DISCLAIMER: These characters are not mine, they belong to Paramount/Viacom. No
money earned, which is a shame, since I'm broke!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My gift to all you lovely vjb'ers out there, especially the bossy one with the big eyes... *grin*. Thanks to Steff for her beta work. Nitpick: How the hell does anybody think they're going to walk in glass slippers? I mean, bend your foot and they break, don't they? Mine did. I suppose it's the magic of pantoland.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Once upon a future, far, far away, in an artificial gravity town called Voyager, there lived a beautiful dark-haired maiden called Cinderbella.
Cinderbella had lost her mother many years earlier and her father had since married again. Her stepmother, Kathryn, was the lady Mayoress of Voyager, and practically ran the entire town and so was never much at home. But Kathryn's two daughters, Chakeeta and Neelixa, spent their days lazing about the grand house. Cinderbella's stepsisters were very jealous of their new sister, who possessed a beauty and elegance they could never have, even though she had inherited her mother's strangely sculptured forehead, although, if anything, the forehead added to her beauty.
The sisters were extremely challenged in the looks department: Chakeeta was large and wide-shouldered, with a strange birthmark covering half of her forehead, and Neelixa had suffered a childhood ailment that left her with spots all over her body, and facial hair sprouting from her jawbone. They made an amusing pair, with Chakeeta being the tall, large, dark-haired one while her sister was much shorter, with what little blonde hair the ailment had left her, and a rather rotund little body.
In no time at all, Kathryn and her daughters were making poor Cinderbella's life a misery; making her wear rags, calling upon her to wait on them hand and foot and banishing her to live in the kitchen, where she even had her bed. She would spend her quieter moments staring into the flames of the kitchen fire, asking of the cinders (after which she had been named), "Is this how my life will remain? Will I ever find my true self... the person I know I can be?"
Cinderbella missed the kindness of her father, who worked away from home for months at a time. Within the household she had only one true friend; the kitchen boy who had gained the nickname Buttons, due to the enormous buttons he wore on his outfit. His real name was Harry although Cinders sometimes called him Starfleet, a name she had made up. Buttons had heard the thoughts that Cinderbella had just spoken out loud and was concerned for her. "What's the matter, Cinders?" he asked gently.
She tried to brush his question aside, but he persisted. "Oh I don't know, Buttons, I guess it's nothing really. I just know I can do more in life than wait on this ungrateful family hand and foot. A few years ago, you know, I used to think I'd make a pretty good engineer."
"Yeah. Why not?"
Buttons was obviously surprised. "It's just that I can't see... Well, it's hardly a job for a woman, is it?"
"And why not?" she asked with a grin, sparking a gentle row that continued, on and off, for the rest of the day.
One day, Buttons came into the kitchen with a small card on a silver tray. He went straight to Cinderbella, who was tending the fire on her knees, and bowed deeply to her, offering her the tray's contents. "For you, my lady," he said with a grin.
"Stop kidding around, Buttons." Cinderbella smiled up at him, but he continued to hold out the tray until she eventually sighed and took the card. "What this?"
"It's an invitation for you, from the prince."
"Seems he's holding a ball tonight; over the next two nights in fact, and he's looking for a princess. He wants all the unattached women in the land to attend, and that includes you."
She checked his face for signs of play-acting but he was serious. "Someone's screwed up, Starfleet. This can't be for me."
"Your name's on it," Buttons persisted. "And I can't see the palace getting it wrong."
"Yeah, but look at me! All dressed in rags and my hair's a mess. No prince in his right mind's ever gonna look at me," she said sadly. Cinders looked down at the card, where a single tear had fallen, and she tore it slowly in half. "There must be some mistake," she said quietly, putting it in the fire.
But the poor child would not even be allowed her unhappiness in peace. The kitchen bell began to ring furiously to summons her to her stepmother's room.
"What DO you think I ought to wear?" Chakeeta was asking excitedly when Cinders entered the giant bedroom. All three women were there, with clothes strewn all over the large four-poster bed. There were fine expensive dresses, with shawls and feather boas.
"Wear this one, dear sister," squeaked Neelixa, somewhat reminiscent of Piglet, from Winnie The Pooh. Picking out the plainest dress, she held it up against her sister's ungainly body.
"Now, children," warned their mother, "play nicely. Neelixa, my treasure, you know that dress won't get the attention of the prince. What about this one?" she asked Chakeeta, selecting an emerald green taffeta creation.
"Ooh, do you think it goes with my eyes?" asked Chakeeta, whom the others often called Chuckles, due to the dimples that appeared on her cheeks when she smiled. She held the dress up against her.
"I think it's perfect, Chuckles dear," replied Kathryn, standing back to admire her daughter. "Just perfect. The poor man will have a hard time ignoring you in that."
Noticing Cinderbella standing in the room, Neelixa took hold of her hand and led her to the dressing table. "Come on, Cins, you can do my hair first. We all need something a little... well, a little special as it happens, for tonight. It's so exciting, Cinders, dear. Mother's presenting us to the prince!"
"All of us?" asked Cinders, hopefully.
"I don't think it would be wise to present you to the prince," said Chuckles, teasing out her curls. "No, you're staying right here tonight."
"And that's an order," added her stepmother, firmly.
The young girl sighed and, for the next three hours, she worked near- miracles, setting three heads of hair into wonderful styles (well, two and a half if you considered Neelixa) and dressing the three women in beautiful finery.
When they were all ready and about to leave, Cinderbella tried one last time. "Stepmother, please; we're about the same size, you and I. Couldn't you lend me a dress, just for tonight? I'd really love to go with you."
"You?" laughed Kathryn. "Didn't you hear your sister and me earlier? When we hinted heavily that you and that ball were not going to become acquainted? Now, get back to the kitchen, girl, and wait for our return. We'll need your help again later."
"Yes ma'am," answered poor Cinderbella, who could only watch as the three women climbed into a coach and set off for the palace.
Cinderbella had sat dreaming among the cinders for quite a while. She could only wonder at the time the others were having as she said aloud to the empty room, "I wish I could have gone to the ball."
Suddenly, a bright light appeared in a corner of the kitchen and Cinders half closed her eyes against it, placing a dainty hand across them. A vague humanoid shape was taking place. "What the hell - who are you?" she asked, now looking at a largish gentleman with a beard, holding a wand in his hand.
"I am Kahless, child," he boomed. "Your fairy godfather." Cinders stifled a laugh. "You made a wish, and I've come to see that it's carried out."
"You're a little late on the answering-wishes-thing, fairy godfa...FG. Where were you when I...?"
"Do you wish to argue about the past or concentrate on the future, B'Elanna?" Kahless asked her impatiently. There followed a silence; no one had called her by her real name for a long time. "That's better," he said. "Now... about this ball?"
"Look, I want this too much to kid around here, OK? Now, if you have to stay, whoever you are, just stand over there and be quiet."
"You would do well to believe in me, child," boomed the unhappy Kahless, "and show me some respect." Without giving her chance to interrupt him, he ordered, "Bring me that large leola root, from the table."
Cinderbella stared at the man. "You know, FG, a please wouldn't go amiss."
"Please!" exploded Kahless, muttering, "Really, you are the most difficult person I have ever had to do magic for. Remind me never to..."
"Here," she said, pushing the root into his chest.
He grabbed it and then curled an index finger in her direction, beckoning her to follow him outside as he went through the kitchen door and out into the courtyard beyond.
"What do you want that for?" she asked as she watched him place the vegetable on the ground. He said nothing as he reached out and tapped it lightly with his wand. Immediately there was a great flash of light, and when the light dissipated, there stood before them a gleaming white and silver coach.
"Hey, FG! Way to go. Wow, it's beautiful," cried Cinders as she followed the big man back into the kitchen.
"Now, child. I require six mice."
She narrowed her eyes. "Have you seen how clean I keep this kitchen? Like I'm going to find six mice in all this clean...." He continued to wait. "C'mon, help me out here?"
Following another flash of light, there appeared a strange box set into the kitchen wall.
"How's that help?"
"Go up to it and ask for six mice," said Kahless, mysteriously.
"Yeah, right. Do I look like an idiot to you?" But Kahless looked as if he meant it, and she had just witnessed his magic, so perhaps... "OK, OK," she said, walking over to the box. "Six mice, please."
Cinders jumped back and stared at her fairy godfather. "It spoke," she accused. "The damned thing spoke to me!"
"And it expects an answer." Kahless watched as Cinderbella glared at him.
She shook her head in disbelief and stepped back to the box in the wall. "Uh, brown," she told it and then gasped as six brown mice appeared out of thin air, in a mass of sparkles.
"Well, bring them here. Must I do all the work?"
"Hey, person in shock here, OK? Wait up." Cinderbella gathered up the mice and took them to Kahless, who set them down on the ground outside, in front of the coach. He tapped each mouse in turn and then stood back as the mice grew rapidly in size into six beautiful chestnut horses, all tethered together and ready to pull the coach.
"Now I need a large, fat rat."
"I guess I ask the box?" Cinders queried. He nodded and she disappeared inside the house and returned with the largest, fattest rat she'd ever seen, one with giant whiskers. "This do?"
Kahless took the rat and placed it on the seat of the coach and tapped its head twice. There was another flash and the rat grew into a large coachman, with long whiskers.
"And now," boomed Kahless, "I need six green lizards."
"You don't want much, do you?" muttered Cinderbella as she disappeared into the kitchen yet again. Soon, six green lizards were running around the courtyard. Kahless waved his wand in their direction and six footmen appeared, dressed in green livery. They took up their places - some with the horses; two up on the back of the coach, and one holding a door open, bowing down to Cinderbella.
"Now," said Kahless. "Now you're ready to go. Enjoy yourself my dear."
"I'm afraid, FG, that none of this is really any use to me, if I look like this." She shook her ragged skirt to underline her point.
"Oh, yes. Sorry. I'm not one for following fashions."
"Really? I'd never have guessed."
Kahless tapped her head lightly with his wand and Cinderbella was transformed, standing there in a gold and silver ball gown, with her beautiful dark hair in ringlets. And on her feet there appeared a dainty pair of glass slippers.
"Listen to me, you wilful child," warned Kahless as Cinderbella climbed into the coach. "At the stroke of midnight, all your bits of finery will revert back to what they were before, you hear? You must leave the ball before then or you will have no coach and your clothes will once again be rags."
"I understand. And, thanks," said Cinders as she waved goodbye.
Chakeeta had three left feet when it came to dancing. She had once studied the tribal dancing of beings who had lived many moons before, but had found herself too cumbersome to execute even the simplest of their ritual dances. So this was proving to be a challenge. And not only for Chakeeta, but also for the prince, who was dancing with her, trying hard to avoid being trampled by her large feet.
Twirling the unglamorous and indelicate Chuckles around, the prince saw past her to the young woman who was currently sweeping down the long entrance staircase. "Fascinating," he thought as he excused himself from the awkward Chakeeta and headed for the stairs. By the time the beautiful stranger had reached the bottom step, the prince was by her side, offering his hand for a dance.
"Delighted," said Cinderbella graciously, as they moved onto the dance floor.
It seemed that the tall, slim, fair-haired prince also had an interesting forehead. A large silver arc rested over his left eyebrow; Cinderbella resisted the urge to reach up and touch it. The prince's speech was clipped and precise, as befit his aloof status, although there was an element of warmth as he said, "You are an excellent dancer. May I ask your name?"
"My name is Cinderbella, Sir," replied the young girl, finding it easy to talk to the prince as they danced. And she soon proved just as much at ease talking to his many guests; her own stepmother and stepsisters amongst them, although they did not recognise her.
"Another dance?" asked the prince as Cinderbella curtsied and allowed herself to be led back to the dance floor. Many dances followed. She snuggled up close to the tall, almost beautifully handsome man, enjoying the smell of him; he stirred something in her, something she had never felt with a man before. There was something about him that...
All too quickly, Cinderbella heard the clock chime a quarter to midnight. "I'm so sorry, I have to go," she told the prince.
"But the ball will not end for another two hours. Couldn't you...?"
"Now. I have to leave now," she said firmly, being followed to her coach, amid protests, by the prince, begging her to return the next evening.
"I'll try," she said, climbing sadly into her coach.
"I promise you, if it's at all possible, I'll be here." She waved at the prince as the coach set off, noticing the sadness in his beautiful blue eyes. She wondered if it equalled the sadness in her own.
When the lady Mayoress and her daughters returned to the house in the early hours of the morning, they immediately called upon Cinderbella to help them to dismantle their hair and help them off with their fine clothes.
"Oh, sweetie, you should have seen her," twittered Neelixa to Cinderbella. "She was so pretty, and she danced with him all night long."
"But he danced with me, first," grumbled Chuckles, who wasn't chuckling just at that moment. Then she conceded, "But she was so pretty and so nice that I suppose I didn't really mind at all."
"Ah. There," nodded Neelixa.
But Kathryn was the type who wouldn't stop until she'd reached her goals. And she hadn't yet given up on the idea of seeing one of her daughters married to the prince, for the prestige it would bring the family. To her children she cooed, "Don't worry, my darlings; you'll have another chance tomorrow night. I'm sure, if he just got to know the two of you a little better, he'd..."
"Mother, you're sweet," interrupted Neelixa. "You don't suppose, Cinders, do you - that you could try to do my hair like hers, for tomorrow night?"
"You forget," Cinders told her truthfully. "I didn't see her. I don't know what she looked like." After all, she hadn't seen herself in a mirror.
"Oh, that's right. Then I'll have to try to tell you as we go along. I'm sure you'll do just fine."
When her work was over and the very last dress had been hung up, Cinderbella hesitated at the door. She had no way of being sure that her fairy godfather would appear for the second time, and she so wanted to see the prince again.
"Oh, stepmother," she asked, "Couldn't you take me with you tomorrow, to meet the prince?"
Kathryn gave the girl a withering look, rather like a force ten gale without the wind, and sneered, "You? Why you'd disgrace us all. What an idea!" With that, Cinders was dismissed to the kitchen for the night.
Soon enough, it was the night of the second ball. Cinderbella's stepmother and stepsisters had just left and the house seemed strangely quiet, she thought, without their various twitterings, laughter, and squeaks of excitement. Even Buttons had gone off with his friend, Tom, to a nightclub in the town, called Chez Sandrine.
She sat on her bed in the kitchen; her back against the wall and her knees up under her chin. She wrapped her arms around her legs, hugging herself, as a blink sent two tears coursing down her cheeks. Suddenly, there was a bright flash and Kahless appeared to her once more.
Cinders smiled almost shyly at him and tightened her grip around her legs. "I didn't know if I'd see you again. Does this mean I can go back, tonight, to the ball?" she asked, hardly daring to hope.
"Now, what else would I be doing here? Well, come on, child, look lively. I suggest you bring me that leola root so we can get started."
"Oh, there'll be no arguments from me tonight," she said, happily jumping off the bed. "The sooner I can get back to the prince, the better." She happily supplied Kahless with all the various livestock he needed, using the strange box in the wall, which had magically reappeared after vanishing the night before. Soon she was standing in the courtyard in a dress that was even more beautiful than the previous night's dress, with a gleaming white and gold coach beside her, ready to step into.
"Remember, child," Kahless boomed. "Midnight. You must leave before midnight."
"Dear FG," said Cinderbella lovingly. She left the coach and ran back into the house, returning with a small stool, which she positioned beside the large man's foot. Stepping up on the stool, she placed a kiss on his cheek. "You know, I can never repay you," she said in a serious voice.
"But you can. Repay me by being happy," replied Kahless. "Now, go. You don't want to be late. The prince will be waiting."
"Midnight," called Cinders, leaning out of the coach as it pulled away. "I'll remember." She waved until he was out of sight.
Cinderbella arrived at the palace, just as she had done the night before but, as soon as she began to walk down the long staircase, the musicians changed the tune they were playing. She looked up, surprised, and saw the smiling prince crossing the room to be by her side.
"I've been waiting for you," he told her, taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips. He held her gaze and saw in her eyes what he felt inside. "Will you dance with me?"
"Sure. Uh, I mean, I'd love to dance with you, Sir," she replied happily, allowing herself to be led into the midst of the dancers.
"Please, don't call me Sir."
"I've offended you. I'm sorry." She looked down until she felt his soft fingers on her chin, bringing her eyes back up to his. "What should I call you, then?"
He said nothing, simply staring at her until he finally pulled her close, resting his face against hers. He was afraid that honest words might irretrievably alter what was happening between them and, right now, he just wanted to enjoy the feeling of her in his arms. Without meaning to speak the words aloud, he whispered to his diety, "Please, never let this change."
"Never let what change?"
The prince looked at her, temporarily lost for words, but he hesitated for only a moment before deciding that now was the right time for the truth. "There's something I have to tell you, Cinderbella, but I think it might change how you feel about me, and I don't want that to happen."
"What could I hear about you - what could be so terrible that I wouldn't want to know you afterwards?" asked Cinders with a frown, trying to see into his soul to find his secret. As she stood, looking into those big blue eyes and feeling his soft fingers on her face, she felt again that there was something about him, something not quite... she didn't know how to describe it, but it was good. It made her feel so comfortable with him, and yet so alive.
"During my birth," began the prince, quietly, "my mother suffered terribly and was very ill. Before my father held me in his arms, the doctor told my mother that I would be her only child; she would have no more. My father wanted a son and heir and my mother knew that if she wasn't seen to provide him with one, he might discard her and take another wife. So she lied." He looked into Cinderbella's eyes, to see if she understood him, but he saw only confusion.
"My mother paid the doctor handsomely to say nothing about that night to another living soul and then she presented me to my father, as his son. He was so happy."
The penny finally dropped. "Then you're really a...?"
"Yes. When I was old enough, my mother told me to continue the deception, and I have done, never speaking of it to anyone. Until now."
Cinderbella was blushing. She didn't exactly know what to think about what she'd just been told, except that she now knew what was so different about this ma... But `he' wasn't a man, was `he'? `He' was a she. "Oh God." She allowed her head to fall against her dancing partner's face once more; letting the feeling of security and new love wash over her. "I knew there was something. I just didn't know what."
The princess tightened her grip on the woman in her arms. "I can hardly dare to hope... that you might still want me. But, if you do still want me, I promise I will make you so happy, Cinderbella."
"B'Elanna," she replied, pulling away and looking into her dancing partner's eyes. "My name's B'Elanna. My stepfamily gave me the name Cinderbella and I've never liked it."
"Bay-lanna," repeated the princess slowly. "Truly a beautiful name; as beautiful as your eyes, your voice and, I think, your smile. B'Elanna, B'Elanna," the princess repeated softly, holding her close before sharing another confidence. "In our private moments, my mother called me Annika."
"Hmm, I like that. Can I call you that, when we're alone?"
"Then my secret hasn't changed anything between us?"
"Annika, love is love, wherever you find it. And if you find it, you should accept it - take it into your heart and grow within it, not push it away."
The pair only had eyes for each other as the evening grew old and the music played on and on. The crowd was beginning to realise slowly that the young woman in the prince's arms could soon be their new princess, for they all felt sure, looking at the two of them together, that the prince has found his love. Graciously, the couple divided their time between dancing, speaking to the guests, whispering sweet nothings to each other on the balcony, alone, and more dancing until the time finally caught up with poor Cinderbella. The clock began tolling.
"Midnight!" She could think only of running from the room in haste, before she reverted back into her ragged self. She couldn't embarrass both herself and her love in front of these fine folk. "I must go. I wish I had time to explain."
"Cinderbella?" called the princess, surprised by the speed with which the young woman had run through the room and out into the courtyard beyond. The princess followed as quickly as politeness allowed, but there was no sign of Cinderbella by the time she reached the door.
"Have you seen anyone pass this way?" she asked of the sentinels on guard in the palace grounds.
"No, Sir; only a ragged girl, who must have broken into the grounds and run through them. You didn't mean her?"
The princess walked away, shaking her head but, as she walked back towards the steps of the palace, she saw a golden slipper glinting in the light of the moon. "Her slipper," she breathed, picking it up and holding it next to her cheek. The princess took the slipper inside and ordered it to be placed in a box and held, asking to be notified the instant Cinderbella came to claim it, as she surely would.
But Cinderbella did not call to claim her slipper and, as the weeks went by, the princess decided to take matters into her own hands. She sent her herald out into the kingdom, looking for the maiden whose foot would fit with ease into the delicate glass slipper.
"B'Elanna," she whispered as she watched her herald depart. "Where are you, my love?"
Many weeks had passed and the princess had grown tired of waiting at home, missing her love and being able to do nothing about it.
The slipper had been tried on throughout the length and breadth of the land and, at last, the day dawned when the princess's herald arrived in the village of Voyager. The ugly sisters squealed with delight from an upstairs window as the herald from the `prince', together with an assistant, entered their house and asked to see all the unmarried young women.
The lady of the house came forward to greet them. "My name is Kathryn, Lady Mayor of the town of Voyager. Please, come in and make yourselves comfortable. I'll find my daughters for you; obviously one of them must be the one your prince is looking for." She dipped her head slightly. "Gentlemen," she acknowledged as she left the room, returning remarkably quickly with her daughters in tow.
"Me, me," cried Neelixa, excitedly, running over to the herald. Being a very affectionate girl, she hugged the surprised man before saying, "I'm sure the slipper will fit. I have such delicate feet, you know." She sat and allowed the herald to position the shoe for her. She lowered her foot. "Uh, well... perhaps if I just... push it... a little bit more. Hmm, one more push ought to do it."
Neelixa's large-framed sister ran out of patience. Pushing her bearded sibling aside, she sat down in front of the herald and beamed up at him, showing why she had earned the name `Chuckles'. The herald looked from Chakeeta's offered foot to the shoe and back again, and then sighed as he lowered the delicate glass slipper into position.
Four toes began to explore the possibility of entering the shoe, but there was no room for the fifth and, without it, the complete foot would not fit in at all. Chakeeta smiled apologetically at the herald. "I'm sure, if you'll just give me a minute, I can..." but her voice trailed off as it seemed obvious to everyone, including her, that the slipper stood no chance of fitting around her very large foot. She withdrew her hopeful toes and stood.
Kathryn saw her daughters' chances falling away in front of her eyes. It was obvious to her now that her true home was in the palace and she had to find a way of getting them all home. "Gentlemen," she said as the two men were preparing to leave the room. "It seemed to me that Neelixa's foot very nearly fitted. Couldn't you just give her another...?"
"May I try?" asked Cinderbella quietly from the doorway of the great lounge, where she had stood unnoticed, watching her step-siblings' efforts.
"You?" chorused Neelixa and Chuckles.
"What makes you think you're fit to marry a prince?" Kathryn said dismissively. "You weren't even at the ball. I suggest you go and clean the kitchen floor. Now! That's an order."
"Yes ma'am," answered Cinderbella sadly, turning away.
"Wait," the herald called after her. "The prince has asked that nobody be refused permission to try the shoe. Come," he said to Cinderbella, who stepped forward and allowed him to position the shoe for her. She slipped her foot inside it with ease and at the same moment the spell reactivated, turning her clothes instantly into the finery she had worn to the second ball.
The herald's assistant had been very much in the background up to now, with a large hood over his head, obscuring his face. But now, at the transformation of Cinderbella, he lowered his hood, and there stood the `prince', `his' hand outstretched to the surprised young woman. Cinderbella took only a moment to recover herself and then she let her fingers slip into the soft hand, bowing gracefully to her love.
Kathryn realised that she may yet find a place in the palace for herself and her daughters; it was all theirs for the taking, if she played her cards right. "Oh, Cinderbella," she begged. "Can you ever forgive us?"
"For making a servant out of me? For ignoring my needs? For making me sleep in the kitchen? For making my life a misery? Uh, let me see... yeah, I can forgive that." She smiled and graciously bowed her head to the women.
"Long live the prince and long live our new princess!" cried a happy Mayoress of Voyager, slipping her arms around her visually challenged daughters and pushing the three of them through the large door together, as she followed Cinderbella and her `prince' outside.
Cinderbella was about to enter the carriage when, from its steps, she heard a familiar voice calling her name in disbelief. "Cinderbella? Is that you?"
"Starfleet!" she called out, immediately stepping down and running to her friend, wrapping him warmly in a bear hug. "My only friend. Dear Buttons, yes, it's me." She hugged the surprised man tightly once more before realising that the `prince' was now standing by her side. "This is Harry. My friend," she introduced.
The `prince' took Harry's hand and shook it. "My beloved addressed you as 'my friend'. In fact she called you her only friend," he told Harry. "If you will agree to it, Sir, I invite you to come to the palace tomorrow and begin a new life with us, in my employ. What do you say?"
Harry Buttons Starfleet looked very important. He drew himself up as tall as he could and then bowed his head. "I accept," he said happily.
"And none of that kitchen boy stuff" called out Cinderbella from the carriage as the princess joined her. "You don't have to do that. You can be whatever you want to be. Deal?"
"OK, engineer," Buttons replied, laughing, remembering what his friend had said a lifetime ago. He then stood back and joined the rest of the family, waving the happy couple off.
"Oh, Annika," sighed B'Elanna as she snuggled up to her love in the coach. "This is crazy."
"What is crazy?"
"Well, people are expecting us to get married and produce sons and heirs. How's that going to work?"
"B'Elanna, my darling. How good a friend did you say Harry was?"
...and they all lived happily ever after, I think.
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