get her bearings.  She was on the couch; must have fallen asleep reading.  She ran a brush through her hair, pulled on a bathrobe and slippers, grabbed her comm. badge and headed to sickbay.  Kathryn smiled at the thought of meeting crewmen in her present attire, but at 0300 it wasn't likely.

When she entered sickbay the doctor was in his office.

"Doctor."

"Captain."  He raised an eyebrow as he looked over her outfit.

"How is he?  Why hasn't he regained consciousness, yet?"

"It takes time, He is beginning to come around, as I've been telling you, he will make a complete recovery.  However, he still seems to think he is cold.  He keeps telling me or rather you, that he is cold."

"And is he cold?  Has his body temperature returned to normal?"

"Yes, his temperature is normal and it is sufficiently warm in sickbay.  I even put extra blankets over him.  Believe me he is only cold in his own mind."

"If he believes he's cold, then he will feel cold---won't he?"

"Well, yes, the mind is very powerful, if he believes himself to be cold he may actually feel it. That's why I called you.  Perhaps he will believe you.  If you can convince him he is not cold, maybe you both can get some rest."  As he spoke he led her out of the office and over to where Chakotay lay restless.

"I'll see what I can do.  Do you need to monitor him?"  Her question was simple, it's true meaning not lost on the doctor.

"No, I have something to do in the office, then I'll be deactivating myself.  Don't worry, if there should be a change in his condition which requires me, I will automatically be reactivated.  You may, of course reactivate me if you need me.  Otherwise I will see you in the morning.

"Thank you, doctor.  Good night"

"Goon night, Captain."  With one last smirk he was gone.

She stood by and watched as Chakotay tossed on the biobed.  Placing her hand on his arm, she could feel the heat radiated there.  He stirred under her touch, unconsciously reaching to cover her hand, mumbling something she didn't pick up.

"Chakotay, shhh.  It's OK."  She leaned in close and whispered.

"Cold, Kathryn--Kathryn."  He moaned more than spoke, tossing against the bed.

"Chakotay, shhh. I'm right here, shhh."

"Kathryn, cold."  He pulled at her hand, his eyes fluttering open. "Kathryn?"

"Yes, I'm right here. shh it's OK, we're back on Voyager.  You're in sickbay, Chakotay. You're OK."

She had both hands on his chest and was leaning in very close to try to comfort him.  He reached his hand up to touch her face.

"Kathryn."  He opened his eyes now and gave a weak smile.  "Kathryn, you're warm."  His fingers brushed across her cheek.  "I'm so cold; can't get warm."  He shivered and closed his eyes again.

"I'll keep you warm, slide over."  The bio bed was very narrow, but fortunately unlike her command presence, Kathryn was a very tiny woman.  She lay down beside him enveloping him in her arms and pulled the blanket over both of them. ""Shhhh, rest. I'll keep you warm."  She placed her head on his chest soothing and warming him as his heartbeat lulled her back to sleep.

It was her intention to calm him and return to her quarters before the crew of Voyager started their day.  However, sleep won out and the morning arrived to find the Captain and her first officer sharing a biobed, sleeping peacefully.

B'Elanna wanted to check on Chakotay before breakfast, so she dragged Tom to sickbay on their way to the mess hall.  Entering sickbay activated the EMH, who greeted them in his usual brisk manner.

"Do you have a medical emergency or is this just a very early social call?"  He snipped as he shimmered to life in front of them.

"Good morning to you too."  B'Elanna retorted.  "We came to check on Chakotay. How is he?"

"Well, he was restless last night.”  He turned and walked toward the bed.  "Actually, I was about to check on him. I assume no problems since I was not reactivated."  He stopped short as he approached the bed. "Oh my."

"What is it?  What's wrong?"  B'Elanna rushed to join him, stopping just short of the bed.  "OH!" She stood next to the doctor with her mouth open, as Tom came up next to her.

"Oh, I see."  He started to laugh and B'Elanna poked him, causing him to yell out and wake Chakotay.

"B'Ella?"  His voice was a little hoarse and it took a minute for to focus his eyes.

"Hi.  How--how ya feeling?"  B'Elanna tried to sound normal; Tom started laughing again and she jabbed him with her elbow.

"I'm ..."  He raised his head and looked down at he woman sleeping on his chest. "Kathryn?"  He looked at B'Elanna, who just shrugged.  Chakotay looked back down, gently touching the sleeping form. "Kathryn."

"Humm. Chakotay?"  She mumbled as she snuggled her face toward his chest.  She raised her head and looked at him.  "Chakotay? I must have--how are you?"  She blushed slightly but made no move to get off his bed, and she hadn't noticed the others.

"OK, I think.  Are you OK?"  He was smiling at her, thinking how beautiful she looked --all sleepy, hair tossed--no make up--just sweet, warm Kathryn.

"Fine.  You..."  She stopped at the sound of the doctor clearing his throat and turned in his direction coming face to face with Tom Paris as well.  "Good morning."  She turned back to Chakotay still smiling and still made no move to get up.  "You were a little restless and cold. Feel better now?"  She raised up high enough to prop her head on her hand.

"Much, thanks...."  The doctor made another impatient sound interruption their conversation.

"This is very cute, but if you wouldn't mind. I would like to examine my patient." He lifted a tricorder in their direction.  "I'm afraid you bio reading are interfering, Captain. I won't even mention what the proximity of your body is doing to his."

"OK, doctor."  She calmly got up off the bed.  "Please contact me when you are ready to release the Commander."  She leaned over and placed a light kiss on Chakotay's lips causing him to jerk back in surprise.  She raised her head up and smiled looking deep in his eyes, then bent to kiss him again.  This time he gladly and eagerly returned her kiss.
"I'll be back."  She whispered then straightened and faced the doctor  "Call me."  As she walked past the shocked crewmen, she stopped but didn't turn around.  "Paris, Torres shouldn't you be on duty?  And Tom, close your mouth."  Taking her best Captain's stance she marched out of sickbay, in bathrobe and slippers.

The End

          EMAIL                                                                       RETURN TO INDEX