Chakotay stepped out of the shower, his dark hair plastered to his forehead as water dripped down his flushed face. He kept his eyes screwed shut as he groped about for the towel that he knew he'd left close by.
"Ow! Watch what you're doing!"
"Sorry, Tom," Chakotay apologised with a laugh. He rubbed the water from his eyes, then smiled at the younger man. "I didn't mean to grab you there. I was trying to find the towel."
"Yeah, well, *that's* not the towel rail," Tom replied, swatting Chakotay on the thigh. "And besides, it's been grabbed enough for one day."
"Yeah?" Chakotay questioned as he grasped Tom by the hips. He pulled the pilot's naked body close to his and kissed him thoroughly. Tom groaned as the kiss started to escalate out of control, and he found himself rubbing his groin against Chakotay's damp body.
Reluctantly, he pulled back and gazed into his aroused lover's eyes. "Let's keep this for later, Cha," he suggested. "After we've been to sickbay."
Chakotay sighed, leaning in to kiss Tom's nose. "Okay," he agreed, smiling. "I suppose three times in one hour *is* pushing it a bit."
"Maybe. Maybe not. But let's leave the record-setting until we've figured out what's going on around here."
Chakotay nodded, then passed Tom one of the towels that had fallen to the floor. "Let's dry off then, and go see what's happening in sickbay. Perhaps being there will jog my memory of what happened when the Doctor discharged me."
"And if it doesn't, then we'll just access your medical records," Tom answered, walking out into the bedroom.
Chakotay followed, and they dressed quickly. Five minutes later, they were in the corridor heading towards sickbay. They walked along in silence until Tom suddenly came to a halt. Chakotay turned around as he realised that Tom was no longer beside him, and he frowned at the puzzled expression on Tom's face. "What is it Tom? What's the matter?" he asked, walking back to where the younger man was standing.
Tom's brow creased as the thought that had struck him rolled around inside his head. "I've been thinking, Cha,"
"Well, there's a novelty," Chakotay grinned. He stopped as the comment failed to elicit the expected smile, and he placed his hand on Tom's shoulder. "Is it that serious?" he asked with concern.
"Not serious, just puzzling. I think there's a way of contacting the Captain, but it just seems too easy."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, we're on our way to sickbay to jog your memory and possibly check out your medical records, right?" Tom began. "We can access the computer."
"Yes, we can." Chakotay agreed.
"Then why don't we just use the computer to send a message to Janeway?"
Chakotay snorted in disgust at his own lack of insight. "I should have thought of that ages ago. Some First Officer I am," he said, shaking his head.
"Yeah, well, if you hadn't spent the last few days in a coma, you would have come up with it straight away. You're not quite up to scratch just yet," Tom said smiling as he bent to lightly kiss Chakotay on the cheek.
"Well, let's go see if your idea works. Although, I can't see any reason why it won't. After all, we used the computer to check the duty roster, and the lifts and doors are reacting to our presence. It's only the crew that doesn't seem to know that we're here."
Tom nodded, and Chakotay reached for his hand as they continued their journey to sickbay.
"Well now, Seven, you've helped me review all the relevant data on the men's condition, what do you think? Have I missed anything obvious?"
Seven turned her attention away from the prone forms on the biobeds, and focused on the EMH. "I do not believe your experimental enhancer was the sole contributing factor to their current condition," she replied, gazing steadily at the Doctor.
"But it was obviously partly responsible," the Doctor commented with concern.
"Yes, but the fact that Lieutenant Paris fell into a coma several days after Commander Chakotay would indicate that there must have been another influence."
"I came to the same conclusion," the Doctor agreed. "I *had* thought originally that the Commander's condition was brought about by the rapid spread of the drug throughout his system. But there has to be something else." He began to pace restlessly, as he voiced his thoughts. "What could have happened to cause Lieutenant Paris to succumb to a coma as well? We found nothing in his quarters that could have contributed to it. When the Commander lost consciousness, he'd been engaged in rather strenuous exercise, as had Mr. Paris actually, but only the Commander was affected at the time. When the Lieutenant was found by Commander Tuvok, he was in bed. He'd obviously been resting, so the circumstances surrounding his condition were in complete contrast to those of Commander Chakotay's. So what exactly could the connection be?"
"I do not know, Doctor," Seven admitted. "I require more time to formulate my hypothesis."
"Unfortunately, time is not on our side. I've already outlined the one course of action that I have in mind, and unless we can see anything else in this data, I shall have to go ahead with it shortly."
"I wish to study their brain wave patterns again. There appeared to be a distinct similarity between the readouts."
"Very well, we'll go over them together," the Doctor said, moving towards the computer terminal. Seven joined him as he pointed to the display. "As you can see, you are correct. The patterns *are* very similar, but I have no idea why."
"They would appear to be linked somehow," Seven commented, then stopped as the sickbay door slid open. She looked up, and the Doctor followed her gaze as she stared at the door. When no-one entered, she returned her attention to the display. The Doctor frowned and made a mental note to have the door mechanism checked for faults.
Unnoticed, Chakotay and Tom stood staring at Seven and the EMH.
"I'm getting sick of this," Tom commented, stepping further into the room. A low beeping sound was coming from his left, and he turned to see what it was. The colour drained completely from his already pale face as his gaze became fixed on the sight that was now before him. "Cha," he croaked as his throat suddenly became very dry. "Cha!"
Chakotay quickly walked forwards, slipping his arm around Tom's waist as he too became mesmerised by the unexpected sight in front of them.
"I don't understand," Tom mumbled. "What's going on?" He leaned heavily against Chakotay's sturdy body as his overwhelmed brain tried to make sense of what he was seeing. "You said there wouldn't be any shocks here."
Chakotay rubbed his hand gently over Tom's back as he attempted to soothe him. "I didn't think there would be, Tom. I thought we'd find answers, not more questions," he replied as they looked down at their own still bodies on the beds. Their study was interrupted by Seven's voice as she resumed her conversation with the EMH.
"As I was saying, Doctor, they would appear to be linked. Despite the fact that the patterns are not being generated in the correct part of their brains, they are still comparable to those produced while in a dream state."
"Are you suggesting that they're sharing a dream?" the Doctor asked, attempting to clarify Seven's statement.
"Yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting."
The Doctor shook his head at the unusual idea. "That just isn't possible. And besides, although the patterns *are* very similar, there are still differences. If, as you suggest, they were sharing a dream, then the patterns would be identical."
"On the contrary, Doctor. They would be experiencing the dream from different perspectives. That would account for the variances."
"Well, even if you are correct, that knowledge is unlikely to help in bringing them out of their comas," the Doctor stated. He walked towards his office with Seven following him. "I think I will have to follow through with my plan. I don't like using drugs unless I have to, but there would appear to be no other choice. I shall inform the Captain of my decision."
As the EMH and Seven retreated to the Doctor's office, Tom turned to look at the silent man standing next to him. "Did that make any sense to you?" he asked, frowning.
Chakotay nodded slowly, his face serious. "Yes, Tom, I think it did," he replied.
"Good, then you can explain it to me," Tom said, moving to sit on the edge of an empty bed.
Chakotay went to stand in front of him, taking Tom's hand in his. "It would seem that the reason I can't remember leaving sickbay, is because I never did. I'm still in a coma."
"That doesn't make sense," Tom protested, running his free hand through his hair. "How can you still be in a coma? And why am *I* here?"
"It was that mood enhancer," Chakotay tried to explain. "I believe it did just that - enhanced the mood I was already in when I first arrived at sickbay."
"When you caught me arguing with the Doc?"
"Yes. But before that, I'd spent two hours meditating, so I was in an extremely relaxed state. I think the drug must have relaxed me even more, and that's how I ended up in a coma."
"So what happened to me? And why are we here talking to each other?" Tom asked in confusion. "*Are* we dreaming like Seven thinks?"
Chakotay sighed and sat down next to Tom. "I don't know how, Tom, but it appears that somehow we both managed to attain the state that I'm normally in when I seek my Spirit Guide."
"That still doesn't explain what *I'm* doing here. I don't meditate, or anything."
"Maybe not, but you did spend a lot of time with me here in sickbay. I remember hearing you."
"Yes, I did," Tom agreed, resting his head on Chakotay's shoulder. "I sat and talked to you every free moment I had."
"Then perhaps that's what relaxed you enough for the drug to finally take effect," Chakotay suggested. "It must have stayed in our systems longer than the Doctor expected it to. Once we were both in comas, we somehow became connected and reached this sort of dream state together."
"But the Doc checked me out," Tom argued. "He said I was clear of the drug."
"He was obviously wrong."
Tom sat quietly as he pondered Chakotay's theory, then another question came into his mind. "Do you normally meet with your Spirit Guide on Voyager?"
"You mean on a representation of Voyager? No, I don't. I usually find myself 'outdoors', close to nature," Chakotay answered. "But the surroundings can be influenced by what you're focused on at the time."
"And we were both focused on Voyager and each other," Tom said, nodding to himself. "Is that why we're here together?"
"It's as good a theory as any, Tom. Although, I don't understand why the computer systems respond to us," Chakotay admitted.
"Projected electrical energy, maybe."
"Perhaps. We'll have to investigate that once we're back in the conscious world." As Chakotay finished speaking, the door swished open to admit Janeway.
"Ah, Captain, you got my message," the Doctor greeted her as he emerged from his office.
"Yes, Doctor. Have you done anything yet?"
"I was just about to. Let me get my other hypospray from my desk. I won't be a moment," the EMH replied, then disappeared back into the office.
Janeway wandered over to where her two unconscious officers lay, unaware that she was being observed from another bed.
"How do we get back to the conscious world, Cha?" Tom asked as he watched the Captain.
"I'll have to guide you back, Tom."
"You can do that?" Tom questioned, turning his attention back to his lover.
"Yes, I can. It may take a little while though, because you're not used to this condition. It might be a little disorientating for you. But as long as we take it slowly you'll be okay," Chakotay replied confidently.
"So, it's not dangerous then?"
"No, Tom. As long as you do exactly as I say, you'll be fine," Chakotay assured the younger man.
Tom nodded, and Chakotay pulled him close. Their mouths met in a soft kiss as Chakotay tried to ease the worries from Tom's mind. As the kiss deepened, Tom wrapped his arms tightly around the older man and, with their focus firmly on each other, neither of them noticed the Doctor approach the bed where Tom's unconscious body lay.
"I'm going to try and raise his blood pressure a little, then use this new stimulant that I've developed," the Doctor stated, informing Janeway of his intentions.
"And you think this might wake him?" the Captain asked as she moved closer to Tom's bed.
Chakotay broke away from his lover's lips in alarm as the conversation registered with his brain. "He mustn't do that!" he exclaimed, jumping down from the bed. He raced towards the computer terminal as the Doctor replied to Janeway's question.
"It won't wake him immediately. What I hope to do is lower the activity in one part of his brain and increase it in another. Hopefully, that may lead to his emergence from the coma quicker than if he's left untreated."
Tom looked from the EMH who was standing with his hypospray poised for use, then to Chakotay who had reached the terminal and was busy tapping out a message. "What's wrong, Cha? What are you doing?" Tom asked as he quickly crossed to Chakotay's side.
"It's too fast, Tom," Chakotay replied, worriedly. "He doesn't know what he's doing. I have to stop him."
He finished his message just as the Doctor pressed the first hypospray to the neck of Tom's unconscious body, emptying the contents into his system. As he placed the empty spray on the table, the Doctor turned and noticed that the computer was signalling that there was a message for him. He raised an eyebrow, then picked up the second hypospray. Turning back to his patient, he once again released the contents into Tom's bloodstream.
Behind him, unseen and unheard by either him, Janeway or Seven, who had just emerged from the office, Chakotay stared in horror at what the EMH had done.
"Tom!" Chakotay shouted, rushing to wrap his arms around his lover. Tom's face had contorted in fear, and as Chakotay held him, he began to thrash wildly and scream at the top of his voice.
"Hold on, Tom! Don't be frightened," Chakotay begged. "Listen to me, Tom. Try to calm down."
Tom's eyes were wide with terror as sickbay began to fade from his view, and Chakotay's pleas to him went unheard in his panic. Tears streamed down Chakotay's face as Tom disappeared from his arms, and all he was left with was the echoes of his lover's screams ringing in his ears.
As Chakotay sank crying to the floor, the Doctor finally crossed to the computer terminal and read the message that was waiting for him there.
*Stop now, or you might kill him.*