DISCLAIMER: See Part I
There is none so blind
To Janeway's surprise she found the young woman wide awake and staring angrily at a portable computer console just out of her reach. The EMH was in his office, with his back turned to his patient.
The morose expression on B'Elanna's face told Kathryn everything she needed to know, but it quickly changed to one of joy when she saw who had just entered the room.
"B'Elanna, did you give the Doctor a hard time?"
"A bit," the young woman answered with a sheepish grin. "He is so stubborn. He won't let me have a look at the engineering reports. I know that I can't get up yet but I have to make sure that my engines are back to normal."
"Your sense of duty is commendable, Lieutenant, but for now I want you to concentrate on healing. The Doctor plans to release you from Sickbay tomorrow around 1200 hours. I'll make sure that copies of all reports are sent to your quarters by then. You can go back to light duty the day after. You re-injured your arm and will have to wear the sling for some time; so, no crawling around in Jeffries tubes for the time being, understood?"
"Yes Captain. Captain, I can feel that we are back to warp but we're running not faster than warp four. Is there a problem with the repairs?"
Kathryn's eyes widened in surprise, "Captain to the Bridge."
"Tuvok here, Captain. What can I do for you?"
"Lieutenant Torres tells me that we're only running at about warp 4. Why?"
"Warp 3.85, Captain. Lieutenant Carey detected a phase variance that only seems to appear when we're faster than warp 4. He wants to wait until tomorrow to track it down but he's still in Engineering to keep an eye on things."
"Does he think that it's the same variance that triggered the explosives?"
"He's not sure, Captain."
"Proceed and keep an eye on the readings from Engineering. Janeway out."
"Explosives, Captain?" B'Elanna asked from her prone position on the biobed.
"That's one of the things I only wanted you to find out tomorrow but I'd better fill you in now."
B'Elanna listened thoughtfully to the captain's explanation. "That's strange. Why would someone go to such lengths as to not leave even a hint of evidence and at the same time be imprudent enough not to shield the explosives against outside interference? Please, Captain, let me have a look at what the security team found. I have a hunch."
"B'Elanna, you need to rest."
"I feel fine, Captain, and I'm not stupid enough to even consider leaving this biobed. I just want the chance to have a look at the data on the explosives engineering and security found. If you could just roll over the table? Please, Captain, what can it hurt to let me have a look?"
The other woman just moved the table with the portable computer unit over and activated it. About ten minutes later the young woman accessed the communications' subroutine of the unit and called the engine room.
"Carey here. It's good to hear from you, chief. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Carey. Don't get too comfortable in my chair. Listen. I need you to send me all energy readings, plasma flow records and flux rates from ten hours before the explosion until now. I'll explain later."
Shortly after lines and lines of code began to appear on the small screen, and another ten minutes later B'Elanna requested additional data.
Kathryn had taken a seat nearby and chided herself for doing exactly that. She should do something constructive instead; let Tuvok know what was going on, talk to the Doctor, retire to her Ready Room to get some paperwork done but she was sitting in Sickbay, observing her chief engineer at work and doing a very bad job at disguising it.
B'Elanna's face, she ruefully admitted, was worth studying. Despite the look of concentration in her eyes, her emotions were easy to read. There was curiosity, frustration, guilt, a moment of triumph, anger, consternation, more anger. It would be easy to get lost in the expressive planes.
When B'Elanna finally sought her captain's attention for a short moment her eyes were full of regret and guilt before she schooled them into a more neutral expression.
"Captain, we have to drop out of warp and realign, probably replace the dilithium crystals."
"I studied the information concerning the explosives and the conduit pipe and found minuscule traces of fused insulation. The explosives were shielded but something must have gradually eroded the shielding."
As on numerous other occasions Janeway immediately understood where the younger woman was going with her line of thought. "The phase variance that triggered the explosives also destroyed the insulation, but how? It would mean that this has been there much longer than just a few hours. We should have picked up on it sooner."
"At the moment it's barely strong enough to register on our instruments. I'll need more data to prove it conclusively but I think that it built up since the anti-neutrinos from the special trajectory bombarded our warp core. I believe that either the anti-neutrinos or the phaser beam I used to destroy the matrix have caused micro fractures in the dilitihium matrix."
"And the fractures are getting bigger, the more stress we put on them. Damn it."
Kathryn took a deep breath. "Janeway to Bridge."
"Yes Captain," the calm voice of her temporary First Officer answered.
"Drop out of warp and go to full impulse, report to Engineering. I'll fill you in there." She once again tapped her comm.. badge. "Janeway to Carey, prepare a controlled shut-down of the warp core. I'm on my way."
"Good work, B'Elanna. I'll keep the comm.. link open, so you can see what's going on."
"Please, Captain, let me go with you. I'm sure the Doctor can rig up something to make me a bit more mobile."
"That's out of the question, B'Elanna. Shutting down the warp core and running an integrity test on the dilithium crystals is a routine procedure Lieutenant Carey and I are easily able to carry out on our own. There's no reason to risk your health," seeing the stubborn set of the younger woman's jaw she added, "please, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna reluctantly nodded.
"I'll let the Doctor know that I authorised the use of the terminal."
B'Elanna followed her mentor with her eyes. She had felt Janeway's blue-grey orbs on her while she had been working and something inside of her got all warm and tingly at the thought but she didn't dare dwell on it.
She knew it would take about two hours for the first test results of the crystals to come through, and she knew that she would not be able to rest; so, she returned her attention to the energy readings.
Half an hour later with a sick feeling in her stomach she called bridge operations and asked for the complete sensor logs to be sent to her station, starting with the moment they had picked up the bogus distress' signal of the Sikarian magistrate. It took her a while to find it but when she did the sick feeling turned to outright nausea and of course the Doctor monitored her closely enough to pick up on it.
"Captain Janeway said that your work is important, Lieutenant, but I won't allow you to overtax yourself."
Instead of verbally attacking him B'Elanna drew him in, "Doctor, have a look at these numbers, please. Do you see a pattern?"
"Don't try to distract me, Lieutenant."
"Just humour me, Doc."
The shortening of his designation was enough to do just that.
"It looks like some sort of regular transmission," he said.
The young woman pushed two buttons.
"Sensor shadows? No, that can't be right. Why would anyone disguise regular transmissions as sensor shadows?" He asked incredulously.
"That's the question, isn't it?" B'Elanna said. "The sensor logs show that the signals were only received while we were in orbit around Sikari. They could be nothing more but a side product of their technology or they could have been especially designed to destroy our dilithium crystals."
"You think that they wanted to force Voyager to stay? We have to tell the Captain."
"We will but not now. At the moment it's nothing but speculation. It also could be wishful thinking on my part."
"Yes, when I first suspected that there was something wrong with our dilithium I thought that it had started with the trajectory matrix and its destruction but if the resonance frequency of these transmissions caused the problem then it was not my fault."
"So, how will you find out?" the Doctor asked in obvious curiosity.
"Actually," B'Elanna answered, "that should not be that difficult. Torres to Carey."
"Chief, you're early. We didn't have a chance to test the crystals yet."
"That's alright. Before you do the ones in the warp core I want you to run a micro structure analysis on the dilithium in storage, the raw ore as well as the refined crystals, especially those we got from the Sikari."
"What's going on, B'Elanna?"
"I'll explain later, Captain. At the moment it's just another hunch. Please, indulge me."
Minutes stretched into hours while the engineer and the EMH were anxiously waiting for the results. Finally, Captain Janeway stormed in, her chief of Security at her side.
"How did you know? The whole stock of refined dilithium has micro fractures. It's essentially useless."
B'Elanna explained her reasoning and as expected the Starfleet captain didn't take it well.
"These damned bastards, Qopqagh HuH [dead gagh slime]. What in Grethor did they do this for? p'taQs!" Janeway shouted in anger.
To her own surprise B'Elanna tried to stay rational and calm though she felt anything but. "Captain, at the moment the only way to find out if it was deliberate or not would be to turn back and ask the Sikari. It could be an unexpected side effect of their technology."
Kathryn looked at her with fire burning in her eyes, "You don't really believe that, do you, B'Elanna?"
"No Captain. This is all just a bit too circumstantial for my taste. The Sikari generously provide us with high quality dilithium; they even offer to trade in our ore but if we had agreed to that we would be dead in the water in about three or four days. Without the explosion it easily could have taken us much longer to find out what caused the disruptive phase variance. They are technologically more advanced than we are. I just don't understand what they hope to gain."
Janeway was pacing the length of Sickbay, angry energy radiating from her in waves.
"I'd really like to turn the ship around and shove their damned hospitality back in their faces," she growled.
"That would be an unadvisable course of action, Captain."
Tuvok's calm voice seemed to reach the agitated woman. She stopped in mid-stride, took a deep breath and turned around.
"I know, Tuvok. There's nothing we can do but to repair the damage as soon as possible and look for a planet to stock up again. bIQ'a'Daq 'oHtaH 'etlh'e' [There's no going back; it can not be changed]. I don't have to like it though."
B'Elanna's respect for her commanding officer rose another notch. The woman had gone from burning fury to calm rationality in the blink of an eye. She seemed totally composed now while she herself still felt her own anger burning dangerously close to the surface. It made her once again understand how much she still had to learn.
"Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Carey are already in the process of refining the ore. We should be back to warp in about five to six hours. Lieutenant Torres, that was good work with the sensor logs. Doctor, see that Miss Torres has everything she needs."
Just as the captain had predicted they were ready to initialise the warp core in the early hours of the morning and resumed their journey. At the same time the Doctor removed the gel packs from B'Elanna's back and thighs and created a sterile area around the biobed. The new skin was still very sensitive and would have to settle before he could let her go.
For B'Elanna these last four hours were harder to take than the twelve before because her new skin was itching fiercely. She couldn't wait to get in the shower to make it stop.
The sling came off after five days which seemed like an eternity, and B'Elanna happily returned to regular duty, just in time to head the part of the away team that would mine a large deposit of dilithium while the other, bigger group was collecting leola roots and other delicacies Neelix' found indispensable.
Speculations about the possible identity of the saboteur had mostly replaced the gossip centring on her and the captain. Her lessons were progressing nicely and she began to feel inner peace for the first time she could remember.
Then they were faced with a Kazon vessel almost destroyed by a sloppily installed Starfleet food replicator. All but one of the crew had been killed. In the process it turned out that her friend Seska not only was the saboteur and working with the Kazon Nistrim but also a Cardassian spy and the murderer of the security officer and the three prisoners. She couldn't believe how easily she had allowed herself to be manipulated by the woman and her old insecurities came back with a vengeance.
When Janeway joined her in her quarters in the late afternoon, she immediately saw the change in B'Elanna's eyes. "Go and change into your training's attire, B'Elanna."
The raven-head nodded and went to her bedroom. Lessons in MoQ'bara, the Klingon version of martial arts, were usually at the end of each session, not at the beginning. So, her teacher was up to something.
"Computer, status of the holodecks?"
"Holodeck I and II are in use and working within the specified parameters."
"Computer, check the gym rooms for life signs."
"Gym I: three human life signs; Gym II: one Bajoran, one Vulcan life sign; Gym III: no life signs."
"Computer, seal access to Gym III, authorisation: Janeway alpha one theta phi seven," she ordered and changed in her own training's outfit, seemingly loose fitting off-white trousers and shirt with strategically placed padding at the knees, elbows, shoulders and chest.
They started with their usual warm-up routine, a series of slow but powerful movements designed to free a warrior's mind from immediate worry and stress and focus on the fight ahead. If necessary a true warrior could reach this state with a single controlled breath but B'Elanna knew that she was years of regular training from such perfection, even though the captain had assured her that she was progressing more than adequately.
Instead of exercising the different forms as they usually did, the older woman squared off against her and barked, "Defend yourself!"
The flurry of moves caught B'Elanna completely off guard. She tried to get some distance between herself and her attacker. She barely held her teacher off and suddenly the attack stopped.
"Take a deep breath and close your eyes, B'Elanna. Can you feel the anger simmering just below the surface? Use it, set it free! Open your eyes and defend yourself."
If it had not been totally inappropriate Kathryn would have smiled at the sudden change in B'Elanna's eyes. They had darkened considerably and had acquired an almost dangerous glint. This time she was not caught by surprise and they began to fight each other in earnest.
B'Elanna gave it her all and Kathryn did just enough to keep her student completely involved. When Kathryn was sure that she was really focused on nothing but the fight, she began to taunt her,
"Is this all you got? You fight like a Cardassian."
The reaction was instantaneous, B'Elanna attacked with a loud roar, forgetting her training for the fraction of a heartbeat and landing hard on the floor. She quickly reasserted herself and was back on her feet. They continued to trade blows and kicks.
Kathryn noted the gradual change in the other woman's fighting style with satisfaction; that was what she had hoped for: B'Elanna began to actively use the anger she felt to fuel her actions, she channelled her anger into controlled action.
"Tell me about Seska."
B'Elanna intensified her attacks but did not answer.
"She deceived you. She betrayed your trust. You don't give your friendship easily but she played with you. She played with you and Chakotay; she played with us all."
"She didn't deceive you and Tuvok," the young woman snarled while trying to reach her captain with a roundhouse kick.
"Tuvok does not trust easily. It's something that has to be earned with him, and I had personal reasons not to trust her but for all our prudence and our suspicions, there was never any conclusive evidence against her," Kathryn calmly answered while fighting on.
"How could I not have seen that she was a damn Cardassian spy?" B'Elanna's voice reflected anger and thoughtfulness at once and the sparring continued unabated.
"I hate having to admit it, B'Elanna, but she was good, very good, and we probably won't have heard the last of her. We will get a chance to get even with her, sooner or later."
"I'd really love to introduce her to the business end of a phaser rifle," B'Elanna growled.
"As your captain I might not be able to grant you that wish. That's not the way Starfleet operates."
The growl was much more pronounced now, and Kathryn only barely blocked the edge of a hand headed for her throat. She ducked a right hook, rolled out of the way and came up to the left and slightly behind her student. It was time to end this sparring session.
Her arms closed in a vice grip around B'Elanna's arms and midsection. She lifted her off the floor and waited for the situation to sink in. B'Elanna struggled in her arms. Her legs kicked helplessly and her already laboured breathing became ragged. She quickly stopped moving but it took another minute for the tension to leave her body.
Kathryn set her down and loosened her hold, expecting to be attacked as soon as B'Elanna had some mobility back but nothing like this happened. The young woman started to tremble. Kathryn turned her unresisting body gently around and found B'Elanna's brown eyes brimming with tears.
"The only reasons Klingons don't cry is because they have no tear ducts. There's no shame or dishonour in crying, B'El."
The soft words and the quiet support in Kathryn's eyes broke the dam and the young woman started to cry, big, silent tears. Kathryn closed her arms a bit more firmly around her student but maintained eye contact. She basically held her upright with her eyes.
She waited until the tears started to subside and then said, "Talk to me, B'El."
"I'm sorry I disappointed you, DevwI' SeQ."
"What makes you think that I'm disappointed?"
"Klingon warriors are supposed to be strong and I just proved my weakness."
"Strength is not the same as showing no emotions. We're not Vulcan. There's no shame in tears, B'Elanna, and letting your feelings out is no sign of weakness. It takes a lot of courage to allow oneself to feel and I'm gratified that you trust me enough to do it in front of me."
Kathryn chose her words carefully. She knew that she was crossing a line, once again. It had been a possibility since she had consented to lead the other woman through the lajQo' guvHa'ghachtay. Now, looking at the big brown eyes and the shy, tentative smile, she didn't care any longer.
"Thank you, DevwI' SeQ."
"K'Ryn, call me K'Ryn."
"Yes, K'Ryn. It's my Klingon name, the name my DevwI' SeQ gave me when I had reached a certain point in my development."
"Like B'El? No one ever called me B'El."
"Yes, just like B'El."
"So, I didn't screw up?"
"No, B'Elanna, on the contrary. Let's go back to your quarters and talk. We shouldn't monopolise the gym the whole night."
This day marked a considerable change in the relationship of the two women, though to the casual or even interested observer it was not obvious.
Ever since they had started the ritual training, the captain had focused their sessions on making B'Elanna understand that her volatile temper was not necessarily only coming from her Klingon side. The young woman had learned a lot about Human psychology and emotional response patterns but theory alone would never have helped her.
They also had spoken about her past, focusing on the occasions she had lost her temper. Kathryn had helped her to analyse her actions and reactions as if they had been someone else's. The older woman had been her voice of reason and though she always had been objective and logical in her approach, it was still far from the dispassionate, Vulcan kind of reason and logic. She never made any allusions or personal comments but to B'Elanna it was evident that she spoke from experience. In a strange way it allowed her to accept intellectually what she learned about herself and the MoQ'bara lessons they always finished the evening with helped her to deal with the emotional fall-out.
Now, Kathryn Janeway gave their lessons a much more personal touch. She allowed B'Elanna some glimpses in her personal history to make her understand that she was not alone with her problems and more than anything that made a difference for the young woman.
She was still easily angered but instead of resorting to physical force she used Starfleet regulations to reprimand her staff. Engineering had been working smoothly before but now it was like a well oiled machine and the atmosphere seemed at once more relaxed and more professional.
One evening they spoke about the differences between Klingon and Starfleet protocols, and Kathryn told her about the day she took revenge on the man who had ordered L'Larrela's death.
She had had to practically beg to be allowed to participate in the raid.
"Please, let me go with you, DevwI' SeQ", the young woman in the training's outfit said.
"You are not ready, K'Ryn."
"It is my right, Rel'Issa joHwI' [My Lady Rel'Issa]. She died in battle but her body is not yet whole. I don't want her spirit to be restless in StoVoKor because of that."
"Whenever we discussed the Klingon afterlife you were more than reluctant to even accept the possibility. It does not seem honourable to refer to it now."
Kathryn knew that her teacher wanted her to lose her temper. She had done the same on countless occasions before, but this time the young woman was determined not to fall for it.
"What I believe is not important, Rel'Issa joHwI'. What L'Larrela believed is. I intend to honour her convictions."
"You are not ready to eat the hearts of your enemies, my student." Another softly spoken and only thinly veiled insult, her teacher could as well have called her a coward. But once again she didn't answer with anger.
"And I might never be ready to do this. Besides, the vermin who killed your daughter were cowards and the heart of a coward is not worth being eaten by a warrior. Even your targh would rather spit on it. It is my right to avenge Lar's death and I demand that you take me with you."
Kathryn by then had adopted a rather aggressive pose; her feet were shoulder wide apart, her hands rested on her hips; her eyes were burning and her jaw set.
The Priestess studied her intently and laughed loud. Then she rose from her seat and said, "Come, you'll need more appropriate attire to fight at my side."
L'Larrela's killers had a quick death in battle but no one would howl for them. Their master, the priest who had ordered the attack and who was proudly displaying her head in his private study was not so lucky. He belonged to the few people who still believed that Klingon women were only good to bear more warriors and had been angry about Rel'Issa's recent promotion to the Boreth High Council, the highest spiritual authority in the whole Klingon Empire.
Her daughter not only had the audacity to follow in her mother's footsteps but had also been consorting with a Starfleet officer, and to make it worse a female officer. Attacking and killing her in his eyes had been the just punishment for her mother's unnatural ambition. That was at least what he had loudly proclaimed as long as his warriors still had been holding their attackers off.
When Rel'Issa, Kathryn and their fighters breached their defences he fled to what he perceived as the security of his house. Kathryn was the first to reach his study. She opened the door and had to duck a dagger aimed at her throat. The Priest was standing in front of his desk, battle ready with a bat'leth in his hands. He recognised Kathryn and began to taunt her but only when he called L'Larrela a "Starfleet whore" did the young woman react.
One smooth, fast movement disarmed him, kicked his legs further apart and cut off his private parts. He fell to the ground, instinctively trying to stem the flow of blood with both hands and writhing in agony. A booted foot kicked him on his back and with his own dagger in her hand an enraged Kathryn was on him, ready to carve out his eyes.
"Stop! Don't kill him just yet. He deserves to die like the 'Iwaghargh quvHa' 'up [dishonoured, disgusting bloodworm] he is: staked out in the desert and eaten alive by fire lizards the death of a traitor and a coward as ordained by Kahless himself."
The priest's pain seemed momentarily forgotten as Rel'Issa's words began to sink in. He started to beg and to plead to be shown mercy, to be killed, to be given a chance to kill himself.
Kathryn was still on her right knee next to him. She plunged the dagger deep in his throat, through the spine and into the floor, ending his cowardly whimpering and his life. She slowly rose to her feet, took the mummified head of her beloved and looked deeply into the sunken but still open eyes. Then she howled, a cry conveying an agony so consuming that it washed everything else away.
A hard yank brought a wall tapestry down with the symbol of the brotherhood of Boreth embedded in bright colours. She draped it over the desk. On the other side of the room was a book case from where she took the large volume with the rules of the monastery. She placed it in the centre of the desk and reverently put L'Larrela's head on top of it. Her blood incrusted bat'leth was laid in front of the book. One of the warriors gave her the priest's weapon and she sank to her knees and offered it to her teacher. Rel'Issa took it without a word; the young woman rose and left.
Only much later did Kathryn remember the short conversation between the Priestess and the warrior that had drifted to her ears while she slowly left the building.
"You were right, joHwI'. She was not ready. She should celebrate her first victory like a true warrior."
"She might not have been ready, my friend, but I also was wrong. Today she will be learning the last lesson she needs to be what she was supposed to be. She alone had the right to kill him the way she did."
"I didn't have a plan when I left; I only wanted to get away as fast as possible. I began to run, trying to silence the sound of his cries and his begging with the rhythm of my boots hitting the ground. Without being really aware of it I had begun to ascend the mountain, simply obeying my body's need of movement. The path got steadily steeper. At one point I slipped and looked down.
"The house of the priest was on fire; I sat down and observed the flames lapping up to the sky. I knew it was intended to open the gates of StoVoKor for L'Larrela and damn her murderers to Grethor. It should have given me some satisfaction but I only felt empty.
"When the flames had totally consumed the house I continued my trek up the mountain. It was already late afternoon but I didn't care. I reached the top around midnight and lost myself in the stars sparkling overhead. Slowly the images of L'Larrela's murderer and his anguished cries began to fade and I started to remember all the good times L'Larella and I had together, of looking up at the stars and sharing stories about the patterns up there, of our long runs together, of spending time in the library of the monastery. For the first time I didn't feel the need to cry my eyes out or to lash out against anyone and anything."
Kathryn fell silent and B'Elanna respected her silence though every single of her instincts cried out to her to take the older woman in her arms and protect her. The unusually detailed retelling had told her more than clearly that the memories were still painful and that the most difficult of them might not have been touched yet.
"That night," Kathryn finally continued, "I made my peace with L'Larrela and for the first few moments of the new day while watching a spectacular sunrise I thought that I had the answers to all of my questions. But then I looked down and saw my hands and armour dried blood glittering in the morning sun. I must have stared at my hands for hours."
B'Elanna immediately picked up on what the older woman was talking about, "It was your right to avenge her death, DevwI' SeQ"
Kathryn looked into her student's eyes. She saw no judgement there, just a genuine need to understand.
"Try to see it from the point of view of a Federation citizen," she simply said.
Kathryn knew that this simple phrase would be enough to make the younger woman think. B'Elanna took her time answering.
Finally the young woman went to the replicator and ordered two fresh glasses of water. She returned to her seat and took a small sip though she rather would have gulped down a big mug of blood wine. After taking a deep breath she began to speak.
"My mother and I were the only Klingons where I grew up, more than that we were the only non-Humans. My father had made arrangements that I could have my lessons at home and for two years after he left, it worked out fine. Then the local authorities decided that it would be better for me to attend the local school. A lot of the other parents were afraid that I could inadvertently hurt their children and didn't allow them to play with me.
"At the time I only blamed my Klingon half. It's only now that I understand that it was their fear of the unknown, of the supposedly uncontrollable that ruled them. Now I know that my mother tried everything she could to make them change their minds. It's only now that I understand how frustrated she must have been."
The younger woman fell silent and Kathryn held her brown orbs with her pale blue, almost grey eyes. Kathryn resisted the urge to ask, 'So, now, what do you intent to do with your answer? Take the next logical step. You're so close.'
It wouldn't do any good to pressure her. B'Elanna's gaze had drifted down to her hands still closed around the glass of water and stayed focused there.
"When you looked at your hands, after the sunrise, and the blood stains on your armour you saw yourself with the eyes of a Federation citizen, one who has heard a lot of stories about Klingons but possibly has never seen one. Being a Starfleet officer must have made it even more difficult. In their eyes what you did had been revenge, not justice. How did you find your balance, K'Ryn?"
"I spent the whole day and the next night on the mountain top and by then my head had come to a decision. I no longer wanted to be a Human with Klingon strength and Klingon instincts, and, yes, a Klingon temper."
Finally B'Elanna understood, "By killing your parmaqqay's murderer the way you did, you found a balance between Starfleet and Klingon justice. His death was inevitable but by killing him swiftly you showed a degree of compassion not easily found in Klingon warriors. But I suppose that thinking it was one thing, really believing it quite ano ."
The comm system effectively cut the young woman off. "Red alert; all hand to battle stations, senior officers to the bridge."
Both women sprinted out of the door and towards the turbo lift before the message had even finished. They learned that the shuttle that had been sent on a reconnaissance mission to study a nebula with Tuvok and Chakotay on board apparently had been attacked by a vessel coming unexpectedly out of a nebula. When they had been brought to Sickbay Tuvok had been unconscious and the first officer for all intents and purposes brain dead. An unknown entity seemed to sabotage the ship and it turned out that Tuvok had been possessed by an alien energy creature that intended to use the neural energy of the whole crew as food for its people. In the end Chakotay's disembodied spirit had saved the day.
With his sentence half completed Chakotay had begged her to be allowed back on duty. He had not asked to be reinstated in his former job, but he wanted to do something to once again actively help them to get back to Earth. Tuvok had agreed to monitor him and his performance during what should have been nothing but a routine mission. Now, Janeway was grateful that she had listened to his pleas. He had saved the lives of the whole crew; that went a long way to mellow her towards him. She reinstated him as her first officer, but she still didn't trust him on a personal level and thus refused to also reactivate his command codes and insisted that the house arrest would continue until he had completed the sentence. Chakotay seemed genuinely thankful, but in the quiet of her Ready Room Captain Janeway admitted to herself that the only reason he was back on the Bridge and in the chair to her left was that B'Elanna had asked her to give him another chance.
Kathryn remembered the short conversation they had had about the subject in a turbolift on the way to Engineering and yet another double shift to repair the damage caused by the encounter with the energy creature.
"I know what Chakotay did to me was wrong, and consequently what he is capable of doing given half the chance doesn't exactly encourage anyone to trust him again. He should have had a much better control over his urges, but despite everything, and it took me a long time to admit this to myself, despite everything he is a good man. He saved my life more than once. In my eyes he deserves a chance to redeem himself."
As soon as things started to return to what in the Delta quadrant passed as normal, sensors indicated an asteroid with seemingly large Dilithium deposits and the ship's chief engineer was of the firm belief that one could never have too much Dilithium ore. An away team consisting of Ensign Durst, Lieutenant Torres, and the ever adventure-happy Lieutenant Paris was sent down while Voyager itself set out to scan and map the whole area.
When the team failed to make contact at the appointed time and a more detailed scan showed that some of the corridors had shifted direction the captain started to get a very bad feeling, instantly validated by the discovery of Viidian force fields, force fields protected against their phasers. Chakotay finally came up with the idea to rescue their missing crew members from the mining colony they apparently had stumbled upon by posing as a Viidian and infiltrating the complex.
Tom Paris was safe and sound but Durst had paid with this life and B'Elanna's DNA had been split in half, creating two different persons: a fully Human and a fully Klingon B'Elanna Torres. Unsurprisingly at first they didn't get along at all but when push came to shove they worked together. The Human B'Elanna had managed to disable the shields around the mining complex and Voyager beamed them out. The Klingon B'Elanna, however, gave her life protecting her other half.
When they all re-materialised on the transporter platform the Klingon already was beyond the Doctor's help and when she closed her eyes for the last time the Human B'Elanna howled for her and whispered, "batlh Daqawlu'taH [You will be remembered with honour]."
The young woman felt that it was the least she could do for her other half, announcing her proud entrance into StoVoKor. Never having done this before, however, the dark-haired engineer had not been prepared for the rush of emotions with which the simple gesture almost overwhelmed her. And then she suddenly felt very empty.
She was relieved when the Doctor later told her that he had to reintegrate her Klingon DNA because without it her cells were no longer able to synthesise proteins. B'Elanna was still very pensive when Chakotay asked her how she was doing.
"I'm not sure. It's been a pretty strange experience. I do know that right now, the way I am, I'm more at peace with myself than I've ever been before. And that's a good feeling."
Sensing her thoughtful mood the tall man asked, "But?"
She looked at him, trying to explain what she really felt. "I'm incomplete. It doesn't feel like me."
The gentle smile on his face told her that he probably would not understand the truth, so, she said what she thought he expected her to say, "I guess I had someone else living inside of me for too long to feel right without her."
"I'd have to say that you two made quite a team down there."
B'Elanna didn't know if he said this to help her make peace with her other half or to simply change the subject.
"I know. I came to admire a lot of things about her, her strength, her bravery. I guess I just have to accept that I'll spend the rest of my life fighting with her."
The moment the last sentence had passed her lips, she knew that it was not true, that she just had betrayed the sacrifice of her other half. Chakotay, however, seemed not to have expected anything else and patted her left forearm in sympathy before leaving the infirmary.
At first the Doctor's injections didn't seem to have much effect and she wanted him to release her to her quarters but he insisted on keeping her under close observation until the process was complete. That gave her a lot of time to think about the last several days.
She remembered having been thrown around the barracks like a rag doll after the guards surprised her at the terminal, and then this glorious Klingon had rushed in and swept the floor with them. After feeling weaker and more frightened with every passing hour, trading insults with herself had constituted a comforting return to normality. She recalled snippets of their discussion that still had resulted in developing an escape plan that had really worked.
Would the Doctor have been able to reunite both halves if the Klingon had not been killed? Would any of them have agreed to such a procedure? Could she have learned to live in a Starfleet ship, following Starfleet regulation or would she have ended up in the brig for continuous insubordination or for breaking the jaws of everyone who mispronounced her name?
Then her thoughts returned to her conversation with Chakotay and the half truths she had fed him. Her other half had been right to call her a p'taQ but she also had told her that saving her life had made her death an honourable one. Now, it was up to her to live up to her other half's expectations.
B'Elanna didn't get the chance to come to any clear decision when her world suddenly was flooded with intense pain, a pain brought on when the Klingon DNA began to restore her brow ridges and secondary organs.
The Doctor practically begged her to allow him to administer some painkillers or a sedative but all she asked for was some privacy. So, he erected an opaque force field around her biobed. With the next injection it got even worse and every single one of his subroutines told him to do something.
"Let me call the captain, Lieutenant. She can help you like she did the last time."
"I will not allow you to do that, Doctor. Keep Captain Janeway out of it. She is not to know about the pain."
"But she can help you," the young woman doubled over in pain. "This is not necessary."
"Yes, it is. The 'Ceremony of Pain' will not work this time. I have to do this alone. Respect my wishes, Doc, please," she pressed out when the next wave of pain raced through her body.
The EMH nodded and left the isolated area. He still thought that it was wrong to simply let her suffer but with one word the fiery young woman had considerably weakened his resolve; she had said 'please'.
After the next to last injection, with 70% of her original physiology restored, B'Elanna thankfully passed out. Had he not been holographic, the Doctor would have breathed a sigh of relief.
About an hour later Captain Janeway strode into Sickbay. Together with Ensign Kim she had worked on a way to deactivate the Vidiian's force fields in case of future encounters. With their combined scientific and engineering competence they really had found a way. She hoped to distract B'Elanna from once again having to stay in Sickbay by telling her all about it. But instead of finding a belligerent chief engineer she was faced with an isolation field and a visibly worried CMO.
"Doctor, report. How is Lieutenant Torres?"
He quickly filled her in on the unforeseen side effects of the gene therapy and B'Elanna's reaction to his suggestions, conveniently forgetting that she had specifically asked him not to inform the captain.
"And she really said that the 'oy'sontay would not work?"
"Yes Captain, but I don't see any reason why not."
"When did you plan to give her the last injection?"
He should have known that she would not answer his implied question, "I can give it to her now. It's been almost two hours since the last one and it might not be so hard on her if she's still out."
"Do it. I'll stay with her."
The Doctor applied the hypospray and the young Hybrid's body reacted immediately and violently. It took both the captain and him to restrain her until the first spasms had passed. Thankfully she didn't regain consciousness.
As soon as she had settled down a bit the Doctor left them alone. Kathryn looked down on the still strained face of her student and wracked her brain on why she had refused her help, why she seemed convinced that the 'oy'sontay would not work. There was only one possible explanation: B'Elanna thought that she deserved to suffer this pain. But what in Grethor would make her think something like that? She had done nothing wrong; without her Voyager would have lost not only one member of the family but four.
In the middle of Gamma shift B'Elanna came to and opened her eyes.
"K'Ryn, you're here," she whispered.
"Yes, I'm here, B'El, and I won't go anywhere. Sleep now, you soon will be back to normal."
"Not normal, so sorry," B'Elanna mumbled before falling into a deep healing sleep.
The Doctor tried to get his Captain to spend the rest of the night in her bed but she insisted on staying at the Hybrid's side. Instead of arguing the holographic chief Medical Officer simply ordered the computer to log Captain Janeway off-duty the next day due to a medical emergency. She nodded her thanks and he once again left the isolation area.
He had been among the first to hear the rumours about the captain and her chief engineer but in his eyes they didn't act like lovers. He conceded that there definitively was something going on between them but he was less than sure about the nature of their relationship.
Whatever it was, Janeway's mere presence seemed to aid the younger woman's recovery. The side effects of the treatment had abated more quickly and all her readings for the first time in hours had started to even out as soon as Captain Janeway had touched her shoulder just as if she had recognised the touch, like a lover would.
He compared his recent findings with the readings he had taken during the 'Ceremony of Pain' and found them consistent. But according to the information in the Klingon medical database this particular ceremony required eye contact to work.
When B'Elanna had regained consciousness, the calming effect of the other woman's presence had become even more apparent; her muscles relaxed, her breathing was more regular and her adrenaline output slowly returned to a more normal level.
It was fascinating, especially since he could not detect any change in his commanding officer and not for the first time he regretted not being able to look as easily into his patients' minds than he did into their bodies.
Kathryn was still observing the sleeping woman. Her words in this short moment of consciousness in a way had affirmed the captain's suspicions. The brown orbs had told her more than clearly that her charge felt guilty. 'But why?' she asked herself, 'and what had she meant with not being normal?'
She had thought that B'Elanna had finally come to accept her Klingon half. Was it possible that the direct confrontation had undone all their progress? Tom Paris' report had mentioned in passing how fearful B'Elanna's Human part had been at the beginning. He also had stressed how she had overcome her fear to get them all out of there. Was it possible that the experience had made her see her Human half as weak and that she now would start to reject that part of herself?
Kathryn's rational mind knew that it was pointless to speculate one way or the other. She had to wait until they could talk in private.
During her short venture into consciousness B'Elanna had instinctively taken hold of her Devwl' SeQ's hand, and though the grasp had eased up almost immediately Kathryn had yet to remove her hand. Every now and then B'Elanna turned her head in sleep, and the older woman used the opportunity to brush a strand of hair out of her face gently.
Kathryn knew that she should not give into the temptation; she had no right to express her feelings. It was wrong on so many levels. With stolen moments like these she was taking advantage of B'Elanna, of her current vulnerability and of her trust.
Kathryn's hand rested gently on the young woman's cheek. She knew it was not right, but these clandestine moments were all she ever would have; they were all she could allow herself.
As a captain she had to be seen as larger than life to get her motley group of Starfleet personnel, Maquis rebels, and Delta Quadrant natives back to sector 001; especially with a Second-in-Command she no longer trusted. She had to set an example, not only to gain their trust but also to get them all to follow Starfleet protocols and that meant she had to adhere to all of the rules, even, and maybe especially, the unwritten ones.
Kathryn sighed and B'Elanna turned her head again, just a couple of inches but enough to give the impression of snuggling into the other woman's touch. The small movement brought a smile to Kathryn's face, a smile so bright and enticing it made the dark-haired woman smile in answer when she opened her eyes.
For about a minute they just looked at each other, drowning in brown respectively blue-grey orbs.
Then Kathryn restored her captain's mask and they called the Doctor who released B'Elanna to her quarters under the condition that she got some rest for the next two days. He ordered a site-to-site transport for the two women.
"DevwI' SeQ, after your shift, could we talk, please?"
"I'm glad you asked, B'Elanna. I'm off duty today; so, why don't we both grab a shower and meet for lunch at my quarters. Let's say in two hours?"
"I'll be on time, thank you."
B'Elanna pressed the door chime and when nothing happened she announced herself and the door to the captain's quarters immediately slid open. Kathryn was sitting on the couch, wearing some slacks and a simple shirt. She was sleeping. The door closed before the engineer could retreat; so, her DevwI' SeQ obviously had keyed the door to recognise her voice. B'Elanna speculated that she perhaps had not wanted her to have to wait outside, in case her teacher would not have been ready in time.
She found a padd to leave the other woman a message but when she sat down to compose it, her eyes fell on the relaxed, peaceful features of her DevwI' SeQ, no, of K'ryn. She looked younger than ever and the imposing command presence had been replaced by gentle beauty.
B'Elanna was mesmerised; she couldn't take her eyes off and instead of leaving she took a blanket from the other end of the couch and draped it over the sleeping body.
She knew it was wrong to stay and look at her commanding officer this way; it was an invasion of privacy, indiscrete in the extreme. Yes, she thought that she had seen love and desire in the other woman's eyes after she had woken up in Sickbay the second time. But it also could have been a figment of her imagination because a moment later there only had been the captain left.
A captain was not supposed to get involved with a crew member. B'Elanna had seen both, the captain and the woman.
K'Ryn, daughter of Rel'Issa, never would allow her feelings to interfere with her duty; and Kathryn Anna Janeway, daughter of a Starfleet Admiral, wouldn't either. It would be dishonourable.
The object of her thoughts began to stretch; she looked like a kitten waking from deep slumber. A wave of tenderness swept through B'Elanna and she vowed to do everything in her power to protect the captain, her teacher, and the woman.
Kathryn woke up. It took her a few moments to get her bearing. Her internal clock told her that it was much later than lunch time and her senses let her know that B'Elanna was only a few paces away. She opened her eyes and saw her, fidgeting and trying to look everywhere but at her.
"Sorry for having kept you waiting, B'El. The night must have caught up with me. Now, how about something to eat?"
"I'm not really hungry, K'Ryn." The young woman tried to hide her surprise that Kathryn did not call her upon her obvious invasion of privacy.
"Don't let the Doctor hear that, B'Elanna. Why don't we grab a late lunch at the mess hall? It might be better to eat there anyway; the one time I invited my mother and sister to dinner at my home in San Francisco I managed to burn replicated pot roast."
B'Elanna nodded in answer and followed her Captain. The mess hall was surprisingly empty and Neelix so busy with dinner preparations that he didn't have the time to chat much. They ate in companionable silence; so, none of them was prepared for the awkward silence that descended upon them as soon as they had returned to Captain Janeway's quarters.
Kathryn finally solved the problem by replicating both of them two tall glasses of water. She retook her place on the couch and folded her legs under her, just like she always did at the start of their lessons. B'Elanna imitated her posture and closed her eyes. They usually spent the first few minutes in quiet contemplation to her probably the most difficult part of the ritual, at least at the beginning.
So, she was rather surprised when Kathryn asked, "Why didn't you allow the Doctor to use painkillers or to call me?"
"I meant no disrespect, DevwI' SeQ."
"I didn't ask to reprimand you, B'El. I asked to understand."
The dark-haired woman studied Kathryn's face. She was in full teacher mode but there also was a kind of deep understanding that had not been there before.
"According to the rules of the 'oy'sontay both parties have to be pure of heart, at least in respect to the injuries obtained. I was not. I deserved to feel this pain and regret deeply that I was not strong enough to stand it without losing consciousness."
So, her speculations had been right on target, Kathryn thought before asking, "Why?"
"That's not easy to explain." The younger woman took a deep breath.
"I betrayed my Klingon half. She gave her life for me and she thought me worthy to do so, but when Chakotay asked me how I felt I still made him believe that I saw her as disturbing my peace of mind and that I never would accept her as an integral part of me. I told him that I would have to accept the fact to spend the rest of my life fighting with her."
"So, you lied to him?"
"Yes and no. I also told him that I admired her strength and her bravery."
Kathryn just looked pointedly at B'Elanna to let her know that she would not let her get away with such a simple diversion. The younger woman took a deep breath; the only avenue left for her now was the truth.
"I betrayed myself when I told Chakotay that I still see her as a powerful but isolated part of myself. Even before the Doctor started to put us back together, so to speak, I knew that she was and always will be a part of me. I betrayed her by not telling him the truth."
"Would he have understood?"
"That's not the point." B'Elanna had jumped up from her seat and now was pacing the length of the captain's living room. "The point is that I didn't care what he thought of me, not really, not deep down. My answer was born out of a deep instinct, honed ever since I was a kid. That's my betrayal. It's just one in a long line. I'm good at betrayals. I betrayed my father by being too Klingon and my mother by not being Klingon enough. I betrayed my teachers at the Academy by not fulfilling their expectations. I betrayed Chakotay by not being honest with him. I betrayed you by "
"mevjap!" Kathryn had not moved from the couch, yet her voice had been as sharp as a whiplash and her eyes were sparkling with anger. "Stop! That's enough! Stop belittling yourself, B'Elanna, and use your head. Hoch nuH qel! [Consider every option!] Think! How much do you trust Chakotay? Not as your commanding officer but as your friend?"
"Yesterday in Sickbay was the first time we have spoken privately since he apologised," the young woman answered after a few moments. "I still trust him with my life but not with my thoughts or feelings."
B'Elanna found other woman's eyes. "So, it might be possible that I said what he expected to hear, not because it's still true but because I didn't want him to know too much about me."
She retook her seat on the couch. "Or it might have been a combination of both. That makes it a bit more understandable but not less dishonourable."
Kathryn would have smiled at her student's predictable stubbornness were this not a very crucial point in the ritual.
"There's no dishonour in employing strategy to protect oneself. So, the real question should be. Did you believe what you said?"
"I didn't think about it before saying it, but I knew it was not true as soon as I had said it."
Her eyes were now much brighter than only moments before. "I did not betray myself," she finally said with wonder in her voice.
"Now, for your father "
"Rationally I know that there's no betrayal in being what and who one is, especially when you're five years old but sometimes it's hard to make my heart think the same way."
"Then I will tell you as often as you'll need to hear it, B'El. If there is someone to blame it's your father. It's he who betrayed you, not the other way round," Kathryn let her words sink in and then asked, "How did your parents meet?"
"My father was a mining engineer fresh out of university and working for a small mining operation on Kessik IV. He attended a conference on new mining equipment, on Deep Space Five. My mother had accompanied one of her older sisters to the conference. She was groomed to supervise this part of the family business. My aunt later told me that she fell for him like Kahless did for Lukara but certainly didn't show Lukara's impeccable taste in men."
"How old was your mother?"
"I don Kahless on a crutch! She was only seventeen, just the age I was when I ran away to the Academy. She was younger than I am now when my father left."
Kathryn loved to see the younger woman's mind at work and let her come to her own conclusions.
"Relying on her Klingon heritage might well have been the only way not to lose herself in this situation. I wish I had understood then."
"You were only a child, B'El, don't take responsibility for things that were out of your hands. Why did your mother not return to the home world?"
"When she married my father in a Federation Ceremony my great grandmother exiled her for ten years and when the ten years were over she had to deal with a very angry child who despised all things Klingon. She also might have been too proud to return on their terms instead of on her own."
"What do you mean?"
"When my father left, he not only packed up his clothes but everything even remotely of value. My mother convinced Uncle Steven, the owner of the mine, to give her a chance. The Federation would not have let us starve anyway, but this way we had a few bargaining chips to get extras, so to speak. On Kessik IV this made the difference between surviving and living. At the time I didn't see it but I later learned that she's a really good engineer. She had been hired as an aide to my father's successor but soon replaced him."
"You are proud of your mother." It was not a question.
"Yes, I am but I never had the chance to tell her. As a child I didn't want to know; and what I know about her now I learned from one of my aunts. I met her while on a trip to buy weapons for the Maquis on Deep Space Nine a couple of weeks before Commander Tuvok came on board. She told me about my mother and how proud of me she and the whole family were for choosing the path of a true warrior by joining the Maquis.
"She told me that directly after my father had left, my great grand-mother offered my mother to return home earlier if she officially apologised to the elders of the House and underwent a purification ritual. She answered that she had nothing to apologise for and nothing to be purified of.
"I was twelve when we visited Qo'nos for the first time and by then my mother had made enough of a name for herself as an engineer that we could afford our own ship. It was not much bigger than a Starfleet shuttle but able to sustain warp 7.26 and equipped with an impressive array of shields and weapons. My aunts and cousins were very impressed when we landed at the estate of my great grandmother. But I'm digressing.
"While I was in school everyone, including myself, thought that my aptitude at engineering and science came from my father because he was an engineer by trade but since my aunt told me about my mother's reputation as a mining engineer and her out-of-the-box solutions for unusual problems, I think that my abilities come more from her than him. I hope one day I'll be able to tell her that and many other things personally."
B'Elanna saw the proud smile on her teacher's face. It encouraged her to continue, "When I now think back to my childhood I see that my mother never forced me to live my Klingon heritage. She made sure that I knew what it was all about. She taught me the language and the customs and the legends.
"And she made me understand that because of my superior physical strength I had to be careful in my interactions with others. I never was a courtyard bully but I think that's a lesson I'm still learning." The young woman offered with a shy smile but quickly resumed her strain of thoughts.
"My mother also saw to it that I got to know my Spanish heritage. She contacted my father's parents and it turned out that they did not know about his marriage or his daughter. We came as quite a surprise but they welcomed us with open arms."
B'Elanna sought the blue eyes of the other woman and asked, "DevwI' SeQ, why didn't I see things as I see them now earlier? I missed so many opportunities. I rejected half of what I am just for the sake of someone I didn't even know. Why?"
"A few weeks ago you told me about this camping trip with your father's cousin and his children. You were a vulnerable child then; look at it from the perspective of an adult."
Unsurprisingly the young woman once again rose from her seat and began to pace. "It's not logical to mourn spilt water."
"Humans and Klingons are not very logical races, B'El, and they are allowed to get angry about things, even when they are in the past and can't be changed. The question is what to do with this anger."
"I turned it inwards, against myself and because I was not at peace with myself I reacted with anger and aggression towards everyone else. I'm such a stupid moron."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, B'El. When I was a kid, going to a traditionalist school when your father is a high ranking Starfleet officer was not always easy and there was a time when I lashed out against anyone and anything. You did the same but for you it was more difficult because a lot of Federation citizens, even non-Humans are afraid of Klingons. You know better now, not only in your head but also in your heart. So, do you still think that you betrayed your mother?"
"No, K'Ryn. I regret that I gave her such a hard time and I hope that one day I'll get the chance to make it up to her. But I didn't betray her and I don't think that she felt betrayed. I'd like the chance to tell her that I love her."
The young woman looked up and then added with a mischievous twinkle in the eyes, "Of course only a few weeks ago I would rather have eaten a helping of all fifty-one kinds of gagh before admitting to something like this."
Kathryn laughed, a full belly laugh she only allowed herself when in the company of good friends. B'Elanna joined in and when they once again had calmed down she asked, "DevwI' SeQ, you still have not told me how you managed to join both halves in your heart."
"The same way you just did, B'El. Rel'Issa joH got me to talk and in turn told me a bit about herself, about the time when she was an apprentice at the monastery and no one wanted to have anything to do with her because she was a woman.
"It's late, B'Elanna, you need to rest. The Doctor will not be pleased with either of us if he learns that I kept you up half of the night."
Now that Kathryn had said it, the young engineer really felt her exhaustion and quickly retired to her own quarters. She fell asleep as soon as her head had hit the pillow and woke to a red alert shortly after lunch the next day. She jumped into a fresh uniform and by the time she had reached engineering it turned out to be a false alarm.
Apart from the bio-neural gel packs succumbing to an infection one after the other and endangering Tuvok and one of his Maquis' trainees, the next couple of weeks were rather quiet. So, everyone jumped at the chance of an adventure when they found this old, rusty Earth vehicle drifting in front of them. They found and revived the '37s and after the initial misunderstandings had been cleared up, got to know an entire civilisation of Humans.
B'Elanna had a great time with their engineers and some of their more daring theories about cold fusion. They were wrong but had given her an idea that could give them a considerable amount of energy to power the better part of the secondary systems. It probably would take her a couple of weeks to build a functional model but she was sure that it would work.
She was so focused on her project that she even missed the ship-wide announcement of the colonists' offer. So, she was rather surprised when a subdued Harry Kim found her in one of the engineering labs.
"Hey, Starfleet, what's up?"
"Didn't you hear? If only one third of the crew decide to stay the rest of us will be stranded here and we'll never get home."
"Calm down, Harry. I don't have the faintest idea what you are talking about."
With some prompting she found out about the colonists' offer to Voyager's crew to become part of their society, and she conceded that he might have a point.
" but I don't think that your fears are really warranted, Harry. I doubt that more than five or ten will want to stay. There are not this many people on board who don't have a reason to want to go home and some of them will stay on for the adventure," she tried to calm him.
"How can you say that? Even Tom is speaking of staying and he's as adventurous as they come."
Over the months Harry had become not only a friend but also a younger brother. She felt very protective of him, and now she saw something close to desperation in his eyes.
"Tom? No, Harry. He probably would be earth-bound for the rest of his life. He's a pilot to the core and Voyager gives him all the challenges he needs."
Harry's brown eyes lit up in hope, "Are you sure?"
"Positive, Starfleet. Tell me, there didn't happen to be a pretty colonist woman close by when he said that?"
"Yes, there was. You think he only wanted to impress her?"
"It might improve his chances to get lucky with someone else than the Delaney sisters. And now, you can help
A few hours later when both of their stomachs began to complain they decided to get something to eat. The big room was surprisingly empty. Neelix insisted on serving them himself and even the cheery Talaxian expressed his concern that too many of the crew would be tempted by the colonists' offer of a peaceful and stable life.
"I doubt that even one of the Starfleet officers will stay, Neelix. After all, what we do here, in the Delta Quadrant, is what the 'fleet was meant to do from the beginning, explore the unknown. No officers worth their commission would give up such a chance this easily; and the former Maquis are not this different.
"Most of us fought the Cardassians because it was the right thing to do, and staying here would not serve the greater good, getting all of us home will.
"There's another point," she continued when she saw their hopeful expressions. "Since Seska's betrayal we all have started to become one crew regardless of the type of insignia we wear, and a crew stands together."
"Since when have you become so eloquent, B'Elanna?" Harry asked.
"Since my friends needed some verbal comforting, Harry. I know I can't keep you from worrying, but try to believe me, everything will be alright."
In her effort to reassure the two men she had missed the entrance of their chief of Security. He headed straight for their table. "Lieutenant Torres, may I have a word?"
The young woman nodded. "There's a problem with Holodeck I. The safeties are stuck at the lowest level with program Sub-zero-one running. Captain Janeway could use your assistance in fixing it."
B'Elanna at first stared at Tuvok, but before he had to get even more explicit, she finally understood, "I'll get my tools, Lieutenant Commander. Thank you for telling me about the problem."
She nodded towards the other two men and hurried to her quarters to change. Sub-zero-one was a MoQ'bara competition that had given her a few nasty bruises even with full safeties.
Surprisingly the entrance to the holodeck was not sealed and she stepped in just in time to have a big Klingon warrior land head first at her feet.
"Would you care for a real sparring partner, DevwI' SeQ?"
Kathryn's outfit was already sweat soaked and her eyes were glinted with the beginnings of battle haze. B'Elanna didn't wait for an answer; she jumped into the ring and took her position. She knew she was in for a wild ride. She was far from being the captain's equal in hand-to-hand combat but she had a slight margin in strength that just might give her what she needed to hold her own until the woman had exhausted herself.
They circled each other, traded blows and kicks in a potentially deadly dance. B'Elanna felt something stir inside of her, an energy she never before had felt, an energy awakened by the scent of Kathryn's sweat. Had someone observed them, they would only have seen two women fighting each other but B'Elanna sensed the change.
The sparring match was slowly becoming something else, and even though B'Elanna had never lied to herself about her romantic feelings for the other woman, she was still surprised at the intensity with which she wanted this. Before, whenever their sparring had begun to get out of hand that way, it had been Kathryn who had held her back before her instincts got the better of her. Now, it would be up to her.
A blow to the head made her stumble backwards but she was able to turn it into a roll and tried to sweep Janeway off her feet by attacking her knees. Kathryn went with the flow and suddenly B'Elanna found herself pinned under the other woman's weight. With her hormones in overdrive she was more than reluctant to do anything about it. Her senses were filled with Kathryn's presence and with her last bit of will power she said, "I surrender, Captain Janeway."
Four simple words that brought the older woman up short. Her eyes cleared, she took in their position on the floor, the mixed scents of their sweat and arousal and jumped to her feet. She fled the holodeck.
B'Elanna stayed where she was; her blood was thundering in her ears. Only about ten minutes later did she regain some semblance of control. She knew that she had to tell Tuvok that his plan had backfired, that Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager and her chief engineer, a Starfleet Academy dropout, had only been moments away from exchanging the ritual bite.
"Commander Tuvok, the holodeck has been repaired, sort of "
"You can speak freely, Lieutenant. I'm in my quarters."
"I sparred with Captain Janeway and took her mind off the colonists' offer but instead..." she suddenly was at a loss for words.
How can I tell a Vulcan what I almost did with his friend and commanding officer? On the other hand who else but a Vulcan could really understand the force of such emotions, and what it meant to try to control them?
"Instead our sparring match almost turned into a mating ritual. Please, keep an eye on the captain."
"I will, Lieutenant. Thank you for letting me know. Are you alright?"
"More or less, I will be after I have burned off some energy and taken a very long, very cold shower."
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