Disclaimer: Paramount own them.
Author's notes: I wanted to write something cheerful for solstice,
but I couldn't think of anything but romantic PWP. When I asked
Henry for inspiration for a solstice story last night, she came up
with the idea of Kathryn's dream about burning. This angst thing is
what I came up with. If you've read "Harry Potter and the Chamber
of Secrets" you know that phoenix tears are considered a powerful
Rated: PG-13, but nothing for the faint-hearted
Written: 21 June 2000

Phoenix Tears
By Claudia

There was no such thing as pain, even with the greedy, forked
tongues of fire lapping, nuzzling, and nibbling at her feet. She felt
the heat of the fire, she could sense the flames touching her skin,
she could smell wood burning, and the stench of singed hair.
 Yet there was no pain.
 If only there was pain. Then at least she would be able to
vent her fear, and her self-contempt; the realisation that she had
failed, not only herself, but her crew. This fine crew who had never
failed her.
 The flames were gnawing away at the pale skin of her legs.
The stench was abominable. She gagged but nothing but the bitter
taste of bile came to her mouth. The skin was turning red first, then
the blistering started. Soon her flesh turned crimson, then brown
and darker ever as it charred. The pale, freckled skin wasn't
immaculate anymore. She was suffering lasting damage, her skin
would remain scarred. No dermal regenerator in all of Starfleet
would be able to repair her skin.
 Still there was no pain.
 Why couldn't she suffer like anyone else? Why was she
condemned to keeping it all inside? She would love to cry it out
loud, all her pain, to put an end to this silent, inner consumption.
 The flames were lapping at her thighs, soon they would
reach her womb, killing her ability to give life. But the stench she
wasn't going to suffer. One third of the body burned was fatal.
 More and more of her skin was turning red, blistering,
charring. She tugged at her bonds, but they were tight, the friction
causing burns. Burns that actually ached, but they were minor.
Nothing worthy to complain about. She was used to those bonds,
had lived according to them as long as she could think. At first, they
had been self-imposed, then she had accepted other peoples'.
 The smoke stung in her eyes, made them water. Her sense
of smell was gone, or rather, she had got used to the stench. And
still there was no pain.
 So she was an evil spirit, a witch.
 People had once believed that. They had burned women as
a means to see whether they were guilty as charged. If they
screamed, they weren't witches, but by then it was too late to
rescue them. If they didn't scream, it was a good job they had
burned them as a witch.
 People still burnt evil spirits, but they were dummies tied
to the bonfire at midsummer celebrations. Hollow things made of
straw and old clothes.
 Fire had always had a purifying quality.
 Even if there was no pain, she would be purified, and then
be able to live up to the promise of her name, Kathryn the pure.
 But she wouldn't go without a fight. So she bucked against
the restraints, tore at the iron grip her wrists were caught in, but
nothing but a low whimper escaped her parched throat ... and tears
slid down her cheeks. Strangely enough, the fire let go of her.


Kathryn was wildly tossing and turning, fighting something that
disturbed her dreams so much. She breathed raggedly, whimpering,
her face contorted into a mask of pain, her skin slick with sweat.
She had woken him with a random punch into his stomach. As
soon as Tom had realised in his state of half-sleep he was wide
awake, pinning her to the bed by the wrists.
 "Kathryn! Kathryn!" he said loudly, almost shouted, but
she wouldn't wake. "Wake up! Kathryn! It's just a dream!"
Eventually, he threw himself on top of her and pinned her writhing
body to the mattress with his weight.
 And she lay still. Her breath brushed his face raggedly,
panting. Tom gave her the time she needed to wake, brushing away
damp strands of her hair that were sticking to her clammy face. He
shifted his body so he was lying next to her, all the while caressing
her and whispering soothing words.
 "My legs," she began to moan, "my legs ..."
 Alarmed, Tom tore the tangled sheet away, only to find her
legs as perfect as ever, the pale freckled skin shimmering slightly
in the milky light of the stars. He looked back at her. "Your legs
are all right, honey, don't you worry," he said softly, kissing her
damp temple. Tom let her go when she sat up to see for herself.
 The relief washing over her face was priceless. Whatever
she had dreamed about must have been terrible. He sat up behind
her, drawing her back against his bare chest. "Are you all right,
 She turned in his arms as far as she could to look at him.
Again he was alarmed by the terror displayed in her features. "I
dreamed I was burning alive ... but there wasn't any pain." Her blue
eyes were wide. It had been long since Tom had seen her that
haunted last. All he wanted to do was hold her and not let her go
until he had made sure her fears were gone. He could hold her
forever. Her fears would never go.
 What a gory picture that was, seeing her burn. Tom
 "There wasn't any pain," Kathryn repeated. She stroked her
legs, making sure they were all right. Suddenly, she looked at him
again. "I guess it was meant to purge me. A healing fire."
 Tom understood. If that was the case it would be too good
to be true. Kathryn had been tormenting herself for the past couple
of weeks. Her intense feeling of guilt, and the burden of being all
alone in the Delta Quadrant had finally taken its toll on Voyager's
intrepid captain. And nothing and no one—neither Tuvok nor
Chakotay nor Tom—had been able to help her. If that fire-dream
was the culmination of her depression, the crisis that put an end to
her anguish, then it was the best birthday present she could give
him. "How are you feeling now?"
 "Very relieved," she said without thinking. Surprise
showed itself on her face. "Yes. Isn't that strange?" Kathryn smiled
at the way he was looking at her. The concern in his eyes was deep
and genuine, more like Tom than any of the other crew knew him
to be.
 "Well, unless my company is worse than a bonfire, I'd say
no," he quipped. It was his way to show relief. "Actually, it's funny
you should dream of a bonfire. Do you know what day it is today?"
 Of course did she know. It was 21 June, Tom's birthday.
 "It is also," Tom kissed her brow, "summer solstice. And
some people used to have bonfires and parties to celebrate the
longest day of the year."
 "They lit fires in order to drive evil spirits away," Kathryn
continued. "I know, love, we've had them at home. Wouldn't it be
nice to have one tonight? Don't you feel like celebrating?"
 "I sure do," Tom agreed. "But what about you?" He still
wasn't sure if after all Kathryn was going to feel better again.
 Kathryn snuggled up to him, purring softly to herself. Tom
felt the sound reverberate against his chest. "I know now I don't
need your absolution, or the crews'. It's my own I needed."
 "And? Can you forgive yourself?"
 "I've married you," Kathryn explained.
 "Why," Tom huffed, "thank you very much."
 Kathryn chuckled, a low, warm sound that made Tom
smile, eliciting those gorgeous wrinkles from the corners of his
eyes. "I don't think I could have married you otherwise. It's a
luxury I wouldn't be able to grant myself otherwise."
 "A luxury? How's that?" Tom was playing along now.
 "Well," Kathryn purred, "how about this, for instance," she
asked as she closed her lips over his, at the same time wrapping his
arm around herself. They kissed long and passionately, their
tongues engaged in a loving game.
 "When did you realise that?" he wanted to know once they
had separated again.
 "That day in Auckland," Kathryn murmured in between
kisses down his throat. She pressed her ear to his chest as he
laughed. His hands were in her hair. "No, I mean that you'd have to
forgive yourself."
 His other hand was looking for a way beneath her night-
gown, his legs giving way to hers forcing its way between them
ever so gently. "The day we first played pool. I could hardly do
without an opponent like you."
 Tom grinned. "Charming. So you've always wanted my
stick." He dodged a playful slap. "No, Kathryn, honestly." He
caught her by the wrist. This was too important to him.
 Kathryn sobered at once. "I guess it was our first kiss. And
our first night together. I wondered how you could love me, when I
felt so repulsed by myself, by what I had done. You'd forgiven me.
I knew I had to do that as well. But it wasn't not easy. It's over now."