DISCLAIMER: I don’t own these characters, Paramount does. The premise to the story is mine though. Not Beta’ed. Warning: allusions to both heterosexual and homosexual unions. Angst alert.

If Only
By Cirroco DeSade


Another day and I am heading home from Alpha shift. I picked up Miral, the joy of my existence, then headed 'home.' My little girl, she is so smart and so naturally tough and stubborn. She babbled the whole way about her day at 'school.' I've been so happy and amazed at who takes a break from their busy schedules, which adds a few extra hours to their shifts to take part in the education of Voyager's few children. Tuvok, Chakotay, the Doctor, Carey and even Harry. They take the majority of the load while various other crewmembers had long ago volunteered to take the daycare duty back when Naomi was the only child aboard. These men and women now could probably be considered saints.

Miral is currently enjoying her Federation History courses the most. Who would have thought the placid tones of Tuvok could enthrall my little hellion so much? Let alone that subject. I suppose growing up in such an accepting little universe with the stability I was never offered made the difference I never would have known.

She's asking me if she can spend this weekend on a holodeck camping trip with Phoebe. She's practically begging, well in her ever so logical way she picked up from Phoebe and I think maybe Tuvok. She's already listed of how safe it will be and how Mizoti and Naomi will be there as chaperones. I really don't understand why she thinks I might object, but since she is making such a deal over it, I appear to give it a lot of consideration, then tell her it's okay with me if her dad approves. Like he wouldn't? Yeah right, he loves the fact that she and Phoebe are little holodeck programmers already at thirteen years old for her and twelve for Phoebe.

She yanks me down hard at this point and kisses me so hard on my cheek I swear that I will have a bruise. Then she takes off at a run for the final ten meters to our quarters. I'm still out in the hall when I hear her joyously yelling at her dad that she gets to go on a really neat trip if he says yes. He laughs and says yes I presume because even as the doors to our quarters are closing just ahead of me I hear squeals of delight.

I pause before I can reach the threshold to the sensors that will open my doors. I take a moment to enjoy it: this last moment of happiness. I had a good day at work. I have a happy, brilliant little girl. We only have 10 more years left in the Delta quadrant. I have a great best friend.

I inhale and listen to a happy warp core… yes it has a certain pitch and I know it… so does Seven, so I know I'm not crazy. Hell, I think our old girl Voyager achieved sentience in the last few years. They didn't know what they were doing adding bioneural type circuitry to a ship like this who would get so many non-standard components… like Seven's self-regenerating components (what body doesn't self repair?) and other alien technologies we got along the way. So, yes, I feel she is alive, and I think she knows I love her and will fight for her life.

I have only shared this with Seven of course, because she shares my belief. She was always more open to ideas of different kinds of sentience. She was fighting for the Doc a long time before Janeway gave in and recognized him as a real sentient being. He has quarters now even; the CMO's quarters of course.

Well, I can't stand out here forever and no matter what I want, I cannot go where I really want. I trip the sensors and my nighttime life begins. Miral has already dashed into her bedroom, I presume to get ready for her trip. Not surprisingly, there's Tom, in front of the TV. Damn I wish I had never made that for him. His twentieth century obsession went too far only a few years into our marriage. I cook, I clean, and he sits and drinks beer in front of the TV. When he is home. His boots are tossed negligently just inside the door and his tunic tossed over the arm of my chair.

"Hey Tom," I say pleasantly. I always try at least. Despite my broken heart, despite his unintended hurtfulness I always try. I wear my stupidity in this like a Klingon badge of Honor. Although I privately suspect my mom would have killed him by now if she could see him. I know my cousins would have had words with him years ago.

He grunts at me and uses his 'remote' to flip to another 'channel' on the stupid thing. Another night of the same old thing I suppose. I grab his tunic and pants off the furniture and take them to the recycler in our bedroom and take care of it for him. Two minutes later everything is perfect and the whole thing is folded, pips and badge in place and boots shined below and on his side of the bed. I take the time to divest myself from my uniform and run through the sonic real quick, then grab some comfy cloths. I'm off tomorrow so I don't need my uniform right away. I place my recycled uniform in my drawer and boots in the closet. I stay barefoot, happy to flex my feet a bit.

Then I gather his errant glasses from all around the bedroom, the bathroom, and just about every step through the den. Fourteen years is a long enough time to learn how to carry up to 12 glasses at a time to the recycler. Sure, I used to throw them at him early in the marriage as a way to encourage him to do it himself, but he never could stick with it long and by the time Miral was born I stopped. I wasn't going to upset her with angry Klingon outbursts. She would learn about the good parts of Klingons in this house, not the uncontrollable temper. Maybe that way when hers kicked in really well later in puberty she would see it is controllable. I am her only Klingon example on Voyager after all.

"Lanna would you grab me another beer?" he asks. Those are his first words to me. It's almost a tradition. The next ones will be in about a half hour or so when he tells me he is going out with the guys… whoever they are tonight. After Harry married Megan and settled down, he couldn't corrupt the Ops officer as much. Therefore he started hanging with lower deck men, like Lessing and Murphy and who knows who else. They gamble and bet on inane stuff and do 'man stuff' as Tom wants to call it. I think he just found more guys with forever-arrested development to play with at night.

I am hungry of course; I hardly ever get a lunch. He will be too, even though he religiously takes lunch in the messhall. I really don't know why I do it, but I always fix him a plate at the same time I fix mine. He won't look at it, he'll eat it like a zombie, then set the plate on the floor next to couch. I used to fight with him about that too. I even tried ignoring the pile once… until it was obvious he didn't care and it was growing funny things that biosciences may have liked studying. So I just sucked it up, remembered I stayed with him because of Miral and did my best to clean up around him.

I've barely finished my food and recycled our plates when he comes out of the bedroom dressed fairly nicely. "Honey, I'm going to watch the Parisses' Squares game with the guys. We're probably going to shoot some pool or play poker after that." He walks up to me and kisses me. Kahless forgive me; I hate every nanosecond of it. He gives me what he thinks is a charming smile and winks before turning out the door.

I know they don't go to the public Sandrine's. They wrote a private program several years back that is more like a 19th century brothel. I know part of the boys program is that the waitresses 'entertain' the poker players. I'm not stupid. I just can't really do anything about it. It's holographic. He has never (as far as I know) cheated on me with a real woman on Voyager. This is a small ship, I'd hear about it. I kind of wish he would so I could leave him with honor. Miral would still have his father… he couldn't get away… small ship remember? Somehow he must know that though because he never crossed the line.

The door chimes and I call out for entry. Phoebe comes in and asks if Miral is around. I smile at the lanky little replication of Seven. Really the only bit of Kathryn in her is the strawberry tint to her hair, and the way she can glare the other kids (other than my Miral) into doing whatever she wants. Of course Miral and her always do each other's bidding. They've been best friends since they were still in diapers.

That was the time when Seven and I really became friends. We had cooled down before then, but being two new moms with ever-near-but-always-absent partners, well, it was only natural that we spent a lot of time together and therefore so did Miral and Phoebe.

"She's in her room," I tell her.

"Mirry!" Phoebe runs off exclaiming, "come on!"

I can hear some teenage girl conference occurring. I'm so happy that Miral has this. I never had a best friend when I was a kid until I was a late teen and still… he was a guy. I never had a girlfriend to just be a girl around. Ooh, I hear something about the twins and Parisses' Squares. I know those two think Rebi and Azan are the absolute cutest, except for maybe Icheb. However they know that Naomi and Icheb have been an item for a while so he's nothing more than a cutie to talk about, not dream about.

Suddenly they are almost out the door. "Miral!" I yell at her before it's too late. They practically slide to a stop.

"What mom!?" she got my patience that's for sure. She really thinks I don't hear those growls… and Phoebe thinks I don't notice how she looks at Miral when she growls with an intrigued look I used to see from Seven. God B'Elanna, don't think about that.

"Are you going camping after the game?" I ask and she nods at me with an exasperated look. "Well, at least give your mom a kiss goodbye since I won't be seeing you for a couple of days?" Uh-oh, teenage girl embarrassment; I didn't know we had entered that stage. So I try to soften the blow. "You too Phoebe." I hold my arms out and immediately Phoebe heads for me, which propels Miral who of course just won't be outdone.

"Bye Aunt Lanna," Phoebe says and kisses me on the cheek.

"Bye mom," I finally get from my Miral. The she whispers in my ear, "I love you mom, thanks."

I send them off telling them to have a blast and do everything Mizoti and Naomi tell them. Then, I am alone in my quarters. For a brief moment I look around at Tom's mess, then I bury my face in my hands and cry. I don't do it often, but it relieves the pressure sometimes. It solves absolutely nothing though, so I don't indulge in it long.

It only takes me a half hour to clean the majority of it and, in all honesty, I really don't feel like doing a deep cleaning so I sit back down and wonder what to do with myself. Then the door chimes. I ask the computer who it is and it reports it is the one and only person I could tolerate right now: Seven. I call out for her entry and there she is like an angel. I laugh because she has two giant bottles of what I know will be blood-wine.

"Mind some company?" she asks with a grin.

I smile at her. By Kahless, she is more beautiful today than she was last year and the year before that. She grew into her humanity very quickly after becoming a mother. Emotions were no longer irrelevant, even though she often counted on me to explain some to her.

Damn Kathryn. She severed Seven then let her wander blindly through a lot of it. Then Seven developed her first crush on the older woman. Maybe she really felt something for Seven for a bit, but I think it was ego. That and being in control of the relationship. Once Seven started to assert her needs, especially after Phoebe was born, suddenly Janeway's ship was everything again and the redhead was never around again. She began spending more time 'working' with her lapdog, Chakotay. I can't believe I really used to follow that man.

"Sure 'Nik. I'll get the glasses. Why don't you choose the music tonight?" I tell her as I go to where my fine crystal is stored. I only share it with Seven in the last decade. Tom would break it, and we never have company for dinner anymore since Tom got drunk the last time we tried to host a dinner party. He actually came on to Megan, insulted Chakotay, and kept hugging Tuvok.

Seven pushed the TV away. She knows I hate the damned thing. She moves the coffee table and sits up against the couch on the floor, stretching her long legs out in front of her. I hand her the goblets as I look at her questioningly. She quirks that happy self-satisfied half-smile at me, then sets down the goblets. She hands me a small, nicely wrapped box I didn't even notice she brought in and nods.

Over the years we found we really don't have to talk much anymore. We are amazingly in tune with each other. I sit down in front of her and begin to unwrap my gift. Meanwhile, she pours the bloodwine in the goblets. I pull out a tiny little circular disk, no bigger than the palm of my hand. It almost looks like the Doc's portable emitter, but it is not as detailed. I raise an eyebrow at her, still boggled.

"It is something I thought you might enjoy. Just a little nothing I cooked up one night while Kate was gone well into the gamma shift." She added the last part with a little sadness coloring her voice. We had both learned not to point out each other's partner's flaws to the other years ago. Each of us was too stubborn to leave our partners, no matter how much the other of us railed against the injustice of it... no matter how much we ached inside over it. We each had our reasons… as ridiculous as they may be.

"It has four basic programs, that can be adjusted just a little," she informed me. Hitting one button still holding it in her hand a little flame danced out of her hand. It alarmed me at first, then I realized, of course it was holographic. "This is the lowest setting on this one… I thought you might enjoy turning it to the highest setting and placing it under the TV from time to time," she grinned her little evil grin and wiggled her eyebrows.

I snorted and rolled on the floor laughing. She still didn't show everyone her humor. Certainly many of the crew still didn't like her, or sometimes her Borg-ness and many of the crew hated her even more after she married Janeway. However, together we could be ourselves. I think in some ways I became more calm and logical like her, and she became more like me… like that wicked evil humor just now.

"So why did you move the TV?" I asked her.

She reset the button she had hit, then handed me the device. "Go set it near the wall and then hit the blue button Lanna," she instructed.

I followed her advice and once it was done, I had my own personal fireplace. I figured out how to adjust the flame and set it just where I wanted. I looked over my shoulder at her and gave her a happy half-smile. She raised her goblet in salute at me, and then took a swig of the bloodwine.

I returned to the couch and sat beside her, retrieving my own goblet, stretching my own legs out. I never know what to say when she does these things. She's more attentive than Tom ever was and has never expected anything but friendship in return. And just Damn my soul to Gre'thor, I wish things were different, because I would gladly give her more. Oh how I wish I could.

I take a giant swig of my bloodwine and look at her. She is staring into the flames, a slightly pained expression to her face. The only aging she has ever shown is the wrinkles around her eyes. I know it's from the pain and her secret crying. I step to the edge of the line again. We have both done it many times, and we know we always will. I lean up and kiss her cheek… but I kiss it so low, so close to her mouth that we both feel the ache. After a long moment of holding my lips just there on the edge of her lips, I finally move and lay my forehead in the crook of her neck.

"Thank you. I never know how you know just when I need it most… and I…" I trailed off. My silence is pregnant with my unspoken feelings.

Her voice is so very soft, but lyrical. "I know. Me too." Then she adjusts me moving my back onto her chest. Then she wraps her strong arm around my shoulder to let my head rest against her neck as long as I want it to. And we stare into the flames she has created for me, something to warm an otherwise cold life, even when she is not around and my Miral is out being a happy teenager.

And in these small snatches of time I feel safe. And loved. And cherished.

And in these moments we spend together while our partners find something better than us… I try not to think about the what ifs…

If only I had seen her beauty before she gave it to a bitter woman…

If only she had possessed the courage she often laments not having to confront me about Tom's inherent nature… how I deserved better while I thought I deserved nothing.

If only I could fall asleep in this arm every night… the clean scent of sandalwood instead of beer and cigars…

If only I could hold her after we made love… since 'Kate' just leaves for a tour of her ship… show her how she deserved to be cherished.

If only I could be happy with what I have, If only her friendship hadn't shown me there was more, If only I didn't ache to heal her wounds

If only

The End

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