Disclaimers: This story is mine, but the characters are owned by you-know-who. No copyright infringement intended, inferred, or implied. Blah, blah, blah.

Written: October 30-December 1, 1998

Rating: PG, for a slight 'suggestion'

Summary: Someone sends Kathryn on a scavenger hunt. A holiday story!

Author's Note: This was inspired by a story I recently read. It's levity led me in search of a lighter fare than I have written lately. There might be some inconsistencies with the order of actual Voyager episodes, but this is just for fun, so bear with me. :D (And for the person who helped me in different aspects of this story as well as inspiring me, and you know who you are, I THANK YOU !!)

Cheers to all my Beta Readers! You are ALL awesome! THANKS! <.cofliedio> J

 The Hunt

1998 by Saffron

It was the holiday season, the end of November, on Voyager. Despite the normal blues of being away from family and friends during this time, the general attitude of the crew was pleasant.

Chakotay, in particular, had come up with a special gift for Kathryn. But he needed the help of some of the senior staff and other various crewmembers, so he organized several private meetings with the crew to set his plan in motion.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

For about 3 weeks, Kathryn noticed Chakotay meeting with several crewmembers on many different occasion and sometimes found him staring at her with a bemused look on his face. She resisted asking him what was going on because experience had told her that when Chakotay is up to something, it's better to not to try to wheedle information out of him.... because it never worked. When he looked at her this way, she simply smiled back and returned to whatever she was doing. She hoped her silence and basic indifference made him wonder if she already knew.

--One week later, 2 days before Christmas...

Kathryn sat up in her bed, instantly awake. She had the eerie feeling that someone had been in her quarters. She sat quietly, listening. After about 10 seconds, she relaxed and swung her legs out of bed and on to the floor. She reached her arms up in a stretch and yawned audibly.

She glanced at her reflection in the mirror, admiring her silk lavender 2-piece pajamas. It had cost her 7 days of replicator rations and 7 days of Neelix's coffee substitute, but now, as she smiled at her reflection, she felt it was worth it.

Kathryn stood up and made her way towards the sonic shower. As she passed by her desk, she caught a glimpse of something bright blue in the corner of her eye. She froze and turned her head slowly. A small bright blue box was sitting on her desk, next to the coffee cup she had abandoned the night before. Someone had been in her quarters. She stared at it for a moment, but her curiosity got the best of her.

Kathryn opened the box. Inside she found a handwritten note, and a very potent and familiar scent reached her nose. As she pulled the note out, she noticed a handful of coffee beans in the bottom of the box. Kathryn held the box close to her nose and inhaled. How intoxicating, she thought. She put the box down and started to read the note:

Here it is, your first clue
keep reading
to find out what to do
to begin your journey
to start your quest
seek the root of palatable evil
inquire you must
to find the answers you seek
so off you go,
this is only the beginning
the hunt has just begun

Since the crew of Voyager was not in the habit of writing by hand, Kathryn had no idea whose carefully scribed handwriting it was.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn entered the mess hall with a smile on her face. She stood by the doorway perusing the room, in possible hopes of finding the guilty party. She only had scanned one-fourth of the room when Neelix's exuberant voice invaded her concentration.

"Captain! How lovely to see you!"

Kathryn couldn't help but smile at him. On occasion, it was nice to relate to someone who didn't exactly fit within the parameters of protocol.

"Hello, Neelix. I think you're the person I am looking for."

"Now, you don't sound too sure of that."

Her face warmed with embarrassment, "Well, actually, I'm not. But you have my... next clue...right?"

Neelix leaned in towards the Captain. "I thought you'd never ask. Follow me. I have it behind the counter for safe keeping."

Kathryn followed Neelix to the counter, watched him disappear behind the counter for a moment, and jumped as he suddenly popped up with a PADD and another bright blue box that he held out to her. "Here you go, Captain."

Kathryn stared briefly at the items in her hands and wanted to open the box and read the PADD immediately, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw a few heads turned in her direction. So she gave Neelix a look of appreciation and quickly exited the mess hall.

With only a few moments until her duty shift, Kathryn hurried back to her quarters to examine the new clue.

She opted to open the box first and found a small crystal. Kathryn picked it up and held it in the palm of her hand. There wasn't much light in her quarters but as the crystal rocked gently in her hand, different colors reflected in her eyes, almost hypnotizing her. She closed her fingers around the crystal, turned her attention to the PADD and read it contents:

Now, as you can see
you're at clue number two
think if you will
the destination you're bound
where on the ship
can crystals be found
go there and see
what the next step
in your adventure will be

Kathryn placed the crystal in the box and placed it, along with the PADD, next to her first clue.

She pressed her palms together, held her hands to her lips and took a deep breath. She had her suspicions as to who was behind her new adventure, but had no desire to spoil the fun. It was nice to be the object of such consideration. She found herself smiling as she made her way to the bridge.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn stayed in her ready room most of her shift. Surprisingly relaxed and her mind clear, she was able to get a lot accomplished. And that was in spite of the curiosity that took hold of her minds at various moments during the day.

Finally, her shift over, Kathryn instantly left her ready room. The door opened to the bridge and Chakotay's head quickly turned to look at her, his face showing surprise. This was probably the first time she had ever left as soon as her shift was over. With a shrug of her shoulders, she gave him a wry grin and headed for the turbolift.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Engineering was a flurry of activity. It took Kathryn a few moments to find B'Elanna amidst all the activity. She was on the second level, examining some gel packs. "B'Elanna!"

At the sound of her name, B'Elanna looked down and saw the Captain. She nodded and held up her hand to indicate that she'd be right there.

B'Elanna's face held no expression. "Nice of you to stop by, Captain. What can I do for you?"

Kathryn, after only two clues, had come to hate this part. "Um, I was lead to believe you had my next clue."

B'Elanna smiled at her with a look of bemusement. "Well, it took you long enough to get here." B'Elanna went around the corner and reappeared with a third bright blue box. "Here you are, Captain."

"Thank you, B'Elanna." Kathryn quickly left engineering. She took about five strides before curiosity once again took over. Making sure the corridor was empty, she leaned against the wall and slowly started to open the box.

"Captain?"

Startled, Kathryn accidentally tossed the box in the air. It was caught in a one-handed catch by none other than her first officer.

Kathryn moved as though to smooth out her uniform. "Commander...um, you surprised me."

Chakotay tried not to smile. "I can see that. So what are you up to, Captain? It's not like you to loiter in the hallways, let alone... be so jumpy."

Not looking at him, Kathryn snatched the box out of his hand. "You just startled me is all." She began to walk quickly away from him. "I'll talk to you later."

A grin spread across Chakotay's face as he watched her move quickly down the corridor.

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn put on her silk pajamas and carried the box with her as she sat on her bed. She pulled out the note:

The next place you go
the next person you seek
nothing else but logic can be
it is what will be offered
no matter what happens
the response will be
'Live Long & Prosper'

 Kathryn smiled as she glanced in the box and saw a piece from Kalto. Unbeknownst to him, she had watched him play a couple of times, marveling and admiring his concentration. Kathryn fell asleep very soon after opening the box, strangely calm and thinking of Tuvok and their friendship.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn opened her eyes, unsure of what woke her up. As she closed her eyes again, she heard the door chime. Momentarily irritated, she sighed and sat up.

The doors slid open the reveal Tuvok. Kathryn suddenly grew concerned.

"Tuvok, is there a problem?"

"No, Captain. I was on my way to the bridge and wanted to deliver this on the way." He held a bright blue box out to her.

Kathryn took it, sighed and looked at him with half-open eyes, "And you had to wake me."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "Inconvenient, perhaps. However, it was more time-efficient than waiting for you to come to me.'"

The corner of Kathryn's mouth turned up in a half-smile as she nodded. "I supposed you're right, Tuvok. Thank you."

Tuvok nodded, turned and continued on his way to the bridge.

As soon as her door closed, the computer sound her wake-up call.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Since she had a few extra minutes, Kathryn decided to take a quick bath. She opened the box while she soaked. As soon a she lifted the lid, a sweet fragrance filled her nose. She took out the note, noticed the various colored flower petals in the box and read the poem:

Roses are red
violets are blue
these petals so fragrant
these petals so hued
pale, very much
in comparison to you
seek out and go in search
of where these flowers grow

Kathryn felt her face warm in a blush at the words she read, the writer's affection clearly obvious.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn hesitated before entering the Hydroponics Bay. Curiosity was still a driving force, but she hoped the end was near. She entered the room. It looked empty. She began to wander among the rows of plant, when a soft voice nearly made her jump out of her skin. "Captain. What an unexpected pleasure."

It was Kes.

Kathryn took a deep breath, "Kes. Hi."

Kes frowned at her in concern. "Are you alright, Captain?"

Kathryn took another deep breath. "I'm fine. I was wondering if you had my next clue."

"As a matter of fact, I do. Just a moment." Kathryn watched at Kes walked to the back of the Hydroponics bay, open a chest of some kind and pulled out a small sheet of paper. "Here you are, Captain."

"Thank you, Kes." Kathryn turned to leave, but Kes's soft voice made her pause.

"Don't worry, Captain. This journey will soon end."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn finished reading the note before she reached the turbolift.

Don't you fret
don't even frown
it's almost over
this quest that you are on
go to the place
people'd rather not be
but if you are ill
he's the man to see

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn headed straight for sickbay.

"Computer, activate Emergency Medical Holographic system."

The Doctor appeared on the other side of the room, facing away from her. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

"I'm sorry, Doctor. There really isn't an emergency."

He turned to face her. "Captain. It's you. I have something for you."

Leave it to the Doctor to be quick and to the point. "I was hoping you would."

He reached into a panel and produced a PADD and thrust it toward her. "Here it is. I just wish people would realize that I'm a doctor not a post office."

Amused, Kathryn smiled. "I'm sure they do."

The Doctor crossed his arms and sniffed in condescension. "I suppose."

"Computer, deactivate EMH."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kathryn stood in the middle of her quarters, reading the words on the PADD:

To make this journey complete
the proper attire, a must for you
for a celebration
that has been long overdue
so, slip this on
be on your way
to a place that lets your imagination soar
on any given day...
but especially on this Christmas Eve

NOTE: Activate transport program Scavenger 1

 "Computer, activate program, Scavenger 1." Instantly, she heard the site-to-site transporter activate. She followed the sound to her bedroom and saw a shimming outfit and shoes materialize on her bed.

Kathryn felt a lump form in her throat and tears threatened to fill her eyes. Someone had put a lot of thought and energy to do this for her and she was touched.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Kathryn got to the holodeck, she saw that a program was already running. She pressed the keypad for entry.

Captivated by the sight her eyes beheld, she did not hear the doors close behind her. From the corridors of the ship, Kathryn had stepped into a rustic living room, full of holiday spirit and decorations. The fireplace crackled, the room lit by it's gentle radiance, along with the strategically placed candles, created warm shadows on the walls. Kathryn's eyes rested on the evergreen tree to her left. About a foot taller than she was, it was full of multi-colored lights and almost an excess of ornaments. One ornament caught her eye. It was a replica of Voyager, it's nacelles lit up a soft blue. She moved in for closer inspection and ran her fingers over the ornament.

A pair of eyes watched her from the shadows as she studied the tree and the ornament. She was wearing the navy blue, sleeveless, mock turtleneck, tea-length dress that had been created just for her, her slender legs showing through the knee high slit on the right side.

Kathryn's hand froze on the ornament as she sensed someone watching her. She turned her head to see Chakotay emerging from the shadows. She stared at him in the glow of the firelight, watching the flames dancing in his eyes. He looked like a dream. Kathryn, suddenly nervous, smiled at him. Finally, she was able to make her feet move to walk towards him.

"Chakotay.......how.....?" She gestured to the tree and the fireplace.

Chakotay smiled. "There are a lot of people on this ship who care an awful lot about you. Rations and holodeck time were donated to help make this holiday special for you."

Kathryn sat down in front of the fire. Chakotay kneeled next to her and handed her a little bright blue box. She smiled up at him, warming his heart like no fire could. "Another one?"

"This one is from me." As she reached to take the box from his hand, her fingers touched his and lingered a moment before pulling away. She held the box in her lap but didn't open it quite yet. "Before I open this, I just want to thank you. This has been the most enjoyable Christmas I've had in four years."

Chakotay leaned in so his mouth was right against her ear. "I'm glad." His warm breath sent a shiver down her spine.

Chakotay backed away and sat in front of her with his legs crossed. "Open it."

Kathryn suddenly felt excitement reminiscent of that she felt when she was a child. Chakotay watched as her face registered excitement, curiosity, surprise, and appreciation as she pulled out the contents of the box.

"Oh my..." Her voice was breathless in disbelief. "Chakotay..."

Kathryn held in her hand as wooden hand carving of a wolf. Without asking the question, she knew, just by the expression on his face, that what she held in her hand was a representation of his sprit guide, thereby sharing a very intimate part of himself.

"I brought some wood back with me from New Earth." he said.

Kathryn's head snapped up to look at him. Chakotay looked back at her, his feelings quite visible on his face but especially in his eyes. It was as though he looked into her soul when her looked at her. She kept her eyes on him as she stood and went over to the mantel above the fireplace and put the carving in the center; it glowed in the light of the surrounding candles. As she looked down into the fire, a tear rolled down her cheek.

He got up and stood in front of her, placed one hand on the mantel, on top of hers, and wiped the tear with the other. Kathryn opened her mouth to speak, but found her mouth dry. Instead, she stood on her toes, kissed him on the cheek, and whispered, "Thank you," in his ear.

When she tried to back away, she felt his arm move around her waist, resting his hand on the small of her back. "Kathryn, would you like to dance?" Not trusting her voice, she smiled and just nodded her head.

Chakotay, whose right arm was still around her waist, lightly grasped her right hand in his left, and moved away from the mantel. "Computer, play music program, Chakotay Kappa 1."

Soft chamber music filled the room.

Kathryn followed Chakotay as he moved to the music. His hand on her back created a warmth that emanated out to the tips of her fingers and toes. Suddenly shy, she glanced up at him and couldn't remember seeing him more content and relaxed and realized she felt the same way. As they swayed to the music, Chakotay was surprised when Kathryn snuggled closer to him. When Kathryn wasn't wearing the heels that she normally wore on duty, she was a perfect fit, thought Chakotay.

He rubbed his face lightly in her hair. She smelled wonderful. Kathryn rested her head against his chest and felt his heartbeat quicken. They stayed like that for several minutes, although it seemed longer. Their eyes were closed, each intoxicated by the other.

Lost in his own thoughts, Chakotay was surprised when Kathryn snaked her arm behind his head and roughly brought his lips down to hers. Chakotay's surprise quickly turned to ardor as he felt her tongue pushing through his lips and exploring his mouth.

A sudden thought made him break off the kiss.

She smiled at him, face flushed and questions in her eyes. "What?"

Chakotay smiled down at her, a resonant chuckle sounded in his chest. "Um... were you...," his smile got bigger, "were you just now standing on your tip toes?"

Kathryn blushed, rolled her eyes, and looked away in faux annoyance. "You know, we could fix that problem, but..." she looked around, took his hand and led him to sit with her in front of the fire.

As they settled on soft pillows, she looked at him and raised an eyebrow quizzically at him. "So..." She took his hand in hers. "Why did I have to make the first move?" For the first time that evening, Chakotay's face colored in embarrassment. "I...I didn't want to be presumptuous."

Kathryn smiled at him and changed the subject. "Did you write all those poems?"

"Did you like them?" he asked.

She nodded.

"I'm glad. If you hadn't, I was gonna blame Tom. Those were his idea."

Kathryn looked into his eyes again, her voice soft but deep, "It was a lovely idea."

His closeness caused a flutter in her stomach. She reached up and ran her fingers through his dark, soft hair and down to rest on his shoulders. She kissed him gently and said, "Leave the presumptions to me." He saw passion sparkle in her eyes before they closed as their lips touched.

Fade to black...

FINIS

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