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You and the Kuvah'magh are in danger.
For weeks, B'Elanna Torres had been able to think of little else.
The warning had come to her anonymously, a scrawled hard-copy message shoved under the heavy wooden door that separated her private living space from the rest of the monastery on Boreth. Here she had spent the past eight months studying ancient Klingon scrolls in an effort to learn all she could of what fate might have in store for her beloved daughter, Miral.
She had come to Boreth to find her mother. Though their reunion had been brief, it had helped B'Elanna come to grips with the Klingon part of her heritage, which she had vigorously tried to ignore for most of her life. Once that was done, it had been her husband, Tom's, suggestion that they look deeper into her Klingon past in order to banish once and for all the disturbing notion that their daughter might be the Kuvah'magh, or Klingon savior.
B'Elanna had initially decided to humor Tom. As he had yet to find a posting on a Starfleet vessel that suited him, it had seemed a harmless enough diversion. Of course, the chance to spend countless hours in only his company and that of their infant daughter had been even more compelling. As much as they both thrived in the world of Starfleet service, after seven years spent facing the very real possibility that each day in the Delta quadrant might be their last, the quiet, contemplative hours spent sheltered on Boreth had brought both of them much-needed space in which to deepen the bonds between them.
Too soon, duty had called. Admiral Janeway had requested Tom's assistance on a diplomatic mission, and within weeks his spectacular service had earned him the only job in Starfleet that Tom Paris couldn't possibly turn down, first officer aboard Voyager.
Being separated from Tom was difficult. But it would have been much easier to bear had B'Elanna not begun to seriously believe, shortly after he had left, that there might be more to connect the prophecies about the Kuvah'magh and their daughter than either of them had believed they would find. å It had been easy enough to dismiss the many parallels between Miral and this fated "savior" when the notion first reared its ugly head back in the Delta quadrant. Voyager had encountered an old Klingon vessel filled with hundreds of warriors whose parents and grandparents had long ago left Qo'noS, in search of the Kuvah'magh. Some believed that Miral, though unborn, was the end of their search. And when Miral's hybrid blood cells had managed to cure those same Klingons of a fatal virus, nehret, that they had contracted on their journey, it was hard to argue the point, at least in this case, that Miral had been their "savior."
The scrolls that had led Kohlar's people to the Delta quadrant were only the tip of the prophetic Klingon iceberg. Those had been written a thousand years ago by a warrior named Amar. On Boreth, B'Elanna had discovered the scrolls of a Klingon ascetic, a man named Ghargh, whose writings preceded the founding of the Klingon Empire by another eight centuries. Ghargh was the one who had said that the Kuvah'magh would be a "voyager." His words had sent an unpleasant chill coursing down B'Elanna's spine when she'd first read them. Further, he had inexplicably gone on to say that the true purpose of the Kuvah'magh was to restore the Klingon gods -- a patently ridiculous notion -- even if B'Elanna were a believer -- as the Klingons supposedly had slain their gods ages ago for being more trouble than they were worth.
Despite the smatterings of coincidence that could be found in the writings of both Amar and Ghargh, B'Elanna was a long way from accepting that any of this was real, much less relevant to her daughter. Clearly others, however, weren't having as hard a time as she making that leap of faith, and she had no idea to what lengths they might go to see their beliefs made real.
Miral slept peacefully in her arms, her breath slow and deep. Though Tom had helped B'Elanna construct a makeshift crib from straw and animal skins, the only items the monastery seemed to have in plentiful supply, B'Elanna was finding it harder and harder to let Miral out of her arms, never mind her sight. This had forced B'Elanna to rig a private comm station for her quarters. The only other station that provided access to the outside universe was located in a secluded room deep in the bowels of the monastery, and Boreth's residents were granted access to it only sparingly.
Any moment now, Tom's face would appear before her on the small screen. Despite the distance between them, they had managed to speak at least once a week since his departure, but even this, the event that should have been the high point of B'Elanna's day, was now tinged with discomfort.
For weeks now, B'Elanna had struggled with the fear that whoever had warned her that her life and Miral's were in danger might not have been exaggerating. And for weeks, B'Elanna had beaten that fear into brief submission so as not to reveal even the faintest hint of alarm when she spoke with Tom. B'Elanna didn't want to leave Boreth until she was confident she knew everything there was to know about these cursed prophecies. But she wasn't a fool either. If Tom knew about the warning, he would take immediate leave and drag both B'Elanna and Miral from the monastery, kicking and screaming if necessary, to keep them safe.
B'Elanna had lied to Tom repeatedly. She hated doing it. But for now, it seemed necessary. Her final justification had been the brilliant rationalization that she could not be certain how secure her "private" comm transmission was. Were she to reveal her fears to Tom, she might simultaneously be revealing them to those who wished her harm. And that might be all they would need to set whatever plans they had in motion. It was simply too great a risk to take.
Just one more week. Maybe two.
Surely in that time she would be able to find the flaw in the logic suggesting that Miral might be the Kuvah'magh. As soon as she did, they would return to Earth, perhaps even to Voyager, and Tom would never need to know what she was hiding from him.
It sounded good in theory.
And then the face of the man she adored, the sandy blond hair cut regulation-short, the piercing blue eyes, and the smile that promised such wonderful mischief appeared before her, and B'Elanna's heart leapt even as the practiced mask of utter calm descended on her features.
"And how's my little Kuvah'magh this evening?" Tom cooed.
B'Elanna couldn't help but smile. When Tom used his favorite endearment, her fears seemed almost laughable.
"She's trying something new tonight," B'Elanna replied warmly.
"What's that?" Tom asked.
"Ah." Tom nodded sagely. "I wondered when she would figure that one out."
"A couple of nights ago she managed almost six hours straight," B'Elanna went on. Talking to Tom these days was much easier when they stayed in innocuous territory.
"That's got to be a record, right?"
"Mmm-hmm." B'Elanna nodded. "I'm hoping she sets a new one tonight."
"Has she been wearing you out?" Tom asked, a hint of concern creeping into his voice. B'Elanna knew he would never willingly imply that there was anything in the universe his wife couldn't conquer. Even with a half-Klingon wife it was such a fine and dangerous line between supportive and condescending.
"She has been more active. I swear she'll be walking any minute now, and then we're both doomed," B'Elanna said.
"How's Kularg doing?"
"I honestly never thought I would use the words Klingon and doting in the same sentence, but the truth is, he adores her. I don't know what he'll do with himself when our stay on Boreth ends."
This was mostly true, though B'Elanna had refused to leave Miral with Kularg even once since she'd received the cryptic message. Daily, however, Kularg managed to find an almost reasonable excuse to stop by B'Elanna's chamber and ask after Miral. The grizzled old man was positively smitten. The fact that he had no grandchildren of his own was a crime against nature.
"Funny you should bring that up," Tom segued.
"What?" B'Elanna asked.
"Leaving Boreth," Tom replied in an attempt at nonchalance.
B'Elanna's heart fluttered, but she managed to keep her game face in place.
"Has something happened?" B'Elanna asked, not really sure if she wanted the answer to be "yes" or "no."
"No, no." Tom shook his head immediately, then sighed with feigned weariness. "It's my mom."
"Is she okay?"
"She's terrific. In fact, she just completed the arrangements for a party at the family ranch three weeks from now that'll make your average annual Federation Day celebration look like a small, intimate gathering."
"What are we celebrating?" B'Elanna chuckled.
Tom couldn't hide his embarrassment.
"My promotion to first officer," he replied.
"You were promoted two months ago," B'Elanna pointed out.
"You've met my mom, right?" Tom asked. "Petite, blonde, and fiercer than a breeding Horta when it comes to anything at all to do with her son?"
B'Elanna remembered all too well. Julia Paris had been something of a revelation. Her slight figure belied an intensity that was truly something to behold. B'Elanna had always believed that meeting Tom's father, the famous Admiral Owen Paris, would be the more daunting introduction to her new in-laws, but she'd been pleasantly surprised to learn that Tom's single-minded, stubborn persistence had been a gift from his mother.
"Besides, it takes at least eight weeks to schedule an event when you're inviting half the quadrant. Busy schedules and all that," Tom added, clearly mortified at the thought.
"Sounds like it should be awful." B'Elanna couldn't help grinning at his discomfort.
"Right," Tom nodded, "and of course she's adamant that the whole affair will be a disaster if her daughter-in-law and granddaughter aren't there to be shown off to all of her friends."
Yeah, that hadn't been hard to see coming.
"Tom..." B'Elanna sighed.
"There's still plenty of time for you and Miral to hop a quick transport. And I promise, as soon as it's done, I'll escort you both back to Boreth myself, if that's what you want."
In a way, it was exactly what B'Elanna wanted.
And maybe there really isn't anything more for me to learn here.
"Is this going to be a 'resistance is futile' kind of thing?" B'Elanna quipped.
"Now that you mention it, it's actually kind of terrifying to imagine what the Borg might become if my mother's 'distinctiveness' were ever added to theirs," Tom mused.
Unexpected relief warred with concern within B'Elanna. Her gut told her that whatever forces were allying against her and her daughter, they weren't going to be dissuaded by a party. And she couldn't be certain that by leaving Boreth, she wouldn't be playing directly into their hands. Still, strong as she was alone, that strength was increased by an order of magnitude when she was with Tom. She missed him. But more than that, she needed him.
"Then I guess we can't disappoint her, can we?" B'Elanna replied.
The utter love and gratitude that beamed from Tom's eyes in response made further words irrelevant.
"What did she say?"
Tom was glad his back was to his father so Admiral Owen Paris couldn't see the reflexive eye-rolling that occurred the moment Tom realized his father had been lurking in the doorway while he spoke with B'Elanna.
Tom couldn't blame his father. One of the nice things about being both older and married since he'd last spent any considerable amount of time with his dad was that actions that would have once driven Tom to heated, angry distraction were now eminently understandable and easy to forgive.
Owen didn't mean to pry. But as Tom now knew all too well, if Owen returned to Julia's presence without being able to tell her that her daughter-in-law and granddaughter were now en route to Earth, there would be ten kinds of hell to pay, and Tom wouldn't have wished that on an enemy, let alone the father he had come to respect and love since Voyager had returned home.
"Why are you even asking?" Tom asked good-naturedly as he switched off the comm station and turned to face his father's delighted face. "You were listening the whole time, weren't you?"
"I wanted to...well...er..." Owen fumbled for a moment.
Though Tom sort of liked seeing his father stammer about for an acceptable excuse -- he couldn't even count the number of times this particular scenario had been reversed between them -- he didn't like to see his father in unnecessary distress. Tom had been responsible for more than his fair share of that over the years.
Thankfully, those years were behind them.
"It's all right, Dad." Tom finally smiled. "They're coming. Now go tell Mom so she can alert the Federation News Service."
Owen nodded swiftly in relief, but made no immediate move to hasten to share the good news.
Tom gave his father a few moments before asking, "Something else on your mind?"
Owen took a few steps into the room and answered as innocently as possible, "Did they mention how long they might be staying?"
To be fair, Owen Paris wasn't the only person who really wanted an answer to that question. Tom knew that pushing B'Elanna was fruitless. Progress with his wife on any issue came only in slow fits and starts and was almost always on B'Elanna's schedule. He counted it a major victory that she had agreed to leave Boreth at all. The "how long do you plan to stay" question would come only once she was safely home and hopefully enjoying herself immensely.
"We really didn't have a chance to discuss it," Tom finally replied, and watched as the wheels in his father's head instantly shifted to a higher gear.
Owen nodded and took himself for a short walk, a few paces back and forth, then stopped, pulling himself up to his full height, in preparation to begin "the speech." Whenever there was anything particularly serious on Owen's mind, he usually completed this little ritual before beginning his orations. Tom could always see "the speech" coming from miles away.
"The thing is, son," Owen began. "And please tell me if I'm overstepping my bounds here...," he offered.
Tom nodded graciously for him to continue and tried unsuccessfully to hide the smirk that was forming on his lips. He sometimes couldn't believe how well he now felt he knew his father.
"Both your mother and I were so relieved to learn that you were alive long after we thought, well, the worst. And when you came back to us, you and B'Elanna and Miral, it was almost too good to be true. Of course, you're both young and still anxious to serve Starfleet, and that's wonderful. But if there's anything I regret in my own life, it's the time I didn't make for my family, especially when you and your sisters were young."
There were moments in the past when Tom would have made his father suffer greatly for making such a statement. But the young, injured, insecure Tom Paris who had run as far from his family as possible in an attempt to escape his own failings was now a man at peace. Where once he would have accused his father of worse than the negligence Owen was admitting, now Tom only wanted to offer what comfort he could.
"I understand, Dad," Tom quickly interjected, "now more than ever. It's hard to balance a career and a family. There's no way to get it right all the time."
Owen nodded, wordlessly accepting his son's implied forgiveness.
"I never want you to feel the regrets I've felt," Owen finally went on. "I know B'Elanna needs to understand her heritage, and of course it's your job to support her. But don't you think it would be possible for her to continue her studies or research or whatever the hell she's doing on that Klingon rock a little closer to home? Before you know it, Miral will be walking and then speaking, and..." Owen trailed off, at a loss to put into words the various miracles that accompanied the raising of a child, or being a grandfather for the first time. Finally he settled for, "I just don't want you to miss it, son."
Tom rose from his seat and crossed to face his father. "I have no intention of missing any of it, Dad," he assured him.
Owen smiled faintly, his eyes alight with some of the mischief Tom had managed to turn into an art form.
"Then you agree that when B'Elanna and Miral return, we should find a way to make their stay more permanent?" Owen asked.
Tom extended his right hand to his father. Owen took it and shook it firmly.
"Absolutely," Tom replied.
"Good man," Owen said, clapping his son on the shoulder amiably.
Owen was clearly now armed with all he needed to face his wife, and he was halfway out the door when Tom suddenly remembered a question he'd been meaning to ask Owen since he reported back to Earth a few hours earlier for his leave from Voyager.
"Dad, do you know a Captain Eden?"
Owen seemed to search his memory. "She's part of Project Full Circle, isn't she?"
Tom nodded. "She's requested a meeting with me. I was just wondering if you had any idea what it might be about."
Both Owen and Tom were aware that Project Full Circle was the task force designated by Starfleet Command to analyze Voyager one relay and circuit at a time when it had returned from the Delta quadrant. Nine months later, however, and with Voyager now fully refitted and back on active duty, it seemed odd that the project was still going and that Eden was still in search of new information.
"I honestly don't," Owen replied. "Eden does have a reputation for being pretty thorough in her research and reports. She can bury a man in analysis quicker than most. She's probably just trying to tie up a few loose ends," Owen finally decided.
"I'm sure that's it." Tom nodded.
"When do you report to her?"
"Tomorrow morning, bright and early."
"Will you still be home for dinner tomorrow night?" Owen asked.
This time Tom failed to hide the rolling of the eyes.
"Yes, Dad," he replied, feigning impatience.
"Don't you 'Yes, Dad' me, Commander," Owen snapped.
For a split second, Tom jumped to attention.
Then both of them shared a hearty laugh as they made their way to the kitchen to let Julia Paris know that all would soon be right with their world.
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