Title: Protective Nature|
Note: Dedicated to List Mommy L! (my apology for the last mix up)
Author: Kim Riley aka MYSTIC / MysticMcknight
Disclaimer: Everything but the idea and the talent that went into this is Paramounts, the rest is all mine.
Feedback: Please! Mysticmcknight@hotmail.com
I'm so tried lately. Ever since we arrived at Sarda I have felt nothing but this constant uneasiness that something is terribly wrong but can't put my finger on it. The Sardarians are truly decent people, for they've open up their arms with full hospitality and trust, a true rarity in the Delta Quadrant, that much I can attest too. I have nothing but my feelings on this matter so I haven't said anything to the Captain. I mean; really what could I say? Oh, Kathryn, by the way, I know the Sardarian's have given us food and mineral supplies that would last us years, but you may want to reconsider because I have a bad feeling about this? Please!
Contrary to what some people believe, like one Tom Paris, I do like shore leave. I just usually have gotten so much behind in things that when it comes around I like to take advantage of the moment to get caught up, then have a good time. But in this case, when it comes to the Sardarian's home world…I prefer the ship. Don't get me wrong, the place is technologically advanced, and that's the problem. I'm…into nature. Thus the nickname 'nature boy' at the academy. But there is very little of it on the planet below. Every where you turn there are metallic buildings, or excavations for minerals or some sort of construction going on.
They have air filters and recycle much of their waste, but…the place feels…stale almost dead to me. The whole place puts me on edge. I've even tried to meditate but all I get are these images of pain and anguish; so much so I've started dreaming about them. This has made me even more tense, I'm sure one can imagine.
I decided that I needed another way of relaxing and as I sit here in the bar nursing a drink I see Tom enter with Harry. Tonight is a big pool tournament and the odds are in Tom's favor to win…of course. I find myself with a wicked internal grin when I think of the irony of how I'm about to turn the tables on the brash young pilot, starting now.
Tom wonders around the sides as he tries sizing up his potential opponent for the championship. It's a close match between the Captain, whom he was expecting and the unexpected First Officer. Tom was taken by surprise when he heard that Chakotay had entered the tournament but was even more stunned to see him make it to the final round, but he was still sure the Captain had it made over the Stoic man.
He watched Chakotay play, and it seemed that he 'just' got by toward the last shot, but that luck couldn't hold out forever and he wasn't about to even give him the chance if the man did somehow beat the Captain. Tom knew too well about beginners' luck and he was already spending the rations he knew he was going to win in his head.
Tom winced as the Captain missed. Then catching the wicked gleam in her eye he reevaluated the table, she had set the First Officer up and good. He wasn't sure if the Captain was going to try the shot or block her opponent; she had done both, but only succeeding in blocking Chakotay but good.
He watched as the all too calm First Officer, looking sharp all dressed in black, his pants not leaving much to the imagination as it hugged his butt every time he leaned over to take a shot, stroll around the table deep in thought. Tom may have enjoyed the view, but he was going to keep his title as champion no matter what. Tom couldn't help but grin, there wasn't a decent shot on the table and he knew the Commander knew this too.
After what seemed like five very long minutes, it seemed that Chakotay had made up his mind. To Tom's surprise once more he called a shot that seemed ridiculous even to Tom. There was no way Chakotay could make that shot! But to his total amazement and that of the crowd he did and won the game.
Tom walked up to the two players as the Captain was congratulating the Commander. "Great shot, Commander. Too bad your luck has just ran out," he teased as he took the available pool cue as Neelix reset the table for the final match.
Chakotay gave a small smile, "So…you think it was all luck do you, Paris?" he asked in his I-dare-you-to-believe-that tone.
"Why of course, Commander. The universe is famous for giving out the best luck to beginners. But…I'm afraid I'm going to have to put that to an end," he replied smugly.
Chakotay gave a frown, "Oh? Would you care to place a little side wager on my 'beginners' luck out lasting your 'experienced' smugness?"
Tom couldn't resist, //if Chakotay wants to lose big…so be it! // "Why not, Commander."
Chakotay looked annoyed, "Say, the loser has to 'cook' the winner dinner and use their own rations to provide the meal. Oh, and the winner gets to chose the menu."
Tom was floored, not only was he going to win a full months worth of rations but he was actually going to get Chakotay to cook for him! "I know you're a vegetarian, Commander, but I sure hope you know how to prepare steak," Tom teased as he moved over to Neelix who was calling for the final game to begin.
To keep things fair, they adapted the old style of tossing a coin to determine who started the final game, and since Tom was always in the final game, he made it a habit of letting his opponent call it in the air. Chakotay had called tails and it was, he would be starting out, but Tom only smiled assured that as soon as Chakotay missed the table was all his.
It didn't take long for Tom to realize 'he' had been played. As soon as Chakotay made the break he saw it. Up till now Chakotay's shots were good at best, but this opening shot was purely calculated and dead on. He sank over a third of his balls, as if knowing the first one to go in would be striped. Not even paying attention as Neelix called out 'stripes' Chakotay was now completely focused on the game, and the new look in his eyes made Tom nervous.
Tom, however, didn't stay nervous for in a hand full of shots he went from nervous to downright embarrassed. Chakotay had won the game and Tom didn't even touch the table. He watched as everyone congratulated Chakotay on his clean sweep and it was the Captain that reflected Tom's own thoughts.
"I can't believe 'you' out hustled Tom!" she exclaimed with amazement and a lot of pride, somehow knowing that it wasn't just luck that she lost.
"Well, someone had to," Chakotay quipped as his dark eyes locked onto Tom's. "He was getting too big for his britches," he chuckled. "By the way, Lieutenant, I love homemade vegetarian lasagna," he grinned.
Harry walked up to Tom and slapped him on the back; "I can't believe 'you' of all people fell for that!" he laughed.
Tom wasn't usually a sore loser, but this was starting to get out of hand, "I'm not the 'only' one he hustled," Tom retorted as if to say, look guys he did it to you too.
Harry only laughed, "Yeah, but the fact that 'you' pool shark Paris fell for the oldest hustle in the book, as I believe you once told me, is…priceless!" If Harry wasn't laughing so hard and holding his side, he would have seen the vicious glare Tom was giving him. He was about to snap at him when a strong shoulder gently touched his shoulder. He turned and was taken back to see it was Chakotay, but the look on his face was far from smug.
"I'm sorry, Tom," he said softly.
Tom couldn't believe it. The only one able to see what was happening here was the same man who caused it. This threw Tom even more off balanced, but at least he wasn't as angry about it as a few moments ago. "I guess I'll be receiving a recipe for homemade vegetarian lasagna," Tom stated a bit less annoyed.
Chakotay saw the frustration in the young man's eyes and for some reason decided to show mercy, "Tell you what, Tom. How about we compromise. You supply the ration credits and the wine; I'll make the lasagna. Say, tomorrow 19:00 hrs?" he smiled.
Seeing the warmth and sincerity in Chakotay's deep brown eyes, Tom couldn't help but smile. //Could he have? Nah, // Tom thought, but only replied, "deal."
Chakotay stood next to the Captain as they both accompanied the Prime Minister of Sarda at to looked over the latest excavation site. The Sardarian's had located a prime source of dylithium and had already started plans to mine it for Voyager. None the less, the Captain was thrilled and all the Sardarina's wanted in return was more information on the hydroponics bay, which the Captain was more then welcomed in sharing.
The uneasiness that filled Chakotay was on him in full as he stood and watched the diggers move into place and begin their work. He closed his eyes and then snapped them open. "Did you hear that?" he asked with a bit of concern.
"Hear what?" Janeway asked over the loud noise of the machines.
"It sounded like a scream?" he said hesitantly as he heard it again, but still very faint.
Janeway stood still and listened along with Chakotay, but she then shook her head no, "I don't hear anything." Then she turned to the Prime Minister to ask if anyone could be hurt on the site. With some quick communication the digging stopped and so did the screaming that Chakotay heard. There were no unauthorized personnel at the site and no one was hurt. After a few minutes the excavation continued.
Chakotay remained silent this time as he did hear the screams again, though still faint. He looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary, but since nothing prevailed the last time he spoke up, he didn't want to embarrass the Captain or upset the Prime Minister again over his…hearing things. He decided to see if he could find out what it was that he was hearing and quietly slipped off.
It took him a while but he found what he believed to be where the scream of pain was coming from. He was about to contact the Captain when the voice suddenly cried out in a blood curdling cry of pain and anguish that set Chakotay into motion. The location of the cry was at the base of a hill, just on the other side of the current excavation site where there was a small cave entrance. At hearing the sound of pain and that it sounded like a woman was in serious trouble, Chakotay didn't give it a second thought and dashed in to help.
The journey was short, but when he came out of the other end he half expected to be in the excavation pit, but found he was not. The open area was filled with thinning trees and yellowish brown grass filled with wilting weeds. Toward the center of this open area was a pond that was drying up, but still held a good portion of water in the center. But it was what lay on the other side of the pond toward the thinning trees that caught Chakotay's attention. It was a woman and she looked hurt.
He ran to her and was immediately appalled at the nature of the injuries she was suffering. He kneeled down and rolled her over to evaluate the situation. He saw gray eyes full of pain and anguish and a deep wisdom looking back at him in surprise, and full of tears. Her once long dark hair was thin and almost gone with flecks of gray. What he could tell was once white skin was now all mauled or scraped, burned, beaten or bruised. Some of the wounds were very old others still fresh. He searched with his eyes, there didn't seem to be much of an area that wasn't harmed. Then he saw it; the current source of pain was in her abdomen, he watched in dismay and horror as he watched some invisible force ripped up her skin.
Chakotay removed his jacket and tried to use it as a pressure bandage, trying to protect the woman and stop the bleeding. He tried his com badge but it didn't work. He looked down, unsure what his minor skill in first aid could do to help this woman. She looked so…used and abused it was unreal.
Then he heard it. It was weak but soft, "Water…get me to the water," she rasped.
Chakotay didn't know why, but every instinct he had yelled at him to obey, so he started to pick her up when she shook her head no and grabbed at his shirt. Chakotay didn't know why he seemed to understand what she wanted, he just did. The material of his clothes was not natural, so they wouldn't do in this situation.
There was nothing sexual in his stripping; it was what needed to be done so he did it. Then he picked up the battered frail form and carried her into the pond. From the moment his foot touched the water he felt the tingling sensation run up through his body into the woman in his arms. He continued inward, just following his instincts that this was what he was suppose to do and continued till he was near the center of the pond and the water was up to his chest and covering most of her.
It was then that he looked down into her sky blue eyes, filled with mists of gray that he thought he saw wind, fire, rain, and earth all together reflect in them. Then he saw her give him a weak smile.
"You are the first one in eons to hear my cry and come. Help me…help me survive," she pleaded. "For without you, I will certainly die this time," she added as her eyes drained from the energy expended in talking.
Chakotay seeing the frail abused woman in his arms and feeling the truth in her words made a decision, "Of course I'll help you," he replied with conviction. He then watched as she lifted her frail hand, scarred, bleeding, and bruised up to his chest, "You will be my Protector," she whispered and then with the last bit of her energy she dropped her hand into the water and a bright green light of energy touched the pond; it began to whirl, faster and faster till it raised to cover the strange woman and Chakotay in full. When it stopped, both of them were gone.
"Paris to Janeway."
"Yes, Tom, what can I do for you?" she asked as she was sipping a cup of local coffee with the Prime Minister, still over looking the excavation of the crystal that would be helping them big time.
"Is Commander Chakotay with you?" he asked, a bit of concern in his voice.
"No. He…had went to look around the site some time ago, why?" she asked; now concerned herself that Tom would be contacting her instead of him.
"Well, I've been trying to contact him for over ten minutes now, but Harry said that there are communication black out spots on the planet. I was just wondering if he was in one," Tom stated.
"Good point," she replied, a bit less nerved by Chakotay not answering his hails. "I'll have a look around. Is it important?" she asked, wondering at the nature at Tom's persistent hailing.
"Um…not really. It's um…we're suppose to have dinner tonight at 19:00 hrs and I was just trying to ask him something," Tom chuckled. "I'm not sure if red or white goes best with Vegetarian lasagna."
Janeway was mixed with laughter over the question but annoyed that it was also trivial, but she couldn't be too mad if it led to solving a small problem. "I'll get a hold of the Commander and have him…tell you 'his' preference, Janeway out. She then turned to the Prime Minister and gave her apologies that she needed to find her First Officer and that she would return shortly. She was pleased that the older Sardarian was a very understanding and patient woman.
She didn't have to travel as far as she spotted Chakotay standing near the edge of the excavation pit, his hands behind his back deep in thought. "Commander," she stated easily, wondering what was on her friend's mind. She wasn't sure what to make out of the look, as he looked back over his shoulder, his eyes dark with anger.
"This isn't right, Kathryn," he stated in a low voice. "They've done so much damage as it is to their home, we shouldn't be adding to this worlds destruction."
Janeway knew her friend was a naturalist, and deep down she agreed that the Sadarian's had plunged their world into a sorry state, but that was why she was more than willing to share the hydroponics knowledge. To help them grow plants and help revitalize their world, or so she hoped. "I know how you feel, Chakotay, But…" she was going to say how much they needed the dylithium when she was cut off.
"No, I don't think you do," he replied as he turned around, the look in his eyes now full of anger and determination. "And neither do the Sardarian's." He looked up to see that someone was coming.
Janeway held her tongue; she wasn't about to have this discussion with the Prime Minister nearby, she gave her most charming smile and greeted the older woman. "Prime Minister."
"Ah, I see you've located your missing Commander," she replied warmly, but when she took notice of the look in the man's eyes, her smile faded. "Is…is something wrong?" she asked.
Before Janeway could say a word, Chakotay spoke up," Very much so. The mining has to stop along with all the other harm you are doing to…your home," he stated coolly, though the anger was clear in his eyes.
Janeway wanted to throttle her First Officer. Here the Sardarian's are being the most gracious of host and he had to go all native on her and offend their Prime Minister, and Janeway could see she was offended. "Prime Minister, the Commander was only…" she tried to say hoping to salvage something, but again was cut off.
"Only stating what must occur," he replied.
"Captain," she said in a strained tone, "Is…is this…" she didn't know what to say. Up till now the Commander had been nothing but a perfect gentleman, this was sudden and she took his verbal attack very personally. "We take our home very seriously!" she snapped back, this time locking gazes with the Commander, but for some reason couldn't keep it and she looked back to Janeway.
"Seriously!" Chakotay stated his anger now fresh in his tone. "You call this…" he waved his hand at the dig site, one of thousands that covered the land, "seriously? I'll show you seriously," he growled dangerously.
Janeway and the Prime Minister lurched to the ground as the area shook violently. Only Chakotay remained standing when the shaking stopped.
"Captain are you all right?" Tuvok's voice inquired over her com badge. "We just detected a severe earthquake in your immediate area."
Janeway took a quick moment to assess her situation, everything seemed to be affected by the sudden quake, everything but the Commander who still stood were he was, his hands now clutching by his side, glaring down at the Prime Minister. "I'm all right, Tuvok. Are you sure that was an earthquake?"
"Affirmative. Readings indicate that it was very centralized to your location, very unusual for a natural occurrence," he stated.
"I agree," Janeway replied softly as she stood up. She knew something was wrong big time. "Keep investigating the matter, I'll be in touch," she stated and then closed the channel. "How'd you do that?" she asked, not sure if her suspicion was correct or not, but the small smirk on the Commander's face confirmed it. "Who are you and what do you want?" she asked as she stepped in between the Commander and the Prime Minister, still confused as to what was going on.
Chakotay turned to look at Janeway, a bit of amusement in his eyes, "Contrary to what you may believe, Kathryn, I'm not possessed. I just have a higher purpose at the moment."
"And that would be?" Janeway asked, not convinced that some alien or other wasn't influencing Chakotay. It's happened way too many times in the past where some alien takes over one of her crew. She didn't see any reason why it wouldn't be the same now.
"To protect this planet from…YOU!" he growled out as he looked over the Captain's shoulder to the Prime Minister. "If I were you, I'd evacuate this site now, for in twenty minutes there's going to be either a lot of death or a lot of empty machine coverage," he snapped.
Janeway wasn't sure what was going on, but she couldn't allow this to continue. She slapped her com bade, "Tuvok, lock on Chakotay's signal and beam him to brig, security level ten!" she stated as quickly as possible. The look on Chakotay's face told her that she had miscalculated this alien, he wasn't going anywhere.
"That wasn't very nice, Kathryn" he said in dark tone. "Good bye," he said, as Janeway felt the familiar tingle of the transporter wrap around her. The last thing she heard was Chakotay telling the Prime Minister that time was wasting. The next thing she knew she was in the brig with a level ten force field around her.
It took Janeway over thirty minutes to convince Tuvok that she was who she said she was and that she didn't have an explanation as to how the signal got scrambled to beam her up instead. But once she was free she was bombarded with angry word or pleas for help. It seemed that Voyager was being personally held accountable for bringing this…monster down on the Sardarinan's. It also seemed that what ever had a hold of Chakotay was capable of carrying out his threat. The former site was completely leveled, and thankfully to the warning, no one was hurt. But now the Sadarian Government was being given only twenty four hours notice to evacuate prime excavation points or they too will face death.
These areas were a main source to these peoples economy and their loss would mean almost financial ruin for them. Janeway advised that they evacuate the areas and that she would do everything in her power to stop this…thing that was obviously controlling her First Officer. She called a senior staff meeting and explained what little she knew.
Harry informed them that after they 'accidentally' beamed the Captain up, the atmosphere around the planet changed and their sensors could no longer penetrate. Tuvok stated that he did scan around the planet and no sign of alien vessels or outside signals could be detected. The only thing they could do was take a couple of shuttles down to Sarda, some to bring back crew on shore leave, others to carry those who would be investigating this matter.
Tom and Harry would accompany the Captain in the investigation as to what was controlling the Commander while B'Elanna and security assisted in aiding in the evacuation of the targeted areas. Tuvok would hold the con and continue to monitor the situation and inform either team of any changes.
Everyone left for their mission, as Tom was thankful he didn't have to try and sway the Captain to let him help. He and Chakotay may not have been best buddies, but that was Tom's fault, and he knew it. He also knew that he carried deep feelings for the former Maquis Captain, had since he first laid eyes on him so many years ago. It took a lot on both men's part to work past the anger, hurt, and trust issues that were between them, but they did, and Tom cherished his friendship with the man more than anything else he had, including flying Voyager…but he'd never admit it.
The three of them headed back to the last known location of Commander Chakotay, the former excavation site. They were all amazed, especially Janeway, to see the land was now completely flat and there were signs of budding grass starting to form in the area.
According to Harry everything was reading normal, so they decided to split up and see if they could either find any clues or traces of Chakotay. Tom headed west, and after thirty minutes he came to the edge of a cliff and over looked the sunset, it's colors almost hidden by the dirt and dust that filled the air.
"I'm not sure what is more the pity. The fact that you can't see the colors because of the grim or the fact that no one cared enough to make sure the grim didn't cover it," Chakotay's voice stated from behind Tom.
Tom turned to see Chakotay move from one of the few remaining trees still in the area toward him. "Commander?" he asked, unsure if it was Chakotay or an alien like the Captain suspected.
"I told the Captain that I wasn't possessed, but I can see she didn't believe me," Chakotay replied, a small smile on his face as he moved closer into the remaining colors of the sunset. He then looked at Tom and saw his wondering, "I'm not possessed, Tom. I…I was angry and didn't explain things too well," he stated, some regret in his voice.
Tom felt that this was Chakotay and eased his posture, "Then for heaven's sake, what is going on? What's with the earth quakes and the threats?"
"I tried to inform the Sardarian people, but because of my temper, they are not so inclined to listen anymore. But…Tom, this world is dying. If I don't protect what is left of this worlds natural essence, then it will die and so will every living thing on it, and I do mean everything, including the Sardarians."
"But…but how?" Tom asked, trying to make sense of the situation.
Chakotay looked out to the horizon as the sun still spilled rays of color into the heavens as the darkness of space filled the air and stars began to twinkle downward. "I don't know if I ever told you this, but my people believe that all living things have spirits, and that all things are living if they are a part of nature. Well, that means that the planet itself is a living essence in accordance to our people, but here…here I found it to be true," he said in a hushed reverent tone. "The very life force of this world cried out to me, Tom. It needs me to protect her and help her rebuild or she will die and so will all that is apart of her. She tried reaching out to the Sardarians but they…they wouldn't listen or they listened too late." He stated in an urgent tone, hoping that Tom would understand.
"But…but why the quakes, and the threats? Why didn't you…" Tom started but Chakotay interrupted.
"Talk to them? Tom, time is running out. You should of seen her," he replied, the pain and anguish of the site he held in his arms filled his eyes. "She has tried to reach her people but no one listened, but I did. I said I would help, and I will, Tom. I swore it to her and myself. For whether these people understand it or not, I'm fighting to protect them from final destruction from their own hands. As for the rest…well, she is the essence of the planet, Tom she can do what she wants, but since she lacked the energy to stay alive and fight, she survives and I will fight in her stead. That is how it must be. But…you could help me?"
Tom really didn't know how to take all this information in. It started to sound more and more like the Captain was right, but inside he felt that, at least to Chakotay, he believed that what he was saying was all true. "How?" he finally asked.
"They won't listen to me, but…perhaps they will listen to you. Convince them that their world is in danger. Show them that they need to stop what they are doing, and make sure that they do evacuate those areas that I stated, for I really don't want to see anyone hurt, but…"
Tom narrowed his eyes, "But you will if you have to."
Chakotay looked intensely at Tom, "Only if I have to. But I prefer not to. Every time they tear into the earth, Tom they are tearing into her. She's so weak and bleeding and…" tears filled his dark eyes and he stopped speaking to gain some control of his emotions.
Seeing the anguish in Chakotay's eyes made Tom move to the older man's side and placed a comforting hand on the Commander's shoulder. "Chakotay?"
"Tom, I'm not making this up. She's real and so is her pain."
"Chakotay…" he said, wanting to believe him, but finding it difficult.
Chakotay looked deep into Tom's eyes. The same eyes he had dreamed about for years even when anger clouded his judgment over the young man. He saw the struggle, but he saw the willingness to give him a chance. "Do you trust me, Tom?" he asked in a soft voice.
Tom looked at the Commander, normally he wouldn't even have hesitated this long, but he wasn't a hundred percent sure of everything at the moment, so he took a minute to consider what he lived by, his gut. "Yes," he said softly in return.
Then Chakotay held out his hand for Tom to take it, "Then follow me," he said.
Tom took the Commander's strong hand into his and followed. He didn't even bother to think about contacting anyone else, he just followed. He moved with Chakotay toward a tree.
"Close your eyes and follow, you'll be safe, I swear it," he stated warmly. "You said you trusted me."
Tom was nervous, but he closed his eyes and moved in the direction Chakotay lead him, almost certain that he would be walking into a tree since he was practically in front of one, but when he didn't and he felt…different, he had to open his eyes. He was no longer by the cliff but an open clearing, where the colors of the sunset still danced over the land. He saw thinning trees that were attempting to give some bloom to new leaves and yellow green grass, along with a small semi-drying up pond. On the other side laying nestled by some of the trees laid a figure.
Tom kept his eyes peeled as Chakotay walked him over to the figure, which Tom could see was a woman badly injured, but resting. He saw Chakotay kneel down next to her and then gestured for Tom to join him.
"Tom, this is Sarda," he said softly.
The woman opened her eyes and looked at Tom, who suddenly could see the wind, rain, fire and earth reflected in the gray blue eyes that were smiling weakly back at him. "Hello," he stammered out quietly.
"Sarda, this is Tom. The one I told you about," Chakotay smiled, a slight blush filled his cheeks, that Tom took notice of and it warmed him some how.
A weak, bruised, and scarred hand moved to touch Tom's face, "He is beautiful. Almost worthy enough to be one of my nymphs," she said, her eyes filled with warm teasing, but didn't hide her weaken condition.
Tom felt himself blush, then looked at the injured woman, then looked around, then back at Chakotay. "This…this is real, isn't it?"
"Yes," Chakotay whispered back. "It is very real."
Sarda looked at Tom, her eyes shining with a wisdom he couldn't comprehend, but he didn't fear it, but relished it and wanted to…connect with it some how. He listened intently as she spoke. "Chakotay has brought me hope and my children time to mend their ways. With out him, I would have died, but I am far from borrowed time. Help him, them please."
Tom looked at her, his heart sang out to this woman, he knew she was pure and Chakotay was doing nothing more than what needed to be done. "I will," he promised. Then his heart winced when he saw her smile then fade back into sleep from exhaustion. When Chakotay placed a hand on his shoulder to follow him, he did so quietly. When they were far to the other side of the pond, Tom turned to Chakotay.
"Why don't you bring the Prime Minister here or…"
"I would if I could, Tom. But they are so far out of touch it's impossible. Even if they start to get back in touch with nature's essence, it would be a long, long time before someone was able to hear her call. I…I consider myself honored and blessed that I could hear her," he said as he lowered his eyes, tears of sadness and joy filled them.
Dark eyes met sky blue and true poured between them. "I have struggled with the ways of the shaman never quite believing that I would achieve such grace…." He stilled a sob before continuing. "To…to be chosen as a protector to the mother is…a true honor, and I am humbled by it as well as pray I am worthy."
Tom smiled; his heart swelled with the joy of the moment for Chakotay and hugged the older man, not thinking of any barriers that may have been between them. "You're worthy, Cha." He said with conviction. Then he leaned back with a puzzled look. "Cha? I…I'm a fleet brat, I wouldn't consider myself anywhere as in touch as you…how…"
"Come I could bring you here but not others?" Chakotay finished for him. He saw Tom nod yes then smiled. "Because, you do love nature, even if you don't practice shaman ways," Chakotay smiled. "You have it in your spirit, your 'need' to fly like a bird is part of that connection, and you were open where it counted…your heart."
Tom realized that he was holding the big man in his arms and was so close to him in a way he only dreamed of he couldn't resist the temptation. Besides, it felt so right at the moment, so he leaned in and kissed the lips he had longed for over the years. Feeling the welcomed warmth of a response he kissed Chakotay harder, letting his lips express what his heart has wanted to do for years. He didn't have to press for Chakotay's mouth eagerly opened his mouth to allow Tom's tongue to explore and taste him as their kiss became even more passionate.
Then Tom could feel the pent up desire of Chakotay's want and caring for him over the years in that kiss too, that he regretted the need to breathe as it forced the kiss to end. "Wow!" he whispered, his eyes all a glazed as he stared lovingly at Chakotay.
"Wow would be an understatement," Chakotay chuckled, as he hugged the young man tightly to him and felt Tom's arms holding tightly to him in return. "I wanted to do that for so long now."
When Tom leaned back he felt so happy at this moment he didn't want it to end. "Then why didn't you?" he asked, but seeing the you-know- look he chuckled, "Oh, yeah," he laughed. Then it occurred to him, "Cha? The pool tournament, was that…?" he didn't want to say anymore, in case he was wrong, he didn't want to be too embarrassed for being full of himself.
But Chakotay only laughed warmly, "I see I've been found out," he teased. "Yes, I set you up, for I wanted to find a 'safe' way of having dinner with you without any pressure. You know what a small ship Voyager is, and neither of us would want to become headline gossip just over a dinner."
Tom smiled, his face blushed, "You could of just asked, but I know what you mean."
"Well, I could of, but…this way there was no way you'd say no. Plus, I got to beat you at your own game, hotshot!"
Tom looked up to see the warmth and the teasing pleasure Chakotay had in his eyes and couldn't be mad, no matter how much he wanted too. Then he remembered their situation, "Now what? They aren't going to believe me anymore than they did you."
"I'm not sure what to tell you, Tom. But I have to heal the worst of the wounds or she'll as it were, bleed to death. It's not like I can give her a transfusion and use the regenerator on her. I have to deal with the problem at the source and that's the excavation sites. Tom, this world has to undergo some major changes if it's going to survive, and I'm going to try not to cause harm, but in the end, it's everything versus a few. I hate it, but what choice do I have?"
"Well," Tom thought seriously. "I guess I'll just have to see if any of my Paris Charm works on Sardarians," he smiled. Then he looked like he had an idea, "If their world is as bad off as you say, and I'm not doubting you for a second, then there must be outside evidence. If I can find 'this' and present it, then they'll have to at least listen…a start."
Chakotay smiled, he was so proud of Tom, "Great idea. Just be careful I…I think I pissed off Kathryn when I had her beamed up in my place."
Tom chuckled, "ah she wasn't too happy that was for sure. By the way, how did you do that?"
"Sarda simply redirected the signal, since the signal has to move through her essence as it were to reach anyone."
"Ah," Tom said not hundred percent understanding, but enough to know that it made enough sense to let it be. "I better go. The Captain and Harry are looking for you and I'm sure they were looking for me."
Chakotay grinned, "Well, you can truthfully tell them you didn't realize you were under a communication black out area, which all three of you were, the moment I stepped out. I…I wanted to talk with you, and I wasn't sure…"
"If I'd call in the Cavalry or not," Tom teased. "I understand."
Chakotay had Tom close his eyes again and when he opened them they were back by the tree he last was staring at before hand. He and Chakotay shared one more intimate kiss before Tom ran off to try and find Harry and convince him that this world had a severe problem, without mentioning Chakotay or Sarda; he knew that would only hinder the cause not aid it.
The next day, twenty nine hours later, twenty stubborn people died among the hundred and forty-two sites that suddenly got over turned and filled in by earth and water. Though the Sardarinan's were livid, Tom kept his promise and with Harry's help he found all the proof he needed that the planet was in real jeopardy.
Tom knew that the people really couldn't understand that their world was only striking back in the name of survival of all, but they did understand the word total destruction and that was what the evidence that Tom and Harry discovered proved was going to happen if things continued on in the manner it had been.
Only a tiny fraction started to believe what Chakotay was saying about Sarda being the mother of their world, but it was enough for the seeds of faith and belief were planted and they were taking root. After a month of being parted, Chakotay met up with Kathryn and Tom and Tuvok at the same spot it all started.
Though Tom had seen Chakotay briefly, it was in secret, so as far as anyone was concerned this was the first meeting in a while, and the crew was more than eager for answers and to get their First Officer back.
Though Janeway was upset at not being able to help Chakotay, she was glad that this…thing prompted the necessary changes that was going to help save this world. Even she couldn't believe the drastic changes that occurred in the month they had been in orbit around this planet. This very site was proof of that, for now the field was all green and filled with wild flowers and the trees at the distant were blooming and a few baby trees had taken root and were growing too.
When Janeway saw Chakotay coming toward them from the forest, a part of her wanted to run and hug her long missing friend, for she loved him, as a special friend and confidant. She wanted that friend back and whole. She was glad to see that he seemed healthy and even happy. She was surprised a little that Tom was the one approached to set up this meeting, but it was the first chance to see him again in thirty days, she wasn't about to miss it.
"Chakotay?" she asked a bit hesitantly.
"Kathryn," Chakotay smiled and gave her a hug, then he gave Tom one and then clasped Tuvok on the shoulder, as he beamed with joy at being back with his friends and loved ones. He laughed when he saw Tuvok scanning him to see if there was any alien traces about him. "I told you…" he started to say.
"Commander, you're not going to stand here and try to tell me that you violated the prime directive, my orders, and participated in the deaths of several people willingly are you?" Janeway snapped, not able to believe that possible.
"Of course he didn't, Captain," a woman's voice filtered in from behind the group.
They all turned, Tuvok and Kathryn were too transfixed to see Tom's glow of happiness, as they looked upon a beautiful woman, a creamy caramel complexion, with deeply rich earthy brown hair that flowed wild in the wind, as the sun sparked in her bright sky blue eyes. She wore a white robe in toga fashion; her feet bare, and showed no sign of discomfort as she smiled warmly at the humans.
"If anyone is to blame for what has occurred here, it is I, not Chakotay. He was doing my bidding, so, you can say that it was 'I' that influenced him," she smiled. Then she gave a soft sad look, "Though I am sorry for any loss of life, it was necessary so all my children could survive. I'm sure you, Captain, can understand the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few, in…certain circumstances," she replied.
"Who are you?" Janeway asked, taken back by this woman's appearance, not understanding why she suddenly felt drawn to her.
"I am Sarda, and this is my home, Captain. One I share with my children. I wish you all luck in returning to your mothers," she smiled as she stepped closer and placed a kiss on Kathryn's cheek, then Tuvok's. She then hugged Tom and whispered her thanks as she gave him a kiss and then moved to Chakotay. "My great protector, how can I thank you," she said softly, her eyes fully expressing her love and thanks for his help.
"Your continuing to live is more than enough," Chakotay replied. "But will you be all right? I mean, are you sure I should leave, you'll be all alone…"
Sarda laughed, "I shall never be alone again, my dearest one." Then she leaned in and kissed Chakotay softly on the lips then whispered, "I grant they the gift of speak so you too will never be alone when surrounded by nature." Then she moved back away from the group and held out her left arm, the one draped with the white robe and a beautiful noble looking hawk landed, it's eyes a sparkling blue. Then from behind her a black wolf, deep brown eyes came to stand beside her protectively. "As I said, I will never be alone," then she and the animals faded away.
Janeway stood puzzled for a moment then looked back at the group, "Ah, well…perhaps we can discuss this back at the ship," she finished. Getting nothing but agreements they all beamed back to Voyager.
After Chakotay was given a clean bill of health and Janeway 'wanted' to believe that this Sarda influenced Chakotay, and really wouldn't hear another word on the matter, he was free to return to his quarters and in a few days back to work as if nothing happened. When he got back he found that one Tom Paris had found a way into his quarters and was waiting for him.
"Tom?" he smiled, but was puzzled as to how he got in here. "You know, you can get into a lot of trouble breaking into an officers quarters.
Tom smiled, "I know, but I didn't really want to wait for you out in the hall. Besides, you haven't changed it since you were last sick and I had to get some of your clothes to bring to you at sickbay, that being oh…six months ago," he teased. "So, technically I didn't break in, I…just remembered my way in."
Chakotay hugged Tom and they shared a deep kiss. Then he leaned back and looked into the blue eyes he loved so much, "What can I do for you?"
"One, you can tell me about the wolf and the hawk thing down there, and two…I believe I still owe you dinner, but if you want me to cook, it's either all replicated or peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches for that's all I know how to make from scratch," he joked.
"I tell you what. How about we have a simple dinner on me, and we can work out 'your' dinner for me later?" he said warmly.
"As for below…" he looked at Tom a few moments and wondered if he was right, "I'm not totally sure, but…well, Tom? Have you ever wondered about 'your' spirit guide?"
Chakotay smiled, "how about we get some dinner and then talk about nature."
"Yeah. Nature, yours, mine and all the different forms," Chakotay smiled as his eyes danced at the wild possibilities this conversation could go.