Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount.

Ensigns McKenzie and Jefferson paced outside holodeck one growing more irritated by the moment. The program that was running had run over into their alloted time.

"Twelve minutes!" McKenzie huffed as she plopped down on the floor against the wall opposite the holodeck doors. "It's not fair." Jefferson glanced at the doors and fought the urge to bang on them with his fists then sat on the floor beside McKenzie. He had so looked forward to this time with her. This was to be their third date.

"Problem Ensigns?" Chakotay said as he approached. They scrambled to their feet and stood at attention with McKenzie wearing a blush. "As you were." Chakotay added with a gentle smile.

"Sir, our time was supposed to start twelve minutes ago." Jefferson said meekly. "We were just waiting."

Chakotay stepped to the control panel and tapped. When he saw who was inside he hesitated, unsure of whether to interrupt. One look at the faces of the two ensigns told him it was only fair they be able to enjoy the holodeck time that was rightfully theirs. Tapping his combadge, he said, "Chakotay to Captain Janeway." When there was no answer he added, "Captain, please respond." When there was still no answer he reached to the panel and began tapping again. Before he entered the holodeck, he turned to McKenzie and Jefferson and said, "Wait here."

He had seen Leonardo's studio before and glanced around to the areas he expected to see her. "Captain?" he said with a feeling of uneasiness growing inside him. "Captain!" he said more urgently. Just as he turned in a different direction his eyes fell on her, lying at the bottom of the stairs. He crossed the room in great strides and knelt by her, whispered her name as he felt her throat for a pulse. There was a trickle of blood coming from the corner of her mouth. He tapped his combadge and almost yelled. "Chakotay to sickbay! Medical emergency!" Moments later just as Kathryn dematerialized at his feet, his eyes fell on the drawing on an easel nearby. It was in an early stage but he recognized his own features there.

The ensigns were startled when Chakotay rushed out of the holodeck then stopped when he saw them. "From now on if someone goes into your time, alert someone!" he snapped. They stood wide eyes, unsure why they were being addressed this way.

"Yes, Sir." they answered meekly in unison. Chakotay's expression softened and he nodded his head toward the holodeck.

"It's all yours." he said with a wave of his hand then turned and rushed down the corridor.

Chakotay rushed into sickbay, asking how the captain was as he crossed to the biobed where the doctor was working on her.

"Commander, as you can see I'm very busy. I'll contact you when she is stable." He pressed a hypospray to her neck and gave the commander a firm look. Ignoring it Chakotay covered Kathryn's hand with his and leaned over her, looking at the large bruise across her cheek and the bump on her forehead. She looked so small and fragile.

"Commander, please." the doctor said more gently. "Allow me to do my work."

Chakotay nodded slightly at him then with one final look at Kathryn, turned and left sickbay.

Chakotay was finding it very difficult to concentrate while on the bridge awaiting news from the doctor. When Tom addressed him and he didn't answer, Tom spun around in his chair to look at him. Chakotay was staring at a spot on the floor as if in a trance.

"Commander?" Tom said. Chakotay's eyes met Tom's. "Is something wrong?"

"The captain's in sickbay, Leutenant. She was injured on the holodeck." Chakotay answered.

"Is she alright?" Tom asked.

"I don't know. I'm waiting to hear from the doctor." Chakotay said as he raised the console next to his chair.

"How did she get hurt on the holodeck?"

"The safety protocols malfunctioned." Chakotay said, getting a little annoyed.

"Well, is her condition serious?" Tom asked.

Fighting to keep his voice calm Chakotay said, "I don't know, Tom. Everyone will be informed when the doctor contacts me." His tone had still been firmer than he'd intended and he took a deep breath, added gently, "Now, why don't you keep your eyes on the road."

"Aye, Sir." Tom answered and turned around to face his con again. As he turned, he had seen the look of concern on Harry's face.

Almost two hours after Chakotay had left Kathryn in sickbay, the doctor contacted him.

"Doctor to Commander Chakotay."

"Go ahead." Chakotay answered quickly.

"Please report to sickbay."

"On my way." he said as he got up and went toward the doors. "Tuvok, bridge." he said shortly.

When Chakotay entered sickbay he went quickly to Kathryn's side and looked down at her. The doctor came out of his office and went to stand on the other side of the biobed.

"Doctor?" Chakotay said.

"I've stopped the internal bleeding but she has a concussion. There is swelling in her brain that concerns me. She is in an induced coma to allow her brain to heal, but she is stable at this time."

"Prognosis?" Chakotay asked, his eyes still on Kathryn.

"I believe she will recover but it's going to take some time." the doctor said gently. He was aware of how close the captain and her first officer were, and it was not hard to see the deep concern on Chakotay's face. "She is not in any pain, Commander."

"Can she hear me?" Chakotay asked.

"I can't say for certain," the doctor answered, "however, there have been instances of comatose patients who've recovered reporting that they could hear what was happening around them." He paused a moment before adding, "If she can hear, I'm sure it would be comforting to hear a familiar voice." With this he turned and went back into his office.

Chakotay took Kathryn's hand and leaned closer as he spoke softly. "Kathryn, you have to get well. We need you. I need you, do you hear me?" He watched closely for any sign that she had heard him but saw none. "And when you are well," he said close to her ear, "we're going to have a long talk."

Chakotay slept fitfully that night and awakened hours before his usual rising time. Rather than try to get back to sleep, he showered and suited up then went to sickbay to check on Kathryn. The doctor was scanning her when he entered sickbay. The lights were lowered so he spoke very softly.

"How is she?"

The doctor closed the tricorder and looked at Chakotay. "There is very little change, Commander." he said.

"Change for the better or worse?" Chakotay said with slight agitation. "Give me something, Doctor."

"The swelling has decreased by less than once percent, I'm afraid." the doctor answered. Chakotay looked down at her as the doctor turned to go back to his office.

"Thank you, Doctor." Chakotay said softly. The doctor stopped and looked over his shoulder at the commander, nodded slowly once, then went into his office.

"Kathryn," Chakotay almost whispered, "the crew has been concerned for you. They've asked me to tell you to get well quickly." He reached out to brush a strand of auburn hair from her temple. "Come out of there soon, do you hear me? We have important things to talk about." A patient man by nature, this accident had instilled in him a feeling of great urgency. She could've died on that holodeck, alone, never knowing his true feelings. He didn't know exactly when, but he'd made a decision. He'd sworn to himself and the spirits to tell her once and for all how he felt, whether she was ready to hear it or not. Taking a chance that she would still keep him at a distance was not as frightening to him as never having told her at all.

Chakotay went back to his quarters and took out his medicine bundle, feeling an urgent need for a vision quest. Regardless of whether he found any answers there, a vision quest almost always gave him comfort and a certain measure of peace, both of which he needed desperately right now. In the semi-darkness he took the stone between his hands and began the ritual...

"Aahh, Chakotay," his father's voice said as Chakotay opened his eyes. "Your heart is troubled, my son." They were in a dense forest at night sitting on a fallen tree before a campfire.

"Yes, Father. Someone close to me is very ill." Chakotay answered softly. His father picked up a stick and moved the embers of the fire.

"There is more than concern in your heart, Chakotay. There is fear." He looked at his son who nodded slowly. "Fear that she may not return to you?" he asked, "Or fear she will turn you away?"

"Both." Chakotay answered simply after a slight hesitation. His father dropped the stick into the fire and put one leg over the tree so that he was facing Chakotay.

"Your journey together thus far has been as friends," he said, "but now your heart seeks more."

"Yes, Father." Chakotay answered almost in a whisper.

"She is alone on her journey, Chakotay," his father said gently, "and she too has been struggling with these feelings. The turmoil in her heart is making it difficult for her to find her way back."

Chakotay lowered his head and closed his eyes. "I should've told her my feelings long ago." he said. "How can I help her find her way?" When he looked up his father was gone.

Slowly Chakotay opened his eyes and exhaled, looking up at the viewport and the stars streaking by. With a sorrowful expression he whispered her name, willing her to come back to him.

end part 1-