Disclaimer: see Part One

by Claudia

Part Two
(Postcards 13-19)


 "Nora is the best thing that happened to me after Voyager
crashed," Tom pursued with vigor. He shifted his weight off
B'Elanna when he was sure that she'd hear him out. The barely
contained rage in her eyes had given way to curiosity. People who
didn't know B'Elanna well often misjudged her because of her
impulsiveness, but that was part of her Klingon heritage. They
didn't know that within her, B'Elanna was struggling to keep her
father and her mother's heritages in balance. Tom was one of the
few who knew just how hard it was for her to find some kind of
equilibrium, if not even inner peace.
 B'Elanna exhaled most consciously, a technique to contain
her temper. "All right. I'll listen." She touched his shoulders with
her hands as soon as she could and pushed him gently off her. A
corner of her full lips quirked to tell him she wasn't going to run
from him. She wouldn't have done that in the first place, it was just
her damn temper again. Despite the time that had passed since
Voyager's death, she was still sure that he loved her. Everything
about him told her that, it was practically screaming it out loud at
 Some time later, Tom had arrived at the point of his story
where Kathryn had left him to explore their surroundings further.
"That sounds just like Captain Janeway," B'Elanna commented
with a wistful tone.
 "Hey," he said when he noticed that, "what is it?" He didn't
dare elaborate further for fear to learn something he didn't want to
 B'Elanna looked up at him and found the deepest concern
sparkling in his cerulean eyes. "Captain Janeway isn't like herself,
she hasn't been ever since we found her in that wadi. She sleeps the
days away, doesn't speak. It's as though she lived in another world,
we don't have access to her. And she's nothing but skin and bones.
We haven't been able to figure her out yet, but your story explains
it all. Gods, Tom, what a poor thing she is ..."
 Tom was shell shocked when he heard this. He wanted to
go to her right away, but this time it was B'Elanna who kept him
from leaving head over heels. "Wait, Tom. Chakotay's with her
right now, and Saleah, too. They need all the time they can get, and
we should ask them first before meeting her."
 Her beloved sank back into the cushions. "You're right. It's
just ... please don't misunderstand me. I love Kathryn very much, in
a different way than I love you. It's just overwhelming me, that's
it." He toyed nervously with his hands, a habit B'Elanna hadn't
known about him until then.
 "So you're not going to leave me ... so Nora can grow up
together with her parents?" B'Elanna finally asked. The question
had been with her all the time, and she'd been afraid to mouth it for
fear that the answer was yes. But now it was out, and there was no
way taking it back now.
 "No," Tom stopped toying with his hands, instead he
reached for her hands and held them between his. "No. I love you,
 B'Elanna forced a smile on her face. She was of course
unbelievably relieved to hear that, but still ... "What about Nora?
Where is she going to grow up?"
 "We'll find a solution to that, B'Elanna. I just know that I
love you, and that I want to spend the rest of my life together with

 Kathryn was sleeping again. Saleah couldn't quite believe
how a person could sleep that much, but Chakotay had told her that
it was the best way Kathryn's body could heal, and her mind as
well. But still they didn't know what it had been that had kept her
in its clutches. Saleah was having a suspicion, a suspicion Litan
was sharing with her, but that both were hesitant to mouth to
Chakotay. There was no choice though, if they wanted to break
through to Kathryn even further.
 So after Chakotay had made sure that Kathryn's sleep was
deep and sound, he followed Saleah into the garden to sit with her
under the awning again. They were sharing their evening meal,
some kind of meatball with fresh vegetable and cereals.
 "Chakotay, Litan and I have a suspicion as to what could
have caused Kathryn so much trouble," Saleah eventually said.
 Chakotay guided the spoon laden with vegetable to his
mouth. A vegetarian, he did without the meatballs, instead he was
enjoying the still warm bread that was served as a side dish. He
liked the taste of the vegetables. He nodded as an encouragement
for Saleah to go ahead. It was very important to him that he found
out what had made Kathryn so vulnerable.
 "When we examined her, both Litan and I noticed that
Kathryn must have given birth not so long ago. Since there was no
child with her when we found her in the wadi, we have reason to
..." Saleah began, but interrupted herself when she noticed
Chakotay completely perplexed expression.
"What is it, Chakotay?" Litan wanted to know.
Chakotay swallowed the vegetables with an effort. He
could hardly believe his ears. Kathryn had a child? How could that
be? They hadn't made love before Voyager was destroyed.
Anyway, what was this all about? "I ...," Chakotay began. He
wasn't one to be easily lost for words, even Litan knew him well
enough that he really hadn't any idea what they were talking about.
"You don't know anything about a child, do you?" she
realized. Now she remembered, he'd never ever mentioned that he
was a father.
Chakotay could only shake his head. He still couldn't
believe it. "Are you absolutely sure about that? Kathryn and I ...
well, we never got the chance to ... sleep together before ... so," he
 "Oh my, Chakotay," Saleah said in an apologizing tone.
"We didn't know."
 "Well, neither did I," Chakotay said, forcing a smile on his
face, but it felt wooden. Then, after a pause: "Are you absolutely
sure she's had a baby?"
 Litan nodded. "Yes, it's my job, after all."
 Chakotay was grasping for every straw that proffered
itself, he couldn't believe that Kathryn had betrayed him. Maybe ...
"Can you tell how old the child would be by now? Or whether it
was stillborn?" How lowly of him to think even something like
that, he scolded himself for that inwardly, deeply ashamed of
himself. "I'm sorry, it's just ..."
 Saleah nodded in understanding. "I can understand you,
 "I think the child would be half a term or a term old by
now," Litan offered.
 Chakotay nodded slowly. He wasn't hungry anymore. The
garden felt claustrophobic all of a sudden, the company of the
healer and the Balionn almost unbearable. He had to get out of
here. Now.
 "I'm sorry, excuse me please," he murmured hastily and
jumped to his feet. Then he made his way through the garden, not
knowing where he was to go, he just wanted to get away.
 Earlier that evening he'd thought that enough tears had
flown that day. But now it was as though as there hadn't been
enough yet, and he felt the salty liquid pour forth from his burning
eyes, running down his cheeks as he hurried through the still empty
streets of Ima.


 After Kathryn had left, Tom's uneasy feeling got even
worse, and it rubbed off on little Nora. It was amazing that the little
one sensed her father's uneasiness, and as a consequence she joined
him. The difference between the two of them was that Nora could
vent her feelings. She cried a lot that day, and it took Tom quite a
while to realize that his daughter wasn't complaining about an
empty stomach or that her diaper be changed. Once he'd realized he
was the cause, he felt even more miserable.
 So he sought for comfort in her closeness. He tied her to
his chest with a shawl so both of them could be assured of the
other's warmth and closeness. Kathryn used to carry Nora around
like this a lot, and Tom knew that both ladies derived great comfort
from it. Much to his surprise, it worked. Nora calmed down and
soon fell asleep against his chest. Tom in turn calmed down and
felt his heartbeat slow down as soon as he recognized Nora's
 The voice of his subconscious kept nagging at him though,
he wasn't able to shut it out. While Nora was asleep, he tried to
work some on his model ship, but he found no pleasure in carving
the wood, nor in producing the tiny little wooden nails that held the
ship together. So he decided to go for a walk. Before he realized
where he was going, he found himself standing on the line where
the green of the valley turned brown into the dust of the desert.
 Kathryn was somewhere out there, he knew that. But she
was out of sight, and however hard Tom tried to discover the shape
of a person on the horizon, he couldn't make anything out. Even
here the air was dry and hot, and the air was shimmering and
contorting shapes. The beauty of the desert was deceitful, and it
comforted Tom that Kathryn had a tricorder that would lead her
through the emptiness of the desert. Plus she's told him repeatedly
that once she and Tuvok had made an excursion on Vulcan. A
smile crept on his face at the image of Kathryn keeping asking
Tuvok about everything regarding deserts.
 Tom sat down, burying his bare feet in the warm sand. He
picked up a handful, and let the fine sand trickle through his
fingers. Ever since Kathryn had told him about Nora, they had
grown even closer than either of them had thought possible. Still in
her mother's womb, Nora already let her magic work on the two
stranded friends. Kathryn and Tom had shared everything about
Nora, he the knowledge Doc had provided him with, she the whole
of the emotional range. Often they'd sat in front of the cave-cabin,
Kathryn between his legs with Tom's hands resting on her ever
growing belly, savoring the peace of their life.
 It was only a relative peace, though, and both of them
knew that. Tears were a steady companion of both of them. They
missed their lovers, and the feeling of that kind of emptiness was
consuming them. It was at these times that it was hardest for them
not to repeat that experience which had created Nora. For both of
them it was out of the question to doubt their lover's health, so they
never considered finding love with the other present.
 It was the worst when they wondered what was to happen
to Nora once they'd found B'Elanna and Chakotay. Whom should
the girl live with? Nora would be an orphan by divorce as it were.
They both loved Nora, and neither of them could imagine spending
a day without her.
 They never realized—or wanted to realize—that maybe not
everything went on right where they'd left after Voyager's death.
B'Elanna and Chakotay could have fallen in love with other people,
after all this planet seemed to be inhabited, or with each other;
maybe they'd never landed on this planet with their escape pod, or
they'd never find each other again. Maybe they'd been killed either
by the explosion of Voyager, or a crash-landing (sharing an object
of flight with Chakotay was always risky), or by the inhabitants of
this planet.
 There were so many possibilities, but when it came to
Nora's future, there seemed to be none at all.

 They found them two days after the earthquake. Tom never
doubted that the inhabitants on their huge mounts were friendly,
even though he was well aware that he'd probably trespassed on
their property. He was busy feeding Nora when he noticed
movement in the valley from the corner of his eyes. Since Kathryn
couldn't nurse their daughter for obvious reasons, Tom was feeding
her water, mash of bread and fruit. It wasn't the best food for a
child her age, but what was he to do? To his great relief, Nora was
doing quite well.
 But just like him, she was missing Kathryn. Tom was
beside himself with worry about his friend, and he couldn't hide it
from Nora. The worst images of Kathryn lying dead or dying
somewhere in the desert almost drove him insane, and it was
thanks to his daughter that he managed to stay relatively calm.
 Tom waited impatiently until Nora had sucked the mash
off his fingers, then he rose and held her protectively against his
chest. Nora soon started to whimper because she wasn't satisfied
yet. Tom shushed her half-heartedly, and prepared himself for what
was to come.
 They were a group of twenty, maybe twenty-five people,
men, women and children alike, all of them riding on the broad
backs of their impressive mounts. The beasts looked like
something in between horses and camels, and to Tom's relief they
looked quite good-natured. The people were clad in dark blue
hooded robes, their faces safe their eyes covered with veils of the
same color. Three of the persons had some kind of birds of prey
sitting on their fists. As they came nearer, he could hear their
jewelry and weapons jingling at every movement, the latter
remaining where they were, in their sheaths at the belts of their
 One of the men jumped from his mount with a swift,
elegant motion, and took a few steps towards the cave-cabin.
Walking, he pulled the veil from his face, revealing a very human-
looking face. It was tanned, and young, and quite good-looking, a
little arrogant perhaps, but very self-assured and confident.
 The man said something in a language Tom didn't
understand, of course, but logic demanded that it be some kind of
 Tom nodded and smiled. "Good morning, sir."
 The stranger looked at him askance, but something like
understanding flashed over his features. The man looked like he
hadn't seen anyone like Tom before. Tom figured that probably
fair-haired persons were something unknown to this people. He
just hoped that they wouldn't think him a sun-god or demon of
some kind. Why the hell wasn't Kathryn here right now?
 The man touched his chest with his right hand, and said:
"Siqok." He flashed him a smile, revealing two rows of bright
white teeth.
 Tom repeated the gesture and said his name. Siqok nodded
satisfied. Then he pointed at Nora. Tom told him her name as well.
Damn, he had to get his combadge, which was somewhere inside
the cave-cabin. But wait ... didn't etiquette dictate something?
Nomads all over the galaxy were known to value hospitality very
much. So Tom turned at the bucket they'd found in the cabin, and
scooped water with a mug, which he then proffered Siqok.
 Siqok didn't hesitate a single second. He accepted the mug
and took a sip from the cool fluid. Afterwards, he smiled at Tom
gratefully, and gestured for his people to join them.


 Chakotay couldn't believe it. But the dust-covered tips of
his boots wouldn't offer him a sound explanation, however hard he
tried. He had been convinced that he knew Kathryn, but now that
Saleah and Litan had told him that Kathryn was a mother, his
world was again laying shattered into shards in front of him. Why
was it that women always betrayed him, and why particularly those
he loved most? And why did they always use an innocent, helpless
child for their ends?
 He felt betrayed, that's what it was. And now that Kathryn
was conscious of herself again and healing, and he overjoyed that
he had her back, this had had to come along. Maybe Litan had
talked herself into this, she'd always had a crush on him. But she'd
always been wise enough to know that she never could win his
heart as long as he hadn't given up hope. Now that Litan knew that
Kathryn was going to be all right again, she knew that she'd lose
him for good. Except for she ...
 "No!" Chakotay screamed in frustration, and pounded his
fist into the dirt. Dust swirled, angry that Chakotay vented his rage.
"No," Chakotay repeated, this time softer. Tears were welling up
 Litan didn't have to do anything with this. She could be
trusted, after all, he didn't have a romantic relationship with her. As
long as a friendship with a woman remained what it was, a
friendship and thus utterly platonic, he could trust woman. Just
take B'Elanna.
 Who had he become? In trying to deny what had obviously
happened, he'd used scapegoats. A characteristic previously
unknown to even himself.
 Face it, Chakotay, he urged himself. She had left him,
because she had given up hope on him. Something that gave him
the shivers when only thinking about it. The mere thought of
giving up hope on her had made him feel as though he'd really
given up. If you give someone up, you don't love them anymore.
 This was the hardest part. Kathryn didn't love him
anymore. But why the show in her chamber then? Either Kathryn
was a better actor than he'd known her to be, or love was really
blind. That must be it. Love was blind, and it was making a fool of
him. Again and again. It was his own fault. Kathryn was a scientist,
after all. Her hope was strong, otherwise they wouldn't have made
it that far out of the Delta Quadrant, but after an explosion like
Voyager's it was unlikely that ...
 Chakotay squared his shoulders. She'd done what she'd had
to do. All odds had been against them, it might as well have been
him instead of Seven who had died in their escape pod's crash
landing. A part of him wished it had been so.
 Again, Chakotay was shocked about himself. Blind love
had made him turn into this ... wretched wreck of his former self.
He desperately needed to clean his mind, with those thoughts
swirling around in his mind he'd only sink deeper into self-pity. He
didn't want that. If Kathryn could live without him, well so could
he. It would hurt a lot, but then he'd lived like this for years before
the crash.
 It was no use. He couldn't find the peace necessary for
entering the spirit world. But meditation had left his thoughts
calmer, and more orderly. It surprised him that it was just Kathryn
he was thinking about. What about the child? Was it a boy or a
girl? How old was it? Did it look like Kathryn or like its father?
Who was he, anyway? Who could win Kathryn's heart, who loved
her so much that she chose him to be the father of her child?
 Provided, of course, she'd really wanted the child. What if
she'd been raped? What if she'd had to offer her body in turn for
supplies desperately needed? Was the child still alive? No, Kathryn
wouldn't kill an innocent life, never.
 If the latter was the case, that the child had been forced
upon Kathryn, who was he to turn his back on her? It was his duty
to embrace her even more then, for rape was like the death of a
soul, not only to women, but to men as well, he knew that. Not by
his own experience, but he'd had a friend who'd been killed by
rape, so to say. He'd never been the same after it.
 He had to find out.
 Chakotay stood, feeling a little better, but deeply
concerned about Kathryn, and at the same time bracing himself for
the worst. For the worst that could happen to him, and for the worst
that could have happened to Kathryn.
 It was B'Elanna calling out for him. A smile crept up his
face. B'Elanna was really the best friend he could wish for. Maybe
she could help him sort things out. Chakotay turned and shaded his
eyes with his left hand so he didn't have to squint against the fading
daylight. There was B'Elanna, but she wasn't alone, a man was
with her. He was taller than her, wearing the long indigo coat of
the Tians. His hood was pulled down, so Chakotay could see his
longish hair—it was blond. A dark, dirty color, almost dusty, but
definitely blond when the sun got caught in it. It was Tom Paris.
 And he was carrying a child. It was sitting on his hip, its
fist curled into the thick fabric of the coat, holding tight to the
sleeve of the arm that held her securely.
 Eventually, the three had reached him. "Chakotay! Look
who's back!"
 "Mr. Paris," Chakotay nodded crisply. He tried to ignore
the girl in the younger man's arm, but he couldn't avoid getting a
first impression of her. She was the spitting image of Kathryn. A
sharp pain shot through Chakotay's body as though somebody were
stabbing him with the vicious looking Tian daggers.
 "Hey, Chakotay!" Tom greeted him cheerfully. A bit too
cheerful, even for the former pilot's own taste. After all, he was
carrying his daughter whose mother was his best friend who
happened to be the lover of this man. Why did things always have
to be that complicated? But Tom was confident. B'Elanna had
taken the news about his daughter with more grace than he could
have dreamed of. And Chakotay was known to be a very patient
and understanding man.
 He didn't know, though, that sometimes being patient and
understanding wasn't so easy, especially when one was expected to
be like that.
 "What have you done to Kathryn, you bastard!" Chakotay
yelled at the surprised man. The big Dorvanian's sudden outburst
scared little Nora to death, and she tried to shut his anger out by
screaming out loud. She turned away as much as she could and
buried her crimson face in the folds of her father's coat, where
she'd always been safe.
 "What!?" Tom hissed in disbelief, trying to calm Nora
down by swaying back and forth and turning at the hip. "What are
you talking about?"
 "Her!" Chakotay pointed at the crying, shivering bundle in
Tom's arms. "I'm talking about her, and about Kathryn. What have
you done to her? Kathryn was completely broken when we found
her! What does it take to break a woman like her?" Chakotay
challenged him. He had lowered his voice, it wasn't the child's fault
after all.
 "Chakotay!" B'Elanna growled at him. "Maybe you should
hear him out. I did, and although it's not easy, I can cope with it."
 "Yes, because you aren't supposed to cope easily with
anything!" Chakotay retorted.
 Although B'Elanna could understand him, even knew what
he meant, her Klingon temperament ran away with her. Her slap
round his face left five deep red marks on his skin, and it sounded
like it hurt a lot. Tom didn't wince in compassion, though.
 "I'm sorry, Chakotay, I'm so sorry," B'Elanna apologized
immediately when she felt the burning pain sear through her hand.
She slipped it into Tom's hand, where she found the comfort she
 Chakotay looked utterly perplexed. The pain of the impact
was still surging through the left half of his face. He covered his
cheek carefully with his hand, realizing all of a sudden. "I have to
apologize," he said, confusion still evident in his voice. He slowly
reached out for the girl and gently touched her back. She jumped a
little at the touch, but she deemed her father's arms safe enough
that she could risk turning around. She looked at the dark stranger
with B'Elanna's hand on his cheek from huge blue eyes.
 "I'm sorry, little one. I didn't mean it, really," Chakotay
said softly to her. His hand was cupping her upper arm by now.
 Eventually, Nora lifted her head and looked at Tom. "He's
a friend, honey, don't be afraid of him," her father explained.
Trusting her father as she did, Nora turned back at Chakotay again
and flashed him a tentative smile, revealing a few tiny little milk
teeth. Her brow, however, remained furrowed with suspicion.
 Chakotay smiled back at her. He knew that had a lot of
things to put right. And how could he ever have blamed it on this
beautiful little girl? He decided that he had to hear everybody out,
as he was known for. If B'Elanna could understand the story behind
the girl, then he could do it all the more.
 What had become of them?

 The Balionn turned swiftly on her heel, wondering who
was talking to her. The voice was unfamiliar, and belonged to a
woman. It was a little bit throaty, but it didn't sound unpleasant.
Saleah found herself facing Kathryn. For the first time, Saleah got
a very different impression of the woman Chakotay loved so much.
She almost had a bad conscience for telling him about the child.
After all, Litan and her had decided to ask Kathryn first. But
somehow, their good intention had gone with the beast wind.
 "Yes?" Saleah said in her tongue, not knowing that
Kathryn didn't understand a single word of what she was saying.
She only realized that when Kathryn asked her something she
didn't understand, except for Chakotay's name. Saleah figured that
Kathryn wanted to talk to him. At the same time she wondered
why Kathryn didn't speak her language. Had her people come that
far a way? The Balionn couldn't remember Litan telling her that
Chakotay didn't speak their language.
 "He has gone for a walk," Saleah said, stressing the words
particularly clearly. But Kathryn only looked at her puzzled. The
woman's hand touched the left side of her chest, for what, Saleah
didn't know. She only noticed the shocked expression on Kathryn's
face. She must have been looking for something, some kind of a
brooch, maybe.
 "Chakotay?" she repeated.
 Saleah was feeling very helpless. What was she to do with
that woman? Never before had she encountered the problem of not
being able to understand another person. So she touched the bare
upper arm of Kathryn in a calming gesture. Saleah was almost glad
that she didn't speak Kathryn's tongue, so she was spared telling
her what had happened. But she knew that she had to try
everything possible to mend what she'd treated with disrespect.
 "Come, Kathryn. Are you hungry? Or thirsty?" she asked,
making her words clear with gestures.
 Kathryn nodded. "Yes." She was indeed hungry and
 "Yes," Saleah tried to imitate the word. It sounded strange,
and it felt strange to pronounce the strange word, but she had to try
everything in her power to earn Kathryn's trust. Besides, she was
always eager to learn something new.
 While they were sitting in the garden under the same
awning she'd sat under with Chakotay and Litan earlier that day,
Saleah tried to find out about Kathryn's baby. She formed a cradle
with her hands, pretending to hold a baby, and pointed at Kathryn
 Kathryn realized immediately what Saleah was getting at.
However, she didn't know what made the alien woman think she
was a mother. So she shrugged. Saleah repeated the gesture,
thinking that maybe Kathryn didn't understand what she was
getting at. This time, Kathryn imitated the Balionn, but shook her
head vigorously when she pointed at herself. "I do not have a
child," she said emphatically.
 Confusion was evident on Saleah's face, but she decided to
let the thing pass. For the moment. She could wonder later about
the fact that Kathryn did not have a child. But how could Litan and
she have been that wrong?

 When Kathryn lay in her bed that night, she wondered why
Chakotay didn't come to see her. She had missed him so much for
the past two years. Two years. They had lost two years of their life
together because of Voyager's death. How many of her crew had
survived? Were they here, on this planet, even in Ima, perhaps?
Until now, she only knew about Chakotay and Tom. But what had
become of the rest of the crew? They were so dear to her, no
wonder since they'd grown to be a family ever since they'd been
stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
 Her bed was set up right beneath the elaborate skylight, so
she could see the stars. At least that hadn't changed. Her thoughts
came back to Chakotay. Why didn't he come? Had she done
something wrong earlier the day? She couldn't remember offending
him in any way, apart from the fact that she didn't have any
intention of hurting him. After all, she loved him, and all she
wanted was being close to him.
 Chakotay, though, didn't come. It was late in the night
when Kathryn eventually fell asleep, still tired despite the rest she'd
gotten the past days. So she didn't notice him sitting by her side
just until dawn.
 "Hey," she whispered hoarsely when she woke and found
him sitting on the edge of her bed.
 Chakotay didn't say anything, he just smiled. It was a
weary smile, though, and very sad. Something must be tormenting
him, and Kathryn every intention on finding out about it. So she
sat, and pulled him into her embrace. Chakotay didn't resist, but
didn't return the hug either. It took him a few seconds until he
pulled her skinny form into his embrace. And then, finally, he was
able to get his rage and his sorrow out of his system. Kathryn had
difficulties holding his shaking body upright, so eventually, she
pulled him down with her, and wrapped herself around him.
Kathryn tried everything to soothe him, to give him the comfort he
needed. She was well aware of the fact that he had been in great
worry about her, and now his patience and calm were taking their
toll on him. Even a man like him couldn't bear just any pain
without getting comfort every now and then.
 Kathryn shushed him, and whispered comforting, loving
words over and over again, until Chakotay finally fell asleep in her
embrace. She remembered lying like this with Tom in their cave-
cabin. It was what had kept them sane then. What had become of
Tom? Why had she left him before the earthquake, despite his
warning that she not go?
 After a while, Chakotay woke again. He seemed refreshed
now, but something was still troubling him, Kathryn could see that.
"What is it, Chakotay?" she asked.
 "I don't know how to say this," Chakotay eventually began.
"It seems so silly to me."
 "Tell me, love," Kathryn encouraged him.
 Chakotay tried to escape her with an insecure smile.
"Saleah and Litan told me you've had a child."
 Kathryn kissed his brow. "I didn't have a child, Chakotay."
 He pulled away from her, looked at her intently, probing
her eyes as though he tried to look into her. Disbelief was written
all over his face. "You never had a child?" He couldn't believe it,
not after he'd met Nora, not after what Tom had told him. They had
been up late into the night, and Tom had told him everything.
Chakotay still wasn't so sure if he could get over it, but he believed
Tom. And somehow, he could understand him, and he could
understand Kathryn. But why was she denying her daughter now?
Why was she denying this unbelievably adorable child?
 He knew.
 She felt guilty, for having had her and thus betraying him;
guilty because she had left her and her father all alone for her
selfish ends. Ends that weren't so selfish after all, she was a
scientist. And the earthquake had been unpredictable. It was not
her fault, and yet she blamed herself for everything. Just like he
had blamed her earlier.
 It would take him time to heal. And he must take care that
Kathryn heal as well. Denying her daughter wouldn't help anyone,
on the contrary. Or was she repressing Nora, making herself
believe that she'd never had her?
 "No," Kathryn insisted. But she didn't sound so sure
anymore. There was just the slightest trail of hesitation in her
voice. Chakotay knew then that the battle was lost and won.
 "Why keeps everyone asking me about that?" Kathryn
 "We're just trying to find out what happened to you,
Kathryn. We want the former Kathryn back, the Kathryn we love,"
Chakotay explained. He trailed his finger down her face, then
kissed her.
 Chakotay smiled. It was high time he told her the news.
"Tom and B'Elanna are here, and they're very anxious to see you."
*And there's somebody else,* he added silently.
 Kathryn beamed. "Tom is alive? Oh thank God! Was
B'Elanna with you?" she wanted to know, suddenly very energetic
 "Yes," he nodded. How was he to tell her? "Seven was
with us, too, but Litan couldn't do anything for her. I'm sorry."
 Kathryn lowered her head. "Oh." She took his hands into
hers, stroked the backs of them with her thumbs. In the next
second, she was in his arms again. "Will we find our crew again,
Chakotay? I've promised them to take them home."

 Nora had long since fallen asleep when Tom and B'Elanna
returned from their long talk with Chakotay. They had tucked the
little one to Tom's bed before they had met with Chakotay
downstairs to discuss everything what had happened. Now, Tom
lifted the girl's still form gently up and for the first time tucked her
to her own bed. She was so sound asleep that she didn't stir, even
when Tom kissed her good-night.
 "I'm so sorry," B'Elanna eventually said, leaving the
nursery together with Tom.
 "Why?" he wanted to know. He turned at her and took her
hands into his. He raised them to his lips and grazed her knuckles
gently with his lips and teeth.
 "I don't know. I wish Chakotay had been more
understanding," she eventually said.
 "Don't be," he said, and kissed the point between her
ridges, the point where her skin was so incredibly soft. He'd almost
forgotten just how he'd doted on her ridges. "It's not your fault.
And Chakotay has been very understanding after all."
 B'Elanna waved in dismissal. "That's only part of what I
meant," she said. Then, raising her head, she finally said to him
what she'd so long avoided telling him. "I can understand the two
of you—Kathryn and you—so well, because there had been a point
in my life with Asoio's people at which I was so close in seeking
comfort with somebody else."
 Tom let go of her hands. But did he have the right to react
in this way? He didn't, and so—before he could raise any suspicion
in his girlfriend—he gathered her in a tight embrace. He knew
perfectly well what that meant. He was painfully aware of the fact
that Kathryn and him hadn't been strong enough to resist the urge
of the need to seek bodily comfort that went beyond a hug. "Don't
be. I couldn't resist it, so how can you blame yourself for only
considering it?"
 "Are you considering it now?" B'Elanna asked, her eyes
brimming, but her voice as even as ever.
 Tom smiled. Again he wondered what he'd done to deserve
a woman like her. He was almost desperate in his love for her,
because he couldn't think of enough ways to show her his endless
love. "Yes," he replied in a manner that indicated insecurity,
although there was none.
 "And do you think you can resist it this time?" B'Elanna
pressed further.
 "No," Tom said, smiling.
 B'Elanna smiled, too, but only ever so briefly. She sobered
quickly. "I'm glad you're so honest," she said. A single tear trickled
down her cheek, right across the dark spot right to her nose.
 But Tom ignored it. He didn't want to lose control now, at
least not in this way. "What about you, love?"
 She smiled again. "I don't think so. I've missed you so
much, Thomas Eugene Paris, because I love you more than anyone
else in this world."

 Their first lovemaking this night was fast, almost rushed,
and it seemed as though their lives depended on it. Tom and
B'Elanna were caught in a frenzy-like state, as thought hey could
make up two lost years of their relationship with one maddeningly
passionate act of making love. They fell into a light slumber
afterwards, their bodies and limbs entangled, their skin touching in
as many places as possible. This was almost like what Tom had
had with Kathryn, and he hoped that he could share with B'Elanna
what Kathryn had shared with him, namely their daughter Nora.
 But Tom wanted it to be more than that. He wanted to
worship B'Elanna's body, he hadn't done this with Kathryn. She
was no longer part of this part of his life, as he was certain he
wasn't anymore in hers. As soon as she and Chakotay were sure
about this, she wouldn't want him in this part of her life any longer,
of that Tom was sure. However, he was strangely grateful for what
had happened that night, for it had kept them sane, and they'd been
given Nora. This was when Tom had been convinced that after all,
there was God.
 "What are you thinking about, Blue?" B'Elanna asked him.
She had woken from her slumber, and was trailing her fingers
through and over the coarse hair of his chest. Tom told her.
B'Elanna nodded in understanding. It seemed to her as though the
term out in the desert had changed her into a more understanding
person. Her Klingon heritage seemed to have given way to her
human side, at least regarding her emotions.
 "Do you trust me, Bee?" Tom suddenly asked.
 "Then let me show how much I love you." It almost
sounded like a plea.
 "Haven't you just shown me?" B'Elanna asked smiling, still
feeling tingly all over her body from the mind-blowing orgasm
she'd experienced earlier.
 "Not in the way I wanted to," Tom retorted. He rose from
his bed, and moved through the room to the chest of drawers that
was standing next to the door to the nursery. He cast a quick glance
into the dark room, making sure that everything was all right with
Nora. Then he produced a white scarf from one of the drawers, and
returned with it to the bed.
 All the while, B'Elanna had been unable to avert her eyes
from Tom's body. He moved around naked in the room with an
easiness previously unknown to her. Time had changed him, too.
With a pang of jealousy, she hoped that he hadn't been that
easygoing around Kathryn. She repressed the thought though.
Didn't this man just look drop dead gorgeous with the pale
moonlight filtering in through the curtains, drawing bizarre
patterns on his bare skin? B'Elanna admired the well-muscled form
of him, the way the muscles rippled beneath his tan skin, the way
his butt moved in synch with his pace? And that other part of
anatomy when he returned to their bed, too.
 "What?" Tom asked smiling as he crawled back under the
cool moribaa sheets.
 "You're so beautiful, Blue," B'Elanna blurted.
 For a second it seemed as though he were blushing, but
who could tell in the pale light of the night? "Not as beautiful as
you," he whispered. Then he slipped the scarf around her head and
tied it around her eyes, gently, so as not to hurt her.
 "What's that supposed to mean?" B'Elanna protested.
 "Trust me, Bee," he whispered.
 "Where are you?" she demanded when she felt him
withdraw. The sheets went with him, and she shivered
involuntarily when the cool night-air brushed over her naked skin.
Nevertheless she remained lying still on the bed, her muscles not
particularly relaxed, her senses very alert. Since she couldn't see
anything through the blinding fabric, she had to rely on the senses
left to her. She could hear his bare feet padding the tiled floor
 "Where are you going? Tom!" she demanded. Just in time
she remembered that Nora was sleeping next door. She wondered
how the girl had slept through their love-making in the first place,
hoping that this was going to be the case now, too. Provided, of
course, Tom didn't leave her.
 "I'm right here, Bee," he replied. It sounded as though he
were standing in a far corner of the room. B'Elanna heard a lid
being removed from a stone container. But then she couldn't hear
anything, meaning the sound didn't seem familiar at all. The next
thing she felt was Tom sitting down on the bed again. "Here I am
again, love," he murmured.
 B'Elanna jumped when she felt the icy drop of water
exploding on her forehead, then running down along one of the
ridges. Then a second burst on her hot skin, and third and a fourth.
The blindfolded woman gasped, and her body started. She felt
Tom's cold hand flattening against the warm skin of her stomach,
and again she gasped. Her stomach was particularly sensitive, and
he knew that. A shiver went through her body, yet at the same time
she arched her hips slightly upward to meet her lover's hand.
 More drops melted away on her ridged forehead, and they
left behind a ticklish sensation when they ran down her hairline.
Tom tried something new then. Several drops of melting ice-cubes
were exploding on her lips. It was such an erotic sight that Tom felt
himself hardening again. But his own pleasure wasn't of
importance now.
 B'Elanna gasped again. Another drop touched her chin,
running down her neck, pooling in the indentation at the base of
her throat. She stretched luxuriously, almost catlike, and showed
off the long line of her throat to her lover. Tom's mouth went dry.
He knew that there wasn't a clearer declaration of love and trust on
the Klingon code of honor regarding mating behavior than this
gesture. With her throat exposed that way, B'Elanna was
completely vulnerable were she making love to a Klingon. Tom
knew that those Klingon bites of lust could be very painful, and at
the same time very arousing.
 He shoved one of the ice-cubes into his mouth, sucking on
it while his icy fingers trailed lazy patterns over her lips. He
brushed her fingers over them, mesmerized by their soft firmness.
He resumed showering her body with ice, first letting droplets melt
away on the tense flesh of her breasts. Then he took some of the
ground ice in each hand and cupped her breasts with it.
 A sharp cry of surprise escaped B'Elanna, followed by an
intake of breath just as sharp. The ice melted away quickly. When
Tom's palms made contact with her nipples he found them pebbled
and very tight, proudly erect surrounded by the softest and darkest
skin. He captured one of them in his cold mouth, and again was
rewarded by a moan. The ice-cube in his mouth hadn't melted yet,
so he flicked the remainder of it around her nipple with his tongue.
 Her hands were brushing through his long hair by now,
pulling his head ever closer to her body. "So good," B'Elanna
groaned and arched her chest into Tom's face. Her legs were
slightly parted, her knees drawn up, her center craving for the
attention it needed so badly. But Tom caressed her other nipple
instead, then, suddenly, he was gone again.
 "Tom Paris!" B'Elanna protested weakly.
 "I'm right here, honey," he whispered, very close to her ear.
His breath was brushing her cheeks, making the fine hair stand on
end. Why didn't he kiss her?
 Tom ran an ice-cube across her lips, down her throat, over
her breasts, toward the stomach. B'Elanna thought she was dying.
Why her stomach? She gasped, her breath quickened, became
ragged. The melted water ran down the sides of her body, some of
it pooling in her navel. Then, finally, it was running down into the
dark curls. Again, B'Elanna thought as though she had to explode
right then and there. More icy water was running down the insides
of her thighs, and when she felt his fingers at her lips, water
dripping off them, she eagerly licked it off. At the same time, his
fingers were probing the lips between her legs, very gently and far
too lazy. She spread her legs to welcome him, but he was longing
for a kiss now.
 His mouth was warm now, and his tongue was seeking
hers to engage in a passionate dance. He nibbled at her lower lip,
gently took it between his teeth, then welcomed her into his mouth
again, all the while his fingers were busy between her legs.
B'Elanna shivered when she felt him stretching out next to her, felt
the coarse hair of his body grazing her smooth skin. She turned in
his embrace, arching her body into his, then withdrawing to find a
spot on his shoulder. She bit gently down on the firm flesh, sucking
at the same time, grazing his freckled skin with her teeth.
 Tom moaned. He could never resist her very long when
she was doing this to him. He felt her lips close over his nipple, her
hand searching for his member that was craving for some attention,
 "Take me, Tom, please," B'Elanna urged him, not wanting
to endure his loving torment any longer. Tom hastily removed the
scarf from her eyes, for he wanted to look her in the eyes when he
was in her. Then he found himself cradled between her legs, and he
buried himself within her in one elegant quick move. The feeling
of oneness was almost more overwhelming now then it had been
not so long ago. He could feel his member throbbing against her
tight walls, and sank even deeper into her as his eyes found hers
and her legs wrapped themselves around his thighs.
 B'Elanna tried to relax, but she couldn't. Involuntarily, she
clenched her inner muscles, and then they were lost yet again. Tom
was thrusting into her, trying to be gentle, but she soon demanded
more. B'Elanna met his hips with equal force, accepting every
thrust with a soft sigh and a purr, at the same time punishing him
for his lovemaking with her nails grazing the skin of his back.
 Then both held their breaths, and when Tom released
himself into B'Elanna, he was barely able to murmur her name.
Never before had their lovemaking been that intense, so quiet, so
all-consuming. He shuddered when in between kisses he heard her
call him by his name again and again.
 B'Elanna held him after he'd collapsed onto her, holding
tight to him, keeping his softening penis within her. She wasn't
going to ever let him go again. Never.

 A servant came and announced a visitor waiting for
Asoio's invitation. The Balionn, two Tians and two people of the
Voyager tribe were sitting at a small pond in chieftain Asoio's
palace, sharing their morning meal. Asoio raised his eyebrows in
mild astonishment when he heard who the visitor was. The others
didn't hear it of course. It was custom with the Tians that they
announce unbidden visitors to the master of the palace alone,
meaning the person's name was whispered. The master of this
palace, Asoio, nodded and sent the servant away to go get the early
 "My friend Omson is joining us. He'll bring a guest you'd
be interested to get to know," he explained to the others. Then he
took a sip from his tea again.
 As always, a tingly feeling spread in the stomach of the
two Voyager-people. The two men exchanged a meaningful look,
which the others interpreted perfectly right. They were hoping to
meet yet another of their people again.
 When Saleah looked at them she could sense a special
bond between them. Part of that bond was Kathryn, the more
difficult part as it seemed, but there was something else as well.
The Balionn couldn't quite put her finger on it, though. But she was
content. She didn't need to know everything, not as long as it didn't
concern the well-being of her charge. Although Kathryn was up
again, and healing, she hadn't released her from under her wings
yet, and as long as she wouldn't, Kathryn would remain her charge.
 The news about Kathryn's baby had been relieving as it had
been shocking to her. Tom and Chakotay had told her briefly about
last night's events, including their conclusion about Kathryn's
dilemma. It made sense. Everything made sense then, and Saleah
knew that despite Kathryn had made great progress in the last two
days, she'd still have a long way of painful healing in front of her.
And the Balionn was determined and obliged to accompany her
along that path as long as necessary. Only when Kathryn would
accept her daughter again would she be able to find back to her
former self.
 "Did he tell you who it was?" Tom wanted to know. He'd
left Nora with B'Elanna, giving them the chance to get to know
each other. At first, B'Elanna had felt uncomfortable around her,
and being an emphatic girl, Nora had returned that feeling. But by
the time B'Elanna was feeding her her morning mush, Nora and her
were becoming friends. Tom was very happy about that, but he
would be even happier if Chakotay tried something like that, let
alone Kathryn.
 "No, I'm afraid not," Asoio said. "But here they come, why
don't you take a look yourselves?"
 Chakotay and Tom turned. Two men were approaching
them, one who looked very much like a Tian with a worn-out face,
tan and wrinkled from life out in the desert, and a tall dark-skinned
man with pointed ears.
 "Tuvok!" Tom exclaimed. He'd never thought he'd once be
so happy to see the stoic Vulcan as he was now.
 "Tom," Tuvok greeted him with a hint of a bow. Then he
repeated the greeting: "Chakotay. It is good to see the two of you
 Chakotay smiled for the first time this morning. Tuvok had
never been one to surprise him, except for when it turned out that
he was an undercover agent, but now he certainly did. He'd never
known him to be a man who addressed his friends by their first
names. "Tuvok," he smiled. It was really good to see him again. A
close friend of Kathryn's, he could probably help her heal, not only
by just being here again.
 Asoio acquainted everybody with one another,
understanding the special situation of the Voyagers with a benign
smile on his lips. He had to admit that he felt with them, and that
he was happy for them.
 "You will be glad to hear that Jack, Samantha and Naomi
are with me. They are—albeit exhausted—safe and sound, waiting
in Omson's palace to meet with you," Tuvok reported dutifully. It
was still strange to hear Tuvok talk like this.
 "What Jack?" Chakotay inquired. There were several
crewmembers by the name of Jack on Voyager. Oh, it was so good
to hear that four other of the crew had survived, even more so
because little Naomi was among them.
 "He belongs to my people," Tuvok explained, knowing that
Ensign Rolle had been the only one called Jack in his staff. He also
knew that Chakotay knew that, he had been responsible for the
duty roster after all. "What about Kathryn?"
 Tom and Chakotay again exchanged meaningful looks. "I'll
tell you, if you'll excuse us, please?" Chakotay suggested. Asoio
nodded in agreement, then Chakotay and Tuvok left them.
Chakotay knew that Tuvok would help him and Kathryn again, as
he'd done three years ago. For that, he'd owe him forever.

 Meanwhile, Kathryn had decided to take a walk. She was
fuming, and was hoping that a walk would help her calm down a
little bit. She hated being treated like a child, like some very fragile
statuette of the finest china. Kathryn was very well aware that she
wasn't quite like herself, and she knew she had to find back to her
former self. But the behavior of the others wouldn't help her at all.
She wasn't insane after all, just very confused. Even she didn't
know what was wrong with her, so how could the others know?
 Determined, she set her jaw and slipped her feet into the
sandals when she'd reached the outer reception hall of Asoio's
palace. As she stepped over the threshold, the suns' bright light was
blinding her and she had to squint. She wished she had her
sunglasses. She must have lost them somewhere out in the desert.
Gradually, her eyes adjusted to the light, and when she stayed in
the shade of the buildings, the light wasn't that bright after all.
 What few people were in the streets eyed her openly,
curiously. She felt very self-conscious all of a sudden when she
realized that she was a stranger here. She even was an alien to
those kind people. Her coloring was so very different from the dark
skinned people of this desert planet. Auburn hair wasn’t very
common here, neither her blue eyes nor her fair skin. After the
sunburn she’d suffered from her excursion out into the desert, her
skin had peeled like a snake’s, and it had left her with fair skin all
over again. She remembered a time when she’d taken on a nice
healthy looking tan, but it seemed to her like it had been ages ago.
 But from what she’d been told it had been only a quarter of
a term; half a year of the Terran standard year. Kathryn
remembered some of the events, but not all. She knew she had
been with Tom for a while, that he’d saved her life. Together
they’d managed to survive the first time on this godforsaken
planet. Then there'd been that earthquake, and somehow she must
have lost her bearings and lost track of where she had to go to get
back to Tom.
 Was he in this city? Did he survive the earthquake?
 That was the toughest question of all. Kathryn knew she
couldn't forgive herself if Tom hadn't survived the earthquake. She
shouldn't have left in the first place, particularly because he had
literally begged her not to go. But she had been too damn stubborn
once again, and there she was. She wasn't so sure of herself
anymore, had to sort things out, her life, what was to become of her
and her crew now that they were stranded here on this nameless
 True, she'd found Chakotay, the man she loved, but there
was something strange. Kathryn couldn't quite put her finger on it,
and that was what was so frustrating for her. She knew, though,
that she could still be assured that he loved her, but there was
something that hadn't been between them before Voyager's death.
 Kathryn set her chin. She was determined to find out about
 This decision made, she suddenly felt a lot better. She felt
better than she'd felt in days. With her determination challenged
once again, she began to feel like herself again. And by God, this
was a good feeling.
 She felt strangely relieved, and open for her surroundings.
Kathryn began to look at her environment with more interest; the
interest for which she was known. A smile played about her lips.
 One of the shops she passed sold all kinds of glass and
silverware. A mirror made of sliver was on display in front of the
shop. As Kathryn passed by and caught a quick glimpse of herself
in the shiny polished surface she realized that she hadn't looked
into a mirror in ages. She turned and went back.
 She stared at her reflection for a while. At first she was
shocked at the reflection in the mirror. The woman looked deeply
worried, maybe a little older than she remembered her to be,
skinny, her body lacking the womanly curves to fill the beautiful
dress. Her hair had grown again, cascading down her shoulders.
Once, it had been shiny, but now it looked lifeless. The complexion
was pale, the skin taut over her cheekbones. Only the eyes seemed
to match those she remembered.
 "Can I do something for you, Shali?"
 Kathryn jumped at the male voice. She couldn't understand
a single word of what the man had said. He was a tall man, pale in
comparison to Asoio's people, or even the Balionn.
 The man said something, and again Kathryn couldn't
understand a single word. If only she had her communicator. She
wasn't used to not being able to understand other people. It angered
her, she hated to feel helpless, not in control.
 She wasn't in control now, of nothing. The exhilaration
she'd put herself to earlier left her as quickly as it had come.
 "Shali? Are you feeling well?" the man asked, touching her
upper arm in concern. His voice sounded gentle, not angry at all.
 What did *Shali* mean?
 Kathryn looked at him with a mixture of frustration, anger
and helplessness.
 "It's okay, the Shali belongs to me," chimed in a very
familiar female voice.
 Kathryn turned around and faced B'Elanna Torres.
However, she'd talked to the man in the foreign language. The
older woman's eyes went searching for B'Elanna's communicator,
but she didn't wear one, either.
 B'Elanna was carrying a little girl, though. She was about
one year old, sitting on the half-Klingon woman's hip. The girl
looked at Kathryn with curios cerulean eyes. Her slightly curly hair
reminded Kathryn of the way her own hair was supposed to look
 "B'Elanna!" Kathryn almost exclaimed. It was so good to
see her again.
 "It's good to see you, Kathryn," B'Elanna smiled. She said
something to the shop-owner, something which sounded like an
explanation or apology.
 "Who are you?" Kathryn bent to be at one level with the
girl in B'Elanna's arms, and touched Nora's chubby cheek. Nora
beamed at her with an occasional tooth, and squealed with delight.
B'Elanna sensed immediately that Nora seemed to recognize
Kathryn in one way or the other. The little girl obviously didn't
know why she knew the strange woman.
 "Her name is Nora," B'Elanna explained. "She is Tom's
daughter." That was all she dared to tell Kathryn at this point of
time, since she wasn't quite sure how much she knew, and she
wanted to avoid a scene like last night's by all means.
 "Tom's daughter," Kathryn repeated thoughtfully. "Yes,
she has his eyes." She couldn't take her eyes off Nora. "Hi Nora,
I'm Kathryn," she introduced herself.
 B'Elanna almost winced. The sight of Kathryn introducing
herself to her own daughter touched something deep inside her.
This wasn't right. Both Kathryn and Nora deserved to know who
they were, but B'Elanna realized very well that they'd have to wait
just a little longer.

 "I understand your concern, Chakotay," Tuvok began, "but
I am afraid I cannot help you."
 The last reaction Chakotay had expected of the Vulcan was
what he'd just heard. He knew that Vulcans were very private
people, and that they usually extended this privacy on people they
knew. If there were an antonym for gossip then Chakotay couldn't
think of anyone who'd deserve it more than them. Problem was that
he could understand Tuvok quite well, but on the other hand was
this all about Kathryn and her well-being. Kathryn and Tuvok were
close friends as far as Chakotay could tell. So why didn't he help
her now?
 "Why? I mean, I understand that Vulcans are private
people, but this is about Kathryn," Chakotay explained yet again as
if to make sure that the former Chief of Security had understood
 "I am quite aware of this fact," Tuvok reminded him. "But
as I told you: the padds contain Kathryn's diary, and as such they
are highly private. Even I should not have read them. And from
what you have told me I can assure you that the reading of them
does not reveal anything new to you."
 Chakotay let out a frustrated breath, but that was all he
allowed himself to vent his feelings. He turned away and studied
the clouds that were in the sky. They were clouds that meant good
weather, so there was no hoping for a cooling shower.
 "Chakotay," Tuvok began. The name made both men
remember the times when they had fought together in the Maquis.
Back then, Chakotay had thought Tuvok man who could be trusted.
But as it turned out, the Vulcan was a Starfleet spy. But the
situation then and the situation right now didn't compare. Kathryn
and Tuvok were friends, so this time Chakotay was absolutely sure
that Tuvok meant good by her.
 "Chakotay, you have to trust me. We know everything we
need to know about Kathryn's dilemma," Tuvok reassured him.
"She has a child with Tom, but it was not planned."
 "No, it was some kind of pon farr because neither of them
could deal with the loss of Voyager," Chakotay added with a
bitterness Tuvok knew all too well from former times. "Gee,
maybe Bee and me should have tried that, too. It would certainly
have spared us the one or the other sleepless night. Don't take it
literally, Tuvok."
 Tuvok shifted so he didn't have to let out a sigh. "You are
being unjust."
 "No!" Chakotay gasped. "I am faithful."
 "That is not true, and you know that," Tuvok retorted, his
voice as calm as ever. "However, you are right about your
comparison to the pon farr. The engagement in exhausting physical
activity is often practiced to alleviate hurt. In this case, Tom and
Kathryn found mating the right way to compensate."
 Chakotay snorted contemptuously.
 "Kathryn, however, wants you back, because she loves
you," Tuvok continued his original trail of thought now, realizing
that the discussion was leading nowhere.
"So she denies her daughter, but at the same time she
cannot bear what she's doing to her," Chakotay deduced. He had of
course realized that, but what had kept him from considering this
thought seriously was his fear of its being wishful thinking. "She
has to break free from this vicious circle, thus she removes herself
from her surroundings. She even removes herself from herself,
because she feels guilty." A pause, then: "You're right. We don't
need her diary," Chakotay decided.
He met Tuvok's steady gaze. He wasn't sure what to make
of those dark Vulcan eyes. Sometimes, it really was a blessing that
one couldn't read a Vulcan's expression. "Why haven't I realized
that earlier?" he wondered. At the same moment he knew the
reason. He had been to preoccupied with himself, with his hurt
pride. Chakotay had been brought up to the knowledge that sex
was something one should never feel too careless about. So it was
hard for him that sometimes sex was just sex.
 Tuvok, however, knew another reason for his companion's
unease. He knew that numerous members of the Maquis used sex
as a means to escape the world for a while. He could even
comprehend it on a particular level, although he himself couldn't
approve of it. And he knew that Chakotay himself had used this
means, too, despite his principles. Tuvok had to add to Chakotay's
credit though, that this had been at times when Chakotay wasn't
quite like himself, either because of intoxication or because of
emotional turmoil.
 Both men knew the answer. Chakotay had to forgive
himself so he could forgive Kathryn. Who was he to blame her for
something he himself had done, under different, but very similar

 B'Elanna watched Kathryn playing with her daughter. She
simply couldn't understand how Kathryn was able to bear Nora's
presence when she denied her. Nora sat on Kathryn's lap now,
she'd demanded so earlier. B'Elanna was amazed that Nora wasn't
afraid of Kathryn. But then Kathryn was her mother.
 "What is it, B'Elanna?" Kathryn wanted to know when she
noticed the half-Klingon's staring at her. Why was everybody
behaving so strangely in her presence?
 "I was just wondering how quickly Nora trusted you,"
B'Elanna explained honestly.
 "Yes," Kathryn agreed. "It seems as though she's known
me for a long time."
 *And you don't even realize how right you are,* the
younger woman replied silently.
 The three of them were sitting under a tree in the garden of
Siqok's palace. Nora was examining a strand of Kathryn's hair with
her cute little fingers and eyes, but she was very careful as she did
so, never pulling it.
 "What is it, B'Elanna?" Kathryn asked again. This was
going to get on her nerves soon. Why was everyone behaving so
strangely in her presence.
 B'Elanna just shrugged. "Everything's all right."
 "No, it isn't, and if you don't tell me what's going on ..."
Kathryn began, but she never finished the sentence. She froze in
mid-action and stared past B'Elanna at the house. Her free hand
flew to her mouth to cover her surprise. When B'Elanna turned
around to find out what had surprised Kathryn so much she saw
Tom coming down the path. Eventually, Nora recognized him and
let out a squeal of delight. Kathryn was so taken aback that she
didn't hold the little girl tight enough any more. Nora escaped her
arms and crawled toward her father. B'Elanna, though, was quick
enough to pull her back and into her lap.
 The little girl protested of course, but B'Elanna distracted
her by tickling her tummy.
 Kathryn got up and took a few hesitant steps toward Tom.
 "Kay," Tom said, and smiled at her. He was so relieved to
see her up and well that he went faster. In the blink of an eye, the
two were in each other's arms.
 Until then B'Elanna had been sure that she could deal with
the fact that Kathryn and Tom had ... slept together, but when she
saw them like this now, something in her wanted to cry out loud in
protest. An almost overwhelming feeling of jealousy rose from
somewhere deep within her, and it was all she could do to pull
herself together. A voice in her insisted that this was just a very
happy reunion between two friends who happened to have a child
together, but another one, the more nagging one, kept telling her
that this was a reunion of lovers. Then, a third voice chimed in that
shouted at the nagging one to shut up and remember the previous
 It was this third voice that won. B'Elanna was sure that no
man who could make love to her that passionately could not be in
love with her. Or was this passion just a means to cover the
betrayal? No, the passion and the love had been genuine, B'Elanna
would have noticed any signs of distraction. She knew Tom that
 So B'Elanna pushed those thoughts away and smiled,
although it was not easy for her.
 "Oh God," Kathryn murmured over and over again. Her
face was buried in the crook of Tom's neck, and she held tight to
him to make sure it was really him. She felt his hand cupping her
head as he always would, the other rested between her shoulder-
 "It's so good to see you again," Tom whispered into her
ear. "I've missed you so much."
 "I'm so sorry I didn't stay with you on the day of the
earthquake," Kathryn said.
 "No, it's all right," Tom soothed her, although he wanted to
scream at her because of the deep worry she'd caused him.

End Part Two