DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Nocturnal Ramblings
By alastria7

Part 1

"B'Elanna? What are you doing here? Are you alright?"

B'Elanna lifted her head off her arm, which was spread across the Mess Hall table, and looked up. "What am I doing here?" she smiled, "What are YOU doing here? Do you know what time it is?"

"Oh, I'm well aware of the time," Kathryn said wearily as she sat down opposite her chief engineer. "It's the same time I get up for a 'prowl' nearly every damned night."

B'Elanna looked warily at her captain, sensing something but not sure what. "Can't sleep?" 'What a dumb question, you idiot, of course she can't sleep. Would she be here, in the middle of the night, if she could sleep? Klutz!'

"No more than you. What brings you here at this late hour?" 'Was she uncomfortable with that question, or did I just imagine it?' Kathryn waited.

The engineer rubbed her hand over her face and sniffed, looking all around the Mess Hall before she looked back at her late-night companion. "I, uh, I have trouble some nights..." 'Tell her, you idiot. What's she gonna do? What's the worst that can happen?' "You know?"

"I know."

Something unspoken passed between the two senior officers. They both sensed it, and they both dismissed it as their own idle fantasies about what they wanted to see. Awkwardly, they settled into discussing ship's business, and then turned to musing over Harry's latest love disaster. Which brought them on to the subject of love. For some reason they both fell silent, until Kathryn looked up, under her lashes, at the engineer and smiled shyly. "Well," she said, "I think I'd better..." she half stood up, excusing herself.

"Yeah. I guess I should too." B'Elanna stayed in her seat, watching as the captain stood and headed for the door. 'And how much longer do you intend to keep this up? She'll never know at this rate, and if she never knows, you'll never know what she might have done about it.' With rising fear and emotion, B'Elanna called out, just as Kathryn reached the door, "Kath?"

A little startled by the use of a shortened version of her name coming from B'Elanna, who had never used it before, Kathryn turned. Something lurched in her centre as she did so. She walked back to the table in silence and looked down at the officer, with a look that was a mixture of a slight frown, slight wonder and many questions. "B'Elanna?" she managed in a low husky voice, filled with fear and emotion.

Slowly, the engineer got up and stood in front of her superior. She looked nervous, very nervous, as she cleared her throat. "That I'm here because I have trouble sleeping, you know. Why I have trouble sleeping, you may not know."

Kathryn's breath caught in her throat but she remained silent.

"I lay my head on the pillow at night and I think of you." She watched for a reaction and was heartened that she was receiving a very slight, almost sad, smile. She continued, "I think of how I wish you were beside me in the night, to love, to hold." She stopped again, unsure of her captain's feelings, but one look into the deep blue/grey eyes told her they were returned. She slipped an arm around Kathryn's waist and pulled her gently towards her. "I get to sleep for a few hours and then, I'm awake again. I'm usually here, thinking about you."

Kathryn closed her eyes and sighed. Opening them again, together with her heart, she replied, "You're all I've been thinking about for months. I hardly dared to think you'd feel the same. Why the hell didn't we bump into each other in here sooner!" she laughed. She slid her right hand under B'Elanna's hair and pulled the beautiful head towards her. "You want this?" she questioned, obviously about to kiss her lieutenant.

"I want this. I want you."

The kiss took some while. Every time they tried to think about pulling apart, one or the other would start up again, and it was becoming a marathon of missed time. Eventually, Kathryn found the strength and broke the session. Smiling at her love, she whispered, "Let's go to bed, huh."

It wasn't a question. And two people who loved each other, found each other that night as they shared (what was possibly) their last nocturnal prowl through the corridors of Voyager.

"I love you," whispered B'Elanna in the near dark.

"I hope so, Bella, because I plan to bother you for a very long time indeed."

"Should I be scared?" joked the engineer.

"Only if you think you can't keep up!"

Part 2
Ghosts of the Past

"You never tell me that you love me."

"Huh? Oh darling, don't doubt it... you know I do."

"Yeah, but," persisted the engineer, "you never mention the word 'love' to me, do you?"

Kathryn buried her head deeper into B'Elanna's shoulder and closed her eyes, bringing her body up tighter to the hybrid's stocky form. This wasn't a topic she was enjoying at all.

B'Elanna tightened her grip around the older woman. She lay in the quarters they had shared for some months now, the captain's quarters, looking up at the ceiling. In a minute they would both have to leave the bed and get ready for another day at their respective posts. In a minute, but not just yet. "You have a problem with love in general?" questioned B'Elanna bravely, "Or a problem saying it to me?"

Kathryn couldn't take it; she fidgeted for a moment before getting out of bed in one easy movement and heading towards the shower, the slight moisture of unshed tears in her eyes. B'Elanna, meanwhile, lay unmoving while her heart beat faster with the adrenaline of confrontation. She hated such confrontation, but her need to hear the woman she loved most in the Universe say that she loved her was too great.

Kathryn stood in the flow of the water, her tears flowing freely as her fear threatened to overwhelm her. 'What's wrong with you, for God's sake,' she thought. 'You love her – tell her! Oh, no, I can't. I just can't. What if…?' She threw an invisible switch then, deep within, the one that turned her feelings to stone when it was most needed. A captain's trick, she supposed, but not the best choice when it came to love.

A little while later, around the doorframe, appeared a form in a white bathrobe with a white towel over its head. The white form stared into the bedroom, looking at the woman in the bed, still lying where she had left her. Kathryn sat gently on the side of the bed, still rubbing her wet hair with the towel and remained silent for a long time. "I loved Daddy..." she began quietly. "And he died."

B'Elanna moved the back of her wrist away from her eyes and turned her head so she could look at her love, careful not to say anything, not wishing to break the mood.

"I loved Justin, so much - my fiancé. And he died." She fought to keep her voice steady. He died right along with my Dad, and I stood there on the bank, watching. There was nothing I could do to stop that shuttlecraft from sinking - I could only watch their faces as they disappeared from view. I remember," her voice had fallen to the barest whisper, "mouthing 'I love you' to both of them, and how confused and yet brave they looked."

Kathryn stopped rubbing her hair and clutched the towel to her head, hiding her eyes from the pain she was feeling inside. She bent her body forward, bringing her elbows to her knees, still holding her head, obviously in trouble with this.

"Hey," cooed B'Elanna gently, turning Kathryn's body and bringing her down once again on the bed. Holding her, she rocked her softly, waiting for the next words but not wanting to push.

Eventually Kathryn found the courage to take the towel away from her memories and looked up at B'Elanna, smiling sadly. She continued, "I loved Mark. But the fates took him away from me or, I suppose, they took me away from him - another one I was going to marry; another one I'd said 'I love you' to."

B'Elanna kept up the soothing rocking motion, stroking the damp hair as she sensed there was still more to be said before she spoke.

"Darling, I'm so afraid!" Kathryn started to cry then, all her fears escaping at once in muffled sobs. "I feel the minute I tell you I love you, you'll be gone, taken from me, or me from you; it'll all be ended, somehow." She looked up into dark eyes. "So how can I tell you?"

B'Elanna smiled at her love and pulled the damp head closer, cuddling, soothing, stroking. "Shhhh," she whispered, "I understand now, Kathy. I'm so sorry."

"No, you're right," murmured Kathryn, pulling away and sitting up on the bed. She rubbed her hands over her cheeks to brush away her tears. "I have to overcome this. I have to stop punishing you for the things that happened in my past, situations that were nothing whatsoever to do with you."

"Not if, when you've said it," argued B'Elanna "you're going to walk around looking for the day it will all end BECAUSE you've said it. It's not worth it, Kath. You have enough stress with the ship and the crew - I won't have it." She sat up beside Kathryn and hugged her. "I won't have it, d'you hear? I don't need you to tell me anything when I know how you feel, now. It's all I needed to know," she added softly.

"Well then, know it aloud. Bell, I love you. I've loved you for what seems like a really long time. I love you so much." A giant smile spread across the captain's watery face as she spoke the words she had been stifling for so long, words she had wanted so much to speak aloud.

Looking seriously now at her love she said, "With your help, I'm freeing myself from the past, Bella. That's not who I am anymore. I'm not going to live in that old fear, and I won't allow it to dampen what I have with you now."

Kathryn got up from the bed and pulled her prize up with her, kissing her deeply in love and gratitude. As they parted, B'Elanna frowned, looking Kathryn in the eye with a look that was almost apologetic as she said, "You know, they ARE just words. Why did I need to hear them so much when everything you do and everything else you say lets me know exactly how you feel?"

"Insecurities, my darling." Kathryn stroked the silky hair and looked into the dark eyes. "We're all dogged with them and you're no different to anyone else. Words carry such power, such promise. I suppose we all need them, especially when they can help us feel secure."

They hugged each other, rocking gently, and shared a silence for a while until Kathryn broke it. "We should go," she warned, letting go of her chief engineer after a quick kiss on the cheek. "It doesn't do to set a bad example," she grinned, "I am, after all, the captain."

The two women fussed around the quarters, collecting their clothing and getting themselves ready for the day. Finally they headed for the door. "Hey," whispered B'Elanna as Kathryn left just ahead of her, causing the woman to turn around, "I'm sorry I put you in that position, OK?"

Kathryn gently reached out and stroked B'Elanna's cheek, looking from one eye to the other, down to her lips and then back up. "Darling, leading me to myself and then helping me through the tough bits, and out the other side, should never be seen as something to apologise for. It's only real love that can do that you know... lead us to ourselves. It's all positive and I thank you, not curse you, for it."

B'Elanna gave her love a shy smile as she dropped her eyes to Kathryn's lips, making it clear they were about to kiss. They did. And the new intensity in their kiss surprised them both. This love was deepening in a way they hadn't thought possible, in a way that neither of them had ever known before. It was exhilarating. It was frightening. It was real.

"I love you," breathed Kathryn.

"Yeah, I'd heard the rumours!" answered the chief engineer cheekily as she chased the captain of the Starship Voyager down the corridor, laughing. Like a couple of kids, they practically piled into Chakotay at the turn, and he stood aside, grinning.

"You two look happy," he congratulated.

"Rumours," answered Kathryn accompanied by B'Elanna's muffled laughter, "nothing more."

"Rumours," agreed the delighted engineer as she resumed chasing her captain down the corridor.

Part 3
From Fear into Love

"Look..." B'Elanna gazed over the piece of toast she was nibbling at, into the eyes of her captain. "I know, because of past associations, you won't ask me," she continued before swallowed her current mouthful. She took a breath. "But I think you're changing – have changed - a lot." She waved the toast in the air for emphasis, "I mean, you're freely telling me how much you love me these days. And you seem to have relaxed into that just fine." B'Elanna stopped talking, her right elbow on the table and the remaining toast held aloft.

"Why do I get the feeling I may not like where you're taking this conversation?" Kathryn looked up at B'Elanna warily over their breakfast table, in the captain's quarters they'd shared for over a year now. "Honey, aren't we alright as we are?" She knew instinctively what B'Elanna was going all round the Starship to ask her.

"OK. Look," the engineer replied as she fished a piece of toast from between her teeth. "I know you didn't get to marry Justin, or Mark, but what's stopping US? I know you love me and, damn it woman, you know I love you." B'Elanna gathered all her courage. "And you did say you weren't going to let your past stand in your way any more."

"I know, darling. And I'm right back in it again, aren't I?" Kathryn smiled apologetically at the engineer, who was sitting before her, looking very appealing in her T-shirt before getting dressed to leave for the day. "You keep looking like that," she smirked, "and I might just have to say yes."

"I haven't asked you yet, if you recall."

Kathryn pushed her chair back a little, away from the table and, still sitting, took a very deep breath indeed and tilted her head back, exhaling quickly with a loud 'phew' sound. She levelled her eyes at her love and said with a slightly breaking voice, "Well, you'd better ask me then, hadn't you."

Suddenly beaming a nervous little half smile, B'Elanna quizzed, "Are you sure?"

"Get on with it," Kathryn chided, "before I change my mind. For God's sake, make an honest woman out of me, before I panic!" She grinned widely.

B'Elanna reached across the table and took hold of Kathryn's hand. She looked into eyes that held great love and only slight fear, and said "Kathryn Janeway, I love you more than banana pancakes with maple syrup!" Kathryn blushed slightly as B'Elanna became serious. "I love you more than all the beauty I have so far seen, anywhere. I love you more than the breath that sustains me, more than my own life. Share this life with me fully? Be my wife?"

Kathryn's moist eyes blinked once, sending a single tear down her face. Tightening her grip on the hand in hers she replied, "And I love you beyond fear and into freedom – a freedom in which I choose to be married to you. Yes, I'll be your wife, my darling. I'd love to be your wife."

Two pieces of half-eaten toast lay abandoned on their plates as the two diners stood slowly, hand in hand, and held each other tightly. Their relationship had just deepened once again, taking them further than either of them had ever thought possible.

Today was just going to have to be another day when the two officers were going to be late reporting for their duty shifts.

It had happened before.

The End

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