Title: Extrapolations

Author: Claire Gabriel (cgadziko@compuserve.com)

URL: http://www.geocities.com/area51/zone/8402

Authors Note: This story is dedicated to Michelle Green, without whose
help I would not have been able to contact the fourth character in the
central quartet. This person does not appear in the story, but I needed
to know her in order to write it. Michelle was my intermediary. _Sine
qua non_.

"Extrapolations" is the second installment in a series. It takes place
in the same universe as "Fireflies," an earlier story of mine that
appeared in the fifth issue of NOW VOYAGER, the newsletter of the Kate
Mulgrew Appreciation Society.

This story was written after "Initiations" aired, but before "Tattoo."
It's possible that certain parts of "Extrapolations" may become non-
canonical in the future.

DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Paramount in fact and to us in
fantasy.


_________________________________________________________

Five days before the first anniversary of the Voyager's untimely hiatus
to the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway realized that it had been some
time since she had needed an alarm to wake her up in the morning.

There had been another time, relatively brief but nevertheless annoying,
when she had been so tired that she had slept through the alarm more
than once. That had been early on in their isolation, when the crew was
in what Chakotay called a _nuanka_, and there always seemed to be
something going wrong, something to distract her attention from what she
was concentrating on at the time, all shift long and even after that
until she fell into bed exhausted and slept like the dead all night.
That had been followed by several months of her own "time of mourning,"
when she had slept badly and often awakened in the middle of the night
to spend several hours thinking in circles, trying to figure a way out,
a way home that she had not thought of yet, falling back asleep between
0400 and 0500 only to have the alarm shock her back to unpleasant
reality as soon as she was deeply asleep again.

When she had sought the doctor's counsel early one morning, he had
informed her briskly that she was suffering from a mild reactive
depression, which increased her self-knowledge not at all and had
occasioned the only heated exchange they had ever had; she had, in
effect, snapped his head off only to have hers snapped off in return.
There was something, she had told herself, simply ridiculous about
getting that mad at a hologram. By the time she had told Chakotay about
the incident during the early part of their watch, she had been feeling,
she confided, downright foolish. "It was like a bad farce--him stalking
off one way"--she thumbed over her shoulder--"and me stalking off the
oth--" At that point he had interrupted her by laughing out loud, much
to the amusement of the entire bridge crew. "Thank you for sharing,
Commander," she had muttered, trying unsuccessfully to repress a wry
chuckle.

"Captain," he had replied, making a valiant attempt to get his face in
order, "they couldn't possibly guess--" And then he was off again,
considerably less loudly but no less amused. The ensuing conversation,
which revolved around relaxation techniques they had both learned in
Command School and the possibility that one's animal guide might be of
assistance in such circumstances, had been as restorative as their
shared laughter, and much more so than any medical assistance the doctor
might have given her....

Smiling reminiscently, she glanced at the chronometer next to her bed. A
little after 0615. She could be showered, made up, dressed and in the
mess hall in slightly under twenty-five minutes, and had been on
numerous occasions. No point in hurrying. Neither of them was going to
get there before 0700--not unless they wanted to draw more attention
than they both knew they already had by having breakfast together every
day for the past month.

Frowning now, she closed her eyes momentarily. *You can stop this*, she
thought. *All you have to do is not get there until about 0745. Once,
maybe twice, and he'll get the message.* Sighing, she sat up, hugged her
knees, and rested her chin on them.

The trouble with that idea was that she wasn't sure what message it was
that she wanted him to get.

Or was she?

The whole scene was all too familiar, she told herself resolutely,
determined to demolish the disturbingly joyful certainty that had been
growing within her for weeks. All this had happened twice before. The
first time had been when she was fourteen; there had been band practice
before school every morning and she had had a passionate crush on the
piccolo player, who had shyly and chastely returned her affection. The
second time had been during second year at the Academy, when she and a
fellow cadet--neither shy nor chaste--who had later been her lover for
almost two years had sat next to one another in their first class five
days a week.

Wake up feeling as though the sun were shining even when it wasn't. Not
be able to get back to sleep. Not be able to do anything except get up
and get going as fast as possible because he--

She sighed again and shook her head, her chin still resting on her
hands. The only trouble with _that_ idea was that nothing like this had
ever happened before. Not even with Mark. All of them had served a
purpose in her life, had been there for a reason the scientist in her
could document in retrospect if not at the time. The shy piccolo player
had been an adolescent crush when she was not ready for more than that.
The lusty cadet and his several successors had allowed her to explore
her own sexuality without the commitment she and they were unwilling to
give at the time. And Mark, she now knew, had been a combination home
port and anchor, more best friend than life-long partner. At a year's
distance, she wondered why she had not wondered at the time why he had
been so comfortable with the fact that she was with him so seldom and
away so much. Something within him that avoided commitment even as she
did? No sense in wondering now, because in all likelihood she would
never see him again.

She would, however, be seeing her first officer every day for a good
many years, possibly as long as they both should live. Here was no
yearning adolescent; no former lover now a friend; no comfortable
comrade who would midwife her dog in her absence and intermittently
accommodate her needs. Here was, quite simply, an all-or nothing
commitment waiting to happen. And what was different about this time was
that the thought did not dismay her. It overjoyed and excited her. And
that was only part of the reason it was so dangerous.

How could she--could _they_ retain their command presence if they were
lovers?

How do people--the crew, Chakotay, herself--react to change when
everything changes at once?

Hadn't they all had more than enough of that kind of change just a year
ago?

And weren't all these questions, at least partially, simply evasive
maneuvers? Might as well give them each an official designator, and then
she could call them up at will with a letter and a number.

Frowning a little and smiling wryly at the same time, she shook her head
again, rose, and began her routine, aware as she had been for the past
few days that her movements were different in the morning from what they
used to be. Always a diurnal, she normally moved rapidly through her
routine, often trying to beat her own time just for the fun of it. But
these days her movements were slower, more abstracted, less focused;
yesterday she had actually knocked her toothbrush into the head and had
to use precious replicator rations to produce a new one....

Not the Kathryn she thought she knew so well. But then, that Kathryn
would not have put away the picture of Mark and Bear before she left her
ready room the evening before last, and then waited for her first
officer to notice it was gone throughout their morning briefing
yesterday. If he had noticed, he had given no sign at the time. And the
Kathryn she used to be would not have been disappointed and relieved at
the same time.

Pausing before the bathroom mirror, she whispered wryly, "Will the real
Kathryn Janeway please stand up and be counted?" But the thought of the
replicator had distracted her, as random thoughts had a way of doing
these days.

In less than seventy-two hours the Voyager would arrive in the vicinity
of an Earth-like planet that Neelix had assured her would make an
excellent venue for much-needed crew R & R. (A year, she thought. They'd
been at this a year, and they were still close enough to their starting
point that Neelix could relay hearsay if not actual experiential
knowledge of the star systems through which they were passing. Either
the little man was far more knowledgeable that she had at first
anticipated, or they were, relatively speaking, getting nowhere very
fast indeed.) She had not brought a sleeping bag with her, and if she
wanted to go camping, she would have to replicate one. But she had been
putting it off, unwilling to fully come to terms with the urgency of her
wish to replicate a double one and devil take the consequences....

Her reflection looked back at her from the mirror--eyes alight, lips
slightly parted, cheeks flushed. Had she ever, she wondered, looked like
this when she was with him? Could he see what was happening her as
easily as she could see what was happening to him?

She covered her face momentarily, turned away from the mirror, and went
quickly on with her preparations for the day. She was already behind
schedule, and if she were late for breakfast he might get....

The wrong message. No use denying it. None of her evasive maneuvers were
worth a damn.


"Good morning, Captain."

They arrived at the door of the mess hall almost at the same time, as
they often did of late. Momentarily unable to draw her gaze from his,
she wondered absently if most people look directly at each other like
this when they greet one another in the morning. At the moment she had
no idea, but she rather suspected that they didn't. There was a kind of
recognition in that gaze, and affirmation, and reassurance. Yes, they
seemed to be saying to one another, this is the highlight of my day
too....

"Good morning, Commander." She broke the contact and looked around,
relieved to see that no one was there except a group of three junior
officers deep in conversation at a table across the room. Then an
ambivalent fragrance assailed her, and she murmured, "Oh, god, what has
Neelix come up with this time?"

"Let's see." Chakotay sniffed experimentally. "A combination of burned
pancakes and grits Parmesan?" They both laughed just as the subject of
their conversation descended upon them waving a spatula and smiling
expansively.

"Captain! Commander! How delightful to see you both here so bright and
early!" If it had been anyone but Neelix, she would have suspected
sarcasm. But the man was either unable to effect that or hid it well
behind a facade of disordered innocence. "Let me recommend the house
specialty--"

"Um, Neelix--" Chakotay began with what appeared to be genuine
reluctance to burst the little man's bubble of exuberance. "This seems
like a muffin kind of morning. Don't you agree, Captain?"

"Definitely that kind of morning, Commander," she answered immediately,
hoping that she was keeping her face as straight as he was keeping his.

"Muffins?" Neelix looked from one to the other. "Just _muffins_?"

"And coffee." And the captain prepared for the onslaught.

"Now, Captain." He almost seemed to pounce. "You and I've discussed this
before. I've been working on another subst--"

"Mr. Neelix," said the captain. "Give it up. They're _my_ replicator
rations." Smiling, she patted him on the shoulder. "Muffins. Coffee. Do
it."

"Well--" Neelix looked at the first officer, as though for support.

Allowing only a trace of a smile to become visible, Chakotay shrugged.
"She's the captain."

"That's been precisely my _point_. If she...." He looked from one to the
other. "Oh, all _right_." Whereupon he launched into a long list of
available muffin substitutes.

When they had convinced him that they were not interested in substitutes
this morning, replicated their coffee, and received two muffins apiece
with thanks, they found a table and sat down together. The muffins, if
that was what they were, smelled like--

"Burned pancakes," Chakotay observed wryly, and they both chuckled. "One
of these days he'll get something right."

"Blueberry pancakes," she said dreamily, "At home, we used to have
pancakes on Sunday morning. My father would make them. It was an event."

"The only time the family could get together all week?"

"Oh, no. No. We almost always had dinner together every night. Sometimes
was the only time we all talked together all week, though." She smiled
reminiscently. "Sometimes we'd have guests, and then we'd have to watch
ourselves."

He paused in the act of taking a drink of coffee. "Watch?"

"So we wouldn't talk the guest out of the loop. You know. Get excited.
Interrupt each other, but nobody minded. Just back and forth with the
hands going." She popped a piece of muffin into her mouth and gestured
to illustrate.

"I know," he said softly, smiling again.

"You do?"

"You and B'Elanna do that all the time when you're together."

"Really?"

"Really."

She wanted it to go on and on--just talking to him about nothing really
important, being able to look at him without anyone watching.

"You've never told me anything about _your_ family." She had often
wanted to ask him, but the time had never seemed right. Now, talking
about hers, was as good a time as any.

His expression changed, although she could not have said how it changed.
He was still smiling a little, but the charged intimacy that had been
there a moment before was almost completely gone.

"No, I haven't."

"Don't, if you don't want to." She leaned forward. "I shouldn't have--

"Oh, but you should have," he answered quietly. "It's time." Then,
before she could fully assimilate what he seemed to be saying, he went
on. "My father was an artist. He painted everything--murals, portraits,
landscapes, anything that interested him. Sometimes for pay, sometimes
not." She found herself holding her breath, waiting for him to go on,
afraid that he would stop. "I think the phrase is 'in the world but not
of it.'" He sighed, took a swallow of his coffee and set the cup down
firmly. "I loved him. Everybody did. But he was never really there for
us. He loved us too, but he was--somewhere else when he was painting,
and that was most of the time."

"And your mother?" she asked, knowing the answer.

"Strong. She had to be." Smiling a little now. Proud. "I was fifteen
when my brother was born. My sisters were nine and six. She...relied on
me a lot." Yes, she thought, watching missing pieces fall into place in
her mind. "She was a cultural anthropologist," he went on, surprising
her not at all. "My people--we're very past-conscious. Our cultural
heritage is an essential part of our selves--the way we see ourselves.
My mother was looked up to, respected, for the work she did. After we
settled on Dorvan V, she became a respected member of the community. A
leader." He glanced at her almost shyly, and then looked down at his cup
again. "She used to say call me her good right arm. He used to call
me...it means 'Little brother.'" Now, at last, just a shade of
bitterness.

"How did that make you feel?"

"I don't know. Displaced. Misplaced." He paused, thinking. "Confused.
Especially when I was little. It was like he was depriving me of
himself. As my father." A faint smile. "He's making up for it now,
though."

"Now? I thought he was...." Her voice drifted into silence as she
realized what he must be saying. "You feel his presence?"

For a long moment he simply gazed back at her. Listening in memory to
her own voice as she had asked the question, she detected no hint of
condescension or disbelief, but only the intense curiosity and genuine
interest that she actually was feeling.

"Yes," he answered simply. "So do my sisters and my brother. He's
watching over all of us now, even though he could barely keep his mind
on one of us at a time when we were kids. His spirit was off painting
pictures even when he wasn't." A deep, resigned sigh. "But I could never
hold it against him for long. He wouldn't let me. He was one of those
people that nobody can ever hold anything against." His expression was
changing again. Half a smile, then his characteristic gesture when he
was about to say or do something that he didn't want to but had to--a
slight grimace accompanied by a quick jerk of his chin to the right. "He
had the damnedest grin." She pressed her clasped hands to her mouth to
keep herself from smiling, not wanting him to ask her why. "Charmed the
hell out of everybody, even me. My mother used to say he brought the sun
right in with him." Looking at her again: "What's so funny?"

"Noth--I'm not--"

"Your eyes are," he said.

"I don't want to tell you." She lowered her hands, letting the smile
spread to her mouth. "Can you live with that?"

"Looks like I'll have to." His own eyes were twinkling now.

"Where did you live before you settled on Dorvan V?"

They got more coffee and finished their muffins while the room filled
and then began to empty again. B'Elanna came and went, pausing at their
table to ask if it would be convenient for the captain to stop by
engineering on her way to the bridge to check in on a project they were
working on together. She moved on, and the room began to clear.

Ten minutes to first watch. She had been asking him questions about the
parts of North America that he and his family had lived in before
emigration to Dorvan V, and was about to ask another one when he held up
his hand like a student wanting to ask a question of his own. "My turn?"

"Okay." She sighed. "Sorry." With a small part of her mind, she was
aware that Harry Kim was standing alone with a tray, looking around the
room at all the empty tables and trying very hard not to look at the one
table that was still occupied. Poor kid--

Chakotay shook his head at her apology. No problem. Then, with his gaze
full on hers: "What happened to the picture in your ready room?"

Kim looked so lost, she thought, knowing that wasn't the real reason
for what she was about to do but unable to stop herself from doing it.
"Harry," she said across Chakotay's shoulder, "won't you join us?"

Surprising her completely, Chakotay turned his head and seconded her
invitation. Phenomenal reaction time, she noted absently, while the rest
of her mind was shouting at herself: *Why the hell did you DO that?* But
she knew why. The question he had asked was one that she was not quite
ready to answer, even though she herself had created the situation that
triggered it.

Nervous and uneasy, Harry gulped his breakfast in less than five
minutes, trying valiantly to "make" conversation in a situation where he
could not help but feel tension. When he finally scrambled to his feet
and left them, it was almost time for their watch to start.

"I'm sorry," she said as soon as they were alone again. "I shouldn't
have done that."

"Maybe next time you won't feel like you have to." His tone was almost
matter-of-fact, slightly wistful, and she let out the breath that she
had not known she was holding in an audible sigh of relief.

He paused in the act of rising from the table and sat down again. "What
was that about?"

"I--think I was afraid you might never ask again."

"You underestimate me." The room was empty except for them, and they
could hear Neelix banging pots and pans around in the kitchen. Almost
casually, Chakotay brushed her cheek with his fingers. "Have fun with
B'Elanna. I'll go mind the store." He swept up his trash, disposed of
it, glanced back once over his shoulder with the grin that his father
had once brought the sun in with, and then he was gone.

It was 0800, and she should be on her way. But she sat at the table for
several moments, simply gazing after him, before she rose slowly and
headed for engineering.


B'Elanna was still an enigma to her--like a lovely wild animal not quite
tamed. Janeway had often gone out of her way to work with her on
projects in which they shared an interest, especially since the incident
with the Sikarians. It was not simply a matter of "No hard feelings.
Let's pretend it never happened." There were hard feelings--anger,
incredulity, and deep disappointment that B'Elanna and especially Tuvok
could have betrayed her trust in them. But she knew they both knew that,
and could see no point in wearing her pain and outrage like a badge of
honor.

Nothing honorable about going around mad all the time.

Having made a decision, she invariably found herself able to act on it
without looking back. Tuvok had given her his word, and that was enough.
B'Elanna.... However B'Elanna might feel about her, they were both
driven by the same desire to do the best possible job at anything they
did, and given that and their numerous common interests, a bond was
slowly forming between them.

Janeway had wondered from time to time if they would have chosen the one
another as personal friends under other circumstances. Yet only a few
days ago, while they were analyzing the initial set of samples of free-
floating ["Heroes and Demons"-type] particles Voyager had encountered in
the sector of the Delta Quadrant they were now passing through, B'Elanna
had asked her advice about a personnel problem she was having with one
of the Starfleet crew members she was now supervising as chief engineer.
Pleased and not a little flattered, Janeway had put aside her scientific
analysis and focused on the personal, finding B'Elanna to be an intent
listener yet well able to express her own opinion when it differed from
the captain's. It had been a good talk, and she now felt more optimistic
about B'Elanna's future as a Starfleet officer than she had since before
Sikaria.

This morning, though, her mind kept drifting away from the work at hand,
until she finally sighed and said, "B'Elanna, I think I'd better get to
the bridge." Frowning a little, she went on ruefully, "I can't seem to
keep my mind on this today, and I'm afraid I'm going to make errors that
you're going to have to clean up after me."

"Captain--" A little startled by the hint of some undefinable emotion in
the young woman's tone, Janeway turned to face her directly. "I--ah--
need your advice about something." Eager but scared, and trying very
hard not to show either. "Could I have just a moment?"

"Of course." Turning back, Janeway seated herself on a stool at the
bench at which they had been working, even though neither of them had
been sitting down before. "Is it a personnel problem?"

"Yeah, I--suppose you could call it that." Why should she be scared?
Janeway wondered. Had she done something--some minor infraction that she
thought might get her in trouble again? No. There was that...eagerness
there too. Something that she really wanted to get said even though it
scared her to think about saying it...? "I have this friend." B'Elanna
took a deep breath. "She has something she wants to say to...someone,
but she's afraid the other person might take it the wrong way."

"The wrong way?"

"There's rank involved," B'Elanna said, and Janeway realized immediately
that this conversation was really about the two people who were having
it.

"She could always ask for permission to speak freely," she said evenly.

B'Elanna simply shook her head.

Suddenly apprehensive, Janeway wondered if this could be about her and
Chakotay. But surely even B'Elanna wouldn't--

*You are not her friend,* she reminded herself. *You are her commanding
officer.* But it was too late. There was no way to stop whatever was
going to happen next, and it was no one's fault but her own that things
had come this far. She had subtly encouraged B'Elanna to think of her as
a friend, and now it was time to pay the price, whatever that price
might be.

Resigning herself, she simply nodded.

She had expected B'Elanna to take another deep breath, but she didn't.
Looking directly at her captain, she spoke quietly with surprising calm.

"Go for it. You'd be a fool not to, and you're no fool."

Heart pounding, fight-or-flight adrenaline surging through her, Janeway
rose and folded her arms across her chest in what both of them must know
was a self-protective gesture. But she could not stop herself even
though there was no resentment, much less malice, in the clear dark eyes
that gazed back at her. Just B'Elanna Torres sans Starfleet veneer,
tactless and impulsive as ever in spite of the make-over that her
captain had been so bloody proud of accomplishing. Probably thinking she
was doing her friend Chakotay a favor. And she'd done it with style and
imagination. Give her that. Yet Janeway felt as though someone (Herself.
*I did this to myself*) had stripped her naked before her crew.

Breakfast together every day for over month, and she had been fool
enough to think nobody knew _why_?

She had lost control, and she might never get it back.

"As you were, Lieutenant." She heard her own voice--cool, distant, quiet
but commanding, and thought, *Now we're even. Now I've betrayed _her_*
And watched B'Elanna's cheeks flush and her eyes narrow in barely
concealed fury. She was almost standing at attention when she answered,
and her tone was flat, all trace of the eagerness and even the fear
completely gone.

"Yes, _ma'am_." The fury was diminishing now, and a bitter, all-too-
familiar cynicism was taking its place. "I have work to do in main
engineering. Permission to leave, _Captain_?" Janeway nodded again, and
B'Elanna was gone.


That morning on the bridge was a waking nightmare. She carried on as
usual, signing reports, attending to the ship's business, sure that
Chakotay had known as soon as she cleared the lift that there was
something terribly wrong and was trying to give her time and space to
make up her mind to tell him what it was. She did not tell him what it
was. She couldn't. Not even he could understand what it meant to her to
be so...exposed, wondering even now whether the bridge crew were as
aware as B'Elanna (and who knew who else) was that she was compromising
her authority, her very existence as Voyager's captain by crossing the
line that no Starfleet captain could afford to cross.

In Command School this kind of situation had been discussed with
dispassionate intensity. No exceptions, they had been taught. The
captain's first responsibility was to the ship and its crew; any
relationship that threatened the single-minded dedication to duty must
either be terminated or result in the immediate transfer of "the
reciprocating individual" to another ship. (What other ship? WHAT OTHER
SHIP?) And she had listened, and believed that was ever going to happen
to _her_. Not to Kathryn Janeway, scientist, pride of the Class of '53,
who always knew all the answers to everything. Oh, no. Not to her.
Except it had happened. Because she herself had let it happen--

"What's wrong?" Chakotay was asking softly, and she pressed her lips
together to keep from doing to him what she had done to B'Elanna.

Not to him. No matter what, not to him.

"Not now," she whispered, keeping her gaze focused on the padd at which
she had been staring, unseeing, for the past few minutes. "Please?" She
forced herself to finish reading the report and initial it, and then
looked up at him. "I'm going to take a long lunch break, Commander. You
have the bridge. I'm sure Tuvok can spell you for lunch today." And
before he could answer, she rose and moved quickly and purposefully
toward the lift.

The long lunch break was not unprecedented. In the months that they had
been underway in the Delta Quadrant, they had both come to realize that
it served no good purpose for any of the bridge crew to be on duty for
eight hours straight with only an hour off for lunch. There simply was
not enough happening to keep any of them busy for that length of time,
day after day, and boredom could as deadly an enemy as the unexpected
anomaly it might cause them to miss seeing until it was too late. And so
the rules had been relaxed to allow the bridge crew, who had no
maintenance or repair duties to fill up the empty hours, a minimal
amount of freedom as to how they spent their duty shifts. As long as
their absence had been approved by the captain or the first officer,
they were allowed off the bridge for as much as two hours at a time.

Janeway seldom availed herself of the privilege, responding with a smile
and a dismissive wave of the hand whenever Chakotay pointed out that she
too was a member of the bridge crew. But when she did, it was always to
indulge in what she had come to think of as a fly-by inspection of her
ship. When she had asked him, Neelix had been more than happy to grant
her the use of his cranky little craft as often as she might like. And
so, whenever B'Elanna informed her as she had that morning that the warp
engines would be off line for maintenance for several hours, the captain
would prepare the tiny ship herself and take it out for a run. Seeing
Voyager full on from the outside was a rare treat, one that she had not
experienced since they had landed the ship several months before. And
today she needed to be by herself for a while; her ship was not the only
part of her life that she wanted to try to get in perspective.

Once beyond the shuttle port, though, she quickly lost whatever interest
she had had in doing a fly-by inspection. Rising above the plane in
which Voyager forged slowly ahead at half impulse, she rode the ship's
tail, maintaining Neelix's craft at constant speed to keep the engines
from balking unexpectedly as was their wont. Feeling for the first time
that day that there was no one watching her, she relaxed her hands on
the controls and turned her mind to the dilemma at hand.

Can't go forward, and can't go back.

She knew without the slightest doubt that there was no way to undo what
had come into being between her and her first officer, nothing to be
done short of flinging themselves around the sun and into the past to
arrange history so that they would never meet. And she also knew that
she would not have chosen to do that even if it were possible.

Yet they could not keep going the way they were going. It simply was not
an option--not for two Starfleet officers in their position.

Can't go forward, and can't go back....

"What I need right now," she muttered aloud, "is a ship's counselor."
Someone not directly involved. Someone who knew her and Chakotay and
their crew well. Someone who could be at once objective and empathetic.
Someone even the captain could talk to, could trust without question--

Voyager took off at what she judged to be point seven or eight impulse,
and at the same time, her communicator spoke in Chakotay's voice:
"Captain, return to the ship." No _Chakotay to Janeway_? Tense.
Stressed. No time? "We're in dang--" Her communicator went to static as
she reflexively pushed the small craft toward full impulse.

The engines balked and the little ship bucked, refusing momentarily to
increase its speed. And then, for just a moment, there was nothing
around her and she was nowhere.


-2-

Dizzy and disoriented, she came to herself facing a set of controls that
she had never seen before. And below and in front of her was a vaguely
familiar ship much smaller than Voyager.

Neither craft was moving.

Her hand went to her chest, where her Starfleet communicator should have
been. There was no communicator, and....

Looking down at herself, she gasped aloud. She was not in uniform, but
wore civilian clothes--dark pants, a long-sleeved shirt that billowed
about her slender arms and cuffed them at the wrist, and a belted,
sleeveless wine-colored tunic that looked like it had seen better days.
All of her clothes looked much-worn; her cuffs were threadbare and the
low boots were scuffed. But what astonished her the most was that she
could see the ends of her own hair--blunt-cut and shorter than it had
been, but still long enough to spread across the shoulders of her tunic.
And she could feel the headband behind her ears, binding her hair back
from her face.

She did not own a headband.

And the ship below and in front of her was becoming more and more
familiar the longer she looked at it. It was Chakotay's ship--the Maquis
ship that he had flown into the Kazon vessel that was threatening
Voyager, completely destroying the smaller ship.

Almost a year ago. Immolated. And yet there it was, whole and intact.

She knew now what Chakotay had been trying to warn her about: some sort
of anomaly that had registered on Voyager's sensors but that she, in
Neelix's ship, had no way of sensing. All the signs were there. She was
no longer in her own universe, but it a parallel one where....

Where Voyager was the ship that had been destroyed?

She pressed her hands to her mouth, closing her eyes against the tears.
Her ship. Chakotay...?

But that was _his_ ship floating out there against the stars. If she was
here, out of uniform, then he must be....

"He _must_ be," she said aloud, and her own voice, sounding like a
prayer, snapped her back to reality.

She was talking nonsense. Thinking nonsense. If indeed she had somehow
been transferred to a parallel universe, there was no one in it, dead or
alive, that she knew.

First step: find out for sure.

The craft in which she sat was some kind of small shuttle, very nearly
as ancient as Neelix's ship although considerably better maintained. The
controls were labeled in Standard (parallel evolution of language? she
wondered, and then put her curiosity and her excitement firmly aside).
It would not be at all difficult to pilot the short distance to what
appeared to be a shuttle port at the aft end of the Maquis ship.

And then what?

They would let her dock. And then....

What?

Chakotay's counterpart. Failing that, B'Elanna's. One of them would
probably be there, and she would need to take someone into her
confidence if she were ever going to get home.

And she would get home. Impossible conundrum or not, there was no doubt
in her mind as to where she wanted to spend the rest of her life


During the few hours that Chakotay's ship had cruised off Voyager's
starboard bow, Voyager's captain had had little time to pay attention to
what it looked like. Now, approaching it from behind, she wondered how
much longer it would last. Probably not long enough to get back to the
Alpha Quadrant. It was roughly the same vintage as Neelix's ship, about
forty standard years old, and badly in need of a maintenance overhaul.

Chakotay was waiting for her, entering the shuttle bay as soon as it was
repressurized and lounging against the airlock.

Not Chakotay, she told herself, her heart beginning to pound with
apprehension. There was no one in this universe, alive or dead, that she
knew. Make no assumptions. Take no chances. To all intents and purposes,
this was a first contact situation.

Following the accidental displacement of certain Starfleet personnel
into yet another alternate universe, Starfleet had developed strict
protocols to cover such a situation. If possible, delay self-
identification until the situation could be evaluated for potential
dangers. If possible, choose a liaison and identify yourself only to
that person, who must then be asked for input into the decision as to
who else would be apprised of your presence in lieu of your double.
Above all, ask no questions, give no answers, make no statements about
any subject not directly involved in returning to your own universe. The
Prime Directive must apply. Given the facts reported by the DS9 crew
members after their own such experience, James T. Kirk's well-meant
meddling several decades before had spelled disaster to the society
whose development he'd influenced....

_Yet another alternate universe_? Why had she thought that? For all she
knew, this might be the same one that her predecessors had visited.

Except it wasn't. Looking at the man who stood grinning at her as she
disembarked, she knew that this was no grotesque, perverted image. This
was Chakotay as he would be now if...if Voyager had been destroyed and
all of them had ended up on his ship instead of hers.

All of them? There wasn't room for even half of Voyager's crew--

"All spaced out?" he asked, and she thought: Private joke. She knew that
look--as though he couldn't get enough of just looking at her. And
before she could stop herself, she smiled.

"Yes," she said quietly. "Ch--"

"C'mon, I want to show you something." He gestured toward the airlock,
beckoning with his other hand. Right now, she thought. Tell him right
now. Don't wait. But the shuttle bay was a public area; someone could
come in at any time. Reluctantly, she followed him out, inwardly cursing
her lack of knowledge of his ship. Where the hell could they go where
they would not be interrupted?

No sooner had the airlock closed behind them than she had cause to wish
that she had not waited to tell him who she was.

"B'Elanna found something on her sensors that she thinks our science
officer ought to take look at." Science officer? But before she could
decide whether she dared voice that question, he hooked his arm around
her neck as they walked, pulling her against him. The warm yet casual
intimacy of his gesture startled her less than it virtually broke her
heart with envy. So that's the way it was with them here. Already. And
not recently, judging by--

His lips, soft and warm, brushed her earlobe. Then he blew gently in her
hear, sending shivers all over her. Yet, ironically and inexplicably, it
was at that moment that she fully and finally realized that this double
was not the man that her body and spirit ached for.

Putting both hands on his chest, she pushed as hard as she could without
hurling him, unsuspecting and relaxed, against the bulkhead. Even so, he
very nearly lost his balance, staggering backward and striking his elbow
so hard that she winced in empathy.

"Commander." Folding her arms, she tried to keep her voice steady: "I'm
not the person you think I am. Please--is there somewhere we can talk
privately?"

For a moment he simply stared, reflexively rubbing his elbow, eyes
darkening with apprehension in a face suddenly gone sallow. "What's
wrong?" he whispered, and she swallowed a half-sob. Almost the last
words that her Chakotay had said to her. But this was not her Chakotay,
and "Not now" was not an option.

"I'm Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation star ship Voyager.
There's been some kind of an inter-universe substitution. I think my
counterpart in this universe must be...where I came from."

His initial expression almost unnerved her completely. For just an
instant, he was a man whose worst fears had come true, looking at a
woman who had suddenly lost her mind. Then, just as quickly, the panic
was gone, and she thought, *He knows me. He can tell I'm rational just
by looking at me.* But she had no time to explore the implications of
that insight.

Grabbing her arm, he propelled her a short distance down the dark,
narrow corridor. Just as she collected herself and began to resist, a
door in the bulkhead slid open and then closed behind them. She had the
fleeting impression of a relatively small room with tables and chairs--
recreational facility?--now deserted. Dingy and dark. And then he had
grabbed her by her upper arms as though she were his lifeline.

"TALK to me!" His eyes were black now, and his face devoid of color.
"Where is she? What's happening to her?"

With one swift, upward movement of her arms, she knocked his up and out,
permitting her instinctive response to take over until he could regain
his composure.

For a moment he stood perfectly still, simply staring at her.
Remembering her own shock and disorientation when she had realized, in
the shuttle, what had happened to her, she did not move again as he
slowly backed away from her, still staring. "I'm sorry." Dazed, but
obviously sincere.

She nodded mutely as he backed away a little farther, reached for a
chair as though he were moving in a dream, straddled it, sat down, and
motioned for her to sit as well. Horrified and fascinated, he couldn't
take his eyes off her. But his color was beginning to come back, and he
was no longer on the verge of hyperventilating.

"Do your--are your instructions to establish a liaison?" he asked
finally. When she permitted herself a heartfelt sigh of relief, he
smiled slightly. "Captain Janeway, I am sorry. I'm--sure you can
appreciate that I'm concerned for the safety of my science officer."

His science officer.

_Would you have served under me....?_

Only questions having to do with returning to your own universe, she
told herself firmly. But unless she were to return within the next few
minutes, there were certain things she had to know.

"Is she your first officer?"

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No. It doesn't work that
way here. All the senior officers report directly to me." Frowning now,
he paused for a long moment, studying her intently. "I mean," he said
finally, "to us. Here, she--your counterpart and I are...partners." The
last word was only a whisper.

The word sent a thrill through her, half horror and half longing. *This
isn't a Starfleet vessel. They don't have to worry about who's
watching....*

"Can you tell me anything at all about what happened?" he was asking.

She told him all she knew, including the fact that her first officer had
tried to warn her. "He said 'we' were in danger. He must have meant
Voyager too. Did your ship's sensors picked up anything?"

"B'Elanna thought she saw something anomalous. That's why she wanted to
talk to y--I mean--"

"In engineering?" He explained that there was no "engineering" as such.
B'Elanna's station was on the bridge, next to his; she had the conn at
the moment. "Do you recommend that we tell her what's happened?"

"Recommend?" he asked softly, and their gaze held.

"Commander," she said finally, "Starfleet protocol specifies that the
liaison be asked for 'input' on which of the senior officers or their
equivalent should be apprised of my presence here."

"I know the rules, Captain."

"Good. Then I--" In spite of the gravity of the situation, she could not
help smiling a little. "I _respectfully_ suggest that you stand down
yellow alert." His mouth twitched, but he did not answer. "Now, which
members of Voyager's crew are aboard this ship?"

The answering smile died out of his eyes, and he looked away. Waiting
for him to answer, she fought against the foreboding that threatened to
overwhelm her. Not many. There'd only be room for--

"Just my science officer and my tactical officer."

*Not my crew,* she thought desperately, closing her eyes in the effort
to maintain control. *It wasn't my crew.* Aloud she asked huskily,
"Tuvok?"

"Yes. And, yes--I know what he was doing here."

Then it must have been after, she thought. After the three Maquis
officers had beamed aboard Voyager. And after...? But why only she and
Tuvok? Unless something had happened to her--to Voyager while Tuvok and
her counterpart were on the array....

She heard a faint movement and opened her eyes, only to discover that
they were cloudy with unshed tears. "This is insane," she muttered
aloud, and then realized what it was that she had heard. Still seated,
he had reached out his right hand to her over the back of his chair.
Grasping it with her left, she blinked away her tears and then released
it. "Sorry."

"It wasn't your crew," he said gently. "It was hers."

"I know." How did she deal with it? But she could not ask that question;
it had nothing to do with how she would get back. "Okay. B'Elanna, then.
And Tuvok. He'll know anyway. He knows me--_her_ too well for me to fool
him for long." How long? What was the next step? Was there any place on
this shaggy dog of a ship where she could be alone and THINK? "You and I
can't stay in here forever, Commander. I think you'd better tell me
enough about this ship for me to find my way to m--the science officer's
quarters until--" Until what?

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I think it might be better if we
get B'Elanna and Tuvok down here first. The four of us can talk this
through, and then I'll--make some arrangements." She could tell that he
wanted to look away, but he did not.

"It's a relatively small ship," she said evenly. "You must have to share
quarters."

"Yes. But she and I didn't have to. We wanted to."

After a moment, she asked, "For how long?"

"Almost since the beginning." Still he did not look away, and there was
entreaty in his gaze now, and in his voice. "Will they lock her up over
there?"

Aware that he had changed the subject at least partially to save them
both further embarrassment, she scrambled mentally to follow his lead,
thrusting away her burning envy. "I can't think why my first officer
would want to do that."

He nodded absently, not completely relieved. "Who is it? Tuvok?"

"No." Answer, she thought. Who's in command over there _is_ relevant to
my getting back. Answer him. "It's--Chakotay. We've served together as
captain and first officer since...since the beginning."

For a moment he simply stared at her. Then he nodded slowly. "Deus ex
machina. A full-dress copout. How convenient for him."

She had no idea what he was talking about, and his tone was meditative
rather than insulting. But she had been on the raw for a little too
long, and now something snapped inside her and all the emotions that had
been churning there erupted.

"What gives you the right to pass judgment on him?" She kept her voice
low, not wanting to be overheard by anyone who might be passing in the
corridor. But a memory flashed through her mind--Mark, on one of the
rare occasions when she had become angry at him, laughing and quoting:
_...And dangerous lightning. Take cover...._ She ignored the memory.
And Prime Directive be damned. "I don't know what you think you know
about him, but he is the finest officer I've ever served with." Barely
aware of what she was saying, she went on chewing him out as though he
were a cabin boy, expecting at any moment to be faced with his answering
wrath.

But it never came. He simply watched her, and as she finally began to
wind down, a hint of a smile touched his eyes. And when she was silent,
all he said was, "Right."


* * *


Personal logs, recorded Stardate 49635.6

TUVOK:

In the twenty-three point seven hours since Captain Janeway entered this
universe, her ability to convince Commander Chakotay's Maquis crew that
she is her counterpart has been amply demonstrated. One cannot help but
speculate as to which human traits make it possible for those of her
race to dissemble so convincingly. Once the Commander had shown her
around the ship, even I, who knew her counterpart well, am barely
conscious of the stress under which she is presently operating.

It was fortunate, however, that no one was observing us except Commander
Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres when the Captain faced me for the first
time in the recreation area where Chakotay had requested my presence. I
believe that, had I been human, she would have embraced me once Chakotay
had told me who she really is. As it was, there were tears in her eyes
when she greeted me in my native language: "Live long and prosper,
Tuvok. It pleases me to see thee well." I must admit that I too was
moved; for a moment, the past year ceased to exist, and I was once again
in the presence of Voyager's commanding officer.

[Tape runs in silence for a few moments.]

Oddly enough, however, she appears easily able to mitigate her command
presence on this ship, just as her counterpart was able to do. At the
time, I assumed that the Kathryn Janeway in this universe was distracted
by her grief for Voyager's crew, as indeed she was. But this woman's
ship is presumably intact in the universe from which she came, yet her
behavior is essentially the same as the other's was: dignified and
authoritative, yet in no way suggesting that she is the sole commander
of this ship. I...admire her ability to retain her command presence
without appearing insubordinate toward Commander Chakotay.

[Again a silence, this one somewhat longer than the other.]

One is tempted to speculate on her relationship with the Chakotay in her
own universe, given that he is now her first officer on Voyager. Her
choice was the logical one: he outranks my counterpart, and his
authority with the Maquis crew members is unquestioned. Starfleet
protocol no doubt precludes the...type of relationship engaged in by the
commanding officers on this ship.

[Short silence.]

However, speculation in this area is not logical and serves no
constructive purpose.


TORRES:

I think this must be the longest day and a half that I've ever spent.
[Sound of footsteps, as though someone is pacing the floor.] She's not
here now. Damn her--I bet she's thinks she's being GENEROUS letting me
have a few minutes alone in my own quarters before turning in. Those
Starfleet types always think they're doing you a favor even when they're
shafting you. I don't WANT to be alone! I want my own roommate here to
shoot the breeze with. But Chakotay had to go and put Seska on third
watch so that Her Highness would have someplace to sleep besides with
him. Ha! The hell with the both of 'em. I don't think she slept a wink
in here last night, and it serves her right.

She certainly knows her quantum theory. I'll give her that. But then our
Janeway does too, so I shouldn't be surprised. When I was explaining how
we know that the next window of opportunity will appear tomorrow, she
was right with me all the way, even though Chakotay and Tuvok went
belly-up after a few minutes. But when she started calling me B'Elanna,
I blew my stack. It's like she thinks she KNOWS me or something! How
could she POSSIBLY know anything about me? No way in HELL could HER
B'Elanna Torres have told her anything about herself. The captain of the
Voyager thinks she knows everything already, right? And how much contact
would she have with an ex-Maquis stuck on Voyager in some low-
level...well...so I'm the chief engineer over there. Big deal. I'd ask
her how that all happened, but I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of
thinking I give a damn.

Funny how she looks at Seska. Our Janeway doesn't like her, but they
work well together because they respect each other's expertise. But this
one--it's like she knows something about Seska that we don't know, and
it almost...scares her. [Silence] Oh, well. If her bloody Prime
Directive won't let her spill the beans, I guess we can live with it,
what ever it is....


CHAKOTAY

Well, they've done it. Between them, B'Elanna and the captain of the
Voyager have figured out that the anomaly that caused all this will
recur at regular intervals. We missed the window today because we
weren't ready for it yet. But tomorrow, we will be.

Everything depends on whether _my_ counterpart will risk staying in this
sector, even though there's some danger that Voyager--or my ship--or
both of us--could be drawn into the other universe just like the smaller
vessels were. I have no doubt that he'll take the risk, and I don't
think SHE has either. But it's almost as though part of her wants to
believe that she doesn't mean as much to him as Kathryn does to me.

When she asked me why I'm so sure he'd stay around and take the risk, I
just said, "Because _I_ want _my_ Kathryn home." I don't think I'll ever
forget the expression on her face--longing and jealousy and outright
hunger. She asked what makes me think that everything is the same over
there as it is here, called it an unsupported assumption. I couldn't
help smiling at that, and I said my assumption was based on observable
phenomena. She knew damn well that I meant her manner when she talks
about him, but luckily we were interrupted before she could chew me out.

She's about as conflicted as she can be, and I have to keep telling
myself that there's absolutely nothing I can or should try to do about
it. As long as she doesn't want to discuss him openly with me, I won't
push it. But if she should change her mind, I can't make myself believe
that the way things still are with them over there is the way things
ought to be in any universe.


* * *

Not surprisingly, Janeway found herself virtually unable to sleep for
the second night in a row. The entire ship still seemed cramped and
stuffy to her, the quarters she shared with Torres stiflingly tiny.
Janeway had not shared a room on shipboard with anyone since she was a
junior officer, but there were simply no other options open. In any
case, sharing quarters with someone who did not know who she really was
would have been unthinkable.

Torres was as clean as a cat, but articles of clothing and other
possessions still littered the cramped room; she spent a great deal of
her time muttering and cursing in Klingon, and she often ground her
teeth in her sleep. Telling herself grimly that the situation was
temporary and her detente with this Torres tenuous at best, Janeway had
resisted the impulse to initiate yet another shouting match about
something as fundamentally inconsequential as the litter or the
muttering. But the teeth-grinding was more than she could bear tonight.

Wondering if her own B'Elanna, now apparently so calm and efficient on
the job, still or ever had spent the night sounding like she was chewing
data solids, Janeway rose from her bunk and put her stockinged feet
carefully on the floor. But it was no use; the edges of the two bunks
were barely two meters apart, and as she picked up one of her boots, her
fingers slipped and there was a soft plop as the boot hit the deck.
Instantly, Torres shot to a sitting position, glaring.

"What the HELL are you doing?" In spite of the suddenness of her
awakening, Torres' voice held no fear; Janeway had the sensation of
having poked a snake and had it wake up hissing.

"Calm down, B'Elanna." Taking care to move slowly but without apparent
nervousness, Janeway picked up each boot and slipped her foot into it.
"By tomorrow night you'll be rid of me and have Seska back in here."

"I told you." Eyes narrow now, voice trembling with barely-suppressed
rage: "Don't CALL me that! What the hell gives you the right--"

Janeway held up her hand for silence, and to her surprise, Torres
stopped in mid-sentence. "Sorry. I was thinking about your..." She
smiled faintly. "...Your evil twin, and it just slipped out." Rising and
moving toward the door, she was startled to hear Torres speak in an
entirely different tone.

"Do you call _her_ that?" Her tone was faintly curious, but mostly
disbelieving.

"Sometimes." Impatient to be out and gone, Janeway forced herself to
turn around. The woman was sharing her space with a stranger she
despised; she deserved minimal courtesy. "B'Elanna. Lieutenant.
Whatever's appropriate at the time."

"Lieutenant?" With a pang of something she could not define, Janeway
watched this Torres twist up her face in exactly the same way that
B'Elanna did when she was incredulous. But the incredulity was quickly
replaced by a sneer. "How sweet. 'Jump, Lieutenant.'? And what does she
say? 'How high, _Captain_?'"

Janeway sighed. "Give it up, will you? We've already had this
conversation." The door swished open and she stepped out, frowning,
trying to decide what it was that she had felt in the moment when this
B'Elanna had looked so much like....

Homesickness.

Well, that would be taken care of soon enough. She stepped out briskly
down the narrow dark corridor and then slowed her pace. There were two
small recreation areas, but it was barely 1100; crew members would still
be about. In truth, she really had nowhere to go and nothing to do
except walk the halls and brood.

_I want my Kathryn home...._

Wrenching her thoughts elsewhere, she tried to concentrate on her
surroundings, since there was nothing else to concentrate on at the
moment. Everything looked dirty. The poor lighting was partially
responsible, and the dark bulkheads didn't help. She knew that there was
actually no dirt. Whatever self-cleaning apparatus this rust bucket
possessed, Chakotay apparently saw to it that it was kept in good
running order. The whole ship smelled slightly moldy, but she had yet to
find a flat surface that--

_...Based on, um, observable phenomena...._

Damn him. DAMN the man....

In the act of running her finger absently along a narrow, elbow-high
bulkhead molding, she realized that she was not alone. Someone had
turned the corner behind her, and she rolled her eyes in exasperated
recognition as a familiar voice asked, "Need a white glove, Captain?"

"No. Thank you, Commander." She turned to face him, thinking, *If this
tub were mine and I were he, how would I feel if somebody --* But he was
grinning, obviously amused, with only a spark of irritation somewhere
behind his dark eyes. "I was thinking about something else, not about
what I was doing." And then another thought came to her, staggering in
its implications and in the risks involved. But every Starfleet captain
knew that often their best decisions were made from one second to the
next, and with the risk factor at its greatest. "I was thinking about
observable phenomena" she went on, hoping that her voice wouldn't begin
to shake as reality set in. "Can we talk about that?"

The grin faded to a shadow. "I'm not sure you really want to know," he
said quietly.

"Don't tell me what I want to know, okay?" Now that she had made the
decision, she felt sure it was the right one. "You're the only one in
either universe I can talk to about this."

"There's one other." Now the grin was completely gone.

"She isn't here, and she never will be while I am. I'm here. So are you.
Are you game or not?"

"She isn't the one I meant," he said, frowning a little. "Captain, it's
still second watch. There'll be people in the canteen where we talked
before. The only place we can talk privately now is in my quarters. Are
_you_ game?" Now there was nothing in his gaze but a reflection of the
challenge she had given him.

"I guess I better be." She answered before she could change her mind. "I
don't know where you live, Commander. Lead the way."

She had noticed the ladder leading to the deck above, but had not had
anyone to ask where it went. When he stood aside to let her precede him,
she placed her hands on one of the rungs and was about to turn and ask
exactly what part of the ship they were heading toward. But before she
could speak he said lightly, "After you, Katydid. And watch out for the
dog."

The shock that passed through her was so strong that for an instant she
thought the ladder under her hands was current-protected. Jerking
backwards, she almost stepped on his foot. But even as she whirled to
face him, remembered images swarming through her mind, he stepped nimbly
away.

Boothby. The white tower at the edge of the Academy campus. The illusion
of Littebit's presence. The eye of a cigarette glowing in the darkness
under the wall's overhang....

"That was you." She spoke barely above a whisper.

"Uh-uh." Now he stood with hands on hips, but lower and more relaxed
than hers would have been on hers. Then they both spoke in unison--he in
the level, steady tone he had used when he had explained where they
could talk, she still in a whisper: "It was him."

After a long moment, she said, "The Kolvoord Starburst. You were Nova
Squadron commander in '54. It was on your record." He started to shake
his head--not in denial, she realized, but in an effort to stop her.
"The dog--."

"I can't answer questions like that. You'll have to ask him."

"Then why did you bring this up, dammit!" Confusion and frustration
combined to raise the volume level of her voice, although not enough to
be heard by anyone who was not actually in the corridor with them. When
he spoke, his voice was as loud and nearly as angry as hers.

"Because there are things you need to hear, dammit! You started this. Do
we see it through, or do we stop right here?" With one of his quick,
coordinated movements, he pointed up the ladder and then jerked his
thumb over his shoulder. "Your choice."

Without a word, she turned again and began to climb.

As she had suspected, the cabin he had chosen for himself was tucked
away at the aft end of the ship's upper deck, accessible only by the
ladder from the crew's quarters below. He had obviously sacrificed
privacy in his comings and goings for the same in his location--possibly
after he and.... Stop, she thought. Just stop. Right now.

The hatch had to be pulled open, but it was in the bulkhead rather than
the deck. Clearing the ladder, she could see the entire cabin all too
clearly--what there was of it: no larger than the one she and Torres
reluctantly shared, but with only one bunk, and that only about half
again as wide as those in the double crew's quarters on the deck below.
If two adults slept there together, they would have to curl up--

A wave of overwhelming envy and sexual longing rolled through her, so
strong that she had to set her teeth again. Worse, he was still on the
ladder, looking up into her face, and she knew without question that he
had seen her change of expression for what it was.

Now tight-lipped, she moved to the small table in the corner which
apparently served as his desk, trying not to further invade his space by
inspecting the objects on it. Tapes, a few papers, a carved rock or two,
the significance of which was incomprehensible to her, and there was
barely enough light to see them by. If two adults were living here
together, no wonder her counterpart needed to "space out" in the shuttle
once in while.

As she pulled out the wobbly desk chair and sat, she looked up,
realizing for the first time that the faint illumination in the cabin
came from a fairly sizable port high up on the hull-side bulkhead
opposite the hatch. So that too was why he chose to climb up to this
space-faring tree house with barely enough room in it to take a deep
breath. The light in the room was starlight.

He must have done something then to activate the artificial lighting,
which came on with a sullen yellow glow that was perfectly suited to the
dinginess of their surroundings. Sighing a little, she waited until he
sat on the edge of his bunk before demanding, "All right. What it is I
need to hear?"

"I thought we were going to talk." He leaned forward a little, clasping
his hands loosely between his knees. "As in conversation." At her
questioning look: "That sounded a lot like, "'Report, mister."

"Please don't DO that!" Sitting sideways on the chair, she hit the back
of it lightly with her closed fist, her gaze holding his, her voice low
but intense. "What I'm doing is _hard_ for me, and I don't give a good
goddamn what I sound like. You're the captain of this ship, and I'm ...
your reluctant guest. I've tried as hard as I can to treat you with the
respect you deserve, and I think it's time you quit second-guessing me
on that."

For a long moment he simply gazed back at her, his expression
unreadable. Then: "I think you're right." Abruptly, he grinned and
gestured toward the floor. "You know, of course, that what we're about
to do here is going to scatter what's left of the Prime Directive all
over this floor."

"I'm not so sure of that. Don't you think it's possible that these
inter-universe crossovers are part of what's meant to be? I've learned
things here about the Maquis members of my crew that I'd never have
known if this hadn't happened to me, and I can't quite believe that none
of it was meant to happen. Now--what is it that you think I need to hear
about Chakotay and me?"

He was silent for a while, thinking. Then: "What you need to hear about
is a kid who went up to the tower that night to sneak a couple of
cigarettes because he was at odds with himself and everybody on the
planet that he really cared about. You sat there with the light shining
over you--were you wearing something blue?"

Fascinated by the longest speech she had ever heard him make, she
whispered, "I don't remem-- Yes. It was a tunic with pockets. I needed
the pockets for--"

"One cigarette and an ashtray." It was her turn to gaze back in silence.
How could he possibly have remembered? "We--you and he shared his second
one."

"Yes." She realized that she was shivering, and hugged herself to ward
off a chill that came from nowhere in this hot, stuffy room.

"You couldn't see him, but he could see you--then, and for a long time
afterward. Perched on the edge of his life like...." He smiled a little,
but it was a wistful smile this time. "Until he saw you again on the
bridge of your ship a year ago. For him, it began all over again right
then."

"What began?" But it was hard for her to meet his gaze now.

"Observable phenomena. Isn't that what this--conversation is about?"
Faint sarcasm again, but only very faint, and this time quickly
suppressed. "Didn't you ever wonder why he agreed to be your first
officer?"

"I thought you had that all figured out," she said bitterly. "Some kind
of a copout, I believe?"

"That was yesterday." He rose abruptly and stood with his back to her,
gazing up at the stars, running one hand through his cropped hair as
though he were still somewhat bewildered. "I've had time to think since
then. We aren't faced with...intimations of duality very often. Makes
you wonder." He was silent for a while, no longer moving restlessly.
"I've been trying to imagine what he was thinking and feeling when he
agreed to be your first officer."

"You must have figured out by now that it was _his_ ship that was
destroyed."

"Has it ever occurred to you," he asked softly, "that he and his people
could have destroyed _you_ any time during this past year?"

"Not bloody likely." Silence, seeping outward into the very corners of
the room. "Yes, of course it's occurred to me. He's chosen to..." What?
Obey? Submit? _What_?

"He's chosen to give you his allegiance," said the stranger with his
face.

"Me? Don't you mean Katydid?"

"No." He turned to face her. "That's where it started--_why_ it started.
But I don't think it's been that for a long time now. And I don't
believe you do either."

Can't go forward, and can't go back.

Feeling as though she was up against a wall that she could not see, she
gestured toward the bunk: "Is that why _she_ sleeps with you? To prove
her 'allegiance'?" She heard an echo of Torres' sneer in her voice, and
regretted it immediately.

The fury that leaped into his eyes was almost feral. But all he said
was, "No."

"I'm sorry," she said, her voice suddenly empty and almost toneless. "I
don't believe that. I only said it because I'm so jealous of what she
has with you. Because I--can't have it with him."

After a moment, he said almost conversationally, "You mean won't."

Again she struck the back of the chair with her fist. "I mean what I SAY
I mean."

In almost a single movement, he reclaimed his place on the edge of his
bunk, this time leaning forward with an aura she had never seen him
display. And in memory she heard the words, _I'm trying to help you. I'm
sorry you don't see that_. "You could have it all for the taking."

"There _is_ no 'all' for me, Commander! Surely you can understand that.
I'm the captain there. You know what that means. You were a Starfleet
officer once. I can't risk losing the respect of _my_ people by--by--."

"What people?" Now there was almost a sadness in his gaze. "Him?"

"No," she answered without hesitation, and saw his faint smile again.

"Score one for the good guys." Then, quickly: "You're right. It's not.
I'm sorry." Again there was a silence. "What people, then?"

"My crew." Yet the only memory that would come to mind was B'Elanna,
trying to be a friend and overstepping. "They're a Starfleet crew. How
can we expect them to follow Starfleet protocol if _we_ don't? If the
rules get blurry, their safety--the safety of the ship itself could be
jeopardized."

"Your ship is in more danger right now than it could ever be if you and
he were together." She had bowed her head against her hands, folded
tightly on the back of the chair, but now it came up with a snap.
"You're expending an incredible amount of your attention and energy
trying to deal with this...problem. For all I know, he is too--possibly
only because you are."

"If you're right, what does he see that I don't see?"

"That everything's changed," he said quietly. "That everything's new.
That your Voyager might never make it home--anymore than this ship
will."

"He wants to get home as much as I do. He's told me that."

"There's often a difference between what we want and what's probably
going to happen. How many more years are you going to wait to admit
that, make a decision about the way you want to live, and _act_ on it?"

"I made that decision when I joined Starfleet."

"We're not in Kansas any more, Captain."

His tone was both wry and gentle, and she could not help laughing--a
short, painful sound more like a sob.

Covering her mouth, she shook her head and looked away. There were no
tears now. She was too tired to cry, almost too tired to talk.

He rose, drew her to her feet, and held her silently, her cheek against
his shoulder. A day and a half ago, she thought, this would have been
unthinkable. Now it seemed like the most natural thing in the universe.

"I'm going to go find someplace to put my feet up." Drawing away, he met
her gaze directly. "And you're going to lie down here and get a good
night's sleep with nobody to disturb you." When she began to speak, he
shook his head. "That's an order, _Captain_." Smiling faintly, he
pressed her shoulder briefly. "Sleep well." And before she could object,
he was gone, lowering the lights before he let himself out the hatch and
closed it behind him.

She would have thought that she could not sleep on that bed. But she was
asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, and did not wake until
the ship's day cycle began.


It was almost time.

On the bridge of the ship that had been her only home for almost two
Standard days, Kathryn Janeway watched the rest of the Maquis bridge
crew for their reactions to Chakotay's unapologetic, almost casual,
"Tuvok, you have the conn." As Tuvok moved from his station to
Chakotay's just-vacated chair, she spoke quietly to him.

"They accept you completely, even though they know you were a spy a year
ago. That's quite a tribute."

Frowning slightly, Tuvok managed to raise one eyebrow at the same time.
"Perhaps. But Commander Chakotay and your counterpart were highly
instrumental in that acceptance. The loyalty and solidarity of the crew
is largely a function of the behavior of its command officers."

Conflicting thoughts raced through her mind. His words sounded like a
warning; she had the distinct impression that he was trying to tell her
something about the "behavior" of the command officers on this ship. (Or
on her ship?) And yet he spoke of the loyalty and solidarity of a crew
commanded by two individuals who were far more than partners-in-command.
Could he too be conflicted?

"Thank you, Tuvok. I'll keep it in mind." The words sounded more ironic
than she had intended, and his frown deepened.

"This is not a Starfleet vessel, Captain." She started slightly at the
honorific, but he was speaking so softly now that even she could barely
hear him.

"I get the message, my friend," she whispered, and watched the eyebrows
fly. Then, in Vulcan. "Live long and prosper."

"Peace and long life, Captain Janeway." The dark eyes met her gaze for a
moment, and then moved away. Conflicted, all right. As his counterpart
would be if....

In the lift, Chakotay asked, "Are you all right?"

"I feel a little like Schrodinger's cat," she confessed ruefully. "I
won't know if I'm dead or alive until somebody looks at me."

"Be a Nonobjectivist," he answered gently. "The most involved observer
on both sides is an optimist."

Their gaze held, and no longer smiling, she said, "You love each other."

"Oh, yes." No fanfare. Just a simple, heartfelt affirmation.

"And that makes everything all right."

"Oh, no." The grin was mostly in his eyes, but she couldn't help
grinning back.

The shuttle bay had seemed small to her when she had docked in it, but
not nearly as small as this. The little ship was almost like a cork
stuck in a bottle, and for a moment she felt as though she was going to
have trouble breathing. *Relax,* she told herself. *Either it works or
it doesn't. There is nothing more you can do. Nothing nothing nothing.*
Oddly enough, the thought calmed her as it would not have done a few
days before.

B'Elanna was there before them. Before she could inventory the many
reasons for not asking, Janeway spoke to her. "Do you dislike _her_ as
much as you dislike me?"

Chakotay glanced quickly from her to Torres as though he half-expected
them to leap at one another, claws unsheathed. But Torres simply
glowered.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because she never tried to pull rank on this ship."

"Neither have I."

"No," B'Elanna agreed bitterly. "But you would have. Sooner or later."

"You're so sure of that."

"Yeah. I can tell by the way you say 'on MY ship.' Her ship blew up, and
that pretty much knocked the Starfleet out of her, I guess. She was just
one of _us_ from the beginning. You never could be."

"Torres," Chakotay said without any particular emphasis, "shut the hell
up."

"Yes, sir." Her tone was not insolent, let alone insubordinate. Matter-
of-fact, non-committal--even though Janeway had never heard her call him
_sir_ before. How could they function like this? she wondered. How do
you know the rules when there are no rules, when the sands are shifting
all the time? Her Chakotay would never speak to B'Elanna like that. But
it was her Chakotay, not this one, who had decked Dalby.... "Are you
ready, Captain?" Still matter-of fact.

"Yes."

"Fine. Then let's--"

"I want to thank you for all you've done, B'La--Lieutenant."

"No, you don't. You just think you ought to. And I am not a lieutenant."
The anger and resentment began to surface again. "Tell me just one
thing. How did you happen to make _her_ the chief engineer on...'my
ship'?"

Janeway rolled her eyes and jerked her head toward Chakotay. "Somebody
twisted my arm."

Chakotay startled them both by bursting into delighted laughter.
Suddenly, and for just an instant, the two of them were grinning at each
other. It was Torres who looked away first, wiping the grin.

"Not to rush you or anything, Captain, but I suggest we get this show
on the road before our window comes and goes."

Chakotay moved with her to the shuttle's hatch. Once there, she turned
to him and gave him her hands in silence. Squeezing them for a moment,
he kissed her cheek. "Don't take seventy years to get home, Kathryn."
The words whispered close to her ear barely stirred the air. "Not with
your heart's home sitting right in the next chair." He stepped back,
releasing her hands, and the last thing she saw before the hatch closed
was his hand sketching the shadow of a salute.


-3-

The inter-universe disorientation seemed to last longer this time,
perhaps because she expected it. Yet she welcomed it as well, knowing
what it portended. And when she came to herself, she was in Neelix's
ship, in uniform, gazing down on Voyager, silver in starlight.

_Her ship blew up...._

She had expected to weep when she saw it again, but she did not.
Strangely, she felt more calm than she ever had in her life.

"Janeway to Chakotay."

"I'm here, Captain."

At the sound of his voice, the tears threatened. But she had no trouble
controlling them.


He and B'Elanna were waiting for her in the shuttle bay. Voyager's
shuttle bay. Both of them in uniform. She had never noticed before how
utterly beautiful those uniforms were.

Without hesitation, she went into his arms. She had imagined that their
first embrace would be an erotic one, yet they simply hugged each other
tightly, almost oblivious to B'Elanna's startled look, quickly followed
by the deliberate shifting of her gaze toward the ceiling.

"Welcome home," he said huskily, and they moved apart, hands still
touching.

"You didn't get pulled into the rift. That means they didn't either."
She looked questioningly at B'Elanna as her hands and Chakotay's
reluctantly parted company.

"That's a safe guess." With studied nonchalance, B'Elanna permitted her
gaze to return to the captain and the first officer. "Captain, I'm sorry
we didn't warn you in time. It all happened so--"

"I know." Janeway put her hand on the young woman's arm. "B'Elanna--
thank you." This one, at least, would not snap her head off or hurl
accusations. "For everything," she added. Two days late, but hopefully
not too late.

Visibly pleased, B'Elanna gestured toward the shuttle. "Just doing my
job, Captain. And--." She looked away briefly and then returned her gaze
to Janeway's. "'Everything' was out o' line."

"Yes, it was." Janeway's hand tightened. "But thank you anyway."

Now totally bewildered, B'Elanna stared, her face twisting in
perplexity. *Yes,* Janeway thought. *It's going to be confusing for a
while. For all of us. But we're not in Kansas any more, and that means a
whole new set of ground rules to work toward--whatever they might be.*

After B'Elanna had left them, she and Chakotay moved toward the lift,
she with a half-smile and he with a puzzled half-frown. "Was that
something I should know about?" he asked as the lift doors opened.

"I'm not sure. Let me think about it, okay?" Probably the story of their
lives for some time to come: I'm not sure. Let me think about it.
"Bridge."

They stood close together but not touching, hands clasped behind their
backs, gaze focused on the middle distance. The lift had scarcely begun
to move when she asked, "What was she like?" Permitting herself the
smallest of smiles, she found his waiting.

"Like you." His lips were barely curved, but the smile in his eyes
reached for her like an embrace. "But not you." And she heard an echo of
another voice that was also his: _I want my Kathryn home_. No wistful
tenderness here, though. Only quiet joy. "What about him?"

"Like you," she echoed, and stopped. _But not you_ was not completely
true, yet there was no time now to explain why.

"Teasing?" But he was enjoying himself thoroughly.

"I don't tease." Their gaze held, and after a moment he nodded
fractionally. Message transmitted and received--the unspoken as well as
the spoken. "Did she tell you they're lovers?"

"No. But--" He hesitated--amused, a little embarrassed.

"There were...observable phenomena? When she talked about him?"

"Something like that." Now definitely amused.

"That's what he said about me." The smile left his eyes, but the quiet
joy remained--escalating, incredulous. "I'll tell you about it." In a
few seconds, they would be on display again. But that was then. This was
now. "Soon," she finished, barely above a whisper.

When the lift doors swished open to reveal the bridge to them and them
to the bridge, both of them were again gazing ahead at nothing, hands
still clasped behind their backs.


Even knowing what she was going to do, she found herself staring at the
padd to which Neelix had transmitted instructions on how to make
arrangements for her camping trip, including the location of the site on
the fast-approaching planet. After she had recorded notes for the report
she would file on her recent adventure, she and Chakotay had spent a
good portion of the afternoon shift discussing crew rotations for the
coming shore leave. Their own five-day leaves would overlap by nearly
three days, while Tuvok minded the store. They had discussed it with
admirable detachment, each knowing without even looking at the other
that it was all a delightful charade....

"Where're you going to be?"

So. She wouldn't have to make the first move after all. Without
answering, she handed him the padd. He glanced at it, and then up at her
with his father's grin, and she thought, *God, his mother was right.*

"You got any bread crumbs?" he asked.

She laughed aloud, not trying to repress it, feeling Tuvok's faint frown
and Harry's shy grin--as though he weren't exactly sure whether smiling
was a good idea or not; she could almost see it. Tom she could see--
turning momentarily, glancing from one to the other, grinning,
shrugging, and then turning back to his work.




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