Acknowledgement: Thank you to DangerMom for graciously allowing me to use her idea of children riding targs in this story. Thank you to Rocky for her wonderful beta reading.
Authors' note: This is the last story in the Glory Days universe. We hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as we've enjoyed writing it. Thank you for all of your wonderful comments and support over the last year. We appreciate it greatly. Thanks again.
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This story takes place
two months after the events in "Home"
by Seema and Rocky.
B'Elanna Torres smoothed the front of her silky red nightgown and took another look in the mirror. The nightgown clung to her in all the right places, dipping low between her breasts, and then skimming just above her knees. She'd bought the nightgown just before she had shipped out to the Neutral Zone on the Minuteman. As such, she had never worn it, and had just pulled it out from her drawer while packing for this trip.
She took one last look in the mirror. The truth was, she'd been overly conscious about her appearance in the months following the battle in the Neutral Zone. Intuitively, she knew Tom hadn't cared that all of her hair had fallen out, that she'd lost so much weight that her bones had jutted out to the point that she had needed cushions to buffet her ailing body. But that was all in the past now and B'Elanna felt like her own self once again. Only the occasional breathlessness due to her scarred lungs remained as a physical remainder of that nightmare.
Carefully, B'Elanna opened the door and stepped out into the bedroom. The carpet was soft beneath her feet. Her relatives here on Qo'noS had offered their hospitality for the duration of the visit, but B'Elanna and Tom had chosen to rent a small house -- furnished with all Terran comforts -- instead. B'Elanna's rationale was, despite wanting to spend time with relatives and getting to know them again, she also wanted somewhere she could go to escape from them. While she was growing more comfortable with her Klingon heritage, 24 hours worth of exposure was more intense than she wanted to handle. Tom didn't protest; B'Elanna knew he had been dreading the harsh decor of Klingon homes, such as the lack of cushioning on beds and chairs.
Puzzled, she walked - barefoot - across the carpeted floor to the balcony.
"Tom?" She leaned over the railing peering at the garden below, her eyes straining in the darkness of the Qo'noS sky. She'd forgotten, after all of these years, just how black night on Qo'noS really was. Not to mention, just how *hot* the summer nights were. "Are you down there?"
She heard the scrape of the lawn chair and a second later, Tom was looking back up at her.
"You called?" he asked.
"I was wondering where you were," she said. "I thought you said you'd be waiting for me."
"Sorry." Tom held up a PADD. "I thought I'd download some of our mail while you were showering and it was a beautiful night, so I thought I'd read outdoors. I'm on my way up."
B'Elanna nodded and went back into the bedroom, closing the balcony doors behind her. She took another look in the mirror, feeling a little silly at her momentary attack of vanity. But then again, she reminded herself, after all she'd been through in the last eighteen months, she had every right to indulge herself.
"Hey," Tom said apologetically as he entered the bedroom. "Sorry about that."
"It's all right. I took longer getting ready than I thought I would," B'Elanna said, eyeing her husband, waiting for a reaction to her outfit.
"Hmmm. I checked on the kids. They're sleeping." Tom dropped the PADD on the dresser, stretching. "The Day of Honor festivities really wore them out."
"I forgot how much fun the Day of Honor is for children," B'Elanna said. She moved closer to Tom, wrapping her arms around him. "Thank you for agreeing to come here. I know it's not Risa."
"I'm having a good time, B'Elanna. I really am." Tom grimaced. "Though, I admit to not being that fond of heart of targ. Especially one that was still beating..."
B'Elanna smiled. She hadn't been entirely fond of the heart of targ either, but the children had been fascinated by it. In addition, her relatives had mentioned many, many times how *young* the targ had been -- a true delicacy -- and hence, an explicit honor bestowed upon her family. For that, B'Elanna had been truly grateful. She'd been uncertain of her reception here on Qo'noS and she was relieved by the warm welcome they had received by her mother's brother and his wife.
"I know how much you wanted to go to Risa," B'Elanna persisted. It was Tom's idea to go on vacation, a second honeymoon, he had said. The last year had been hard as B'Elanna had recovered from injuries sustained in the conflict between the Romulans and the Federation. Not only that, the death of Harry Kim had been a devastating blow for all of them. They needed to get away, Tom had argued. He had proposed the indulgence of Risa at first, but B'Elanna had asked to vacation on Qo'noS instead.
"It's not exactly romantic, I know," she had said apologetically. "But I want - no, I need to - go." She had been unable to explain the urgency underlying her request, knowing only that after nearly twenty years, it was time to reassert her connection to her mother and by extension, to Klingon culture. She supposed that her newly awakened longing for all things Klingon was due to the fact she'd come so close to death, come so closing to losing everything and everyone she loved. "It would mean a lot to me, Tom."
Tom had agreed readily; he'd always had an interest in Klingon culture, sometimes, much to B'Elanna's amusement, his desire to learn more about Klingon tradition and religion exceeded hers. They had also made arrangements, on their way back, to stop on Vulcan, to visit Tuvok and his family. B'Elanna had explained that she had felt very much at peace while visiting Vulcan two years previously; Tom had thrown up his hands in mock exasperation.
"It's *your* vacation," he had said genially. "Whatever you want."
B'Elanna had then suggested that they bring Jenni and the children along on the trip as well. At this, Tom's expression had turned slightly sour.
"It's a second *honeymoon*, B'Elanna, not a family vacation," Tom had said. But he'd given in easily enough. He had understood B'Elanna's desire to make-up for lost time with her children. Now that she was well enough to play with them and take care of them herself, B'Elanna was determined to do so. Bringing Jenni along had been a compromise, allowing them to spend time with the children but also private time with each other.
Their arrival on Qo'noS had coincided with the Day of Honor festivities. B'Elanna had been taken aback, shocked that she was no longer as in tune with the Klingon calendar as she once had been. But the children, Joey and Miral, had enjoyed every moment of the activity-packed day, from riding on a targ -- a little *too* spirited, in B'Elanna's opinion -- to feasting on the bloody heart of that very same animal. And through her children's eyes, B'Elanna had been able to capture some of the joy she herself had never been able to feel for the holiday. As an adult, on Voyager, she had attempted -- at Tom's urging -- to celebrate the Day of Honor; however, the holodeck program based on the ritualistic aspects of the holiday had not provided much entertainment value as she'd battled one Klingon warrior after another. B'Elanna had been unable to grasp exactly what the honor was in *that*.
"You looked like you were enjoying yourself. Even Jenni seems to be having a great time. Who would have guessed that she would find the man of her dreams right here on Qo'noS?" Tom asked in amusement now. They'd both been surprised when their fiercely independent housekeeper/nanny had been smitten with a San Francisco-based reporter who had come to Qo'noS to cover the Day of Honor festivities. Right after the children had been put to bed, Jenni had taken off with Robert to check out some of the late night attractions. Now Tom yawned. "I know how the kids feel, though. I'm really tired."
"Hmm," B'Elanna said, trying to hide her disappointment. She sat down on the bed, folding her legs beneath her. "Already?"
"B'Elanna, we were traveling for several days with two very active children and then we ran around from place to place all day today." Tom looked at her with gentle exasperation. "I'm beat."
"You sure you don't have a little bit of energy?" she teased. Tom glanced at her wearily.
"What do you have in mind?"
"How about you come here"- she patted the bed lightly - "and share the mail with me. Anything interesting?"
Tom grabbed the PADD and flopped down next to B'Elanna. She curled up next to him, wrapping her arm around his torso, her lips pressing against his cheek. Letters were the absolute last thing on B'Elanna's mind as Tom's arm draped carelessly around her.
"We got a letter from the Admiral, among others," Tom said. B'Elanna lifted her head in anticipation. It had been a least a couple of months since they'd last heard from Janeway; they had taken a family trip down to Monterey to visit Janeway in her lovely new house on the beach.
// While the kids played in the sand (with Miral occasionally venturing into the frigid waters with a protective Tom hovering nearby), B'Elanna and Janeway sat in lawn chairs, watching and catching up. It been a pleasant enough visit, made sweeter by Tom's observation that Janeway seemed -- finally -- at peace.
"You know how keenly she felt the distance between herself and Chakotay and Seven," B'Elanna said on the way back to San Francisco. She glanced into the back of the flitter, checking on the sleeping children. "I'm happy to see she's finally reconciled with both of them."
"She did seem a lot happier," Tom agreed. He lifted his hand from the controls and placed it over B'Elanna's. "I don't think I've seen the Admiral in such a good mood in a long time. Did she say anything specifically to you about it?"
B'Elanna glanced at Tom. He was teasing, smiling. He'd always been overly interested in other people's lives, B'Elanna knew.
"Did I press her for information, you mean? No, I didn't. She just said that she had a nice visit with Chakotay last weekend and that he stayed for dinner and then left for San Francisco that same evening." She looked at Tom meaningfully. "Does that answer your question?"
"Oh," Tom said, obviously disappointed. "I was sure there was something more."
B'Elanna leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "You're so cute when you're trying to play matchmaker. Since you're so interested, maybe the next time we visit, *you* can be the one to press for more details." She smiled sweetly, but Tom grimaced. //
"And what does Janeway say?" B'Elanna asked now.
"She's taken a leave of absence from Starfleet."
"What?" B'Elanna shrieked. And then, remembering the sleeping children down the hall, she lowered her voice, "What?"
"Apparently, she thinks it's time to take a break," Tom said, "and she's joining Chakotay on Betazed."
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes. "Joining Chakotay on Betazed?"
"She stresses it's in a purely scientific capacity," Tom said. He showed the PADD to B'Elanna. "Apparently there's a group that's working on the feasibility of creating and harnessing microsingularities at the University of Betazed." Tom stifled a yawn and then continued reading. "The head of the Physics department there, Anne Duncan, is the sister of Phillip Haskel, who's heading up the research arm of the excavation project in the Great Betazed Desert on the southern continent."
"Well, what do you know?" B'Elanna asked. B'Elanna had always had trouble figuring out exactly the nature of the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay. In recent years, she'd been aware of the strain between the two and she could see that the fault lay with both individuals. "I guess it's obvious that things worked out between them better than we previously thought. She certainly gave no hint of leaving Starfleet or going to Betazed during our visit. This must be a very recent development." B'Elanna took the opportunity to run her fingers through Tom's hair. He didn't seem to notice.
"I'm sure they'll be fine," Tom replied absentmindedly. "And she doesn't imply anything more than *friendship* in the letter, but if you read between the lines..." Tom glanced at B'Elanna.
"Still the hopeless romantic, aren't you?" B'Elanna asked as she nudged even closer to Tom, her hand now resting suggestively on his upper thigh.
Tom, however, turned his attention back to the PADD. "Worse comes to worse, Janeway can always change her mind and return to Starfleet. At any rate, the Admiral is very much looking forward to a change of pace." Tom yawned. Desperate, B'Elanna nudged him with her leg.
"What else does the Admiral say?" she asked silkily as she reached to kiss Tom lightly on the neck.
"She says that she went to Boston to visit Seven last weekend and reviewed Seven's latest research." Tom's voice was heavy with sleep. "Janeway notes here that Seven's research was widely acclaimed by many of the brightest scientific minds in audience." Tom shifted position. "And it seems that Seven is engaged to -" Tom frowned - "an Ethan McNeill."
"Ah, a fellow professor at MIT," B'Elanna said. Tom looked at her in surprise.
"You know him?"
"Seven mentioned him once in passing."
Tom looked slightly miffed. "You never told me!"
"Sorry, I didn't think it was important at the time," B'Elanna said hastily. She draped one leg over his, her hand still stroking his thigh. "What else?"
"Hmmm... there's something here from Neelix."
"And what does he say?"
"Apparently baby Alixia is not such a baby anymore. She's walking and talking. Neelix sounds very proud." He glanced at B'Elanna. "I'm trying to imagine Neelix as a father. If he's anything like was with Naomi..." Tom's voice trailed off.
She smiled. "I think Neelix is probably a great father. Just like you are." B'Elanna squeezed Tom's hand. "The two of you are a lot alike, Tom. You both have big hearts and a capacity for love." Tom tightened his arm around her, pulling her close. B'Elanna rested her hand on his chest. "On Voyager, I think it was easy to pull away from those we cared about the most, pretend we really didn't care for one reason or another." She lifted her head a little to look Tom in the eye. "We drifted apart when we needed each other the most."
"Not us," Tom reminded her gently.
"Not towards the end, but there were times when we did. When you pushed me away, when I resisted you. When we needed each other the most, we weren't always there for each other, not like we are now," B'Elanna said, her voice dropping in volume. "But as a crew, we were all there for each other." She paused, remembering the one exception. Janeway's withdrawal from the rest of her crew had been hurtful to all of them, but especially to Chakotay and Seven -- the people with whom Janeway had the closest relationship. "But something changed in those last few months and it got worse when we actually returned to the Alpha Quadrant." B'Elanna glanced at Tom pensively. "I think we were so interested in our own lives that we didn't think of what the consequences of distance *would* be. I can't help but think now if we could do it all over again, if we had only known how it would all play out, I wonder --"
"Are you thinking about Harry?"
"How did you know?"
"Just a feeling." Tom stroked her hair idly. "Harry was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted. That's what we have to remember. And --" Tom's voice cracked and B'Elanna knew that he was remembering the sobering ceremony which had taken place a few months previously in which Harry Kim had been posthumously honored and promoted to full commander. "And as for the rest of us -" Tom shook his head - "we came so close to losing it all."
"Yeah." B'Elanna swallowed hard, remembering how she had quickly lost touch with the others after their return; she'd been so caught up in her new life as wife and mother. But later, she'd been keenly aware of the void left by those whom she'd considered her closest friends, to the point that she had berated Chakotay for being completely unaware of what had happened to her, to Janeway, to Harry Kim, in the Neutral Zone. His lack of knowledge had shown her just how far apart they had all drifted from each other. "Maybe it'll be different now that we've all reconnected."
"I intend to make
sure that is," Tom said. "As a matter of fact, I think we have a perfect
opportunity for a Voyager reunion." B'Elanna looked at him with interest.
Tom tapped the PADD.
"Janeway writes that the Doctor has been honored for some of his medical advances, most specifically for his work with nanoprobes. He's been recognized as one of the premiere scientists in that field. He'll be given his award at a conference in Seattle in two months and Janeway suggests that we all attend."
"That sounds like a good idea," B'Elanna said.
"Not to mention, it's also a way of reconnecting once again with the people whom we care about the most," Tom said with feelingly. He leaned over to kiss the top of B'Elanna's head. "I think sometimes, you have to come close to losing it all before you finally figure out what's most important."
His comment jolted a distant -- but precious memory - from the back of B'Elanna's mind. "You do know remember what the significance of today is, don't you?" she asked softly.
"The Day of Honor?" Tom looked perplexed. "Of course."
"More than that," B'Elanna said hoarsely. "More important than the Day of Honor." She curled her fingers around his. "The first time I realized that I needed to stop pushing you away, the day you and I were so close to death... that's what it took, Tom, for me to tell you how I truly felt about you." Her voice cracked at the end of the statement.
Tom's eyes widened in realization. "I'm an idiot," he said softly. He looked at her closely, perhaps for the first time since he'd entered the room. His lips turned upwards in a lascivious grin. "Sometimes, what you're looking for is right in front of you." His fingers trailed down B'Elanna's arm. "You just need to figure out what it's what you want and make sure you never let go again."
B'Elanna agreed completely as she surrendered to him.
~ the end~
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