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Blood Fever
By Jankyn



B'Elanna Torres ran her fingertips lightly over the four long, narrow bumps arching across her brow. Two days into the Doctor's genetic resequencing treatment, cranial ridges were beginning to re-emerge. It seemed he would be able to undo the damage done to her by the Vidiian doctor, Sulon, after all.

Not that she was entirely sure she wanted it undone. She'd had only a few hours of peace from the internal struggle that she'd known her entire life. Then, once the Doctor had begun his treatments, she'd felt the first waves of a most familiar tension: B'Elanna versus B'Elanna. Intellectually, it was a simple matter to understand that she was both Klingon and Human; that she in fact needed to be both Klingon and Human. Intellect, however, had a nasty habit of running for cover whenever her emotions were engaged — and nothing engaged her emotions faster than the Klingon aspects of her personality.

Today, the stress was manifesting itself in a growing irritation with everything about her current state: the bright lights of sickbay, dimmed only on a diurnal cycle to mimic the circadian rhythms of Humans, the majority species on Voyager; the Doctor's almost-non-existent bedside manner, and the relentless cheerfulness of the Ocampan physician's assistant, Kes.

B'Elanna tried not to growl, and almost succeeded. The rumble did manage to keep her from hearing the sickbay doors hiss open, admitting Voyager's dynamic captain.

"How's my chief engineer today?" Janeway asked, stepping up to the side of B'Elanna's biobed.

B'Elanna tried to repress her scowl, and succeeded partially. "Oh, I'm going stir crazy, but other than that..."

"Haven't sent any of my medical personnel out an airlock, though, have you?" Janeway smiled.

"I've restrained myself." B'Elanna knew the captain was only teasing, but it was a difficult subject. She might need her Klingon DNA in order to survive, but B'Elanna was convinced that those around her would prefer she lose the Klingon aspects of her personality — including the combative nature that put her at odds with almost everyone she met.

"Yes, I've heard that you've been showing remarkable... restraint." A raised eyebrow accompanied Janeway's comment. "I ran into Kes in the hydroponics bay, and she mentioned that you might appreciate someone to talk to, other than the medical staff."

"Sure. But there's not much to talk about." Without realizing it, B'Elanna reached up and rubbed her fingers across her emerging cranial ridges. "Mostly, I'm just laying here waiting for the treatments to kick in. You'd think at least I could hang out in my quarters, though, instead of lying around in sickbay like some invalid."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Lieutenant, believe me," Janeway said, thinking of how she'd respond under similar circumstances. She knew she was cut from the same cloth as her brilliant engineer — with entirely too active a mind to tolerate an inactive body for long. "But we really need you back at 100% as soon as possible, and I trust that the best way to do that is to follow the Doctor's treatment plan."

"It's just..." B'Elanna hesitated, rubbing her forehead once more. "It's just that the more Klingon I get, the harder it is to stay quiet. I'll be back to... to what I was, Captain." She blinked back tears, then turned her head.

Janeway hesitated for a moment, hoping for some sort of inspiration. None came. Finally, she said, "That's a good thing, B'Elanna. I... we want you back. All of you. Not the half-Klingon engineer, not the half-Human engineer, not even the chief engineer. Just you. B'Elanna Torres." The captain reached out hesitantly, then touched B'Elanna's chin, turning her face so that they were looking at each other directly. "B'Elanna, the only person who isn't happy with you... is you."

B'Elanna swallowed, then started to speak, but Janeway stopped her with a finger gently placed over the younger woman's lips. "B'Elanna, all you have to do is stop fighting yourself. It'll free you to choose when — and whom — you should fight."

Janeway hesitated again, as if she were about to say more, then apparently thought better of it. She turned to leave sickbay, saying over her shoulder, "Get some rest. I'll check on you again tomorrow." And then she was gone, the doors hissing shut behind her, leaving a very contemplative Klingon-Human engineer in her wake.

Part 1

Kathryn Janeway, dressed in workout clothes, waited outside Holodeck 1 for her exercise partner. B'Elanna Torres, usually quite punctual, was three and a half minutes late when she finally came barreling down the corridor, a batleth swinging in each hand. Janeway blanched a bit at the sight of the weaponry, and then steeled herself. She'd agreed to try out her chief engineer's new workout program. She just hadn't thought it would involve bloodshed.

"Sorry I'm late, Captain," B'Elanna huffed. "I got caught up in trying to get your batleth weighted and balanced just right." She handed the blade to Janeway, who was surprised at the heft of it. "It's a bit lighter than the one I use."

"I'm sure it will be just fine," Janeway told her, and swung the batleth in front of her as she'd seen B'Elanna do dozens of times. It felt substantial but not heavy. "So how bad is it going to be in there?" she asked, trying to keep the apprehension out of her voice. "And you did set the safeties, didn't you?"

B'Elanna laughed, and Janeway relaxed even more. "Yes, Captain, the safeties are set. On occasion, I can remember to follow protocols. We'll get a workout, but all the blood will be holographic. And if we fight back-to-back, we shouldn't have any problem." She keyed the panel next to the holodeck's doors. "C'mon, Captain, let's do it."

Janeway followed her engineer into a steamy rainforest, steeled for action. Forty minutes later, sweaty, muddy and breathing hard, she found herself leaning up against a tree trunk next to B'Elanna, the ground around them littered with the detritus of battle. Fortunately, the holodeck program was not terribly realistic, Janeway thought. In a climate like the one in the program, the dead bodies of their opponents would have already set up an incredible stench.

"Well, B'Elanna, that's quite a workout," Janeway allowed.

"Glad you liked it." B'Elanna took a swig from the water bottle she carried in a holder on the belt of her workout clothes, and then passed it to the captain. "I'm thinking about setting up a program based on the novel I just read. It's called Woman Warriors at the River of Blood, and Paris thinks that, since the novel's already in the computer, a program wouldn't be too hard to design."

Janeway looked at B'Elanna, her eyebrow raised inquisitively. "So, are you spending much time with Tom?"

B'Elanna apparently didn't hear the tension in Janeway's voice, and took the question at face value. "Yeah, he and Harry and I have been hanging out a lot. Since I started to explore Klingon culture — and thanks for encouraging that, by the way," she smiled at Janeway, "they've been kinda coming along for the ride." She went on to describe several holodeck adventures with the two young men, including a Klingon coming-of-age ritual battle that had turned into a full-fledge holographic brawl. "You should have seen Neelix swinging a betleH," B'Elanna laughed. "We must have had half of Alpha shift at that little party."

"I think I heard about that one," Janeway smiled. "Isn't that how Megan Delaney broke her arm?"

"Yeah. She wasn't any too happy about that," B'Elanna replied, still chuckling, a deep, growl-like sound that made Janeway's heart race. "Of course, we've had some Bolian adventures, and Paris really has a thing for Terran history, so we do a lot of battles from Earth's past." She smiled at her captain. "But personally, I think both of the guys like the Klingon programs a lot."

"Of course. It's a majestic and fascinating culture." Janeway tried to keep her tone even. "If you don't think it would stifle the camaraderie, I'd like to come along on some of your adventures. Though I certainly don't want to spoil the fun," she added. "I'm so glad that the crew are socializing as a group, outside the Maquis-Starfleet divide."

"Oh, you might say we're all united in the pursuit of relief from boredom," B'Elanna joked. "We haven't had to fight for our lives in a couple of months, you know!"

"For which I am grateful," Janeway replied. "I'd much rather have my crew staging battles on the holodeck than fighting battles from the bridge. Speaking of which, I'd better clean up and get there." She stood up and offered her hand to B'Elanna.

"Well, if you're up for it, Golat has talked Paris into incorporating elements of the Bolian Civil War into an ancient Terran civil war. Something about 'the blue and the gray.' We're trying that one tomorrow night." B'Elanna handed Janeway's batleth to her, and slung her own into a stylized sheath.

"I'll think about it," Janeway allowed.

"You can fight at my back any time." B'Elanna smiled shyly at the older woman.

Janeway returned B'Elanna's smile with one of her own. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."

Part 2

The day had started so well, and B'Elanna was trying to keep her good mood intact as she worked with Vorik to prepare for the away mission to retrieve the galacite they needed from the planet below. The captain had turned the entire project over to her — an expression of faith in her abilities that B'Elanna was not about to risk losing.

She struggled to figure out what the hell Vorik was talking about. He had become even more obtuse than usual lately, and she was having a very hard time following what he was trying to say to her, especially when her mind kept wandering to the morning workout she'd shared with the captain. She smelled so good B'Elanna thought, and immediately regretted it as she felt her own body starting to respond to the memory. She really needed to concentrate; what was it that Vorik was talking about?

B'Elanna was shocked when she realized that Vorik had asked her to marry him, but she managed to keep her cool, even though she longed to let him have it. It did cross her mind to tell him that she was not in the least interested in any of the 73 men on board, but before she could formulate the response, he grabbed her and pressed his hands on both sides of her face.

She felt as if she'd been struck by a lava bomb, one that was spreading from her head down through the rest of her body. Her skin burned, her blood caught fire; with a sudden burst of strength, she broke Vorik's hold on her, then hit him as hard as she could.

Things happened so quickly then — B'Elanna found herself in sickbay, where Kes was running a medical tricorder over her, while the doctor worked to repair Vorik's broken jaw. It was strange how fuzzy her mind seemed to be, while she felt physically wonderful. Full of energy, in fact.

And as curious as she was about Vorik's strange behavior, she was not curious enough to hang around sickbay when the doctor suggested she return to duty. The galacite, she thought, and that thought took on the power of an obsession.

Part 3

"B'Elanna, are you all right?" Janeway's expression of concern darkened her normally light eyes. "The Doctor said there was some sort of altercation with Vorik. I'm on my way down to sickbay now."

"I'm fine, Captain. It was Vorik's deal; the Doctor can explain it." B'Elanna waved her off. It was completely true; in fact, the compact woman hadn't felt this good in months. It almost felt like she was a bit intoxicated—euphoric, aware of the pulsing of her own blood as it was pushed through her body by her six-chambered heart. It was a great day to be going planet-side, especially since the mission called for some exertion. B'Elanna was in such a hurry to get underway that she didn't see Janeway's turning to look after her, obviously surprised at being brushed off.

I wonder what that's about, the Captain thought, as she made her way to sickbay. It was not the last puzzle of the day — ten minutes later, she was leaving sickbay with very little information regarding the incident in Engineering. All the Doctor would tell her was that it was a "confidential medical situation of a cultural nature." She wondered momentarily about asking Tuvok, her Vulcan chief of security, then rejected the idea.

Part 4

"How in the cosmos can a Klingon — excuse me, a half-Klingon — have pon farr?" Kathryn Janeway was beyond puzzled, and growing more worried about her chief engineer by the minute.

Tuvok looked extremely uncomfortable. "Vorik is...inexperienced. It is his first pon farr, and he was not aware that attempting to bond with another species could cause disruptions to her body chemistry."

Janeway and her two highest-ranking officers were in her ready room, at Tuvok's suggestion, to discuss the situation on the planet below. Lt. Paris had called from a tunnel deep beneath the surface to report that Neelix had been injured in a fall and B'Elanna had taken off on her own after exhibiting behavior that could only be described as, well, wild.

"Tuvok, you'll have to give us more details than that, I'm afraid," snapped Janeway. "I have only the most basic knowledge of how pon farr works — just the general culturally sensitive overview they teach at the Academy." She was trying to keep her temper, but the thought of B'Elanna alone in the tunnels beneath the planet, apparently sick with a disease alien to her species — it was enough to drive Janeway to the edge.

"Apparently, Vorik's attempt to bond with Lt. Torres induced chemical changes in her body. The doctor suspects it may have triggered a condition that the Klingons call 'blood fever,' which is very similar to pon farr." The Vulcan almost seemed to be embarrassed

— except, of course, for the fact that embarrassment was an emotion.

Janeway was tired of having to drag information out of her second officer. "First things first," she said. "Tuvok and I will beam down to the planet with a security team. The security team will assist Tom in stabilizing and transporting Neelix to sickbay. You and I" she nodded at her security chief, "will find B'Elanna, and bring her back here so the doctor can treat her. Chakotay, you have the bridge."

With that, she turned and headed for the transporter room at what seemed like warp speed.

Part 5

Janeway began assessing the situation in the cavern as soon as the transporter beam faded. Neelix was lying quietly at the base of the cliff, and Tom Paris knelt over him, tricorder in hand.

"Report," she snapped, a bit sharper than she'd intended.

"Both of Neelix's legs are broken, Captain," Paris replied. "I've given him a hypo for the pain, and now that we have the pattern enhancers working, we'll get him straight to sickbay."

"Good. Ensigns Mulcahey and Baytart can get him back to Voyager. Where's Lt. Torres?" She noticed Tuvok scanning the cavern.

"Well, uh," Tom was a bit flustered.

"Speak up, Mr. Paris."

"She said I could handle Neelix, and that she was going after the galacite. She said she wasn't going to let Neelix's fall screw up the mission." Tom hesitated, then went on. "Captain, she was acting really... I don't know... strange. She kept complaining that it was too hot down here, and, well... I know B'Elanna's a little... prickly... sometimes, but she was really agitated. I've never seen her so irritable." He hesitated again. "Captain, she shoved me hard enough to knock me down." The pilot was obviously worried about his friend.

Tuvok had finished his tricorder scan of the area and returned to stand next to Janeway. "Captain, there is a tunnel which appears to lead toward the galacite deposits."

"Yeah," said Tom. "That one there." He pointed at a wide cleft in the rock. "She grabbed one of the packs and took off down that tunnel."

"All right, then. Let's find her and get her back to the ship before this gets any worse," Janeway said, leading Tuvok and Paris into the tunnel.

As they moved into the darkness, shining wrist lights ahead of them, Tom asked, "Captain, what's wrong with her? You said something about a medical problem."

If there'd been enough light in the tunnel, Janeway would have signaled for Tuvok to find some discreet way to fill in the gaps for Paris. The Vulcan, in the rear of their line, couldn't have seen her anyway, although he'd no doubt heard Paris' question. Frustrated, she looked at Tom. "She's... uh, been exposed to something that's caused a biochemical imbalance. She could be quite ill."

Tom's voice revealed his concern. "So it's a lot more serious than just the Klingon version of a very moody day?"

"Yes. Yes, it's much more serious." And they moved off down the tunnel, in search of the missing engineer.

Part 6

Could this day possible get any worse? thought a very frazzled Kathryn Janeway. Surrounded by the subterranean beings native to the tunnels beneath the planet, she'd turned on her best diplomatic charm, only to have a very sick B'Elanna lash out at the humanoids. An earthquake had separated the captain and B'Elanna from Tuvok and Paris, and now, not only was she out of touch with the ship, she had no idea how to get B'Elanna to the surface, where they'd have a chance of being found.

B'Elanna was growing sicker, her hair damp, shaking with the fever that raged in her. She hadn't been speaking coherently for a while, but babbling in a combination of Federation Standard, Klingonese, and Old Earth Spanish.

"B'Elanna, try to stay calm. We'll get you back to the ship, and the doctor will be able to help you." Janeway tried to sound reassuring, and wished she were more certain of the facts.

"I don't need the doctor," B'Elanna said, the first indication of awareness that she'd given in awhile.

"Yes, B'Elanna, you do." Janeway placed a hand on the engineer's shoulder. "You're very ill, and we need to find a way out of these tunnels so that we can get you to sickbay."

"I'm not sick," B'Elanna growled. "But I'm very tired of wasting time." She grabbed Janeway's arm and turned the smaller woman to face her. "Vorik's crazy. The idea of bonding with him — it's ludicrous."

"I know that, B'Elanna," Janeway said soothingly. "You're not going to mate with Vorik. But when he touched you, he made you very sick. We need to..." The captain stopped, surprised, as she became aware that the engineer was nuzzling her face.

And I'm letting her, Janeway thought. No, this won't do. But as she started to push B'Elanna away, the engineer tightened her grip on the captain, pulled her closer, and bit her on the cheek, hard.

"B'Elanna!" Janeway yelled, pushing her engineer with enough force to — finally — break Torres' hold. "What in the hell are you doing?"

"I've picked up your scent — I've tasted your blood," B'Elanna growled. "You are mine. jIH dok!" The engineer reached for her captain again, pulling Janeway close and covering her mouth in a kiss that sent blood rushing through the small redhead.

Janeway's instincts took over, completely overwhelming her better judgment, as well as her training in Starfleet protocols. She returned the kiss with all the passion she had, all the feeling she had been denying, for the dark-haired beauty that held her. It was all the small woman had ever wanted, to feel such complete and overwhelming love, and yet — on the very edge of abandoning herself completely to the moment, to B'Elanna, Janeway pulled back.

I can't, she thought, as she began to push B'Elanna gently away. I'm the captain... I'm the captain, she's one of my crew, and — Oh, my god, she's sick!

"B'Elanna... B'Elanna, we — you — we have to stop. Stop!" Janeway finally had B'Elanna's attention, though the engineer's eyes appeared glazed and unfocused. "You've got a disease, B'Elanna. You got it from Vorik, this morning..."

The redhead's words were cut off in surprise as her lieutenant began to nuzzle roughly against her neck.

"Don't push me away, Kathryn. I knew it was you. On the holodeck, the way you'd stare at me when you thought I wasn't looking... you can't tell me you don't want me."

Kathryn Janeway had never been much of a liar, and she wasn't really up to it now. She felt the grip she had on B'Elanna's shoulders loosen to an embrace; it was easier just to give in to it.

But the rumble of phasers cutting through rock brought her back to reality.

"Captain, are you all right?" Tuvok's calm voice carried above the sound of the phasers.

Janeway gave B'Elanna a powerful shove and pushed her back against the cavern wall.

"Over here, Tuvok. We're over here. We need to get out of here. B'Elanna needs help."

The woman in question was slumped against the rock, breathing heavily, her damp hair plastered against her scalp. She had begun mumbling again, Klingon words that Janeway couldn't place.

Tuvok and Paris broke through one of the rock-blocked tunnels. As soon as she saw them, Janeway grabbed B'Elanna and pulled the woman alongside her to the surface. The heat radiating from B'Elanna's skin awed Janeway; she knew that B'Elanna's normal body temperature was a bit higher than a full Human's, but the beautiful engineer's fever had raised her temperature far beyond the normal range for a full Klingon.

Janeway found herself supporting B'Elanna as best she could, for the other woman was having difficulty walking. Tuvok tried to assist, but B'Elanna snarled at him so viciously that the Vulcan pulled away, one eyebrow raised in concern.

Perhaps his concern for B'Elanna is what left him unable to respond when Vorik charged out of the brush and attacked him, pushing him roughly away from B'Elanna's side. It was Janeway who covered B'Elanna and faced Vorik, and so it was Janeway he challenged.

"I claim her," he rasped, pale and nearly as feverish as B'Elanna. "She is mine. Release her or die."

Janeway could see Ensign Paris switching his phaser over to stun, but to her surprise, Tuvok was not preparing to disable the distraught crewman.

"Captain," her security officer spoke softly. "The combat will end his fever. All you need to do is let him win. It will break his pon farr."

Let him win. Like that would be a problem, Janeway thought to herself as she prepared to take a fighting stance. I hope I don't end up dead while I'm trying to lose. But before Vorik could attack the captain, a roundhouse from Torres stunned him. Head down, growling and snarling, she swung into him with fists and feet flying. P'tak was one of the few words Janeway recognized, and she suspected it was probably the least offensive.

When the whirlwind that was B'Elanna finally stopped throwing punches, Vorik was lying unconscious on the ground. As she raised her arms and tried to throw back her head to howl in victory, though, the engineer stumbled a bit. Vorik had a grip on her shoulder, and gently lowered her to the ground.

Janeway looked at her security chief. He nodded. "I think we can transport safely now, Captain."

Part 7

Kathryn Janeway couldn't take her eyes off the unconscious body of her chief engineer. B'Elanna lay motionless on the biobed while the Doctor ran scans.

"She'll be all right, Captain," Kes whispered. She moved in front of Janeway with a dermal regenerator in her hand and began to repair the wound on the captain's cheek. "The Doctor will find a way to help her."

But what about me? Janeway thought helplessly. She took one more look at B'Elanna, peering over the Ocampan's shoulder. I don't have a choice, she thought. I have to be the captain. "How's Vorik?" she asked, unable to see clearly what Paris was doing at the biobed on the far side of sickbay.

"Tom's repairing a few cuts and bruises, but he's back to normal," Kes reassured her. "Tuvok was right — the fight seemed to resolve his pon farr."

Well, that's something to be grateful for, I guess. Janeway heard the buzz of the EMH passing through the force field that surrounded B'Elanna's bed and turned to face him. "Well?" she asked. "How long before B'Elanna's all right?"

The hologram's forehead wrinkled with concern. "I'm not sure she will be all right, Captain. This is much more serious than I expected, given that Lt. Torres is only half Klingon. She's in the advanced stages of blood fever, but there are Human complications as well — in addition to elevated levels of her Klingon hormones, she's also got elevated levels of several Human hormones. I'm at a loss as to what to do next."

Janeway was confused. "But I thought the fight with Vorik would break the fever."

Tuvok spoke before the Doctor could. "The physical altercation between Ensign Vorik and Lt. Torres was sufficient to bring his pon farr to an end. While it is not necessary that you know the details, physical combat is an acceptable end to the pon farr process. However," he raised his eyebrow and looked at the Doctor, "unless I am mistaken, Lt. Torres does not suffer from pon farr. She suffers, instead, from Klingon blood fever. While there are similarities between the two conditions - most notably the relationship between the maladies and mating — they are not at all the same."

"Tuvok's right, Captain." The Doctor broke in, anxious to show that he did, in fact, know what was wrong with the engineer. "Klingon blood fever includes combat — usually just a ritual battle — as part of the process by which the fever runs its course, but the fight doesn't end the fever." He noted the captain's confusion.

"Let me explain," he said, as he slipped into EMH lecture mode. "Blood fever evolved among Klingons as a way to ensure the permanence of the bond between mates. Two partners, infected with the fever, taste each other's blood. This triggers a biochemical change in their own blood — they each become biologically incapable of ever mating with another." The EMH keyed in a few codes into the computer and a multi-colored diagram showed the bright purple Klingon blood cells altering their composition.

He went on. "The individual's blood is altered so that they can only respond to the person to whom they have mated — which is why divorce is unheard of among Klingons who've mated during blood fever. While not all Klingon marriages involve blood fever, often partners who plan to marry will have a physician induce the fever. Over the centuries, a series of rituals grew up around the blood fever, and were then incorporated into the Klingon marriage tradition: the original bite, to initiate the ritual courtship, is followed by a fight for dominance. The couple then recites the Oath and consummates the marriage — which involves more biting, usually on the clavicle. These wounds are allowed to scar..."

"Klingon wedding rings," Janeway muttered. "I've heard of it, Doctor."

"Yes. Well, the bottom line is that, since Lt. Torres is suffering from blood fever and has already initiated the mating rituals, we are left with only two choices. Either she mates, or..." the Doctor trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

"Or what? Surely there's an alternative treatment, something you can give her... or a holodeck program, like the one you planned for Vorik?"

"Captain, I hope I'm making this perfectly clear." The Doctor still looked uncomfortable, but determined. "None of the alternative treatments can possibly succeed because Lt. Torres is already more than halfway through the process — she's selected a mate, initiated the bonding ceremony, and won the fight for dominance. The only things left are to take the Oath and consummate the marriage." The Doctor actually succeeded in looking sympathetic this time. "There's nothing I can do for her. If the mating ritual is not completed, the blood fever will kill her."

The silence that followed his pronouncement was heavy. Janeway, shocked, rubbed her cheek — now unmarked, thanks to Kes's handiwork with the dermal regenerator.

Finally, Tuvok spoke. "Perhaps it is for the best. Klingons believe it is better to die than to live without the one to whom they have joined their blood." He hesitated, clearly intrigued. "In this, they are perhaps not so different from Vulcans."

"She's not going to die." Janeway stated it flatly. "She's going to get married." Janeway turned to the Doctor. "What do I do?"

Part 8

"Kathryn, you can't be serious!" Chakotay could barely contain himself. Janeway had stormed onto the bridge, Tuvok right behind her, and motioned for both men to follow her into her ready room. In the few minutes since then, not one thing had made sense to the first officer. The captain couldn't seriously intend to marry her chief engineer!

"Surely there's another solution," he started, only to be interrupted by Tuvok.

"We have already covered this ground with the Doctor, Commander. If Lt. Torres does not resolve her blood fever in a completed mating ritual within the next few hours, she will die." The Vulcan looked — well, if Chakotay didn't know better, he'd think Tuvok looked smug.

Janeway was working furiously at her desk. "All right. I've updated the logs and authorized your command codes, Chakotay. This puts you in charge until I return to active duty." She looked up at him, and softened a little when she saw his dazed expression. "I'm sorry to leave you to finish the negotiations with the Sikari, but there's no alternative — and I know you're up to it. See if you can arrange a little shore leave for the crew. I'm sure they could use it."

She turned to Tuvok. "I've transferred the files on Klingon marriage traditions to the workstation on Holodeck Two. See if you can program a somewhat suitable setting — use Harry if you need help, but I'd like to keep this on a need-to-know basis where the crew is concerned - at least for the time being." She glanced at Chakotay, and then stood. "I'm going to my quarters to freshen up, then I'll be back in sickbay. Tuvok, let me know when the program's ready to go. Chakotay, you have the bridge."

As she started to leave, Chakotay grabbed her arm. Tuvok tensed and moved toward them, but the first officer ignored him. "Kathryn, you can't do this. I know you'll do anything to protect your crew, but this is so far beyond... Kathryn, dammit, you can't marry someone you don't love!"

Janeway pulled away from Chakotay, anger rushing over her face. She opened her mouth to speak, then stopped, stepping back from her first officer. She thought for a moment, then looked into his face. He was flushed, angry — as well as, she saw, frightened and confused.

"Chakotay," she said softly, "you can't stop this, so don't try." He moved to speak, and Janeway raised her hand to stop him. "You've got to believe me, Chakotay, this is the right thing to do. And even if you don't believe me, you're my first officer. It's your job to support my decisions." She turned to go, then looked back over her shoulder at her friend. "This may be unexpected, Chakotay, but trust me — it's not unwelcome."

Chakotay stared at his captain's back as she walked away and the doors whispered shut behind her. Finally, he turned to Tuvok. "Obviously, she's under too much stress. She's not thinking clearly... we have to... "

"No." The Vulcan crossed his arms and looked Chakotay in the eye. "The captain has made a decision that is not only logical, but appropriate for her — and for Lt. Torres. We will support it."

Chakotay's face reddened as he raised his voice. "You can't believe that! I know Vulcans don't marry for love, but Humans do! We can't let her do this..."

"We will support her decision." Tuvok took a step closer to him. "Commander Chakotay, you may be unaware of this... but over the past several months, the nature of the captain's relationship with Lt. Torres has begun to change."

Chakotay looked at him, surprised, and shook his head. "No. No. Just because they've started to get along better, to trust each other more... it's just a good working relationship, nothing more."

"You are mistaken, Commander." Tuvok was brooking no argument. "I have known Captain Janeway for many years. It has been apparent to me for some time that she is attracted to Lt. Torres, but, being Captain Janeway, she would not pursue a relationship with anyone under her command. She would never ignore Starfleet protocols, unless it were a matter of life and death."

He hesitated, wondering if Chakotay were really paying attention. He did seem to be overly emotional about the situation — even taking into account the commander's considerable bent toward emotionalism. "However," Tuvok continued, "the current situation not only allows her to ignore those protocols in order to save the life of a member of her crew, it actually demands it. That it is a crew member she finds ...attractive...is fortuitous."

"Since we've been in the Delta Quadrant," Tuvok went on, "it has been necessary to... adjust... many of our regulations and protocols to meet the reality of our situation." He looked directly at Chakotay, who seemed to finally be getting a grip on his emotions. "We are indeed fortunate that Captain Janeway can be flexible in these matters. It would be a shame to cling to the letter of the protocol and lose the spirit of Starfleet altogether, don't you think?"

Chakotay nodded, slowly. He couldn't believe what was happening; couldn't believe that he was powerless to stop it — and now Tuvok was saying that this was what Kathryn wanted, even if she hadn't acknowledged it. He felt so tired.

"I will take Ensign Kim and report to Holodeck Two," Tuvok said. He sounded far away to Chakotay, but he nodded anyway. He didn't notice when the Vulcan left the ready room, nor did he realize how long he stood there, staring at the stars.

Part 9

Janeway could not believe how nervous she was. She'd been standing in front of her closet in a daze, trying to decide what to wear, when the Doctor had hailed her, urging her to hurry. Apparently, B'Elanna had regained consciousness — and been so violent that the Doctor had been forced to sedate her. After a quick shower, Janeway had decided on a fresh uniform. She was, after all, the captain — and she really didn't think B'Elanna was in any condition to notice what she wore.

Now, she stood in sickbay as the Doctor droned on, trying to pay attention, but her nervousness wouldn't let her. Her eyes kept wandering to the biobed, where B'Elanna lay behind a force field. It was just happening so quickly... suddenly, she realized the Doctor had stopped talking to her, and was talking to someone over the comm link.

"Yes, Tuvok. Go ahead and leave the Holodeck after it's secured. We'll use a site-to-site transport to beam the captain and Lt. Torres directly there." He turned to her, smiling. "Well, it looks like we're all set there. Is there anything you'd like me to go over again, or any questions?" He looked inordinately pleased with himself, she thought. Inordinately.

"Captain," Kes was suddenly at her side. "Perhaps you would like to take a few minutes in private? I know the Doctor wants to put a cortical monitor on Lt. Torres before he wakes her..."

The captain felt herself nodding gratefully as the Ocampan led her gently into the Doctor's office, darkening the windows with a word before leaving Janeway alone. Outside, she could hear the Doctor droning on, apparently to himself, as he located and prepared the cortical monitor for B'Elanna.

She tried to remember how this had happened, but all she could think of was B'Elanna's face. B'Elanna, enraged at the destruction of the Caretaker's array. B'Elanna, trying to hide her surprise at being named chief engineer. B'Elanna, slowly returning to herself after her mutilation at the hands of the Vidiian doctor. B'Elanna, in the tunnels beneath the Sikari planet, pulling her close, licking the wound on her cheek, kissing her like she'd never been kissed before...

And then it was time. The Doctor stood in the doorway, looking at her expectantly. "We're set to go, Captain," he said cheerily. "Whenever you're ready." So she stood and walked out to the biobed where B'Elanna lay, hoping she could remember what she was supposed to say, supposed to do... I'd rather die than disappoint her, Janeway thought. I want her to be happy. As she looked down at the engineer's face, unrestful in her current sedated state, Janeway suddenly knew exactly how it had happened. She had fallen in love and refused to acknowledge it — as had B'Elanna — and now some lucky accident had both threatened it all, and at the same time made it all truly possible.

"Let's do it," she said, as the Doctor placed a hypospray against B'Elanna's neck.

He looked a bit disgruntled. "That's hardly what I'd call a romantic attitude to take towards your wedding," he huffed.

Janeway gathered the slowly waking B'Elanna into her arms. "It is if you're marrying a Klingon," she said, and smiled as sickbay disappeared into transporter's familiar sparkling lights, before reforming into something else entirely.

Part 10

The room Tuvok had programmed for them was cavernous, lit by the flickering of what Janeway estimated were hundreds, if not thousands, of candles. There was a bed larger than she'd ever seen in the center of the room, with a headboard towering over it, Klingon symbols carved into the wood. The linens were all blood red, and in the candlelight, they seemed to shimmer and move as if they were liquid. There was a low table near the bed, loaded with food—platters of meat, fruit and bread — and what appeared to be several large bottles of wine. Blood wine, no doubt, she thought. Though I'd really like a bit of Merlot right about now. Better yet, a whiskey and soda. A very big whiskey and soda.

B'Elanna stirred in her arms, and Kathryn realized just how heavy the young woman was as she tried to lower them both gently to the carpet. Also red, she noticed. I sense a theme.

B'Elanna nuzzled her neck, mumbling against her skin. The Klingon's face was hot, still fevered, and Kathryn put a hand to her forehead, pushing B'Elanna gently away from her neck so that she could hear what the younger woman was saying.

B'Elanna opened her eyes, and Kathryn saw that they were dark, the pupils dilated. She seemed completely unaware of their surroundings, unaware of anything except Kathryn's face, which she took between her trembling hands. She tried to speak, faltered, then tried again. "jIH dok!" she said.

So quickly? Janeway thought. She struggled to remember the Klingon response and panicked as B'Elanna took her firmly by the shoulders and repeated, "jIH dok!" B'Elanna was regaining her strength quickly, her muscles rippling as she ran her hands around Kathryn's back and pulled her close. They were face to face now, separated only by the space of a breath, and Kathryn could see, even in the dim light, that B'Elanna's eyes were brimming with tears. Once more, quieter, hesitantly, B'Elanna spoke the words. "jIH dok!"

And Kathryn found herself answering — the words coming from some place she didn't know existed, a place of memory both older and more raw than she'd been aware she possessed: "maj dok!" And then together: "Tlinghan jIH!" Kathryn smiled, but she had only a second to be proud of herself for remembering the Klingon words, because B'Elanna immediately covered her mouth in a kiss that Kathryn felt reverberating down the length of her body.

Then B'Elanna was pulling away from her, tearing off her tank shirt to reveal the Klingon's muscular torso, her firm breasts. She took Kathryn's face in her hands again, and pulled the captain to her chest. I'm supposed to bite her now, Kathryn thought. Oh, God, I can't do this... But she did, biting down as hard as she could on the upper left side of B'Elanna's chest, right below her collarbone. She heard B'Elanna's hissed intake of breath, released in a moan, and was surprised to taste blood. I guess I can do this, she thought, licking the edges of the wound as B'Elanna had done with the face-bite in the cavern.

B'Elanna pulled her close and kissed her again, and Kathryn lost herself in the kisses, in the heat of B'Elanna's skin, in the sensation of being held in B'Elanna's powerful arms. She felt her tunic being pulled off roughly, heard the pinging noise of her pips scattering as B'Elanna tore her sweater open, and still she held onto the kiss, pressing her lips to B'Elanna's, caressing the inside of B'Elanna's mouth with her tongue.

Then she had to break away to breathe, gasping as she felt B'Elanna's hands on her breasts, B'Elanna's head lowering to her chest. B'Elanna bit her hard, and even though she'd known it was coming, Kathryn cried out at the pain. She held B'Elanna's head, her fingers laced with the Klingon's dark hair, as her mate gently licked the wound clean. "Mine," she whispered. "You are mine," Kathryn's own personal, extremely human addendum to the Klingon Blood Oath.

"Yes," B'Elanna answered, kissing her again, then she lifted Kathryn and carried her to the bed.

Part 11

Captain Janeway was awakened by the familiar chirping of the communications system, followed by the equally familiar, if annoying, voice of her chief medical officer.

"Sickbay to Captain Janeway, please respond."

"Jane... Janeway here," she croaked sleepily.

"Captain, are you all right?" The Doctor went from peevish to concerned. "I can beam into the holodeck if you're injured..."

"No!" Kathryn started to sit up, then realized she was pinned down by the slumbering body of her... new wife. Oh, my God... she thought. But first, the EMH. "I'm — we're fine, Doctor. What do you need?"

"The cortical monitor indicates that Lt. Torres' levels of adrenaline and the other elevated hormones are normalizing, although they have not quite returned to their previous levels. I'm assuming congratulations are in order?"

Kathryn stifled her irritation as best she could. "Thank you, Doctor," she said, certain he'd miss the sarcasm. "Is there something that needs my attention right now, or is this call purely to satisfy your curiosity?" B'Elanna stirred against her, and Kathryn caressed the woman's back and shoulders with her free hand.

"Actually, I just wanted to make sure that you and Lt. Torres stop by sickbay before returning to duty so that I can examine you. Also, Commander Chakotay asked me to relay to you that the negotiations with the Sikari are completed, we have all the galacite we need, and we're starting shore leave for the crew today." She swore she heard the hologram chuckle. "Since we've got everything under control, you two can take as long as you want in the holodeck."

"Thank you, Doctor. Janeway out."

She was grateful that B'Elanna slept on, giving her time to think through all that had happened. Yesterday morning, she'd been resigned to spending the rest of Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant alone, in spite of the burgeoning feelings she'd been having in regards to her chief engineer. This morning, or, more likely, this afternoon, she was married to that same engineer, wrapped up in her brown, muscular body. Things had a funny way of changing quickly on this side of the galaxy. Tuvok was right; their journey home would require the evolution of entirely new sets of protocols. As long as those protocols were in keeping with the principles of Starfleet and the Federation, they'd be fine.

And they'd have a married captain. The thought shook her, and she felt again — for what was undoubtedly the millionth time in the past three years — how very far from home they were. She'd give anything to talk to her mother, to tell Gretchen Janeway how she'd been first surprised, then overwhelmed, by her feelings for B'Elanna Torres. And wouldn't Phoebe get a kick out of a half-Klingon sister-in-law! She'd never hear the end of it... and Kathryn chuckled at the thought of B'Elanna meeting her iconoclastic and irreverent sister.

The arm across her chest — B'Elanna's arm, she thought joyfully — tightened in response to her barely suppressed laughter. She bent her head to watch as B'Elanna's eyes opened, and smiled as they widened in surprise. "Good morning, be'nal." She hoped she'd pronounced the Klingon word for wife correctly; B'Elanna looked a little confused. She slid down the bed, hoping to draw B'Elanna into a kiss, when her mate pushed her away and jumped up, obviously agitated.

"Kahless and all the gods! What have I done?" B'Elanna wailed.

Part 12

Kathryn reached for B'Elanna, only to have her hand shoved roughly away.

"Don't touch me!" B'Elanna grabbed a sheet from the tangled pile on the bed and wrapped it around herself, her hands shaking as she did so. "Oh, gods, what have I done? How can you stand to even look at me?" She slid to the floor, covering her face with her hands, her shoulders shaking as she began to cry.

Kathryn was unnerved. Doesn't she remember what happened? she thought. Desperate not to further upset B'Elanna, Kathryn threw a sheet around herself, brushing her hair from her face, and sat down on the edge of the bed, a short distance from where B'Elanna was crying.

"B'Elanna." No response. "B'Elanna, we have to talk." Still nothing but the ragged sound of crying from the younger woman. "Do you remember what happened yesterday? Any of it?"

After a few minutes that seemed far longer than they were, B'Elanna managed to shudder out, "I remember."

Kathryn was now thoroughly confused — and more than a little frightened. "You remember taking the Oath? And it makes you unhappy?" Oh, God, what have I done? I thought she wanted me...

"It's not that... it's... I forced you. I grabbed you and bit you, in the cave. You didn't choose this. Kahless, you must hate me!" B'Elanna wrapped her arms around her knees and lowered her face into them, unable to face her captain.

"I don't hate you, B'Elanna. That would be as impossible as... well, I don't know, but it would be thoroughly impossible." Kathryn scooted a bit closer to the crying young woman, only to have B'Elanna turn further away. She had no idea what to say, how to make B'Elanna understand that... then it occurred to her, as all her best ideas did, full-formed in an instant. B'Elanna was only half Klingon — even less than that, culturally — but for the last day or so, since the onset of the blood fever, she'd been acting completely Klingon. Think like a Klingon, Katie, Janeway thought.

But Klingons act as they think, and Kathryn was grabbing B'Elanna by the hair and pulling her up before she realized what she was doing. The astonished young woman winced as Kathryn slapped the wound on her chest, a bit harder than she'd meant to, but she had B'Elanna's full attention. Fixing her new mate with a force-ten glare, Kathryn growled, "I chose you. I marked you. Do you dishonor me by suggesting otherwise?"

B'Elanna was gasping, surprised, and, if the truth be told, more than a little aroused at the sight of her captain, who seemed so much smaller out of uniform, growling at her like a Klingon warrior. "N-n-no," B'Elanna stammered, and then Kathryn kissed her, pulling the young woman to her and demanding she return the kiss.

Which she did. In spades.


Captain's Log, Star date 50541.6:

Whatever reservations I might have had about how the crew would accept a married captain have been set to rest — permanently, I hope. Neelix catered a reception — traditional North American Human style, in my honor, and thankfully free of any food served live — and most of the crew made an appearance. Tuvok says there has been an increase in crewmembers requesting joint living quarters, and that this means they are settling in for the journey home. It is a psychological turning point, he says, and rightly points out that the crew morale seems to be much higher than at any time since we entered the Delta Quadrant.

The only long-term worry from our meeting with the Sikari was our discovery of the reason their culture retreated to the caverns. Chakotay found the remains of a Borg drone on the surface. We were unable to ascertain how long it had been there, and so do not know how far the Borg have penetrated in this quadrant. We will maintain our vigilance.

Meanwhile, my wife sleeps in the other room. She is beautiful, and I could watch her for hours.

But I don't know what I'm going to do about the way she snores!

The End

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