Day of the Dead by Djinn

Kathryn Janeway roamed the tree-lined main streets of Merida admiring the colonial mansions, intent on enjoying herself despite the sticky heat that assailed her. The Yucatan humidity seemed particularly stifling after so long on the climate-controlled bridge of the Zoroaster. The gravity felt funny, and she was having trouble adjusting to so much open space. All signs, she knew, that she'd been on the ship for too long.

She needed this vacation. Needed it badly. But she was finding it difficult to relax, much less enjoy herself.

When had she become so tired? When had she lost interest in life? Janeway passed an ornately decorated door and barely glanced at it. The muted colors of the building and the lively sounds of the people filling the area were lost on her.

When had she gotten lost? She took a deep breath, found the heavy air oppressive. The back of her shirt stuck to her skin and she pushed her wilting hair out of her eyes, forcing herself to keep walking.

"It is hot, no?" A young woman sitting on one of the two-person benches that filled the city was studying her curiously. Her clothing was modern, but her long straight hair, high cheekbones, and the intricate gold jewelry she wore made her look more Mayan than anything else.

Janeway nodded as she wiped her forehead.

"You get used to it if you live here long enough. I certainly have by now. But I think that you are far from home."

"I don't have a home." The words were out before Janeway could call them back.

"That must be strange." The woman stretched lithe tan legs out in front of her and leaned back. "This is my home. It feels like I've lived in Ichcaanziho forever." Janeway's translator struggled with the Mayan name for the town.

"You could always leave, see the world, see other worlds."

"Oh, I travel to other towns. Xaman-Ha, Cuzaluumil," again she used the Mayan names, the words rolling effortlessly off her tongue. "But leave this area? Go offworld? I could never leave my jungles and my sea. This is where I belong." The woman smiled strangely, as if privy to a secret known only to her. She stared at Janeway again.

Janeway was uncomfortable under the odd scrutiny. She felt as if the young woman was taking her measure in some way. A fanciful notion. She was probably just trying to determine the best way to fleece the silly tourist. "It was nice talking to you," she said, as she moved on.

"My name is Ixchel." The woman stood. "I will walk with you."

Janeway wasn't sure what to say.

"You need a guide," Ixchel said. "Have you been to the ruins?"

Janeway shook her head.

"They are studying them even now. I find that amazing. That after so many centuries, people still wonder about the culture that made the pyramids."

"Your culture, if I'm not mistaken?"

Ixchel nodded. "It is important to remember the old ways," she said with a smile, as she pointed at the lavish decorations on the altars that ringed the central plaza. "It is the Day of the Dead. One of our oldest ceremonies."

"It's not Mayan, is it?" Janeway said, as she stared at the garish skeletons that seemed to be everywhere.

"Parts of it date back that far. But all cultures seem to recognize the need to remember those that have gone before. And this is the time of year when the barriers drop. When the dead can walk among us."

"Do you really believe that?"

Ixchel shrugged. "It's what Halloween is about too, if you bother to read the history of the holiday. Halloween opens the door to All Souls."

Janeway smiled. "I had a first officer that would have loved this discussion. Ancient religions, sacred observances...they were one of his passions."

"Did he have other passions?"

Janeway looked away. "He enjoyed many things. He had an open and questing nature."

"Unlike you." At Janeway's glare, Ixchel laughed loudly, startling an old woman who was carefully setting up fruit and other offerings on her altar. "Oh, come now, you would much rather that I go away, wouldn't you? Leave you to suffer the heat in peace than continue to go on about the old ways."

"I didn't say that."

"You also didn't tell me your name." Ixchel walked over to the old woman's altar and helped her place a photograph on the highest level of the intricate structure. "Your husband?" she asked gently.

The old woman nodded, as she placed a portrait of the Virgin right next to an intricately carved jaguar. Ixchel smiled, stroking the carving gently. She turned to Janeway. "All through this region, the faiths coexist peacefully. The Maya take what they can use from the new ways and integrate it into their rituals, their lives. Some people think that makes us weak, but I think it gives us immeasurable resilience."

As Janeway stepped closer to the altar, the old woman studied her, then smiled and patted her hand. "They come back," she said to Janeway, obviously trying to offer comfort.

Janeway considered her dead. Her father. And Justin. Those friends she'd left behind in the Delta Quadrant. Another version of herself she'd left in that Borg cube. She shuddered.

Ixchel touched her arm. "Would you like to see how it was for the Maya? Uxmal is not far from here."

Janeway shook her head. Venture into the jungle? Into more of this sticky heat when the beach beckoned? Not on her life. Besides, what did she know of Ixchel? This could be a very lucrative scam the young woman was running, gaining the confidence of unsuspecting tourists and then taking advantage of them once they were at her mercy in the jungle. Janeway hadn't gotten her crew home from the Delta Quadrant by being that stupid. "No, thanks."

"They believe that they have found a cave that the Maya thought guarded the entrance to Xibalba, the realm of the ghosts."

Janeway started to walk away. "That's nice."

"The discovery will make Chakotay famous."

The name stopped Janeway dead in her tracks. She turned around slowly. "What did you say?"

"The man who found it. He will be famous."

"His name, what did you call him?"

Ixcchel frowned. "Chakotay. Why?"

Janeway tried to ignore the way her heart had started to beat too fast. There must be more than one man with that name. "This Chakotay doesn't happen to have a tattoo, does he? Here." She outlined the design on her own forehead.

"Yes. Do you know him? But that is amazing. Then you have to come. To say hello and help celebrate his good fortune."

Janeway turned away. "I'm sure he's doing fine without me. Doesn't he have a woman with him?"

"A woman? Well, he might someday, if a crew becomes necessary."

"No, I mean a..." Janeway couldn't think of how to refer to Seven.

"Oh, you mean a lover?" Ixchel's laughter rang out. "No. He is alone. Although I like to talk to him sometimes." She shot Janeway a coy look. "He is appealing."

Janeway caught herself before she rolled her eyes. "It sounds like he's doing fine without me."

"But--"

"--No. I'm going to the beach." Janeway turned resolutely away.

"If you change your mind--"

Janeway cut her off with a wave of her hand. She was not going to change her mind. Chakotay was in her past. The surf and the sand was all that she wanted to contemplate of her future.

-----------------------

The water was refreshing, the sun caressing her as the breeze brought both coolness from the sea and the scent of the flowers that bloomed along the walkway to the beach. The moment could not be more perfect. So why, Janeway asked herself as she stepped out of the surf and threw herself onto her towel, couldn't she relax?

Why wasn't she happy?

She would not think about Chakotay.

She would not think about how he was less than an hour away by land transport.

She would not think about how he was here alone.

Alone. She wondered what had happened to finally cause a breakup between Seven and him. They had lasted much longer than she would have thought. She'd have bet that the relationship would be short-lived once they arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant. But they had stayed together, he and Seven-- Annika, Janeway corrected herself, even though she knew that the name would never be how she thought of Seven-of-Nine. Through the years, since they'd arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway had expected to hear that Chakotay and the former Borg had broken up. But they had not.

Janeway had seen them occasionally during her first tour at Starfleet Command, when they were all first back and Command had made her an Admiral and stuck her safely behind a desk. She had run into Seven once on Deep Space Nine during a temporary posting there while they waited for the new commander to report from another assignment. Seven had seemed subdued, even pensive, as she talked to Janeway. Things had not been going well for her at the time, problems adjusting to life off the ship, Janeway assumed. But what if there had been problems starting for her and Chakotay?

But how could that be? Years later, when she had first cajoled the command of the Zoroaster out of Starfleet, Chakotay and Seven had moved together to San Francisco--he to teach at the Academy, she to work at a physics laboratory near the city. Janeway didn't want to admit how much their coming back to the area had influenced her desire to go back to space, to get her command back. Once they were in the same city, she had run into them too many times for comfort. For her comfort. They didn't seem to be the least affected by seeing her.

So she had run. Run to the Zoroaster. A new ship, pretty and fast and on a mission that had begun to bore her beyond words. A survey ship in the Alpha Quadrant had nothing to do, at least not when compared to what Janeway had seen in the Delta Quadrant.

What they had seen. She and the crew. She and Chakotay.

She turned over and closed her eyes, trying to force herself to settle, to relax. To stop thinking about him.

He had moved on. So had she. End of story.

He's just down the road, a traitorous voice whispered.

Suddenly the sun felt too hot, and the scent of tropical flowers was overpowering. Janeway pushed herself off the towel and packed her things hurriedly into the small tote she had bought in the market after leaving Ixchel. She grabbed the towel, and walked back to the hotel. As she neared the entrance, she saw Ixchel sitting in the driver's seat of a jeep bearing the logo of the tour company that operated from the lobby. Her long legs were up on the dashboard and she had her hat pushed over her face.

She sat up, pushing her hat back, as Janeway approached. They stared at each other.

"It's about a fifty minute trip." Ixchel said, her voice carrying easily across the parking terrace. "If we leave now, we could be there before he breaks for dinner. You could see him at work."

"I said no." Janeway started to turn away and as she did she thought she heard the cry of a jaguar.

She looked slowly back at Ixchel. The woman tossed her a pendant. Janeway held it up, letting it dangle as she studied it. A golden snake, intricately carved, dangled from a black cord of smoothed and dyed sisal. The eyes, two small dots of onxy, seemed to gleam at her.

"What am I supposed to do with this?"

Ixchel smiled. "Wear it. For protection."

Janeway walked over to the jeep. "I can't take this." She set it down on the seat.

"You are very stubborn." Ixchel sighed, turning a look of exquisite patience on her. "He won't be here forever, you know. Will you spend the rest of your life wondering what might have happened if only you had followed your heart? If only you hadn't been so afraid to reach out to him?" She picked up the pendant, handed it back to Janeway. "Go pack some things and get changed, Kathryn. Chakotay is waiting."

"I never told you my name." Janeway fingered the snake, finally slipping it over her head.

"I already knew it." Ixchel gestured to the hotel. "Now, go. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll be there."

Janeway sighed. "I don't trust you," she said, unsure why she was being so honest.

"I know that. And it is immaterial. I am your way to him. Now hurry."

Janeway touched the pendant. It was warm in her grasp. In her memory, she was suddenly transported back to New Earth, to the feel of Chakotay's hands on her neck. His hands had been so warm. She wondered if they still were.

Mind made up, she turned on her heel and hurried into the hotel to change.

--------------------------

The ride seemed to take forever. Janeway barely took in the gorgeous scenery all around her, as Ixchel expertly drove the jeep along what passed for a road in the Yucatan jungle. Then suddenly, Janeway saw the ruins rising above the trees. "Is that it?"

Ixchel nodded. "Welcome to Uxmal. This site has the least Toltec influence of any of the ruins, probably a reason that so many come here to dig. It is the closest thing to pure Maya that is left."

Janeway sighed in appreciation. "It's so beautiful."

"Yes, it is. The largest structure is the Pyramid of the Magician. Chakotay is exploring a cave just beyond that."

"You said it was the entrance to the Mayan underworld?"

Ixchel nodded again. "Xibalba. The realm of shadows...of ghosts." She pulled the jeep up behind another one and turned off the vehicle. "This is as far as we go in this. The rest of the way is by foot. Bring your gear."

Janeway was glad she had packed light as she followed Ixchel through the jungle. Her breath caught as she saw a familiar figure sitting on the steps of a large structure. He stood up slowly, a huge grin covering his face.

"I've brought you something, Chakotay," Ixchel said with a laugh.

"So I see." He walked over to them. "Kathryn Janeway, you're the last person I expected to see here."

"I think she can say the same of you," Ixchel said, as she turned and headed back to the jeep.

"Wait," Janeway said with a sense of panic.

"You've got a lot of catching up to do. You don't need me around for that." Ixchel shot Chakotay an odd look. "I've done all that I can."

He nodded. "And I appreciate that." He gave her a strange little bow.

She turned and disappeared into the trees, leaving Janeway standing awkwardly holding her bag. "She told me to pack, but she didn't say for what."

He nodded and took her carryall. "Doesn't feel like you put much in here."

She shrugged, as she followed him past the structure and into the cave. "Wasn't sure what I needed."

"Hope you don't mind sharing?" he asked, as he set her bag next to some blankets at the side of the cave. "There's plenty of room. You won't even know I'm there."

She seriously doubted that. But she didn't say anything, was too busy marveling at how good it felt to be near him again after all these years. He had changed little during their time apart. He looked so young, so much like the Chakotay she had known in the Delta Quadrant, that it made her heart skip.

She realized she was staring at him when he grinned. "It's good to see you too, Kathryn."

For a moment, they just stood there smiling at each other like fools. Then he held out his hand. "Come on. I'll show you my great discovery."

She took his hand, relishing the warmth that filled her as their hands touched, their fingers entwined.

He led her deeper into the cave. Flickering torches lit the way to the spot where he was working. He pointed to the piece of an intricate drawing that he had uncovered on the cave floor. Whatever ink the ancients had used resembled the tattoo on his face.

"These would be carvings if they were on the outside. But here they chose to draw their pictographs. I'm trying to find the reason why. But I think it has to do with this being the gateway to Xibalba. They didn't want to irritate the dead by being too noisy with hammer and chisel. The rulers of the realm are easily annoyed by too much noise. There are several myths that detail what happened to those who got a little too boisterous."

She looked around. "Why did they put them on the floor?"

He showed her another piece of design, a bit farther off than the first. "I think it lays out a ritual. Something you are supposed to do before you rest."

"You're doing all this yourself?"

He nodded.

"So we're alone here."

He shot her a teasing look. "Surely you're not nervous? Not after having spent all that time alone with me on New Earth?"

She smiled, unable to resist his good spirits. Already she felt better, more alive, than she had in a long time. "I guess if we made it through that, we can get through anything."

"Other than the unpredictable weather on New Earth, I can't really count anything that happened there as a hardship." He sat down on the cave floor, began to brush off a small part of the second design. "I enjoyed our time there. Although you probably would rather I didn't say that."

"You can say whatever you like, Chakotay." She walked around the cave, careful not to disturb his work.

"Good to know." He fell silent as he watched her.

"You're here alone?" She wanted to kick herself as soon as the words were out of her mouth. "I mean no Seven."

"Annika is still in San Francisco. She is living her life without me."

"I'm sorry."

He nodded. "It was abrupt. But sometimes you have no choice. You just have to leave."

She nodded. "I guess so." Then she looked over at him. "I wondered. When Ixchel said you were here alone."

He nodded. "You are alone too, I think." He studied her. "But not just alone. Isolated. Kathryn, when did you stop living your life?"

"I live my life," she protested.

He held out his hand. "Come, sit."

She walked over to him and sat down across from him on the stone floor. "I do. I live my life. The Zoroaster is a fine ship."

"We weren't talking about your ship." He gave her the gentle smile that had always calmed her, made her feel safe, comforted. "Do you remember what I told you on New Earth?"

She smiled. "You told me a lot of things on New Earth. Including how to grow tomatoes, catch bugs, tame monkeys--"

"--About the angry warrior," he clarified.

"I vaguely remember that."

"Just vaguely?" He held up his hand.

She brought her own up to meet it. "Why don't you refresh my memory?"

"It was a story? About an angry warrior and the woman warrior."

"Oh, that angry warrior." She smiled, felt his fingers tighten on hers. "As I remember, he was going to stay by her side?"

He nodded. "That was the plan. He would make her burden lighter. Her needs would come first." He looked down. "But she didn't want him there by her side."

"How did he know?"

He smiled sadly. "He just did."

She pulled her hand away. "Maybe he gave up too easily?"

"Maybe." Chakotay rose, moved around to the back of her. "Maybe instead of that stupid story, he should never have stopped doing this?" He began to rub her neck.

She tried to pull away but he held her firmly against him. "Maybe he should have said, 'To hell, with your parameters'?"

She felt a moment's panic, and, as if sensing it, he let her go. He got up quickly and looked down at her. "Well, now you've seen the cave." He turned and walked back down the passageway.

She followed him. As he headed for the entrance, she asked, "What do you think would have happened? If you had said that? Would we have made it?"

"I think we would have." He turned to look at her. "I think we would have been very happy. If you'd allowed us to be. If you'd quit shutting me out."

"I shut you out? What about you?"

"What about me, Kathryn? I waited for you. At the beginning. I did wait. And I kept hoping that you'd let me in." He smiled sadly. "Later? I was lonely. So sue me."

"Lonely? Is that what you call it?" Janeway started to pace. "You never seemed to lack female companionship."

"Never? There were a handful of women in seven years. That's hardly never."

"Seven..."

"Seven was different. She meant something else to me."

"True love?" Janeway hated the mocking tone in her voice.

"Capitulation. To the inevitable. That I was never going to have you. I think maybe she was doing the same thing. We both gave up on you." He shook his head. "And now, I feel as though I've let you down. When I told you that story on New Earth, I was making a promise that I would make your burden lighter. But I haven't. I gave up and let you go on alone. And now look at you. You aren't happy. You're alone and you're lonely."

She looked away.

"I should never have let you push me away. Because you need me, Kathryn."

She shook her head.

"Yes, you do." He moved to her, stepped behind her and began to rub her neck again. "You need this. Maybe we both do."

She felt his lips on her neck, then his hands running down her arms. She groaned.

"Come back to life, Kathryn. Let me love you. It's been so long. Love me before we're out of time. Before we've lost the chance."

She turned, saw his gentle smile as she looked at him. Reaching up, she traced the outline of his tattoo. Then she kissed him, felt him respond eagerly, pulling her closer, his hands running up and down her body with more vigor.

"I've missed you so much," she said as they separated.

"I've thought about you every day since we parted all those years ago. I've never stopped loving you, Kathryn."

Before she could answer back, he pulled her toward the blankets.

She resisted slightly, still not sure if this was the right thing to do.

He kissed her again. Pulled away and said, "We've wasted so much time already, Kathryn. Do we waste this too?"

She shook her head. Lying down on the blankets, she reached up to pull him down to join her. They spent the rest of the day demonstrating just how much they had missed each other.

It was better than she had imagined. And she had a very vivid imagination.

As they were just falling asleep, she whispered to him, "I love you too, Chakotay."

------------------------

"Stay," Chakotay said, refusing to let her leave his arms. Outside the cave, in the jungle, a jaguar cried. "You said it yourself, you don't have to report for duty until tomorrow morning. It's still just afternoon."

Janeway stretched luxuriously. She watched a pair of dragonflies flit around the cave for a moment before flying back out the way they had come. "But you know I like to be on the ship the night before."

"Why? You don't sleep when you're there, do you?"

She looked away.

"Nothing's changed." He nuzzled her neck. "You realize that you sleep better on this hard stone floor with me than you do in your nice soft Starfleet-issue mattress."

She couldn't argue with him there. She'd been so exhausted the last three nights from exploring the ruins with him, helping him clear the cave drawings, and from their frequent breaks to make love, that she had slept better than she could remember. For the first time in a long time, she felt human again. Felt hopeful.

And it wasn't just because of the sleep. She looked up at him. "You do ease my burdens, you know."

He kissed her gently. "I would never leave your side, if I had my way."

She smiled in understanding. "But I have my ship, and I have to go back."

He nodded. "I know. At least you will go back energized. Happy to be there again?"

She nodded. "And I owe that to you." She leaned back in his arms. "I wish I could stay here forever."

He laughed, the sound more a small explosion of air that she heard from where her head rested on his chest, than a true laugh. "But you can't. You go back to space, as you should. Because on the bridge of a starship is where you belong."

"And you?"

He moved over her, kissed her gently. "I continue my journey to find the underworld."

"Well, don't find it too soon," she said as she pulled him down to her.

He grinned. "Oh, there's a lot of life in me yet."

Later, Janeway whispered, "Maybe I can stay one more night. But I'll have to rush back in the morning."

He nodded. "I'm sure Ixchel will be here bright and early."

"You two are in cahoots," she said, as she reached over for the snake pendant. "Look at this. I think it's real gold."

He nodded. "It is. Very old too."

"I don't know why she gave it to me."

He shrugged. "I'm sure she had her reasons." He studied it for a moment, then reached across her to set it back down near her clothes. He whispered in her ear. "It's beautiful. But not as beautiful as you are."

"You're biased," she said with a laugh.

"Most definitely," he agreed as he kissed her again.

-----------------

Ixchel showed up very early, just as Chakotay predicted. She smiled as she watched Janeway say goodbye to him. He accompanied them to the edge of the jungle, then, with a last kiss, watched as they walked to the jeep.

"Well, you set us up. I hope you're happy?" Janeway asked her, once they were underway.

"I'm not the one that needs to answer that question," Ixchel replied, not falling for Janeway's feigned annoyance. "How are you feeling?"

Janeway smiled. "Like the weight of the world's been lifted off my shoulders."

Ixchel nodded soberly. "Then this was a good thing."

Janeway nodded, turning to look behind her for a last glimpse of Chakotay. He was no longer there, must have gone back to the cave. She sighed happily. She'd be back soon. The next time the Zoroaster was scheduled for repairs, which was only four months away. Not so long to wait compared to the lifetime they'd already wasted.

It wasn't until she was at the main transporter station that Janeway realized she hadn't asked Chakotay why he had quit the academy and taken up archaeology. But the question could wait, she decided, until she saw him again.

Janeway's quarters seemed particularly sterile after the sultry vibrancy of the Mexican jungles. She grabbed a quick shower then headed up to the bridge, trying not to rush too obviously. She'd had no business delaying a day. She should have been onboard last night, should not be running now to make it to the bridge on time.

She remembered waking up with Chakotay and smiled. So she was late. It was one time in how many years? And Captain's prerogative, she figured.

As the lift arrived, Janeway smiled at her first officer and said, "I'll be in my ready room, Commander."

Binzel nodded. "Aye-aye, sir. Welcome back." She seemed a bit subdued.

Janeway turned to look at the viewscreen, let her gaze wander fondly over her bridge crew. She felt the energy of command rush over her. She was home. And it felt good. It felt very good.

Chakotay had given her that.

She had to hide a smile as she anticipated some of the other things he might give her the next time they got together.

"Captain?" Lieutenant Moreno looked up from the communications console. "There's a message for you. It came in a few days ago. It's marked urgent. I thought you'd want to know."

Janeway nodded in appreciation. "I'll read it right way. Thank you." With a last look at the bridge, she walked into her ready room and sat down at her desk, calling up the messages that had piled up in her absence. There were a lot of them. The one flagged as urgent was at the top of the list.

It was from Seven of Nine.

Janeway frowned, opening it and leaning back as the former Borg's image filled the screen.

"Admiral Janeway, I regret to inform you that I have bad news." There was a long moment as Seven seemed to struggle for composure, and Janeway wondered if the woman had really thought it necessary to tell her that she and Chakotay had parted ways. She checked the date on the transmission. It had arrived the day she met Ixchel in the plaza. On the Day of the Dead. Or one of them, she laughed, remembering how the people in Merida had still been celebrating when she had rushed back from her time with Chakotay. Four days to spend with the dead, then back to the routine of life. Not a bad custom.

Seven's voice broke into her thoughts. "I'm afraid that I have no experience delivering this kind of news, Admiral. So I will be blunt, as we both know is my way. Chakotay is dead."

Janeway frowned. Was this some kind of joke?

"He died yesterday. A shuttle crashed with him and some of his students aboard. He--" Seven's voice broke. "He rescued all but one of the wounded. The ship exploded as he tried to get the last student out." Seven looked down. "I thought you should hear it from me. Not from an announcement on the comms. We are holding a small ceremony in two days. You are, of course, most welcome." Seven looked up. "He always held a special place in his heart for you, Admiral. He would have wanted me to tell you that." Seven blinked hard. "I wish you well. Seven out."

Janeway frowned. There must be some mistake. She needed to tell Seven that this was all wrong. That Chakotay had gotten out, that he was all right.

That he wasn't dead.

Then she took a good look at the senders on the messages that had queued up in her absence. Tom and B'Elanna. Harry. Tuvok. The Doctor.

She quickly searched the comms, found the reports that confirmed what Seven had said.

Chakotay was dead.

As she leaned back, Janeway felt the snake pendant shift under her uniform. Of course. Ixchel would know. She commed the hotel, asked to be transferred to the tour company.

A young man answered, "May I help you?"

"I'm looking for Ixchel?"

He nodded. "Of course. We have a lovely day trip to Kabah. There are some stelae there that depict her marriage to the sun."

"I'm sorry, perhaps this connection isn't good. I need to speak with Ixchel. She's a guide there."

The man looked very confused. "I'm sorry, ma'am. We don't have anyone here by that name."

"Then who did you think I was talking about?"

"Ix Chel. She was the Mayan snake goddess. Patroness of birth and rebirth. The goddess of the moon." It was clear the man had gone through this speech many times. Then he grinned. "We don't, as a rule, hire on Mayan deities as guides."

"But the Cave of Xibalba? I was there."

"Which one? Every cave around here is claimed by someone or other as being the entrance to the Mayan underworld. It's a great marketing ploy to lure in tourists. But we don't feature any of them on our tours."

"But the one at Uxmal. That cave..." She trailed off as he shook his head. "There's no cave there?"

"No, ma'am." He looked at her expectantly. "If there's nothing else?"

"No," she said slowly. "Nothing else."

She drew the pendant out from under her uniform shirt, pulled it over her head and studied it. The gold gleamed at her, just as it had when Ixchel had first given it to her. The onyx eyes glowed soft black.

She could still hear Chakotay's voice as he whispered, "It's beautiful. But not as beautiful as you are."

She could still feel his lips on hers, his hands on her body.

Somewhere in her mind she heard the call of a jaguar, felt the gentle whir of a dragonfly's wings in the night. And as she held the pendant back up to the light, she noticed that something new had been added--carefully etched over the snake's left eye was Chakotay's tattoo.

FIN