Parti Pris

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\”Parti Pris\”

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Voyager Story V

by Emmy Odd

************************************************************

Janeway stretched luxuriously before the blazing fire. The
as-yet unnamed Captain\’s dog, temporarily named Ultur, for the
planet he came from, basked in the fire\’s glow as well. Janeway
leaned back on Chakotay, looking even more noble by firelight.
He opened his mouth to say… \”Bridge to Captain Janeway.\”
Janeway shook her head as she sat up in bed, her peaceful dream
ruined; the inspiration for the dream the destroyer of it.
Janeway, tapping her ever-present comm badge, said groggily,
\”Yes, Commander?\”

Chakotay smiled to himself, saying, \”Sorry to wake you,
Captain, but I thought you\’d be interested that we\’ve come across
another populated planet.\”

\”Kazon?\”

\”No, there are few visible ships, and those appear to be
trade ships. Apparently this planet has had warp technology for
some time.\”

\”No warships? Can we hail them?\”

\”Not yet, Captain. Their communications seem to be
restricted to a lower orbit than we are in. I wanted to wait
until you were on the Bridge to hail them in such proximity.\”

Janeway smiled at his… chivalry. \”I\’m on my way,
Commander.\”

************************************************************

As Janeway stepped onto the Bridge, Harry announced,
\”They\’re resonding to our hail, Captain.\”

\”On screen.\” Before their eyes was an astonishing sight.
A beautiful woman dressed in white stood before them. She had an
exquisitely tinted face and large brown eyes. It was so bright
in the room around her that it seemed but an effulgence around
her head. She smiled serenely at the Captain, or rather, behind
the Captain, where Chakotay stood.

A placid, lilting voice issued from her mouth. \”Welcome to
the home world of the Puerilians. I am Ehrrmetika, leader of the
Chutzzphah Order. Who are you and where do you hearken from?\”

Janeway\’s deep, sonorous voice rolled over her words. \”I
am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. We are from
the Alpha Quadrant, namely, Earth. She glanced at Chakotay.
\”Well, most of us. We are searching for a way home from this
quadrant, as well as supplies.\”

The woman smiled. \”You are welcome to come down to
Puerilia and stay awhile, Captain. Best wishes on your journey.\”
She smiled again at Chakotay, and her face disappeared, and the
blue-green planet appeared once more.

************************************************************

Chakotay, the Captain, and Kes beamed down in the center of
a sunny square. The paths beneath their feet were paved in
minute mosaics. Lush flowers bloomed everywhere. Men and women,
all dressed in gowns and tunics of white and pastels. They
stood, dazed by the beauty of this place, until a young, slim
girl dressed in flowing pastels rushed over with dozens of pale
flowers in her arms. She took one look at them, and wreathed
Kes\’s head with the garlands, bowing low before her. \”Welcome,
Captain Janeway, to Puerilia.\”

Kes stood mutely, unable to speak. Finally Janeway calmed
her giddy spirits, and said, \”I\’m sorry, miss. But I\’m Captain
Janeway.\”

The girl stood, unable to grasp this for some reason. She
sputtered, \”I can get more flowers…\”

Janeway shook her head. \”That\’s not necessary. We\’d
prefer just to be led to your leader, Ehrrmetika. We spoke to
her earlier.\”

The girl laughed shrilly. \”Ehrrmetika is wise, but she
could never be our leader. Peri Bijou is our empress.\”

Janeway was more puzzled than ever. Most of the
civilizations with warp-technology didn\’t have monarchies. And
why did they think it strange that Janeway was their Captain?
But she only smiled and said, \”Please escort us to Peri Bijou,
then, miss.\”

But as the girl skipped toward their destination, the
strange questions plauged her again.

************************************************************

Janeway and the others were led into a tiled room with
large expanses of murals and windows. The murals depicted
beautiful women and girls in white holding scepters as they stood
on a large expanse of land. They stared st the murals until a
gentle breath of air announced another\’s presence. A stunningly
beautiful flaxen-haired lady dressed in white and silver stood
before them, guesturing them to sit. Janeway extended her hand,
smiling. \”Hello, I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation
Starship Enterprise.\”

The pretty forehead puckered. \”I was expecting someone…
\” she shook her head. \”Never mind, Captain. Now, why do you
wish to visit our fair planet?\”

Janeway smiled tightly. \”For supplies, as well as rest and
relaxation. It\’s been a long time since we have been able to
have some shore leave.\”

\”Then you\’re quite welcome here. But it would set me at
ease if you wore our garb while you are here… it would put my
people at ease.\”

\”I don\’t know…\”

The doors opened, and a Herculean youth barged in, carrying
unidentifiable clothes in pastel colors. \”Here are your clothes.
You can change in the adjoining rooms, and we can discuss your
facsinating culture over dinner.\”

They looked at each other, astonished, as they were ushered
into seprate rooms.

************************************************************

Chakotay stepped into Janeway\’s dressing room, where he
found Kes combing Janeway\’s russet hair into place. The two
women turned. Kes, dressed in a soft pink gown, slipped into the
next room shyly. Janeway blushed, lifting her head in feminine
pride, blue eyes beaming alluringly. Chakotay eyed the soft
folds of the pale blue gown, belted with silver, that Janeway
wore, and rather well, as he instantly noted. Janeway surveyed
the well-cut white linen tunic and the soft grey boots, pants,
and cloak he was garbed in, and thought that the new clothes
would be a welcome change for the crew, however asthetic.
Chakotay cleared his throat under her scruntizing gaze,
murmuring, \”According to the Empress\’s valet, dinner will be
served soon.\”

Janeway stood, pulling a grey plush cloak over her head.
\”I\’ll get Kes, and we\’ll be on our way.\”

Chakotay grasped her hand for a split second, pulling her
close, and kissing her delicately, before releasing her to find
Kes.

************************************************************

The Empress and her guests occupied the end of a kilometer-
long banquet table. Janeway smiled. \”Finally, some decent food
for a change!\” she breathed to her first officer and the young
Ocampa.

\”Hear hear!\” muttered Chakotay. But the grin vanished from
his face as he saw the watery liquid placed before him. He
looked up at the veiled servant. \”What\’s this?\” he asked.

The girl only murmured softly, and the Empress cut in
smoothly, \”It\’s the standard food here. It helps us become good
leaders.\”

Janeway raised an eyebrow. \”How, Empress?\”

\”By keeping us slim and beautiful, dear Captain Janeway.\”
she tittered.

Janeway only ate her soup in stony silence, as the Empress
pratted on blithely for the rest of the evening, through dinner,
tea (No coffee, thought Janeway bitterly), and even as she
escorted them to their chambers. Janeway was still morose,
staring angrily at the sky, when Chakotay walked into her chamber
late that night. Dispite her sulleness, she looked even more
ravishing, cloaked in a velvety robe, which hinted at the silky
gown beneath. She started when Chakotay touched her shoulder
anxiously. \”What\’s wrong, Kathryn?\” he crooned worriedly.

She leaned her head on his chest, sighing, \”I can\’t belive
that Empress implying you have to be beautiful to be a good
leader!\”

Chakotay smiled at the worn face resting just below his.
\”No, you don\’t, but it helps your first officer\’s morale if you
are,\” he whispered wickedly.

He was thanked for his brown-nosing by a mild slap to his
cheek. \”And have you noticed all the women are blond and
perfect, as if they\’ve been… bred that way?\”

Chakotay stroked her brunette locks absently. \”Vaugely,\”
eyes only for his Captain.

Janeway sat up, looking at the skyscape below them. She
pointed a finger at a dark blot in the skyline. \”See? I bet
that\’s were we\’ll find the \”imperfect\” citizens of Puerilia,
Chakotay.\” she said, fire gleaming in her azure eyes.

\”Must we find them, if they even exist? For all we know
they\’re all perfect, and that\’s only a sleepy part of town.\”

Janeway shook her head. \”With no streetlights? I doubt
it, Chakotay. We\’ll go back to Voyager tommorow briefly, then go
exploring.\”

Janeway smoothed Chakotay\’s cheek affectionately, drawing
his lips to hers. Her smile quirked the creases of her lips,
blossoming until the dazzle of her white teeth glittered in the
moonlight. She slipped into her bed as Chakotay walked out of
the room, shaking his head.

************************************************************

Tuvok raised an eyebrow as he and Harry, along with Clare,
watched Janeway and the others transported onto Voyager, still in
their Puerilian garb. Clare laughed heartily, running into
Janeway\’s arms. \”What odd clothes they wear, Captain!\” she
cried, fingering the folds of Janeway\’s sleeves. She rubbed it
against her cheek. \”But it is pretty fabric, though.\”

\”Well, when we go down to Puerilia, the entire crew will be
outfitted in native dress, by request of the Empress.\” smiled
Janeway.

\”Empress?!? How funny!\” giggled Clare, sobering when she
saw Janeway\’s face.

\”She is rather boring, I\’m afraid.\” Janeway said tightly,
clenching her fists. She spun around, the gown swirling around
her as she exited the Transporter Room.

Chakotay coughed. \”It\’s a long story. I\’ll explain
later…\” he said quickly as he followed Janeway out, his own
cloak flapping.

************************************************************

Later that day, an announcement was issued: All interested
in taking shore leave were welcomed by the Puerilians, as long as
they wore the native dress, provided when they beamed down.
Clare, Tom, B\’Elanna, and Harry joined the milling throng in the
Transporter Room. The waves of ensigns and lieutenants parted
before the senior officers, who stepped on the transporter. A
few seconds later, a slim girl approached them, leading them into
two small rooms, and handing them clothes. B\’Elanna snorted,
tugging at the plush purple-grey dress edged in gold with
contempt. Seconds later, Clare tripped out of the room in a
sunny gold gown, with a still brighter smile on her face. \”Why
the stormy face, Lieutenant?\” laughed Clare.

B\’Elanna guestured violently at her dress. \”This… thing
is cumbersome! Why do we have to wear these things??\”

Clare smoothed the wrinkles from B\’Elanna\’s sleeves. \”To
blend in, Lieutenant. Besides, you wouldn\’t want to wear your
uniform in front of Harry and Tom, with so many pretty girls
around.\” Clare murmured devilishly.

B\’Elanna looked at Clare, and what would have happened to
her had Harry not made his entrance then is better left to the
imagination. Needless to say, Clare made haste to put Harry
between her and the half-Klingon. Harry turned around, confused,
and pulled at the cotton tunic he wore, unaccustomed to civilian
clothes after so many months without them. He stared at
B\’Elanna, amazed. She intercepted the look, and thundered
ominously. \”Put your eyes back in your head, Harry.\”

Clare stifled a laugh from her sanctuary behind Harry. She
whispered, \”She hates the dress, Harry. Don\’t even mention it.\”

Harry heeded her advice, but it was too little too late for
poor Tom Paris, who came in at that inoppertune moment, beaming,
\”B\’Elanna! Purple is a wonderful color on you!\” To describe the
hatred in her eyes would be like trying to describe a banshee\’s
wail; suffice to say that it was amazing Tom survived with little
more than a few rents in his tunic. Luckily, he had ducked most
of B\’Elanna\’s worst blows. As she stalked out, Clare laughed,
\”We\’ll catch up with her later.\”

************************************************************

Janeway donned her Puerilian dress, pocketing her tricorder
and pinning her comm badge on. She stepped on the transporter
and soon found herself on the surface. Bypassing the girls
ushering crewmen into dressing rooms, she hid her face in the
heavy cloak as she made her way down the street. The street
curved suddenly, and Janeway found herself in a strange, rundown
part of the city. The signs were so faded she couldn\’t decypher
them. A tall stone, like the others marking points in the city,
was so covered in moss and ivy that reading it was impossible.
Janeway looked around, taking in everything around her, except
the robed figure that crept up behind her, muffling her screams
as she was dragged into the shadows.

************************************************************

Janeway stood face to face with her assaulter, and scowled,
confused, at the grinning man before her, his dark mantle
obscuring his familiar tattoo. \”Chakotay!\” she growled hoarsely,
pushing the hood of his cloak to his shoulder. He shushed her,
handing her a dark brown cloak. \”Here,\” he said, pulling off the
light gray shawl she wore, \”You\’ll blend in if you wear this.\”
She pulled on the long cloak, fastening the buttons to shroud her
soft blue of her opulent chemise. The drab, dun-color of the
robe seemed to compliment her refined face, as a rustic frame
would surrounding a Monet. But Chakotay could muse for but a
second on her extrordinary face, for Janeway\’s interest was
piqued. \”I knew these people had a secret! What\’s going on?\”
she asked, clenching her fists tightly, the color coming to her
cheeks.

Chakotay looked down haggardly. \”I haven\’t looked around
much, but it does seem as if this quarter of their city is
rundown, almost as if the officials have abandoned it. There are
no government buildings, no libraries, no schools. I haven\’t
seen any people yet, it\’s like a ghost town.\”

Janeway frowned. \”We must figure out what caused this.\”

A thin, dark, female hand clutched Janeway\’s outstretched
arm, and croaked feebly, \”If you must know what they have done to
us, follow me.\” She released Janeway\’s arm, yanking her around.
Her dark, guant figure retreated, beckoning the two to follow her
down a shadowy, dank alley.

************************************************************

They followed the mysterious figure as she passed decaying
stucco houses and tumbledown makeshift shantys. Janeway got the
impression they had been transported back to Ancient Earth,
London, at the time of the Industrial Revolution. With their
guide\’s presence known, faces began to emerge from the darkness.
Women clutching frightened children, tall, bearded men scavenging
with worn sacks; they all stared at the two as they followed one
of their people.
Finally, they entered a gloomy, crumbling stonework edifice
that cringed at their every footstep. They were led down a worn,
bare hall, to an astonishing sight. The room they stood in was
warm and snug, its floors covered with plush carpeting, it\’s
walls hung with tapestries. A large wing chair and a long chaise
sat before a blazing fire, the only light in this section of the
town.

A slim, tremulous hand extended from the chair, guesturing
to them, patting the chaise beside it. Janeway and Chakotay sat
together on the chaise, before a beautiful old woman, her snowy
hair, the only indication of advanced age, swept from her
delicate, unlined features grandly. She sat up authoritatively
in her chair, commanding their respect and attention in a
graceful move of her hand. \”Kathryn will look like that at
ninety,\” Chakotay thought dreamily, looking over at the Captain.

The woman scrutinized the two carefully through her lapiz-
lazuli eyes. \”Why do you wish to know why the Puerilians have
cordoned off this dark quarter of its land?\”

Janeway leaned forward, clasping her hands in an attiude of
curiosity. \”We wondered why the skyline was dark in one place,
why there are no brunettes, and especially why they disbelived I
was the Captain of Voyager.\”

The woman smiled, showing rows of pearly teeth. She
pushed back Janeway\’s hood, stroking her shining hair. \”Because
of this, child.\” she said, gesturing to the waves of russet hair
spilling through her pale fingers. \”All Puerilians of rank and
wealth, as well as leaders, are flaxen-haired. Brunettes are
considered inferior.\”

Chakotay couldn\’t help muffling a smile at Janeway\’s furor,
dispite the horrible implications. \”But why?\” she asked.

The woman shook her head. \”Who can explain predjudice,
child? But for as long as anyone can remember, it has been so.
That is why this part of Puerilia is annexed for the non-blondes.
I, Mesaimeha, was a rich woman, married to a wealthy man on High
Puerilian Council, until a rumor that my grandmother was a
brunette ruined me. So I was banished here. I brought these
things,\” she said, waving her hand about the gorgeous room, \”with
me when I was banished here. Illiana,\” their thin, mousy guide
curtsied, \”has learned much from me, and we hope and pray for
understanding someday.\”

\”Like the old reservations.\” murmured Chakotay. \”My people
were forced to live on reservations after the Civil War in the
Ancient United States. They thought they were savages, incapable
of education. It was hundreds of years until they earned
people\’s respect.\” Chakotay fumed.

Janeway stroked his tense arm. \”You know that they were
wrong… look at you, you\’re no savage. And you\’ve always had my
respect, whether Maquis captain or Federation first officer.\”
she blushed furiously when she saw the old woman\’s face, and she
stammered, \”I\’m sorry…\”

\”No, dear. Seeing the two of you gives me hope that
someday things in Puerilia will be different.\” She stood up, and
held Janeway\’s face in her hands. \”God bless you and the ones
you love.\” she said, smiling at Chakotay, \”And good luck on your
journey.\”

She waved them out the door, and Illiana guided them back
the way they came, until they reached the edge of the alien
quarter. She smiled forebodingly at them, murmuring, \”We will
change the world!\” And then she disappeared into the darkness
silently, chilling Janeway\’s heart.

************************************************************

Clare rushed through the square like a giddy whirlwind,
eager to explore everything around her, unhindered by the flowing
skirts and clumsy sandals. She darted in and out of shops,
halting to sniff some delicate bloom, then, with a swirl of her
dress, scurrying off on another tangent. Finally, she paused and
turned around to address the two red-faced adults puffing up
behind her. \”So, ready for lunch?\”

Harry collapsed exhaustedly against a tree as Tom staggered
up to them, wheezing, \”Yes… lunch… safe… SLOW lunch…\”

Clare led the weary youths into a small cafe, pratting on
gaily until she felt an arm on her shoulder. She looked up at an
angry face looking at her and Harry, who was also in his grasp.
\”Excuse me sir, these two vagabonds were following you.\” He said
to Tom.

\”What…?\” sputtered Tom in shock.

\”What should I do about these two, sir?\” said the brawny
youth, choking Harry.

\”These are my friends. Put them down.\” said Tom stonily.

\”These… non-fair ones are your FRIENDS?!\” gasped the
youth.

\”We\’re on shore leave from Voyager. I wouldn\’t mess with
the Captain\’s ward and senior officer if I were you, Bruno.\” said
Tom coldly.

With a strange look at Clare and Harry, he released them.
Clare shivered, and Harry hugged her, afraid as she was. Clare
looked up at Harry, tears streaming down her small face. \”I want
to go home, Harry,\” she lisped weakly.

\”It\’s going to be okay.\” Harry said, near tears himself.
He hugged her shoulder again, and they walked toward the
transporter site, grieving for themselves and this cruel culture.

************************************************************

Once back on the ship, and in her uniform, Janeway made
another announcement to protect her crew: All crewmembers on
Puerilia were to beam back to Voyager immediately. Janeway
sighed, leaning back in her chair. The swish of her door opening
sent her back to her upright position. Harry led a prostrate
Clare, who now looked all of ten years old, into the Ready Room.
Clare lifted her head, and, seeing a more maternal adult in
Janeway, released her grasp on Kim and ran to her guardian,
sobbing. Harry eyed the ground. \”We had a run-in with some
villagers. She\’s been like this for awhile.\”

\”I understand, Harry. Chakotay and I had a similar…
incident on the other side of town. Don\’t worry. Once everyone
is back on board, we\’ll leave. She turned her attention back to
the sobbing girl. \”Shussh… it\’s okay… shussh…\” she
crooned, hugging her.

************************************************************

\”Everyone is back on Voyager, Captain.\” said Tuvok from his
console.

\”Good. Now let\’s…\” Janeway\’s voice was interrupted by
Tuvok\’s:

\”Captain, there\’s an incoming message from Ehrrmetika.\”

\”On screen.\”

The placid, yet bigoted face of the Puerilian captain
filled the viewscreen. \”Captain, you are hiding enemies of
Puerilian government on your ship. Release them to our custody at
once.\”

\”Excuse me, Ehrrmetika?\”

\”Empress Peri Bijou has been assasinated by the Dark Ones,
who have stowed away on your ship. I will speak with you in one
hour, Captain.\” Her cruel face vanished, and the starfield
reappeared.

Janeway looked at Chakotay, saying only, \”All senior
officers meet NOW.\”

************************************************************

A few minutes later, Janeway paced the room, running her
hands on top of her head. \”Alright, what have we found?\”

\”Captain, we\’ve two Puerilians in custody. They were
hiding in our Jeffries Tubes.\” Tuvok said.

\”Bring them in.\” Seconds later, two women were brought in
by two armed ensigns.

Janeway and Chakotay gasped as the two women lifted their
heads. It was Illiana and Mesaimeha.

************************************************************

\”Mesaimaha! What…?\” gasped Janeway.

Illiana stepped between Janeway and Mesaimaha. \”No. It\’s
my fault. I held the phaser.\”

Mesaimaha stepped forward calmly. \”Illiana, silence. No
Captain, I am just as guilty as Illiana, even if not by my hand
directly. It was for the sake of liberty we did so, and if we
must pay, so we shall.\”

Janeway looked at the noble figure before her. She was
visibly conflicted by the choice before her. She stood stone-
still as Chakotay dismissed the senior officers. \”Take the two
Puerilians to the Brig, Tuvok,\” he said authoritatively, \”I\’ll
take the Captain to her Ready Room.\”

************************************************************

Chakotay led Janeway to a couch in her Ready Room. She
stared, disbeliving, into space, murmuring, \”Why? Why?\”

\”They did what they felt was right, Kathryn. I don\’t
really belive it was, but…\”

Chakotay had leaned forward, very close to Janeway. To his
shock, she laughed in his face. \”But you DID, Chakotay. You
were a captain in an organizition that killed thousands,
Chakotay.\”

Chakotay sobered at this fact. \”I\’ve tried to forget that,
or rationalize it, but I can\’t. Every group: the Federation, the
Klingons, the Cardassians, as well as the Maquis, does. The
evils we commit are forgotten or covered up as compared to that
of the enemy. You can\’t rationalize war, not when you\’re part of
it. But this isn\’t just about our beliefs, Kathryn, it\’s also
the Prime Directive. If we refuse to hand over the two, it will
not only lead Puerilia and ourselves into a battle neither can
win, it will be forcing our values onto a culture that doesn\’t
understand them.\”

\”But we might be pushing back equality for centuries,
Chakotay!\” Janeway cried.

\”They don\’t understand equality yet, Kathryn. It would be
like telling you that suicide after sixty is the only way to have
a perfect society. Maybe it might, but you couldn\’t concieve
such an idea. We can\’t change them in a day, Kathryn, and I fear
what might happen if we try.\”

Janeway tried to smile. \”Thank you, Chakotay. You told me
what my head has been trying to for the past half-hour.\”

He kissed her hand seductively, smiling. \”That\’s what I\’m
here for: to read your head and your heart, and not to confuse
the two.\”

************************************************************

And so Illiana and Mesaimaha were led by Janeway and
Chakotay to the Transporter Room, to face their fate. Mesaimaha
held her head up as she stepped onto the transporter, facing an
almost certain death with the swan-like grace that radiated
around her. Whatever standards of beauty the misguided
Puerilians held, they were fools not to consider her so, or for
that matter, the woman who somberly wished her well ironically.

\”I\’m sorry I have to do this, Mesaimaha…\” she said
softly.

She smiled benificantly at Janeway. \”You were wise to do
this, Captain, however the concequences. Gods bless you, and you
as well, handsome Commander.\” She bent to kiss Janeway\’s
forehead, whispering, \”Value this treasure, this soulmate. Keep
him near your heart.\”

Janeway turned to look at Chakotay, who had now bent to
speak to Tuvok behind the console. She felt a strange flutter in
her heart as she grasped the woman\’s words. She smiled
whimsically. \”Don\’t worry, I will.\”

Illiana, however, looked wrathfully at Janeway. \”My people
shall not forget this, Captain! I shall be avenged!\” Janeway
nodded to Tuvok, and the two women disappeared in a strand of
blue plasma.

Janeway looked up at Chakotay, suddenly very tired, as they
walked out of the Transporter Room, arms entwined. \”Let\’s get
out of here, Commander.\”

************************************************************

Tom Paris found Clare in a dark, silent Sandrine\’s, staring
at the Parisian (in more ways than one) sky as she sat on the
floor, hugging her knees in her favorite position. Her whole
attitude cried, \”Help me,\” but he wasn\’t so sure that he should
be the one to do so. That was the Captain\’s job, or Kes\’s or
maybe Harry\’s. He was the guy she was afraid of, the one who
nearly killed her guardian with a dart. She turned and saw him,
curling up more. He sighed. *Too late now,* he thought. He sat
down beside Clare, saying cheerfully, \”Great night for
stargazing, huh?\”

Clare turned away, eyes still fixed on the sky. As she
turned, he noticed moonlight shining on a tear that was rolling
down her face. \”Go away.\” she snuffled childishly, all
prentenses to adultness gone.

Paris was genuinely concerned now. She wasn\’t making any
smart-ass remarks, or kicking him in the shins, or doing anything
other than sit quietly and shed silent tears on the floor of his
holoprogram. He put a hand on her knee. \”I\’m sorry…\”

Clare looked at him, confused. \”Why?\”

\”For whatever I did… you\’re crying.\”

She hurriedly wiped her bleary eyes. \”No, I\’m not.\”

Paris pulled her hand away from her eyes. \”Yes, you were.
What did I do?\”

\”Not you… this afternoon…\” she burst into tears again,
and Paris pulled her paternally to his shoulder, the saltwater
leaking into his uniform.

\”It\’s okay… they\’re just bigots… it wasn\’t you…\” he
shushed, thinking of how Kes would handle this.

\”Thanks for defending us, Lieutenant. I know you don\’t
like me.\” she said, hugging her knees again.

\”What? No… no… you\’re an OK kid, for your age.\” he
grinned reassuringly.

Clare looked at him like he\’d lost it. \”But… the pool
game… my suggestions…\”

\”No problem. Do you think I wouldn\’t like one of Harry\’s
friends?\” said Tom casually, betraying his fondness for the
spirited little hell-raiser so like himself, yet so different.
Young Tom Paris would have put himself through the Academy as
LATE as possible, if at all. He admired her ingenuity in flight
class, but he now realized he\’d been rather gruff to her. \”A
friend of Harry\’s is a friend of mine.\”

\”That\’s nice to know, Lieutenant.\” smiled Clare,
brightening as he helped her up.

\”Anytime, Clare. And, call me Tom.\” he unthinkingly added,
patting her back as they walked out of the holodeck.

************************************************************

Janeway, reclining on a sofa, her weary feet propped up by
pillows and puppy, and covered by Ankorak wool blankets, was
immersed in coffee and a book of Browning\’s poetry when her door
beeped unharmoniously. \”Come,\” she called, vaugely irritated.
Her irritation faded at the sight of her tattooed visitor. She
tried to pull herself up, jarring the red-gold puppy, who fled
the room, pulling the contents of the sofa to the floor with him,
leaving a pool of pillows, blankets, and a Captain in his wake.

Chakotay smiled down at the lovely disorder engulfing her.
He picked up the slim volume she had been reading, which lay upon
its spine, open to an obviously well-read spot. He read the
author, and, with a gleam of sweet remembrance, he quoted, eyes
not on the book but his listener,

\”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach . . .\”

with such thrilling expression in every word and look that
Janeway sat, enraptured, by this new facet of his character. She
stood, awed at Chakotay\’s flawless recitation. Chakotay took her
hand, guiding her back to the sofa, all the while smiling at her
stunned face. \”Between \’killing thousands,\’ I did read, you
know.\”

Janeway recalled Mesaimaha\’s last words, \”Value this
treasure, this soulmate. Keep him near your heart.\” they echoed
through her head as she gazed at Chakotay. She impulsively
kissed him, resting her head on his chest as they sat, talking,
watching the foreign stars speed past them.

************************************************************

Fin

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Comments are appreciated

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All characters and the Star Trek Voyager name, except for Clare
Edwards, belong to the owners of the copyrights thereof,
Paramount, UPN, ect. This story is for entertainment purposes
only, and distribution is encouraged (keep my name on it,
though!).

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In this series:

Voyager I: Prot‚g‚
Voyager II: D‚tente
Voyager III: Amantium Irae
Voyager IV: Puppy Love
Voyager V: Parti Pris
Voyager VI: Roles

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Coming Soon: Voyager Story VII, Arcanum
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