The Totem by Nova
Nova may be contacted at theowlet@hotmail.com

PART 5

sunset, surface of the planet

The angle of the setting sun behind the buildings cast long shadows across the courtyard. The women of Voyager were seated on cushions surrounding a huge pile of logs and sticks. B'Elanna had taken note of how unobtrusively one of the alien women had paired off with each of the crew. Beside her sat a dark haired woman with bright blue eyes.

Abruptly, the sun dropped below the roof of the structure to her left. Momentarily, the courtyard was dark and still before the fire burst into almost blinding brilliance as it was lit. Figures moved between her and the flames, forming an inner circle. With a toss of their heads, they began to dance.

"You must understand the two sides of yourself, B'Elanna," The woman beside her was saying. "The part who is a warrior and the part who is a woman." A black cat, sleek and shining in the firelight was before her. In one lithe movement it leapt into B'Elanna's lap and looked up at her with deep, yellow, knowing eyes.

Just as the totem in the form of an owl had shown her the power of the hunt, the cat shared with her the image of stalking a mouse-- all the patience and the ferocity.

The hunt was over, her belly full. She made her way back through the night, whiskers and eyes alert to any danger. Under the fence and over the wall to where her kittens waited. Giving each one a lick of recognition, she lay down and began to purr.

Ensign Brooks was surprised to see the big white dog appear in front of the woman who was seated beside her. "You have the power to overcome adversity." The woman said, stroking the dog's long thick fur. "Within you is a strong sense of duty and hidden courage." The dog lay in front of Brooks and placed its head on her knee. It looked up at her with eyes full of trust and

love.

The water rushed down-river, unrelenting and unstoppable. Within the current a girl struggled and screamed for help. She rushed to the bank and leapt with all her strength. The water was deathly cold but it did not bother her. Her jaw clasped onto the child's clothes and she began to paddle to safety.

Seven of Nine regarded the alien woman beside her and the bird she held on her hand with ambivalence. "Yours is the coexistence of the practical and the beautiful." The woman smiled. "Always you think of the purpose and the result, but inside you there also is the appreciation of all that is beautiful around you. You are only beginning to understand this." With a single

beat of its wings, the red feathered bird sprang from the woman's hand and landed on her knee.

Its brilliant plumage contrasted with the orange glow of the fire, and when it turned its crested head, its eyes were unmarred black.

She flew low over the sun-warmed field of grass, then turned her wings to catch the wind and glide along the bank of the river. The water below her was clear and she could see both the bottom in its earthy tones and the reflected sky in its endless blue. When she came to the bridge she alighted and began to sing.

Gey'lerr sat beside Janeway with the little brown owl on her wrist. "You are a leader of men and women Kathryn. The pillar upon which they rest their hopes. You feel this responsibility deeply. Inside you is the confidence to bear great hardship to give hope to those who depend on you. And you have the desire and need to fulfill your dreams."

She flew on through the dark, dense forest, following the call of her mate. The branches of the tall tree sheltered the hole and she landed beside it clicking a greeting with her beak. The other owl appeared and hopped out of the nest to sit beside her in the tree. She closed her eyes in contentment.

after sunset, surface of the planet

Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the Federation starship Voyager, watched over the courtyard from the balcony. It was a pleasant, mild evening, with only the lightest of breezes to stir her hair.

Below in the courtyard, the bonfire still blazed, the smoke drifting lazily up into the dark night sky. Janeway turned her eyes upward past the pale green moon toward the stars.

Her ship was one of those points of light, one among so many. The ache of loneliness began then deep in her chest and spread outward. It would consume her if she allowed it.

Only once have I cried; once through all this, and it was as much out of frustration as the pain of being so far from home. Now, home does not hold for me what it once did. Mark has given up, gone on without me, accepting that we will never be together again. And in my own way I too have given up. I've given up hoping life would be there and waiting for me just as I left it. That was such a useless thing to wish, but it gave me the desire to go on. To go on for four years.

What is it about humans that makes home dominate our emotions so totally? Some of us are born without home, without a place that compels us to return to time and again. So we make our own. Like I have made Voyager my home--my place in the universe--a mobile place. She turned her eyes fully to the sky, feeling the enormity of the universe around her.

When is the last time I stared at the stars, felt the beauty and the immensity? I feel so small, yet so large. Are the stars really any different here, on this strange world, than they are from a cornfield in Indiana? As a young girl I would stand in that field for hours staring up at the sky trying to find my place, my home. I felt it was anywhere but where I was right then. Now here I am wishing I was there. There ... back home.

The tears were hot in her eyes and she did nothing to stop them.

Life ticks on like the seconds on a clock. People come into our lives and they go. We are always alone even when we are together; it's the nature of our existence just as it is our nature to hope and dream for someone to make us complete.

Drums beat and the dancers twirled around the fire in celebration of life. Leaping, reaching, stretching for the sky.

I have never been bound, bound to the earth or bound to a life. I've always made my own decisions and I've been blessed with the opportunity to reach for the sky, literally. One more sector to cross, one more planet to pass. I'm always going, travelling, voyaging on. I can't conceive of a time when I will just stop, plant myself in the ground, and stay. But I so miss the stars in the sky at night like they were from that cornfield at home.

"Captain, you are alone. Where are Torres and Brooks?"

Like a child caught crying, she wiped her face on her sleeve. "They're still down by the fire. I came up here to go to my room but I haven't made it that far yet." Voyager's women had been provided with quarters to stay the night, and though they were free to leave if they wanted, Janeway had chosen to stay. She wasn't sure why, and as she thought about it, it occurred to her

that this was a good opportunity to be alone; alone with Seven of Nine.

"You are crying." Seven moved a step closer her eyes curious.

"I am," said Kathryn. She tried to smile, and looked at her feet. "I was thinking about home."

"This occupies your thoughts often?" The question at the end was only slight, as if she already knew the answer, and just wanted it confirmed.

"Yes," she looked at the woman beside her, felt again the attraction, although not quite the confidence. "I'm also feeling very alone."

"You feel alone?" The surprise showed in her voice, but Seven did not articulate more.

Janeway was looking away, could not meet her eyes, but finally, with great effort, she did.

Extending her hand palm up and with voice tense, she said, "Take my hand."

Seven hesitated for a long moment then, very carefully, she laid her right hand over the Captain's. Very softly, Kathryn stroked her thumb over the smooth, strong hand held in her own. "Will you come inside with me?" She truly did not know what the answer would be, and when Seven gave a quick nod, her heart leapt.

She led the beautiful young woman from the balcony, through the diaphanous drapery and up the few steps to where a soft pad lay on the floor. Then she pulled her down where they sat cross-legged, knees touching. Kathryn did not speak for a long time. Seven waited, still holding her hand.

"I need you to know exactly how I feel about you Seven of Nine, Annika Hansen."

"You are attracted to me. In a sexual manner."

"Yes, very much so. That and maybe more."

Seven's eyes were soft in the dim light, unreadable, though Kathryn could see the mind working behind those eyes, sifting ideas, considering. She squeezed her hand.

"I know you don't truly understand what that means, Seven. I know it is new to you. A new thing among so many new things."

"But it is not. It is not new...I ..." Seven was struggling with the words and when she paused her gaze turned inward. After a long time she began again. "It does not seem new or unusual for me to feel that I know, and to know that I feel."

"Please Seven. Tell me how you feel." Though her heart was eager, Kathryn kept her voice gentle.

"I feel the loneliness abate when I am with you, but I am frightened."

"Frightened? Why?"

"Since I left the Borg, one alone is all I have known. It is familiar. I fear the loss of this, the loss of what I know. I am conflicted with the desire to end the aloneness, and the fear of what its end will bring."

"One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so," Kathryn recited softly. At Seven's questioning look she explained. "It's a line from a very old song."

"It seems as though it were written for me."

"It was written for all of us because we are all alone. Even when we are surrounded by others we are alone. You cannot share my thoughts like you did with the Borg. You cannot know all that I know. It is this emptiness that drives us to share ourselves with others. Only with another can we be complete."

Seven took a deep breath, understanding. "And you seek to find this completeness with me?" Kathryn nodded slowly. "I am not sure that I am worthy to be the one to complete you."

"Oh, Annika you are!" Kathryn drew the hand to her lips and softly kissed her knuckles. "Why do you think you aren't?"

"I do not know all these things about love like you do. I do not know about love at all." A shadow crossed her face and her eyes became glassy with tears.

"I'm sure you will know. You can learn."

Seven was shaking her head. "I do not feel as confident in that as you."

"I think you will." Tenderly, Kathryn brushed the dampness from her cheeks barely able to hold her own tears. "I want you to, but I can't make you feel something for me that you do not know, or do not have inside you to feel."

Seven turned away stretching her legs out in front of her. Kathryn moved to sit beside her, and put her arm around the younger woman's shoulders. Ever so slowly, tears falling freely, Seven leaned to the side, lowering herself until her head rested in Kathryn's lap.

With gentle fingers, Kathryn Janeway stroked her hair as she looked beyond the billowing curtains to the sparks from the fire, floating upward into the starry sky.

and in this world there's a whole lot of golden
in this world there's a whole lot of pain
in this world you've a soul for a compass
and a heart for a pair of wings
there's a star on the far horizon
rising bright in an azure sky
for the rest of the time that you're given
why walk when you can fly

Epilogue

"Can you trust me again, Captain?" Though his voice was tinted with playfulness, Chakotay's eyes were serious.

Janeway lowered her teacup and carefully replaced it in the saucer. She took a deep breath. "I know that wasn't really you down in engineering trying to take over the ship." She touched his arm lightly.

"Don't tell me any more! It's a good thing I don't remember it all." He said with a nervous laugh. "I just need to know I still have your trust as your first officer."

"You do."

Chakotay exhaled a long breath and drained the rest of his tea. "Good." He stood to go seemingly uncomfortable with the idea of staying and talking further.

Janeway let him get to the door. "Just watch out for owls from now on."

He turned. "The owl is a powerful totem for some tribes and cultures. It is often a symbol of wisdom, women's wisdom, though it is more commonly used as a portent of death and

witchcraft ..."

How unfortunate that the idea of women's worth and good became skewed with the darkness of death and evil, Janeway thought

"I can tell you more some time, Captain."

"I look forward to it."

First Officer Chakotay of the starship Voyager nodded once and stepped through the doorway of the captain's ready room.

The door closed behind him and Janeway was alone.

...end

Acknowledgments:

Thanks go to bj for editing and encouragement and for the gift of "The Concise Oxford Dictionary".

To simahoyo for input at the time this story was first posted, and help with the mystical meanings of totems.

lmb, June 11th 1998 and Nov 5th 1999 .......................................................

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