Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount and Viacom. I'm just playing with the characters.

Summary: Following Caretaker, Chakotay looks for help in adjusting to his new role as First Officer.



Wolf Dream

By Mizvoy

When Chakotay walked into Voyager's mess hall for dinner, the Maquis members of the crew were sitting on one side of the room while the Starfleet members were on the other, a row of empty tables between them. He sighed to see the visual representation of the problems he faced.

This first week on Voyager had nearly worn him out. He'd spent long shifts taking care of his duties as first officer and working closely with Captain Janeway, only to spend the next several hours each day trying to get the Starfleet crew to accept him and attempting to keep the Maquis from rejecting him. The Maquis distrusted his sudden transformation into a Starfleet officer, and the Starfleet crew couldn't forget he had been the Maquis' captain.

He was still struggling to find a way to win both crews over, still trying to find a balance in his own self-image.

He walked through Neelix's serving line in a fog and found a seat in one of the tables in no-man's-land. His first bite was halfway to his mouth when Seska, a Bajoran Maquis, slid into the seat across from him.

"Are you really going to eat that?" she asked.

Chakotay groaned inwardly. Of all his former Maquis crew, Seska was the most problematic. "Why not?" he asked back.

"Well, Chakotay, look at it!"

He gazed at the mass of purple pasta dangling from his fork and frowned. "What is it?"

"I didn't have the nerve to ask. Wouldn't a nice bowl of mushroom soup be better? If the Maquis were in charge here . . ."

"That's enough of that, Seska," he cut her off, shoving the purple stuff into his mouth, determined not to gag. "We're lucky to have been taken in."

She smiled as he struggled to swallow. Chakotay had, in a moment of weakness, allowed an intimacy to develop between them that she had used ever since as leverage to influence him. She was brash, opinionated, outspoken, and ruthless, qualities tolerated by the Maquis, but not nearly as acceptable to Starfleet. Seska recognized no rules but expediency, and she eliminated no method if its results met her needs.

"These Starfleet people are so trusting, so naïve, so vulnerable," she whispered, leaning toward him like a conspirator. "We could easily gain control of this ship."

"No."

"Janeway lets opportunity after opportunity slip through her fingers! We should use our technology to find allies, to help us get home."

"Seska, I've been over this again and again with you and the rest of the Maquis. This is Janeway's ship, and it's a Starfleet ship. She's the captain, and she decides what we're going to do. We have to adjust."

"Why? I know we're outnumbered, but we could get some of the Starfleet crew to join us."

Chakotay studied her while he toyed with his food. She was unusually belligerent for a Bajoran, sly, clever, and untrustworthy. But, she was also a loyal Maquis who had saved his life more than once.

"The Maquis were loosely united against the Cardassian/Federation treaty. We were organized around short-term missions, using harassment, guerilla tactics, and terrorism, none of which helps much in the Delta Quadrant. We have a journey of over 70,000 light years ahead of us, and Starfleet's approach to space travel works best in this situation."

She snorted in derision. "We'll never make it. We might as well start planning for the future right here."

Chakotay shoved another forkful of pasta into his mouth, relieved to find it less offensive than before. He chewed awhile, regarding Seska's defiant face. "I've served in Starfleet for years, and I know how it's organized. I know it will work. You'll just have to trust me."

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself?"

He sighed. That was the problem. In spite of his continued support of Captain Janeway, he had nagging doubts about whether they should strictly adhere to Starfleet procedures and regulations, and somehow, Seska sensed it. "I've gotten to know Janeway pretty well in the last week. She's been more than fair with us. She knows what we're up against, but she doesn't give up easily, and she's determined to return to the Alpha Quadrant."

She smiled at him in derision. "Who would've thought that the fearless Chakotay had a hero complex about Starfleet captains?" She leaned closer, whispering, "Or is it her big blue eyes that have captivated you?"

"That's enough," Chakotay replied, standing. Several of the crew sitting nearby turned to watch them, surprised by his sudden movement and angry tone of voice. "I'm tired and I don't want to argue any more. Our best chance to get home is to throw our support behind Janeway and the Voyager crew. End of discussion."

"If you say so, Chakotay," she drawled, the sneer on her face a clear indication that she wasn't intimidated by him in the least.

Furious, he stormed out of the mess hall and headed for his quarters. Seska had a way of finding his weakness and playing on it. Would Maquis' tactics work better here? Should they disregard the Prime Directive and Starfleet protocols in favor of a more "utilitarian" approach? Was his indecision about what was best for the crew keeping him from being convincing when he defended Janeway? No wonder neither crew trusted him.

He walked into his quarters and collapsed on the sofa. The captain was expecting him to somehow help his Maquis adjust to Starfleet, to somehow connect with her crew, and to finally blend the two disparate crews into one. Of course, she knew it would take time and had been nothing but patient, but Chakotay sensed that his first week had been a failure. He lacked the power of conviction.

He spied his medicine bundle on the shelf beside his desk and smiled. Why hadn't he thought of meditating on this during the last week? He rose and picked up the bundle from the shelf, its soft deerskin cover warm to the touch. Without further hesitation, he knelt on the floor and opened the bundle, fingering the artifacts he had gathered over the years and reciting the chant taught to him by his father. He needed the advice and wisdom of his animal guide, longed for the peace and centering the spirit dreams brought him. Lifting the akoonah, Chakotay stepped into a waking dream.





Chakotay opened his eyes to blinding whiteness. He squinted and covered his eyes with his hands until they could adjust to the painful glare of the winter sun on a large field filled with snow. The fur around the hood of his parka stirred in the gentle breeze as he turned in place to survey his surroundings. Oddly, there were no signs of his footprints anywhere near him; it was as if he had been dropped into the middle of the field by a hovercraft or beamed there by a transporter.

So, which way should he take to get home?

A thick forest surrounded the field, which was a little over a foot deep in fresh powdery snow. Behind the forest rose blue/purple mountain peaks shrouded in whispy clouds. The sky was bright blue, but the sun was a weak rosy yellow. It was cold and would only get colder when the sun set.

Chakotay knew he was in the Grapevine Mountains on his home world, Trebus, near where his family came in early winter to hunt the deer-like ghanta for meat and skins. How did he get out in the mountains alone? Despite the familiar surroundings, the mountains offered no help in finding his way. Nothing looked familiar.

He slung the heavy pack off of his back to check his supplies. He had a large handful of beef jerky, sweet corn cakes, two blankets, and a waterproof groundcover. But he found no phaser, no matches, no communicator, and no shelter. He would need shelter before nightfall or he would freeze to death in the subzero temperatures of night in the mountains.

Chakotay lifted the binoculars off of his chest and scanned for clues in the forest and mountains, slowing turning a full circle. He stopped with a sharp intake of breath when he saw a dozen yellow eyes regarding him from the forest. Wolves. Chakotay patted his body hoping to feel the comforting shape of a weapon, but he found only a hunting knife. His survival had just become more questionable.

The wolves were to his right, toward the setting sun, downwind of him in the thickest part of the forest. Chakotay kept the sun on his right and plowed through the snow down the mountain. It was slow going because he had no snowshoes and his leather boots, laced to his knees, did not keep his feet warm. He figured he had three hours before the sun set behind the mountains. It would be a brief dusk.

Chakotay sang a tribal song to himself in order to keep up a steady pace and to allow his mind to consider his options. He knew the wolves lurked in the forest, following him as he toiled in the snow. Yet, he would need to find shelter in the woods before nightfall. He needed enough time to construct a shelter to keep his body heat from escaping. His only other choice was to continue his stumbling walk in the moonlight, if there was a moon tonight. Either way, his chances for surviving the night were pretty slim.

Chakotay paused to watch the sun set behind the mountain. He was sweating inside his heavy parka and pausing brought a chill. He gazed longingly at the forest, imagining a bower of pine branches on the snow for him to rest upon and another over him to capture his body heat. Six sets of yellow eyes hoped he would come to the forest so they could pounce upon him.

He lifted his binoculars again and focused on the forest. Twelve yellow eyes gazed back at him, as he expected, but . . . the eyes seemed too close together. One wolf rose and pounced on the wolf next to him, rolling and tumbling out into the snowy plain.

"Pups?" He refocused on the wolves and counted six dark gray pups romping at the edge of the woods. He felt a thrill of fear run down his spine. "Where's your mother?"

He studied every inch of the woods, but could not find a sign of any adult wolf. The pups, no doubt hungry and cold, crept toward him on the snow, whimpering with fear and need. Chakotay realized they could smell the food he carried in his pack.

While the pups chewed on pieces of jerky he hacked off for them, Chakotay broke down branches from the trees and fashioned a shelter from the icy ground and the frigid air. Settling down on the ground cover and blanket in the bower, Chakotay chewed on a strip of jerky while the pups gathered around him, fighting over the remaining scraps of meat, tumbling over his legs, and chewing on his boot laces. Laughing, Chakotay pulled off his boots and replaced his sweaty socks with dry ones.

The sunlight died. Chakotay let the pups curl up next to him as he pulled the second blanket and a rough thatch of boughs over them. The full moon was rising as he cuddled the pups close and fell into an exhausted sleep. Their shared body heat would keep them alive in the frigid night.

A few hours later, Chakotay awakened with a start. The landscape outside the shelter sparkled in the moonlight as the blanket was lifted by something. The wind? He felt for the handle of his knife as the blanket lifted a second time.

Chakotay realized, when he saw the snuffling muzzle, that the mother wolf had tracked and found her pups. They whimpered at her familiar smell and at the prospect of warm milk. Crouching, she crept into the shelter with Chakotay and stretched out across from him, the now nursing puppies between them. She sniffed and examined each pup, licking it clean before she and the pups drifted off to sleep. Chakotay watched them and wondered at his uncommon good luck until sleep reclaimed him as well.

The freezing cold awakened him. The mother wolf and her pups were long gone, and the sun was peeping over the eastern mountains. He pulled some corn cake from his pack and munched on it while he listened to the sounds of the morning. Finally, he pushed the branches off of himself and stood up to fold his blankets. Resuming his journey would help warm him up.

Once the sun was over the mountain, Chakotay searched for the wolves, wondering if it had been a dream. He had not quite finished repacking his blankets when six puppies bounded out of a thicket and romped at his feet. He crouched down to scratch and pet them when he became aware of the fact that the mother wolf was watching him. He saw her for the first time in the weak morning sunshine standing proud and tall. She was huge, much larger than any female wolf he had ever seen, and she was pure white, a sign of great power and magic to Chakotay's people.

He could feel the waves of power coming from her as she regarded him with her yellow eyes. The hair on the back of his neck prickled at the thought of this sacred wolf sleeping with him the night before. His people believed that a white wolf was a great blessing and a sign of important meaning. His job was to decide just what the wolf's appearance meant.

The mother wolf broke its noble pose and approached him, her head down sniffing and nuzzling her pups. She stood beside him regarding their surroundings, her back inches below his hands. Finally, she raised her head, nuzzled his hand, and started trotting toward the west, her pups struggling to keep up with her. She stopped, looked back at him, and waited, obviously expecting him to follow her, too. He stood still, unsure of what to do. She trotted back and nuzzled his leg this time, and then trotted due west. This time, he followed her.

She led him up a ridge just beyond the woods where they had slept and into another meadow beyond. Then, she headed south at the edge of the woods where the snow was shallow enough for the pups to travel easily. Chakotay followed them until the sun reached its apex. The exhausted pups gratefully collapsed beside their mother to nurse and rest, while Chakotay leaned against a tree and pulled a corn cake from his pack. The white wolf watched him intently.

"Are you hungry, mother wolf?" He reached into his pack and pulled out his remaining beef jerky, handing the strips to her. "It must be difficult to find enough to eat so you can nurse your pups."

The wolf gingerly took the strips from his hand and chewed them one by one, a faraway look of satisfaction in her eyes. She and the pups napped while Chakotay ate the last of his food and wondered where his next meal would come from. Then, he napped as well.

The mother wolf nuzzled his face a short time later and beckoned him to follow. The sun was halfway down the sky. They cut across the valley and toward the next ridge to the west, and then trotted along the shallow snow. Chakotay found it hard to keep up, his legs heavy with cold and exhaustion. He desperately wanted warmth and sleep.

The wolves stopped and waited for Chakotay to join them, and then the mother wolf started up the steep slope of the ridge. His heart fell. How could he scrabble up that precipitous slope in his condition? He considered giving up until he saw the pups gamely struggling behind their mother. He resolved to follow her no matter what. What choice did he have?

The sun was down and the frigid night temperatures had stiffened his fingers until Chakotay could barely grip the rocks on his climb. The wolf stood above him and paced back and forth on the top of the ridge as if she were impatient for his arrival. At last he pulled himself up to the top of the ridge and was rewarded by dozens of licks from the romping pups. Exhausted, Chakotay stretched out on his stomach, too tired to move. He wanted to fall asleep and freeze to death rather than continue his trek. He could go no farther.

It was then that he smelled smoke. He sat up. The wolf gazed westward toward a thin gray column of smoke rising from the valley below. Chakotay pulled up his binoculars and focused them on the spot. It was a camp, his family's camp, their unmistakable blankets and skins hanging from the railings of the log cabin's porch.

Chakotay put his arm around the white wolf, burying his face in the thick, warm fur of her neck. "Thank you, blessed mother wolf, for your kindness and help." She licked his face and nuzzled him toward the cabin.

Chakotay walked away from the family for a hundred feet down the ridge before he stopped and looked back. The sacred wolf stood on the ridge, silhouetted against the sky, her pups at her feet. Behind her, the moon rose clear and creamy yellow. She raised her muzzle and howled triumphantly, her deep voice imitated by the pups and answered by other wolves not far away.

Chakotay lifted his face to the sky and recreated her howl in human voice. With that, she turned and started back toward the wilderness. Once she and the pups disappeared, Chakotay ran down the hill, yelling, "Hey! Hey! I'm home! I'm home!"





The waking dream ended. Chakotay put the akoonah down, amazed when he realized that only a few minutes had passed. He solemnly folded his medicine bundle and placed it on the shelf. He would have to meditate on the meaning of the dream. Had the wolf been Janeway? Seska? Had the frozen, forbidden landscape been the Delta Quadrant? Was he supposed to settle here in the wilderness? Was he supposed to continue the travel for home? He knew that with time, he would resolve those questions. He felt more at peace than he had in days and slept ten hours straight, a deep, restful slumber. The next morning, he felt like a new man.

Captain Janeway was sitting on the sofa when Chakotay entered the ready room. They were orbiting a planet, scanning it for essential supplies, and the planet's moon filled the window with a creamy light. She looked at him and smiled.

"You look better today, Commander."

"I got a good night's sleep, for once. You should try it." Janeway glanced away, and he realized that she'd probably been up for hours, maybe all night.

She smiled, stifling a yawn. "Not likely, Commander. We need food, we need deuterium, we need so much. And we have so far to go."

He could hear despair in her voice. "One day at a time."

"I admire your equanimity. I'm afraid I can't leave much up to chance. Look at this report, for example," she said, rising from her seat.

The moon was behind her in the huge transparent aluminum windows and cast her in a perfect silhouette as she stood there gazing at the PADD in her hand. Chakotay's mouth fell open as the memory of his waking dream assaulted him, the memory of the sacred wolf etched against the brightness of the moon.

"Stop!" he ordered before she could move toward him. He was nearly trembling from the powerful memory of the wolf dream.

Janeway, who was used to giving orders, not receiving them, stood perfectly still. "What is it?" she asked, barely turning her head. Had Chakotay detected a threat near her position? Was there a spatial anomaly opening? Was the bulkhead cracking? She looked at him for an answer, but saw only awe and wonderment on his face. "Have I sprouted horns, Commander?"

"No, of course not!" he smiled, approaching her. He couldn't tell her, or anyone, about his dream, for doing so would violate all he believed. But, he had the answer to his wolf dream, and he knew he would no longer be tentative in convincing his crew to follow Captain Janeway on her impossible journey for home. He thought quickly. "Seeing you there, with the moon behind you, is an awe-inspiring sight."

Janeway pivoted, the moonlight softening her features. "To be honest with you, I seldom think to look out the windows. I'm usually too busy working to notice such things."

"I'll just have to help you with your work, so you'll have time to appreciate the beautiful things we find along the way home." He stopped beside her, close enough to smell her perfume, to see the faint smudges of exhaustion under her eyes. She had been up all night.

She sighed. "So, you've convinced your crew to stay on Voyager?"

Chakotay stood behind her as they gazed at the moon. It was time to make his decision, time to tell her where he stood. "No matter what happens, no matter what you might think, even if we fight and disagree, I'll follow you. And the Maquis will follow me."

She was encouraged by the sudden certainty of his tone. When she turned around, she was suddenly aware of his wide, powerful shoulders and his kind brown eyes. "I'll make you a promise, too, Chakotay. I'll get us home to the Alpha Quadrant, if I have to carry the ship on my shoulders the last thousand light years!"

"Deal," he answered, breaking into a grin. "And I believe you can do it."

She shook her head and stepped back. "How is that possible, Chakotay? You say that, but you've only known me a week. Trust has to be earned, I know that." She fiddled with the PADD, waiting for a reply.

Chakotay watched her. He wanted to tell her of the powerful dream, of the thrill he felt as he ran toward his family's cabin, of the elation he'd shared with the sacred white wolf as they'd cared for the pups who were dependent upon them, of the clean warmth of the mother wolf's fur when he'd hugged her. But, she was a scientist, he knew, who put little credence on the mystical, spiritual side of life that guided him. She might be insulted to be compared to a mother wolf, even it if was a sacred white one.

"I trust you, Captain, because you want so much to be trusted. You work at it every day. You have a sincere and deep desire not to let anyone down. I can see that quality in you, and so I believe in you."

She bowed her head, trying to hide the emotion on her face. "I hope I never let you down." Her exhaustion was nearly palpable.

"You know what?" he asked, breaking the mood. "I need to get up to speed on these reports if I'm to be a decent first officer today." He scooped the PADDs from the sofa and table, cradling them to his chest. "Let me take these to my office and go over them. The survey of the system is going to take a few more hours. In the meantime, you need to rest and get some food in your stomach. When you wake up, I'll be ready to discuss these reports in detail, and we'll have a survey to study."

"But," Janeway stammered as he propelled her toward the door, "but, I have so much to do."

"The ship will still be here when you wake up, Captain, I promise. I've pulled bridge duty before, you know, and I know when to awaken the captain, if needed. And," he smiled wider, "I'm sure I can count on Tuvok to help me."

She smiled tiredly. "Well, okay. I am tired. And I could do with a hot meal."

"One word of advice."

"What's that?" She paused before the ready room doors opened.

"Avoid the purple pasta stuff. It tastes like the sand off of the bottom of a dirty aquarium."

Janeway laughed just as the doors opened to the bridge. Surprised, the crew looked up from their panels, relief on their faces. If the captain was laughing, not all could be lost. Janeway sensed the release of tension in them, and glanced gratefully at her first officer. How had he managed that?

"Mr. Tuvok, I'm going below to get some rest. The commander is available, if needed."

"Very well, Captain," the Vulcan replied.

Chakotay followed her onto the turbolift, struggling to maintain control over the slippery pile of PADDs. Janeway giggled. "Here, let me help you."

She took half of the PADDs and helped him stack them neatly in his arms. The turbolift stopped on deck 2, and he started to leave the lift for his office when Janeway placed her hand on his arm.

"Thank you, Commander, for making me laugh. I needed that."

"If there's one thing I'm a natural at, it's comic relief," he replied, his grin seeming to brighten the lift.

Janeway was visibly drooping. "Good night, Commander."

"Sweet dreams, Captain."

Janeway thought Chakotay looked almost gleeful as he walked toward his office. She watched him until the lift's doors closed, and then she thought she heard the distinctive howl of a wolf echoing through the passageway. Could the commander have made that mournful cry, or was it just a figment of her overwrought imagination? She could just see the amused look on his face if she asked him about it later. "A wolf, Captain?" he'd say, with that dimpled grin of his. "On a starship?"

His upbeat optimism and declaration of faith had bolstered her flagging spirits just when she needed it most. By the time her head hit the pillow ten minutes later, she was sure Chakotay was the perfect choice for her first officer. Maybe together they could get the crew home.

On a whim, she softly imitated the wolf howl she'd heard, chuckled softly at the absurdity of it, and then got the best six-hour's sleep she'd had since she'd arrived in the Delta Quadrant.