Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom own ST: Voyager and the ST universe. In our humble opinion they don't deserve it, and that the writers need to take serious lessons from CC and Joss Whedon.
Lor's Author's Notes: My humblest apologies that this took so long. I was attempting to finish my thesis and apply to PhD programs-it paid off :-). Here is our third installment to the Fortune's series.
Stormwriter's Author's Notes: It took a while to get Lor going on writing this part. It was originally going to be a Christmas story, then got pushed back to New Year's, and now is being finished/posted after Easter. But I think it was worth the wait. We also wrote this part differently this time. Instead of live writing on mIRC, we did it in sections. Lor covered the J/Tuv stuff, and I took everything else basically. It was difficult, as I wrote my stuff before she did hers, but I think it still worked out okay in the end.
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Marie grinned impishly as she saw Neelix walk into her quarters. The last time he'd come to see her, she'd seen things perhaps best left unseen, but at the same time, she'd seen her own future. "What can I do for you today, Neelix?" she asked softly.
Neelix smiled at her. "I know that others had a chance to get their fortunes read at the party, and I was wondering?" His voice trailed off a little. "I was wondering since I was so busy with the party, if you could spare the time to do a reading for me. . ."
Marie's smile grew and she motioned toward the table set up in the corner. "By all means, Neelix. I'm sorry we didn't get the chance for this at the party." As they sat down, she glanced up at him. "I want to thank you for talking me into doing the readings. I actually enjoyed myself." She looked at the table for a moment. "Any particular type of reading you'd like?"
Neelix sat down across from her. "I don't know exactly Marie. I think I would like to know if something important was going on back at Talax. So far from home, and I don't know what is happening to them." He twiddled his fingers nervously. "So many horrible things could have happened, I guess I just want to know if they are okay."
Nodding, Marie reached across the table and took his hands in hers. "That's a noble gesture, Neelix," she said, then paused, feeling the flash of insight. A confused frown crossed her face, followed by that impish smile again. "Why, Neelix, you never told me.... How could you keep such a thing secret from us all this time?" She released one hand to reach for her scrying bowl. "I really must try to see them for myself."
And then she reached for the ornate glass bottle of water, pouring it into the silver bowl before adding three drops of an inky black liquid. The drops quickly colored the water, darkening it until the silver of the bowl was seen only where there was no water.
Neelix became visibly upset. "Didn't tell you what?" He peered into the bowl trying to see what Marie was so obviously seeing.
She stared deeply at the water, then spoke in a low voice. "Your daughters. Why didn't you say anything?"
Neelix sat there silent, surprised at the words that were coming from Marie's mouth. "What do you mean, daughters? As in plural? I have no children, let alone more than one."
Marie looked up at him, confusion clearly written in her brown eyes. "Are you sure? It was such a strong impression. I'm hoping to see an image of them in the water. Would you like to see them as well?"
Neelix leaned even more forward in the chair. "What do I need to do to see them?" He still was hesitant, as the news of daughters was still trying to sink in. "I mean, I had a strong relationship with several other women on Talax, but I am sure they would have informed me of any children."
"Well, let's try and see these daughters of yours. Perhaps that will help shed some light on who their mother is." Marie took his hands and placed them on the table, on either side of the bowl. "Now, Neelix, I want you to relax and look into the water. Let your mind relax and try to see through it, past it, into your mind's eye. I will do the same, and perhaps we can see your daughters." Placing her hands on the rim of the bowl, she took several deep breaths, unfocussing her eyes on the surface of the water. And then one hand strayed down to rest on his, connecting her to his consciousness.
Neelix relaxed his mind, the best he knew how. He had been trying to learn some of the Vulcan mind relaxation and meditating techniques in the Federation Data Base. He regulated his breathing and concentrated on seeing beyond the bowl in front of him. A vision of his sister appeared in his mind's eye, just as it always did when he was attempting to practice the techniques.
Marie smiled. She knew about Alixia from past conversations of theirs. "Concentrate on your family, Neelix," she said softly, moving to rest both of his hands on the rim of the bowl, her own covering his, completing the link. Now she'd be able to draw on what she'd seen earlier and allow it to project onto the inky surface of the water.
Within moments, the water rippled slightly and the image changed. Alixia was gone, replaced by two young girls, identical in every way but the color of their hair. They played some sort of game, running and chasing after each other, delightedly shrieking.
Echos of laughing children echoed through his head. Then a deep, rich voice from his past called to the girls. No, Tarria was dead. She died after the last great battle. She couldn't be alive. Neelix yanked his hand away from the bowl, fearful of what the vision might hold. Marie watched as he stared at the bowl in confusion, shaking his head slightly. "They -- they look like Tarria. But that's not possible. I mean...she would have....but I thought she'd died."
"Perhaps not, Neelix," came Marie's gentle reply. "Sometimes misinformation is found and thought to be true. Perhaps she was afraid to tell you of your daughters. Maybe she thought you'd be less than pleased?" She didn't know what else to say. She had no pat answers to give the paling Talaxian. Before either could say anymore, the door chimed and both looked up. "Come in," Marie called out, moving to empty the bowl, its use now past, but Neelix stopped her. The image of his daughters was gone, but still he stared. Marie knew it would take some time for this news to sink in. She glanced at the door again and smiled. "Hello, Naomi."
"Hi, Marie," came the girl's cheerful voice. "Hi, Uncle Neelix."
A warm smiled crossed the Talaxian's face, the girl pulling him from his introspection. "Hello there, Naomi. How are you this fine day?"
"Fine. Mommy said I could come visit Marie for a while....and I have a surprise to tell."
"What's your surprise, mon ami?" Marie asked, moving to let Naomi closer.
The girl stood by the table, a secretive smile on her face. Carefully, she touched the rim of the bowl with the tip of one finger. "Bea Catt says it's lonely where she is. Now she comes to play with me."
"Bea Catt? I know of no one on this ship by that name."
"She's my best friend," came the proud reply, then quickly followed by, "after you, Uncle Neelix." Then she looked at Marie. "She knows you, Marie."
"She does?" Marie asked, playing along. "And just when did I meet Bea Catt?"
"At that other party. Remember? When you helped me see my vision of Mommy and Chakotay. You told her mommy about her that night."
Suddenly it all made sense to Marie. "I think it would be a good idea to keep this a secret for now, Naomi. Wait until Bea Catt's mommy is ready to tell everyone about her."
"Okay." The girl cocked her head to one side, as if listening to someone, but neither adult heard anything. Then she giggled and said, "Uncle Neelix, I'm supposed to tell you that Nanja and Tareena are happy and okay."
He stared at her. "Naomi?"
She sighed, exasperated. "Nanja and Tareena. Your little girls. They come to play with me and Bea Catt sometimes." Naomi expected him to be happy, but Neelix just stared at her, stunned, then stood and quickly backed out of the room without saying a word. Naomi turned to look at Marie, saw the look of concern on her face. "Marie? Why is Neelix so sad?"
"He's not sad, not really," came the slow reply. "He's just worried. He can't go visit his little girls, and I think he misses them."
**** **** ****
Harry stood in the corridor, nervously tugging at the collar of his sweater while he waited acknowledgment of his arrival. Finally, the door slid open and he froze in his spot, staring at the young woman before him. "Uh, hi, Marie," he stammered, unable to take his eyes off of her graceful body leaning against the doorframe. She was sheathed in a dress so white it made his eyes ache. The stark color set off the pale toffee of her skin in a way that appealed him. Just the sight of her bare collarbones surrounded by white fur trim brought a broader smile to his lips. She wore no jewelry, no adornment in her long, wavy hair.
"Hello, Harry," came the soft, cultured reply, her own eyes appraisingly running over him. She truly enjoyed seeing him in civilian clothes. He had impeccable taste, and the pale beige sweater accented the olive tones of his ancestry.
"You look wonderful." He held out his hand to her, brushed her knuckles with his lips. "Shall we?" he asked softly, motioning down the corridor. When she nodded, he guided her away with a hand on the small of her back. They walked in amiable silence to the turbolift, where they met up with Neelix and Naomi Wildman.
"Well hello there, Harry, Marie," came Neelix's exuberant voice. "Happy New Year to you both."
"The same to you, Neelix," Marie replied, then looked down at Naomi in her jumper of green velvet. "Bonne Annee, ma petite ami," she said, smiling.
"Bonne Annee, Marie," she replied. "You look very pretty."
"Thank you," came the reply as the 'lift doors opened. The quartet stepped out into the corridor, making their way into the holodeck. As they entered, Marie's eyes lit up. The holodeck had been transformed into a flower garden, complete with a fountain and a small duck pond. Since it was a nighttime setting, all of the plants were strung with lights in various designs, creating a festive, romantic atmosphere.
"There's Mommy and Chakotay," Naomi said, then dragged Neelix off toward them, leaving the other couple behind.
Marie smiled broadly, turning in a slow circle to take in as much as she could without leaving her spot. Her mood was infectious as Harry grabbed her hand. "Let's go exploring, Marie."
**** **** ****
"I'm really not feeling up to a party, Tom."
"We're senior officers, B'Elanna, and it's Chakotay's engagement party. We have to make an appearance," he replied, turning to face her. His eyes were bright with emotion. "Besides, I'd like the chance to show off my beautiful fiancee and the first signs of our child."
B'Elanna blushed hotly. "Stop it, Tom." But the smile on her face only proved her own excitement over their growing child. It had been nearly three months since Marie had foretold this child's existence in her life, and B'Elanna had been thankful to the young woman ever since. Her life was now filled with planning: for Chakotay's upcoming wedding to Sam, for her own wedding to Tom, for the birth of her child in merely five more months.
"We won't stay long if you don't want to, but we owe it to them to show up," Tom continued, gently caressing the back of her hand with his thumb. "You're Chakotay's oldest friend, and he needs your support during this. You know how he feels about the Captain throwing this party for him and Sam."
She sighed at that. "I know. I just don't know what to do about that. She's changed, Tom, she's changed in ways that I can't quite put my finger on, but she's not the same as she was. Chakotay is completely stymied." She shook her head then. "They're both adults, they'll work this out on their own. We have our own lives to deal with."
**** **** ****
Kathryn smiled as she arranged one final red curl of her hair. She had grown her hair back out to its long length, feeling more herself once it had finally reached the bottom of her shoulder blades. She had chosen to curl it tightly for the evening's events. She pulled back the sides into diamond studded combs.
Of course the combs weren't real, but they added the right touch to the jeweled burgundy velvet gown that she wore. The velvet gown fit her snugly, stopping well above her knees. The straps were no more than a half an inch wide, made out of a rough silk, the banding continuing around the low-cut bodice. The suede red heels that she wore gave her the appearance of a vibrant flame as she walked.
She grabbed a long silk scarf, a shade slightly lighter than the dress, and wrapped it around her neck. She allowed the ends to trail down the vast ivory expanse of her bare back.
Kathryn knew that the party was a bit overboard given the past history between her and Chakotay. However, it was her chance to say goodbye to him. She needed to extricate Chakotay from her system. She needed to show herself as well as the ship that it was time to move on.
**** **** ****
David Zimmerman anxiously paced the perimeter of his office. Seven was late, and he feared she would back out of the arrangement she herself had procured for them this evening. It had been she who'd come to this very office and requested he escort her to the party, that she hadn't wanted to go alone. He was just about to hit his commbadge, ask her whereabouts, when she strode into Sickbay. He stood in astonishment at the transformation that had occurred, and suddenly was no longer upset that she was late. Her pale hair, usually twisted into a painfully tight bun, was braided and woven with pearls, cascading down the back in a large, curling wave. One shoulder was tied with a knot of ice blue satin, which flowed down to cover the rest of her body in a tight, but tasteful sheath whose hem gently brushed the floor as she walked toward him. Her eyes were wide, the metal arch over her left eye raised slightly.
"Do you not approve, David?" she asked softly. "Did I not dress properly for this occasion?"
"No, Seven, you look exquisite, if you really must know," he stammered, still stunned by the transformation. He was so used to seeing her in the catsuits he'd designed for her; now he found her taste in attire to be truly inspired. "Are--? Are you ready to go?"
Now her more analytical side came out, appraising him. "You are remaining in your uniform? You choose not to change your attire to suit the occasion?"
"Would you prefer if I did?" His question was sincere. If she wished it, he'd change into whatever she wanted.
"I was merely curious. I was led to believe that civilian attire was a requisite for this party. I -- might not have chosen an outfit like this if I was not required to."
"Are you saying this outfit isn't to your liking? Why did you choose it?"
"I hoped you would like it." The words came out softly, before she really had a chance to rethink them. Her cheeks darkened slightly.
"I do like it," he replied honestly, reaching out to take her hand. "I like it very much."
**** **** ****
Sam smiled warmly at Chakotay. It didn't matter where they were, she couldn't have wished for a better life. Granted, she was still unhappy over severing her feelings for Naomi's father, but she knew he'd gone on. She just knew. And now she had Chakotay.
"Penny for your thoughts," he murmured in her ear as they stood hidden behind a small growth of bamboo.
She looked down sheepishly. "I was just thinking of everything that's happened. What I'm grateful for right now."
"And that would be?" He had a feeling he already knew, but loved to hear her say it.
"Naomi. You. This life. Everything." Again, that sheepish look. "And this dress. I still can't believe you used up so many rations to create it for me."
"It was the least I could do. Kathryn set up this party for us. I wanted my bride-to-be looking absolutely stunning." His eyes traveled over the dress he'd replicated. A warm chocolate brown satin loosely encased her from shoulder to mid-calf. The full skirt accentuated her long legs in ways he hadn't anticipated. His favorite part was the Cinderella sleeves, the way they billowed up to frame her face slightly, then tapered down to delicate points against the backs of her hands. "And you do look absolutely stunning, Sam." He moved in for a kiss, was stopped by the opening of the door.
**** **** ****
As one, everyone turned to see who'd arrived this time. And as one, everyone's jaw fell open at the sight before them. Kathryn Janeway sauntered into the holodeck creation, wearing what could only be described as daring. The red velvet sleeveless dress clung to her like a second skin. . About her neck was a red silk scarf, dotted with silver diamonds. Other than that, her shoulders and arms were bare, save for the thin straps holding up the bodice of the low-cut, tight dress. Her hair was down, clipped up at the sides by rhinestone combs.
Collectively, everyone stared. No one could believe how daring their captain was being in wearing such an outfit. They all watched as she approached Chakotay and Sam. "Good evening, Captain," he said warmly, knowing all eyes were on them.
"Samantha," she said, tilting her head toward the woman, then turned her full gaze to the tall man before her. "Chakotay." Her smiled widened. "I hope you're both enjoying yourself. And may I finally offer my congratulations on your engagement. I wish you all the best."
Chakotay had no idea how to accept that, so he did it graciously. "Thank you, Kathryn. It means a lot to hear that from you." The unspoken rest of his comment lay between them. ~I'm glad you've finally accepted this.~
Her smiled brightened. "Why wouldn't I think it, Chakotay? You're with the woman you love in a wonderfully romantic setting. What more could you ask for?"
**** **** ****
Tuvok stood silently in the corner watching the exchange between the threesome. Sam obviously was a little bit uncomfortable with the exchange. Chakotay seemed almost hesitant in his manner.
Tuvok didn't miss the appraising look of a man admiring a beautiful sensual woman. He quelled the flash of jealousy instinctually, but unconsciously his eyebrow raised in a surprised response to the violent passionate emotion that Kathryn was eliciting in him.
Tuvok fingered the fragile box that he held in anticipation of what would come. He knew with the vibrancy of the dress, she wouldn't need the flower adornment, but something inside of him told him that the exquisite Vulcan Orchid was the most appropriate gift for the situation.
Steeling himself for what he knew would happen, he walked over towards the group that was garnering so much attention from the rest of the crew.
Kathryn looked up as she felt a hot hand touch the bare skin of her shoulder. Warm brown eyes glanced down at her, not betraying the undercurrent of emotion she could almost feel pooling beneath Tuvok's exterior. She attempted to stifle the shiver that ran down her back.
Something inside of Kathryn half expected Tuvok to put his arm around her protectively, as if he could protect her emotions from the situation that she was now it. Tuvok nodded at Chakotay, his voice saying the proper things that one would expect a Vulcan to say at an engagement party.
Then Tuvok turned to Kathryn, holding out the white fragile box to her. "I hope that this is appropriate for the occasion." Chakotay grinned wider, almost hearing uncomfortableness in Tuvok's voice.
Without a word Kathryn took the box and opened it. Inside of it lay a delicate Vulcan Orchid. Tuvok raised an eyebrow, and reached down to grasp the fragile flower. "It's a new hybrid. The only one of it's kind. I have called it Janeway's Fire." He placed it up high on her shoulder, and began the process of pinning it to the strap of her dress.
Neither Kathryn nor Chakotay missed the significance of the act. Even though Sam held his heart, his foolish pride smarted with a twinge of jealousy. The bio-data base would be stored with the genetic information of this one flower that now graced the curve of Janeway's neck.
Then Kathryn Janeway did something unexpected. She stood on the tips of her toes and brushed a kiss across the warm brown cheek of the second officer. She smiled, and replied, "Thank you Tuvok, no one has ever done anything like that before."
"I am pleased my gift brings you pleasure Kathryn." Tuvok replied. "Would you care for some punch?" He asked, knowing that Kathryn needed a few more moments alone with Chakotay if she was going to be able to get him completely out of her system.
Kathryn nodded, smiling. Tuvok nodded to Sam, relief showing in Sam's face she joined him on his walk to the refreshment table.
Kathryn turned to Chakotay, now alone, to finish her conversation. "I am truly happy for you Chakotay."
Chakotay didn't seem to be persuaded by the words. Instead he turned the conversation back onto her current situation. "Do you love him Kathryn?"
Surprise in her eyes, Kathryn replied, "I don't honestly know Chakotay. I think something is there, but it would violate every sense of honor that I have been raised with."
Chakotay placed a hand on her bare shoulder near the orchid that Tuvok had pinned to the strap. "Even though he is a bloody Vulcan, you know that he has a heart somewhere buried deep beneath that cool Vulcan exterior." He paused as if considering how to carefully phrase the next words from his mouth. Then he spoke. "Don't lead him on Kathryn. He deserves that much. Be honest with him."
Kathryn's eyes turned cold. "I have been nothing but honest with anyone about my feelings." She said as if to emphasize situations other than the one that she was in currently. "As you know it only gets me further heart ache." Silence reigned for a moment as Chakotay carefully considered her words. Then she continued on. "I think I need to walk. I have always loved this place, it's one of the few places that I still wake up after dreaming about." She turned and walked towards a small path leading back into some trees. The twinkle of lights illuminated her way. In minutes she was gone. The deep-rooted pain in her heart was almost tangible.
Chakotay continued to stand there as Sam and Tuvok made their way back towards him. Tuvok said nothing as he realized that Kathryn was no longer present. He turned towards the path, with a brief nod, and went to seek out the woman that was finding it so hard to heal.
**** **** ****
"Tom, there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
He turned to the woman in his arms, gently pressed his lips to her temple, tightened his arms about her waist. "And what might that be, B'Elanna?"
"I've begun thinking of names for our child." It came out softly, almost hesitantly. "I know we were going to wait a bit longer and do it together, but....I guess when you're constantly reminded of the fact that there's a little life growing inside of you, you want to find ways to communicate with it. And I really hate calling this baby 'it,'" she continued.
Tom smiled broadly, chuckled. "I do believe motherhood is agreeing with you, B'Elanna. So what have you come up with so far?"
"Nothing concrete, of course," she commented quickly, then glanced up at him. "I want something traditional, I guess."
"Klingon, I assume?"
"No!" Her reply was quick, almost too quick, as if it bothered her that he said it. "I mean, not really. This baby will only be one-quarter Klingon, so I'm not sure I want to saddle him or her with an unwieldy Klingon name. Does that make any sense?"
He nodded, then motioned toward the small individual coming their way. "Hey there, Naomi. How are you enjoying the party?"
"I'm enjoying it a lot," came the enthusiastic reply as the girl neared them. She looked up at B'Elanna. "I like your dress, B'Elanna. It kind of matches mine."
B'Elanna looked down and saw that both she and the girl were wearing dark green. Where Naomi wore a velvet jumper, B'Elanna wore an Empire style dress of brushed silk, high-waisted to accommodate the early swell of her stomach, but not accentuate it. And about her shoulders was a delicately crocheted shawl of the same dark color, keeping her bare arms warm. "And you look very nice, Naomi."
The girl smiled then and hesitantly stretched out a hand toward B'Elanna's stomach. She glanced up at the woman, unspoken request written in her eyes. When B'Elanna nodded, the girl delicately placed her hand on the slightly rounded stomach. "Bea Catt says she's very happy in there," came the soft comment.
"Bea Catt?" Tom asked.
"Yeah. My best friend. She said she likes to be called Bea Catt, but she has a longer name. Beatrice or something like that," Naomi said, still watching her hand on B'Elanna's stomach.
"Kahless," B'Elanna whispered, then tipped up Naomi's face to look into the pale eyes. "Who is Bea Catt? And where did you get that name?"
It was then that Tom noticed how pale she'd become. "B'Elanna? Are you okay?"
"Answer me, Naomi." She was desperate for the answer.
"She told me her name. Bea Catt's here," she said hesitantly, hand still on B'Elanna's stomach.
B'Elanna quickly released the girl and took a step back. "Oh my god," she moaned softly. "How could you know?"
"Know what?" Tom asked, curiosity and worry competing as he stared at his lover.
"Um, I think I see my mom over there," Naomi said quickly, realizing she'd said too much and broken her promise to Marie. "I better go now." And before either of them could stop her, she ran off.
Tom looked at B'Elanna, gently touched her cheek. "Hey, what's going on?" he asked softly.
"I've been leaning toward the name Beatrice if we have a girl," came her soft reply, one hand on her stomach. "But I never told anyone that. How could she know that?"
Tom's eyebrows shot up. "Really?" Then he smiled, almost sheepishly. "Well, you know I've always preferred Catherine." She shot him an exasperated look. "No, not because of the captain either. It's just always been a personal favorite of mine." Then he thought for a moment. "How the hell did she get our personal choices like that?"
**** **** ****
Kathryn stood silently in the shadows watching Tom and B'Elanna talk with Naomi Wildman. She saw B'Elanna's hand move to the soft curve of her stomach and flinched. Everyone was moving on from the pain of being forced to leave home. Thus was her curse, her payment for tearing them apart from their loved ones.
Unconsciously, Kathryn's own hand mimicked B'Elanna's action. The ache inside of her increased. Family, oh God she missed them so badly that it took everything inside of her to push it away. She made her choice when she decided to destroy Caretaker. She would never have a family. She would never have a man look at her the way Tom looked at B'Elanna. She didn't deserve it.
There had been Mark, but even now Kathryn realized that Mark was safe. He was the one that had helped her pick up the pieces after Justin's death. Were the feelings churning in her heart for Tuvok, simply because she was grateful because he helped her pick up the pieces after Chakotay.
Oh Goddess, she didn't know. She wanted to let go of the pain, and she thought that she had done exactly that. A sound cracked through the quiet lull of the garden. She turned, but didn't see anyone.
**** **** ****
Tuvok watched Kathryn silently cry. Something inside of him broke. It wasn't emotional, or maybe it was. He didn't know, he just knew that he didn't like seeing Kathryn this way. She deserved better than this.
Kathryn seemed to garner her strength and began to walk away from where she watched Tom and B'Elanna.
**** **** ****
Naomi ran off from the couple, then collided into Harry's side. "Hey, Naomi," he said gently, picking her up off the ground. "What did your mom say about running around?"
She glanced up at him, then turned tearful eyes toward Marie. "I'm sorry, Marie. I broke my promise."
"What promise is that?" Marie asked, kneeling next to the girl. She reached out a hand to brush away the tears that fell down the soft cheeks. Then she looked up to see B'Elanna and Tom coming up to them. Her eyes returned to the girl. "Naomi, what did you do?"
"I just wanted to say hello, see where Bea Catt is. I told B'Elanna that and she got all upset." Now the girl was nearly sobbing in regret.
Marie sighed heavily, then stood to face the couple coming toward them. "Tom, B'Elanna, let me explain," she started, holding up a hand to stop either of them from saying anything. Quickly, she gave them the honest explanation of what she knew had transpired.
"So you're saying that Naomi is friends with my baby?" B'Elanna finally asked. "That I'm having a girl named Beatrice Catherine?"
"It would appear so," Marie said, then amended herself when she saw the half-Klingon begin to go pale again. "Sometimes Fate changes things. The only way to be certain that Naomi's visions and visitations are true is to have Doc determine the sex of your child."
"So you're telling me that a child's imaginary friend is really my child? That she talks to my child? I'm barely four months pregnant, Marie. This is just a little too much for me to handle. I mean, it's obvious that Naomi's just got an overactive imagination and damned good luck at guessing things."
Marie regarded her sympathetically. She knew this was hard for B'Elanna to grasp. "What I'm saying is that Naomi does see things. I've witnessed it myself, as has Harry."
"She's right, Maquis," he remarked softly, finally speaking up for the first time, then looked at Naomi. "It's okay, honey. You didn't do anything wrong. It was just a mistake. Why don't you go find Neelix and see if he has any frosted cookies left, okay?" Gratefully, she nodded and ran off.
"You trusted my vision of your future, B'Elanna," Marie added softly. "Why won't you trust Naomi's?"
"But she's just a child," B'Elanna protested. "And she's never shown any signs of this before."
"I was younger than Naomi when I had my first vision."
"But it's in your family, part of your heritage."
"We don't know that it's not a part of Naomi's heritage. Mine is just more well-known and accepted. The women in my family have always had the sight, the powers. We search for it in our daughters, train it, cherish it as the gift it is. It's entirely possible that her family isn't like that."
**** **** ****
Having finally gotten B'Elanna to consider her words, Marie let Harry lead her on yet another tour of the garden they were in. She could tell by the slight frown on his face that he was debating something, but she had no clue what it was. So she simply walked quietly by his side, fingers intertwined with his. Finally they stopped in front of a bench by the small duck pond. He motioned for her to sit down, joined her silently. They stared out at the water for a bit, then he looked at her. "Marie, there's something I wanted to ask you," he said slowly.
She turned to gaze up at him, feeling so at peace near him. "What is it?" She gave in to her impulses and reached up to caress his cheek.
He reached into his pocket, pulled out a small, wrapped box. Extending it toward her, he hesitated slightly. "This was supposed to be your Christmas -- Yule gift, but I guess I wasn't ready to give it to you yet then. Besides, I wanted it to be the right setting to give it to you."
She took the box, admired the deep blue velvet ribbon wrapped about it. Strong emotions emanated from both the box and Harry. She gazed up at him. "What is it?"
"Open it." He watched her carefully untie the ribbon, open the box to reveal the delicate strand of pearls within. The shocked surprise in her eyes was quickly replaced with delight as he moved to place them around her neck. She lifted her hair, giving him better access, then sighed softly as his hands came to rest lightly on her shoulders. And then, he finally spoke again. "They're not real, but they are." Realizing he didn't make any sense, he continued. "This strand is replicated, but there is a real strand just like it back on Earth waiting for you."
"I don't understand, Harry. A real strand? Of pearls? For me?"
Harry smiled. "Maybe I should explain. You see, my family has carried down many traditions. One of them is a priceless heirloom handed down from generation to generation. My grandmother gave it to me. She didn't approve of my mother at first, so she refused to give it to my father. My mother has it in safe keeping for me when I get back to Earth....for you, I guess."
"What is the heirloom, Harry?" she asked, fingering the delicate strand of pearls.
"A strand of pearls, exactly like this one, but nearly a thousand years old. It is intended to go to the woman I love, to the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with."
Harry looked at her then, saw the actual worry in her eyes. Smiling, he took her hand in his, rubbed his thumb across her palm. "No, not Libby. I guess I'd always assumed it would be Libby, but I've realized that she's not the woman I thought she was, not the part of my life I thought she was." He paused. "I just -- I'm not exactly sure how to say this. I mean, these pearls are a symbol given to the woman I love, something tangible to show she's been accepted into my family. I know my grandmother would approve, as would my parents." He trailed off then, again at a loss for words.
"Harry, are you saying that you wish to spend the rest of your life with me?" It came out softly.
He tried to act nonchalant. "Well, I mean we're stuck out here in the Delta Quadrant for the next sixty years anyway."
Marie gave him a withering look. "Nonchalance doesn't suit you, Harry. That's Tom's arena of expertise." Then she took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. "Harry, are you seriously giving me this gift in the spirit of the tradition of your family?" When he nodded, tears filled her eyes. She forced herself to gaze into his dark eyes, read the honesty there. "You have no idea what this means to me. Thank you, Harry. This is the single most precious gift anyone's ever given me."
He gently brushed away her tears, feeling a few well in his own eyes at her happiness. And then, as if led by a force greater than he could resist, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. At first, Marie resisted, shocked by his actions, but then she relaxed into his chest, arms sliding around his neck. The kiss was tender, with just enough passion to make her heart race in her chest. With some regret, she felt him pull back from the kiss, but it quickly faded as he pulled her into his arms, snuggling her close to look out at the pond.
"Thank you, Marie," he murmured in her ear, "for making my life a little more bearable out here."
**** **** ****
Pearls, promises of a future, a future that Kathryn would never have. She would never be able to make her own. Goddess what she would give for a little passion in her life. Again she had stumbled upon a sight best not for her own pain filled eyes.
Little did she know that someone, like a guardian angel, was watching out for her. She continued to watch as Harry again pulled Marie into his arms hungrily devouring her lips as if they held life's very essence. Oh goddess, to be someone's passion.
Kathryn bent over, holding her face in her hands, the tears still flowing down her cheeks. She shouldn't have come this evening, she should have claimed a headache. This was just too much. It continued to push her farther and farther away from the light. The scientist inside of her knew that it really wasn't as horrible as what she was perceiving, but how long had it been since she had felt like she was an essential part of someone's being.
**** **** ****
Tuvok watched her weep. Logic told him that this would be the best way for her to get the anger and bitterness that held onto her out. His ancient Vulcan instinct told him to seek out the man who had done this to her, and kill him slowly. He tried to hold onto his training, uncontrolled passion was a Vulcan's weakness, his down fall.
Kathryn needed to be the one to reach out to him. Instead of seeking out someone to help her share the load that her command decisions placed on her shoulders, she turn and walked away from it yet again. When would she realize that she couldn't continue on carrying this load all by herself.
It wasn't logical. He was here, all she had to do was ask.
**** **** ****
Seven stared at David with barely disguised boredom. "I don't understand why you insisted we come to this party," she remarked drily. "It is not the entertaining time you said it would be."
"I beg to differ, Seven. You're not giving it a chance. This is a thoroughly romantic setting, one which can allow you to see how other couples interact with each other."
She blinked. "Do you consider us a couple, David?"
He hesitated a moment, then met her gaze firmly. "I'd like to, especially when you call me David," he replied. "Besides, it was you who asked me to accompany you to this event. I believe that makes this *your* fault if you're not enjoying yourself."
She stared at him in surprise, unsure of a response. "But it is your responsibility to guide my studies in humanity."
Now he smiled indulgently. "Of course, Seven, but it is your job to actually take your studies to the next level and interact with people. You can't hide behind studies all your life."
An eyebrow arched haughtily at that. "If that is the case," she replied smoothly, "then I believe this is the point where you kiss me, is it not?"
Before she could change her mind, or he lose his nerve, he pulled her to him and did just as she asked. Her lips were soft under his, yielding and pliant. He longed to deepen the kiss, but knew not to push her too far too soon. Reluctantly, he pulled back from the kiss, stared into her shock-widened eyes, saw the beginnings of arousal in them. "Did that suffice?" came his slightly sarcastic reply, hating to disguise his passion beneath the cool exterior of a teacher.
All she could do was nod and stare at him.
**** **** ****
Seven and David kissing, the sight of it shocked her to her toes. They both didn't realize that they had someone watching them as they talked. Their lips hungrily meeting, and then the shocked look as Seven stared at the ship's doctor in surprise.
Even the angst of not knowing, and not fully understanding what was happening between you and the man that you were attracted to was better than knowing that your heart ached for something it would never have. Disgusted, again she sought out solitude among the twinkling lights and fragrant plants. The path would only lead her back eventually to where she began.
Again the shadow continued to follow her.
**** **** ****
B'Elanna stared at the roses before her, lit by twinkling yellow lights, but didn't really see them. Her back was to her fiancÚ, her mind elsewhere.
"Come on, B'Elanna, it's not really all that bad, is it? Knowing, I mean." When she didn't answer, he moved to stand behind her, wrapping his arms loosely about her waist, chin resting on her left shoulder. "'Lanna? You okay?"
"Fine," she replied absently, hands going to rest on his. "Tom?"
"I think I just felt the baby move," she whispered, eyes wide.
Tom spun her around to face him, eyes searching her shocked face. "Are you sure?"
"I don't know," she replied as he dropped to his knees before her. "It was like a fluttering, like butterfly wings." Her eyes traveled down to take in his face pressed against the slight swelling of her belly. "Our baby is really real, isn't it? There's really a little life growing in there."
Tom nodded, pressed his lips to her stomach, then rested his forehead against her ribs, hands on her hips. "Hello in there, little baby," he murmured. "This is your dad. You just keep on growing in there, okay? Your mom and I are real anxious to finally meet and hold you." He pressed his lips to her stomach again, just held onto B'Elanna for a long moment.
B'Elanna barely noticed the tears slipping down her cheeks. And her mind replayed her encounter with Naomi earlier. "Beatrice Catherine," she mumbled. "Beatrice Catherine Paris."
Tom glanced up at her then, took in her serene smile. "What did you say, B'Elanna?"
She met his gaze then, stretched out a hand to caress his cheek. "How does Beatrice Catherine Paris sound to you?"
**** **** ****
B'Elanna's voice filtered over to Kathryn's ears as she walked nearby. She stopped to watch Tom, as on bended knee he placed a chaste kiss on B'Elanna's stomach. Baby names, and the admiration of a proud father, it was more than enough to root her to the spot in which she stood. The female side of her, that she had buried for so long, came out in full force.
Oh to hold her own child in her arms. To see them grow up, to watch as for the first time they beheld the wonders of space travel. She grabbed at a nearby tree in an attempt to stabilize her turbulent emotions. A warm had reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
Kathryn turned around, to see warm brown eyes caress her. "Kathryn," His voice lacked emotion as he spoke the words, but inside she knew that he was concerned.
"I'm fine Tuvok. I just need to be alone." She replied, looking up at him.
Tuvok knew that it was a lie formulated to cover her pain. He pulled her roughly to him, knowing that his physical presence would help in some fundamental way. "I am here Kathryn. You know I would do anything for you, if you but asked it of me."
With his words, Kathryn the strong Star Fleet Captain who was known because of her iron will, sobbed for what seemed like the millionth time in the last few months. "Shh," Tuvok whispered into her hair. "It's not as bad as you think it is."
Kathryn attempted to pull away from him, not wanting him to feel her weakness. "Please Tuvok, I need to deal with this on my own." She begged of him.
"You have dealt with it for long enough Kathryn. It's logical to assume that your tactics are failing. You need someone to lean upon, to help you with this. What is bothering you?" Tuvok pushed easily, Kathryn needed to talk about what was going on inside of her. She didn't have the tools for dealing with whatever was happening.
"I screwed up Tuvok. I made the wrong decision, and now I am paying for it. I ripped everyone away from their families, thus even though they are finding new people to love, I am not allowed to have the same things that they have." The words fell out of her mouth, like an avalanche, impossible to stop once they started.
"You could have the very same things that they are finding Kathryn." He said softly, but she turned away from him in his arms. It was enough to tell him that she disagreed.
Her back facing him, Tuvok pulled her closer so that she was flush with his own hot body. They stood their watching Tom touch B'Elanna in wonder. B'Elanna pulled him upwards, and kissed him warmly.
"Do you ever miss what you had Tuvok?" Kathryn asked quietly.
"I do not miss things in the same way as a human would. There is a void in my life, but it has been replaced by so many other things. The chance at exploration of a new section of the Galaxy, and the furthering of knowledge is enough to fill it." Tuvok replied.
Kathryn reached out to embrace Tuvok's hand. "I think I am just out of sorts tonight Tuvok. I should make myself known, and say my goodnights."
Tuvok's brows furrowed in concern. "Would you like me to get the Doctor?"
Kathryn pulled herself from his arms. "No, I just need to get some sleep. I haven't been sleeping all that well lately."
Unable to stop Kathryn, knowing her logic was sound, Tuvok stood there watching her walk away yet again. He hadn't even had a chance to comment on her choice of dress.
A small form walked up to him, catching him unawares. "Commander Tuvok?" The sweet soft voice of Naomi Wildman pulled him out of his deep thought.
"Yes, Miss Wildman. What can I do for you?" Tuvok asked formally.
"You have to make the Captain understand. She wants something, but she would never ask for it. Bea Catt told me that it's important that it happens. That you two become like my mom and Commander Chakotay. If you don't, Bea Catt will never be happy." Naomi looked up at him, obviously unhappy with what was happening.
Tuvok bent over to pick her up into his arms. "Let's go find your mother." He suggested not beginning to understand what she was trying to say.
"No!" Naomi told him. "You must understand. Bea Catt will never find her true love, the other half of herself. She wants you to know that you will never be whole until you have Kathryn."
With the thought of having Kathryn, Tuvok put Naomi Wildman down. "Naomi, you must go find your mother. I need to go find the Captain." He didn't know why, but he needed to see her. Something beyond logic was drawing him towards her. Perhaps there was some truth to Naomi's words. Maybe her untrained mind knew something that he didn't.
Naomi stood there not knowing what Tuvok would do once he found the Captain. "Bea Catt, you have to help them."
"What was that Naomi?" A voice came out of the darkness. Naomi turn towards it, as the dark forms materialized into both Harry and Marie. Naomi smiled at Marie, knowing that almost everything was what it should be. "Nothing Marie. Tuvok is just going to take care of something that he should have a long time ago."
**** **** ****
Marie watched as Naomi went off toward her mother and Chakotay. She knew the girl was exhausted, and to be honest, she was, too. But at the same time, she felt an exhilaration she didn't often experience. And it was due to the man standing behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist almost possessively. She sighed softly, relaxing even more.
"Marie? Are you all right?" came Harry's soft, concerned voice.
"I'm fine, Harry. Just a little tired, I guess. It's been quite an evening, wouldn't you agree?" she asked, turning to face him, her arms going about his waist.
He smiled, reaching up to caress her cheek. "Yes, it has. It's not every day you admit to wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone."
Her smiled widened at that. "And you did that, didn't you?"
Again he nodded, gazing intently into her eyes. Suddenly, something clicked in his head, and he blinked in surprise. "My reading," he said slowly. "You knew then, didn't you?"
Marie nodded slowly, not sure how he'd take that information. "But you have to understand, Harry, I couldn't tell you exactly what I'd seen. It was up to you to come to that conclusion yourself." Then she reached up to brush her lips across his lightly. "And I'm very grateful that you did."
Harry pulled her closer for another kiss, which was interrupted by Marie yawning. He took in her embarrassed blush, and the fatigue in her eyes, and smiled gently. "Come on, let me walk you home."
Marie didn't speak until they'd gotten out into the corridor. "I don't want to go home, Harry," she said softly, looking up at him. "I'd rather go home with you."
**** **** ****
Janeway kicked off her heels, and walked over to the replicator. "Mocha Mud Pie, with hot fudge." She told it. As Audrey Hepburn had once said in an ancient earth movie, the mean reds were here to stay. She picked up the plate, and walked towards the couch, her red scarf falling off onto the floor as it trailed behind her. She moaned softly as the first taste of the rich dessert slide cooly down the back of her throat.
The door chimed, and inwardly Janeway cringed. She didn't need to see anyone now. "Who is it?" She asked, not willing to allow them immediate entrance.
It seemed as if Tuvok appeared from the shadows around her quarters. "It's Tuvok." He stated softly.
"What do you want Tuvok?" Kathryn answered. Tuvok heard the exhaustion in her voice. He stifled the primal instinct to open his arms and create a safe haven for her. They needed to talk. It was the logical thing. Problems couldn't be dealt with until they were addressed.
"I came to inquire about your welfare, as you seemed to leave the party rather quickly." The words of Tuvok's statement were loaded with deeper meanings that the obvious.
"I'm not feeling very well Tuvok. I wish to be left alone." There was a minute pause before she went on. "I just need some time to deal with everything, to account for everything that has happened in the last few months." She walked away from him towards the portal that looked out into the deep darkness of space.
Tuvok approached her from behind. Even though Kathryn's presence had tore from him illogical responses, he couldn't fight the urge to make skin to skin contact with her. He needed to know that she was okay. Kathryn needed to know that she wasn't alone. He reached up and placed his fingers on her bare shoulder.
Kathryn visibly flinched at his touch. They stood there in silence for a few minutes, both refusing to move, their silhouettes mere statues in the low light. Then Kathryn began to speak. "What is it about me that you find so attractive Tuvok? Why do you continue to protect me in ways that no one else has ever bothered to consider?"
Tuvok was silent for a moment, as if pondering the situation. Then his solemn voice seemed to encompass her as he spoke. "Vulcan's do not describe humanoid interaction very well Kathryn." She could feel him probing gently at her mind as if to let her know that he was there sharing her confusion. "I know I am not like other men on the ship. . ."
Kathryn cut in, "That doesn't explain why you would find me attractive, only why I might find you attractive." They both didn't miss her use of the 'hypothetical'.
Tuvok turned her around, placing the palms of his hands on each side of her face, gently cupping it. "Shh, don't interrupt." He chastised, as if she were the same age as Naomi. "I know that a relationship with a Vulcan may be 'lacking' in human terms, as it would seem that Vulcans are incapable of an emotion so dangerous as love. However, this isn't the exact truth. I do not feel emotions like other humanoids, but it doesn't mean that I value you less. I am content being alone, but I find that I prefer to be with you. You know that, you know me."
Kathryn wrapped her arms around his waist. "I am sorry I am being so emotional Tuvok."
Tuvok placed a fingertip on her lips. "Shh, Kathryn do not apologize for something that is part of your genetic makeup."
"I know Tuvok, I just am a bit emotional after seeing so many people pair off and begin families. I had thought that by now that I would be able to be in a spot in my career that I could actually begin to have a family." Kathryn commented, placing her forehead against his chest.
Tuvok laced his fingers through her hair. As the silk slipped through his fingers he felt the first rush of desire since the first sight of her at the party in the dress. His forehead wrinkled as he found the urge to press his lips to the soft skin of her neck. "Is that what you want Kathryn? What is stopping you from having one?"
Kathryn turned her face upwards. "Do I need to spell out the logic for you Tuvok? The only person on the ship that I am remotely interested in is my second officer." Tuvok's eyebrow rose in response. It was gratifying to hear her finally put her emotions into words. The fear of their possible relationship was lessening. "How would it look in delicate first contact situations if I was pregnant? How would the crew take it?"
Tuvok hid his shock at her comments as he remembered what Naomi told him. "Kathryn, things can be done to deal with the possible crew ramifications. If you wish to have a child, it does not have to be conceived in the traditional manner. In fact the Doctor could perform the procedure if that is what you really wished."
"Tuvok, I don't know exactly what I want. I think that's the problem. I know that I am over my feelings for Chakotay, but it doesn't mean that I don't envy his 'ready made' family." She turned in his arms to look back out the window, not wanting to face him. "I cared about him, but I think it was more the idea of being in a relationship. It was more the idea of not being alone, that I was in love with."
Logic ate at Tuvok. If that was the way she saw Chakotay, it was possible that she was only in the present situation because she didn't want to be alone. Then he realized, in a way this was logical. In a way this was the reason that he sought out her companionship. That being alone was less preferable than spending time with her. Just then Kathryn moved back into him, as if seeking out the comfort of his physical presence. His animalistic instincts kicked in. He pulled her close as if to protect her from something he couldn't put his finger on.
"What are you trying to tell me Kathryn?" He murmured into her hair.
"I'm scared to death, Tuvok. I don't expect you to understand that, but I am. What I feel for you scares me. It's even stronger than what I felt for Justin. I know no matter what I say that you will still regard me highly, but I don't know how your," She paused as if frightened to go on. Steeling herself as if she was going into a starship battle, she continued, "I don't know how your Vulcan sensibilities would take it. I am scared shitless, and afraid that you won't even care that I feel that way."
Tuvok wrapped his arms more securely around her. It seemed the most logical thing to try to make them as much of one being as possible. "I can not pretend to be something that I am not Kathryn. I am Vulcan, and that can't be changed. However, I have come to respect human's emotions. Most of all I have come to value yours while under your command." He carefully searched for his next words. "I may not feel like you do Kathryn, but I do know that in the past I have greatly valued your friendship, your companionship. Now, it is as if you are a part of me. I no longer can tell where I end and you begin. To me we are one being." Tuvok lifted his head as well and stared out the window.
Kathryn turned in his arms, and cupped his face with her hands. Softly she placed a kiss on the corner of his mouth. "I think that is the sweetest thing that anyone has ever said to me Tuvok." She told him softly. Then she placed a soft kiss on the fullness of his lips. He didn't respond, even though she felt that he wanted to.
"My mind, and your heart?" Tuvok asked her.
"They are one." Kathryn replied, standing up on her toes. They had seemed to settle nothing, but in her heart it seemed as if they had settled everything.
It was then that Tuvok understood the logic of the party. Kathryn had needed the formalness of the party to make the final cut between Chakotay and herself. The party was a symbol of a new beginning for both her and Chakotay.
*** *** ***
"Good night, Naomi," Chakotay said softly, tucking the covers around her.
"Night, Chakotay," she replied, hugging her Flotter doll closer. "It was a fun party, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was. And you looked very nice tonight." He chuckled when she yawned, then leaned over to gently press his lips to her forehead. "Get some sleep, sweetheart. We'll talk more in the morning."
She nodded, closing her eyes. When she knew he was gone and out of the room, she opened her eyes again, calling out softly, "Bea Catt? Are you here?"
~I'm here, Naomi,~ came the soft reply in her head.
She turned to see the faint image of her friend sitting in her favorite rocking chair. "Did you see? They were talking tonight. And your mommy knows your name now."
~I saw, and I thank you, Naomi. But this is far from settled. She fights him, and if they cannot come together soon, Jhesye will never be born, and I'll never be whole.~