The rounded shape of a small ship glided through the darkness of
space on a trajectory towards another much larger ship. The vessel
seemed to have an inherent dominance about it as its beautiful
contours meshed with the green glow of Borg equipment and the dense
blackness of Sernaix technology. The ship was well known in this
quadrant and known even more intimately by those who approached.
She longed to reach out and touch the smooth hull, run her
fingers along the bright nacelles, but she had to settle for looking
at her ship with a mother's pride. Kathryn turned to Chakotay,
feeling his eyes on her, and saw the grin on his face. She scowled
playfully and let out a sigh as she fell back into the seat she had
"Docking bay is ready, Captain," said Harry Kim warmly over the
comm. "Welcome back."
Kathryn smiled. "It's good to be back, Harry." She turned to
Chakotay and smiled, sitting back and allowing him to guide the
Captain's yacht back to its berth.
The small ship maneuvered and came to a stop under the larger
one. A few moments passed before it began to ascend slowly into the
gaping hole it had left. It met the edge of the cavity and slipped
in easily, making the ship whole once again.
Kathryn watched silently as Chakotay ran through the shut down
sequence, his concentration on ensuring the yacht was docked
properly and powered down.
When he finished, he stood and offered her his hand. "Shall we
see what kind of a mess the crew has made of our ship?"
She smiled up at him and allowed him to pull her up from her
chair and lead her to the docking hatch.
Bridge to the Captain, came a voice over the comm before
they reached it. It wasn't Harry this time.
Captain, there's a hail coming through for you.
"Put it through to the Yacht," Kathryn replied almost
She and Chakotay turned simultaneously and moved back to their
seats. They were barely seated when the viewscreen came to life and
a face appeared before them.
"Neelix!" Kathryn said warmly, smiling at her friend.
"Captain, Commander!" he said, smiling back at them with a
knowing glint in his eye. "How was your shore leave?"
"It was wonderful, thank you Neelix," Kathryn replied happily.
"It was nice to get a break. It's been a long year."
Neelix visibly shivered. "We didn't have too much trouble with
the Sernaix but I've heard more than my share of stories."
"Not that it's not wonderful to see you Neelix, but was there
something you wanted?" Janeway asked, curious as to why he had
specifically wanted to speak to her.
Neelix took no offence at the Captain's abruptness. "I had wanted
you to be the first to know, but I didn't want to interrupt your
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay, then back at the viewscreen. "The
first to know what?"
Neelix visibly beamed. "I'm delighted to announce the birth of my
daughter, and invite you to the naming ceremony."
Kathryn and Chakotay sat in their respective chairs and looked at
Neelix in stunned silence. After a few seconds, Captain Janeway
recovered and smiled from ear to ear. "A baby, Neelix? You didn't
"I haven't spoken much to the crew in the last months," he said
somewhat regretfully. "I have spoken with some of them, including
Tom and little Miral."
The names of the Paris family broke Kathryn's smile. "Oh, Neelix!
Tom, B'Elanna and Miral are on shore leave in the Alpha quadrant! I
don't know if they'll be able to make it in time for the ceremony."
"Not to worry, Captain! I've spoken to Admiral Paris and he's
arranged for them and Naomi to be transported on one of the new
transwarp ships. You should rendezvous with the U.S.S. Ashdown in
about two hours," said Neelix excitedly. "And I'm sure with your
full crew complement you can find someone to take command so you can
stay the night."
"Stay the night?" Janeway repeated. "Neelix, I don't think...."
"Well of course Captain it's up to you, but I'm sure you have
someone on your staff that you can trust your ship to for just one
night," Neelix ventured somewhat teasingly.
She looked over at Chakotay who smiled at her, assuring her that
he saw no problem with it. "Neelix, we'd be delighted to attend."
His smile lit up his face and appeared to be contagious as
Janeway and Chakotay joined him, reveling in his happiness.
Seven of Nine strode down the corridor, lost in her own thoughts.
She was startled out of her musings by someone calling her. She
stopped and turned to investigate and saw the Doctor walking towards
her with brisk strides, his expression animated. When he came to a
stop in front of her she raised her metallic eyebrow at him and her
lips curled up at the edges. "There was no need to rush, Doctor,"
she said in her usual cold tone that belied none of the humor she
was expressing. "I would have waited for you."
"Yes, well, it took you long enough to notice me," he replied
curtly. "I thought you'd get to the transporter room before you even
heard me. Borg hearing, my holographic backside."
Seven chuckled at that. As they turned to resume their walk the
Doctor continued happily: "You know, I've been doing some more
research on your Borg implants during my spare time." He paused took
a breath before announcing proudly: "I think I may have discovered a
way to remove the cybernetic implant above your eye!" He looked up,
expecting to see a look of sheer joy on Seven's face but to his
disappointment she had stopped in the hallway a few feet behind him
and was looking over her shoulder. "Seven?"
She turned back to look at him, her eyebrow raised. "Yes?"
He frowned. "What are you doing?"
"Waiting for Harry."
The Doctor glanced up and down the empty corridor. "Are you
Just then, Harry rounded the corner and began moving down the
hallway towards them.
"Borg hearing, Doctor," quipped Seven with a mischievous grin.
The Doctor muttered something incomprehensible under his breath
and waited impatiently as Harry greeted Seven with a kiss on the
"As I was saying," he said pointedly after a few seconds, "my
research has enabled me to find a way to safely remove the
cybernetic implant above your eye, Seven." His initial excitement
had long since worn off but the smile that lit both Seven's face and
then Harry's once he had gauged her reaction seemed to bring it all
back to him.
"Thank you, Doctor," she said quietly. Her praise wasn't glowing,
but he could tell by the tone of her voice how truly moved she was.
"You're welcome, Seven." He watched her for a moment then
continued. "Actually," the Doctor paused for a moment before
speaking again, his voice somewhat subdued as he continued. "I've
chosen a name and I think I'd like it if you, Seven," pausing again
he smiled at Harry as well, "and you, Harry, were to be the first
people to know."
Harry grinned, he had a fair guess at what had brought this on
and what the name would be, but held his peace. "Well, Doc, don't
keep us in suspense..."
"Indeed," Seven considered the holographic physician intently, "I
am most interested to hear what name you have finally settled on."
The Doctor smiled broadly, "Actually one of the first names I
considered has turned out to be the most appropriate... Schmullus."
Harry clapped the Doctor on the back, "Great choice ... Schmullus
and congratulations." It was obvious in Harry's expression that the
congratulations were for more than just choosing a name.
Seven watched the Doctor as he beamed at Harry's approval. She
was as happy for her friend as Harry was, but there was a fleeting
emotion, not quite sadness but not easily identified, something she
had never experienced before. "Species ..." She stopped herself
before she finished the Borg designation, "The name is Vidiian in
origin." She paused and considered the happiness in her friend's
eyes then smiled broadly. "Very unique. I believe it suits you.
He blushed as he met Seven's gaze and quickly said, "We should
probably be going. The others will be waiting."
Harry nodded and patted the overnight bag slung over his
shoulder. "I think I've got everything."
Seven didn't miss a beat. "Do you have the gift?"
Harry's eyes widened. "Oh shoot, the gift!" He opened his bag and
rummaged around a little before he sighed heavily. "I must have left
it in my quarters."
Seven was unable to withhold a smile. "You gave it to me last
night because you were afraid you would forget it, remember?"
Harry stared dumbly at her for several seconds before he laughed.
As they started down the hallway, the Doctor leaned towards Harry
and muttered under his breath, "I don't know about you, but
sometimes I miss the days before she had a sense of humor."
Harry smiled. "Not for a second, Schmullus."
"I still can't get over it. Neelix, our Neelix, married and has a
baby!" Janeway enthused as she and Chakotay walked towards the
"Its certainly surprising, but just think how much things have
changed for everyone on Voyager since we last saw him. It makes
sense things would change for him too."
"I know, but a baby Chakotay." She smiled. "He'll make a wonder
father if his experience with Naomi was any example."
Chakotay turned to her and smiled back as he gestured for her to
precede him into the transporter room where the senior staff had
congregated to transport to the asteroid.
"It's a good thing Vorik managed to work around the interference
in the asteroid," continued Kathryn as she entered the transporter
room. "I don't know how I'd feel about not being able to get back to
the ship if I had to."
Chakotay chuckled as his hand rested on her lower back, guiding
her towards the transporter pad. "You worry too much, Kathryn.
Commander Thomas is more than capable of looking after a parked
"Hmmm," was all she said before she stepped up onto the
transporter pad. She glanced around and took a quick inventory.
Assured that everyone was present and accounted for, she nodded to
the ensign at the transporter controls. "Energize."
Neelix saw the figure of his one time captain forming before his
eyes and he smiled with excited pleasure. As soon as she had
solidified he reached out his arms to her and met her in a strong
"It's good to see you, Neelix," she said softly.
"And you, Captain," he said with heartfelt warmth.
He shared a quick embrace with all present just as the second
group appeared behind them. There was a loud hum of eager
conversation, but that stopped as Neelix let out a small yelp as he
came across Naomi.
His surprise didn't leave his features as he placed a hand on
either side of her face and moved it so that her eyes met his, he
looked at her for a few moments as everyone was silent, enthralled
at the reunion. Naomi didn't flinch; she just looked back at him,
the same look of inquisitiveness and amusement in her eyes. It was
almost as if they were communicating telepathically. Finally, Neelix
smiled and pulled Naomi to him in the strongest hug yet and she
returned it just as fiercely. As she pulled away a small tear ran
down her cheek, and he lifted his hand and used his thumb to wipe
the tear from her face, leaving just a dazzling smile.
Eventually Neelix moved on and the conversation returned. When he
reached Tuvok, he looked up at him and said, "Mr. Vulcan! It's good
to see you!"
Tuvok had been waiting for Neelix to pounce on him and pull him
into an uncomfortable hug and he had trouble keeping surprise from
his features when Neelix merely stood before him and welcomed him to
his home. Tuvok answered appropriately and Neelix walked away
leaving a rather relieved yet bemused Vulcan in his wake.
As soon as he had made sure every one was comfortable in the
rooms they had been assigned, Neelix hesitantly approached Tuvok's
door. He lifted his hand and held it over the chime for a few
seconds before finally finding the courage to push down on the
He had to wait a few seconds before he heard Tuvok's voice
through the door. He waited for the door to open then stepped inside
with all the confidence he could muster.
As he stepped in and surveyed the room, he realized just how
Talaxian the it was. He could have kicked himself -- it really
hadn't occurred to him to tone it down. He glanced at the colorful
carpet and the beautifully contrasting curtains. He found the room
to be expertly designed but he knew Tuvok well enough to know he
wouldn't be comfortable here, which wouldn't make asking him what he
wanted to any easier.
Tuvok noticed Neelix's apprehensive scrutiny of the dTcor. "The
mix of pink, red, and orange in the carpeting is particularly...
interesting," he observed.
Neelix sighed at what he took to be an indication of criticism.
"Oh, Tuvok, I'm so sorry! I can have you a new room prepared in a
few minutes." He turned to leave, relieved that he wouldn't have to
ask Tuvok just yet...but he knew he couldn't put it off
He was stopped by a firm hand on his arm. "That will not be
necessary, Mr. Neelix."
"But, but if you're not comfortable here I should arrange for
somewhere else for you," insisted Neelix with a pleading anxiety in
"I have not complained of being uncomfortable, therefore it is
illogical to assume that I am."
"Oh," Neelix said softly.
Tuvok noticed his lack of persistence. "Was there something you
The attempt to break Neelix's unusual mood only served to make
the Talaxian frown more deeply. He began to fidget nervously. "Well,
actually...." He looked down at the pattern on the carpet as if it
held the secret to eternal life. Finally, gathering his courage, he
took a deep breath and looked up. "I'd like you to be my daughter's
Carexa." When Tuvok merely raised an eyebrow, he added: "It's, uh,
the Talaxian equivalent of a godparent." Tuvok remained passive, so
he rambled on. "It's just that I thought you would be a wonderful
role model and you've been such a good friend to me over the years
"I would be honored," Tuvok said in his unemotional Vulcan way.
His response seemed to fly right over Neelix's head. "And I know
you have experience with your own children, so...." When he stopped
to take a breath, what Tuvok had just said worked its way to the
forefront of his mind. "What did you just say?" he asked in
"I would be honored," repeated Tuvok.
"You would?" Neelix said, his disbelief increasing.
"Oh Tuvok, that's wonderful!" Neelix said enthusiastically a huge
smile spread across his features. "I was hoping you would say yes."
He then held out a padd. "You'll need this -- it's the details of
Tuvok took it from him without reading it. "Thank you."
"It's me who should be thanking you, Mr. Vulcan!" After a moment
of silence, Neelix continued excitedly: "There's much to do for
tonight's ceremony, so I should get going and help Dexa organize
dinner!" He began to leave but before he reached the sensor on the
door he stopped, hesitated for a moment, and then turned around and
rushed at Tuvok pulling him into a crushing hug. As uncomfortable as
he felt, Tuvok let the Talaxian hold on to him for a few long
seconds knowing that Neelix could behave in no other way.
When Neelix finally let go, he looked up at Tuvok he was smiling
again all the way to his eyes. "I'll see you at dinner!" He
practically bounced out of the room with bubbling delight.
Tuvok looked after him and shook his head, but he wasn't sure who
he was mentally chastising more: the excited Talaxian, or himself,
the stoic Vulcan who thought he just felt something akin to
He sighed and seated himself in a green and pink armchair before
activating the pad and scrolling through it. When he came to the
section on the role of the Carexa, he stopped and began to read.
What he saw there caused him to raise an eyebrow well into the
center of his forehead.
The room that the dinner was held in was elaborately decorated in
what the visitors had quickly come to recognize as Talaxian design.
The walls were painted a deep red and there were sashes of color
along the walls. Some were different shades of blue, others various
shades of green, and there was a little yellow draped here and there
as well. The room wasn't very large but it wasn't too small either
and even with more than twelve people seated around the table it was
informal and intimate.
As the crew began entering the room, the disappointment was
evident on their faces on finding that the baby wasn't already
there. Neelix circled the room as everyone seating themselves, his
tone just as excited as ever.
A few minutes later, once everyone had arrived, Dexa walked in
holding a small bundle of blankets in her arms. Everyone in the room
turned to look, but only Neelix jumped up from his seat and moved
towards her. He smiled tenderly at her and took the baby into his
arms. Dexa stood slightly behind him, feeling a little uncomfortable
in such a large group of people that she barely remembered but
smiling nonetheless. Neelix moved to the head of the table again and
said proudly, "I would like to introduce you all to my daughter."
Captain Janeway, who was seated next to Chakotay near the head of
the table, leaned over as Neelix approached and pulled back the
small blanket hiding the baby's face. When she first saw the little
girl staring back up at her, she smiled deeply. "Neelix, she's
beautiful," she said softly as if it were a prayer.
"She is, Captain," replied the proud father.
As the captain looked into the infant's amber eyes, she was
amazed by the inquisitive look she received. The child was actively
exploring her face with her eyes just as Janeway was doing to her.
She had a beautiful orange tint to her skin that she had always
associated with Neelix, but the child had a babyish femininity that
made her absolutely breathtaking. The child let out a small coo and
reached up to grasp Kathryn's finger as it passed in front of her
face. "Well, hello...." The captain paused and looked up at Neelix.
"What's her name?"
Everyone looked up at Neelix expectantly. "It's a Talaxian
tradition not to pronounce the name of the child until the ceremony.
It's a very special moment."
Tom cleared his throat loudly from the other side of the table.
"I don't think Captain's privilege extends to monopolizing the
newest member or our family," he said with a smirk.
"You'd be surprised what rank will get you, Tom," she quipped,
but she relinquished her attention and let Neelix move on to show
his daughter to the rest of the crew.
Once everyone had had their chance to see the baby, Dexa carried
her back to her room so she could rest before the ceremony.
"So what exactly is this ceremony, Neelix?" asked Harry
"Back on Rinax," Neelix said wistfully, "the entire community
would gather for the naming ceremony of a child. Dexa and I have
invited many of our friends. I would have invited everyone from
Voyager but with my people being wary of strangers, I didn't think
it was a great idea to have two hundred people coming here all at
once. But," he continued, "as for tonight. The ceremony won't be
very long. Traditionally it begins late and the child is name in the
first few minutes of the day. The details of what each of you will
need to do will be provided after dinner, which I think should be
just about ready."
At that moment a young boy entered the room. "Ah! Brax!" Neelix
said loudly. The boy smiled at him and a little more timidly at the
rest of those seated around the table. "I think you've met most of
these people before, haven't you?" The boy nodded shyly. "Brax
helped his mother prepare dinner for you all tonight!" Neelix said
as proudly as he had introduced his daughter.
"I'm sure it will be delicious," Janeway said kindly, smiling at
the boy's shyness.
It seemed to be with a lot of courage that he replied, "Well,
mother did most of the cooking but I prepared the leola root. Neelix
says I make it wonderfully." He blushed a little under the self
When the visitors heard the words leola root they gulped
collectively, but being the diplomat she was Janeway interceded
almost immediately. "I'm sure it will be wonderful. Will you be
joining us, Brax?"
"No. I have an assignment I have to do for tomorrow, and I would
like to finish it before the ceremony this evening," he said,
gaining confidence as he became more at ease.
Dexa called him from out of the room, and he quickly excused
himself, returning moments later laden down with dishes of all
varieties and colors. Even with the thought of leola root in the
forefront of their minds the group felt their mouths water at the
sight of the food.
Dinner was completely informal; people laughed, joked and teased,
and even Dexa came out of her shell a bit and talked quietly to
those around her and laughed at various jokes and comments,
especially those about Neelix's cooking. The crew were surprised to
find that leola root was actually edible when properly prepared.
After dinner, Neelix and Dexa excused themselves to prepare for
the ceremony. Neelix encouraged his friends to make themselves at
home and told them that the coffee was on the way with a small wink
at Janeway to which she replied with a smirk. Tuvok rose, saying he
was going to meditate, and left with them.
Tuvok walked silently behind the couple. They were discussing
something about the ceremony that Tuvok wasn't quite paying
attention to. Eavesdropping was, after all, illogical and rude. When
they finally seemed to have resolved the matter Dexa moved off and
nodded to Tuvok as she passed him.
When Neelix noticed him standing there, Tuvok spoke,
uncomfortable in his own Vulcan way. "Mr. Neelix... why did you not
inform me of my role in the naming ceremony?"
"What role?" asked Neelix, trying to feign innocence. Tuvok's
raised eyebrow informed him that he hadn't succeeded. He sighed. "I
was afraid you would refuse. I can understand if you don't want to
do it anymore. I can find someone else."
Upon hearing Neelix's disheartened and solemn tone, Tuvok
couldn't find it within himself to back out now. He had followed
Neelix with the express intention of extricating himself from the
ceremony, but again that illogical tug of affection for the Talaxian
held him back. "That will not be necessary, Neelix. I will perform
my role in the ceremony, but I will ask that you help me prepare."
Neelix looked up at him and smiled a hearty smile full of good
will. "Tuvok, I'll help you with anything you need!"
They started to move down the hallway, but Neelix reached up and
put his hand on Tuvok's arm, stopping their progress. "Thank you,"
said Neelix softly. "This means a lot to me."
"Your gratitude may be premature, Mr. Neelix. I have yet to
complete my role in the ceremony."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. You'll do wonderfully!" Neelix
said excitedly, allowing the moment to pass. Tuvok only raised an
eyebrow as they began to walk again.
Two coffees later, seven of the senior staff were still seated
around the table. It was getting late but they were still talking,
spending some time together like they had so rarely been able to in
the last months. Even Seven seemed completely at ease, more so than
she had ever been in a social situation.
Must be Harry's influence, Janeway thought to herself.
They seemed completely relaxed with each other; they touched
frequently and held hands every so often, laughing at the same
things. Kathryn wondered if she and Chakotay looked like that.
"So Dad pulled in a few favors and here we are," Tom said,
finishing his story.
"The ship was pretty amazing, but not half as good as Voyager...
but then, I am a little biased," B'Elanna added.
"We weren't really paying a lot of attention to the ship,"
admitted Tom. "We spent most of the trip catching up with Sam and
"Have you seen Naomi?" interjected B'Elanna, following her own
train of though. "Kahless, she looks at least ten years older than
"It's hard not to notice," said Chakotay with a soft chuckle. "I
had a pretty good shock myself when I saw her again after we got
back from the Delta Quadrant."
"It's getting late," observed Harry after a brief silence. "We
should probably go get ready."
"These padds," agreed B'Elanna, holding her own in the air,
"could have anything in them. And it's about time we checked on
"Sounds like a good idea," said Janeway as Tom and B'Elanna left
the table, bringing a little more authority into her tone again.
They all stood and filed out the door, going their separate ways.
"One left, two right, and turn."
Tuvok fell to the ground with a crash.
Neelix scrunched his eyes closed and opened them slowly to see a
rather annoyed Vulcan crumpled over on the floor, giving him what
could only be described as the Vulcan equivalent of a death glare.
Neelix went to help him up but Tuvok stoically refused his aid
and climbed to his feet on his own. He looked down on the smaller
man, his eyes burning holes into the Talaxian's skull. Neelix put
his head down and coughed into his hand.
"I'll show you again, Tuvok," Neelix said with a confidence he
didn't feel. He stepped forward one step to the left, then two to
the right and then he turned clockwise. He had had some years of
practice so he managed to pull off the simple dance routine with
ease, much to the Vulcan's chagrin.
Tuvok started again and all was going well; he got to the turn
without difficulty and even that seemed to be working until the last
minute when he stumbled.
Neelix sighed; he hadn't realized how hard it would be to teach a
Vulcan to dance. What was it he had once heard one of the crew
saying.... You can't teach... what was it? An animal...turkeys? You
can't teach new turkeys old tricks. That sounded right, and was
apparently rather apt for the situation he found himself in.
"We should take a break," he suggested, hoping it would do Tuvok
"Agreed," replied Tuvok in the stoic way he so very often did.
Neelix offered Tuvok a glass of water and they sat down in chairs
on one side of the room. "I fail to see the importance of this
ritual," observed Tuvok after a brief silence.
"According to Talaxian tradition, it's the very basis of the
relationship between a Carexa and their charge. The very first
connection is made; one that will last for their entire life. And I
do believe, Mr. Tuvok," Neelix said, quietly looking up at Tuvok
with a light smile resting on his lips, "that you are the first
non-Talaxian to ever to take on the role of Carexa."
"You did not believe that a member of your own race would be more
"Oh, the elders had their reservations...but I knew that you were
the right person for the job."
Tuvok observed his companion in thoughtful silence before he
rose. "It would be inappropriate for the first non-Talaxian Carexa
to fail to complete the ceremony. We should continue our
Neelix laughed gently. "I never did believe them when they said
you had no sense of humor, Tuvok."
B'Elanna sat on the edge of the bed in the quarters they had been
assigned to by Neelix. It was a spacious room, more than enough
space for their family of three. The dTcor left a lot to be desired,
but other than that it wasn't bad at all. She saw Miral toddle out
of their bathroom followed by her father and she felt the exhaustion
she had been suppressing rearing its ugly head again.
Even without her powers, Miral was a real handful and looking
after her was draining. She shivered at words her own mind had
formed, but thankfully that was all behind them and Miral was
normal... or at least as normal as a three quarters human, one
quarter klingon girl could be, thought B'Elanna wryly.
As Tom walked over and sat on the ground with Miral, playing with
some Talaxian toys, B'Elanna reclined on the bed and picked up the
PADD they had received at dinner and activated it. She scrolled
through the information absently, only looking up when she heard a
crash from the other side of the room. When she saw nothing more
disturbing than the collapse of a wall Miral and Tom had built out
of some colorful blocks, she returned to the PADD with a shake of
She came across the heading 'dress code.' It didn't occur to her
to be wary of a Talaxian dress code until she came to the section on
the male suit. She couldn't contain the chuckle that escaped her
lips and she was soon laughing uncontrollably.
Both Tom and Miral noticed the change in B'Elanna. Tom stood and
with a little effort so did Miral. Tom strode over to the bed and
tried to pry the PADD from B'Elanna's fingers, but she was laughing
too hard to let go.
When she had regained a little composure, she looked up at him
with an unmistakably evil grin. "Look what you have to wear." She
shoved the PADD into his hand. The look of shock and disgust on his
face caused her to double over with laughter again. Miral, puzzled
and amused by her parents' strange behavior, decided that something
must be amusing, even if she didn't know what it was, and she
started laughing along with her mother.
"You didn't think there would be a female version?"
B'Elanna's laughter evaporated instantly as Tom passed her back
the PADD with a satisfied smirk. He barely managed to contain his
snickering, and her only response was a restrained growl as she
looked at the picture of Talaxian female formal wear.
"Left one, right two, turn, side, side, right three, left and
tur...." Neelix's voice trailed off as the doors to the room they
were practicing in swished open.
The Doctor poked his head in. "I hope I'm not interrupting
anything," he said cheerily, the way people always do when they know
they're interrupting something.
Tuvok had been mid-turn when the Doctor decided to grace them
with his presence. He balanced precariously on his heel for a second
before his Vulcan reflexes saved him from revealing too much... or
so he hoped.
He brought the weight he had been carrying down to his chest and
gripped it while trying to think of a decent excuse for the position
he was found in. Before he could open his mouth to explain, Neelix
made some excuse about Talaxian exercise to the Doctor.
The Doctor accepted Neelix's explanation at face value and Tuvok
was unaccountably relieved.
"Was there something you wanted, Doctor?" Tuvok asked in his
"Not at all. I was just exploring," he said with his usual
"Have you been to the infirmary, Doctor?" Neelix asked amiably
"Schmullus, please Neelix," The hologram beamed, "but no, I
haven't. Perhaps I'll pay them a visit."
"I'm sure they'd be delighted to show you around," encouraged
The Doctor smiled, satisfied, and with a final glance around the
room turned to leave. When the door closed behind the Doctor, Neelix
let out a breath and slumped his shoulders, a visible sign of the
release of tension he felt.
"I appreciate your discretion in this matter, Mr. Neelix."
"You're welcome. Shall we continue?"
Tuvok took up the first position and raised the weight to the
correct point above his head. He was about to take the first step
when the door swished open again. He pulled the weight down to his
chest again, thankful he hadn't started moving yet but still
slightly perturbed at this second interruption.
The Doctor re-entered the room, looking slightly embarrassed.
"Neelix...where precisely is the infirmary?"
As Neelix happily gave the Doctor directions, Tuvok wondered
again how he had possibly let himself be talked into this.
"This dress is... distasteful," said Seven as she scowled at her
reflection in the mirror.
"It's the dress code, Seven," said Harry despondently. "We don't
have a choice. Besides, you look absolutely gorgeous in anything."
She turned around to face him, arching one eyebrow. "I match the
Harry had to laugh at the look of disgust on her face. "The blues
and purples really bring out the color of your eyes. I'm not so sure
about the oranges, reds and yellows...."
Seven's lips turned up into a hint of a smile and she turned to
look at him. "That's very sweet, Harry," she said, tracing his
jawbone before leaning in for a quick peck on the lips, "but you're
a terrible liar."
Seven turned back to the mirror. "Well," said Harry from behind
her, "I know this would look great on you."
Seven looked at him in the mirror as he held something over her
shoulder, expecting to see something making fun of her hideous
outfit. What she saw instead brought tears to her eyes. From Harry's
hand hung a silver necklace; as the light of the room hit the metal
she could make out the shape of a heart dangling from the chain.
She gasped and reached out to run her fingers around the shape.
She looked up into Harry's eyes with a deep, sincere smile which was
mirrored on his face. "It's beautiful," she said softly, turning as
he put it on for her.
"Not as beautiful as you." He closed the catch and leaned forward
to place a soft kiss on the base of her neck before meeting her gaze
in the mirror. "I love you, Seven."
The strength of feeling that came over Seven overwhelmed her. She
was relatively new to all this and emotion still had the power to
shake her to the core. The tears could no longer be held in and they
began to run freely over her cheeks. She was about to turn away so
he wouldn't see, but she was too late. Harry stepped in front of her
and wiped the tears away with his thumbs. "What is it?"
She knew she could trust him, but she was still embarrassed that
she was behaving this way. He put his arms around her, and she
allowed the closeness, resting her hands on his shoulders. "I...I
love you too. I don't know what I would do if anything ever happened
Harry pulled her closer. "Nothing's going to happen to me Seven,"
he said softly in her ear. "You don't have to worry."
Seven squeezed him tighter as if she could keep him from harm by
keeping him near her. She relaxed after a few seconds and just
rested in Harry's arms, feeling safe, comfortable and loved.
"Yes, groin strain," repeated the Doctor, rolling his eyes in
Neelix's direction. He stood up beside the biobed and addressed
Tuvok. "I have no idea what you were doing, Commander, but this is
the first case I have seen of a Vulcan suffering from groin strain."
Tuvok's expression barely betrayed his discomfort; he wished that
when he and Neelix had limped into the infirmary a few minutes ago
they had remembered they had sent the Doctor there. "It would appear
that Talaxian exercises are... not suited for Vulcans."
"So it would appear," agreed the Doctor somewhat suspiciously. He
glanced at each of them in turn, his eyes narrowing as he attempted
to determine the real reason behind Tuvok's injury.
Tuvok raised an eyebrow with a sigh. "Doctor?"
The EMH snapped out of his reverie. "Of course. I'll get a
The only light in the large room came from a large flame
flickering in its center. Around the flame stood a large crowd of
well over a hundred people. Among those closest to the flame were
the visitors from Voyager. Neelix and Dexa stood with their daughter
opposite the flame, apart from the crowd.
The ceremony was being performed by one of the Talaxian elders,
who began by welcoming them to the naming ceremony. He took the
child from the arms of her mother and began to chant.
"Gods of Peace,
Gods of Truth,
Gods of Light,
child into your arms tonight.
Join her to the chain,
family has lain,
So she may never be alone again."
He lifted her to him and kissed her forehead. "I wish for you,
child, the newest edition to our extended family, the gift of
immense happiness. May you never know sorrow."
The elder passed the infant to Neelix. He looked down at her for
a moment before he spoke. "For you, my first child, I wish you
love." He grasped Dexa's hand as he continued hoarsely: "Greater
than anyone has ever known."
Dexa took her daughter in her arms. "For you, my first daughter,
I wish you all the knowledge that you may ever wish to seek."
She passed her on gently to Janeway. The child hadn't made a
sound as the ceremony commenced and as the fragile creature lay in
her arms Janeway couldn't think of what to say. She had known this
part of the ceremony was coming, had even prepared what she would
say, but now it seemed irrelevant and she suddenly realized that it
was intended to be spontaneous. "I wish you friendship," she said
softly. "It's the finest gift you will ever receive."
She passed the baby to Chakotay. "I wish you freedom," he
Chakotay passed her on, and one by one the crew spoke their hopes
for the young girl's future.
"I wish you passion," said B'Elanna.
"I wish you humor," offered Tom.
"I wish you adventure," said Harry.
"I wish you individuality," said Seven softly.
"I wish you respect," said the Doctor.
Tuvok was the only one who didn't participate and the baby was
handed back to the elder.
"The wishes," said the elder reverently, "are a special gift
given to the child so that she can be guided through her life. This
child will know each of your individual gifts until the day she
passes into the Great Forest."
There was a short silence as the gathered guests waited. After a
few moments, Brax, performing his role in the ceremony, struck the
chime to mark the beginning of the new day.
Neelix took a deep breath and held his daughter in full view of
the audience. "Our child shall begin the journey of her life on this
new day." He looked fondly at his infant daughter. "I give you the
The crew from Voyager smiled. It was the perfect name for the new
woman in Neelix's life, for he loved her namesake with a similar
Most people expected that the ceremony was about to draw to a
close, but there was one more tradition that had yet to be
completed. The crowd stared intently as Tuvok stepped forward into
the center of the circle.
He studied the people before him for a moment, once again
thankful for the emotional control characteristic of his species.
Most non-Vulcans would likely be intensely embarrassed. He took
Alixia from Neelix's arms and held her above him as a shrill yell
filled the air and a drum began to beat.
Tuvok took a deep steadying breath and shook his head slightly
before he began the practiced routine, his Vulcan mind organizing it
logically so that the steps were almost a mathematical equation. He
ignored the gaze of the crowd and concentrated on the child in his
hands, who to his surprise hadn't started crying.
Those in the congregation who didn't know Tuvok watched the
display and smiled appreciatively, but those who did stared at him
incredulously with their jaws hanging open.
Kathryn had to cover her mouth with her hand and grind her teeth
together so she wouldn't laugh out loud. She could feel Chakotay
next to her shaking with laughter, which only made trying to stay
quiet harder. When he let out a small sound that sounded a awful lot
like a stifled snicker she elbowed him in his side, which only made
him laugh harder and consequently didn't do much to help with her
effort to stay quiet.
As Tuvok danced he had began to chant the traditional chant of
the newborn; he felt the heat of the flame in the center warm his
body as he moved around it, turning and stepping, feeling the beat
of the drum that directed him towards the pinnacle, what the dance
was meant to be, what it was aimed at, who it was for.
As the beat slowed he bought the child down to him and kissed her
forehead gently saying "I wish for you, my young Carexa, the gift of
Janeway stopped laughing abruptly and most of those around her
seemed to also, as if they all saw it at the same time. The dance
that Tuvok was performing was incredibly passionate; there was raw
emotion in his movements and it stunned Janeway beyond words -- she
had never seen Tuvok so open. The rest of the front row stared in
awe at the dance, its meaning seeming to seep into their
As the music slowed he kissed the child before whispering
something to her, and then raised his head to look at them as if
realizing for the first time that they were even there. He stared at
the crowd for a long moment before he seemed to regain his
composure. He stood up straight and handed Alixia to her mother
before returning to his position in the circle.
The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur for the Voyager crew,
all of them left deeply affected by Tuvok's performance. When the
ceremony ended and people began to move away, they did so slowly,
lost in thought.
While B'Elanna cooed over Alixia and spoke with her beaming
parents, Tom wandered through the crowd by himself. He was surprised
to be stirred out of his musings by a hand on his shoulder. "Tom?"
He turned, surprised to find himself looking into the blue eyes of
Seven of Nine.
"Seven. What can I do for you?" he said slowly.
"I wish to ask your advice," explained the ex-Borg. Although her
social awkwardness appeared rarely now, her discomfort was obvious.
"If you would prefer, I could come back another time."
"No, no," he insisted. He took her by the elbow and led her over
to the quiet side of the room. When they had relative privacy, he
nodded for her to continue.
She took a deep breath. "I... have a friend who wishes to propose
to her significant other. How would she go about this?"
Tom didn't know whether to be shocked or amused. Eventually
amusement won out and he began to chuckle. Seven frowned, frustrated
and hurt by his outburst. When he noticed her expression, he curbed
his laughter. "I'm sorry, Seven, you just took me by surprise." He
glanced around the room to make sure they wouldn't be overheard
before he continued in a low voice: "So... you're going to propose
"No," said Seven, somewhat defensively. "I said I had a friend
who wished to propose."
He raised his eyebrow. "A friend, huh? Does this friend have a
Seven let out a frustrated sigh before she said softly, "The
'friend' is me."
Tom chuckled. "No kidding. Why didn't you just say so from the
"I have often observed that when humans are uncomfortable asking
for advice relative to their own situation they often use the
pretense of asking for a friend." She appraised him for a few
seconds in silence. "Can you help me?"
Tom crossed his arms. "I'm not sure that I'm the right person to
help you with this, Seven."
She raised an eyebrow. "You and Harry have been friends for
nearly nine years, and you presumably proposed to B'Elanna."
He chuckled. "I suppose, but B'Elanna and I aren't exactly the
greatest example to follow."
"Perhaps," she smirked. "However, you are in a better position
than most to advise me."
"All right," said Tom slowly, taking time to gather his thoughts.
"Do you love Harry?" he asked after a few moments. "Do you want to
spend the rest of your life with him?"
"Yes," said Seven firmly and without hesitation. "I don't want to
go through life without him... I don't know what I would do if I
Tom smiled and glanced across the room. "Then I don't think you
need my advice, Seven. If this is what you want... then it doesn't
matter how you go about it."
She stared at him in silence before she followed his gaze. Her
eyes fell on Harry, standing in the crowd near the center of the
room, engaged in conversation with Captain Janeway.
Tom watched the expression on her face as she watched him and
smiled. "Seven, the way you propose...." He waited until she looked
back at him. "It's irrelevant," he finished with an impish grin.
The away team returned to Voyager the next morning with Neelix,
Dexa, Brax and Alixia in tow. Captain Janeway took charge the
instant she stepped off the transporter platform and back onto her
ship where she belonged. "After you've all had a change to drop off
your bags, I want everyone at their duty stations for a full systems
check. Tuvok, show Neelix and Dexa to their quarters; we'll give you
a tour of the ship later. Chakotay, we have a meeting with Commander
Thomas in fifteen minutes, my ready room." She paused for breath
nodded, smiled slightly and turned to walk out the door as she
tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Thomas."
The systems check in Astrometrics was proceeding smoothly and
Seven gradually allowed her mind to wander, a new activity she had
only recently become used to. She thought about Harry, their
relationship, her proposal, the future....
For the first time in her rather short experience as an
individual, Seven was thinking about her future. Before it had
seemed irrelevant, but now it felt like it was all that mattered to
her. Her future was uncertain... unless Harry was a part of that
future. She needed some kind of assurance that he would be there,
some kind of guarantee that she wouldn't lose him. Her strong
feelings on the matter were unsettling.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the doors opening. She glanced
behind her to see the captain entering before turning back to her
work; it wasn't unusual for the captain to show up unexpectedly in
Seven responded automatically. "I am in the process of running a
systems diagnostic. So far there do not appear to be any problems."
"Good." Janeway paused for a second. "Seven... is everything all
Seven replied without taking her eyes off the console in front of
her. "The diagnostic --"
Janeway interrupted her with a chuckle. "I wasn't talking about
the systems diagnostic." She appraised her former protTgT. "I know
it's been a while since we've talked, but I think I still know you
fairly well. Last night I got the sense that there was something on
your mind." She leaned back against the console, facing Seven. The
ex-drone's expression betrayed nothing. "Was I wrong?"
Seven froze for several seconds before she looked up and met the
captain's gaze. "No."
Kathryn waited for her to elaborate; when Seven remained silent,
she continued: "Do you want to talk about it?"
With her characteristic abruptness, Seven turned to the captain
and announced: "I have decided to propose to Harry."
The captain blinked several times in succession as she absorbed
the information. After a few moments she let out a deep breath. "I
guess you really did have something on your mind," she chuckled
before becoming serious. "Seven, are you sure you want to get
Seven met the captain's gaze steadily. "I am quite certain," she
replied, completely confident.
"Seven," Kathryn said tenderly, "you're young... you don't have
to get married right now. I know you love Harry and that he loves
you, but...." She trailed off, not really knowing what else to say.
Surprisingly, Seven remained unaffected by the captain's
comments. "If our eventual intent is to get married, what difference
does it make if we do so now or in five years time?"
"I suppose you could see it that way...." Kathryn smiled wryly.
"I just don't see the rush."
"My experience has taught me that life can be unpredictable. I do
not see the point of waiting."
Kathryn sighed and smiled up at Seven with a shake of her head.
"Who am I to stand in the way of true love?"
"Thank you, Captain."
Kathryn smiled excitedly. "When are you going to tell Harry about
his good fortune?"
"I... haven't decided the manner in which I'm going to propose. I
asked Lieutenant Paris for his advice, but he... wasn't very
helpful." She looked at the Captain with a raised eyebrow. "How do
you think I should propose?"
She smiled. "Seven, you've spent the past five years trying to
become an individual. You don't need me to tell you what to do."
"I have no experience in --"
"You don't need experience. Just follow your instincts."
Seven considered this for a moment, then nodded her thanks.
Captain Janeway smiled and patted her on the shoulder before leaving
Seven alone with her thoughts.
Neelix looked around the new mess hall, different from the one on
Voyager yet still somewhat similar, and he smiled with satisfaction
before beginning the arrangements for the party. It felt like old
times, organizing a get-together for the crew. Captain Janeway, now
with a larger crew complement than the original Voyager, had made
all the arrangements for the party but Neelix couldn't resist the
temptation to take part.
After a thorough inspection of the preparations, ignoring the
annoyed glances of the crew trying to get everything ready, Neelix
stood near the entrance to the mess hall observing the activity. He
heard the doors open and when he turned around he came face to face
with Ozymandias. He looked at the holographic Sernaix for a moment,
trying to register him, and he smiled when he did. "You must be Oz."
He stepped forward and offered his hand. "I'm Neelix."
Oz was a little taken aback that this man knew who he was, but he
recalled that the shaking of hands was seen as a traditional
greeting so he reciprocated, taking the hand of the man in front of
him. "I see my reputation has preceded me."
"Is there something I can do for you, Oz?" Neelix asked
"Just stretching my legs," replied Oz ambiguously. "I'm still not
entirely used to the idea of being able to do that."
"I hope you're coming to the party tonight."
"I assumed it was for your old friends."
Neelix beamed with his trademark grin. "My new friends are
"Will there be ale?" Oz asked mischievously.
"Just a little," replied Neelix with a wink and a mischievous
Oz laughed loudly and slapped Neelix on the back, jarring the
small Talaxian. "Count me in!" said Oz loudly. He took another look
around the room, then turned and started back towards the door.
"It starts in an hour!" Neelix called after him. Oz grunted in
response. Neelix shook his head with a smile and returned to
overseeing the preparations.
Seven surveyed the room before her and when she was satisfied
went over the plan again in her mind. She was uncharacteristically
nervous and she took a deep breath to calm herself.
Her door chimed her heart jumped into her throat. "Come," she
managed to mumble. The door whooshed open to reveal Harry standing
in his formal dress for the occasion. "I thought we could have a
glass of champagne before we left for the party," said Seven
uneasily, motioning for him to come in.
"Sure," replied Harry, noticing that she seemed a bit unsettled.
Seven moved to the sofa and poured them both a glass of champagne
from a bottle she had replicated. She didn't usually drink alcohol
-- her physiology didn't react well to it, to say the least -- but
her research had suggested that it would be appropriate. She wasn't
sure what purpose it would serve but she didn't want to beak with
"What's the occasion?"
Seven stared blankly at him for a few seconds before she was able
to process his question. "The birth of Neelix's daughter," she said,
amazed that she was able to think on her feet even when nervous.
Harry accepted that and took the glass from her. He surveyed it
and then downed it in a few large sips. Seven followed his example
and almost retched when she felt the sickly burning feeling at the
back of the throat. She longed to breathe but had to swallow first.
When she finally did, she began coughing quite violently.
Harry put his hand on her shoulder, concerned. "You all right?"
She nodded, taking the opportunity to gather her thoughts while
she caught her breath. Captain Janeway had told her to follow her
instincts. It felt a lot harder than it sounded.
She felt the liquor moving into her stomach, which already felt
like it was being thrown around inside her body. She felt her heart
rate pick up another notch and she could hear the pounding in her
ears. She had to do this, get it over with and remove this
uncomfortable feeling of nausea building up in her stomach. She took
a deep breath, held it and released it. "Harry, will you marry me?"
The party started in earnest. The mess hall was full of people;
even those who had only met Neelix today were in attendance and were
Commander Thomas was once again in command so Janeway could
attend the party. She didn't object; she wanted to be at the party
and wasn't too far away in the case of trouble.
The captain watched the party as she leaned against one of the
windows of the mess hall. She had been circling the room for nearly
half an hour, and now was taking a moment to just sit back and watch
everyone mingle... her crew, her friends, her family.
Alixia had been presented, to the delight of the crew that hadn't
yet had the opportunity to meet her. Miral, also a favorite, seemed
to follow Alixia around the room, staying quietly beside whoever was
holding her; she was fascinated and even smitten with the newcomer.
Seeing Chakotay across the room in conversation with Tom and
B'Elanna, Kathryn left her station near the window and moved over to
"... so it was sort of a belated baby gift and two birthday
presents in one," B'Elanna was saying.
"You should have seen Miral's face when Neelix gave it to her,"
continued Tom as the captain joined them.
"Neelix explained that it was a blanket Dexa had made for her,"
picked up B'Elanna.
"So Miral," said Tom, enjoying every minute of the tale, "sort of
looks at this blanket, in all its Talaxian colors, and then she
suddenly gets that look on her face like when she's figured
"And she blurts out, 'Blankie bright! No need lights!'" finished
The group burst into laughter. "Speak of the devil," said Tom.
Miral ran up to them and tugged on her father's trouser leg to
attract his attention. She smiled when he looked down to her and she
raised her arms upward as a signal that she wanted to be lifted. Tom
smiled down at her and whisked the heavy two year-old into his arms.
"Want to go see what there is to eat without any leola root in it,
"Wansome pie!" exclaimed Miral, clapping her hands.
"She's had enough, Tom," said B'Elanna, taking the toddler from
"Pie!" insisted Miral.
"Sorry, peanut," said her father, mussing her dark hair fondly
with his hand.
Miral crossed her arms and sulked in B'Elanna's arms as Tom made
his way across the room. "Pie," she muttered.
"Looks like she inherited Tom's sweet tooth," remarked Chakotay
with a smirk.
B'Elanna rolled her eyes and was about to reply when she was
interrupted over the comm. Vorik to Lieutenant Torres.
She sighed and hit her commbadge. "This had better be good,
We have discovered a problem with the transwarp drive,
said the Vulcan calmly, oblivious to the annoyance in the
"Why didn't the systems diagnostic pick it up?"
I am uncertain. We will need to take it offline to repair the
There was an awkward pause before Vorik spoke again.
Lieutenant, we're... rather short-handed at the moment.
B'Elanna sighed. "Right. I'm on my way."
She glanced around for Tom. When she didn't see him, she sighed
and passed Miral to Captain Janeway, standing closest to her. "Can
you keep an eye on her for a minute?"
"Of course -- but isn't there someone else who can help Vorik?"
B'Elanna smiled. "You take care of my daughter, Captain, and I'll
take care of your ship."
"Fair enough," admitted the captain as B'Elanna headed for the
Miral watched her mother leave then turned to her godmother. "Now
have some pie?"
"You heard what your mother said," admonished Kathryn.
The young girl sulked for a few more seconds, but then her eyes
lit up when she saw Alixia being shown off to some of the crew
nearby. "Licksia cute."
Kathryn chuckled. "Yes, she certainly is."
Miral turned back to Kathryn as something seemed to occurred to
her. "You no have a baby?"
Chakotay looked up at Kathryn sharply, while they had discussed
this on New Earth he was certain she wasn't ready to have this
discussion in public.
Kathryn barely refrained from wincing. "No," she said slowly, "I
Miral frowned. "Why not?"
"I... just don't." She forced a smile and tickled Miral's cheek.
"Being a starship captain is a lot of work. I wouldn't have enough
time for children."
The toddler considered this, her expression sad. "You make a nice
mommy," she said finally.
Kathryn stood there with her mouth hanging slightly open, not
knowing what to say.
"Daddy!" exclaimed Miral, interrupting the moment. Kathryn set
her down as Tom approached, and the girl ran to greet her father,
then dragged him over to Neelix and Dexa so she could have another
look at Alixia.
Chakotay rested his hand on Kathryn's shoulder. "You all right?"
he asked softly.
She nodded mutely, but her eyes remained locked on Miral and
Alixia, lost in thought.
The silence in the room was deafening as Harry stared back at
Seven. Had he heard right? Had she just asked him to marry her?
Seven misunderstood his silence and repeated her question.
"Harry, will you marry me?"
There it is, he said to himself. She definitely asked
you to marry her. Once he was sure he wasn't hearing things, he
became even more confused. As far as he and Seven had come in the
past year, he hadn't thought she was ready for marriage.
"Seven," he began slowly after a few minutes, "there's nothing I
want more... but what made you decide this right now?"
"I didn't decide right now -- I decided approximately 23.4 hours
ago," she said, slightly confused.
"What I mean is... I thought you didn't see the point of
marriage?" said Harry uncertainly.
"I didn't, until I thought about spending the rest of my life
Harry's heart contracted with love and compassion. He lifted his
hand and gripped her chin, gently pulling it up from the position it
was in, staring down at her lap. He lifted her head firmly so that
her eyes met his. "Seven, I love you with all my heart... but we
can't just get married because we're afraid to lose each other.
There has to be more to it than that."
Seven began to draw away from him slightly, tears in her eyes,
but he held her chin firmly.
"Don't pull away from me!" he pleaded. She stopped resisting.
"Seven, I love you," he repeated, "and I would gladly marry you any
day of the week... but there's no need to rush. No reason to just...
jump into this headfirst. I promise you, I'm not going anywhere. We
have the rest of our lives ahead of us to get married, have a
family, to be together.... " He raised her hand to his lips and
kissed it softly before allowing his cheek to rest on it.
Seven nodded her agreement. Harry was probably right; she was
probably worrying about nothing. But she could neither explain nor
control the growing unease inside her.