see Days of Open Hand part 1 & 2 for info
see Days of Open Hand part 1 & 2 for info
Annika reluctantly released Janeway from her embrace. The headmistress looked worried, but also confused. Could it possibly be true, Annika wondered doubtfully, that Janeway wasn't aware of how Chakotay felt about her? The bemused expression Janeway possessed seemed to indicate that it was indeed true.
"He's in love with you." Annika watched Janeway's features carefully for any reaction. She was somewhat relieved when Janeway merely nodded ruefully.
"I thought he had gotten over all that." Janeway's voice was regretful but frank. "I was aware that he had feelings for me at one time, but he never indicated he still maintained them. I was sure he was over me."
"I'm sorry, Kathryn, but I can't imagine anyone ever being completely over you." Annika was rewarded with a small tremulous smile from the headmistress. Annika's anxiety warned her against such a question, but she had to know. "Do you have feelings for him?"
"Yes. He's a dear friend. Am I in love with him? No. I've not been in love for a very long time." Janeway brushed a gentle hand down Annika's arm before she grasped her hand. "I didn't think it was something I could truly have again. That was until a certain stubborn woman barged into my office."
Annika pulled Janeway to her and reveled in the feel of soft, warm curves pressing against her own and the lavender scent of Janeway's hair, not to mention the feel of soft, but fervent lips moving against hers. Annika moaned deeply when Janeway's tongue slipped past her lips before it explored the inside recesses of her mouth. Janeway's mouth on hers was almost bruising, but the hands that cupped Annika's face were gentle, almost reverent in their touch.
It was with reluctance that Janeway ended the heated exchange. Her wide blue eyes sparkled, but her voice was concerned. "I need to go talk to him."
Annika could only nod her head. Janeway's flushed complexion and the moist lips that were reddened and swollen from the attention she had paid them so passionately made her head swim with desire. She didn't emerge from her haze until Janeway was almost to the door.
"Kathryn?" Annika grasped one of Janeway's hands with her own. Her icy blue eyes were pleading, perhaps even a little desperate. "Please, be careful."
Janeway used the hand not held tightly entrapped to brush fingers softly across Annika's cheek and then to pass over her full lips. "I will."
With all the will power she could muster Janeway removed herself from Annika's grip and her presence and departed from her office.
"Oh my God!" Annika fell heavily into one of the plush chairs in front of the headmistress' desk as a large smile pulled her full lips up almost painfully.
Annika could still feel Janeway's lips upon hers. Taste the essence of the woman on her tongue. Still smell the intoxicating scent of lavender soap and Janeway's own unique fragrance. Feel the press of warm, soft curves. Annika had thought she would shatter into tears of happiness when Janeway looked at her with dark blue eyes filled with the unmistakable glow of newly found love.
"What're you still doing here?"
Harren's voice made Annika jump with a small squeak of surprise. She glared at the man for both startling her and for interrupting her remembrance. She passed by him without a single word though she thought she heard him bemoaning people just barging in wherever they pleased.
Upon entering the sun-drenched day Annika had to stop and realize fully what had just transpired. Annika pressed her fingers to her slightly swollen lips and smiled broadly. Anticipation caused her heart to race and heat to rise to her cheeks. She imagined she felt Janeway's lips upon hers again and her knees nearly buckled from the onslaught of pleasure it invoked.
"Hey, you all right?" Lyndsay grinned at the surprised squeak she had just caused Annika to expel.
"Oh, what? Oh yes, I'm fine." Annika knew her flushed appearance didn't really support her case. Her broad grin probably didn't help either.
Lyndsay's hazel eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What's up with you? I find you standing in the middle of campus, grinning like a fool-"
"I'm not 'grinning like a fool'." Annika blushed even more, but she couldn't stop smiling. She wondered if she appeared as insufferably smug as she felt. "I-it's just a beautiful day that's all."
"When will you young-uns realize you can't lie to an old bat like me?" Lyndsay's arms crossed over her chest and her expression was one of pure immovability. "So give."
Annika stepped closer to Lyndsay to avoid being overheard by the students and staff emerging from the mess hall. "I-we-I told her how I fell."
"You're kidding!" Lyndsay's hazel eyes were wide in surprise, but to Annika's astonishment and relief she couldn't detect any disapproval. "I assume it went well from the insufferable grin plastered all over your face."
Unconsciously, Annika's fingers went to her mouth again.
"You've got to be joking! I don't believe it!" Lyndsay shook her head, which just emphasized her point. "I don't freakin' believe it!"
Annika wasn't sure if she should be offended or not, though she was moved to tell Lynsday to lower her voice so the whole city wouldn't hear her. Thankfully Lyndsay complied.
"I never thought she would actually admit to it." Lyndsay smiled with respect as her head shook in happy disbelief, impressed with Kathryn for her honesty. She was actually damned proud of the woman.
"What? She-she talked to you? About me?" Now it was Annika's turn to be flabbergasted. She was also delighted that it wasn't just her who had been distracted by a growing infatuation that last few days.
"Only a little. I never would have even guessed she would-wow." Lyndsay patted Annika good-naturedly on the back as she continued to smile broadly. Her alto tones remained high-spirited. "I'd love to stay and chat some more. Dish the greatest piece of news to ever hit the Voyager Institute, but I have to go teach youngsters about techy stuff. Well, good luck, Annika. I wish I didn't have to say you'll need it. Also, keep in mind that if you hurt her I will kill you." Lyndsay grinned brightly. "Okay, later, gator."
"Uh, yeah sure, later." Annika's wave goodbye was as uncertain as her voice. Somehow she didn't think Lyndsay was joking. "Holy, jeez!"
"I'm sorry, Annika, I didn't mean to startle you." Kes let her hand drop from Annika's shoulder and smiled apologetically. She sensed an odd mixture of anxiety and bliss emanating from Annika, but she decided she could ask about it when they were alone or perhaps not at all. Annika could divulge to her if she wished. "Were you still planning on coming to talk to me? I didn't see you at lunch."
"Oh yes, I was, um, busy." Annika turned away from Kes lest her sudden blush that she felt infuse her cheeks hotly would be seen. It was a rather illogical move on her part since she knew full well Kes could probably sense each and every tumultuous emotion she was feeling already, but she still maintained the right to overlook that small detail. "I'm ready now, if you are."
Kes clasped her hands in front of her as she nodded before she led the way to her office. She refrained from speaking until the wooden door slid closed behind them. Kes settled her petite form into the large burgundy colored chair that faced the door with her back to the small, curtain covered windows. Annika was motioned to take the black leather bound recliner across from Kes. It was Kes' velvety voice that broke the silence of the room.
"What would you like to discuss first: the Reykjavik Incident, what you experienced in the holodeck, or perhaps you would like to talk about your new relationship with Kathryn Janeway?" Kes smiled softly at the look of surprise that graced Annika's features. "I've never sensed more happiness emanating from you."
Annika supposed she should have known the hyper-perceptive Kes would have already guessed as to the cause of her blissful state. She smiled broadly as she nodded her admission. "It happened so quickly. One moment I was being lectured to by Nechayev and then-then I was in Kathryn's office telling her how much I love her. It's crazy! Isn't it?"
"It sounds wonderful." Kes had an enigmatic gleam in her violet eyes as she smiled warmly. She thought it unnecessary to speak of the discussion she had shared with Nechayev before the Russian director went to Annika that had been helped along by Kes' prompting. "I wish you nothing but the best, Annika. I truly do."
"Is there a 'but' in there somewhere?" Annika's voice was light, with only a hint of apprehension. She tried not to shift uncomfortably under Kes' penetrating violet colored gaze.
"It's not going to be easy, I'm afraid." Kes shook her head with regret for all the horrors and loss Janeway had experienced. One of the more terrible events was what had prompted this meeting. That and because Kes hoped to maneuver Annika into talking about the engram surge she had experienced on the holodeck. "Which brings us back to Reykjavik."
The broad grin Annika had been sporting for the last twenty minutes fell away as she nodded solemnly. "Yes, I would like to know more about it. I-I didn't know who else to ask. I don't mean to be insensitive, but I feel like it's too important that I know."
"Many would like to pretend it never happened." Kes' expression was neutral though Annika thought she detected the smallest amount of disapproval in the other woman's low voice. "If word of it ever went public I have no doubt Hayes' bill or one even more aggressive would be passed within a day. I won't lie to you or try to minimize the events that took place. It was truly a horrific. I was part of the recovery team so I wasn't there for the battle. I saw the aftermath."
The smell of decayed flesh and unknown chemical compounds assaulted Kes' senses to such an extent that tears sprang to her violet eyes. She ignored her discomfort and growing nausea as she followed Doctor Zimmerman and Tom Paris through the intermittently lit cavernous hallways of the underground complex.
"We've got two in here." Tom held his hand over his nose and mouth as he moved into the tiny, filthy cell that stank terribly due to the rotting corpses in the far corner. It appeared that the two small figures had been holding tightly to one another moments before they expired. "Oh, God. They were just kids."
Zimmerman knelt beside the huddled figures and gently placed a tracer on both. In moments both bodies were transported from the room where they had died to a large UFM vessel in station keeping high above the Icelandic city. Doctor Zimmerman's craggy features were marred by sadness and misery as he ruefully shook his head.
Kes laid a gentle, supporting had on the doctor's arm as the trio moved on to the next cell. Again Tom entered first. There was one body within. An adult male with blue tinted skin and deep red and black burns spread liberally across.
"It's Chell." Tom respectfully used the tips of two fingers to close the dead man's eyes before he placed a tracer upon him. "I didn't know Moset had his hands on some of the Maquis too."
Neither Kes nor the doctor thought a response was necessary so they silently continued their grim task. They had already sent over a dozen dead bodies to the makeshift morgue upon the Enterprise. Kes idly wondered how many the other recovery teams had uncovered. Many of the deceased weren't even metahumans. Eighteen had been humans genetically mutated to appear metahuman. Crell Moset had been especially vicious in his experiments on his human subjects. Most had old wounds, which had been left unattended. If later experiments hadn't killed them Kes supposed infection probably would have.
The chirp from Kes' communicator shook her from her morbid reverie. She tapped the gold metallic stars shaped emblem on her chest as she moved away from the stench of decayed flesh. "Go ahead."
Tuvok's voice was steady and assisted Kes in regaining her composure. As did his mission for her. "The captain requires your presence. Main Lab. I'm sending the coordinates to your tricorder."
"Understood." The small chirp indicated the line had been disconnected as Kes took small calming breaths. The taste of death was on her tongue as she rejoined Zimmerman and Paris in the next inhabited cell.
Kes felt a mixture of relief and sorrow as emotions emanated from the huddled form Tom was whispering reassuring words to as he attempted to calm the damaged person to accept their help. She moved slowly towards the doctor and the emerging blue light of a transporter beam caused the smallest of smiles to grace her lips but remained unseen in her violet eyes. "I'm needed elsewhere for the moment."
"No one should go off by themselves." Zimmerman watched the latest body they had discovered shimmer away on a transporter beam created by Miles O'Brien, who had the fortunate luck of being on the Enterprise. He turned his dark eyes back to Kes and grimaced disgustedly. "Especially not in this place."
"The battle is over, Doctor. Don't worry I'll be fine." Kes didn't wait to hear any more protests from either Zimmerman or Tom as she escaped into the fresher air of the hallway.
Kes ignored her own revulsion and the fear she felt that raised the small hairs on her arms and the back of her neck as she followed the directions her tricorder was giving her. She knew full well that the UFM Hazard Team and the Maquis squadron had the subterranean compound secured, but her skin still crawled as she walked steadily down the dark narrow hallway intermittently cast in crimson by flickering emergency lights. She lifted her right arm to shine the light from her SIMs beacon upon a heavy metal door that had been sliced in two. Kes released a small grunt as she pushed aside a portion of the broken door so she could proceed to the source of the barrage of emotions that had just debilitated her only moments ago. She nearly fell four feet down into the pit-like laboratory.
Kes trudged through the calf high water while she avoided shards of glass that floated by. She kept her right arm carefully above the foul smelling water as she drew closer to the gleaming beacon that inspired hope within her whenever she saw it.
"Kes?" Janeway hovered a half a foot above the greenish hued water in a yellow glow of energy and light.
As Kes moved closer to Janeway she could see cuts and bruises upon the other woman's flesh, but that glow that surrounded her was strong. "Captain. What happened here?"
"This was Moset's primary laboratory. We've recovered seven of the nine subjects from their holding tubes." Janeway pushed the chemical tainted water aside as she descended next to Kes. "We don't know what happened to the other two. If they escaped. Or if they're dead. The seven we did find were taken by the Hazard team to the Enterprise."
Kes was thankful to be out of the water surrounded by the protective energy barrier projected by Janeway but her thoughts were on the possible reasons why she had been instructed by Tuvok to come to this particular location. She hadn't been able to sense emotions from Janeway before and still couldn't now. So instead all she could do was ask and hope Janeway wouldn't be too reticent as she so often was. "What are you still doing here, Captain?"
"Kes, I-" The refusal died upon Janeway's lips as she considered the fact that the counselor didn't deserve to be lied to. "Regina McQueen is dead."
Kes nodded her head almost absently. The sympathetic expression on her features was more for Janeway's benefit than it was for her own feelings of sadness over McQueen's death. She had, after all, been the leader of the Obsidian Order that had protected and enabled Moset's grotesque experimentations on living people. Kes honestly didn't understand what had caused Janeway's surge of emotions. Compassion for even the enemy couldn't be all there was.
"I killed her, Kes. She was going to initiate the self-destruct on this base. It would have wiped out half of Iceland. I couldn't let her-so I didn't." Janeway's voice was quiet, rueful but will an air of rectitude as well. "It took all my power and more, but I stopped her."
Kes didn't need to be an empath to see that Janeway was exhausted both physically and emotionally. Her voice wasn't unkind, but it was sure and strong. "You did what you had to do, Kathryn. If she had been successful thousands of innocent people would have been killed."
Janeway nodded thoughtfully in agreement though tears of years of regret coupled with the pang of guilt filled her stormy gray eyes. "The needs of the many."
Kes tentatively laid a comforting hand on Janeway's shoulder. The muscles shifted beneath her touch as Janeway stiffened her stance. Her strong chin was raised and though moisture filled her eyes none escaped to touch her cheeks. Janeway's lips were pressed into a grim line as her gray gaze took in the massive destruction of the laboratory before her. She had seen so much death this night. So much suffering. She had even been the cause of three of the causalities. The final one had been the end of her childhood friend. A woman who had been as brilliant as was damaged. As protective as she was vengeful. As loving as she was ruthless.
Janeway had experienced the love Regina had been capable of, but she had also felt Regina's boundless hatred as well. Hatred towards humans that had simmered within her from childhood, which had only increased in intensity as she matured. Regina also abhorred metahumans who wanted to live in peace with the humans; who would protect them from people like Regina. Janeway was both and so Regina's love for her had turned into hatred and disgust. She had seen both in Regina's eyes moments before she had ended her life.
Gently, Janeway removed herself from Kes' touch. Her own feelings, the damage done to her this day, was pushed away and ignored as her sense of duty and responsibility overshadowed everything else. She cleared her throat before she tapped her combadge. "Two to beam up."
"In a way Kathryn felt responsible. She was aware of Regina's hatred towards humans and because of that she believed she should have acted sooner." Kes folded her hands and rested them on top of her crossed legs as she leaned further against the back of her chair. She had tears in her eyes from the emotions elicited by the retelling of events. "Should have put an end to the Obsidian Order. Or course we had no way of knowing about Moset's lab until a few of the Maquis had gone missing. The subdermal transmitters led us to Reykjavik, to his lab, and to hundreds of Crell Moset's victims."
Annika swallowed past the hot thick lump that had formed in her throat as she adjusted to the knowledge that such a horrible place could have ever existed. And that someone Kathryn had cared about greatly, even loved, had been essentially responsible for it all. She knew she couldn't go to Kathryn regarding this information, but it did assist her in how to handle their newfound relationship. Annika had known Kathryn was reticent about her feelings, her emotions. A barrier had been formed around her heart and Annika felt even more fortunate that she had somehow been able to break through. She didn't know what exactly their relationship constituted as being, but Annika knew one thing. It was precious and she would do everything in her power to protect it.
"She's lost so many people in her life, Annika. Too many." A knowing look emerged upon Kes' features as her violet eyes narrowed seriously. "I know Tom and B'Elanna are making plans to hit global tech soon. I don't want to tell you what to do I just want to stress the importance of being prudent, of being safe."
"I understand. But I told Kathryn, I promised myself, that I would do everything I could to help. To fight if necessary." Annika didn't chafe at Kes' words. She knew they came from a well-meaning place, but Annika wouldn't hide from the world because of the potential dangerous it contained. She had done enough of that already. "I know I'm new at this. But I intend to keep my word. Kes, I'm not doing this just for her. I'm doing this for us. For me. But I will say this. If the mission is over my head, I won't do it. Not until I'm ready. But I can't just seat on the sidelines anymore."
Kes nodded her head thoughtfully with no words to assist in her understanding of Annika's position. Her mind had already shifted to another topic. "What occurred in the holodeck, has that ever happened to you before?"
Annika shook her head and added a sure sounding "no" for good measure. Her next words sounded less certain. "At least I don't think so. It's all a little hazy."
"If it is a repressed memory of some kind it's probable that it will emerge once again." Kes' gentle tones were meant to be reassuring, comforting, but also somewhat of a warning as well. There were odd synaptic peaks the neuromonitors picked up that had Doctor Zimmerman curious, but luckily not overly concerned or else Annika would already be in sickbay, confined to a biobed. "Don't try to force the memories."
Annika nodded her acquiescence. She still worried about the lack of memory, but as it had in the holodeck the visions had almost seemed dreamlike and so it made sense her memories of it would be evanescent. "Doctor Zimmerman said I have to stay out of the holodeck for the time being."
"It's probably for the best. A certain image or a flashing of light could have caused the memories to resurface." Kes' serious countenance softened into a smile that could have easily been mistaken as a smirk. "I heard you had a run-in with the nefarious Spider Queen."
Annika was definitely smirking as she thought of the holographic character that had sent her heart racing because she reminded her so much of Kathryn Janeway. "She wasn't so bad."
"I see." Kes' smirk had grown into a full-blown knowing grin.
"Kes, I want to thank you. For your support. I don't know if I would have had the nerve to approach Kathryn without you. And strangely Nechayev as well." Annika smiled with genuine affection shining from her icy blue eyes. "I honestly don't have many friends, but I'd like to think you're one of them."
"I'd like that." Kes' timer chirped to announce her next appointment was due to being in fifteen minutes. "Annika, I truly do wish you all the best."
"But if I do anything to hurt her you'll kill me, right?" Annika's jovial smile nearly faltered at the serious expression now on Kes' elfin features.
Kes stood from her chair to usher Annika to the door. Her features displayed nothing but sincerity. "And I wouldn't even need my hands to do it."
The massive dark haired wolf heard the crackling of dried leaves and small twigs as she made her approach. His visage shifted audibly and shrank so that the man within emerged though his posturing wasn't any less agitated than the wolf's had been.
"I'm not going to apologize, Chakotay." Janeway's voice was clear and sure in the natural din of the forest on the outskirts of campus as she steadily made her approach to the rigidly standing man. The thin material of his suit showed the strong muscles of his back as he shifted under her gaze. "Would you look at me, please?"
"Why her?" Chakotay turned slowly. His dark features were made even more brooding by his anger and jealousy.
"You mean, why not you?" Janeway's voice was soft now, but no less certain and strong. "Oh, Chakotay, I didn't know you still felt this way about me. But even if I had known, we can never be."
"How do you know? You've never seriously considered it, have you?" Chakotay's voice was coaxing even a bit pleading, but he kept his physical distance. "This woman is a stranger. You don't know anything about her."
"Maybe that's part of her allure." Janeway was beginning to feel defensive, but she kept her composure as she approached a downed tree so she could take a seat. She waited until Chakotay took her cue and joined her. "I'm damaged goods, Chakotay. We both know that. What I've seen... Annika's untouched by all that. And yet she's brave and virtuous. She wants to help. Not because of some vendetta or trauma, but because she honestly wants to do good. I won't explain why I'm drawn to her. There are many reasons, but please respect me enough to not question it."
"Are you in love with her?" Chakotay was afraid of the answer and he couldn't bring himself to look upon Kathryn's lovely, elegant features any longer. The deep blue of the clear afternoon sky seemed to mock him since it was a similar shade to the blue in Kathryn's eyes that denoted her happiness.
"I don't know. But I'd like to find out." Kathryn hesitated, but the man next to her had been a sure and steady confidant over the last few years and so her hand rested atop of his. "And I'd like to keep you as my friend while I do. Can I count on your support?"
Chakotay's hesitant answer was interrupted by the chirp of Janeway's combadge. "Go ahead."
"The White House is calling to say that President Bacco will be able to see you this evening."
"Make the arrangements and ready the Delta Flyer, Mr. Harren. Janeway out." Kathryn stood before she brushed fragments of bark and dirt from her dark gray slacks. A warm, firm hand on her arm stopped her retreat. Janeway's eyes were wide as she turned her face towards Chakotay.
"Kathryn, I love you. Nothing can change that." A resigned expression graced his dark features even as the tiniest of smiles lifted his lips in a show of reassurance. "But I want you to be happy. You don't have to ask for my support. You'll always have it."
Chakotay cherished the hand that brushed across his cheek even as he acknowledged that his dreams had just been summarily shattered into a million pieces. Her glow and her bright toothy grin made the breaking of his heart almost worth it though. He knew her thank you was tremulous because of the tears caught in her throat. He wanted to call her back and convince her somehow that they belonged together, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He knew once she set her mind on something not even the gods themselves could deter her. Her departure from the dense forest seemed symbolic of his loss of her. His plastered on smile dropped the moment he could no longer see her and the yellow in his eyes indicated that the wolf within him had no intention of being quite so accommodating.
(to be continued)