Disclaimer: You’ve read this before somewhere…admit it…They belong to Paramount, but they were lonely and sad and lost…and then the JetCers found them, and the rest is history…
Rating: I’m sticking with the PG 13 thing…sorry folks!
Summary: A bazaar (this is a pun) shore leave for our favourite command team…no, not Picard and Riker…
Author’s Two Bob’s worth: Written for the alphabet story challenge.
As the transporter beam dispersed, Chakotay stood transfixed by the various sights, sounds and smells of the Kvorki Protectorate’s annual spring fair. The anthropologist in him revelled in the handicraft stalls and the exotic fabrics on offer, as well as the spicy otherworldly aromas carried on the balmy evening breezes. And then there were the usual assortment of colourful entertainers; musicians, jugglers, magicians, and dancers.
He was supposed to be meeting the captain, but was in no hurry to locate her. The planet was pre-warp and this had meant some small amount of prosthetic surgery and a new outfit for all crew lucky enough to be chosen for some planetary downtime. Chakotay had studied his appearance carefully before leaving Voyager’s sickbay. It was very important that he not attract any undue attention.
Standing before a full-length mirror Chakotay tried to tell himself that he was concerned about how the locals would respond to his appearance, and that Captain Janeway’s opinion on the subject was irrelevant. He shook his head at his reflection. Just who did he think he was fooling here? Spirits, you’re a hopeless case. So you don’t care what Kathryn thinks, huh? He took another, longer look in the mirror, just to be sure.
Aside from the long dark hair and a slightly raised nose-line, he looked much the same. The loose pants were crafted from a sturdy homespun fabric and were surprisingly comfortable to move about in. He wore a fitted navy blue vest with gold buttons over an open-necked shirt of sky blue silk. Two stripes of paint down the left side of his face enhanced his golden skin tones, and around his neck hung several strands of beads. A dark cape completed the ensemble. He would fit in well on the planet below. The Doctor had done a great job.
Chakotay moved from stall to stall, exchanging a word or two with the locals and then paused to listen to a troupe of storytellers. They were spinning a beautiful and enticing tale of a young maiden forever cursed to live in a cavern by the ocean’s side, very reminiscent of the legend of the Lady of Shallot.
He smiled and applauded when the story ended and dropped some small hexagonal tokens into a hat that was being passed around. As he withdrew his hand a strange hush crossed the small crowd that had gathered around him. Chakotay noted that one or two of the more elderly audience members made an unusual gesture with their left hands, almost like a sign to ward off evil spirits. Had he given too much money? Or maybe not enough? Then he became aware of the anxious glances being cast over his shoulder.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. It felt as though a shadow had at that moment passed over the face of the planet’s twin suns, although he knew that this was not the case.
A young girl, who had been eyeing him surreptitiously during the entertainment, now dived forward and whispered a hurried warning to him before dashing away to join her family group. Snatching at an arm, her father dragged her hurriedly away to safety. What could it be that had them all so frightened? Chakotay turned slowly, squaring his shoulders, and found himself face to face with an ancient hag of a woman bent over a gnarled walking stick. She fixed her beady eyes on him, her head tilting up at an awkward angle the better to see him with.
"Well, aren’t you going to say hello?" came a familiar voice.
Startled, Chakotay took a couple of steps closer.
"Kathryn - is that you?"
"Who did you think I was? No, on second thoughts, don’t answer that! Come on over here, Chakotay. The locals are beginning to stare."
Taking a hold of his arm with one craggy and gnarled hand she dragged him over to a nearby bench that was shaded by a large elm-like tree. She waited for him to be seated and then fixed him with a baleful glare.
"Wipe that look of horror off of your face would you, Commander? I can only suppose that this get-up was the Doctor’s idea of a joke. Either that or someone’s tweaked his program again. I tell you, Chakotay, when I get back to that ship there’s going to be hell to pay."
Fortunately, the commander was used to keeping a straight face or he would have collapsed by now. As it was, he was having great difficulty in controlling himself. The captain had a point. It couldn’t have been an accident that she had been made up the way she was. Prosthesis was one thing, her outlandish appearance was another, owing more perhaps to the fairytale than the medical. Pity she hadn’t thought to consult a mirror before beaming down. Who, he wondered, had been the transporter operator?
Janeway was the archetypal old crone. Her nose was at least three times its normal length and even had the requisite wart protruding from the end of it. Her chin was long and hairy; her eyes red-rimmed and beady. The eyebrows closely resembled a pair of tribbles and were currently attempting to escape into the large and unruly nest of hair protruding from beneath a battered black felt hat. Chakotay was speechless.
"I warn you Chakotay, I don’t find this even remotely amusing. So you can stop doing that ‘I’m not going to laugh’ thing at me. Talk about pariah. People have been avoiding me all day. I’ve even scared myself once or twice." She stopped and squinted at him menacingly.
"You don’t say?" he responded with a poker face Will Riker would have been proud of.
" I feel like death warmed up. Now shove over, Commander." She gave him a surprisingly hard push and sat down on the bench seat beside him.
"You’re not going to curse me, are you?" He couldn’t help himself, if he didn’t make a wise crack or two he was going to bust. To think he had been so concerned about her finding him attractive!
She groaned and rolled her eyes at him and then, lifting her skirts, she kicked her booted feet out, turning them left and right, trying to restore some circulation.
"I think he’s given me bunions too."
Chakotay shifted away from her, feigning a look of horror.
"For goodness sake, Chakotay…I’m not contagious. And I am not going to put a hex on you. At least not unless you insist on behaving as though I’ve got the plague."
"You know, Captain, there is a funny side to this, if you look hard enough for it."
"Oh, I’m sure there is. You just have to be someone else to spot it. Thank goodness no one has a holo-imager with them. This is one shore leave that isn’t going into my all-time funniest away reports folder."
"Funniest away reports? You’re not serious are you? … Kathryn?" he queried, trying to drag his eyes away from her red and black striped pantyhose. Either they were Angora-based or she had excess leg hair also. Pity, he had liked her legs just fine the way they were.
"Hmm. Well, it’s a little hobby of mine. I collect all the most amusing anecdotes and whatever recordings and images go with them. And when I’m feeling depressed and could use a boost I go through them all. There’s quite a collection, let me tell you."
"Such as the Indian scout who couldn’t start a fire."
"Or the captain who ate too many berries and spent the next duty shift on the can?"
"And let’s not forget the commander who made love to a giant bug who was planning on invading Starfleet Academy."
"Ouch!" Chakotay clasped his hand to his heart. "In that case, I think Voyager may be in for a voracious site-specific computer virus…One that attacks away reports. Don’t forget, I have friends in engineering."
The two officers shared a quiet smile, unconsciously leaning against one another. Chakotay blinked his eyes slowly, and released a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. Reaching over he took her hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"You know, Kathryn, there’s a bright side to this." Holding his hand was doing funny things to her insides. It was making her nose hair tickle too.
"There is?" The only up-side she could see was that the prosthetics were hiding the blush she felt creeping up from her neck to her hair-line.
"Yes," he nodded. "It means the Doc finally found a use for those left-over Halloween masks." Their laughter broke some of the tension that had been building between them.
"Then I should consider myself lucky."
"Oh?" Chakotay flashed a smile at her, all white teeth and dimples.
"Yes, I’m lucky that Neelix used all those pumpkin heads to make pies out of."
This time their laughter was loud enough to draw attention. Chakotay brushed the tears from his eyes with the heel of his hand but couldn’t shake the image of Kathryn Janeway wandering around with a grinning pumpkin for a head. From the corner of his eye, he noticed her observing him with an assessing look on her wrinkled face.
"Kathryn – what is it?" He managed to ask between chuckles.
"I was thinking how good it is to hear you laugh. We haven’t had much to laugh about lately."
She paused a moment and then snapped, "Alright Chakotay, that’s quite enough. I said knock it off, and that’s an order….not a nag."
"I’m sorry. Really…I am. Give me a moment." He took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and cleared his mind. "Actually, I was looking forward to taking a walk around the stalls with you, Captain. But under the circumstances, I’d understand if you were anxious to get back up to Voyager and pay a visit to sickbay."
Captain Janeway shook her head. "No, that won’t be necessary. I’d like to have a proper look around myself and maybe with you by my side the locals will be less likely to run away or close up shop." And, she added to herself silently, you look good enough to eat…
The first stop they made was at a sweet shop. An entire table sparkled with confectionary of differing shapes and colours. Chakotay opened his cloth bag to check on how much money he had left and was surprised when the stallholder dropped a handful of lollies into it and waved him on. His sideways glance at Kathryn said it all but he had to add - "Trick or treat?"
He winced as she kicked him in the shin. "Cut it out, Commander, or I’ll be forced to make a few choice comments about your appearance."
"Me? What’s wrong with the way I look? I was hoping you would…that is, I thought this looked good on me." His hurt expression didn’t give the captain a moment’s remorse.
"You," she whispered, fiercely, "look like an intergalactic Fabio."
"Did you say ‘witch’ or ‘which’, Commander? - Think carefully before answering." Now she was smiling again and he relaxed.
"I meant, who or what is a Fabio?"
"What – you didn’t take Bodice-rippers 101 at the Academy? Fabio was a kind of twentieth century Euro love-God. You know the sort of thing; flashing eyes, bulging pecs, flowing hair…."
Chakotay shrugged. "I’m fine with that. Fabio it is. In fact, Kathryn, you can consider me your own personal Fabio." He crooked her elbow in his and bowed mockingly. "At least until the end of the day."
Janeway executed a theatrical swoon. "I have a hunch I’m going to like this." She noticed Chakotay biting his lip and then groaned aloud. "Did I just say I have a hunch?"
Chakotay nodded, incapable of speech, tears stinging his eyes. They walked on. As they progressed along the length of the market, a crowd began to form behind them. They were an odd couple, the crone and the heart-throb. Even more curious was the warm friendship they so clearly shared.
The tall, dark and dashing stranger had a soft, gentlemanly way about him. His speech was rich and warm, his gestures sure and caring. In utter contrast, her voice was harsh and rasping, her words dry and cutting. She was neither gentle nor subtle in her gestures and was often seen to pinch or kick at her companion. And yet one look at his face was enough to show that he adored her. His eyes followed her every movement, and they sparkled often in delight at her sharp tongue.
Many thought that the old witch had cast a spell upon him or had forced him to consume a potion. The people of the Kvorki Protectorate were in many ways superstitious and loved a tale of passion and intrigue. And they were very intrigued. The women, young and old, longed to free the dark stranger from his servitude. The men feared falling under such a foul spell themselves.
A fruit stand to the left of the path beckoned and Kathryn hurried over to gaze in awe at the carefully arranged display of fresh produce there.
"Oh, Chakotay," she sighed. "Do you think they’re edible?"
"I can’t say for sure without scanning them first. You must be hungry. How long have you been down here?"
"Too long," she replied. She was hungry and thirsty and the ripe swollen fruit looked so inviting. She almost wished she didn’t know what the Doctor’s reaction would be to a case of alien food poisoning. Unfortunately, she had seen his reaction first hand when B’Elanna had indulged in an alien garden salad that had disagreed with her Klingon physiology. To ignore medical protocols was to call down the wrath of the EMH. Chakotay looked on as Kathryn reached out and selected a couple of ripe fruit.
"Nice melons," he whispered softly against her neck, and Kathryn all but dropped them on the spot. A tenuous trickle of desire rippled down her spine and she tried desperately to wish it away.
"I beg your pardon?" Kathryn barked out, and then winced. She had sounded way too harsh. Why couldn’t she just laugh off his innocent flirtations? Because they weren’t innocent, she answered herself. And because you don’t want them to be….
Their audience was amazed. The witch was refusing his advances. How was this possible? What did she want him for, if not for his skills in the bedroom? It was inexplicable. They continued to watch.
Chakotay paid for the melons and, noticing for the first time that they were being observed, he took Kathryn by the arm and dragged her into the deep shade cast by a nearby tree.
"What…What are you doing?"
"Shhh. We have an audience. Play along with me," he whispered, pulling her into his arms and spreading his royal blue cloak around them. Kathryn was so close to him she could barely breathe. Surely he didn’t mean to kiss her, looking the way she did? The thud of her heartbeat was making it hard for her to make out what it was he was saying to her.
"Could you say that again?" She swallowed nervously.
Chakotay tilted her chin up with one piece of fruit and smiled down at her. "I said, there’s a tri-corder in my pocket. I’ll hold your melons for you while you scan them. I’m going to create a diversion."
"Diversion? What diversion?" He smelled like tanned leather and spices. Wonderful. Her head was spinning but she managed to locate the tri-corder and remove it from his pocket without too much fumbling, thank goodness. She flipped it open and uttered a small cry as a she felt a pair of seeringly hot lips begin to glide a wet path down the side of her neck. He paused to nibble at her ear lobe.
"Hurry up and scan would you, oh wise and ancient lady. We’re being watched."
Her hands were shaking so badly she thought she was going to drop the damned thing. "Watch it with the ancient bit, Chakotay. You can stop now, I’ve finished the scan."
"Aren’t you going to put it back?" His voice had dropped and there was a husky quality to it she didn’t recall ever having heard before.
"Put it back?" She hoped she didn’t sound as nervous as she felt.
She looked up to find him smiling at her. "Do me a favour? Forget I said that." Kathryn could see that he was embarrassed. "Here, hold these damn melons, would you?" He looked away.
Kathryn smiled. "You’re embarrassed."
"Do you mind if I ask why?"
Chakotay nodded. "I guess I got carried away with the diversionary tactics. And..." he took a deep breath, "and, I was enjoying myself a little too much."
They locked eyes. "Kiss me, Kathryn."
"I…. I can’t."
The commander closed his eyes, but not before she caught the flicker of pain and disappointment that passed through them.
"Can’t or won’t?" he countered.
"Can’t." She grinned into his startled eyes. "My nose is too long. If I try to kiss you I’ll poke an eye out."
Laughing, he shook his head. He handed her the fruit and pocketed the scanning device himself. Reluctantly she stepped out from under his cape.
"Make no further movement!" A voice boomed at them from close by, shocking the pair into immobility and causing Janeway to drop her melons. She sighed sadly as they popped and burst on impact. Such a waste.
Recovering first, Chakotay took a step forward, frowning. "Who are you? What do you want?"
"We want the witch. Stand aside, good Sir - we have no fight with you."
Chakotay stood very still, and eyed the tall stranger who appeared to be in charge of a small mob of angry Kvorkii. He schooled himself to remain calm. Both he and the captain were wearing their communicators and could be beamed to safety if things got ugly. But that would mean a breech of the Prime Directive and he hoped to avoid that.
"I believe you are mistaken. This kind lady is no witch. Please, we are visitors who mean you no harm. Stand aside and we will be on our way." As he spoke he spread his hands open in a universal gesture to show he was unarmed and wasn’t looking for a fight. His sincerity was apparent. The mob-leader visibly relaxed as he listened to Chakotay speak.
"As I said, it is clear that you are a gentle man and totally harmless." He didn’t notice Chakotay wince at this description, so much for the dangerous Maquis rebel. "But it is also clear to us that the ancient one has some sort of unnatural hold on you."
Janeway rolled her eyes and muttered, "Again with the ancient thing.."
The speaker ignored her and continued. "It is no dishonour to you that this thing has happened. It is because of your obvious attractions that the hag has seen fit to choose you. When we have dealt with her, you will be free to go or to stay, as is your will. There are many here that would welcome you. So stand aside, I say, and let us deal with your companion."
Stepping forward, Captain Janeway made a move to defend herself, but Chakotay held up a hand to stop her. Drawing her to his side, he gave her a reassuring nudge and whispered, "I have an idea…"
The man in charge looked on impatiently as the handsome male carried on a secret conversation with his evil mistress. He was quite possibly beyond rescue, he was so entirely besotted by her.
"Enough! Hand her over or you too will find yourself facing discipline."
At this, Janeway spoke up. "As my companion has said, you are gravely mistaken. It is not he who is under the influence of a magical spell." She paused until she was sure that she had all eyes focused on her. "It is I."
"I am a princess from a far-off land, once famed for my wisdom and beauty." She paused for a moment and then amended the comment. "Or at least, I was moderately more attractive than you see me now, and had a keen interest in science. Er…Against my father’s wishes, it was my habit to stray from the castle in disguise in order to listen to visiting musicians and entertainers." The crowd grew silent as she spoke. Some sat down and began to eat and drink, enjoying the wondrous tale Kathryn Janeway was weaving. Chakotay stood to one side of her, his head bowed as though in shame.
"One fine clear day, not unlike today, I attended a local fete where a great magician was said to be performing miracles. I am naturally a curious person and could not stay away." Chakotay grinned, acknowledging the truth of those words.
"And it was true. There I saw a wondrous magician. He was everything reports had said of him. He could make objects appear from thin air, even turning himself invisible to the eye at will. More than this, he was very handsome. I found I no longer had the will to look away from him. My very breath depended on his presence. His hair so long and dark, his eyes deep obsidian pools, and a smile to melt the heart of any woman, even that of a reasonably attractive princess with a degree in science.
"In short, I stayed back even after the setting of the suns. He had seen through my disguise and knew me to be of noble birth. He put this terrible spell on me, and made of me the hag that you now see. And I am doomed forever to remain at his side and to put up with his strange jests and humours - to provide for his every urge and whim. No matter how debasing." Kathryn ignored Chakotay’s raised eyebrow.
While she spoke Chakotay had been carrying on a covert communication with Voyager and left an open comm link so that they could monitor Kathryn’s speech. What Tuvok was making of it was anyone’s guess. Now he stepped forward, and knelt down dramatically at Kathryn’s feet, his cape draped across one shoulder. He wished he had a sword at his side, it would have looked very dashing.
"Can you forgive me, My Lady? If it makes any difference at all, you should know that I love you. If I cursed you, it was only because I couldn’t stand the thought of you belonging to any other man but me. Even changed as you are now," he looked up into her eyes and took her hands in his, "even now, your beauty has the power to take my breath away. I love you, Kathryn. Believe me."
There was a unanimous sigh from the people gathered on the grass around them. Kathryn felt her eyes flood with unshed tears. He was speaking from the heart. No one who was there to hear him could doubt his words. Not even those aboard the starship Voyager.
"Then remove this spell, Chakotay. I want to be Kathryn again."
He nodded and lifted off his cloak until it covered her from head to toe. "Now." There was a blue sparkling glow from behind the cloak and when he drew it away the audience gasped in amazement. For there stood Kathryn Janeway, clad in a flowing gown of purest white silk, her hair piled high on her head but cascading down in places to soften her already delicate features. A small diamond tiara rested atop her elegantly poised head.
"Get up, Chakotay…. I mean…er…arise fair knight."
The crowd looked on in utter silence. It seemed that even the leaves on the trees had ceased to rustle.
Chakotay rose to stand at her side. He did his best to appear contrite, but Kathryn saw past the performance.
"Now that you are free, I suppose you will leave me and return to your kingdom?" Kathryn knew that there was more to his words than face value. Chakotay was a master of sub-text and he had just told her that he loved her. Would she now return to Voyager, put her uniform back on and banish him to the dark realms of First Officer Shields at Thirty Percent?
She shook her head. "No, Chakotay. You never once thought to tell me how you feel, did you? Except when you spoke in riddles about ancient legends, that is. What I wanted was to hear the words. I love you too, Chakotay. And if you had told me, then there would have been no need for this elaborate deception. From the moment I saw you, I have always known we were destined to be together."
Many a gentle tear was shed, a quiet sigh uttered, and a soft cheese and cracker consumed. Even those aboard the mighty starship Voyager had stopped working in order to listen to the drama as it unfolded.
"And will you kiss me now, Kathryn?"
"Just try me, Good Sir."
Thus saying, Princess Kathryn stepped into the welcoming arms of the great wizard Chakotay. As their lips met they were enveloped in a shining blue light of love and both vanished away to live happily ever after.
Which left the Kvorkii to puzzle over her parting comment, "Is that really a tri-corder in your pocket, Chakotay?"
THE END.Back to Di's Fic Index