Part Two- see Part One for disclaimer and synopsis
He‘d come to complete awareness slowly, as his slumbering, disassociated mind had sensed her presence suddenly very close, and realized that it was time. He felt the essence of her mind, intertwined with all the others on Aurora, and with his, connected in a way that humans and other individually sentient beings rarely perceived. Their thoughts and senses permeated his, and he worked to separate the threads that entangled his mind with theirs. Some were awake or unresistant, easy to dislodge, some slightly more resistant. And a very few, all in the sleeping state most receptive to the unconscious, fought momentarily to maintain the link, a link they weren‘t truly aware of. On those he used a small amount of force, in the form of images. Images strong enough to break through the unconscious, to wake them, and end their unknowing resistance. Images that of necessity tapped into the very deepest fear of humans, of all sentient social races, whose tenuous outward connections to each other kept at bay the fear brought about by their inability to truly understand their link with the Universe. The fear of being utterly and completely alone.
The last mind he broke through was hers. His mind reclaimed its cohesive state, not easy after years of dispersion, of inactivity. He sensed her awakening, and began to call to her, entreat her to come to him. He still had some control over mental energy, even temporal energy, but physical matter had become impossible for him. So he enticed her to come nearer to him, to where he waited, so that their minds might join, this time in complete awareness.
It was time.
Kathryn ducked through the cave entrance. The air outside was far colder than in the cave, but she barely noticed the freezing bite of the wind that swept right through her thermal layered cotton jumpsuit as if it wasn‘t there. She stood , staring in wonder at the sky. Huge, brightly waving bands of light billowed across the sky, rising so high she had to crane her neck to see its end. It was so close she felt like she could reach out touch the colors, let them swirl through her fingers and spill over her hands. She almost reached out to try when the whispering voice caught her attention again.
She moved several meters past the entrance, fighting the pressing wind, heading toward the rocks, the haphazardly piled formations that jutted up against the towering wall of the mountainside. She knew instinctively that this was where the voice was coming from. Where he was...
Kathryn jerked back, stumbling over a small rock jutting out of the snow covered ground, as a large shape loomed over her. Her eyes traveled upwards, surprised at the size of the being. The huge body was covered in thick, coarse yellowish fur, hanging in long tufts from its arms. Its hands were equally furry and tipped with claws. Its face was also covered in fur except for small black eyes and the black pointed snout. It stared at her for a mere moment, then opened its mouth, emitted a low growl, and bared its teeth- which she saw were actually narrow, sharp, wicked looking fangs.
Kathryn knew her mouth was also open, if in a far less threatening manner. Several thoughts coursed through her mind at once. The first, the absurd, was the childhood story refrain "My, grandmother, what big teeth you have". A reactionary giggle almost escaped her parted lips, but her mind was also rationally informing her that this was not the possessor of the voice she had heard, the voice that had been insistently, but gently calling her. And at the same time a memory surfaced, of a survey report of these same snowy mountains, highlighting some of the wildlife recorded here. There had been mention of a brief, sketchy scan of a large, upright bear-like animal, that had appeared, then disappeared again, before a more in depth scan could be completed. Tom, or perhaps Nick, had referred to it laughingly as the Abominable Snowman, and they had decided it was either a very rare animal, or perhaps even a false reading, after they hadn‘t been able to locate it or like creatures again.
In the brief couple of seconds it took for those thoughts to flash through her mind and fight for dominance, the creature opened its mouth wider and let loose a much louder, reverberating roar. And Kathryn was faced with the realization that she hadn‘t thought to pick up one of the phasers before she came outside. But then she hadn‘t been thinking at all, and now her ungloved hands were so numbed by her brief exposure that she wasn‘t sure she could grip a weapon if she had one. The voice that had called her out here was ominously silent.
She took one step back, but the huge animal was already advancing on her, its hands- paws, her mind corrected automatically- reaching for her, claws extended. Strangely she felt no fear, though the rational part of her mind recognized that she was trapped and about to be mauled- killed- and there was no way for her to escape. Instead she was actually calculating the advisability of screaming, trying to decide in the space of a split second whether it would serve to warn Chakotay of the danger so that he could prepare to protect himself, or whether it would only serve to draw him impulsively outside to a fate as undesirable as hers. As her mind raced, she could only stare, completely transfixed, as the animal descended on her, its huge form blocking out the bright glow of the aurora.
A whisper rent the silence, a whisper so loud it hurt her ears. The creature, its claws millimeters from ripping into her shoulders and throat, suddenly jumped back, howling loudly. It fell to its haunches, throwing its head back and forth in confusion, then turned and bounded off, in a strange loping stride somewhere between bipedal and on all fours, into the darkness.
Kathryn stared after it into the darkness, shaded and shadowed by the auroral display, too relieved and too stunned to move, until she heard a noise behind her. The whispering sound that had filled her head so loudly a few moments ago was back, but it had dropped to a soft, insistent murmur. She turned and looked toward the rocks, but saw nothing.
No. Something, someone, had to be there. She‘d heard it, felt it. She took several steps toward the rocks, her movements slowed by the cold that had begun to seep deeply under her skin. She listened once more and heard...nothing. She was shivering violently now as she stopped and hugged herself, her rationality resurfacing.
What the hell was she doing out here? What if the voice she was hearing was just the keening of the wind, if the presence she felt was simply her imagination, spinning completely out of control? She‘d wandered out here into subzero temperatures, barely escaped being torn apart by a wild animal, and was perilously close to freezing to death. Her teeth were chattering so hard she couldn‘t give into the urge to laugh out loud at the complete absurdity of her actions. If she wasn‘t already insane, she must be quickly getting there. She had to get back to the cave...
Kathryn‘s eyes widened as she turned away from the rocks and found herself face to face with the focus of her insane search. She stared at his narrow, fine boned face and gentle, penetrating brown eyes. He wasn‘t much taller than her, and he looked human, but she couldn‘t be sure because his features seemed blurred, softened, perhaps partly by age. He was wearing voluminous yellow robes, and Kathryn immediately thought of the indistinct apparition in her dream. But she couldn‘t tell if this was the same being, the dream had begun to fade already, and she couldn‘t remember the images clearly. She could barely think clearly...
"I have been waiting for you, Kathryn Janeway, for quite a long time."
Kathryn‘s eyes narrowed. He‘d spoken to her, she‘d heard the words, and yet his lips hadn‘t moved. Telepathic?
"In a sense," he replied, and Kathryn realized he had "heard" her thoughts, read her mind. "My mind is communicating with yours, independent of physical interaction."
"You‘ve been waiting..." Kathryn repeated, her mind full of questions, trying to order them in her jumbled mind. "Why are you here? How did you get out here?"
"I‘m here to see you, Kathryn. And I came in the usual way, usual for me anyway. I unfortunately overshot my goal, thus the wait. Temporal mechanics are not always reliable."
Temporal mechanics? "Who are you?"
"Ah, the usual first question. I am what you would refer to as a Traveler."
"A Traveler?" Here in the Delta quadrant? Kathryn had heard of them, or one of them. "You don‘t look like one." At least not like the holovid she‘d seen.
The Traveler smiled, or at least his lips quirked in some fluid motion. "Not the one you are thinking of. We do not all look the same, since we are not one race. We are rather a collection of beings, who started out in different places, and each discovered our latent abilities. We are bound simply by our common desire to explore and understand the fate of the Universe, and every event and every being that affects its course."
"And that brought you to Aurora?" Kathryn asked skeptically. How could anything here be worthy of a Traveler‘s notice, worth his time coming here from...wherever. And he still hadn‘t completely explained how he got here... "Where is your ship?"
The Traveler raised an eyebrow at her sudden eagerness, or at least Kathryn got that quick impression before his face returned to soft repose. "It is gone."
"Gone?" Kathryn had been seized with a sudden conviction that the Traveler had come to rescue them from Aurora. To perhaps even return them to the Alpha quadrant, where they belonged. But if his ship was gone, well, then maybe another Traveler was coming to get this one, to get them all off Aurora-
"No one is coming, Kathryn. Only me. And I‘m not here to rescue you, because you are already where you belong. This is my own final destination also."
Kathryn felt a surge of disappointment, then irritation at his vague replies. "Then why exactly have you come here, to see me, so you say? This is hardly the spot where you are going to find answers about the fate of the Universe."
"Perhaps not the Universe, that is a never-ending quest. Nor about the immediate fate of this galaxy, since that has already been decided. Partly by what happened here, and that began now, in your time. Your time is a source of endless fascination where I came from."
Kathryn couldn‘t keep up with all of his disjointed answers. She sighed. "Where what began? And just where did you come from?"
"In the beginning I came from the same place as you, Kathryn. But more recently- lastly- I came from the future."
"The future." The Traveler‘s face again took on a fleeting expression of amusement as he completed Kathryn‘s incredulous echo. "And I‘ve come to here to show you what will be, what you and your descendants will help set on course. The future, where I‘ve come from, over a thousand years from now."
A thousand years from now? Was he really implying that this tiny, isolated colony, forced into existence, with barely the means for its own long term survival, would somehow affect the future of the galaxy?
"Turn around, Kathryn," the Traveler said, and in one fluid movement his arm indicated the direction behind her, away from the mountain. She turned, and the brightness of the light hurt her eyes, enough so that she had to close them momentarily. She squinted against the heightened glow of the aurora...
Only it wasn‘t the aurora. It was the sun, shining on the scene before her, not the small snowy clearing dropping of the edge of the mountain side, but a large open plain. And spread out on that plain was a city, sprawling in an orderly fashion over several kilometers. It looked like many cities she‘d seen, on Earth, in the Federation, even on a few planets in the Delta quadrant. The city of a vibrant, prosperous society, and judging from the wide, open thoroughfares, the clean, pleasing lines of the soaring buildings, and the well tended squares of parkland, a society appreciative of art and beauty. Despite the sense of familiarity, it wasn‘t a city she remembered visiting. "Where are we?"
"Actually, "when are we" would be the better question. This is where I came from most recently. Kathryn, this is New Lourdes, the capital city of the New Galactic Federation, the first such planetary alliance to span the galaxy, on the founding planet Aurora, as it will exist 1054 years from your present time."
Kathryn stared, dumbfounded. She could hardly fathom what the Traveler was saying. Perhaps she was actually laying on the ground right now, her body freezing, being slowly buried by the falling snow, and all this was the final, dying ramblings of her mind, of her imagination, ever desperate to find some meaning, some reason for her existence.
But as she looked into his brown eyes, fathomless yet soft, she believed him, and she felt a sense of certainty that he really was here with her, in whatever form. That she was with him, as warm and safe as she felt. Maybe she was a little insane-
"You are not insane or imagining this, Kathryn. Though you do have quite an internalized flair for the dramatic, despite your relentlessly practical exterior. An interesting character trait. And what you see here is truly what will come to pass."
Kathryn followed his gaze toward the city again and uttered a small exclamation. They were no longer removed, looking from a distance at the city- New Lourdes- sprawled across the plain. They were on a wide boulevard within the city, paved with soft duracrete, dotted with trees and fountains, and fronted by tall, block long buildings on both sides. One building was fashioned from what appeared to be a nearly translucent bluish gray marble, and the sign imbedded high above its immense entrance read Galactic Federation Meeting Hall. Or that was her best guess, since the script was similar to Federation Standard, but with small differences. The building on the other side, equally imposing but more open, was fronted with pale blue glass, and the interior was plainly visible, a great hall of several stories with moving walkways and escalators filled with throngs of people. Carved in the soaring letters in the glass were the words "Voyager Historical Center" in the same slightly altered Federation Standard Script.
The buildings were fascinating, but it was the people, the mass of beings milling around her on the wide boulevard, walking past her, conversing animatedly, that caught her attention. They came from nearly every species she was familiar with, and many she‘d never encountered. Species who had apparently made their way from the other quadrants, like Cardassians, Ferengi, Trill, Andorians, Bolians, Romulans, a humanoid pair who had curiously unfinished faces with a look of damp wax that she took to be Changelings, along with plenty of Humans, Klingons, Vulcans, Bajorans, and several dozen other Alpha quadrant species. Then there were the species right here from the Delta quadrant, the Kazon, Trabe, Vidiians, Ocampa, and Talaxians among those she immediately recognized.
And dozens of others that she didn‘t know, among them a reptilian species, a group of imposing seven foot tall aliens, a pair of with boar-like faces and tusks-
She was amazed to see so many mutual enemies, many she would consider her own enemies, apparently coexisting peacefully in one place, but what she saw approaching now sent a still down her spine. The pair who walked toward her she could hardly countenance coexisting peacefully with anyone. Borg. Or at least, partially Borg. They had fewer implants than she‘d seen on the Borg, these two appeared to be mostly organic. But they were still Borg, the assimilators of everything...
"Nothing remains the same, especially not the Borg. And now Kathryn, let me give you a small lesson in the history of the future."
Kathryn merely nodded, still trying to absorb what she was seeing. New Lourdes, the struggling, fledgling colony base of a hundred and fifty people, had become this?
"Although you didn‘t know it, when your ship was destroyed, you were within a few months of crossing into Borg space, had you not ended up here. In your "now", while you are a year into building your small colony and just beginning to establish your permanent presence on Aurora, tucked here out of the way of the larger workings of the galaxy, the Borg are facing a crisis. A new species has entered the galaxy, a species unlike any other the Borg has ever encountered, a species that cannot be assimilated. The war for the galaxy has already begun, a war that will not only bring about the defeat of the Borg, but that will bring every race in the galaxy to its knees."
Kathryn shook her head disbelievingly. "That can‘t be possible-"
"It isn‘t a question of possibilities, Kathryn, it is simply fact. The new species, which the Borg designated Species 8472, a name which other races adopted when they weren‘t using their own names meaning evil and terror, came to this galaxy with one objective. To eradicate all life here. Happily, they fell short of that goal. But not very short. In due time they will overrun the Borg forces and destroy the great Collective. Only a handful of survivors will be lucky enough to escape and hide in isolated groups from the relentless advance of Species 8472. That advance will continue across the Delta quadrant, and spread through the Beta and Gamma quadrants, finally engulfing the Alpha quadrant. It will take them less than a century to lay waste to the galaxy, leaving millions of burned out planets in their wake, those they don‘t choose to simply blow completely out of existence."
Kathryn shook her head, still unable to accept that this could happen. Was already beginning. That one species could virtually wipe out the entire galaxy- the Borg, the Federation, the Klingon and Romulan Empires, and every great civilization in-between . It couldn‘t be...
"Something will stop them. The future can change-"
The Traveler shook his head. "The future already is, just as the past already is. You only perceive it differently because you view time linearly. And something did stop Species 8472, eventually. The invasion itself might have been averted in the beginning, when they first entered the galaxy and their forces were relatively small and contained. But the Borg were no match; for all their might they are not creative thinkers. And there was no one else there to stop Species 8472 before their numbers became uncontrollable, and they spread throughout the galaxy. Word spread also, and the Federation, the Dominion, all the great empires of the other three quadrants knew Species 8472 was coming. They tried to prepare; the Federation and its allies even discovered a weapon, an insidious way to infiltrate and destroy the Species. The Federation fed it to them when they approached the Alpha quadrant, and they fell to it, but as fast as they fell more kept coming and their numbers were nearly insurmountable. Nearly. It took many years for Species 8472 to suffer enough losses to finally give up and flee. But by that time they had left a swath of nearly complete destruction across the galaxy. Only pockets of life were left, where the refugees of thousands of races could hide, that Species 8472 neglected to sweep out earlier, and lost their chance at later. Mere remnants of once great civilizations."
"Yes, amazingly very few races were completely wiped out, most managed to hide a few citizens in remote spots, or send away cloaked refugee ships. Some races, especially in the Alpha quadrant, survived in the many thousands, occasionally even millions."
Kathryn was appalled by what the Traveler was saying, yet she clung to that fact- that some survived- would survive. The people anyway. Their homes... she didn‘t have the nerve to ask about Earth. Or Vulcan. Or Qo‘noS. Or any of the thousands- millions- of home planets of the galaxy, that had evolved over billions of years to cradle the billions of lives that had called them home.
"By the time of this city," the Traveler indicated their surroundings, which Kathryn had almost ceased to notice, "many of the planets you think of have begun to rebuild, which in most cases means completely terraforming dead landscapes. Those that still had planets, and were able to acquire the necessary resources and population."
The Traveler didn‘t elaborate with further specifics, and Kathryn didn‘t have the heart to press the issue. She didn‘t want to know, didn‘t want to accept this future- It shouldn‘t be. Something, someone could have stopped this- could still stop it. "Where were you? Why didn‘t- don‘t- you help? Or others, like the Q..."
The Traveler didn‘t appear to take offense at Kathryn‘s accusatory tone. "The Q Continuum, and the other advanced and non-corporeal races in the galaxy, who exist in a reality in most ways separate from the galaxy itself, were as always bound by their own rules of non-interference, and by other limitations imposed by the Universe itself. As Travelers, we had more freedom to interact, yet we are not a fighting force. Our greatest abilities lie in the mental and temporal realm, not in affecting physical altercations. We assisted where we could, in small ways, to help some escape, and to hide. We could only guide, and where possible give a small push in the right direction. Sometimes that direction was toward Aurora."
Silence reigned between them for several moments, then Kathryn asked quietly, "How exactly does Aurora fit into all this?"
"Aurora was, or will be, the first great refuge, some even called it Sanctuary. You have to realize the magnitude of the destruction wrought by Species 8472. Hardly a livable planetary system was left untouched. Most of what was left behind after they departed barely supported the most marginal of existence. But Aurora was one of the few planets that survived unscathed, a lush planet capable of fully supporting many billions of lives comfortably. A planet with a fledgling society already in progress. A society that was eager to grow and prosper, and openly welcoming of new arrivals."
"Out of the entire galaxy only Aurora was- will be- left to do this?"
"Aurora was best positioned, by its location and quite honestly, by its people. You and your fellow colonists. And all your many descendants, of course. You may feel alone now, Kathryn, but you will not be for long. Your own children, their children, and eventually the first wave of refugees, those of the Delta quadrant, will arrive and begin to spread across Aurora. Later, more refugees will come, from the Alpha quadrant, then in a slow, steady stream from all over the galaxy. Most on small ships, escapees from their war torn homes, sent away by the many who stayed behind and sacrificed their lives to ensure the survival of a few. They will hear of Aurora, through secured channels, through gossip, through secret communiqués, through rumor, and they will come. Some eventually will bring news of the disappearance of Species 8472, and some will return to their old homes to reclaim and rebuild. But most who come here, welcomed by you and later your descendants, and by all the former refugees who have made a home on Aurora, will stay. Stay together, former allies and enemies, and work to shape this planet into a paradise in a devastated galaxy, a home for nearly 10 billion beings from thousands of different species. And their cooperation here, the shared scientific and cultural knowledge of so many disparate beings, will be disseminated throughout the quadrants and lead the effort to restore the galaxy. Not to its former glory, even in the time of this great city that hasn‘t come to pass, but to a sense of comfort and stability unknown for hundreds of years after the destruction wrought by Species 8472. So it is hardly any wonder that I recently, in this city of the distant future, watched the charter of the New Galactic Federation ratified, and saw Aurora, already the heart of the galactic rebirth, and the home of the first truly galactic society, become the official headquarters for the galaxy also."
"And you came here to tell me this?" Kathryn asked softly. "That I- that we- have some sort of destiny to save the galaxy?"
"Destiny is a human concept. Nothing must happen, this is simply what will happen. Every being acts in accordance with its nature, dependent on circumstances. Had one moment of circumstance been different, for instance had your ship not been destroyed, then everything else would have been different in some way also. But that is the unknown, the realm of alternate realities if you will. The future here is set, much as the past is set. I realize this is a confusing concept-"
"I should have a headache about now," Kathryn said wryly, wondering that she didn‘t. She sighed. "What about your presence here? Aren‘t you changing the circumstances?"
"No. I am here now because when I will be on Aurora in the future I will find out that I was already here in the past so I will come back-"
"Stop." Kathryn shook her head. "Don‘t say any more."
The Traveler smiled. "To put it more simply, you brought me here, Kathryn. Your journals told me that I was here."
"Your journals. The originals are still housed in a protected case in that building," the Traveler nodded toward the soaring blue glass of the Voyager Historical Center. "They are not quite as steamy as the Paris journals, or as amusing as the Neelix journals, but they are still perennial bestsellers, as are all the founding journals, one hundred thirty five in all I believe."
Kathryn shook her head. Personal logs became such a habit for those in Starfleet, for some simply a way to recount events, for others a substitute counselor offering a way to explore their thoughts and feelings in a private forum. Arriving on Aurora hadn‘t broken that habit for most, though she had never dreamed of others reading them a thousand years from now. "My journals..."
"Yes. The entry called that called me here, if not in exact words, was clear enough."
Kathryn pondered that for a moment. "Then I will remember this...experience with you? Even though you say you‘re not here to influence me, or change the future?"
"You will remember what is important. And whatever influence I have on you now is simply part of what already is, what started here. It does not change the future, it simply feeds into the future that already exists."
Kathryn shook her head, feeling disoriented by his circular reasoning, and then by the realization that their surroundings had abruptly changed again. The buildings, the people, were gone. They were back among the rocks, standing in the windblown snow with the mountainside rising behind them, and the darkness in front of them broken by the bright auroral display.
"It is time for me to leave, Kathryn. And time for you to resume your life. All of it. Even the smallest of actions, the most humble of existences, have repercussions on the Universe, sometimes disproportionately so."
"Where will you go?" Kathryn asked softly, even though she thought she knew the answer. If this was his final destination...
"I‘m already gone, in every sense but one. Only this part of me remained to wait for you. I‘ve returned where I came from- truly and originally- as we all eventually do. "
She sensed he was already fading, becoming truly...gone. "You never told me if you have a name."
"I had a name once, when I was like you. Not long before your time, but very long ago from my time. You might even recognize it." A fleeting, wistful smile crossed his now ghostly features. "It ceased to matter when I became a Traveler. A name was no longer necessary, my essence alone delineated me, for as long as I chose to exist in part separate from the Universe. Now that is no matter either." His form was barely visible now. "Goodbye, Kathryn. Live your life, but for now, not for the future. That will take care of itself."
Where he had been, there were now only sharp edges of rocks, and flurries of snow passing across her vision. Kathryn instinctively reached out a hand, and touched only snowflakes. She watched the snow melt on her hand, and she felt a sense of lassitude creep over her, a deep warmth that spread quickly through her limbs. Her mind seemed to retreat, and from a distance she felt herself curl up, warm and secure, and her thoughts began to drift. To her life, what it would be...to her children...
Chakotay woke with a start. He‘d been dreaming. He‘d been home with Kathryn, at her home in New Lourdes, filled with her things, but filled with his, too. Their home. He‘d been holding her, cuddling her, smiling, and laughing. Talking about the future, about the baby that was coming. Their baby. Then in the next moment she‘d been gone. Somehow, while he hadn‘t noticed, she‘d disappeared. She‘d left the safety of his arms, of their arms around each other. Now she was outside somewhere. It was imperative that he find her, bring her back. He needed her, and she needed him. They had a life to live, together. Find her, a voice was repeating insistently, echoing around him. Find her. NOW.
Chakotay shook away the vestiges of the dream, the threads of images that had crawled through his mind in the space of a second. And even as he reached for her, he knew they weren‘t together, that she wasn‘t here, that it was just a dream...
Chakotay stood up in one swift movement, dislodging the blankets that had been covering him. Complete lucidity returned with a resounding slap. He stared down at the sleeping pad, at the rumpled blankets, at the emptiness.
She wasn‘t here.
His eyes scanned the cave in one quick movement. The small fire burned steadily, throwing shadows across the ceiling and into the crevices. He picked up the lantern and switched it on, just to be sure. She wasn‘t in the cave. But her thermal jacket and gloves were lying untouched next to his.
Chakotay strode toward the entrance of the cave, pausing just long enough in mid stride to grab her jacket and his. He shucked his on quickly, dropped hers in the process, then retrieved it again. He nearly banged his head against rock as he ducked his large frame through the small entrance. And again when a gust of icy wind took him by surprise and nearly knocked him back against the rocky ledge behind him. He registered the radiant presence of the aurora filling the sky just enough to be grateful that it was shedding even dim light on the snowy ground. He swung the lamp to further illuminate his immediate surroundings.
Gods, where had she gone, and why? Chakotay peered through the falling snow, light but stinging from the strong wind, and pushed against that wind toward the outcropping of rocks along the mountainside. He couldn‘t say why he chose that direction, only that something pressed him to do so, and he‘d never questioned an unknown voice in his head guiding him, spirit or otherwise. He looked frantically for any clue, and had only gone several meters when he stopped in midstride.
There were prints on the snowy ground, surely only
minutes old, since they hadn‘t been obliterated
yet by the falling snow. Huge prints, those of a
large, heavy animal, narrow at the heel and wider
at the front where they ended in claws. Chakotay
stared at the deep punctures made by the points of
those claws, remembering a survey report from
several months ago mentioning a huge bear-like
animal in these mountains, though the gathered
evidence had been sketchy, perhaps even invalid-
Chakotay followed the prints quickly, all too aware of how valid that report was now, and what it might mean. He‘d gone only a few dozen steps when he came upon her, curled up on the ground in the path of those prints. He dropped to his knees, his heart pounding into his throat, as unaware of the cold now as she was. Her thick jumpsuit was not damaged, and he saw no evidence of a mauling, no sign of blood. He pressed his fingers against her throat just below her jawline and after an endless moment was rewarded by the feel of her pulse. It was faint, so very faint against the icy dampness of her skin.
Chakotay gathered her quickly into his arms, alarmed by the whiteness of her face, so pale it was almost translucent. An icy thin layer of snow already clung to her clothing, and he quickly draped her jacket over her face and arms to protect her from any more exposure. He pressed her tightly against him as he stumbled toward the cave, unencumbered by her slight weight, especially with the adrenaline coursing through his veins almost to the point of pain, but almost unbalanced by the pressing wind. He squeezed through the cave entrance with her still in his arms, this time scraping his head against the rock but barely noticing, and lowered her to the ground next to the fire, praying that it wasn‘t too late.
He had her clothes off in less than a minute. The jumpsuit was wet on the outside and icy cold through all three layers, its insulation taxed by the extreme conditions. He left the clothing discarded next to the fire, and reached into the medikit for the hypo. It took him several seconds to find the right vials, then he quickly loaded the hypo and pressed it against the skin at the base of her throat- twice- first with a combination triox and cardiovascular stimulant to fight hypothermia by getting oxygen into her system and increasing her blood flow, then with a dermal vascular analeptic to reverse the potential advance of frostbite. He was pretty sure she couldn‘t have been outside for more than a few minutes, or nothing he could have done would have helped her.
Chakotay tossed the hypo back into the medikit and stripped down to his briefs. The cold hadn‘t reached him through his clothing, but now the chill in the cave that the small fire couldn‘t quite conquer hit him. He lifted Kathryn and gently laid her on the sleeping pad on the other side of the fire. Then he folded himself down next to her and gathered her into his arms, pulling the blankets up over both of them. Her skin was still icy, but within moments she began to shiver, first intermittently, then violently. He pulled her tighter against him and held her for several minutes while she shook, her skin flush against his, her face buried against his chest, his legs wound tightly around hers so he could pass as much of his body heat to her as possible. Finally her shivering began to subside some and she moaned incoherently.
"Kathryn," Chakotay prodded gently, hoping she was regaining consciousness. The only response for another minute of two were several small moans. He knew it hurt to the bones for her body to warm from hypothermia so quickly, but he hadn‘t had much choice. She‘d been half dead already. "Kathyrn?"
"Chakotay?" His name came hoarsely from her bluish lips as she dropped her head back slightly. He knew she was still semi-conscious and not completely coherent, but he couldn‘t help himself. He kissed her, moving his lips gently along her parted ones, slowly taking the chill from them. Another soft moan issued from her throat, and though Chakotay didn‘t think it was a protest, he pulled back. Her eyes opened and her eyes were unfocused as she looked at him.
"Kathryn, do you know where you are?" he asked softly, pushing her hair back off her face and glad to see that her skin, though still cool to the touch, had begun to regain some color.
"Hmmm..." Kathryn‘s eyes slowly became more aware. "Aurora..." she murmured.
"Yes. We‘re in a cave in the Panarctic Mountains. We got stranded when a magnetic surge knocked the Aerowing‘s instruments off-line."
Kathryn nodded slowly, her brow creased as if she was trying to remember. "Yes..."
"Kathryn, I woke up and you were gone. You went
outside, without your jacket or gloves. I found
you out there, half frozen-"
She was looking at him in confusion, then her face suddenly cleared, and she wasn‘t looking at him at all. She was somewhere else. "I went outside. I remember. I had to go..."
"Kathryn, what the hell were you thinking?!" Chakotay hadn‘t meant to almost shout right in her face, or grip her shoulders and practically shake her. But the stress of the last few minutes, the shock when he‘d found her gone, and the fear that he‘d lost her, all hit him at once and erupted into a burst of anger.
Kathryn looked at him, surprise on her face, and he felt her tense slightly. He knew that she‘d finally become completely aware of exactly where she was. Not just on Aurora, in the cave, but pressed closely against him, completely naked. But she didn‘t pull back. Instead her expression softened, then she pressed her hand lightly against his chest and her fingers slid along his collarbone in a soothing, caressing motion as if she was trying to comfort him. Then her eyes took on a faraway look again. He suspected she was barely aware of what she was doing, but that didn‘t keep him from feeling a definite reaction to her hand stroking his skin. She was driving him nuts, intentionally or not. "Kathryn..."
Kathryn was completely aware of her position, in Chakotay‘s arms, still shivering and chilled, but slowly warming from the heat of his skin pressing against hers, his leg crooked around hers, holding her close against him, his body surrounding her. She didn‘t mind it at all. She‘d recognized the anger in his voice, the frustration, and knew it was out of fear for her. Love for her. So she stroked his chest lightly, soothingly, and felt the grip on her shoulders loosen, felt the anger slowly recede from him. She hadn‘t meant to scare him, but he didn‘t know what she had experienced, what she had seen....
"Chakotay." She whispered his name, her eyes
burning into his with fevered intensity, her face
animated. "Someone else is here. Was here. A
Traveler. He‘s been waiting here, for me. He
told me..." she shook her head, trying to order
her thoughts, remember it all. "He showed me what
will happen, why we‘re here. Well, not why we‘re
here, as in destiny. But what will happen because
we ended up here-"
"Kathyrn, stop." Chakotay‘s pressed a hand against her cheek, and his thumb touched her lips, stopping her in mid sentence. "Take it slower, okay?" She nodded. "You went outside to meet a...Traveler?"
"Yes, I woke up and he was calling me. Not my
name, not in words exactly. He was just...in my
mind. He wanted me to come outside-"
"You had a vision," Chakotay stated, his voice reflecting his surprise. Kathryn wasn‘t deeply receptive to the idea of visions, and this one had almost killed her, but what else could it be?
Kathryn shook her head vehemently against his hand, which was stroking her face now, soothingly. "No. It wasn‘t a vision, Chakotay. It was real. He was really here. He spoke to me, telepathically, I guess. Through his mind. He showed me...the future."
"The future?" Chakotay tried to keep any disbelief out of his voice, though he wasn‘t sure what to think right now. He pulled her tighter against him as she shivered again. "Couldn‘t he have come inside the cave to...talk to you, instead of dragging you outside to nearly freeze to death?"
"I don‘t know." Kathryn frowned again. "He was waiting for me by the rocks, where his ship landed, I think. But the ship‘s gone now. And he needed me to come to him for some reason." She shook her head. "Chakotay, it really doesn‘t matter."
He begged to differ, but he didn‘t say so, didn‘t have a chance before she continued. "He showed me New Lourdes. Not now, not our small village. But New Lourdes the city, as it will be. It was immense. And there were so many people, so many races, I can‘t remember them all."
Kathryn stopped abruptly and her brow furrowed, and Chakotay could tell she was having difficulty recalling the specifics of what she‘d seen. Visions were sometimes like that, assuming that‘s what this was, and Kathryn wasn‘t given to hallucinations. "The Borg..."
Chakotay‘s brow rose at that murmured name, and he
misunderstood the reference. "Kathryn, I don‘t
think we have to be afraid of the Borg. I‘m sure
they passed by this area some time ago, and given
our technological level right now I doubt they‘d
"No, Chakotay, we don‘t have to be afraid of the Borg," Kathryn said with complete assurance. "I think they will be our allies in the future. Allies against something much worse..."
"Worse than the Borg?" Chakotay asked incredulously.
"Yes." Kathryn was silent for a moment, and her face, previously so animated, took on a look of sorrow.
"Kathryn..." Chakotay saw the haunted look in her eyes, and his hand stroked her jawline, wanting to comfort her. He resisted the urge to kiss her, to chase away whatever had disturbed her so.
Kathryn reached up and rested her hand over his.
"It will be bad, Chakotay, very bad, I think." She turned her face and kissed his palm, trying to comfort him again and sending another shiver of sensation through Chakotay‘s body. Then she smiled gently. "But in the end we will still be here, Aurora will still be here. And what we build here, it will help save the galaxy."
Chakotay stared at her, silenced by her words.
Save the galaxy?
"I know it seems unbelievable, Chakotay," Kathryn continued. She shifted suddenly toward her stomach, and looked down at him intently, raptly. "But Aurora is going to become home for a lot of people some day. Billions. What we build here will mean something. A home for us, and for our children, of course. But later, for many, many others from throughout the galaxy."
Chakotay placed a hand on her shoulder, and resisted dropping it further. Her skin had a soft glow to it now, she was definitely warming up. And so was he. She had shifted until she was all but laying on top of him, one arm resting on his chest as she smiled down at him, her hair spilling softly around her face, and her breasts pressed against him. And she was still so caught up in what she was saying, he didn‘t think she had any idea what she was doing to him. He wanted to say something, but he was afraid it would simply come out as a strangled groan.
"I‘m not sure you entirely believe me, Chakotay," Kathryn said softly.
"It‘s a little hard for me to think-"
She pressed a finger to his lips, silencing him. "I know I‘m being vague, and I can‘t remember the specifics completely. But I know it was real, will be real. And I know we have a lot of work to do here, a new home to build, new lives to build, and we‘ve barely started." She shifted again, and her leg slid between his.
"Kathryn!" Chakotay‘s voice came out as a croak. It was definitely time to make it clear what she was doing to him. But he didn‘t get the chance, because she shifted again, this time sliding up against him until her face was directly over his and her body was entirely on top of his, straddling his. He only had a second to wonder what the hell she was doing, to realize that she knew exactly what she was doing, before she placed her hands on either side of his face and brought her mouth down on his. And in another second his arms wrapped tightly around her, crushing her against him, and their mouths plundered each other‘s, as if they had waited forever for this moment. And he knew he had.
It was several minutes before either of them had the inclination to pull their lips away from each other, and then only because they were desperately out of air. Kathryn‘s head dropped to Chakotay‘s shoulder and silky strands of her hair fluttered across his face, tickling him. He felt her take several deep, shuddering breaths, and his own chest was rising and falling rapidly. His body was protesting now, not from the feel of her small weight on him- that he savored. But the need for her building in him was almost painful now, and he knew she could certainly feel it. It was all he could do not to simply take her.
Kathryn raised her head and smiled tremulously at him. "Chakotay, I‘m sorry."
"No," She pressed her hand to his lips, as softly
swollen as hers. "Let me finish. I am sorry,
sorry that it took so long for me to come to terms
with all of this. With Aurora, and with us. I
know how incredibly stubborn I‘ve been-"
"Kathryn, stubborn is your middle name." He smiled as he said it and raised a hand to push her hair still trailing across his face behind her ear. "I happen to like that about you." He shifted slightly under her and groaned softly. "Sometimes."
A fleeting smile crossed Kathryn‘s face, then her expression changed as she stared down at him. "Chakotay, I love you."
Her breath rifled softly across his mouth as she spoke in a soft, tremulous whisper. He heard the words, he reveled in the words, but mostly he was enraptured by the look on her face. It was the look he‘d never seen before, but knew so well, and had waited for so long- this rich, full, joyous look shining in her eyes. He‘d caught the glimpses of tenderness, sometimes even longing, always quickly shuttered, but enough for him to keep hoping, keep believing that he would one day see more. To encourage him to be patient, waiting for her to accept it, and to believe, too. Now the look seared him, burning deeply into his soul.
The look was pure, unadulterated, uncensored love.
He shuddered slightly as his hands tangled in her hair and his lips touched hers softly. "God, Kathryn, I love you," he whispered. "So much." His lips trailed soft kisses across her face. "Completely." His hands slid down the soft curves of her body and cupped her derriere. "Desperately."
Kathryn laughed softly against his mouth. "I know." Her own hand slid down the flat plane of his stomach and across the rise of his hip, until her fingers touched his briefs and slipped beneath the edge of the waistband. "I know."
Her soft, husky voice resonated in his soul, and everywhere their hands, their mouths and their bodies began to urgently, reverently, explore each other. They moved together, no longer aware of the cold outside the blankets that covered them, or past the heat generated by their bodies. And for several hours nothing in the Universe, past or present or future, existed outside the warmth of their finally acknowledged love.
The early morning sun illuminated New Lourdes, the small village of the fledgling colony of Aurora. The clouds of the previous day were gone, but the air remained chilly and the rays of the barely risen sun were little match for the icy sheen of frost that covered the buildings and walkways in a fine film, and glittered off the green grass and trees like millions of miniature diamonds. Little of the regular daily activity had yet begun, but there was no one who wasn‘t awake and aware of Tuvok awaiting word from Kathryn and Chakotay in the Meeting hall, or that right now in the Sickbay the birth of the first true child of Aurora was about to take place.
In the Sickbay, B‘Elanna sat on one of the diagnostic beds resting against the barely functional pillow, arms crossed, and looking frustrated. The doctor stood nearby, checking the monitors. Kes sat on a chair next to the bed, serene and composed as usual, though she‘d stayed up all night with B‘Elanna and the doctor. B‘Elanna appreciated the gesture from Kes, though she felt guilty that it had been for nothing so far. Klingon women generally had swift, uncomplicated labors, but it seemed the doctor was right. She was following a more human pattern, which probably stood to reason, since her reproductive system was one of the few in her body that was more genetically human than Klingon. She‘d found that out from the ease of the conception itself. Still, why was it taking this long?
"Everything looks relatively normal," the doctor said, turning back to B‘Elanna. "Your contractions are still nearly ten minutes apart, and your dilation is holding at two centimeters.
Something brought your labor on before your baby
was completely in position. The cause may very
well have been the fall you took, which you saw no
need to inform me of-"
"Doctor!" B‘Elanna groaned. This was about the
tenth time the doctor had brought that up since
Harry had mentioned it shortly after they‘d
arrived in the Sickbay. Harry had left shortly
thereafter on the pretext of keeping Tuvok
company, but B‘Elanna was sure he just wanted to
avoid the pyrotechnics that had ensued between her
and the doctor. And that weren‘t over yet. "I
wasn‘t hurt! The baby wasn‘t hurt! And the
"Yes, yes, it didn‘t activate," the doctor said dismissively. Then he glared at B‘Elanna. "And you know full well you should have told me anyway."
"Fine!" B‘Elanna snapped. "Fine. How many times do I have to say I should have told you-" She paused and winced as another contraction hit her. They weren‘t particularly painful, but they did divert her attention for a moment. Kes rested a light hand on her shoulder in support, and though B‘Elanna had told her it wasn‘t necessary, she didn‘t protest.
"Yes, you should have," the doctor agreed smugly. "The baby wasn‘t quite ready to be born yet, and you‘re lucky I was able to move the baby into the correct position, despite the lack of amenities I was used to on Voyager. A transverse position would have meant a Cesarean section. It still may be advisable to induce you into active labor if you don‘t progress soon. That does have the undesirable side effect of making the labor harder for the mother, but I can certainly ease the discomfort."
"That‘s not necessary, Doctor," B‘Elanna said curtly. The contraction had passed. "I don‘t need any special treatment."
The doctor rolled his eyes. "Right, you‘re half Klingon." He turned to check the monitor again. "A race of masochists," he muttered under his breath, but loud enough that both Kes and B‘Elanna heard him.
"Doctor..." Kes said reprovingly.
The doctor adjusted one of the indicators on the
monitor, still muttering to himself. "The baby
could be in distress, and she‘d still fight
everything I tried to do-"
B‘Elanna only caught a couple of the words the doctor uttered, but they were enough for her to sit up abruptly.
"B‘Elanna?" Kes dropped a hand on B‘Elanna‘s arm, alarmed.
The doctor turned around. "What do you think you are doing?" he asked as B‘Elanna shook off Kes‘s hand. "I don‘t want you out of that bed right now. You‘ve already paced my Sickbay for the better part of the past eight hours, and now I want you to rest!"
The doctor stared at B‘Elanna, realizing belatedly that she didn‘t look mutinous or stubborn, but dismayed. "What‘s wrong?" he asked quickly, moving to her side and automatically falling on the age old method of pressing his hand against her womb, as if he might feel something out of the ordinary. He glanced at the monitors at the same time. "Everything should be normal..."
"The baby‘s not in distress?" B‘Elanna asked anxiously.
The doctor looked at her, his brow wrinkled in perplexity. "Why would the baby- oh." He finally realized what she was getting at, and felt Kes looking at him reprovingly at the same time. His voice softened. "No, B‘Elanna, the baby is fine. I was speaking hypothet- Never mind. The baby is perfectly healthy and will stay that way. If there is any indication of distress whatsoever, I will inform you immediately, and loudly. I think you know that."
The doctor raised an eyebrow meaningfully, and
B‘Elanna almost cracked a smile. Then she sighed
and her expression become somber. "Doctor, I know
I make a very annoying patient-"
"Not as annoying as your husband, but, yes."
"And your bedside manner isn‘t all it could be..."
The doctor managed to look highly affronted and uttered a small "hmmph" of protest. Kes hid a small smile.
"But I want to be clear. No matter what, the baby comes first. I trust you to do what‘s best for the baby, even if you have to hit me over the head to get through to me."
The doctor looked at B‘Elanna‘s grave expression for a long moment, then closed his hand over hers. "And I trust you know that I won‘t let anything happen to your baby. Or to you." He met her gaze for a moment, then cleared his throat gruffly. "Why don‘t we make a pact. You can have this baby how you want, completely naturally if that is your choice. The baby certainly won‘t protest. And I will only offer advice if it is in the best interest of the baby, and if it also happens to be beneficial to you, then I expect you to do what I suggest anyway. Agreed?"
B‘Elanna nodded. "Agreed."
"Good. My first piece of advice is for you to
stay in this bed right now and rest. And if your
labor does not begin progressing soon I may start
a mild induction process, but we can worry about
that in a little while-"
The intercom beeped before the doctor could finish. "Yes?"
"Good morning, Doctor," Tuvok‘s voice came over the intercom. "I am expecting Tom and Joe to contact me shortly, and I wished to know what to report regarding the impending birth."
The doctor looked at B‘Elanna, who frowned back at him. "I suppose you don‘t want Tom to know what‘s going on right now?"
"No. Tuvok, please don‘t say anything about this to Tom right now. It‘s more important that he find Kathryn and Chakotay, and there‘s no reason to distract him when there‘s nothing he can do about it."
"I can...neglect to mention it." Tuvok sounded mildly disapproving.
"I don‘t want him to worry about me, and he would. It‘s not like I‘m sick or something. I‘m just having a baby."
"Indeed. It is a simple biological process, yet humans often endow it with great drama and excess emotion. I applaud your dispassionate approach."
B‘Elanna thought for a moment that he was being sarcastic, but this was Tuvok, who always said what he meant. She wasn‘t sure which annoyed her more. "I can handle this."
"I meant to imply nothing different."
B‘Elanna sighed. "Fine." She hesitated for a moment and raised a hand as the doctor started to speak. "Tuvok....once they find Kathryn and Chakotay, and they‘re safely on their way back, then can you tell Tom what‘s going on? I mean, just tell him the baby‘s coming, and that everything‘s fine. That we‘re both fine. And that he‘s going to be a father."
"Very well. I expect Tom will be most gratified to hear the news," Tuvok said.
"Thank you, Tuvok," B‘Elanna said softly.
There was a mere moment‘s hesitation. "You are welcome, B‘Elanna."
Kes looked at B‘Elanna as Tuvok signed off and smiled. "Did you know that upon the birth of a child Vulcan families gather together, all those near enough to come- grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins- and they initiate a mind meld as the birth is happening, to welcome the child into their world?"
The doctor snorted. "That is rather a lot of trouble to go to over a simple biological process. Makes you wonder what they do when they all get together for dinner."
Kes laughed softly.
"How did you find out about that?" B‘Elanna asked, unable to keep a smile off her face either.
"It‘s in the database," Kes said simply. She pressed a hand again to B‘Elanna‘s shoulder and B‘Elanna flinched slightly.
The doctor watched Kes rub B‘Elanna‘s shoulder as another contraction occurred. She‘d seemed to know it was coming before B‘Elanna did, but that didn‘t really surprise him. And B‘Elanna accepted Kes‘s ministrations easily. But Kes was endowed with endless patience and even B‘Elanna found it hard to refuse her. And perhaps she felt closer to Kes because of the Ocampan‘s own advancing pregnancy.
The doctor glanced at the monitor as B‘Elanna visibly relaxed. "Ah, good," he said after a moment‘s study. "Nine minutes, twelve seconds. And you have dilated an additional quarter of a centimeter. I believe we are actually making progress after all."
B‘Elanna gave him a relieved nod, indicating that she was more than ready. She looked alert and prepared, despite the fact that she‘d had virtually no sleep. But the doctor knew that the next several hours would be an exhaustive process for B‘Elanna, despite the strength endowed by her Klingon heritage. He‘d put out the word early on that he didn‘t want his Sickbay cluttered with a bunch of nosy well wishers, who would be underfoot and irritating to his routine, not to mention probably abrasive to B‘Elanna‘s unpredictable temper. But he would have gladly put up with the presence of Tom Paris right now, underfoot or not. If Tom didn‘t make it back in time, then the doctor would just hold B‘Elanna‘s hand himself if she needed it. After all, he was a hologram, so no amount of effort on her part was going to break his bones.
"I think we‘ve got everything. Let‘s go."
Kathryn and Chakotay stepped outside the cold comfort of the cave and into the freezing discomfort of the weather outside. There were immediately a few positives to note. The snowfall had ended, and the sky was mostly clear. Best of all the wind had died down to near stillness. But it was still easily -20 C, and the cold assaulted them. The sun had barely risen, a good three hours later than in New Lourdes at this higher latitude, and it shed no warmth at all.
Chakotay wrapped an arm around Kathryn, and felt her arm slide around his waist. The Aerowing was a five minute walk, hardly arduous, but he knew it would be no warmer inside than it was out here. Luckily Kathryn‘s clothes had dried, since he‘d left them near enough to the fire to burn if they hadn‘t been chemically flame retardant. They‘d be cold until they could get the environmental control back on-line, but they‘d survive. He started toward the shuttle landing site and felt Kathryn pull away from him. "Kathryn?"
She was looking toward the rocks several dozen meters away, the rocks where she‘d wandered to last night, where he‘d found her unconscious. "Chakotay..."
Chakotay knew what she was thinking. She wanted to look for some evidence, to see a physical sign that he‘d really been there. They‘d discussed her experience only briefly this morning while they‘d still been huddled under the blankets, waiting for the late dawn to break. She‘d seemed reticent to voice her experience again, as if talking about it in the light of day made it less real. He‘d told her that he didn‘t doubt what she‘d seen. They‘d seen far stranger things than a Traveler from the future showing up on an isolated world for a quick chat. But as easy as he found it to take such things on faith, Kathryn was a scientist by nature. He couldn‘t change her, and he didn‘t want to.
He let Kathryn take his hand and lead him toward the rocks. The snow was thicker on the ground than it had been yesterday, but it was packed and relatively easy to walk on. And there were no sign of the animal tracks he had followed last night, though he kept a hand near the phaser strapped to his belt, just in case. The animal Kathryn had described sounded remarkably similar to Tom‘s description of "the Abominable Snowman", and he didn‘t relish running across one again.
Kathryn dropped Chakotay‘s hand as she scrambled around several large rocks, scanning the ground. Chakotay found his own gaze locked on the smooth snow where they had just left their prints. The very spot where he‘d found Kathryn last night. He moved quickly to catch up with her. "Find something?"
She shook her head. "Nothing."
"These rocks cover dozens of meters, Kathryn. With the snow cover it would be difficult to spot anything if it were here." He followed her as she wandered past several more rocks. "And if the Traveler was waiting here for several months, or years, as he intimated...if his body‘s been here that long..." He hadn‘t been quite clear on that part when Kathryn had tried to explain it this morning, and he didn‘t think she was completely clear on it either.
"I know this is silly, Chakotay," Kathryn said, stopping abruptly and turning to look at him.
"It‘s not silly," he said, taking her hand and holding it between his. "But you don‘t have to have something tangible to prove what you experienced, or to make it real, to me or to yourself."
"I know." She smiled ruefully, then shivered. Chakotay slipped an arm around her and she hugged him. "Let‘s get back to the Aerowing."
They‘d only taken a few steps when Chakotay‘s eye caught something glittering at the base of a rock a meter away. He stopped and took a step closer, pulling Kathryn with him. The sun‘s weak rays were bouncing off something shiny, something half buried under the rock where the snow hadn‘t quite reached, or had been blown away by the wind. Chakotay knelt down and pushed the dirt away with his gloved hand. He picked up the object, and saw that it was a pendant of some sort.
Kathryn knelt down next to Chakotay and watched as he turned it over in his hand. It was familiar... "Chakotay, I‘ve seen that! The Traveler, I think he was wearing it." Odd that she hadn‘t remembered it until she saw it glittering in Chakotay‘s hand.
Chakotay placed it in her hand, and Kathryn stared at it. The metal was simple gold, abundant in the galaxy, and on Aurora, but beautiful nonetheless. The small stones were a deep blue, in a diamond shape, and joined by a carved filigree design. It looked like a symbol for unity, whether of the galaxy, or the Travelers, she didn‘t know.
"Look, Kathryn." Chakotay had swept back more of the dirt and snow, and found a shred of cloth, streaked with dirt and faded, but unmistakably yellow. He looked at Kathryn, who was staring raptly at the cloth. "His?"
Chakotay pressed his fingers into the dirt again next to the cloth, and after a few moments found what he was looking for. He carefully brushed away the dirt to reveal the small, ivory bones of a hand, and from the looks of it a human hand. Kathryn had mentioned that also, that she thought the Traveler had been human at one time, before he became more. "He‘s been here for years, perhaps even decades, judging from the way these bones are buried." And yet they‘d still found them relatively easily...
Kathryn didn‘t say anything, and Chakotay touched her hand. "Kathryn?"
"He said he‘d been waiting for me for quite a while." She looked at the pendant in her hand, and rubbed at the surface with one gloved finger, dislodging some of the dirt that had been ingrained in the tiny crevices of the filigree design. Then she carefully laid the pendant on top of the shredded bit of cloth. "This belongs with him. And he‘s where he belongs, here in body, and somewhere in spirit."
Kathryn began to brush the loosened dirt back over the exposed bones and the cloth and pendant. Chakotay helped her until there was again no sign that the Traveler had been here. Then Kathryn clasped his hand in hers and stood up. "Come on. Let‘s get to the Aerowing so we can go back home, where we belong."
Several minutes later Kathryn palmed the outside manual control and they entered the dim, cold interior of the Aerowing. "How‘s your leg?" Kathryn asked as she dropped her pack inside the door next to Chakotay‘s and approached the front console. She had noticed that he was limping slightly.
"Not quite as stiff," Chakotay said, running a hand over several of the dead systems monitors. He had completely forgotten about his leg last night, while he‘d been outside trying to find Kathryn, and later, when they‘d been so...absorbed in each other. At the time his mind had been so completely occupied, he would barely have noticed if his leg had snapped in two again. But this morning it had definitely protested all the exertion, and he‘d been barely able to move it.
"Good," Kathryn murmured, and he felt her hand rub the back of his leg through his bulky clothing. Chakotay smiled, remembering the massage she‘d given his leg this morning when it had felt so stiff. Then she‘d gone well beyond the call of duty and moved her gentle hands to work their magic on other areas. And he‘d returned the favor...
"Chakotay, get your mind on your work," Kathryn ordered in her most reproving tone. Then she draped herself against his side and her arms circled his neck.
Chakotay smiled at her suggestive grin and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer against him as their lips met. They kissed lingeringly, simply enjoying the taste and feel of each other. Then Chakotay reluctantly pulled back. "You know, we really do have a lot of work to do here."
Kathryn sighed and rested her head against his shoulder, looking at the front console. "I know. It‘s going to be a while before we are back at home, sitting in front of a nice warm fire..."
Chakotay smiled. "That I most definitely look forward to." And he did. Last night had been new, intense, wonderful. They certainly hadn‘t had a chance to discuss what it all meant in the long term, and how they would merge their lives together now. But the idea of sitting in front of a fire with Kathryn, talking, laughing, planning their future together, just like in his dream- he knew it would be as satisfying as everything they‘d physically shared last night.
Kathryn‘s hand drifted down to pat his butt. "Come on, let‘s get started then, because I want to get home."
Chakotay chuckled at Kathryn‘s proprietary gesture and knelt down in front of the main console. It was as good a place to start as any. "I‘ll see if I can get back up communications on-line, then at least we can call..."
Kathryn looked at Chakotay as he glanced up at her, and they both listened to the unmistakable sound of a shuttle engine on a landing approach. "The cavalry?" Kathryn finished for him, her eyebrow raised Vulcan style.
They both stepped out of the Aerowing in time to see the Cochrane settle gently on the snow covered ground a few meters away. A minute or so later Joe stepped out of the shuttle and Tom was right behind him, slinging his jacket on. He pulled it quickly tight around him as he stepped on the ground.
"Lord, it‘s cold up here!" Tom said, approaching Kathryn and Chakotay. He veered off slightly as he noticed the back end of the Aerowing was all but dangling over empty space. He peered down the steep incline, then looked back at Chakotay, trying to play down the smirk he felt forming on his face. "Nice landing, Chakotay."
"I was lucky I was able to land at all without any instruments."
Tom raised an eyebrow. "None?" He glanced back down the incline then edged away from it. "I‘m impressed."
"It was really more of a controlled crash than a landing," Kathryn commented dryly.
Tom caught Chakotay‘s look of mock effrontery that quickly faded into amusement. And Kathryn‘s answering grin, her expression teasing and...affectionate. Hmmm, more than affectionate. Well, that was interesting. He glanced toward the dim, powerless interior of the Aerowing. "I take it you didn‘t sleep in there without environmental controls."
"We found shelter in one of the caves." Kathryn gestured toward the crevice marked cliffside. "It kept out the worst of the cold anyway."
"Good. I was worried you might freeze to death out here." Tom rubbed his arms for effect. "I should have known you two would find a...way to keep warm."
Kathryn‘s eyes narrowed at Tom‘s drawl, then she glanced at Chakotay. Tom was pretty sure Chakotay was simply trying to keep a grin off his face. "Do you have something you want to say, Tom?"
Tom did grin at the challenge in Kathryn‘s voice.
"No. Just that it‘s about time."
Kathryn didn‘t get a chance to reply as Joe hopped lightly out of the Aerowing, where he‘d immediately headed to inspect the damage. "Looks like several hours work just to get her passably flight ready, though two or three days and some replacement parts are what she really needs."
"Plan A?" Tom asked, and Joe nodded.
"I‘ll check out the hull damage and make sure it can handle the structural stress," Joe said.
"Plan A?" Kathryn asked, as Joe walked to the front of the Aerowing and peered closely at the buckled metal.
"We discussed it with Tuvok when we first checked in with him this morning. Based on the condition of the Aerowing, we came up with Plan A, if the repairs would require more than a quick band aid job, and that seems to be the case. We can use the Cochrane to tow the Aerowing back to New Lourdes."
"Use the tractor beam?" Kathryn raised an eyebrow. "Is that safe?"
"It‘s cumbersome lifting from a stationary position into the lower atmosphere, and it takes some careful piloting, but it‘s safe."
"And very energy intensive," Chakotay pointed out.
"It will probably drain most of the power cells in the Cochrane," Joe put in, then glanced at Tom. "She‘ll hold." He patted the warped metal and stood up.
"It will take a lot of energy, but now that we know about the ryanamite, I think we can be a little ‚wasteful‘ when the situation calls for it. Joe ran a quick scan before we landed and that‘s a lot of raw energy to be had. We‘ll be swimming in surplus before we know it."
"You don‘t have to convince me." Kathryn said, rubbing her arms meaningfully. "My teeth are about to chatter. If you know you can do it, Tom, then I‘m all for it."
Tom gave her a self assured grin. "Not a problem. I say we get into the Cochrane where the environmental controls are completely functional. Neelix sent along some of his special blend coffee. I think we saved some for you, Kathryn."
"Then definitely get out of my way," Kathryn said, as Tom stepped back and motioned her into the shuttle.
"I think my culinary efforts this morning are being impugned," Chakotay said with a mock frown as he stepped into the Cochrane behind Tom.
"Starfleet‘s freeze dried coffee rations?" Tom asked rhetorically as they took their seats at the front console. "Scary stuff." He watched Chakotay gingerly lower himself into the copilot‘s seat. "Something wrong with your leg?"
"Just a minor break during our landing. Kathryn used the bone knitter on it. It should be fine in a few days."
"Hmmm." Tom activated several monitors on the console. "You might want to have the doctor check it out anyway when we get back." He stole a surreptitious look at Kathryn in the seat behind him, and was rewarded with a narrow stare. "Ouch."
"The Aerowing‘s secure and ready, Tom," Joe said, stepping into the shuttle and reactivating the door sensor panel. The door slid closed behind him.
"Okay, give me ten minutes for preflight procedures and we‘ll be ready for take off."
In fact Tom lifted the Cochrane off nine minutes later, while he calculated angles and positions relative to the Aerowing, with Chakotay assisting. "Joe, is the tractor beam ready to engage?"
"On your call, Tom," Joe said from his spot at the back Engineering panel.
"Okay, I‘m going to position the Cochrane right in front of the Aerowing and tractor her out in a vertical direction first, then start the ascent once we hit 50 kph." Tom looked out the main viewscreen at the empty sky in front of him as he hovered the Cochrane into position. "It‘s actually convenient that you parked the Aerowing on the edge of a cliff, Chakotay. Gives me lots of open space to work with."
"I‘m glad you approve," Chakotay replied dryly, as he surveyed the status of his monitors.
Tom grinned, and punched several pads on his console. "Okay, Joe...activate the tractor beam...now." The glow of the tractor beam wrapped around the Aerowing, and no one spoke for several minutes as Tom and Chakotay concentrated on moving the Cochrane and Aerowing in unison away from the mountain and Joe and Kathryn monitored the integrity of the tractor beam via the rear sensor screens.
"Okay, that should do it," Tom said finally, relaxing into the smooth back of his chair as they achieved their cruising level in the upper atmosphere. "We should land at New Lourdes in a little over three hours, with little or no turbulence expected ahead." He activated the comm channel on the front console. "Paris to New Lourdes."
"Tuvok here. I assume you have achieved a stable flight course and are now enroute to New Lourdes?"
Tom had checked in with Tuvok when he began his preflight procedures to confirm the implementation of Plan A. Tuvok had simply requested that Tom call as soon as the Cochrane reached cruising altitude and all was in order, an unVulcany expression of concern from Tuvok, Tom had thought. "I got us up safely, Tuvok. Reassured now?"
"Indeed. I have complete confidence in your ability, when you are being attentive to the task at hand."
Tom rolled his eyes. "Thanks."
"With your projected course and speed, I assume your flight time will be an additional 3.14 hours?"
Tom snorted. "Yeah, more or less. Tuvok, is B‘Elanna there?" He‘d hoped to talk to her when he‘d placed the first check in call to New Lourdes barely after 0900 hours this morning, but Tuvok had said she wasn‘t in the Meeting hall. He‘d briefly wondered if she was still asleep, but she rarely slept late even when she could really use it. He‘d expected that she‘d make her way to the Meeting hall for his subsequent calls, to find out about Kathryn and Chakotay, and maybe just to hear his voice. He hadn‘t pressed the issue, but now he really wanted to talk to her.
"She is not here."
"Then where the hell is she?"
"Tom, B‘Elanna is in Sickbay." Tom‘s heart dropped for just a brief second before Tuvok continued. "She is in labor."
Tom didn‘t say anything for a minute, in fact there wasn‘t a sound in the shuttle except for the low hum of the engines. Finally he managed to find his voice. "Labor? She‘s having the baby?"
"Yes, apparently her labor began at 2327 last evening. It has since progressed slowly, which according to the doctor is within normal parameters. The doctor‘s last report minutes ago indicated that her contractions are 3.32 minutes apart. The doctor anticipates that she will give birth within the next 2 to 4 hours, which is as accurately as he can estimate since individual progression of labor is unpredictable."
Tom would have interrupted Tuvok‘s long monologue, except that he was still trying to comprehend that B‘Elanna was having their baby, and he was still hours away.
He looked at the front console chrono. 1132
hours. B‘Elanna had been in labor for twelve
hours while he‘d been sleeping, eating breakfast-
"We may make it back before the baby comes, Tom," Chakotay finally said, just before Tuvok spoke again.
"Tom, B‘Elanna requested that I not...distract you while you were committed to this mission. She knew you would be unable to return immediately and did not wish you to worry needlessly. She is well and the process is a natural one. There is no need for undue concern."
"Gee, why would I be concerned?"
"I believe you comprehend my meaning. I did
concur with her reasoning. The procedure you just
performed to tractor the Aerowing through the
lower atmosphere was a delicate one-"
"Well, I‘m glad you and B‘Elanna could finally agree on something!" Tom couldn‘t stop the surge of disappointment he felt from coming out as bitterness.
"Tom..." Kathryn knelt next to him and dropped a hand firmly on his shoulder, her captain‘s instincts taking over, though she no longer had any real basis for intervening, except friendship. "Tuvok, please call us if the baby comes, or if there is anything else that requires our attention. Otherwise, we‘ll be there on schedule."
"Very well, Kathryn." There was a slight pause.
"Tom, it was not my intent-"
"I know, Tuvok. I didn‘t mean to take it out on
you." Tom took a deep breath and felt Kathryn‘s
hand squeeze his shoulder gently. "Can you just
let B‘Elanna know that we‘re on our way-"
"I shall relay that information to the doctor. He is being rather...proprietary toward his patient right now."
Tom almost smiled. He knew that B‘Elanna was in good hands. At least he could be comforted by that knowledge. "Thank you, Tuvok."
"You are welcome, Tom. Tuvok out."
"I‘m sorry about this, Tom," Kathryn said softly.
Tom shook his head and reached up to squeeze Kathryn‘s hand, where it still rested on his shoulder. "It‘s no one‘s fault. What happened to you and Chakotay was a freak thing. And the doctor didn‘t expect B‘Elanna to go into labor for another couple of weeks."
"Babies just come when they‘re ready," Joe said from the seat he had taken behind Chakotay. "Even the most advanced medical scans can‘t completely predict their timing. Tom, I wish we could increase our speed and get there sooner, but the tractor beam integrity would start to weaken if we try to go any faster, or fought for higher altitude against the gravity well."
"I know, Joe. I wouldn‘t consider taking any chances right now."
"B‘Elanna would kill you herself," Chakotay said pointedly to Tom. "And we may still get there in time. But either way, you‘re about to be a father." Chakotay shook his head and smiled wryly. "Tom Paris, a father. Who would have thought?"
Tom smiled back. No one he knew before he‘d come to Voyager could have imagined it. Not even himself. Back then he couldn‘t foresee the day when he might actually consider himself halfway capable of raising a child.
"And a very good father, I have no doubt," Kathryn said softly next to him. She patted his shoulder and returned to her seat.
"The first child to be born on Aurora," Chakotay mused reflectively. He glanced back at Kathryn. "But I‘m sure there‘ll be many more to come." Their gazes locked and a small smile played on her face.
The conversation in the Cochrane drifted from babies to other subjects, the ryanamite and how best to extract it; the possibility of setting up a second colony base in the Northern hemisphere to take advantage one of the warmer Mediterranean climes conducive to certain agricultural products the way the climate around New Lourdes was conducive to grain production; ideas on how they might put their expected energy surpluses to best use next year, from reinstituting limited transporter technology to fueling new ground cars. Tom heard it all, and even felt a detached sense of satisfaction that Kathryn, who had previously shown little interest in making future plans for the colony, was leading the conversation. But he didn‘t contribute much, and the others respected his silence and left him to his thoughts, to his regrets and to his anticipation. To all his jumbled feelings, now that he was soon, very soon, about to be a father, and about to hold his firstborn child in his arms.
For Tom, the journey back to New Lourdes was the longest three hours of his life.
"I don‘t want you to push yet, B‘Elanna. I will tell you when. Do not push."
"I‘m not pushing!"
The doctor glanced up at B‘Elanna‘s snarled return and she glared back at him. Then she grimaced and her hands gripped the sheet tightly as another contraction hit. Kes had tried to hold her hand, but B‘Elanna had refused. The doctor suspected that it was not just because she was determined to deal with the pain herself, but because she was also afraid she might hurt the Ocampan. Kes simply accepted B‘Elanna‘s wishes and continued to rub her shoulders and back, trying to help her relax, as B‘Elanna sat half propped up now dealing with contractions that were virtually one on top of the other and no doubt very intense. After she‘d gone into transition, even B‘Elanna‘s Klingon side couldn‘t deny the pain, but the doctor had to admit she was dealing with it more than admirably.
"The baby is crowning, B‘Elanna, it will be just a few more-" the doctor didn‘t quite finish his statement when the door to Sickbay slammed open and someone‘s hurried footsteps sounded loudly through the entryway. The doctor looked up from where he was preparing to receive the baby, intending to shoo the intruder back outside, unless it was Tom Paris. He was surprised by the sense of relief he felt when he saw that it was indeed Tom. Not because he really minded B‘Elanna‘s temper, whether she cursed at him, or threw a complete tantrum while this baby was being born, but because he knew how much she‘d really wanted Tom to be here. He saw it clearly on her face as she spotted Tom rushing into the room, and on Tom‘s as he smiled at her.
"Well, it looks like we are truly ready for this baby to be born, now that the father has made his appearance, in typically late fashion I might add." The doctor spoke dryly, but there was a note of satisfaction in his voice. "Wash your hands, Tom," he added before Tom could reach his wife‘s side.
Tom quickly backpedaled and utilized the small wash area, his eyes never leaving B‘Elanna. Her hair was damp with sweat and her face was shiny with exertion. She looked tired, but her eyes were lit with relief as she smiled weakly back at him. Then, as he finished and quickly rushed to her side, her jaw tensed and her teeth sank into her bottom lip as another contraction hit. Kes moved away to allow him room and he sat down on the edge of the bed facing B‘Elanna, and pried one of her hands from its tight grip on the sheet draped over her stomach. She closed her hand over his and he wasn‘t sure that he didn‘t feel some of the bones in his hand snap. But he didn‘t care.
"You can push during the contractions, B‘Elanna," the doctor announced as Kes joined him. "Your baby is ready to come into this world."
Tom brushed a strand of B‘Elanna‘s hair off her
face with his free hand as she took quick, short
breaths and pushed through the contraction. Then
her grip on his hand loosened a little, enough for
him to feel his circulation again, and she rested
her forehead against his shoulder for a moment
while he hugged her. "B‘Elanna, I‘m sorry-"
He felt her shake her head against his shoulder, then she pulled back enough to look at him.
"You‘re here now. And I should...have-"
B‘Elanna‘s hand tightened on his again, and she groaned slightly as her face contorted and she pushed through the next contraction. Tom knew it was a natural process and that she was more than able to withstand it, but he was surprised at how much it bothered him to see the pain flash across her face.
"B‘Elanna, the baby is coming, so I want you to push hard on the next one."
B‘Elanna released Tom‘s hand and leaned toward her bent legs to give herself more leverage, her hands gripping her knees. Tom pressed a hand on top of hers, and put his other hand against her back to help support her as she gritted her teeth and pushed, her breath coming out in a long, arduous groan. Then she relaxed against him for a moment, breathing in short, harsh gasps.
"Ah, the head is out. Just one more time, B‘Elanna, for the shoulders."
Tom glanced over and caught a glimpse of the doctor‘s hands supporting the baby‘s head. Kes stood next to him holding several towels. He smiled at B‘Elanna. "You‘re almost done, sweetheart."
B‘Elanna nodded distractedly, her eyes closed, and Tom saw that she was already gathering her strength again. Her hand edged from beneath his to grip his again, and Tom couldn‘t feel any sensation in his hand as she tensed and pushed, and her groan of effort rose to nearly a wail this time. Then she collapsed completely against him.
"B‘Elanna, Tom, congratulations. You have a healthy, beautiful baby girl." Tom glanced back and saw the doctor‘s broad smile. He got a quick look at their baby daughter, tiny and wet with fluids, and heard her let out a short high pitched cry as the doctor handed her to Kes. Then he turned back to his wife.
Tom moved his hand away to allow B‘Elanna to fall back against the pillow. She was still breathing heavily, and her hair was plastered to her face. Her face was wet with perspiration and lined with exhaustion. But she smiled at him, and he thought she looked incredibly beautiful. "I love you," he said softly, dropping a light kiss on her parted lips, then another on her damp forehead. He was peripherally aware of the doctor and Kes behind him drying and cleaning the baby, but he just brushed B‘Elanna‘s hair off her face and stroked her cheek as her breathing slowly evened. And waited patiently to see the baby- their baby- with B‘Elanna.
"Here she is," the doctor said several moments later, as he approached the other side of the bed and gently laid the baby in B‘Elanna‘s arms.
Tom stared as B‘Elanna hesitated only momentarily, then cradled the baby closely against her chest. Their baby. Their daughter. His daughter. My god.
She was incredibly small. Incredibly perfect. He watched her flail her arms and legs. Her tiny fingers curled into a fist. Her face scrunched up like she might cry, then her small bow shaped mouth opened into a round little O, and she yawned. Tom touched her cheek gently with one finger, and her slightly dusky skin felt like the softest silk. Then he lightly traced the tiny, barely perceptible brow ridges along her forehead below the scattering of fine dark hair, so like her mother‘s. His heart filled, and his emotions caught in his throat. He thought he‘d never before seen anything that made him feel so deeply and completely happy. Until he looked at B‘Elanna.
She was staring at their daughter with a mixture of awe and wonder. She was completely mesmerized. She touched the baby‘s soft cheek, as Tom had, letting her hand linger on the soft, downy skin. Her brow furrowed as the baby opened her eyes for a mere second, looking up at her mother in an unfocused stare, then closed them again and uttered a soft contented sigh. B‘Elanna‘s arms tightened just perceptively and a look of fierce, protective love crossed her face as she looked at her daughter. The all consuming kind of love that a half Klingon felt. The look that Tom had seen directed at him many times, and that he cherished.
B‘Elanna glanced up at Tom then, and he saw the lingering astonishment in her eyes, and the joy in their glistening depths. Glistening with...tears. From B‘Elanna, who never cried. "She‘s beautiful," B‘Elanna whispered softly.
Tom closed his hand over B‘Elanna‘s, where it still rested against their daughter‘s cheek. "She‘s absolutely gorgeous. Just like her mother." He leaned over and kissed his wife deeply, slowly.
The doctor cleared his throat. Tom pulled away from B‘Elanna and looked at the doctor, who tried to look reproving, but failed miserably. Tom saw the pride lurking in the doctor‘s expression. A hand touched Tom‘s shoulder, and he looked up to see Kes smiling down at him.
"B‘Elanna, Kes is going to settle the baby into a bassinet so she can sleep, which is what you will be doing as soon as we finish up here."
"Finish what?" Tom asked, as B‘Elanna rather reluctantly opened her arms and let Kes take the baby.
"The afterbirth, Tom," the doctor replied dryly. "Why don‘t you go outside and announce the arrival of your new daughter. I believe something of a crowd has gathered awaiting the news. And don‘t bring them all back with you. B‘Elanna will need some rest."
Tom kissed B‘Elanna lightly, his hand lingering on her cheek. "Okay?"
B‘Elanna nodded. "Tom, I‘m sorry that you didn‘t
know what was-"
Tom shushed her, and touched her lips with his again. "Those three hours getting back here in the Cochrane were the longest three hours of my life. If I had known earlier, I probably would have gone crazy." He smiled and kissed her gently one more time. "I love you."
"I love you," B‘Elanna repeated softly.
Tom rose and grinned at the doctor‘s impatient stare. "I‘ll be back in a few minutes," he told B‘Elanna before he sauntered out of the Sickbay, high on an incredible sense of euphoria. He was a father. The reality of it was wonderful, exhilarating. And he was looking forward to every minute of the experience.
He also enjoyed every moment of the congratulatory hugs and slaps on the back he received when he proudly announced the arrival of his daughter. He accepted the genuine accolades and well wishes from those around him, the people who were now truly part of his family. But he was anxious to get back to B‘Elanna, and he returned to the Sickbay ten minutes later with Harry, Kathryn and Chakotay all in tow.
"Only a few minutes," the doctor said sternly as they entered. "Mother and baby both need to rest."
Kes was waiting in the small alcove where the doctor had recently set up a nursery, with the necessary bassinets and monitors, in anticipation of the continued growth of the colony. Tom stopped to look at his daughter, who was curled up asleep under a soft white blanket. Then he left the others to stare at her while he went to B‘Elanna, who was settled more comfortably now, in one of the doctor‘s fresh Sickbay gowns, a clean sheet gathered around her, and looking very drowsy.
"She had a little bleeding with the afterbirth, which is not uncommon," the doctor said as he moved aside to allow Tom access. "But I did give her some medication to stop the bleeding, and it will have a mild sedative effect." The doctor sounded a little smug when he mentioned the last part. "So keep your visit short," he added as the others approached B‘Elanna‘s bed and he left to check on his newest patient.
Kathryn sat on the edge of the bed opposite from Tom and smiled broadly at B‘Elanna. "She‘s beautiful, B‘Elanna, Tom," she glanced across the bed to include him. "You should both be very proud."
She watched B‘Elanna smile contentedly back and squeezed her hand.
"You haven‘t told us her name yet," Chakotay said, standing next to Kathryn and resting a hand on her shoulder.
"M‘Kaela Torres Paris," Tom said. "It‘s a combination of my maternal grandmother‘s name, Mikaela, and an Klingon name, M‘Ekela, who in an ancient Klingon myth was the goddess of new beginnings. It seemed kind of appropriate."
"It‘s a lovely name," Kes said, smiling at Harry who stood with his arm draped around her.
"B‘Elanna, didn‘t you tell me once that your name came from a goddess of the dawn?" Harry asked.
"She was the bringer of first light," Tom corrected. "After she ripped out the heart of the god of eternal darkness and threw it beyond the stars. And M‘Ekela rebuilt the Klingon homeworld after one of those god wars again destroyed it, and then she forced the Klingons to adhere to a new code of honor in warfare. Thus she ushered in a new era of Klingon civilization."
"It‘s just a name, Tom," B‘Elanna murmured, as Tom‘s hand stroked her hair.
"With a family tradition and history behind it on both sides," Chakotay said approvingly.
"It is a beautiful name," Kathryn added. She patted B‘Elanna‘s hand. "And now we should go so you can get some sleep." As tired as B‘Elanna looked, Kathryn realized that she also looked amazingly contented. At peace. Something she knew didn‘t come naturally to B‘Elanna, as it didn‘t to Kathryn. They both had a strong desire to achieve, to act, and little natural inclination to simply relax and enjoy the moment. At least until now. She put a hand over Chakotay‘s where it rested on her shoulder.
"You look happy, Kathryn." B‘Elanna said, looking slightly puzzled. "Really happy. At peace."
Gods, Kathryn thought, had she been that miserable and that uptight, that B‘Elanna, half asleep though she was, saw the change in her so clearly? "I am happy, B‘Elanna."
"I‘m glad," B‘Elanna murmured, a small, distracted smile crossing her face. "That‘s why I didn‘t want to tell you."
Kathryn shook her head. "Tell me what?"
"About the other...timeline. About being on Voyager." B‘Elanna‘s eyes drifted closed and her voice was husky with drowsiness.
Tom shrugged when Kathryn looked at him.
"You were happy when I saw you there. Content. Even after the Borg and the Species...the other species... You wanted to be on Voyager...so much..."
Tom brushed a hand against B‘Elanna‘s cheek. "B‘Elanna, honey, I think maybe you‘re remembering a dream."
"No, Tom, I was there," B‘Elanna protested sleepily, shaking her head once, then resting her cheek against Tom‘s hand as her eyes drifted shut.
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged looks. How had B‘Elanna known about the Borg and the other Species? Chakotay shrugged, and Kathryn knew he felt it didn‘t really matter. She looked back at B‘Elanna. "B‘Elanna, I am happy here. Voyager was another time, another place. Another life. But this is where we‘re meant to be now. I can accept that."
B‘Elanna just nodded drowsily, murmuring something unintelligible. It was Tom and Harry who both smiled with satisfaction at Kathryn‘s words.
"Are you all still here?" The doctor glared at the group assembled around B‘Elanna‘s bed.
"Geez, Doc, how much sedative did you give her?"
Harry asked. "She‘s practically hallucinating."
"Not that much, Mr. Kim," the doctor huffed. "And you might have a little difficulty making intelligible chit chat with a gaggle of over zealous visitors if you had gone through fifteen hours of labor. Everyone out! I want my patient left in peace to sleep until tomorrow morning."
"Okay, Doc. Don‘t get your programming in a twist." Harry clapped Tom on the back and leaned over to drop a light kiss on B‘Elanna‘s forehead. "You did great, Maquis. See you later."
"Night, Harry," B‘Elanna murmured softly, not even opening her eyes.
Chakotay followed suit as Harry and Kes moved away and dropped a soft kiss on B‘Elanna‘s brow. Kathryn squeezed B‘Elanna‘s hand and reached over to squeeze Tom‘s, then stood up. "I‘m happy for both of you."
"She‘s going to be mad if she doesn‘t wake up until tomorrow morning," Chakotay said in a low voice as he and Kathryn passed by the doctor.
"At least she‘ll be well rested when she tries to out yell me," the doctor returned, sounding not the least worried or contrite.
Kathryn smiled. "You did a fine job here, Doctor. It‘s good to know that you‘ll be here as the colony grows."
The doctor looked pleased. "Thank you, Kathryn." He glanced at Chakotay, whose hand was resting on Kathryn‘s arm. "I presume my nursery will be getting a great deal more use than even I anticipated in the near future," he added sardonically.
Chakotay grinned. "I think you can count on that, Doctor." He draped his arm over Kathryn‘s shoulders as they walked out.
The doctor stared after them, bemused and strangely satisfied with this new turn of events. Not that he was surprised. Sexual attraction between humans was apparent to him long before the hormonally affected seemed willing to acknowledge it. And when it came to Klingons...
"And what do you think you are doing, Mr. Paris?" the doctor asked, as he turned back to his patient and saw that Tom hadn‘t moved from his position next to B‘Elanna.
Tom was in fact about to stand up but B‘Elanna pressed her face closer into his hand and shifted slightly, bringing her own hand up to grip his wrist lightly. She murmured something and then moaned softly in her sleep, whether from a dream or from the residual physical effects of giving birth, he didn‘t know. But he was sure the word she had murmured was his name.
"Tom, B‘Elanna needs to sleep-"
Tom glanced at the doctor, who was giving him his fatherly lecture look, and instead of getting up, he spread his long form on the bed next to B‘Elanna and pulled her gently into his arms. She sighed softly and pressed her face against his shoulder.
"That is not what I had in mind." The doctor gave him a reproving look and Tom just grinned back. "I can have you thrown out of my Sickbay you know."
"But you won‘t."
The doctor‘s eyes narrowed, then he shook his head in long suffering resignation, but Tom was sure he saw a hint of a smile playing around the doctor‘s mouth as he turned away.
The doctor turned and looked back at Tom, eyebrow raised.
The doctor looked mildly flustered. He was always more than willing to point out his own superior characteristics, but when he received a genuine, heartfelt compliment, especially from Tom Paris, he was left momentarily speechless.
Tom smiled. "Just say "you‘re welcome", Doc."
This time a hint of a smile did turn up the doctor‘s lips. "You are, Mr. Paris. And now I have to see to my new patient."
"You just want to watch her sleep, you softy," Tom said, and the doctor rolled his eyes. He snuggled a little closer to his sleeping wife, and smiled at the doctor. "Go ahead. I get to watch her, and her mother, sleep every day of my life. I don‘t know how I got to be such a lucky man."
"Neither do I, Mr. Paris. But I‘m pleased to see that you appreciate your good fortune."
"Oh, I do, Doc, believe me, I do."
A week later
B‘Elanna under the steady stream of the shower enjoying the sensation of hot water sluicing down her skin. M‘Kaela was asleep, as she was most of the time, except every four hours when she woke demanding to be fed and changed. It was a simple case right now of fulfilling her clocklike biological needs. Yet when she was laying in B‘Elanna‘s arms, her small body snuggling close, her tiny hand touching her mother‘s skin, her clear blue eyes staring up contented and trusting while she nursed, the feeling it engendered in B‘Elanna was anything but simple. It was profound in a way she had never expected.
When the doctor had placed her daughter in her arms for the first time she‘d been stunned, overwhelmed by the incredible feeling of love that had enveloped her. She‘d stared down at the tiny, perfect life that she, and Tom, had created, and she‘d been seized with a certain knowledge that nothing she‘d ever done in her life before, none of the achievements she‘d furiously worked for in an endless effort to validate her own worth to herself and to those around her, remotely compared to this. And she‘d known with equal certainty that she could be a mother, a good mother. She could love and protect and nurture her child without reservation. She already did.
A week. She‘d been a mother for a week now, and she had never even begun to imagine what that really meant, what it felt like. Even watching Sam with Naomi on Voyager and here on Aurora hadn‘t really clued her in at all. Certainly she‘d never figured out what it might have meant to her own mother, since she‘d never given B‘Elanna a hint that being a mother was any more than fulfilling a simple duty to feed, clothe and lay down uncompromising rules of behavior. At least that was how B‘Elanna had always perceived her mother.
Now she wondered. Wondered how her mother had felt the first moment she‘d held her own baby in her arms. Had she felt the same overwhelming pride and love, the same determination to make her daughter‘s life perfect, to give her daughter everything her heart and her hands could possibly provide? B‘Elanna thought that perhaps her mother had felt that way. She could dimly remember moments, while her father was still with them, when her mother had smiled at her, and there had seemed to be affection in her eyes, and amused tolerance- even acceptance- of her half human daughter‘s individualistic personality. Perhaps it was only later, after her father had left, that her mother changed.
B‘Elanna sighed as she ran her hands through her hair, rinsing the last of the shampoo out. She remembered so many of the later times when her mother had been disappointed in her. Constantly judging her daughter‘s behavior against her own Klingon standards and finding it lacking. But maybe it had been her mother‘s own disappointments in life, rather than her daughter‘s, that had changed her. The disappointment of her husband leaving her, the burden of being alone with a child to raise on a human colony where she was barely tolerated, and the later burden of being no more tolerated by her family on Qo‘noS, who had forever thrown her ill-advised marriage to a human in her face.
Maybe it was no wonder her mother had hardened her heart. She had probably thought that was the only way she could protect herself. And she had pressured her daughter to do the same, to never show weakness, to never reveal her deepest feelings, to never leave herself open enough to give someone a chance to tear her down. To be strong, to be completely self contained- that was everything to her mother, no matter what the personal cost. Even if the cost was the ability to show her daughter any real love. And even if it had nearly cost her daughter the ability to accept love herself.
B‘Elanna jumped as something touched her shoulders. She opened her eyes and stared into Tom‘s deep blue ones. She had been so engrossed in her thoughts she hadn‘t even heard him step into the shower.
"You‘ve been in here a while," Tom said softly, his hands gently massaging her shoulders. "I thought you might have fallen asleep or something."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "I‘m not tired. Well..." she amended, thinking of how often her sleep had been interrupted this past week. "a little. But it‘s a good tired."
Tom smiled. "It is. A very good tired. She‘s sound asleep right now though."
Tom had gotten up far more often than she in the middle of the night, bringing M‘Kaela to her to be fed, and had been perfectly willing, even insistent, on changing diapers and bathing and dressing their daughter. And cuddling her endlessly. B‘Elanna knew he was enjoying every moment.
"You looked kind of sad a moment ago," Tom said, his hands sliding down her arms.
"I was thinking about my mother," B‘Elanna said. She saw Tom‘s frown and shook her head. "I‘ve always thought she was hard on me because who I was wasn‘t good enough. Because I couldn‘t be Klingon enough for her to love me."
"Tom, maybe I was wrong. Maybe she was so hard on me after my father left because she was trying to protect me. Maybe she wanted me to act more Klingon because she thought it would make me to strong enough so that I could never be hurt."
Tom ran his fingers through B‘Elanna‘s wet hair and pushed it off her face. "B‘Elanna, nobody‘s that strong, not even a Klingon. Your mother wasn‘t. The only way you can‘t be hurt is to hide away somewhere where no one can ever touch you."
"I know." She‘d tried that, too, for a long time. Shielding herself from others, depending on no one, trusting only herself. She‘d only realized recently- with Tom- that the utter loneliness of that existence had been its own kind of hurt. "She thought she could keep me from making the same mistakes she did."
"Loving a human?" Tom asked lightly, but B‘Elanna could see the seriousness in his eyes. "I can imagine what your mother would think of me."
"That‘s the strange thing, Tom," B‘Elanna said, putting her hands on Tom‘s shoulders and looking at him earnestly. "I think if she knew you, if she saw how happy I am, really happy, then I think she might be happy for me, too. I think when she held her daughter for the first time, all she ever wanted for her- for me- was the best. Wouldn‘t anyone want that for their child? But her idea of the best was the strength not to need other people, not to depend on them for anything. That was what got her through after my father left, when people around her- human and Klingon- ostracized her. And when she saw other children tease me and refuse to play with me because I was different, maybe she thought that was the best that I could hope for, too."
"She was wrong," Tom said softly, kissing her brow. He slid his arms around her and pulled her closer. "But maybe you‘re right. If she could see you today she‘d realize that. And if she saw her granddaughter, she wouldn‘t be able to resist her either."
B‘Elanna draped her arms around Tom‘s neck. "I am sorry about that. That she‘ll never know how things turned out for me, or that she has a granddaughter..." Her voice trailed off wistfully. For the first time she really regretted that she would never see her mother again, and the angry words they‘d thrown at each other the last time they‘d parted didn‘t seem important anymore. And for the first time she thought that it might really have hurt her mother to believe that her daughter was dead. She regretted that also.
"I‘m sorry, too," Tom said softly, his hands rubbing her back soothingly. "I think she might be proud of everything you‘ve accomplished. She might even think most of your friends here are fairly worthwhile, even if they‘re not Klingons."
"Maybe." Her mother had high standards, but then so had Kathryn Janeway of her crew, and they had lived up to them. "Uh, Tom..." she‘d just noticed that Tom‘s hands had strayed a little beyond massaging her back. He leaned down and kissed the side of her throat. Then he raised his head and looked down at her. He‘d moved close enough to her that the stream of water from the shower head had soaked him, too, and his hair clung to his head in wet, dark blond curls. It sunk in finally that she was standing here naked with her wet skin pressed against her equally naked husband.
Tom seemed to realize that too, and instead of
taking advantage of the moment he moved back
slightly. "B‘Elanna.." He shook his head. "I‘ll
get some towels-"
B‘Elanna intercepted Tom‘s arm before he could pull the shower curtain back, and pushed him bodily against the back wall of the shower stall.
"B‘Elanna! Be careful-"
"Is that why took off your clothes and joined me in here, Tom? So you could get me a towel?"
"Uh, no." Tom smiled sheepishly. "Perhaps I had
an ulterior motive or two. But I just realized
that maybe it‘s too soon-"
B‘Elanna ran her hands slowly down Tom‘s chest. "I‘m half Klingon, I heal fast. And I have a good doctor."
Tom looked hesitant. "I know the doc‘s a miracle
worker but are you sure-"
B‘Elanna kissed her husband deeply, and he was taller than her, so she had to stand on her tiptoes and press her body very closely to his to delve properly into the pleasures of his welcoming mouth. She was pleased by the long groan that issued from deep in his throat. She pulled back and looked up at him. For the past several weeks they‘d forgone intercourse because of her pregnancy, finding other ways to love each other. But she‘d missed being with him, being part of him, and she knew he‘d missed her too, even though he‘d been incredibly patient waiting for her to make the first move. "I‘m ready, Tom. I‘m more than ready." She still had him trapped between her and the wall and she grinned slyly. "And so are you."
Tom wrapped his arms tightly around her and kissed her fully and completely, exploring every millimeter of her willing mouth. Then his lips moved to her face and her throat, while his hands roamed along the soft curves of her body. "I think we‘re wasting a lot of water," he murmured against her jaw, as they shifted and the stream of water splashed on them.
"Maybe we should turn it off," B‘Elanna said, her voice muffled against his throat where she was eagerly tasting his water slicked skin.
"On the other hand, it‘ll just be recycled anyway," Tom said, his sentence ending in a low groan as B‘Elanna‘s sensitive hands aroused him. He lifted his wife up so he could better arouse her, and she let him carefully control the pace as they made slow, tender, consuming love to each other.
Sometime later husband and wife lay together in bed, B‘Elanna‘s head resting on Tom‘s shoulder, and their daughter cradled in her mother‘s arms, suckling contentedly. Every once in a while her blue eyes opened and she stared up at her mother. Or if Tom reached over and distracted her by waving his hand, her eyes followed his hand until sometimes blue eyes met blue briefly. Then her eyes closed and she resumed her meal, while her mother and father watched her with satisfaction.
At least her father was watching her. Tom glanced at B‘Elanna and saw that her eyes had drifted closed, though she was stroking the tiny hand that gripped her finger. He put his hand over hers and she opened her eyes and offered him a sleepy smile.
Tom smiled back. "She looks like you, you know."
B‘Elanna groaned, with a hint of amused exasperation. "She‘s too young to look like anyone. Though I think she has your eyes, flyboy."
They‘d had this conversation several times in the past few days, with B‘Elanna, his passionate yet practical wife, always insisting that he was being premature in deciding that M‘Kaela looked like her mother rather than her father. Tom pressed his hand against his daughter‘s soft cheek, but she was nursing too greedily now to react. "You do look just like your mother," he whispered to her. "Gorgeous. And I bet you‘ll grow up to be one hell of an engineer."
B‘Elanna shook her head against Tom‘s shoulder. "M‘Kaela, you can be whatever you want to be, a pilot, an engineer, even a doctor..."
Tom chuckled. "I think the doctor is already drawing up plans for Aurora‘s first medical school." He‘d never seen the doctor beam in quite that wattage after B‘Elanna had practically wrestled M‘Kaela out of the his clutches in Sickbay, then circumvented his long lecture on baby care by telling him that perhaps M‘Kaela would be the first of Aurora‘s second generation to train as a doctor. He and B‘Elanna had managed to escape with their daughter while the doctor was enthusiastically contemplating his future role as a teacher of future doctors.
"I was afraid he wasn‘t going to let me have her," B‘Elanna murmured.
"He does seem rather fond of her already." But then everyone in the village had been over to hold and coo over M‘Kaela. Naomi had immediately volunteered to be her older sister, and Tom knew there would be no shortage of babysitters available.
"Well, maybe she will be a doctor. But whatever she does, we‘ll both be proud of her," B‘Elanna murmured sleepily.
"Yes, we will..." Tom‘s voice trailed off and he rested his chin against B‘Elanna‘s hair. He‘d thought about his family more since M‘Kaela‘s birth then he had in all the time they‘d been on Aurora. Or on Voyager. Just like B‘Elanna had thought of her mother, and wondered if she‘d misjudged her. Tom only wished he could believe he‘d misjudged his father. Kathryn had told him more than once, here and on Voyager, that his father would be proud of him, of how he‘d turned his life around. She had known his father, but not in the way Tom had. Owen Paris the Admiral and Owen Paris the father were two different people entirely. His father had all but disowned him after he‘d been convicted of treason and sent to prison. And though Tom wanted to believe his father could forgive and forget the past, and would be proud and happy for his son, he couldn‘t be sure of that at all. He couldn‘t even be sure that his father would truly care if he found out that his son was still alive.
Tom sighed and looked at his daughter. Her eyes were closed and she had stopped nursing. And her mother‘s eyes were closed, too. Tom shifted slightly so that he could slide his arm gently out from under B‘Elanna. She uttered a small protest as he lifted the baby out of her arms. "I‘ll put her down," Tom whispered, dropping a kiss on his wife‘s forehead. She murmured something in assent and her hand dropped back on the bed.
Tom walked to the cradle Gerron had carved with his daughter snuggled in his arm. She didn‘t open her eyes, but her tiny fist resting against his chest opened and her fingers clutched several of his chest hairs. He winced slightly and thought he might have to wear more than just boxers as she tightened her surprisingly strong baby grip on him, as if she didn‘t want to let go. He looked down at her and his heart tripped at the thought that he could ever consider turning against her, denying her. No matter what she did, what mistakes she made, he would never, ever do that. He was not like his father.
Tom laid his daughter in her cradle and pulled the small blanket over her sleeping form. He watched her wiggle a bit until she was comfortable, and her hand came up to rest near her mouth. Had his father ever watched him as a baby and loved him this unconditionally, even during those brief moments before he‘d realized that he could never make his son what he wanted him to be? Could he have felt that kind of undemanding love for his granddaughter if he‘d had the chance to know her?
"I don‘t know, angel." Tom said softly to his daughter. And he probably never would. But maybe, just maybe, he was misjudging his father. Given the chance perhaps he would greet his prodigal son and family with open arms, the past forgiven. Perhaps.
Tom smiled at his sleeping daughter and stroked her cheek. "I do know one thing," he whispered to her, kissing her forehead softly. "I love you, Kaela. And I‘ll always be here for you, no matter what. Always."
Tom touched his daughter‘s soft cheek one last time, then returned to bed. He smiled as B‘Elanna greeted his return by wrapping herself around him until she was almost on top of him. He‘d teased her about that before she‘d become too heavily pregnant to do it, that she practically slept on top of him, though he didn‘t mind at all. He knew B‘Elanna had spent most of her life protecting her own space, literally and figuratively, until she‘d finally allowed him in. And now her space was his space and vice versa. He closed his arms around her and hugged her closer.
"I love you, Tom," B‘Elanna murmured sleepily against his collarbone, her hand resting lightly on his chest.
"I love you, Bella," Tom said into her soft, soap scented hair, dropping his hand to entwine his fingers with hers, and pressing her hand against his heart. For some reason he thought momentarily of what B‘Elanna had told him a couple of nights ago, about how she had found herself temporarily on Voyager several months ago, trapped in some sort of alternate timeline. An alternate reality, where Voyager was still on course to the Alpha quadrant, where another Tom and B‘Elanna existed. B‘Elanna had been hesitant to talk about it, clearly wishing she could write it off as some sort of hallucination or dream. But Tom was sure deep down that she believed- knew- it had been real. And he remembered how strangely B‘Elanna had acted that day- and that night- as if she were not quite the B‘Elanna he knew.
It was mindboggling to think of another reality, where things had played out differently. Where Voyager still existed, and where another Tom and B‘Elanna were more hesitantly but just as surely recognizing the bond that existed between them. Maybe many other realities, with other Voyagers, other Toms, other B‘Elannas, where their lives were completely different. Where they weren‘t together yet, maybe where they hadn‘t even met. Or where Voyager had never come to the Delta quadrant.
B‘Elanna shifted slightly and her hand reflexively tightened around his fingers. Tom sighed and his thumb gently stroked her hand. He knew one thing. Whatever crazy, incomprehensible things took place in this Universe, he- this Tom- was exactly where he belonged. With B‘Elanna and their baby daughter, first and foremost, and with everyone else on Aurora who had become in every sense his family. Whatever other "lives" he might have lived, or was living some time or some place else, they didn‘t matter. His life here was all that mattered. And it was everything he wanted. Best of all it he knew it was everything B‘Elanna wanted. Even during the years they‘d each spent expending so much time and energy looking in the wrong directions, in a sometimes desperate effort to find some meaning in their lives, some sense of real belonging, they‘d been unknowingly waiting to find it in each other. And now in their daughter.
A tranquil smile rested on Tom‘s face as he slowly slipped into a contented and dreamless sleep, his arms wrapped around his beloved and equally contented wife.
"Are you awake?"
"Um hmmm..." Kathryn snuggled closer to Chakotay but she didn‘t open her eyes. She was entirely too comfortable laying in Chakotay‘s arms. It had only been a few days but she already felt as if it had always been like this. And always would be.
"Did Neelix tell you about the anniversary party?"
Kathryn smiled against Chakotay‘s chest. "Yes." An anniversary party to celebrate their first year on Aurora, which given Aurora‘s longer rotation around its primary star was approximately fourteen months Earth time, or 426 days. "I told him I thought it was a good idea." She opened her eyes and shifted, resting her arms on Chakotay‘s chest and propping her chin against her hand so she could look at him. "This is our home now, and we should count our blessings here. If nothing else, we should celebrate that we‘re all survived this far. More than just survived. And we‘re all together."
"I guess we are all a family now, aren‘t we? And it is hard to imagine how we would have survived everything we‘ve gone through without each other." Chakotay trailed a hand across Kathryn‘s cheek and his thumb brushed against her lower lip. "Is it really enough for you now, Kathryn?"
"It‘s enough," Kathryn said softly. She reached up and touched his cheek. "This is more than enough."
Chakotay smiled and leaned forward to kiss her.
Their mouths lingered together for a brief moment. "I know we‘ll always have some regrets about the people we‘ve all left behind. But that doesn‘t diminish what we‘ve found here, with each other. What we can and will build together. And Aurora‘s just a place, like Voyager was just a place. It is the people who matter."
Kathryn smiled reflectively. "Some of whom I can barely recognize as the same people who first boarded Voyager. Raw Starfleet recruits mixed with Maquis..."
"Most of whom were more comfortable working individually than as a team, and who certainly didn‘t know the first thing about Starfleet protocol. But you got them all to work together, to become an efficient, and loyal, team."
"I think maybe you helped, Chakotay," Kathryn said softly. "And they were all good people. Almost all." She sighed at the memory of the few who couldn‘t be reached. Seska, Lon Suder... "They all are good people, even if it took some of them a while to see it within themselves."
"Like your personal reclamation project?" Chakotay asked lightly. Whom Kathryn had believed in and trusted long before he had been able to.
Kathryn nodded. "Tom perhaps more than most. And some of the Maquis who had trouble fitting in at the beginning. B‘Elanna, Gerron, Andrew Dalby. They were all still trying to figure out who they were, and how they fit in."
"What about me?" Chakotay asked softly. "As a former Maquis..."
"I think you‘ve always known who you are, Chakotay. A man who listens to his heart and follows it." Kathryn dropped a kiss on his chin.
"Do you know what my heart is telling me right now?" Chakotay threaded his hands through Kathryn‘s hair and cupped her face with his palms.
Kathryn raised an eyebrow and a small smile touched her lips. "What?"
"That we can be happy here. We will be happy here." He stroked her jawline. "All of us. But especially you and me, in this house, with our children-"
"Our children?" Kathryn gave him an arch look.
"Don‘t we have to have some first?"
Chakotay grinned. "Isn‘t that what we‘ve been working on the last couple of hours? During the last few days?" He pulled her face down to his and kissed her. "I want to have babies with you, Kathryn. Lots of babies. I want to fill this house with children. I really believe that‘s a legacy just as important as any admiralcy in Starfleet, or discovering how to harness transwarp, or finding a cure for Boyden‘s disease, or being the first to contact a new civilization. It‘s maybe the single greatest legacy of all in this Universe."
Kathryn nodded and her voice was soft but firm.
Chakotay looked intently at her, and his dark eyes locked with hers. "Kathryn, I love you. And I promise I will make you happy, whatever it takes.
You won‘t regret-"
Kathryn pressed her fingers to his lips. "Stop it. I‘m already happy, Chakotay." She slid her hands into his dark hair. "I love you. That is more important to me than anything." She brushed her lips across his. "And I promise I will make you happy, whatever it takes."
"We‘re here together, Kathryn." Chakotay‘s voice was soft, and completely sincere. "That‘s all it takes."
Kathryn tried to smile, but her emotions got the better of her. She swallowed and asked in a voice more husky than usual, "How many babies did you say you wanted to have?"
Chakotay did smile at her, gently, teasingly.
"Lots and lots. Dozens. Or as many as you want."
"Then maybe we should keep that our primary focus, and approach the issue with a little more diligence..." Kathryn snaked her leg in between his and her skin slid smoothly along the warm length of his.
"More diligence? Is that possible-" Chakotay‘s amused words were cut off by Kathryn‘s warm mouth enveloping his. He pulled her closer as their mouths nipped and plundered and their hands began to explore and caress, leaving a blazing trail of heat that slowly took them toward the edge.
They made love again in the soft lamplight that shed a diffuse glow over the room and the objects in it, a room that had been Kathryn‘s but was now theirs, with as many evocations of Chakotay‘s presence as Kathryn‘s. Her grandmother‘s green quilt that she‘d brought with her on Voyager lay over them. His dreamcatcher, the webbing woven around local wood he‘d gathered nearby and carefully carved, and the bright blue and green feathers that decorated it shed by the ground dwelling "pavo" birds that roamed the local forest, hung above their bed. And on the table, next to the bed where Kathryn and Chakotay drifted to sleep in each other‘s arms, Kathryn‘s journal lay open to the last page she had written on earlier that evening. On the white bound paper, not yet yellowed by the passage of centuries, not yet perused by countless eyes who would read the words with fascination and near reverence, or by the one who would understand the significance of the one of the small sketches that had been drawn next to the carefully penned words...
Day 420. On Earth, April 21, 2375.
I find I can‘t quit writing the date on Earth, as I know many of us can‘t, because Earth was and always will be our first home. But perhaps I will start using Tuvok‘s new calendar system. He used Earth months, since most of us here are human, and simply lengthened them by several days to accommodate Aurora‘s longer year. So maybe tomorrow I will start saying that it is December, the corresponding season here now, as it was when we first arrived here last year.
The past few days have been hectic, so I haven‘t had a chance to record much here since my quick mention of the small adventure in the Panarctic Mountians. And of M‘Kaela‘s birth. That was seven days ago, and she is beautiful and thriving. I am thrilled, though not much surprised, to see how much Tom and B‘Elanna adore their daughter. It is clear that they will make wonderful parents. And more children are coming soon to our fledgling colony, Harry and Kes next month, Gerron and Megan soon after, with others to follow. The doctor has fussed over his new role as a "family practitioner", but I know for a fact that he relishes the role. He recently searched the database, culling advice on "country doctoring" from old Earth sources, from records of colonies in the Alpha quadrant, even from some of the essays of Leonard McCoy, so that he could adapt his programming accordingly, under B‘Elanna‘s stringent guidance of course.
A good part of the past few days has been spent moving Chakotay‘s belongings here to my house. Our house now. Our home. I looked around today and I could see Chakotay‘s presence everywhere. The table he and Gerron built, the holos of his family on the mantle next to those of my family, the sky shaded throw draped over the couch. His things are mingled with mine now, and I felt a rush of warmth at the knowledge that our lives have merged as one. And I realized how little this house I‘ve been living in had felt like a home. Not like my house on Earth, or even my quarters on Voyager. I thought it was because Aurora didn‘t feel like home to me. Perhaps that was part of it. But it was also because I was alone within these walls, so separate from everyone else. I only spent enough time here to shower and to sleep. But today, for the first time, I was anxious to get back here. To be home, with Chakotay.
And finally Aurora feels like my home now also. A place where I can be happy. Maybe even happier in some ways than I would have been in the Alpha quadrant pursuing my career in Starfleet. That was what I‘ve always believed I wanted, even if it was at the expense of other, more personal, pursuits. And it was giving me a great deal of satisfaction. But there are many different kinds of success, different kinds of happiness. And different ways to leave your mark. That became clear to me when Chakotay and I were stranded in the mountains last week- that what I can have here can be every bit as fulfilling as any amount of awards and accolades I could have amassed in Starfleet. Perhaps even more so.
So I find myself actually looking forward to my life here on Aurora, with Chakotay, and with those who were my crew, and who are now my friends and family. I know now that losing Voyager didn‘t steal the future away from me, or from them. We still have a future, it is simply a different one. What we are founding here will endure, for a very long time. And strangely, though I know that to be true, I find it doesn‘t concern me as it once did. I was only going through the motions for a while, but I‘ve finally realized that simply being alive, and living each moment, is enough. I‘m more than content to savor those moments, and the moments after, whatever may come. As a friend recently told me, the future will take care of itself. It always does.
Those who would see these pages centuries later, yellowed by the passage of time, would also see the accurately drawn sketches on the attached page. One of a large, standing bear-like animal, first observed by the founders in the subarctic climes of Aurora, and later accorded the protection of nature preserves befitting its rare status. And one of a cave carved into a mountainside, with a small craft, an ancient type of shuttle used by the founders, parked outside. And one of a pendant, the color of gold, with blue stones arranged in the shape of a diamond and joined by a minutely drawn filigree design. Its origin and its meaning to the founders were never identified, except by one, who kept the knowledge to himself. But the beauty of the design, and its apparent ancient origin, mysterious with unknown symbolism, was so captivating to the later inhabitants of Aurora, that it was no surprise when it was unveiled at the charter ratification ceremony as the seal of the New Galactic Federation.
----the end (of the story), but just the beginning for Aurora----
Author‘s final note: In this story I mentioned that Harry and his little band played Tom and B‘Elanna‘s wedding songs at their wedding, but I didn‘t mention the songs by name. I have my own ideas about what songs Tom and B‘Elanna might choose, based on my own personal tastes and music preferences, which run to soft rock and country, and which of course cannot go beyond the 20th century. I might pick "I Swear" by John Michael Montgomery as Tom‘s song to B‘Elanna (basically, Tom‘s promise to B‘Elanna). And for B‘Elanna‘s song to Tom, I lean toward "You Are The Love Of My Life" by Sammy Kershaw, which is very emotional, but in many ways very fitting. But since I didn‘t identify the titles of the wedding songs in the body of the story, the reader is welcome to entertain his/her own ideas and preferences. When you send me feedback on this story ;-), feel free to tell me what songs YOU think Tom and B‘Elanna would choose for their wedding.