DISCLAIMER: Star Trek: Voyager and characters belong to Paramount/CBS. I just like to make them happier.
Kathryn had walked with Chakotay as he made his way to the holodeck dressed for his boxing training program. The Doctor managed to suppress the gene for the cognitive disorder again after they escaped chaotic space, but she was still concerned. Chakotay was so frightened of turning into his grandfather, a "crazy old man" as he had called him. She had pushed him to give in to the hallucinations so he could communicate with the aliens and try to rescue the ship.
Twenty minutes later, she found herself standing in front of the doors to the holodeck. Her mind would not let go of the images of her steady, calm, and controlled First Officer raving and scared. She would think of some excuse for her visit if he asked, but for now she just had to see him again and reassure herself that he was really okay.
She punched in her security code and stepped through the doors. She expected to find a simulation of Starfleet Academy's boxing training center. Instead, she found herself standing on a rocky path that cut through a densely wooded landscape. The low sun above her indicated the simulation was set late in the day, and the air temperature was warm and mildly humid. She knew Chakotay was here because she had asked the computer before she came, but she had no idea where "here" was.
She considered turning around and leaving, but the fact that the holodeck program being run was not the one he had told her he was going to use, or had dressed for, only increased her concern. She took a last look toward the exit and then set her feet to follow the path.
It wasn't long before she could smell water, fresh water judging by the lack of a salty tang. She stepped over a fallen log, rounded a bend in the trail, and stood gazing out over a small lake. The trees cast long shadows that undulated across the water's surface. No structures were in sight, although she could see other paths across the way that might lead to simulations set back in the woods. Off to her left, she spotted Chakotay lying on his back with his feet in the gently lapping waves at the shoreline.
She walked toward him and noticed he was not wearing a shirt. As she drew closer, she realized he was not wearing the gray shorts he had on earlier, either. He was in only a pair of black boxer briefs, his skin still glistening from an apparent swim. She stopped where she was and stood hesitantly.
"What are you doing here, Kathryn?" he asked. He hadn't looked at her, but of course, he would recognize her footsteps just as she did his. His voice sounded heavy, weary.
She was supposed to make up an excuse, but upon seeing the odd change in programs and hearing the timbre of his words, she spilled the truth. "I was worried about you. I wanted to see you."
She heard his sigh even across the space still remaining between them. "I'm fine." He had never been a good liar, especially with her.
"I'm not buying it," she said. "What's wrong? I thought you were going to box."
"I was, but my head wasn't in it."
"Are you hurt?"
"No, I never even got in the ring."
She was uncomfortable with his dress, or rather, state of undress, but her worry won out. She crossed the short distance, sat down in the sand beside him, and took off her jacket. "What is this place, Chakotay?"
"You do realize I'm in my underwear, right?"
The corner of her mouth curled slightly. "I do realize that, but I did use my security override to enter without your permission. I don't really have a right to comment on what I find." She kept her eyes looking out over the lake. "Within reason," she added.
"Fine," he said.
"You didn't answer my question. Where are we?"
"Somewhere I never bring anybody."
She turned to look at him, seeing a guardedness in eyes and the set of his jaw. "Convince me you're okay, and I'll leave."
"No, I'm sorry. You don't have to go." He sat up and bent the knee closest to Kathryn, pulling his leg up to at least somewhat cover his exposed state. He gazed out over the water and said, "This is where I grew up. This is Dorvan."
She studied the lush, green woodland, the rugged natural beauty of the sandy shoreline and rocky pathways, and the dark water. "It's lovely. So, this is the lake you told me about that you played in as a child?"
He ran his hand over his still damp hair and attempted to wipe the sand from his back and shoulders. "Yes. My house is over there." He pointed across the water to the right where she could see a faint break in the trees that must indicate another trail. "Incidentally," he said, "that's where my clothes are, too. I took the path to the house and swam here."
"At least you didn't decide to swim nude," she said with a smile. She heard a brief chuckle from him before it faded. "I really am concerned, Chakotay. What you went through, what you did for us, was taxing both physically and emotionally."
"The Doctor re-suppressed the gene."
"Maybe so, but he didn't suppress the memories of what you experienced." She saw a flash of emotion cross his features. "That's why you're here, isn't it?"
He silently drew circles in the sand before finally resting his arm on his knee and answering quietly, "Yes. I was thinking about my grandfather."
She laid her hand on his arm and said, "I'm sorry."
"For pushing you to give in to the hallucinations. For making you face the possibility of turning into him. I saw how frightened you were."
"You did what you had to do for the ship. If you hadn't pushed me, we would still be trapped in chaotic space, or possibly even dead by now. Actually, I should thank you."
"Thank you for believing in me. Even when everyone else thought I was a raving lunatic and about to put the ship in more danger, you trusted me."
"I do trust you, Chakotay, and I have always believed in you. The things we experience out here in the Delta Quadrant do not always make sense. That's when we have to rely on what we know to be the truth about each other."
"And what truth is that?"
She pulled her hand back from his arm and turned her head toward the lowering sun. "That even when you're hallucinating and maddened, I trust you with my life."
He didn't reply, only sat staring off into the distance. She was beginning to wonder if she should get up and leave when he said, "Keep watching the water." The sun was a barely visible arch above the horizon, and she continued to gaze out over the scene. As the last edge of orange sank below sight, a brilliant purple and dark blue flare raced across the lake and through the trees, coloring every leaf, stone, and speck of sand. In seconds it was gone, and she gasped, "Beautiful!" A pale glow was now coming from behind them, and she turned to see a large moon just above the forest.
"It happens only two or three times a year," he said. "The whole colony used to gather on the lakeshore on those days to watch the sunset together. The elders would tell stories and hold special ceremonies. It was considered a sacred time. My grandfather was never happier, before or after his illness set in, than on those days."
"What causes it?" she asked with awe.
"There are ancient volcanic vents across the lake. A few times a year, the gasses still trapped underground build enough pressure to escape the vents. The heavier compounds resettle close to the ground, and the sunset hits at just the right angle to cause the flare of light. It will all dissipate by the next day."
Kathryn felt the humidity begin to lower and the air cooled slightly. He turned to face her. "Would you like to see the house?"
"I would love to. Do I have to swim?"
He grinned and said, "No, but I think I should. You can take the shore around. It's dark, but there won't be anything in your path, and there's enough moonlight you can keep from going in the water. I'll stay close so you can see me and follow me to the trail."
She stood up and brushed the sand from her pants, and then her palms. She turned and waited for him to get up, but he only raised his eyebrows at her. "Oh, right," she laughed as she glanced over his bare chest and legs, the black underwear stretched tightly over his buttock. She set off along the shore, her back to him, and he got up to enter the water. The holodeck simulation of the water level was shallow, coming to just above his hips. He waded in and began to breaststroke until he was ahead of her but easily within sight. He stretched out on his side and lazily kicked his legs to stay on the surface. She was finding her way in the dark without difficulty, though she would turn to spot him every few seconds.
He was soon even with the path to the house and stood in the water to point it out to her. She nodded her head, and he walked up the shore and into the trees. She tried not to glance at him as he did, but she couldn't resist watching him. The moonlight shone off his dark hair and bronze skin, beads of water glistening as they rolled down his muscular body. Just seeing him in uniform often made her sit up straighter in her seat; the sight of him in nothing but a pair of wet, black boxer briefs reminded her just how long she had been holding out against her attraction to Chakotay. Embarrassed by her own reaction, she blew out her breath and focused on the entrance to the path. When she made the turn, she caught a glimpse of him walking up a set of three steps before he disappeared into the small white house, leaving the door open for her.