Happy birthday, Wendy
by Jinny W
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager and all those who travel aboard it. J.M. Barrie owns Peter Pan. (Yes, you did read that right. I said Peter Pan.)
Summary: With a little help from his friends, Chakotay takes Kathryn on a special trip for her birthday. This is probably the first story I've written that actually required a fair dollop of technobabble. Yikes! Thanks to JinnyR for the quick beta.
Peter: Wendy, come with me.
Wendy: Oh dear, I mustn't. Think of mother. Besides, I can't fly.
"Broken replicator?" Chakotay said.
"What?" Kathryn glanced up in surprise from the padd she'd been scanning, to see her first officer standing before her, hands on hips.
"I said, is your replicator broken?"
Kathryn peered around at the device in question, then back up at him. "No. Not last time I tried. Should it be?"
"A terrible report from engineering?" he asked, gesturing at the padd.
"No. Everything seems fine down there."
"Oh". He scratched his head and surveyed the ready room. "Bad day at the office?"
Kathryn raised her eyebrows and snapped the padd down onto the desk. Before she could respond he held up his hand. "Wait, I know, you ate one of Neelix's Porranian omelets for lunch and your stomach has been making bizarre noises of protest ever since."
Despite her best intentions to the contrary Kathryn could feel the corner of her mouth twitching. "Would you like a drink?" she asked. "Cup of tea?"
Chakotay grinned and nodded his head once. "Only if you tell me what's bothering you."
"What makes you think something's bothering me?"
"Oh, I don't know." Chakotay settled onto her couch and watched her order the drinks, then carry them over. "Thanks. Maybe", he continued as he took a careful first sip, "it's something to do with what you said to Harry when he told you about the sensor array overload."
"Ah". Kathryn flushed. "That."
She sighed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped like that. But it wasn't the news I really needed to hear right now."
"Maybe you should tell that to Harry."
"Good". He regarded her silently for a few moments. "So?" he prompted.
Kathryn blew out her breath in frustration. "It's nothing serious, really. In fact it's so not serious that it doesn't seem worth mentioning."
"Humour me", Chakotay said.
"Alright." Kathryn drank deeply from her cup then let it rest on the table. "I've just been feeling a little out of sorts lately."
"So you've been out of sorts lately because you've been out of sorts lately. That's kind of circular logic, don't you think?"
"Possibly", she conceded
"Mmm." He regarded her again before saying, "This wouldn't have anything to do with a certain crewmembers' upcoming birthday, would it?"
Kathryn shot him a dirty look but didn't respond.
"I thought so".
"Before you say anything", she offered, "I don't want you to go and organize something with the crew to cheer me up. Please."
Chakotay sighed dramatically and pulled a face at her. "You're no fun."
"I mean it Chakotay", she warned, "don't you dare throw me a surprise birthday party. I don't want the whole crew in on some scheme to make me feel better about aging gracefully. Something", she added, "that I shouldn't be worried about in the first place in this enlightened age."
"Alright", he agreed. "No crew party. But I won't promise to do nothing."
"Thankyou", she said. "I should apologize to Harry straight away, rather than let him stew. Can you call him in for me on your way out?"
"That's not a very subtle way of kicking me out", he remarked, putting down his cup.
"I'm not kicking you out".
"So you want me to stay?"
"No", she said, letting a small smile slip. "But I'd like you to go anyway."
"If you're trying to avoid a little speech from me on the virtues of aging. Wisdom and all that", Chakotay said with a grin as he made his way to the door, "you should know I'll still have plenty of opportunities to corner you later on."
She made a face, then shook her head fondly as he departed. She didn't doubt that the crew would be happy to spend an evening celebrating with their captain. What was her problem? Could she still not, after all this time, let go of some of the distance between her and the crew? What was she so afraid of?
Letting go, a voice said softly from somewhere within her mind. I'm afraid of letting go.
Before she could interrogate the rogue thought any further the doors slid open and a slightly apprehensive Harry Kim stepped through. Just as well, she thought, as she pushed the uncomfortable realization to the back of her mind. If she started down that path, who knew what ghosts and regrets she might begin dredging up?
Peter: I'll teach you.
Wendy: How lovely to fly!
Peter: I'll teach you how to jump on the wind's back and then away we go. Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might be flying about with me, saying funny things to the stars.
"Do you mind if I join you, Commander?"
"Be my guest."
Tom Paris lowered his plate gingerly onto the mess hall table and slid into a seat opposite Chakotay. "You look like a man who's deep in thought", he observed as he began poking his meal with his fork.
Tom sniffed then began scooping up mouthfuls of his dinner. "Anything I can help you with?" he asked, mid-chew.
"I doubt it."
Chakotay eyed the younger man warily. "Alright", he said. "I was thinking that the Captain's birthday is coming up. She's been a little withdrawn lately, so I've been trying to think of something special to do for her. Something out of the ordinary."
As he finished speaking Neelix sidled up to the table. "Excuse me", he said, "but I couldn't help overhearing. I had the Captain's birthday marked on my calendar and I've been thinking about that question myself. How about I organize a party?"
Tom and Chakotay shared an dubious look.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, Neelix", Chakotay said, "but I don't think so. I don't think she's very keen on being the center of the crew's attention right now."
Neelix's face fell slightly. "I could do something small instead," he suggested. "How about an elegant dinner party, just for the senior staff?"
"That sounds-" Chakotay struggled for an appropriate word, "nice", he concluded lamely.
Neelix brightened instantly. "I'll get working on the menu right away", he exclaimed, and bustled off in the direction of the galley.
"You don't look like a man who's fully convinced," Tom remarked.
Chakotay shrugged. "Let's just say Neelix's cooking wasn't quite what I had in mind."
Tom put down his fork. "You know, I think I may just have a solution for you."
"One that doesn't rely so heavily on Neelix's special skills. You don't want to give her a standard present. You don't want to do something fancy with the crew that would make her uncomfortable. That means you're looking for something private and novel."
Chakotay eyed him suspiciously. "Go on."
"I think you should talk to B'Elanna and Harry."
Tom grinned at him. "They've been working on a new holodeck program. I'm sure if it's ready in time they'd be happy for you to take the Captain there for the evening."
"Thanks, Tom, but if I just wanted a holodeck program I could write one myself."
"Not like this one, you couldn't. This is a one of a kind. Completely new. Very special."
"What's it about?"
"I can't tell you that. It's meant to be a secret. Only a few of us know about it yet." At Chakotay's dubious expression he went on hurriedly. "But I'm sure if you explain to them why you want to borrow it, they'd tell you themselves."
"This all sounds very mysterious for a holoprogram."
"It's no ordinary program."
Chakotay sighed. "Yes, you said that."
"Trust me." When Chakotay raised an eyebrow he amended, "This isn't a scam, Commander. I guarantee it."
Chakotay nodded slowly. "Alright, I'll talk to B'Elanna."
Tom picked up his fork again and began attacking his dinner with renewed vigour. "You won't regret it," he declared. He looked askance at the plate. "Considering the alternatives", he added wryly.
Chakotay had to agree with that.
John: I say, can you really fly?
Peter: Look (he flies over their heads).
Wendy: Oh, how sweet.
Peter: I'm sweet, oh I'm sweet.
"It sounds amazing. You're sure it all works?"
B'Elanna laughed lightly. "No. Not completely. It definitely works in theory. We're still working on getting the actual gear together for it."
"What sort of gear?"
"Well, we need a complete set of interfaces for anyone who wants to use the program. At the moment we're setting a minimum of two. If it works, we can always make more. Here's what they look like." She reached behind her and swept a small pile of silvery discs from the top of a console. Chakotay squeezed one between his finger and thumb, and it adhered to the end of his fingertip.
"We've designed them so they'll stick on easily," B'Elanna said.
"So I see", he said, shaking the small disc free of his hand and letting it drop back into the container. "So how far have you come working on these... interfaces?"
B'Elanna put the box down in front of them and crossed her arms. "We've nearly got one complete set up and running. Harry's fine tuning their data transmission speed with the help of the doctor at the moment. If they pass muster we'll try a second set and see how they work in tandem."
Chakotay frowned. "The doctor?"
"All of the other body chips need to be interfaced with the main central chip, this slightly bigger one -" she freed her hands and pointed to the largest disc, which was about a centimeter in diameter "- which goes on your cortex here." B'Elanna tapped the side of his neck to demonstrate. At his blank look she added. "Let me show you what I mean."
She slid a padd off the console and pressed a few buttons, calling up a schematic of the human body. Several points, mostly located on the body's extremities, were marked with blinking lights.
"We already consider holo-technology to be interactive", she began, "And it is, within certain limits. What we need to do for this program is to make it much more responsive to the movements of the individual's body rather than to preprogrammed limits. That's why we've got the tiny nodes attached here, here, here, here and here." B'Elanna pointed to the blinking cursors on the legs, arms and torso. "They send out signals which interact with the holomatrix itself."
"It sounds like some of the early visual reality machines," Chakotay observed.
B'Elanna nodded. "It is in way. We've combined the best of what they could do with the best aspects of holo-projection." She put the padd back down and began waving her arms around to illustrate her description. "Look at it this way. We could have achieved some of the same results by programming the holodeck with different environmental guidelines. Say if you wanted to swim in the Dead Sea on Earth. You could program the holographic water to be so salty that you could float easily on the top of it."
"The difference is", she said, "that in real life, you could go and visit the Dead Sea and float on top of it. If you really wanted to. Most holoprograms only recreate a different place that exists in the real world for you to walk through, or swim through, or dance through. Things people can already do but just with different scenery. You want a gym? The holodeck will give you a gym. You want a garden? It will give you a garden. But you're still you, replete with your own human limitations."
Chakotay nodded. "With you so far".
"Our program will let you float on any ocean you want to, by recalibrating the nodes' sensory output rather than changing the salinity of the water." B'Elanna became increasingly animated as she went on. "What we've done is to make it possible for the individual running the program to counter the effects of the environmental limitations themselves as they're using it, by sending signals through these." She gestured at the box of discs. "We just need to get the speed of those transmissions up so there's no lag time between intention and the created effect. That's our last main problem."
Chakotay had to smile at her enthusiasm. "And that's what Harry's working on now."
"Right", B'Elanna said. "Now, as well as reprogramming the simulation as it's progressing these nodes will feed the aural, visual and tactile sensory information back into the body. The same way the old virtual reality programs used to."
"So by reprogramming the holodeck as you go, you're creating the illusion that your body can do things that in reality it couldn't do?"
B'Elanna pounded him on the arm. "Exactly. You've got it in one."
"Giving you superhuman floating powers?"
"If that's what you want," B'Elanna shrugged. "You could stand upright on the water and walk on it if you wanted. Just recalibrate the sensors on your ankle nodes to send out the right signal."
Chakotay peered at the padd again. "So how do the nodes know which signals to send? I mean, whether you want them to let you walk on water or whatever."
"We'll give them a set of preprogrammed parameters depending on which program you're running. Then they just work similarly to motion sensors. As far as you're concerned, you just move your ankle. The node and the cortical chip will know what to do. You won't really be walking on the water of course, but the holo-environment around you will adapt so quickly that it will look and feel like you are."
Chakotay nodded. "It sounds amazing," he said again. "Will it be ready in time for the Captain's birthday?"
"I don't know. We've been working on it in our spare time so far."
He smiled slyly. "I'll see if I can divert some resources your way."
"I should be thanking you. She's going to love this."
He looked up from the padd to see B'Elanna watching him, an amused expression on her face. "What?"
She shrugged. "I never expected to see you going to so much effort to impress a Starfleet captain."
"Well, from where I'm standing, its you who's making most of the effort. I'm just tagging along."
"I'll remember that."
"I owe you, B'Elanna."
"Don't forget Harry. This was his idea in the first place. I'm just providing the engineering grunt work. Speaking of Harry, we could wander over to the sickbay and see how they're getting on."
"He asked Seven to help as well," B'Elanna continued as they left engineering. "Needless to say she didn't exactly appreciate the point of the program."
Chakotay chuckled. "No. She wouldn't. That's alright. It isn't meant for her."
B'Elanna grinned back at him. "No, it isn't. This one's strictly a non-Borg affair." For some reason the thought seemed to cheer her inordinately, and she chattered about the program's possibilities all the way to sickbay.
John: How do you do it?
Peter: You just think lovely wonderful thoughts and they lift you up in the air.
John: You are so nippy at it; couldn't you do it slowly just once? I've got it now, Wendy.
Peter: I must blow fairy dust on you first. Now try, try from the bed. Just wriggle your shoulders this way, and then let go.
"Where are you taking me?"
"To get your birthday present."
Kathryn frowned up at him. "My present? I thought the dinner was a present."
"That was Neelix's effort. This is something else."
She smiled. "From you?"
Chakotay shook his head. "No. Much as I'd love to claim the credit for it. This was something Harry and B'Elanna put together. They're just letting me take you through it for the night."
"Oh". She was silent for a few moments as they strolled along the corridor. "I thought you looked like you were hiding something up your sleeve all night", she remarked.
"I might have slipped a few of Neelix's volouvants up there."
Kathryn laughed. "They were certainly... interesting, weren't they."
Chakotay chuckled. "From a scientific point of view, I suppose."
They drew to a halt in front of the holodeck. "Ah. A holodeck program," Kathryn said.
"You catch on fast."
"I figured as much when you had me change". Kathryn admitted, gesturing to her clothes. She was clad in a comfortable exercise outfit - a tank top and shorts.
Chakotay grinned at her cheekily. "Don't get me wrong. I would have loved to see you in that dress a little longer. But I thought it might make this a little difficult."
"Ooh", she said, "Now I am intrigued."
"Computer," Chakotay instructed, "Run program Harry Kim Delta one."
"Come on." Chakotay took her hand and led her into the holodeck.
Kathryn stepped forward into a what looked like a warm spring day in the country. Which country, she wasn't sure. Gently sloping hills stretched off into the distance. Lying between them and the hills, a sparkling river wound its way across the countryside. Clusters of trees were scattered across the lush meadows, where cows, horses and sheep grazed, seemingly at will.
"It's beautiful", she murmured.
"It gets better," Chakotay said from where he had stopped just inside the door. He bent down and scooped up a small black container. He pried the top open as he called Kathryn over.
"What do you have there?"
Chakotay held up his free hand. "No more questions. Just trust me. Take your shoes off," he instructed.
"Alright," she said doubtfully, trying to peer into the box.
After they had both slipped off their shoes, Chakotay brushed a few strands of Kathryn's hair away from her neck, and then carefully placed the largest of the silver discs against her skin. He leaned closer, rubbing his fingers over the surface to make sure it was stuck firmly. As he tapped the discs one last time Kathryn tried to ignore the tickling of his breath along her jawbone.
"Are you sure I can't ask any questions?" she murmured.
Chakotay smiled and shook his head. He reached into the box again and selected a pile of smaller discs, then crouched down by her ankle. She peered down at him, perplexed.
"Chakotay? If you don't mind me saying, this is very odd."
"Hold still", he muttered. "I'll be done soon". He fixed two discs to her ankles, one to each foot, one at each knee, and one on her outer thighs.
"Harry thought about building these into a suit of some kind", he remarked as he stood, "But he didn't have time to perfect it in our sizes without a trial run first. So I said these would do."
"You did, did you?"
Chakotay ignored her tone and encircled her wrist with his fingers. Turning her hand over, he affixed a disk to the back of her palm. Then he slid his fingers up her arm, and repeated the procedure just above her elbow and to the right of her shoulder blade.
"There", he announced eventually. "Now I just have to do me."
She smirked. "Don't I get to do that?"
"Nope", he said, smiling. "You don't know the right places. They have to be placed exactly."
"Damn", she muttered. He grinned quickly but didn't reply. Kathryn glanced around the room as Chakotay crouched down beside her and mimicked the procedure on himself. She couldn't help noticing that he seemed to take decidedly less time pressing the discs onto his own skin. Not that she minded. She scratched one of the discs absently as she turned back to watch him work.
"Don't do that, Kathryn", he said without looking up. She stared at the bent top of his head, wondering how he knew what she was doing.
"Now", he said, dropping the empty container by the archway and standing, "we can go."
Kathryn glanced around the room again. "Where are we going?"
Chakotay laughed softly. "Its not so much a question of where really. More like how."
He took her hand again and began leading her across the clearing.
"Chakotay?" she repeated, hurrying her steps to keep up his with larger strides. Against her will she smiled at the feel of the bare grass slapping beneath her feet. "Will you tell me what's going on? I don't think I can stand this much longer."
He merely shook his head and continued to walk.
"I hate surprises", she muttered.
"No you don't".
"No," she admitted, "you're right, I don't, not always."
As they stepped into a clear stretch of grass Chakotay stopped abruptly. Kathryn drew up shortly and bumped into his back.
"Okay. Now we're ready", he announced, letting go of her hand.
"Ready for what?"
Chakotay turned to face her and then took a few steps backwards into the clearing. "I should blow some fairy dust on you", he remarked absently.
Kathryn screwed up her nose. "You what?"
He chuckled. "It's an old children's story. Never mind. Think some lovely wonderful thoughts", he said.
Kathryn opened her mouth to question him further, then stopped, her mouth gaping. As he had spoken his final words, Chakotay raised his arms above his head and closed his eyes. When he lowered his hands to shoulder level he started to rise from the ground. At first only a few centimeters, then a few more, then a few more. Kathryn stared down at his feet which hung above the ground, blinked, and shook her head.
"Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" she said.
Chakotay pushed down again with his hands in one smooth graceful movement and soared upwards. As he lowered his hands fully to his sides he rose completely above Kathryn, and she found herself staring at his bare feet. Then he swept one hand gently to the side and moved obliquely.
"I think the phrase I'm look for", he called down to her, "is wheeeeeeeeee!"
Kathryn felt a huge grin forming on her face at the sight of him gliding so gracefully. After completing a few turns he floated back towards her, bent one knee, and lowered himself so that he was almost touching the ground again.
"Come on Kathryn", he said, holding out a hand as he bobbed in place. "Once you're up here you won't want to come down again. Just push off with your feet". He broke into a smile to mirror her own. "Or to quote a little more, I should say 'just wriggle your shoulders this way, and then let go'."
Kathryn swallowed a gasp at his use of the familiar phrase that had leapt to her mind only days before. "I won't ask you what that means", she said, stretching out her fingers to touch his. Chakotay closed his fingers around hers, then pulled her hand into a tighter grip.
"Hang on", he said, and started to rise. Kathryn bent her head and saw her toes lifting off the grass.
"Oh my gods!" she exclaimed, feeling her stomach start to wobble.
"Don't look down, Kathryn. You'll just get disoriented at first", Chakotay offered. "Look at me instead."
She looked up and saw he was watching her attentively. She stared at him, at his face, for the next few breaths. She studied his features so carefully she didn't notice they were rising higher and higher, until a small bird swooped past them, and she glanced around.
"Oh my gods!"
Chakotay laughed. "You said that already."
"How is this possible? How did they-"
"No questions Kathryn", he said, and let her hand slip from his. "You can be a scientist later, now you're supposed to be Wendy." He began drifting away from her, using his hands in smooth sliding movements to turn his body around.
"I'm who?" she called to his disappearing back.
Chakotay merely laughed. To her dismay Kathryn realised that now she wasn't holding his hand she was sinking down to the ground.
"Chakotay?" she called out as her feet collided with the grass.
"I can't do it. I'm sinking." She bit back unexpected tears of disappointment. Why wasn't it working for her? He was making it look so easy. Chakotay turned lithely to face her, then began moving to close the gap between them.
"I can't do it", she repeated, staring up at him.
"Of course you can."
"Kathryn", he said sternly, still hovering meters in front of her. "You know very well you can do anything that you put your mind to."
"I'm here on the ground, aren't I?" she grumbled.
"That's just the rational scientist in you talking. Put her away for a little while."
"And who says I can do anything?" Kathryn countered. She bit her lip and tried unsuccessfully to make herself rise.
"I do", he said. "And in this program I mean that literally."
He stopped swirling and looked at her more carefully. "Kathryn?" he called.
"I'm trying." She imitated his hand gestures, raising herself up on her tip toes. She fought back tears again as she merely remained standing, waving her arms futilely at her sides.
Chakotay watched her for a few moments. Under other circumstances, the sight of his Captain and friend flapping her arms in a vain attempt to fly might have been amusing. Any temptation he may have felt towards laughter was dashed by the look of obvious distress on her face. He sighed and sank back down to stand in front of her.
"Kathryn," he said, taking both of her hands in his own.
"I said I'm trying", she grouched.
"You can do this."
"Then what am I doing wrong?"
"It might be a matter of practice", he suggested softly. "I've spent a few hours in here already learning how it works."
"Did it take you a few hours to get off the ground?"
"Well, no", he admitted. "I found the take off quite easy."
"See!" she accused. "It's hopeless. I can't do it."
"Yes you can", he insisted.
"Would you stop saying that?"
"I could say the same thing to you." He squeezed her hands encouragingly. "The difference is, Kathryn, I *know* you can do this. You only think you can't."
She looked up at him and managed a small smile. "Thankyou. That's sweet. But I'm still destined to be a land-lubber, apparently."
"You're thinking to much about it", he said. "If you try to analyse what's going on you're not going to be able to stay up. This is about imagination."
"You don't think I have enough imagination?"
"No! I'm telling you that you do. Stop thinking like Kathryn the Captain for now. Just enjoy the sensations. And if you think you can do it, you will do it. You just have to let go and think happy thoughts."
She glanced up at him, caught again by his use of that phrase. "There's those words again," she remarked.
"Which words? Happy thoughts?"
"No. Letting go", she mumbled. "Letting go".
Kathryn closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. Happy thoughts, she told herself. Happy thoughts. Almost unbidden, they began to come. Images, brief and transitory at first, from the past seven years flashed before her eyes. As she tried to focus on them they slowed until she could make out the people in them. Harry's face, tired but satisfied as he turned the bridge over to her after a night shift. B'Elanna coming back to them after her bout of life-threatening depression. Kes lecturing her about the way the crew treated the doctor. Chakotay teaching her how to contact her spirit guide. Gliding through the air in Maestro da Vinci's flying contraption, the feeling of the wind fresh against her skin...
She opened her eyes to find herself staring into Chakotay's beaming face. They were hovering, face to face and still holding each others' hands, a good half a meter off the ground.
"I'm still touching you", she said softly.
He shook his head. "I didn't do anything", he said. And he let her go.
Kathryn pushed downwards with her hands in a slow arc and began to glide upwards. She chortled with astonishment, and thrust again to make sure. She was flying. Chakotay fluttered upwards, matching her movements stroke for stroke.
"I'm flying!" she exclaimed. "I'm flying."
Chakotay threw his head back and laughed. "Of course you are", he said. "That's the whole point of this."
Copying the movements she had seen him perform previously, Kathryn propelled herself from side to side, moving higher and higher. Chakotay watched her practice until he was certain she had the hang of the basics, then drifted in the direction he had been about to go before her fall.
"Come on, birthday girl", he called back over his shoulder. "I'll teach you some tricks."
Kathryn whooped and followed him.
"Tell me who Wendy is", she yelled at his retreating form.
Chakotay grinned. "I'll find the book for you later, if you like," he shouted.
Kathryn kicked her legs as though exercising a butterfly stroke and swooped up beside him. "Tell me the story now", she said, as they flew along side by side.
"There is a rather interesting part", Chakotay said, "about kisses and thimbles".
"Kisses and thimbles?"
"Maybe I should say I'll tell you the story if you give me a thimble."
He laughed. "Never mind. I'll tell you anyway. We can worry about that part later."
So he told her the story, as they flew off into the welcoming distance.
The lines quoted come from The Plays of J.M Barrie (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1928).
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