DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Paramount of Borg, but the story is all mine.
Okay, "Fury" was horrible. They could have done so much with Kes' return, and instead, they turned her into a vengeful old woman without reason or resolution. She had no motive for her actions, and her abrupt turnaround at the end was equally implausible.
I know I can't change canon, but if I had written Kes' return, it would have been different. It would have been, well, more like this.
Chasing a Dream
She wanted to remember them. Remember the good times. Good? Had they been good times, or had they merely been times? She wanted to remember. She wanted to remember, but couldn't.
The good times had long faded, it had been years. Those times had faded into time, and she forgot. She forgot their smiles, their joking manner, the way they were headed for a dream. She wanted to remember that.
She tried. Every day, made a note in her log, telling of an anecdote that came to her in an eerie flash. She didn't like those memories. They didn't tell a whole story.
They told bits and pieces.
The Borg -
A mind meld -
A flower -
A birthday cake -
A man's smile -
But, what was his name? He had a wonderful smile. What was his name? Syllables escaped her, sentences vanished. What was his name? Hadn't he had a red-shouldered uniform? Or, maybe it was blue.
What was his name?
And, then, she thought. Did he have a name?
She wanted to remember. She wanted to, but couldn't. His name, his face. Was he one from the good times? Or, had he been someone she met along the way, someone she knew, someone she seduced? Had he been a person, or an illusion?
A creation of her ravings.
She strained to remember.
Where was she? Who was she?
She gave a last command to a computer. One she had to speak to, for her powers had waned to the point of extinction. "Set course. Voyager."
She didn't know the significance of the course, or how long it would take her alien shuttle to arrive at the set destination. She knew she had to be there. She knew she had to remember.
* * * * *
Blurry figures. A grating voice. A softer one. Blue, red. Yellow?
She blinked, and the colors came into focus.
Blurry figures. A blurry smile. A smile.
She stared at the smile. What was his name? He had a name.
What was her name?
He smiled again. "Welcome home, Kes."
Kes? Her own name. What was his? Home? Where was she? It was familiar, yes. Familiar. Home. Home-like, at least.
She smiled herself. "Thank you." There was an uncomfortable pause as she again tried to remember who he was, what he was called. She shook her head, closed her eyes. "I'm sorry. I can't remember your name."
She hated that admission.
Once, she had been the most powerful thing in the quadrant. Now, reduced to nothing. Nothing.
He smiled again. "I don't have a name, Kes." There was muted laughter from the other side of the room, and she turned her head.
Glancing at the source of the laughter with as much curiosity as she could muster, she inquired, "What should I call him?"
The laughter continued, and she wondered if it was funny. She knew the one who was laughing, too. He had eyes like the warp core.
Warp core? Where had that come from? Warp core. She knew that. She knew it, but not of it. What was a warp core?
"Call him Doc. Well, no. You always called him Doctor." He smiled again and returned to his task of watching the room.
She continued to look at him. There was something about him. Something. Blinking, she asked, "What is your name?"
He stopped laughing. Sidling out from behind the console he had been bent over, he walked slowly towards her, but stopped short. Softly, he said, "My name is Tom."
Tom. Tom and Doc. Doctor. Doctor and Tom.
The names were familiar. And, she knew, there were others in the room whose names she would know.
Where was she? She knew - she knew this place, somehow.
The one who called himself Tom continued to speak. "You're on a starship called Voyager. You lived here for three years." He paused, and looked inexplicably towards the door. "Don't you remember?"
Did she remember? Anything at all? She squeezed her eyes shut, hating how she could feel the wrinkles at her temples get deeper as she did so. Hated her age.
There was something familiar about this place. Something she knew, once. Once, long ago. Or, more than once.
She opened her eyes, looking around her.
That one - that one. She knew that one. Smiling, or almost smiling, she said, "Tuvok."
He didn't smile, but the one called Tom did.
"Yes, I am Tuvok. Do you remember me, Kes?"
It was implanted in her mind. Her memories, his memories. His fingers on her face. She nodded slowly.
Tuvok. Tuvok never smiled. Doctor had a wonderful smile. And Tom smiled too much.
She knew these people. Her friends. She knew that.
Struggling, she sat up, Doctor and Tom by her side. She put her hands behind her, supporting her weight. "I know you," she ground out. "I do know you." She looked around and saw now, that there were others in the room.
Others. Familiar others.
That one there, looking too young to be wherever she was, he was called Harry. And that one there, with that design on his face - that was Chakotay. And there - there. "Neelix," she said, and she could remember.
Good times. She had loved him, once.
Neelix nodded, and could have cried.
And there, to the side, just watching. She knew that one. Well. Lowering her head to stare at her wrinkled hands, she spoke. "Captain Janeway."
And the Captain Janeway had an arm around her, holding her as if she was a child. But Janeway was the child. Her face was young, still, and her hair still held its color. Yet - How was it that this one, Janeway, was like a mother?
She buried her face in Janeway's shoulder. Janeway said, "Welcome home, Kes."
Kes. She knew her name. They all knew her name. She knew her own name. Kes smiled. "Thank you, Captain," she said as she pulled out of the embrace.
She looked around once more. There was someone missing, a key presence. She knew that - someone who had been a friend, sometimes. Someone who . . . . What name didn't she know?
She had died, this person, in some other life. Some other time.
She was still alive. Still alive. Today, alive.
What was her na- "Where is B'Elanna?" she asked.
There were laughs, the loudest from the designated laugher, Tom. "Working," he and Harry said in unison.
Working. Of course. Working. "Oh," Kes said. "Why?"
Kes didn't know why, but there was a small silence. "To fix your ship," Janeway said. "She was curious about the alien technology."
Kes nodded. "Will she come see me?"
Doctor came to face her, holding a blinking machine in his hand. "You can go see her, and anyone else you would like. For a few days."
She stared up at him, and he did not smile. She hated that he did not smile. "Only a few days?"
There was a collective holding of breath, Kes could tell. It was something, something big. Something they were hiding. She was unable to read minds, but she knew. She knew something. "What?" she demanded, and they noticed that in the years away she had become more forceful, more unlike herself. "Tell me!"
Neelix and Janeway came forward then, with Tuvok shadowing them. The rest did not move, she noticed. "Kes," Janeway said in a soft voice. "Kes, you are dying."
That she knew. She was old - nearly eight years old! She nodded. She looked around the room again, at sad faces. "Why is B'Elanna really working?" she asked softly, looking at Chakotay. He said nothing, he didn't know. She looked at Harry, then Neelix. They didn't know.
Janeway said, still softly, "She is looking at your ship. We need to know what did this to you."
Kes nodded. "Tell her not to bother," she whispered. "I can tell you."
Janeway closed her eyes and tapped her combadge. "Lieutenant Torres, please report to sickbay."
Kes heard the response, but didn't concentrate on it. She had promised to tell what happened, promised to shed light on what was, to them, a mystery.
She couldn't fulfil that promise. She didn't know, didn't have a name for what had haunted her. She stared at her hands, and the room was silent. Silence - she had grown accustomed to silence. She knew silence.
There was a hiss, and the door slid aside. Kes watched B'Elanna enter, silently going to stand by Tom and Harry. Once she stopped moving, she said, "Kes," with a nod.
Kes nodded back, watched the group resettle itself for a second.
She took a breath. She closed her eyes.
"You want me to tell you what did this to me." There was no motion. "What turned me into an old woman without a memory." She could put together sentences and syllables. She was proud of that. She opened her eyes. She turned to look at the assembled group, pausing in her narrative to look at them more closely.
Tom, the one who laughed, had thinning hair and a single button on his collar. He stood straight, more sure of himself. But, his warp core eyes didn't dance now. She remembered - they used to dance.
B'Elanna, who stood close to Tom, had changed her hair, her attitude. She put a hand on the arm of the man standing beside her, and Kes remembered that in the past, B'Elanna wouldn't have deigned to do something so outwardly comforting. She remembered - she used to be spiteful.
Harry, the young one, had lines on his face. Almost. They would be there soon, in another month. He was older now. He was the oldest of children.
The one with the art on his face, Chakotay, looked downtrodden. Life had let him down. Or, something else had. She didn't know. She wondered, did he still know the spirits, or had life taken that from him as well? She didn't know what that meant.
Tuvok, whose mind she could understand, had an extra button on his collar. He was stoic. He was unemotional. He was incredibly expressive. She remembered - he wouldn't have been so expressive.
Neelix. He was unchanged. To her. To another, though? She wanted to smile. Another might have another idea.
The one with the smile, who she remembered well, had changed little, too. Outwardly, at least. He couldn't change.
Janeway, who stood to the side, had changed her hair. Her uniform hung over her thinning frame. Her wrinkles were deeper. She was less expressive. Her eyes didn't dance. They used to dance. But, unlike Tom's eyes, Kes imagined that Janeway's eyes had lost the ability to dance. They didn't dance.
She wanted to resume her story. "What turned me from a magician into a trick." She could come up with too many metaphors, she knew. She remembered word games.
She remembered games.
She frowned. "I can tell you that." She looked to B'Elanna. "You won't find it in my ship - the ship. You won't, because it isn't there." It was a lie, and she was sure they knew. But, she closed her eyes again, shook her head. "No." They wouldn't find it. That, at least was true. "It's only time."
* * * * *
She sat alone with the one whose smile she remembered. The others had left, slowly returning to duties she could barely recall. They had left with promises to return, and she believed them. She didn't know why. She trusted them.
The one with the smile - Doctor, Tom had called him - smiled down on her, looking like he should have been her father. That was wrong, she knew. Her father was long dead on a planet eons away. And this man - he was not old enough to be a father. Not her father.
She was dying, they had said.
And, she remembered this place. There - she had kept a - what was it? A plant. In that corner, she had kept a plant. It had flowered.
She wondered what had happened. It died, she mused. Like all things, it died.
She was dying, she knew. And, she remembered this place. She could not reconcile the two. This was a place of life. Life.
It had been nearly three years since she left, they had told her. Three long years. She knew, oh, she knew, that time was enough for change and disruption. That time - that amount of time, she corrected herself, chastising her mind for forgetting - was enough to change a life. Or more.
She was dying. She was curious.
The man with the smile stood over her, running his blinking machine over her head. She asked, "What happened?"
And he answered, "What do you mean?"
She shook her head. She didn't know. "They said it was three years ago. What happened since then?" Her mouth wasn't forming proper sentences, she was sure. But, syllables and words were enough now.
"To me?" he asked, and she nodded. To him, to everyone else. He sighed and put the blinking machine - tricorder, it was called a tricorder! - away. "Too much," he answered, "to tell in a minute."
She smiled, and he remembered that smile. It had, once, freed him of his darkest moments. He remembered that smile.
She knew, from that smile he wore, he needed no more encouragement. She knew. She remembered.
"Well," he started, and she leaned forward expectantly. He was thrown to the past - when she was a little girl. "I have taken up opera singing, much to Mister Paris' dismay. I can also move around the ship whenever and wherever I please - and I can go on away missions!" Her eyes urged him on.
He stopped when she spoke; he always had.
"Why don't you have a name?" She asked innocently, and she could not remember that she had asked before. Long ago.
She watched him try to answer, and noticed that he couldn't. "I'm sorry," she said, and watched his eyes close. She watched him open his eyes, composing himself. She remembered that once, not long ago - long ago, very long ago - he would have brushed off the question with a vicious response.
She remembered. Memory! She knew - she knew - she knew she remembered. This.
"You don't need a name," she said finally, as she watched his all-too-real movements.
"You're real without one," she told him.
He laughed, but it wasn't like the laughter of the one who laughed. It was bitter. He raised an eyebrow, and she thought of Tuvok.
"You have emotions, feelings," she said, and she remembered when she forgot about those. When she would do anything to get to . . . here, she realized.
Chasing a dream of a memory of a thought long ago.
"That makes you real."
And she smiled at him, and he remembered her smile. He knew it was a role-reversal, but he didn't care. "Thank you, Kes," he said, and he meant it.
She knew genuine praise from this acerbic man - and he was that - was rare. She could know that much. She knew.
She smiled, gaining a smile in return. She remembered that smile.
"You are welcome."
And there was a pause. It was a second, a minute, a millennia, she didn't know. She didn't care. It was a nice feeling.
"Tell me," she directed in her child's voice, only the lines on her face now betraying her age. "Tell me."
He did, with a smile only she could remember.
* * * * *
There were three of them. There had always been three of them. One, two, three. Stuck together like . . . like leola root paste.
She faced them, imagining leola root sandwiches. The one who laughed with warp core eyes, the child, and the spiteful girl, all rolled up in leola root sandwiches.
There were three of them, she knew.
She shook her head. She wanted to remember - had they always been like this? She could remember - there were three of them, stuck together.
The best of friends.
They were, still. She hoped. She didn't know.
The one with the smile had told her how long she had. Time was taking its toll.
Oh, it wasn't time. She knew that. They knew that. No one cared.
She had two days.
She was going to find out everything in two days. And, part of everything was the leola root sandwich friends.
"Life changes?" the spiteful girl asked, and Kes remembered that they had been friends. She nodded in response.
The boy laughed, and the one who should have laughed looked uncomfortable.
The boy answered. "Tom and B'Elanna here -"
The girl cut him off with a glare. He faced her. "It's a life change."
She watched the friends bicker. That, she remembered. Remembered -
She knew that. That hadn't changed.
The girl gave in. "A week after you left, Kes -"
"That soon?" the boy asked, and she knew they had been close.
The one who should have been laughing sighed. "Harry," he whined, and she knew that whine. She knew this. She knew it.
The boy called Harry smiled. She'd known his name before. Or, she'd thought she knew his name. Now, she knew for sure. Harry smiled, shaking his head. He held up his hands. "Hey!" he protested. "I didn't say anything."
The girl snorted with amusement. "Sure you didn't, Starfleet."
She looked on, watching this scene. They were friends. Still.
Something was different. Different. Something.
Her powers were gone - she could have told them. Could have. She could. Once.
"What?" she implored, begging. Two days to cover three years. No time at all. No time. No time. No time. It would haunt her, she thought. For the next two days, haunted.
Harry smiled, and the one with the warp core eyes who should have been laughing did not. The girl said, "Tom and I are involved."
It was a simple sentence, but an acknowledgment. She needed that acknowledgment. Even though she knew. She knew - somehow. Timelines, time, alternating like winds blow across a field.
Something she did not know, something she needed to know. "Love?" she asked. Sentences escaped her. Not enough time. Wasted. Time wasted.
The boy - Harry - shifted uncomfortably. The girl did, too. The laughing one smiled softly, and she knew she had never seen that expression on his face before. She knew that much.
No words spoken. None necessary. She mused. She never would have imagined - yes, she would have. If she had any imagination left, the thought would have crossed her mind. If. Always if.
There was an if she remembered from another time -
No. It was another time.
"What about you, Harry?" she asked the boy. He stared at her. He couldn't laugh.
"Nothing that momentous."
She lost words, lost thought. Lost . . . everything, once.
"I just try to keep these two in line-" She heard the regret, covered by humor. "And find us a way home."
Regret. He knew regret. Fear. Shame. She knew regret. Fear. Shame.
She knew - they were still friends. Three rolled up together. Like leola root paste. She knew - he was a different person now. Things had changed. He hated change. Unlike the others, he clung to an ideal.
Home. That ideal.
"We are home, Harry," the girl said. The laughing one - his eyes danced then, and she knew why.
The boy tried to smile. He couldn't.
* * * * *
"You are Kes, the Ocompan."
"My designation is Seven of Nine."
"But, you may call me Seven."
"You departed upon my arrival."
She continued to nod.
"You are responsible for my being here."
She acknowledged the statement.
"You are responsible for Voyager being here."
She started, but said nothing.
"If it were not for you, we would have been given to the Borg."
She started at a word there, and wondered if, in three years, if friends could grow and change - if this one could. "We."
Seven paused. "We."
She nodded at the acknowledgment. "How so?"
"While at the time I did not consider it to be efficient to be separated from the Collective, I have found that Captain Janeway has made me at home on this ship."
Home. Home. Captain Janeway and home. Here, home.
"At the time, I resented your actions. But, in retrospect I find that I am grateful to you for allowing me this opportunity."
Opportunity. Opportunism. Idealism.
Harry had idealism. That boy - it was gone in the rest of them. She thought.
"I have been able to learn a great deal about humanity while working with this crew."
Humanity. Did that apply to her? She was Ocompan? That's what Seven had said. Kes the Ocompan. Her identity. Her humanity.
She knew it was a step. A step . . . .
"I find that I have formed friendships. The doctor is a wonderful friend."
Doctor. The one with the memorable smile. She remembered - she knew. He had smiled a smile only for her.
Only for her.
Seven of Nine stared down at the shorter woman. "You have nothing to add?"
"No." She shook her head.
She did, she knew. She wanted to hug this woman, this child in a woman's body, who had learned so much. She wanted to hit this Borg for taking her place on this ship that had been her home. Replaced!
She frowned, and her wrinkles blurred together. Had she truly been replaced?
She thought to her conversation with Tom and B'Elanna. She thought . . . . They had moved on with their lives without her.
What of their lives she could remember.
Everyone here had moved on, she guessed. They remembered her - they could remember - but they were fine without her. They didn't need her.
It wasn't them - she was simply the memory reincarnated, the dream that had faded long ago.
She was an illusion.
She heard her words echo: "No."
She turned and left the room, leaving the Borg to watch after her. Confusion.
She knew confusion. She didn't care.
* * * * *
She didn't know why she was here, why her wandering had deposited her unaware into this room. She remembered life here - remembered Neelix - that was his name, wasn't it? That had been long ago.
When she was young.
It was a nice thing to think of. She had once had - something. Lacking now. Gone, even. She and Harry, in the same category.
Once upon a time . . . .
What was that from? Something the one with the laughing eyes had told her once. A tale, a tall, tall tale about demons and ogres. She was a child again, remembering.
She watched the stars go by as she sat at a table. Once upon a time, a little boy ran away from home. He was chasing a monster. He was chasing a dream.
Once upon a time . . . .
She sighed. A time ago, it would have been new. Now, a distant memory.
A footstep fell behind her, and she didn't turn. She didn't want to turn. A hand fell on her shoulder, and rather than comfort, she felt pain.
Too old even for comfort.
She started at the touch, ordering her fading features not to wince. "Yes?" she asked, and her voice was beginning to lose its gentle cadence. Not long.
"Nothing," returned a voice.
It was the boy, the lonely one who still longed for a conclusion to his story. He rested his hand on her shoulder, and she marveled that it was simply for company - to know she was there. She said nothing, knowing - somehow, knowing - that anything he wanted to say, would be said.
Her first clear thought.
She liked that.
His hand tightened on her shoulder, and she knew he heaved a sigh. She turned her head, barely, just to look at him. He closed his eyes.
"I hate them sometimes," he said, and that was all.
They stayed there, thinking. If she had stayed, however long ago, on the starship here, would things be different?
She remembered the good times, and knew then that they had been good times. Mixed with bad, of course, but good.
That smile - Doc's smile.
Her birthday - had that happened? She didn't know.
Harry - the boy's name came to her in a second, before forgetting it for a minute - used to smile.
"Don't hate them."
Harry used to smile.
Janeway - she needed to talk to Janeway. Once. Retribution, reconciliation, remembering too much. She hated Janeway at that moment, for letting them get lost.
For giving her this life.
"I can't not."
No, no, no, she didn't. It was a great thing.
Age-old wisdom shined through, though he was the elder of the two. Naivete gave way to cynicism, she mused, and wondered when he would learn.
"Find your own happiness without them."
"They're my friends."
Yet, you hate them. You hate what their friendship has done to your life, hate that you can't get past reality. They have changed, you have not. They have found peace. You have not.
She did, then. Knew that even the one who smiled, even the one who she had not known - they had found that peace with the girl and the laughter. The boy, though - he was lost idealism with a dream but not a purpose.
Too much like her.
He could not be like her.
An old woman, impossible to remember, a time long past. A time he still lived in. As she did, he lived in the past. Unable to move forward.
* * * * *
"I did love you, you know."
It was important that she know. She would understand, then.
"I know why you left me."
He had been safe, intriguing. She had been a child then, barely a year old. Not old enough to take a lover.
"You needed something new, different. You loved to explore, Kes."
She didn't remember.
Adventures running through her mind.
He, too, was older now. Almost an old man, offering sage advice to those who didn't ask. He played the role of care giver, or father, or grandfather, or godfather. He was still capable of so much.
His heart had grown bigger.
He hugged her then, an old gesture that almost fit.
* * * * *
He didn't reach to touch her, didn't fold his hands. She decided in an instant that she hated that. She craved familiarity, wanted things to be as they were.
She realized, too late, that she was what she sought to defeat.
The boy's words echoed, telling a tale even more complicated than that of the one with the smile - Doctor, his name was.
"My powers have diminished," she heard herself say, but wasn't really saying it.
"Have you tried any of the mind exercises I devised for you?"
Her own words echoed, telling him to move on, begging a story of the past. Contrary, she mused.
"No, Tuvok." She shook her head.
She watched him suppress a frown. She interrupted his emotional control. "What has happened here?" she asked, and she did not know what she meant. What had happened to smiles and laughter and bitterness, what happened to eternal hope. Where had that dream gone, she wondered.
He looked at her then, discerning eyes ripping her soul to shreds. They had been friends once, she knew. Didn't understand now how she had been on the same plane with this genius of a man.
"It would be impossible to explain everything that has occurred in your absence, Kes," he told her.
Impossible. Stuck in the past, it was impossible. Even in this impossible future, it was stuck in the past - her sentences came apart as she looked at him.
"Try." One word was enough, for her, at least.
He could not. It would be illogical to try to surrender all thoughts to this perishing being before him. Highly illogical, if a fascinating attempt. He could not comprehend his sudden willingness to defy logic.
And she frowned.
* * * * *
Faces overhead, making noises she couldn't distinguish.
The laughing one with the warp core eyes moved in and out of her frame of vision, holding different pieces of metal over her face and then making faces at the metal. The one with the smile did much of the same, though he made less noise as he did so. The boy stood aside with the girl, and he was talking to her. She caught snippets of their conversation, but it seemed to be about temporal inversions or such incomprehensible things. The one who had loved her stood with the logical one, aside. She wondered if they were still the fast friends they had been.
Things here had changed.
People here had changed. Except, perhaps for the boy, but he would, soon enough. Reality would set in and he would grow as old as the others.
She looked, and there was a face she longed to see, had begged to see for days. She knew not her name anymore. The day before, perhaps, but no more.
Faded pizzaz in reddish glaring - she knew not of syntax, only that this girl - was she a girl? Much younger than she, yet - There was a mothering quality to her, somehow.
"Kes," said the mother-girl, and she was called Captain. "I've missed you."
It was a concept she understood.
Captain missed her, missed that past. The past before the now, before their hearts hardened or didn't, before things had changed.
She remembered vaguely that less than two days ago these people had names - Harry, Tom, Janeway - but the names no longer fit the faces.
"Me, too," she said, and she was a girl here again, learning new things, conquering new ideas. Keeping Doctor - for he had been Doctor then - from frightening away crewmen with his acerbic tongue.
"Kes," said Captain, and she felt a hand on her head, stroking. "You're dying."
That, she knew. It happened in time.
She did not know the significance of the day, the time, the orders she had given. She did not know that the ship felt her presence, welcomed her home. She knew this, though - dying. Nearly eight years. A long life for one like her.
"I know," she said, and her eyes landed on each person individually.
They had no real names now, for they were not the people she had known. Tom had been, and B'Elanna had been, and Harry had been, and Tuvok, and Neelix, and Janeway. Now - now they - they were not.
She struggled against her mind, looking for a word, a sentence.
The one with the smile carried a piece of metal that beeped, and he and the laughter stared at it in seeming panic. The others started.
"Never," she rasped for her voice was failing her, and Captain's ears perked up. "Never stop chasing that dream."
And then the metal gave a shrill shriek, voices sounded at once, and all was silent.
* * * * *
Tom Paris sat in his quarters, staring at a blank television screen. He held his head in his hands, trying to think and trying not to think at the same time.
The door chime sounded, and he dropped his hands. "Come in," he said.
B'Elanna Torres entered, looking as haggard as he did. "Hey," she said, and he nodded a response. She came over towards him and sat beside him, relishing his touch on her arm.
They sat together for a minute, or two, before she said, "What did she mean?"
"Hmm?" he said distractedly, lost in his own reverie. His fingers twirled in her hair.
"Never stop chasing the dream," B'Elanna repeated persistently. "What did she mean by that?" Her tone was quiet, but demanding, one he had heard many times before. One he found he loved more than anything in the galaxy.
"I don't know," he answered, continuing to stare at the television.
"I wish we did know," she said. "Because I think it would explain her entire presence here." He didn't answer, but she didn't expect him to. "Her ship - I did keep studying it, even after she said not to." She laughed derisively. "You know how many phaser scars it has? More than the Flyer, more than this pile of bolts. It wasn't just life that did this to her, Tom. She really wasn't old enough to die - only seven! It was this damned quadrant and all of the damned hostility running around it. Too many battles, too many hard-headed idiot aliens. She shouldn't have died, really." She took a breath and continued her tirade. "Sometimes I wish we could just find some damn planet and settle down, forget about the Alpha Quadrant and live our lives in peace. No Starfleet regs to follow, no Maquis to worry about. Just us, alone, without a care in the world."
She stopped then, for he shifted to look at her. He touched a finger to her face, and she leaned into his hand.
"And then," she continued, "I remember what we're reaching for."
"Hmm?" he asked, listening intently but not bothering to form words.
She looked up at his lost eyes and smiled. "It's Harry's family, Naomi's father, and Janeway's coffee."
Tom looked down at her impish smile and had to laugh, and the skin around his blue eyes crinkled as he did so. "Janeway's coffee?" he questioned, and she glanced up at him.
"Yes. Janeway's coffee. That is the primary reason we're trying to go home. So our captain can have a little peace of mind, a little coffee, and leave us the hell alone!"
He grinned at her impertinent declaration. "You know something?" he asked.
"What?" she said, sounding more and more like a small child as the evening went on.
"You said home. Not Earth, or Qo'noS. Home."
She turned her head against his shoulder. "So?"
"That's what we're reaching for," he said, and he leaned his head on top of hers. "Home. That's where we'll find Harry's family and Naomi's father."
"And Janeway's coffee."
They laughed together, the way friends and lovers do. After a long stretch of that, he stopped and turned to her, moving so he faced her completely. "Maybe that's the dream we're chasing, or supposed to be chasing. Janeway's coffee."
"We've got a long way to go, Tom," she said quietly.
"Yeah," he agreed.
"We're chasing that dream. Remembering that Earth is home," she said as she leaned against him again. Her last words were a little muffled against his tunic. "Here is only temporary."
His arms fell around her, holding her closer still. "And when we get there," he joked, "we'll get Janeway situated with her coffee, and Harry situated with his family, and find a planet where we'll have only us - no worries. Right?"
She snorted. "Tom. This is us. No worries?"
"At least," he said, "we won't have to keep chasing Janeway's coffee."
She laughed with him into the endless night, holding him close to her. No worries - unlikely. But, maybe, after that dream had been caught, the worries would be fewer.
* * * * *
Harry Kim sat in his quarters and glanced out the viewscreen, watching the stars fly by at warp speed. He missed Kes already - again.
This year was one for second goodbyes. That was unfair, he thought, to have someone brought back only to be ripped away within days. Lindsay, Kes -
It was unfair, he thought.
Life was unfair. The Delta Quadrant was a lonely place. So far from home, from everything he knew.
He sighed and leaned back against the cushions of his Starfleet-issued couch.
Home. Now there was something to dream about. Regardless of his friends - who he loved dearly, despite their more annoying traits; regardless of the daily disasters they encountered - and there were many of them; regardless of the torment he had been through, he kept that dream.
He smiled and watched the stars fly by. He'd keep her alive, he knew. They would catch that dream someday, somehow.
He knew this. He knew it.