Author's Note: This story was written in 2001, I think. It took it off the 'net not long after that. When I reread it, I realised that there was so much work to be done to fine tune and smooth it. I am now in the process of "cleaning it up" as it really reflected all my unbeta'ed work before my beta Mary and I began working together.

This looks at least better now. I'll be posting a little chapter each day. Perhaps there are readers out there who haven't read this yet, so here is an opportunity to take a look at it.

As always, comments and reviews are welcome.

VH

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager, Janeway, Chakotay and other Voyager crew. I've enjoyed playing with these characters since 1998.

Coding : J/C

SUMMARY: When a shuttle crashlands after an attack on it leaves one dead and two survivors, the crew of Voyager are unprepared for the consequences after Chakotay emerges from his coma.

AND GATHER DREAMS THAT NEVER FADE AWAY

CHAPTER ONE

The man stirred restlessly. From time to time a soft moan escaped through his parched lips. He appeared in grave pain for the hands that lay above the white sheet twitched violently from time to time. Then he would give an agonised cry as his body arched before slumping back exhaustedly. Then he lay gasping, normal breathing slowly returning before he drifted into a dark oblivion.

Minutes later he groaned again, unable to voice his need as he arched and fellback. A hand touched his brow, wiping the beads of perspiration that rolled in little rivulets down the side, settling in the corners of his eyes. It gave the impression he was crying. Still, his lips were dry, a dull, bloodless colour that indicated a raging thirst. His throat moved as it appeared that he tried to swallow, finding that the action caused his tongue to cling to his palate.

His skin was ashen, contrasting starkly with the white sheet that covered him and the blue of the biobed headrest. On his forehead, above his left eyebrow was a marking, asymmetrical lines and curls that formed a signature. Black hair plastered damply against his skin. He moved his head to one side as if he sensed something - or someone was nearby. He tried to speak but no identifiable sound emanated from his parched lips. Then something was pressed against his mouth.

So cool it was... so blessedly cool as he sucked at the sponge and the liquid relieved his raging thirst, fretting when the sponge was removed - only briefly though, then the coolness settled against his lips again.

There were voices - whispers mostly, that hovered above his consciousness and remained distant, blurry echoes that came and went, came and went. He could not see the hands that ministered, nor try to make out who owned the voices. The searing pain clamoured for dominance and overrode any attempt to put a face to a touch or measure tone and timbre to match a voice, or even a smell. The effort to wake up, to open his eyes and surface above the pain, proved too much as he fell back exhaustedly, finally giving in to the pain and tiredness.

Then he sank into unconsciousness again.

"Gul Evek must be feeling daring today," Chakotay yelled as he worked the controls at the conn of the Liberty.

"They're closing in, Chakotay! Get us out of the way! Move, now!" B'Elanna screamed as phaser fire strafed their starboard bow. The Liberty rocked, veering dangerously in the direction of the Vetar.

"Tuvok, get them, fire!" Chakotay ordered. The Liberty returned fire, their salvo ineffectual as the Cardassian vessel replied with greater force.

"No!" Chakotay cried as Gul Evek opened fire again. Chakotay knew they were going to be hit square on, so he jerked the Liberty sharply to port, trying one last time to avoid the torpedo heading towards them. "No!" he cried as the Liberty was hit. The ship careened after her hull buckled under the stress, folding the vessel like a card as she drifted helplessly in cold space. Chakotay was flung from his chair and by the time he hit the bulkhead at the rear of the bridge, he was on fire. His skull cracked as he made contact with the bulkhead and his body dropped like a rag doll to the floor.

"B'Elanna...we...lost..." he muttered just before he lost consciousness.

He shivered violently as the pain rocked him to awareness again. The voices were there and he heard them, this time a little more clearly.

"He's regaining consciousness, Captain..."

"Thank God."

The voice was soft, feminine, her tone tinged with deep concern. Then a hand touched his brow. It was a touch he felt before - a gentle hand that held a sponge to his lips. He wanted to see, connect a face to the touch. An urgent desire burned through him to see who it was. B'Elanna? Seska? Mariah? He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids bore down painfully over the eyeballs. He wanted to lift them, the fretting starting again as the effort exhausted him. Chakotay he cried out. It was a low, whimpering cry this time.

"It's okay," the voice commanded. "Shhh... don't move, Chakotay. You're in great pain. Lie still, please."

"Pain...take it...away..." he croaked, his voice sounding detached, unknown, not belonging to him.

"Doctor - ?"

"I know, Captain."

The EMH had been standing ready with a hypospray he prepared the moment he could see the patient stirring. The pain, however, was too much as Chakotay cried out, started gasping and arching.

"Shhh...it's alright, Chakotay. We'll take care of the pain..."

There was a short hiss as the EMH applied the hypospray and the next moment Chakotay sank into deep oblivion again.

TBC