Tears fell from Annika’s eyes as she looked down upon Kathryn’s still, serene features. Unsteady fingers pushed a strand of auburn hair from the smooth skin of Kathryn’s cheek before Annika’s fingers caressed the soft pale flesh that felt so blissfully warm beneath her touch.
It had been over a week since the nightmare Janeway and her hounds had nearly brought the world to an end. Nine days since Annika’s own world had come crashing down around her. She had been told repeatedly before the mirror image of her beloved Kathryn had arrived that her fiancée had to die. Annika still felt cold fear that she had already lost Kathryn. No one knew if Kathryn would ever come out of the coma she had been in since Picard, Chakotay and Julian had found the shattered remains of the two Kathryn Janeway’s after the earth had stilled.
“How’re you holding up?” B’Elanna’s voice was soft as she approached Annika and Kathryn with concern on her dark features.
It had taken five arduous hours for B’Elanna to regenerate from the bombardment of fiery energy that had ripped through Kes’ force field. She had protected Kes as much as she could. Although B’Elanna had taken the brunt of the attack it hadn’t been enough to save Kes from a painful ordeal and a slow recovery even under Doctor Zimmerman’s healing touch. But at least Kes was alive. They were all alive. It was amazing really considering Janeway’s power and brutality.
B’Elanna knew from Picard’s probes of the hounds’ minds and the two slaves that were found later, that Janeway liked to “play with her food” for as long as her victims lived. Thinking about the mirror image of Kathryn Janeway still sent unpleasant shivers through B’Elanna’s body. Even more so than her own counterpart who was now imprisoned with the rest of Janeway’s hounds in New Zealand. The two slaves, Harry and T’Pol’s counterparts, had been taken to rehabilitation centers but both had taken their own lives their first nights there. B’Elanna could only imagine the horror both had endured for who knows how long that would make them take their own lives even when they knew they were safe.
“Annika?” B’Elanna touched a gentle hand to the grieving woman’s shoulder which shuddered beneath her touch as sobs racked Annika’s too thin frame. B’Elanna knew Annika ate very little and slept only when exhaustion overcame her. She looked gaunt and worn to the bone.
B’Elanna remembered quite well how she had heard Annika’s sobs throughout the day that would have been Kathryn and Annika’s wedding day. It had pained B’Elanna to hear such heartbreak, but she knew Annika more than not wanted to be left alone, but apparently not today because Annika had called for her to come to Kathryn’s room.
“Shhh, it’s going to be okay.” B’Elanna held Annika tightly as she tried to soothe the crying woman with her soft tones and a warm hand making circles on her back. She knew she was lying, but B’Elanna didn’t know what else to say. “Kathryn Janeway’s the strongest person I know. She’ll make it through.”
“I—I’m sorry.” Annika retreated from B’Elanna’s touch as she furiously wiped the tears off of her face. This wasn’t why she had called B’Elanna to her. Her voice trembled, but still held steely determination within the low tones. “B’Elanna, I need your help.”
B’Elanna didn’t like the look on Annika’s tired features. There was desperation in Annika’s pale blue eyes. B’Elanna moved them over to an empty biobed. She hopped onto the gray mattress a moment before Annika lifted her weary frame to sit next to B’Elanna.
“What do you need my help with?” B’Elanna thought she already knew, but she wanted to hear it from Annika before she offered up anything, especially a jailbreak.
“If—when Kathryn wakes up they won’t just let her go, will they?” Annika’s anger at the UFM and fear for Kathryn’s safety made her voice sharp and shrill.
“I don’t know, Annika. I guess it all depends on what she’s like when she does.”
“That’s what Picard said.” Annika looked away, disappointed by B’Elanna’s words.
Annika knew for certain Kathryn had returned to her in those last moments. Picard had heard Kathryn’s last words of love and sacrifice. She had saved them all. How could Picard or any of them question that? And yet, Kathryn’s powers were dampened by an inhibitor formula injected intermittently through the IV piercing the soft skin of her hand and she was kept under constant surveillance.
“I’m sorry, Annika, I can’t—I won’t help you break her out of here.” B’Elanna didn’t add that she wasn’t certain if she could even if she wanted to. The UFM wasn’t taking any chances with Kathryn and the highest security measures were in place to ensure that the comatose woman was kept under control. “She wouldn’t want me to.”
Annika’s anger at B’Elanna, at Picard and the rest, at herself, and lastly, at Kathryn made her cheeks flush and heat suffuse her body as she bolted from the biobed. Her pale eyes blazed with fury as her body shook from it.
“What do you know about what Kathryn wants? They’re treating her like—like a monster! She saved us. Protected us! She could have died out there! She would have if Picard hadn’t heard her calling out to me!” Annika’s angered expression was accompanied by cold suspicion. “Or is that it? You’re just like that other one aren’t you? You want Kathryn for yourself. You can’t stand that she wants me over you! What did you feel when that monster was kissing that other B’Elanna. Did you wish it was you?”
It took everything for B’Elanna not to do irreparable harm to Annika. Her chest rose and fell heavily as she took in labored breathes and tried to remember the woman before her was suffering intolerably.
“Don’t. Push me.” B’Elanna’s voice was forced from between her lips as a low growl threatened Annika if she went any further in her erroneous accusations. “And don’t denigrate my feelings for Kathryn just because you’re in pain. You aren’t the only one who’s confused and hurting right now, Annika. And I know you’re too focused on your own pain to see everyone else’s, but we’re all worried about her. So take your anger out on someone else.”
Annika felt hot shame override her anger as she registered B’Elanna’s words and the truth in them. She looked away from B’Elanna’s controlled features and imposing form to Kathryn. “I—I’m sorry, B’Elanna. It’s just, I’m so scared.”
B’Elanna’s body was still coiled tightly, but her tone softened a bit as she nodded her head. “I know. I am too.”
B’Elanna followed Annika to Kathryn’s bedside. Her dark gaze took in Kathryn’s elegant features which seemed peaceful, oddly so considering the turmoil her existence was causing around her. Annika’s soft voice brought B’Elanna’s gaze away from Kathryn to her.
“I still don’t understand how—how it’s possible that, that monster was Kathryn. I don’t want to believe it’s possible.” Annika looked away from B’Elanna’s dark eyes as she felt shame heat her face and color her cheeks once again. “I—I still loved her, B’Elanna. Wanted her. Even though she was terrible, evil. She was still Kathryn. She was still so beautiful. What—what does that say about me?”
B’Elanna was quiet as she watched Annika almost absently brush strands of hair away from Kathryn’s relaxed features. When she did speak it was with a hint of awe and some wisdom. “I think it means you would follow her through hell. Even if she’s the devil. Annika, something… something horrible happened to her to make her lose her humanity completely. Something that will never happen to our—your Kathryn. They’ll never be the same, but you still saw something in that other Janeway that perhaps only you could see.”
“What, what did I see?”
“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure she fell in love with you the moment she saw you or otherwise you’d probably be dead right now.” B’Elanna remembered Janeway’s words and the look on her features that were a grotesque facsimile of how Kathryn looked at Annika. It was love, twisted within a horrible woman, but love nonetheless. Destiny perhaps. Two souls so entwined that even differing universes couldn’t keep them apart. B’Elanna considered it a romantic thought, but perhaps the only plausible explanation of why Janeway hadn’t just fired on Annika to get to the stasis chamber that held Kathryn.
Annika registered B’Elanna’s words, but dismissed them as somewhat irrelevant since the other Kathryn Janeway was dead. And also because B’Elanna’s explanation did nothing to relieve Annika’s shame at how she had been attracted to that horrible being. As if she had betrayed her love for Kathryn by feeling anything for another.
“When was the last time you ate anything?” B’Elanna’s accusing voice brought Annika out of her reverie.
“Ate? Food. When?”
“I—I don’t remember.” Annika’s brow creased as she considered that a bit odd, but she shrugged it off. It really didn’t matter to her when she had last eaten anything. Her thoughts were only on Kathryn. “I’m not hungry.”
“Puleaze. You need to eat something. I’ll be able to see through you soon.” B’Elanna touched Annika’s shoulder, her dark eyes compassionate but determined. “I’ll bring you something here. Okay? We’ll bring that little table over and you can have a nice cozy dinner with your fiancée. I could even bring a candle in.”
“B’Elanna…” Annika’s defiance fell away as she noticed how tired the other woman looked herself, how red B’Elanna’s eyes seemed when she really looked and knew that the others were suffering as well. Annika nodded, her words a surrender to B’Elanna’s evident pain. “Thank you. I’m sorry for—”
“Make it up to me by eating everything I bring you and not bitching about it, okay?” A tentative smile played on B’Elanna’s lips, but her eyes glowed with warmth. She felt less like a failure to Kathryn if she could at least keep Annika from starving herself to death.
“I don’t bitch, I complain ardently. There’s a difference.” Annika felt warmth and affection she hadn’t felt in days. It warmed her chest and added pleasant color to her cheeks. “Thanks, B’Elanna.”
“Anytime.” B’Elanna breezed out of the room but stopped short as soon as the doors closed behind her.
B’Elanna peered through the one-way mirror and her smile broadened as she saw Annika place a gentle kiss on Kathryn’s forehead. Perhaps, B’Elanna hoped, this was something of an end to Annika’s guilt and shame, and perhaps for the others and herself as well, for having to be saved. They had all forced Kathryn Janeway to face the monster within and she had almost been consumed by it.
Picard brushed sand off of his dark trousers as he sat on the sandy beach and watched the sun setting over the ocean. It was a beautiful sight, but not why he had come to this place. He came for a woman, who for the past several days escaped him whenever he drew close to finding her. It had taken him some time to find this place again. The place where he had gone to find absolution for a decision that had already been made for him. It was a decision that would have cost Kathryn Janeway her life, under her own wishes. He hoped that she would be here, this place of beauty and tranquility. The soft swishing of material behind him told him he wouldn’t be disappointed.
He stood and turned before he greeted the approaching woman wrapped in crimson silk that flowed like water across her petite form. “Kathryn.”
“You’ve been chasing me for days. Don’t you ever get tired of rummaging through my mind?” Kathryn’s expression was impassive, but her voice held warmth and just the slightest hint of humor, but there was also an edge to her husky tones. “I’d like to be left alone. You know this, so why are you here?”
“You can’t hide in your mind forever, Kathryn. There are far too many people who need you. You have to wake up.”
“I don’t have to do anything.” The warmth and humor in Kathryn’s voice was replaced by cold steel. “As for the others, they’re better off without having to worry about me killing them, don’t you think?”
“No one’s worried about that, Kathryn.”
“Oh no? So you aren’t pumping my body full of an inhibitor drug and you don’t have me under constant guard. Or are those video cameras in my room for perhaps a prurient purpose?” Kathryn looked over at Picard who had such a stricken expression that she had to laugh.
Picard shook his head as Kathryn continued to laugh at his expense. He sometimes forgot how insufferable she could be. His voice showed a hint of his irritation. “We do have to take certain precautions.”
Kathryn’s dark blue eyes were still bright from the laughter that had come to stop, but her voice was soft and remorseful. “You can admit you’re worried. I am too. That’s part of the reason I’m staying right where I am for the time being.”
The red and orange light cast across the vast ocean also washed across Kathryn and Picard as they looked out across the still water. Picard wondered aloud. “How long will you hide here?”
“For as long as it takes.” Kathryn’s voice was husky and resigned. Her stormy gaze looked up at Picard, who stood stiffly beside her on the sandy shore with his worried eyes cast away from her. “Why didn’t you kill me when you had the chance? You risked a lot by waiting for my staff—my family to come say their goodbyes. Why is that?”
“I know you, Kathryn. I’ve been in your mind; every thought, memory, every emotion you’ve ever had has been exposed to me. A part of me refused to believe you were capable of what T’Pol foresaw no matter how sure her visions were.” Picard wasn’t sure how much to reveal, but he thought it unfair to hide things from her when everything within her had been revealed to him. “I couldn’t kill you, Kathryn, until I was sure you were a threat.”
“You shouldn’t have risked it. You could have been wrong.” Kathryn grasped Picard’s shoulders as she coaxed him to look at her. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Picard peered down upon Kathryn’s open expression, her eyes displayed everything; her compassion, her resolve and her fear. He had never seen her look more vulnerable and yet so strong as she did at this moment. He carefully removed her hands from his shoulders before he cupped her face gently in his hands. Picard slowly brought his lips down softly upon Kathryn’s forehead. When he felt the first warm tear fall against his skin he removed his hands and withdrew from the warmth of Kathryn’s body.
“Jean Luc, I—”
“You’re the best of us all, Kathryn. Everything you’ve been through. All you’ve endured at the hands of evil
individuals. Even that insatiable hunger
that lives inside of you. None of it has
broken you. And I doubt it ever will or
ever could.” Picard appreciated the
beauty of twilight as the purple ambient light of the sky marked the end of
day. In the twilight time of Kathryn’s
mind Picard made his regrets known. “I
am sorry I forced you to see, so much.”
“Don’t apologize. Your plan worked and I am grateful for that.” Kathryn’s voice was gentle upon the evening breeze as she breathed in the salty air and watched the last light leave the horizon. “I was so weak. I wanted what she had to offer, not caring who would get hurt in the process. You, the others… Annika.”
Kathryn’s voice became a pained whisper when uttering Annika’s name. She still remembered how Annika had looked at her with such fear and horror. She had been so terrified and Kathryn was forced to admit Annika had every reason to be. If she had hurt Annika, if she had kill—no, Kathryn couldn’t even contemplate Annika’s death by her hands. It hurt too much, as did the shame and guilt from her failure to be strong, to resist the power Janeway had offered her. She could still feel some of that shared energy within her from that encounter, taste it enough that she wanted more.
“Annika loves you.” Picard thought about the woman who was becoming a phantom. She hardly ever ate, he worried that she never slept and she rarely spoke to anyone but Kathryn. “She never leaves your bedside. She wants to be the first thing you see when you open your eyes. And her voice telling you that she loves you will be the first thing you’ll hear. Go back to her, Kathryn. She needs you.”
“No.” Kathryn’s gaze was on the stars as she spoke quietly, regretfully. “She was so scared of me. How could she still love me?”
Kathryn could still hear Annika’s desperate screams telling her to fight. It wasn’t until Picard’s interference that she did. She had to. She couldn’t let Annika experience such brutality. That need to keep Annika safe had overridden her hunger, at least for that moment. But the hunger still existed and Kathryn feared there would be a time when even her love for Annika couldn’t save them from that hunger.
“I never thought of you as a coward, Janeway.” Picard’s voice was harsh in its criticism and he knew he had hit a nerve when her blazing eyes quickly went to his. “But here you are, hiding from the world. Wallowing in self-pity because you know you’ll get none from any of us. No, in the real world we take responsibility for our actions, our mistakes. We seek forgiveness, we receive it and then, Kathryn, we get the bloody hell over it.”
“Has anyone ever told you, you are a horrendous motivational speaker?” Kathryn knew exactly what Picard was doing and she was surprised that it was beginning to work. His words made her wonder if that’s what she was doing. Hiding from others not because she was afraid of their fear, but she was afraid of their forgiveness. Forgiveness she thought herself unworthy of. She hated to admit it, but Picard actually made a semblance of sense.
“Are you feeling motivated?” Picard expression softened upon hearing Kathryn’s teasing tones.
“Well then, not so ‘horrendous’ after all. Am I?” Picard’s grin faded as his tone grew serious. “Kathryn, she’s in pain without you. Stop hiding within your own guilt and fear. Wake up and face the dawning of a new day.”
“They can’t even get plain tomato soup right.”
Annika continued to grumble, more to herself than the unconscious woman lying next to her on a biobed, as she dipped a piece of bread in the orange unappetizing substance. Annika had already eaten most of the soft bread and half of the bowl of soup that B’Elanna had brought her despite her lack of enthusiasm over the under-seasoned soup. She yearned for Neelix’s delicious meals as she continued to eat what the McKinley Station’s cafeteria had to offer. Annika moved the small, rolling table with her tray on top away from her before she scooted her chair closer to Kathryn.
“Kathryn? I wish you would wake up.” Annika smiled sadly as she held one of Kathryn’s limp hands between her own. She was disheartened by the lack of response when she brought Kathryn’s hand to her lips and pressed warm kisses across her pale knuckles. Annika deposited a kiss upon Kathryn’s palm before she gently laid the hand on the gray mattress of the biobed once again. “I wish a lot of things, I guess. I wish the last week never happened. I wish we were on our honeymoon like we had planned. I wish I could see your eyes and hear your voice. I wish you were here to tell me everything will be all right. I just wish you would wake up. Please, Kathryn, wake up. I—I need you. Please, please, wake up.”
Annika held her breath and a tear fell on her cheek as she watched Kathryn’s expression expectantly, but after a few seconds she let the air escape upon a disappointed sigh. Kathryn’s relaxed features and still body remained. Annika felt a hot pain in her chest as she realized she was becoming not only frustrated, but in her exhaustion and grief she was becoming angry as well.
“Kathryn Janeway, WAKE UP! Damn it!” Annika almost didn’t stop herself in time as her hands stilled above Kathryn’s slim shoulders. She had almost tried to shake Kathryn awake. It would have been a futile and hurtful move and she felt ashamed that she had almost done it.
Annika stumbled quickly away from Kathryn’s bed to look out the windows of the New York based UFM station as she attempted to calm her breathing and willed the rapid beating of her heart to slow. As she took in deep cleansing breaths she could see that dawn was breaking and soon the sun would rise. Kathryn always looked so beautiful in the morning with that golden glow around her.
Annika had to hold onto the window sill to keep from falling to the ground as her lanky frame shook from the powerful sobs that overcame her. It had been less than two weeks since Kathryn had taken her flying, since she had been made loved to hundreds of feet in the air and Annika ached at the memory and the feeling of loss she felt like a physical pain.
“Why did you leave me?” Annika’s voice trembled as fought through her grief and wiped the tears away from her face. She turned from the window and moved back to Kathryn’s bedside. She knelt next to Kathryn and placed her hands upon Kathryn’s pale forearm. “I miss you so much. Please, Kathryn, come back to me. Come back.”
Annika watched Kathryn’s expression closely as she always did, with her breath held as if it would somehow interfere with Kathryn’s possible waking. A slight moan made Annika gasp as she realized she hadn’t imagined Kathryn’s eyes fluttering open. And then Kathryn’s clear blue eyes were completely revealed to Annika and she laughed at the relief and joy washing over her in awesome waves.
“Oh my God, Kathryn! Kathryn, I love you. Oh my God, I love you. I love you so much.” Annika’s voice held a hint of disbelief but it could hardly break through the delight warming her voice and permeating her chest. Annika knew she was babbling but too elated to care. Her voice cut off when she saw Kathryn lick her lips before she spoke, her words a soft whisper that Annika drew closer to hear.
“Hello, my love. I’ve missed you.”
Kathryn felt weak, her body weary and listless so her smile was small but it was enough for Annika. It was enough for her that Kathryn’s eyes were open. That Kathryn had returned to her, so she was no longer alone. Annika carefully touched her fingers to Kathryn’s smooth skin as she cupped her face gently in her hands before she brought her lips gradually down to press against Kathryn’s.
A soft cough behind them made Annika reluctantly depart from Kathryn’s lips as she turned to see Doctors Zimmerman and Crusher in the doorway. It was Zimmerman who spoke as the two doctors approached Kathryn’s bed with matching expressions of complete and utter impassivity. It was as though they weren’t surprised by Kathryn’s changed condition in the least, despite the fresh coffee stain on Doctor Zimmerman’s lab coat that seemed to suggest otherwise.
“Welcome back.” Lewis Zimmerman’s dark eyes shimmered with happiness as his lips broke into a broad, though tight-lipped grin.
“Thank you. Is—is everyone all right, Doctor?” Worry and sharp guilt clouded Kathryn eyes as she felt Annika’s warm, comforting hand on her shoulder.
“No casualties, at least on our side. But you can be debriefed later. You should rest.”
“With all due respect, I think I’ve had my eyes closed enough for the time being. I’d like to get out of this bed, if it’s all the same to you.” Kathryn’s legs felt like jelly, but she still managed to kick the sheets partially away from her much to the chagrin of the trio crowded around her.
“Doctors do make the absolute worst patients.” Beverly Crusher shook her head, but couldn’t help but crack a smile at the disgruntled look on Kathryn’s features as the other woman tried valiantly to free her feet from the bunched up sheets.
“No, just this one.” Zimmerman rolled his eyes in exasperation. He sighed loudly before he went to Kathryn’s aid and began to untangle the sheets from her feet. He grumbled indignantly as he did. “Won’t listen to anyone. It’s as if I’m not a renowned physician, world renowned by the way, with a healing touch for an ability I might add. But no, why would anyone listen to me. It’s not—”
Kathryn’s warm hand on his shoulder quelled his tirade as he lifted his gaze from the tangled sheets in his hands to her smiling, bright features. Her voice was gravelly due to lack of use and affection warmed her tones. “Thank you, Doctor. I’m very grateful for everything you’ve done. Both of you. Doctor Crusher, I suggest you not do that.”
Beverly’s hands froze on the IV drip immediately before they dropped to her side. She looked at Kathryn with bemusement and some compassion in her eyes. “I don’t think you’re a danger to us, Kathryn.”
“I’d like to think that’s true, Doctor, but if you want to stop my intake of the inhibitor solution I suggest you take several steps away from me.” Kathryn felt Annika’s hand tighten ever so slightly on her shoulder as she observed Annika’s metal encased flesh, which told Kathryn there wasn’t a chance that she could be convinced to leave her side, or remove her comforting touch. “Press the off switch please.”
Without removing her hand from Kathryn’s shoulder Annika leaned over the bed to do what she had been asked. There was a moment of tense silence as the IV drip discontinued infusing Kathryn. And then as if another switch had been turned only this time it was within Kathryn, the room was set alight by the yellow fiery energy that crackled around her body. Kathryn instantly felt her body strengthening as it soaked up the energy of the sunlight spilling into the room provided her. The needle imbedded in her hand and any remnants of the inhibitor solution dissolved away as she absorbed as much of the sun’s energy she could until she felt it disperse throughout her body and her surrounding glow vanished.
Beverly managed to breathe again when the golden energy disappeared. She hated to admit her trepidation at Kathryn’s powers being uninhibited. She thought she saw a flicker of something in Kathryn’s eyes that seemed to tell her the other woman had sensed that trepidation, but then it was gone and Kathryn was smiling at Annika, whose metal was beginning to melt beneath rosy skin.
“I feel fine. I just need to soak in a bath to get this medicinal smell out of my—” Kathryn gasped in surprised delight as she was unceremoniously lifted off of the biobed as she was held securely in Annika’s strong arms. “I can walk, you know.”
“Happy to hear it.” Annika passed the two wide eyed doctors with a smirk to her lips, her voice clearly dismissive as she addressed them. “Doctors, I’d really like to be alone with my fiancée now.”
Annika didn’t wait for a response as she moved quickly into the en-suite and the door slid closed behind her. Two flabbergasted physicians were left in her wake. They had intended on taking extensive scans of Kathryn, which would have probably taken most of the day.
“Oh my.” Beverly actually jumped when she heard the en-suite door rattle from an unseen, but not unknowable source. The door continued to shake in an uneven rhythm. “I think that’s our cue to leave, Doctor.”
The bright flashes of light that broke through the seams of the door hastened the doctors’ paces from the room.
“Annika, I—we need to talk. About what happened…” Kathryn’s expression turned serious as Annika lowered her from her arms so her bare feet touched the cool tile of the floor. “I’m so sorry. Please believe me—mmph!”
Annika’s mouth was hot against hers as she tore the thin hospital gown from Kathryn’s petite body with one determined tug. Annika groaned deep in her throat. Oh, she had missed this.
“Oh God! Annika!” Kathryn cried out her pleasure as she felt the door to the en-suite shake when her back slammed into it repeatedly under the force of Annika’s thrusts. She had come almost instantly when Annika had pushed her against the door as two long tapered fingers entered her. As she felt her release wash over her, Kathryn felt the warm glow envelope her as she let her pleasure be known to the exquisite being so generously providing it. “Oh yes, oh please God, Annika!”
“I have you, Kathryn.” Annika held the shuddering, faintly glowing woman close to her as she gently removed her wet fingers from within Kathryn. She kissed Kathryn’s damp forehead before she lifted the woman once again in her arms and carried her to the large egg shaped bathtub.
Annika’s vocal commands were met efficiently, the small room began to warm and steam up as soap and water quickly filled the bathtub. Once the tub was most of the way filled, Annika gently lowered Kathryn into the soothing hot water. Annika quickly shed her t-shirt, cotton capris and undergarments before she eased into the spacious tub to sit behind Kathryn. She pulled Kathryn towards her with an arm around the other woman’s waist until she felt Kathryn relax and settle against her.
It wasn’t until she felt Kathryn’s slim shoulders shaking against her that Annika realized the woman in her arms was crying. Annika’s heart wrenched when a soft sob expelled from Kathryn, seemingly against her wishes because she whispered a tremulous ‘damn’ afterwards.
“It’s all right. Just let it out. I’m here.” Annika wrapped her arms around Kathryn and held her tight as she released a torrent of tears that fell and mixed with the bathwater. “That’s it. Let it all out. I have you and I’m never letting go. I love you. So much.”
Kathryn wasn’t sure what she was crying for, she hated doing it but it seemed she couldn’t stop herself. She held a wet, soapy hand to her mouth to try to stifle the sounds being ripped from her throat but she knew in the quiet of the en-suite Annika could hear her clearly.
Perhaps, Kathryn realized, she was crying out of sheer joy and relief. When she had looked into Annika’s pale blue eyes she had seen nothing but the love she had grown so accustomed to seeing. And now in Annika’s arms she felt forgiven by the one person whose love for her had given her the strength to not only face her inner demons, the monster held within her, but to also defeat it. But Kathryn still needed to hear it from Annika’s lips to be sure. She needed absolution.
“Annika.” Kathryn wiped the tears from her eyes, which only ended up dampening her cheeks more as she turned her body so she could face Annika. Annika for her part nudged Kathryn’s legs so that she was being straddled as she circled her arms around Kathryn’s trim waist.
“What is it?”
Annika’s voice was a soft whisper as she stroked Kathryn’s scarred
back. Her touch never hesitated when she
brushed across the thick scar tissue, though she was still strongly affected by
the knowledge of what had caused the pale angry marks. They were a testament to Kathryn’s strength,
her resolve and her resilience. “Please,
“Annika, I need you… to forgive me.” Kathryn continued before her courage left her and Annika could answer. “I’m sorry for so much. I’m so sorry for scaring you. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to resist… her on my own. I’m sorry that—”
“Kathryn, you saved the world. I’d say that makes you more than even on the galactic goodwill scale, don’t you think?” Annika smiled gently as she lifted Kathryn’s chin in a parody of what the other woman often did to get someone to look at her. It worked like a charm. Stormy gray-blue eyes met hers and she knew Kathryn was seeking the sincerity of her words in her gaze. Annika couldn’t be more sincere as she said the next part. “I was scared for you, never of you. I knew you would never hurt me. Hurt anyone, certainly not purposefully like T’Pol was predicting. If you want my forgiveness, you have it. But you don’t need it, Kathryn. You need to remember that it wasn’t you, as much as those other… mirror image people weren’t our friends. You’re not to blame for her actions, only your own. Did I mention you saved the world?”
“You weren’t… frightened of me?”
“I was only frightened by the prospect of losing you. I thought I was going to lose you at the hands of the UFM and then she came. She scared me, but I—” It was Annika’s turn to cast her eyes away in shame and dread for what she would have to admit. She smiled as she felt Kathryn’s fingers under her chin. She took a soft intake of breath before she decided to be completely honest with woman she loved. “I know she was terrible. That she committed so many horrendous acts. That she destroyed entire worlds, but I—I think I loved her. Because I knew whatever had happened to her on her world that had made her give up on humanity and to lose her own had to be unimaginable. She was a broken, tragic figure who had suffered intolerably and I—it broke my heart to think of you in any universe suffering so. And I think—I think she loved me too, even though she didn’t know what that meant anymore. Does that make any sense?”
Kathryn had to admit to herself that thinking of Annika loving anyone else, even an alternate version of herself was unsettling. But then she thought about Annika, the prospect of meeting another universe’s Annika Hansen and Kathryn was oddly certain that she would probably love that woman. They felt destined for one another. It was perhaps a wildly silly and romantic notion, but that’s what Kathryn felt. So she nodded in understanding before she brought her open mouth down upon Annika’s moist, full lips and murmured her response. “Yes.”
Annika moaned into Kathryn’s mouth when the kiss deepened and a tongue pushed between her lips to duel with her own. She closed her eyes as she felt one of Kathryn’s hands entwine in her hair and the other running down her soapy, slick chest. Her back arched and she groaned deeply when Kathryn massaged the pliant flesh of her right breast and played with the erect nipple. And then that hand moved down her stomach until Kathryn’s fingers pushed into her. Bath water splashed onto the tile floor as Annika lifted her hips in a steady rhythm to meet each thrust of Kathryn’s fingers. Annika held Kathryn’s flushed, slick body close to her as she felt her climax wash over her and felt Kathryn’s warm glow encircle her. She knew in the dim lighting of the en-suite that they were sparkling.
Kathryn smiled as she hugged Chakotay close to her, a little tighter than she normally would, but she had seen what counterparts of this man she loved so much had gone through. If he noticed or minded that her embrace was continuing or that her arms were tight around him he didn’t voice it. Instead Chakotay placed a light kiss on top of her auburn head which made her arms squeeze his midsection even tighter.
“Hey, he needs to breathe sometime, Kate.” Tom’s smile was huge as his voice teased Kathryn. He opened his arms in offering when she looked at him with shimmering moisture in her dark blue eyes. “Come here.”
Tom worried that he would feel something negative towards Kathryn after nearly dying at the hands of her counterpart, but he didn’t. His love and affection for this woman became impossibly stronger as he held her diminutive form in his arms. He had seen the extreme of the thing that has haunted Kathryn Janeway and knew the strength this woman possessed to be so kind, so compassionate and so indomitable.
Kathryn dutifully ignored how Tom’s inner energy called out to her, teased her as she soaked up his familiar scent instead. She knew from the reports Picard and Julian had given her that Tom had nearly died at the hands of the Mirror-Janeway, as they called her counterpart.
She was so happy to be out of the debriefings that had gone on the last several hours. After she and Annika had finally emerged from the en-suite she had found Julian and Picard standing stiffly in the medicinal smelling room. Kathryn had felt unease fill her until she felt Annika’s warm hand on her robe covered shoulder and seen the expressions of relief on both men’s faces.
Kathryn had lifted her chin and donned her command mask when she had addressed Picard and Julian with evenness in her tones. “Let me get dressed and then I want to know everything.”
Now, with the debriefings finished and the ruling that stated she appeared to be of no immediate threat she had been released. And so here she was, in the community room of the McKinley Station with her staff, her friends, her family. The “Welcome Back, Captain” banner had made her laugh out loud upon her entry until she had been lifted off her feet by Chakotay’s strong arms around her.
Kes’ violet eyes shone with affection and love as she walked slowly towards Kathryn. Her elfin features showed the evidence of the Mirror-Janeway’s attack on her. A long scar that even Doctor Zimmerman’s hands couldn’t erase ran from underneath her left eye, across her cheek and ended underneath her ear and into her hairline.
“Oh, Kes.” Kathryn’s heart thumped powerfully in her chest as she looked upon Kes’ scared visage and extracted herself from Tom’s embrace. She took a few steps towards Kes and then stopped, not sure of what she should do until Kes held her arms out and Kathryn nearly fell into the offered embrace. “Kes, I’m so sorry I—”
“Shhh.” Kes closed her eyes as she hugged Kathryn’s rigid body tightly until she felt the petite body begin to relax. “We’re all alive, Kathryn. And you’ve returned to us. That’s what matters now. The only thing that matters.”
Kathryn was soon released from Kes’ arms to hug Harry and then Neelix. Doctor Zimmerman had grumbled but his arms were just as tight around her body as anyone else’s. She didn’t touch Tuvok but his impassive tones telling her he was pleased that she had returned had felt like a hug.
“I can’t leave you kids alone for a second.” The teasing voice from the doorway caused Kathryn to break away from B’Elanna’s vice grip around her waist. Her blue, sparkling eyes soaked in the person slouching against the doorframe with her arms crossed over her chest.
“Lyndsay!” Kathryn laughed in delight as she was pulled into Lyndsay Ballard’s arms.
“I go away for a few weeks and all hell breaks loose.” Lyndsay’s tone was teasing as she felt relief wash over her.
Lyndsay had emerged from her regenerative cocoon only six hours ago and had been notified by Lwaxana of what had happened before she had taken the first flight from Sydney, Australia to New York City. And despite looking ten years younger than Kathryn, Lyndsay held the woman she thought of like her own daughter tightly in her arms.
“I’m glad you’re here.” Kathryn smiled broadly as she moved away from Lyndsay’s embrace to take in the new appearance of the woman who had been like a mother to her for the last thirty some years. “I like the hair.”
Lyndsay snorted as she touched her fingers to the unruly blonde spikes shooting from her head. “Don’t worry, I’ll tame them down some for the wedding.”
“Kathryn?” Annika didn’t want to interrupt Lyndsay and Kathryn’s reunion but the mention of the wedding seemed the perfect opportunity for Annika to return the item that had been kept securely in the McKinley Station’s safe. “This belongs to you.”
Kathryn’s toothy smiled widened as she gently took the platinum engagement ring from where it was nestled upon Annika’s palm. She held the ring up to Annika as her voice grew husky with emotion. “Will you put it on me, please?”
“Of course.” Annika slid the ring where it belonged and smiled until her lips were busy being ravished by Kathryn’s. “Mmmph!”
“Geez, you two.” Lyndsay rolled her eyes as a bright indulgent grin broke across her youthful features. “It’s called a room, get one!”
“What, what the hell is it?”
Annika’s pale blue eyes were wide as she held up her latest gift with confusion clear on her features. She held the curved plastic contraption with a thick circular rubber head up to the group of women seated around her in an oblong oval. When she heard some snickering Annika’s cheeks flushed hot and even hotter when the gift giver leaned over and turned the handheld mechanism on.
“Oh my God, Lyndsay!” Annika’s voice shook as much as her hand that held Lyndsay’s gift.
“What? It’s a back massager. Kathryn always gets back aches so I thought you could reach her hard to reach places with this.” Lyndsay threw another wrapped gift to Annika as her voice grew low and suggestive. “It comes with attachments.”
“Oh my God.” Mortified Annika tried to not let the image of her using this ‘back massager’ on a naked and very aroused Kathryn Janeway overwhelm her. There were plenty of telepaths in the room and she knew from some giggling that a few of them had picked up on her struggle. “Please, turn it off.”
“Fine, fine.” Lyndsay took her gift from Annika’s hand before she turned it off. She knew by the redness that started on Annika’s cheeks and ran down her pale neck that the bride to be wasn’t as averse to her gift as she let on.
Never having gone to a bridal shower or a bachelorette party before Annika had naively expected it to be a sedate time with female friends the night before the wedding. But then she had been led into the Voyager Institute’s main living room by Kes and B’Elanna blindfolded and knew the moment her eyes were revealed that she had been so terribly wrong.
Hung from the rafters was a multitude of eight by ten photographs of lips. Annika knew intimately whose lips they were and had felt her face flush before she noticed every picture had a dialogue bubble. Each one contained explicit things that turned Annika’s legs into jelly as she imagined Kathryn’s husky voice saying each and every one of them.
Annika had looked at Kes and B’Elanna with fear and betrayal as her words trembled out of her. “W—what kind of party is this?”
When Lyndsay had held out a t-shirt that read “Captain Janeway’s vixeny sexbot” which Annika was forced to don, she knew exactly what sort of party it was. Debauchery would abound tonight and Annika wondered if she could just sink into the cushions of the couch she had been led to and disappear.
Upon Annika’s arrival drinks had been handed out from the long table that nearly buckled under the weight of all the liqueur bottles and mixers. Annika’s first drink contained Bailey’s Irish cream and butterscotch schnapps, which shouldn’t have been that bad except B’Elanna had handed it to her in a small tumbler and called it a “Slippery Nipple”.
And then the present portion of the night had begun once all the women partygoers had a drink in their hands. Each one had made Annika blush even thought they weren’t as sexually explicit as the ones B’Elanna, Lyndsay and surprisingly Kes had given her.
Even Kathryn’s aged Aunt Martha had possessed a knowing look when Annika had opened her gift that had contained a gold and silver pin. Being a scif-fi geek, Annika had recognized the replica of a communicator instantly, but didn’t understand its significance. Martha had just requested that Annika ‘trust her’. A few snickers from Lwaxana and Lyndsay had stayed any other questions Annika had had for the white haired woman.
Annika was relieved that Lyndsay’s gift was the last. She settled into the cushions of the couch and tried to stave off thoughts of the red and black leather corset and panties with the accompanying feathered riding crop B’Elanna had given her. Or the edible massage oils Kes had given her. And certainly not the ‘back massager’ with its many phallic shaped attachments. She cursed her wife to be, since she figured Kathryn had gotten off easy being that no one would dare embarrass her as freely as they had Annika.
Kathryn cursed her wife to be because she knew Annika had gotten off easy with the bachelorette party, whereas Kathryn was forced to play the bachelor. She knew she had never been more mortified in her life as she watched the tall, voluptuous blonde walking, swaggering really, towards her.
“I have been informed that you have been a bad, bad captain.”
Kathryn’s wide gaze was still on the approaching woman but her growling voice wasn’t for the holographic blonde dressed in a tight silver catsuit, but the men sitting around her in the holographic bar known as Sandrine’s. “I am going to kill you all.”
Kathryn’s threat might have been chilling a few weeks ago, but now the amused male partygoers just laughed at her expense. The men at her party had already consumed large quantities of alcohol which had adjusted their indecision and nervousness into certainty and humor. Even the staid Jean Luc Picard was unsteady on his feet. It was only Tuvok who seemed unaffected by the merriment of the party, though his angled dark eyebrows rose at this new party favor.
“You will be assimilated.”
Kathryn gulped audibly as she watched the hologram, who was fashioned after a character from an old sci-fi space show, run her hands down the front of her silver suit, brushed fingers over the star shaped combadge and then her ribbed midsection. Kathryn was going to kill Chakotay, Tom and whoever else who had discovered her hidden crush on a fictional woman whose actress was probably in her eighties by now. Kathryn would also have to kill her Aunt Martha, Lwaxana and Lyndsay since those women were the only people to have ever seen her posters and action figures of this character whose holographic representation was now straddling her hips.
“Mmmm, tell me about quantum mechanics, Captain.”
The list of specific people Kathryn needed to kill expanded greatly as she heard raucous laughter fill Sandrine’s.
“Annika? It’s time to wake up.”
“Mmm, Kathryn?” The pounding in her head kept her eyes from opening though Annika smiled as she hoped it was Kathryn touching her shoulder.
“It’s Kes.” Kes smiled at Annika’s disgruntled pout as she lifted her into a seated position. “Here, this’ll make you feel better.”
“Oh God, I have the worst taste in my mouth from all those taquitos.” Annika accepted the hypospray readily and sighed in relief as her headache and nausea dissipated.
“And your copious consumption of drinks.”
“Yeah.” Annika nodded her head as she emerged from her too empty bed. She couldn’t wait to never have to wake up without Kathryn by her side again. Why Kes and B’Elanna had made them stay apart last night, she didn’t know but she had agreed just to stop their incessant talking as she threw up in the toilet. “That too.”
“Finally, she’s up.” B’Elanna’s disgruntled voice was made less threatening by the broad grin she had as she burst into Annika’s bedroom. “Come on, get showered and smelling not like vomit. You’re getting married in less than two hours.”
Annika’s pale blue eyes went wide as she felt her knees buckle beneath. She was caught from tumbling to floor by B’Elanna’s strong arms. Annika fought against her lightheadedness as she was brought back to her feet though B’Elanna’s arms were still supporting most of her weight.
“Don’t tell me you have cold feet or something.” B’Elanna set Annika down on the bed before she stood with Kes with bemusement on her dark features.
“No, no of course not. I was just a little overwhelmed.” Annika’s breathing began to return to normal as she looked up at B’Elanna and Kes, her toothy grin and shimmering pale blue eyes reassured them. “I’m just so damned happy. I feel like I’m going to explode with it.”
Kes grinned and helped Annika to her feet once again. B’Elanna merely pushed Annika towards the bathroom with grumble in her voice. “Explode later, wash now.”
“You are shaking, Katya.” Alynna Nechayev held her friend tightly, which she had been doing since her entry into Kathryn’s quarters. “Is it the weather because I assure you the news reports are wrong, there will not be a single cloud in the sky.”
Kathryn smiled against Nechayev’s shoulder before she
disengaged from the hug that she had initiated to look at her friend’s
affectionate expression. “I’m just so
happy I feel like I’m going to burst from so much joy. I’m just so grateful, to you all.”
Nechayev knew from the others that Kathryn still held some guilt for what had transpired. The Russian director knew some of them possessed the same for not being more adequately prepared and for not defending Kathryn when they should have. Nechayev knew T’Pol and Trip and some of the other Jupiter Station staff like Worf and Julian were not making an appearance for just those reasons.
“Speak nothing of it. Now, let’s get you ready. You’ll be wed within the hour.” Nechayev moved towards the bed that had Kathryn’s beautiful wedding dress laid out on it.
Nechayev lifted it and noticed aside from resizing, since Kathryn was several inches shorter than her mother had been, Nechayev saw the inside of the dress was lined with the smart fabric their combat suits were made out of. She voiced her question about the lining as she approached the woman dressed only in pale pink lace. Nechayev’s body warmed at the sight, but she knew she and Kathryn had never been meant to be.
“I—I was afraid I would set my dress on fire.” Kathryn blushed as she thought about how the afternoon sun, Annika’s presence and just her own bliss could set her mother’s dress ablaze if she hadn’t take extra precautions. It seemed silly to her that she didn’t trust herself enough, but she could barely stand here with Nechayev and not glow brightly.
“Yes, I see, that certainly would have been a sight.” Nechayev’s tone was amused as she motioned for Kathryn to step up onto the dressing platform as she held the dress open for the bride to be to step into.
“I found them!” Lyndsay burst into the room with her sapphire earrings raised high in her hands. “They were stuck in my cocoon.”
“That,” Nechayev nose crinkled at the thought. “Is disgusting.”
“I wanted them in a secure place.” Lyndsay shrugged her shoulders before she quickly stepped up onto the platform to assist Nechayev in getting Kathryn dressed and ready. “Your something blue.”
“They’re beautiful, thank you.” Kathryn grinned as she took the earrings carefully in her hand before she gently pushed each silver stud into her earlobes.
“Talk about beautiful.” Lyndsay whistled low as she moved off of the platform once Nechayev finished tying the halter straps together beneath the thick curls of auburn hair done up in an elaborate French twist.
Kathryn’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at the vision of herself in the full length mirror dressed in the same gown her mother had worn when Gretchen had married Edward Janeway. She had to admit she did look beautiful in the blush taffeta. It wrapped around her form, holding her tightly with an asymmetrical bodice and just below it the dress flared over her trim hips in layers of gleaming white fabric. But it was more than that, she felt beautiful. Annika was marrying her, devoting her life to Kathryn and in turn Kathryn was giving hers to Annika. They would be together, forever. Kathryn adored that idea no matter how romantic and naïve it might seem. She knew she would love Annika for even longer. A demand from Lyndsay not to mess up her makeup broke Kathryn out of her reverie with an amused “yes, ma’am”.
“Annika, you’re shaking.” Lyndsay held Annika tightly to her as she looked upon her with concern in her hazel eyes. Her voice was a soft whisper next to Annika’s ear. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yes, more than that.” Annika tried to stop her joy from causing her hands to shake, but she couldn’t and really why would she? She was about to be marry Kathryn Janeway, the love of her life and she would let her joy show for all to see. And the wedding goers had plenty of time to see it.
Annika had either won or lost, depending upon one’s perspective, the draw of who would be walked up the aisle. She had initially felt lucky to be the one standing in waiting until she realized that she would have all eyes on her for a while before the procession would begin.
As Annika had stood to the side of the Justice of the Peace, she had been grateful when the music began and she saw Naomi Wildman walking up the aisle depositing white rose petals as she went. Tom had walked with B’Elanna, who looked beautiful though annoyed wearing the cerulean blue Grecian style gown that draped over her form and moved elegantly as she walked. The maids-of-honor were next. Kes and Nechayev looked splendid in their matching gowns, they were the same as B’Elanna’s, as they walked arm in arm up the aisle. It was a small procession, but then it was a relatively small wedding.
Forty-seven attendees in all, the vast majority were UFM members. The President herself was in attendance along with most of the members of her White House staff. Having President Bacco at the private affair had been near impossible due to security matters, but when one had telepaths as friends things became possible. The outdoor wedding on the grounds of the beautiful and spacious new Voyager Institute were shielded from threats either from terrorists or news channels by a lattice dome that made anything within it invisible. The only blood family member was now walking her niece up the aisle towards Annika, whose heart had stopped beating at the glorious sight of Kathryn Janeway dressed in white, glowing brightly and quite literally walking on air.
Martha Janeway’s warm lips on her cheek could do nothing to turn Annika’s gaze from the spender and beauty of the woman she was about to marry. Annika finally broke out of her trance when Kathryn’s hands held hers and she heard the magistrate’s low voice begin the ceremony.
“Family and friends, we are gathered here today to witness the union and everlasting devotion of Kathryn Elizabeth Janeway and Annika Irena Hansen…”
As Kathryn held fast to Annika’s hands and managed to repeat the necessary words to the magistrate, she was completely lost and utterly captivated by the love and happiness that shone in Annika’s pale blue eyes. Kathryn didn’t need words to devote herself to this woman, to love and cherish her always. As the perfunctory part of the ceremony drew to a close Kathryn husky voice drew all eyes to her glowing form.
“Annika, my life, my love, I’m yours. Forever.”
“Kathryn, I…” A single tear fell from Annika’s eyes as she smiled and her voice trembled under the tears welling up in her and the warmth flooding her entire being. “I love you, always and forever. You have my heart completely.”
“By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you wed, which will now be sealed from this day forth with a kiss.”
Cheers and a few whistles from the crowd accompanied Annika and Kathryn’s first kiss as a married couple. Annika cupped Kathryn’s face gently and Kathryn had her hands around Annika’s trim waist. It was a chaste kiss, filled with affection and love rather than desire and need, but both women knew that would come later. On their honeymoon.