DISCLAIMER: All these wonderful people belong to Paramount, more's the pity. Just playing with them. Won't hurt them, they may even enjoy it. No money earned.
NOTES: This is actually the first story I ever wrote, shelved due to being sidetracked by you lot and your challenges. Which I thoroughly enjoyed!
The Away Mission
"Captain!" alerted Harry Kim. "The Anomaly. It's moving away."
"On screen." Kathryn stood and moved down to the viewscreen, arms folded. She looked out at the ribbons of colour and the semblance of faces within the anomaly, and gave a sad smile. She had grown used to the `visitors' and their gentle words.
The intelligence that was the anomaly smiled also - although in truth it was more of a telepathic feeling, conveyed to everyone at once, and they all knew it meant `goodbye'. As the entities departed, they left behind people deeply touched by the experience, people who had looked deep into their souls, and found the beginnings of a way back. to the love within.
Kathryn placed one hand on Tom's shoulder and watched, as normal space and stars gradually returned. Unheard by the Bridge crew, a buzz of excited chatter started up throughout Voyager, as crewmembers swapped stories. The Bridge crew were no less affected, but they kept their peace, although Kathryn could feel them straining to share their experiences. She returned to her seat and decided business came first - she had a pressing matter to attend to. some of her `family' were currently off the ship, and she needed to know they were safe.
"Mr Kim, open a channel to the Q'wari vessel."
"Channel open, Captain."
"Lieutenant, Seven, everything alright there?"
"Uh, yes Captain, we're fine," replied B'Elanna, walking into the area of the viewscreen, dusting off her trousers from where she had been sitting on the floor. "We've made preliminary repairs, and I have a list for required materials and crew."
"Good work, Lieutenant. I want you to secure the ship and come home. You can detail your work parties to return. I don't want to leave that vessel unattended for long."
"Yes, Captain. How's Voyager? Is everyone there OK?"
Kathryn smiled. "Some of us are more than OK. We've had quite an experience. An experience of the mind."
"I know what you mean, Captain. Same here. Give us five minutes to get the equipment together."
Kathryn nodded her agreement. As the screen before her faded, she thought her Lieutenant appeared a little disconcerted. It was not like B'Elanna. She made a mental note to ask the Engineer, privately, if all was well - maybe the voices had uncovered something she needed to talk about.
Kathryn relaxed then, leaning back and crossing her legs. She addressed her staff: "I'm not going to get the best from you until you've let off a little steam here." She started off the tales- swapping by asking Tom if there was anything he wanted to share with them.
Tom swung around in his chair and began chatting earnestly about his father. Soon, they had all aired something of their experiences to her, even Tuvok, which should have surprised her but didn't.
"Did you get anything, Captain?" asked Harry.
His Captain paused and then replied playfully, "Oh, nothing I could tell you boys about - don't I get to have any secrets?" Among the answering smiles, one knowing expression was returned. Chakotay's.
Tom turned to face Kathryn. "Captain?"
"Yes, Mr Paris."
"Would you mind if I went and met B'Elanna as she comes in. I want to tell her about."
Kathryn could feel the excitement in his voice. Tom had thought it impossible to overcome the block between himself and his father, and yet ten minutes with the entities in the anomaly had done it. "Dismissed, helmsman," she beamed, "just as soon as you detail a replacement."
"Did you get it, too?" Tom was looking excitedly at B'Elanna. She nodded in reply, surprised to see him there. Walking towards her, where she stood on the transporter pad, he extended an arm, which wrapped around her shoulders as she and Seven stepped down. "I spoke to my father, B'Elanna - I told him I love him!" Tom continued, excitedly, awaiting her surprise, as he propelled her towards the door. As they went through it, B'Elanna looked back over her shoulder and shot a perplexed look at Seven, and then they were gone.
Seven nodded curtly to the transporter operator and then left. To outside appearances, she was Borg - emotionless and fully in control. Inside she was a total mass of confusion. To have something opened up, so clearly in her heart and mind and so recently, and now to have it ripped away from her, on her return to a place she looked upon as home and safety, was too much for the woman to bear. She made her way to Cargo Bay 2 and pursued the Borg way of `getting drunk to forget' - she regenerated.
Kathryn was daydreaming. She was thinking of her mother. It seemed an extremely long time ago now, since she had last seen Gretchen Janeway, a formidable woman who, had she not been so wrapped up in the joys of bringing up two constantly warring daughters, may well have opted for a similar career herself.
Phoebe had never understood why her big sis wanted to fly all over the Alpha Quadrant in a starship, when there was `real life' to get on with.
`How `bout me now, Phoeb?' she thought, ruefully. Her little sister would probably say, accusingly: `Alpha Quadrant not big enough for you, huh? Had to go get another one!' Kathryn was still smiling at the thought, when she was interrupted.
"There's a ship dropping out of high warp, off the port bow Captain. They're hailing."
"On screen, Mr Kim. " Kathryn got up from her Command Chair and crossed to the viewscreen, waiting. Shortly, it flared into life and revealed an alien remarkably like a humanoid, but taller, with amber eyes sporting vertical black pupils.
"I am Nadra Corthen Khadiss of the Zalora."
Kathryn tried to hide her surprise. She knew from her conversations with the two rescued Q'wari, Jakar and Setara, that Nadra was a title, similar to Captain, and that the Zelora didn't make polite conversation. They were usually too busy taking what wasn't theirs, and bullying their way through the local sector. With a curious expression on her face, and a touch of suspicion, she replied: "Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. Is there something we can do for you, Nadra Khadiss?"
"May I gain audience with you, Captain? May I transport, with my Prime Officer, to your ship?" An unusual request, considering the recent past, it caused Harry to turn and glance at Tuvok in confusion.
"To what purpose, Nadra?" Kathryn questioned carefully. What little she knew about the Zelorans history was enough to make her extremely cautious, and yet something in this alien's near-human face and amber eyes was reaching out to her.
"My purpose? Something I am unaccustomed to, Captain. I want to talk peace." Khadiss looked uncertain of his welcome.
Kathryn frowned, folded her arms, titled her head on one side and studied Khadiss, trying to see through to the truth. "You must understand, Nadra, that your people's recent actions in this sector mean that I will require a security officer present throughout any discussions, and my officers will also be observing your ship whilst you are here." Her chin was raised, her frown was set and her terms were not negotiable.
"I would ask for the same, in your position," Khadiss said sadly.
Kathryn felt a stirring of compassion. She looked around at Chakotay, who nodded his approval. Relaxing her features, she turned back to Khadiss. "We will transmit the co-ordinates of our Conference Room to you. I will receive you and your Prime Officer there in 30 minutes." she waited while his translators had turned minutes into his time.
He nodded, "Acceptable, Captain. And thank you." The viewscreen returned a picture of stars, with the Zeloran ship holding off the port bow.
Kathryn turned again to her First Officer. "I want to talk to Jakar and Setara - learn a little more, and get them in on this meeting, if possible."
"It couldn't hurt. I hope you can convince them to join you, Captain," Kathryn thought she saw a warmth in his eyes that he had long-since hidden, a look that didn't go unnoticed by Tuvok, as she rewarded him with a shy half-smile in return.
The door to their quarters whooshed open and Tom and B'Elanna entered. All the way along the corridor B'Elanna had tried so hard to catch Tom's attention, but he was so excited about the earlier events on the ship. `Everything looks the same,' she thought as she looked around the room, `and yet everything is so different...'
"Oh, B'Elanna, you should have been there. We were all."
Tom turned to face his wife. Full of enthusiasm he placed both hands on her arms and tried so hard to impart his experience to her, "It was just so beautiful."
"Tom. Listen to me." With a small question crossing his excited face, Tom finally stopped his noisy chatter and paid attention. "Come, sit down." She led him to the couch, and sat beside him. He had an expectant expression on his still-excited face as she continued, "Tom, I got it too. We got it - this anomaly."
"Whoa, this could be fun. if I told my father I love him. what," he paused, thinking, "did Seven end up telling the Borg she loved them too?" Laughing, he was pleased with his joke and expected her to be.
"No. She told - me." B'Elanna looked down at her hands, unable to look into her husband's eyes.
Tom's face registered glee, amazed glee. "Seven? I didn't know she could even feel! What did you say?" His eyes glistened with fun, he was sure of the answer.
"The same." She paused, allowing his confusion, "I said the same, Tom."
He was catching flies, his mouth open, not willing to process her words. "You what?"
"Tom, sweetheart," she placed a hand on his forearm and looked him in the eye, "admit it. We've not been working for a long time. I don't even want to address the issues anymore;" Tom started to object, but she continued, "we both know what they are."
Slowly, as though trying to work it all out, Tom said, "You don't love me.?"
"Of course I love you! I'll always love you, you funny little idiot." She touched his cheek lightly with her other hand. "But it's not enough. I'm not in love with you. I wonder if I ever really was."
"But, B'Elanna." he began.
She placed a finger on his lips. "Were you? With me? Honestly now Tom. Were you ever in love with me?"
Tom started to say he was, he had been, but the lie froze on his mouth and never aired.
"It didn't matter," she continued, "until I realised what `in love' was, and now I know it's not enough - what we have."
Tom looked thunderstruck as the truth of her words sank deep into his mind. He sat for a while, in silence, and then he got up and crossed to the kitchen area of their quarters. To the replicator he said, `chocolate cake, double cream'.
B'Elanna smiled, in spite of herself. Trust Tom to look for food to comfort him - his old favourite. He removed his treat and then he said, `pancakes, maple syrup.' She started, looking at him in a very warm and watery way. He gathered forks and crossed the room again, bringing the sweets for the two of them. Her favourite - pancakes. She took the plate. "Oh, sweetheart." The look she gave him was loaded with all the love and affection she had for this man, who had been her partner, lover, tormentor and friend, for all this time.
Silently, side by side on the couch, they both slowly took a mouthful, careful not to look at each other.
"I've always know," Tom said, after his third mouthful.
"I've always known we weren't in love. I thought love alone was enough."
"It was," she said quietly, "until now."
From her station on the Bridge, Kathryn tapped her combadge. "Janeway to the Doctor."
"Here, Captain," replied the Doctor from his office.
"Doctor, are our two guests fit enough to be escorted to my Ready Room? I need to speak with them."
The Doctor glanced beyond his office, into the Sickbay. Setara was sitting sideways on a bio bed and Jakar was standing beside her, holding both of her hands. They were talking earnestly. "They certainly are Captain, in fact I was about to ask you for your orders on what to do with them."
"Thank you, Doctor. Janeway out." Kathryn stood, looked down at Chakotay and said, softly, "You have the Bridge, Commander, and show the Q'wari through to me, when they arrive." He smiled, and nodded.
Within her `retreat' the Captain's replicator was issued with an order to provide her with a dark, steaming cup of coffee. Taking it in appreciation, she stood looking out of the window. Sighing and not really seeing the view she thought, `It looks innocent enough.' and yet she didn't altogether trust the Zelorans request to talk peace. Her mind was in overdrive, mulling over possible plots in which the Zelorans may be trying to use her as an innocent party. but oh (she took another sip of coffee) she so wanted to trust.
The door chime interrupted further thought. Smiling, she moved towards her guests. "Jakar, Setara," she motioned them towards the soft chairs, "have a seat." Looking down at her hands, she chose her words carefully and then looked at her two guests. "The Zelora have made contact with me, with this ship - they say they want to talk peace."
"That is hard to believe, Captain," replied Setara gently. She looked at her partner, who signalled that she should continue. "However, since the anomaly, I have begun to think. that all things are possible; that the only drawback. is in our own minds."
Jakar met her eyes, with love, and then turned to Kathryn. "These talks, Captain. They include us? Yes?"
Kathryn smiled. `Well, that was easy,' she thought. "Of course, I was hoping you would consent to join us. Now, I wonder, would you tell me what you know of the Zelora, and your people's past with them?"
In the next ten minutes, Kathryn had learned that the peaceful Q'wari made many `short' trips to nearby worlds, for trade. Most of their trade ships, like Jakar's, were small vessels, not unlike the Flyer, and made good targets for the occasional raid, although it was usually done under some semblance of genuine trade.
Kathryn amassed many details on the ways of the Zelora, and nothing she heard suggested any kind of reason for their current apparent need to talk peace. She looked at the gentle beings before her. "In a few minutes," she told them, "a Zeloran Nadra and his Prime Officer are beaming to Voyager - you will meet with them?"
Setara studied Jakar's face, reading it. "We will," she said, for both of them. Kathryn looked from one to the other before rising from her seat and leading them towards the door. She wondered if she'd have her diplomatic work cut out, as they made their way to the Conference Room.
By mutual agreement, Tom and B'Elanna had returned to a favourite holodeck programme, one in which they had many times openly expressed their feelings. Tom had entered Chez Sandrine's, and had stopped, turned and held out a hand to his wife. B'Elanna had taken it with a smile.
Seated at their favourite table, they talked about various aspects of their past together: chatting easily, with only good feelings and slight sadness between them. Now, relaxed, with drinks half-drunk before them, Tom looked into his wife's dark, expressive and beautiful eyes. "What are you going to do?" he asked quietly.
"I thought I might go to her. Talk. See what she wants," replied B'Eanna, who then watched her finger tracing around the wineglass in front of her.
"You didn't get that far, on the Q'wari ship?"
"No," she looked back at Tom - tried to feel uncomfortable about discussing her future love with the man she was about to leave, but it just felt comfortable, like talking with an old friend.
"D'you think she'll want to live with you?" His voice was caring, and she smiled at him.
"I certainly hope so. I want to, I don't know if it. Will you be..?" the words dried up and the emotion came in a small tear falling from her eye.
Tom reached out and took her hands in his. "B'Elanna, it's OK. I want you to be happy. I'll be glad for you, I promise, when I get over being sad for myself!" he said with a smile.
"You sure you're alright with it?"
"Look," started Tom. "I don't want someone sharing my life who wants to be somewhere else. That's no compliment to me... staying out of - what? honour? misplaced responsibility? No, B'Elanna, if you would be happier somewhere else, with someone else, then go. I'll do what I can to help you."
"Wow. You're some kinda guy - you know that?"
"You mean, you're in love with me again?"
"No, but you are pretty terrific." B'Elanna returned his smile but, in looking into the eyes of her past, she was thinking about her future.
With Chakotay in charge of the Bridge, Tuvok and the Q'wari sat watching Nadra Corthen Khadiss and his Prime Officer materialise by the door of the Conference Room.
"Nadra?" said Kathryn, standing nearby in readiness. Smiling, she moved towards them, and welcomed them to the table. As all three sat, Kathryn leaned back in her chair, raised her chin slightly and studied Khadiss before she spoke, "I must say I am surprised, Nadra, considering your past actions in this sector." She waved a hand towards Jakar and Setara, "you have these people very tired of your constant."
"I did not come here to re-hash the past, Captain," Khadiss said firmly but kindly. Kathryn's right eyebrow climbed slightly. "Past mistakes are written in stone, they cannot be righted. It only matters how we choose to go forward, from this moment, drawing a line under what has gone before."
"That easily?" said Jakar, in controlled anger. Kathryn was partially amused to see the violet-hued Q'wari deepen greatly in colour: The Doctor had told her to expect it in the Q'wari race when they were experiencing strong emotions - from love through to fear, anger and hate. Setara touched his arm.
"It could be that easy, if we allow it," said Khadiss.
"And why would we trust you now?" asked Setara, in her quiet voice. Kathryn watched patiently, willing to referee if this got out of hand.
"On past merits, you have no reason to trust me," answered Khadiss, "but something happened to me - out there. It became suddenly very clear. To live at variance, having created enemies, is not acceptable to me anymore."
"The anomaly! The anomaly found you, didn't it?" asked Kathryn, "We had a similar experience."
Khadiss nodded, "and it helped me to see how it could be, if I changed things, if I made it happen. I liked what I saw but I argued that it was too late. A voice came into my head and said that the expression, `too late' is a stubbornness born into a mind that is afraid to take the hand of change and be lead to a better place."
Everyone around the table was looking intently at Nadra Khadiss, each one believing the man to be sincere in his hopes - for peace. Kathryn smiled, stood and requested that Tuvok join her as she moved towards the door. Turning to the Q'wari and then the Zelorans she said, politely, "This is where I bow out, and allow you some space to discuss your future." Both sides looked grateful. "I want you to press this," she showed them the communication device set into the wall," and ask for the Bridge, when you have finished your meeting."
With a half-smile at the remaining people around the table, Kathryn left, followed by Tuvok. "I want you back on the Bridge, Tuvok," she ordered. "I'll join you later. Right now, I have something else to attend to." Her fellow officer nodded and departed, and she set off in search of her Chief Engineer.
At his station on the Bridge, Harry Kim was thinking of Carol Steele. He had thought of Carol Steele on and off for some months now, after colliding most inelegantly with her in the Mess Hall one day. She had an appealing smile. She had a fantastic body. And that hair! He was sure, once it was freed from its ties, Carol's dark hair would be long and luscious, and he longed to run his fingers through it.
There had been too many failed relationships, he thought. He was a little tired of how he had become the laughing stock in the love department, among the people who knew him. And so he had stopped short of asking Carol out on a date. But then the anomaly had visited Voyager, and spoken to his heart - coaxed it out of hiding.
Harry found that he was clock-watching to the end of his current shift. When it was done, he would ask the Ship's Computer a very important question. the whereabouts of Carol Steele.
As Kathryn rounded the corridor, she saw Tom and B'Elanna just ending an extra-sweet and touching kiss. She smiled, considering the anomaly had worked its magic again. Nodding to Tom as he passed, she called out to B'Elanna's receding back. "Lieutenant! Do you have a minute?"
B'Elanna slowed and half-turned. "Captain." She acknowledged.
Her Captain fell into step beside her. Glancing at her Chief Engineer, she said, "B'Elanna, I noticed, when you were on the Bridge of the Q'wari ship, you seemed a little."
"Nothing I can't handle, Captain," B'Elanna said firmly. She shot a nervous grin at her Captain, but offered no further dialogue.
"I was just concerned. The voices opened up something for everyone."
"Me too, Captain, but I'm on it. Don't worry - It's OK. Really!"
Chakotay was busy daydreaming on the Bridge. He was hugging his father, having told him all the things that his past stubbornness had disallowed. Absent-mindedly fingering the tattoo on his left forehead, he found himself amazed that he'd changed his opinions so. since the anomaly. With his father still in his mind, he turned to look at the empty chair beside him.
"Ask her, my boy," prompted his father. "What's the worst that can happen?"
"She could say `no', father."
"She could say `yes', Amal. She could say `yes'."
Chakotay sat there considering a life without his Captain's friendship. He was definitely gambling that, he knew.
B'Elanna entered Cargo Bay 2 and made her way to the Borg alcove, containing Seven of Nine, and paused. Leaning against the structure, with one foot up on the platform, she looked into the inert face of the woman who had so recently declared love for her. A love that was readily returned. Their feelings had been a big surprise to both of them, and yet no surprise at all.
"How could I have been so blind?" mused B'Elanna, as she gazed upon the finely chiselled features.
It was only then that B'Elanna realised she had spoken aloud. "Oh God, Seven. I'm sorry. I intended waiting here until you awoke."
"You were observing me?" Seven's eyes fixed upon the Engineer with a mixture of joy and sadness. She stepped down from her alcove.
Warning. Regeneration cycle incomplete
"Lieutenant," Seven began awkwardly, "you and T."
"B'Elanna, not Lieutenant," the Engineer put her hand on Seven's arm, "B'Elanna, Seven," she said, softly.
"Don't," Seven's voice was dangerously quiet. "Please. You are married. When I saw you and Tom."
B'Elanna's head went back in defiance, and in a strong voice she said, "I told him. About us. I told him."
Seven stared uncomprehendingly at her: "What - what did you tell him?" she asked, her voice trembling.
"I told him that it took falling in love with you to know that I wasn't in love with him, and never have been." B'Elanna reached out and placed a hand on Seven's cheek. Seven stared at her for a while and then placed her Borg hand over B'Elanna's. Taking B'Elanna's hand, she turned it over, palm upward and drew it to her mouth, kissing it softly.
B'Elanna's eyes closed, momentarily, and she sighed, "Seven, Tom's OK about it. He knows I want to be with you. He won't stand in our way. If. that's what you want?"
Seven's eyes filled with tears. Slowly a smile took over her face.
"What is it" asked B'Elanna.
"You have acted so quickly. For me."
"I was so upset when I saw you leave the transporter room with Tom; his arm around your shoulder. I thought. I didn't know how important our conversation had been to you - how important I was to you. I suppose I considered, as I watched you walk away, that things would get back to `normal'."
B'Elanna slid her hand around the back of Seven's neck and pulled her close. "This, my darling, is normal now," she whispered, and kissed her. Pulling back, she studied Seven's open face. "Well, I'm homeless, and I need a place to live. with you."
"Well, this is hardly a suitable accommodation for us, you must admit." Seven said, looking around the Cargo Bay. Smiling, she continued, "I regenerate here - of necessity for my well-being. I work in Astrometrics. I spend a little time elsewhere, in passing, on the ship."
"Like Engineering," interjected B'Elanna, "bothering poor Chief Engineers," Seven displayed a different reaction than B'Elanna had expected to her last quip. She took both of the ex-Borg's hands in her own, and looked at her. "Seven?"
"I've never had. a home. before, apart from the one I shared with my parents before we boarded The Raven, for deep space." She stopped, her tears falling.
"Shhh," said B'Elanna. Standing up on Seven's regeneration platform to gain the necessary height, she gathered the sobbing woman's head to her breast and held her, rocking her slightly. "Shhh." Seven bravely allowed the release, unaccustomed as she was to letting anyone see her emotions. But then, this wasn't anyone.
When she was calm once more, Seven pulled away and drew B'Elanna down to join her. As they sat on the platform, side by side together, Seven's arm linked around her love's thigh as she asked, "Where shall we go?"
"I've thought about that. If you agree, there are a certain amount of rooms set aside as Guest Quarters. I've already sorted one out. Will you join me there, tonight, until we can arrange for something permanent?" Seven nodded happily and B'Elanna continued, "We can sort it out with the Captain in the morning. OK?"
"It is OK, B'Elanna." Still sitting, Seven faced B'Elanna, cupping the smaller woman's face in her hands. "Captain Janeway gave me my life when she rescued me from the Borg. And now I know that you have come to help me live it." She brushed one thumb over B'Elanna's lips, "Thank you, my love."
Their next kiss was as gentle and caring as the last. Then, smiling, they stood and left the Cargo Bay, hand in hand, raising a few eyebrows as they walked along the corridor to find the Guest Quarters.
"Jakar to the Captain. Come in, Captain. Are you there? (Is this right? Am I pressing the right button.?) Can you hear me, Captain?"
"Janeway here," answered Kathryn from the Bridge, smiling. "Have you finished your meeting with the Zalora?" she asked of the air around her.
"We have, Captain. Most satisfactory. Will you join us please?"
"I'm on my way. Janeway out." She started to get up.
Chakotay stirred into life. "Captain, there's a matter I want to discuss with you, just before you go."
"Let's hear it, Commander." She waited, expectantly.
"In your Ready Room," he said stiffly, causing Tuvok to give his full attention, with raised brow.
Chakotay stood, and Kathryn followed her First Officer to her Ready Room. Once inside, he asked her to sit by the window, and then sat beside her. Having come this far, he hesitated, unsure of how he should proceed, unwilling to lose what there was between them.
"Commander?" Kathryn looked at him with genuine concern. "Is everything alright?"
He took a deep breath and made a decision. Reaching over, he took hold of one of her hands in the two of his, feeling her stiffen and then relax, and rubbed his thumb over her fingers. For all his strength and courage, he found it difficult to look into his Captain's eyes right now, afraid of the rejection.
On contact, Kathryn had felt a jolt go right the way through her. She drew in a breath, nervously awaiting his next move. But it became all too obvious that she would have to be the one to take it. "Commander, whatever it is. the answer's yes," she said gently.
He looked up, surprised, into her smiling eyes, as she pulled him to his feet. "But right now, I have to go."
"You can take another moment, I'm sure," he said, his courage returned, "for this." he pulled her carefully into the kiss he had waited so long for - she had waited so long for, and she found herself wondering why she had not allowed this to happen much sooner. Then, with a willpower equal to her Captain-abilities, she pulled back, gave an apologetic half-smile, and left.
".and the Zelora have requested. they will continue, Captain, with the necessary repairs to our ship," Jakar finished.
"Well," said Kathryn, looking at Khadiss, "this is a happy conclusion. I'm very pleased, for both of you."
"There are some," added Setara wistfully, "who will need a little convincing. Certainly. But the sincerity of the Zelora is obvious: we have seen this. And it will be seen by all. In time."
Jakar advanced towards the Captain, hand outstretched. "The Doctor showed me this custom. The shaking of the hand. For agreement, friendship, greetings and partings," he said. Smiling broadly, she slipped her hand into his.
"Thank you, Captain," enthused Jakar, as he shook her hand warmly, "for all the help, graciousness and friendship you have shown us. This Federation you come from - truly it must be a splendid organisation." Setara gave a look that told of her agreement with her partner's sentiments and, at that point, Kathryn looked away from Jakar and across at Khadiss, who had the strangest look on his face.
Ending the pleasant contact with the Q'wari, Kathryn crossed to the Zeloran, extending a hand to him, also; he looked at it for a moment, then took it and held it, without moving, just staring at the hand in his, saying nothing.
"Nadra?" prompted Kathryn. He looked up at her then, and the look she had seen earlier was back in his eyes.
"Captain, yesterday. I was existing. Today. I feel as though I have a new start, new possibilities, and a new life ahead of me. I feel excited about facing it. I have to thank you for your part in that."
"Oh, I think we both know - it's the anomaly we should be thanking for all of this," answered Kathryn, "but I agree with you, Nadra, it seems a lot of my crew, myself included, feel we have been given something special. Something that's perhaps been there, as a possibility, all along."
Nadra Corthen Khadiss gave a warm and polite nod to his counterpart and let go of her hand. "You are correct, Captain. And now, if you will excuse me, I will return to my ship."
Kathryn nodded her agreement, "Oh course, Nadra," she moved towards the door, and then turned, looking back at Khadiss. "You know, I've seen something here today that I dream of for all species, everywhere. That they all recognise the benefits of co-existing, peacefully, and work together to achieve that. There are so many beings who move in fear and greed, hurting each other, as you once did."
Khadiss drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly, his eyes still fixed on Kathryn. "You overcame these problems, on your world?"
Kathryn smiled at him, in a semi-sad way. "Our species went through many dark times, Nadra. Times we are not proud of, and did not seem to be learning from. It took a third World War to bring us to our senses, and even then, not immediately. But the peace is holding. We have to be careful we don't become complacent about it."
"I should have liked to have visited your world, had the distance not been so prohibitive."
Kathryn answered, "Maybe one day we will find a way."
"Until then," Khadiss looked away from the Captain and over to the Q'wari, "I shall concentrate on creating peace here." To Jakar he said, "I will dispatch a workteam, to your ship shortly, if that is acceptable."
"Very, yes thank you. Very acceptable." answered Jakar.
Then Khadiss turned once more to the Captain. It was to her that his last smile went as he communicated with his ship. On the command "Transport," he disappeared in a shimmer of bright green light.
Kathryn stared at the space left by Khadiss for a few seconds and then turned to her guests. "Would you care to eat with us, before you return to your ship?" Kathryn asked of them. "We can also give you food to take back with you; it should last until the Zelora have your replicators back on line."
Jakar looked at Setara, who smiled. "We should be honoured, Captain," answered Setara, "and thank you again for all your help and kindness."
B'Elanna stirred, startled by the different surroundings for a moment. Then she looked around at Seven, nuzzled up beside her, and remembered all that had taken place the night before. "Good morning yourself," B'Elanna whispered, as she drew Seven into a lazy kiss, a contrast to the passionate and demanding kisses of the night before.
Seven looked set to repeat their previous performance, but B'Elanna pulled away. "There's something I want to do first, it's important," she said, as she reached over to the bedside table for her combadge. As she tapped it, she noticed the window - the stars were moving; they were under way again. "Torres to the Captain." There was no reply. "You think she's still asleep?"
Seven shrugged, smiling "It is early," she said and then she tried to capture her lover again, for another kiss.
B'Elanna partially dissolved under Seven's sure and easy kiss, but pulled back again, "I want to sort this out first - the quarters. I want to make it official. Computer, locate Captain Janeway."
Captain Janeway is in Commander Chakotay's quarters
"Ha! Well, good for her!" B'Elanna seemed clearly delighted with her Captain's whereabouts.
"She may have gone round this early on bunsiness," defended Seven, unconvincingly.
"I think this should be our little secret, don't you? It seems the anomaly awoke more than us, my darling." Seven and B'Elanna disappeared, giggling, under the sheet, as the stars sped by outside the window.
Kathryn awoke first, laying across Chakotay's chest. She savoured the moment, listening to his breathing. So this was what it was like to feel safe and loved again, she thought, as she watched B'Elanna's stars outside her window.
With all the feeling deep within her, she said `Thank you' to the entities from the anomaly, not expecting anything other than to express her gratitude.
"You see, Kathryn," said a voice in her head, "you have moved beyond fear into trust. Enjoy your life. Enjoy your love, and be happy. It is all we ask."
"I will," she answered, humbly.
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