Kathryn awoke suddenly, her screams still echoing in her quarters. She sat up and gathered the blankets around her trembling, the images of the dream still vivid in her mind. It was the fifth night in two weeks that she'd had this dream, only this time it was more vivid, more real, and far more terrifying. She had stayed up all night on several occasions just to escape experiencing it again. As she slowly calmed Kathryn became aware that warm arms had wrapped around her shoulders and soft words were being whispered in her ear.
"It's all right, Kathryn. It was just a dream. You're safe."
"Chakotay? Why are you here?"
"I heard you scream. I've been here ten minutes and you've only now recovered enough to notice my presence."
"That long. Would you like to talk about it?"
Kathryn considered the question. If she said no he would leave and she would be forced to try to sleep again and hope that the dream didn't recur. If she said yes, he would stay and they would talk and neither of them would get any more sleep tonight. Risk the dream or stay up the rest of the night?
"I think I'd like to talk. Let's go out on the couch where we'll both be more comfortable."
Chakotay rose to his feet and pulled the blanket off the bed as Kathryn stood up. He wrapped it around her shoulders and the walked to the living area. Without comment, he went over to the replicator and order hot tea for both of them. He sat down next to her and was more than a little surprised when she slid closer to him before accepting her cup of tea and sipping on it.
"Ready to tell me about the dream now?"
"I think so." Kathryn sipped her tea again using the time to gather her thoughts. "There really isn't that much to tell. I can only remember this one image – of a ship very badly damaged. There are burn marks on the hull and ruptures that extend to the interior of the ship. It's dark and there are no lights on or in the ship. I know just by looking that the ship is dead, beyond repair. But I don't recognize the ship, only the words painted on it. 'V...ger,' it says 'Voyager' on the side of the ship. But the letters are wrong. They are in a straight line not curved along her hull, but I still know it's Voyager. I don't know what happened or why or where, but I know something happened to destroy that ship." Kathryn started trembling again as her words brought back the emotions she felt earlier. Chakotay shifted to put his arm around her and she gratefully accepted the comfort. "I feel ridiculous. I know it was just a dream, but it seemed so real. It's not Voyager, yet it is."
"Does is feel like a warning?"
"Not exactly." Kathryn thought about the question. "Not a warning but a foretelling maybe. It doesn't feel like it's something that can be avoided or changed, just something that's in the future."
Chakotay glanced at the clock. It was 04:00. Even if Kathryn only got an hour more of sleep, it would be good for her. "You think you could sleep now?"
"No. Can we just sit here for a while longer?"
"If that's what you want. Do you want more tea?"
"I don’t think so. I just want to sit."
After about ten minutes, Chakotay noticed the cup in Kathryn's hands start to tilt so he took it and put it on the table next to his being careful not to disturb her. As he settled back onto the couch, she shifted slightly and her head dropped to lean against his chest. Chakotay smiled, glad she was asleep.
The third time Chakotay jerked his head up from a near sleep in fifteen minutes, he finally admitted to himself that neither of them could stay on the couch for the rest of the night. Carefully he stood and gathered Kathryn in his arms to carry her to her room. He placed her gently on the bed and made sure the blankets were tucked snuggly around her. He was nearly to the door to the corridor when she screamed.
Kathryn was sitting upright and trembling when he reached her. This time she was immediately aware of his presence beside her and wrapped her arms around him as soon as he sat down next to her. The tremors subsided almost immediately.
"How long had you been gone?"
"A minute, maybe two."
"Neither of us is going to get any sleep at this rate. How long did I sleep before you brought me in here?"
"Half an hour or so. You seemed to be sleeping peacefully or I would never have left you."
Kathryn considered Chakotay's answer before she spoke again. "Don't take this the wrong way, but it might be better for both of us if you stayed here tonight. You can't spend the night running back and forth checking on me every time that dream comes back, and I can't stop sleeping entirely to avoid it."
"Is that why you've been so tired lately?"
"Yes. I thought it would go away, but it hasn't. I'm at the point where even I know I need sleep now. So, would you stay?"
"Yes, of course I will." Chakotay walked around the bed and lay down near the edge, pulling the sheet over himself. Kathryn wasn't satisfied with that. She shifted so she was under the sheet nearer the center of the bed then spread the blanket across the width of the bed.
"You're going to fall out if you don't move over. I promise I won't bite."
Chakotay complied with her instruction and moved to the middle but turned on his side to face away from her. Kathryn tried to get comfortable but was unsuccessful. After ten minutes of her tossing and turning next to him, Chakotay turned over on his back and pulled her against the side of his chest. "Go to sleep, Kathryn. Don't say anything, just go to sleep."
They both slept soundly until her alarm went off, waking them at the same time. Chakotay remained motionless, allowing Kathryn to set the tone of the morning. She silenced the alarm but didn't move away from him immediately. Finally, she whispered to him just before she moved to get up. "Come back in half an hour. We'll eat breakfast here this morning."
Chakotay smiled as she walked toward the bathroom but waited until the door closed behind her to get up and head to his own quarters.
Kathryn hadn't mentioned her nightmare or the events of the previous night when Chakotay returned for breakfast, so he didn't bring up the subject. Their work that day kept them apart at lunch and they only met briefly at dinner in the mess hall before Chakotay was called to check on a shuttle repair. It was late when he returned to his quarters so he didn't stop to check on Kathryn, hoping she was asleep. He was surprised to find her sleeping at his desk with a stack of padds next to her. She lifted her head at the sound of the door closing.
"Hi. I tried to sleep earlier but the dream came back so I brought some work over here to wait for you. I hope you don't mind." She chuckled as she realized she had been sleeping. "It must have helped – I fell asleep and the dream didn't wake me."
"Of course I don't mind, Kathryn. Would you like some tea?"
"Please." Kathryn stood and stretched then moved to the view port. She was staring at the passing stars when Chakotay reached in front of her with her cup. "Do you remember the last time you saw the same stars for more than an hour or two?"
"On New Earth. Before that, it was probably while I was at Starfleet Academy. I haven't stayed in one place very long since then."
"Neither have I. It's one of the things you leave behind when you join Starfleet I guess."
"You didn't come here to talk about stars, Kathryn. Come sit down and tell me why you really came."
Chakotay didn't wait for her to answer but sat on the couch giving her the choice of sitting next to him or on a chair. Kathryn chose the couch.
"You're right. I thought maybe I'd be able to sleep tonight, but that dream came back. I'm surprised everyone didn't hear me scream all the way down to deck 15." She stared into her cup as if searching for something. "The truth is if I go back to my quarters and try to sleep, that dream will be back and you'll be running over to check on me and we'll repeat last night. I thought it might just be simpler and more efficient if we just skip straight to the sleeping together part. Do you mind?"
"Do I mind being your security blanket?" Chakotay pretended to consider the issue, then smiled. "No, I don't mind at all."
Kathryn yawned. "I'm sorry. I really am tired. Would you mind if we went to bed now?"
"Not at all. I'm tired, too." Chakotay readily agreed. He went into the bathroom to change and when he emerged he found Kathryn curled up in his bed barely awake. He was pleasantly surprised when she immediately returned to the position in which she had awakened that morning, but disappointed about the circumstances. He fell asleep wondering if the day would ever come when she was there because she wanted to be with him for other reasons.
That evening set the basic pattern for the next few weeks. Some nights they worked together in Kathryn's quarters and he slept there; other nights he would return to his quarters to find her working at his desk or dozing on his couch. About a week after he first heard her scream, Kathryn fell asleep in her quarters while he was sorting out a brawl in the holodeck. He heard her scream as he was approaching her door. That one incident was enough to keep Chakotay from suggesting she try sleeping on her own. He decided to let her choose when to try it on her own.
Three weeks later, they arrived on the bridge at the beginning of Alpha shift to find some interesting reports regarding long range scans. They had picked up some anomalous readings from the moon circling a gas giant, the sole planet in a binary system. The moon showed no signs of ever having developed life or of being used by any species as a base, yet sensors indicated the presence of a very small quantity of processed metals and alloys. Curious? Yes, but not curious enough to wake the captain, but enough to report as soon as she appeared on the bridge.
"Commander, what do you think?"
"It's interesting but there have been reports of similar readings before by any number of ships. Most of the time, further investigation found that it was either sensor malfunctions or the result of random volcanic activity. That gas giant is nearly as large as the smaller of the stars so there's no telling what affect that has had on the planet over time."
"Do you see any risk to the ship if we investigate?"
"No, provided we use a probe to go down to the planet. It's small compared to its primary but still has a gravity at the surface at least four times Earth normal."
"Agreed. Helm, set a course for the planet and establish a standard orbit above the location of those readings."
"Estimated arrival time?"
"At present speed, just over forty-nine hours, Captain."
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay who gave a brief nod of agreement. They both took their seats and began the day's routine. That night and the next, Kathryn slept restlessly but the dream did not return.
Two days later, Kathryn and Chakotay arrived on the bridge early for their shift. They were about two hours from establishing their orbit. Chakotay had spent the previous day with mission specialists from several departments preparing a probe for the investigation. It was already standing on a transporter pad and ready to send to the surface.
Three hours later, the crew on the bridge watched the readouts from the probe as it rounded a rock. It had materialized about a kilometer from the location of the processed metals and alloys. Rocks had initially blocked the visual scan of the metals. They were hoping this was the last rock the probe would have to detour around to reach its destination.
None of them were expecting what they say – the remains of some type of very small craft. It was barely larger than the probe. It was splattered across an area about thirty meters in diameter. What limited information they could gather indicated that it had been there a very long time and had been damaged long before it crashed. Kathryn ordered the probe to head for the largest pieces still intact. It seemed vaguely familiar but she couldn't quite place it.
"Captain, I think I know what that is. Our records in the historic database are not complete but it has the same mass and configuration for a group of exploratory vehicles launched from Earth in the 1960's. I'm trying to identify which group this most closely matches."
The probe continued along its course toward the largest piece. As it neared its destination, the clumps of metal took on what was clearly a manufactured shape. Kathryn stood and stepped closer to the main screen, as if that would enable her to see more clearly. Chakotay was so enthralled with the screen that at first he didn't notice Kathryn tense up. Only when she gave a slight gasp did he realize that she was reacting to the images much as she had to her dream. He stood and moved to stand next to her.
"Do you recognize that, Captain?"
"I think I do. Harry, I believe if you check our records you will find this was one of a group of vessels that were called 'Voyager.'
Harry quickly called up the appropriate records. "You're correct, Captain. All scans are consistent with this being one of the Voyager series, except it being this far from the Alpha Quadrant."
"We will probably never find out how it got this far from Earth. Is there anything more we can learn from it?"
"I don't think so, Captain. It has been pretty much destroyed."
"Have the probe move about 135 degrees to starboard around the largest piece. I want to see what it looks like from that direction."
The probe followed its instructions and slowly rounded the old vessel. As it did, some letters came into view, marred by fire and pockmarked by small particles. "V…ger," Kathryn nodded as she whispered the name.
"I'll be in my ready room, Commander. Join me there once the probe is back on board."
"Aye, Captain." Chakotay remained where he was for a few minutes before ordering the probe transported back to the ship. Once it was back, he order them back on their original course and went to the ready room.
Kathryn was sitting on the couch holding a cup with a second cup waiting for Chakotay. "Sit down, Chakotay."
Chakotay accepted her invitation and took his tea. He sipped quietly waiting for her to speak.
"Well, are you surprised that my dream was real?"
"A month ago, I would have said yes. But today, no, I'm not surprised. I can't explain it, but somehow you saw what we were going to find."
"I was a little surprised. I really expected to find something that would destroy Voyager. I knew I couldn't avoid it. That's why I ordered us into this system. I'm glad it's over and I know the answers. Now, I want to go down to the science departments and see the readings we got on that binary system. Do you mind keeping an eye on the bridge for me today?"
"Of course not, Captain. Enjoy your day playing scientist again."
"Join me for dinner at 20:00?"
"I'll bring the wine to celebrate the solution to our mystery."
Kathryn and Chakotay sat sipping their wine as she regaled him with the quirks of the binary system. He smiled at her enthusiasm, enjoying seeing her relaxed after the tense weeks of worrying about the dream. She eventually noticed that he was not paying attention.
"So, the way I see it, the two stars are actually in orbit around the gas giant." Kathryn paused to see what Chakotay would say.
"If you say so, Kathryn." He stopped when she started laughing. "Why are you laughing?"
"You weren't listening to me, were you?"
"I'm sorry. You're right I wasn't listening, at least not to your words. I was listening to the sound of you being happy and relaxed."
"Have I been that bad these last few weeks?"
"You've been tense and worried, but that is understandable. I'm just glad that's all behind us now. I like seeing you happy."
"Are you really glad it's all behind us, Chakotay?"
"I don't understand. Why would I want you to be tense and worried about nightmares?"
"I was thinking more about how we dealt with my dreams."
"How do you want me to answer that, Kathryn? I hated the reason you were there next to me while we slept but it's where I wish you wanted to sleep all the time." Chakotay allowed himself to hope for a brief moment that she would comment on his last statement, but she didn't. Instead, she changed the subject.
"One of the things I did the last few weeks was think. That image of a destroyed Voyager unsettled me. I really thought my ship and all of us on board were doomed. I thought about all the things I hadn't done, all the commendations that I should have written for so many of the crew over the years, all the pranks I stopped before Tom carried them out but shouldn't have because everyone enjoys seeing him squirm after the fact, the friendships with so many among the crew that I haven't allowed to develop because I'm the captain, and I thought about us." Kathryn paused briefly before continuing. "There still is an 'us,' isn't there?"
"There has always been an 'us,' Kathryn, but I thought you wanted to keep it as just friends."
"I did. The captain still does, but I don't think I do, not anymore." Kathryn sat her wine glass on the table and scooted closer to Chakotay until he was forced to raise his arm and put it around her shoulders. "That's better."
Kathryn leaned her head against his chest just as she had so often in recent weeks and drifted off to sleep. Chakotay sat and watched her sleep until he started to drift off, too. Then he stood and gathered her to carry her to her room. Once she was settled comfortably, he turned to leave but Kathryn roused enough to reach out and touch his hand.
That night Chakotay fell asleep knowing that Kathryn was
in his arms because that was where she wanted to be. Her dreams were
over, but his dream had just begun.
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