DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: While this may appear a Janeway/Seven story, it really isn't.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By alastria7

Part 1

It seemed like a nice morning, although you couldn't really tell in space. How could you look out of the window and see the sun streaking down through the gaps in little white fluffy clouds? You couldn't. But B'Elanna Torres had awoken with a feeling of joy and mirth running through her entire being on (what she'd decided was) a fine day... the day she would finally voice her feelings for another.

She couldn't remember how or why she and Kathryn had gravitated towards each other some months ago, becoming closer with every passing moment they spent in each other's company, but she was more than sure of the way she wanted things to develop between them now. She wanted them to evolve to the next stage - a relationship.

'Kathryn, I'm in love with you,' she practised as she showered. 'No, that won't do at all. Too blunt.' Her face furrowed in a frown as she tried other words, all intended to enlighten the object of her affection as to her feelings for her. She was absolutely certain those feelings were returned, after all, 'faces don't lie, do they?' she reasoned.

Her shower completed, she wrapped herself up in a large white towel and walked through to the bedroom, scooping up the combadge from the table beside the bed. She stared at it. 'C'mon, let's see some courage here,' she told herself, before taking a deep breath and saying, "Torres to Captain Janeway."

"Janeway here."

"Uh, Captain. Can you give me a time to meet with you today? There's something I need to discuss."

"No time like the present, Lieutenant. Are you free now?"

"You're an early bird. I just have to dress."

"Well then, I'll see you in my Ready Room when you're done. Janeway out."

"You haven't thought this through at all, have you?" asked Janeway incredulously, staring up at her chief engineer from behind the Ready Room desk.

Somehow, B'Elanna had not expected that.

Exhaling sharply, Kathryn rose from her seat and began to pace the room, waving her right arm around as she continued, "I mean, apart from the fact that Starfleet regulations state..."

"Oh, I see. Fine," snapped B'Elanna, barely controlling her feelings. "So we're going by the book here, are we?"

"What else can I do?" asked Janeway beseechingly.

"You can let me love you, not from afar like I have been doing but really love you. I want to make a safe place for you and be there for you, while you're busy being there for everyone else. I want you to love me. What's the harm?"

"Stop this, B'Elanna, please."

"Do you deny you have feelings for me?"

"No, I can't deny it. But I..."

"Then surely you can let yourself act on them – please. I love you so much, Kath."

"But I have to abide by the rules here, can't you see that?"

"I can see a woman who wants to break them."

Kathryn glared at her engineer before pacing the room. "And what example would that set, huh, if I go around breaking Federation rules? For God's sake, B'Elanna, I thought you would recognise the need for these rules and regulations, even if you've seen fit to fly in the face of them in the past. You know we have to adhere to them, otherwise what have we got?"

"Sure, I recognise the need... for the smooth running of the ship and the control of the crew but this is fast turning into what could become a generational ship here."

Kathryn stopped pacing and stood still to receive the words she didn't want to hear, her body tensing visibly as B'Elanna continued, "People are recognising they're probably never going home again and they're making their lives here, which is admirable. They're choosing partners and beginning to settle, can't you see that?" B'Elanna knew this was a bad argument but she couldn't stop herself. "These are exceptional circumstances and Starfleet would understand. Why in hell can't you just allow yourself to be a part of it and let go?"

The look B'Elanna received was as cold as ice and she realised, too late, how very badly she'd stepped on Kathryn's fragile feelings. The fate of Voyager and its crew had weighed heavily these past years and it took only moments for the captain's deep guilt and many regrets to explode. "Get out," she said in a voice low with emotion.

"But surely you..."


There was no room for negotiation and the lieutenant really should have known better but she was determined. "I'll go, but I won't take 'no' for an answer," she blazed, adding confidently, "I want you, Kath. Have I made that clear?"

The captain exhaled through her mouth and stood in front of the beautiful human/Klingon hybrid. "Well you can't have me, Lieutenant," she returned coldly, "not under these circumstances. Now, have I made THAT clear?"

Unexpectedly stung, B'Elanna caught a cry in her throat and swallowed it back down hard. Her eyes filled with hurt as she wondered, too late, about the value of silence.

She drilled her need into Janeway's eyes, together with her frustration at the damn rules and the pain of this rejection, but it changed nothing. What she saw in the cold blue/grey orbs told her that there was no chance for their love, no chance at all. In deep distress, she pushed past her captain and out of the door.

Alone in the Ready Room, the captain's stiff posture slumped. She let out a sigh and closed her eyes, standing for a long time on the same spot with no will to move, trying to control the feelings raging inside her. She wanted nothing more than to go after B'Elanna; to hold her, to cradle her and tell her it would all work out, somehow, but the rulebook held her mind in unrelenting deadlock. Finally she frowned and rubbed her shoulders, stretching her neck from side to side to ease out the tension, and then headed for the replicator and the one thing that stood a chance of comforting her right now – hot coffee.

She sat with her legs crossed and her body angled around towards the window, sipping her coffee as she watched the stars moving beyond her reach. They were untouchable, as was B'Elanna herself, she thought, which was clearly a crime as she loved the fiery engineer to the point of near-recklessness. But rules were rules and they hadn't been put there to break - someone had to uphold the principles of the Federation in this wilderness and it clearly fell to her, as the one in charge, to set the example.

'But, that look she gave me, before she left... I've hurt her so badly,' she thought. 'I wish to God I hadn't had to do that.'

She sighed heavily, consigning her dreams to a padlocked area within herself, feeling hugely relieved that no one bore witness to her painful reconstruction of the shattered pieces of her command mask. In a moment, she would re-join the Bridge crew and no one would ever know that their captain was in such inner turmoil. She would make sure of it. She wished B'Elanna knew, but that wouldn't help anything at all.

Why, when all her life she'd dreamed of feeling like this about someone, did she have to come up with such lousy timing?

The feeling in B'Elanna Torres' stomach was intolerable and the tension was causing her to feel a little sick as she stumbled along the corridor of Deck 11 towards Engineering. When she reached her goal, she stopped outside the closed door, blinking back her tears.

She couldn't go in there. Not yet. Not like this.

She sniffed and blinked hard, running her palm over her face roughly to wipe away the falling tears before turning away, past Engineering, towards the sanctity of the room that housed the forward torpedo launchers. No one would disturb her there, she hoped.

The room was empty and she found a corner while her tears, without audience, flowed freely.

B'Elanna was aware enough, in her desolation, to recognise that this wasn't something she ever did... cry. In fact she hadn't cried like this since her mother left. Somehow the pain of that far distant day mingled with her current rejection by a woman she also loved very much and she curled tighter into the corner of the torpedo room, hugging herself, as she sobbed with abandon.


Janeway looked sideways at the man seated next to her and raised her eyebrows in an answering question.

"Are you all right?"

"Don't I look all right?" she asked quietly, excluding the other staff from their conversation.

Chakotay looked at his commanding officer; she appeared edgy and tired. "No, actually, you don't," he offered, smiling to show that he wasn't nit picking, just concerned.

It was an easy smile to return. It seemed her trusted friend was worried about her and she found that comforting. "I'll be fine, Chakotay. Really," she reassured. "I have a few things on my mind at the moment." She saw him formulating his next question and continued before he could ask it, "And no, it's nothing you can help me with, but thank you for caring."

The first officer gave a dimpled smile and nodded politely before returning his gaze to the viewscreen. Then, on an afterthought, he leaned towards Kathryn again and whispered, "I'm here if you need me, OK?"

It was the captain's turn to nod politely. "I know," she acknowledged. "Thanks. I'll bear that in mind."

Tuvok, who was constantly surprised that everyone seemed to forget his enhanced Vulcan hearing, vowed to keep a friendly eye on his captain. After the conversation he had just overheard, he considered something might be wrong in her world.


B'Elanna removed the hand with which she had been shielding her eyes and peered through swollen eyelids at the intruder. "Seven?" she sniffed. "What are you doing here?" She felt too weak to have this conversation and too desolate to hide her feelings from the 'Borg'.

"I often walk around Decks 11 and 12 for exercise at this time of day." The unsure blonde lowered her voice, "I heard you, Lieutenant. I came to investigate."

"And what did you find?" asked B'Elanna sarcastically as she covered her eyes again and remained in her tight ball.

"I found a person clearly in distress." Seven was nervous about what she was going to ask next but she braved the possible snub and asked it anyway, "Can I help you?"

Those last four words were delivered with unexpected tenderness and care and the effect was immediate. B'Elanna disintegrated into further deep sobs, her body moving in time with them.

Seven was confused. She really didn't understanding whether her offer of help had made the lieutenant feel worse, which would be 'bad', or whether perhaps it had been helpful to incite further tears from this usually strong woman. She moved closer and squatted down beside the engineer but, before she could say another word, B'Elanna unravelled herself and grasped the surprised ex-drone, clinging to her and burying her head as she cried and cried.

"There, there," said Seven rather clinically, following an automatic urge to stroke the distraught woman's head.

The touch elicited a reaction in B'Elanna and she grasped Seven even more tightly than before and sobbed until her eyes ran out of water and her heart ran out of hope. Only then did she stop.

B'Elanna's next roller coaster feeling was a huge embarrassment at her body's current location and, as she didn't plan on staying curled up with Seven like this, she knew she would have to face it. She pulled slowly away from Seven and covered her eyes again, shielding herself from what she'd decided would probably be a judgmental look.

"Has my interaction assisted you, B'Elanna Torres?"

Despite her situation, a smile curled at the corner of the lieutenant's lip as she looked slowly up into the enquiring blue eyes. She saw nothing there other than the sincere need to be of use. "Very much, Seven. Thanks." She sniffed again and continued in her efforts to dry her tears with her hands. "I guess you don't often come across this, huh?"

"No," was the simple reply. "Are you damaged?" Seven's mind was running through the possibilities for the tough woman's tears.

"Not physically," replied B'Elanna sitting up properly and leaning her back against the wall.

"Then you may mean emotionally," persisted Seven. She suddenly felt the need to help this woman she had admired for a long time and she remembered the captain's repeated words to her in the early days of her being aboard Voyager. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"I'm fine, Seven," dismissed B'Elanna.

"You look fine, Lieutenant," smiled Seven as she looked slowly around the swollen lids and the redness, making her point rather nicely. She continued hesitantly, "I have read that it can help to talk over your problems with someone you hardly know, or with someone who is a complete stranger to you. I think I might actually qualify on both counts," she said with a slight air of humour that was not lost on B'Elanna.

"Yeah. Look, it's personal, Seven, and as much as I could use a..." she hesitated slightly, "...friend right now, I probably shouldn't tell anyone at all, especially not you."

"Then it must be about the Captain," deduced Seven correctly.

"No one mentioned her."

The two women, still sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall, lapsed into a short silence broken by Seven's action of standing and brushing off her seat as she turned and stretched out a hand to pull B'Elanna up.

The lieutenant looked at the offered hand and then, unmoving, looked up into the face of someone she had never dreamed she would ever confide in. "Can I trust you?" she asked seriously.

Seven dropped her hand back towards her side and looked down at the questioning face. "What do you believe to be the answer to that question, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna looked away, embarrassed again. "Yeah; look, I didn't want to imply..."

"You can trust me," assured Seven, wanting to cut through to the important part of this conversation. She sat back down on the floor and leaned her back against the wall, not looking at B'Elanna as the dark-haired woman began to speak.

"I'll be blunt, Seven; I can't believe I'm about to tell you this, but I've got to tell someone because I hurt like hell."

Seven waited patiently.

"I'm very deeply in love with someone aboard this ship; someone who has just rejected me."

Seven's eyebrow arched. "Did the Captain give you a reason for her rejection?"

"Hey, again... I didn't mention the Captain!"

Seven risked a sideways look at the Engineer. "I may be younger in experience than my years suggest, but I'm not ignorant, Lieutenant." The two women smiled at each other as B'Elanna relaxed and nodded slightly, conceding the point.

"This is in confidence," she warned.

"Of course."

"OK. She said it was against the rules – Starfleet Protocol, you know... we couldn't enter into a relationship because it would break the almighty rules."

"That is a correct interpretation of the guidelines, as set out by the Starfleet manual on such matters." To B'Elanna's surprised face Seven continued, "As I recall from various assimilated Starfleet personnel."

"And if you loved someone, would you accept it?"

"I would have to – if I expected to be allowed to continue to function within the structure laid down by..."

"Yes, but would you just give up? Walk away? Could you?"

"More to the point, Lieutenant, can you?"

B'Elanna struggled with the idea. "Let go of my dreams? Let go of the one person I want to be with in a deeper sense? No. I know I can't."

"And so you intend to break the rules?"

"How can I? That takes two, and the Captain is adamant."

"Tell me," Seven asked thoughtfully, "have you always followed every rule that was put before you?"

B'Elanna smiled nervously, glancing at Seven just in time to see the famous eyebrow sail aloft, before returning her gaze to the floor. "Being in love with someone is about, among other things, not breaking their trust in you, Seven. The captain trusts me to uphold the rules, not to disregard them."

"And it gives her a hold over you."

"What? How?"

"In knowing that you won't push this, the captain can retreat behind your need not to let her down. Your loyalty in such matters becomes her security that she won't be placed in a situation she cannot cope with."

The lieutenant's pretty face lit up. She scrambled to her feet and dusted her uniform off, looking down at Seven with hope. "You know, you might just be a genius?"

"It has often crossed my mind."

B'Elanna stared at Seven in silence, trying to put the words together in her head before speaking. "Seven, I... you've been a friend, you know that? Wow," she said looking away, embarrassed yet again, "I never thought I'd say that to you."

The taller woman stood and dusted herself off and then delivered some words to the lieutenant that affected her greatly. "It's not enough, Lieutenant, to simply exist on a ship like this; to have a routine and a job to go to - I need to feel useful. You have allowed me to feel useful today and I thank you. If I have been a... 'friend' to you, as you put it, then perhaps I can be such again, at a later date?"

"Yeah, thanks," B'Elanna frowned thoughtfully. "Perhaps you can."

Seven inclined her head in a polite nod as the engineer left to decide how best to approach her future.

The captain was regretting her decision to take an early night as she clearly couldn't sleep, tossing and turning until her bed linen was practically falling off the bed. She threw what was left of it back, annoyed enough now to get up and wander around the quarters, but before she could get out of the bed the door chime alerted her of someone's presence outside.

Fighting off the urge to ask the computer exactly who the 'intruder' was, she swung her legs out of bed and reached for her housecoat, pulling it around herself and fastening it as she approached the door. "Come," she called.

B'Elanna was in the room and prowling around it within two seconds. "I think you're hiding," she accused, stabbing the air with her finger and shooting a confrontational look at Kathryn.

"I'm what?"

"Hiding. Behind the knowledge that you know I'll follow your Starfleet's rules. I think you dropped that little smokescreen in to fend me off, lady. And it nearly worked too."

"B'Elanna, I can assure you..."

The lieutenant's hand went up in the air between them. "Save it. I've seen the way it's been developing between us. I've seen your love for me grow, just as mine has for you, so answer me one thing, huh? Just one. Do you want us to be together?"

"B'Elanna, this line of questioning will do you no..."

"Answer the question, damn it. Do you want to be with me?"

Janeway looked at the confrontational stance of her visitor and silently went up to her, looking into the dark eyes. "Yes. I want to be with you. But that's not the point here, is it?" She was about to back away and do some pacing of her own when B'Elanna placed hands on her arms to hold her there. They looked into each other's eyes, one fearfully, the other resolutely before B'Elanna slowly pulled the captain towards her.

"I can't see that this is going to change anything; really I can't."

"Then we'll see, won't we," insisted the lieutenant as she began to angle her head for a kiss. She met no resistance but she was also given no reaction on finding her target. Unbelieving, she drew back and looked at Kathryn, frowning. "Please?" she asked in such a voice that it drove straight to Kathryn's heart with a petition for leniency.

"Oh, darling," Kathryn relented, wrapping her arms around B'Elanna's waist and pulling the smaller woman to her firmly. She kissed her then, a kiss that was deep and urgent, making up for so many times when she had wanted to do just this and couldn't allow herself to.

'So what's changed?' her mind asked midway through the kiss. 'You still shouldn't be allowing this.' Shocked at what she had just let herself do, she pulled back and broke the contact, turning her back on the lieutenant. "I'm sorry, B'Elanna. Forgive me. I shouldn't have done that."

"But you did. And from where I stood you meant it. Didn't you?"

Kathryn swung around to face her love. "That's unfair. You can't have forgotten what I said to you earlier."

"And what about my words, just now. 'You're hiding', huh? Well, is it true? Are you holding me at arms length with the damned rule book, just so you don't have to get involved with me?"

"Can you ask me that, after the way I've just kissed you?" Kathryn tore her eyes away from B'Elanna's and sat down on the couch. She leaned back and put her head against the cushion, reclaiming her control, and angled her head towards the lieutenant. "I meant every word I said earlier," she said calmly, "I'm sorry, B'Elanna."

The Engineer sat gently down on the couch beside her captain and put a hand on Kathryn's thigh, pushing down on it to make a point. "You can't honestly mean..."

The hand on her leg was causing the captain a few problems. One, it was so distracting that she found it hard to think. Two, it was too nice. Three, it would escalate, she knew, if she allowed it to – and she couldn't allow it to. She sat upright and took a firm hold of the hand and removed it, although letting it go altogether proved to be too difficult. "Sweetheart," she interrupted, holding B'Elanna's hand in both of hers now and playing with the fingers as she spoke, "please help me. Please leave me alone."

"You know I can't."

"Do I have to order you to? Because I will, if that's what it takes." She instantly regretted her words when she saw the level of emotional pain they had created in the dark stormy eyes. "Don't look at me like that, please."

"How do you suggest I look at you?"


The lieutenant braced herself for the worst before slowly and deliberately asking, "Do your orders mean more to you than I do?"

Caught between heart and book, the captain floundered for words with which to reply. It was just enough of a pause to give the lieutenant her answer, and she reacted.

"Well, in that case I was mistaken." With great effort she disengaged her hand and got up, hardening her voice to say, "I'm sorry to have bothered you." She walked quickly to the door in the hopes of exiting the quarters before she broke down, although she found the strength to add, before she left, "You must think me an amusing sort of idiot, coming up with such emotions for you."

Kathryn stared at the closed door for nearly three minutes after B'Elanna had left. Every part of her body, emotions and mind wanted to call the young woman back; make love to her; tell her she hadn't been wrong, that she did love her more than the damned rulebook. But they were Kathryn's thoughts.

The captain's thoughts differed; they knew that this solution meant that the rules would be upheld, but it gave her little comfort. While the captain was stubbornly refusing to act, the woman was falling to pieces.

Eventually, Kathryn broke down and sobbed.

Alone in her bed again, she studied the dimly lit ceiling in her sleepless state for about a half an hour, tossing thoughts around in her head endlessly and growing more tired by the minute. There was a sizeable battle going on: could she break the rules; SHOULD she break the rules; did the rules even apply here, in the Delta Quadrant? Was B'Elanna right about them probably never reaching Earth in their lifetimes?

No. No. No. That couldn't be true. Could it?

She turned her face away from the cold ceiling and buried her cheek into the pillow, but it offered her no comfort. Groaning quietly, she began to rock her body gently, rhythmically, as she'd done when, many years earlier, her father and her fiancé had been killed and her grief had driven her to her bed.

Fifteen minutes later found Kathryn at the replicator ordering coffee. 'Oh, that's going to help you sleep, isn't it?' she scolded as she took the cup back to her ravaged bed. Setting the cup down on the bedside table, she sat herself up with her back against the headboard, pulling a cover over her legs. She reached for the drink then and sipped the hot liquid slowly, thoughtfully.

'Do your orders mean more to you than I do?'

The words wouldn't leave her brain. Over and over she heard B'Elanna's plaintive question until she couldn't stand it any more.

It wasn't that late, but Tuvok frowned slightly all the same. It was rare that he was disturbed in his quarters, and even more rare that he was disturbed there at this hour in the evening.

"Go ahead, Captain," he said in answer to the hail.

"Tuvok, am I interrupting?" Kathryn asked warily.

"I have completed my meditation for this evening. I was about to enter into a game of Kal-Toh before retiring." He realised the exceptional circumstances and couldn't help recalling the conversation he'd overheard on the Bridge earlier. "Is there something I can do for you, Captain?"

Janeway hesitated and, in that hesitation, decided that she didn't want to share her problem, just talk around it. "Tuvok, old friend, if you were facing a dilemma, a choice between the head and the heart, what would you do?" She knew the question was ridiculous asked, as it was, of a Vulcan, but she needed some kind of... what? She didn't know. But this man was her friend, and she needed a friend. It would be all right.

"I suspect you're asking more what you might do..."

"Yes, I suppose I am."

He could hear the smile in her voice as he paused to consider. "In reply, Captain, I would have to concede that humans have found a rather successful balance, for the most part, between the heart and the head."

"What... you mean try to follow both? I can't. Not in this instance."

It was obvious she was not about to open up to him. "I have known you a long while, Captain. In my opinion, you will always find the right solution to any difficulty you might be facing."

"Regardless of what the book says?"


There was a pause before the captain thanked her security chief and ended the transmission. Tuvok was not who she should be talking to, she thought. If she had a problem she should take it directly to the source.

B'Elanna jumped. The last thing she expected to hear at this time of night was her comm. badge sparking into life. And the last voice she expected to hear coming from it was Kathryn's.

"Janeway to Torres. Please respond."

She took it gingerly and looked at it for a few seconds before replying, "Torres here, Captain."

"Will you see me? May I come to you? Now?"

Was it the tears or was it the sharp intake of breath that arrived first? B'Elanna didn't know. Through both she rasped, "Yes," and waited.

"Oh, God," muttered Kathryn, considering for a moment that she should dress before walking through the corridors of Voyager at this time of night.

"Hell with it," she grumbled, forsaking her housecoat. "Computer, site to site transport. Lock onto Kathryn Janeway and beam her directly to Lieutenant Torres' quarters." She gave the computer her authorisation code and watched the surroundings change as she beamed into B'Elanna's living room.

Part 2

Kathryn, having materialised in B'Elanna's living quarters, wondered briefly about the sensibility of this meeting as the two women eyed each other briefly in their respective nightwear, instantly accepting the 'normality' of it.

"Should I have a little hope here?" asked B'Elanna dubiously.

Kathryn found it hard to make eye contact and chose instead to walk to the window and stare out; it was easier than seeing any more hurt in those beautiful eyes. "B'Elanna, I..." she sighed. "Your words wouldn't leave me. I've been lying in bed thinking about them, and you know what? You're right." She turned to the rapidly approaching engineer. "I was putting the rules above you, but I had to – I'm the captain, and that title doesn't come without forfeit."

"Had to?" asked B'Elanna, quickly picking up on the past tense suggestion. "You HAD to put the rules above me? What about now? Do you still have to?"

"That's what's been driving me mad; I don't know. I know what I WANT to do, but that's me... Kathryn. I know what I HAVE to do... as the captain. B'Elanna, I'm so torn. I love you so much."

The lieutenant wrapped her arms around the crying woman and held her gently, shushing occasionally, not able to stem the huge grin that had broken out on her face. 'She loves me! Thank God.' "I guess that's all I needed to know," she said aloud, still smiling widely. She released Kathryn, looking into her eyes and stroking her hair benignly before leading her to the couch and sitting her down, holding onto Kathryn's hand as she stood in front of her.

"Look," she continued, "as long as I know this is a mutual feeling, then OK. Do what you need to do – or whatever the Federation tells you that you have to do. I'll handle it."

Kathryn looked up at her dark-haired love, hardly believing the words.

"I was wrong, OK?" B'Elanna underlined, joining Kathryn on the couch and entwining their hands more intimately. "I know that now. I shouldn't have put you in the position of having to choose between your personal feelings and your rules as captain. I'm sorry. I guess I considered that if you didn't want me enough to bend your rules for me, then you didn't love me."

"None of this mess has anything to do with me not loving you. I do love you." Kathryn snuggled close to B'Elanna and found a shoulder to rest her head against, closing her eyes in stolen bliss when she felt two strong arms wrap around her in reply. Both of them allowed this no-man's-land time, simply soaking up the feelings that were flowing from one to the other and the peace that those feelings gave. Neither wanted to break the spell.

Eventually, B'Elanna found the strength to let go and she pulled back a little so she could locate the blue/grey eyes of her captain. "So, tell me, where does this leave things?"

"Darling, I'm no nearer knowing that now than before I came here. I just wanted to share my struggle with you and tell you that you were right. About some things."

"And the things I was wrong about?"

"Getting home," said Kathryn with renewed determination. She sat upright. "I'll get us home; I have to. The question is, while we're here, how much do I follow the damned rules, which you know I'm ethically drawn to do..."

"I really shouldn't expect less of you."

"...and how much," she said, thinking about her conversation with Tuvok, "do I follow my heart and try to blend that in with the rest of the rules? I honestly don't know."

B'Elanna looked at her captain sorrowfully, regretfully. She hadn't wanted things to go quite this way and she needed to say something about it. "All I wanted," she began, pausing to find the words, "was to give to you, not detract... to give you my love, my protection, my strength. It was supposed to add to you, not bring you to your knees, quoting the rulebook. I'm so sorry."

Kathryn snorted, "If the situation had been reversed, I probably would have done the same thing myself. Darling, at least you had the courage to push for what you believed in." A sad look crossed her eyes. "It seems I don't possess that same courage."

"Hey, I won't have that. You're always pushing for what you believe in."

"Yes, because someone else wrote the book and I follow it!" Kathryn stood and began to pace again. "But what about rules of the heart? No one's written that book yet, have they? And they never will." She stood over B'Elanna, looking down on her before adding sadly, "But what do I have to go by, when my heart says 'yes' and the Federation says 'no', when it's the Federation I'm answerable to?"

The two looked forlornly at each other and Kathryn knew it was time to leave and, as B'Elanna picked up on the unspoken thought and nodded in reply, the captain ordered another site to site transport and vanished.

Nothing had been sorted out between them but at least they were talking.

"Chakotay? A moment before you leave?"

"Sure," smiled Chakotay amiably, following his captain into the Ready Room.

Kathryn mounted the two steps and let her body flop onto the couch, not bothering to hide how tired she was now that her shift had finally ended.

"Bad day?"

"Not so much that..." She studied him, wondering just how much to tell him, but if she wanted his input she would have to tell him everything. "Bad thoughts, Chakotay."


She motioned for him to sit beside her and then turned to face him, her elbow up on the back of the couch. "Thoughts about disregarding the rules of the Federation."

Clearly surprised, the commander allowed a brief look of amusement to cross his puzzled face before replying, "That doesn't sound like you."

"It's not like me to fall in love, either." Seeing her first officer's confused reaction she chuckled and told him, with a steadying hand on his arm, "At ease Commander, it isn't you."

"I don't know whether to feel relieved or upset by that," he grinned, wanting to know why she had asked him here. "Care to tell me who?"

Kathryn hesitated only slightly before replying, "B'Elanna." Her shocked colleague was hiding his feelings very well as she continued, "and I'm amazed to say the feeling is mutual."

He recovered brilliantly. "OK, how can I help?"

"I've asked you in here for some advice, Commander." Chakotay nodded. "On the one hand we have the rules of the Federation, which you know I have fought to uphold. On the other hand we have the fact that we are 'out here' in the Delta Quadrant, far away from the rule makers..."

"And you want to know if I think it's all right for you to break them?"

She beamed at him. "How perceptive," she teased, waiting for his reply.

Without breaking eye contact, Chakotay considered the question in his mind and Kathryn could almost see the process at work before he replied casually, "I don't think this is a decision that you and I can make between us, Kathryn. If we get home, you're going to need a lot more in defence of your actions than, 'I talked it over with my first officer and we agreed.'"


"I'm suggesting we put this to the senior staff at the next meeting and, after discussion as a team, we put it to a vote. At least then, if they vote in favour of you and B'Elanna, we can inform Starfleet that it was neither a flippant decision, nor a blatant disregard for the rules."

"Oh, I'm not at all sure that's a good idea," Kathryn replied, looking doubtful. "I'm simply asking you for advice here; nothing will appear on your record, but if I ask them..."

"Look," he persisted, "there's every possibility that we may become a generational ship out here."

Kathryn winced, remembering B'Elanna saying almost the same words earlier. Did everyone think that?

"Yes, I know you don't want to hear it, but it could be true in the future. The question is, at what point in time do we, as a ship, take that decision? Because, if we do, it'll change many of the Federation rules regarding our behaviour on board."

"I'll get us home," growled Kathryn, warningly.

"Yes, but when? And what provisions do we make for the lives of this crew until then? Surely they, and you, have a right to answer needs, hopes and dreams? Many people are driven to continue their family lines, and you can't deny them these things, Kathryn. This is a possible lifetime we are looking at here."

Kathryn's look had denial written all over it as her eyes roamed the room before landing on his again. She tilted her head back and peered at him. "I know you're right," she conceded awkwardly, not wanting to say the words at all. "I just don't want to make that decision, because along with it goes my failure to sort out this mess, doesn't it? I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of my pride yet, Commander," she confessed.

"I know, and I can understand. But you have a choice here - you can either live your life with your head up, looking forward, making of it what you can, or you can live with your head in the sand, seeing and changing nothing. Which is it to be?"

There was nearly a minute's silence between the two friends before the captain finally broke it with, "I suppose there has to come a time for facing up to one's mistakes and moving on."

Chakotay reached out and took Kathryn's hand, holding it with great care as he looked back at her.

"How'd this happen?" Kathryn asked.


"I asked you in here to help me with my relationship issues with B'Elanna and I end up agreeing to consider making Voyager a generational ship. You know I don't want it." She smiled weakly.

"You've always been a brave woman, Kathryn. You'll deal with this, I know."

Squeezing his hand in return, she made a decision. "Then I'll deal with it tomorrow, Commander. It'll follow the daily meeting, under 'any other business.' Agreed?"

"Agreed," he smiled, understanding how hard this must be for the woman who felt such terrible guilt over actions which had changed the course of their lives forever. "Hey, I'm proud of you."

"I guess love has the power to change many things, in our lives and in our thinking, Chakotay."

"You're getting profound, Kathryn. It sounds as if our chief engineer will be good for you," he joked, seriously.

Kathryn squeezed Chakotay's hand again. "Thank you for your counsel," she told him, smiling warmly. "You're a true friend."

"And I hope that never changes."

B'Elanna was having a little trouble with the suddenness of this latest development and was grateful that she was in the privacy of her own quarters because, right now, she was a little shaky. "You said what?" she screeched at her captain.

"That I'd bring it up for discussion at tomorrow's meeting. That's going to be all right with you, isn't it?"

"All right?" answered the surprised lieutenant, taking the drink Kathryn had just brought to her. "I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. It's one hell of a turn around."

"Hmm, I know," agreed the captain, settling onto the couch beside her favourite engineer. "I didn't want to let go of the hope of seeing Earth again some day – damn it, I still don't, but I have to face facts. Chakotay's right, time is passing and the crew should have the chance to get on with their lives. It's no longer about you and me, and whether or nor the captain should be allowed a lover."

The pain in Kathryn's eyes caused B'Elanna to envelop her in a strong pair of arms. There was something further, though, in Kathryn's head that perhaps she needed to discuss, and B'Elanna knew it would be guilt-based. With the silence lengthening, she prompted, "What?"

"Do I have to tell you?"

"No. Actually, you don't. I just wanted you to verbalise it - get the feelings out so you know what you're dealing with."

"My feelings? Oh, the usual fare – guilt, blame and more guilt. Grim stuff."

"Don't you think it might be time to put that old chestnut behind you now?" B'Elanna asked seriously. "Time to make a clean start with the best that's in you?"

"You're right, of course. It's doing it though, isn't it? That's the tricky part."

"Perhaps letting go is as easy as... just that, 'letting go' – deciding not to beat yourself up any more about it; after all, it changes nothing, except your health. Or, I guess," she continued thoughtfully, "you can hold on to your guilt for a very long time and condemn these people, whose lives you've changed, to pay for your decision with their futures. Is that fair?"

"Ouch," the captain winced. "None of this is fair, B'Elanna, none of it. My decision at the Caretaker's Array seemed the only thing to do at the time to save the Ocampa, but look what you get for trying to protect and save people... reminds me of those training exercises at the Academy, you know? The Kobayashi Maru Scenario," she sniffed, tears coming close to her eyes. "The ones where there's no right decision to make; where it's simply a matter of making a choice?"

B'Elanna stretched out her hand, palm upwards, and looked a confused Kathryn in the eyes. "You want to hand it over?"

"Hand over what?"

"The stick."

"What stick?"

"The one you've been beating yourself up with ever since."

Kathryn stared at B'Elanna just long enough for her words to hit home and then the tears fell freely from her eyes as she leaned forward and dissolved into the waiting arms. "Oh darling, I need to put this enormous weight down. I can't carry it any more, only... help me please."

"I will," soothed a slightly surprised B'Elanna, who really hadn't expected the reaction she got. Holding Kathryn, she realised that here was a woman who was trying to move on to the next stage of not only her life but everyone else's on board as well.

The Captain glanced covertly at Tuvok, pleased she'd had the foresight to tell her old friend about her news and her plans prior to the meeting; it would have been unconscionable to have him hear it along with the others.

The daily meeting was now over and 'any other business' had come about faster than she had supposed it might and, with a deep breath, Kathryn prepared herself to drop the bombshell, two bombshells in fact. "People," she said, noting that B'Elanna instantly dropped her gaze to the table. "Now that our other business has been completed, I have something important to discuss with you all. It has to do with a possible revised status for this ship."

Her eyes met absent faces, faces that awaited enlightenment, and an awkward pause stretched out until some of the crew began to fidget slightly. Why was the next part so hard to say?

"What kind of revised status?" prompted Tom, sensing her difficulty.

She looked down, muttering quietly but audibly, "Oh God, I didn't know this would be so difficult," before looking at her staff and clearly bracing herself. "OK. For a long time now I've been following 'A Captain's Rules', as laid down by the Federation, governing the running of a Starship under their jurisdiction.

"However, while we may still be a Federation vessel, the rules don't strictly apply here, do they? We all know they were never designed to cover the running of a Starship in such exceptional circumstances." She paused, allowing the crew to digest her words.

"The fact is that, realistically, we may never be under direct Federation command again in our lifetimes. And so, today, I am putting before you the suggestion that we may look to relaxing some of those rules a little."

No one spoke.

Kathryn continued, "It's been brought to my attention that now might be a good time to discuss the possibility of Voyager becoming a... generational ship." She had almost whispered the last two words.

Although a few had guessed where she might be heading, the words still elicited a muted hubbub from the crew. "But you have always been so adamant about that scenario never happening," commented the Doctor. "May I ask what changed your mind?"

Kathryn locked eyes with him and answered without preamble. "I fell in love."

It was turning out to be quite a day in Conference Room I. Tom looked thunderstruck; B'Elanna looked at the door; Seven raised a brow at the captain's public declaration of her feelings and the Doctor simply stared, a questioning frown playing over his non-organic forehead. Neelix was probably the first person to recover, rallying brilliantly to ask, "And may we know who has won your heart, Captain?"

There was a pause as everyone watched the captain's gaze fall on B'Elanna.

Someone in the room tore her eyes away from the door and stopped mentally planning an escape route, deciding that now was as good a time as any to face the crew's reaction. "It's me," B'Elanna told them slowly.

Tearing her eyes away from her love, the captain spoke. "My feelings for B'Elanna have caused a crisis of conscious on my part..."

"About the rules?" Tom interrupted.

"About the rules. I rejected the Lieutenant," Kathryn said simply, "in favour of the Federation manual and my strict adherence to it. However, both Chakotay and B'Elanna," she said, smiling at her first officer, "have helped me see that I need to reconsider such adherence.

"I'd planned to get us all back to our home firesides years ago but I have to face facts, it seems. But please know that, although I have opened this topic for discussion, I have many reservations in relation to it. Well?" she asked. "Your comments?"

"I won't deny you've surprised me, Captain, on both counts," piped up Tom, who received a shy look from B'Elanna when he looked her way. "But I can't say that either piece of news is totally unexpected, if I think about it. Captain, I'm sure I speak for everyone in this room when I wish you and B'Elanna all the best for the future."

"Thank you, Tom."

"Here here," added the happy Talaxian, who was always so welcoming of the happiness of others.

There followed other congratulations, during which the captain discovered how to turn an interesting shade of red, which clashed rather charmingly with her uniform. "All right," she said at length, certain that her crew would accept her relationship, should she choose to pursue it, "Let's get down to it. After all, I can't sit with my head in the sand about this generational thing any longer."

Chakotay grinned to himself as the words he had spoken to her earlier were repeated.

Seven took advantage of the lull in conversation to put her views. "Captain, I imagine it would be a beneficial change to allow the crew to pursue their lives with more freedom than they currently possess."

The ex-Borg then glanced at Tuvok for back-up and he accepted his prompt. "It is true," he said, "that I have heard many of the crew discussing the unfairness of the procreation issue. Although you have not made it a rule, Captain, it's been generally understood that you would indeed frown upon further children being born aboard Voyager. Although it is my personal feeling that the current Federation rules must be upheld, I am sure the crew would more than welcome the news if this committee ruled officially to become a generational ship."

"I agree, Mr Vulcan," added Neelix. "People were born to follow their homemaking instincts; it's a shame to suppress them."

Harry nodded enthusiastically, smiling. Harry, who could not get a date.

"Chakotay?" prompted the captain. "Your thoughts? For the record."

"I've long since thought we should move in this direction, Captain. I'm all for it."


"Me too."

"B'Elanna?" asked Janeway, realising that the engineer would cut through the dream world the others seemed to be living in and get down to the reality of their proposed situation.

"Yeah, fine, as an idealistic exercise, but I'd bear in mind the problems of keeping youngsters occupied and entertained on board ship. And we should look at the food situation; medical supplies – stuff like that – we should be very sure we can stretch it for extra mouths before we begin."

People began to shift uncomfortably as their chief engineer got right down to the problems, echoing the thoughts they'd all had but no one had wanted to voice. They had realised how insurmountable it all appeared and had mostly managed to whitewash the problems and dream a little.

"And where would the offspring sleep?" B'Elanna continued. "We're already tight for quarters, unless we re-open Deck 9, but that would be an awful drain on our resources. And if we bunk them up with their parents, that kind of cuts down on their relationship as the kids grow, doesn't it?" she grinned.

"Thank you, B'Elanna," Janeway told her. "B'Elanna has unwittingly raised all of the points that most agree with my reservations about all this... space, resources, medical supplies... and, frankly, I don't see how we can overcome them all. I guess that's what we're here to discuss, alongside the ethical rules issue, of course."

Looking around, the captain realised there was someone else in the room she wanted to hear from. "Doctor, your views?"

The EMH gave a faraway look that would have been hard to detect if you didn't know him. It was a look that said, 'They want my opinion. My opinion counts.' It was almost a look of surprise mingled with great achievement.

"My personal view?" He frowned, formulating a reply in his mind before carefully saying, "I think that a happy crew is more or less a healthy crew, Captain. However, during my holodeck experiments with a 'family', I found that family life, together with the responsibilities of work, could be a hard act to juggle, so to speak. I think we should thoroughly consider the for's and against's of this plan, from all angles, before pushing ahead."

Janeway stared at the Doctor, clearly surprised at the depth of thought that had gone into his reply. She cleared her throat. "You've raised an interesting and important issue, Doctor. Obviously I want the smooth running of this ship above all else, and a crew with their minds elsewhere could be a problem to our survival. I don't suppose I'd considered the resultant familial aspect much, if at all, although the eventual overcrowding problem has always been a sticking point as far as I'm concerned." She looked around at the others again. "Any more thoughts, anyone?"

Chakotay was quick to reply, "Weigh up the problems against the possibility of the crew growing in frustration about not being able to have a life outside of work and superficial recreation as the years go by. How might that upset their work and concentration?"

"Good point, Chakotay," his captain acknowledged.

"If I may?" asked Seven politely.

"By all means," answered Kathryn, interested to see what her officer may say that might throw some light on their way forward.

"The Borg data assimilated on familial situations often showed a greater strength in an individual who came from a firm family unit, as opposed to those who came from a singular situation. A large section of this crew already share their feelings with each other; it might be beneficial at this stage to allow them to express those feelings more openly, and allow their unions to produce offspring. I believe their mental strength will improve under those circumstances, even if their emotions may falter from time to time."

As Seven finished it was clear that her little speech had impressed them all. Janeway finally tore her look of admiration away from the woman and put Seven's sentiments to the room. "Anyone disagree?" she challenged jovially.

No one spoke and the captain said, "Thank you Seven, for that insight, which I must say I agree with, but we still have to address the question of eventual overcrowding, which I consider almost impossible to overcome. It would be unthinkable to say to some couples in the future, 'you may reproduce' and to others, 'but you may not' due to the available space. If we make this a ruling, there must be equal opportunities for all. Now, please tell me, how do we do that in our current situation?"

"The only way," suggested B'Elanna reasonably, "to accommodate the changes, would be to allow some of the crew to make a home for themselves on an M-class planet somewhere in the Delta Quadrant, while the rest of us continue and spread out in the space it would leave us for our futures."

As she said it, B'Elanna knew it was inappropriate to recommend that the crew be split up. She purposefully avoided the stormy blue/grey eyes as she appealed to the rest of those gathered. "Hey, it's an option. I thought that's what we were here to explore?"

"You know my feelings about splitting up this crew," Kathryn said emotively. "And even that decision would eventually come down not to who wanted to go but who we could spare. It wouldn't be a fair offer." She sighed. "Frankly, people, my reservations are stronger now, after having this brief discussion, than they were before. I simply cannot see a way to move forward in fairness to all aboard."

She looked around at the faces. It was clear from their expressions that, whilse they might recognise the truth in what she was saying, they didn't want to agree with her at all. "All right. This is such an enormous issue that I feel it must be given further consideration and discussion although, please be aware - once the floodgates are open, this could drown us all.

"I must ask you not to discuss this among the crew at this time; it would do no good to raise their hopes if we eventually rule against this. I suggest we all go away and think for a full week before discussing it again. Agreed?"

She was met with unanimous nods and was about to bring the meeting to a close when Chakotay interrupted her.

"Captain? A moment? Whatever we all might decide about the generational issue, I see no point in delaying a decision about you and B'Elanna pursuing a relationship. I suggest we put it to a vote right now."

As a general murmured agreement was heard the captain held up a hand and looked around. "Please, don't vote simply from your emotions. I must make it clear to you that you are voting to overturn the rules of the Federation and this is not to be entered into lightly. You will, in all probability, receive a reprimand on your record, if you vote in favour of B'Elanna and me. Starfleet may look upon this as a serious breach of the rules."

Tom was on the edge of saying, 'yeah, if we ever GET home' but thought twice about it.

Allowing a pause, Chakotay then said, "OK. All those in favour of the Captain pursuing a relationship while on board Voyager, please raise a hand."

All but one person raised a hand.

"Mr Tuvok?"

"Captain. I find that I must follow the Federation and all it stands for; I am therefore unable to rule in your favour."

"I understand."

"Well," smiled Chakotay, "the aye's have it. The result of this vote will be entered into the ship's log, together with your comments, Tuvok."

There was a general chit-chat after Chakotay's words and then the meeting was brought to a close and the staff began emptying the room, all except for B'Elanna and the captain, who both hung back.

"Went better than I expected," B'Elanna said seriously when they were alone.

"I was so nervous... telling them about us, I mean. I'm not really sure what I expected but, yes, I think it went well."

"You still look nervous to me."

Kathryn smiled shyly at her lieutenant. "Well that's because I'm trying to pluck up the courage to ask if I can see you tonight." She suddenly looked away and snorted with laughter before looking at B'Elanna again. "Honestly, I feel as insecure as a schoolgirl!"

"At least you won't need to worry about rejection - what time and where?"

"'Your place or mine?' Sounds a little too stereotypical for my liking. OK, yours?"

"That just leaves the time."

"Oh, I chose the place, Lieutenant, the rest is up to you. I can't be expected to make all the really important decisions."

B'Elanna smiled. "OK. 19:00 hours?"

Kathryn looked seriously into the dark eyes and blushed a little as she realised what would probably happen between the two of them later. She was more nervous than she cared to admit.

"Me too."

"I didn't say anything. You too, what?" asked Kathryn, frowning.

"I'm nervous too, but I'll see you later all the same."

Kathryn watched B'Elanna leave the room and stood for a moment, feeling quite shocked at the fact that her emotions had been so obvious. It wasn't something she was used to - in fact she usually went to great lengths to hide her emotions in the command situation.

Why had it upset her so much? She wasn't sure, but a shiver went through her as she felt herself backing out of this dawning relationship. With a sense of foreboding, she decided in that moment that she couldn't handle someone knowing her that well... someone 'reading' her. It made her feel out of control.

Damn it, it frightened her.

It had just turned 18:50 hours and B'Elanna was still in front of the mirror, where she had been for the past half an hour, trying on various items of clothing. `You're behaving ridiculously,' she told herself, `like a little kid on her first date.'

`Well, what's wrong with that? I AM on my first date, with Kathryn, anyway.'

`But that shouldn't...'

B'Elanna's thoughts were interrupted by her comm. badge chirping into life. "Janeway to Lieutentant Torres."

Despite the sinking feeling that was rapidly taking up residence in her stomach, B'Elanna reached for the badge on the bed and replied, "Here, Captain."

"B'Elanna, I'm sorry, I've been delayed; in fact I'm not at all sure I'm going to be finished at a reasonable hour tonight. I think it's best that we re-schedule our evening for another time."

Instantly certain that all was not well, the lieutenant was now agreeing with her sinking stomach, but she didn't feel like challenging Kathryn. The silence dragged out before she eventually replied, "All right. Torres out," not even trying to hide her disappointment.

Sinking down onto the bed, she gathered up a shirt, one that had been a serious contender for being worn this evening, and sat staring at her fingers playing with its fibres. There had been something about the sound of Kathryn's voice; something she didn't like.

`She's backing out.' The words came to her mind strongly and presented themselves as fact, as she felt the tears of fear pricking unkindly in her eyes.

"Oh, God. I hope I wasn't obvious," whispered Kathryn to her Ready Room, where she was hiding. She had lied about the fact that she had business to attend to and she wanted to be in a feasible place if B'Elanna asked the computer for her whereabouts.

`You're a heel, Kathy. Did you hear that pause before she replied? She was really upset. You hurt her, again.'

`I panicked.'

`So you panicked. You wouldn't be the first person to shy away from the idea of someone knowing you, to the point of being able to see right through you. You'll handle it.'

`I don't like it.'

`So it's better to hurt her?'

`No. But I...'

`Call her back, right now. Tell her how you feel. For God's sake, work it out with her.'

`Share my fears?'

`If that's what it takes. Yes.'

Latterly, Kathryn was becoming very good at sighing, and she gave one now; a deep, unfulfilled sigh, before telling herself and the empty room, "Oh, God. I can't do this. I just can't."

Part 3

A week had passed and Kathryn lowered her aching muscles gratefully onto the couch, in the privacy of her quarters.

It was a quarter to ten in the evening; the meeting had been long and difficult and it had never been easy for her to have such a challenging mental time and then try to sleep after it.

She was much too stiff, too edgy and over-tired but, sitting there, she allowed her mind to go back over the past few hours.

It had become clear, early on in the morning meeting, that this, the second 'generational ship' discussion, would far outrun the time allotted. So the captain had called the evening meeting, to carry on where they had left off.

It was obviously not what they'd all hoped to be doing, sitting in the Conference Room after their duty shifts, but Janeway smiled when she realised her staff had clearly given a lot more thought to the issue in hand and were now busily debating their little socks off.

However, having listened for a while, it was clear to her that nothing had changed.

Many people in the room were putting up very good arguments for the generational issue and yet those same people were also arguing that the obstacles appeared insurmountable. It seemed to Janeway that if the same people who wanted this movement were also saying it was not possible then, clearly, it would never stand a chance, without the thinning out of Voyager's crew.

The captain would not budge. "Leaving even a handful of my crew behind in the Delta Quadrant is not an option, people," Kathryn reminded them. "Please, ask yourselves, how would we all feel if we found some miraculous and speedy way home - two, four, six months - even a year after leaving our people behind?" She looked at the faces that were beginning to grasp her idea. "What if that miraculous way home was a one way ticket, huh, and we could never return? How would we feel about that?"

She was right, of course, and they knew it.

Thereafter, Janeway would not let her crew debate leaving anyone behind, cutting them off whenever they broached it, and they were getting nowhere.

With great gravity, the captain eventually called the meeting to an end and ruled that the generational issue was too fraught with problems to make it work. For now, at least, the matter would be closed.

She conceded that the very real problem of her crew wanting to procreate would not go away and that, for the most part, it would escalate, and so she ruled that the question be brought up again in six months time. Every one except Chakotay agreed with her.

"For the record," the first officer told them all, "I feel that this decision is a trifle hasty."

Janeway looked down at her PADD on the table. The rest of those gathered were looking at the speaker.

"In all fairness to the crew," he continued, "I would feel happier if this were reviewed in three months time, not six. We need to stay alert to the crew's feelings here; to ignore them could mean rebellion, even mutiny in time to come if we don't read this right."

Kathryn took his words seriously. "OK. I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to such advice and, believe me, I can see the potential threat here, but I don't think that too much is going to change in such a short space of time. However, let's vote, people. A three month review?"

Chakotay and Neelix raised their hands.

"And the rest of you. Six?"

She noted the nods of agreement and turned to Chakotay. To his credit, the man smiled and nodded politely to them all, a gentleman in the face of the vote.

"I want you all to think about the commander's words and do some covert spying among your friends," Janeway told the group. "Find out without being obvious, and I must stress that, just what they are thinking." She smiled wearily. "I wouldn't want a mutiny."

For the hundredth time, the captain avoided her chief engineer's eyes as she brought the meeting to a close. "Let's go `home', everyone," she concluded. "Get some sleep."

With the meeting now ended, Janeway picked up her PADD and quickly exited the room before anyone, especially B'Elanna, could stop her.

Now, alone in her quarters, Kathryn recalled parts of the recent meeting, remembering how very hard it had been for her to ignore B'Elanna throughout. Curled up on her couch, she took the occasional sip from a glass of wine and felt a tear pushing free and journeying down her cheek.

Apart from how she felt about B'Elanna, Chakotay's words had held a real threat to her continuing control of the ship, and she knew it. If he was right...

But what if SHE was right, and they managed to get home, having left some of their number behind? "Oh, father," she pleaded to the air, "why on Earth did I follow your footsteps into leadership?"

Suddenly she needed B'Elanna; needed to melt into her safe arms and feel the protection of love around her. She looked at the surface of the wine and dipped a finger slowly into it, lifting it to her mouth and suckling it gently. Her eyes closed. It was B'Elanna's finger that she was feeling in her mouth.

For a thousandth time, she sighed.

Chakotay had finished conducting his business in Engineering but before taking his leave he sought out its chief. "Hi," he said conversationally. "So how's it going with you and the Captain? Everything all right?"

"You tell me because I haven't seen her," answered his friend tersely.

"You haven't? What happened?"

"How the hell would I know!" she spat.

Carey and Nicoletti looked over at their superior with concern playing on their faces and B'Elanna raised a hand in their direction. She shook her head at them, almost in apology, before near-whispering to Chakotay, "She won't come near me."

He mixed a frown with a half-smile. "That doesn't make much sense. Has she given you a reason?"

"Not a one. I gotta tell you, Chakotay, I'm confused here. I'm not aware I've done anything to upset her. One minute she was all for `us' and the next... she cancelled our date and I haven't heard anything since, other than work. I wish I knew why."

"Have you asked her?"

"Not outright... one message, to `call me'. I figured she'd come around, but it's been nearly two weeks. She won't even make eye contact with me during the meetings."

"I'd noticed that, but I thought it was her way of trying to play down your relationship to the rest of the crew."

"It hurts."

Chakotay had known B'Elanna for many years and it was rare for him to see such a look in her eyes. Oh, he'd seen anger, and plenty of it, but this was different. "Then it's time you went to her and asked her about it, isn't it," he said gently.

"You know, I was thinking the same thing myself."

Having gained entry to the captain's quarters, the door whooshed open to reveal Kathryn standing in the middle of the room, looking directly at B'Elanna with a resigned expression on her face.

"I had some gentle questioning in mind," began B'Elanna as she entered the room and turned to face Kathryn, the anger barely contained in her voice. "But you know what? Now that I'm here I just want to yell at you."

Kathryn looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Have you eaten?" she asked with difficulty.

"I don't think my stomach's in any fit state for food."

Kathryn looked at the hurt and confusion in B'Elanna's eyes and then walked past her and sat on the edge of the couch, looking up. "Then you'd better start yelling, hadn't you?"

B'Elanna stood over the source of her annoyance, with her hands resting on her hips in a confrontational stance. There seemed only one word at her disposal and she asked it almost painfully. "Why?"

"I was scared." Kathryn swallowed hard, dropping her eyes to her fingers before looking up again. "I still am scared."

"Of what, for God's sake? Of us?"

"Not at first, beyond my obvious battle with the rule book. No, `scared' happened later."

"You're going to have to help me out here."

"Two weeks ago. It was a small incident, but you read my mind, B'Elanna; you read my nervousness." It was a start, but it clearly wasn't enough of an explanation for the engineer, who frowned.

"Let me try to explain. There are many times, as captain, when I have to bluff my way through situations and project levels of confidence far above what I'm actually feeling, to give the crew hope. When you saw through me, I felt so exposed that it scared me – that's not a feeling I'm used to, so I ran. I'm so sorry."

She found Kathryn's explanation plausible but, even so, there was a slight nag in the back of B'Elanna's mind. Everything inside her argued with the question that she was about to ask and she folded her arms, to help protect her feelings. "Are you really sorry, or are you relieved that you got out of something you didn't want to be in?" She realised she was handing Kathryn's escape to her on a plate, should she require it.

"I WAS relieved, temporarily. But now? I feel more than foolish for having reacted so badly."

"That sounds hopeful. But what's going to happen if and when I `see into' you again, huh? You going to take off again?"

The answer to that question did not come quickly and, when it did come, it nearly broke the voice that carried it. "I don't know."

Softening, B'Elanna sat herself gently on the couch beside Kathryn, being careful not to touch her. "I seem to have asked you this question once before, but where does this leave `us', do you think?"

"There is no `us'," countered Kathryn quickly, running again, before the event. She caught herself, realising what she was doing and, with a softer voice, she added, "Not yet, anyway."

A grin twitched at the corner of B'Elanna's mouth; it was a little grin with a large amount of hope attached to it, as she reflected, "Not yet? You mean you might get over this `being scared' stuff?"

Kathryn gave a ghost of a smile. "I might. I've had time to think it over, to identify what I feel - what I want. I need to thank you for that."

"Hey, I was afraid that if I pushed sooner I'd lose you altogether, but I couldn't let this silence go on any longer; it's killing me. I love you, Kath. Take all the time you need to decide whether or not you can handle my love but please, don't push me away again like you've done these past two weeks, OK? I can't handle that and, hey," she added, "I'm a nice person... I shouldn't have to handle it."

B'Elanna pouted in a comic fashion that swept the captain along with the wide grin that followed it and both of them visibly relaxed. They settled more comfortably into the couch as they moved into an easy silence, one that, this time, felt good between them.

"OK," said Kathryn at length.

"OK, what?"

"If you can stand the possibility that I might bolt again, do you want to stay? Now?"

"You sure?"

Kathryn rolled her eyes up to the ceiling and sighed before finally making eye contact. "Look, I faced the Borg and won through, didn't I?" she said, trying to convince herself. "I can handle this, I just have to learn how to face myself, that's all."

With a sudden jolt in her stomach, Kathryn realised she had just tapped into a deeper fear, one that had practically been subconscious before this moment. She voiced her fear aloud, to see how it sounded. "I'm not sure I wanted to let you in fully because I'm not sure I've really admitted to myself who I am. I guess I'll find that out through you. Maybe I won't like me... and that scares me."

"You ever let anyone else in?"

"Oh, yes. To who I was then. But this little foray of ours, into the Delta Quadrant, it's changed me, B'Elanna; you must realise that. And there's a great possibility that I've lied to myself - submerged my feelings, in fact, in order to live with myself."

The Lieutenant almost held her breath. Listening to Kathryn's words, she could fully see why the idea of this relationship worried her would-be lover so much. But it was enough, for the moment, to know that this woman, who always appeared so strong, was prepared to face her inner fears. For her.

"You think this is right?" Kathryn asked. "You think people can fully open up to a relationship if they're scared what they might learn about themselves?"

"I think you just used the word `relationship', Kath. Sounds a lot like your mind is thinking that's what we have here. Maybe you should just go along with it; hell with the consequences."


It wasn't enough and B'Elanna knew more reassurance was needed. "Look," she said, "We can all look out there and see worlds, space, our living environments, and we can learn all we can about them. That's the easy part. But the journey into knowing ourselves is not one most people care to take. My own journey's been one hell of a ride, but I'm a better person for finding the inner `me', I think. OK, I can't hide any more; I can't lie to myself any more; I can't push who I used to be away into a little box `over there' and ignore her any more. Look, I'm not explaining this very well but does it make any sense to you?"

"I think so. You're telling me I'll be a better person for looking, right?"

"Something like that. D'you know what else I'm thinking?" B'Elanna asked seductively, turning her body around to face Kathryn. She reached out a hand and let her fingertips play gently over the back of her captain's hand, in full knowledge of what she was initiating.

The feelings coursing through Kathryn felt so right that there was no point, at this stage, in fighting shy any longer. She sighed, closing her eyes as she turned her head. When she opened them again it was to look directly into B'Elanna's eyes. "No, Lieutenant. What ARE you thinking?" she replied huskily.

"I'm thinking I've been wanting to kiss you again for a long time and I'd really like to do something about that. OK?"

"That sounds very interesting, Lieutenant."

B'Elanna's eyes twinkled. "Would now be a good time?"

Two sets of pupils began to dilate. "I think... an excellent time."

"You sure?" B'Elanna searched Kathryn's face for any sign of resistance and, finding only openness and anticipation, she moved closer, checking again. Kathryn's eyes had dropped to study the lips advancing on her, and they both knew now that the kiss was inevitable.

They stopped just before their lips made contact, to check that neither wanted to back away, both knowing that beyond this point they would inevitably cease to be friends and become lovers. But no one ran, in fact their lips gently brushed each other and then began a tentative exploration, most unlike their first whoosh of passion.

"I thought it would feel strange," whispered Kathryn, pulling back a fraction, "kissing a woman."

"I know, me too," answered B'Elanna, keeping the closeness.

"But it didn't before and it doesn't now. This feels so right." And it continued to feel right for the next ten minutes before they finally broke apart, sighing.

"Wow," said B'Elanna. "That was amazing."

But the captain was finding that, with the kiss now over, their new close proximity felt strange and unfamiliar to her.

"What?" asked B'Elanna, knowing there was something.

Kathryn exhaled slowly. She wondered how to voice her feelings without ruining the growing mood between the two of them.

"Come on, tell me."

"It's unfamiliar. This close proximity to you, it feels unfamiliar."


"No, not at all, just different... a little awkward and unusual, perhaps."

B'Elanna grinned and knelt on the couch beside Kathryn. "It does, doesn't it?" She looked down into Kathryn's slightly questioning face. "Let's do something about that then, shall we?"

The half-Klingon, not waiting for a reply, turned Kathryn's face towards her and placed her hands either side of it, resting them there for a moment. Then, slowly, her eyes began to roam. Watched by Kathryn, she studied the forehead, slowly, before journeying down the bridge of the nose. At the same time, she moved her hands gently, caressing the skin, before expanding her explorations to include the cheeks and the jawbone.

Kathryn sighed and closed her eyes.

"No. Look at me. Get to know me."

Slowly the blue/grey eyes opened again onto dark brown ones and they smiled as Kathryn watched B'Elanna's expressions during the woman's continued journey, both physical and visual.

It took nearly seven minutes for B'Elanna to complete her survey of Kathryn's face, by which time neither woman felt at all nervous about their previously new and unfamiliar closeness.

Looking up from kissing Kathryn's neck, B'Elanna looked into her love's eyes, deeply into her, and was surprised and pleased that she was being allowed to do so. "Hello," she said softly.

"Hello," said Kathryn, delighted with the `game'. "I'm Kathryn. What do they call you?"

"B'El," answered B'Elanna, smiling.

"B'El? Now THAT one I would never have guessed."

"Used to get called that sometimes, but I'd never let anyone call me that if I didn't trust them."

"Then I'm honoured." The smile in the captain's eyes had been slowly changing to a needy and yet predatory look. She reached up to pull the kneeling B'Elanna down to sit properly on the couch, and then took up the same position that B'Elanna had just held. "My turn," she whispered.

With gentle swirling fingertips, Kathryn traced a trail around B'Elanna's beautiful face, studying the skin in detail and all the while noting the shivers her movements were creating. B'Elanna stared intently into the blue/grey eyes throughout, and, somewhere just south of the stubborn chin, Kathryn made eye contact with the half-Klingon and the two felt a connection that seemed much deeper than anything they had previously enjoyed. It excited them both. "B'El?"


"I want to make love to you."

"I want you to."

"Well, that saves argument," Kathryn smiled as she slid down level with the lieutenant and allowed her hand to find and cup a waiting clothed breast. She increased her hand's pressure and pinched at the mound's centre gently, gaining a reaction that startled her as B'Elanna's Klingon side surfaced.

"Talking about our true selves," growled B'Elanna, pushing Kathryn's hand heavily against her breast, "It's time you met mine."

This time, when B'Elanna's mouth met Kathryn's, there was an urgency and a power to their kiss, one that Kathryn responded to breathlessly and happily. "Oh, B'Elanna," she breathed and when they finally broke apart again, she fell to kissing, licking and sucking the younger woman's throat, driving the engineer mad with desire.

"Get in that bedroom, now; or you'll be sorry!" demanded the half-Klingon.

"Yes ma'am," grinned the captain happily, getting off the couch and pulling B'Elanna to her feet. Their path to the bedroom was punctuated with kisses, touches and a variety of sounds but, eventually, they arrived at the foot of Kathryn's bed.

B'Elanna climbed up onto the bed and snaked her body right back in one quick movement, to sit against the headboard, knees drawn up under her chin and arms wrapped around them. But... "No," she said to Kathryn as the woman tried to join her. "Undress for me first. Please?"

It crossed the captain's mind to be embarrassed about this request but she recalled the recent extensive exploration of each other's faces and relaxed. She wanted more of that – oh, she wanted much more of that, more intimacy and, as she complied, she found that it excited her far more than she'd thought it might, watching B'Elanna's reaction to her slow striptease.

Totally naked now, Kathryn smiled lazily at her love and finally climbed up onto the bed, pulling B'Elanna down from a sitting position to one where the engineer was lying on her back, Kathryn leaning over her. With the engineer's hand caressing her thigh, the captain gave a crooked grin and took hold of the zipper on B'Elanna's jacket, pulling it down agonisingly slowly. "Oh," she moaned, the sound having left her before she'd realised it was building, and she buried her head in the partially freed breasts, still clothed beneath the jacket, before sitting B'Elanna up.

B'Elanna seemed happy to allow this state of being stripped to continue leisurely and seductively and she helpfully raised her arms in the air to aid the removal of the rest of her upper garments, all except one.

Kathryn's fingertips traced the line, from the strap of the black bra slowly down to its centre, between the breasts, and back up again. She then moved closer to her lover and, while kissing the ample swell, she reached around behind her, managing to unhook the clasp with more ease than she'd expected.

"You've done that before," accused a smiling woman.

"I swear..." came the mock-adamant reply before Kathryn hooked her fingers under the bra straps and watched as B'Elanna's upper torso was slowly revealed. "How beautiful," was all she could say before she laid B'Elanna back down and kissed and licked each breast thoroughly before attending to the clasp of her pants.

B'Elanna quivered as she watched the deft and nimble fingers undoing and then removing her pants, taking her underwear with it, and she looked up at last into Kathryn's smouldering eyes. "It looks like you intend to get a little serious around here," she joked, although her voice had already taken on shades of panting expectation and excitement.

"I thought I might," grinned the captain. "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure," teased the lieutenant in return, although she realised that her powers of holding back were wearing thin. Unable to quell her feelings any longer, she grabbed the woman who was leaning over her and the two of them rolled to change places, with B'Elanna looking down on a face that seemed charged with love, excitement and sexual energy. "Oh, I don't know though..." teased B'Elanna as she began a night with her captain that neither of them would ever forget.

Chakotay couldn't quite work it out. He'd seen most of the captain's facial expressions but certainly not this one, and there was only one thing it could mean. "B'Elanna?" he questioned quietly, to exclude the rest of the Bridge crew from their conversation.

She turned her face to his and gazed across the small gap between their two chairs, not needing to say a word to confirm his suspicions. Her lop-sided grin quickly became a full one but then, just as quickly, the command mask struggled to put itself back into place. She didn't feel quite ready to be caught grinning like a Cheshire cat on the Bridge just yet. But there he was, still looking at her for further information and she gave him a serious look, reminding herself of his obvious integrity before swallowing obviously and leaning a little closer towards him. "B'El is my new partner," she told him shyly, oblivious to the fact that she had used the pet name.

"She let you call her that?" he asked with mock amazement.

Kathryn nodded.

"B'El? She doesn't let just anyone call her that. It must be serious."

"It is," said Kathryn without the trace of a smile. `It really is,' she thought to herself as she let the truth of those words sink into her soul fully. Suddenly all her fears, about being intimately known by another and about knowing herself through B'Elanna, had vanished in the light of the love they shared.

"And what about the rules?"

"I'm breaking them. Clearly," she grinned.

"You look worried," he teased jovially, knowing how big an issue this had been for her earlier.

"I should be, perhaps, but..."

The captain said no more and Chakotay leaned in. "Sometimes, Kathryn," he said quietly, "love breaks all the rules."

If anyone had looked at Tuvok at that moment, Tuvok who had overheard everything, they would have sworn that he was wearing the very slightest trace of a smile.

Love can do that.

The End

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