Written by: T'Kalara

Summer 1998 8th-9th grades

Author's note: the characters belong to Paramount, and I am just borrowing them for my story. This was meant as a sequel to 'Devotion', but can be read separately.


* * * *


Tuvok sat in his darkened quarters on Voyager, meditating and trying to reach the inner harmony that he sought. Absolutely no such luck. T'Pel, parted from me and never parted. Always touching and touched… I remember uttering those words of bond so many decades ago. My T'Pel, so far away, yet I can vaguely feel her through our bond, her warm presence.

He shook himself away from these emotional thoughts, seeking Pure Logic for only a moment. But he couldn't find it. No, it was eluding him, in the face of his wife and children. Tuvok's daughter, T'Lyra, he had attended her Bonding so long ago, so far away…His sons, Sopek and Senak…Sopek would be finishing his term at the Vulcan Academy of Sciences. And Senak, always the one to strive for independence, fully logically, of course, would have just completed his fourth year at Starfleet Academy.

Yet, a sense of impending danger flooded into and overwhelmed his senses. Almost as if…No! No! T'Pel, run, take the children (who, his cold, logical side said were no longer children), far away from the house! Still concentrating on the bond, he felt his wife's heart race, felt the heat of an explosion, rise until it seemed any human's would burst, then drop to nil. No, no! Her katra was not transferred, her soul will not continue, because, because of me. I was not there for her; it is my fault, no!

The Vulcan sat bolt upright, and realized he had done something he had only done as a child; he had fallen asleep while meditating. T'Pel's danger had only been a dream. Dreams were rare, but when they overrode logic, could be devastating. T'Lyra had strong telepathic powers, and often as a child, before her disciplines were whole, dreams dreamed by those humans living within the vicinity leaked into her mind at night while she slept. At last, her mental shields had been fully developed, and no dreams pervaded, but Tuvok remembered nights she would wake up in shock from the strength of these alien emotions.

Delving once again into his own psyche, he had just reached a satisfying state of peace, when Janeway to Tuvok.

"Tuvok here, Captain. Do you require assistance on the Bridge?"

"No, and sorry for disturbing you off-shift. Meet me in Astrometrics."

"I am here to serve. I will be there in five minutes." Rising from his meditative posture, Tuvok straightened his uniform and stepped out into the relatively brightly lit and cool corridor. "Astrometrics," he ordered the lift. It slipped smoothly into motion, and he allowed for a moment, his thoughts to drift to his family…"Father, will my Bonding be difficult? I know that it is illogical to worry, yet I am curious."

"There is no illogic in seeking knowledge, yet," he added at her brightening expression, "do not lose your control. Bonding will not be difficult with your telepathic powers. Soran is a good match, optimum in his intelligence and mental qualities. Take note of the hour. You must prepare."

T'Lyra gave a grave nod, and walked off to her chambers, her delicate-featured face impassive and emotionless outwardly. Half an hour later, she reemerged, clad in a shimmering white gown, her hair adorned with small clear crystals, whose light appeared green in the ruddy light of a Vulcan dawn. The drop-like faceted crystals complimented her copper-toned skin, plaited into her soft, dark tresses. This small amount of decoration and adornment would be allowed only at Bonding and vow consummation. And T'Lyra looked perfect, a mask of logic dropping over her face.

Soran appeared at the proper time, punctual as only a Vulcan can be. He noted how illogically attractive T'Lyra was, and suppressed the thought immediately. Control was all. Studiously avoiding brushing the imagined dust off his elaborate robe, the sigils and jewels of the ancient clan lineage arranged on the fold, he stepped up to the ritual dais.

All of this, and Soran was only seven years of age.

Tuvok, after the ceremony, spoke to Soran, who responded with grave respect and dignity. He was an optimum match, the elder Vulcan thought. Indeed, T'Lyra would surely appreciate it in the times to come…

The security officer jolted back into reality and was vaguely aware of the turbolift doors opening. He thought he could hear the voice of his daughter, calling to him. Yet, she couldn't be, not here in the Delta Quadrant…

The next thing Tuvok knew, he was looking up at the Doctor and Kathryn, who had worried expressions on their faces. "Lieutenant Tuvok, I suppose you are going to ask what your condition is," the hologram cut him off, "and your prognosis is good, except for extreme exhaustion caused by lack of sleep. Tell me, have you been using new meditating techniques? It is normal," he now addressed Kathryn, "for Vulcans to sometimes have adverse reactions if they attempt to change their methods after long periods of the same."

"Well, Tuvok?"

"Indeed, Captain, this I can see logic in. However," he raised a brow, "I was not attempting to use anything new." He did not mention what visions had invaded the usual quiet domain of his meditations. They were, he thought, absolutely no one's business.

"I would, Lieutenant, keep you here for a few more hours of observation, but I know your busy schedule," the Doctor lay heavy with sarcasm, "and no matter what I say, you would never acquiesce to stay. So, you are free to return to whatever you were doing, but see me after the next time you meditate. Agreed?" At his assenting nod, the Doctor turned back to analyzing air samples.

Tuvok swung his legs over the edge of the biobed and left. Kathryn sensed that the holographic doctor had something more to say, and he did.

"Captain, normally Vulcans never have any problems meditating after their mental powers are fully developed. What I did not say was that I read a large amount of activity in the telepathic centers of his brain. Almost as if someone or something was communicating with him, and stimulating the emotions he usually keeps suppressed. Vulcans can go into shock if they are faced with too much emotion at once, if they have not experienced such in years."

"So, what is your prognosis?" Kathryn sounded both concerned and curious, an interesting combination.

But before the Doctor could give a substantial answer, his program shimmered, and disappeared into nothingness as the ship shuddered. Light flickered, and secondary systems came online, but not the Doctor. Communications went down, and no amount of fiddling could get the doors open, the Doctor online, or the Bridge raised.

Kathryn was beginning to get really frustrated, which usually was never able to spoil her cool demeanor. However, this week was not one of the best, and she sat down on a biobed in resignation, recounting the events of the past couple of days:

Two days ago ~ "Kathryn, why is it you never have anytime to spend with me anymore? Is Kayla more important than I am?!" her first officer and husband sputtered in his quietly accusatory voice.

"Of course not, Chakotay. But you're not a baby, are you?" And so it continued, their voices rising in volume, as Kayla Laurel continued to sob uncontrollably. Finally, Chakotay stormed out, tossing over his shoulder, "Fine, I never wanted to be in your life anyway, and I'm sorry I took pity on you and gave you a baby!"

Kathryn stared in shocked anger as the doors closed, and flung herself down on their bed, crying without stopping for a straight hour.

Yesterday ~ everyone dreaded their double presence on the Bridge, which was charged with tension. Even Tom wasn't his usual joking self. Chakotay had spent the night in Tom and B'Elanna' quarters on the couch. He rose early and left, not wanting to inconvenience the young couple.

The air in the command center might have been freezing cold. No one said anything, and when Kathryn retired to her Ready Room, there was an unheard collective sigh by all but Tuvok, who followed her.

"Captain, requesting permission to enter."

"Not now, Tuvok."

"Computer, override lockout, Security Code Tuvok-2-0-Omega-Chi." The doors slid apart, and the unflappable lieutenant entered, to see a sight he had never expected. Kathryn lay on her couch, eyes red.

"Tuvok, I thought I told you to go away," her voice trembled like a fragile spring leaf.

"Indeed, Captain. I believe you are in terrible need of meditation and inner seeking."

"Don't you think I've tried? Every time I try to reach my spirit guide, I am cast out, because I need Chakotay to aid me."

"No, I have come to help you seek a Vulcan meditation trance." At the worried flash of her sapphire eyes, he gave a response calculated to reassure and be informative as well, "It is not painful nor dangerous. This trance will only show you your conscience, allow you to ponder what has been happening. Will you allow me to continue?"

At her affirming nod, he placed his dark fingers on the reach-centers of her face, and began to send his consciousness out to hers. Tuvok gently pushed aside the layers of tissue-thin resistance set up as shields from emotional grief. He was surprised t the depth of emotion and complexity. His mind carefully led hers down the metaphorical path, seeing the facts laid out before them, at the same time gaining an understanding of what had been going on between his commanding officers.

As his disciplined mind withdrew, she drew a measure of control from this meld. A small smile lit her face, "Thank you, my friend. You have allowed me to see what each of us has done amiss. I will endeavor to make things right."

"If you will consent to listen, I perhaps can assuage a part of your inner turmoil. Once, after a decade of marriage, T'Pel and I had a disagreement over who T'Lyra should Bond with. In the past, we had small problems that we solved quickly, several in the nature of those you are experiencing now. T'Pel wished our daughter to be the mate of a young boy by the name of Soran, the same age of T'Lyra, with like mental capabilities. However, I believed she was best suited to Starek, proud and later arrogant, who had several High Priestesses in his lineage. T'Lyra was less in stature to him, yet I thought that she had a good chance of producing intelligent offspring.

"Even though T'Pel insisted upon Soran, I contacted Starek's family, and arranged for the Bonding. For many days, my wife would speak to me only as necessary, but never of T'Lyra. T'Lyra herself was resigned to whatever fate was to come. As the time of Bonding grew near, I had Starek come to meet his intended. I left them alone for a few minutes, and returned to find T'Lyra holding her face, a bruise darkening her cheek.

"Starek, in his arrogance, had struck her, seeing her as of less noble birth, and therefore inferior. I immediately cast him from my house, breaking the possibility of Bonding. That night, after seeing to T'Lyra's bruise, I went to my wife. Though it was difficult for me, I apologized. She forgave me.

"The next day, we contacted together the family of Soran, and arranged a Bonding. T'Pel and I were in careful attendance as we introduced him to T'Lyra, who was more than slightly wary. Yet, I saw nothing in Soran but eagerness to join with the mind of our daughter.

"Later, after the ceremony, T'Lyra spoke to me. She said that Soran had nothing hidden, and only honesty in his mind. My daughter saw that he truly strove for the joining."

Kathryn knew that this must have taxed his limits, to speak of his family so far away, and reveal hidden thoughts to a mere human. Quietly, she thanked her security chief and friend, and he rose, leaving her to thought.

Minutes later, Chakotay entered, and she explained what Tuvok had said. She apologized to her beloved, and Chakotay in turn forgave and tried to atone for his behavior. Both promised to be more understanding in the future, and as they left her sanctuary together, the Bridge air was once again warm and friendly.

Kathryn thought of all that had come to pass. Tuvok must have been thinking of family, which triggered emotion, thus putting him into shock! Pleased with this deduction, she turned with renewed energy into forcing the doors.

* * * *

Half an hour later, several bruised fingers and broken nails later, Kathryn had succeeded in parting the doors about a hand's width. And only to find a bulkhead beyond it collapsed, to her chagrin, right in her way. Periodically, every two minutes or so, the deck would rock beneath her feet, and the comm system was still down.

Power had been diverted away from all nonessential systems, she read from the Doctor's console, but she couldn't seem to enter commands. "Darn!" she cursed, slapping her palm against the bulkhead. All of a sudden, a red glow spread from a point on the doors. Cutting phaser she thought. The bone-jarring thuds had subsided, so the captain assumed one of the crew was trying toost past the bulkhead preventing her from escaping Sickbay.

Ten minutes and some masculine cursing later, Chakotay pushed away the last of the debris blocking the door. He pulled his wife to her feet, and explained that they had encountered subspace fiber bundles and a spatial anomaly, which had taken down intership communications and computer systems. Right then, B'Elanna was working on a way to get the Doctor back up, and put Harry to work on repairing the comm system.

All repairs took up a good portion of the rest of the week. At last, the Doctor was back online, communications were reasonably usable, and Kathryn could take a bath in peace. She took a full hour, an extravagant luxury she usually never allowed herself. "You deserve it, Kathryn," had been her husband's reassurance.

Minutes later, the tub was full of steaming hot water, dense bubbles floating on top, the scent of white jasmine and pikake drifting around the closed room. Kathryn slid into the velvety waters, drawing in a breath at the temperature, but knowing an hour would be plenty of time for the suds to cool.

Forty-five minutes later, she was submerged up to her chin, lying back, keeping her hair twisted up and out of the tub. Several unruly strands had somehow managed to escape, and clung to the back of her neck. Absolute relaxation was settling over her, and the next fifteen minutes passed all too quickly.

Ever disciplined, she resignedly let the water out, an drying off on a fluffy towel, pulled on her nightgown and robe. The light cotton of the gown stuck to the wet patches on her back, and she sighed, slipping the robe off, and hanging it back in the closet. Kathryn sat on the couch, rubbing sore neck muscles, and was not the least bit surprised when Chakotay quietly sat down next to her and began to massage her shoulders.

Everything was as back to normal as possible for a ship lost in the Delta Quadrant, and down the hall, B'Elanna and Tom were spending a quiet evening with Zya and Kayla, to give their commanding officers some peace. Right then, Kayla was sound asleep in Tom's arms, and Zya was nodding off, a fistful of her mother's hair in hand. The young half-Klingon smiled contentedly as she noticed her husband falling asleep just like the baby he cradled.

B'Elanna picked up Kayla in her other arm, taking both infants to the next room, where cradles awaited. She lingered a while, gently stroking her daughter's almost undefined brow ridges, watched as those blue eyes closed. When she was satisfied that both were settled in, she returned to the main room.

Tom was breathing regularly when she knelt down on the floor beside him, debating whether or not to wake him. A sly smile crossed her face, and she grabbed his arms, and pulled him off the couch, breaking his fall before he hit the carpeted deck, jolting the helmsman awake. "Hey, Helmboy. Falling asleep again?"

"Sorry, Be', long day…oh, all right, all right. I'm getting up," he sounded just like a sulky little boy, telling his mother he didn't want to go to school. Fifteen minutes later, he had showered, and lay beside his wife, watching her as she slept.

Her delicate features lost some of their normal Klingoness, becoming more human. No matter, he loved her always, and would forever. She woke for a moment, and snuggled closer in his arms, before drifting off again. Moments later, he too was asleep.

* * * *

Unfortunately, Tuvok wasn't sleeping quite so easily. He lay still, staring up, out at the countless stars in space. Though he didn't realize she knew, Kathryn was right. Talking to her had caused him to go into emotional shock. It had been so long since he had remembered his family.

Surely, T'Pel, T'Lyra, Sopek, and Senak honored him, as she who was his wife must know through their Bond that he still lived. Neither could sense exactly what the other was doing, but had the vague impression, the spark of their life, imprinted in their mind. One would know if the other no longer lived.

T'Pel had been faithful to him, even in his absence. Tuvok would have known if she had taken another mate. That was one of the many qualities that had made her husband proud to Bond with her. Emotional thoughts lay far in his Vulcan heart, but existed.

Her undying faith, aesthetic attractiveness (a human would call her beautiful), and mental prowess would make her desired by many males. He never before contemplated things as such, but now as he thought of it, T'Pel would always be with him.

Tuvok remembered the letter his wife had sent to him through the network, remembered its content. Soran had faced the koon-ut-kal-i-fee in his absence, and been accepted by T'Lyra. His daughter had, however, been distressed at the fact that Tuvok would not be at her marriage ceremony. In the heat of her emotional control being lost, as was expected, she cried out for her father.

T'Lyra and Soran celebrated the birth of their child about a year ago. All this in the short transmission conveyed the idea of support and logic. T'Pel would inform their children, and when they were of age, their grandchildren, that Tuvok still lived.

Pondering this fully logically, Tuvok found that he was contented to sleep, and dropped off. He would never have admitted it, but deep inside his heart, he wished to see his beloved T'Pel before fifty years were over, and he was a great-grandfather. The Vulcan would welcome that day, with all proper control.

* * * *

Early in the morning, B'Elanna left their quarters and went on duty, stopping by the Mess Hall for breakfast. It was a routine, uneventful shift by 08.00 hours, but only until then. She was running a diagnostic on the plasma injectors and warp manifold inducers, when a hissing pop sounded. A steady stream of white gas shot from the warp core and her heart pounded with dread. No, no! I won't have a breach! I'll stop it, or I'm not a combination of Klingon strength and human genius! Flitted through her mi eacike a worried hummingbird.

"Vorik! Lock down the constrictors! I'm getting pressure drops, and if we don't seal this off...boom! Everybody but Vorik and me out, now!"

"Lieutenant, may I be of assistance?"

The chief engineer whirled around for a split second, and saw Annika making her way down an access ladder by sliding down the sides. Apparently, heeled boots weren't stopping her. "Annika, try to seal the breach, but be careful. If you move that," she indicated the tool thee young woman grabbed off a console, "more than a few millimeters off target, we might as well be dead."

"Do not worry, I have retained precision." Moments later, their joint efforts stabilized the core, and the levels were returning to normal.

"Engineering to Bridge, the core breach has been sealed off, and I'll have a report ready as soon as this shift is over."

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant."

B'Elanna pushed hair off her face, and sat down, trying to figure out what had caused the narrowly averted disaster.

* * * *

"As far as I can tell, an irregularity in a plasma flow line backed up to the core, and caused a pressure overload. That blew out a conduit, and a chain reaction followed. Luckily, Annika was able to seal off the breach, while Vorik and I locked down the core and stopped the pressure drop."

Kathryn ran a hand over her eyes when no one was looking, and put her 'command voice' on again. "Good work, B'Elanna. Staff meeting tomorrow at 06.30, people. Don't forget. Dismissed."

As they left, Tom grabbed part of B'Elanna's sleeve and pulled her aside into the turbolift. "Don't argue, it's my shift off. Matter of fact," he checked a nonexistent chronometer, "I believe it's yours, too. Now, what happened?"

"Tom, I told you, along with the rest of the senior staff. But if you want the full version," she continued. At his nod, she went on to add detail to the bare bones report given to the Captain. When she was through, he nodded. By then, the turbolift had come to a stop.

She had been so distracted, B'Elanna didn't notice her husband had commanded the lift to take them to Holodeck Three. "Tom what's going on?"

"Well, Be', you've been so stressed lately, I talked Chakotay into giving us some extra time off, and reserved the Holodeck. I'll be back in fifteen minutes, and you'll find some replicatable clothes you should like in there." With that, the holodeck doors interlocked between them, and he strode off back to their quarters, whistling a jaunty tune.

There's no dealing with men. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em thought B'Elanna. She turned around, to find herself in the pavilion setting Harry had created to woo Annika. Indeed, there was a small console there, and accessing it, she soon found the whole database of dresses accessible. Smiling, she replicated one she had long had her eye on. It was navy, of soft rayon and cotton, sleeveless, and had flowers of a lighter blue. She slid it on, reveling in the feel of the fabric cascading past her hips, carefully lacing up the back. It came with white leather sandals that had low heels, and a note. The crisp paper crinkled as she opened it, and read:

B'Elanna, I knew you couldn't resist this one,

so here are some more gifts for you.



B'Elanna picked up the small tissue-wrapped package. Inside was a gold heart pendant on a chain, matching earrings, and a ring. The ring was a thin band of gold, set with lustrous black stone, surrounded by clear crystals. She put on the jewelry, and since the chronometer said she still had only scant time before Tom appeared, B'Elanna sent the console to oblivion, and stood at the center of the pavilion, waiting.

She didn't have to wait long. About a minute later, the doors appeared, parting and revealing Tom, dressed in slacks and a long-sleeved button-down shirt. In his hand was a bunch of roses. His eyebrows rose close to his hairline, and he whistled appreciatively. "Be', you look absolutely gorgeous!"

"Thank you, Helmboy. Now, what's to do?" She didn't get an answer. Well, at least not a verbal one. He set aside the roses on a bench, and swept her up into his arms. B'Elanna was breathless from his kisses by the time he set her down. A snap of his fingers lowered the lighting until she could barely see him, and the pavilion was backlit only by the stars.

"Computer, play music selection Paris-Alpha-Omicron," he ordered. She stepped close as strains of music floated in on the warm breeze, mingling with the scent of her perfume. 'How do I live without you…how do I ever, ever let go?…baby you'd take away everything that's good in my life, how do I, oh how do I live…without you…'

B'Elanna had her head against his shoulder, face pressed close. His arms circled around her back, his lips pressing on hers. The moment seemed to last forever, as they broke apart, he saw her dazzling smile, the contentment in her eyes.

Tom was losing himself in the dark chocolate pools of her eyes, ready to stay for eternity. Everything was perfect; no worries, no cares, save for if he and the beautiful woman he held in his arms were going to kiss for the billionth time…Nothing could have broken that mood, except-B'Elanna gave a short scream, then whirled around, breaking from his arms.

Her husband saw the knife blade protruding from her side, saw the evil squint of Hirogen eyes. He watched, paralyzed at first by fear, then catalyzed into action as B'Elanna fell to the deck. The Hirogen pulled out a second blade, and began a series of slashes and parries in his direction. Tom grabbed one of the candelabras, and was starting to gain ground, when a second aggressor seemed to appear from nowhere.

He gave a howl of anguish and anger as the second alien picked up B'Elanna's limp form, and tore out the dagger. Tom's breath rasped in his throat, and he had time to call out once to his beloved, before the first attacker's blade flashed out toward his throat, and-

Tom screamed and sat bolt upright in bed. His eyes took a moment to adjust, and he found B'Elanna next to him, trying to calm him. A line of sweat ran down his back, his hands were clenched in fists of rage. Her soft voice broke through the clouds of anger surrounding his brain, its loving, soothing tone cut straight to his heart. "Tom, what's wrong? Please, tell me, was it a bad dream?"

"Be', promise you'll never leave me, promise."

"Of course, but why would I ever leave you and Zya?"

"I had the most horrible nightmare. I was losing you, and couldn't stop it, and…" his voice trailed off, and she held him close.

"Will you be all right? Tell you what, love. I'll stay awake for you, just calm down. Don't make me use any 'uncomfortable, unsanctioned methods'! Known in other words as knocking you unconscious, stealing a hypospray of sedative from Sickbay and shooting you full of it, etc."

At her serious/playful threats, Tom lost some of his tension, and rolled over on his side, holding his treasure close. A few minutes later, he was asleep, his only thought being he would never let go again. Not even if it cost him his life. She was his world, his heart, and a part of his very soul. Everything he did had to do with her.

* * * *

It was 03.00 hours, and Kathryn was sleepless. She stared up at the stars all around her, careful not to wake Chakotay slumbering beside her. He had fallen asleep long before, somewhere around fifteen minutes after he climbed into bed. Even though she had pretended to sleep, lying a while with her eyes closed, sleep eluded her.

Nothing worked: meditation, breathing patterns, thoughts of relaxation…

"Love, what's the matter?" came the sleepy murmur to her right. "Are you having premonitions or is something really wrong?"

"I don't know. I've just been thinking about what's happened in our sojourn in the Delta Quadrant. Everything that'sstran going on back home." She laughed a bitter laugh, "For all we know, the Borg have overrun the Alpha Quadrant and assimilated everything. I just am beginning to wonder what everyone is thinking." She sat up, and tucking her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them.

At once, her husband pulled her into an embrace as tears began to form in the corners of her cobalt eyes. He held her close; rubbed her shoulders, kissing that silky hair he had always loved. "Shh, shh, Kathryn. Everything will work out. It just has to. That is the order of things. Now you need some sleep, or the crew will have a very grumpy captain to deal with in the morning."

That drew a small smile from her, and Kathryn snuggled closer to Chakotay, feeling his arms pulling her to him. She felt a wave of reassurance come with him, and thought that perhaps he was right. It took scant minutes before she drifted off. But he stayed awake the rest of the night and early morning, keeping watch over his Kathryn.

Till death do us part…those vows taken meant so little at first recitation, but on reflection, certainly defined his love. But he would have added and beyond…

* * * *

Annika was just leaving Astrometrics, 'up early' by the standards of the new shift, when she bumped straight into Harry. Brushing aside his blushing apologies, she fell into step beside him. "Bridge," was her curt command to the turbolift. "Ensign Kim, harry, am I making you nervous? I assure you, that was not my intent," her voice softened, eyes falling to the deck. When she looked up, he was staring into her eyes.

"You know, Annika, when I first met you, those eyes were like forbidding ice." He smiled at her self-conscious response.

"Indeed. And I think yours remind me of-" Her reply was cut off as the doors opened onto the Bridge. Harry cleared his throat and stepped out, ever as protocol demanded. His replies to his Captain were crisp and short.

Kathryn noted that every time he and Annika were caught together, he snapped back to being 'by the book' whenever another individual approached. Interesting. I wonder if it's just my presence, and that of those superior in rank, or simply a natural response?

Her thoughts were cut short as Tuvok's unflappable voice reported from Tactical. "Hirogen ships on intercept course. Two heavy ships in stalking mode, estimated time to intercept five minutes. We can outrun them, Captain." His voice was laced with some disdain, something only she could have heard and censored out.

"I don't think so. We may be sixty thousand light-years from Starfleet, but I'm not totally going off protocol. But I also think it's about time that we showed them that were not just prey." Her voice held bitterness, as if the word tasted bad. And to her at that particular moment, it did.

Chakotay, sitting about a foot away from her, could see that she was not going to be satisfied unless one of two things happened. A) The Hirogens went home with their proverbial tails between their legs, thoroughly chastised through diplomacy, or if necessary, defensive force or, B) They realized that Voyager was not about to surrender, submit to be prey, and was not helpless, though it was all alone out here.

And unless an option C came up, he was pretty sure his Kathryn would have her way about things. Plus, it wasn't like Kathryn was going to settle for less, and she wasn't going to break Starfleet's rules to get it. That was another of the things he loved about her, that proud but mutable look she had when she felt sure she had a good shot at getting what she wanted. He saw that steely determination in her eyes, and he could almost feel the tension on the Bridge, directed out towards those Hirogen ships not yet in viewing range.

Five minutes passes very quickly for the crew of a starship about to face yet another enemy. "Ships entering visual and communications range," came from Tuvok.

"Yellow alert, shields to full. Hail them, Mister Tuvok."

"Hailing frequency open, Captain. Shield at full."

"Hirogen ship, I believe you know who we are."

"Yes, I do," was the grating, guttural response. "You are prey, inferior in all ways. Surrender immediately, and prepare to be boarded."

"I don't think so. You may believe yourselves to be superior, but oh, no. Back on my planet, we once had people who considered themselves a Master Race. They fell into chaos, were defeated in battle. But that doesn't have to happen between us here and now. Surely we can come to some agreement-" Kathryn's reply was cut off by a blast of energy.

"Shields holding. Shall I return fire?" there was no need for Tuvok to add that the comm link had been terminated.

"Disabling phasers only. Fire warning shots right over their starboard nacelles. If that doesn't work, target their weapons systems and engines only." The blue of Starfleet phasers cut through the inky blackness of space.

"Direct hit. Minor damage sustained by the Hirogen ships, their weapons are down; no return fire."

"Let's see if he is willing to negotiate now. Voyager to the Hirogen ships-"

"We will destroy you as the weaker species you are! Prepare to die!" was the violent rejoinder as the comm link was once again cut. Both ships wheeled around and headed back into the depths of Hirogen space.

"Well, it would seem we wounded their pride. And a wounded creature is always more dangerous. I'll be in my Ready Room. Chakotay, you have the Bridge."

The doors whispered shut behind her, their silence belying the explosive anger of the Hirogens. Now it was time for the prey to turn, and bear her teeth. Voyager wasn't some primitive race goaded into awe or fear of a bully.

* * * *

Several hours later, they were led to yet another confrontation. This time, Kathryn had to deal with a single ship, but it was triple the size of the earlier stalkers. Its weapons spat pure energy coupled with large projectiles. An interesting mix of ancient and modern technology if the Captain had ever seen one.

Kathryn Zyala Paris was with Sam Wildman in her quarters, who had brought her and Kayla there to be with Naomi when the firing started. Being off-duty, the three mothers had decided that one would bring together all of the children should the need arise. The ship rocked with the percussive impact, and Zya whimpered in terror.

Samantha and Naomi, who was now seven, were doing their best to calm the others down. In the few times this had happened, Naomi learned what to do, and was rocking Kayla back and forth in her arms, trying to keep her from crying. She and her mother were making some headway when a bulkhead imploded, fragments of shrapnel rained down. When some of the smoke cleared, Sam looked around.

Kayla and Naomi appeared unscathed, but for a few scratches. She herself had a nasty cut on her forearm, but it bled more than it hurt. To her horror, a bit of shrapnel had caught Zya in the back of her neck. The toddler had continued to scream even louder in pain.

Working on impulse after the impacts stopped and Voyager was well out of danger, she beamed herself and Zya to Sickbay. Thankfully, all of the Doctor's other patients had minor injuries. The holographic physician went to work, extracting the bulkhead fragment, and stopping the bleeding.

He quickly summoned the girl's parents to Sickbay when he was finished.

"Doctor, what happened?" But it was Sam Wildman who answered B'Elanna's question.

"Oh gods, B'Elanna, I was so scared for Zya! She was in my quarters with Kayla and Naomi, and I had her in my arms. The bulkhead imploded, and she caught shrapnel, and-" Sam cut off, sure that something awful that was her fault would occur.

"Sam, it's not your fault. Zya is okay, right?" At the Doctor's assuring nod, he continued, 'You brought her here, and you thought on your feet. Anyway, our quarters are a mess. If you hadn't had Zya with you, things could be a lot worse. A power relay blew out right by her room, and it rained sparks. There are scorch marks all over the floor and on her bed."

Reassured by Tom, Samantha went back to her own quarters, to bring Kayla back to Kathryn, who was off duty. She had just left Sickbay and was walking towards the turbolift when B'Elanna was out the doors after her, and catching up.

"Sam, thanks for-" the ship rocked with signs of another attack. Both Sam Wildman and B'Elanna were thrown into the far wall, but Sam managed to break her fall, slapping the wall and absorbing the impact. B'Elanna was not so lucky, though Sam reached out to try and stop her fall. She was closer to the wall, and hit it with sufficient force to hear ribs crack.

* * * *

The Doctor worked feverishly on B'Elanna, with the help of his assistant, the worried husband of the patient. The chief engineer had multiple cracked and broken ribs, minor internal bleeding, and a bad concussion. With all speed and care, she would recover, but it would take all of his skill and due caution.

Twenty minutes later, he was done, and treating Ensign Wildman for her sprained and swollen wrist. Sam was done with and out of Sickbay in five minutes, and cast a concerned glance over her shoulder at B'Elanna as she left. The half-Klingon was just beginning to groggily open her eyes.

"Tom, if I didn't remember hitting that petaQ of a wall, I would ask you what I was drinking. My head feels worse than that broken femur…" She gave him a weak smile at the joke, and a if-you-don't-understand-that-reference-to-a-Klingon's-traditioanl-honeymoon-you-need-help look.

He spoke softly so as not to bring on a headache. "Well, Be', you're gonna be okay. I'll be back in a couple hours after my shift is over to bring you home. Don't give the Doctor too much trouble." Her scowl was lost on his retreating back.

* * * *

Later hat night, Tom carried B'Elanna to their bed and carefully set her down. "Tom, I'm not an invalid!"

"No, but today I was worried I would lose you, without ever telling you how much you mean to me. Be', you're the most important thing in my life, and I don't want to lose your love. And I love you, heart and soul, I love you. I'm never going to leave you. We'll be together forever. All I could think of is that I wasn't there to protect you, and if anything happened-"

B'Elanna could here the sincerity and tenderness in his eyes. His eyes. Their flashing blue matched the intensity of his statement. She silenced him with a kiss that spoke for her heart. Long into the night, they talked softly of their love for each other. It seemed to them that their love was forever, and they truly were two-made-one by their vows.

* * * *

It was about a month later that Tom put the announcement on everyone's data console:

Tom & B'Elanna would like to invite you

as they celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary.

Holodeck One at 20.00 hours.

Please consult the Captain for appropriate clothing

and please, no gifts.


The night arrived quickly, and everyone was both excited and curious as to what sort of program Tom had created. Early on, Kathryn had consulted or sent messages out to the crew containing codes for replicating appropriate clothing. This was a time to celebrate, and it was worth the replicator credits.

20.00 hours came quickly, and the crew was greeted as they entered by a lush green country, filled with crystalline streams and stone-paved paths. Kathryn was wearing a gown of shimmering silver; its fitted bodice and flowing skirt embroidered in gold and ruby. The lace-drawn sleeves stopped just below her elbow, and it seemed the dress was taken straight from a fairy tale. Her hair was gathered at the base of her neck by net ribbons outlined in silver.

At Kathryn's side was Chakotay, his silver-buttoned white shirt drawn at the wrists by silver ribbons. Over the Commander's brown riding boots were loose grey linen pants, at his waist a leather belt buckled in silver. He held Kayla, who was awake and staring, wide-eyed at the picturesque setting.

His daughter was clad in light blue cotton, the short-sleeved dress edged in delicate ice-white lace. Ribbon rosettes adorned the headband holding back her waves of smooth sandy hair. A light floral scarf was wrapped at her waist, and tiny lavender flowers were woven by the stem around her headband, and Kayla had long stopped her crying.

Tom and B'Elanna appeared at 20.30, and the assembled crew gasped at their splendor of dress. The helmsman had close-cut black pants, over which was a snowy silk shirt, a blue sash matching his eyes belting it. A small bejeweled rapier was held in place by the sash, and a scarlet headband added to the image. With a wave of his arm, he presented his wife.

B'Elanna was dressed as befitted a princess from a book of magical stories, a sorceress and powerful magic-wielder. Her tight-fitting black pants were in turn tucked into ankle-boots that were tooled with intricate patterns. A long sleeved white blouse with ruffled cuffs and neckline was only part of this spectacular costume. Over the shirt was a fitted velvet vest, closed, embroidered in rich, deep, and sparkling colors. Small combs secured back her hair, as well as being attached to the shimmering silver nets weighted on the edges with clear crystals.

Kathryn Zyala was in her mother's arms, and slept soundly. Her long dark hair had been braided with satin ribbons, a forest green dress setting off the color of her eyes. It was short-sleeved, brocaded, and had a hem of silver threads. B'Elanna's right hand sat comfortably on the hilt off a delicate dagger, the jeweled hilt matching in design Tom's.

The young woman curtsied like a lady of old, then gestured for Tom to speak. "My friends, I thank you all for attending. As you can see, I have conjured up a fairy tale setting, and B'Elanna and I hope you will enjoy it. Oh, I do think this little dress-up session was fun, eh? Neelix has prepared some traditional Klingon and human dishes, as well as a few of his specialties. Now, on with the music!"

After he was done speaking, Harry offered Annika his arm, and they slipped off down one of the many well-trodden paths. Annika was dressed like a young Gypsy woman, her off-the shoulder white blouse of rumple cotton had thin green satin ribbons lacing the neckline. This was tucked into her four layered silk circle skirts of deep blues and greens embroidered in silver threads at the hemline. This was belted with a cerulean silk sash fringed with small gold coins and multicolored crystal beads.

Gold coin bracelets hung from her wrists; her lapis and malachite rondelle necklaces were accented with clear crystal separators. Her sandaled feet made no noise under the rustling of her skirt. Underneath the sash was a wide satin-laced band of emerald linen that brought into prominence her slender waist. All in all, Harry's eyes nearly popped from their sockets.

The ensign had a long-sleeved cream linen shirt laced at the neck with a slim leather thong. Loose brown pants were tucked into the tops of high black leather boots. Topping the whole costume off was a faded scarlet sash at his waist and a white band held back his somewhat unruly ebony hair.

They stopped far away from the other guests, and stood facing each other in the shade of a large oak tree. A discussion of life, love, and mutual affection followed just as quickly. In only a few minutes, Annika and her escort returned to where most of the crew was. She noticed Tuvok's absence, noted that he had probably chosen to remain on the Bridge.

Dancing followed, Sam Wildman running in slightly late. Naomi was napping, and would not be awakened. The young woman had the edge of her white dress in hand, holding up at the same time the trailing ribbons from her hair. Sam had a belt of satin a gueeaten metal inlaid; the bodice beaded in gold and an amethyst velvet vest. Her billowy sleeves ended below her elbows, and their fabric was just this side of transparent.

The evening passed quickly, and by 24.00 hours, most of the crew, save the senior staff, had left to sleep or change and go on duty. Annika whirled and swayed like a supple young tree, her skirts swirling out in wildly changing patterns. According to Harry, she was attempting to master the art of dancing zalia, a form indigenous to Hera Four, and doing a good job of it.

At last, everyone else was gone, leaving Tom and B'Elanna together. Kathryn and Chakotay had taken Zya back with them, to give her parents some 'quiet time.' Hand in hand, they took one of the many paths, down by a trickling stream, in the simulated sunset.

"Be', do you remember when I proposed here?"

"Mmm. Yes, I remember this program well. A place from a child's storybook, a fairy tale." She smiled suddenly, and pulled him down to sit beside her on the white-veined marble bench. "I guess it brings back a lot of memories. I also remember I brought you here to tell you we were going to be parents, and how much I loved you for all time."

"How about some weapons practice?" he asked, a mischievous gleam in his eye, pulling out his rapier. It was beautiful as well as functional, the blade a lot more practical than the sheath and jeweled hilt.

"Why not, Helmboy. Sure you're up to it?" B'Elanna slipped the small, delicate dagger from its sheath, and it was more substantial than one would expect. The pommel and hilt were set with deep purple gems, its silver blade gleaming in the reflected light. She stood abruptly and took a ready stance.

Her opponent lightly tossed the rapier to his right hand, and its blade flicked out, to be quickly repulsed by her dagger. Feint, thrust, swipe, the ballet of duel flashed back and forth. It ended when B'Elanna sent Tom's weapon flying, and knocked him down. She had knelt on his chest, pinning him against the ground, as she easily sheathed the dagger, and got up, extending a helping hand. He retrieved his rapier, and resheathed it.

Offering his lady his arm, they walked from the holodeck, entered the turbolift, and two decks later, "Halt turbolift."

"Be', what are you doing?"

"Hold on, I'm fixing my hair." With two tugs, the combs with their net had been removed. "Computer, resume turbolift."

In the quarters outside their quarters, he bent down suddenly, and slung her over his shoulder. She weakly protested, then was careful not to loose her breath when he dropped her on the bed. "I'm going to go get Zya. Don't get into trouble."

When he returned, she had showered, hung up her costume, changed into her gown, and was deeply asleep. He did not disturb her, and soon lay beside her, holding her close. Her jinaq, or Klingon betrothal pendant, lay coiled in its silver chain on the bedside table. The white facets and deep purple tip sparkled in the starlight.

B'Elanna stirred and rolled over until she was facing him, her dark, mysterious eyes that were flecked with amber-gold looking up at him. "Tom, why aren't you asleep?"

"I was just wondering what is going to happen."

"No one can know the future, Tom. Not even you. And really," she murmured into the pillow, "what does it matter? We have each other, and Zya."

"I guess it doesn't. I hate being fatalistic, though."

"With you at my side, I'm not afraid to face whatever comes next. Always know that…" And she drifted off to sleep. He sighed and pulled the covers closer to him. His wife had a tendency to 'steal' the covers, a fact he found both annoying and interesting.

* * * *

At their estate in the Shardarr Mountains, T'Pel was out in the meditation garden, efficiently planting some new desert blooms. As she worked, a memory of Tuvok kneeling beside her, deftly turning aside soil accosted her. T'Pel quickly suppressed the emotion, lest T'Lyra and Soran, who approached, were to see it.

"Daughter, Soran, may I offer you water after your journey?" She rose gracefully, going to an ancient well, returning with three earthen cups of the cool liquid. A moment later, her daughter addressed her, in a much less formal matter.

"Mother, I wish to discuss some unsettling telepathic visions I have been experiencing."

"Come inside, T'Lyra, Soran. Let us rest where it is cooler." Her long-fingered hand pulled open the door, and they walked down the cool, stone hallways to her sitting room. Ancient carved wood furniture seemed archaic next to the computer console and stack of data PADDs.

Soran and his mate were at last seated on a thinly padded couch facing T'Pel's chair. "Please, T'Lyra, inform me of that which you sought me to tell."

"Indeed, they were highly emotional," the young woman struggled to find words, and Soran surreptitiously placed his first to fingers against hers. "My mental shields were up as we walked past a human enclave. Something one of them said reminded me of Father. At that moment, I experienced no problems. Yet, later that night, when both Soran and the small one were slumbering, I felt a telepathic shock. It was almost," at this, her brow raised at her own words, "the same sensation I experienced when he who is my father melded with me many years ago. The same feeling of recognition, and emotions began to stir. I suppressed them, but only with great effort, so as not to wake Soran."

The next morning, I was in the wet-plant conservatory, reviewing some of the latest medical data from the Academy, and all seemed well. Moments later, I found Soran trying to wake me. He said that I had not answered him for several minutes, and he felt through our bond that something was wrong. He entered the conservatory to discover that I had collapsed, and to assess my condition, he touched my mind. Soran?" She ended that as a question, indicating her husband should continue.

"When I touched T'Lyra's mind to find if she was recovering, I felt the presence of her father. And that cannot be logically possible." His training as a healer made his mental powers quite equal to those natural in T'Lyra.

T'Pel raised a brow, and considered all the evidence presented to her. "There can be several explanations. One: you, Soran, sensed the after-impression of my daughter's telepathic shock. However, this still does not answer the question as to how she felt that shock. Two: T'Lyra's strong mental powers have somehow allowed her to touch minds with Tuvok, and you sensed this. Three: she has a link to Tuvok, and he was in mortal danger and passed his katra onto her. Daughter, would you allow me to touch your mind, share these experiences?"

At her brief nod, T'Pel placed her fingers on her face, and touched her mind. She saw a jumble of images and thoughts, but sensed nothing of her husband. Suddenly, The figure of Tuvok swelled up before her, and then he spoke, as if he were at her side: My wife, you must surely be wondering how this can logically happen. I have tried this technique of meditation before and failed, but now am aided with the spirit-powers of another. This stresses the mental powers of myself, he who is aiding me, and T'Lyra, so this will be as brief as possible.

T'Pel, as always, you have been faithful. I assure you, I will return home to you. Make sure our children and grandchildren continue their studies, and master the arts at which they are best.

T'Lyra, my daughter. Small one, I know the terrible duress at your wedding you felt in my absence. Do not lose your control. I am here, and I shall try this again sometime.

My wife and daughter, inform Sopek and Senak that I fully expect them to progress quickly in their work. Live long and prosper. I shall return soon.

T'Pel drew out of her daughter's mind, control barely in place. Soran had seen their unmasked surprise, gathered he was not to be offended or concerned, and simply sat at T'Lyra's side. He again placed his fingers against his wife's, adding to her tenuous control.

The older woman drew in a deep breath, "My daughter, Soran, I would request some time to meditate upon that which I have discovered. There are arrangements for you to stay in those rooms belonging to T'Lyra. If you will excuse me," she rose and left through the door leading to the bedroom she had once shared with Tuvok. And some deep part of her reacted to the words she had heard, and assured her she would once again.

She seated herself in a low-backed carved wooden seat, before a glowing brazier. Clouds of slightly aromatic steam rose from the mouth of a mythical stone creature. Clearing her mind, T'Pel allowed whatever thoughts to enter her mind that were already hidden there.

In her sitting room, Soran stood up and held out his first two fingers. T'Lyra rose beside him, and matched the gesture. Together, they continued out the door, through the silent, cool hallways, to the wing in which T'Lyra kept her rooms. She and her husband would require a time of meditation, then go to retrieve their child from its caretakers, her brother Senak and his wife, T'Mea.

* * * *

Tuvok shakily arose from the floor of Chakotay's quarters, observing the Commander as he put away his medicine bundle. The Vulcan had come to him to request him to aid him in his meditations. Chakotay had seen vague wisps of Tuvok's words to T'Pel and T'Lyra. Both were silent for a moment, and then, "Thank you, Commander, for both your time and talent."

"No problem, Tuvok. I know how much your family means to you. We can try this again later if you think you can get better results?"

"Indeed, Commander. Perhaps after a period of meditation, my mind will be clearer upon reflection of what I must do next." He left, wrapped up in his own thoughts and memories of a distant, red sand planet, and those he cared so much about, but would never admit to easily.

* * * *

Later that night, Kathryn and Chakotay sat on the couch, talking about what had happened that day. She nodded compassionately, thinking that if she could speak with her family, it would surely break her control, though Tuvok had held up. Barely.

Memories brought to the surface caused a tear to glimmer in the corner of her eye, than trickle slowly down her cheek. Her husband kissed and stroked her hair comfortingly. Kathryn fell asleep, some tears still seeping out as she slept. He picked her up as if a feather weighed more than she did, and gently carried her to bed, she not stirring at all until morning.

The alarm went off at 07.00, and Kathryn woke up to find Chakotay sound asleep beside her. She sat up, reset the alarm for him, half an hour more, and changing into her uniform and pulling back her hair, the Captain was ready to face another day.

* * * *

Annika woke in the darkness, and experienced a moment of orientation. She hen remembered the events of the past night. She and Harry had shared a candlelight dinner in his quarters, danced, and sat down to talk. Long into the ship's night cycle they had spoken of the past, she at last falling asleep in his arms. He had been unsure what to do, finally opting not to wake her, and he slipped into the bedroom for some sleep.

The young woman stood and walked into his bedroom, where he still lay there, peaceful and undisturbed. She lay a hand along the side of his face, and he woke, "Mmm… oh, my gods, Annika, I didn't want to wake you, so I-" Annika cut him off with a quick kiss.

"I am due in Astrometrics in half an hour, and had intended to arrive early in order to perform additional scans. I also believe you go on duty at that time. I shall," she paused, as if searching for the right expression, "see you later."

* * * *

Tom emerged from the bathroom and a shower, combing back his sandy hair, and tugging closed his uniform. B'Elanna had already showered and eaten, and was reviewing engineering data from a PADD. "Computer, play music selection Paris-Alpha"

'And there's no where in the world I'd rather be, than here in my room, dreaming about you and me…I can't stop dreaming…Late at night when all the world is sleeping, I stay up and think of you, and I still can't believe you came up to me and said I love you…now I'm dreaming…tomorrow I'll be holding you tight…

"Well, Be', there's nothing like music to soften up an evening of pressure." He drew her into an embrace, and they slowly swayed to the music. B'Elanna slipped from his arms, their contentment, to pick up Zya, who cried out.

Her hands formed in tiny fists, and they swatted at the air around her. "Shh, shh, Zya, I'm here. I'll always be, shh," she began a Klingon lullaby, Tom joining in quietly. Moments later, their daughter once again slept. B'Elanna placed her back in her bed, tucking her in tenderly.

"Tom, I want you to know I'll always be here. I'll never let you go, and you'll always live in my heart, and our child. I just want you to know, in case anything ever happens to me."

"Not while I'm here." He swept her into his arms and placed her on the bed, tucking her in as she had Zya. "Now sleep, beloved. I'll be back later," his voice tender and loving. It reassured her doubts, and all was right for the moment. Until tomorrow.

* * * *

Tuvok rose from the floor of his quarters, and blew out the meditation candles. T'Pel, T'Lyra and his other children would always be in his heart, though he might never admit it. No matter what, he would honor them always, until he set foot again in the Shardarr Mountains, and after. He went to sleep thinking these thoughts, and soon slept easily, remembering the feel of warmth from his daughter and wife.

* * * *

The End


 *'How Do I Live Without You' as sung by LeAnn Rimes

*'Dreaming of you' as sung by Selena

e-mail me at wkcheung@juno.com, or fill out a form about this story (I love feedback!)

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