Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek and Voyager and
anything related with it—except for this story, which is mine.
Author's Notes: This is a series based on an inspiring
postcard and the inspiring mind of my dear friend Kirsten.
This is for her, and for Fabie who is also a bottomless source
of inspiration for me.
It is also inspired by Michael Ondaatje's "The English
Patient" and Paul Bowles' "The Sheltering Sky".
J/P, J/C, P/T
He pulled his indigo veil tighter over his mouth and nose, for
the wind was extremely strong that day. It was as though the
wind were a hungry beast, biting every part of exposed skin
with thousands of sharp needle-like teeth. It was tearing at his
blue coat, plastering it to his chest so that everybody could
see the form of his broad muscular body. He might as well
have moved around naked, but this wasn't very wise unless
he wanted to be eaten alive.
He had his head lowered, watching his feet move in
the sand, knowing that the beast wind was covering his tracks
with the fine dark sand of the desert. Only once did he look
up to nod at his shalionn, his chief. The older man nodded
back, both to greet and approve of him. Chakotay was on his
way to the tent that gave shelter to the mysterious woman
they had found in one of the wadis they'd crossed in the past
days. Chakotay hadn't been allowed near her yet, but Litan,
the tribe's medicine woman, had asked him to help her. This
wasn't customary in the tribe, but since Chakotay was a
stranger, too, Litan deemed it safe to send him to the stranger.
When he finally reached the tent, Litan was already
waiting for him. She watched him take off his boots and wash
his hands and feet after he'd discarded his sword and dagger.
Then she produced a brush and a small bowl of indigo, with
which she drew alien patterns on his palms. After that she
left. Chakotay pushed aside the curtain and entered the main
room of the tent. It was quiet in here, and comfortably cool.
Not the softest breeze let the flames of the oil lamps flicker,
despite the howling of the beast wind outside. The carpet was
soft and thick beneath his feet, dampening any sound he
would have made. He went to the centre of the room where
on a bed was a woman lying on her side, curled up into a
foetal position. The golden light of the oil lamps let red and
golden highlights dance on her auburn curls. Chakotay had
known that it was Kathryn they had found in the wadi.
Kathryn, the lost love of his life. His heart skipped a
beat when he recognised every detail of her bare back, the
twin freckles on her shoulder. He went around her bed and
kneeled beside her, raising his indigo-blessed hand to caress
the silken softness of her auburn hair. She flinched away
from the touch, looking at him from haunted cerulean eyes
that had lost their vivid sparkle. Chakotay didn't know what
had happened to her, he just knew that she didn't speak; Litan
had told him that.
"Oh Kathryn, what has happened to you?" he asked,
tears filling his liquid dark eyes. He removed his veil so she
could see his face. After what seemed an eternity, she raised
her hand ever so slowly to touch the indigo lines of his tattoo,
and his lips. And her cracked lips formed the soundless words
Chakotay was sitting in Litan's tent, together with the chief of
the tribe. The atmosphere almost made him remember his
youth, when after the rite of initiation he had been allowed to
share the habak with the men. The habak was a small
chamber in every house that served as a place to withdraw for
inner exploration, for meeting one's spirit guide. The main
room in Litan's tent resembled the habaks on Dorvan V very
much. A fire was burning in the centre of the room, giving its
warmth and light to the people sitting around it. Each of them
was holding a bowl of hot herbal tea in their hands, the heat
of the liquid warming them. One would think that the beast
wind was hot, but it wasn't. It wasn't, not at this time of night.
The three of them sat in silence, listening to the
crackling of the dried up wood and the occasional whisper of
the wind outside. To Chakotay it was still amazing how the
Tians managed to insulate the noise that well. But he
reasoned that otherwise they couldn't understand their own
thoughts, and that would sooner or later drive them crazy.
This was the season of the wind. What on other worlds was
the time of the monsoon was the time of the beast wind on
this planet. Chakotay took another sip from the herbal tea, a
strange taste, a mixture of the tea he knew, some fruit and a
hint of coffee. Kathryn would love it. Kathryn.
"The woman is your mate?" the chief, a stout man
called Asoio, eventually asked. Chakotay had lived with his
tribe for almost two years now, and since he was a quick
study he didn't depend on his combadge anymore. But he
kept it attached above his heart, thus feeling closer to
"Yes, before our tribe was shattered by a natural
catastrophe," Chakotay answered. They had only kissed that
night, the night when Kathryn had finally let him into her life
as her lover. They hadn't made love until the accident,
because she hadn't been ready to go that far at the time. It
seemed to Chakotay as though this had been a lifetime ago.
But when he—lying in his bed at night—remembered her, it
was as though he'd only seen her yesterday. Her scent would
come back to him then, the warmth of her body pressing into
his, her lips on his.
Asoio nodded. "How is she faring now?" he asked
The woman—who was a little older than Kathryn, but
had the wisdom of Chakotay's great-grandmother at 108
years in her eyes—took a sip of the warming tea before she
answered. "I have cured her injuries, her sunburn and her
heat-stroke. But I couldn't get her to eat anything, or to talk to
me. She needs the help of the Balionn."
The Balionn it was then. Chakotay had heard about
these people. They were the soul-searchers of the Tians, or
their dream-catchers. Starfleet would have called them
psychologists or counsellors, but the Balionn were more than
that. Since he hadn't met any of them yet, he couldn't say in
what way they were different, he'd only heard the others in
the tribe talk about them. But he knew enough to be sure that
if somebody could help Kathryn, it was the Balionn.
"I have had that in mind, too," Asoio agreed, but he
trusted Litan completely because she was the healer of the
tribe. "As soon as the beast wind goes to sleep, we will travel
to Ima. It will be a little early in the term, but a little rest will
do us good," he decided.
"That is very generous of you, Asoio," Chakotay
thanked him. "But I don't want you and the tribe to trouble
yourselves because of Kathryn and me. B'Elanna and I can
take her to Ima as well." The thought of having the tribe
travel for Kathryn's sake touched something deep inside
Chakotay. But they were just strangers in this tribe, and the
Tians had already done so much for him and B'Elanna. He
remembered how Litan and her daughter had struggled to
save Seven and crewman Porter's lives, and the lengths they'd
gone to. But in the end they had lost them. They could only
save B'Elanna and him.
"You wouldn't find the way to Ima, my friend," Asoio
pointed out. "And the beast wind is hungry."
Then Litan chimed in. Chakotay knew that she had
doted on him, that she had developed feelings for him that
were more than friendship. At some points he'd been tempted
to give in to the medicine-woman, at times when he'd been
almost convinced that Kathryn was gone together with her
ship, as it was seemly for a captain. Then it had always been
B'Elanna who'd kept his hope alive, because if he had lost his
hope, he'd have pulled her over the abyss with him. But
B'Elanna knew—because of some women's or Klingon
instinct—that Tom was still alive, and he had been the last to
remain on Voyager, together with Kathryn.
"Besides, Kathryn needs me." Litan was a wise
woman. So when she had learned about who Kathryn was,
she had put her feelings for Chakotay aside and had treated
Kathryn as though she belonged to the tribe. Maybe it had
been because of her feelings for Chakotay, maybe she wanted
to make sure that Chakotay was happy, maybe she knew that
she would never gain his heart the same way Kathryn
One time, he had been very close to giving in to his
loneliness. The tribe had celebrated the week of solstice. It
was always hardest to be alone when one saw other couples.
Chakotay had no way of being sure that Kathryn was still
alive except for hoping—sometimes against hope. The tribe
celebrated the solstice with huge bonfires and dances. And
just one night he had taken Litan up on her offer. He had
been her date for the night, and although he had felt less
miserable, the feeling of betraying Kathryn had never left
him. But it hadn't stopped him from kissing Litan. Being
intoxicated wasn't an excuse either. He knew he couldn't trust
himself with liquor. Litan seemed to have picked up his
uneasiness, and they had been able to remain friends without
the awkward the-day-after tiptoeing around each other.
Chakotay smiled. They were both having points.
"Very well, then. Frankly, I'm glad to have friends like you.
You've done so much for us. Thank you."
Asoio put him off. "You have done so much for us as
well, so don't mention it. So, since this is settled, I think I will
call it a night. May the Darench bless your dreams." He
touched their shoulders with his left hand, and left the tent,
leaving Litan and Chakotay alone.
Litan topped Chakotay up with more of the herbal tea
he had come to love so much. They sat in silence for a while,
both of them enjoying the warmth their tea-bowls radiated,
warming their hands. "Chakotay?" Litan eventually began.
Chakotay looked up at her when she touched his forearm in a
comforting manner. "The Balionn will find a way to bring
Kathryn back. And I want you to know that I'm the last one
who'd try to avoid it."
Chakotay couldn't but smile, again he was deeply
touched by the generosity of the healer's heart. "Thank you,"
he said, touching her brow with his. It was the Tian way to
show a friend how much one loved them. "For everything."
They remained silent after that, finishing their tea in
companionable silence without any signs of being in a rush.
Litan was the very opposite of B'Elanna in many regards, she
was always calm and understanding. Chakotay loved her
company, he believed that somehow she could make him
think better. Not that he didn't love B'Elanna's company any
less, it was just ... He couldn't put it into words. They were
different from each other, that was all there was to it. He
loved B'Elanna as well, she was his best friend after all. She
had kept him alive when he thought he was despairing.
When Chakotay was lying in his bed that night, in the
tent he was sharing with B'Elanna, he didn't remember the
aeon-old kiss for the first time. He remembered Kathryn
touching him that afternoon, and the soundless words of love
Kathryn had whispered to him. But he also remembered her
dull eyes, those eyes that had always sparkled with life and
love. He also remembered the scars in her skin, scars that told
him about what she'd gone through during the past two years.
He also remembered her bony body, and again he wondered
what had happened to her. Her dull eyes came back into his
mind, the foetal position in to which she'd curled herself up.
Chakotay wished he could help Kathryn in any way.
He had of course called upon his spirit guide, but his pleas
had left unanswered. Chakotay knew it wasn't any good to
force himself on it, so he had left it at that. He hadn't liked it,
because it could mean that at the moment it was better not to
try anything to help Kathryn, that maybe she had to help
herself. Chakotay had to respect that, even if now only
Then there was his medicine wheel, of course. But making it
required time, and it needed blessing. With the tribe
constantly on the move he couldn't do that, and added to it
that he lacked some of the materials there was nothing he
could do. Except for being there.
But he so much wanted to do something, to help her.
When B'Elanna caught him by the shoulders, he jumped.
He'd thought she'd already been asleep when he'd returned
from Litan's. "Chakotay!" she softly called him. "Chakotay,
what's wrong? Is it Kathryn?" she asked. She'd brought a
lamp with her, and the flame cast red light on her dark half-
Klingon features. She looked at him in concern.
"Yes, it is Kathryn," Chakotay said. He sat up in bed,
shifting so B'Elanna could sit more comfortably on the edge
of his bed. "But?" she pressed. "In a way she isn't," Chakotay
"She's broken?" B'Elanna wondered.
Chakotay raised his head and looked into her umber
eyes. He hadn't been ready to admit that until now. But once
voiced by his friend there was no point denying it. "Yes. Yes,
she's broken. Oh B'Elanna, what has happened that can break
Kathryn Janeway?" he asked, desperation making his voice
B'Elanna caught him in a tight embrace then, she
didn't want to see the tears making his eyes swim. She'd
never been good at consoling others, particularly when she
wasn't used to seeing them in need of comfort. Chakotay
never looked like he needed comforting. Maybe that was a
mistake on her part. He was her friend, she was supposed to
notice when something was bothering him. A feeling of guilt
washed over her.
"I don't know, Chakotay. But she will fight. She is a
fighter," she tried to soothe him. He didn't even know how
lucky he was. At least did he know that Kathryn was still
alive, and that a cure could be found for her. But she still
hadn't heard anything about Tom's fate yet, and this
uncertainty threatened to get the better of her, even now that
they had found Kathryn. Tom had been with her, hadn't he?
So where was he now?
"We'll find Tom, B'Elanna," Chakotay suddenly
offered. "We'll find all of the survivors. Asoio will take the
tribe to Ima as soon as the beast goes to sleep. The other
tribes will sooner or later gather there, too. The end of the
term is nearing. We'll find someone who knows about Tom,
if not even Tom himself."
Tom could hardly keep the fire burning. The wind was
howling through their valley like a hungry beast, tugging at
the branches and foliage of the alien trees with greedy
fingers. It was the most evil and most dangerous living being
on this goddamn planet. Of course did he know that the wind
wasn't a living being, but it seemed to him as if it was. It
would keep him company at the break of dusk just until the
first stars and the second moon would have risen on the
horizon. It bit with tiny little very sharp teeth every square
centimetre of his skin he couldn't keep covered. His hands
were already burning and red, and he knew that his face
probably looked the same. He was very grateful for the sun
glasses he'd found in the wreckage of their escape pod. Tom
wished he could go and look for shelter, but he didn't dare
leave her alone.
The cool water was balm on his hands when he yet
again freshened up the napkin that helped to decrease his
companion's fever. He wrung it out and put it back on her
scorching hot brow. If he couldn't manage to make it
decrease until the next morning, she wouldn't be likely to
survive until noon. Her injuries were severe, but with the
limited equipment of the medkit Tom had been able to repair
most of them to a certain degree.
"Fight it, Kay," he encouraged her once again. Tom
kept talking to her, although he doubted that she understood
anything of what he was saying. Maybe she realised—
somewhere deep in her subconscious—the urgency of his
tone and the message behind it, but he wasn't sure.
Nothing was sure anymore, ever since Voyager was
gone. Their home was gone, all of a sudden. It had been
something down in Engineering, what Tom wasn't sure
anymore. He hadn't listened when B'Elanna had it explained
it over the intercom. It had been his job to try and navigate
Voyager as close to this planet as possible to make sure they
all could be saved. The navigation controls had fluctuated,
he'd had to manoeuvre on instinct. The captain and he had
been the last to leave the bridge, he'd literally had to drag her
off the bridge. Seconds after their pod had been ejected from
its locks, Voyager had started to destroy herself bit by bit.
Their home was gone out of the blue. No-one had been able
to save anything from the ship, be it personal belongings or
equipment. Not even the Doctor.
Janeway had cried then. It had taken her a long time
to let herself go, but when her tears had eventually flown
freely, it had been a relief to both him and her. He'd then
gathered her in his embrace, all protocols between them
destroyed with Voyager. It was also then that he remembered
something she'd said to him two years ago. She'd then asked
him to call her Kay whenever she felt small. Why he didn't
know, he just did it. But Janeway hadn't only felt small, part
of her had been broken, her vow and her dream of bringing
Voyager and her crew back home safely.
Something within him had been broken, too. Voyager
had been a home to him more than his parents' house had
ever been. His friends had lived on the ship, the first woman
he'd truly loved ever since Odile's death. But she ... Tom
wasn't sure if B'Elanna was still alive, he hoped so. But he
hadn't been able to contact her ever since her first call to the
bridge. He'd wanted so much to tell her that he loved her.
How devastated she must be now because she hadn't been
able to do anything to avert Voyager's death. If only he could
be by her side now ...
But there he was with Kathryn, and she needed him.
Once again he made sure that as much fabric as possible
covered her skin, he didn't want the beast wind to add to her
pain. She was so very still in her fever, stiller than anybody
he'd ever seen in a fever. He'd expected her to be delirious,
but she wasn't. Sometimes she'd murmur something, but he
couldn't understand it.
He wetted his fingers in his cup and touched her dry,
cracked lips with them. Her lips moved ever so slightly as
though she wanted to suck the wetness. Tom smiled for the
first time in days. Kathryn was fighting the fever. "Fight it,
Kay," he repeated, dipping another napkin into his cup. He
then wrung it out over her mouth and he could have laughed
with joy when he saw the movements of her thirsty lips. Then
he made himself more comfortable. He was cradling her head
in his lap, it was the only way to make sure that wind didn't
irritate her too much. Since her breath had gone heavy, he
couldn't cover her face with the blanket. But now her
breathing was becoming stronger and more regular. She was
recovering now, of that he was sure.
He could finally rest for a few hours. With his head
resting against the broken door of the pod, Tom fell into a
deep but little refreshing slumber.
The fair-skinned woman cried again with what appeared to be
an almost beast-like howl. The sound was high-pitched and
long, changing into moans and groans and ending in heavy
panting. The woman's fragile body twisted and turned on its
bed, her five-fingered hands clenching the moribaa sheets
until her knuckles went white under her fair skin. Tiny pearls
of moisture were pooling in the indentations under her nose
and throat, her whole body was shimmering in a sheen of
moisture. In her fight with Those-Who-Bring-Dreams—the
Darench—the sheets had slid from her body, setting her
nakedness free to the purple light of the rising suns. The light
was filtering in through the opening in the ceiling, which was
covered with a framework of intricate patterns, letting its
drops dance on her writhing body.
The dream-catcher to whom the woman's welfare had
been entrusted immediately woke from her slumber when she
heard the by now familiar cries of agony. Without making
any noise, she hurried to her charge's bed in the centre of the
tall room. She pulled the sheets back up to her navel,
touching the palm of her hand to the strong muscles of the
woman's belly. With her other hand she cupped her hot
cheek. At the same time, she began murmuring soft words in
a soothing musical way; strange words the stranger beneath
her hands probably didn't understand. However, she reacted
to the soft chant, and her tense body relaxed, her breathing
evened and her moans and groans abated.
The suns' drops continued to dance on her body,
following the fall and rise of the woman's breathing. The
dream-catcher scrutinised the beautiful stranger again.
Although she was completely different from her, there was
no doubt about her beauty. The Balionn, to whom Saleah the
dream-catcher belonged, were a dark-skinned people, with
rich blue-black hair and huge black eyes framed by long
lashes. They had only four long fingers, but their palms and
fingertips were very sensitive. Thanks to them, Saleah had
been able to let the power of her inner peace flow into the
pale body of her charge. Her hair was unusually short
compared to the Tians and the Balionn, its colour looked like
the desert bathed in the suns' light, her eyes bore the colour of
frozen water. When Kathryn Janeway had been brought to
Ima, her soft skin had been covered in nothing but clothes. It
was little wonder then that Kathryn was in a state like this.
It had been quite a surprise for Saleah when she had
noticed the nakedness of Kathryn's skin, especially since one
of her companions bore markings on his skin. They were
indigo-coloured lines tattooed on his left temple, spanning
from the hairline to the base of his slightly crooked nose.
Saleah had almost instantly recognised the wing of a bird in
the lines, and she wondered what the wing might mean. Was
it a kind of protection against evil spirits, or did it symbolise
Chakotay's honour, or ... there were so many possibilities.
The other woman who had accompanied Kathryn was
even more mysterious than Chakotay. She was bearing bony
ridges on her forehead, ridges that reminded Saleah of the
wave-patterns the wind would draw into the sand. But other
than that, she looked like any other Tian. The Tians had five-
fingered hands, so they lacked the powers of the Balionn.
They were also of a dark complexion, but their eyes and hair
were of a dark-brown colour. Chakotay and B'Elanna looked
like any other Tian except for the marks that made them
It was a good thing that the Tians weren't afraid of
strange things. Otherwise the Balionn wouldn't be able to live
among them like this. And of course the Tians wouldn't have
taken the strangers under their wing and brought them to Ima.
This had been their only chance.
Chakotay and B'Elanna had told her that Kathryn was
the leader of their tribe, and that their tribe had been shattered
by the beast wind one term ago. Chakotay and B'Elanna had
been looking for their tribe ever since. Kathryn was the first
they had found, the first of almost 150 people. Their tribe
must have been a powerful one, and a part of Saleah
wondered why she'd never heard about the tribe before, or
seen any of them in Ima. But then she knew the reason, she
was just so used to living here that sometimes she felt trapped
being their two worlds.
After Kathryn had calmed down again, Saleah
deemed it safe to leave her charge alone for a while. She had
to talk to the people who were left of her tribe, and to Litan
who had healed her broken body so well. She found the three
of them sitting under an awning in the vast garden of the
House of the Balionn. It had been only yesterday that they
had brought Kathryn to her. Saleah sat down on the vacant
cushion and helped herself to some tea before she said
"Helping Kathryn isn't going to be easy. She has a
strong personality, and frankly I'm surprised that her mind
could have been broken in the first place. Whatever has
happened to her must have been terrible. I will need your
help, Chakotay and B'Elanna, because you know her better
than I do," she paused to drink some of the tea. "But first of
all we'll have to get her to eat something, she's awfully thin.
She'll need the strength so I can help her cure her mind."
Chakotay smiled wistfully. "She's never been a good
eater, I'm afraid."
"We'll find a way. I think she needs to feel like herself
again as well. She's a beautiful woman, and I guess that what
will help her is making her feel beautiful again," Litan added.
Saleah opened her mouth to say something, but she
stopped just in time to swallow the words she'd wanted to
say. Since she didn't know how much Chakotay or B'Elanna
knew, she didn't want to put her foot in it. There would be a
quiet minute in which she could talk to Litan. Although it
was very likely that Chakotay knew, she wanted to make sure
she didn't spoil anything.
"There will be a party at Asoio's palace tomorrow, do
you think she'll be well enough to attend it?" Litan asked the
"I don't think so," Saleah shook her head, her mind
already occupied with something else she needed to address.
"Chakotay, I was surprised to find Kathryn's skin naked."
Chakotay almost choked on his tea then. "Pardon?" he
eventually managed, exchanging glances with B'Elanna who
looked as perplexed as him. He forgot what he wanted to say
about the party. Even if they managed to wake Kathryn from
her dreamlike state he doubted that something like a party
would do the job. Kathryn had never been a party animal.
Saleah hesitated. "Well, since you are wearing this
tattoo, and knowing that Kathryn is your mate, I thought that
she'd wear a similar one. But she doesn't, her skin is naked,"
the dream-catcher tried to explain.
Then it dawned on Chakotay that it was customary for
the Tians that two mates wear a mark of some kind that
showed they were together. The mark could be of any kind,
but no one else but the couple was allowed to wear it, it was
as unique a sign as the couple was. It was called terbú. "The
tattoo isn't what you were looking for, Saleah," he explained.
"It's a sign of my clan. Our tribe was shattered before
Kathryn and I could take the vows and exchange the rings."
B'Elanna chimed in then, showing them the simple
golden band she was wearing on her finger. "This is our
tribe's way of mark. We engrave our mate's name on the
inside of a ring," she explained. Then she pulled it off her
finger to show the two women what was engraved in her ring.
"In love forever, Tom." Of course they couldn't read it, so
B'Elanna used it as an excuse for the uniqueness of their
She knew the answers to many things, but sometimes
it was wiser to seem unknowing for many reasons. It helped
finding out the reasons for some things, and it was also a
means for self-protection. But sometimes it was but a
nuisance that came with abiding the law. So, although
knowing the answer, Saleah asked, "Tom is missing, isn't
"Yes, he was supposed to be with Kathryn, but we
aren't certain. They might have been separated," B'Elanna
"We'll help you find him. The other tribes will arrive
soon, we'll find somebody who can tell you about Tom—or
the rest of your tribe," Litan said, as she had so often before.
She exchanged glances with Saleah. If she hadn't been
mistaken, the dream-catcher had wanted to tell her something
earlier. Something in the medicine woman told Litan, that
what Saleah had wanted to tell her was something dark. She
wasn't blind, she saw the troubled expression in the huge
black eyes of the Balionn. She just hoped that neither
Chakotay nor B'Elanna could read in the Balionn's eyes like
she could. But even she couldn't read everything.
Saleah nodded slowly, and Chakotay had the
impression that there was more to it than mere agreeing. Why
or what he didn't know. Somewhere in his subconscious it
dawned on him that the Balionn might know more than she
had told them. But this thought was so little that he couldn't
yet tell how far gone he already was.
Saleah made sure that no one was following her inside. She
went into Kathryn's room to check on her, and found her as
calm as she had left her earlier. Once again Saleah wished
she could do more for the captain, but the rules were strict
and she had sworn to abide by them. She had the strong
feeling that soon light would be shed upon the events of the
past term, if not only for Kathryn Janeway's sake.
The Balionn produced a disk shaped pendant on a
silver chain from underneath her shirt, and pointed it at the
back wall of the room. Kathryn wouldn't notice it, of that
Saleah was sure, she was too deep within her own world as
though her presence could be of sufficient importance to
wake Kathryn. Saleah pressed a button, and thus deactivated
a force field. The section of wall in question flickered out of
existence and opened to a smaller room.
Inside was a computer console labelled in alien
characters. Saleah re-activated the force-field after she'd
entered the room, sat in the chair in front of the desk, and
opened a communications link. The blank screen came alight,
and in the circular panel in the centre of the screen appeared
the face of another Balionn. It was Sumrakù, a member of the
Council of Ayil, the man who was in charge of Voyager's
case. He had refined features, and had the formal appearance
worthy his position.
"Saleah," he greeted her. "What can I do for you?"
"Is Harry around? I've got some news that will interest
him, too," Saleah said.
Sumrakù raised an eyebrow. "You've found some of
his crew?" He sent for Harry Kim.
"Actually, they've found us," the healer smiled. "Just
like I always said they would. It's time to make decisions
Sumrakù nodded in acknowledgement. They'd known
all along that this moment would come. He'd already talked
with the government about this special case, but as always
bureaucracy delayed quick decisions, particularly when the
party in question took its own sweet time to make itself
recognisable. "I know, Saleah, I'll do my best. Ah, Harry,
there you are." He gestured for the Terran to sit next to him.
"Have you found someone?" he asked eagerly, very
excited. He looked at Saleah, and relaxed somewhat at her
smile. Sometimes he thought he'd be lost without her.
"They've found us. One of the shalionn picked three of them
up on the way to Ima. It's just like I've told you, Harry."
At that he gave a weak laugh, and his tense body
finally relaxed. Saleah had never seen relief so evident on his
face like now, although they had been together for more than
one of his years by now. So she knew him well enough to see
the conspicuous wetness gather in his dark hazel eyes, even
when the others didn't. "It's Chakotay, B'Elanna, and
Kathryn. But, Harry, there is something I have to tell you."
The most difficult decision Tom and Kathryn had to make
was what was to happen with the escape pod. It was beyond
repair because it had crashed on the planet due to a
malfunction in the buffer relays. This had been the reason for
Kathryn's severe injuries. Tom, in contrast, had been almost
unhurt by the crash. He'd sustained a few lacerations and
bruises, but that was it. The pod was too small for two people
to live in for a longer period of time, and since the door was
broken, it offered only little protection against the wind.
Tom had found the cabin on one of his very first
expeditions away from the escape pod. At first, Kathryn
wouldn't let him go, but he convinced her otherwise. They
needed to find some supplies, and shelter. He must know
whether the planet was inhabited—or this oasis respectively.
Kathryn was well enough by then to stay on her own for a
little while. It had taken Tom only half an hour to find the
cabin. It was just around a massive ledge, thus optimally
protected by the wind.
Of course the pod would make it easier for others to
find them, but neither of them could be certain that there was
somebody else on the planet. What if the native population
was hostile? Or a prewarp civilisation that wouldn't
understand their story? As soon as Tom had been able to
move Kathryn without causing her too much pain, he'd taken
her there. After he had taken anything from the pod they
needed for a living on the planet, he had engaged the self
destruction sequence. Five minutes later nothing remained of
the pod, he had destroyed the last part left over of Voyager
with his own hands. Kathryn had taken it with surprising
The cabin was a solid little thing, and it offered them
good shelter from the wind, and it wasn't far from the small
brook welling out of the rocks at the back of the cabin. Part
of the cabin was a natural cave that didn't go far into the rock.
It was cool inside, and absolutely quiet. They couldn't hear
the wind howl inside. There even was a small fire-place,
some pots and crockery, and even a chest with old clothes—
which they wouldn't touch unless absolutely necessary.
*add something here*
After two and a half months Kathryn became restless.
She had healed by now, at least her visible injuries had. Tom
knew that just like him she was hurting deep within her, but
they hadn't talked about their feelings, at least not
consciously. They'd mention it, but they'd never asked one
another to talk about their feelings.
"I must get away from here," she murmured one day.
It had been three days since the wind had stopped, and they
were sitting on the dirt floor that the former owner of the
cabin had pounded down and surfaced with small flat stones.
Kathryn was studying the contents of her mug intently, a
surprisingly good tea they'd concocted of several herbs
growing by the bank of the brook.
"So, and where would you go?" Tom asked,
munching on a piece of bread. He turned his head to look at
Kathryn. She was only wearing the grey undershirt of her
uniform, and her torn trousers, no boots. It was still hot,
although the twin suns were setting, bathing the whitewashed
walls of the cabin in a golden-red light. Kathryn's auburn hair
looked like being set aflame as well. But her skin, despite
having tanned a little, was still fair. Tom marvelled again
how she managed not to get a sunburn.
Kathryn sighed, looking back at her companion. "I
don't know, I just know I must look for the others."
"I miss them, too," Tom eventually admitted. "But I'm
afraid of what I might find."
Kathryn knew what her former pilot meant. She, too,
was afraid of finding that people dear to her hadn't survived
the crash, or were nowhere to be found. Wasn't it ironic that
only shortly after she'd finally let Chakotay into her life
they'd been torn apart by a technical malfunction, something
that she had no explanation for, at least not as long as she
didn't find B'Elanna?
B'Elanna. Tom needed to know about B'Elanna as
well, but not to find an explanation as to what had happened,
but to know that the woman he loved was still alive. At least
he hoped so. What was worst about their situation was the
uncertainty of the others' fates. There must be survivors of
their crew, it was highly unlikely that they were the only
survivors. The crew had probably been scattered all over the
planet. It was only logical that they had to leave their valley
to go look for the others. If everyone stayed in the places
they'd been stranded, they'd never find each other.
And yet there was something in Tom that urged him
not to leave their valley. They were safe here, there was water
and food. When once they'd explored their surroundings
they'd found that they were living in a kind of oasis. They
were surrounded by a vast sand desert. The sensors of their
tricorders hadn't been able to read the boundary of the desert.
It would be high risk to try find a way through it. They
couldn't take as much food and drink with them as they
needed. Tom told Kathryn about this.
"I know," she sighed. "I know, Tom, but I hate being
this powerless. There has to be something we can do."
They fell silent again, but it was a comfortable
silence, each lost in their own thoughts. They'd take a sip
from their beverages every once in a while, or break a piece
off the bread Tom had made earlier that day. Considering
their circumstances, it was very good bread, the best Kathryn
had eaten in a long time. They watched the suns set, enjoying
the last warm rays on their exposed skin. Nights were not as
cool as they had been during the wind, but it sufficed to give
them a chill and sleep inside.
Kathryn inhaled deeply all of a sudden, and thus woke
Tom from his reverie. When he turned his head again to look
at her, he found her on the verge of tears. The wetness in her
eyes was reflecting the last light and her chin was trembling.
Tom hadn't seen her cry since they'd made a safe escape in
the pod. "Kay?"
The name conjured a smile up on her face. But it also
let her full eyes spill over. She leaned her head back against
the wall, but she made no effort to brush the tears away.
"Damn," she whispered.
Tom drew closer until he was sitting next to her, and
he put an arm around her shoulder to comfort her. "What is it,
Kay?" he asked, although he knew exactly what was going on
inside her. But he wanted her to tell him, to speak out loud, to
cry out, for he couldn't stand her seeing being eaten alive by
"I miss them so much, Tom," she eventually said.
"And I miss Chakotay."
Tom sighed. "Yes, I know."
"I'm sure they're fine, Tom," Kathryn said. Suddenly
it was her who was comforting the other. "After all, they're
Maquis. They always find a way to survive."
"What makes you believe they're together?" Tom
asked, letting his other arm encircle her body. Then he drew
her trembling body tighter against his. How good it felt to
hold someone warm against him, someone who was alive.
After all that thinking of the others, after all the memories
he'd forgotten that there was real life as well.
Kathryn shrugged. She returned his embrace and
buried her face in the crook of his neck, wetting his bare skin
with her tears. But she cried silently, no heavy sobs were
shaking her body, she didn't even choke on sobs she might
have been suppressing. She just let herself go in a very silent
way. And it felt so good. Then she lifted her head and
whispered softly: "I just know, Tom."
Afterwards neither of them knew what had happened,
or how they could have let it happen. Their lips had found
each other's, hesitating at first, accompanied by whispers that
they mustn't do this. But their dancing tongues had told them
otherwise, and their kissing had suddenly become very
passionate and very demanding. They just needed it to make
sure they were still alive, that they were not alone, and that
they could escape this place if they wanted.
But as their kissing deepened, they grew more
confident. Their hands started to explore the other's body.
Kathryn's small hands roamed Tom's back and his arms, his
neck, all the time savouring the caress of the fine hair against
her palms. Tom instead would marvel at the softness of her
skin, and yet again about her still pale complexion. He had,
after his sunburn, got a nice tan. They shifted their position
several times during their kissing, but they couldn't find a
comfortable position. So they separated for a while, just
kissing each other's face gently, trailing their fingers across
their features to memorise.
Then suddenly Tom swept her up in his arms and
carried her inside. Before either of them could think another
straight thought, they found each other lying on a bed, pulling
hungrily at each other's undershirt. Tom cupped Kathryn's
breasts in his hands, flicking his thumbs over her already
erect nipples. He stopped when he found Kathryn looking at
She opened her mouth as if to say something, but
instead she threw herself at Tom with an urgent need that she
knocked him over, pressing him into the padding of the bunks
they'd rescued from the pod. After a lingering kiss, she
followed the trail of her hands and explored his chest with her
lips and tongue, paying particular attention to his navel. All
the while he had his hands buried in the mass of her auburn
hair. But when he felt her fingers fiddle with the fly of his
trousers, he gently pulled her up to his face again. He kissed
her while he rolled her over to lie on top of her. As if from
their own will, her legs opened wide to accommodate him in
the cradle of her body. She sharply sucked in her breath when
she felt the caress of his tongue on her breasts and nipples
and arched herself into his body.
"Tom ... " she sighed. The almost inaudible whisper
was his command, and only seconds later, with the special
skill of two people about to make love, they'd undressed
themselves completely. Kathryn moaned again as Tom
brushed his fingertips over the aching bud of her desire, and
she felt as though her heart would stand still when she felt
two fingers enter her and massage her moist inner walls in
circular movements. Her fingernails raked his back and
cupped his buttocks, his mouth claiming hers in yet another
kiss. For a while it was quiet in the cabin they'd made their
home. But when Tom released Kathryn, they both gasped for
"Kay, please tell me to stop," Tom suddenly panted,
his face buried in the crook of her neck. His tongue was
nibbling her sensitive spot below the ear, one of his hands
still busy between her legs. But instead of putting an end to
this, Kathryn arched her body yet more into his body, making
sure that their skin touched in as many spots as possible.
"No," Kathryn almost sobbed. "We've gone this far,
we can't ... deny us to each other any more." Her hand found
his erect shaft that had so long been pressing hard into her
stomach, throbbing with its life against her. She felt him
shudder at her touch, and deliberately let her thumb brush
over his most sensitive spot. This elicited a groan from him, a
groan that let the muscles of his stomach ripple against hers.
The next thing Tom felt was her tight slippery walls
engulf his member, and he heard her prolonged moan when
he felt himself brush a tiny spot inside her as he sank even
deeper into her. He forced his eyes open to look at her, and he
found his former captain like he'd never seen her before. Her
lips were slightly parted, the darkness of her half-lidded eyes
veiled by her tears. At the moment of their complete union,
he claimed her mouth yet again, and as their tongues danced
around each other, their bodies joined in their dance. Tom
moved against her gently; her body seemed so small, he
didn't want to crush her beneath him. But as she met his
strokes with more and more urgency, he finally let himself go
and made love to her as though their lives depended on it.
When they peaked, they had names on their lips, but it
wasn't each other's names, it was the names of the man and
woman they loved, namely Chakotay and B'Elanna. But they
didn't realise this yet, all that mattered was that there was
someone in their arms, someone warm and alive, someone
that reminded them that they were alive.
When the violent shivers and trembling of their
climax had washed over them with all their might, they
curled up against each other, not yet ready to leave the life
they'd found together. One of them pulled a blanket over
them, and thus they slept until the twin suns' light found its
way into their cabin.
Amro watched the three big and the single small figure move
on the horizon until they were out of sight. She had been
watching them for several hours now, and they had been
moving in the opposite direction. They had no beasts of
burden with them, nor were they riding on one of the crudoi-
horses that were famous for their stamina. The small group of
travellers struck Amro as odd, she hadn't ever seen a group
this small travel the vast deserts, let alone without any
animals. But the group was too far away from their tribe as
though they could have met them. Although one could see—
at this time of term—as far as the eye reached, the distance
was longer than it seemed.
The group was either on a special mission, or they
were strangers to the desert. But what would strangers want
in the desert? Only Tians lived here, it was their home. The
Owar, the people living in the prairies, were only seen in Ima,
but never out here. It was the same with any tribe of the
Tians, they never travelled the prairies. Rumour had it that
beyond the prairies there was an even stranger land that
looked like the abundant gardens of Ima's palaces. Amro
wasn't sure if she should believe those tales. There were
people in her tribe, people like Omson, who didn't believe in
anything they couldn't see. Omson was the shalionn of their
tribe, he was a man in his best years, strong in his belief in
the Darench, and a strict but just ruler. Amro was his niece, a
petite young woman, aide of Enba, the tribe's healer. Enba
was Omson's sister, but Amro didn't dare talk to her uncle
about the three big and the single small figure she had
watched. Whoever the group was, they had a child with them.
The healer's aide hoped that the child was strong enough for
the crossing of the desert.
Suddenly, one of Omson's dogs returned with a
strange object in its mouth. It was a black, very strong ribbon
tied to a cylindrical object. The object was all silver and
reflected the light of the twin sisters. Omson called for a halt
and descended from his crudoi-horse to examine the object
himself. He found that if he turned the black ring that
surrounded the cylinder near the one end, the lid of the object
came off. So it was some kind of container. When he
upended it, a few drops of water painted dark spots into the
sand at his feet.
Enba and Amro were by his side at once. "This
doesn't belong to any of the Tians," Omson observed, putting
the lid back onto the container.
"Maybe the small group of four has lost it," Amro
"What group?" Omson asked, looking at his niece
The girl grew nervous. "Well, the one that travelled in
the opposite direction. I watched them walk on the horizon."
Omson was quiet for a while. Then he had made his
decision. "Well, whomever this container may belong to,
Amro, you take it and make sure that once in Ima, it will be
returned to its owners."
"Yes, uncle," Amro nodded, proud that it was her who
had been entrusted with the care of the strange object. She
proudly accepted the container and loaded it into her bag. The
others of the tribe looked curious, but they didn't say
anything. Some of them nodded at her in pride, and to
encourage her. After this short but exciting break, the tribe
resumed its way, after all they yet had to travel a bit this day.
Omson reined his crudoi until he was riding next to
his niece. "Tell me about the group."
"The caravan has disappeared," Naomi reported to
Tuvok after she'd turned around for the last time this day to
check on the long line of travellers on the horizon. It had
been a nice distraction for the half-Ktarian girl, after all the
long trek through the desert was very monotonous, even more
so if you were a girl of six years. But Naomi was a good girl,
living with Starfleet-officers had had a great influence on her.
She only complained when she was really exhausted, but
otherwise she gave her best to keep up with the pace of the
In her mother's opinion they had been very lucky to
share the escape pod with the Vulcan Chief of Security.
Having grown up on a dry and arid planet like this, Tuvok
was the best guide they could have found. Sam Wildman was
happy that they were with him, after all she'd a daughter to
take care of, and she could never forgive herself if she lost
her. Ensign Rolle from Tuvok's team had also been aboard
the pod when they'd had to evacuate Voyager. He was the last
in their group, and it was him who'd carry Naomi on his back
when she got too tired.
"That is good to hear," Tuvok replied. "We do not
know if the people living here are friends."
"But we won't know that if we don't ask," Naomi
"For the time being it is certainly better not to make
any contact with them," the Vulcan insisted. What did Naomi
know about diplomacy and security? On the other hand she
was having a point. There was no other way to find out about
the people on whose world they'd been stranded than talking
to them. But they were only four, and on the caravan there
had certainly travelled forty or so people. Too risky.
Naomi was silent. She walked in her mother's shade,
brushing with her arm across her forehead every now and
then to get rid of the beads of perspiration. It was almost
unbearably hot, even at the end of the day. Suddenly,
something shimmering in the sand caught the little girl's
attention. It was in front of them to their right, and it flashed a
bright light every now and then. She broke free from her
mother's hand and ran towards the shimmering and flashing.
The strange thing had stirred her curiosity, after all it was
another diversion from the monotony of their journey.
"Naomi!" she heard her mother cry after her. "Naomi,
come back! What is it! Come back!" But Naomi wouldn't
listen. She soon found the thing that had drawn her attention
to it. Only one edge of it was peeking out from the sand, but
Naomi recognised it at once. It was a padd, a padd like they'd
used on Voyager, one of those from which she'd read Harry
Potter. She pulled it out of the sand and ran back to the
grown-ups, waving the device triumphantly in the air.
"Look what I've found! It's a padd!"
Jack Rolle and Sam Wildman froze, but Tuvok didn't
show any reaction to the child's discovery. Sam was certain
that inwardly, the Vulcan had frozen as well, but he had an
iron grip on his emotions and never let them show on his dark
face. Jack and Sam's hands subconsciously found each other's
and they held tight. It was a reassuring gesture as well as it
was a means to vent their excitement. Neither of them could
believe what had just happened.
"Give me the padd, please," Tuvok eventually said,
reaching out for the device Naomi had found. The girl handed
him the padd. Her mother had taught her to obey the others.
And after she'd run away from the group, Naomi had the
strongest feeling that she needed to apologise. The grown-ups
had impressed on her that she never ever leave the group
alone or with express permission.
Tuvok activated the padd and checked the user's data.
It took him a while to get access to the padd, because the
padd was functioning properly. The extreme radiation had
had its effect on the otherwise so durable device. But then he
found what he'd been looking for, and his three human
friends saw for the first time since Voyager's end an emotion
flicker over the Vulcan's dark features. "The padd is Captain
Janeway's," he eventually said.
Tom put on the hood of his dark blue coat and
wrapped the matching men's veil around his neck, but never
cared to cover most of his face with it. The times of the beast
wind were long since over. It had only lasted for thirty-three
days, but to him it had seemed an eternity. When the wind
had finally died down, Siqok had given the signal to set out
for Ima. The end of term was nearing, time for the Tian tribes
to meet in their capital to trade, to talk, to meet friends, to tie
new bonds, and mostly to celebrate.
Now they were approaching Ima. It was a city built in
a large oasis protected by a small range of hills. The air was
shimmering with heat, making the city walls and the inviting
gates look as though they were a mirage that tried to lure the
travellers into their certain deaths. But Tom had never before
seen a mirage of a city gate out of which people and animals
were coming. On the top of the city gate brightly coloured
banners were dancing in the soft late-afternoon breeze.
Within the walls there were many towers which belonged to
the palaces of the individual tribes. As of yet there was only
one banner hoisted; it was Asoio's. He couldn't help a tinge of
disappointment that it was only one tribe, even though he
knew that it was still quite early for going to Ima.
Siqok was riding next to him on his light brown
crudoi. He, too, had wrapped his veil only loosely around his
neck. He smiled at the sandy-haired stranger, revealing two
rows of healthy white teeth. "There's no place like Ima if you
need to find somebody, Tom," he reassured him in a husky
warm voice. "You'll find them, don't worry." He padded the
older man gently on his cloak-clad arm. The Tian's rings
were gleaming in the twin suns' orange light as if to confirm
Tom had to squint at Siqok against the bright light;
but he said nothing. He wished nothing more than for this to
be true. He'd never given up hope, but the longer he'd had to
keep it up, the harder it was. But giving up on finding his
friends and family was as though he'd kill them. He'd been
called many things in his life, but he never wanted to be a
Tom looked back at the city. It was built of stone in
all shades of earthy colours, from light sand to a light sienna.
Now that they were coming closer to Ima, Tom could make
out the domes of the palaces, whose polished dark blue
roofing tiles gleamed in the shimmering heat, single
buildings, and to his surprise quite a few green spots. Even
outside the city walls and on the gentle slopes of the hills
there were a lot of trees and shrubbery. So after all, Siqok's
description of Ima's lush gardens didn't seem so exaggerated
now. Most of the produce on sale on the market was grown in
the city. Tom looked forward to exploring the cool city, and
the luxury of a full bath, and a real bed.
He woke from his reverie wen the little bundle sitting
in front of him in the saddle stirred. He shifted the position of
his arms and held it tighter. Tom didn't want his daughter to
fall off the crudoi. Their mounts were pretty tall, something
like Terran carthorses, but they also had the looks of camels.
He couldn't quite describe them. But those crudoi had a
unique beauty to them, that he had to admit. "Dada?" the little
girl fought against the layers of protecting fabric until her
arms were free. She had been sleeping ever since the midday
rest, sitting in front of him in the saddle, where he could
make sure she was secure.
"Look who's awake!" he beamed at his daughter,
stroking her chubby cheeks with the backs of his fingers. Her
face lit up immediately, and within seconds there wasn't the
faintest sign of sleep lingering in her face. Siqok's smile
broadened. He'd never seen a man who loved his child more
than this golden-haired stranger. The little one was
something, he'd had to admit that. Her eyes were as cerulean
as her father's, but her hair was cinnamon with a touch of
chestnut. A most unusual colouring. But like her father said,
they'd come a long way, maybe this colouring wasn't unusual
at their home.
"Nora," Tom continued, pointing at the city, "look!
There we'll find Mama!"
Nora looked at him askance. The one-year old
couldn't of course comprehend what finding Mama meant to
her Daddy. Frankly, Tom wasn't either. Since the earthquake
his life had yet again changed dramatically.
Finally, Tom had found Kathryn. She was lying on her back
in the deep grass, her eyes watching the clouds pass in the
sky. The fragrance of the grass was very rich, almost spicy,
but sweet at the same time, and it still bore the scent of last
night's downpour. All in all it was a highly intoxicating
mixture, one which helped thinking. Kathryn was breathing
regularly, letting the padd resting on her chest rise and fall
with every breath she took. She would have looked very
peaceful and content if it hadn't been for her red puffy eyes.
Tom lied down next to her, but said nothing. Thus
they remained, letting time and clouds pass by in
companionable silence. Eventually, Kathryn reached for
Tom's hand, found it and squeezed it tightly. "Kay?" Tom
turned his head and looked at her.
Ever since their lovemaking the bond between them
had grown stronger, there was developing something more
than friendship between them. But this something certainly
wasn't love, of that they had assured each other again and
again. They were still in love with B'Elanna and Chakotay,
they couldn't give up their hope on finding them. This,
though, hadn't made them deny what had happened. Their
lovemaking had been something essential to them, reassuring
them of life and that there was somebody they could trust.
However, they'd decided to never repeat this experience
again. They were content with just cuddling, and curling up
against each other at night. Nights were cold, especially in
their cave-cabin, and thus their physical closeness was not
merely a matter of physical warmth.
Kathryn didn't answer. Tom, however, had done his
homework. Kathryn had been behaving strangely the past
weeks, and he was certain he knew what the matter was. But
he wanted her to tell him, he knew her well enough to know
that speaking something out loud was the best means for
Kathryn to make herself realise—really, consciously realise.
"Well," she murmured, "we're going to be parents
"Yes, I know," Tom replied, absolutely calm. So his
suspicions had proven right. "And I'm sorry for that."
Kathryn swallowed hard, but she choked on the words
she had prepared so carefully earlier. She turned her head to
look at Tom. She wasn't quite sure what it was she found in
his eyes. There was a bitterness in them she hadn't seen in a
long time. But there was also sadness. "Why?" Kathryn
eventually managed, her voice broken. They had made a
mistake, sure, but she had hoped that Tom was going to help
her. It took two to make a baby, after all.
"You want to have children, but you don't want me to
father them, or am I mistaken?" Tom replied, remembering
the conversation they'd had after their DNA had been
restored after that fateful transwarp flight.
Kathryn's eyes sparkled dangerously then. Tom knew
that gaze, and once again he was aware that again it was him
at whom she gazed with it. How he hated that. It seemed to
him as though it was meant for him to let her down in regular
intervals. But not this time, he swore to himself, or ever
again. If he let her down, she'd break apart for good. Tom
didn't want to be responsible for this. He knew he could never
forgive himself. "I'm sorry," he said in a small voice.
"You're right. I wanted Chakotay to father my
children, but ..." Kathryn interrupted herself. She didn't quite
know how to go on, she didn't want to sound as though she'd
given up hope, which she hadn't.
Tom looked away, studying the clouds passing by
high up in the sky above them. "Don't, Kay. You know I love
you—in a different way than Chakotay, but then so do you."
From the corner of his eyes he saw Kathryn nod. He was
right, she loved Tom, too, but in a very different way than she
loved Chakotay. And she knew that it was the same with him
and B'Elanna. "You know ... I don't think we've betrayed
either of them that night," Tom continued. He began to toy
with his ring again, like he always would when his thoughts
drifted to his wife. Kathryn couldn't blame him for that. She
was just being jealous because he had something from
B'Elanna, whereas she still clung to the memory of a single
kiss. Nothing she could touch. And the sensation on her lips
was starting to fade when she thought of it, along with the
scent, and the taste. Kathryn didn't want to let go, but the
harder she tried to keep the memory, the dimmer it became.
The ring, on the other hand, would always be there.
"Because in our thoughts it was them we made love
to," Kathryn explained. It wasn't just an excuse, it was the
truth. She just hoped that Chakotay and B'Elanna would
understand that once they learned of the child.
As though Tom had read her mind, he said: "I'm sure
Chakotay will understand, but B'Elanna ..."
A smile stole on Kathryn's lips at the imagination of
an angry B'Elanna. But this wasn't funny, not at all.
"B'Elanna will understand as well," she tried to comfort him.
"So you're going to have the baby?" Tom turned his
head back at her. What a silly question that was, he realised
once he'd voiced it. Kathryn didn't have much of a choice.
Theoretically, he was able to do the operation, but luckily he
didn't have the equipment necessary, much less the intention.
"Of course I will, there was never a doubt about it,"
she replied. Tom squeezed her hand again.
"I'll be there for the two of you, I promise."
The Balionn and Chakotay were on their way to
Kathryn's chamber. B'Elanna had decided not to accompany
them; she couldn't see how she could help Kathryn, at least
not in the state she was in. The half-Klingon woman had a
battle of her own to fight. It wasn't egoism, or indifference
for the condition of her captain. It was raw pain for her. It
was also raw pain for her to see Chakotay reunited with
He had got his love back, but she hadn't. She still had
to keep up hope that her love would return some day as well.
But it was so hard, so very difficult. Sometimes she didn't
want anything more than to curl up into a tight ball and be
left alone, and then again she wanted to tear someone's throat
In a similar state herself, B'Elanna didn't think it wise
to help Kathryn. How could she help someone if she wasn't at
peace with herself? Not that she'd ever been at peace with
herself. No, wait, you have been at peace with yourself, She
had to remind herself. But that seems to be a life-time ago. In
fact, it was almost two years. When she had finally settled
down somewhat, found a man whom she could love and
trust—albeit letting herself go with him was still difficult—,
her world had been shattered into pieces, literally speaking.
B'Elanna still hadn't forgiven herself for letting something
like that happen. She'd not only destroyed her life, she'd
destroyed the lives of her friends and family with it as well.
She hadn't forgiven herself yet, probably never would.
So how could she face the woman who had put all her trust
into her? How could she face a couple when she knew what
she'd been taken away?
Chakotay had tried to help her, Gods bless his soul;
he'd never reproached her, had even tried to talk her out of
reproaching herself. But this was only talk. Now she was
being unjust. Her best friend had really tried to help her; if
she didn't want to accept his help, who was she to blame him
Chakotay had looked at her searching, and for once
she'd evaded his sometimes too wise and too understanding
gaze. "I'm sorry, Chakotay," she'd murmured. "But I can't do
this, I'm sorry." There had been sadness in his eyes, but he'd
just nodded, accepted her decision.
If only he knew a means to help B'Elanna heal. He'd
do everything in his power to help her. He had the vague
impression that this means was Tom Paris. He had to find
him, however hard it would be. He had to find them all, he
had to find all survivors of their crew.
"B'Elanna?" the Balionn asked, while they were
walking down the cool corridor of the palace of the Balionn.
The red tiles were cool beneath Chakotay's bare soles, they
even felt soft. Still he hadn't got used to the sensation, it had
been too long since he'd last walked bare-foot. And yet it felt
strangely right. He enjoyed it.
Chakotay couldn't help sighing. "She misses Tom," he
merely said. Although he had a suspicion as for her real pain,
he summed his friend's sorrows up in this short, simple
Saleah eyed him carefully, but accepted his answer
with a nod.
"She's hoped that Kathryn and Tom were together,"
Chakotay continued, but didn't care to elaborate any further.
"But you've found only Kathryn," Saleah
remembered. Sometimes stating the obvious was better than
the most elaborate explanation. "Well, here we are," Saleah
announced when they'd reached the centre of the corridor. It
was marked by a small hall with a fountain in its centre.
It was the antechamber to Kathryn's room, and when
Saleah knocked on the door, her aide looking after Kathryn
opened. The aide left the room, and Saleah gestured for
Chakotay to enter. When she didn't follow him, he turned on
his bare heel.
"I'll leave the two of you alone," the Balionn
explained. "Maybe she isn't so shy when I'm not around."
Chakotay opened his mouth to tell her that Kathryn
wasn't a shy woman, on the contrary, but then he realised. He
nodded, and turned again.
After the door had closed behind him with a soft
thump, he went to Kathryn's bed. She was lying curled up
into a tight ball, her eyes open but staring somewhere
Chakotay couldn't look at. A tray was sitting on the floor next
to the bed, the food on it was untouched, an earthen mug was
still halfway full. The strong fragrance of its contents was
filling the room. It was the herbal tea that Chakotay had come
to love so much in the past term. Yet now he wished he could
offer Kathryn a cup of hot coffee.
The sight of her curled up and staring into nothingness
was still giving him the shivers. This woman wasn't the one
who'd captained Voyager, and she wasn't the one he'd fallen
in love with. It was her body, yes, but her very being had
withdrawn to somewhere so deep within her that even for
him it was very hard to reach her.
He sat down next to her on the mattress and tugged at
the moribaa sheet that covered her naked body. Although it
was hot, the rooms were cool, and Chakotay didn't want her
to freeze. She wouldn't have noticed if she did, Shot through
He withdrew his hand, although he wanted to touch
her so much it was almost a physical pain. Instead, he simply
sat next to her, not doing anything, not saying anything. He
was a patient man, his offer made silently. If she wanted to
take him up on it, it would be up to her to begin. Stubborn as
she was, Chakotay braced himself for a long silence between
The herbal tea had gone cold, but even cold it tasted
very good and refreshing. Chakotay took a sip from it every
now and then, but he didn't touch the food, ignoring the
rumbling of his stomach. Kathryn hadn't moved a bit since
he'd sat down next to her. She'd recognised him in Litan's
tent, had even touched him and spoken those silent words of
love to him, why didn't she do anything now? The question
echoed through his mind again and again. Something of his
Kathryn was still within this still form next to him, and
somehow he had to reach out for her. It was hard for him to
imagine what had happened to her that had made her retreat
that far into her shell.
Chakotay's back had gone stiff from sitting. Following
a sudden inspiration, he laid down next to Kathryn, using the
too abundant space she'd left—for him?—as sparingly as he
could. What did his own comfort matter? He didn't want to
intrude her space, especially because he didn't know what had
happened to her. Maybe physical contact or closeness would
make things only worse.
Kathryn didn't react on this. Chakotay turned his head
to look at her, find something in her eyes. Her eyes had been
the mirrors of her soul, they'd once been open books for him,
but now there was nothing. Absolutely nothing but the cold
blue of her irises, and the black depths of her pupils. Not a
single sparkle was in them, nothing that told him that a living
soul still inhabited this body.
This beautiful body. She was very thin, her hipbones
and collarbones jutting, her cheeks hollow, the creamy skin
taut on the edge of her ribcage. She'd looked like this in
Litan's tent, and hadn't changed since then. The sheets didn't
improve her looks, the moribaa-fabric, a mixture between silk
and cotton, was too thin as though it could have camouflaged
Chakotay turned his head away and closed his eyes.
He had to find a way to help her. She was his other half, how
did she think was he supposed to go on without her? Before
he could think about what he was doing, he'd scooped her
still body up and was holding her tight to him, holding her
with all he was worth. It was almost more painful to feel her
thin, fragile body against his than seeing it. But at least he
could feel her heart beat against his chest, he could feel her
warm breath and skin on his. He could feel that she was alive,
even if she didn't show any reaction to it.
He was lying on his side, not wanting to bury her
under his broad form, gently rocking her back and forth.
Perhaps it was more soothing a sensation for him than it was
for her. He didn't know how long he had been holding her
like this, he'd lost track of time, it just felt so good to hold
her; but suddenly he felt her stir in his embrace ever so
Alarmed he loosened his grip around her. The next
thing he felt was one of her hands touch his cheek, a whisper
of a caress, as though she didn't believe he was real. The
touch changed, and soon she was cupping his cheek with her
hand. Chakotay hadn't felt that warm in a long time, and it
was all he could do to tighten the embrace yet again. Instead,
he was searching her eyes for the faintest reflection of her
self in their blue depths.
And there it was, the faintest hint of pure joy, mixed
with uncertainty ... and endless pain.
"Chakotay," she croaked, her voice threatening to fail
her. But there was Kathryn's determination, she needed to ask
the next question so badly that she didn't tolerate her body's
weakness. "Is that really you?"
"Yes," Chakotay managed, now giving in to the flood
of tears that had threatened to overwhelm him for the past
"It's unbelievable," Harry mused. He shifted a little bit so he
could rest his head on Saleah's chest. She drew her fingers
through his blue-black hair that was so much like the
Balionn's. Only it was a lot shorter. "After all this waiting
we've finally found them."
Saleah knew how much these people meant to him,
and she had soon realised why, had even made friends with
them, too. "It was just a matter of time. And I'm sure we'll
soon hear from the others as well." She bent to kiss the top of
his head. "I just hope that the Council will act quickly to find
Harry hoped so, too. After Voyager's explosion, part
of the crew had ended up planet-side, whereas the major part
of the crew had been rescued by the people on this space
station. But until now it had been impossible for them to look
for the crew planet-side. At first there had been atmospheric
turbulence that jammed the sensors, and they couldn't start a
search on the surface because the law prohibited use of
Balionn technology. Without the technology the search
would be impossible, particularly so since the better part of
Tianess Oyem were vast deserts.
"When do you have to go back?"
"Soon, I'm afraid." It was always too soon. Harry
wished he could go with her, but he couldn't, for the same
reasons why Balionn technology wasn't allowed on the
planet. The law. But if they were lucky, and they could find a
solution that suited everyone, he soon would be able to be
with her, in her own world.
"How is Captain Janeway?" He still couldn't get
himself to addressing his commanding officer by her given
name, even when she wasn't present. It was a matter of
respect he had for her. Saleah accepted that, had given up on
making him call her Kathryn, but still she smiled when he
called her like that. "I've left Chakotay and her on their own
for a while. It takes quite some time for people as traumatised
as her to get back to the real world. And I have a feeling that
Chakotay is the only person who can bring her back."
Before Harry could agree, his com badge chirped. It
had been modified so it was compatible with the Balionn
system. Otherwise it wouldn't work, with Voyager as basis of
the system gone. Another reason why they couldn't find the
crew just by opening a com channel. And Saleah wasn't
allowed to give the modification codes to B'Elanna; thanks to
the ubiquitous law. He slapped the device. "Kim here," he
"Harry, we're picking up Federation signals on far
range sensors." It was Carey, and he sounded exhilarated.
Who wouldn't, Harry thought, with news like these?
The ensign was up and out of the bed before Carey
had finished his sentence. By the time he was struggling into
his pants, he already said, "On my way." Saleah propped
herself up on her elbow, watched her boyfriend with a
bemused but happy smile. "I'll be there as soon as possible,"
"This is the best day in a long time." Harry bent to
kiss her. "I love you."
At a time in between now and then
Everything in her being screamed out loud at her in
her pain. She had sworn to herself to never suffer like this
again, had erected a protecting wall around her, planning on
never letting it down again.
Then she'd let it down, and the pain was back again
with all its mind-shattering, heart-breaking power, maybe
even worse. It had almost been powerful enough to destroy
her hope as well, but she hadn't tolerated that. Her will had
been stronger, and this time she didn't fight her will to pull
her up from the abyss. But the wall remained in ruins, for fear
it would shut her will out.
Then she'd decided to pull it even further down, until
finally it had been down to its basis. As it turned out, her will
grew stronger with every stone she removed, and with it her
hope. The pain was alleviated with that.
It had been a mistake.
The pain returned, stronger now than it had ever been,
and this time she hadn't wanted to fight it. Why fight it?
There was nothing left for her, nothing that could nurture her
soul. All her hopes had been shattered, nothing was left to her
that was worth fighting for. Absolutely nothing, not even
hope that after all there still was something. She rebuilt the
protecting wall around her with the last power she could
summon up, higher than it had ever been. A lost friend would
have said that it was illogical to protect something when there
wasn't anything left to protect.
What did it matter? If it was all the same, she might as
well rebuild the wall.
The wall didn't protect her from memories, from the
betrayal and deception of her mind. Faces of people she'd
loved kept popping up unasked in front of her inner eye.
Whenever she'd tried to touch them, to make sure they
weren't mirages, they'd disappeared. After some time she'd
given up on being made a fool of herself. That was the last
dignity that was left to her. She'd do everything to keep it, for
what she didn't know.
Usually, the mirages wouldn't talk to her. When one
of them suddenly spoke to her, she didn't only hear the words
in her mind, she could feel it in her ears as well. His image,
the image of Chakotay, had asked her what was wrong with
her, and he'd looked so real, not as blurred as the images
usually were. She reached out her hand—not her soul, much
too dangerous—to touch him then, and he'd felt real, but
maybe this was just a new, more sophisticated trick of her
But were the hands touching her body tricks as well?
She'd watched those hands clean her body, heal its wounds
and try to nurture it, but what did her body interest her? It
was the home of her soul, but what did her soul need a home
for? Her soul didn't deserve the comfort her body was given.
Once there had been a caring mind that had tried to
reach out for her. She wouldn't let it, even though it meant
well. She knew the consequences of it only too well, there
was no way she'd let her lure into this false sense of security
again. She wasn't that stupid.
Then there was Chakotay's image again, this time for
a very long time. His picture was very clear in front of her
eyes. He was quiet, he didn't move, didn't try to touch her
mind with his. He left her alone and yet was with her. Then
he laid down, laid down next to her body. He looked at her,
searching, the first attempt to get to her. No way, Mister, She
thought bitterly. You're a mirage. Mirages kill people. I don't
know why, Mister, but I don't want to die, at least not if I
can't kill myself. I want to die when it's my will. Illogical, but
as of yet I have no desire to die. There is something that
keeps me from it.
This something was his warm body against hers as he
gathered her in this fierce embrace. It was the memory of a
time before despair, a sweet remainder of better times, of
times when her wall had been low, of times when her soul
had found shelter with the soul of Chakotay. This had been so
right, and there had been no harm, no pain.
If only she could ... take the top stone off her wall, she
could bring herself to make sure he was real. He was ... God,
was he still alive after all? Had everything been but a
nightmare? How could she ... how could she have ever
thought this way?
One by one, Kathryn began to take the stones off her
wall, very carefully, slowly, piling them on her side of the
Then she let Chakotay help her, let him take stones off
her wall as well, letting him pile them where they were
beyond her scope.
It felt so good.
Siqok gestured for Tom to follow him. They had
arrived in Ima the day before, and although Tom had been
very anxious to go and look for some of his tribe, he had to
admit that his exhausted body was betraying him. He'd been
glad to accept the room he and Nora were given in Siqok's
tribe's palace, and had soon fallen asleep in the first real bed
he'd slept in in two years. Before his mind had found its way
into the realm of dreams, he'd realised that this was the first
real bed his daughter had ever slept in. He'd caressed her
silky hair lovingly to say good-night to her. He'd become so
used to her sleeping curled up next to him that he hadn't had
the heart to put her to sleep in her own children's bed that
Siqok had brought.
"I've heard earlier this morning that we're not the only
ones who have arrived early," he told his sandy-haired friend.
"Asoio and his people arrived several days ago, and he has
brought three guests with him."
Three! Tom's mind screamed out loud at him. He
hadn't even dreamed of finding three of his tribe so soon.
Funny that he'd come so used to the tribe's way of life that
he'd adapted so quickly. Seven would be proud of him. But
Siqok had saved his life, so it was the least he could do to
accept the ways of the tribe. Why not think of Voyager's crew
as a tribe as well? Particularly since the Tians wouldn't
understand any other terminology. They were a pre-industrial
civilisation, a people living in the desert, they'd probably
never heard of ships before.
"That's ... exciting," he allowed himself. Actually, he
could have hugged his young friend. He wasn't older than
Harry, but he was much more mature. No offence, Harry.
Siqok gave him a friendly slap on the shoulder. "Let it
show, my friend. Believe me, I understand."
The two of them were crossing the broad main street
of Ima, a clean cobble-stoned street lined by taverns and
shops. There was little traffic, but Siqok had assured him that
this wasn't going to remain like this. They had arrived early,
after all, the other tribes were yet to arrive. When Siqok had
asked Tom out to walk around in Ima, Tom had deemed it
better to leave Nora in the caring hands of Siqok's younger
sister. The little girl was still very exhausted, and after the
relative loneliness of the tribe in the deep desert, he thought
that a city like Ima might overwhelm the girl.
Tom had, as was custom and protection among the
Tians, put on his hood again. It made being recognised by his
tribe more difficult, but considering the power of the twin
suns it was certainly better to wear the damn thing. Besides,
even if he hadn't worn it the others perhaps wouldn't
recognise him easily. His skin was tan now, his hair had—
against his assumption—darkened rather than bleached, and
it was certainly longer than Starfleet would care to see. He
hadn't done without the shaving, though, because the Tian
men didn't, and he didn't want to stand out more than he
already did. He didn't like the itchy feeling of a beard
anyway. But he found it most interesting that the Tian
physiology hadn't intended for that. That was why in the
beginning everyone had watched him so closely when he had
shaved. It had even provoked great concern, because to some
of tribe it seemed very dangerous to scrape the blade of a
small knife over skin—particularly under the chin.
"Asoio told me that ..." Siqok began, when Tom
suddenly stopped short in his tracks. The Tian chieftain
looked at him askance and followed his gaze. It was directed
at the far side of the street, where at a greengrocer's shop
there was a young woman standing, looking over the fruits on
display. "What is it, Tom? Is she of your tribe?"
Tom swallowed hard. "She's my wife."
Instead of a reply, Siqok pulled at the point of Tom's
hood and thus bared his head. Then he padded him
encouragingly on the shoulder as if to say, Go to her. Tom
couldn't believe his eyes. True, B'Elanna was across the
street, on the other side, but she wasn't that far away that Tom
wouldn't recognise her. Her hair, too, had grown longer, and
she had to push the front strands from her face and tuck them
behind her ears. Tom watched her do it, and he was surprised
that this gesture didn't annoy her. She was as slim as always,
maybe a little thinner. Her complexion had gone darker,
making her look more Klingon, but Tom found it very
Eventually, he took a few steps towards her, still
uncertain how to face her. Boy, she's your wife! He scolded
himself. But what if she had moved on with her life? Who
was he to talk, he had a daughter with the captain, after all.
Truth be told, that was what made him hesitate to approach
Suddenly, B'Elanna turned around, Tom knew that
she had sensed him watching her, Klingons had that kind of
sixth sense, which was no wonder, they were warriors after
all. She had to shield her eyes with her hand so she could see
him. To Tom it seemed as though time were passing in slow
motion like in some kind of old sappy movie, but it was what
he felt. He saw her utter surprise, the disbelief in her face, the
happiness. Slowly, she put her shopping down on the big
cobblestones. Tom smiled. Despite everything—her temper
on top of everything—she had the presence of mind to make
sure her shopping survived what was to come.
Tom was next to her in no time, and caught her in a
tight embrace, clutching her trembling body so strongly to
him that both of them were gasping for breath. After some
clumsy attempts to kiss each other—they kissed every part of
each other's face safe the lips—their lips finally met and they
engaged in a kiss. It was as though their lives depended on
that kiss, as though it were the only means to make sure that
the other was real.
"Gods, I've missed you so much, Tom Paris!"
B'Elanna gasped in between kisses. She, too, was holding
tightly to him, clutching him to her with Klingon strength.
Then she collapsed into a very un-Klingon crying bundle in
Tom's arms, still not able to realise what had just happened.
"What has she written?" Sam wanted to know. She
looked at Tuvok expectantly, unsure what to make of the
Vulcan's calm demeanour.
"This padd contains the log of her stay on this planet,
medical and scientific data. It appears that she's been with Mr
Paris for a while," Tuvok told his companions. But he didn't
want to—and couldn't—reveal any more about the contents
of the padd. He was her friend, and she trusted him. It would
have violated Vulcan privacy, and was a highly illogical
thing to do, as well.
"But how come the padd is here? The captain must
have lost it," Rolle mused.
"That is logical," Tuvok said. He put the padd into
one of his pockets and made sure it couldn't fall out. "But I
will have to do some further reading to answer the questions
left open. Until then, we will continue on our way. It has
cooled down by 2.4 degrees, so I suggest we take advantage
The two adults nodded, Naomi let out a sigh. She was
so tired of walking all day. Of course she, too, wanted to get
out of this desert, but for that she had to walk. Well, at least
so she could imagine her story further. It was the first story
she'd made up all by herself, and she was very proud of it.
She kept telling it to herself over and over again, so she
wouldn't forget it. They didn't have anything she could write
on. There were several padds of course, but they contained
about the same things as the captain's padd. Besides, they had
become very precious, since they were the last at their
Naomi was disappointed. She'd thought that she could
keep the padd all to herself, she'd been the one to find it after
all. But she also understood that the padd was very important.
First of all, it was evidence that the captain had survived the
crash. Naomi was happy about that. She didn't know the
captain, hadn't talked to her a single word yet. Captain
Janeway was always so very busy, and her mother had told
her repeatedly not to bother the captain.
As they resumed their way, Naomi shrugged and
concentrated herself on the story. At the same time she swore
to herself that as soon as she could get her hands on any
paper and pen or padd, she would write the story down.
Jack and Sam were still holding hands when they
went on. They, too, were tired. But they knew that they had
to walk until the second sun had set, and this was going to be
at least another one and a half hours.
Several days later they made first contact with the
natives of the planet. After hearing about the small group of
travellers, Omson had decided that they turn around and go
look for them. His tribe was headed for Ima, as were all the
other tribes at this time of term. It wasn't customary that a
tribe didn't join the others in Ima. Whoever those strangers
were, he had to get them. Law and tradition demanded that he
take care of them, especially now that Amro had told him that
they were travelling without any beasts—and with a child on
top of that. They'd never make it, particularly since they were
going in the wrong direction. No one was out there any time
soon, and if one didn't know about the water holes and oases,
chances of survival were minimal. There was no doubt that
they were strangers. Maybe the strange container they'd
found the other day belonged to them.
Now, Tuvok, Sam, Jack and Naomi were facing the
natives. Jack's hand was resting on his phaser, ready to draw
it if necessary. Sam had put her hands protectively on her
daughter's shoulders. The natives didn't seem hostile at all.
Their leader—or at least did they think him that—sprang
from his huge mount and came closer. Tuvok raised his hand
to greet the natives in Vulcan fashion. "Live long and
prosper. We come in peace and do not mean any harm."
Omson, or any other of his tribe, couldn't understand a
single word of what the dark-skinned stranger had said. The
universal translator didn't work, since the natives hadn't
spoken a single word until then, and the translator needed a
basis to operate on. To Omson, the greeting sounded neither
friendly nor hostile, the voice of the dark man was perfectly
neutral. Something of which the chieftain wasn't sure what to
make. But hospitality and politeness demanded a greeting.
He put his hand flat on his stomach and bowed briefly
in the waist. "Greetings. I am Omson, the shalionn of this
tribe," he said, letting his voice sound neutral as well. Maybe
this was the best way to approach those strangers.
The translator didn't come into action.
Tuvok touched his com badge. It was still there, but
either the language was so alien to the device, or it had been
damaged. He didn't need to look at the others to know that
their expressions displayed utter puzzlement. So he tapped
his chest and said his name very clearly. "Tuvok." Then he
pointed at his companions and said their names. "Jack, Sam
and Naomi." Tuvok addressed them by their first names since
the natives seemed to have only one name. Addressing them
by their last names seemed too impolite to him. Besides, they
weren't exactly in a command structure any more.
Finally, he held his hands up in a way to tell the man
that they intended no harm.
Omson understood. "Tuvok." He repeated, pointing at
the Vulcan. "Omson," he said, patting his chest. Then he held
out a skin. Tuvok immediately recognised the old tradition of
offering each other water in the desert as a way of greeting. It
existed on Vulcan as well. He accepted the skin, and drank
some water, then handed the skin to Naomi. "I know you are
thirsty. However, have only a mouthful."
Naomi nodded, drank, then passed the skin on to her
"Ima?" Omson pointed at the northern horizon, the
direction from which Tuvok had come. Then he pointed at his
chest. "Omson. Ima."
Logic told Tuvok the man was talking about a place.
An oasis at the least. A place where they could relax, and
have enough water. He accepted the skin from Jack, then
handed it back to Omson, and nodded. "Ima."
Omson turned around and waved at a girl. She
produced something from one of her saddlebag, dismounted,
and joined the leader of the caravan. Omson took the object
from her and handed it to Tuvok. Having unwrapped the
object, he found a Starfleet issue water bottle. He made it
clear to Omson that the bottle was his. The leader nodded,
then spread his arms in an inviting gesture.
So he had found the strangers who had lost the bottle,
they were friendly, and he could do his duty and take them
safely to Ima. There he would see what he was to do with
them, for they were obviously lost.
Kathryn was healing.
Slowly, but she was healing. Saleah was delighted to
find her conscious of herself and her surroundings again. It
had been a tremendously big step for Kathryn to return from
the shelter of her soul into the world. And yet it would be a
long and even painful way for her to heal completely, to
come to peace with herself and what had happened.
The Balionn watched her charge eat and drink.
Despite everything, Kathryn didn't seem to have an ravenous
appetite for anything. She just ate the vegetables, bread and
fruit as though she felt obliged to eat something. The only
thing she was partaking of plenty was the herbal tea. Saleah
exchanged glances with Chakotay. He had an almost silly
looking, but definitely happy smile on his face that carved
deep dimples into his cheeks. Chakotay of Voyager sure was
a most handsome man, a beauty that radiated from
somewhere deep within him. It had come awake again after
Kathryn had come to.
The two of them were meant for each other, of that
Saleah was sure. She was wondering when Chakotay and
Kathryn were going to take the vows and exchange the terbú,
the mark that would make them recognisable as one soul in
two bodies. Harry had told her about the chemistry going on
between the two of them, and about their experience on New
Earth. And if she looked at the two of them she could tell it
was only a matter of time until they exchanged the rings.
Kathryn had taken a bath, and was dressed in a gown
Chakotay had bought in town. It was a simple midnight blue
gown that covered her body from neck to ankles. It was
sleeveless and had a nice low-cut. It was still displaying
Kathryn's jutting collarbones, but as soon as she ate more, the
dress would fit her nicely. Along with the dress, Chakotay
had given her a bangle for her upper arm. The bangle was
made out of silver with intricate patterns chased into it. One
of Litan's aides had brushed her sun-fire coloured hair until it
shone, and had braided it into a short tail that rested between
"The tea is delicious," Kathryn said after she'd yet
again finished her helping. Chakotay had to translate for her,
of course. He had had time and opportunity to learn the Tian
language, and so she had to rely on him. Even she had had
her com badge, it wouldn't have been much of a help.
Chakotay and B'Elanna wore theirs as jewellery, since they
were completely useless after the explosion. She made a
mental note to learn the language as soon as possible. She
hated being dependent on other people. But she had to admit
that Tian sounded very nice, and that it went well with
"I'm glad you like it. It's a special blend you get only
in Ima," Saleah replied.
"It tastes like my favourite drink. It's called coffee,"
Kathryn explained. She exchanged glances with Chakotay.
Again he wondered if she was aware of what had happened,
that this wasn't just a shore-leave of some kind. She would
never taste coffee again in her life.
"I wondered when you'd say that," Chakotay smiled,
but it was a wistful smile that went unnoticed by Kathryn, but
not by the dream-catcher.
Kathryn returned the smile. It, too, was wistful.
"Unfortunately, I'll never taste it again. It grew only in the
region where we lived."
"Why is that?" Saleah wanted to know. "You can
return home, can't you?" This was one of the moments when
playing dumb paid off. In that way she could see the extent of
"No. There was ... a natural disaster that made our
country uninhabitable," Kathryn explained. Before she could
say anything more, though, Chakotay spoke.
"That's why our tribe has been separated. Now we
have to find our people again." Kathryn nodded, agreeing.
It was incredible. Either she had made up the same
story as he—what wouldn't be logical, but coincidental—or
she could read his mind. Harry had never told her about a
protocol that provided for a background story in case the
crew had to conceal their real story. Saleah made a mental
note to ask him about it later.
"I see. Well," Saleah said and got up, "I'll leave the
two of you alone now. Please have somebody call for me
when you're ready."
"Of course. Thank you, Saleah," Chakotay nodded.
Once the Balionn was gone, Kathryn looked at
Chakotay askance. "What did she talk about?"
"It's customary for Tians that they wear paintings on
their skin to protect themselves from harm by evil spirits,"
Chakotay explained to her. "Saleah wants to find out in a
ritual just what paintings she has to apply on your skin so
Kathryn nodded, understanding. She must have
confused the Balionn quite a bit with the nakedness of her
skin. She didn't wear a tattoo like Chakotay. "Is it just paint ...
or is it a tattoo?" she wanted to know.
Chakotay smiled. He could understand very well that
she didn't want a tattoo on her almost immaculate skin. "It's
just paint. See?" He turned his palms upward so she could see
the indigo lines painted on them. They reminded her of
Indian tradition; one of Chakotay's former crew, Savita Tara
Nandi, was Indian, and at some occasions she'd had her
palms decorated with henna paint.
"Beautiful," Kathryn said as she studied the by far
simpler patterns on his palms. She put her fingertips on his so
she could see the pattern better. At this innocent touch, an
almost electric jolt went through both of them. However, they
did as though they hadn't recognised it.
"I haven't thanked you for bringing me back yet,"
Kathryn suddenly realised.
"It was a bit selfish, too," Chakotay had to admit.
"Sometimes, it's most important to be a little selfish.
Chakotay, I wouldn't have made it back if it hadn't been for
you," Kathryn revealed. She went over the indigo lines on his
palm with her fingertip. When she looked up again, her eyes
were brimming with tears. "I love you, Chakotay of
There had already been so many tears in this day that
Chakotay had the strong feeling there shouldn't be any more,
at least not that day. He was so happy that Kathryn was back,
and that she still loved him as much as he loved her. He
gathered her in an embrace and just held her; for how long,
he didn't know. It just felt so good.
Tom turned toward the window overlooking a lush
garden in the middle of the desert city of Ima. You wouldn't
believe gardens like this existed in the middle of a
oppressively hot nowhere. Both sides of the doors were open
and let a soft breeze toy with the drawn-back curtains. Tom
inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. They were brimming with
tears. Tears of relief and of sorrow.
He felt her hands on his shoulders, and with a soft
pushing motion she made him look at her. B'Elanna was
surprised to find tears in his eyes. She had known that he felt
deeply for his captain, but she'd never thought that the
feelings involved in their relationship were that strong. It
almost seemed to B'Elanna as though there was more to it
than just relief. "Tom, what is it?" She wanted to know and
brushed her fingers over his cheek.
"I don't quite know how to tell you this," Tom
admitted. B'Elanna was taken aback. Tom had never been
one to be lost for words. Whatever it was that was bothering
him must be very grave.
"Tell me," she urged him, although not sure whether
she really wanted to hear this.
Tom looked at her through the veil of tears he was
holding back. He knew that he would break her heart with
what he was about to tell her. But he must tell her, for the
sake of Nora. "Ka... the captain and I... we... well, we have a
child. A little daughter. Her name's Nora. Nora Kay
Janeway." There, he'd broken the news to her.
B'Elanna's hands let go of him, and her arms fell
down her sides as though they didn't belong to her body
anymore. Disbelief was in her eyes, and hurt, but mainly
disbelief. "You're kidding."
Tom was surprised that she didn't shake him off when
he gathered her into an embrace. He himself wasn't sure if
that was a wise thing to do. "I'm not."
"Do you love her? The captain, I mean?" B'Elanna
wanted to know, however, she was clutching him with all her
might, her fingers biting the hard flesh of his back. If it hadn't
been for his tunic, she would have broken his skin. An
unworthy revenge for what he'd done to her.
"Yes, but not as a lover," Tom was utterly amazed at
how calmly B'Elanna was taking this. He'd expected hell to
break lose at his revelation. Maybe that was just the calm
before the storm. There, she loosened the grip around him,
her body jerking away from him as though suddenly she'd
realised he was scorching her.
Disappointment was in her eyes now, and tears. "But
you have a child! A child, dammit!" she fumed, as though
accusing him for having denied her his love. It was just a
child to her, denying her sex and name seemed to make her
but the image of a nightmare in a bad novel.
"It was an accident! B'Elanna!" He started after her
when she headed for the door. He caught her halfway across
the spacious room and knocked her over, came lying atop of
her. She was kicking with rage, had curled her hands into
fists. Somehow, he managed to get a hold of her wrists and
pinned her body down to the tiled floor with his weight. "It
was an accident. Please, let me explain it to you."
Tom fell in love with his little daughter the instant she
glided from the shelter of her mother's womb into her father's
waiting hands. Her birth had been unusually easy, at least as
far as Tom could tell. Before Voyager had crashed he'd
started a medical training under the Doctor's supervision, and
this had included the responsibilities and tasks of a midwife's
among others. And from this knowledge he could tell that the
birth was an easy one. Even if Kathryn wouldn't believe him.
Tom's studies hadn't prepared him, though, for dealing
with a woman in labour, let alone dealing with her all alone.
He was torn from wanting to give her the support she needed,
proffering her a hand she could bruise and a face she could
curse, and from taking care that everything went well. The
latter option won.
Kathryn had gone into labour seven hours ago, while
they'd been busy harvesting the fruit of hazel-like bushes.
The fruit were about the size of beef tomatoes but of a deep
aubergine colour and tasted like nothing either of them could
put their finger on it. They were sweet and juicy, that they
could tell, but they weren't able to describe their taste in
comparison with fruit they knew. Harvesting the fruit wasn't
too hard a job for Kathryn to perform regarding her advanced
condition. The fruit practically fell into their hands, and she'd
put her basket on a rock next to her so she didn't have to
Six and a half months had passed since Kathryn had
broken the news of her pregnancy to Tom. By now she was
having the impression as though she were rolling through
their valley rather than walking. Tom, though, had assured
her that she was only waddling, a fact that had calmed
Kathryn only a little bit. She felt fat and ugly, and the fact
that she had nothing to wear but a threadbare bleached gown
they had found in the cabin didn't add to her comfort. But she
was never moody, she always tried to make the best of her
situation, but with that belly in front of her...
It was midday when her water broke, and now, at
early dusk, she was finally relieved of her burden, lying in the
grass in utter exhaustion. Kathryn didn't realise it was over
until she heard the baby's protesting cry when Tom slapped
her on the bottom to make her breathe. What a warm
welcome to the world that was.
Kathryn propped herself up on her elbows to see what
Tom was doing, and saw him wrapping the baby into a
blanket that once had been his uniform jacket. "Tom?" she
asked, her voice hoarse from the screams that had eased the
pain of the last contractions. "Tom?"
Tom looked at her, and there was so much wonder
and relief and love in his eyes that Kathryn's heart almost
broke. "It's a girl, Kay, a tiny little baby girl. The most
beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life," he almost
whispered. Somehow he shifted to sit next to her and
carefully put the little bundle into Kathryn's arms.
She pushed the blanket away and examined her
daughter. She badly needed a bath, but except for that, the
girl was really beautiful. And she settled so naturally into the
crook of Kathryn's arm as though Kathryn had never done
anything else but hold babies. Kathryn had sometimes been
afraid of being a mother since she had no idea what to do to
be a good mother, the best mother for her child. But now
these doubts and fears seemed far away.
"What do we call her?" she asked.
"Nora, just as we've decided," Tom answered, now
unable to wipe a silly happy grin from his face. Somehow
Kathryn found it cute, and she wondered where he took the
confidence from with which he'd put the three of them
through the afternoon.
Kathryn nodded. "Are you all right?" She wanted to
know, looking at him askance, searching for a hint that told
her he needed support.
Her question and her gaze pushed him over the edge.
She'd had no idea how hard it had been for him to pull
himself together. And as soon as she was back and taking
care again, Tom broke apart. No one was happier to comfort
him then than Kathryn, she was owing him so much, more
than she could ever return.
"Are you sure you want to do this on your own?" Tom
asked for the umpteenth time as he watched Kathryn
gathering her things into the case that usually contained the
medkit. He was holding three-month old Nora in his arm,
who was dressed in nothing but one of her nappies. She was a
quiet little thing, watching the goings-on in the cabin from
huge, blue eyes.
Kathryn let the tricorder and phaser disappear into the
pockets of her trousers. She had been overjoyed when she'd
found that after Nora's birth the old thing still fitted. She'd felt
like a person again, after all those months wearing that ugly
gown. "Yes, I am," she said determinedly. And, a little softer,
she added: "I must do this, Tom. Besides, I'll be back before
dusk, so don't you worry, okay?" She cupped his chin and
gave him a chaste peck on the cheek, a kiss among the best of
friends. Even after all what had happened, neither of them
could bring themselves to let go of the ones they loved, a
status quo that was as comfortable as it was difficult for
"It's just ... Kay, I don't have a particularly good
feeling about that. There's something ... I don't know," Tom
struggled for words. He had a feeling that this was going to
be a bad day, and he wanted to know that Kathryn was safe—
meaning here, with Nora and him.
Kathryn searched his eyes and found that he was
being very serious about that, but she couldn't find any reason
not to go. Maybe Tom just didn't want to be alone with Nora.
He was a good father, but since he couldn't—for obvious
reasons—feed Nora, he was uncomfortable about having to
take care of that problem. It was very important to him that
Nora was safe and sound, that was it. "It's just one day, Tom.
It won't harm Nora to eat something different for once," she
tried to reassure him.
Tom sighed. What was he to do with that woman?
"Okay, but take care, will you?" he said with a tremendous
sigh. He kissed Kathryn on the forehead to give her his
blessing after all. But there was still that funny feeling in the
pit of his stomach.
"I will. Bye Nora," Kathryn said to her daughter,
kissing her on the forehead in turn, and brushing her finger
across her chubby cheek. Nora made a "wah" sound and
smiled at her with toothless gums.
"Okay, see you tonight," Kathryn said and turned to
leave the cabin, leaving Tom alone with his foreboding and
In the late afternoon, Kathryn knew why Tom had
been so uneasy. She had reached the edge of the desert that
adjoined their valley and was exploring it when an
earthquake shook the entire region. Kathryn lost her footing
and she was thrown to the dirt floor, hitting her head hard
against something, probably a rock. She had no idea just how
long the quake shook the earth, most likely for several
seconds only, but to her it seemed as though it'd never stop.
And the whole time she was praying for the safety of Tom
and Nora, cursing herself for not trusting her friend.
Kathryn lost her consciousness during one of the
aftershocks that followed the first quake. Her head was
throbbing and she felt nausea rising within her, the taste of
bile and dust mingling in her mouth. Oblivion claimed her
eventually, and Kathryn didn't wake until late at night.
The stars were out again, sparkling from their by now
familiar constellations as though nothing had happened at all.
The ground beneath her felt solid once again, and a throbbing
headache assured Kathryn of the fact that she was still alive.
Nora and Tom.
Were they safe?
Kathryn rose with a start, forcing the nausea down
with her will. She found her case, and although it was night,
she produced a pair of binoculars that for some reason were
standard equipment of escape pods and scanned the area. But
she never found their valley, and so all she could do was wait
But even then she couldn't find it. Frustrated, she
checked on her compass, but found it broken. It must have
happened when she'd fallen. Kathryn looked around, but
nothing but desert was surrounding her. She hadn't walked
that far into the desert before the earthquake, now, had she?
But as far as her eyes could reach, she wasn't able to tell
where she was. There were bluish ridges of mountains in two
directions, and both of them seemed to be in approximately
the same distance.
She had to get back.
Home to Tom and Nora.
Make sure that they were still alive.
"Oh Tom, why wouldn't I listen to you?" Kathryn
asked out loud, forcing the panicky feeling down that was
rising within her. A Starfleet captain didn't panic, not even in
their own personal Kobayashi Maru. Never.
So with grim determination Kathryn gathered her
things, and set for a direction.
She had to get home.
End Part One