Warning: For violence and one potentially triggery issue of a non-sexual nature. Click here for details which some may consider spoilers.
Categories: Ship, Het, Action, Drama, Alpha Quadrant
Pairings: J/C P/T EMH/7 Tu/T'Pel K/Webber W/Greskrendtregk Vorik/Campbell
Characters: Vorik, Lyssa Campbell, Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Torres, the EMH, Seven of Nine, Tuvok, Kim, Libby Webber, Greskrendtregk, T'Pel
A/N: Written for J/C FicHaven's Decathlon hosted by Anne's Rose Garden, but it galloped past the word limit and disqualified itself, so I put it on hold and then finished it for Koffee Klub's Awesome Author Award.
Spoilers: Homecoming and The Farther Shore, both by Christie Golden. Also some reference to Spock's World by Diane Duane, Cloak and Dagger by Christie Golden, and a well hidden reference to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Tiny spoiler for the episode Night.
Credits: Gushing thanks to Kim for requesting a Vorik fic while I had this title floating around unused. Thank you to Dakota for the graphic, and thank you to Squirrelly for the beta work. This fanfic also owes credit to 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias, as it is part of my ongoing effort to explore each of the plot structures within that text. Vulcan's Don't Blush is plot number seventeen, the discovery plot, a character-driven attempt to translate the meaning of life. Ambitious, no? Don't worry, it's interwoven with a nice action plot, sprinkled, in the tradition of fanfic, with random bits of romance.
Disclaimer: Mine, Paramount, all mine! You snooze, you lose. Finders keepers. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
Lieutenant Vorik had not set foot on Vulcan for more than seven years. Vulcan. That was not even the planet's name. The people of this world called it T'Khasi. Terrans used the name Vulcan.
When he had left to begin his career in Starfleet, Vorik had never expected such a long absence. Then Voyager had found itself on the far side of the galaxy, and Vorik, as a stoic Vulcan, had tried to accept his situation. He had spent hours in his quarters, fighting homesickness, trying to purge the emotion through meditation, as his people had done for generations.
Now he stood upon his home planet and noticed for the first time how beige it seemed. While he recognized the illogic of his thoughts, he missed the somehow cheery grey of the ship, with B'Elanna's passionate energy, Ensign Campbell's teasing laugh, and Captain Janeway's firm belief in a goal that seemed to defy all logic.
As he walked towards the home of his father, he tried to organize his thoughts in a more logical manner, but the sameness of his surroundings distracted him. Vulcans preached IDIC yet so many failed to embrace it. One found little diversity on Vulcan.
His family had not greeted him at the transport station. They never had before. When he had returned home on break from Starfleet Academy he had always walked alone from the transport station and his eight year absence had not changed his family's habit. It was illogical to even make the observation. He had simply witnessed too many emotional reunions between humans at the Starfleet reception in Voyager's honor.
The ritual greetings, the meal with his family, even the house itself; it all seemed unreal somehow. Foreign. Or like an old memory replayed in a dream. His father's voice snapped him from his thoughts.
"I have arranged for you to enter the Temple of Amonak and study the Disciplines," his father told him.
Alarm shot through Vorik. He did not want to enter the temple, but he knew that on Vulcan not wanting to do something was considered a compelling reason to do it. Wants and desires could become passions, and passion had a tendency to overrule logic.
Cool logic was not the genetic birthright of the Vulcans. It was a discipline, achieved through years of study. The suppression of emotions was made possible by the psycho suppression system located in the mesiofrontal cortex of the Vulcan brain, but discipline was more vital to the maintenance of one's control than physiology. In the days before Surak passion had nearly destroyed the Vulcan people.
Yet Vorik knew that human passion, Janeway's in particular, had overcome incredible odds to return Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant. Two years cloistered within the stone walls of his planet's most disciplined temple was a threat worthy of a passionate response. Only logic, however, would save him.
"Father, I should meditate on this decision." He fought to keep his voice level. Unlike the humans he had worked beside for seven years, his father would recognize the slightest waver in his voice.
"The decision is made. You will leave tomorrow evening."
"I am not a child." He knew that argument would fail, and wondered why he had said it.
"You lack the maturity to recognize your needs. Studying at the temple will help to clarify your thoughts."
Vorik pushed down his growing dread, cataloging the emotion for later meditation, and tried to sound more neutral. "If I enter the temple, I will need to first resign my commission with Starfleet."
"That can be done for you. The matter is closed, and we will speak no more of it tonight."
This last Vorik had no wish to dispute. He did not trust himself to maintain even the facade of logic if the discussion continued further before he had time to think, and an extended argument would no doubt lead to his father probing his mind. His thoughts were too chaotic for such scrutiny. Tonight he'd meditate, and tomorrow would find him better prepared to deal with the issue.
"It's frustrating," B'Elanna said, her breakfast still untouched. "The improvements could benefit everyone in Starfleet, and yet they don't want to implement any of them."
Tom nodded. "We've both had issues with Starfleet in the past. Part of it was that we were young and stupid, and didn't always make the responsible choices, but -- "
"Speak for yourself, flyboy."
"My point is, we weren't entirely wrong. The bureaucrats have too much power in Starfleet."
"It's Starfleet Intelligence that's getting in my way," she said. "They claim that the shield modifications will most benefit the Federation if they are used only in their division. Selfish targs."
"Do you know how long we had the technology to replace handheld communicators with combadges before Starfleet finally took advantage of it?" Tom didn't wait for B'Elanna to answer. "Over a hundred years. Starfleet Intelligence wanted to restrict the technology to use in long range listening devices. It wasn't until the toy manufacturers started using it that they declassified it."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Sounds like Starfleet. Anyway, why'd they bother to ask me to come all the way from Boreth if they weren't going to take a single one of my suggestions?"
"It sounds like they're taking them," Tom said. "Only just for intelligence vessels. Anyhow, since we're here for a few weeks, at least we'll get to see Harry, and you'll get to meet his fiance."
"Fiance?" B'Elanna asked. "Isn't that a little fast?"
"She waited for seven years. I don't think it's fast at all."
"It is fast, but then this is Harry. Voyager's been home long enough for him to fall in love twice."
Kathryn Janeway lounged in the arms of her lover, book in hand, and made a half-hearted attempt to pay at least as much attention to the words on the page as to Chakotay's fingers in her hair. This, she decided, was the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
One didn't notice weekends while on a starship, especially if that ship was crossing unknown and frequently hostile territory on the far side of the galaxy. On Earth, weekends had become something to cherish.
The warmth of his chest against her back; the aroma of fresh brewed coffee; the wonderful cozy feeling of his arm around her waist; the book she loved, but knew well enough to ignore; the soft tickle of his breath against her ear -- it all added to her contentment. The best part, though, was his happiness.
She knew that if she turned from her reading to look at him, as she couldn't resist doing every few minutes, she'd see a genuine smile on his face. Nothing else in the Alpha Quadrant pleased her as much as Chakotay's smile.
His smile had brightened the Delta Quadrant, but now it took on a new quality as protocol ceased to influence their lives. She finally had the freedom to give him everything he had wanted for so many years.
"I'm so glad I can finally make you happy," she said.
"Kathryn, you've always made me happy." His fingers slid through her hair again. "Your friendship gave me more joy than anything else in my life ever did."
"And yours meant more to me than I could have imagined, but this is better."
"Of course." He grinned. "Now I can finally do this." He kissed her with gentle intensity, and she abandoned her book. This was the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
"Who's writing this novel anyway?" Voyager's former Emergency Medical Hologram waved a PADD as if shooing flies.
"I thought you appreciated my help," Seven said.
"Help, yes," he answered. "But I hardly expected a rewrite."
"Do you not wish for your protagonist's quest to symbolize the human struggle to find the meaning of life?"
"I just want my audience to see him as human, to know that he has the same drives and ambitions as they do."
"I feel your purpose would be better served with the use of a stronger central metaphor. My research on the subject -- "
"This isn't about research, Seven; it's about feelings."
"If you feel your knowledge is superior to mine, why did you ask my opinion?" She turned to leave, but he caught her arm. "Release me."
"Seven -- "
She yanked her arm away. "I'm sure you can find someone to help who is more suited to your needs."
"I don't want someone else. I want you."
"My ideas are inferior. Why would you want me?"
"I didn't mean that your ideas were inferior to mine. But...this is my work. Perhaps I reacted too emotionally to your criticism."
"Your opinion is very important to me. I hope you know that."
"I would think Commander Paris's opinion would be more valuable. His holonovels were very popular with the crew."
The Doctor trailed his fingers down her arm to grasp her hand. "But I'm not in love with Tom Paris."
Libby. Her name leapt to mind and jolted Harry awake, as it did nearly every morning now. Despite seven years spent with half the galaxy between them, they would be married soon. The thought filled him with a giddy disorientation, and he made no attempt to shake it off.
That was real sunlight pouring through his window, bathing his bed in a golden glow. That was his beloved, sleeping soundly beside him. He slipped out from under the covers and padded into the kitchen to cook breakfast.
Leola root and limited replicator rations were things of the past. For a moment he thought of Neelix, thousands of light years distant, and hoped that the Talaxian had found happiness amid his own people.
The monitor in the corner gave a soft beep, and he realized he had a message waiting. His stomach fluttered as he recalled some of the more urgent messages relayed to this station in the time since they'd reached Earth.
Tom's smiling face appeared on the screen. "Hey there, Harry. B'Elanna and I are hoping you'll join us for dinner tonight. I'll even kick in the rations."
Harry smiled. Rations were meaningless now that Voyager was home. Dinner with his closest friends was an offer he couldn't refuse, and he hoped Libby wouldn't mind the change of plans. They could have dinner alone together any time.
Any time at all. He savored that fact and went to set the breakfast table.
Lyssa Campbell jogged through the streets of San Francisco, panting slightly as her thigh muscles protested the steep incline. The ache faded to the background when she sprinted the final furlong to the park.
After weeks of reuniting with friends and family that she hadn't seen in seven years or more she had to laugh at her own eagerness to reunite with someone she'd only been apart from for a few weeks.
"Sam!" She waved and grinned, then slowed and carefully stretched her sore muscles.
Naomi spotted her and came running. Lyssa bent to hug the little girl. "Have you grown in the last month?"
Lyssa laughed. "When I was your age I hated it when grownups asked me that."
"I won't mind so much if you swing with me."
"Blackmail?" Lyssa questioned. She turned to Sam. "What have you been teaching her?"
Sam rolled her eyes. "It's her father." Then she burst into a grin.
"You loved saying that."
All three climbed onto the swings, more than willing to pursue the simple delights of childhood under the California sun.
"Tom should have included swings in a holoprogram," Lyssa said. "I forgot how much fun they are."
"There's a lot we forgot," Sam said. "Like food. It feels strange to eat a meal without leola root."
"I miss Neelix too," Lyssa said. "We sure dodged a phaser blast, though, getting home before Chell really got a chance to get creative."
Sam snorted. "If the puns were any indication, we were in real danger. So what have you been up to?"
"Visiting family, helping people move. One more pizza and I just might try some Bolian cooking just for a change."
"I could offer you a nice home-cooked Ktarian meal."
"I wouldn't turn you down." Lyssa pumped her legs, enjoying the wind in her hair. "So is it wonderful?"
"Being with Greskrendtregk again? Oh yes. How about you? Find anyone special yet?"
"In the few weeks we've been home?" Lyssa laughed. "I'm not Harry Kim."
"Speaking of whom...have you seen much of him?"
"I helped him move. Twice, in fact."
"He moved in with Libby."
Sam dropped her legs, letting gravity slow her down. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Lyssa slowed her own swing and smoothed down her hair. "Harry and I were never anything but friends, and I'm happy for him."
"I would have liked more with Harry, but I always knew he still had feelings for her. That's probably why he only fell for women who were unattainable."
"Oh come on, Lyssa, you can't be that mature about it. Be a little jealous."
"Maybe I am." She dug her toes into the dirt and twisted the swing from side to side. "I have a lot in common with Harry. After all, there I was on a ship full of single men, and the three I picked for my crushes were all completely unavailable."
"Three? Who else?"
"Chakotay -- "
"Well of course. Who didn't?"
"Our captain had willpower of epic proportions, didn't she?"
"You're changing the subject. Who else?"
"And . . . promise you won't laugh?"
"I'll laugh if you say Chell."
Lyssa chuckled. "No, not Chell, but I always had a little thing for Vorik." She shrugged. "Maybe I just enjoyed trying to get a reaction out of him."
"He smiled more than Mortimer Harren," Sam said.
"I bet he's glad to be home."
Sam nodded. "And he's no doubt happily buried in some cramped, dark office with his research."
"It's all he really wanted." Lyssa sighed. "I wish I knew what I wanted next."
"But isn't it nice to be bored?"
"I was bored all day yesterday, I basked in it, but one day's enough. I need to take one of these offers, but I haven't a clue which one. Have you made any decisions?"
"I took a teaching position. Greskrendtregk is here, and it'll be good for Naomi to spend some time on a planet."
"Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly take a position off-world. I just want to fling myself onto the ground and kiss the Earth. But then I miss the steady sound of the warp engines, or God help me, the taste of leola root."
"I know exactly how you feel."
"I was afraid I might be the only one. Counselor Troi warned me about this, but I thought she was nuts. I mean, unhappy about achieving a goal of seven years? Ridiculous!"
"If it weren't for Greskrendtregk, I'd probably feel exactly the same."
"Maybe it's just anxiety." Lyssa dug her toes in the dirt and rocked in her swing. "I've got all these wonderful opportunities, but it's such a major decision. Do I serve as Captain Palmer's first officer on the Yosemite, or am I more tempted by the offer from Chakotay, now that he's captain of Voyager?"
"First officer! Why aren't you jumping on that?"
"Exactly! How can I not? But there's Voyager...I mean, it's Voyager. My ship, and now she'll be a research vessel like she was supposed to be in the first place."
"I think you know what you're going to do."
"Maybe I do." Lyssa pushed off with her feet and set the swing in motion once again.
Chakotay ran his fingers through Kathryn's hair. She had such soft, silky hair. "So, what do you think we should do about dinner tonight?"
"Dinner?" She stretched lazily in his arms. "That wouldn't require getting up off this couch, would it?"
"We'll have to get up eventually."
"Perish the thought."
"There's always the bedroom," he whispered.
She laughed softly. "I like the way you think."
"That's why you love me."
"Just one of many, many reasons, Chakotay."
He kissed her, still awed by the fact that she was here in his arms, and that years of waiting had finally come to an end, allowing their lives to begin at last.
Black Jaguar had promised him this reward in a vision, and Kathryn was well worth the testing that he had endured. Her love was worth far more, in fact, and he tried not to fear that the spirits would agree, and test them again.
Asil crept down the hallway in her parents' home, certain that she had not imagined the sound which had awakened her. There. She heard it again. A dull thud, and a strange male voice that was not speaking Vulcan.
She didn't speak very much Federation Standard. She'd only had a few years of it in school and she never practiced it, but as she grew closer she could understand enough to know that her father was in danger.
"Quiet, Vulcan, we may need you alive but the same's not true for your wife here. We could do worse than knock her out."
"Do not harm T'Pel," Asil heard her father say. "I will do as you request."
Asil stood in the shadows, uncertain as to how she should proceed. Interfering would be illogical. Her father was a trained Starfleet officer, and would know how to handle these men. She could easily make a mistake, and make the situation worse.
"This'll bring Janeway running," a voice said. "We'll have her then, and she'll pay for what she did to my sister. She'll pay dearly."
The men were moving her way. Asil sank back into a doorway, but not before she saw something that shook her Vulcan calm. The intruders had her father, and they wore Starfleet uniforms.
Vorik watched the flame dancing on the candle, slowly moving down the wick as the wax gave way and dribbled down the slender taper. He concentrated, focusing solely on the point of light before him.
When his mind achieved an ordered state, he considered the questions at hand. He was an adult. His parents should no longer control his fate, but if his father gave him an order, and he chose to disobey, it would dishonor his parents. He had to consider his father's wishes, and either obey them, or convince his father through logic to respect his own decision.
First he had to make that decision. He couldn't dismiss his father's plans simply because he felt differently. Humans made decisions based on how they felt. He was Vulcan. He had to consider all of the options, fairly and without bias, and be sure he chose the logical option.
His father thought it best if he entered the Temple of Amonak, but what could he accomplish while sequestered within its cold stone walls? He had already studied the disciplines. He understood them sufficiently.
The concept of wasting two years in such a repetitive pursuit struck him as extremely illogical, but he was not sure of how to convince his father. His Starfleet career could wait, if necessary, but he did not think it necessary. He had just recently been promoted. He thought it most logical to continue down that path, and serve the Federation.
Starfleet had lost good officers in the Dominion War, and as an experienced engineer he was needed. He had been offered the position of chief engineer on no fewer than six vessels, thanks to Captain Janeway's -- no, Admiral Janeway's -- recommendation.
He could even serve on Voyager, since B'Elanna had taken a leave of absence to study Klingon heritage on Boreth. He tried not to let Chakotay's offer tempt him more than the others did. That would be illogical, and his father would be right not to trust his judgment.
He also had to consider the fact that he had no mate. In three years he would again experience pon farr. Perhaps his father's wish for him to enter the temple connected to that fact. He would be wise to ask. If entering the temple would resolve this difficulty, perhaps by making him more suitable for a potential mate, then there might be logic in that path.
The candle had burned half way to the base. Vorik focused on what he knew of the temple. Tuvok had described it well. Listening to the narrative had almost been like living the experience himself. Could his mind achieve a higher state of logic within the stone walls of an ancient temple than it could within the grey walls of a starship? He pictured the Spartan quarters, the daily rituals, and the simple meals...both lifestyles blended together.
A knock at the door broke his thought. He did not wish to be disturbed, but felt no annoyance at the intrusion. The meditation had left him feeling calm, if not yet ready to either make a decision or face his father. He went to the door.
"You have a visitor," his mother told him.
Vorik studied the dark-skinned Vulcan girl. For a moment he wondered at the oddness of her visiting so early in the morning and without anyone giving him advance notice to expect her. If she had been sent to meet him as a prospective mate, this was a most unusual first encounter. Then he recognized her resemblance to Tuvok, and saw that her hands trembled as she tried to keep them quietly at her side. Something a human would have called intuition sent a shiver through him.
"Forgive me for my sudden appearance," she said. "But my father requires your help."
He listened as the girl, Asil, told him of Tuvok's abduction a few hours before. "I didn't know what to do," she said. "They wore Starfleet uniforms, and I do not know how to contact Admiral Janeway directly."
"I will leave for Earth today," he said. "If Cap -- Admiral Janeway is warned of the trap, she will find a way to avoid it. She will not let any harm come to your father." He looked her in the eye, not hiding his emotional response to the situation. "And neither will I."
"Rushing to Earth without all of the facts is illogical," his father told him. "We will speak to the proper authorities, and let them do as needs to be done."
"We do not know who is involved in this deception," Vorik replied. "Speaking with Admiral Janeway in person is the logical course of action."
"It is not your concern."
"It is my concern," Vorik said. "Tuvok is a friend. I must go myself."
"This is an emotional reaction. It comes from having spent too much time with humans. You must take the logical course."
"Forgive me father, my logic is uncertain where my crewmates are concerned." Vorik turned and left.
Libby Webber couldn't keep her eyes off of her soon-to-be husband. Harry radiated happiness. The reunion with his friends had him practically bouncing in his seat.
Tom had picked the restaurant, and ate with enthusiasm. "It's so nice to have a meal that isn't moving."
"We have a perfectly good replicator, Flyboy." B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Don't try to convince them you've been surviving on gagh."
A waiter approached the table. Libby noticed immediately that he wasn't the same one who had served them. "Miss Webber, there's a message for you."
She glanced at the PADD he handed to her, and excused herself. Cold dread filled her. Why couldn't the Voyager crew have a moment's peace now that they had returned home?
She looked at Harry, cheerfully exchanging jokes with his friends. Lying to him, keeping this from him . . . These orders weren't fair, and she didn't know how she could follow them. Miserable, she returned to the table.
"I haven't gone for a moonlight sail in years," she said. "Tonight seems perfect. Who's with me?"
Vorik reached Earth. Most of his swift journey had been spent contemplating his next move. If someone inside Starfleet was responsible for Tuvok's abduction, then it was possible that they had Janeway under surveillance, or were at least monitoring her communications. Asking about her whereabouts at Starfleet Headquarters could also prove dangerous.
The only people he could really trust were his former Voyager crewmates. Fortunately, a fair number of them had taken apartments in the San Francisco area.
He only needed to find one. Humans tended to socialize frequently, and people who had shared a seven-year journey would know how to contact each other.
Vorik headed for a small club near Starfleet Academy. While a cadet, he had learned that if he needed to speak with a classmate in the evening hours, it proved an excellent place to begin his search.
He found Icheb, who supplied him with addresses for Seven of Nine and Naomi Wildman's family. Seven failed to respond to his hails, so he left a message for her that he hoped passed for casual, and headed for the Wildman residence.
As soon as the rented sailboat reached a safe distance from shore, Libby drew Harry close, as if to kiss him. "Do you trust me Harry? I mean, really trust me?"
"You'll need to."
"Libby, what -- "
She put a finger to his lips. "I brought us out here so we wouldn't be overheard. Bring Tom and B'Elanna below decks, and I'll explain."
A home-cooked Ktarian meal proved delicious. Lyssa glared at Sam. "You knew how to make this the whole time we were in the Delta Quadrant?"
"It wouldn't have tasted anything like this if I had substituted every third ingredient with leola root."
The door chimed and Naomi raced to open it. "Ens -- I mean, Lieutenant Vorik!"
"Vorik?" The adults exchanged glances and got up from the table.
Naomi dragged him into the living room by the hand, and Sam offered him a Vulcan spiced tea.
"I am afraid this is not a social visit," Vorik said. "I need your help."
"Go get Vorik a tea," Sam said to Naomi.
Vorik watched the girl leave the room. "We must reach Admiral Janeway before it is too late."
Kathryn stretched and snuggled closer to the warm body beside her. She had never been a sound sleeper, but lately she almost enjoyed that fact. It gave her a half dozen chances throughout the night to awaken and remember that Chakotay now slept beside her.
The distinct sound of a door chime roused her more fully. She glanced at the chronometer. While it was early, at least by her personal standards, it was still past the hour when one might expect guests.
Reluctantly, she slipped out of bed and put on a robe. A frantic pounding hurried her out of the bedroom, and she opened the door to find three former members of her crew, as well as Libby Webber.
"It's Tuvok," Tom said. "He's been kidnapped."
Tuvok could hear his captors in the next room. They obviously were unaware of the acuity of Vulcan hearing. They treated him with indifference; he meant nothing to them. He served only as the bait in the trap.
They had tied him up against the wall beside the door. He could move his wrists within his bonds, and if they ignored him long enough he would eventually get loose. If possible, he would prevent a need for a rescue.
Lt. Commander Harper repeated his orders frequently, assuming, and correctly so in Tuvok's opinion, that his two minions weren't all that bright. Admiral Janeway would have little trouble dealing with those two, but he worried about Harper.
The man's obvious mental instability could make him a difficult opponent; especially since he both expected Janeway and nursed a personal grudge. Janeway's reckless nature very well might lead her straight into this man's clutches.
Still, Tuvok suspected that Harper would not enjoy the experience. Those who cornered Janeway often didn't survive to brag of the accomplishment.
Harry watched Janeway's reaction to the news. In the past, she would have kept a mask of command over her emotions, but she didn't hide her concern from any of them.
She stepped back from the door and let them file into her living room. Chakotay appeared from the bedroom, still buttoning his shirt. If not for Tuvok's situation, Harry would have smiled at that. So they finally had a life.
"I'm Starfleet Intelligence," Libby said.
Harry watched his former captain. Janeway didn't seem surprised. Maybe she knew, or maybe she considered anything that didn't relate directly to Tuvok's situation irrelevant.
"They wanted to keep this from you. They haven't even considered a rescue mission, despite the fact that the kidnappers have threatened his life, but they want to place them under surveillance. It doesn't add up." Libby outlined what little she knew. Fortunately, she had coordinates.
"Good thing I've got the Alpha Flyer," Chakotay said. "We can leave tonight."
Janeway reached over and laid her hand over his, a slight smile on her lips. "That little ship of yours has really come in handy."
"At least we don't lack for excitement," Chakotay said.
"That we don't," she said. "Tom and B'Elanna, you're with us. Libby, you'd better report to your superiors, and Harry, just go into Starfleet tomorrow and try to act normal." She smiled her patented pre-mission smile that always filled Harry with confidence. "Let's do it."
Vorik pounded on Janeway's door when the chime failed to get her attention.
"I thought Vulcans were supposed to have patience," Lyssa said.
"Patience is not always logical." He pounded on the door again.
"She's not here," she said. "Maybe we should try Chakotay's apartment."
Vorik wondered at his temptation to ask her to explain when in fact he found her reasoning quite clear. "Yes, that seems logical."
"She's not home, she's not at Chakotay's . . . " Lyssa sighed and leaned back against the wall. "They could be anywhere."
"Their possible locations are in fact finite," Vorik said.
"You sound almost like a Vulcan," she said.
He considered her statement, then set it aside for later examination. On Voyager she had frequently baffled his sense of logic, although not in the irritating manner that had made him avoid Jenny Delaney.
"It is unlikely that they have left the planet." He paused. "Unless someone has already informed them of Tuvok's situation."
"I hope that's not the case," she said. "Think positively."
"Perhaps another member of the crew might know how to contact them," he said.
Lyssa nodded. "Let's go see Harry."
Libby Webber sat quietly in a waiting room, projecting a calm that she certainly did not feel. After recent events the command structure at Starfleet Intelligence had undergone a number of changes.
This would be her first meeting with the new department head, recently transferred from another section of Starfleet, and she didn't like that it was under these conditions. The nature of the orders she had received earlier made her even more distrustful of this woman, and in addition she risked making a bad impression by taking so long to arrive.
"Agent Webber, right this way please."
She was ushered into a lavishly decorated office. The woman behind the mahogany desk eyed her as if she were up for bidding at a livestock auction. "You are late."
"I couldn't get away faster without arousing my fiance's suspicions," she said. "We had plans with his friends."
"Former crewmembers from Voyager no doubt?"
"Yes, so you can see why -- "
"Very well." She slid a box across the desk. "A few listening devices. They need to be installed at the coordinates I provided."
"I'll need a shuttle and a pilot," Libby said. "It could take weeks to arrange for private transport, and this planet is hardly an appropriate location for a concert."
"I see no point in maintaining that cover. It lacks flexibility, as you have just pointed out."
Libby studied the woman. Did she not know that her musical skills were the reason she had been recruited in the first place?
"Report to the transport station at 0800. A shuttle pilot will be waiting."
"I'll need something to tell Harry."
"That doesn't matter, just make something up."
Harry Kim answered his door immediately.
"Tuvok -- "
"I know," Harry said. "Captain Janeway's already mounted a rescue operation."
"Oh no." Lyssa swallowed hard. "It's a trap. Do you have a way to contact her?"
While Vorik and Harry exchanged information, Lyssa contacted Sam. "I know it's late, and I wouldn't bother you, but I've lost my necklace. It was a gift from my grandfather, and he always said that if you go to bed worried, you'll be trapped by bad dreams."
Sam didn't point out what they both knew: That it was Ensign Henley who quoted her grandfather every third sentence.
"I'll feel better if I resolve this tonight," Lyssa continued. "Remember the time I left it on the Delta Flyer, and I couldn't look for three weeks because the captain had taken it on a mission? I almost wanted to go chasing after her in a shuttle, but we didn't have any to spare."
Sam responded as Lyssa hoped. "We're still up. Come on over. I'm sure Greskrendtregk would be happy to help us look for it."
Libby returned from her meeting, and Harry could tell right away that she wasn't happy about it. "Something's not right," she said. "First those absurd orders, and then -- This woman's either incompetent or lying to me."
"She's probably lying," Harry answered. "Vorik was just here. Tuvok's daughter said the kidnappers were wearing Starfleet uniforms."
"I knew this didn't feel right," Libby said. "Doesn't Starfleet use psychological evaluations any more?"
"It's a trap for Janeway, possibly a personal grudge of some kind."
"We've got to warn her."
"Lyssa and Vorik are going after them," Harry said. "Greskrendtregk can get them a shuttle."
"They didn't discuss that over a comm link!"
"Not in any comprehensible way," Harry said. "You're not the only one with experience in getting a message across discreetly."
"I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you, Harry -- "
"Don't be." He took her hands in his. "I do have questions, but they can wait. I really do understand, and I appreciate what you've done for my friends."
"They're like family to you, so they're my family too." She kissed him softly. "Now, I need you to help me kidnap a Starfleet shuttle pilot at the transport station tomorrow morning."
Vorik slipped into the pilot's seat on their borrowed runabout, the Jadzia. He and Lyssa hurried through a systems check and then rose smoothly through the atmosphere. They had the coordinates to which Janeway and the others had been sent, but second guessing their chosen route was another matter.
The runabout procured by Samantha Wildman's husband exceeded his expectations, but he didn't know the capabilities of Chakotay's Alpha Flyer. "Have you seen Commander -- I mean, Captain -- Chakotay's vessel?"
"I don't know anything about it," Lyssa said. "We'll have to scan for B'Elanna's life signs. Odds are good she's the only half-Klingon in the sector, at least on a runabout with three humans."
"The probability of encountering another half-Klingon has risen now that we are no longer in the Delta Quadrant."
"True -- "
"However, you might try scanning for residual quantities of leola root."
She smiled at him. "That almost qualified as a joke."
He raised one eyebrow and kept his voice neutral. "Humans often use humor to diminish tension in a dangerous situation."
She laughed. "You're a Vulcan, not an android."
"Whose turn is it?" Tom asked Chakotay.
"Whose turn is it to make a half-hearted plea to our women to use a little caution?"
"I think I might need to warn you about caution," Chakotay answered. "Let them hear you call them 'our women' and one of them will space you."
Tom shrugged. "They're doing Kahless knows what to your engines. They won't hear me."
"I've been on Boreth for a month."
"How's the gagh?"
"Not bad," Tom said. "Although, as B'Elanna will be quick to point out, we have a replicator, so I've only had to eat it once. Chakotay, she'll be fine."
"I know what you're thinking. Or rather, what you're working so hard not to think. You're worried that now that you finally have her, you'll lose her."
Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment. "I'll feel better when this is over."
Kathryn returned to the small bridge and moved to stand behind his seat. "So will I." She reached over his shoulder to wrap an arm around him and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
He took her hand in his. "Dare I ask if my engines are still intact?"
"And better than ever," B'Elanna announced. "We may not have traditional weapons, but we'll have a few surprises for anyone who picks a fight."
Libby approached the transport station at a brisk pace. The pilot -- she was fairly certain that was him -- stood waiting as promised. No one else was nearby.
"Agent Webber?" he asked.
Her hunch confirmed, she smiled and reached to shake his hand.
Shock registered on his face as her concealed hypospray released its contents into his arm. "Wha -- " He stumbled forward, swaying.
"Are you okay?" She reached for his shoulder. "Do you need a doctor?"
He slumped to the ground.
Libby whirled around, calling for help.
Voyager's former Emergency Medical Hologram was conveniently nearby. He dropped to the man's side and took his vitals. "He's alive, but I'll need to treat him." He touched his combadge, and all three disappeared in the shimmer of a transporter beam.
The Alpha Flyer moved into orbit around the planet where Tuvok was being held prisoner. Scans showed a facility which matched the description supplied by Libby Webber.
"I'm not reading any sign of shielding around the complex," Chakotay said. "I am reading both human and Vulcan life signs."
"That's good enough for me," Kathryn said. "Let's do this."
Tom landed the Alpha Flyer about two kilometers north of the facility, where tree-covered hills provided some cover. They hoped to have the element of surprise on their side.
"I did promise you a hiking trip," Kathryn said to Chakotay. "I hope this is what you had in mind."
"What I had in mind involved crisp mountain air, handholding, and an absolutely breathtaking sunset."
She chuckled. "I guess you'll have to talk to Tuvok about that when we see him."
"It's nice to see them like this," Tom whispered. "I think they're finally happy."
B'Elanna nodded. "No one deserves it more. When -- "
Phaser fire erupted from the trees to the east, and Chakotay slumped to the ground.
Seven of Nine glared at the sleeping hostage, now securely tied to a chair in her living room. "Revive him."
"He'll awaken on his own in a few minutes," the Doctor said. "I don't want to put unnecessary stress on his system."
"This man may be responsible for harming Tuvok," Seven said. "He may be responsible for putting Admiral Janeway and the others in danger."
"And he may be an innocent dupe," the Doctor said.
"Like me," Libby muttered. "I fell right into their trap."
"You did not have reason to believe your superiors were lying to you," Seven said. "Your intentions were honorable."
The hostage stirred in his bonds. His head jerked and he looked around, fully awake. "What's going on?"
"That is what we intend to find out," Seven said. "You will answer our questions or I will assimilate you."
The man swallowed hard, his eyes glued to the tubules on Seven's wrist.
"Where is Commander Tuvok?"
His eyes darted around the room. "Agent Webber knows that; I was assigned to take her to him."
"Assigned by whom?" Seven leaned closer. "My ocular implant will detect any attempt at deception."
"That information is classified."
"Answer my question or I will extract the classified information from your brain with an injection of nanoprobes. It will be painful, and possibly fatal."
"She's crazy." The man shot a desperate look at the Doctor. "You took the Hippocratic Oath, right? You have to stop her!"
The Doctor shrugged. "I'm under no particular obligation to stop her from killing you. I'd rather she not, as I've always found autopsies to be a bit monotonous -- all that weighing and measuring -- terribly tedious."
"Chakotay!" Kathryn dropped to his side and felt for a pulse, oblivious to the continued danger as Tom and B'Elanna took cover and returned fire. Once she knew he was alive, she took aim herself, only to discover that her phaser wouldn't fire.
"A dampening field," a voice announced. "You'll find that your phasers are quite ineffective now that I've turned it on."
A tall blond man emerged from the trees and showed off the projectile weapon in his hand. "This will work just fine, however. Crude, but beautiful in its destruction."
Kathryn swallowed hard. The weapon pointed at Chakotay.
"Do exactly as I say, Admiral, or his death with be both painful and messy. Now lay down your weapons and keep your hands up."
She exchanged a glance with Tom, then laid her phaser beside her. She heard B'Elanna doing the same behind her. "What do you want?"
The man laughed. "I want my sister's life back, but I can't have that. You took that from me years ago. So tell me, Admiral, which of these lives shall I take in return?"
"How will that help?"
He shrugged. "It won't, but I think I'll kill this one anyway." He aimed at Chakotay.
Kathryn threw herself over him, far more willing to give her life than to watch him die.
Cruel laughter filled the air. "Was that so hard? Could you not have done the same for my sister?"
She raised her head from Chakotay's shoulder. "Who was your sister?"
"How many people's sisters have you killed, Admiral, that you can't remember mine?"
"If she died under my command, then I am sorry. But this is not the way to honor her memory."
"I don't want to hear that Starfleet twaddle about knowing the risks. My sister didn't want to die. That mission wasn't worth her life, not to her or to anyone else. She was going to have a family."
"Tell me about her," Kathryn said. "Who was she?" She didn't take her eyes off the weapon in his hand.
He whirled, training the weapon on Tom. "Don't you two get any ideas." He raised his voice. "Come out here and tie them up. We need to get going."
As his companions bound Tom and B'Elanna's hands, he pointed to Chakotay. "Carry him," he ordered. "And if you can't manage it I'll slit his throat and leave him here."
Kathryn swallowed. She knew from experience just how much Chakotay weighed. She had dragged his unconscious body away from plenty of crashed shuttles over the years. Moving into a crouch beside him, she carefully lifted his upper body to her shoulder and braced herself for the strain.
"All I've heard for months is how the great Janeway will do anything for her crew. Not my sister, though. I guess my sister didn't matter."
"Of course she did!" Kathryn stood, her small frame swaying as she tried to keep her balance with Chakotay's weight pulling her sideways. "All human life matters. Life is valuable and precious."
Their captor ignored her. "My sister weighed less than him! You didn't bother to carry her, though."
"Who was your sister?" Kathryn asked again. She tried to ignore her burning muscles and focus on keeping her voice level. "Tell me her name."
He studied her silently for long moments. "My sister," he said finally, "was Yvonne Harper."
The name did have an impact on Kathryn. If not for Chakotay's weight leaning painfully against her shoulder, she might have sank to the ground. Years of controlling her emotions kept her from losing control now. "What happened to her was tragic, but I didn't know she was dead."
"You didn't bother to find out, did you?"
"I -- "
"That accident killed her unborn child. She resigned from Starfleet and slit her wrists in my mother's kitchen."
Kathryn gasped, and might have felt more compassion for the man if not for the danger to her crew.
"Think about that, Admiral. Think about my poor mother, finding her only daughter dead when she went to make her morning coffee. Now let's go."
Kathryn knew that if she tried to move forward, she wouldn't be able to support enough of Chakotay's weight to keep from dropping him. She shot Tom a frantic look.
Tom and B'Elanna tried to get his other arm despite their bound hands, and fortunately their captors didn't stop them. Somehow, Tom managed to get Chakotay's arm around his neck, and together they were able to drag him.
Harper continued to rant about his sister's death, and Kathryn began to fear Tuvok's condition, now that he wasn't useful as bait.
Vorik studied the readings again. "I suspect that this ion trail was left by Chakotay's vessel. If I am correct, they have landed two kilometers north of their intended target."
Lyssa peered over his shoulder. "Is that a hunch, or am I missing something? I mean, besides the fact that this was their destination and that they almost certainly beat us here."
"Look closer." Vorik pointed to the sensor readings. "B'Elanna has modified the engines that left this trail."
"So she rigged -- " Lyssa gave a low whistle. "Is she crazy or brilliant?"
"She is B'Elanna."
Harry resisted the urge to contact Libby and the others. If anything had gone wrong with the shuttle pilot's abduction, he would have heard. He concentrated on the shuttle plans in front of him.
"Lieutenant?" A nervous young man in a cadet's uniform stood in the door. Something about his appearance nagged at Harry.
"May I help you?"
The cadet stepped forward and held out a PADD. "I have a message for you, Sir."
Message. Harry's mind flashed back to dinner the night before. This was the waiter who had brought Libby the PADD. "Leave it on the table behind me."
As the cadet stepped around his desk, Harry pounced. He grabbed the young man's arm and twisted it severely. "Tell me the truth; why are you really here?"
Chakotay could hear Kathryn's voice close to his ear. She was speaking in the tone she reserved for armed lunatics. Not a good sign.
He remained still and tried to get his bearings. The floor beneath him felt cold. His arms ached, bound behind him, pressed awkwardly into the wall by his own weight.
He opened his eyes, slowly. The warm body to his left was Tuvok. Kathryn was on his right. Tom and B'Elanna were tied up against the adjacent wall on the other side of Tuvok. A tall blond man paced the length of the room, waving around a knife.
"I want you to feel what she felt," the knife-owner said. "Justice will be served."
"How is that justice?" Kathryn's voice was too calm. "What good will come of my death?"
Chakotay's heart froze.
"Let's find out." The man with the knife dragged Kathryn into the center of the room. She struggled, bringing her legs up to kick him.
He cheered her on silently, hoping against reason that she'd prevail, but Kathryn clearly had the disadvantage. She was on her back, with both her hands and her legs bound. Still, she got in at least two good blows before their captor forced her onto her knees, his knife at her throat.
Chakotay couldn't think, couldn't tear his eyes away from the blade. He yanked helplessly at his bound hands and sent a desperate plea to the spirits. He struggled forward, but only made it an inch.
"Harper, don't." Tom struggled against his own bonds. "Please don't do this."
The knife dropped away from Kathryn's throat as Harper turned his attention to Tom. "Are you volunteering to die in her place?"
"Yes," Tom said. "I am."
Harper let go of Kathryn and crossed the room to threaten Tom with the knife.
Chakotay worked at the ropes around his wrists. If Tom could keep the man distracted long enough, maybe they could take him by surprise.
Kathryn inched her way forward on her knees. Her eyes met Chakotay's briefly, then settled on Harper's knife hand.
"What makes you think her life is so precious?" Harper asked.
"I know her," Tom answered. "I've seen her save countless lives. The galaxy is a better place with Kathryn Janeway in it."
Chakotay could feel the warmth and stickiness of blood as he worked at his bonds. It didn't matter. He had to get free before Harper returned his attention to Kathryn.
"Pretty lies won't save her," Harper spat. He started to turn from Tom.
"He's telling you the truth," B'Elanna said. "I owe my life to Kathryn Janeway."
He had it. Chakotay jerked his arm free of the ropes. His hands were wet with blood, but he didn't care. He reached forward and struggled with the knot on his ankle.
"You're wasting my time," Harper said.
Tom snorted. "You have something better to be doing?"
Chakotay got the knot loose. Careful not to make a sound, he climbed slowly to his feet. He wanted to untie Kathryn, but he didn't dare take his eyes from Harper's back.
"Yes," Harper said. "Killing your precious captain."
Harper turned, and Chakotay moved swiftly, tackling him around the waist. The two rolled across the floor, struggling for the knife. Just as Chakotay pinned the other man's wrist to the ground, he felt pressure at the base of his neck.
"Let him go."
He might have ignored the voice, but Kathryn spoke as well. "Let him go Chakotay."
Chakotay released Harper and turned to see two additional kidnappers, each with phasers. He let them refasten his bonds and return him to his place against the wall.
Harper returned to Kathryn. "Enough delays. Now you will feel the life drain from you as it drained from my sister."
Chakotay cried out in horror, unable to look away, as Harper slashed Kathryn's wrist with the knife and her blood began to run down her arm onto the floor.
Libby watched as the Doctor and Seven of Nine played out their gruesome little act. It did have the desired result. It scared the shuttle pilot silly. He repeated everything he knew. Twice, in fact. Unfortunately, he didn't know anything useful or even interesting.
"Please don't assimilate me," he babbled. "I don't know anything more, I swear. You can tell, can't you?"
"Actually, I cannot. I lied."
"He's telling us the truth, Seven." The Doctor began to untie him.
"In that case I apologize," Seven said. "We meant you no harm."
"Whoever took Commander Tuvok is working from inside Starfleet," Libby explained. "We had to be sure you weren't working with them."
The pilot didn't take his eyes off of Seven. "She can't really do that, can she? Assimilate me?"
"No," Seven said. "That would require -- "
"Seven." The Doctor laid his hand on her shoulder. "Don't give him nightmares."
The apartment door slid open and Harry Kim entered, manhandling a red-faced Starfleet Academy cadet. "That one might not know anything," Harry said. "This one, however, has quite a story to tell."
Lyssa and Vorik landed the Jadzia beside the Alpha Flyer. The landing spot was the only one that provided cover. Hopefully now that the kidnappers had trapped Janeway, they wouldn't be watching for another ship.
They set a brisk pace through the trees, constantly scanning their surroundings with tricorders.
"A dampening field," Lyssa said. "They were probably surrounded while their phasers were disabled."
"That device could prove useful," Vorik replied. He followed the energy signature to the source. "If we turn this on near the facility, we can use their own trap against them."
"I hope we aren't too late," Lyssa said.
"That is unlikely. If this individual had simply wanted them dead, we would have found the bodies here."
"I am sorry," Vorik said. "I meant my statement to be comforting."
She turned to him, surprised. "It was, in a chilling sort of way."
He nodded. "I find that thought unsettling myself."
"Let's hurry then." She broke into a jog, grateful for all of her recent runs through the hilly streets of San Francisco.
Tom watched Janeway's blood pool on the floor as she tried to press her wound closed against her own thigh, her bonds preventing her from grasping it with the other hand. He knew it wasn't too late, not yet, but they needed to help her now.
Harper's laughter filled the room. "Justice," he kept repeating. "This is justice."
A flicker of movement caught Tom's eye. He had to distract Harper now.
"This is not justice," Tom said. "You said your sister didn't want to die, but it seems to me that she did. You can't expect anyone else to take the blame for something she did herself."
Harper whirled on Tom. "How dare you!"
Vorik stepped through the doorway and applied the infamous Vulcan nerve pinch. Harper crumpled to the ground.
Lyssa Campbell raced in after him, dropped to her knees beside Janeway, and quickly tore a piece from her shirt to use as a bandage.
"Wrap that tight, Lyssa." Tom bent forward so Vorik could cut his bonds, then scrambled over to help.
"It's okay," Janeway said. "I don't think he cut high enough."
Vorik released the others. "We need to hurry. We cannot account for all of the kidnappers."
"That's the waiter from the restaurant last night," Libby said.
"He's also the one who wrote your orders," Harry said. "Introduce yourself."
The cadet looked nervously at Seven. "I'm Tim -- "
Seven didn't let him finish. "You attacked Icheb. You almost killed him."
"It was an accident," Tim protested. "He didn't have to get me kicked out of the Academy. He ruined everything."
"Icheb is not responsible for your actions," Seven said coldly.
"Excuse me," Libby said. "But how does this explain my meeting with Admiral Ackerman?"
"That wasn't Admiral Ackerman," Harry said. "It seems Tim here has a knack for holographic programming."
"Commander Harper promised he'd get me back into the Academy if I helped him."
"I don't think Commander Harper will be in a position to keep his promise," Harry said. "But if you repeat everything to Starfleet security, you might not spend the next few years in New Zealand."
Chakotay and Tom supported Janeway between them. Despite her insistence that she was fine, she knew she had lost a lot of blood. She held her bandaged wrist above her heart and kept it in plain sight. Both Chakotay and Tom continuously glanced at it, obviously worried that the bleeding would start again.
B'Elanna and Vorik brought up the rear, with Harper and the other prisoner tied up securely on an anti-grav sled. Everyone stayed alert, prepared for an ambush.
"He probably took their shuttle and is now long gone," Tuvok said. "It is unlikely he cared for more than his own escape."
"I've fallen into enough traps for one day," Janeway replied. "Everyone stay sharp."
"I'd like to compliment Vorik and Lyssa on their excellent timing," Chakotay said. "I expect that they have an interesting story to share."
The two kilometers passed quickly as Vorik explained. Everyone breathed a little easier when the Jadzia and Alpha Flyer were within sight. It had crossed their minds that their missing adversary might have thought to steal one of their vessels, or perhaps blow them up.
"Nice vessel." B'Elanna nodded at the Jadzia . "Where'd you steal it?"
"Naomi Wildman's father was kind enough to procure it for us," Vorik answered.
Once Harper and his hired thug were safely loaded into the Jadzia's makeshift brig, Kathryn ordered a thorough systems check on both vessels.
"We can't be too careful." Kathryn winced as Tom repaired her arm. "Check for every kind of sabotage that you can imagine."
Chakotay didn't leave her side, watching the dermal regenerator closely. For once, he didn't have to hide his concern, and she didn't have to ignore it. She reached out and squeezed his hand.
Tom finished and turned to put the regenerator back in its case.
"Tom," she said. "Thank you."
He turned back to her and smiled. "It was nothing. You were right about the cut not being deep enough to -- "
"Not just for that, Tom, for what you did and said back there. You risked your life for me."
"Anytime," he said softly. Then he met her gaze. "I love you. Not the way this guy does, but everything good in my life is because of you. I watched you sacrifice for years for the rest of us, and I want you to have a chance to be happy. I would risk anything to give you that chance."
"I never had a brother." She drew him into a hug. "But I can't imagine a better one."
He held her tightly for a moment. "I'm honored, ma'am, but I've had a few rather unbrotherly thoughts about how you look in a dress."
"I think I'll let you get away with that," she said. "I can't speak for B'Elanna, though. Or Chakotay, for that matter."
"I'll forgive him," Chakotay said. "This time, anyway."
All three of them laughed, and Tom went to help the others.
"Kathryn," Chakotay said. Then his voice failed him and he pulled her into his arms.
She could feel him shaking. "It's okay," she said. "It wasn't that bad."
"Oh, but this isn't just for what happened today. This is for all the other times, when you made it back safely but I couldn't hold you."
She drew back and looked up at him. "Well, in that case . . . " Her words trailed off as she stretched up and kissed him.
A few inquiries revealed that the real Admiral Ackerman was vacationing on Risa.
"I should court martial you for taking matters into your own hands," she told Libby. "However, considering the nature of those orders . . . let's just say that anyone who followed them would have deserved worse than a court martial. I look forward to reading your full and excruciatingly detailed report on the matter."
"Thank you, ma'am," Libby answered. The report was a small price to pay for the safety of Harry's friends.
"He's firing again."
They had located the missing hired thug. He was onboard a type eight shuttlecraft, and he was a surprisingly good shot.
The Alpha Flyer lacked traditional weapons, but with B'Elanna's earlier handiwork it almost didn't matter. They had plenty of surprises in store for their adversary. The little ship danced under Tom's skillful guidance, and Vorik finally swept in with the Jadzia to knock out the shuttle's propulsion system.
The makeshift brig now had three occupants. Both small ships set a course for Earth.
Janeway sat down next to Tuvok. "We've got to find a simpler way to spend time together."
"Thank you for your attempt at a rescue," he said.
She grinned "No one messes with my chicks."
He raised an eyebrow at her.
"Chakotay called me a mother hen," she explained.
"Are chickens a particularly reckless species?"
She chuckled. "And they say Vulcans don't understand humor."
Vorik glanced over at Lyssa. "My father wants me to spend two years studying at the Temple of Amonak."
"That sounds dreadful," she said. "Unless that is something that you want?"
"It is not," he answered. "I have been attempting to understand why my father wishes it."
"Vulcan marriages are usually arranged," he answered. "When Voyager was assumed lost, my betrothed took another mate. Since I must now find another, my father may be attempting to make me acceptable to one."
"You're perfectly acceptable now," Lyssa protested. "Any girl would be lucky to have you."
He turned to her. He wanted to ask if she meant that. He very much wanted her to have meant that. He catalogued his emotional reaction. He'd have to meditate on that later. "My father thinks I have spent too much time with Terrans."
"And we've corrupted you."
"I did not mean to offend you."
"You didn't." Lyssa laughed. "We probably have. Corrupting Vulcans is a popular human pastime."
"My father may see it as corruption," he said. "But I do not. What I have gained from my time on Voyager is very valuable to me."
"I know what you mean," she said. "I wouldn't trade my time on Voyager for anything. I wouldn't trade away the last couple of days, either, now that everyone is safe."
"I am pleased to hear that," Vorik said. "The time we have spent together has reminded me of my admiration for humans. They have many qualities that Vulcans don't possess."
"Vulcans have plenty of admirable qualities as well," she said. "Voyager would not have been the same without you and Tuvok."
"While I have no wish to deny my Vulcan nature, I don't want to lose the changes that human influence has inspired."
"Good, because I like you the way you are."
She smiled at him and he felt another flutter of emotion. It reminded him of the way he felt around B'Elanna in the weeks before his pon farr. Again, he filed the feeling away for later meditation. "Vulcans say that wishing is irrelevant, and that life is what it is, so why should my father want to erase the last seven years. What logic is there in that?"
"None that I see," she agreed.
He didn't need the Temple of Amonak to make him into a suitable mate for some stranger on Vulcan. Lyssa already understood him, and he found that the prospect of bonding with her was quite pleasing to him. He admired her, and felt affection towards her.
"Lyssa." He swallowed down an anxious feeling. "Would you consider joining with a Vulcan?"
"I can't answer that right now," she said. "I'm not in love with you." Then she grinned and leaned towards him. "At least not yet."
She kissed him and all of the feelings he had been storing for later meditation seemed to explode within him. He studied her, unable to formulate an appropriate response to her action.
"You're blushing," she teased. "You're positively green."
He regarded her calmly. "Vulcans don't blush."
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, February 2004.